Volume 4 Number 4 December 2012
Dr. Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
A SIMPLE, CLEAR, AND DIRECT COURSE
Part 2 of 2
The Fear of Truth
The workbook says that "Nothing the world believes is true" (W-pI.139.7:1), because the world was made "to be a place where God could enter not, and where His Son could be apart from Him" (W-pII.3.2:4). It follows then that when truth presents itself to us within the dream, as in A Course in Miracles for example, the ego mind must inevitably distort and change it, since the ego is the thought that it can change the truth of God's creation into something else. And thus it is equally inevitable that we will not know who we are as Christ, God's one Son, because the dream we call the world of separation and differences was made by us to be a place where our true Home and Identity would be forgotten. Therefore, as long as we believe we are here, we will be forever uncertain of who we and our brothers truly are. And so Jesus says about the world: "It is a place whose purpose is to be a home where those who claim they do not know themselves can come to question what it is they are" (W-pI.139.7:2). The conclusion of the ego's plan is that all who come to this world enter as amnesiacs, having drawn a veil of forgetfulness across their minds to cover their true Identity, having substituted for it a parody of their true Self.
The explanation for our adamant refusal to accept the truth as true, therefore, lies in the investment we have in our individual identities. The ego tells us that without this—our specialness—we would then disappear into the "oblivion" of God. For accepting our reality as part of the unified Christ, is to accept the Atonement principle that the impossible never occurred. Therefore the ego—the belief in the reality of the separated and differentiated self—does not exist. To the extent that one believes in this false self—and everyone who comes into this world does believe in it—to that extent will the Course's teachings of undoing specialness be experienced as threatening and fearful. Jesus uses the circumstances of his own murder as an example of the ego's fear of the truth:
Many thought I was attacking them, even though it was apparent I was not. An insane learner learns strange lessons. What you must recognize is that when you do not share a thought system, you are weakening it. Those who believe in it therefore perceive this as an attack on them. This is because everyone identifies himself with his thought system, and every thought system centers on what you believe you are (T-6.V-B.1:5-9).
It would logically follow then that the investment in preserving one's specialness would inevitably lead a student of A Course in Miracles to become frightened of what it truly teaches. A world of duality, differentiation, specialness, and individual identity cannot be long sustained in the presence of the teachings that reflect the perfect Oneness of God and Christ, and which lead the student to that state of oneness. Therefore, as students read the Course through the eyes of specialness, their wrong minds caution them to be careful of the truth which threatens their existence. The process can be described as follows: 1) having chosen the ego as our teacher, a message goes from the wrong mind to the brain not to see what is written; 2) we then are instructed to deny the Course's simplicity, clarity, and directness; and 3) we are then directed to substitute complexity, confusion, and divergence from the Course's message. Building upon Shakespeare's famous statement from "The Merchant of Venice" about the devil citing scripture for his purpose, Jesus states in the Course:
Nothing the ego perceives is interpreted correctly. Not only does the ego cite Scripture for its purpose, but it even interprets Scripture as a witness for itself (T-5.VI.4:3-4).
... the ego, under what it sees as threat, is quick to cite the truth to save its lies. Yet must it fail to understand the truth it uses thus. But you can learn to see these foolish applications, and deny the meaning they appear to have (W-pI.196.2:2-4).
We thus can see that the ego, being no one's fool, realizes that it is better to "join" the truth, rather than oppose it. It counsels the unknowing students that they would be better served to bring the truth to illusion for interpretation, rather than, as the Course repeatedly advocates, to bring their illusions to the truth. The form this takes is that students, under the guise of loving and honoring Jesus' teachings, actually subvert the meaning of his words to read what they would like them to say, rather than what the words in truth do say. And all this without the students' conscious awareness of their ego's insidiousness.
Jesus discusses this ego dynamic in several places in the Course as an explanation for why students would choose to obfuscate, distort, or change the simplicity of his teachings. And clearly, it is not only Helen's resistance Jesus was addressing in these passages, but everyone who chooses to be so tempted. We begin with a passage that was specifically meant to help Helen undo her ego's attempts at obscuring the simple truths of the Course's teachings:
This course is perfectly clear. If you do not see it clearly, it is because you are interpreting against it, and therefore do not believe it.... I am leading you to a new kind of experience that you will become less and less willing to deny. Learning of Christ is easy, for to perceive with Him involves no strain at all. His perceptions are your natural awareness, and it is only the distortions you introduce that tire you. Let the Christ in you interpret for you, and do not try to limit what you see by narrow little beliefs that are unworthy of God's Son (T-11.VI.3:1-2,6-9).
And yet it is the "little beliefs" of specialness that so often lead students of A Course in Miracles to interpret its message from their wrong minds, meanwhile believing otherwise. They are not aware that they have an unconscious investment in correcting Jesus, proving that he is wrong while they are right, still maintaining that they are not as God created them, and in fact know better than He who they truly are. To all of these fearful ones who would seek to substitute their littleness for the magnitude of Christ, Jesus counsels in this confluence of two passages from the Course: Ask not of one's petty strength—the tiny wings of the sparrow—how, with mighty power, the eagle soars (T-20.IV.4:7; manual, p. 8; M-4.I.2:1-2).
That the ego distorts A Course in Miracles is brought up again several chapters later, with Jesus emphasizing once more that without the ego's involvement his Course would be readily understandable:
Being so simple and direct, this course has nothing in it that is not consistent. The seeming inconsistencies, or parts you find more difficult than others, are merely indications of areas where means and end are still discrepant.... This course requires almost nothing of you. It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more (T-20.VII.1:3-4,7-8).
Denying one's attachment to specialness, and therefore one's need to compromise the Course's clear, simple, and direct truth, follows inexorably from having chosen to study it through the lens of the wrong mind. This is an inevitable occurrence once one is in the dream we call the world, and is certainly not sinful nor unexpected. However, it is a mistake not to recognize these dynamics of specialness and bring them to Jesus, so that we, together with him, may look on them without judgment or guilt, thus dispelling their seeming darkness. Without Jesus' help, we would be oblivious to the ego's lies; and therefore they would continue indefinitely under the protection of denial, only to lead to further distortions and misinterpretations of the Course through the dynamic of projection: all this being painfully reminiscent of what was originally done with Jesus' message two thousand years ago.
In the section immediately following "The Laws of Chaos," Jesus discusses more specifically the ego's wrong-minded attempts to compromise truth by rationalizing away attack thoughts with smile-filled wrappings whose purpose is to conceal the gift of murder that lies underneath: another example of the ego's ongoing efforts to bring illusion into truth so that we would think they are the same. This of course reflects the original mistake of equating our illusory ego selves with God. Thus he writes:
This course is easy just because it makes no compromise. Yet it seems difficult to those who still believe that compromise is possible. They do not see that, if it is, salvation is attack (T-23.III.4:1-3).
No compromise is possible with the simple truth, and the following three passages are Jesus' even more pointed reminders to his students that they are truly terrified of his Course, and so are unwilling to "pay the price" of giving up their specialness. In their insanity they would choose the "freedom" of their individual uniqueness and self-importance over the "imprisonment" of the truth that would only make them free:
We have repeated how little is asked of you to learn this course.... And being true, it is so simple that it cannot fail to be completely understood. Rejected yes, but not ambiguous. And if you choose against it now it will not be because it is obscure, but rather that this little cost seemed, in your judgment, to be too much to pay for peace (T-21.II.1:1,3-5).
This course has explicitly stated that its goal for you is happiness and peace. Yet you are afraid of it. You have been told again and again that it will set you free, yet you sometimes react as if it is trying to imprison you. You often dismiss it more readily than you dismiss the ego's thought system. To some extent, then, you must believe that by not learning the course you are protecting yourself. And you do not realize that it is only your guiltlessness that can protect you (T-13.II.7).
Eyes become used to darkness, and the light of brilliant day seems painful to the eyes grown long accustomed to the dim effects perceived at twilight. And they turn away from sunlight and the clarity it brings to what they look upon. Dimness seems better; easier to see, and better recognized. Somehow the vague and more obscure seems easier to look upon; less painful to the eyes than what is wholly clear and unambiguous. Yet this is not what eyes are for, and who can say that he prefers the darkness and maintain he wants to see? (T-25.VI.2)
And so given this tremendous ego need to change A Course in Miracles to protect itself, it stands to reason that it would be impossible for any student to learn the Course as long as the ego-identification is maintained at all. We can therefore understand that the flight into different interpretations is really a flight from the clear and simple teachings of the Course. As Jesus says:
Complexity is of the ego, and is nothing more than the ego's attempt to obscure the obvious (T-15.IV.6:2).
You who have not yet brought all of the darkness you have taught yourself into the light in you, can hardly judge the truth and value of this course (T-14.XI.4:1; italics ours).
It is impossible to learn anything consistently in a state of panic. If the purpose of this course is to help you remember what you are, and if you believe that what you are is fearful, then it must follow that you will not learn this course. Yet the reason for the course is that you do not know what you are (T-9.I.2:3-5).
And in this telling passage—taken from the section "The Treachery of Specialness"—on the seeming power of specialness to drown out the Voice for truth, Jesus underscores the importance of undoing our identification with the ego's lies:
You are not special. If you think you are, and would defend your specialness against the truth of what you really are, how can you know the truth? What answer that the Holy Spirit gives can reach you, when it is your specialness to which you listen, and which asks and answers? Its tiny answer, soundless in the melody that pours from God to you eternally in loving praise of what you are, is all you listen to. And that vast song of honor and of love for what you are seems silent and unheard before its "mightiness." You strain your ears to hear its soundless voice, and yet the Call of God Himself is soundless to you (T-24.II.4; italics ours).
Humility and Arrogance
While certainly the thought system of A Course in Miracles is difficult to embrace at first, because of its total undermining of the ego thought system, students need to cultivate an attitude of humility in recognizing that the solution to the problem of not understanding does not rest in "different interpretations" of the teachings, but rather in the recognition of the fear of losing one's specialness in the presence of truth. Humility would accept the fact that one's ego would inevitably attack the Course by striving to change it; arrogance would deny such attack with a series of rationalizations and interpretations that simply confuse the issue still further.
As an aid in developing this attitude of humility, students would do well in calling to mind the words Helen heard herself speak one morning as she came out of her sleep: "Never underestimate the power of denial." Jesus "borrowed" that idea later for the Course, where in several places he cautions his students against underestimating the ego's power: the intensity of its drive for vengeance, the extent of its insanity, and our need to be vigilant against it (T-5.V.2:11; T-7. III.3:5; T-11.V.16:1; T-11.VI.5:1; T-14.I.2:6; T-16.VII.3:1).
Because of this great temptation to underestimate the power of identifying with the ego, Jesus speaks to his students as if they were children, who need to be taught by an older and wiser brother about what is true and what is false. Children believe they understand when they do not, and so Jesus cautions us:
Of all the messages you have received and failed to understand, this course alone is open to your understanding and can be understood. This is your language. You do not understand it yet only because your whole communication is like a baby's (T-22.I.6:1-3; second italics ours).
Rather than stubbornly insisting that they know what is right, and that they have the wisdom of judging the difference between truth and illusion, students of A Course in Miracles would do well to approach its teachings with humility, wonder, and a sincere desire to learn from it, rather than trying to teach it (and others) what it says. Recalling that Jesus views his students as children who cannot discern truth from illusion, as their eyes are clouded with the specialness that is protected by denial and projection, one would gladly and humbly accept the loving hand that Jesus extends as a gentle guide on the journey home. The readiness to turn away from specialness and learn the curriculum still lies in the future, and awaits one's growth into spiritual maturity and out of the fears of childhood that root one in the past:
This course makes no attempt to teach what cannot easily be learned. Its scope does not exceed your own, except to say that what is yours will come to you when you are ready (T-24.VII.8:1-2).
We thus urge all students to realize that this Course is a very difficult spiritual curriculum precisely because it is so simple, clear, and in direct opposition to the ego's thought system. And so we say in closing: Respect your fear of A Course in Miracles as a direct threat to your specialness, and do not deny the illusions you have made and cherish as a substitute for the resplendent truth of God. If indeed A Course in Miracles is your spiritual path, then let it lead you, by stepping back and letting the simplicity, clarity, and directness of Jesus' own words be your guide. Only then can he truly help you forget the hatred of specialness you have made real, and recall at last the simplicity of the love that has patiently awaited your remembrance.