Volume 15 Number 1 March 2004
Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
A Course in Miracles: A Still, Small Hope1
The American-born musicologist, H.C. Robbins Landon, one of the world's leading Haydn scholars, was also a great lover of Mozart, and in his book 1791: Mozart's Last Year (Thames and Hudson, New York: 1999), he wrote the following of the composer he loved so deeply:
The Mozartean legacy...is as good an excuse for mankind's existence as we shall ever encounter and is perhaps, after all, a still small hope for our ultimate survival (p. 10).
Indeed, the legacy of Mozart's musical compositions transcends the word "composition," for they certainly seemed to come from a trans-human source, with little or no earthly intervention. Likewise A Course in Miracles, and so, with apologies to Robbins Landon, we can recast his statement about Mozart to read:
A Course in Miracles is as good an excuse for mankind's existence as we shall ever encounter and is perhaps, after all, a still, small hope for our ultimate survival.
The hope—in Mozart and A Course in Miracles—is that despite the chaos of the world, despite the chaos of our personal worlds, there is still a light in darkness shining within (T-15.XI.2:1-2). For whatever other reasons people have been attracted to A Course in Miracles, and people can well be attracted for the wrong reasons, there is nonetheless something that breathes through its words to which everyone resonates, whether they understand the Course fully or not, or whether they even understand it at all. Jesus' words offer hope because they come from, and point to, a reality beyond this world.
It should be obvious there is no hope here. Things are bad and are getting worse; indeed, they were always terrible. Recall the manual's observation on the world of time:
...it is time alone that winds on wearily, and the world is very tired now. It is old and worn and without hope....time, with its illusions of change and death, wears out the world and all things in it (M-1.4:4-5,7).
The only hope lies outside its thought system, as reflected in Jesus' statement from the text: "The [ego's] case [against God's Son] may be fool-proof, but it is not God-proof" (T-5.VI.10:6). Within the ego's system, which made and sustains this world, and everyone and everything in it, there can be no hope. It is fool-proof. You cannot get at it, because any attempt to deal with the ego enmeshes you in it still further, which of course is the ego's ultimate purpose for the world. It is one huge cosmic trap. Once in it, there is no way out except to leave the entire system through awakening from its dream of separation. As Jesus told Helen while dictating the Course:
A desert is a desert is a desert. You can do anything you want in it, but you cannot change it from what it is. It still lacks water. This is why it is a desert. The thing to do with a desert is to leave (in Absence from Felicity, p. 236).
The more you struggle within the ego thought system to find a way out, and/or to find hope within it, the more you find yourself immersed in its web and have made it real, not to mention impossible to extricate yourself. You cannot move beyond an illusion once you have established its reality.
It is not God-proof, however, because God and the memory of God are outside the ego thought system. This course, like any great work of art—among other things, A Course in Miracles is a great work of art—offers us proof there is something outside the ego. We are not hopelessly caught in its illusory web of duality. That is the hope, and why it is so important for students of A Course in Miracles to observe the caution about bringing it into the world. Once its teachings have been made part of duality, they become trapped in it. That has been the history of every formal religion, and why Jesus observes in the Psychotherapy pamphlet:
Formal religion has no place in psychotherapy, but it also has no real place in religion. In this world, there is an astonishing tendency to join contradictory words into one term without perceiving the contradiction at all. The attempt to formalize religion is so obviously an ego attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable that it hardly requires elaboration here (P-2.II.2:1-3).
Formalizing religion involves taking the inspirational words of the visionary, prophet, or enlightened founder, and as soon as the person is gone—it usually does not take very long—codifying, ritualizing, and dogmatizing them, and then using the teachings as weapons against dissenters and unbelievers. Unfortunately, the early history of A Course in Miracles has not surprisingly begun to traverse a similar path.
When A Course in Miracles is used to aid people's lives in the world, to make our dream more pleasant or satisfying, true hope is gone, for its light, shining in our minds, has been buried. That hope is the only thing that will lead us out of the dream, and Jesus is quite explicit that our problem resides there, as does its solution. Not in the world. Not in its economic, social, political, or religious thought systems. But in the mind that believes in a world opposite to the All. As Jesus essentially asks: "Would God have placed the answer where it could not be found?" In other words, the miracle, or the Holy Spirit's answer of forgiveness, cannot be found in the world or body, but only in the mind. Thus we read:
"God placed the Holy Spirit in you [i.e., your mind], where you placed the dream (T-14.I.2:8).
Can God's Son lose himself in dreams, when God has placed within him the glad Call to waken and be glad? (T-13.XI.10:1)
You will note Jesus' consistency from beginning to end in teaching that the world is not the problem, and therefore the solution cannot be found there. That is why Jesus emphasizes that his is a course in cause and not effect (T-21.VII.7:8). The cause is the mind that has chosen incorrectly—the problem. Therefore, this is not a course that deals with behavior or the world—the effect: "Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world" (T-21.in.1:7). The problem is the mind that thinks there is a world, and that is why A Course in Miracles offers us genuine hope by identifying the true location of the problem and the answer.
A Course in Miracles is the only thing I know that so clearly describes the mind's activity that specifically prevents us from getting to the answer. Thus prevented, there is no way we can solve the problem, the ego's rationale from the beginning. The mind's answer of Atonement lies buried by the ego's answer—its thought system of separation, specialness, hate, judgment, and guilt. Thus we need to look at that thought system, which is covered by the world. The Course helps us look at the world differently, as a mirror or projection of what is in the mind. It becomes the opportunity of catching our attention, and when we ask Jesus for help, he takes the attention that was placed on the problematic special relationship, and shifts our focus by bringing it back to where it began: the mind riddled with guilt and fear. Thus Jesus helps us understand the purpose of the special relationship in the mind, which was concealed by the special relationship of the body. When we understand this purpose and choose otherwise, the journey to awakening has begun. In this way, the mind's unholy relationship with the ego turns into the holy relationship with the Holy Spirit, God's still, small Voice. This shift is mirrored in our external relationships. Thus, my experience of my relationship with you shifts from one of judgment, hate, and dependency, to one of forgiveness, love, and peace, wherein I understand that we share the same interests and goals. But—the external relationship is not where it is happening, for it remains the projection. Again, my relationship with you merely expresses in form the mind's shift from the special to the holy relationship when I change teachers. This shift is the heart of A Course in Miracles' message, in which is found our only hope for happiness and peace.
Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Students of A Course in Miracles should have that sentence plastered everywhere—in their homes, cars, offices, on their foreheads—for that is the crux of the Course's path. This does not mean that behaviorally you do not make decisions here that affect your job, relationships, and body. It merely means that before you do anything external, shift internally; for then you will no longer care what happens, but only with Whom it happens. To be clear—this does not mean you will not do things in the world: get or change jobs; begin, change, or end relationships; take care of your or your loved one's body. It means only that when you change your mind, your body will automatically and correspondingly act in a loving way, whatever its form. In other words, your external life will no longer be front and center stage, as we now read from "I Need Do Nothing":
To do nothing is to rest, and make a place within you where the activity of the body ceases to demand attention. Into this place the Holy Spirit comes, and there abides.… there will always be this place of rest to which you can return. And you will be more aware of this quiet center of the storm than all its raging activity. This quiet center, in which you do nothing, will remain with you, giving you rest in the midst of every busy doing on which you are sent. For from this center will you be directed how to use the body sinlessly (T-18.VII.7:7-8; 8:1-4).
Thus, our only hope is to find that quiet center in our minds, from which emanates all meaning for our bodily experiences. There is no other hope. For example, no hope of happiness can be found in achieving a perfect body. It will die, after first growing old and decaying. If bodies do not die at forty, they will surely do so at seventy, eighty, or a hundred years. Soon, life expectancy will extend still further. Yet what is it that is "alive"? A Course in Miracles describes the body, as would any true Gnostic, as a "rotting prison" (T-26.I.8:3). That is its nature, a prison in which "starved and thirsty creatures come to die" (W-pII.13.5:1). What difference does it make if you are incarcerated for twenty years or a hundred and twenty years? A prison is a prison. It is the mind you want to focus on for meaningful and hope-filled change.
To continue reading, click here
1. Adapted from a Foundation 2004 class, "The Meaning of Gratitude."