On Sunday January 30, 2005, Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the congregation at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco. What follows is a lightly edited transcription of that talk.
I have been, am now – and probably always will be – a subversive. I realize that. I was born, of course, in 1952. That means I was eight years old when it became the sixties. The sixties is usually thought of as the big, subversive decade. It was the decade of great social change. Actually, I don’t think of the sixties as starting in 1960. It was more like 62, 63 or 64 when all the great change started to happen and subversive elements seemed to be around in society, elements that were changing things – changing the dominant paradigm, or the way that people thought.
Forty years from now people will look back and at this current decade and probably think this decade was subversive. I don’t know. Things do seem to be changing. At least in my mind, in my perception of things.
There’s always a lot of speculation about what happened in the sixties. Why do we single that decade out and talk about it? A lot of things actually did happen in the sixties. The sixties was the decade of the United States of America’s big military presence in Viet Nam, that very strange conflict, a war that turned out to be disastrous for us. In the early sixties we were in Viet Nam mostly as advisers but with a growing military presence there. Then, it was in 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin resolution was passed that vastly increased the number of armed forces that ended up in Viet Nam. By 1965 we had 200,000 troops in Viet Nam and we would be mired down there for another six or seven years before we were able to get our troops out. So, a lot of people point to the Viet Nam war as being one of the reasons why there was a strong undercurrent of change, this subversive element.
Some people talk about the sexual revolution. Maybe it was the sexual revolution. Didn’t that happen in the sixties? I like that better. Why was there a sexual revolution in the sixties? Well, there’s a new movie out right now named, Kinsey that talks about the man that people sometimes think of as starting the sexual revolution. Actually, his work was way before the sixties. He published Sexual Behavior In Human Males in 1948. Then he published Sexual Behavior in Human Females in 1953. This was substantially before the sixties, but it took awhile before those thoughts could get into the societal consciousness. It took awhile for his work to be widely embraced. If you really want to think about what started the sexual revolution in the sixties it was probably birth control pills. They were released in the early sixties and then suddenly everything was different. So, a lot of things did happen in the sixties.
Some people are hesitant to use the word “subversive” but I looked it up, Webster’s states: “... a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a government or political system by persons working secretly from within.” Something from within the system itself, within the culture itself, is systematical shifting everything. Maybe it’s better just to look at the word “subvert”, “... to overturn or overthrow from the foundation” So, when we subvert something we change it right from the very core of it. You have to be within it in order to change it form the very core. I think about the sixties. I think about the Viet Nam war and the sexual revolution. I was kind of young to be participating in the sexual revolution of the sixties.
What I remember as the thing that really changed everything in the sixties was television! That’s what I remember. Television had been around but it was in the early sixties that, finally, just about every household had television. And, it was in 1964 that the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan television show. For me, that changed everything! I was there on those three consecutive Sunday nights watching the Beatles, just being in awe. I was twelve years old at the time. I was very impressionable. It was a very important time for me. However, I actually think television, not just the Beatles being on Ed Sullivan, but television itself was the subversive element of change. Suddenly, there was this new cultural, communication medium that millions and millions of people were sharing. It brought people together and it started us evolving together, I believe: as a society, as a national culture, and as a world wide culture. If I had to identify anything that really shifted everything – it was certainly within every home and it was quite subversive – I would say television was what did it in the sixties. It was a time of great cultural change.
It’s hard to actually prove anything about the sixties. People make these bold statements but that was forty years ago and our perception of it is probably pretty skewed. For years we’ve all been caught up in a whirl wind of trying to explain it. Everyone talks about the sixties as this decade of great social change so we all just believe it. Was it really? Was it any more a decade of social change than other decade? I don’t truly know.
Last week, Sunday, I was talking about going home and thinking about my childhood and I used this A Course In Miracles quotation, which I think applies to today’s ideas as well. “The childhood of your body, and its place of shelter, are a memory now so distorted that you merely hold a picture of a past that never happened.” (W-pI.182.4.2) The truth is, our memories of the sixties, those of us old enough to have memories of the sixties, are so distorted that we’re holding a mental picture of something that didn’t really happen. In another place the Course says, “The past that you remember never was, and represents only the denial of what always was.” (T-14.IX.1.10) We always should be skeptical about any ideas that we have about the past. The past isn’t real. It’s only a mental construct. It’s continually in flux and change because the way we think about it is continually changing.
Yet, there it is, the sixties. Things changed. It was a very subversive decade and I remember that I was a subversive. In high school we had a rebellion against the dress code that we had. The dress code got stricter when I was a junior in high school. A group of us liberal students got together, formed a little resistance cell and decide to rebel actively against the dress code. We put on red arm bands that had the letters “SAR” on them which stood for Student Activists for Reform. We wore things we weren’t supposed to wear. One of us, a friend of mine, got expelled from Canastota High School because he was a little more out there with all of this. I got called into the principal’s office and talked to. I was subversive.
In college, Cornell University, the students took over one of the buildings when I was there. I wasn’t actually part of the building take over. I might have been if I had known about it! I was out of the loop, I guess. But I heard about it afterwards, after it was taken over, and I went right over there. At that time there was more students in the building than it could hold, but I did spend a couple of nights outside the building, in a sleeping bag. We were protesting Cornell University’s involvement with military contracts, the fact that a lot of the money for the university came from military research contracts. I was, what most would consider, subversive. I have this in my background. I realize that. It’s still prevalent today.
Another way of describing this, this is a term that’s used in the investment business, is that I am a “contrarian.” I do things contrary to the usual way of doing things. Webster’s says that a contrarian is, “... a person who take a contrary position or attitude.” I like to take contrary positions or attitudes. I like to jostle things up a little bit, say the opposite and look at what’s in the opposite camp. Can you justify the opposite position? I like to be the debater who debates the opposite side of the equation just so he can get a real sense of what other people are thinking about. I think this is all very supported by A Course In Miracles. I think the Course is an incredibly subversive, spiritual discipline. It is working from within to subvert, overthrow, overturn the very foundation of physical reality. Talk about subversive! It’s not just trying to take over the country, that “piddlings!” That’s nothing! It’s trying to overturn physical reality . That’s “Really big”, as Ed Sullivan would say – right from the foundation, right from the core.
A Course In Miracles says, “To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold.” (T-24.in.2.1) Every single value that we hold has to get questioned, challenged. Some we may question, challenge, and then decide still to hold. It doesn’t necessarily say you won’t pick those values up again. But we have to be in the continual process of challenging them and questioning them. Some we may question, challenge and decide to drop. Perhaps we will pick them up later. I think it’s asking us to be much more fluid about our values and beliefs and not to hold them as if they were the truth. We can hold them as things that are useful for us now, but may not be useful for us in the future. We have to continually be questioning our values and beliefs. The Course says, “To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold.” (T-24.in.2.1)
In another place the A Course In Miracles says, “It cannot be too strongly emphasized that this course aims at a complete reversal of thought.” (M-24.4.1) A complete reversal of thought is being asked for, not a partial reversal in the way we’re thinking. It’s not a little addition to what we’re thinking. It’s going to completely reverse the way we think. That’s a very subversive state for me. Now I think I understand why I always took to the Course so well. It appeals to my subversive nature.
In another place the A Course In Miracles says, “Yet time has an ending, and it is this that the teachers of God are appointed to bring about.” (M-1.4.8) So there it is. There’s the subversive goal, end time and space. That’s what we’re here to do. We’re a little resistance cell working within a larger construct and we are about the business of overthrowing, overturning, physical reality – time and space – from the foundation of physical reality which we are learning is the way we think. The Course is something completely different!
We’ve been having discussions here at the Community Miracles Center about our place in the community – getting more people to come. What’s our appeal? Where do we stand? I think it’s always important for us to remember, especially within this conversation, what we’re teaching here is something completely different. It’s not just a little different. It’s completely different: the fact that there is no objective world, the fact that it’s all just going on within our mind, the fact that noting outside of us influences us, the fact that there really is nothing outside of us, the fact that every relationship every interaction that we have is something that we’ve scripted and set up to learn something from — those are completely different thoughts. As such, they are very subversive and, as such, don’t have the mass appeal that possibly we think they should have. I think we have to be aware of where we stand and how we fit into the world in a larger context.
This becomes very clear to me in other things that I do. It, becomes especially clear for me in counseling. I do counseling. That’s why I choose that passage that was read earlier, because it says a lot about counseling. I’m aware of the interaction of minds. I’m aware of the interaction between a counselor and a counselee. I am aware of what other counselors do and how the whole traditional counseling paradigm works. I’m also aware that if you stick to the A Course In Miracles perspective and approach, seeing clients the way the Course is asking you to approach seeing clients, it’s completely different than what people are used to when they go to counseling. It is a very different thing. I try to temper it sometimes because it comes off kind of odd. I tend to laugh at people when they tell me their problems. They seem really amusing to me. And, I know some people don’t like that. They’re serious about their issue and it just seems so silly to me. The Course say, here talking about Teachers of God, people who know the truth, “He laughs as well at pain and loss, at sickness and at grief, at poverty, starvation and at death. He recognizes sacrifice remains the one idea that stands behind them all, and in his gentle laughter are they healed.” (W-pI.187.6.4-5) It’s in not taking the issues so seriously that they are healed. That doesn’t mean that we don’t take them sincerely, but we don’t weigh them with heavy consequence. We need to learn to be light about these issues. If you are in tune with the Holy Spirit that lightness and gentle laughter comes automatic. It’s not something you have to force. It’s very natural.
Another thing I’ve realized in counseling is 99% of people who come to you want to understand something about their life, something about the way they think and something about the way they react to things. They believe in this interaction with you, their counselor, they will understand something better. Yet A Course In Miracles continually says we don’t have to understand anything. This is a very hard concept to get across to someone who thinks they have problems. The Course says, “You are still convinced that your understanding is a powerful contribution to the truth, and makes it what it is. Yet we have emphasized that you need understand nothing.” (T-18.IV.7.5) Nothing needs to be understood. Certainly none of our problems need to be understood. We already understand them way too well. We need to stop understanding them. Understanding them makes them real. Understanding them gives them that weighty consequence that doesn’t allow us to step over them. We make them real. We bring an element of truth to them. Understanding is truth, but our problems are illusions. They’re not the truth. You can’t bring understanding to them. We’re suppose to just recognize them as silly insanities. Acknowledge them and step over them. That’s the healing modality. That is incredibly subversive, especially in the counseling field the way this field is generally conceptualized. It’s a very subversive idea and more traditional counselors feel it’s bad not to understand. Traditional counselors tell us we need to understand things. I’m up against this a lot.
I’ve also noticed in a traditional counseling paradigm: the counselor, the doctor, the psychologist, the psychiatrist, tends to define the person by the syndrome that’s sitting in front of them. They tend to pathologize people. They see the person as an illness. He or she is an: obsessive compulsive, borderline personality, type two bipolar ... . The client is whatever illness they see this person as having. Then they relate to this person as their identified pathology, instead of as the Holy Child of God who they really are. Seeing people as Holy Children of God, instead of as a pathology, is very subversive. Being unwilling to see people as their pathologies and being always in the energy of seeing people as totally unlimited Holy Child of God – that’s a subversive thing. That’s truly an attempt to overturn and overthrow something right from the foundation. It’s subverting the dominant paradigm of modern psychology. That’s what A Course In Miracles is about.
I have a counseling client. This client is dealing with the fact that for years this client has been told, by their primary therapist a professional psychologist, that this client had a “cognitive deficit.” First of all, I don’t even know what the hell that means! (laughter) A “cognitive deficit” – in other words, a deficiency in thinking ability. That’s what it would have to mean, I guess. Now, when I interact with this person I see absolutely no cognitive deficit. Not because I’m stepping over it. I really don’t see it. This person: talks fine, works fine, functions fine, understands everything I say, is able to express themselves absolutely perfectly clear to me. What cognitive deficit? I don’t see it. But yet, for years this person has been told this person has a cognitive deficit.
I wonder about this psychologist. Okay, that’s what some professional decided to tell this person. That’s the professional’s stand, his diagnosis. This professional has been relating to this client as a pathology, as someone less than, someone deficient. None of us are cognitively deficit! We all have the same mind. It’s the eternal, ever present mind of God. We have abundant mind. Nobody has any lack of mind. Is it a healing modality to relate to somebody and to define them in such a way? Would that be a healing thing to do? And yet, that’s what a lot of our traditional healing is focused on. In this next passage it talks about the different inconsistencies that take place in our traditional psychiatric or therapeutic modalities. “Such evident inconsistencies account for why no one has really explained what happens in psychotherapy. Nothing really does. Nothing real has happened to the unhealed healer, and he must learn from his own teaching.” (T-9.V.5.2) In traditional psychotherapy – nothing really does happen. If you’re relating to a person like a pathology nothing is going to happen. A Course In Miracles joining and healing is about the client and the patient realizing that they are one and having an interaction that’s guided by the Holy Spirit. Then, offering up identified misperceptions to the Holy Spirit for correction and for healing. Looking at everything with a gentle laugh, that’s a healing modality. That has nothing to do with labeling a pathology.
They have done research, and honestly I am not trying to doctor-bash here, but they have done research that shows that medical doctors are among the sickest people that we have in society. (laughter) They are! They have more illnesses and diseases. If you plot them in charts and graphs you will see that they are very ill people. It’s no wonder, they traditionally study illness and disease all the time. How many doctors actually study health? Not that many – very, very few. They study illness. Their minds are focused on understanding disease. They’re patholgizing everybody that they see. What do they know about health? They don’t know that much about health. They understand a awful lot about sickness though. It’s something to think about. Doctors also have one of the highest suicide rates, maybe the highest suicide rate, of any profession. Think about it. I don’t think as a culture we understand healing at all and it’s the subversive goal of A Course In Miracles to overthrow this way of thinking, this dominant paradigm.
A Course In Miracles says, “When God said, ‘Let there be light,’ there light. Can you find light by analyzing darkness, as the psychotherapist does, or like the theologian, by acknowledging darkness in yourself and looking for a distant light to remove it, while emphasizing the distance?” (T-9.V.6.2) A little later on it adds, “A therapist does not heal; ” (T-9.V.8.1) Healing is just there. You just let it be. You may work at removing an obstacle to it, but you don’t have to bring healing anywhere. It is there. When God said, “Let there be light” the light was already there. I talk about this from time to time because it’s a distinction that I finally got. There was light. God said, “Let the light be. Let there be light!” It was already there. When we are affirming healing we’re letting healing be. Let there be healing. The healing is already there. (Rev. Tony points to the podium.) Let there be podium. (Rev. Tony motions towards a chair.) Let there be chair. It’s already there. Let there be light. It’s already there. Let there be a healed world. It’s already here. We’re just acknowledging it. Let there be healing. Let there be light. Let there be an eternal nature to ourselves. Of course, it’s already there. We’re not trying to create anything. We’re just acknowledging what already is and that is a very subversive thought for the dominant religious paradigm that seems to be in existence in our culture. I do take the contrarian point of view on this. I am spiritually contrary to the way our traditional religions generally think of things because I have learned that it just doesn’t work for me. And it does work for me to challenge things, question things – every value and belief. If I need to pick one up and hold onto it for a little while I can certainly do that.
Somehow, all of this is very consistent with my life. I see my sixties upbringing, being part of that decade, somehow prepared me for being involved in this discipline now that’s subverting the dominant paradigms at the fundamental level.
Forty years from now, maybe advanced thinkers will look back and they will identify this first decade of the 2000s and possibly think of it as a revolutionary decade that was subversive. Maybe they will wonder what caused it, just like we look back at the sixties. Maybe they will think that it was September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked. Maybe they will think that it was the war in Iraq that really caused everything to shift and change. Maybe they will think that it was the internet, as a global cultural, communication medium, that took a strong hold in the first decade of the new Millennium. I don’t know what they will think but I believe, that the work that we are doing now – the spiritual work, our healing work with A Course In Miracles and related disciplines – that’s truly the subversive element shifting and changing the very fabric of physical reality. I think that there is an untold positive, healing effect to the work that we are doing right now.
That’s it! Thank you. ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the February 2005 (Vol. 18 No. 12) 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.