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.

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