Until we have met the monsters in ourselves, we keep trying to slay them in the outer world. And we find that we cannot. For all darkness in the world stems from darkness in the heart. And it is there that we must do our work. Marianne Williamson
This is still another version of the famous wisdom of Pogo, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” Williamson, a teacher of The Course in Miracles and a political/social activist, presents spirituality in her books and speeches as something that begins in the depths of one’s own being and has value only to the degree that one realizes any value to the world that comes from this spirituality is dependent upon this realization. Furthermore, value to the world will come from this spirituality as the result of continued focus on one’s own soul as in, “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me O Lord, standing in the need of prayer.”
But the rush of spiritual impulse usually gets co-opted almost immediately by the ego and the “convert” begins to focus on getting others to believe like he does, to have the same experience as he does, and thus the spiritual impetus is immediately short-circuited. One dimension of this problem is that culture usually influences us to think of religion in social terms and the ego immediately begins to utilize this passion to help the individual find a place in a spiritual context, i.e. church, for example. What the Apostle Paul termed “the flesh” takes over and this spiritual dynamic percolating in the soul loses its primary focus–the “working out of your salvation, with fear and trembling.”
My foray into A Course in Miracles (Acim) the past year and a half has been very helpful in learning to view reality, including my faith, through a more critical prism. One of the most important lessons has been about forgiveness which is more than the perfunctory “performance art” forgiveness that I have been accustomed to. This “performance art” forgiveness is when you forgive someone who has offended you because that is the thing you are supposed to do. You have learned that when someone has “been naughty” to you, it is your Christian duty to forgive them, especially if they ask you to. But Acim teaches that forgiveness goes much deeper than social obligation into the depths of the heart where you recognize that in an important sense you and the offending party are one, that “there go I but by the Grace of God.” You forgive because you realize that you are connected to that person, are “cut from the same bolt of cloth,” and are in some sense guilty of the same offense.
Performance art forgiveness is often a transaction of power. You are the bastion of moral virtue and godliness and before you is the lowly miscreant seeking absolution. The miscreant walks away comforted with your forgiveness and you walk away basking in the comfort of knowing that you have, once again, been noble and Christian. Acim teachings put each party on a level playing field…and that is where the teachings of Jesus want us to be with others. His teachings were intended to be a great equalizer among humankind, not as a means to facilitate some of us being “noble” and others “not so much.”
But performance art forgiveness, and the whole of performance art faith, has its place in human affairs functioning kind of like a set of training wheels on a bicycle. And perfunctory forgiveness is better than none at all and, if given a little thought and humility, can lead to the understanding taught by the Course.
Here is a list of my blogs. I invite you to check out the other two sometime.