A horror story

On an online forum related to A Course in Miracles, someone recalled a conversation between Course scholar Kenneth Wapnick and one of his workshop participants. This man remarked that he would like to give a copy of A Course in Miracles to a few of his friends as a gift. Kenneth replied: “Why would you want to do that? Don’t you like them? It’s a horror story!” You might imagine the surprise in the eyes of the fellow in question as he considered this startling view on ACIM.

So why is A Course in Miracles a horror story? Isn’t this the curriculum par excellence that provides the “means and end” to lasting inner peace? The basic dynamic taught by A Course in Miracles is true forgiveness, first of your brother and then of yourself (which is of course really the same). With that comes the realization that this nightmarish dream of time and space never happened in reality. Not only that; we are convincingly taught by Jesus that God isn’t angry. On the contrary, He loves the entire Sonship. We only need to look honestly at our ego dynamics and choose to hear – and follow – the Holy Spirit, the “Voice for God”, once again. God is Love, and salvation is guaranteed! That doesn’t particularly sound like a horror story, does it?

What’s horrific about A Course in Miracles is that it heralds the end of the ego, which we’re so desperately attached to. Anyone who walks this earth is deeply convinced that he’s essentially a body, born with a unique special personality. We regard a “strong healthy ego” as a prerequisite for survival. The realization that we tend to get ill, manipulated and hurt, and inevitably die, is usually repressed below the watershed of the iceberg we call our mind. Most people live their lives on auto-pilot, with ups and downs, which is the “nature of life”, isn’t it?

In A Course in Miracles we read that everything in time and space that we hold dear (or hate) is completely illusory. What’s more, even our cherished individual personality turns out to be but a feeble whim. We’re like the sunbeam that imagines it is the sun; like the wave that hallucinates it is the ocean (T-18.9.3). This, of course, symbolizes our seeming separation from our Creator – I defied God and now believe that I am god; the ultimate sin; the source of all our guilt and all our fears. To the ego, the horror is that if we would honestly look inside our minds, we would see no sin – and therefore no foundation for the ego’s existence. Ouch! To the ego, the horror is our possible realization that we could do without the ego, and would be much better off too. “You do not ask too much of life, but far too little”, Jesus exhorts (W-pI.133.2), kindly inviting us to switch teachers of our mind. The choice for right-mindedness enables us to escape the cannibalistic laws of chaos (T-23.II) that govern the ego’s world of time and space, a world which precisely serves to keep the mind eternally mindless. Somehow deep down inside we do realize that everything here eventually fails, withers and dies, but the alternative (so the ego counsels us) means losing our individuality, which we swore never to abandon, by opposing God’s Will forever (T-24.IV.4).

We’ve exiled ourselves to a desert, where starved and thirsty creatures come to die (W-pII.13.5). A desert cannot be fought against. The thing to do with a desert is to leave, as Jesus once told Helen personally (see Absence from Felicity, p.252). However, as long as we’re not fully aware of a much better alternative, we simply won’t do it. For example, you and I find it extremely difficult to give up self-sabotaging bad habits, because our pain defines our special individual self. Rationally we do try, but in our gut we’re too afraid to really make the change of mind Jesus invites us to make, seeing only the alternative of annihilation that our ego presented us. Who would we be without our problems (i.e., without our ego)? This is why the combination of ACIM‘s Textbook and Workbook is so important to fathom. The Textbook provides a consistent and convincing treatise on what we truly are, what the ego is up to, why the alternative is much better, and how to go about it. The Workbook provides the means to turn intellectual understanding into experience. It is only the personal experience of inner peace that makes us say to our friends, in glad astonishment, that A Course in Miracles really works.

It’s understandable that any student who has convincingly experienced this promised inner peace, however brief, feels the urge to “push” the message of A Course in Miracles to friends, family, and other loved ones. It’s tempting to regard yourself as a happy learner, a Teacher of God, and bringer of the Holy Spirit’s message of salvation. However, this is not at all what Jesus advocates in A Course in Miracles. On the contrary – if you look closely at this urge, you’ll realize that the ego has subtly crept back in again. Jesus merely asks me, as ACIM student, to accept the Atonement for myself. Since minds are joined, every time I truly forgive, I do so for the entire Sonship. When others choose to accept such forgiveness, is not for us to decide. That’s up to the Holy Spirit, who knows that time is illusory anyway.

We should always respectfully accept people where they currently are, to paraphrase the famous coaching axiom. Living as a Teacher of God means that you’ve fired your ego as your Teacher, and are now willing to let the Holy Spirit gently guide all your every day activities. Only in this way will the (seemingly separated) people cross your path that are meant to find you, and vice versa. Only the Holy Spirit knows how to use time perfectly to eventually undo time. A happy learner does not evangelize A Course in Miracles, but simply allows all thoughts and actions to be gently guided by the Holy Spirit. You may or may not be called to explicitly teach about A Course in Miracles, but in either case, your own true forgiveness, born of an attitude of letting go, letting come – remains the key.

 


Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook is published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is now available at Amazon.com:

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Always one more bug

Murphy’s law is in effect a collection of principles that illustrate that perfection in our world is impossible. It’s typically stated as: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong sooner or later. Or, in the case of making things: There’s always one more bug, as engineers and computer programmers know well. No solution to any problem here works all the time. It may work for an hour, for a few days, a few years, a few decades, but eventually things go amiss, both on the personal level and the global level. Heck, we know that in the end even our beloved little planet and the sun will be no more. Deep down inside we know that everything here is born to fail. No matter how hard we try, we will never achieve lasting perfection in anything. This holds true for our possessions, our relationships, our personal and collective welfare. Still, we stubbornly keep trying again and again, hoping against hope that sooner or later we’ll find the exception to Murphy’s law. Next time we’ll get it right; if we keep trying long enough we will succeed. And of course we never do, at least not for long.

A Course in Miracles explains that perfection in duality is impossible by definition, because perfection is of God and only of God. Since this world was made as an attack on God (W-pII.3.2), we set it up to fail from the beginning. In several poignant passages, Jesus asks us to look honestly at this world and consider if we have ever found any substitute for God’s perfect Love that lasts all the time (cf. T-29.VIII:1). The answer, as we’ll all admit, is “No“. Nothing in the world works all the time, as we conclude again and again, while we keep planning for something better that just might work. We tragically hop from one idol to the next, only to weep each time we see it fail. Still we keep seeking, without ever finding perfection. The Course rephrases Murphy’s law as: “Seek but do not find” (T-16.V.6).

The first dazzling spiritual insight that A Course in Miracles  offers us is that perfection is not only impossible; we purposefully set our world up this way. We “made” this world as a place where God – perfect Love – could enter not (W-pII.3.2). This world is the quantum effect of the sleeping Son’s hallucination that it’s worth trying to find out if we can do without our Creator. We want this world to be imperfect, for this is perfect proof that our separation from God succeeded: we pulled it off! Of course, every seemingly separated fragment of the sleeping Son of God hallucinates that it is god itself. So all seemingly separated fragments are constantly at war with each other (physically or psychologically), following the fearful dualistic “laws of chaos” (T-23.II). In short: sin is the irrevocable truth; guilt is fact; God is a lie; we only have what we have taken, and it’s one or the other — kill or be killed. This is obviously a situation wherein nothing can or ever will work perfectly.

The second dazzling spiritual insight that A Course in Miracles offers us, is that this world, however illusory and faulty it may be, deserves mindful attention. It can be used as a formidable classroom to learn to find and accept Salvation and thereby awaken from the feverish dream of duality. Jesus succinctly states that Salvation is merely the realization and acceptance of that realization that this world is not our home (T-25.VI.6). To our ego, this is horror, for the ego is not aware of anything other than this world, being the thought of separation from God. All our feverish activity merely serves to keep awareness of Salvation out of our minds. Unless I dimly begin to consider the notion that my essence is not a body, but pure spirit (W-pI.97), I will never accept that this world is not my home on the contrary, I’ll show God how much I can oppose His Will! I’ll bump into Murphy’s law again and again and again… and accept that as the condition of the world, depressing and painful as it may be.

Luckily, tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit (T-2.III). Eventually I’ll realize that there must be a better way than a constantly failing world. Through A Course in Miracles, I come to realize that choosing my ego, my wrong mind, focusing on separation, playing god in my own little cocoon, isn’t going to make me happy. Studying and practicing Jesus’ curriculum, I come to realize that the decision maker within me can also choose to be right-minded, happily doing nothing but making room for the Voice of the Holy Spirit to be heard. And since the Holy Spirit is the mediator between reality and illusion, the “Voice for God”, His advice cannot fail. By learning and practicing true forgiveness, by letting go and letting come, I come to experience the lasting inner peace that is not of this world. And, still better, slowly realizing the real world in my mind, I eventually see, in glad astonishment, that for all this joy I gave up nothing! (T-16.VI) Or, in the words of Monty Python’s classic song “Always look on the bright side of life”: You’ve come from nothing; you’re going back to nothing. What’ve ye lost? Nothing! — Except that in ACIM‘s view, “nothing” equals the nondualistic perfection of God.

 


Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook is published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is now available at Amazon.com:

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I choose the feelings I experience

This blog post’s title is not one most of us like to believe. The statement certainly doesn’t seem to be the case, not even for the most trivial upsets. Take an honest look at your own dislikes. How quickly do you feel irritated by the behavior of some people in your direct vicinity? Perhaps your spouse, your parents, or your colleagues? How quickly does your mood adjust to the weather while you’re walking outside? Or perhaps you feel frustrated about having to wait in line at the counter of the convenience store? The thought mechanism is always the same: “If this or that (situation or person) were different, I would be happy.” Meaning: I would feel happy because things would turn out the way I demand them to turn out, which is always in service of my own self-interest. That’s why with every condemnation, feelings of guilt are never far behind, though these are quickly repressed through the dynamic of projection: I’m not guilty for my loss of peace; everything outside of me is!

Anyone who has delved a bit into psychology or personal development realizes that feelings are not thrust upon us — on the contrary, we actively choose them, albeit unconsciously. Anytime we feel upset, we have the power to shift our perception of the situation or person. If we give a different meaning to the situation at hand, our feelings and our response will shift accordingly. In A Course in Miracles this is a major goal of the curriculum: after all, the purpose of the Course is to learn to experience lasting inner peace by changing your mind about the world. “Change but your mind on what you want to see, and the world must change accordingly.” (W.pI-132.5:2) This begins with realizing that we’re never upset for the reason we think (W.pI-5). The Course is absolutely uncompromising as to how our perceptions of situations arise: “Projection makes perception.” (T-21.1:1)  We first project out our own horrible feelings of unworthiness, guilt, and sinfulness (over having rejected God), and then we see such characteristics in everyone and everything else. We then feel justified in disliking and condemning everything in the world that reminds us of what we thought we had gotten rid of in ourselves. We then believe that our feelings of irritation, anger and hate, plus the punishment that’s now righteously demanded, are fully justified.

Jesus in A Course in Miracles repeatedly urges us to realize that it can be but ourselves that we attack (Cf. W.pI.26 and W.pI.196: “it can be but myself I crucify”). On the metaphysical “Level One plane” that Kenneth Wapnick has coined, this is true because in reality there is no-one else to attack: all the figures that we see moving and acting about in the physical dream world of time and space are shadowy fragments of the sleeping Son of God. But even on the dualistic “Level Two plane”, which deals only with our “waking dream” in time and space, we can see that with every dislike and condemnation, we merely attack our own mind. The more negative you choose to be to others, the more negative all your thoughts tend to become, up to the point where everyone regards you as perpetually cranky. It’s simple conditioning.

What many of us rarely realize is that, at least within the Level Two dream world, such negativity also attacks your own bodily functions (while you still believe you are a body). Although science is generally still slow to acknowledge that stress directly influences the way our organs, our hormones, and our immune system function, many researchers do regard stress as a “factor of influence” to be reckoned with in the emanation of illness. Have you ever noticed that people who experience (um, choose to experience) high stress levels for a prolonged period, tend to become ill sooner than healthy, positive people? On a biochemical level, the principle is simple, once we realize that the brain is the receiver of thought, plus the translator of thought into biochemical matter. Negative thoughts cause imbalances in our brain wave frequencies. These imbalances hinder the normal functioning of the brain in controlling our immune system and the quality of our blood. In this way, through our brain, we literally inject all sorts of unhealthy cortisols in our blood stream every time we’re in some negative mood. Yes, your negative thoughts are poisoning your blood! Furthermore, it’s now a well-known fact that we all have some cancerous cells in our body every day of our lives. Our brains continuously get rid of these — every day! However, prolonged overly high stress levels seriously impede our brains’ normal cleaning-up processes of such cells. This may be a cause of cancer to be reckoned with much more seriously than up to now.

Every time we condemn, it’s a double attack on ourselves: both on the level of our mind as well as on the level of the physical body, however illusory it may be. Many traditional scientists unfortunately still do not explicitly link physical symptoms of illness (being an effect) to the quality of the thoughts that we choose (the cause). And so we keep trying to repair the body (the effect) without really exposing the mind’s thoughts as an important cause of symptoms. In A Course in Miracles, Jesus would have us realize that all such scientific effort does not lead to healing, because in reality there is no body. “At no single instant does the body exist at all.” (T-18.VII.3)  The body is not born and does not die (T-28.VI.2:4) since it is only an image in the dream. Healing is of the mind, and of nothing else. Especially the Psychotherapy pamphlet is quite clear on this. Jesus bluntly states that all sickness is but a disguise for unforgiveness – a grim refusal to forgive. In its section on healing sickness, we read (P-2.VI.5): “Sickness takes many forms, and so does unforgiveness. The forms of one but reproduce the forms of the other, for they are the same illusion. […] A careful study of the form a sickness takes will point quite clearly to the form of unforgiveness that it represents. Yet seeing this will not effect a cure. That is achieved by only one recognition: that only forgiveness heals an unforgiveness, and only an unforgiveness can possibly give rise to sickness of any kind.”

So true forgiveness may be the royal road to accepting the Atonement and awakening from the dream.. but in this illusory dream forgiveness is also a very useful practice to keep your own physical body healthy. So there you have one more reason to choose your thoughts wisely… and to keep up the practice of searching your mind for any hidden unforgiveness that still lurks somewhere deep down there. Happy searching & forgiving!


Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook is published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is now available at Amazon.com:

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Accepting your resistance

Have you ever procrastinated and then becoming aware of why you were not following through? Or perhaps you’ve been in the company of others who were clearly procrastinating?  ‘Procrastination’ is the psychological dynamic of finding all sorts of excuses to prevent you from doing what you know you should do to get ahead, or to get something done. Everyone has experienced such delaying tactics. Most of us are very good at this, on a wide range of topics: from cleaning up your room to putting off major life-changing decisions. It happens with all types of personalities, in all cultures and in all classes. Our beloved scribe of A Course in Miracles was no exception. In Absence from felicity, chapter 12, Ken Wapnick recollects working with Helen on the ‘final run-through’ before publication: “While she most definitely wanted us to complete the editing project, she nonetheless would find almost any excuse to distract us from sitting down and doing it. The project took us considerably longer than it had to because of these delays. […] we would often sit together on her living room couch and work.  Invariably, however, Helen would start to fall asleep. We would be editing, and suddenly I would look to my left, and there Helen would be, stumping in the corner of the couch, her usually very alert eyes practically closed. Very often the sleepiness would be accompanied by pronounced yawning jags that made speaking almost impossible. And then there were the times when Helen would simultaneously begin to cough, as if trying to expel some foreign agent stuck in her throat. At these moments Helen would begin to laugh at the obviousness of her ego’s defenses, tears streaming down her face as she did so.”

So why do we procrastinate? A ‘standard’ psychological explanation is that we associate, in our gut, more pain to getting things done than to simply not following through. It’s resistance, born of the fear of imagined pain, psychological and/or physical. For example, if you’re a chocoholic, there could be the pain of an imagined empty stomach if you were to seriously cut down on eating mass quantities of chocolate. But that’s not all; there’s the added imagined pain about being a ‘failure’ should you at some point admit you can’t keep up the required discipline. So we don’t follow through. In Helen’s case, of course, it was the combination of her anger over Jesus – or anyone for that matter – telling her how she should edit a manuscript, combined with her own unconscious fear that she might never be able to actually live the message, even though she rationally knew it was the truth, and her guide to her own salvation. So we procrastinate because we fear the pain that we associate to following through.

In the Workbook of A Course in Miracles, in lesson 95, Jesus makes us aware of our own procrastination in ‘doing’ his Workbook lessons. A few core excerpts (W.95.4:2): “It is difficult at this point not to allow your mind to wander, if it undertakes extended practice. You have surely realized this by now. […] In addition to recognizing your difficulties with sustained attention, you must also have noticed that, unless you are reminded of your purpose frequently, you tend to forget about it for long periods of time. You often fail to remember the short applications of the idea for the day, and you have not yet formed the habit of using the idea as an automatic response to temptation.” Jesus knows his students well. We all procrastinate on the Workbook in this way. In fact, Ken Wapnick often emphasized that the real purpose of the Workbook, especially the first few times that you go through it, is to bring into your consciousness your resistance to doing the Workbook lessons. Such awareness enables us to finally look at what’s really going on in our minds. It’s this looking, in true honesty, without judgment (meaning: with Jesus, or the Holy Spirit) that brings the source of our resistance to the surface. Without looking, the cause of resistance remains hidden; the ego’s perennial goal.

So why don’t we follow through on the Workbook lessons? Because of the pain we unconsciously associate to the ultimate outcome of our learning it perfectly: the loss of our cherished individual personality. Being without a body, outside of time and space, without eyes, ears, hands, feet – heck, even without mental thoughts or concepts at all – is just too scary to lightly set aside. It’s much more comfortable to luxuriate in our little worries and problems, or, seen more positively, to deploy our talents for the common good and contribute to a better world with maximum effort. In both cases the ontological guilt over our perceived sin (separation from Oneness), and the fear of the sure punishment of a wrathful Creator – remains alive and well, though seen everywhere except within ourselves.

The real solution to this procrastination is that in ACIM, Jesus offers us a ‘solution’ to our guilt that is more desirable than the ego’s babbling. Jesus teaches us to experience more pain to staying with the ego, than to accept the Holy Spirit as our teacher. His ‘solution’ is called forgiveness, born from the realization of our true nature, which is the title of that same lesson 95: “I am one Self, united with my Creator”. True forgiveness, born of this realization of “what I am”, means choosing miracles instead of pain; the means and end to self-Realization. This of course doesn’t mean that our resistance to doing the Workbook lessons melts away in a day, but it does help us in undoing our procrastination bit by bit. Through our experiencing the inner peace every time we succeed, we slowly but surely ascend the ladder of the Atonement.

Bottom line: don’t feel guilty over your resistance; on the contrary – accept it. Be very glad that, thanks to Jesus, you’ve now become fully aware of what’s happening, so you have a wonderful opportunity to forgive yourself and choose again! Say something like “Ah, I completely forgot about this particular lesson today. I know what this is. I’ve been following my silly ego distractions again, because of my tremendous fear over the ultimate outcome, should I succeed. Sure there’s resistance. What else is new? I’ll not judge myself for this, but will simply try again with tomorrow’s lesson, reminding myself to keep asking the Holy Spirit for advice.” See how such a simple, honest response makes the ego melt away, while inner peace spreads from your mind to your body. And that experience fuels your motivation to try to choose again.

 


Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles”. This guidebook is published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is now available at Amazon.com:

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