So much, for so little (2)

In order to motivate his students to seriously study and apply the mind training for inner peace he offers in A Course in Miracles, Jesus promotes his curriculum by stating that “This course requires almost nothing of you. It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more.” (T-20.VII.1:7-8). What the Course offers us is lasting inner peace. This leads the mind to what Jesus calls the real world; free of sin, guilt, and fear. This is the preparation for the experience of Heaven, or nonduality. However, a few chapters later Jesus tells us bluntly that “To learn this course requires a willingness to question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning.” ( So is Jesus tricking us? What does he mean?

All good teachers know that they’ll motivate their students best by emphasizing much-desired rewards. And Jesus does this brilliantly. Here’s an example, wherein he refers to the “plan” of the Holy Spirit for our salvation: “Once you accept His plan as the one function that you would fulfill [i.e., forgiveness], there will be nothing else the Holy Spirit will not arrange for you, without your effort. He will go before you making straight your path, and leaving in your way no stones to trip on, and no obstacles to bar your way. Nothing you need will be denied you. Not one seeming difficulty but will melt away before you reach it. You need take thought for nothing, careless of everything except the only purpose that you would fulfill.” (T-20-IV.8:4-9). And, from the workbook: “What could you not accept, if you but knew that everything that happens, all events, past, present and to come, are gently planned by One Whose only purpose is your good? Perhaps you have misunderstood His plan, for He would never offer pain to you.” (W-pI.135.18:1-2)

The trick, then, is to realize that Jesus’ Course delivers the promised rewards (in the way he describes them) only once we truly want to learn it. A part of our mind does want to learn his Course, otherwise we would not be studying this blue book and attempting to apply its lessons in our everyday lives. But once we slowly start to realize the ultimate consequence of accepting the guidance of the Holy Spirit, namely: the disappearance of our personality, the body, the world and the universe, we experience a slight twinge of resistance, to put it mildly. We start to self-sabotage our study and practice: “In addition to recognizing your difficulties with sustained attention, you must have noticed that, unless you are reminded of your purpose frequently, you tend to forget about it for long periods of time. […] There may well be a temptation to regard the day as lost because you have already failed to do what is required. This should, however, merely be recognized as what it is: a refusal to let your mistake be corrected, and an unwillingness to try again.” (W-pI.95.5:2-7:5)

So what a lot of students of A Course in Miracles do, is start to blame themselves for being such a poorly motivated student; they determine to try harder this day, and still harder the next day. In short, they start to fight their ego, and their much-desired inner peace is farther away than ever. Such students would do well to re-read section VII in chapter 18, called “I need do nothing”: “You need but to remember you need do nothing. It would be far more profitable now merely to concentrate on this than to consider what you should do. […] It is extremely difficult to reach Atonement by fighting against sin. Enormous effort is expended in the attempt to make holy what is hated and despised [the body].” (T-18.VII.5:5-6;4:7-8). A bit further on, Jesus explains the relationship between the body and our resistance to learn his course: “To do anything involves the body. And if you recognize you need do nothing, you have withdrawn the body’s value from your mind. Here is the quick and open door through which you slip past centuries of effort [of doing things with the body], and escape from time. This is the way in which sin loses all attraction right now.” (T18.VII.7:1-4).

Jesus italicizes “right now” to remind us that our notion of time is a hindrance to our acceptance of his teaching: “It is impossible to accept the holy instant without reservation unless, just for an instant, you are willing to see no past or future. Release is given you the instant you desire it.” (T-18.VII.4:1-2). At this point it may be helpful to remember the metaphysical basis of A Course in Miracles that time and space, the world and our body were not thrust upon us unwillingly: the seemingly sleeping Son of God made these, listening to the seductive lies of the ego, to keep us rooted in the illusion that we could be separate from our Creator, seemingly existing on our own as an autonomous individual. The ego convinces us that the future will be based on what we experienced in the past. It seeks to avoid the now, for only in the now are we able to reconsider the choice for the ego in the ontological instant, and choose once again the Holy Spirit, the Voice for God. To repeat: since this would ultimately mean the end of our personality, of the body, the world and the universe — in short: the end of the ego — we continually focus on externals, since our individual identity is the very last thing we would want to let go of.

Jesus invites us to reconsider this: “There is one thing that you have never done; you have not utterly forgotten the body. […] You still have too much faith in the body as a source of strength. What plans do you make that do not involve its comfort or protection or enjoyment in some way? […] You are not asked to let this happen [forgetting about the body] for more than an instant, yet it is in this instant that the miracle of Atonement happens.” (T-18.VII.1-2). So the statement “I need do nothing” refers to our bodily actions in the world of time and space. By shifting our focus from externals (the world, the body, time) to the inner world of the mind, we could realize — and experience! — that if we but allow our thoughts to be guided by the Holy Spirit, life indeed flows much more easily. And the Holy Spirit is not likely to lead you to a solitary life in a mountain cave, renouncing the world — He is far more likely to guide you through a very busy life, with ample opportunities to forgive.

We overcome our tremendous resistance to making this choice to “resign as our own teacher” (T-12.V.8:3) not by fighting the ego, but by being kind to ourselves: “When you fail to comply with the requirements of this course, you have merely made a mistake. This calls for correction, and nothing else. […] Let all these errors go by, recognizing them for what they are. They are attempts to keep you unaware you are one Self, united with your Creator, at one with every aspect of creation, and limitless in power and in peace. This is the truth, and nothing else is true.” (W-pI.95.9:1-10:3). So what should be our focus? “Let us therefore be determined […] to be willing to forgive ourselves for our lapses in diligence, and our failures to follow the instructions for practicing the day’s idea. This tolerance for weakness will enable us to overlook it, rather than give it power to delay our learning.” (W-pI.95.8:3-4; my italics). Could you imagine a gentler spiritual teacher than this?

So this is why Jesus comforts us that “I need do nothing” amounts to “Concentrate only on this [the willingness to be guided], and be not disturbed that shadows surround you. That is why you came. If you could come without them you would not need the holy instant. Come to it not in arrogance, assuming that you must achieve the state its coming brings with it.” (T-18.IV.2:4-7). And also, in the manual: “Do not despair, then, because of limitations [our perception that we are not good enough]. It is your function to escape from them, but not to be without them.” (M-26.4:1-2). This course indeed requires almost nothing of us. Again, “It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more.” Yes, we must be willing to learn it, but we must especially be willing to forgive ourselves for not being wholly perfect and fully dedicated right away. Learning this course is a process, which takes time, as long as we believe we exist in time. Rather than hitting yourself over the head with a guilt trip each time you notice you sabotage yourself, remember the characteristics of God’s teachers: trust; honesty; tolerance; gentleness; joy; defenselessness; generosity; patience; faithfulness, and open-mindedness. Forgive yourself for still thinking you are a human body. Decide to accept the gentle correction of the Holy Spirit, and rest in his loving guiding arms, and happily realize: “I need do nothing.” The more you forgive yourself, the easier your life’s events will flow. Are you willing to forgive yourself yet?

— Note: While I am in the process of writing my next book, I may be revisiting some previous blogs. This one was written in January, 2018.

The misty monster inside (2)

An important reason why many people give up on their study and practice of A Course in Miracles is that this is not your everyday “feel-good spirituality”. In fact, scholar Ken Wapnick once said that to the ego this spiritual curriculum is a horror story, as it signifies its inevitable demise. This is because A Course in Miracles teaches us how to look at the darkness of the large chunk of the mind’s ‘underwater’ part of the iceberg, together with The Holy Spirit, and how we can learn to allow the Holy Spirit to shine that darkness away forever. In other words, unlike most spiritualities, A Course in Miracles does not teach us to deny or ignore the darkness inside the mind; it rather teaches us to look at it and evaluate it correctly, after which it may gently be undone. Still, we have to be willing to look first. This engenders tremendous resistance, since we are all afraid of what we might find should we truly look at the unconscious, which is unconscious because we are too fearful to allow it into awareness.

To make his students realize just how fearful they are of this large chunk of their mind ‘below the watershed’, Jesus uses some rather forceful language: “You think you are the home of evil, darkness and sin. You think if anyone could see the truth about you he would be repelled, recoiling from you as if from a poisonous snake. You think if what is true about you were revealed to you, you would be struck with horror so intense that you would rush to death by your own hand, living on after seeing this being impossible.” (W-pI.93.1). Jesus is serious about this. And although in the same lesson Jesus explains to us that this horrid image of self is an illusion, since our “sinlessness is guaranteed by God” (W-pI.93.6:1), we nevertheless cannot undo these beliefs if we do not honestly examine them, together with him. “No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected. […] We are ready to look more closely at the ego’s thought system because together we have the lamp that will dispel it, and since you realize you do not want it, you must be ready. Let us be very calm in doing this, for we are merely looking honestly for truth.” (T-11.V.1:1-4).

Again, many students do not recognize themselves at all in this frightening description of self. On the contrary, they see themselves as kind, loving beings who are learning to focus solely on love, and sharing that. After all, in the very same Course Jesus also says: “Teach only love, for that is what you are.” (T-6.III.2:4). While this is true, this doesn’t mean that we already fully believe this about ourselves, certainly not unconsciously. Spending your days repeating blissful affirmations about the love that you are, without examining the dark unconscious beliefs Jesus talks about, is like ignoring your garden while you keep saying to yourself: “There’s no weeds, there’s no weeds, there’s no weeds.” And guess what? They’ll take your garden! An infallible test for assessing just how much darkness still lurks in your mind is in writing down a list of all the little dislikes, irritations, regrets and rejections you manifest during the day. Even the smallest annoyance offers a valuable message. Remember, “A slight twinge of annoyance is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury.”(W-pI.21.2:5) Just try it for at least one day; you’ll be surprised. The key point in this exercise, by the way, is not to feel guilty or dismayed by seeing more items on the list than you had expected, concluding that you are such a lousy spiritual aspirant.

Then, of course, there are those unfortunate students who pretend to see nothing negative at all in the world, and do not allow any negative interpretation to come into awareness. As Ken Wapnick has emphasized in many a workshop, such an attitude is really born of double denial; first, the denial of the misery of the world, and secondly the denial of the fact that the world is merely a projection — a mirror if you will — of what’s in the mind, which is where the world’s misery actually resides. If we refuse to see this misery, the Holy Spirit has no classroom to bring us the forgiveness lessons that truly heal the mind. As Ken Wapnick notes in The message of A Course in Miracles: “Teachers are rendered superfluous if there is no classroom for their students, and no curriculum to teach them. The sorrow of the world we made as a substitute for God is the very classroom Jesus uses, that he may instruct us through the curriculum of our special relationships how the world reflects the real problem of our minds’ decision for guilt and individuality.” (pI, p.178). This way, I’ll never get to the turning point where I exclaim that “there must be a better way”. Twenty years from now I’ll unhappily conclude that I still have an ego. Workbook lesson 135 puts it this way: “You merely take away the hope of healing, for you fail to see where hope must lie [i.e., in the mind].” (W-pI.135.10:5)

A Course in Miracles therefore urges us not to deny any negativity that we feel, however small it may seem. Rather, we should pay careful attention to it, from ‘above the battleground’. The smallest annoyance I become aware of can be reinterpreted as yet another forgiveness lesson offered me by the Holy Spirit. If I can catch myself before I live it out, and instead ask the Holy Spirit: “I am making a mistake. Please help me look at this differently“, I am undoing condemnation, which is the invitation for love to take its rightful place in the mind. This is why A Course in Miracles in so many places stresses the importance of our special relationships: with people, with hobbies, with possessions, you name it. These can act as the royal road to the dark kingdom of the subconscious mind. Of this kingdom, Jesus reflects back to us how we feel about it: “At times, it does not seem I am its king at all. It seems to triumph over me, and tell me what to think, and what to do and feel.” (W-pII.236.1:2). This is because we have rendered it unconscious, believing we have (and are!) a monster inside, ultimately because in the ontological unholy instant we sinned by attempting to separate from God, and pushing the guilt over that sin out of awareness, because it is too horrible to face.

A Course in Miracles shows us that, indeed, you and I do believe we have a monster inside, but this monster is made solely of mist: it’s a flimsy veil which we constructed out of our horror over a sin which never happened. Therefore, the same mind that made the veil can decide to end its investment in it. Jesus cannot do this for us, but with his help, our work of undoing it cannot fail to succeed. Many Course students know the following prayer by heart: “I must have decided wrongly, because I am not at peace. I made the decision myself, but I can also decide otherwise.  I want to decide otherwise, because I want to be at peace. I do not feel guilty, because the Holy Spirit will undo all the consequences of my wrong decision if I will let Him. I choose to let Him, by allowing Him to decide for God for me.” (T-30.XII.6:7-10) “Be very firm with yourself in this [prayer] and keep yourself fully aware that the undoing process, which does not come from you, is nevertheless within you because God placed it there. Your part is merely to return your thinking to the point at which the error was made, and give it over to the Atonement in peace.” (T-30.XII.6:1-2).

To conclude: A Course in Miracles is a spirituality that goes way deeper than just having you focus superficially on the love and oneness in yourself, in others, in everything. While this is a focus towards the truth, you and I will not truly awaken if we do not honestly examine, with the Holy Spirit’s help, the secret sins and hidden hates that we have pushed ‘underwater’ out of awareness. Spiritual awakening does not come from ignoring the misty monster inside “because it is illusory anyway”. Awakening comes from shining the mist (Jesus uses the word ‘clouds’) away with the lamp that we hold together with Jesus: “Since all illusions of salvation have failed you, surely you do not want to remain in the clouds, looking vainly for idols there, when you could so easily walk on into the light of real salvation. Try to pass the clouds by whatever means appeals to you. If it helps you, think of me holding your hand and leading you. And I assure you this will be no idle fantasy. […] Remind yourself that your salvation comes from you, and nothing but your own thoughts can hamper your progress. […] You are in charge of your salvation.” (W-pI.70.10)

— Note: While I am in the process of writing my next book, I may be revisiting some previous blogs. This one was written in December, 2017.

Fear as a classroom

The world appears to be duly immersed in the fear of the Covid-19 virus. After a relatively quiet summer, with few infections, the emotions in the public debate are sharply on the rise again, which only seems to polarize the already painful oppositions in the society even more. These emotions are not just about the virus itself; they’re as much about the strategy the government employs to cope with the crisis, and the possible effects of that strategy. Some say that the government should go much further in rigorous measures, while others claim that the government is merely keeping folks in a state of fear, driven by a pharmaceutical agenda. In both cases, people are extremely worried about the economic and humanitarian consequences that we are all facing, even to such an extent that the ‘cure’ (the rigorous measures) may be worse than the disease (the virus). In short, the world is engulfed in uncertainty and fear, to an extent we have not seen since the second world war.

It is not the intention of this blog to ventilate a particular point of view about all this. For one, it is obvious that corona is a very nasty illness, with very nasty symptoms with those with an already weakened immune system. At the same time, the death ratio turns out to be much lower than the initial horror scenarios would have us believe (at this point, still less than 0.1% of the population), while the influenza death toll appears to be much lower than in previous years. In the Netherlands, each day there are over 200 deaths due to the most common diseases such as heart and vascular disease, lung cancer, heart failure, dementia, strokes, etcetera. Deaths due to corona now slightly contribute to that number, while the ‘missing’ influenza deaths remain to be re-identified. Still, the specter of corona indicating an extremely painful ending of your life has become a firmly fixed notion, further fueling the disruption of society.

From the perspective of A Course in Miracles, this is all part of the same ‘waking dream’, which is wholly illusory. The Course teaches us that you and I are not a body; we are pure spirit, and literally nothing in the world of time and space is able to change that Identity as the Son of God in the least. In other words, according to the Course, there is no reason to have any fear whatsoever about anything (W-pI.48); not in the past, not in the future, not ever. As a spirit, everyone is perfectly safe by definition. Still, although these may be inspiring and comforting words, almost all Course students still intimately identify with the little separated ego self, meaning that we still intimately identify with our body, at least for the major part of the day. We may consistently tell ourselves: “I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me” (W-pI.201-220), but at the same time we still see our body age and deteriorate, and we try to postpone death as long as possible.

In A Course in Miracles, Jesus explains that we, being the One Son of God, made this all up to be able to have a place “where God can enter not”, where we can experience ourselves as an autonomous individual, while at the same time being able to hide from the purported wrath of a vengeful God, which in reality does not exist. So in the text, Jesus asks us: “Do you like what you have made? — a world of murder and attack, through which you thread your timid way through constant dangers, alone and frightened, hoping at most that death will wait a little longer before it overtakes you and you disappear. You made this up. It is a picture of what you think you are; of how you see yourself. […] All these are but the fearful thoughts of those who would adjust themselves to a world made fearful by their adjustments” (T-20.III.4:2-6). Everything in the world is but a dream that mirrors the idea of separation, attack and death that is the ego.

Already early in the text of the Course, Jesus lets us know he does not demand we deny our existence in the waking dream of time and space; that would be “a particularly unworthy form of denial” (T-2.IV.3:11). As long as we still unconsciously believe that our body is our identity (which is the case for everyone who wakes up each morning in a body), it is a good idea to take good care of the body. Jesus does not even object to the use of medicine to alleviate pain (T-2.IV.4). What’s more, the body can be lovingly employed by the Holy Spirit, the Voice for Love, to manifest Jesus’ message in this dream world, if we choose to let Him. As we read in the workbook: “You are my voice, my eyes, my feet, my hands, through which I save the world” (W– So we can use the body as an instrument of salvation.

By placing my thoughts under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (i.e., focusing my attention on loving intuition), everything in this ‘waking dream’ becomes a lesson in love. Since in reality there is no world outside of me, and there is no-one else (and no viruses), everything I perceive and interpret mirrors how I perceive and interpret myself: either as a son of the ego in a frightening world, or as the Son of God in a dream in which we all share the same Light source. This Light is our essence as Christ, the one Son of God. By choosing to have my interpretation of everything I perceive outside of me be guided by the Holy Spirit, I eventually learn to interpret myself in that Light. Eventually this will lead to my acceptance of the Atonement.

So from the perspective of A Course in Miracles, the best thing we can do in these turbulent days of societal fear is non-judgmentally looking at our own interpretation of what we perceive and interpret around is. And as soon as we notice, despite our best intentions, that we start to judge again, we can now kindly thank the ego for that, and then quickly hand that judgment over to the Holy Spirit, instead of indulging in it or feel terribly guilty about it, which is what happens with many Course students. Guilt keeps the ego going, including our fear of a terrible ending of our fragile life here on earth. The end of guilt signifies the end of fear, and ultimately the end of the dream.

Choose to be a beacon of peace. Do not condemn any worldly opinion about this virus whatsoever. Know that a dream is a dream is a dream, and choose to have your thoughts and behavior be guided by the Holy Spirit, the Voice for Love, by taking a step back and following your loving intuition. This, by the way, does not mean at all that you become indifferent to the world. On the contrary, you can be very involved with the world on a daily basis helping people. Jus ask what Love would do. Whatever the form this help might take, you will offer everyone you meet the most beautiful gift imaginable: acceptance of the other (and therefore also of yourself) as the guiltless Son of God Who is safe forever. Seen this way, all fear is but a classroom in which we learn our lessons in love.

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


See my Feb. 2020 Course workshop on YouTube called “A kingdom to rule” (English captions/subtitles available).

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: