(A CMC LEGACY ARTICLE – We're digging up spiritual "gems" from our vast achieves!)
On Sunday February 11, 2007 Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the congregation at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, California. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that talk.
Thank you all for being here. We’re in the final count down for our conference which is less than two weeks away now, “An Opportunity To Gladden Yourself.” As of this morning we had 440 people all registered and paid in full. We have a list of another 10 people who will be picking up transferred registrations from people who canceled, so we should easily have over 450 people at this conference. This is amazing. It’s really great.
Rev. Larry and I, and Rev. Beatrice, are very involved with getting everything ready. We are very, very busy. One of the things that we did accomplish this week is we now have our program and schedule printed. Today, after service, there will be a work party with the conference volunteer staff and we will be putting these program / schedules and other things into the registration packets. It’s a 16 page program with a color cover. It’s very comprehensive. (Rev. Tony holds up a program.) I did it and I’m very proud of it.
In the program are listed all the speakers and their different presentations. There are 23 different speakers coming to this conference and they represent an incredible diversity of approaches to A Course In Miracles. I was thinking about the diversity that will be represented at the conference and I thought just how miraculous it was that all of these diverse presenters were coming together to put on something jointly. We are setting our diversities aside, or finding a place where the diversity could be honored but the oneness could be honored as well, and somehow all working together.
I always remember the passage from A Course In Miracles that says, “A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary. It is this experience toward which the course is directed. Here alone consistency becomes possible because here alone uncertainty ends.” (C-in.2:5)
Even though none of us, not even we Course students, will agree on what the Course means or how it is interpreted, we can still all be moving towards the same experience. There is an experience toward which we are all moving, that the Course is guiding us toward, and that experience will be the same for all of us. It’s important to rest with that. We don’t need the same theology. We don’t need the same belief system to get us to have the same experience. If the Moslems and the Christians could learn this we’d have a more peaceful world. (laughter) The diversity that we do have is only a diversity of form. The unification – the universal experience – is an experience of content not of form, and you don’t have to get the form unified in order to have unified content. That is an important thing for me to remember and it is important to remember about the conference. Indeed there were some A Course In Miracles teachers who did not want to participate at this conference because of that diversity of form. It was too diverse for them. We held to the other vision – that it didn’t matter how diverse the form was as long as the content we were moving toward was the same.
There’s another passage in A Course In Miracles that I want to point out and this one, again, is talking about “universal experience.” “The only question to be answered ... is whether you and your brother are different. From the position of what you understand you seem to be, and therefore can attack. Of the alternatives, this seems more natural and more in line with your experience. And therefore it is necessary that you have other experiences, more in line with truth, to teach you what <is> natural and true.” (T-22.VI.13:7-10) On the level of form, yes off course we do seem different. Even at the level of Miracles students and teachers with their different approaches to the Course we do seem different. At a deeper level there is a unification and we do need experiences that show us that. We do need other, different experiences. Hopefully, the conference will be one of those other experiences which will show people that regardless of their different ideologies, their different theologies and different interpretations of A Course In Miracles – regardless of those we can all have an experience of coming together, joining and feeling something that speaks the truth to us even though we won’t ever agree on how to describe it. We can all still have that experience together. I think the Community Miracles Center has always been about this other experience.
We put on weekend Miracle Experiences which are guided three day experiences around creating that for 40, 50 or 60 people. The Sunday Services here embrace diversity. We have a diversity of people who come, a diversity of interpretations, a diversity of ministers who get up here and speak. After the sermon other people get to express a diversity of opinions. We have always honored our diversity but reached for the other experience of something transcendent that happens regardless of that diversity.
In this world, this is a hard thing to grasp. It’s a hard thing to work with if we just stay at the level of form. Of course, it shows up in our relationships a lot. It shows up in relationships we call our significant relationships or our intimate relationships. It shows up in all relationships and the closer the relationship the more it’s likely to show up. We frequently get in battles, angry differences of opinion with the people that we are in relationship with. In one sense we are in relationship because we felt a connection, a oneness but on the surface level we have all these different viewpoints and different beliefs and we don’t seem compatible with each other. We are trying to reconcile those. Maybe they are not reconcilable. Maybe the only thing is to go to the deeper level where the oneness is and let the differences be the differences on the surface. This is very hard in our intimate relationships because we want the level of form to converge as well. This makes us ambivalent about our significant relationships. This means it makes us have both values. We love them one day and hate them the next. That’s what it makes us do.
A Course In Miracles says, “No love in this world is without this ambivalence, and since no ego has experienced love without ambivalence the concept is beyond its understanding. Love will enter immediately into any mind that truly wants it, but it must want it truly. This means that it wants it without ambivalence, and this kind of wanting is wholly without the ego’s ‘drive to get.’” (T-4.III.4:6-8)
The ego wants to get something from the other person. The ego wants to get something in the relationship. We’re never going to have that other experience of true joining if we hang out too long in the ego level of relationship. We merely have to let that ego level be there. That’s the level of form, the level of differences. What we want to get out of the relationship is going to be different than what the other person wants to get out of the relationship. Where they are the same is at the level of content underneath. Both of us truly want to experience our oneness and our joining. If we can come from that, instead of our ego’s drive to get, we will come from something solid, something real and we will have these other experiences which will override whatever differences in form the world level may seem to show.
In another place we read, “There is a kind of experience so different from anything the ego can offer that you will never want to cover or hide it again.” (T-4.III.5:1) When we truly want to have those other experiences of connection, joining and oneness – wherever we have them: in relationships, at a conference, at Sunday Service – then these begin to be what we truly want and all the ego needs begin to devalue in our minds. We will still have them but we won’t elevate them to such a level of importance where they will cause us problems.
I was looking yesterday at the conference programs and all the 100 word “blurbs” that the different speakers have given us telling the attendees what they are going to speak on. One of our presenters named Sandra Levey-Lunden, some of you know her, impressed me with the description she wrote about what her workshop would be about. Her description tackled all these issues and said a lot in just a few words. She will be speaking about relationships. The title of her presentation is “Learning Your Life’s Lessons In A Holy Relationship.” Here is part of the description to her workshop, “The reality is most ‘romantic’ relationships are not based in True Love at all, but in forms of unconscious fear. Fear of loss, need, lack, incompleteness. Once unconscious needs are not met, the relationship moves from a state of being ‘in love’ into a love-hate cycle. You cannot love your partner one moment and attack him or her the next. Love is being confused with ego attachment and addictive clinging. True love arises from beyond the mind – this is the ‘holy relationship.’” I like that. That had a lot in it.
Sometimes I hear people talk about how they might lose the illusion of love and then not like the other person. No, that’s probably not what will happen. You will lose the illusion of love. Your ego needs won’t get met and then you will move into a love-hate cycle. You love him one day and hate him the next. Your fond of him. You’re happy to spend time with him, or her, one moment and then they irritate you the next day and you don’t really want to be with them. That’s what happens. We get into the love-hate cycle. We get into that ambivalence. We have both values. That is because of the unconscious fear, the fear of: loss, need, lack and incompleteness that we are all carrying around – but we thought this person was somehow going to heal us of that. Inevitably they don’t. There is no healing of that in the world of form. There is only a transcending of that by going to a deeper level and having other experiences that reflect something else, that reflect oneness beyond the level of form where we have the differences.
This is another great quotation about relationships. “The special love partner is acceptable only as long as he serves this purpose ....” which is being a safe haven. “Hatred can enter, and indeed is welcome in some aspects of the relationship, but it is still held together by the illusion of love. If the illusion goes, the relationship is broken or becomes unsatisfying on the grounds of disillusionment.” (T-16.IV.3:5-7) I’ve always loved this but it seems rather odd. What does it mean hatred is welcome in some aspects of the relationship? Well, it seems appropriate to get jealous. My jealousy means I really love you. See, if I wasn’t jealous that would mean I didn’t care. That fact that you are spending time and giving attention to someone else and I don’t like it – and the intensity with which I don’t like it – means that I love you. So we actually welcome the little bit of hatred because it seems to make the love valid. What A Course In Miracles is saying is that we have to get beyond that. That is not at the level of the other experience that is going to transcend the level of form. That is not the universal experience that ACIM is designed to bring us to. That’s not the love without ambivalence. That’s love based on met needs. ACIM is not about finding us a special partner who meets our needs. It’s about moving towards another experience of true joining.
Sometimes people have trouble with the word “ambivalence.” It means with both values, “ambi-valent.” I looked the word up in the dictionary as I like to do. Here are some of Webster’s definitions of “ambivalence.” “1: contradictory emotional or psychological attitudes especially toward a particular person or object ... simultaneous attraction toward and repulsion from an object, person, or action” We love ‘em then we hate ‘em. “2: continual oscillation ... uncertainty as to which approach, attitude, or treatment to follow.” Ambivalence means we have an uncertainty about what to do next. Who of us has not experienced this in our relationships. We don’t know what to do next. We have all of these conflicting ideas and values in our minds. We’re confused. We don’t know what to do. We take a stand on one side and it doesn’t seem right. We try to take a stand on the other side, that has its problems too. So, there we sit in our confusion. We love them and we hate them.
A Course In Miracles challenges us here by making the teaching even more blatant and more severe. It isn’t really that you love them and you hate them. What it truly says is that you bless them with eternal life or you want them dead. (laughter) I say this from time to time. I like to say this even to my significant partners. “When you act like that towards me you want me dead!” (more laughter) Nobody likes to hear that. This is probably because they have cherished this idea, “No, this means I really care about you. I get this upset because I love you.” It’s that Course concept that the hatred is welcome because it seems to mean, in ego terms, that the relationship is strong. However, A Course In Miracles wants us to go to another point of view. It just means you are in your ego and you want the miserable bastard dead. That’s all it means.
A Course In Miracles uses the word “murder” or “murderous” many, many times. It’s not just an obscure, symbolic or an occasional reference. It’s a continual, frequent and strong reference. I’ve got plenty of them here to share with you. There were so many to choose from. “You do not even suspect this murderous but insane idea lies hidden there ...” See, we don’t suspect that this is murder. “... for the ego’s destructive urge is so intense that nothing short of the crucifixion of God’s Son can ultimately satisfy it.” (T-13.II.3:3) I’ve certainly been in this situation. I couldn’t do anything to please that partner and my crucifixion up on the cross is probably not going to make her happy either. At this moment I am just scum in their minds. (laughter) That’s it.
“Can you be sure your murderous attack is justified unless you know what it is for?” (T-23.II.12:2) A Course In Miracles wants us to question this justification. Are we so sure we want this person dead?
“When the temptation to attack rises to make your mind darkened and murderous, remember you <can> see the battle from above.” (T-23.IV.6:1) Whenever we are tempted, even in the slightest, to attack – even that slight irritation – the Course wants us to understand that this is murder. Maybe if we could get this we would be more vigilant and be a little more motivated to correct it.
“Let me today seek not security in danger, nor attempt to find my peace in murderous attack.” (W-pII.261.1:3) Let me let go of the thought that tells me my being murderous is somehow going to get me something. That’s what we think. If I attack, if I stand up for myself and defend myself and let him or her know just how intense these feelings are, somehow it’s going to win me something. We will not find our peace in that win, whatever it is. We will only find more conflict, more anxiety and more fear.
Here’s another quote about murder, “Attack in any form is equally destructive.” That means even the sarcasm and the silent treatment. Those are equally as destructive. “Its purpose does not change. Its sole intent is murder, and what form of murder serves to cover the massive guilt and frantic fear of punishment the murderer must feel?” (T-23.III.1:3-5) I do this. We all do this. I am not immune to this and I am not above it. I was very angry at someone just recently and expressed it. Did I remember that it was murder in that moment. “No.” I felt righteous and justified in that moment. It was somehow an indication of something positive in my own delusion. We all do this. We don’t have to be blatant in our anger. Any little irritation, any time we communicate something that isn’t truly joyful, we are doing it and none of us like to be told that murder is what we are doing though A Course In Miracles is telling us this all the time.
Here’s one last murder quotation, “Do not remain in conflict ....” I know some people who just put the conflict in place and decide it is not going to get resolved and that’s it. They will just move on with the rest of their lives. They tell themselves they don’t ever have to deal with this person again. However, here is the Course telling us not to remain in conflict. We’ve got to heal it. “You are not asked to fight against your wish to murder. But you are asked to realize the form it takes conceals the same intent. ... What is not love is murder.” (T-23.IV.1:7-8.10) We’re not asked to fight against this urge. What we are asked to do is realize exactly what it is. Realize that all of these irritations, even the one that we think we can easily handle or the ones we think we don’t have to heal, are murder. As such, I believe that we, at least partly sane people, won’t feel comfortable hanging out with these murderous intentions. We will want to do something to correct it because nobody wants to be a murderer.
Greg Mackie, an A Course In Miracles author, wrote a book titled, How Can We Forgive Murders? This is great and what we truly have to understand is that the murderer is us. How can we forgive ourselves, because we are all murderers and the murderers in the world of form that we see around us are just reflecting thoughts that we all have all the time. The Course wants us to be aware of this. It gives us instruction in how to know when we are feeling murderous. “There is a stab of pain, a twinge of guilt, and above all, a loss of peace ... When they occur leave not your place on high, but quickly choose a miracle instead of murder.” (T-23.IV.6:3.5) Just that little twinge of: fear, guilt, lowered feelings or sadness – when that happens don’t leave the lofty reality of what we truly are. Remember, at that moment we have a choice. What’s the choice it tells us we have? We can choose the miracle. We could choose to offer this perception up for a different idea. However if we run with the perception and justify the feelings then what we’ve chosen is murder. That is always the choice, miracles or murder. I sometimes make good choices. I sometimes make bad choices. I sometimes choose to stay in my place on high and I sometimes choose murder. I need to forgive myself for those wrong, murderous choices. I should read Greg Macki’s book and find out how I can do that.
I was trying to think of a model. What can I use? I need something useful. If we are all supposed to be looking for this universal experience where we feel one with another, where we feel connected, what do I have in this world that can help me with that? I can’t be seduced by my intense feelings of being in love with a special partner. That’s just the initial stages of the special relationship before it quickly moves to the love-hate cycle. (laughter) The seeming oneness felt is because in those moments I have been deluded into believing that my ego needs are going to be met.
What I did remember is that I frequently feel a connection, or a oneness, with total strangers, just regular people. I don’t have issues with them. There’s no baggage with them. I just meet them; I don’t have a past with them. I accept them on face value and I usually feel very comfortable with people unless they do something menacing – but 99.99% of the people I meet don’t seem menacing to me. They seem fine and I usually feel comfortable and connected with total strangers. Isn’t it interesting that we can often be nicer to total strangers than we are to our significant partners?
Have you ever been in a fight with a partner and both of you are angry and arguing. (with an angry intense tone) “Na na na!” “Na na, na!” “Na na, na!” “Na na, na!” Then the phone rings. You pick it up and you say in the calmest voice. (very calm and sweet) “Hello.” (laughter) Or you’re in the middle of another “Na na na!” “Na na, na!” “Na na, na!” “Na na, na!” and then somebody comes to the door and you say, (again calm and sweet) “Hi. How are you?” This should be an indication of how fickle those angry feelings truly are. They are based on something illusory. They are not based on any reality. They are based on ego baggage from the past. Someone new comes into the picture and in an instant the mood changes and we make a different choice in our communication energy.
A Course In Miracles tells us, “You consider it ‘natural’ to use your past experience as the reference point from which to judge the present. Yet this is <unnatural> because it is delusional. When you have learned to look on everyone with no reference at all to the past, either his or yours as you perceived it, you will be able to learn from what you see <now.>” (T-13.VI.2:1-3) We need to look at everybody, even the people that we have a twenty-five year history with, as if they are somebody we just met. If we can remember all those numerous holy moments when we do meet somebody new and then bring an aspect of that new person energy into our interactions with those people we are in continuing relationship with, maybe we can have a little clue as to how to have those other experiences that speak of our reality instead of the murderous love-hate cycle we are so frequently spinning around in, like a little gerbil in a cage.
I think the world is full of all kinds of clues, help and learning if we choose to see it as such. Notice, as you go about your day, when you go up to a store clerk and you share a smile. Notice the energy and take in how sweet and wonderful it feels. That’s the same energy we need to bring to all of our relationships even the ones we have a lifetime of history with – even our relationships with our family. We can do it. A Course In Miracles is teaching us how to do it. Sandra Levey-Lunden wants to focus a workshop on this at the conference. There are all kinds of tools that help us do this.
Finding those “other experiences” that the Course speaks of does not mean that we’re finding the romantic, special love or connection that we sometimes feel for a short period of time in the beginning of new relationships. It means simply finding the casual peace and comfort that we feel many times through out our day and all through out our lives when we go around feeling the world as a safe nice place to be. We can bring an aspect of that comfort and peace to every relationship that we are in. We can have these other experiences instead of the murderous rage that our special relationship sometimes bring us to.
That’s it for today. Thank you very much. (applause) ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the January 2007 (Vol. 20 No.11) 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.