When students of A Course in Miracles start to notice that Jesus is serious when he tells them that “…to learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning.” (T-24.In.2:1-2), there is a strong temptation to become discouraged. After all, a complete reversal of everything I believe seems to be utterly impossible, no matter how much I claim to love Jesus and his message. So the tendency is to throw up my hands in desperation, exclaiming that “…I don’t see how I’m going to pull that off. This course is too difficult to learn!”
You and I are certainly not the first nor the last to feel such discouragement. Nor is it exclusive to A Course in Miracles; many spiritual thought systems seem to ‘demand’ a transformation in values and beliefs that seems awkwardly hard to pull off. And if you assume that Helen Schucman was fully enlightened and lived the Course promptly and perfectly when she took it down, you’ve got another thought coming. As Kenneth Wapnick recollects in his biography on Helen called “Absence from felicity“, Helen frequently complained to Jesus that what he told her was too complicated, too difficult, and too hard to learn. Though, to her credit, it never seriously occurred to her to stop, she did frequently experience tremendous resistance and anxiety, especially at the beginning, and she certainly needed Bill Thetford’s loving support throughout.
Again in Absence from felicity, we read that Jesus frequently tried to help Helen in calmly looking at her own resistance. Although much of this advice was specifically meant for Helen personally, some occurrences that clearly apply to all students made it to the text, workbook and manual. In chapter 2 of the text, Jesus addresses Helen’s anxiety: “You may still complain about fear, but you nevertheless persist in making yourself fearful. I have already indicated that you cannot ask me to release you from fear. […] It is much more helpful to remind you that you do not guard your thoughts carefully enough. You may feel that at this point it would take a miracle to enable you to do this, which is perfectly true. You are not used to miracle-minded thinking, but you can be trained to think that way.” (T-2.VII.1). Which is of course Jesus’ main point: try to become a little more miracle-minded each day.
In chapter 29 of the text, Jesus specifically addresses Helen’s complaint that this course is too difficult to learn: “Why does an easy path, so clearly marked it is impossible to lose the way, seem thorny, rough and far too difficult for you to follow? Is it not because you see it as the road to hell instead of looking on it as a simple way, without a sacrifice or any loss, to find yourself in Heaven and in God?” (T-29.II.1:3-4) In chapter 13 of the text, Jesus further comments on this insight: “In the extreme, you are afraid of redemption and you believe it will kill you. […] To some extent, then, you must believe that by not learning the course you are protecting yourself.” (T-13.II.8:4;7:5).
In other words, when we protest to Jesus that his Course is too difficult to learn, his response is something like: “Don’t tell me you cannot learn this simple curriculum of forgiveness. Look around you: just to keep up the illusion that you can be separate from God you have built an entire phenomenal universe with zillions of stars and planets and bodies, with the wildest imaginable things going on. This was not thrust upon you; you made it. Don’t tell me you cannot learn my simple curriculum that merely says that what was never true is not true now, and never will be. The impossible has not occurred, and can have no effects. And that is all. Can this be hard to learn by anyone who wants it to be true?”
Ouch — so when we complain this Course is too difficult to learn, we are really saying we do not want to learn this Course, because we are afraid its outcome would mean our annihilation. As Jesus comments in the text: “The ego’s whole continuance depends on its belief you cannot learn this course. Share this belief, and reason will be unable to see your errors and make way for their correction.” (T-22.III.2:1-2). And again in chapter 31: “To you who seem to find this course to be too difficult to learn, let me repeat that to achieve a goal you must proceed in its direction, not away from it. […] This course attempts to teach no more than that the power of decision cannot lie in choosing different forms of what is still the same illusion and the same mistake.” (T-31.IV.7:3).
Of course everyone does want to learn Jesus’ curriculum of peace; otherwise we wouldn’t be spending so much devoted effort to it. At the same time, everyone does not want to learn this curriculum of peace, because we are still too terrified of what life would be without a personal autonomous individuality. The purpose of A Course in Miracles is not to make us feel guilty for being such weak and wretched spiritual misfits — on the contrary, its purpose is to bring exactly this conflict in the split mind into full awareness, above the daily battleground of mindlessness, calmly see the silliness of it all, and happily choose once again; a thousand times a day, as a happy learner.
At this point it can be very helpful to fully realize the incredible power of the mind, even in this illusory dream world we call the universe. As early in the workbook as lesson 16, Jesus emphasizes that we have no idle thoughts: “What gives rise to the perception of a whole world can hardly be called idle. Every thought you have contributes to truth or to illusion; either it extends the truth or it multiplies illusions. […] Every thought you have brings either peace or war; either love or fear. A neutral result is impossible because a neutral thought is impossible.” (W-pI.16.2:2-4). So if you want to make progress as a Course student, learn to become aware of this distinction a little sooner day by day, without feeling guilty about not being fully enlightened yet. We are not admonished to never ever make any mistakes any more. You and I are only asked to be willing to be taught differently, by choosing the Holy Spirit as our guiding Teacher instead of the ego. If you can do that two seconds sooner than last month or last year, you are well on your way!
To recap, let’s revisit Jesus’ extremely clear clarion call in chapter 31 of the text to fuel our own motivation to practice this mind searching: “What you have taught yourself is such a giant learning feat it is indeed incredible. But you accomplished it because you wanted to, and did not pause in diligence to judge it hard to learn or too complex to grasp… No one who understands what you have learned, how carefully you learned it, and the pains to which you went to practice and repeat the lessons endlessly, in every form you could conceive of them, could ever doubt the power of your learning skill. There is no greater power in the world. The world was made by it, and even now depends on nothing else. […] The world began with one strange lesson, powerful enough to render God forgotten, and His Son an alien to himself, in exile from the home where God Himself established him. You who have taught yourself the Son of God is guilty, say not that you cannot learn the simple things salvation teaches you!” (T-31.I.2:7-4:6). Try to remember this the next time you open that big blue book. Happy practicing!
See also my “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles“. This guidebook, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com:
See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)
Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.