---From a Bumper Sticker
After spending months researching this report, and weeks writing it, I began to feel sick. The report was time-consuming, difficult to write, upsetting to various NHNE supporters, hurtful to James Twyman, and brought up a host of personal issues for me. "Why do it?" I finally asked myself, "Twyman isn't that big of a fish on the spiritual landscape and his claims are so incredible that someone else is bound to start poking around. Why not let them tackle this story instead of us?"
And then I remembered that this report wasn't really about James Twyman, or Twyman's Emissaries. It was about all of us -- humanity as a whole and the mess we're in, and have been in, since the beginning of time. Other writers might focus on Twyman and miss that; he or she might roast Twyman without realizing that all of us are guilty, to a greater or lesser degree, of similar antics.
So I decided to finish what I started.
Part One and Two of this special report focused mostly on Twyman -- his book, claims, activities, and related archetypes. The final part of this report is going to focus mostly on me -- and the rest of us. And what better place to start, than where I started...
The moment I laid eyes on Twyman's book, I was convinced that his story was a scam and wanted to do whatever I could to discredit it. But it wasn't the calm voice of divine inspiration that was speaking to me. No, it was another voice -- a voice that was indignant, angry and self-righteous.
Typically, when these kind of feelings rise up within me, it takes me awhile to calm down and figure out what is going on. I'll spend a few minutes venting and then, after I've regained partial control of my mind and emotions, I'll start trying to find out why I am REALLY upset.
In Twyman's case, the first level of emotional upset I ran into was the level of human history and the hell various bogus and/or embellished stories had let loose on humanity. "How many people," I fumed, "had lost their lives because some crackpot thought human sacrifice was the way to honor ancestors and pacify nature? How many wars had been fought, people enslaved, monuments built to honor gods that didn't exist -- and could care less if they were feared, worshipped, and served? And who invented the God of Israel -- an angry, vengeful, jealous God that chose one collection of human beings over another and thought nothing of destroying entire peoples so His chosen ones could occupy other people's land? And what about the scribes that altered the New Testament to suit their fancies, obscuring Jesus and infecting Christianity with stories and teachings of their own invention? Who were the sick, deranged, deluded people who did this? Was I going to stand by and let another bogus story sow its seeds of suffering and mayhem?"
I thought about that for a few minutes, letting the smoke from my ears quietly rise to the ceiling.
Then I remembered that none of these stories would have taken root unless there had been an audience who believed in them. So who was really to blame? The shamans, story tellers, and scribes who were creating these tales, or the people who believed whatever far-fetched story they were told?
"And speaking of far-fetched stories," I thought to myself, "I've sure heard my share of them. Come to think of it, I've also believed quite a few."
"Well, to be perfectly honest, I've not only believed quite a few far-fetched stories, but I've also done what I could to spread them around."
Now I was getting close to ground zero -- the real place my anger had been coming from, so I sat down and took a few deep breaths.
"Let's see," I said to myself, "how many bogus beliefs can I remember adding to or strengthening in our collective gene pool? I used to think we 'might' be beamed up by extraterrestrials. I once believed, with great conviction and passion, that Jesus was going to physically return to Earth at any moment and it was of paramount importance to prepare the way so this could happen. I thought a fellow named John Peniel, who was first mentioned in the Edgar Cayce readings and later promoted by other Virginia Beach, Virginia psychics, was going to appear in the world as Christ's forerunner -- and also open the Hall of Records, which I also passionately believed in. I thought there were going to be worldwide geological upheavals, pole shifts, raptures, the dead rising from their graves, instant awakenings on a personal and planetary level..."
By now, all the steam had left my kettle and I could see that I was no better than the "crackpots" I was ranting and raving at a few moments ago. More to the point, I could see all of the things that irritated me about James Twyman were things that irritated me about myself. I have believed and actively promoted fictitious stories that I thought were true, but turned out to be figments of my or someone else's imagination. I have promoted spiritual philosophies that turned out to be wrong. I have imagined myself, based on various kinds of inner guidance and outer experiences, to be someone special. I have spun things, embellished things, and promoted things that I thought would help make the world a better, more spiritual place. I have also discovered that everything I think and believe has either been taught to me by a culture that is largely unconscious, or risen up within me through a mind and heart that is so full of hurts, traumas, and imperfections that God/Jesus/Spirit cannot reach me directly.
In short, I'm a mess. And like many of us on the spiritual path today, I've spent decades trying to figure out just how messed up I am and how to make permanent, long-lasting repairs. Usually, my process is a slow one, plodding along from one teeny-wheeny realization to the next. But every once and a while, the flood gates will open and I'll see something that takes my breath away. It happened once 15 years ago.
I was attending a large meditation at a spiritual center in California that promoted eastern philosophies and spiritual practices. After the meditation was over, I went out to the reception area and watched everyone come out of the large auditorium. One by one, several hundred people began quietly streaming out of the auditorium into the reception area. Suddenly, it donned on me that there weren't any physically handsome or beautiful people; out of a sea of several hundred people, not a single person had the kind of physical characteristics that are typically associated with beauty. I shook my head, challenging my perception. "This can't be right," I thought. "How can so large a group be so full of homely people?" And then it hit me. "Were all of these people drawn to a philosophy that focuses on meditation and transcending this world because they had difficulty fitting into a world that was preoccupied with appearances?"
"What kind of lame, uncharitable, over-simplified thought is this?" I asked myself. "And who am I to stand here judging who is beautiful, and who is not, and what may or may not be motivating them?"
But the perception wouldn't let me go. Instead, it haunted me for weeks, eventually forcing me to take a closer look at myself and the spiritual beliefs and practices I had adopted. In the end, while I had no idea how valid my perception was of the crowd of people I had seen at the center, or what their deeper motivations might be for following a spiritual path that emphasized transcending the world through meditation, one thing did become perfectly clear: MY spiritual beliefs and practices weren't based on what I thought they were.
I discovered, for instance, that the early years I had spent living a St. Francis-style life -- sleeping outside, homeless, with little food and money -- came more from being deprived as a child of basic needs than being called by God to live the life of a holy, lowly follower of Christ. And what was true of this area of my life, was true of other areas as well: A celibate path had been appealing to me because I was afraid of being hurt in relationships; planetary-wide earth changes captivated me because I found it difficult to cope with the real world; being saved by Jesus, raptured away, or beamed up was appealing because I didn't particularly like myself, or my world, the way it was -- and didn't feel I had the wherewithal to change everything on my own.
In short, I discovered that very little of what we believe and do is based on what we think it is. Some of our belief systems and spiritual practices are valid, some are not, and they all are mixed up with a multitude of unconscious, unhealed issues -- whether we are aware of them, or not. Discovering the true nature of our beliefs (which often includes seriously investigating the stories they came from) has, therefore, become very important to me -- which brings me to another hornet's nest that Twyman stirred up for me.
If you are on the spiritual path today, you've probably run into "A Course in Miracles," or "The Course" as it is popularly called. And if you're like me, and many other spiritual seekers -- even die-hard Course fans, you've probably been overwhelmed by its massive size (three volumes consisting some 1250 pages), bewildered by its content (a tidal wave of authoritative dissertations concerning the nature of reality and the spiritual path), and intimidated by its claims to have been authored by Jesus Christ through a psychologist named Helen Schucman.
To be honest, I've never liked the Course. And still don't. I don't like the idea of Jesus -- someone I regard as an earthy, personable, rabble rousing, mystical, unpredictable, all-things-to-all-people kind of guy -- reappearing in the pages of a book as an etheric psychologist spouting spiritual truths. And I don't like some of the truths "I think" the Course advocates. I say "I think" because I'm not entirely sure what the darn thing says -- nor do I have the time, or interest, to spend the rest of my life trying to figure it out, as some of my friends are.
My primary knowledge of the Course comes from the books I have read about it, from animated discussions with my well-versed Course friends (some of whom are world-renowned "experts" on it), and from scattered readings of the Course itself, which I have never read from cover to cover and in all likelihood never will. I got involved with the Course out of a desire to understand why my friends were so taken with it and because I wanted to know more about a book that claimed to be authored by Jesus.
But after years of arguing with my friends about Course theology and trying, unsuccessfully, to figure out what to do with it (and them), I concluded the Course was essentially a UFO that was beyond my current feeble abilities to understand. I would leave it, if I could, to those who had the time, patience, and stamina to sort it out. I would also do what I could to acknowledge the good things I saw in it while keeping my mouth shut about the things I disliked (at least publicly) because I hadn't studied the Course enough to authoritatively challenge the things that bugged me about it.
And then James Twyman came along -- one more Course teacher among a growing multitude of others -- championing what I considered to be some of the worst aspects of the Course. And to make matters worse, he presented himself as the messenger of a group of spiritual adepts who mastered the laws of life through the use of Course-like principles.
That was it. Now I had to say something. And so I will, hopefully without embarrassing myself too much. I believe I have my basic Course theology correct, but if I don't, or if my particular interpretation of Course theology is different from your own, I invite you to share your perspectives in the followup special report which will include reader comments.
The Course champions the idea that somewhere along the line we made a mistake and, as a result, the world and created universe came into being. According to the Course (and many eastern philosophies), our journey here is a "useless journey" that serves no purpose. We have nothing to acquire, nothing to gain, nothing to learn; we have only to wake up to the perfection that is already ours. In a similar vein, the entire world -- all creation -- is the fabrication of egos gone mad. Nothing more. Our response to this terrible situation is to look for the Son of God beneath the surface of the appearances. Indeed, the entire "course" of A Course in Miracles is intended to help us wake up from the terrible dream we are lost in through "forgiving" our brothers and sisters of the sins we think they caused by remembering they are really children of God.
A worldview like this leaves us with several problems: first and foremost, some part of us was (and potentially still is) defective because somewhere along the line we made a very big mistake; second, the created universe, because it is the creation of egos gone mad, is not a nice place -- it is full of painful, illusory traps that keep us asleep to our true nature; third, since the world is not a nice place, and since nothing of any value is taking place by being here, our efforts should be aimed at getting the heck out of Dodge -- the sooner the better. Not surprisingly, many Course people believe that instant awakenings are part of the program, and practice their Course exercises very diligently in the hopes that they will awaken from this nightmare of separation any moment.
The most informed Course people I know tell me that the Course does not teach the kind of instant awakenings these folks hope for. Instead, the Course presents a very long path back to God that consists of a series of small awakenings, or "Holy Instants." These same informed sources do acknowledge that there are portions of the Course that can be misconstrued to suggest that full-blown instant awakenings are possible.
Significantly, while traditional eastern philosophies believe enlightenment is primarily attained through meditation and other solitary practices, the path to enlightenment that the Course advocates is through interpersonal relationships; through forgiving and joining with others in the messy business of day-to-day living. In my view, this is where the Course shines the most.
Getting back to the Course's perspective on creation, my current view is that our souls/spirits are, and were, too perfect to make mistakes -- and none were made. Instead, we chose to create and participate in the dream of creation so we could grow, evolve, develop aspects of awareness and consciousness that we did not possess before beginning our adventure here. The created universe is, therefore, a marvelous place to be. While full of challenges (at least at the lower levels of creation where we are), the world and created universe are ultimately benevolent, created for our own good, with our best interests in mind. We can, therefore, relax, enjoy ourselves, appreciate our adventures here, and make our way through the created universe back to heaven in a graceful, thankful, increasingly joyful fashion.
I obviously like my version of creation and the purpose of life better than the Course's, but I don't know which is true. Perhaps they both are and I'm too dense to see how such radically differing perspectives can fit together.
In any case, the creation stories and philosophies we believe in have important ramifications. People who believe, for instance, that instant awakenings are a part of the spiritual path, can waste a lot of precious time thinking they are going to be zapped back to God at any moment. David Spangler in his book, "Solstice Shift", eloquently addresses this concern:
So far, my personal experience, and the experience of every single person I have ever known or met, follows the step-by-step description of awakening that Spangler outlines above. And this includes everyone I know who has had any kind of spiritual awakening: it comes and goes, leaving the person involved to embody and ground it. It does not come and instantaneously perfect all of our imperfections, or carry us to lofty places in consciousness never to return to Earth again. There are, of course, endless "stories" of this happening (including Twyman's), but none that I know of that have real people backing them up.
The evidence that I can see in my life, in the life of others, and in human history, is that a very meaningful, coherent, divinely-orchestrated plan is unfolding that requires all life -- human and otherwise -- to slowly evolve from primitive forms of consciousness to ever-increasing ones. Whatever the ultimate purpose of this plan is for ourselves and the rest of creation, it certainly does not appear to be the "useless journey" advocated by the Course and other "dream world theologies" that view this world, and our experiences here, in a dismissive, pointless, disrespectful fashion. Nor does it support the idea of full-blown instant awakenings. Human beings no more pass from this world to other dimensions in the twinkling of an eye than one-celled amebas transform themselves in monkeys overnight. There are moments of transcendence, mutation, awakening, which are followed by working to embody, evolve, and take these new levels of development to increasingly higher levels.
Another concern deals with the way many Course students regard the Course as an infallible revelation from Jesus to humanity. Is such a revelation possible? Was Helen Schucman, the woman who spent years painstakingly taking notes from a source she believed to be Jesus, able to accomplish such a feat? Was she able to set her own mind, emotions, misconceptions, beliefs, cultural conditioning, personal agendas and imperfections completely aside and accurately record -- no, "perfectly record" -- every single word she heard from Jesus? Some Course students fervently believe this was possible, not so much because of Helen's abilities, but because of Jesus' abilities. They cite the inspiring visions and events that surrounded the birth of the Course, the way the Course was written (in a complicated, holographic-style of weaving thoughts, themes, and ideas in and out of one another, rather than the conventional one-thought-leads-to-another way most books are written) and point out that the voice Helen heard corrected her when her mind distorted what it was saying. But the fact that Helen heard things incorrectly at all can also be cited as evidence that Helen was not able to record everything she heard perfectly. In addition, The Course took the form of a massive, difficult to understand, three-part spiritually-oriented psychological manual (when Helen, coincidentally, was a highly-trained psychologist herself); she heard Jesus speak to her in English (a language native to her, but not to the historical Jesus or billions of other souls on planet Earth); and, perhaps most dubious of all, Helen's own life and personality was so full of mental and emotional conflicts that she died never fully embracing, practicing, or being healed by the Course she labored so hard to bring into the world.
As far as I'm concerned, no one who is familiar with how the Course came to be can deny that something remarkable took place with Helen Schucman. But the idea that any spiritual teaching can reach us on planet Earth without being "doctored" by the consciousness of the channel that received it seems absurd to me. In the case of the Course (and all other spiritual systems for that matter), if you replace the human instruments that gave it birth, everything changes. Who knows, for instance, what the Course would like if it came through the mind and experience of a simple fisherman, rather than an accomplished psychologist.
It seems equally absurd that any spiritual teaching could appear on our planet at this stage in our development that was perfect. Indeed, most of us -- even the best of us -- are probably no more than toddlers in the grand scheme of things. The holy books, teachings, and spiritual paths we are familiar with today will probably look like children's fairy tales a few eons from now.
But that's not how many Course students view the Course today. Instead, they view the Course with the same fervor that fundamentalist Christians view the New Testament. For them, the Course is the Word of God for our time. It is a complete, airtight, perfect system of thought and action that will lead its practitioners to realizing perfection if they effectively apply it in their lives. Indeed, some Course students literally believe that Christ has returned to Earth for a second time through its pages.
Ironically, the Course students I have spoken with that view the Course as an infallible revelation from Jesus to humanity can clearly see how claims of "scriptural infallibility" have harmed others, in other spiritual traditions. But the Course, in their minds, is an exception -- and so are they. Unlike the deluded souls who regard the Bible, Koran, Torah, Book of Morman, Book of Urantia, Aquarian Gospel of Levi, Conversations with God, and other channeled or scribed revelations from God, Jesus, or other spiritual sources as perfectly accurate, they were able to get their hands on a source of spiritual wisdom that really is perfect -- even though it is still a couple steps removed from its source (Jesus).
For the record, as far as I know, the Course does not claim infallibility for itself. It says that it is a "specialized curriculum" meant for some people and not for others.
Another concern that is closely related to the infallibility theme is the importance of focusing exclusively on Course teachings at the exclusion of other spiritual truths and traditions. While I personally believe it is legitimate to dedicate ourselves to single spiritual paths in order to foster deeper growth, I think we get into trouble if we believe the path we are committing ourselves to is a perfect path, complete unto itself. It seems obvious to me that there is no such thing as one spiritual path, no matter how inspired it may seem or be, that is going to meet all of our needs, all of the time, and take us all the way back to God -- especially at this relatively unconscious point in human history.
Furthermore, it looks to me like the days of exclusive, singular spiritual paths are coming to an end. Thanks to the emergence of the global communications system, barriers between people, philosophies, and religions are being broken down at an increasing rate. We are also being exposed to an increasing number of spiritual beliefs and practices different from our own which, in turn, are helping us see the strengths and weaknesses of our particular belief systems. In the face of this growing onslaught, how wise is it to put all of our eggs in one spiritual basket when there are so many other baskets, from the past, present, AND FUTURE, that we have yet to explore? And if we are little more than toddlers in the grand scheme of things, how wise is it to cling to one system of thought that we will probably outgrow? Why not follow whatever spiritual paths appeal to us now, with as much depth, commitment and gusto as we can muster, while, at the same time, keeping our mind and heart open to new revelations, insights, and spiritual perspectives?
Many years ago, I had a dream.
In my dream I saw a long line of impoverished Americans standing in a long line. The line led to a gypsy-type woman who held a large silver stone in her lap. As each person reached her and touched the stone, the power of God flowed into them and they were filled with peace and happiness.
As I watched this curious scene, a Catholic priest approached the long line of people and began stamping "Property of the Church" on the foreheads of all the people. Once a person had been stamped, they could no longer experience the power of the stone. Astonished at the gall and insensitivity of the priest, I grabbed the stamp from him and threw it away.
The next thing I knew, I was looking at several large jugs of water, each of which has a different religion written on it. One jar said "Christianity," another "Buddhism," and so on. I noticed all of the jars were filled with water that was polluted to one degree or another. Then I noticed an abstract, difficult to read sign behind all the jars of water. Straining to read the sign, I walked around behind the water jugs to get a closer look. Finally, the letters all came into focus and I was amazed see that the sign spelled "LOVE."
I believe this dream illustrates two important spiritual truths: 1. If our minds become too rigidly-focused on one kind of spiritual belief system, we cut ourselves off from our Source (and from each other); 2. While all of the spiritual traditions and belief systems of the world are polluted to one degree or another, a common, central force lies behind them -- a common, central force which is difficult to see unless we step back and take a look behind them.
It seems to me that a new kind of synergetic, multi-faceted, ever-changing spiritual path is emerging in our time that encourages us to blend, adapt, adjust various systems of thought as we grow and develop, rather than clinging to one clearly-defined path as our ancestors did. I think our own direct relationship with the divine is also becoming increasingly important and will eventually replace the spiritual teachings that have helped us build bridges between ourselves and the divine. In the coming age, I expect a growing number of people to be more interested in the force that stands behind all the spiritual paths of the world (which endures), than the systems themselves (which tend to change, evolve and pass away).
These are some of the thoughts that came up for me when Twyman presented his Emissaries as champion's of Course-like perspectives. How valid are my views on all of this? I don't know. They amount to the best, most-informed "guesses" I can presently make. With enough honest discussion and serious seeking, I believe we will eventually be able to find answers to these questions -- especially if we spend as much time questioning why we are drawn to particular belief systems as we do seeking to understand and follow them.
Over the course of this three-part report, we have taken a close look at the claims, spiritual philosophy, and activities of James Twyman. We have also taken a look at some of my issues, agendas and discoveries, and the spiritual path in general. What can we conclude from all of this?
The bottomline, as far as I can see, is that none of us really knows what's going on -- even though some of us think we do. While respecting the fact that many other souls are not particularly interested in an all out search for the truth at this point in their development, my hope is that we can find at least a few who are -- and together chart a new course for ourselves and our race. What would happen if enough of us started being honest about everything? If we began questioning all the things we have assumed to be true, taken for granted, or left unexplored? What kind of discoveries would we make? Where would it all lead?
I'm not sure, but I intend to continue jumping into whatever controversies, mysteries, and unknowns stand between us and the truth. I hope you will, too...
NHNE MISSION STATEMENT, CREDITS & CONTACT INFORMATION
The mission of NewHeavenNewEarth (NHNE) is to answer humankind's oldest, most perplexing questions: Who are we? Where are we from? What is the origin and purpose of life? Instead of relying on ancient or contemporary wisdom, or the knowledge of isolated experts, we are building a global network of seekers from all walks of life, from all parts of the world, lay people and professionals alike, that can pool talents, experience, and resources to unravel life's great mysteries.
We also believe that our planet is passing through a time of profound change and are seeking to create a global community of like-minded people that can safely pass through whatever changes may come our way and help give birth to a new way of life on our planet.
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