Reasons to attack the Course

Oftentimes I notice people who delve into A Course in Miracles becoming puzzled, if not outright offended, by the unilateral use of masculin pronouns. The words ‘she’ or ‘her’ never once appear in its entire 1500+ pages. The text is replete with references to ‘my brother’, but not once does it refer to ‘my sister’. For some folks, that in itself is reason enough to close the book, discarding it as ‘sexist’. They then go and find a spirituality that seems to do justice to the equality of the male and female aspects of life.

Another major objection that I oftentimes notice with Course ‘novices’ is about its use of biblical language. In the Course, we read a lot about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, as well as typically Christian concepts  such as the crucifixion and the Last Judgment. Additionally, when it becomes clear that the author of A Course in Miracles is no-one less than Jesus himself, he is immediately mixed up with the historical Jesus as depicted in the Bible. Since spiritual aspirants are usually not too hot about religion, again the book is closed and discarded as being “overly religious”. Such people find non-religious “new-age”-like spiritualities much more attractive.

The more analytically inclined people object to the Course because of its many seeming contradictions. For example, at one point we read that God did not create this world and knows nothing about it (W-pI:14); but several chapters later we read that God is lonely without his children, weeps for their suffering, and even thinks that they must be awakened [by Him] (T-6.V.1:8). Similarly, at one point we read that Jesus only asks ‘a little willingness’ from us, while at other times he explicitly talks about ‘abundant willingness’.  Moreover, oftentimes the text feels more poetic than scientific. Again, such analytical people discard the book as being ‘filled with contradictions, surely  by an incompetent author.’

And last but not least, many novice students consider the curriculum to be simply too vague or complex, especially the text. Sentences such as “It is sure that those who select certain ones as partners in any aspect of living, and use them for any purpose which they would not share with others, are trying to live with guilt rather than die of it.” (T-16.IV.4:5-7) only make sense once you fathom core Course concepts such as “Projection makes perception“, “Ideas leave not their source“, and “Together, or not at all.” Until then, many passages simply do not seem to make sense, because they are still read by a mind that’s in ego-mode.

However, as scholar Kenneth Wapnick never tired of explaining, all such objections always focus on various aspects of form of the Course’s curriculum. For example, every time we read about ‘he’, ‘him’ or ‘his’ in the Course, Jesus refers to all people. That’s the content he discusses. It would be rather awkward to explicitly mention both genders all the time. What’s more: to Jesus, gender is completely irrelevant anyway, since he and his curriculum focus exclusively on the mind, which has no gender. So objections about the text using only masculine pronouns focus on form, not on content.

As for the biblical language, A Course in Miracles came to our Western world in this particular time frame, in this particular language with this particular biblical terminology because that is the religious frame for the vast majority of the western world. Heck, we even count our calendar years based on the new Testament! But again, that’s form. A very similar message, in content at least, came through some 3,000 years ago in ancient India, in their particular religious terminology (Krishna) and in their particular language. It’s called the Bhaghavad Gita. The source of both messages is the nondual voice for Love, that is, the Oneness Love of God. In fact, the same message of Love can be found in many cultures, each in their own particular religious framework.

The central point behind all these objections on the Course’s form is the underlying fear of the content of its message. And what is the core of its content, bottom line? No less than the message that you and I actually do not exist as autonomous individuals; nor are time, space and perception in any way related to reality. God is Fact, and all else is illusory. As Ken Wapnick often explained, once you really start to grasp the essence of the Course’s message, fear and anxiety are bound to rise sharply, consciously or not. After all, no-one likes to read that the fact of the matter is that he doesn’t exist. Yes, we are told that we are a timeless extension of of God’s Love, but to our linearly programmed brains that doesn’t mean anything. And so, at first the Course only seems to lead to the loss of what I cherish the most: my self. That’s why A Course in Miracles will never be hugely popular.

Many a first-time reader of A Course in Miracles hopes to find in this curriculum a way to be a happier ego in this world. It can be rather disconcerting to discover that this curriculum asks of you to reconsider all the values that you still hold dear (T-24.In.2), with the ultimate purpose of relinquishing the little self you still intimately identify with. It’s only when the clarity and stark logic of the Course’s metaphysics are understood to some degree, that you start to realize that this is a Course that leads us Home, out of the nightmare the seemingly sleeping Son of God has constructed to be able to hide from Oneness, in an insane attempt to try to be a god in our own little separated kingdom.

Slowly realizing and accepting that this ‘tiny, mad idea’ of separation doesn’t work, we can slowly learn to again hear and choose the Voice for Love in our mind. This ultimately is our own voice, which gently guides us back Home to nonduality. As Jesus once said to his scribe Helen Schucman (published in Ken Wapnick’s  Absence from felicity): “The thing to do with a desert is to leave.” This is exactly what the Course’s content is about. Would this simple message be a reason to attack its form? Yes, it would, until we start to realize that our personal version of Heaven turned out to be a desert, “where starved and thirsty creatures come to die” (W-pII.13.5:1). Gladly realizing this is but a dream we made up, A Course in Miracles falls like drops of rain from Heaven. Once we see through the form and are willing to look at its content, where we first thought the Course asks us to sacrifice our very self, we find that we lose nothing and gain everything.


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 Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.

Happily let it all go!

Last week I ‘accidentally’ came across an article about the Hindu mystic Swami Ganapati Saraswati, also known as Trailanga Swami, who reportedly lived from 1607 to 1887 (no, that’s no typo; he is thought to have lived for no less than 280 years, although such a claim can hardly be verified of course). The famous mystic Ramakrishna met him and called him ‘the walking Shiva of Varanasi’. What particularly struck me is that Trailanga had taken the vow of non-seeking (ayachaka); that is, being content with whatever the circumstances bring. There’s two ingredients to that: (a) having no material desires whatsoever; and (b) having no investment in the outcome of any situation. That’s quite something if you think about it. What would such a mindset mean for how you experience the quality of your life?

It’s reminiscent of the well-known parable of the Chinese farmer who had learned not to judge any situation at all. When his son broke his leg at work, people lamented the ill fortune of the farmer. The latter, however, merely shrugged his shoulders and said: “Maybe.” When a week later the government recruited young men for the state army in the wake of war, the son obviously didn’t qualify. This time, people pointed out the good fortune of the farmer. Again, the farmer shrugged his shoulders and said: “Maybe.” The point of the parable is that you can save yourself a lot of perceived suffering if you don’t judge events according to your own personal agenda, but are willing to accept everything exactly as it comes.

There are many parallels in A Course in Miracles as well. Most students are well familiar with Course concepts such as “I need do nothing” (T-18.VII); “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” (T-29.VII.1:9), and, above all, “I do not know what anything is for” (W-pI.25), since “I do not perceive my own best interests” (W-pI.24). The Course points out to us that since we are convinced we have personal interests that differ from other interests, we constantly engage in making plans and setting goals, in order to manipulate the flow of time in such a way that it will bring us good fortune. Every event and situation that confront us we immediately judge as “good” or “bad”. Moreover, within a split-second we have set up various scenarios in which we think we can influence the wheel of fortune.

It’s no wonder that Course scholar Kenneth Wapnick remarked in his workshops that “in a sense, we are all control freaks in this world”. The ego is needy by definition, and since we all still intimately identify with the ego, we cannot help seeking and seeking for safety and happiness, which of course we never find, because this world was made to be a place where true Love (a synonym for God) could enter not (W-pII.3.2:4). And yet we stubbornly keep trying to plan and control the flow of events, even though inside we know that things will always turn out differently. How could it be otherwise, if you consider our very limited sphere of influence?

In the Manual for teachers, we read the following sobering reasoning: “In order to judge anything rightly, one would have to be fully aware of an inconceivably wide range of things; past, present, and to come. One would have to recognize in advance all the effects of his judgments on everyone and everything involved in them in any way. And one would have to be certain there is no distortion in his perception […]. Who is in a position to do this? Who except in grandiose fantasies would claim this for himself? Remember how many times you thought you knew all the “facts” you needed for judgment, and how wrong you were! Is there anyone who has not had this experience? […] Why would you choose such an arbitrary basis for decision making?” (M-10.3:3-4:4).

Jesus’ point is not that we should never make plans. The point is that we should consider which teacher (or guide) we choose to make plans with. As all Course students know, there are only two guides: from moment to moment, we either choose to be guided by the ego or by the Holy Spirit. The former guide will make me feel personally important but will always lead to misery because of its core concept of separation and attack. The latter will guide me to the experience of lasting inner peace, because His core concept is of Oneness and Love. That’s why the same section 10 in the Manual proceeds to conclude: “Wisdom is not judgment; it is the relinquishment of judgment.” (M-10.4:5).

So, returning to Trailanga Swami, who had taken the vow of non-seeking: what if I relinquished all judgment, happily accepting every situation as it comes, solely following the impulses of love that originate from the Voice for Love, the higher Self? We all have two voices inside us that answer that question. The intuitive voice that for most of us resides in the hara area of the lower belly lets out a sigh of relief: “Wow. That would mean the end of all stress and turmoil in my life.” The other voice, however, which usually resides in the area of the head, answers quite differently, immersed in anger or outright panic: “What!? That’s idiocy! You’d lose your income, your job, your house, your spouse, everything! You’ll be a bum, an outcast, the lowest of the low in the world. Achieving happiness requires action! Stop dreaming and get back to work!”

We’ve all been brought up with the belief that ‘success in life’ requires hard work, diligent planning and perseverance. The message of A Course in Miracles is not that we should not be active, but that happiness depends on which guide we choose to guide our thoughts and actions. On a personal note, for about six or seven years now I’ve actively tried to choose to prefer the intuitive voice in the lower belly. Firstly, I practice in relinquishing my judgment about how my plans should turn out; secondly, I increasingly try not to plan on my own, but to ask the Holy Spirit what to think, say, and do. To be sure, this doesn’t always feel very comfortable (to the ego) and I still catch myself many times thinking or doing things out of a perceived “personal interest”. But I also notice that, all in all, my life seems to flow much easier than it used to. Overall, I feel healthy and lighthearted, and I experience no lack whatsoever in any aspect of my life. Maybe, just perhaps, this Course works after all…

Again in the Manual for teachers, Jesus comments on this point in section 4, about all situations wherein “[…] the teacher of God feels called upon to sacrifice his own best interests on behalf of truth [which is what happens in the practice described above]. He has not realized as yet how wholly impossible such a demand would be. He can learn this only as he actually does give up the valueless [i.e., ‘personal’ interests]. Through this, he learns that where he anticipated grief, he finds a happy lightheartedness instead; where he thought something was asked of him, he finds a gift [i.e., inner peace] bestowed on him.” (M-4.I-A.5:5-8). The message of A Course in Miracles is simple indeed: “Do you prefer that you be right or happy? Be you glad that you are told where happiness abides, and seek no longer elsewhere. You will fail. But it is given you to know the truth.” (T-29.VII.1:9-11).

So why not try Trailanga Swami’s vow of ‘non-seeking’? Your daily practice of letting go of judgment in the view of your ‘personal interests’ will inevitably usher in the experience of inner peace and lightheartedness, no matter how many times you may stumble each day, no matter how hard the ego shrieks that your life will fall apart. One final point though: Jesus’ message may be simple, but it is certainly not easy. A major pitfall that Kenneth Wapnick often pointed out is that of blissninnyhood, as in: “Ah, okay. All I have to do is focus on Love and everything will be alright. Therefore I will teach only love and deny the ego, which, after all, is the denial of truth. Hooray!” This will not work because the underlying ontological guilt isn’t being undone. We should always remember Jesus’ clarion call: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false” (T-16.IV.6:1-2). So seek out all the dark spots in your own unforgiving mind, and then choose the Holy Spirit to teach you how to happily let it all go.


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 Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.

You can bring the light now

Time is one of the most elusive devices the ego employs to keep our belief in the reality of what our senses perceive alive and well. After all, I may gradually accept that my interpretation of behavior of people around me may not always be correct, but I will not question my belief that my very personality is the product of my life’s experiences throughout the years, and that tomorrow will offer many more opportunities to further improve that personality. I may have lots of worries and pains today, but sometime in the future I will be fully enlightened, free of all the turmoil that I still perceive around me on a daily basis both within me and without me.

It is therefore quite startling, to say the least, to read in A Course in Miracles that time itself does not exist. Time is merely a trick to keep the mind rooted in its belief about the reality of the separated state from God. Workbook lesson 158 is especially clear about this: “Time is a trick, a sleight of hand, a vast illusion in which figures come and go as if by magic. Yet there is a plan behind appearances that does not change. The script is written. […] For we but see the journey from the point at which it ended, looking back on it, imagining we make it once again; reviewing mentally what has gone by.” (W-pI.158.4:1-5). In a sense, everything that happens in our lives is already predetermined, but as we all work very, very hard to make our lives turn out the way we want it, we find this notion very, very hard to accept. And so each day we soldier on, hoping against hope that one day we’ll find the lasting inner peace we want so much.

Jesus’ non-compromising message about the unreality of time also means that salvation (i.e., lasting inner peace) is not to be found in the future, since in fact there is no future, since all of time happens now: “The one remaining problem that you have is that you see an interval between the time when you forgive, and will receive the benefits of trusting in your brother.… Salvation is immediate. Unless you so perceive it, you will be afraid of it…. Salvation would wipe out the space you see between you [and your brother] still, and let you instantly become as one.” (T-26.1:1-3:5; my italics). We keep believing in the illusion of time because we still crave to experience ourselves as the ‘hero of the dream’; we keep wanting to ‘prove’ to ourselves and our Creator that we can do very well on our own. In a sense, each separated living thing uses time solely to keep affirming that very notion.

Imagine you would go to the cinema to see a movie, and the staff would take you immediately to the very end of the movie, reminding you that “the end is set already anyway, so why bother to go through two hours of uncertainty when you can have the final outcome immediately?” We would smack the cinema operator, since the two hours of uncertainty, tension, sensation and bewilderment are exactly why we came to see the movie in the first place! It is no different with our very own lives. Even though Jesus assures us that “A happy outcome to all things is sure” (W-pII.292), and that this “outcome is as certain as God” (T-2.III.3:10), we do not want to experience that happy outcome immediately now, our protestations about desiring lasting inner peace to the contrary. Why is that?

Well, there’s one subtle difference between our cinema movies and the movie of our personal lives, which commonly goes unnoticed. In accordance with lesson 292 above, we make sure that by far most cinema movies have a happy outcome: the hero wins, and the bad guys lose. The hero gets the biggest prize in life there is: to keep experiencing himself as a successful autonomous individual in this world, which is what we all wish. But in ‘real life’ (that is, in the ‘waking dream’ of duality), nothing lasts. We notice we get older; our bodies deteriorate and die, and we gradually seem to lose all that we hold dear. “Not one of [us] but has thought that God is cruel” (T-13.in.3:2). Since we really do not want to accept that, we keep going to the movies, to keep up our stubborn belief that we could be successful on our own in time, apart from God.

And yet there is always some form of pain in our lives, be it physical or psychological, which we believe is caused by factors outside of us. This is because the ego, which is the belief in separated individuality, can only survive by upholding (and fueling) the notion of grievances (i.e., condemnation), which is hardly a fitting framework for finding lasting inner peace: “The source of salvation is constantly perceived as outside yourself. Each grievance you hold is a declaration, and an assertion in which you believe, that says, “If this were different, I would be saved.” The change of mind necessary for salvation is thus demanded of everyone and everything except yourself.” (W-pI.71.2:3-5). In one way or another, almost all of us still believe this.

The central message of A Course in Miracles is that “The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself” (T-27.VIII.10:1). This is because in truth, there is no-one else out there. Everything my senses perceive in time is a projection of some aspect of the sin and guilt that I do not want to look at in myself. Therefore, Jesus asks us: “What if you recognized this world is an hallucination? What if you really understood you made it up? What if you realized that those who seem to walk about in it, to sin and die, attack and murder and destroy themselves, are wholly unreal? Could you have faith in what you see, if you accepted this? And would you see it?” (T-20.VIII.7:3-7). The answer is: no, we wouldn’t see it, and we wouldn’t have faith in it any longer. But it would also mean that I would accept that my imagined precious individuality is not true. I still find that conclusion too painful, so I still prefer the pain I experience in the dream world of time and space, even unto seeming physical death.

A Course in Miracles teaches us not only that the movie that is this dream world will have a happy end, but that the dream world is in fact already over. We are merely reviewing what has already gone by, reliving it again because we still think individuality is our wish. But if I accede that salvation lies in my acceptance of the fact that I am doing this to myself, and that salvation is immediate, I could also choose to experience the happy outcome of the dream now, even if only for a few minutes or seconds. My mind has the power to choose to let go of all grievances and condemnation (the bedrock of separation) and align my thoughts with the Holy Spirit, the Voice for Love, which is my very essence. In terms of the Course, I can choose to experience the Holy instant at any time. My declaration of independence from the ego is my choice to accept the nature of my Self as pure spirit, that is, a non-temporal extension of the Love of God.

This sounds awfully metaphysical, but you and I are in fact able to experience it at any time. How? Let’s say you are bothered by some nagging physical symptom for some time now. Instead of repressing the pain through distraction or medication, which is what we usually do, we could also see it as a useful signal that there yet remains something to forgive in the mind. We could then choose to non-judgmentally focus on that very symptom, fully willing to learn the lesson, and choose to immerse the symptom completely in Love. The form does not matter; you could, for example, visualize pure white light that envelops you completely; or you could choose any form you personally prefer, as long as it’s fueled by the non-judgmental Love that reflects Heaven.

This may sound overly new-ageish; however, that thought might just be another ego distraction to what is truly the point: inviting in the Voice for Love that is the Holy Spirit, Who will guide you through the really required change, namely the choice to relinquish some form of condemnation, and accept the Atonement (i.e., Oneness) instead. We are to use all the little symbols of the world that the ego made to keep us mindless, to reverse their purpose from ‘mindlessness’ to awakening from the dream world of time and space. We may still believe it will take us many, many years to do this, but in each holy instant we choose to experience, including inner light episodes, we reflect the happy outcome of the dream right now – and “now is the closest approximation of eternity that this world offers” (T-13.IV.7:5). So practice with gladness in experiencing the Light within each and everyone of us right now. This way we invite eternity in, or at least its reflection. Repeat to yourself: ‘Now is the closest approximation of eternity that this world offers.’ Through this invitation, the Holy Spirit will find His way to your conscious thoughts a little easier than before, which is surely the “better way” to reach the lasting experience of inner peace that is our inheritance.


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 Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.

The deeper purpose

Suppose your spouse (or parent, colleague, manager; whomever) got angry at you because you failed to do something that was clearly expected from you. It could be as simple as not being considerate, or failing to empty the garbage bin or do the laundry, or having spent too much money on something worthless… the list of possibilities is endless. Chances are that you feel unfairly treated; and before you know it you’re in ‘blaming mode’, in a counter-attack that seems fully justified. Later on, when you think about why you slipped into unkindness when this really wasn’t your intent from the outset, you might conclude that you felt that your search for happiness was sincerely threatened by this other person, and you really felt the other needed to change to set this straight. Even if you’re into spirituality and can acknowledge the fact that the quarrel was merely a typical scene of projection back and forth, it’s still a thought mechanism that is alive and well in the mind.

Jesus (that is, the author of A Course in Miracles) would say that this is because we are not yet fully aware of the purpose behind that purpose. In feeling unfairly treated and picking a fight with someone, with anyone, we are first and foremost affirming to each other that my body is real and your body is real, and so the separation from God is reality as well. Furthermore, by body is obviously better than your body, so you are the one to be blamed for everything, including the cause of the separation, and God should allow me back into Heaven when I die and send you to hell. So my deeper purpose behind the superficial purpose of our quarrel is to affirm that I really exist and I am the ‘better’ of the two of us; so God should notice and love me, not you. The ego obviously wants to have its cake and eat it too.

As early as lesson 25 in the workbook, Jesus would have us realize that we usually do not realize what we think or do is for. So he explains: “At the most superficial levels, you do recognize purpose. […] For example, you do understand that a telephone is for the purpose of talking to someone who is not physically in your immediate vicinity. What you do not understand is what you want to reach him for. And it is this that makes your contact with him meaningful or not.” (W-pI.25.4:2-6). With this simple example, Jesus tries to make us see that our true purpose for this call is to once again find an opportunity to either underscore separation (the ego’s interest) or to see the Holy Spirit’s goal of sameness in both of us. So while on a superficial level we can think of many purposes for our thoughts and actions, on the deeper level there are only two: either to align with the ego’s purpose of separated autonomous individuality, or to align with the Holy Spirit’s purpose of gently undoing all separation, condemnation and autonomy.

It can be of enormous help to train the mind to be always be acutely aware of this deeper purpose behind our thoughts and actions. In fact, attack becomes impossible once this deeper purpose is held in awareness, for how could sameness attack sameness? We must, however, be willing to see all situations this way, and that’s somewhat of a challenge, to put it mildly. Why is it a challenge? Because in doing so, I would have to admit to Jesus that he was right all along and I was wrong; not only about everything I perceive in this dream world of time and space, but about the very fact that I believe I exist as a separate autonomous unique individual. I may be willing to agree that Jesus is right when he says that I am wrong every time I judge, but I’m not likely to agree that Jesus is right when he says that I really do not exist, since “it is a joke to think that time can come to circumvent eternity” (T-27.VIII.6:5).

This is why A Course in Miracles is a slow process, that takes us step by gentle step in slowly reconsidering the foundation that the very concept of our personality rests on. This concept is entirely based on separation: “You see a lot of separate things about you, which really means you are not seeing at all. […] You will not question what you have already defined.” (W-pI.28.2:5;4:1). In this important workbook lesson, called “Above all else I want to see things differently”, Jesus invites us to practice this shift of perception from separation to sameness with very simple objects. He uses a table as an example: “In saying, ‘above all else I want to see this table differently’, you are committing yourself to seeing. […] You could, in fact, gain vision from just that table, if you would withdraw all your own ideas from it, and look upon it with a completely open mind. […] In using the table as a subject […], you are therefore really asking to see the purpose of the universe. […] You are making a commitment to each [subject] to let its purpose be revealed to you, instead of placing your own judgment upon it.” (W-pI.28.4:3-6:3).

Again, Jesus is talking about the deeper purpose of either adhering to the ego’s concept of separation, or to the Holy Spirit’s concept of unified oneness. My perception of the purpose of that table in this sense merely symbolizes my perception of the purpose of my own personality or identity, and also my perception of the purpose of the universe. Therefore, when we really pay attention to Jesus’ true message in these deceptively simple early lessons in the workbook, we can see that A Course in Miracles is a spirituality that really takes its students to the very essence of life’s great questions: “What am I?”, “Why am I here?”, “What’s the purpose of my life?”, “Where is everlasting happiness to be found?” The one answer to all of these questions lies in my acceptance of the Atonement; that is, choosing to accept my true Identity as an extension of the Oneness Love of God. Or, as Jesus puts it: “Teach only love, for that is what you are.” (T-6.I.13:2) I reach that point of acceptance not by becoming a monk, not by denying the dark spots in my mind, but rather by practicing mind training in very specific daily situations, such as a quarrel with my spouse, my kids, my parents, colleagues, boss, you name it.

Instead of losing myself once again on autopilot in judgmental counter-attack, my main daily assignment is to reach that place above the battleground a little sooner than I did yesterday, and realize the deeper purpose that I unconsciously side with in any situation, from hour to hour, from minute to minute, from instant to instant. Sure, I will obviously choose the wrong purpose many times each day. After all, I’m still in love with my own special unique autonomous individuality. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be hanging around here anymore. So each time you realize you once again slipped into a judgmental counter-attack, don’t feel bad and guilty — be glad! That realization, coupled with the sincere desire to “want to see things differently” (W-pI.28), is the greatest gift you can give yourself in any situation. That realization is what makes you an effective Course student. Once you choose to really let go of your own investment, and ask the Holy Spirit what to think, say or do instead, you may be amazed at the miracles that ignite from that peaceful, loving state of mind, with effects that you would never have thought possible. And that experience is the real fuel for the motivation for really wanting to learn Jesus’ Course. Happy practicing!


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 Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.

The one thing to fix in the world

A Course in Miracles teaches us that we are not trapped in a world that is beyond our sphere of influence, our daily experiences to the contrary. This is because the world we interpret and give meaning to, is merely “…the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition.” (T-21.in.1:5). This certainly doesn’t seem to be the case. After all, nothing in this world lasts. All things sooner or later become defective, and all life eventually deteriorates and dies. I tell myself my deepest desire is to have everlasting life in a world of everlasting love; yet eventually I appear to lose everything I love. So if “the world is the outside picture of an inward condition”, it must follow that my mind must be full of thoughts of decay and death, at least unconsciously, right?

This is true for anyone whose state of mind is in wrong-minded ego mode, which is true for 99 percent of the world population all the time, including my own state of mind. This is because when push comes to shove, my own selfish interests will have to be met first, at all cost. Self-preservation is this life’s primary driving force. Sure I want happiness, but I want it my way. This, of course, merely mirrors the ontological moment when the seemingly sleeping Son of God chose to follow the ego in the dream (nightmare, really) of autonomy, seemingly separating from God. Terrified at the prospect of being severely punished by God for this “sin of separation”, the Son made up time and space, including an entire universe, with the twofold purpose of (1) becoming untraceable to God, and (2) providing so many distractions to occupy the mind that the memory of the state of Oneness wouldn’t be able to ever dawn again in the Son’s mind.

So while my mind is in ego-mode, everything I perceive, think and do will reflect that ontological moment. “Each day, each minute, and each instant you but relive the time when terror took the place of love” (T-26.V.13:1). This is not to say, by the way, that we cannot reflect Heaven here in time and space. After all, I do have the choice to switch teachers at any instant of the day. Whenever I choose to do that, the Love that is my very inheritance will manifest in this world, through the miracle. Since projection makes perception (T-21.in.1), the world I behold will reflect my decision to either wrong-mindedly project, or to right-mindedly extend.

Beware, however: the ego is very clever at imitating the Holy Spirit. If I constantly behold only a good, lovable and joyful world, chances are that I have fallen into the trap of denying the darkness in my mind that I need to clean up. If the cause of this world is the ontological attack thought, salvation cannot lie in denying attack thoughts; it must lie in calmly looking at all attack thoughts, accompanied by Jesus (or the Holy Spirit). Only then can I see its silliness. I then realize I am the dreamer of the dream, and therefore the maker of all the images I see. Our one remaining freedom in this world is the power to choose a better Teacher to guide our thoughts, in the service of slowly undoing all attack thoughts that we become aware of. That’s why workbook lesson 23 says that “I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts.” (W-pI.23).

In that lesson, we read that “If the cause of the world is attack thoughts, you must learn that it is these thoughts which you do not want. There is no point in lamenting the world. There is no point in trying to change the world. It is incapable of change because it is merely an effect [of my state of mind]. But there is indeed a point in changing your thoughts about the world. Here you are changing the cause. The effect will change automatically.” (T-23.2). To clarify this, Kenneth Wapnick often used the symbol of a cinema: if I don’t like what I see on the screen, I do not run to the wall to try to change the image; rather, I should go to the projection booth and switch movies. The choice for the movie is the cause; what I subsequently perceive the effect. In the Course, Jesus invites us to evaluate and change the cause, not the effect.

At first, this seems to be strictly in line with the well-known quote from chapter 18: “I need do nothing.” (T-18.VII.5). However, this does not mean that we literally are to do nothing in the world, as some students unfortunately interpret it. We may be tempted to stop caring for the environment, climate, sustainability, health, et cetera, because the world and its bodies are all illusory anyway — we merely need to change our mind and choose inner peace. However, as Kenneth Wapnick often pointed out, that is not what Jesus teaches in his curriculum. Yes, from a metaphysical viewpoint it is true that everything here is illusory and nothing here is of any value, since nothing lasts. However, as long as we still identify with our body so much, which virtually everyone still does, we have lots of “mind-work” to do in really bringing about the change of mind we so fervently desire.

‘Changing my mind and choose inner peace’ requires that I fully accept the message of the Atonement that says that nothing happened to disturb the innocent peace of the Son of God, and that I never really wanted the world I now behold. To get to that point, however, I should regard the world as a useful classroom in which I can be very active, but guided by a different teacher. Every chapter and every lesson in A Course in Miracles carries that same simple message in it, explicitly or implicitly: choose once again which teacher I will allow to guide my thoughts. Once we increasingly make the right choice, we come to realize that our thoughts in time and space are not our real thoughts at all; that is, only impulses of love are real, and it is through these that I can reflect a bit of Heaven here on earth, and cleanse my mind from all the dark spots I still hold on to, hoping against hope that my individual autonomy is indeed a fact. It is not; only God is Fact, and our spiritual journey consists of slowly and gratefully accepting that truth.

Therefore, there is really only one thing to fix in the world: the quality of my thoughts. I don’t do this by meditating for extended lengths of time in a mountain cave, although regular meditation does help to ease the constant stream of ego chatter, an essential prerequisite for mind training. The most important vehicle for changing the quality of my thoughts is accepting the lessons of love that are offered me on a daily basis in the world which I now regard as a useful classroom. On a practical level, this means I ask Jesus (or the HS) to help me see all situations that used to upset me differently, no matter how small the upset seems to be. As Ken Wapnick remarked: “We practice on the ‘little’ things of the body, so what we may come to learn about the magnitude of spirit”, which is what you and I really are. 

So it’s perfectly fine for you and me to be very active in this world on “fixing” the environment, the climate, sustainability, healthcare, you name it — but the true “fix” is our choice with whom we do it as guiding teacher: the ego or the Holy Spirit? If I act from an ego frame of mind, my primary (though unconscious) motivation in working on climate, sustainability or healthcare will be to establish my special self-worth, and to show God that, yes, I sinned, but my good deeds should grant me a place in Heaven when I die. This way I merely keep making the error real. If, on the other hand, I act from the right-minded perspective of the Voice for Love, my primary motivation will be to reach the real world by seeing the sameness in everything I perceive. My thoughts and actions will emanate from kindness, which must result in inner peace, and ultimately in the returning awareness of our Home in the Heart of God, which we never really left anyway.


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 Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.

“This course is too difficult to learn”

When students of A Course in Miracles start to notice that Jesus is serious when he tells them that “…to learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning.” (T-24.In.2:1-2), there is a strong temptation to become discouraged. After all, a complete reversal of everything I believe seems to be utterly impossible, no matter how much I claim to love Jesus and his message. So the tendency is to throw up my hands in desperation, exclaiming that “…I don’t see how I’m going to pull that off. This course is too difficult to learn!”

You and I are certainly not the first nor the last to feel such discouragement. Nor is it exclusive to A Course in Miracles; many spiritual thought systems seem to ‘demand’ a transformation in values and beliefs that seems awkwardly hard to pull off. And if you assume that Helen Schucman was fully enlightened and lived the Course promptly and perfectly when she took it down, you’ve got another thought coming. As Kenneth Wapnick recollects in his biography on Helen called “Absence from felicity“, Helen frequently complained to Jesus that what he told her was too complicated, too difficult, and too hard to learn. Though, to her credit, it never seriously occurred to her to stop, she did frequently experience tremendous resistance and anxiety, especially at the beginning, and she certainly needed Bill Thetford’s loving support throughout.

Again in Absence from felicity, we read that Jesus frequently tried to help Helen in calmly looking at her own resistance. Although much of this advice was specifically meant for Helen personally, some occurrences that clearly apply to all students made it to the text, workbook and manual. In chapter 2 of the text, Jesus addresses Helen’s anxiety: “You may still complain about fear, but you nevertheless persist in making yourself fearful. I have already indicated that you cannot ask me to release you from fear. […] It is much more helpful to remind you that you do not guard your thoughts carefully enough. You may feel that at this point it would take a miracle to enable you to do this, which is perfectly true. You are not used to miracle-minded thinking, but you can be trained to think that way.” (T-2.VII.1). Which is of course Jesus’ main point: try to become a little more miracle-minded each day.

In chapter 29 of the text, Jesus specifically addresses Helen’s complaint that this course is too difficult to learn: “Why does an easy path, so clearly marked it is impossible to lose the way, seem thorny, rough and far too difficult for you to follow? Is it not because you see it as the road to hell instead of looking on it as a simple way, without a sacrifice or any loss, to find yourself in Heaven and in God?” (T-29.II.1:3-4) In chapter 13 of the text, Jesus further comments on this insight: “In the extreme, you are afraid of redemption and you believe it will kill you. […] To some extent, then, you must believe that by not learning the course you are protecting yourself.” (T-13.II.8:4;7:5).

In other words, when we protest to Jesus that his Course is too difficult to learn, his response is something like: “Don’t tell me you cannot learn this simple curriculum of forgiveness. Look around you: just to keep up the illusion that you can be separate from God you have built an entire phenomenal universe with zillions of stars and planets and bodies, with the wildest imaginable things going on. This was not thrust upon you; you made it. Don’t tell me you cannot learn my simple curriculum that merely says that what was never true is not true now, and never will be. The impossible has not occurred, and can have no effects. And that is all. Can this be hard to learn by anyone who wants it to be true?”

Ouch — so when we complain this Course is too difficult to learn, we are really saying we do not want to learn this Course, because we are afraid its outcome would mean our annihilation. As Jesus comments in the text: “The ego’s whole continuance depends on its belief you cannot learn this course. Share this belief, and reason will be unable to see your errors and make way for their correction.” (T-22.III.2:1-2). And again in chapter 31: “To you who seem to find this course to be too difficult to learn, let me repeat that to achieve a goal you must proceed in its direction, not away from it. […] This course attempts to teach no more than that the power of decision cannot lie in choosing different forms of what is still the same illusion and the same mistake.” (T-31.IV.7:3).

Of course everyone does want to learn Jesus’ curriculum of peace; otherwise we wouldn’t be spending so much devoted effort to it. At the same time, everyone does not want to learn this curriculum of peace, because we are still too terrified of what life would be without a personal autonomous individuality. The purpose of A Course in Miracles is not to make us feel guilty for being such weak and wretched spiritual misfits — on the contrary, its purpose is to bring exactly this conflict in the split mind into full awareness, above the daily battleground of mindlessness, calmly see the silliness of it all, and happily choose once again; a thousand times a day, as a happy learner.

At this point it can be very helpful to fully realize the incredible power of the mind, even in this illusory dream world we call the universe. As early in the workbook as lesson 16, Jesus emphasizes that we have no idle thoughts: “What gives rise to the perception of a whole world can hardly be called idle. Every thought you have contributes to truth or to illusion; either it extends the truth or it multiplies illusions. […] Every thought you have brings either peace or war; either love or fear. A neutral result is impossible because a neutral thought is impossible.” (W-pI.16.2:2-4). So if you want to make progress as a Course student, learn to become aware of this distinction a little sooner day by day, without feeling guilty about not being fully enlightened yet. We are not admonished to never ever make any mistakes any more. You and I are only asked to be willing to be taught differently, by choosing the Holy Spirit as our guiding Teacher instead of the ego. If you can do that two seconds sooner than last month or last year, you are well on your way!

To recap, let’s revisit Jesus’ extremely clear clarion call in chapter 31 of the text to fuel our own motivation to practice this mind searching: “What you have taught yourself is such a giant learning feat it is indeed incredible. But you accomplished it because you wanted to, and did not pause in diligence to judge it hard to learn or too complex to grasp… No one who understands what you have learned, how carefully you learned it, and the pains to which you went to practice and repeat the lessons endlessly, in every form you could conceive of them, could ever doubt the power of your learning skill. There is no greater power in the world. The world was made by it, and even now depends on nothing else. […] The world began with one strange lesson, powerful enough to render God forgotten, and His Son an alien to himself, in exile from the home where God Himself established him. You who have taught yourself the Son of God is guilty, say not that you cannot learn the simple things salvation teaches you!” (T-31.I.2:7-4:6). Try to remember this the next time you open that big blue book. Happy practicing!


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 Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.

The choice to be upset

This blog obviously focuses on workbook lesson 5 in A Course in Miracles, with the infuriating title: “I am never upset for the reason I think.” Note that it does not say “almost never”; it makes no exceptions whatsoever. For almost all Course students, this is a most un-favorite lesson. We all like to think we are upset because of factors outside of us: you treated me unfairly; the weather turned bad; the stock market plummeted; my car broke down; and on and on. Since we obviously cannot control everything in the world around us (or so we reason), we won’t be able to avoid becoming upset from time to time.

In A Course in Miracles, Jesus taps us on the shoulder and explains to us that this only seems to be the case as long as we are firmly convinced that this dream world with its myriad bodies is our reality. In truth, we are quite capable to awaken from this dream and choose to remain at Home, as spirit, in the Heart of God where you and I belong. But we believe we don’t want that. We want to keep the silly notion of separation ongoing. We want to remain asleep so we can continue to experience ourselves as unique, special, autonomous individuals. To this end, we must engage in constant mind activity that ‘proves’ that the separation did indeed happen and is in fact reality.

Finding things to be upset about fits in nicely with this goal. If I can prove that there is a world that can hurt me, this clearly illustrates that (a) I exist as an individual body, and that (b) someone else is responsible for all the misery we experience in the dream. That’s the perennial goal of the ego. So Jesus is saying to us something like “Why not honestly admit that you want to be upset, so that you can keep up this silly ego-dream of time and space and individuality? It’s not a sin, but it is a tragic mistake. How long will you continue to crucify yourself this way?” Now we can see why, for most Course students, lesson 5 is a most un-favorite lesson: I’m never upset for the reason I think; I make the (unconscious) choice to be upset, so that I can keep up the illusion of my innocent separated self, and at the same time condemn my brother for his obvious sinfulness, so that God will send him to hell and allow me back into Heaven. “Behold me brother, at your hand I die,” we read in (T-27.I.4:6). My upset is fully justified!

This lesson is not meant to make us feel guilty. It does aim, however, at making us aware of the underlying guilt that we, as the Son of God, made in the ontological instant by seemingly choosing against our Creator (even though, in reality, this is impossible and never really happened). Once we realize that this original choice for guilt is the ultimate source of all our upsets, can we slowly begin to realize that all our upsets, big and small, really originate from the same cause. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter what seems to upset me, big or small: there is no hierarchy in illusions; they are all the same in content. This insight is the prerequisite for being able to let all upsets go. Once I realize that I am not upset because of what seems to happen outside, but only because of my unconscious though deliberate purpose to keep experiencing separation, I can choose to let it go and relax.

Before you and I reach that point, however, we must practice with great specificity in our daily lives, to fully realize that ‘a slight twinge of annoyance’ really is no different from ‘intense rage’ (WpI-21.2:5). At first it’s very, very hard to believe that, for example, being upset over a low cookie supply in the cupboard is really no different from being upset over a diagnosis of terminal cancer. The ego tells us that all attempts to see the sameness of these two cases are absurd and preposterous. To the happy learner part in my mind, however, this is merely a reminder that I’m obviously still firmly convinced I am a body living in a world that does have power to upset me. Again, this is hardly something to feel guilty about. In his Course, Jesus invites you and me to be mildly humble, and honestly acknowledge that (a) apparently I am still a spiritual infant, not a giant, and (b) I am in dire need of help on my spiritual path. Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) gladly serve as the perfect guide to this end; but must choose them; have to do the mind work.

A very useful insight this lesson offers is that a mere intellectual grasp of the truth of this lesson doesn’t mean we have mastered the complete change of mind that is the primary aim of this Course. Merely telling myself that “There are no small upsets. They are all equally disturbing to my peace of mind.” (WpI-5.4: 3), doesn’t mean I won’t feel upset by this or that tomorrow. But it does help me to switch teachers in my mind a little sooner than yesterday. This is why this is a Course in practicing self-forgiveness; day after day, year after year. Each time I become aware of an upset (i.e., a non-loving thought, a judgment), the first thing I do is becoming aware of that without guilt or judging myself. I’ll feel better instantly. This provides the space to choose to switch teachers and ask Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) for help in what to think, say or do instead.

A Course in Miracles teaches us to honestly see the ego and its purpose for what it is. Although we are ultimately asked to take the ego lightly because of the inherent silliness of the foundation on which it rests, we are also taught that we cannot dismiss the ego lightly, as long as we still identify with its premise of autonomous individuality. Being an effective Course student does not mean wanting to be enlightened overnight. Being an effective Course student means choosing to be a happy learner, placing full trust in the guidance of Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) to get us Home at the pace that we are ready to accept. And always remember that it is “a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed” (T-8.VI.9:7), since in reality you and I already are safely at Home in the Heart of God. So learn to gently smile about all your upsets a little sooner today!


 

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 Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.

Climbing the ladder

First-time readers of A Course in Miracles often express their confusion about their initial acquaintance with Jesus’ curriculum in terms such as: “All nice and well, but what must one actually do to master this Course?” The answer Ken Wapnick usually provided in his workshops, which boiled down to “You non-judgmentally watch just how judgmental your thoughts still are, and then you choose once again”, wasn’t exactly what they expected. “Yeah, but what do you then do in practical terms? Please tell me what to do.” They do not yet understand just what Jesus means when he assures us in chapter 18 of the text that we “need do nothing” (T-18.VII). We don’t have to change the world, we merely need to change our mind about the world (T-21.In:7).

One thing that Jesus in his Course makes abundantly clear is that you and I struggle with a split mind. First, there is the part of the mind that likes to be my special me. This part does not want the seeming separation from God healed at all. This part of my mind is needy, uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear. This is because this special self feels guilty about the seeming separation from God. To drive this guilt out of sight and out of mind, I project it onto everything I perceive outside of me. This part of the mind, therefore, is constantly blaming and judging, even though it usually wears a mask of seeming innocence to ‘prove’ that it is kind and loving. It’s the part of the mind that indulges in chasing after idols and special relationships to find fulfillment. Again, everyone shares this part of the mind. It’s known as the large ‘iceberg’ under the watershed of conscious awareness.

The other part of the mind does want the seeming separation healed, and in fact understands that the seeming separation never happened in reality. This part of the mind sees everyone as the same, sharing the attributes of Christ, the Son of God Who is one with God in a ‘oneness joined as one’ (T-25.I.7:1). This part of the mind realizes that time and space are unreal and that perception lies. Therefore, anger is never justified,  fear is utterly unnecessary, and forgiveness is the ‘royal road’ to the experience of our natural state of lasting inner peace. This part of the mind regards the world as a useful classroom for learning the Holy Spirit’s Lessons of love (T-6). This we refer to as right-minded thinking, as opposed to the wrong-minded thinking of the other split part of the mind, which focuses solely on its own little egotistic self.

Finally, each seemingly separated split mind comes with a decision maker, which constantly chooses between these two split aspects of the mind. In A Course in Miracles, we read that this ongoing choice between two voices is the only choice we ever really make. When looking at our daily activities, this does not seem to be the case at first. It is only when we look at the purpose behind our daily decisions that the content of the split mind becomes apparent. Everything I do during the day is driven by either one of two purposes: to induce further separation, or to further undo separation between me and my brother. This is why Jesus says in the clarification of terms that our one remaining freedom is the freedom of this choice (C-1.7), and it is the choice between hell and heaven respectively.

To depict the spiritual maturity of the decision maker in choosing right-minded thinking ever more often, Jesus in A Course in Miracles uses the imagery of a ladder. At the bottom rung of the ladder, the decision maker constantly chooses selfish, wrong-minded thinking. This results in a daily dirge of constant problems and misery, the purpose of which is to show that (a) the separation from perfect oneness was indeed accomplished in reality, and (b) I cannot be held accountable for that, since evil is obviously in everyone and everything that I can point at. On the other hand, at the top of the ladder the decision maker constantly chooses right-minded thinking. Here there is no condemnation at all. Everyone and everything is perceived as the same, and I experience the real world, which is the gateway to Heaven, where the door to our Home is wide open.

In a sense, the purpose of the curriculum that is A Course in Miracles might be summarized as guiding the decision-making part of the mind from the bottom of the ladder to the top of the ladder, step by step (i.e., rung by rung). In other words, it’s a structured training program to help us totally undo wrong-minded thinking, and bring the mind to a state in which there is only right-minded thinking. The ladder as such is of course only a symbol. It is, however, a very helpful symbol in the sense that it illustrates that reaching the top of the ladder means there are quite a few rungs to take on the way up, and we can skip none. Differently stated: going from the ego’s darkness to the light of the real world is a slow process with many steps (rungs).

So what is a Course student to “do” to reach the next rung on this ladder? The work might be summarized in two words: looking and forgiving. “Looking” means constantly monitoring my thoughts for non-loving content, and then not judging what I observe. At the same time, it is crucial to understand why I engage in wrong-minded thinking that obviously results in misery. Again, I secretly revel in misery because it “proves” that the separation was accomplished in reality and therefore I exist, apart from God. Forgiving, then, is only about forgiving myself for every non-loving thought that I chose to this end.

The difficulty in this process is our fear of losing our deeply cherished unique, special, autonomous individual self. Each higher rung on the ladder heralds the loss of my self, or so the ego (the voice for separation) counsels. Since in our dualistic state of experience we cannot really imagine what the real world is like, let alone the state of the oneness of God, it’s no wonder we so often choose the seemingly safer option of wrong minded thinking. Who would I be without my problems? Since giving up my precious individual self is too fearful, I’ll cope with the misery that comes with it; day after day, year after year, life after life.

The conflict, or dilemma, lies in the wish to experience the peace of God, but on my own terms. I want the best of both! However, since the two parts of the mind are diametrically opposed, and the conflict becomes increasingly intolerable, sooner or later I will have to make a choice. Jesus presents us this choice as follows: “Do you want to be right or happy?” (T-29.VII.1). As we progress with the Course, we come to realize that it isn’t a choice at all, for: “…still deeper than the ego’s foundation, and much stronger than it will ever be, is your intense and burning love of God, and His for you.” This is what every seemingly separated life form will choose sooner or later. And since time is itself illusory, the right choice has already been made. The attainment of the real world is guaranteed for everyone. Only to the extent that we still wish to experience time, does this seem a long way off and does the ladder seem very, very high.

It’s quite understandable that from this point of view, we’d like to reach the top rung of the ladder as soon as possible. But as Ken Wapnick often remarked, we cannot skip steps. The fear and resistance are simply too great to easily lay aside. A Course in Miracles guides its students at their own pace. As Jesus explains as early as chapter 1 of the text: “It would be unwise to start on these steps without careful preparation, or awe will be confused with fear, and the experience will be more traumatic than beatific. Healing is of God in the end. The means are being carefully explained to you.” (T-1.VII.5:8-10). You and I don’t get enlightened overnight. We may tell ourselves we want to, but in the iceberg under the watershed we do not.

So that’s why it is so helpful to monitor my own thoughts, to see which guide I choose. “‘Who walks with me?’ This question should be asked a thousand times a day, till certainty has ended doubting and established peace.” (W-pI.156-8:1). To consistently choose against darkness in my mind requires, above all, that I fully realize the extent of that darkness. This requires that I look: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” (T-16.IV.6:1). Therefore, even noticing that I do not really like this or that person is a clarion call for mind training, by forgiving myself for my non-loving thought, and then choose once again the teacher of Love. This I repeat again and again, slowly making my way up the rungs of the ladder, until I reach the top where “…not one spot of darkness still remains to hide the face of Christ from anyone” (T-31.VIII.12:5). So give yourself some slack, and practice peaceful patience. You and I will reach the top of the ladder together!


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 Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.

Confusing pain and joy

When asked what brings joy to their daily life, most people come up with things that either minimize pain or maximize pleasure: being healthy; enjoying an exciting relationship; having a certain lifestyle; doing something meaningful in the world. One might summarize that we experience joy once we think we achieve what we feel is important. In other words, I expect to feel joy as long as I feel my needs and wishes are met. Psychology schools tell us that our needs are always driven by two forces, which are really opposite sides of the same coin: the need to minimize pain and the desire to gain pleasure.

We should be aware, however, that needs and wishes can be conscious as well as unconscious. And there’s a big difference between them. Consciously we think we need, for example, food, shelter, appreciation and love. Unconsciously, however, our needs and wishes are not so positive. As Jesus in A Course in Miracles patiently explains, our unconscious needs boil down to snatching from others what they have because we feel we lack so much, combined with feeling victimized because we feel so unfairly treated by people and circumstances. While we think we spend our days meeting our conscious needs, we are told in the Course that we are really spending our days in having our unconscious needs met; at least while we’re in a wrong-minded mode of thought, which is about 99% of the time.

On surface reading, this sounds preposterous. Why would we spend our days wallowing in such negativity? A Course in Miracles is one of the few spiritualities that succinctly unravel the reasons why we are motivated for such unconscious thought mechanisms. And Kenneth Wapnick is one of the few teachers that emphasize the importance of looking at our motivation for choosing such self-sabotaging thoughts. The reason for this motivation is that we associate joy with identifying with the ego, which is the symbol of separation from oneness through rejection and attack. Our very individuality and autonomy was, after all, obtained at the expense of attacking our Creator.

As long as we want to be a special individual, we will do anything to uphold our firm belief that the ontological separation indeed happened, and, through projection, hold that someone else is responsible for that sin. And so we stubbornly keep believing in the cosmos, in our body, and in the ‘laws of nature’ that govern the birth and death of life, time, and space, just to affirm to ourselves that we do exist. Or, as Jesus explains in chapter 23, we firmly believe in the five ‘laws of chaos’ that seem to keep our individual autonomy alive and well, albeit at the cost of the loss of lasting peace.

Unconsciously, we associate joy to anything that supports this belief. So every time I feel unfairly treated, I am really saying to myself that obviously the world is real, my body is real, evil is outside of me, and God should have mercy on my poor soul and accept me back into Heaven, while condemning others to oblivion or hell. To the ego, that’s joy! And giving up what we cherish we regard as painful. A major burden of Jesus as my other Teacher is to train my mind to want to reverse this pain-joy association: anything the ego teaches me will lead to pain, while anything that the Holy Spirit teaches will lead to real joy. Period.

The problem is we still firmly believe it’s the other way around. As Jesus explains in chapter 7 of the text: “You no more recognize what is painful than you know what is joyful, and are, in fact, very apt to confuse the two. The Holy Spirit’s main function is to teach you to tell them apart. What is joyful to you is painful to the ego, and as long as you are in doubt about what you are, you will be confused about joy and pain.” (T-7.X.3:4-6). In other words, as long as we do not know we are pure spirit, but still believe we are a separated body, we will associate the ego’s hell with joy and seek for it; at the same time we will keep self-sabotaging our seemingly sincere practice of A course in Miracles. Jesus holds our own prison door wide open for us, but we still hesitate to walk out into real freedom with him.

Remember, while the primary goal of the Course is to ready our minds for the acceptance of the Atonement (the principle that holds that the separation from God never happened and that we, as one Son, are still safe at Home with God) through practicing forgiveness, we cannot truly forgive and be healed unless we fully realize the extent of the unforgiveness in the mind. If we merely focus our days on wanting to express love, without fully realizing why we simultaneously want to cling to these five vicious laws of chaos, we will make very slow progress on the ladder that ultimately leads to the “real world” of total non-judgment. That’s why I could study A Course in Miracles for ten, twenty or thirty years, really grasping its metaphysics, and diligently ‘doing’ all the workbook lessons, and yet make very little progress, since I remain too fearful to really look at what I would be giving up, since I still associate my personal self with joy.

Jesus is therefore trying in his Course to convince us, first, that a state of separated individuality is not joyful at all; it only leads to pain. Secondly, accepting the lessons of Love of the Holy Spirit that ultimately lead me entirely out of the world, back Home to my real Identity as the extension of God’s Love, will only be joyful. We just need a little convincing (only a slight understatement) that by crossing the bridge Home, back to undifferentiated Oneness, we will realize, “…, in glad astonishment, that for all this you gave up nothing!” (T-16.VI.11:4). As long we choose the wrong-minded ego thought-mode, we believe we are asked to give up our entire world, which is ultimate pain.

Our motivation for holding on to our individual personality is nicely summarized in chapter 13 of the text: “Under the ego’s dark foundation is the memory of God, and it is of this that you are really afraid. For this memory would instantly restore you to your proper place, and it is this place that you have sought to leave. Your fear of attack is nothing compared to your fear of love. You would be willing to look even upon your savage wish to kill God’s Son, if you did not believe that it saves you from love. For this wish caused the separation, and you have protected it because you do not want the separation healed.” (T-13.III.2:1-5). Ouch! The purpose of the workbook is to motivate us to reverse exactly that association. In our right minds we do want the separation healed. Each time we honestly practice the workbook lessons, we bring this conviction a little more to the foreground, and the ego’s “dark foundation” a bit more to the background.

So each time you notice you forget to apply the workbook lesson for the day, don’t feel guilty — be honest and grateful because at least now you realize why you did that! Say something to yourself like: “I obviously still choose to have a conflicted mind. The part of my mind that likes to be me simply doesn’t want the separation to be healed, which is understandable. I’m also still confused about joy and pain. There is a part of my mind that realizes that only the Holy Spirit will lead to lasting joy, while the separated world of attack and condemnation can only lead to pain. Therefore, my only function here is to learn to choose the Holy Spirit’s advice a little sooner. I am willing to make that choice once again now.”

This principle, as all Course students know, is very simple, but honestly following up on this complete reversal of the pain-joy associations can be very, very difficult. That’s why it can be helpful to be reminded of the fact that we don’t need to be fully enlightened overnight. Time is already over, and we can learn our lessons of Love at the pace we are willing to accept. A happy outcome is guaranteed for all. And yes, that includes you and me as well. What could be a greater joy than that realization?


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 Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.

All you need is Love

This immortal tagline of the hippie-period in the late sixties (coinciding with the period when A Course in Miracles was taken down by Helen Schucman — coincidence?) is regarded by many as the essence of spirituality. Or, by those who are not into spirituality, as the essence of the denial of one’s responsibilities in the world. After all, we do need to defend ourselves against all sorts of threats, be they psychological or physical, if we are to ensure any measure of safety here. At least that’s what anyone believes who is still convinced he is a body, which means virtually all of us.

From the perspective of A Course in Miracles, there’s an important distinction between love and Love. With the former, it seems I need the love from someone outside of me to complete me; to fill the searing lack that prevents me from feeling fulfilled. In the Course, this is called special love: the attempt to find a substitute for the Love of God which we believe we abandoned by trying separation, to be autonomous and apart from God, who is Love. Special love, therefore, isn’t about love at all — it’s keeping another in prison, accepting him or her only as long as your special love needs appear to be met. (This constant strain of judgment, by the way, is the root cause of all illness — first in the mind, then in the body. That’s why healing is always of the mind.)

Love (capital L), on the other hand, is something entirely different. In his Course, Jesus makes it clear that God equals Love (cf. WpI-46); the Holy Spirit is the Voice for Love. Jesus is a manifestation of this Voice for Love. Since he also makes it clear that you and I and he are perfect equals (T-1.II.3), Love (capital L) is the core of what you and I are. That’s why, in chapter 6 of the Text, Jesus implores us to “Teach only Love, for that is what you are.” (T-6.I.13). We made the world, the body and its sensory apparatus solely to distract the mind, to prevent it from remembering this simple truth, since this realization would obviously herald the end of the separation, the end of autonomy and of our individuality. Ouch!

The question “What am I?” can only be answered by keeping in mind this all-important distinction between form (what we perceive) and content (beyond the senses). In the final one-page summary in part II of the Workbook, Jesus answers the question “What am I?” as follows for all of us: “I am God’s Son, complete and healed and whole, shining in the reflection of His Love. In me is His creation sanctified and guaranteed eternal life. In me is love perfected, fear impossible, and joy established without opposite. I am the holy home of God himself. I am the Heaven where His Love resides. I am His holy Sinlessness Itself, for in my purity abides His Own.” (W-pII.14.1). Again, since God equals Love, our very essence equals Love as well.

So yes, it’s true: “All you need is Love”. Be sure, however, that you realize that this does not mean you need it because you now lack it. More precisely, the statement should read: “All you need is the acceptance of the Love that you already have and are.” Accepting this requires that I ask the Holy Spirit (or Jesus) for help in looking at all my rejections, all my condemnations, every non-loving thought that I ever choose, to realize the self-sabotaging nature of all of this. Every thought that is not born of Love is self-sabotage. I therefore have only one problem: non-forgiveness, for which there is only one solution: forgiveness. Therefore, choosing forgiveness (the meaning of the miracle, which is an expression of love) is the ‘royal road’ to accepting the essence of myself and all my brothers as Love.

Does this mean that I should never engage in a special love relationship in my life here on earth? Certainly not! Jesus never advocates asceticism in his Course. On the contrary, he invites us to live a very active life in time and space, only mindful instead of mindless. Following Jesus’ guidance, in each special relationship we can learn to clearly distinguish between the form of the love (e.g., usually physical attraction or desirable character traits), and the content of the person with whom we’re in a special love relationship with, which is unchangeable Love. It’s the focus on the content that turns the special relationship into a holy relationship, as we realize the absolute sameness and sinlessness in all of us. Even when the form disappoints, perhaps even resulting in a divorce, we can still choose to see the perfection of the content in the other, allowing us to part ways in a loving manner.

“Behold his sinlessness, and be you healed” (W-pII.357.1:5) is an apt summary of the core of Jesus’ forgiveness teachings in A Course in Miracles, where “his” evidently refers to everyone and everything we perceive around us. Regardless of the behavioral forms our senses perceive and interpret, in content you and I and all of us are all still united as the One sinless Son of God. This teaching also affirms that we should not seek for special love from a brother with the purpose to complete us — in content, we already are complete. We merely need accept the Love that is already present in all of us. This paves the way for the timeless experience of the oneness Love that we, as the one Son of God, truly are. Again, all you and I need is acceptance of the Love you and I already have and are. With the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit (or Jesus), we cannot fail. So why wait for Heaven?


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 Amazon.com:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.