Volume 15 Number 1 March 2004
Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
A Course in Miracles: A Still, Small Hope
On the collective bodily level, it should be clear that the world situation is not going to improve either. Anyone who thinks it is, is clearly out of touch with the world's history, and is certainly not its student. The world cannot but remain the way it is—its forms may change, but the content of separation and hate never will, for it was made to be as it is. Indeed, it was programmed by the ego mind to be as it is. Program a computer to add two and two and get seven, and it will always do so. This world will always end up with the wrong and insane sum, for that has been its purpose from the beginning—to reinforce the insane thought of separation and offer hope where there is none. This composite passage from the text well describes the situation:
No one who comes here but must still have hope, some lingering illusion, or some dream that there is something outside of himself that will bring happiness and peace to him....There is a tendency to think the world can offer consolation and escape from problems that its purpose is to keep....Seek not escape from problems here. The world was made that problems could not be escaped....(T-29.VII.2:1; T-31.IV.1:1; 2:5-6).
And yet, there remains hope, as we read in the continuation of the passage:
Learn now, without despair, there is no hope of answer in the world....All must reach this point, and go beyond it. It is true indeed there is no choice at all within the world. But this is not the lesson in itself. The lesson has a purpose, and in this you come to understand what it is for (T-31.IV.4:3; 3:7-10)
Jesus' teaching lesson is that the mind is the locus of choice. To recognize the absence of an external answer opens the door for the internal one to emerge in our awareness—thus our still, small hope, residing beyond the illusory hopes of the world. In light of this, let me restate our wonderful line:
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.
From the point of view of A Course in Miracles, survival is not of the body or the world, but of our minds. That is the hope—the light shines, even while hidden midst the world's darkness:
There is a light in you the world can not perceive. And with its eyes you will not see this light, for you are blinded by the world. Yet you have eyes to see it. It is there for you to look upon. It was not placed in you to be kept hidden from your sight (W-pI.189.1:1-5).
The darkness we see around us—cruelty, viciousness, and duplicity; pain and suffering—is but a projection of what is in everyone's mind. Not just the mind of the "bad guys," whom we accuse of bringing about the world's pain and suffering. It is in the mind of everyone—victim and victimizer alike—albeit "blinded by the world."
To free our vision to see this radiant light, it would be a helpful exercise to look at everyone—the people you like and the people you do not—and realize, for example, that everyone breathes. No exceptions. Everyone shares the same body with its basic physical and psychological needs. We are the same. Look around you: take whatever is your particular focus of judgment, hate, and suffering, and move beyond the apparent differences—the source of the ego's darkness—to the sameness that unites us in hopelessness and hope, the ego and the Holy Spirit. We are alike—not in form, to be sure, but in content. That is why it is so important not to take things seriously. Seriousness is bred in the belief in differences, the ego's principal means of survival, for it ensures that one will win and another lose.
Thus, the world cries out to be taken seriously, as do the world's forms of spirituality. Indeed, every "ism" cries out for seriousness; all its thought systems—political, economic, social, religious—so plead. Indeed, bodies cry out to be taken seriously, with their ongoing physical and psychological demands. Since the ego told us that God would never grant our request for special favor (T-13.III.10:2-3; T-15.V.4:1-2), we invented a god who would. We thus made a body that seems to sin, and a god who insanely sees bodies that sin, which He takes very seriously. This is the "divine" hero of the second and third laws of chaos:
Here is a principle that would define what the Creator of reality must be; what He must think and what He must believe; and how He must respond, believing it. It is not seen as even necessary that He be asked about the truth of what has been established for His belief. His Son can tell Him this....[and] He must accept His Son's belief in what he is, and hate him for it (T-23.II.6:2-4,6).
All gods and religions take things seriously—damnation and salvation; the trap of the ego's laws of chaos. It loves for us to take its world of separation and sin seriously, as well as its undoing. A Course in Miracles, therefore, is not to be taken this way. If you do, you are not paying attention to its teachings. How often does Jesus talk about a gentle smile and laughter? The way to be free of the ego is to smile at it, which means you do not give it any power to affect you at all, the same way the eternal God did not. Jesus reminds us:
Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh. In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects. Together, we can laugh them both away, and understand that time cannot intrude upon eternity. It is a joke to think that time can come to circumvent eternity, which means there is no time (T-27.VIII.6:2-5).
That is the purpose of the gentle smile—to laugh at the thought that the world has power to take away our peace. That is the purpose of A Course in Miracles—to offer us true hope by teaching there is no hope here whatsoever. This gentle smile, born of the Love of God, is the only way out of the ego's trap—in the world and in the mind.
Hope here in the world, on the other hand, is serious. It says there is a real problem, and thus a real way out of it. Yet Jesus says: "There is no problem, let alone a serious one, so how could there be a solution, let alone a serious one?" The hope is the recognition that there is no hope—here. This is the light of truth that shines in everyone's mind that, once again, is covered by the darkness of guilt, which in turn is covered by the darkness of the world. A Course in Miracles provides the way to undo the ego's darkness by reversing the mad course into insanity that took us from love to guilt to hate:
The Holy Spirit takes you gently by the hand, and retraces with you your mad journey outside yourself, leading you gently back to the truth and safety within. He brings all your insane projections and the wild substitutions that you have placed outside you to the truth. Thus He reverses the course of insanity and restores you to reason (T-18.I.8:3-5).
The Course takes us back from the body's hate to the mind's guilt, and then beyond to the love that guilt was designed to cover. At last we have something that seems to be in the world, that seems to address us as a being in the world, yet is not of it, even as it helps us live in the world, but with a smile. Most students know this important passage that opens Lesson 155:
There is a way of living in the world that is not here, although it seems to be. You do not change appearance, though you smile more frequently. Your forehead is serene; your eyes are quiet (W-pI.155.1:1-3).
It is a wonderful passage describing how we are to look like everyone else, for we are everyone else. We behave normally, yet we smile more frequently because we take nothing here seriously, knowing nothing born of separation has power to affect the love and the peace of God within.
It is helpful to see how quickly we lapse into taking things seriously, especially this course. One of the most common mistakes made by students of A Course in Miracles is to devote their external lives to it, forgetting that the Course's purpose is to have them live as they have always lived, but with a different attitude and goal. This should be the meaning of devoting your life to A Course in Miracles; not that you read "Course people," do only "Course things," have profound and penetrating "Course discussions," bring its sacred truths to the world, etc. All this reflects the ego's trap, making A Course in Miracles into an idol, rendering powerless its capacity to extricate us from the ego's snares and lead us to true freedom.
Instead, we should use A Course in Miracles as a means to live our lives as members of society—fulfilling our roles as family members, friends, workers, citizens, etc.—yet more peacefully, kindly, gently, and responsibly—smiling more frequently. Thus, do not make the Course into something serious, because then you would be making it into an addiction, an idol to be worshipped and venerated, made to be salvation itself. The ego certainly does not love A Course in Miracles itself, but it sure loves its students because they get so serious about it. Be vigilant against this ego ploy and do not turn the Course into another religion or religious object. Otherwise, again, you will strip it of its power to lead you out of the dream and bring you home, making it like almost all other religious and spiritual paths, which end up denying the very mind that is our hope. Early on in the text, Jesus addressed Helen about her proclivity to ask him for specific help in alleviating her specific fears:
You should ask, instead, for help in the conditions that have brought the fear about. These conditions always entail a willingness to be separate....If I intervened between your thoughts and their results, I would be tampering with a basic law of cause and effect; the most fundamental law there is. I would hardly help you if I depreciated the power of your own thinking. This would be in direct opposition to the purpose of this course (T-2.VI.4:3-4; T-2.VII.1:4-6).
Jesus was thus, at the very beginning of the text, setting out for Helen, and all future students, his fundamental teaching that the mind is both the source of the problem and the answer. Asking his (or the Course's) intervention on the level of the body "would be in direct opposition to the purpose of this course," which is to bring to our awareness the power of the mind to choose the problem of guilt and the answer of forgiveness.
When we approach A Course in Miracles from the perspective of the body's selfish needs—including spiritual—we are, in effect, infecting Jesus' teachings with the very "germ of specialness" that is the problem we are trying to undo. It is not too different from surgeons of an earlier era operating on the body with unwashed hands, thereby inadvertently infecting the very body they were attempting to cure. How could those who believe in separate interests ever hope to undo the ego thought system of separation? "Ask not the sparrow how the eagle soars" (T-20.IV.4:7), Jesus tells us. Similarly, decades ago the eminent historian Charles Beard cited the oxymoronic policy of the United States of waging "perpetual war for perpetual peace."2 How could those coming from a belief in separate interests possibly promote peace that comes only from shared interests? Healing can only be from outside the ego's thought system of separation and hate. It is the purpose of A Course in Miracles to provide such healing.
The twentieth-century Viennese conductor Josef Krips was quoted as having said: "Beethoven's music reaches Heaven; Mozart's comes from there." By this the renowned conductor meant that Beethoven's music expresses the journey through the world to its celestial end, while Mozart's simply reflects the happy joy of the trans-material world that is our home. Thus we can say:
We can therefore see that within itself A Course in Miracles contains both the means and the end, being the Beethoven and Mozart of spirituality, as it were. To paraphrase its own words:
The Course awaits us as we go to it, and walks beside us showing us the way. It fails in nothing. It the end we seek, and it the means by which we go to it (W-pII.302.2).
Therein lies its promise, and therein lies the still, small hope that transcends the special and seemingly mighty aspirations of the world. In this hope we rest in quiet and are at peace, knowing that God's Love can never cease being what it is:
The Son is still, and in the quiet God has given him enters his home and is at peace at last (C-ep.5:6).
2. Cited in Gore Vidal's book Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace (Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books. New York: 2002).