The slow turning point

A Course in Miracles is a nondualistic spirituality that aims to make us fully aware of the origin, the nature and the purpose of our ego-based thinking. Its author Jesus (who is not as he is portrayed in the Bible) offers us to this end a text and workbook for students, and a manual for teachers, in which he not only discusses the metaphysics, but above all the practical application of forgiveness in our every day lives here in the dualistic dream world. The basic idea is that we (as the collective Son of God) chose to descend into a nightmarish materialist dream world of time and space, solely to ‘prove’ that individual existence can be a better experience than non-individual oneness. Since this is a hopeless desire that can never become actual reality, the Course leads us gently on the path upwards back to the reality of our oneness as Christ in the Heart of God. And yes, you are right in noting that this thought system is actually closer related to Buddhism than to Christianity. In a simple scheme that I drew in 2018, based on books and workshops by Course Scholar Kenneth Wapnick, this journey downward and again upward might be visualized as follows:

The ego descent and spiritual ascent according to A Course in Miracles. You are free to use this image if you like, as CC-SA.

At the bottom, the miracle denotes the turning point at which the decision maker in the mind realizes that he is not a dream figure; he is, rather, the dreamer of the dream of dualism, who now has the option to shift from mindlessness to mindfulness and choose the ‘green’ journey upwards back to oneness, guided by the Holy Spirit. This turning point from mindlessness to mindfulness is what many spiritualities are all about; however, the beauty of A Course in Miracles is that it clearly explains why we chose the ‘red’ downward journey in the first place. After all, you cannot choose a better path if you do not first fully acknowledge that your current path brings nothing but misery, and also understand why you had chosen the wrong path at the outset. Essentially, the daily practice of A Course in Miracles comes down to training the decision making part of the mind to, as often as possible, non-judgmentally look at your thoughts and the purpose you assigned to them. And the purpose is always either prolonged separation or the return to oneness.

Once you and I reach that turning point of the miracle, and experience the inner peace that our forgiveness brings, there is a tendency to want to speed up the ‘green’ journey back Home to oneness. This is fueled by passages in both the Text and the Workbook that state that salvation could – in theory – be reached in an instant, that is, the holy instant (cf. T-26.VIII.3:1: “Salvation is immediate…”). And who wouldn’t want to be free of all pain in an instant? What’s more, in part II of the Workbook, several lessons announce that this specific day is the day! (cf. WpII.241.1:5: “The day has come when sorrows pass away and pain is gone.”). And yet, in practice the next day turns out to be just as miserable as the day before. Many students who work diligently with the text, the workbook and the manual still find themselves bothered by their ego ten or twenty years later, and so they sigh and give up on its practice for a long time. So what makes this Course work?

The key is to see that the turning point at the bottom of the graph is a slow turning point. In the Text we find many passages that emphasize our enormous resistance to letting go of our precious autonomous individuality, which is what undoing the ego ultimately means. You and I still have a split mind: on the one hand we would indeed like to experience the Love of God as Christ; on the other hand, we would like that as a separated individual. That particular combination is impossible, as oneness cannot be aware of anything other than itself. So of course there’s resistance. Jesus has to guide us at a leisurely pace, step by step, since we are still too anxious to be “abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality” (T16.VI.8:1); this would be far too overwhelming and terrifying.

So the process of the turning point at the bottom of the graph can be aptly described as in lesson 284 of the Workbook: “This is the truth, at first to be but said and then repeated many times; and next to be accepted as but partly true, with many reservations. Then to be considered seriously more and more, and finally accepted as the truth” (WpII.284.1:5-6). Clearly, this is a process that spans many years, not simply a few days or even one year. The reason this takes so long is that it asks of us to admit – not begrudgingly, but gratefully – that we were wrong about everything we valued in our lives up to now. It requires diligent mind training for such a radical shift – in fact, the most radical mind shift imaginable.

Another reason this process takes many, many years is that an intellectual understanding and acceptance of this message is not enough. The understanding must be translated and integrated into our daily thoughts and actions; it must become experiential. You don’t have to pretend that you are spiritually more advanced than you are. It’s much more helpful to honestly look at all the little condemnations you still choose each day, and then forgive yourself for such silly mistakes, followed by a desire to try again at the following ‘forgiveness opportunity’ that crosses our path. Rest assured that the Holy Spirit will offer exactly those forgiveness lessons that we are now ready to handle. Please don’t take the goal of enlightenment too seriously. Be content to be in the midst of the process of the slow turning point, fully confident in the eventual happy outcome, be it in this life or some future life. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that your decision maker can choose peace now, even though it will not yet last forever. In that sense salvation is immediate, as “now is the closest approximation of eternity that this world offers” (T-13.IV.7:1-5). Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, June 2021

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