I Practice To Be Strong and Competent

A teaching by Marshall Vian Summers, March 16, 2019

Marshall Vian Summers recently gave a teaching to the Worldwide Community of the New Message from God. In this teaching, he offered a number of practices for people to follow. Before giving these practices, he spoke of the relative importance of practice.

“You know, when I meet people of different faith traditions, if I have an opportunity to speak with them, I always want to find out what they practice, not what they believe. I don’t care what they believe, really. It’s important in the sense that it determines their behavior and their perception to a large extent. But I really want to know what they practice because that’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s what really matters. It’s what people do, not what they think about doing.”

I practice to be strong and competent

I practice to be strong and competent

There was something Marshall said during this teaching that started a train of thought in me.

“We practice the great practices [inner listening, stillness, looking without judgment, learning how to direct your mind at will, always knowing where your mind is going, objectively questioning your assumptions and beliefs, stepping back from who you think you are or what you think life is] to develop skills to reemploy the mind to develop new neural pathways of how the mind is going to function: a new way of responding to other people, responding to conflict, responding to beauty, responding to degradation. We’re building skills to be able to be in the world in a new way. And we’re doing this in such a way that we become immortal beings in the world to be of service, rather than being in the world with some vague notion of our own that we have a greater life somewhere, somehow, above and beyond this existence.

Instead of being trapped by the world, we are being fed by Heaven.

So our practice now is skill building. And I want you to really think about that. This is not a reward system where every time you practice you get a reward. Every time you do a trick, you get a cookie. Good boy. [Emphasis mine]

No. We’re practicing to become strong and competent. There’s no emphasis on mastery here. The emphasis is on competence and functionality. In fact, the New Message says there are no masters living in the world. Mastery is beyond anything that can be achieved here. So let’s take that out of the picture. Anyone who claims to be a master or appears to be a master is still a student in the world.”

What if I like a reward system?

In what is known as the “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus used the word “reward” seven times. He instructed his disciples to avoid practicing almsgiving, prayer and fasting in front of other people. There were people who did these things to appear righteous in the eyes of other people. Jesus said that those who did these things have already received their reward in full. He mentioned that those who practiced in secret would be rewarded by the Father who sees what is done in secret. But he didn’t elaborate on what the reward would be.

The Matthew Henry Commentary suggested that the reward would be at the final judgment. But I found that not fully satisfying. I believe Christians would say (among other things) “We practice almsgiving because we would want to treated that way. We practice almsgiving because we are cultivating the Christlike virtue of generosity. We practice almsgiving because we are practicing seeing Christ in the guise of the poor.” They wouldn’t see themselves as doing a trick and getting a cookie. Likewise for the practices of prayer and fasting. I believe Christians would consider these as practices for developing Christlike character. I practice to be strong and competent. So do they.

What do you seek from your practice?

I think what I’m trying to say is this. If there are thoughts within me that associate practice with a reward system, then I need to think it out again. If there are motivations within me that want to do a trick and get a cookie, then I need to grow up a little bit. Someday someone will ask me, “Douglas, why do you do these practices and not those practices?” And I will say “I practice to be strong and competent.”

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Do The Leaves Of Green Stay Greener Through The Autumn?

beginning_of_autumn Do the leaves of green stay greener through the autumn

“Do the leaves of green stay greener through the autumn?
Does the color of the sun turn crimson white?
Does a shadow come between us in the winter?
Is the movement really light?” – Yes, “The Ancient: Giants Under the Sun”

Jesus had support beyond his disciples. Luke 8 tells us that Joanna, Susanna and Mary Magdalene financially supported the ministry of Jesus. In Luke 10, Jesus sent out 72 disciples to the places he would go in the future. The 72 disciples were an “advance team,” as it were.

Muhammad had the Sahabas, the companion disciples, who were with Muhammad during his lifetime, and died as Muslims. After the death of Muhammad in 632, the Sahabas played a great role in the preservation of the recited Quran in written form. Their testimonies were the basis of the body of traditions of the life of Muhammad.

Do the leaves of green stay greener through the autumn?

Who does Marshall Vian Summers have? The Society for the New Message from God. I have introduced them in this post, and described their accomplishments over their 20+ year history. The Society includes Ellen Mitchell…

Ellen-MitchellDarlene Mitchell (no relation)…

Darlene-Mitchelland Jeanine Butler (who functioned as the in-house yogini during the recent Encampment)

Jeanine-Butler

Between the 2014 Encampment and now, the Society has grown in my mind. While they have accomplished a great deal, they are so much more than an advance team or a support team. The Society is a group of people who have demonstrated consistent representation of the New Message from God and its Messenger, Marshall Vian Summers.

I have said this before, and I will say it again, that if the New Message from God catches on in the world, the Society will be one of the reasons. But there is more to say than that. It was my blessing to have occasional chats with Society members at Encampment. While they were busy with a lot of work, their faces shone with joy. Do the leaves of green stay greener through the autumn? All I know is that Ellen, Darlene and Jeanine do.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

News Travels, Even Among Thoughts

The play Privacy. News travels, even among thoughtsAt one point, the Pharisees and teachers of the law requested to see a sign from Jesus. This illustration was part of his response.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” (Matthew 12:43-45, New International Version)

In my mind, it is as if Jesus is saying “What would be the point of my performing a sign? It’s not like it would do this wicked generation any good in the end.” But the claim Jesus made that news travels, even among wicked spirits, went unchallenged by the Pharisees and teachers of the law.

News travels, even among thoughts

In the days of Gunsmoke (see earlier post), Dodge City, Kansas was hardly the only town in the region. Great Bend was (and still is) about 80 miles away. Hays City (now just Hays) was about 100 miles away. I can clearly see in my mind’s eye the various villains, outlaws and no-goods of the region, commiserating in a saloon in Great Bend. One of them says “That <expletive> Dillon ran me outta Dodge City!” Another one says “Oh, I wouldn’t let that discourage you. I believe there’s some opportunity here for a man of your…talents.” Talents such as gun fighting, horse stealing, cheating at cards, etc. News travels, even among villains, outlaws and no-goods.

A Course in Miracles teaches that the very idea of private thoughts is an unidea, non-well-formed, gobbledygoop:

“I have no private thoughts. Yet it is only private thoughts of which I am aware. What can these thoughts mean? They do not exist, and so they mean nothing. Yet my mind is part of creation and part of its Creator. Would I not rather join the thinking of the universe than to obscure all that is really mine with my pitiful and meaningless “private” thoughts?” (Lesson 52 (review of Lesson 10), Workbook for Students)

I don’t know if this is really true, but I have a picture in my mind’s eye of thoughts comparing notes with each other, looking for minds in which they might be welcome. Just as the villains, outlaws and no-goods compared notes regarding how welcome they might be in various Kansas towns. News travels, even among thoughts.

I realize that some people may not see what I see in my mind’s eye. But the idea of the spreading of thoughts has been around for a while. The English biologist Richard Dawkins coined the word “meme” in the 1970’s to describe a thought-complex that commandeers a mind to assist in its propagation. It is similar to the way a virus commandeers a cell to assist in its propagation.

American poet Mary Oliver wrote that “news travels, even among foxes, as you might know, or not know.” I realize I’m not being exactly precise in what I’m saying about thoughts, memes and impure spirits. But I’m here to tell you that news travels, even among thoughts. Why am I here to tell you that news travels, even among thoughts? Because I haven’t said everything I have to say about the Prodigal Son.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Judge Not The World

Judge Not The World

Some of the teachings of Steps to Knowledge challenge the habits of a lifetime.  Steps to Knowledge seems to recognize this, and repeats certain teachings from different angles from time to time.  Step 60, “I will not judge the world today” is an instance of this.  The idea of observing without judgment was introduced in Step 29, “I will observe myself today to learn of Knowledge.”  Where does judgment come from?  Reality is weighed against our ideals and found wanting.  Therefore, to escape judgment, I need to become less invested in my ideals.  This is the idea behind Step 55, “I will accept the world as it is.”

Judge not the world

I do not consider this to be a novel teaching.

I consider this teaching to follow from the teaching of Jesus, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1, New International Version)

I consider this teaching to be a confirmation of the words of Mother Teresa (“Blessed Teresa of Kolkata” to you), “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”  In my mind, putting Matthew 7:1 and the words of Mother Teresa together yields “Love, and you too will be loved.”

I consider this teaching to confirm the teaching of Lesson 352 of the Workbook for Students in A Course in Miracles, “Judgment and love are opposites. From one come all the sorrows of the world.  But from the other comes the peace of God Himself.”

When someone tells a lie, they have to go to substantial efforts to keep the rest of their testimony consistent with that lie.  When someone judges someone else, it is a certainty that someone else will have the opposite judgment.  It therefore follows that people go to substantial efforts to justify their own judgments.  I know, for I have made these substantial efforts.  I had to find out the hard way that it wasn’t worth it.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Thinking A Little More About Judgment

Some people struggle with the idea of observing without judgement.  Some people have difficulty with the execution of such an idea, as they have cultivated a habit of judging and are somewhat attached to it, somewhat invested in it.  Some people reject the very premise of such an idea, suggesting judgment is a necessity for survival.  But those same people usually affirm the teaching of Jesus, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1, New International Version)

I have previously mentioned the Matthew Henry Commentary in this space.  Henry wrote that there are people whose job it is to judge (rulers, authorities, etc.) and Jesus didn’t come to abolish those jobs.  There was another occasion when Jesus told his disciples they would one day judge the twelve tribes of Israel, but that day is in a redeemed future.  To judge someone is to presume an authority I don’t have.

To judge someone is to declare consent to be judged according to the same standard by which I have judged someone.  Some people have not considered that consequence to be the case.

One gentleman I spoke with conjectured that, other things being equal, we tend to judge the people who we consider to be least like us.

After some pondering, I consider the command “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” to be a particular instance of the command “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31, New International Version).  The command “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” could also be considered as a special case of “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31, New International Version)

Could it be that this command “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” is a trickier command to keep than it looks?  Could it be that we really do love our neighbor as ourselves, but we have a certain degree of self-hatred, for we know we’ve fallen short?  Could it be we would like to judge others, so we don’t seem so bad by comparison?

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.

Less Judgment, More Observation

On the one hand, many people are familiar with the teaching of Jesus, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  (Matthew 7:1-2, New International Version) On the other hand, Christians are instructed to “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11, New International Version)  There is some fine print about the “Do not judge…” passage.

The word “judgment” has already appeared multiple times in Steps to Knowledge, and in all the instances so far, the context is that it is a hindrance to one’s knowing.  Judgment could be thought of as a habit of mental or moral sloth, a refusal to further examine the context or motivation of someone or some action.

Error exists, and it is something to avoid, because it has painful consequences.  Is judgment an error?  It looks that way from my perspective.  Someone will ask, “Then what should I do instead?”  The answer given by both step 29 and step 30 is to observe.  In step 29, I’m observing myself; in step 30, I’m observing the world.  The phrase “without judgment” appears 4 times in 7 sentences in step 30.  I surmise from this that I’m not supposed to observe so that I can come to a more informed judgment.  I’m being asked to cultivate observation, and starve, de-cultivate, the habit of judgment.

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Welcome to Mystery of Ascension! Добро пожаловать в Тайну просветления! We document the study of the New Message from God in general, and the book Steps to Knowledge in particular. Мы тут делимся своим опытом изучения Нового Послания от Бога, в общем, и книги Шаги к Знанию в частности. Find out more about us here. Узнайте больше о нас здесь. Find out how to contact us here. Узнайте, как связаться с нами здесь.