26 januari 2011

Experiencing the Gospel

This is the title of Kaiser's 1950 book on the Gospel of Mark, which he regards as being the least adulterated of the synoptic gospels. It should be noted that even today for stylistic reasons alone it remains accepted fact that Mark was the first of the synoptics, and Matthew and Luke depended on it along with the Thomas and Q traditions. The quality of the text has a certain level of abstraction, and an archaic and almost unworldly ring to it, which in modern Bible translations tends to be smoothed out completely, so we have a tough time noticing it, particularly also because of the typical Christian influence on virtually all translations which smears the whole with a theological sauce that dates from 30 to 300, never mind 2000, years after the crucifixion, and has none of the freshness and urgency which we find in the original Mark, if we can access him in Greek.

Here is an account of the description by the classical scholar Günther Zuntz, as quoted in the New International Greek Testament Commentary on The Gospel of Mark by R.T. France, who says ,speaking of Zuntz:
Thoroughly at home in the literature of the Roman Empire, Zuntz, we are told, was nonetheless quite unfamiliar with Christianity and its literature, and thus came to Mark with a freshness of perception impossible to most modern Christian readers. His response thus represents, says Grollenberg,  'what this book must have looked like to an educated reader of the first century of our era.' Zuntz speaks of his 'strong impression' that 'something very important was being put forward here with a superior purpose and concentration throughout the book... The style and content of the story arouse a feeling of otherness, a feeling that this is not a history like other histories, not a biography like other biographies, but a development of the actions, sayings and suffering of a higher being on his way through this anxious world of human beings and demons.'
I am quoting this passage for the sake of the present day reader who reads his Bible in translation, in which the original quality of an other-worldly urgency which educated readers have perceived in Mark over the centuries is utterly lost. The homogenized and pasteurized language of all modern translations, originally driven by the theological dogma of the oneness of the Bible, has obliterated the freshness of the original for modern readers. Kaiser keenly observes and appreciates these qualities in Mark, as to him it was clear that storytelling of this time in the classical world was less in service of historical and temporal accuracy of the manifest story line as in the service of expressing the spiritual truth that was being shared with the reader or listener.

Kaiser's book is both a fresh translation and a commentary as well as an esoteric paraphrasing of the narrative, which focuses on the latent content (meaning), as opposed to the manifest content (the story). His translation is unique because it does strip out the theological distortions of the Pauline tradition, and restores the freshness of the original account as much as humanly possible. Kaiser's is truly the only modern translation of the book I've ever come across in any of the four or five languages which I (more or less) read which even attempts this feat.

Having studied Kaiser for some twenty-five years before I found A Course in Miracles, I have now increasingly begun to experience that his work is more accessible to me, after working with the Course for about twenty years. The fundamental approach Kaiser takes is very much in line with the teaching in the Course which recognizes that the world is but an outside picture of an inner condition, as follows:
   Projection makes perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is no more than that, it is not less. Therefore, to you it is important. It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result and not a cause. And that is why order of difficulty in miracles is meaningless. Everything looked upon with vision is healed and holy. Nothing perceived without it means anything. And where there is no meaning, there is chaos. (ACIM:T-21.Introduction) 
From the outset he views the Markan account as the reflections of a follower of Jesus on his experience of him, expressing the inner events in language and imagery accessible to the reader, thus clothing timeless inner experience of the Master of all Masters in the apparent events of his own life time, without losing that abstract quality of something of an unspeakable otherness which is a constant reminder to the reader of the calling of the voice of the Master to follow him, by turning to what A Course in Miracles would call our own Internal Teacher.

My co-writer on this blog recently reported to me a dream experience of the twelve apostles, and twelve gospels, each having their own individual account of their experience of Jesus, in which eventually she realized that she had her own experience of the gospel, "the good tiding." The twelve apostles, as much as the twelve signs of the zodiac, simply represent all of humanity in archetypical form, in our capability of either following the ego, or following Jesus, when once we hear the call. After all, our stories are all very different but the experiences that come our way as we turn to that Inner Teacher end up always being the same in content, for to us, the awakening from the dream is a process in time. Thus, as much as the world is the perceptual substitute reality which we "see" as long as we choose the ego as our teacher, the Kingdom, or in Course speak the Real World, is what we "see" when once we choose Jesus or the Holy Spirit as our Internal Teacher, and the gospel is the way we experience the journey of transition from the former to the latter. And, in the Course, Jesus assures us that his was merely an extreme example and we will not have to repeat his experiences, though we certainly relive the pain of the crucifixion to one degree or another as long as we keep choosing the ego as our teacher.

Thus the story of Jesus is not the story of some dude who was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, it is rather the reflection of the birth of Jesus within all of us, as we turn to this little babe of Bethlehem within us, who of course is not welcomed in the world, and there will never be room at the inn, so that he will be born in relative obscurity somewhere, in a manger, in a stable with the animals. A good 20+ years after Kaiser, the Course will describe this process of inner birth as follows:
What danger can assail the wholly innocent? What can attack the guiltless? What fear can enter and disturb the peace of sinlessness? What has been given you, even in its infancy, is in full communication with God and you. In its tiny hands it holds, in perfect safety, every miracle you will perform, held out to you. The miracle of life is ageless, born in time but nourished in eternity. Behold this infant, to whom you gave a resting place by your forgiveness of your brother, and see in it the Will of God. Here is the babe of Bethlehem reborn. And everyone who gives him shelter will follow him, not to the cross, but to the resurrection and the life. (ACIM:T-19.IV.C.10)
   In the New Testament literature, Jesus constantly - and in vain I guess - reminds the apostles that it all comes to us in parables, and that he wasn't speaking of "breads," including wondering out loud how come we do not get it -- don't you STILL understand that I was not speaking of BREADS??? But we stubbornly persist in taking him literally. Our entire culture is based on it, because the Christian "religion" is baked into the very fabric of Western culture, never mind which variety you or I grew up with. So one way to look at the difference between Christianity and the teachings of Jesus is that Christianity revels in the manifest story, and adapts it to the point that it becomes a world religion, suitable for Caesar and his minions, while Jesus teaches us to watch only the content, and the inner process, in following him to a Kingdom not of this world.

Once we start listening for the latent content - the meaning - instead of the manifest content - the story - it becomes clear that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem (the house of bread), 2000 years ago, but Jesus is born within us in our "house of bread," in the forms and circumstances in which we partake of the heavenly bread after our own fashion, as and when our soul gets totally fed up with the ways of the world and rebels against it (Mary), and of course there is "no room at the Inn" and he is born in a manger - out of the way, away from the business of the world - and his ministry within us begins only when he wakes up to the full realization that he is/we are God's beloved son in whom he is well pleased. And his ministry within us starts as/when we show up as his students/disciples, and through him learn that this is who we are. On this path he is our older brother, who merely went before us in realizing his true identity as God's son, inviting us all to follow him on the journey home. And so we will eventually all re-experience the gospel in our own way, the forms will be as different as people are different, but the content is always the same, for it is a learning process, in which we gradually follow his example of awakening from the dream of "this world" and "my life," to the awareness of who we really are as the son of God, as the prodigal sons we all are, looking for our way home from the strange lands where we got lost after we ran away from home. That is the promise of the Gospel.

And just like the apostles were called up by Jesus from their habitual ways of making a living, and that was symbolic, for his intention was not literally dropping the work of your hands, but figuratively no longer doing it the way we always did it, namely with the ego, but rather now to follow Jesus instead of the ego as our teacher, and become an instrument for peace. Again the temptation is always to act things out in the world, in form instead of making the change of mind, which is what Jesus was always talking about. Likewise, as Jesus makes very clear in the Course, he does not ask for sacrifice - such is only the ego's fear - for how could giving up nothing, namely a plan which we already know is bound to fail, be a sacrifice of any kind, when instead we can accept the peace of God, and total spiritual abundance, regardless of what things look like in the world? The process of following Jesus is a process of unlearning to do things the old way, which never worked to begin with, and learning to do them his way, where we place our faith in spirit and not in the things of the world.

This means that what's in store for us is that finally we'll start having ears to hear, when we stop mistaking Jesus by believing that he's talking to us as individuals when he says "you" - he is always addressing us as whom he knows we really are, the son of God, awakening from the dream - different from him only in time, but never in eternity. So, as our elder brother, who has awakened before us, he whispers in our ear and sings us a lullaby, while we still writhe in pain in our nightmare.

The journey home is about "forgiveness," namely about relinquishing the judgments which uphold the ego's world, in favor of the love of the Holy Spririt. Here is how Jesus says it in Lesson 23:

    The idea for today introduces the thought that you are not trapped in the world you see, because its cause can be changed. This change requires, first, that the cause be identified and then let go, so that it can be replaced. The first two steps in this process require your cooperation. The final one does not. Your images have already been replaced. By taking the first two steps, you will see that this is so.
    Besides using it throughout the day as the need arises, five practice periods are required in applying today's idea. As you look about you, repeat the idea slowly to yourself first, and then close your eyes and devote about a minute to searching your mind for as many attack thoughts as occur to you. As each one crosses your mind say:
I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts about ___.
Hold each attack thought in mind as you say this, and then dismiss that thought and go on to the next.
    In the practice periods, be sure to include both your thoughts of attacking and of being attacked. Their effects are exactly the same because they are exactly the same. You do not recognize this as yet, and you are asked at this time only to treat them as the same in today's practice periods. We are still at the stage of identifying the cause of the world you see. When you finally learn that thoughts of attack and of being attacked are not different, you will be ready to let the cause go.

or as Ken Wapnick summarizes it in his commentary to the work book, titled Journey through the workbook of A Course in Miracles:
To briefly summarize these steps:
1) I bring back within my mind the guilt I have projected onto you;
2) By looking with Jesus, I bring my mind's guilt to him, in which instant
3) the guilt is gone, for I have accepted the love and light that was already present but had been concealed beneath the darkness of my guilt, protected by my attack thoughts.

In psychoanalytical terms the process is to make the unconscious conscious, but not with some psychoanalyst, but with Jesus as our teacher. For the psychoanalytical path ends up in rolling around in the dirt with the other pigs in the pigsty, and perhaps becoming more accepting of it, but never getting real release. The process of letting Jesus teach us, means letting it go and gradually accepting his love instead. It takes us a while, because we are attached to our dirt - as Byron Katie says: Who would I be without my problems? - they are our shield against the love of God. The forgiveness process of the Course, which is simply what Jesus always taught, but restated in a more modern form, is the way out of hell for us, and we wake up to our reality as brothers and sisters in God as we are reborn as who and what we really are, namely God's creation, his one-born Son, Christ, and not the dream characters in the dream of the world, which we made up ourselves.

Shakespeare evidently was an awakened soul, and he said it as follows:

    Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
    As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
    Are melted into air, into thin air:
    And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
    The cloud-capp'd tow'rs, the gorgeous palaces,
    The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
    Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
    And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
    Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
    As dreams are made on; and our little life
    Is rounded with a sleep.
    (Shakespeare: The Tempest, Act 4, scene 1, 148–158)

Or as the french philosopher said: God created man after his image, and then man returned the compliment - i.e. we made up God to reflect how we think of ourselves. (See Voltaire: Si Dieu nous a faits à son image, nous le lui avons bien rendu.) Thus the creator God of Genesis is the made up God who we project to justify our seeming existence in the world, and he is the cover over the real God who is our creator and source, as spirit. In the Bible these two concepts are often mixed up, because there are so many authors in it, but a.o. in the book of Job, this is clearly described, in terms of when Job stops listening to his "friends," i.e. stops listening to the advice of the ego, our old self, and starts listening to the Voice for God. At that point in the narrative, the word used for the name of God changes, because Job is then awakening to the real God. To what the Gnostics might call the "God above God," or if you would the real God above the limited human concept of God.

And so, in the end, the undoing involves transcending our fears for the vengeance of the ego's God, to return to the love of God, which is our true source, and the essence of who we are. And in the end it turns out to be what the Course calls a "journey without distance to a goal that has never changed." (ACIM:T-8.VI.9:7)

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