On Sunday February 21, 2010, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the congregation at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. What follow is a lightly edited transcription of that lecture.
If you look up “discourse” in the dictionary, which I did, it says “... written or spoken communication or debate as in political discourse” so you can be talking, or you can be debating, you will still be having a discourse.
I have been focused on what’s going on with Rev. Larry, my partner here in the church, (Rev. Larry is very ill with pancrreatic cancer at present). I have spoken about that a lot, because it is on my mind a lot. I just didn’t want to keep speaking about Rev. Larry even though generally, when I speak, I talk about what’s going on in my own life. That’s been such a recurring and all encompassing event that I am preoccupied with. One of the reasons I have chosen to be so proactive in getting our other ministers up here to speak is I thought it might be good for me to wait a little while and see what else, besides Rev. Larry being sick, is there for me to talk about.
A Course In Miracles talks about things that we are preoccupied with. It says, “Ideational preoccupations with problems set up to be incapable of solution are also favorite ego devices for impeding the strong-willed from making real learning progress.” (Tx.Or.Ed.4.77) When we get preoccupied with things that we can’t solve, it is actually a favorite ego device. The ego loves this. The ego loves to get our minds spinning around with something that can’t be solved. That’s an “ideation preoccupation.” At least that’s how its described in ACIM Original Edition. I like those words “ideation preoccupation.” They rhyme.
It is not capable for me, at the present time, to solve the problem of Rev. Larry being sick. I can’t do anything about the fact that his body is very ill. I can’t solve that problem so, of course, the ego likes to spin that one around.
In truth, there are many things that I can’t solve. My ego loves to spin those things around because it confuses me. I can’t solve the seeming financial situation that the Community Miracles Center is in. We’re in the peculiar situation of not quite taking in enough money to finance ourselves, however we have a lot of money in our checking account. A huge amount of money has come in because people have registered for the conference in 2011, but we can’t spend that money because we will need it to pay for the conference next year. It's a very unusual situation, having a money challenge but having all this money in the bank. It’s really strange.
I can’t solve the problem of heath care in the United States – whether were going to have it or not. I have a lot of strong feelings about that. I can think about the expenses of the Community Miracles Center. If there was some kind of public heath care we would not have to have our health care expense. It would make it much easier for us to have a good financial situation here, but I can’t solve that problem.
I can’t solve the problem of the war in Afghanistan. Barack Obama seemed to be more of a messenger of peace during the Presidential campaign, but now he has gotten us involved in the war in Afghanistan and it’s confusing. I can’t solve any of those things. I can’t solve any of the problems of the world.
Okay, the truth is I can’t solve any of those problems now. Perhaps I will be able to some day. A Course In Miracles says, “Learning is constant and so vital in its power for change that a Son of God can recognize his power in one instant and change the world in the next. That is because by changing his mind he has changed the most powerful device that was ever created for change.” (Tx.Or.Ed.7.47) I guess I just haven’t learned enough yet.
Even if we can’t solve the problems of the world, we can have a discourse about them. We can even have lively discourses about them. In other words we can talk about them with feeling and enthusiasm. It is actually in talking about them that we can come to peace about them, and that is a solution of sorts. In fact that is the only solution that makes any difference. When we feel at peace about something we have solved the conflict in our mind. So, I think that having lively discourses with an open mind is a very great thing. A Course In Miracles talks about how we should see our conflicts, in all the reality that they seem to have. “Conflict must be resolved. It cannot be evaded, set aside, denied, disguised, seen somewhere else, called by another name, nor hidden by deceit of any kind if it would be escaped. It must be seen exactly as it is, where it is thought to be, in the reality which has been given it, and with the purpose that the mind accorded it. For only then are its defenses lifted and the truth can shine upon it as it disappears.” (Wk.Or.Ed.333.1)
We see them as they are by having an open minded discourse about them, by talking about them. Once we see our conflicts we can offer them up to the Holy Spirit and thus get a shift in perception. I have asked for a shift in perception in all of those things I mentioned earlier.
There has been a lively discourse that has been going on our web site. Those of you who are supporting members and who get the e-mails know that, but those of you who don’t may not know. We have an On Line A Course In Miracles Discussion Group on our web site which is a bulletin board were people post messages and then other people post responses. If you are a member you get these messages via email, however to post a message you have to go to the web site itself. There has been a flurry of activity lately. It’s the most active the Discussion Group has ever been. It all started with a discussion about sex. Why is that not surprising?
Some of you may remember that some years ago I had mentioned that there was a book that also claimed to be channeled by Jesus through a woman named Charlene Webster. It was a channeled sex manual. It was very interesting. We used to sell this book. It was named A Spiritual Sex Manual. This is the book. (Rev. Tony holds up an old copy of the book.) Unfortunately this book is no longer available. Charlene Webster passed away many years ago. I don’t think its been available for fifteen years. We used to sell a lot of them and other people used to sell them.
It was probably was not a best seller, however it circulated around a lot in spiritual circles, especially in A Course In Miracles circles, because it sounded a lot like the Course in various places. This is what you would think because it was apparently channeled by Jesus. I don’t want to make any definitive statements whether it was or whether it was not channeled by Jesus.
I did mention the book, some time ago, on the On Line Discussion Group and one of our members found it used somewhere. He had remembered my mention of it and he had some questions about sex, so he looked for the book used. He found it on the internet. He bought it, and he got sexually enlightened by it. He started talking about this new enlightened approach about sex that he had read in A Spiritual Sex Manual and so everybody started commenting on it. This sparked a whole discussion.
Let me give you a little background about A Spiritual Sex Manual. It’s sort of a Tantric Christian thing. Think of taking New Age Christianity and move it into the Tantric realm. One of the things that it has you do – as you are getting ready to have sex, or make love to somebody – it has you hold your partner and say a prayer before you start the act of love making as it’s going to guide you. The prayer is, “I welcome you ...” and you say your partner’s name, “I welcome you ‘Maria’ into the god tirade that we form by us joining together. I see you as light not flesh. I see you beyond appearances of the body. I see you as one with me.” Just think about what your love making might be if you and your partner said that to each other – praying before you started. Saying this prayer would be quite transformational. In another place it says – I am quoting this because I want to show you how in line with A Course In Miracles, A Spiritual Sex Manual is. It says “We are here ... in this illusory state, believing that we are actually in bodies, and so we use these bodies, these learning devices, in order to learn that there are no limitations for us that are real. We are unlimited. We are free, all of us. I group myself with you. There is not a difference between you and me ....” So, you can see that is very similar to the teaching that comes through ACIM. You can see why ACIM students may have liked this.
I also want to mention that this book gets very graphic in places. It is a sex manual after all. It actually guides you through the sexual act using those types of terms that you would expect. It’s quite specific about organs, where they go and what to do with them. It also says it doesn’t matter what gender your having sex with. Sex is an act of love between two people so if you’re having an act of love with someone of the same gender that’s still an act of love, and the gender does not matter.
That was a great teaching and it’s very different than the teaching that has come through in the Urtext that says that the only valid use of sex is for procreation. That is a very different teaching than what this little book says. (Rev. Tony holds up *A Spiritual Sex Manual*.)
The On-Line Group began talking about that. Then there was a discourse about whether the Urtext should have ever been published. There was discourse about how the Urtext was discovered.
All of this caused me to think fondly of A Spiritual Sex Manual so I dug my copy up which I haven’t opened in about fifteen years. This book really gets hot in places, and it was a hot seller too – a hot seller and a hot book. I wish I could have it for you all to buy, but I don’t. You’ll have to take my word for it.
As this discussion, this discourse, was taking place on the On-Line Group – when people were talking about spiritual sex and the Urtext somebody signed in and said A Course In Miracles was being “completely misunderstood” in a public forum. This person needed to set the record straight! Apparently all, or most, of the people that were talking were completely misunderstanding ACIM. It’s one of those statements that everybody bristled about and many wanted to comment on
Then the discourse got even livelier. I thought it was great. I like lively discourse. I thought of a couple of quotes from A Course In Miracles that were pertinent. “If you point out the errors of your brother’s ego, you must be seeing through yours, because the Holy Spirit does not perceive his errors.” (Tx.Or.Ed.9.3) People started getting involved in how the other people posting messages were making mistakes and the mistake finding group wanted to point those errors out. However, ACIM is very clear that if we are pointing out others’ errors and wanting the others to see what these errors are, we have to be seeing their errors through are own errors. This finger pointing is never what a spirit guided response would be.
In another place it says, “The best defense, as always, is not to attack another’s position but rather to protect the truth.” (Tx.Or.Ed.3.13) If we truly wanted to make a meaningful statement the best thing would not be to say that the other person was wrong and attack their position, but rather just say what we believe, what is the truth for ourselves.
Of course we all should know that a good psychological process would be to give “I statements.” You talk about what is true for you. You might say you do not feel the same way as somebody else, but you don’t say that it’s wrong for the other person to have the views that they have.
People on the On-Line Group were calling the body a communication device. I thought about that. I was actually going to find some quotes in A Course In Miracles when it actually called the body “a communication device” so that I could post them on the On Line Discussion Group. I was very surprised that nowhere in ACIM does it call the body “a communication device.” The only thing that is actually called “a communication device” was a miracle. A miracle is called “... a temporary communication device ...” (Tx.Or.Ed.1.81) The Course never calls the body a communication device. It does say the body is supposed to be used for communication. You can therefore imply that it is a communication device. Just because the Course never says it literally does not mean that the body is not a communication device. It just never says that specifically in the book. The Course does say that that the body is “a learning device.” That’s why I had the reading that had so many quotations about the body being a learning device
A Course In Miracles says these things. “The body is a learning device for the mind.” (Tx.Or.Ed.2.55) “The body does not really exist except as a learning device for the mind.” (TxOr.Ed.2.61) “It should be emphasized again that the body does not learn any more than it creates. As a learning device, it merely follows the learner” (TxOr.Ed.2.66) I thought that was interesting to add to the On-Line discourse that the body is more appropriately called a learning device. Sure we communicate through it, but the Course never calls it a communication device.
As I said, this discourse was spirited. People get a little riled up. The statements they made were rather strong. Some people didn’t like the fact that the conversation got spirited. They got nervous about that. They thought there was to much attacking going back and forth. There was then an attack about the attacking.
This is a very interesting premise. Somehow, its wrong to be excited. I actually like spirited discourse, and I think it is fine when it happens as long as you use that as a way of sorting out the false from the true, as a way to look at your thinking and where your own conflicts are. If you then offer those conflicts up to the Holy Spirit, I think there is a lot to be learned and a lot to be healed through spirited discourse. Sometimes discourse does get spirited, and sometimes sex can get spirited. Let’s hope it does at times for those of you who engage. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with things getting a little lively and excited every once and awhile. I think that’s just a part of life.
I’m giving a discourse up here just by talking, and in a little while we’ll open it up for a comment and then the discourse comes back in the other direction. That’s a great thing
I think, also, that discourse or communication can actually be of a symbolic nature, that it does not have to be the spoken word as the dictionary definition said. There’s discourse, or communication, given in many ways. This week I watched the opening ceremony of the Vancouver Olympics. I thought that was an amazing discourse. I thought the Canadians were doing an amazing job of communicating who they were culturally, where they have been, and who they are now. I really loved the opening ceremony of the Canadian Olympics. I especially loved k.d. lang (she always uses lower case letters for her name) at the opening ceremony. I loved her singing the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah” because I am a big fan of Leonard Cohen. As some of you know, at the 2007 A Course In Miracles conference, my twin sister, Rev. Antoinette, sang a Leonard Cohen song. People at the time said, “Who is this Leonard Cohen guy? Isn’t he really obscure?” Well obviously not so obscure, because the Olympic Committee of Vancouver, Canada decided to focus in on Leonard Cohen since he is a Canadian. They had k.d. lang sing his song “Hallelujah”, which is one of his more popular songs and she sings it so much better than Leonard Cohen sings it. She did a great job. She was also in a white tuxedo. In fact everybody that was representing Canada was in a white tuxedo. When they came out carrying the Canadian flag they were all in white tuxedos.
I remember when we had the 2009 conference it was Rev. Larry’s idea that we should all be in tuxedos. That would be putting our best foot forward. All the support people should be in tuxedos. Some of the people didn’t want to wear tuxedos, especially the women didn’t want to wear tuxedos, because they thought tuxedos were a male garb. However, there was k.d. lang up there in a white tuxedo and she looked great. She did such a great job. I read that many people considered this performance to be the highlight of the ceremony.
I want to go back to this idea that A Course In Miracles was being “completely misunderstood” on the On Line ACIM Discussion Group. That’s a very interesting statement. How do you “completely misunderstand” ACIM? Let’s say that I was talking to somebody who didn’t now anything about the Course and I said, “A Course In Miracles is a video and that it teaches you how to chant. It also teaches you how to heal by laying on of hands.” Now, would I be completely misrepresenting a ACIM if I said that? Well, maybe not. There is a video, The Story Of A Course In Miracles. I knew a person who watched that at least once a month for several years and thought that the video was more significant to him than ACIM. I could give you quotes that talk about repeating ideas over and over again, you might say that was chanting. There is a quotation that talks about healing energy flowing out from your hands and another that talks about our hands healing. That could justify the laying out of hands idea. I could probably give you quotes that would justify all of those positions. I might have those ideas. Would I be completely misrepresenting ACIM if I said that is what it is for me, that this was my truth.
You might say, “A Course In Miracles is a channeling that actually comes from the devil. It turns people away from God. It does not paint a true picture of Jesus. It does not say that Jesus is the only son of God, and it does not say that Jesus was crucified for our sins.” Now, would that be totally misrepresenting ACIM? That’s what a lot of fundamentalists Christians believe. They believe that ACIM is a channeling from the devil. They believe it turns people away from God. They believe it’s a false teaching that makes its students think that they are equal to Jesus, which the fundamentalists consider blasphemy. They believe absolutely no salvation is possible unless you believe that Jesus died for our sins. Fundamentalist Christians believe the devil is responsible for ACIM so they would not be “completely misunderstanding” ACIM even if they said that, because that’s what it meant for them.
You could say that A Course In Miracles teaches us that it’s students are all chosen ones that separate themselves from nonbelievers, and that’s its actually a cult. There are many people who believe that too. Their are those students who want to get together with other ACIM students and some think the way to study the Course is actually to live in close knit communities with other Course students. There are ACIM students who do that and they do seem sort of cultish, but that is what it means for them. The point I’m trying to make is I don’t think that there is any way to “completely misunderstood” or completely misrepresent ACIM. There are as many different ways to understand the Course as there are teachers and students.
I have always been happy that the Community Miracles Center has been a place were there can be many different understandings and interpretations of A Course In Miracles and they are all welcome here because we just read the book and talk about what it means for us. Even though our ministers get up here and say certain things, we don’t all agree and they certainly don’t all agree with me. Other of our ministers think very differently about this study and I think it is a really great thing that happens and that’s what is true about us here. I think this truth sparks a meaningful and sometimes a spirited, and lively discourse.
We can have discourses about sex. They can be lively. We can have discourses about A Course In Miracles. They can be lively. We can have discourses about physical illnesses that can be lively and spirited.
The next thing could be controversial and challenging to speak about. Thursday I spent five hours with Reverend Larry at the hospital and we actually had a discourse about the possibility that his body might not get well, that he might be moving towards passing on. He was in the hospital because he had a collapsed lung, also because he was very greatly anemic and had a dangerous magnesium deficiency and these things put him in the hospital for three days. They are all complications of his pancreatic cancer. He is feeling better now. They reinflated his lung through two different procedures. They gave him blood transfusions so his anemia is currently no longer a problem. They gave him a lot of magnesium. He is actually feeling better and he is at home now. Our discussion about his possible body passing was a good, meaningful, discourse for Larry and I to have. I felt great about the fact that we had that meaningful discourse.
I told him that I will always remember the great things that we did together, and we have done great things in the course of our twenty six years of association. I reminded him of the great time we had when we went to Washington DC. I took him there for his seventy birthday and we really played tourist. We stayed there for five days. We went to the top of the Washington Monument. We went to the senate chambers and we went to a couple of the Smithsonian museums.
I remember that great time and I had him remember that too so meaningful discourse can mean that as well. Certainly meaningful discourse can be the way to make our intimate relationships work, and I don’t just mean our sexual relationships, but anybody that we have an intimate relationship with. Discourse is a way to make those relationships more intimate. In fact our intimate relationships can’t be meaningful unless we are having meaningful discourse with those people. Yes, sometimes this discourse will get lively. We need to make some space for that to happen too because, that’s what makes them meaningful.
That’s my discourse on discourse today. Thank you. ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the March 2010 (Vol. 24 No. 1) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.