Author Archives: Mark C. Rathbun

United States of Amnesia?

This morning the US Commander in Chief sent the following tweet:
“Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!”
I sent him this reply:
“With all due respect, and ONLY America’s interests at heart, please do your homework. Study without prejudice the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.”
For a short historical background please see IRAN-IRAQ WAR.
I hold no brief for Iran. But, should American citizens dutifully accept such flippant wanna-be-cowboy rhetoric we’ll have proven to be no more advanced than we were in 2003. That is when we as a nation committed trillions to a war that slaughtered hundreds of thousands and that resulted in extreme exacerbation of the situation it purported to resolve.

A Course In Miracles

A Course in Miracles (ACIM) is a worthwhile undertaking for anyone who feels angry more than they would like to, feels afraid, feels victimized, tends to blame and shame others and/or is inordinately inclined to attack. It is also great for those interested in spiritual transcendence.
The author’s use of the Jesus construct frightens some off. It shouldn’t. In substance the work is more Vedic than Christian. Paradoxically, it is also more Christ-like than are most organized forms of Christianity.
The Jesus narration is powerful for a couple of reasons.
First, it removes current human agency. There are no teachers, gurus, or prophets to potentially corrupt the reader’s connection to the divine message. ACIM’s author Helen Schucman guarded her anonymity as author for her entire lifetime for this purpose. She purported to have received the complete text from a higher spirit whom she believed to be Jesus. She did not want to allow her own ego – with claims of ownership and authorship – or any other human frailties to sully what she perceived as revelations made to her to share.
Second, Jesus is a particularly apt source for such revelations. Many studies have linked his core messages to then-existing Vedantic philosophies. One such study is The Gospel According to Jesus by Eastern philosophy translator Stephen Mitchell. (Incidentally, Mitchell also wrote a wonderful translation of the Tao Te Ching). Mitchell notes that while much of what Jesus imparted was touched on before him, nothing before or after Jesus emphasized or drove home more effectively the related teachings of unconditional love and forgiveness. No work treats these teachings more thoroughly than ACIM. That includes the Bible and gnostic philosophies and such works as the Christian-rejected Gospels of Thomas and Mary Magdalene.
ACIM posits the ego (self-created self-identity) as the source of pain and suffering. It does so in a more thorough, understandable manner than any other philosophic, religious, or psychological work I’ve read. Schucman’s background in clinical psychology results in her attempting to bring Christ’s message in modern terms. It has downsides too as we’ll see below.
What makes ACIM more effective is an accompanying manual of 365 daily meditative exercises. Like many Eastern practices, ACIM explains how transcendent experience and revelation cannot be done justice by words or logic. They require experience and that requires practice. The exercises help the reader recognize the constricting construct nature of time and space. They assist with recognizing and separating out from ego. They help with letting go of hostilities, grievances, and regrets.
My personal view is that the exercises are quite effective up to somewhere around between day 70 and 80. Around there the work shifts from via negativa (wisdom achieved by removing untruths) to positive conditioning. While self-programming one’s subconscious is not necessarily inherently unworkable, by day 70 to 80 it becomes repetitive, doctrinaire, and even inconsistent with some of the work’s more important earlier imparted truths. By the time one gets to the Teacher’s Manual (written several years after the initial revelations) it speaks in a voice unrecognizable to the original text.
Another flaw in ACIM is its confusion about spirit; perhaps stemming from Schucman’s secular psychology training. You may need to exercise patience as the author alternatively refers to it as spirit, soul, and holy spirit – sometimes inferring differences amongst the three. If you do the practical exercises it all becomes academic as clearly the agent deciding to and then carrying out the exercises is who it is – regardless of what the author calls it.
All in all, read while doing the practicals, ACIM is a map that affords experiences of the territory (higher mind, universal consciousness, Oneness, God, etc). When one settles on one map regardless of its purpose having been served one often loses touch with the territory. To become ever more familiar with the territory, it is advisable to master many maps. Once you get into defending a particular map it might serve as indication that it is time to study another. You will find that good maps tend to validate and reinforce recognitions and abilities attained with earlier ones while showing you the territory from a new perspective. ACIM can deliver that.

What If God Was All Of Us?

You can experience God by seeing God in others without discrimination. It can be done when love dissolves fear. It is rarely easy at first. If you try, before long you will likely attract attack thoughts. Don’t fight them. Just let them go and try to notice their source. Keep extending love. The more you work on it the more the source of attack will become apparent. At first you will think you are the source; but with practice you’ll come to see that is not so. The more you disregard the thoughts, the more intense and ‘logical’ will the attack thoughts come. If you stick with it and consistently decline invitations to go back to acting like the source of attack thoughts, eventually you will see the truth and become comfortable with it. So will many of those whom you encounter.

Hands On

Here is what can happen when a brother decides to replace attack thoughts with love.

Casting Stones

Past, Present, Future

 

From A Course In Miracles:

“The ego has a strange notion of time, and it is with this notion that your questioning might well begin. The ego invests heavily in the past, and in the end believes that the past is the only aspect of time that is meaningful. Remember that its emphasis on guilt enables it to ensure its continuity by making the future like the past, and thus avoiding the present. By the notion of paying for the past with the future, the past becomes the determiner of the future, making them continuous without an intervening present. For the ego regards the present only as a brief transition to the future, in which it brings the past to the future by interpreting the present in past terms.

“’Now’ has no meaning to the ego. The present merely reminds it of past hurts, and it reacts to the present as if it were the past. The ego cannot tolerate release from the past, and although the past is over, the ego tries to preserve its image by responding as if it were the present. It dictates your reactions to those you meet in the present from a past reference point, obscuring their present reality. In effect, if you follow the ego’s dictates you will react to your brother as though he were someone else, and this will surely prevent you from recognizing him as he is. And you will receive messages from him out of your own past because, by making it real in the present you are forbidding yourself to let it go. You thus deny yourself the message of release that every brother offers you now.

“The shadowy figures from the past are precisely what you must escape. They are not real, and have no hold over you unless you bring them with you. They carry the spots of pain in your mind, directing you to attack in the present in retaliation for a past that is no more. And this decision is one of future pain. Unless you learn that past pain is an illusion, you are choosing a future of illusions and losing the many opportunities you could find for release in the present. The ego would preserve your nightmares, and prevent you from awakening and understanding they are past…

…”If you accept your function in the world of time as one of healing, you will emphasize only the aspect of time in which healing can occur. Healing cannot be accomplished in the past. It must be accomplished in the present to release the future. This interpretation ties the future to the present,  and extends the present rather than the past. But if you interpret your function as destruction, you will lose sight of the present and hold on to the past to ensure a destructive future. And time will be as you interpret it, for of itself it is nothing.”

Hate Inc.

 

 

Matt Taibbi’s Hate Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another (OR Books 2019) is an essential read for anyone caught up in today’s news cycles.

Taibbi traces the news media’s devolution since Noam Chomsky’s 80’s classic Manufacturing Consent.

Taibbi provides insider evidence to demonstrate that while the media’s overall purpose and function has remained relatively unchanged since the late 20th century, its means of achieving that have shifted. The aim remains to line its and its sponsor’s (big corporate America) pockets. It continues to do so by entertaining in a fashion that keeps the public’s eyes off the more significant issues facing humanity and thus ignoring its victims (most of the population). Instead, it distracts with non-stop coverage of the class of victims it deems worthy, or in current terms those liable to command the most eyeballs and clicks.

Taibbi shows that media has discovered a bonanza by tailoring itself to specific publics, right wing vs left wing, religious vs anti-religious, xenophobes vs immigrant friendlies, warnicks vs. peaceniks, etc. and plying them with around-the-clock tailored, hyperbolic bias confirmation that feeds their fears and prejudices.   It has abandoned the façade of objectivity in order to overtly stoke and exacerbate conflicts between factions. Media is now in the business of manufacturing hate. It has enhanced its manufacturing consent function by ditching public-interest investigative reporting, leaving its corporate sponsors free to rape, pillage and plunder at unprecedented levels while its viewers do virtual war on one another. Parenthetically, see the BBC documentary The Century of Self available free on Youtube, to understand the mass psychology marketing trend that lead to this ‘have it your own way’ model’s inevitability).

This passage sums up the current picture and its effects:

We are always at war with each other. It never stops, not for one second. This is a profound expression of political instability at the top of our society. There is a terror of letting audiences think for themselves that we’ve never seen before. There’s no, ‘Go  back home tonight, rest, and think it over.’

Even from show to show the viewer is asked to remain glued to the conflict at all times. In print media your eyes scroll down to similarly themed stories, stringing you from one outrage to another. Keep clicking, keep delving deeper into the argument, make it more and more your identity.

We don’t want you signing off until tomorrow because we don’t want you to even understand that you have an inner dialogue separate from the news experience. Click on, watch, read, tweet, argue, come back, click again, repeat, do it over and over, rubbing the nerve ends away just a little bit each time. With each engagement, you’re signing over more and more of your intellectual autonomy.

You’ll soon become dependent on the cycle, to the point where you’ll lose the ability to dispute what you’re being told, because disputing would mean diluting the bond with your favorite news sources. Once you reach this point, you’ve entered the realm of belief, as opposed to conclusion.

This without a doubt is a form of religious worship.

Taibbi’s conclusion is both ironic and telling.  While he makes a snarky indirect reference to Scientology (although it could just as easily be read as a double entendre including its critics) in teasing out the religious worship angle, he finally concludes with something that Scientology’s founder was endlessly crucified for recommending:

It will be hard to keep concealed for long the obvious fact that turning off the news results in an instantly positive psychological change for most people.  If you want to be happier, if you want to live in a world that may be thick with problems but is at least a sunnier place where people are more decent to one another and more willing to cooperate and show kindness, just turn off the tube.

It is no wonder you don’t see Taibbi riding the cable news circuit much these days after the release of his important book. He is just too direct and effective in removing media masks. After recounting the Iraq-WMD hype that was foisted on the public to garner its support of war, he distinguished that from what is going on today:

This current craze is far more intense, bipartisan, and open-ended. It’s not designed to be a temporarily blinding fervor  This is panic you’re told not to excise from your life, ever, or else…

Or else what?  We [the media] don’t articulate that, for a very good reason.

Of all the taboos and deceptions in media, this is the one we lie about most. The thing we’re most afraid to discuss has to do with precisely that question of what happens if you should stop following the news.

The answer, of course, is nothing. Not only can you live without us, you probably should, most of the time anyway.