“Conversations with God”, “A Course in Miracles” and “Afterlife Teaching from Stephen the Martyr”
Posted on 11 February 2017, 12:13
I have suggested that there is a lot in common between Conversations with God, A Course in Miracles and Afterlife Teaching of Stephen the Martyr. All claim to be teaching from the world of Spirit. The teacher in “Conversations” is supposed to be God, in ACIM it is said to be Jesus, in “AT” the teacher says he is Stephen the Martyr. Such teachings are received when someone is sufficiently persistent in asking questions of the Unseen.
Such receiving through intuitives and mediums is sometimes clear and deep, sometimes distorted and shallow. (A bit like receiving through wireless.) That is the reason why we must check the answers we receive in prayer, and the answers we receive from teachers in Spirit. We should be wary if a teaching contradicts the consensus of most other spiritual teachers, or contradicts what spiritually minded scientists suggest. No teaching is of any avail for us, whether it be false or true, if we cannot fit it in with the rest of what we know or feel. In saying this, I do affirm the importance of these teachings: I just caution that one should not be uncritical.
I am not surprised that ATIM and Conversations had their origin in the USA. One could argue that there is a cultural bias here. Stephen’s cultural bias is derived from the Middle East of 2000 years ago, even though he is fully aware of present day thinking. The cultural biases should tell us that we may not be dealing with absolute truth (if such exists.) When Stephen completed his teachings, he warned us that they were derived from his experience, and of his likes and dislikes. He also warned us to be careful in passing judgement on teaching offered to us by others. He exhorted us to receive for ourselves, and also to check what we receive as to whether or not we can fit it in with the rest of what we know or feel. His advice in regards of these three Teachings would be to take to ourselves what we feel is useful to us, and regretfully leave to one side what we cannot use.
In future blogs I hope to continue discussing what the three teachings have to say about a number of topics. Right now, I mention the need for caution, in general, but also with regard to the question of the illusoriness of physical reality.
A scientific basis for seeing physical reality as an “illusion” is to be found in the work of quantum physicists such as David Bohm and his allies, whose work I have mentioned on several previous occasions.
Our three Teachers are also agreed about this illusoriness. But in the case of ACIM there is one aspect that I find difficult to understand. In its introduction we read, “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.” ACIM agrees with the other Teachings in seeing the physical world as an illusion projected from a “higher” level of reality, and furthermore sees an illusion as being “unreal” and therefore “not existing”. If someone harms you, it is argued, you must forgive them, and the reason you must forgive them is that this has happened in this world of illusion which is unreal and therefore does not exist. Of course the corollary of that is that if a person does something good for you, that is also illusory and does not exist. God did not create this illusory world, it is said, we did. Many exercises are provided by ACIM to help us see through this illusion to the only reality, the Absolute God. Aspects of the afterlife are also seen as illusory, so we must practice relating to the only reality, the Absolute God of love.
What drives the ACIM picture? As I see it, ACIM is wrestling with the problem of how a loving God can be omnipotent and allow so much apparent evil to exist in physical creation. It is a problem that all religions and spiritualities find it hard to come to terms with. But to say that the world is illusory and therefore does not exist, it is perhaps a step too far.
There seems to be confusion about what we mean when we say that the physical world is an illusion. Synchronicity, together with some discoveries in the field of quantum mechanics, and teachings delivered through some of the best mediums, suggest that the “universe is a great thought”: that the physical world and the mental events that occur within it are the product of thought originating in a more basic dimension of thought. The physical world is indeed an illusion in the sense that it is the product of thought. But the thought is real, and does exist, and what we think and do in this physical world does have consequences either positive or negative. ACIM denies that God (as they understand the word) has anything to do with the physical world, whereas there would be a wide acceptance of the opposite proposition that God is in all, through all, and above all.
Perhaps “illusion” is not the best word: we should perhaps rather speak of “products of thought.” And as said, thought is real and has consequences.
So far as you and I are concerned (together with the rest of humanity), almost everything that we can see and touch owes its existence to the activities of countless incarnate minds. Beyond that, synchronicity and other phenomena suggest that there is also an ordering of mental and so-called physical events from a deeper level of mind.
ACIM sees the human ego as an enemy and strives to abolish it in order to achieve union with the Absolute.
Stephen on the contrary said, “The ego is the product of your mind and its concepts. That mind, and that body, and those concepts, must also be of the Whole. Is this not so?
For nothing can exist that is not part of the Whole. You have spoken of the dissipation of this ego and yet have not considered that this is also an instrument of the Whole. For we have spoken about the recording of experiences that are necessary for the Whole. For why would what is perfect need to have created all that we consider material, which includes the mind and the product of that mind which is the ego, if these experiences were not only desirable but necessary? One might as well say that a body with a limb that is useless, that cannot operate, that that limb should be cut out and destroyed.”(p.276)
One might well argue that our spiritual growth does not consist in trying to abolish the ego as a centre of consciousness, but rather in the abolition of egotism and selfishness. We develop spiritually by selfless serving of others and through ever increasing ability to see others as “children of God”.
This is also the understanding of spiritual development that we get from afterlife communicators: selflessness and reaching out to others is seen as the means of growth in that realm also.
George Johnston (below) addresses this aspect of ACIM in his article: “Is The Disappearance of the Universe a valid interpretation of A Course in Miracles ?”
He writes: “Christian, Muslim and other traditions, encourage us to focus on the good in life. By so doing, we become more aware of the beauty in nature and the goodness in human hearts. We learn to embrace all that is, with love, seeing God in all. Thus, God becomes a living presence in our lives. Even though the world as we see it with the body’s eyes is not real in the way that God is real, and is an illusion, nevertheless, it is part of God as the One, and God as the One is present in it.
“The path of seeing God in the world appears to contradict the Course’s teaching that the world is unreal. Yet, even a dream or a movie - though an illusion and, in a sense, unreal - can reflect beauty, love, and Truth, and many have found God by seeing the good in the world. Even in the Course, Jesus teaches that we must experience the world with the light of Christ shining on it in our minds - what he calls the forgiven, or real, world - in order to become fully enlightened. But for many, it is very helpful to begin by denying the reality of the world, in order to remove feelings, such as guilt, unworthiness, and fear, that keep us from freely expressing and accepting love. By denying the reality of sin and evil, and of the world, as most of us experience it, and by affirming the reality of God, Spirit, and Heaven, and their presence just behind the ever-changing phenomena experienced by the body, the Course helps us to shed unconscious guilt and a host of other deeply rooted illusions that block awareness of God and leads us toward realization of God in the here and now.”
Thus, Johnston seems to suggest an interpretation of ACIM as an oversimplification designed to persuade us to surrender to an eternally loving God, and to return like the Prodigal Son to the welcoming arms of his father.
We do indeed need to remember that we are citizens of heaven in children of God. But basking in that knowledge is not enough: and spiritual growth depends on our facing the many and varied challenges that our physical lives present to us. Scientific research is not to be set aside but rather seen as steps towards better appreciating the Father’s mind; art, literature, music and more are steps towards experiencing dimensions of the Father’s love; psychic research gives instances of departed spirits playing their part in these enterprises.
It must be the case that if our concepts of God become too restricted, then we may stumble in our relationships to others.
I look back to our years of conversations with St Stephen with profound gratitude both for that relationship and for the teaching that we received. But I also look back with some sadness and guilt at our frequent failure to act on and be changed by his teachings.
I personally understand God to be in all, through all, and above all. I should therefore look in all directions to receive the teaching and guidance from my God. A valuable direction to look in, are the teachings of Conversations with God, A Course in Miracles, and Afterlife Teachings from Stephen the Martyr: and , dare I suggest?, the holy scriptures of the great religions, together with the writings of their mystics. Let us not limit God. Such material received from Spirit needs to be read a little at a time, felt, savoured, digested and incorporated - with discrimination.
“Is The Disappearance of the Universe a valid interpretation of A Course in Miracles?”
The disappearance of the universe.
Michael Cocks edits the journal, The Ground of Faith.
Afterlife Teaching From Stephen the Martyr by Michael Cocks is published by White Crow Books and available from Amazon and other bookstores.
Stephen’s prayer was, “Lord, let me forget that I am me, Let me know that I am with Thee, Let me not separate myself from Thee, because I am me.”
Michael Cocks, Wed 15 Feb, 23:44
Whatever we read, we have to sense whether the advice we receive will hurt or further our sense of unity with the God who is in all, through all, and above all.
“All” includes this physical life on Earth.
“His advice in regards of these three Teachings would be to take to ourselves what we feel is useful to us, and regretfully leave to one side what we cannot use.”
I feel this would be a good mantra for all spiritual seekers. Many years back, I was infatuated with the CWG series and thought they were the best spiritual teachings out there, surpassing even the bible (I was much younger then!) Now, I don’t believe that, and I find myself disagreeing with a fair amount of what’s said, nor do I believe it was actually God talking.
However, those books did help me at that stage in my life, and my own spiritual path, and I’m still grateful I read them. As with all teachings, it’s a good idea to stay with something that helps you, but once its usefulness has been completed, it’s best to let it go with gratitude so you can find the next thing that will help you take the next step on the spiritual path.
Ian, Tue 14 Feb, 18:31
Thank you Marko and George Johnston for your comments. CWG, Stephen the Martyr, Franciscan theology are in line with the witness of the great mystics and also Franciscan theology that God is in all through all and above all. Quantum physicists also assert reality is non-dual, even though we can speak of the tuneless and temporal modes.
Michael Cocks, Mon 13 Feb, 20:56
ACIM denies that God (as they understand the word) has anything to do with the physical world, whereas there would be a wide acceptance of the opposite proposition that God is in all, through all, and above all.
I’ve felt that ACIM sees the world as an error or mistake. Conversations with God sees the illusions of the physical world as purposefully created by God to give us not only a reference point but contrasts in the relative to allow us to choose what we desire.
It’s my personal feeling that we eventually outgrow our negativity & violence etc. In the mean time, they can be markers to show us what we don’t want or desire. Conversations with God also says we can eventually live without negativity, but will have the memory of it as our contrast, not the experience.
CwG is one of the only cosmologies that sees the physical world as a great & beautiful one, heaven on earth. ACIM, Christian Science (which I grew up in) and similar thought systems see the world as an error & not real. Illusions are not real in once sense. Yet we experience them as real & as we awake we see that we can use them rather than be abused by them.
CwG therefore is one of the few that does not see the physical world as a mistake but very purposeful.
Jon, Sat 11 Feb, 12:19
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