“The” Bible(s)

 

The Bible has no reference at all to any persons who ever existed or to any event that ever occurred upon earth.

The ancient story tellers were not writing history but an allegorical picture lesson of certain basic principles which they clothed in the garb of history, and they adapted these stories to the limited capacity of a most uncritical and credulous people.

Throughout the centuries we have mistakenly taken personifications for persons, allegory for history, the vehicle that conveyed the instruction for the instruction, and the gross first sense for the ultimate sense intended.

The difference between the form of the Bible and its substance is as great as the difference between a grain of corn and the life germ within that grain. As our assimilative organs discriminate between food that can be built into our system and food that must be discarded, so do our awakened intuitive faculties discover beneath allegory and parable, the psychological life-germ of the Bible; and, feeding on this, we, too, cast off the form which conveyed the message.

–Neville Goddard, “Consciousness Is The Only Reality”

 

It’s funny to me now that, several years ago, after years of exploring the history of the Christian church and finding irreconcilable contradictions at every turn, I had NO INTEREST WHATSOEVER in the Bible. Any interest I had was that of a skeptic: I explored (superficially) authors like Bart Ehrman, who has made an academic career out of delving into the Bible’s historicity. But I really felt like, as a book that contained any sort of message of relevant truth, the Bible was bullshit.

il_fullxfull.356406685_ii7kBut then I started really delving into the teachings of Neville Goddard, and, the way he explains and frames the Bible, it finally makes sense to me on a deep level. As a result, I’ve gone from barely ever opening the one Bible I owned (a well-worn King James Version of the Bible that my grandfather, a Lutheran lay preacher, used, its spine held together with strips of black electrical tape) to owning, by my count, SIX different copies of the book, each different: Grandpa Shenk’s King James Version, the French translation by Louis Segond, a French-English dual language edition, an Oxford annotated edition of the Revised Standard Version, and, finally, two 20th century translations which were done by scholars who went back to the original Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) or Aramaic manuscripts, by George Lamsa and James Moffatt.

11Moffatt’s Bible was apparently Neville Goddard’s preferred edition; it and Lamsa’s translation are markedly different from “the Bible” as it is presented by the church and widely understood by mainstream Christians. Lamsa further broke from tradition by basing his New Testament translation not on the widely accepted Greek manuscripts, but on Aramaic manuscripts which, he maintained, predated the Greek versions.

I’m seeing, in exploring these texts even superficially, with Neville’s teachings as a guide, that the “historicity” of the Bible that matters most is not that of the events or people it purports to depict, but that of its history as a document: how it was assembled, selected, edited, revised, and translated. While I would dispute Neville’s assertion that “the Bible has no reference at all to any persons who ever existed” (Jesus, Pilate, Paul and others depicted in the Bible were, according to other accounts, real people whose existence is corroborated in non-scriptural historic records, although they may not have said or done what is attributed to them in the Bible), I do agree with Neville’s core belief about the Bible: that its meaning and importance is as “salvation history,” and, as he put it, that the people in its stories were depicted symbolically, as representative of states of consciousness… in particular, the states of consciousness a person passes through on his journey to awakening to his or her true identity as God embodied. (Neville’s excellent piece “The Twelve Disciples,” a chapter from his book Your Faith Is Your Fortune, typifies that interpretive approach.)

The personas of the people in the Bible were appropriated to tell a story, in other words.

It’s become clear to me, though, from delving even superficially into the Bible’s history as a document, that there were many different voices contributing to the work, and much of what was originally written has no doubt been perverted. Moffatt’s and Lamsa’s translations both were attempts to remedy this. I can’t write or speak with the authority of a Biblical scholar; I have not delved deeply into the Bible. Mainly I like having the different editions and translations at hand as reference material when Neville or someone else mentions a passage in a lecture.

But Neville, Lamsa and Moffatt all agree: what we call “The Bible” is not at all what it is widely believed to be. All of them agree that the closer a reader can get to the original Hebrew and Greek (or, as Lamsa maintained, Aramaic), the better.

Further, those original language documents are riddled with difficulties for a reader, much less a translator. There is much in the original manuscripts that has no modern English or Western equivalent, be those words, names, or figures of speech. Further, some of what was written was not meant to be spoken.

My sense is that “The” Bible is actually a collection of ancient texts, many of which were either deliberately edited and augmented after they were written, or which were mistranslated, or translated closely but misunderstood, so that, as Neville put it, readers mistake “personifications for persons, allegory for history, the vehicle that conveyed the instruction for the instruction, and the gross first sense for the ultimate sense intended.”

But mainly, as a document, “the” Bible, again, is not a single book, but a collection of books, or, as Neville put it in one of his lectures, a library in a single volume. And, to my pleasure, I’m finding that, like all good libraries, it’s a fascinating place to explore… but it must be met not on the terms of a church or organization, but on its own terms.

I’m grateful that I discovered Neville, Lamsa, and Moffatt as guides.


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“The sensation which dominates the mind of man…”

From Neville Goddard’s 1948 lecture “Assumptions Harden Into Fact”Neville meme - dominant sensation when falling asleep:

In a meditative mood bordering on sleep the cloud ascends. It is in this drowsy state that you should assume that you are that which you desire to be, and that you have that which you seek, for the cloud will assume the form of your assumption and fashion a world in harmony with itself. The cloud is simply the garment of your consciousness, and where your consciousness is placed, there you will be in the flesh also.

This golden cloud comes in meditation. There is a certain point when you are approaching sleep that it is very, very thick, very liquid, and very much alive and pulsing. It begins to ascend as you reach the drowsy, meditative state, bordering on sleep. You do not strike the tabernacle; neither do you move it until the cloud begins to ascend.

The cloud always ascends when man approaches the drowsiness of sleep. For when a man goes to sleep, whether he knows it or not, he slips from a three-dimensional world into a fourth-dimensional world and that which is ascending is the consciousness of that man in a greater focus; it is a fourth-dimensional focus.

What you now see ascending is your greater self. When that begins to ascend you enter into the actual state of feeling you are what you want to be. That is the time you lull yourself into the mood of being what you want to be, by either experiencing in imagination what you would experience in reality were you already that which you want to be, or by repeating over and over again the phrase that implies you have already done what you want to do. A phrase such as, “Isn’t it wonderful, isn’t it wonderful,” as though some wonderful thing had happened to you.

“In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed. Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction. ” Job 33: 15, 16

Use wisely the interval preceding sleep. Assume the feeling of the wish fulfilled and go to sleep in this mood. At night, in a dimensionally larger world, when deep sleep falleth upon men, they see and play the parts that they will later on play on earth. And the drama is always in harmony with that which their dimensionally greater selves read and play through them. Our illusion of free will is but ignorance of the causes which make us act.

The sensation which dominates the mind of man as he falls asleep, though false, will harden into fact. Assuming the feeling of the wish fulfilled as we fall asleep, is the command to this embodying process saying to our mood, “Be thou actual.” In this way we become through a natural process what we desire to be.


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Assumptions and reality

Meme - Ramana - Assumptions

From a talk by A. Ramana entitled “Water Into Wine.”

Let me urge you to use these processes, to use these principles that work, and have been working in your life… and from my point of view, I can see it with humor that whatever it is you’re now assuming to be the way that it is for you…wonder why it’s that way? Would you think that your assumptions would have anything to do with it? (laughter)

A mind filled with concepts, opinions, beliefs, is going to manifest those concepts, those opinions and those beliefs. It may look to you as though events outside of you are doing it. But events outside of you do not have any effect on you unless you assume them to have an effect on you, and draw conclusions with regard to them.

Where did the definition of the event… where did the classification of the event… where did the naming of the event as being this or that… where did it come from? To whom is it occurring?

Can it even BE there apart from the ‘I’ that is seeing it?

How would you know that it is there apart from the ‘I’ that is assuming it to be there the way it appears to be?

And it doesn’t matter what it is. You may have a mind that is filled with all kinds of reasons why it ought to be this way or that way… your doctor told you so, your accountant told you so, your attorney told so, your mother-in-law told you so.

But without YOU there as being the one that is conscious of that, acknowledging that in the way you are acknowledging it to be, tell me how it could have any effect upon you without you being there GIVING it the effect that it is having upon you by your assumption of it being the way you’re assuming it to be, or you’re seeing it to be? In other words, the way you’re THINKING it to be.

You see, our thought is what creates our reality… our IMAGINING is what creates our reality. Not from the past. Our IMAGINING. Our ASSUMPTIONS… our felt and held assumptions is what creates the manifestation of our apparent reality.

That’s my realization. That’s not my belief, that’s not my theory, that’s not my opinion… that is my REALIZATION… this is simply the way it is, and I am only here to share it with you.

If you want to ARGUE with me about it… OK. I’m not going to argue with you about it. If you have legitimate questions and doubts I will be with you in your questions and your doubts but I am not here to argue with you. I ALREADY know the way it works. I have no questions. I have no doubts.

If you want to live in the limitation of your conditioned mind, and you’re the one who has accepted it to be that way, then you’re the one who has to suffer the consequences of that, but you CAN revise… you CAN transform your life. You can revise your life and transform your life IF YOU CHOOSE TO. Are you with me?

The question is: are you ready? Do you choose to?

Or would you rather be “right” and suffer?

“They’re really dialogues…”

From Neville Goddard’s lecture “The Coin of Heaven”:

18358661_461621697519347_6223291752182122139_o

“If a man could only control his inner dialogue, he would find the most rewarding of all conversations.

“Oh, it’s so easy, as Shakespeare said… it’s so easy to teach others, to teach twenty what was good to be done, then he finds it so difficult to be one of the twenty to follow his own teaching.

“For all day long man is thinking. And if he thinks, he thinks in words. And he’s talking… he’s carrying on inner conversations with himself. But they’re really dialogues. It’s not a monologue. He is conjuring people in his mind’s eye… two or more. And then he carries on these dialogues, all through the day, all into the night. And he’s arguing.

“If you and I, this very night, could decide what we want to be in this world– I don’t care what it is– and then carry on these inner conversations from that assumption– that we are already the man or the woman that we want to be– and then not waver in that assumption, we would really be imitating God as dear children.

“So I would say to everyone here: test it. Try it to the very limit.”


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“A kindergarten for image-making”

Meme - Neville - kindergarten

From Neville Goddard’s book The Law and the Promise

“We must use our imagination to achieve particular ends, even if the ends are all trivia. Because men do not clearly define and imagine particular ends, the results are uncertain, while they might be perfectly certain. To imagine particular ends is to dsicriminate clearly. ‘How do we distinguish the oak from the beech, the horse from the ox, but by the bounding outline?’ Definition asserts the reality of the particular thing against the formless generalizations which cloud the mind.

“Life on earth is a kindergarten for image making. The bigness or littleness of the object to be created is not in itself important. ‘The great and golden rule of art, as well as of life,’ said (poet William) Blake, ‘is this: That the more distinct, sharp and wirey the bounding line, the more perfect the work of art, and the less keen and sharp, the greater is the evidence of weak imitation. What is it that builds a house and plants a garden but the definite and determinate? … leave out this line, and you leave out life itself.”


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“There is no one to turn to but self”

Meme - Neville - No one to turn to but self

From Neville Goddard’s lecture “Faith In God.”

In the Hebraic world, the rabbi is the father of his congregation. (The apostle) Paul called his followers his little children, saying: “Although you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. I became your father in Jesus Christ through the gospel. I urge you then to be imitators of me”

Defining Christ as “the power and wisdom of God,” Paul tells us we have many guides. In fact, there are as many guides to your success as there are people in the world. Ask someone how to get a job and he will say you must know the right people. Another will tell you that you must have an education, and still another that you must join the right club, or live on the right side of the street. You will be given as many directives towards your objective as there are people you ask.

Although our guides in the operation of this law are countless, as we apply it our creative power will become personalized and take on form, as it did in Paul. And when that happens there is no one to turn to but self.

That is why Paul urges everyone to test himself, otherwise he will not realize that Jesus Christ is in him and fail to meet the test.

Paul tells us that the world was created by the word of God, and John says Jesus Christ is that word. (Revelation 19) Jesus Christ is he who created the world and all things within it, be they good, bad, or indifferent. And who is He? Your own wonderful Human Imagination! God’s creative power – as pure imagining – works in the depth of your soul, underlying all of your faculties, including perception. He streams into your surface mind least disguised in the form of creative fancy.

This is what I mean when I ask you to test Him.

Click here to download or read a PDF of this lecture.


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Ascend to the plane of our ideal…

Meme - Neville - Ascend to the level of our ideal

From Neville Goddard’s 1948 lecture “No One To Change But Self”:

Because life molds the outer world to reflect the inner arrangement of our minds, there is no way of bringing about the outer perfection we seek other than by the transformation of ourselves. No help cometh from without: the hills to which we lift our eyes are those of an inner range.

It is thus to our own consciousness that we must turn as to the only reality, the only foundation on which all phenomena can be explained. We can rely absolutely on the justice of this law to give us only that which is of the nature of ourselves.

To attempt to change the world before we change our concept of ourselves is to struggle against the nature of things. There can be no outer change until there is first an inner change.

As within, so without.

I am not advocating philosophical indifference when I suggest that we should imagine ourselves as already that which we want to be, living in a mental atmosphere of greatness, rather than using physical means and arguments to bring about the desired changes.

Everything we do, unaccompanied by a change of consciousness, is but futile readjustment of surfaces. However we toil or struggle, we can receive no more than our concepts of Self affirm. To protest against anything which happens to us is to protest against the law of our being and our ruler ship over our own destiny.

The circumstances of my life are too closely related to my conception of myself not to have been formed by my own spirit from some dimensionally larger storehouse of my being. If there is pain to me in these happenings, I should look within myself for the cause, for I am moved here and there and made to live in a world in harmony with my concept of myself.

If we would become as emotionally aroused over our ideas as we become over our dislikes, we would ascend to the plane of our ideal as easily as we now descend to the level of our hates.

Love and hate have a magical transforming power, and we grow through their exercise into the likeness of what we contemplate. By intensity of hatred we create in ourselves the character we imagine in our enemies. Qualities die for want of attention, so the unlovely states might best be rubbed out by imagining “‘beauty for ashes and joy for mourning” rather than by direct attacks on the state from which we would be free.

“Whatsoever things are lovely and of good report, think on these things,” for we become that with which we are en rapport.

There is nothing to change but our concept of self. As soon as we succeed in transforming self, our world will dissolve and reshape itself in harmony with that which our change affirms.

I, by descent in consciousness, have brought about the imperfection that I see. In the divine economy nothing is lost. We cannot lose anything save by descent in consciousness from the sphere where the thing has its natural life.

“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” John 17:5

As I ascend in consciousness the power and the glory that was mine return to me and I too will say “I have finished the work thou gavest me to do.” The work is to return from my descent in consciousness, from the level wherein I believed that I was a son of man, to the sphere where I know that I am one with my Father and my Father is God.

Read a complete transcript of this lecture; click here.


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Barabbas or Jesus?

Neville meme - desire is looking at my savior“Christianity needs, forever and forever, to be saved from secular history. It is not secular history. It’s the history of your own wonderful human imagination. God, and your own imagination, are one. They are one. You are an immortal being. You cannot die. Because you are all imagination.” – Neville Goddard, from his lecture Father Forgive Them

NOTE:  One of my favorite aspects of Neville Goddard’s teachings is his reframing of scripture from traditional readings (secular or religious history) to an interpretation based on psychological and mystical principles. He felt that the bible was not meant to be read as literal history, but, rather, was meant to be practical and instructional, couched in metaphor and parable though it was.

This is a recurring theme in Neville’s lectures and writings, but especially in his books and in a series of five lectures from 1948 which are often referred to as his “core lectures.”

As someone who never quite “bought into” the Bible as literal history of any kind, Neville’s approach resonates. I can safely say that the Bible never really made sense to me until I considered it in the terms that Neville outlines.

In these two excerpts from those 1948 lectures, Neville briefly explains his approach to scripture, and then, using that apprach, parses the biblical story of Pontius Pilate releasing the robber Barabbas and crucifying Jesus. –Max


 

“…Let me state now that the Bible has no reference at all to any persons who ever existed or to any event that ever occurred upon earth.

“The ancient storytellers were not writing history, but an allegorical picture lesson of certain basic principles which they clothed in the garb of history, and they adapted these stories to the limited capacity of a most uncritical and credulous people.

“Throughout the centuries, we have mistakenly taken (biblical) personifications for person, allegory for history, the vehicle that conveyed the instruction for the instruction, and the gross first sense for the ultimate sense intended.

“The difference between the form of the Bible and its substance is as great as the difference between a grain of corn and the life germ within that grain. As our assimilative organs discriminate between food that can be built into our system and food that must be discarded, so our awakened intuitive faculties discover, beneath allegory and parable, the psychological life-germ of the Bible; and, feeding on this, we, too, cast off the form which conveyed the message… (Consciousness is the Only Reality)

“…You must re-enact all (Biblical) stories within your own mind… Bear in mind that although they seem to be stories of people fully awake, the drama is really between you, the sleeping one, the deeper you, and the conscious waking you…

“This is a very familiar story, the story of the trial of Jesus. In (the) Gospel of John it is recorded that Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, and the crowd clamored for his life; they wanted Jesus. Pilate turned to them and said:

But ye have a custom, that I should release unto you one at the Passover; will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews? Then cried they all again, saying, Not this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a robber. (John 18:39-40)

“You are told that Pilate had no choice in the matter; he was only a judge interpreting law, and this was the law. The people had to be given that which they requested. Pilate could not release Jesus against the wishes of the crowd, and so he released Barabbas and gave unto them Jesus to be crucified.

“Now bear in mind that your consciousness is God. There is no other God. And you are told that God has a son whose name is Jesus. If you will take the trouble to look up the word Barabbas in your concordance, you will see that it is a contraction of two Hebraic words: BAR, which means ‘a daughter or son or child,’ and ABBA, which means ‘father.’ Barabbas is the son of the great father. And Jesus in the story is called the Saviour, the Son of the Father.

“We have two sons in this story. And we have two sons in the story of Esau and Jacob. Bear in mind that Isaac (Esau and Jacob’s father) was blind, and justice, to be true, must be blindfolded. Although in this case Pilate is not physically blind, the part given to Pilate implies that he is blind because he is a judge. On all the great law buildings of the world, we see the lady or man who represents justice as being blindfolded.

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. (John 7:24)

“Here we find Pilate is playing the same part as Isaac. There are two sons. All the characters as they appear in this story can apply to your own life. You have a son that is robbing you this very moment of that which you could be.

“If you came to this meeting tonight conscious of wanting something, desiring something, you walked in the company of Barabbas.

“For to desire is to confess that you do not now possess what you desire, and because all things are yours, you rob yourself by living in the state of desire. My saviour is my desire. As I want something I am looking into the eyes of my saviour. But if I continue wanting it, I deny my Jesus, my saviour, for as I want I confess I am not and ‘except ye believe that I AM He, ye die in your sins.’ I cannot have and still continue to desire what I have. I may enjoy it, but I cannot continue wanting it.

“Here is the story. This is the feast of the Passover. Something is going to change right now; something is going to pass over. Man is incapable of passing over from one state of consciousness into another unless he releases from consciousness that which he now entertains, for it anchors him where he is.

“You and I may go to physical feasts year after year as the sun enters the great sign of Aries, but it means nothing to the true mystical Passover. To keep the feast of Passover, the psychological feast, I pass from one state of consciousness into another. I do it by releasing Barabbas, the thief and robber that robs me of that state which I could embody within my world.

“The state I seek to embody is personified in the story as Jesus the Saviour. If I become what I want to be, then I am saved from what I was. If I do not become it, I continue to keep locked within me a thief who robs me of being that which I could be.

“These stories have no reference to any persons who lived, nor to any event that ever occurred upon earth. These characters are everlasting characters in the mind of every man in the world. You and I perpetually keep alive either Barabbas or Jesus. You know at every moment of time who you are entertaining.

“Do not condemn a crowd for clamoring that they should release Barabbas and crucify Jesus. It is not a crowd of people called Jews. They had nothing to do with it.

“If we are wise, we too should clamor for the release of that state of mind that limits us from being what we want to be, that restricts us, that does not permit us to become the ideal that we seek and strive to attain in this world.

“I am not saying that you are not tonight embodying Jesus. I only remind you that if, at this very moment, you have an unfulfilled ambition, then you are entertaining that which denies the fulfillment of the ambition, and that which denies it is Barabbas…

“Tonight you can sit right here and conduct the trial of your two sons, one of whom you want released. You can become the crowd who clamors for the release of the thief, and the judge who willingly releases Barabbas, and sentences Jesus to fill his place. He was crucified on Golgotha, the place of the skull, the seat of the imagination.

“To experience the Passover or passage from the old to the new concept of self, you must release Barabbas, your present concept of self, which robs you being that which you could be, and you must assume the new concept which you desire to express.

“The best way to do this is to concentrate your attention upon the idea of identifying yourself with your ideal. Assume you are already that which you seek and your assumption, though false, if sustained, will harden into fact.

“You will know when you have succeeded in releasing Barabbas, your old concept of self, and when you have successfully crucified Jesus, or fixed the new concept of self, by simply looking MENTALLY at the people you know. If you see them as you formerly saw them, you have not changed your concept of self, for all changes of concept of self result in a changed relationship to your world.

“We always seem to others an embodiment of the ideal we inspire. Therefore, in meditation, we must imagine that others see us as they would see us were we what we desire to be.

“You can release Barabbas and crucify and resurrect Jesus if you will first define your ideal. Then relax in a comfortable arm chair, induce a state of consciousness akin to sleep, and experience in imagination what you would experience in reality were you already that which you desire to be.

“By this simple method of experiencing in imagination what you would experience in the flesh were you the embodiment of the ideal you serve, you release Barabbas, who robbed you of your greatness, and you crucify and resurrect your saviour, or the ideal you desired to express.” (Assumptions Harden Into Fact)


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“I thought I could never live without them. Now I confess I could not live with them.”

Meme - Neville - For ten years I was a dancer

From Neville Goddard’s 1948 lecture “Consciousness Is The Only Reality.” This was one of five lectures given over the course of five nights, part of a series that is often referred to as Neville’s “core lectures.” 

“If I now know what I want to be, and assume that I am it, and walk as though I were, I become it and becoming it I so completely die to my former concept of self that I cannot point to any place in this world and say: that is where my former self is buried. I so completely died that I defy posterity to ever find where I buried my old self.

“There must be someone in this room who will so completely transform himself in this world that his close immediate circle of friends will not recognize him.

“For ten years I was a dancer, dancing in Broadway shows, in vaudeville, night clubs, and in Europe. There was a time in my life when I thought I could not live without certain friends in my world. I would spread a table every night after the theatre and we would all dine well. I thought I could never live without them. Now I confess I could not live with them. We have nothing in common today. When we meet we do not purposely walk on the opposite side of the street, but it is almost a cold meeting because we have nothing to discuss. I so died to that life that as I meet these people they cannot even talk of the old times.

“But there are people living today who are still living in that state, getting poorer and poorer. They always like to talk about the old times. They never buried that man at all, he is very much alive within their world….

“Knowing this law by which a man transforms himself, I assume that I am what I want to be and walk in the assumption that it is done. In becoming it, the old man dies and all that was related to that former concept of self dies with it. You cannot take any part of the old man into the new man. You cannot put new wine in old bottles or new patches on old garments. You must be a new being completely.

“As you assume that you are what you want to be, you do not need the assistance of another to make it so. Neither do you need the assistance of anyone to bury the old man for you. Let the dead bury the dead. Do not even look back, for no man having put his hand to the plow and then looking back is fit for the kingdom of heaven.

“Do not ask yourself how this thing is going to be. It does not matter if your reason denies it. It does not matter if all the world round about you denies it. You do not have to bury the old. ‘Let the dead bury the dead.’ You will so bury the past by remaining faithful to your new concept of Self that you will defy the whole vast future to find where you buried it.”

Neville Goddard


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