My practice of looking within

Up to now, my posts on Miracles or murder have focused fairly objectively on some particular aspect of the path to spiritual awakening as set forth by Jesus in A Course in Miracles. The essays up to now were meant as timely reminders for both myself and others to keep up a sort of discipline in the process of undoing the ego. I was pretty much convinced I had a sufficiently good grasp of the material to get a clear focus on how to go about my own spiritual awakening. That is… until last week, when I re-read Kenneth Wapnick’s “Absence from felicity”.

I had read this biography of Helen Schucman and her scribing of A Course in Miracles before, but back then I had found it to be little more than an interesting account of a remarkable woman and the process of how the Course came about. This time I found myself carefully absorbing each page, almost as if it were a study. To my astonishment, I realized that not only I am barely aware of what goes on in my own mind, but also that during the day I am hardly following Jesus’ instructions in mind training at all. In other words, I realized that while I can talk about the Course’s concepts in a fairly comprehensible way, I am largely unaware of how this relates to my own current state of mind, let alone apply these principles to myself in the way that Jesus advocates.

In Absence from felicity, Kenneth describes in a very insightful manner the various ways in which Jesus — through the personal messages that survived — tries to help both Helen and Bill (Thetford), not only in their collaborative process of taking down the Course, but also in their own mind training. It’s brilliant psychology. Jesus explains in great detail the nature of their respective personalities and their accompanying thought preferences and defense dynamics. Helen and Bill differed completely in many ways, which made them ideally suited to help each other in overcoming the obstacles to their mind training and spiritual awakening. Helen had a highly dominant character, with both an extremely developed wrong mind (ego) and right mind (miracle-mindedness), between which she vacillated unpredictably, leading some to perceive her as a neurotic. Bill on the other hand, though more stable in character, tended to withhold his emotions, thereby dissociating himself from others, from himself, and from the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

As all students of A Course in Miracles know, the trigger for the scribing process was Bill’s outcry in June 1965 that there must be another way for people to relate to each other, coupled with Helen’s true desire to help find that way. During the seven-year scribing process, Jesus clarified on many occasions various blocks in both Helen’s and Bill’s mind that they could help the other with to overcome. What’s more, Jesus also clearly illustrated why they had set up these blocks in their own mind, which was always some aspect of fear that they had chosen to keep the ‘threat’ of the Holy Spirit (and therefore the end of the ego) at bay. While initially Helen and Bill made remarkable progress in helping both each other and various people around them, eventually they kept projecting the responsibility for their own peace of mind to a required change in the other, which of course never works. By the time Kenneth Wapnick arrived on the scene in 1973, the relationship between Helen and Bill was “at an all-time low”, and would not be healed in their respective lifetimes, although in retrospect it was clear that both of them had indeed made significant spiritual advance in this particular lifetime, to put it mildly.

But I am digressing about the reason for this post. To really illustrate the value of Jesus’ personal teachings to Helen and Bill would be impossible in one blog. I highly recommend reading “Absence from felicity” and its very concrete and practical observations and advice by Jesus, which, as Ken notes, not only applies to Helen and Bill, but almost always to all of us. While reading the book, I found my own character to be reminiscent of Bill’s personality in more than one way. I ‘received’ one eye-opener after another about my own state of mind and choice of thoughts of which I had hardly been aware. I will summarize a few of these here, concluding with some practical tips which might help in lowering the fear to taking in Jesus’ message of gradually undoing the ego.

One major eye-opener for me was to realize the intensity of my tendency to dissociate from most people, fueled by a silly fear that they might reject me as being unworthy (which of course is merely a projection of the fear that God will reject me as being unworthy, a fear that we all share). I had already been aware of my tendency to please others to get their approval, but I now realized that to try to please while at the same time avoiding true involvement with people (to avoid being rejected), is hardly an effective strategy for a happy life, let alone for learning to embrace all brothers as one, realizing there really are no separate interests. Dissociating from others is therefore a ‘fine’ but maladaptive defense against learning Jesus’ teachings of undoing the ego.

Another major eye-opener for me was to realize just how often I still think I know what’s best to become peaceful and find happiness. Having been brought up in a society where ratio is much favored to intuition, I became much more consciously aware of a thought stream that is constantly weighing and planning dozens and dozens threads of my life here. In this thought process, I make assumptions about thousands of contextual and situational aspects which are completely out of my sphere of influence, at least in the time-space driven ego-state of my mind. While Jesus never says we should not make plans in this dream world, he does urge us to consult with him first whenever possible, as Jesus is aware of the entire ‘plan’, being outside time and space; as a result, his advice will always work out for the best for everyone involved. (See also section I in chapter 30 of the text, called “Rules for decision”).

This brought me another eye-opener about listening to the “voice” of the Holy Spirit (or Jesus). What does it mean to “consult with Jesus”? After all, asking for specifics is much like trying to bring truth to illusions, instead of bringing illusions to truth. In various personal messages to Helen and Bill, Jesus stresses that the only meaningful question is to ask help in forgiving some dark spot in the mind. “Please help me see this differently”. The trick is to ask in this way, and then in silence wait for the answer. This “silence” requires the mind to turn inward. And although the answer is not usually in a crystal-clear voice (“Only very few can hear God’s voice at all”, M-12.3:3) we all are familiar with an inner feeling of intuitive inner peace. This content of such peaceful intuition then translates to a specific form, that is, a thought the mind can understand and instruct the brain to carry out. God does not use words; but Jesus, as manifestation of the Holy Spirit a.k.a. the Voice for God, provides the one answer to the one problem we have (i.e., unforgiveness in whatever form). It is the right mind that translates that abstract love to the specific situation at hand, again, resulting in the best outcome for everyone.

The reason we rarely ask this way, by the way, is that this process means acknowledging that Jesus is right and the ego is wrong, which is of course blasphemy to the ego, which we still unconsciously believe is our core identity. Which brings me to the final eye-opener that I’d like to mention, which is how I answer the fundamental question “What am I?” (see also my previous post). I may tell my little self a thousand times a day that I am not a body, but pure spirit… but saying an affirmation isn’t quite the same as really meaning it, to put it mildly. I got a concrete demonstration of this fact when I noticed that the bowel detox cure that I took while reading Absence from felicity did not work out the way the manual described it. Instead of about 6 meters of biofilm which was supposed to come out within the first six days, after eight days I got intestine cramps, and I feared that I would end up in hospital for a complex emptying of the intestines. This prospect scared me terribly. I then fully realized that whenever I say to myself “I am not a body, but pure spirit”, I do not really believe that at all. I am still very much identified with what I perceive to be my physical self. The detox cure, by the way, turned out all right after all, but I sure got the message.

I think the most important lesson I learned from Absence from felicity is that I should be much more “vigilant for God and His Kingdom only” (T-6.V.C), that is, make it a sticking habit to much more often choose the “right mind”, by turning attention inward, and then asking sincerely how I could see this situation or person differently (or ‘properly’), and then wait for the answer. Only through such a ‘holy instant’ can I seek and find the inner peace that true intuition always places in the heart or hara (lower belly) area. Embracing that peace then translates to a thought that will clarify the one action that will turn out best for everyone. I cannot find spiritual enlightenment and the peace of God all on my own; nor should I try to. A most important lesson, mentioned several times by Ken in this book, is: “Trust not your good intentions. They are not enough. But trust implicitly your willingness [to be guided], whatever else may enter. Concentrate only on this and be not disturbed that shadows surround it. That is why you came. If you could come without them, you would not need the holy instant.” (T-18.IV.2:1). Making effective plans, mastering fear, and embracing people instead of dissociating them, will never succeed through ego power. It is, however, a routine job for Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who will assist gladly whenever they are sincerely invited in silence.

See also “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


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