A Course in Miracles is a spiritual curriculum that aims to train the mind to consistently choose and experience inner peace. It promises us that a state of lasting inner peace is indeed possible — a peace that cannot be disturbed by anything, whatever seems to happen. The key to this, in one word, is called forgiveness, or the total relinquishment of any condemnation whatsoever, which makes room for Love to flow freely. This is possible by my sincerely asking for guidance by the Voice for Love in my choice of thoughts. This Voice for Love is called the Holy Spirit in the Course.
Although the principle may be simple, its daily application is far from easy. In the morning before breakfast, I may joyfully and peacefully review my workbook lesson and meditate about that for a while, and experience myself sinking into a deep inner peace. But before the hour strikes again, I find myself disliking various things, persons and events I perceive around me. These may be very, very small things. For example, I didn’t like the extremely ineffective operation of the traffic lights. I didn’t like those two scooter boys who with their reckless driving endanger elderly people in traffic. I didn’t like the cancellation of that particular important workshop because too few participants would attend, which only goes to show they probably aren’t interested in me.
By far most people regard this as the usual routine of daily life. They wearily ‘soldier on’ through their days, focusing on the fleeting pleasures and distractions that temporarily alleviate the pain. Students of A Course in Miracles, however, have the added pain of feeling guilty because they realize they could have chosen peace instead (W-pI.34), but obviously didn’t! So now I feel bad not only because of the aforementioned events, but also because I regard myself as a poor student, wondering in desperation if I will ever learn to master Jesus’ “simple” curriculum. To which the ego adds, whispering viciously: “Of course this stuff doesn’t work. Stop running away from reality, and only listen to me.”
However, in various places in the text and the workbook, Jesus is very clear in emphasizing that the problem is not primarily my continued choice for judgment and condemnation; my prime problem is the guilt I keep alive and well within myself by doing so. This guilt of course has its roots in the ontological guilt about the separation from God, which in reality never happened at all but which we still stubbornly hold on to, because we like our special individuality so much. After all, as long as I can experience guilt within myself, I “remind” myself that the original separation from God was indeed accomplished, and that I am still alive and well, and exist on my own. And everything that I perceive not to be perfect, is caused by events and people outside of me.
The metaphysical foundation of A Course in Miracles holds that life is not a collection of seemingly separated splintered fragments — life is one, our sensory perception to the contrary. I actually do not exist on my own. Although I like to think I have private thoughts, every thought boils down to a choice between the ego (the voice for separation and individuality) or the Holy Spirit (the Voice for Love and Oneness). This is ultimately the only choice you and I have. Everyone and everything around me merely serve as mirrors that reflect back to me the choices I have made in the mind. That’s why most of the time, Jesus in his Course addresses me as decision maker. His Course is primarily about training this decision maker to choose right sooner. This is a daily practice that takes time. Lots of time.
A common mistake many Course students make is that they think they must do the workbook perfectly in order to attain this much desired peace that cannot be disturbed by anything. However in workbook lesson 95, Jesus invites his students to honestly admit that they don’t practice the workbook lessons perfectly; in fact, far from it. “It is difficult […] not to allow your mind to wander, if it undertakes extended practice. You have surely realized this by now. You have seen the extent of your lack of mental discipline, and of your need for mind training. It is necessary that you be aware of this, for it is indeed a hindrance to your advance. […] In addition to recognizing your difficulties with sustained attention, you must also have noticed that, unless you are reminded of your purpose frequently, you tend to forget about it for long periods of time. You often fail to remember the short applications of the idea for the day, and you have not yet formed the habit of using the idea as an automatic response to temptation.” (W-pI.95.4:2-5:3).
At this point, Jesus wants his students to realize that feeling guilty about the lack of spiritual diligence that we notice in ourselves, is not going to help. We need the workbook precisely because the mind needs this training. This requires honesty, patience and the happy habit to just try again. So we read in the same lesson 95: “The Holy Spirit is not delayed in His teaching by your mistakes. He can be held back only by your unwillingness to let them go. Let us therefore be determined, particularly for the next week or so, to be willing to forgive ourselves for our lapses in diligence, and our failures to follow the instructions for practicing the day’s idea. This tolerance for weakness will enable us to overlook it, rather than give it power to delay our learning.” (W-pI.95:8:1-4). In other words, don’t feel guilty every time you notice you didn’t apply the workbook lesson perfectly and you feel not at peace. Forgiveness is primarily about forgiving yourself for not being perfect yet.
Jesus repeats this comforting message from time to time. In workbook lesson 273, after a practice of over 270 lessons which should have brought us quite close to the desired state of inner lasting peace, Jesus says: “Perhaps we are now ready for a day of undisturbed tranquility. If this is not yet feasible, we are content and even more than satisfied to learn how such a day can be achieved. If we give way to a disturbance, let us learn how to dismiss it and return to peace.” (W-pII.273.1:1-2:1). In other words, I should allow myself some slack. My decision making mind will not consistently choose peace after “doing” the workbook once. Or twice. I am still too enamored by the seductive ego tale of specialness, individuality and autonomy. This is not a Course in feeling better in the dream world. This is a Course that takes you and me, as the Son of God, straight out of the dream world; but not by being ‘hurled’ out of the dream into the reality of Heaven. The dream world of time and space and individuality will only end once its alternative (the Heart of God, Oneness) is wholly desired. Obviously, you and I are not yet at that point. That’s perfectly okay, since time itself is illusory anyway.
Until we can consistently choose the Holy Spirit to guide our daily thoughts, we merely need to practice in cultivating the characteristics of the Teacher of God: trust; honesty; tolerance; gentleness; joy; defenselessness; generosity; patience; faithfulness, and open-mindedness. And simply try again whenever we stumble. As we read in workbook lesson 40: “If you forget, try again. If there are long interruptions, try again. Whenever you remember, try again.” (W-pI.40). And lesson 74 again reminds us: “Joy characterizes peace. By this experience will you recognize that you have reached it. If you feel yourself slipping off into withdrawal, quickly repeat the idea for today and try again. Do this as often as necessary. There is definite gain in refusing to allow retreat into withdrawal, even if you do not experience the peace you seek.” (W-pI.74.6).
This way we can see how everything in life can be reinterpreted as a forgiveness lesson; that is, forgiving myself for not yet having reached the top of the ladder of Atonement. My sole responsibility in this life is to keep trying to choose right a little sooner; to let go of any accompanying guilt a little sooner. Jesus helps us with this at the end of Chapter 6 of the text, the “Lessons of love”, with the following prayer to ourselves: ” 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-5.VII.6:7-11). So stop hitting yourself over the head for still not doing the workbook perfectly. That is precisely why we still need it. And remember, you and I and everyone will make it Home in the end. 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:
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.