Foundation for A Course in Miracles® Dedicated to preserving the teachings of Dr. Kenneth Wapnick on A Course in Miracles Thu, 06 Dec 2018 20:12:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Foundation for A Course in Miracles® 32 32 Learning to Listen – Part 2 of 2 Thu, 15 Nov 2018 17:10:04 +0000 Volume 14 Number 3 September 2003Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.Learning to ListenPart 2 of 2 It is a psychotherapeutic axiom that one cannot understand when one judges. Judgment is the shadowy projection of separation, while understanding reflects the light of communication: the song of prayer that unites Father and Son, Creator and created, Cause and Effect. One can […]

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Volume 14 Number 3 September 2003
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Learning to Listen
Part 2 of 2

It is a psychotherapeutic axiom that one cannot understand when one judges. Judgment is the shadowy projection of separation, while understanding reflects the light of communication: the song of prayer that unites Father and Son, Creator and created, Cause and Effect. One can therefore say that learning to listen means learning to give up judgment. Indeed, in the pamphlet "Psychotherapy: Purpose, Process, Practice" Jesus makes letting go of judgment the sole requirement of successful psychotherapy, for it undoes the ego's defensive system of substituting form for content. It allows the therapist to listen to the patient, and hear the call to be proven wrong about the separation. In letting go the barriers of judgment that hinder communication, the ego is undone. The forms of the problem are seen through to the single content of separating and separate interests, and healing occurs as the therapist mirrors to the patient the shared interests of God's one Son: hearing the forgotten melody and remembering the Love that is our one Source. And so we are taught:

It is in the instant that the therapist forgets to judge the patient that healing occurs.…because only then it can be understood that there is no order of difficulty in healing (P-3.II.6:1; 7:1).

What must the teacher do to ensure learning? What must the therapist do to bring healing about? Only one thing; the same requirement salvation asks of everyone. Each one must share one goal with someone else, and in so doing, lose all sense of separate interests. Only by doing this is it possible to transcend the narrow boundaries the ego would impose upon the self. Only by doing this can teacher and pupil, therapist and patient, you and I, accept Atonement and learn to give it as it was received (P-2.II.8).

Returning to our earlier point, as long as we relate to another out of personal need—the assertions of specialness—judgment is inevitable. Our separate interests become the reality, breeding the demand that these needs be met. The relationship now exists solely to satisfy these demands, and it becomes the ego's temple at whose shrine of specialness we all come with our offerings of judgment and special love, which, as A Course in Miracles states, is but a thin veil over hate. The other person has disappeared behind the clouds of scarcity and deprivation, and we no longer see or hear.

Without judgment, however, one can only listen, without imposing one's specialness needs and demands for satisfaction. One is still, quietly doing nothing but looking, waiting, and not judging (W-pII.1.4:1,3). And what is heard is one of two songs: the song of love's reflection, or the song that calls for it. Either way, our response is still love. But for us to hear these songs, and not the ego's song of specialness and hate, we need to be quiet within, to come without needs unto our brother. What better prayer to pass through our hearts and minds than this, adapted from the workbook, on how we approach God; in this case, how we approach God's Son—Christ and our Self:

Simply do this: Be still, and lay aside all thoughts of what you are and what Christ is; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself. Empty your mind of everything it thinks is either true or false, or good or bad, of every thought it judges worthy, and all the ideas of which it is ashamed. Hold onto nothing. Do not bring with you one thought the past has taught, nor one belief you ever learned before from anything. Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your Self (adapted from W-pI.189.7).

"With nothing in our hands to which we cling, with lifted hearts and listening minds" (W-pI.140.12:1), we sit with our brother and listen, just as Jesus guides his psychotherapists, and all of us in our individual interactions:

…no good teacher uses one approach to every pupil. On the contrary, he listens patiently to each one, and lets him formulate his own curriculum; not the curriculum's goal, but how he can best reach the aim it sets for him.…There is Something in him that will tell you, if you listen. And that is the answer; listen. Do not demand, do not decide, do not sacrifice. Listen. What you hear is true (P-2.II.7:2-3; P-3.I.2:3-7; italics mine).

We now understand, having come to our brother without needs that distort our perception, that what appears to be viciousness is only fear (T-3.I.4:2), and is the ego's fear of the Holy Spirit 's Love. In the presence of His soundless song the sounds of our separate and special identity must dissolve. To the extent we believe in this identity we shall fear the melody of forgiveness that recalls to mind—literally—the song our Self still sings to Its Source. Thus it is that the ego in all of us has not only left the Presence of the song, but will attempt through its various and quasi-infinite special relationships to remain as far away as possible from its gentle call.

When the pain of being so far away from those dulcet sounds of love becomes too much to bear, we exclaim—to we-know-not-Whom—there must be a better way (T-2.III.3:5-6). The Holy Spirit's answer is to use the very same specialness designed to avoid love as the means for our return:

However unholy the reason you made them [special relationships] may be, He can translate them into holiness.…You can place any relationship under His care and be sure that it will not result in pain, if you offer Him your willingness to have it serve no need but His.…Do not, then, be afraid to let go your imagined needs, which would destroy the relationship. Your only need is His (T-15.V.5:3-4,7-8).

Thus, our special relationships, when used by the Holy Spirit , become our classrooms in which we learn to hear the forgotten song. What had been a road taking us away from love, is now seen as but a detour—an indirect way Home to be sure, but nonetheless a certain way because of the One walking with us. Framing our journey, our special loves and hates become the contours of our path, not to be judged or attacked, but gently accepted, for without them our way would be lost. That is the meaning of this statement from the text:

Concentrate only on this [your willingness], and be not disturbed that shadows surround it. That is why you came. If you could come without them you would not need the holy instant.…The miracle of the holy instant lies in your willingness to let it be what it is. And in your willingness for this lies also your acceptance of yourself as you were meant to be (T-18.IV.2:4-6,8-9).

But for us to accept how we "were meant to be," we must first accept our defenses against that Self. Thus our shadow-draped ego self becomes the curriculum Jesus uses to teach us to remember Who we truly are.

It is one of the key components of forgiveness that our forgiveness of others—hearing the melody in them—forgives ourselves. I cannot see (or hear) in you what is not already present in me. Thus is every relationship another opportunity to heal and be healed, for the same are one. Again, from the pamphlet on Psychotherapy:

He who needs healing must heal.…Who else is there to heal? And who else is in need of healing?…God does not know of separation. What He knows is only that He has one Son.…The process that takes place in this relationship is actually one in which the therapist in his heart tells the patient that all his sins have been forgiven him, along with his own. What could be the difference between healing and forgiveness? (P-2.VII.1:3,5-6,11-12; 3:1-2)

In any given relationship, at any given instant, one of the two partners is more sane than the other, and it is the responsibility of that one to take the first step in hearing the underlying melody that calls for help, inviting the other to join in forgiveness' happy song of gratitude and peace:

Whoever is saner at the time the threat is perceived should remember how deep is his indebtedness to the other and how much gratitude is due him, and be glad that he can pay his debt by bringing happiness to both. Let him remember this, and say:

I desire this holy instant for myself, that I may share it with my brother, whom I love.

It is not possible that I can have it without him, or he without me.…

And so I choose this instant as the one to offer to the Holy Spirit, that His blessing may descend on us, and keep us both in peace (T-18.V.7:1-4,6).

The same holds for the psychotherapist:

The psychotherapist is a leader in the sense that he walks slightly ahead of the patient, and helps him to avoid a few of the pitfalls along the road by seeing them first. Ideally, he is also a follower, for One should walk ahead of him to give him light to see. Without this One, both will merely stumble blindly on to nowhere (P-2.III.1:1-3).

When we recognize we are listening to the wrong voice and hearing the wrong song, that is the time to "step back and let Him lead the way" (W-pI.155), that we may truly listen and hear. We then hear our brother's call for help behind the shadows of dissonance, and recognize the call for light that is our own as well, for the ego's fog of judgment has no power to conceal the resplendent light of forgiveness:

The light in them shines as brightly regardless of the density of the fog that obscures it. If you give no power to the fog to obscure the light, it has none.…You can remember this for all the Sonship.…To perceive the healing of your brother as the healing of yourself is thus the way to remember God.…And to give a brother what he really wants is to offer it unto yourself, for your Father wills you to know your brother as yourself. Answer his call for love, and yours is answered. Healing is the Love of Christ for His Father and for Himself (T-12.II. 2:1-2,5,9; 3:4-6).

The Holy Spirit’s healing call cannot be heard without our part:

Yet He needs a voice through which to speak His holy Word; a hand to reach His Son and touch his heart (P-2.V.5:6).

Thus does Jesus ask us to be with each other the way he is with us. When we recognize in people's attacks the desperate call for help; when we hear in their viciousness the underlying pain, who would not seek to reach out and touch the source of such pain with "the gentle hands of forgiveness," knowing it would be our own chains of guilt that would fall away, along with our brothers' (T-19.IV-C.2:5)? As Prospero, Shakespeare's final hero, says near the end of The Tempest:

Though with their high wrongs I am struck to the quick.
Yet, with my nobler reason, 'gainst my fury
Do I take part. The rarer action is
In virtue than in vengeance. (V,i)

Jesus asks us to take the "rarer action" of forgiveness: to listen instead of judge, to hear instead of attack, to forgive instead of seeking vengeance. Thus does what we conceived in sin, guilt, and fear becomes transformed into harmonies of forgiveness, love, and healing; the cacophonous world of hate gives way to the sweet sounds of music; the melody of love we sing first to each other metamorphoses as the eternal song we have always sung to God. And our classroom of relationships radiates the star-lit temple of our and our brothers' mutual healing:

Think what the joining of two brothers really means. And then forget the world and all its little triumphs and its dreams of death. The same are one, and nothing now can be remembered of the world of guilt. The room becomes a temple, and the street a stream of stars that brushes lightly past all sickly dreams. Healing is done, for what is perfect needs no healing, and what remains to be forgiven where there is no sin? (P-2.VII.8)

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Learning to Listen – Part 1 of 2 Thu, 01 Nov 2018 16:00:34 +0000 Volume 14 Number 3 September 2003Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.Learning to ListenPart 1 of 2 Failure in communication is a common cause of discontent in relationships. Indeed, our post-war generation has seen a spate of therapies, trainings, and programs of all kinds geared to assisting couples, families, and businesses in learning how to listen. So successful have these […]

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Volume 14 Number 3 September 2003
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Learning to Listen
Part 1 of 2

Failure in communication is a common cause of discontent in relationships. Indeed, our post-war generation has seen a spate of therapies, trainings, and programs of all kinds geared to assisting couples, families, and businesses in learning how to listen. So successful have these interventions been in appealing to people in troubled relationships—and who in our world does not suffer from troubled relationships?—that a veritable industry has arisen representing the whole gamut of professional and not-so-professional techniques. In one way or another, they all attempt to teach people how to listen to each other, and to hear what is being communicated.

Diplomats are trained—or should be trained—in the cultures with which they are interacting to be sensitive to nuances of communication, different from their own, so as not to offend or offer insult where none was intended. I remember when working with the Bulgarian translator of A Course in Miracles being puzzled at her repeatedly shaking her head from side to side in what appeared to be a negative response to my comments and suggestions. I finally asked her what was wrong, only to discover that in Bulgaria such a response was meant affirmatively. Clearly no harm was done, but imagine the potential repercussions if sensitive diplomatic negotiations were being conducted and such fundamental misunderstandings were to occur.

These various forms of training-to-listen, if we may be permitted such a term, can certainly be helpful in facilitating easier communication from one person to another, each learning to be more respectful of the other's feelings and experience. Yet almost always there is an emphasis on respecting not only another's feelings, but meeting one's own needs. Such approaches, while efficacious perhaps in the short term, run the risk of long-term compromise, in which partners must choose to sacrifice part of their needs and desires in order to maintain the relationship. Such bargains cannot but fail to evoke resentment, albeit unconsciously, since they are never fully receiving what is believed to be their due. And when there is silent resentment, projection must inevitably follow. Early in the text Jesus describes this conflicted situation where

the mind and the behavior are out of accord, resulting in a situation in which you are doing what you do not wholly want to do. This arouses a sense of coercion that usually produces rage, and projection is likely to follow (T-2.VI.5:6-7).

On the other hand, true communication, as taught in A Course in Miracles, aims at releasing all parties in a situation from the burden of demanding need-satisfaction. Thus Jesus echoes the same discontent over our miscommunications with each other, and offers us his unique training of forgiveness. In this article, I shall therefore discuss the meaning of communication, specifically what it means to listen truly to each other.

An important point of departure is that it is impossible to hear others as long as we have a need from them that demands to be met. The reason is obvious when thought about. Our pressing needs demand satisfaction, regardless of external circumstances. The social upbringing we were all exposed to usually allows us to delay such gratification, yet not without a sense of sacrifice, as indicated in the quotation above. Our unconscious need for satisfaction ensures that whatever relationships we are in at the moment will be experienced in an adversarial way, whatever their form and however unconscious such perceptions may be. Thus we are not truly present to others, but only to what our needs make of them. Students of A Course in Miracles will certainly recognize these descriptions, as they form the heart of Jesus' teachings on special relationships, those substitutes for our relationship with God our Source, within which there are no needs:

You who want peace can find it only by complete forgiveness.…While lack does not exist in the creation of God, it is very apparent in what you have made.…Until the "separation," which is the meaning of the "fall," nothing was lacking. There were no needs at all. Needs arise only when you deprive yourself. You act according to the particular order of needs you establish. This, in turn, depends on your perception of what you are (T-1.VI.1:1,3,6-10).

Following our ego's dictates of lack and deprivation, we seek to find satisfaction for our needs, regardless of the cost, though we hope it will be another who will pay. Thus we seek to sacrifice another's happiness in order to find the satisfaction the ego craves. How, then, can we listen to another? How, then, can we hear the plaintive call for release from pain? How, then, can we find in another the echo of our own call? Jesus wants us to ask these questions of ourselves in order to hear his answer. Answering another's call answers our own:

Hear a brother call for help and answer him. It will be God to Whom you answer, for you called on Him. There is no other way to hear His Voice. There is no other way to seek His Son. There is no other way to find your Self (P-2.V.8:4-7).

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, for first we need to understand what it is we are seeking to hear. Let us therefore return to the beginning, which seemed to follow the true Beginning. In the ontological instant, within which we believed we had separated from our Creator and Source, we also separated from the song of creation:

the single voice Creator and creation share; the song the Son sings to the Father, Who returns the thanks it offers Him unto the Son. Endless the harmony, and endless, too, the joyous concord of the Love They give forever to Each Other. And in this, creation is extended.…The Love They share is what all prayer will be throughout eternity, when time is done. For such it was before time seemed to be (,7-8).

But indeed, time did seem to be, and the note of God's Son did appear to be missed in Heaven's song (T-26.V.5:4). Moreover, in that single unholy instant of separation we not only turned a deaf ear to Heaven's song, but to the Holy Spirit 's remembrance of it as well. Thus was the song forgotten, yet its melody has remained with us, despite our ego's most inventive efforts to keep it unremembered. Students of A Course in Miracles are certainly not unfamiliar with this inspiring passage of hope and promise:

Listen,-perhaps you catch a hint of an ancient state not quite forgotten…Not the whole song has stayed with you, but just a little wisp of melody.…But you remember, from just this little part, how lovely was the song, how wonderful the setting where you heard it, and how you loved those who were there and listened with you.…Listen, and see if you remember an ancient song you knew so long ago and held more dear than any melody you taught yourself to cherish since (T-21.I.6; 7:5).

But to remember the ancient song of love and oneness meant to forget our newly-composed song of specialness and separation; a "sacrifice" we were not prepared to make. And so communication was shattered, and dissonance come to replace harmony:

Direct communication was broken because you had made another voice (T-5.II.5:7).

The separation was not a loss of perfection, but a failure in communication. A harsh and strident form of communication arose as the ego's voice (T-6.IV.12:5-6).

The separation therefore broke communication with our Source and disrupted its perfect flow, substituting instead the ego's raucous shrieking. In our insanity we preferred this song of separation and specialness, and so we chose not to hear the Holy Spirit 's melody—the forgotten song. And thus it has continued throughout the ego's vast illusion of time and space (W-pI.158.4:1). However, if ideas leave not their source, as Jesus repeatedly reminds us, then that original decision not to listen to the Holy Spirit and hear His melody of peace has remained with us. As the text instructs us about time:

The tiny tick of time in which the first mistake was made, and all of them within that one mistake, held also the Correction for that one, and all of them that came within the first (T-26.V.3:5).

In other words, we relive—"each day and every minute in each day, and every instant that each minute holds" (T-26.V.13:1)—our original decision not to listen. It should therefore come as no surprise that all people experience such tremendous difficulty in communicating, in listening to someone else without hidden agendas of their own, which mar the ability to hear truly what is being said. A musical analogy makes the same point. Great musicians have observed that "What is best in music is not found in the notes" (Gustav Mahler); the conductor should listen to the music "behind the notes" (Wilhelm Furtwängler); and the true music is in the "silence between the notes" (Isaac Stern). Richard Wagner urged conductors to listen for the work's melos, the Greek word for "song," by which Wagner meant the inner melody of the composition, without which the music would be conducted "without a shadow of soul or sense."

Restated in the terminology of A Course in Miracles, we would say that one must listen to the content of the music behind its form. Similarly, we should allow our attention to move behind the pettiness of our judgments and misperceptions to the underlying content of love or calls for love that sounds in each of us. Theodore Reik, whom Freud considered one of his most gifted students, relates a wonderful example of listening in his classic work Listening with the Third Ear. He relates the story, and I repeat it now from memory, of a patient who came to his office for her regular appointment. She commented to Reik on a book that was upside down in his bookcase. Without anything else being said, the famed analyst asked: "Why didn't you tell me you had an abortion?" Reik's question, of course, was right on the money, and in his book he explains how he had derived his surprising conclusion from the woman's comment. The point is not that we all become as shrewdly insightful as the psychoanalyst, but it is important that we listen with the "third ear," freed only when we suspend our need to evaluate situations and judge others—all based on our own perceived needs and pressing personal concerns.

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“I never thought I’d see those trees again” – Part 2 of 2 Mon, 15 Oct 2018 16:00:50 +0000 Volume 20 Number 4 December 2009Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D."I NEVER THOUGHT I'D SEE THOSE TREES AGAIN"Recovering Our Innocence – Part 2 of 2Forgiveness: Our Greatest Joy The greatest joy this world can ever hold is knowing that we are truly forgiven; truly, truly forgiven. This joy is greatly increased by virtue of its contrast with the profound […]

The post “I never thought I’d see those trees again” – Part 2 of 2 appeared first on Foundation for A Course in Miracles®.


Volume 20 Number 4 December 2009
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Recovering Our Innocence – Part 2 of 2

Forgiveness: Our Greatest Joy

The greatest joy this world can ever hold is knowing that we are truly forgiven; truly, truly forgiven. This joy is greatly increased by virtue of its contrast with the profound sadness brought on by our guilt. The contrast is nothing less than extraordinary, and is reflected in the juxtaposition of the wrong- and right-minded thought systems found in Lesson 93:

You think you are the home of evil, darkness and sin. You think if anyone could see the truth about you he would be repelled, recoiling from you as if from a poisonous snake (W-pI.93.1:1-2).

Light and joy and peace abide in me. My sinlessness is guaranteed by God (W-pI.93.8:2-3; italics omitted).

Becoming at last intolerant of negative feelings about ourselves, we call out in desperation and hope that there must be a "better way" (T-2.III.3:6), another Teacher we may choose to learn from, a different thought system to identify with. This invitation to the Holy Spirit begins our ascent up the ladder the ego led us down (T-28. III.1:2), the same journey Helen and I symbolically took that follows the miracle's healing path from the ego's devastating twin worlds of guilt (mind) and destruction (body) to the innocent world of light and joy and peace. All thoughts and feelings that are not totally loving to all people can be traced back to the unforgiveness of ourselves (guilt) over our perceived sin of "wresting in righteous wrath" (T-23. II.11:2) the innocence that belongs to another (and Another). As we read from the workbook:

Certain it is that all distress does not appear to be but unforgiveness (W-pI.193.4:1).

Stated in straightforward English, all distress is unforgiveness, and it is this distress that permeates our lives. As indicated above, our distress-filled lives as seeming prisoners of a body that is referred to as a "rotting prison" (T-26.I.8:3) are tolerated through our special relationships, which seem to bring a modicum of peace and succor in a world we all know on some level is not our home. But somewhere within we know that this comfort is not what Jesus offers us when he says at the close of the workbook:

You do not walk alone. God's angels hover near and all about. His Love surrounds you, and of this be sure; that I will never leave you comfortless (W-ep.6:6-8).

What worldly experience can ever come close to the joyous comfort that Jesus brings us through forgiveness? It is nothing less than the peace of God that comes when we know, not only that we are a mind, but a guiltless mind that is free from the illusions of an insane thought system, and therefore identified with the thought of truth:

Can you imagine what a state of mind without illusions is? How it would feel? … Without illusions there could be no fear, no doubt and no attack. When truth has come all pain is over, for there is no room for transitory thoughts and dead ideas to linger in your mind (W-pI.107.2:1-2; 3:2-3).

All pain is resistance, our fear of the truth of our identity as God's one Son. Within that Self, the Christ that God created one with Him, there is no place for our special, individualized identity. From deep within our minds we know that this little self, and the thought system and world that are its foundation and protector would dissolve into the Love that created us, as we read:

You have built your whole insane belief system because you think you would be helpless in God's Presence, and you would save yourself from His Love because you think it would crush you into nothingness. You are afraid it would sweep you away from yourself and make you little. … You think you have made a world God would destroy; and by loving Him, which you do, you would throw this world away, which you would. … And it is this that frightens you (T-13.III.4:1-3,5).

In order to preserve this illusory self, we built a world of separation and differences (the hallmark of the special relationship), and it is the ego self in which we have placed our faith that is the cause of our pain and suffering. This is why A Course in Miracles focuses on the healing of relationships as the means of our returning home, and forgiveness as its central teaching. Forgiveness undoes the belief that salvation comes at the expense of others—one or the other—by inculcating in us the vision born of the principle together, or not at all (T-19.IV-D.12:8). One cannot imagine this vision of all-inclusiveness more movingly described than in the inspiring words of the text's stirring final section, in which Jesus sings to us:

To your tired eyes I bring a vision of a different world, so new and clean and fresh you will forget the pain and sorrow that you saw before. Yet this a vision is which you must share with everyone you see, for otherwise you will behold it not. To give this gift is how to make it yours. And God ordained, in loving kindness, that it be for you (T-31.VIII.8:4-7; italics mine).

Yet the painful fact is that we all, to a person, do not do the simple things (of forgiveness) salvation asks (T-31. I.2:2) that we attain this vision. Nothing is more emphatic in A Course in Miracles than Jesus' constant exhortations for us not to judge, but our everyday lives are damning witness to our resistance to this simple thing. Judgments, criticisms, attacks are the bell ringers of our lives, and what can these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors be but our ego's ways of keeping us from the only truth within the illusion: the universal sameness of God's Son. While our bodies bespeak separation and differentiation, our split minds remind us that, in the words of prominent American psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan, "we are all much more human than otherwise," possessing the same wrong- and right-minded thought systems, and the decision-making ability to choose between them.

To understand this strange situation of not practicing a thought system that we most deeply believe in, we need to understand our split-minded allegiance to two mutually exclusive goals: awakening from, or remaining in the dream; seeing the trees of light, love, and hope, or remaining forever in the darkness of despair and death. From our choice of goal arises our perceptual world, along with the means—vision or judgment—of attaining it. The section "The Consistency of Means and End" provides a helpful summary of our situation:

You recognize you want the goal. Are you not also willing to accept the means? … A purpose is attained by means, and if you want a purpose you must be willing to want the means as well. How can one be sincere and say, "I want this above all else, and yet I do not want to learn the means to get it"? … And when you hesitate, it is because the purpose frightens you, and not the means (T-20.VII.2:3-4,6-7; 3:4).

When Jesus asks us to be honest and hide nothing from him (T-4.III.8:2), this is what he means: He is asking us to be honest with him (and ourselves) about how fearful we are of the goal of seeing those trees again, and so we cling to the ego's means of judgment and attack. If we are truly desirous of the goal, however, we would joyfully accept the means and never see them as difficult. This desire and acceptance translates into our greeting each new day with the happy thought that it contains the very opportunities for us to learn the Holy Spirit's lessons of forgiveness. Painful or challenging situations or relationships would no longer be greeted with fear, anxiety, and resentment, but rather with the gratitude of knowing we are in class and learning the lessons that will speed us along our path, gently opening our eyes to see what we never thought we would look upon again, and remembering the innocence we thought was gone forever. Thus would forgiveness end the Othellian nightmare of guilt, paving the way for the "new and clean and fresh" vision that is Jesus' gift to us, the final act of our journey home.

Act VI: Awakening from the Nightmare

Shakespeare's tragedies have five acts, at the end of which most of the protagonists meet not-very-happy deaths, but we can envision a sixth and final act for Othello, wherein our hero awakens from his nightmare, realizing it was all a dream and that the trees of innocence had never left him. One can then envision that all that happens from the time Othello and Desdemona enter their bed chamber (II,i) until the play's end is a dream of sin and guilt (Othello having "stolen" the innocent Desdemona from her father Brabantio and eloping with her), leading to the ultimate punishment of death—homicide and then suicide.

In this new act, however, Othello awakens and recognizes that the source of this dream was his mind's decision to be separate, for Acts II-V were nothing more than "an outside picture of an inward condition" (T-21. in.1:5), a "pictorial representation of [his mind's] attack thoughts" (W-pI.23.3:2). Because it was his mind's decision to dream the nightmare, his sleep can be changed to a happy dream, from sin to innocence, guilt to forgiveness. Othello is now free to choose to listen to the voice of his true Friend and not the voice of the prevaricating enemy. His inner ears having opened, he is able to hear the sweetest song we could ever imagine in this despairing dream of death, the voice of Jesus again singing to us and offering us the hope this world can never give:

How can you who are so holy suffer? All your past except its beauty is gone, and nothing is left but a blessing. I have saved all your kindnesses and every loving thought you ever had. I have purified them of the errors that hid their light, and kept them for you in their own perfect radiance. They are beyond destruction and beyond guilt. They came from the Holy Spirit within you, and we know what God creates is eternal. You can indeed depart in peace because I have loved you as I loved myself. You go with my blessing and for my blessing. Hold it and share it, that it may always be ours. I place the peace of God in your heart and in your hands, to hold and share. The heart is pure to hold it, and the hands are strong to give it. We cannot lose. My judgment is as strong as the wisdom of God, in Whose Heart and Hands we have our being. His quiet children are His blessed Sons. The Thoughts of God are with you (T-5.IV.8).

Jesus' love does not really erase our destructive and guilt-ridden thoughts, but rather calls us to realize that they were truly nothing. Withdrawing our belief from them is the cause of their gentle evanescence, and thus we learn that nothingness can have no effect on us for dreams are not reality. This allows the space for the memory of the Love that created us to dawn upon our minds. The Thoughts of God that Jesus speaks of—the innocence of our true Self—have never left us, nor have we left Them. In gratitude do we awaken from the dream of sin and death, remembering the home in Heaven we never abandoned. Through tears that are born of the most wonderful joy imaginable, our reawakening right-minded self exclaims, as did Helen: "I never thought I'd see those trees again." And we are glad and grateful it is so (W-pI.200.11:9).

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“I never thought I’d see those trees again” – Part 1 of 2 Sat, 15 Sep 2018 16:00:49 +0000 Volume 20 Number 4 December 2009Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D."I NEVER THOUGHT I'D SEE THOSE TREES AGAIN"Recovering Our Innocence – Part 1 of 2Introduction: Helen Schucman's Vision One evening while Helen Schucman, scribe of A Course in Miracles, and I were meditating, she told me that she saw a picture of the two of us standing together midst […]

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Volume 20 Number 4 December 2009
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Recovering Our Innocence – Part 1 of 2

Introduction: Helen Schucman's Vision

One evening while Helen Schucman, scribe of A Course in Miracles, and I were meditating, she told me that she saw a picture of the two of us standing together midst ruins and rubble; she in a tattered white dress, and I a little boy. The relationship could have been mother-son, if not literally so, certainly in spirit. Helen's feelings and her description of the scene strongly suggested Qumran (the locus of the Dead Sea Scrolls that were discovered in 1947) during the time immediately following the destruction of the Essene community by the Romans around A.D. 70. We actually had visited there the previous summer.

I envisioned myself standing there with Helen at Qumran, and then began a symbolic series of inner events that seemed to reflect a healing process in Helen's mind. We set out northward toward Galilee, along the Jordan river, and our journey culminated with Helen and I reaching what evidently had been our goal from the beginning, a lovely grove of trees in lower Galilee, the biblical site of Jesus' childhood and much of his ministry. I had rarely seen Helen so moved. She began to weep at seeing this grove, saying: "I never thought I'd see those trees again." Through the woods could be seen the figure of Jesus, and joyfully we knew we had reached the end of our journey.1

Our metaphoric peregrination could be thought of as everyone's journey, beginning with the devastation wrought by our belief in sin, attack, and loss of innocence, and ending with the joyous discovery that this was indeed "a journey without distance" (T-8.VI.9:7): our perceived sinfulness was but a terrible dream with no effect upon our reality as God's innocent Son. As we happily read in Lesson 93:

      Why would you not be overjoyed to be assured that all the evil that you think you did was never done, that all your sins are nothing, that you are as pure and holy as you were created, and that light and joy and peace abide in you? Your image of yourself cannot withstand the Will of God. You think that this is death, but it is life. You think you are destroyed, but you are saved (W-pI.93.4).

What a wondrous experience to know these words are true, that the salvific trees of innocence we never thought to see again were always there, patiently awaiting our return to them. And yet how painful to realize we do not accept them, that our belief in the sin of separation and the desire to remain a sinner are more powerful than the love we need to destroy in order for our special self to survive. Indeed, the pain of this disbelief is so far beyond words and concepts that we need to call upon the artist to express for us a symbolic rendering of this most agonizing despair. We therefore turn to perhaps the greatest poet and dramatist of all, William Shakespeare, and his magnificent tragedy Othello. It can arguably be said that nowhere in all literature is the experience of the horror of sin portrayed with greater insight and feeling than here, equaled in power and depth of emotion only by Verdi's penultimate opera of the same name (Otello). We therefore begin our journey to the trees by briefly examining Shakespeare's fallen general and the horrifying instant when he recognizes the awesome and irreversible consequences of his betrayal of love.

The Othello Syndrome: Everyone's Tragic Story of Guilt and Punishment

Admirers of Shakespeare's most celebrated dramatic heroes can far more easily relate to the tragic flaws of Hamlet's indecisiveness, Macbeth's ambition, and Lear's senile folly than to Othello's failing to distinguish between truth and illusion. Yet at the same time we can all relate on some level to the terrifying result of this flaw, which speaks to the broken hearts of all of us. Othello, as no other literary work I know, depicts the secret fear that lurks in the minds of everyone who is born to dwell in this "dry and dusty world, where starved and thirsty creatures come to die" (W-pII.13.5:1). The play offers no hope, for evil has clearly triumphed over good, and the ego thought system of deception, despair, and death has been seen as the final word and ultimate authority.

To succinctly summarize the dramatic action, Othello is a celebrated Venetian general who listens to the lies of his ancient (i.e., captain), Iago, who for his own purposes falsely accuses the general's wife Desdemona of infidelity. Othello decides to believe him over his innocent wife's protestations and, raised to a frenzy of jealousy, kills his cherished spouse, only to discover after the murder that Iago had woven a tapestry of lies to entrap him. Confronted with the immutable nature of his crime, Othello fatally stabs himself, but first recalls the kiss he bestowed on his love when just a few moments earlier he entered her bed chamber for the last time:

I kiss'd thee ere I kill'd thee: no way but this;
Killing myself, to die upon a kiss (V,ii).

One cannot imagine a more telling metaphor to depict the innermost layer of our unconscious minds. We are all Othellos, having chosen to believe the ego's lies of separation over the Holy Spirit's truth of Atonement, and still choosing to place our faith in a pathological liar who can never be trusted. The unmitigated revulsion of the tragic denouement of our sin—we shall never regain the love and innocence that we dreamed we threw away; no, destroyed—leads us into the waiting arms of specialness that are designed to protect us from what we believe we have done.

Any student of A Course in Miracles recognizes the centrality of the special relationship in the ego's arsenal of weapons against God, and the most painful sections in the Course to read, let alone put into practice, are those that describe the murderous dynamics of specialness, the mother of all defenses. Indeed, when Helen completed scribing the final group of sections that specifically deal with this topic and reveal the depth of our hate and guilt (T-24.I-IV), she heard Jesus' words of understanding and gratitude, "Thank you. This time you made it." This suggested to her that in some other dimension she had attempted to write these sections down, but had not been able to complete them. And, from the ego's point of view, with good reason! The guilt that is born of the belief we destroyed the innocence of God's Son, reinforced by seeking to destroy our brothers, is preserved beneath the veil of forgetfulness. This allows us to continue unabated our ego's journey on the precipitous slope that inexorably leads to the hellish existence of sin, betrayal, and death.

Specialness ensures that the innocent Self of Christ, our true Identity, remains forever hidden and beyond retrieval. In the Psychotherapy pamphlet we read: "And who could weep but for his innocence?" (P-2.IV.1:7). In other words, all sadness can be traced to the insane thought that through our sin we irrevocably lost the innocence that vanished forever when we chose to leave our Creator and Source. The disastrous results of pain, suffering, and death are inevitable, for they but logically follow the one mistake of taking the tiny, mad idea of separation seriously—i.e., calling it sinful:

Sin is not an error, for sin entails an arrogance which the idea of error lacks. … [Sin] assumes the Son of God is guilty, and has thus succeeded in losing his innocence and making himself what God created not (T-19.II.2:1,4).

Sin "proves" God's Son is evil; timelessness must have an end; eternal life must die. And God Himself has lost the Son He loves, with but corruption to complete Himself, His Will forever overcome by death, love slain by hate, and peace to be no more (W-pII.4.3.3-4).

The unchanging relationship between sin and its wretched consequences is also captured in the story of Adam and Eve, the myth of the Western world and the foundation for both the Old and New Testaments, not to mention the religions spawned by them. Consider what happens to these first two "sinners." Like Othello, they listen to the wrong voice, the serpent and its lies, and then pay the price set by the enraged and vengeful God:

Unto the woman he [the Lord God] said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children. … And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life … the Lord God sent him [Adam] forth from the garden of Eden … and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life (Genesis 3:16-17,23-24; KJV).

And so the punishment for sin is a life of suffering and death, culminating in eternal banishment from Heaven; i.e., life in hell. What crueler effect can there be of our sin? What hope can be sustained in the face of such devastating and unrelenting certainty? What but the defenses of repression and projection can enable us to maintain our existence while still believing in the ego's unchallenged reality of guilt and punishment? No one can live in the presence of the searing pain of this self-hatred, and so we bury its tormenting agony beneath layers and layers of defenses, which merely retain the guilt but do not undo it. Left to fester unnoticed and thus uncorrected, guilt continues to make its presence known, leading to a bodily existence of untold misery, Thoreau's "lives of quiet desperation." We never know the actual source of our miserable state, which is perceived to be everywhere but in the sleeping mind that has chosen to believe in the lies of sin and guilt:

The witnesses to sin all stand within one little space [i.e., the decision-making mind]. And it is here you find the cause of your perspective on the world. Once you were unaware of what the cause of everything the world appeared to thrust upon you, uninvited and unasked, must really be. Of one thing you were sure: Of all the many causes you perceived as bringing pain and suffering to you, your guilt was not among them (T-27.VII.7:1-4).

Of course, the cause is not really guilt per se, since how can what does not exist be the cause of anything? The decision-making mind that chooses guilt is the source of all the problems we experience as bodies.

Indeed, concealing our mind's choice for the ego's guilt is the purpose of the world ("Thus were specifics made" [W-pI.161.3:1]), as it distracts our minds from themselves so that we would not remember that it was only our decision to be separate from love that has caused our distress. Innocence could not have been lost if we had not wanted it not to be found. As Jesus teaches us in A Course in Miracles, the ego's maxim, its raison d'etre for the world, as it were, is "Seek but do not find" (T-16.V.6:5). Our lives are quietly desperate because we shall never find the love and innocence for which we yearn, since we are looking in the wrong place.

Recall the joke about the man coming upon his friend one evening who is searching for a lost object on a well-lit street corner. Asking him specifically where he thinks he dropped what he is looking for, the man is told that it was dropped half a block away from the corner. He follows with the obvious question of why his friend is searching in a place where it was not lost. The response, which is the punch line of the story, is "because the light is better here under the lamp post." The ego (the part of our split mind that likes being separated and special) made the body with eyes so that it could see the "light" in the external world and therefore never find what was lost, our innocence that remains buried and thus unremembered in the mind. The bodily dreamworld of guilt has come to occupy our attention so that the mind's dreamworld of guilt is obscured, an obscurity that prevents our ever awakening from the dream to the loving innocence we left only in our delusional state of thinking.

And so the mind's guilt over the nonexistent sin of destroying innocence remains concealed and protected by a world that is ignorant of what is driving its very existence. The ongoing yet unseen presence of the guilt that determines our fate is described in this trenchant passage from the text:

Its [Guilt's] shadow rises to the surface, enough to hold its most external manifestations in darkness. … Yet its [guilt's] intensity is veiled by its heavy coverings, and kept apart from what [the body] was made to keep it [guilt] hidden. The body cannot see this [guilt], for the body arose from this for its [guilt's] protection, which depends on keeping it [guilt] not seen. The body's eyes will never look on it [guilt]. Yet they will see what it dictates (T-18.IX.4:3-7).

In this way we condemn ourselves forever to a life of despairing darkness, wandering "in the world, uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear" (T-31.VIII.7:1). Othello has become our model for learning, supplanting Jesus (e.g.,, whose loving place in our hearts has been usurped by the insane decision to believe the "voices of the dead" (W-pI.106:2:3) that speak to us of the pain of separation, the jealous agony of specialness, and the absoluteness of death. Having learned the ego's lesson of guilt, there is no choice but this:

The certain outcome of the lesson that God's Son is guilty is the world you see. It is a world of terror and despair. Nor is there hope of happiness in it. There is no plan for safety you can make that ever will succeed. There is no joy that you can seek for here and hope to find (T-31.I.7:4-8).

This clearly establishes that the Iago who represents the ego thought system will continue to exert dominion over truth, while the Othello mind that has chosen to believe its lies can never be corrected. The guilt with which it has identified holds full sway, protected by the mindless world of bodies that we have made our home:

The body will remain guilt's messenger, and will act as it directs as long as you believe that guilt is real (T-18.IX.5:1).

As long as you believe that guilt is real. This is the crux of the problem, as well as its solution. As the above passage makes crystal clear, the issue is not the guilt itself, nor the world of guilt that arose from it, but only our belief in them. This understanding is imperative if we are to return attention to our minds so that we may hear a different Voice, the loving words that say to us that we are wrong, for "God thinks otherwise" (T-23.I.2:7). We then allow ourselves to hear Jesus' comforting words to us in all three books of his course, that the truth is quite different. Our grateful ears listen to his loving wisdom in the following examples among many, which our teacher continually presents to us in the face of the ego's insistence that sin and guilt are real, and fear is justified:

Son of God, you have not sinned, but you have been much mistaken (T-10.V.6:1).

You have not lost your innocence. It is for this you yearn. … This is the voice you hear, and this the call which cannot be denied (W-pI.182.12:1-2,4).

You but mistake interpretation for the truth. And you are wrong. But a mistake is not a sin, nor has reality been taken from its throne by your mistakes (M-18.3: 7-9; italics omitted).

This correction from sin to mistake, guilt to innocence, is the basis of forgiveness, the thrust of A Course in Miracles, to which we now turn.

1. The complete account of this experience can be found in my Absence from Felicity, pp. 416-17.

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The Silence of Salvation: Hearing the Melody Wed, 15 Aug 2018 16:00:31 +0000 Volume 16 Number 4 December 2005Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.Jesus and the Relinquishment of JudgmentA previously written article, “Learning to Listen,” focused on the importance of setting aside our personal (read: special) needs, so that we may truly be able to hear the calls for help and love from another, and answer them and our own call […]

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Volume 16 Number 4 December 2005
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Jesus and the Relinquishment of Judgment

A previously written article, “Learning to Listen,” focused on the importance of setting aside our personal (read: special) needs, so that we may truly be able to hear the calls for help and love from another, and answer them and our own call as well. I had referred there to the metaphor of silence in music, and on being able to hear the “silence between the notes,” to quote the great violinist Isaac Stern. That article was also somewhat parallel to my 2003 workshop “Healing: Hearing the Melody.”[1] In this current article, I would like to re-visit the idea of listening to another, emphasizing its impossibility as long as we judge. Parallel to this, of course, is the important theme in A Course in Miracles of asking the Holy Spirit for help, or looking to Jesus as our model for learning.

Moreover, the Christmas season is always a good opportunity for reminding ourselves of the importance of turning to Jesus, specifically to learn to be like him, setting aside our ego’s judgments, their place taken by his radiant vision of forgiveness and love. In 1975, Jesus gave an important message to Helen, one I frequently cite as a caution to students asking Jesus for specific help with specific problems, even, when as in her case, the sincere desire is there to be of service to another. Helen had asked Jesus what she should say to someone dealing with a difficult situation. This was his response:

Do not forget if you attempt to solve a problem, you have judged it for yourself and so you have betrayed your proper role. Remember you need nothing, but you have an endless store of loving gifts to give. But teach this lesson only to yourself. Your brother will not learn it from your words or from the judgments you have laid on him. You need not even speak a word to him. You cannot ask, “What shall I say to him?” and hear God’s answer. Rather ask instead, “Help me to see this brother though the eyes of truth and not of judgment,” and the help of God and all His angels will respond (Absence from Felicity, p. 381).

We shall return presently to this important idea that it is not our words that teach others, but the demonstration of our ego-free love, the love that Jesus symbolizes for us. Thus does he want us all to ask his help that we hear as he hears, and so respond non-judgmentally—with love rather than attack, vision and not judgment.

The implications here are clear. Since there is no way we can ever know what another truly needs, we need only focus on ourselves; specifically, on getting our egos out of the way. It is but the ego’s arrogance that would lead us to believe we could know what is in the best interest of others, and therefore how we should respond verbally or behaviorally. This salient point is underscored in the following passage from the manual for teachers:

The aim of our curriculum, unlike the goal of the world's learning, is the recognition that judgment in the usual sense is impossible. This is not an opinion but a fact. 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, so that his judgment would be wholly fair to everyone on whom it rests now and in the future. Who is in a position to do this? Who except in grandiose fantasies would claim this for himself? … Wisdom is not judgment; it is the relinquishment of judgment. Make then but one more judgment. It is this: There is Someone with you Whose judgment is perfect. He does know all the facts; past, present and to come. He does know all the effects of His judgment on everyone and everything involved in any way. And He is wholly fair to everyone, for there is no distortion in His perception (M-10.3; 4:5-10).

What we can know, however, is that the healing of another’s needs is what we need: the undoing of the false belief in separation. In other words: “To perceive the healing of your brother as the healing of yourself is … the way to remember God” (T-12.II.2:9). Relinquishing judgment—the ego’s weapon of separation par excellence—is therefore the means of being healed, for it restores to awareness the shared need and purpose of God’s separated Sons. Indeed, as Jesus tells us, this is the essence of his course (M-9.2), for true judgment is not possible for a split mind.

“Mute, blind, and dazzled”: Healing with Jesus

The great early-twentieth-century poet Rilke frames our discussion in his poem “Gong.” It is one of a large number of French poems this Czech poet wrote, though his greatest work was in German. Here is the second stanza:

We must close our eyes, renounce our mouths,
remain mute, blind, and dazzled:
with space utterly shaken, what touches us
wants no more from our being than attention.[2]

It is the silence of our senses—mute, blind, and dazzled—that allows us to be without judgment, and attentive to the plaintive cries of others. It is the silence of truth’s oneness that allows us to hear the answer: hearing another’s call for love as our own echoes the truth beyond all seemingly disparate life. This premise of fundamental unity underlies, for example, the core teaching of Buddhism: compassion for all sentient beings. Beyond distinctions made between right and wrong, or good and evil, rests a simple truth—in the words of Harry Stack Sullivan, the founder of the school of Interpersonal Psychiatry: We are all more human than otherwise. This commonality of human existence is the suffering we share, and it is the pain inherent in life here to which we need pay attention. Unrecognized, the source of this pain—guilt—remains in the shadows of our mind, there to be continually projected in disguised forms that prevent its undoing. These forms all contain judgments—of others or ourselves—and these unforgiving thoughts protect the guilt that has been projected outward (W-pII.1.2:3).

An axiom in psychotherapy states that one cannot understand when one judges; judgment being the shadowy projection of separation that keeps people apart, while understanding reflects the light of true communication that binds us together, the etymological meaning, incidentally, of the word religion. Thus, learning to listen means learning to give up judgment. This fundamental principle of salvation enables us to listen to others, in muted silence, blind to the ego’s judgments, and dazzled by people’s fervent call to be proven wrong about the preconceptions of their problems and, indeed, their very selves. In releasing the barriers of judgment that hinder communication, the belief in separate interests is undone. The forms of the problem are gone beyond, that we may look upon the single content of separation. Healing occurs as we mirror to each other the shared purpose of salvation: hearing the forgotten melody and remembering the love that is our true and shared Self.

For this healing to occur, it is necessary that we entirely shift our perspective on the world and the nature of its multitudinous problems. Throughout A Course in Miracles, Jesus tells us that there is only one problem: the decision to believe in the ego’s separation; and one solution: changing our minds to believe in the Holy Spirit’s Atonement. That is all. This is the content that underlies all concerns and remedies the world presents, and to believe in any one particular form of problem or solution is to subscribe to the ego’s first law of chaos: there is a hierarchy of illusions (T-23.II.2:1-3). That way madness lies, to quote King Lear, for it leads us still further into the ego’s insane thought system of separation, differentiation, and specialness. Yet, under Jesus’ firm but gentle guidance, we are led back from the throes of madness to his sane approach to illness: all symptoms are but calls for help and healing—the reminder that no thought of separation, guilt, or attack has the power to take God’s Love from us. Thus we can remind our ill brothers and sisters that they have simply chosen falsely, but can just as easily choose again—love instead of fear, peace instead of conflict, life instead of death. As we read in “The Function of the Teacher of God” from the manual:

To them [the ill] God's teachers come, to represent another choice which they had forgotten. The simple presence of a teacher of God is a reminder. His thoughts ask for the right to question what the patient has accepted as true. As God's messengers, His teachers are the symbols of salvation. They ask the patient for forgiveness for God's Son in his own Name. They stand for the Alternative. With God's Word in their minds they come in benediction, not to heal the sick but to remind them of the remedy God has already given them. It is not their hands that heal. It is not their voice that speaks the Word of God. They merely give what has been given them. Very gently they call to their brothers to turn away from death: “Behold, you Son of God, what life can offer you. Would you choose sickness in place of this?” (M-5.III.2).

If the problem is our having chosen as our teacher the ego’s raucous shrieks of separation—sin, guilt, fear, and death—then salvation’s healing is the Holy Spirit’s silent melody of Atonement. This, again, is the content underlying all forms that but seem to be the instruments of healing. It is in the silence beyond the words that healing actually occurs, as we saw above that the true music is found in the silence between the notes. Thus does Jesus instruct us about the irrelevancy of words:

Strictly speaking, words play no part at all in healing. …  God does not understand words, for they were made by separated minds to keep them in the illusion of separation (M-21.1:1,7).

We are repeatedly instructed in A Course in Miracles that salvation (forgiveness, the miracle, Atonement) is undoing, and does not involve any behavioral intervention, such as words or prayers we may speak to another. Since it is only the mind’s decision for the ego that is the sickness or problem, undoing this decision by choosing the Holy Spirit as Teacher is the one healing. This is why Jesus asks that we take him as our model for learning (e.g., T-5.II.9-12), and in Helen’s poem “A Jesus Prayer,” we pray that we become like him, which living in the silence of healing brings about:

A child, a man and then a spirit. So
I follow in the way You show to me
That I may come at last to be like You.
What but Your likeness would I want to be?

There is a silence where You speak to me
And give me words of love to say for You
To those You send to me. And I am blessed
Because in them I see You shining through.
(The Gifts of God, p. 82)

To become like Jesus, therefore, means to be silent to the ego—mute and blind—so we may hear the dazzling silence of God. In that silence, words are meaningless, for love transcends the specific and thus cannot be known by the body, but only by the mind that has chosen to leave the dream—if only for an instant—and rejoin the oneness that is beyond the ego’s separation. Thus we read in the workbook another reference to the inadequacy of words to express the ineffable nature of salvation:

Oneness is simply the idea God is. And in His Being, He encompasses all things. No mind holds anything but Him. We say “God is,” and then we cease to speak, for in that knowledge words are meaningless. There are no lips to speak them, and no part of mind sufficiently distinct to feel that it is now aware of something not itself. It has united with its Source. And like its Source Itself, it merely is.

We cannot speak nor write nor even think of this at all. It comes to every mind when total recognition that its will is God’s has been completely given and received completely (W-pI.169.5:1-6:2).

In sum, as long as we are in the world, judgment is inevitable. Our attacking others is the norm, without which we do not believe we can survive. And so we walk the earth as separated selves, seeing everyone as separated, too. The innocence of God’s Son becomes shrouded in veils of judgment, and Heaven’s silent melody of love is drowned out by the strident sounds of the world of differences and attack. Yet, taking Jesus’ hand, the sharp edges of the ego’s thought system dissolve, and we are softly still, resting in his presence and sharing his vision of non-judgment and love. As he tells us in an oft-quoted line about forgiveness:

Forgiveness … is still, and quietly does nothing. … It merely looks, and waits, and judges not (W-pII.1.4:1,3).

To Judge One Is to Judge All

Once again, judgment is inevitable and unavoidable to all of us who wander in the world, “uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1), and so what is the right-minded way to look at judgment—ours or another’s? If we see our attacks as coming from fear of love, these can only be defenses, regardless of the form they take. After all, no one who accepts the love within could ever attack anyone else. It would be impossible. Therefore, we can conclude that a person attacking another does not feel this love inside. Yet if that love is truly there, as it must be in everyone—We are all more human than otherwise—then it must be the fear of this love that drives us to defend against it by attack—blatantly or subtly—in thought, word, or deed. Thus do we all suffer from the same fear, defending against love by ensuring that we remain separated, forever protected against its encroachment.

The following is a helpful rule of thumb to guide us along salvation’s silent path of non-judgment: Any judgment we would make of another that we would not also make of everyone, comes from the ego. This rule has no exceptions, for the Love of God makes no exceptions. And so, if we are tempted to judge one Son of God—public or personal figures in our individual dreams—as evil and beyond redemption, we need stop and consider whether we would make the same judgment about Jesus, or any other symbol of an ego-free and all-loving person. Similarly, if we judge Jesus as loving and good—God’s innocent Son—would we exclude the one we have made our symbol of evil from that benevolent judgment? It cannot be that one Son is good and another evil if the oneness of God’s creation is to be recalled in memory. To be sure, within the illusion of time there are differences, but these are inherently transient and thus superficial. As Jesus says of himself: “I am in … [no] way separate or different from you except in time, and time does not really exist” (T-1.II.4:1). And he adds: “All my brothers are special” (T-1.V.3:6), which clearly means we are all special, along with him, thus voiding the common exclusionary usage of the word.

Since love is perfect oneness, our defense against this love is to see only separation and differences—the hallmark of specialness—yet when the doors of perception are cleansed, to use William Blake’s evocative phrase, it will be this fear of love we can know, in ourselves and in all people. To hear this universal call, we need only be still and listen to the cry behind the words, to feel the despair of hopelessness beyond the symptoms. Our differing belief systems are ultimately irrelevant to this new vision, for they are but vehicles we use to convey the underlying response of love. And so, to hear these songs of love or fear, and only these, we need to be quiet within, to come without needs unto the figures in our dream. In that inner silence, we recognize that we all have the same two melodies running through our minds, determining what we think, feel, and do.

The first of these melodies is love and healing, and the second is the fear of love and healing. The latter is what we typically call resistance, and in the end, it is this fear for which we listen. Once heard, we simply touch it with gentle hands, and its hardness softens and dissolves in a duet of healing whereby two disparate voices blend together and sound as one. Resistance never responds to analysis or judgment, but only to the kind reminder that love is unaffected by fear, and so the need to resist is futile. Thus we must wait patiently, and true patience is born of the certainty of outcome (M-4.VIII). Healing occurs when we are able to remind others that love waits quietly beyond the clouds of guilt, fear, and attack, and all they need do is be that presence of quiet patience. They indeed do nothing but be still.

In that silence, beyond the neediness that distorts perception, we come to understand that what appears to be problems or pathology is only a special form of fear, the same fear of love that cowers in each of us. To the extent we believe in this identity, we shall fear the melody of forgiveness that recalls to mind—literally—the song our true Self still sings to all who cross our path, and whom we had heretofore sought to exclude from love, as we sought to exclude ourselves. Yet in the presence of the soundless song of love, the discordant noise of separate and selfish identities must fade and disappear. Jesus’ vision has come to replace the ego’s judgment, and we include all people—“in holy welcome”—in our forgiving embrace, emulating the Christ of Helen’s first poem, “The Gift of Christmas”:

Christ passes no one by. By this you know
He is God’s Son. You recognize His touch
In universal gentleness. His Love
Extends to everyone. His eyes behold
The Love of God in everything He sees.
No words but those His Father’s Voice dictates
Can reach His ears. His hands forever hold
His brothers’, and His arms remain outstretched
In holy welcome.
(The Gifts of God, p. 95)

This, then, is the challenge to all of us as students of A Course in Miracles: not to exclude anyone from our forgiveness. Our willingness to practice this lesson reflects our willingness to silence the ego’s harsh sounds, and thus awaken from the dream and return home. Only through the absence of judgment—reflecting Heaven’s oneness here—can we leave the ego’s thought system of separation, differentiation, and fragmentation.

Ending the Dream in Silence

Our prayer to ourselves should echo Lorenzo’s words to Jessica in The Merchant of Venice, which bespeak what could be the happy fate of all our relationships, if we so choose:

Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony. (V,i)

Thus do we see each of our daily encounters as fresh opportunities to sit in silence while the soft sounds of music enter our hearts and minds, sweetly harmonizing our heretofore special relationships into the beautiful melody that reflects our love for Jesus, and his for us. This blazing silence that ends the ego’s dreams of guilt and evil is movingly portrayed in the second stanza of Helen’s poem “Conversion”:

There is a silence into which God’s Word
Has poured an ancient meaning, and is still.
Nothing remains unsaid nor unreceived.
Strange dreams are washed in golden water from
The blazing silence of the peace of God,
And what was evil suddenly becomes
The gift of Christ to those who call on Him.
His final gift is nothing but a dream,
Yet in that single dream is dreaming done.
(The Gifts of God, p. 61)

The final dream is the complete forgiveness that undoes separation, and touches all people—the “good” and “bad” alike, victims and victimizers—in its healing embrace. With the sounds of separation’s battle stilled, the harsh voice of specialness silenced, our minds are free to recognize the one Son Whom God created as Himself. Salvation’s song re-enters our hearts that guilt had turned to stone, and an ancient melody begins to stir once again, heralding our awakening from the ego’s dream of death. The sounds of earth have vanished, and but for an instant longer we hear the silent music of forgiveness, until even that is gone, leaving only the true silence in which creation is joyfully reborn in the holy Name of its Creator:

All little things are silent. Little sounds are soundless now. The little things of earth have disappeared. The universe consists of nothing but the Son of God, who calls upon his Father. And his Father's Voice gives answer in his Father's holy Name. In this eternal, still relationship, in which communication far transcends all words, and yet exceeds in depth and height whatever words could possibly convey, is peace eternal. In our Father's Name, we would experience this peace today. And in His Name, it shall be given us (W-pI.183.11).

[1]Published as a CD set, MP3 Download, DVD, and MP4 Download.
[2]The Complete French Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, Tr. Poulin, A.; Graywolf Press, St. Paul, 2002, pp. 52-54.

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Strangers in a Strange World Wed, 01 Aug 2018 16:00:30 +0000 Volume 8 Number 3 September 1997Gloria WapnickKenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.Strangers in a Strange WorldThe Search for Meaning and Hope The title of this article calls our attention to one of the most important ideas that A Course in Miracles teaches: This world is not our home, and therefore in some region of our minds that is obviously […]

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Volume 8 Number 3 September 1997
Gloria Wapnick
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Strangers in a Strange World
The Search for Meaning and Hope

The title of this article calls our attention to one of the most important ideas that A Course in Miracles teaches: This world is not our home, and therefore in some region of our minds that is obviously unknown to us, we do not quite feel as if we belong here. Deep down within us we indeed feel as if we are strangers in a strange world:

This world you seem to live in is not home to you. And somewhere in your mind you know that this is true. A memory of home keeps haunting you, as if there were a place that called you to return, although you do not recognize the voice, nor what it is the voice reminds you of. Yet still you feel an alien here, from somewhere all unknown. Nothing so definite that you could say with certainty you are an exile here. Just a persistent feeling, sometimes not more than a tiny throb, at other times hardly remembered, actively dismissed, but surely to return to mind again (W-pI.182.1).

Many people bear witness to the fact of pursuing a search for meaning in their lives. In fact, in one way or another, we all seek to find out who or what we truly are, whence we truly come, and from where this uneasiness of alienation springs. Thus, we probe our feelings, read books, cultivate hobbies, travel to different places, study various economic, religious, political, and social systems, and communicate with diverse peoples in order to get some clue about our existence, and to uncover the origin and ongoing presence of this uneasy feeling of being an alien in a world we do not remember choosing:

 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. … And thus he wanders aimlessly about, in search of something that he cannot find, believing that he is what he is not.

The lingering illusion will impel him to seek out a thousand idols, and to seek beyond them for a thousand more (T-29.VII.2:1,5; 3:1).

Yet this quest never results in our discovering from where this abstract feeling of alienation is truly emanating: the belief we have separated from God, our Creator and Source. And so we spend a significant portion of our lives either in searching to pinpoint the exact nature of this discomfort, or in giving up the search rather early, trying to mold ourselves to fit into this alien world and adapt ourselves to its multitudinous pathways. In this article we should like to discuss the two ways in which we spend the time—the time we call “Our Life”—from the viewpoint of the world (the ego), and from the viewpoint of the Course (the Holy Spirit).

A Course in Miracles helps us to understand that in truth there is no real search here, only a sorting out and adoption of goals and roles that are directed towards making our individual existence in the world more successful, more pleasurable, and less painful. Moreover, the world looks with favor on individuals who adapt to their culture, class, community, and country. Striking out on one’s own and flouting the unwritten rules is not generally smiled on with approval, and is likely to be dismissed as eccentric or even sociopathic. The search for existential meaning is not considered a serious or appropriate way to spend one’s life, unless one is a philosopher. Thus the message reaches each generation in the same way, wherein the sign of maturity is becoming a good, productive, taxpaying citizen of one’s country. However, if we rebel, because we “march to a different drummer,” all our energies are directed towards rebellion and setting up an alternative lifestyle and proving what society and our family expected of us was wrong to begin with. In this way we end up proving we were right all along about our separation and alienated state of existence.

But the search for meaning still continues, and inner discomfort is still our strong experience. It is to escape from that pain that we are impelled to distract ourselves in the lifestyle we have chosen, so that this aching feeling will be pushed out of awareness and laser-beamed out of existence. And here the world offers us all the distractions we could ever dream of. We can direct ourselves into any of the many roles it offers, from hermit to family person, ascetic to licentious indulger of the senses, sinner to holy person, indolent to workaholic, “nobody” to “somebody,” coward to brave warrior, ignorant dolt to scholar, and from an orientation of selfishness to one of selfless service, and any or every role in between. And when we have finally accomplished all of the goals and roles that we have set up for ourselves, traditional and non-traditional alike, the inner ache and emptiness become even more pronounced. The search for meaning now takes on a new and desperate impetus.

      What is to be done now? What can be done now?

At this point, the ego counsels us, we can begin a new search, or re-ignite a previously discarded one, hoping against all hope that the answer will yet be found along one of the many by-ways the world contains. New interests, new hobbies, new careers, new places to live or visit, new love relationships, new friendships, and new and exotic spiritualities—all are sought in order to extinguish that inner longing, helping us abandon the search for true meaning. But once again, that sense of futility returns, along with the deep-seated ache and yearning that continually haunts us, like a shadow that will never leave us. Yet it seems as if we are driven to pursue a path that exhausts all the possibilities and probabilities that the world offers:

Perhaps you would prefer to try them all, before you really learn they are but one. The roads this world can offer seem to be quite large in number, but the time must come when everyone begins to see how like they are to one another (T-31.IV.3:2-3).

And thus we are finally ready to accept the thought that “there must be a better way” (T-2.III.3:6).

When we look at this almost universal situation from the perspective of A Course in Miracles, we can begin to discern with clarity that we have been much mistaken. We have sought in the wrong places, under the guidance of the wrong teacher, believing that we can substitute one illusion for another and find happiness by silencing that inner discomfort with the ego’s new toys of specialness.

In the Course we are taught by Jesus that this world is not our home, because it was not created by God, our Source, but rather was made by a thought of attack; i.e., “The world was made as an attack on God” (W-pII.3.2:1). Furthermore, the theology of A Course in Miracles is very clear: we are spirit, a perfect Thought of love in a perfect Mind, at one with our Source. That is our only Heritage as God created us: nowhere does our Source end and we begin as something separate from It (W-pI.132.12:4); Creator and created are one, perfectly united in a totality of limitless abstraction, beyond all dreams of separation, differences, individuality, and form of any kind. And so it slowly dawns on us that adapting to what appears as an opposite to Heaven—i.e., this world of concrete specifics—can only be accomplished in an hallucinatory state wherein what is real is denied, and what is illusory is seen as real:

 When you made visible what is not true, what is true became invisible to you (T-12.VIII.3:1).

Yet as strangers in a strange world, how could we believe anything else? Clearly then, to search for happiness, peace, or fulfillment here must result in disillusionment, for how could this not come from pursuing illusions? It takes great courage to look at this insanity, since we have put so much time and effort into making this dream real. It takes great determination and faith to examine all the beliefs and hopes we had invested in this world, and realize that they were but defenses against the truth of God’s Love that the Holy Spirit holds out for us in our right minds. And it takes the willingness to admit that we were wrong in having chosen the ego’s thought system of separation and the “gifts” it deceitfully held out to us in its false promises of finding hope and meaning in this world.

In this state of humility, we finally call out for help, admitting that all our ways have not worked, and that our lifetime search for meaning has not produced any meaningful results. It is at this point that we are ready for a message of light that can bring the dawning of the thought that there is no hope for meaning in a dreamworld of illusions. This thought allows us to direct our search away from the world at last, and becomes the invitation to the Holy Spirit, Whose Presence in our right minds carries the memory of our true Home, reminding us that we “are at home in God, dreaming of exile” (T-10.I.2:1). This Presence of Love reminds us that we are dreaming a dream—a nightmare—the content of which is not true (T-28.II.7:1). Furthermore, we are informed that there is a Correction thought in our right minds for each misthought that the ego has convinced us to accept. In fact, we are told that we are not our egos, and therefore we can withdraw our allegiance from this false self in any instant and place it in our right minds. In this process we become aware that there is a part of our minds that freely chooses whether to listen to the lies of the ego or the truth of the Holy Spirit. We call this part of our minds the decision maker.

Many insights will occur to us as we proceed in our journey to awakening: for example, we shall understand that death is not an ending, but a non-linear continuation of a theme in an ongoing dream that states that an opposite exists to what God created. We can now smile at the ideas that theologians have taught and enshrined for centuries: that God created death as the end of life, at which point He takes people back to Him, or assigns them to purgatory, or perhaps even condemns them to hell. We shall begin to wonder how we ever could have believed in such a God. Having accepted forgiveness for many of the grievances we have held in our minds, we also come to the realization that a wrathful and punishing God is a concept we can no longer believe. It is totally untenable to a mind that forgiveness is now healing:

No compromise in this is possible. There is either a god of fear or One of Love. The world attempts a thousand compromises, and will attempt a thousand more. Not one can be acceptable to God’s teachers, because not one could be acceptable to God. He did not make death because He did not make fear. Both are equally meaningless to Him (M-27.4:5-10).

Always mindful of asking for help of Jesus or the Holy Spirit, we have finally found a new meaning and hope in our lives: to become enlightened to the truth. The focus in our lives becomes asking for help to change our attitudes and question our values, and to accept forgiveness as our one function and purpose. For it is this shift from our wrong to our right minds that removes the barriers to our awareness and recognition of the truth. As the Course states: “Enlightenment is but a recognition, not a change at all” (W-pI.188.1:4).

Therefore, rather than being distraught at discovering that this world and body are not our home, we become “happy learners.” In glad acknowledgment of our new Teacher, we realize that the meaning of our lives is to accept the happy dreams of the Holy Spirit as a replacement for the nightmare dreams the ego had offered us. As Jesus comforts us, in words that describe our crossing the bridge to the real world: “And you will think, in glad astonishment, that for all this you gave up nothing!” (T-16.VI.11:4). We are thus happy to learn that all our efforts can now be aligned with the purpose of accepting the Atonement for ourselves. We are taught by Jesus that this is a process of undoing, wherein all the thoughts that we think we think apart from God will be gently undone by the forgiveness the Holy Spirit holds out to us, Who asks only that we accept it from His loving hands. And day by day, hour by hour, as all of our unconscious thoughts of the wrong mind surface into our conscious awareness, we now have a method whereby we can allow them to be removed for us. Thus our lives come to reflect the only true meaning and hope that we could possibly attain: to accept our Self as God created us, and have the shabby image we made up be undone and replaced by the resplendence of Christ. Thus we awaken to the fact that the real world is our home away from Home, from which God takes the “last step,” reaching down and raising us unto Himself (T-11.VIII.15:5).                                                                              

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The Happy Dreams of the Holy Spirit: Awakening to Eternity Mon, 02 Jul 2018 16:00:32 +0000 Volume 6 Number 2 June 1995Gloria WapnickKenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.Although the term happy dream is used relatively infrequently in A Course in Miracles, it remains an extremely important concept and holds a crucial place in the Course's theory and process. Unfortunately, it has often been a concept badly misunderstood by Course students. These misunderstandings relate directly […]

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Volume 6 Number 2 June 1995
Gloria Wapnick
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Although the term happy dream is used relatively infrequently in A Course in Miracles, it remains an extremely important concept and holds a crucial place in the Course's theory and process. Unfortunately, it has often been a concept badly misunderstood by Course students. These misunderstandings relate directly to the students' view of the nature of the dream and who the dreamer is, the nature of reality, and the interim and ultimate goals of A Course in Miracles. We begin with a definition of the happy dream, taken from Kenneth's Glossary-Index for A Course in Miracles:

[The happy dream is] the Holy Spirit's correction for the ego's dream of pain and suffering; though still illusory, the happy dream leads beyond all other illusions to the truth; it is the dream of forgiveness in which the real world is ultimately seen and salvation attained (p. 89, 1st ed.; p. 92, 2nd ed.).

Since it is a dream, the happy dream occurs only in the split or separated mind, which is basically made up of three parts: the wrong mind, which contains the thought system of sin, guilt, and fear—the ego's nightmare dreams of separation and specialness; the right mind, the home of the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, and the happy dream; and the decision maker, our term for the part of the mind that chooses between the two mutually exclusive thought systems of the ego and the Holy Spirit. This decision maker, incidentally, is the real "you" that Jesus is addressing throughout A Course in Miracles, even though most readers inevitably think he is referring to the figure in the dream they believe themselves to be: i.e., the physical and psychological self that bears their name, personality, and birthdate.

As Jesus explains in the text, the waking dreams that constitute our experiences in the separated world are no different from our sleeping dreams at night:

…what you seem to waken to is but another form of this same world you see in dreams. All your time is spent in dreaming. Your sleeping and your waking dreams have different forms, and that is all. Their content [the wish to change reality] is the same (T-18.II.5:11-14).

All the action we experience, however real it may seem within the dream, takes place only in the mind of the dreamer, or the decision maker. The thought of separation is then projected out from the dreamer's mind, which, to restate this important point, is synonymous with the decision maker and the "you" to whom Jesus continually speaks in A Course in Miracles. This projection of the mind's insane thought makes an external world (dream), which is then perceived and experienced as a reality independent and separate from the mind (dreamer), although in truth this dreamworld has never left its source in the mind. This central principle is articulated many times in the Course, and we cite just two references here:

There is no world apart from your ideas because ideas leave not their source, and you maintain the world within your mind in thought (W-pI.132.10:3).

The world is false perception. It is born of error, and it has not left its source. It will remain no longer than the thought [of separation] that gave it birth is cherished (W-pII.3.1:1-3).

And so it is in the mind and only in the mind that the error of separation can be corrected and undone. It is therefore extremely important to understand that the Holy Spirit's happy dreams of correction have nothing whatsoever to do with the effects of the dream as they are experienced by the dreamer, who has merely forgotten that he is asleep and dreaming. The dream's cause remains in the mind, and since, as we repeatedly read in A Course in Miracles, cause and effect are never separated, this means that the dream's actual effects are within the mind as well. Thus we can understand the happy dream to be the Holy Spirit's thought of correction—within the sleeping Son's mind—for his nightmare dreams of separation, judgment, and specialness. And it is the nature of this correction that we wish to address in this article.

People's experience in this world as figures in the dream—even if these experiences are not conscious—is an overwhelming sense of pain and not-belonging, because on some level they know this world is not their home. However, they have no recollection of where their true home is, let alone how to return to it. Jesus describes this terrible state of alienation in the poignant workbook lesson, "I will be still an instant and go home":

     This world you seem to live in is not home to you. And somewhere in your mind you know that this is true. A memory of home keeps haunting you, as if there were a place that called you to return, although you do not recognize the voice, nor what it is the voice reminds you of. Yet still you feel an alien here, from somewhere all unknown. Nothing so definite that you could say with certainty you are an exile here. Just a persistent feeling, sometimes not more than a tiny throb, at other times hardly remembered, actively dismissed, but surely to return to mind again.     No one but knows whereof we speak. Yet some try to put by their suffering in games they play to occupy their time, and keep their sadness from them. Others will deny that they are sad, and do not recognize their tears at all.…We speak today for everyone who walks this world, for he is not at home (W-pI.182.1:1-2:3; 3:1).

Almost instinctively, people yearn to have an end to the pain they experience. And so, to have a happier, pain-free experience within the dream they call their life is a much sought-after goal. They know not of awakening, for they do not know to what they would awaken. In fact, they do not even know they are dreaming! Thus are they willing to settle for a happier dream here, and as we observed in the opening paragraph, many students of A Course in Miracles do not realize that Jesus is teaching them how to awaken from the dream, not merely to live better within the dream. As Jesus tells us: "Here [in the world] does the Son of God ask not too much, but far too little" (T-26.VII.11:7). It would therefore be a big mistake to believe that the role of Jesus or the Holy Spirit is to assist us in being happier within the dreams of our individual physical and psychological existence that we call our lives. Jesus' whole point in his Course is to convince his students that they are not happy here. He says, for example, at the end of Chapter 7 in the section "The Confusion of Pain and Joy":

The Holy Spirit will direct you only so as to avoid pain. Surely no one would object to this goal if he recognized it. The problem is not whether what the Holy Spirit says is true, but whether you want to listen to what He says. 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.3:1-6; italics ours).

And so Jesus' first order of business with his students is to teach them that simply by being in this world, which they certainly believe to be an indisputable fact, is to deny Who they are as Christ. As a result, at the very least, they must find themselves in the peculiar position of expressing doubt about what they are, since who they believe they are here in the dream is not their real Self. Thus, following the logic of the above paragraph, they will not be able to tell the difference between pain and joy, and will therefore inevitably believe that their dreamworld is filled with happiness and joy, or at least that it carries the potential of alleviating their pain. Thus would they be content with using A Course in Miracles to help them become more happy, peaceful, and forgiving within their perceived individualistic dream, a state Jesus describes in stage four of the six-stage process in the Development of Trust section in the manual for teachers (M-4.I.6).

However, Jesus makes it very clear in the Course that without our experience of pain and discomfort (stages one, two, three, and five in the Development of Trust section stated above), there would be no motivation to learn what he is teaching us about attaining true and lasting peace (stage six). As he says in the early pages of the text, a statement thoroughly familiar to any teacher or therapist:

No learning is acquired by anyone unless he wants to learn it and believes in some way that he needs it (T-1.VI.1:2).

And this motivation for learning comes from our experiences of unhappiness and pain, and our fervent desire to be free of them; not just the uncomfortable symptoms, but their ultimate cause, for only then can we be truly free:

Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit. Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way. As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning-point. This ultimately reawakens spiritual vision, simultaneously weakening the investment in physical sight. The alternating investment in the two levels of perception is usually experienced as conflict, which can become very acute. But the outcome is as certain as God (T-2.III.3:5-10).

Therefore, it is the conflict-laden experiences within our dreams that provide the motivation for learning that our reality is not found in dreams at all, but rather in awakening from them. If our dreams were to be corrected by the Holy Spirit on the level of our experience in the world, there would be no incentive to return to our minds—the source of the dream—to learn to make another choice. Since it is only within our minds that the wish to be separated and keep separated from God is found, it stands to reason that only there can the wish be changed. We are told at the end of Chapter 27 that the Holy Spirit does not deal with the effects of our dreams, but rather with their cause, the mind's belief in the reality of the separation (T-27.VIII.9). And earlier in the text Jesus tells us that his Course deals with cause and not effect (T-21.VII.7:8). Thus, denial of our pain and discomfort merely serves the ego's hidden purpose of protecting the cause of this suffering by shielding us from its effects. This ensures that this underlying cause in the mind—the thought of separation from God—can never be identified, which is the necessary condition for its removal by the Holy Spirit.

That is why, in the context of the special relationship—the ego's most convincing argument for us to remain asleep in our dreams of personal lack and need for completion by others—Jesus teaches us not to be taken in by the dream's allure of pleasure. He urges us instead, with him by our side, to look within our minds wherein is found the true cause of our pain and distress: the wish to make the illusions of specialness be our substitutes for the truth of God's Love:

Let not the dream take hold to close your eyes. It is not strange that dreams can make a world that is unreal. It is the wish to make it that is incredible. Your relationship with your brother has now become one in which the wish has been removed, because its purpose has been changed from one of dreams to one of truth. You are not sure of this because you think it may be this that is the dream. You are so used to choosing among dreams you do not see that you have made, at last, the choice between the truth and all illusions (T-18.II.8).

And so we are asked to be particularly mindful of our special relationships, which are the heart of the ego's dreams of individuality and self-centeredness. Through the careful instruction Jesus provides us in A Course in Miracles, we learn how truly painful it is to be unkind to others—to use, manipulate, cannibalize, or steal from them for the satisfaction of our own needs and self-aggrandizement:

In looking at the special relationship, it is necessary first to realize that it involves a great amount of pain. Anxiety, despair, guilt and attack all enter into it (T-16.V.1:1-2).

Thus we come to see, to our horror, how we do not truly care about anyone but ourselves, but care only about how other people could serve our own special interests. As we grow in awareness of the real discomfort these specialness dynamics induce in us, we become increasingly motivated to ask Jesus for help in looking differently at our special partners and ourselves. Indeed, he asks us to be honest with him as we examine our lives and relationships, and understand their sole purpose: to keep intact the ego's thought system of separation, judgment, specialness, and individuality. Early in the text, Jesus exhorts us to be open with him regarding these thoughts:

Watch carefully and see what it is you are really asking for. Be very honest with yourself in this, for we must hide nothing from each other.… Think honestly what you have thought that God would not have thought, and what you have not thought that God would have you think. Search sincerely for what you have done and left undone accordingly, and then change your mind to think with God's.… As a loving brother I am deeply concerned with your mind, and urge you to follow my example as you look at yourself and at your brother, and see in both the glorious creations of a glorious Father (T-4.III.8:1-2; T-4.IV.2:4-5,9; italics ours).

This change from the ego's way of looking to the Holy Spirit's is the function of the miracle, the only true way of solving our problems. The miracle shifts our attention from the pain of the dreams that are our lives in the world, and reminds us that there is no need to solve the problem of our suffering by changing the world, for we need only change the problem in our minds. The reader may recall this important line from the text: "Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world" ( The miracle thus restores to our awareness the true power of God's Son: his ability first to choose illusions over truth, and then to change his mind by choosing the truth of forgiveness over guilt and specialness. It is the pain of our dreams of judgment and individuality that, once again, provides the motivation for asking Jesus for help. Thus is he able at last to redirect our attention from the dream of our individual existence to the dreamer: i.e., the decision maker's choice to remain asleep. He summarizes this process in the following passage that comes in the context of the pain experienced as the inevitable effect of our sickness:

This world is full of miracles. They stand in shining silence next to every dream of pain and suffering, of sin and guilt. They are the dream's alternative, the choice to be the dreamer, rather than deny the active role in making up the dream. They are the glad effects of taking back the consequence of sickness to its cause. The body is released because the mind acknowledges "this is not done to me, but I am doing this." And thus the mind is free to make another choice instead (T-28.II.12:1-6).

It is only when we abandon any hope of finding happiness here in the world that we are ready to consider other options and true change; namely, a different choice in our minds. This is the only change that is meaningful, for in the world we simply exchange one illusion for another in the magical hope of making our dreams better. The process of the miracle allows us to see that only one change is necessary, and when we choose to look at our nightmare dreams of specialness through the eyes of forgiveness, we realize that the change has already occurred. Through this new perception—the vision of Christ—we are ready at last to awaken from the dream of death, the Course's definition of resurrection.

However, we are counseled in A Course in Miracles not to skip steps, for to leap from the nightmare dreams of our individuality directly into the arms of Heaven, disappearing into the Heart of God, would be too panic-inducing for us to bear. One cannot jump from the wrong-mindedness of existence to the One-mindedness of Being without feeling overwhelmed by the terror of annihilation. And so we need the intervening steps of non-threatening and forgiving dreams to lead us softly from our sleep into our waking state. It is the function of the Holy Spirit's happy dreams of correction to provide that gentle guidance. The following passage provides perhaps the Course's best description of this step. Note particularly the gentleness of the language:

     You are the dreamer of the world of dreams. No other cause it has, nor ever will. Nothing more fearful than an idle dream has terrified God's Son, and made him think that he has lost his innocence, denied his Father, and made war upon himself. So fearful is the dream, so seeming real, he could not waken to reality without the sweat of terror and a scream of mortal fear, unless a gentler dream preceded his awaking, and allowed his calmer mind to welcome, not to fear, the Voice that calls with love to waken him; a gentler dream, in which his suffering was healed and where his brother was his friend. God willed he waken gently and with joy, and gave him means to waken without fear.     Accept the dream He gave instead of yours. It is not difficult to change a dream when once the dreamer has been recognized. Rest in the Holy Spirit, and allow His gentle dreams to take the place of those you dreamed in terror and in fear of death. He brings forgiving dreams, in which the choice is not who is the murderer and who shall be the victim. In the dreams He brings there is no murder and there is no death. The dream of guilt is fading from you sight, although your eyes are closed. A smile has come to lighten up your sleeping face. The sleep is peaceful now, for these are happy dreams (T-27.VII.13-14; italics ours, except in 13:1).

Though on the one hand we are urged by Jesus not to accept less than the goal of awakening we deserve, on the other hand we are similarly urged to be gentle with ourselves and to proceed slowly through the loving lessons of forgiveness in which he leads us. He extends the same gentle teaching in Lesson 140 from the workbook:

The happy dreams the Holy Spirit brings are different from the dreaming of the world, where one can merely dream he is awake. The dreams forgiveness lets the mind perceive do not induce another form of sleep, so that the dreamer dreams another dream. His happy dreams are heralds of the dawn of truth upon the mind. They lead from sleep to gentle waking, so that dreams are gone. And thus they cure for all eternity (W-pI.140.3; italics ours).

Nonetheless, students must avoid the mistake of believing that these interim steps of forgiveness of others are the Course's ultimate goal. They are not. Speaking of his artistic parents, the famous Trappist monk Thomas Merton wrote on the very first page of his autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain: "The integrity of an artist lifts a man above the level of the world without delivering him from it." A Course in Miracles does indeed promise to deliver us from the world of dreams, by not making any of them real. Students, therefore, should never settle for merely being lifted above the pain and suffering of the illusory dream, but rather should always keep in mind Jesus' purpose for all his brothers: to awaken from the dream entirely and thus remember Who they are as God's one Son. As he writes:

Christ has dreamed the dream of a forgiven world. It is His gift, whereby a sweet transition can be made from death to life; from hopelessness to hope. Let us an instant dream with Him. His dream awakens us to truth. His vision gives the means for a return to our unlost and everlasting sanctity in God (W-pI.159.10:4-8; italics ours).

The happy dreams of forgiveness are therefore the Course's immediate goal, for they correct the illusions of separation and individuality that had been believed as truth before. These happy dreams are the Holy Spirit's correction that undo the interferences to our hearing His Voice sing sweetly to us of God's Love, a song of unity and peace that has never been destroyed. This wonderful passage from the text nicely summarizes the function of these dreams of forgiveness, and provides a fitting conclusion to this article:

Forgiving dreams have little need to last. They are not made to separate the mind from what it thinks. They do not seek to prove the dream is being dreamed by someone else. And in these dreams a melody is heard that everyone remembers, though he has not heard it since before all time began. Forgiveness, once complete, brings timelessness so close the song of Heaven can be heard, not with the ears, but with the holiness that never left the altar that abides forever deep within the Son of God. And when he hears this song again, he knows he never heard it not. And where is time, when dreams of judgment have been put away? (T-29.IX.8)

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On Becoming the Touches of Sweet Harmony – The Holy Relationship as Metaphor – Part 2 of 2 Fri, 15 Jun 2018 16:00:46 +0000 Volume 22 Number 2 June 2011Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.​The Holy Relationship (Mind) as MetaphorThere was another paragraph to our Italian friend's previously quoted letter about the chamber music concert she attended. It provides a wonderful metaphor for our holy relationship with Jesus (our lead violinist), the subject of this section:Yet I saw also that the second […]

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Volume 22 Number 2 June 2011
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

The Holy Relationship (Mind) as Metaphor

There was another paragraph to our Italian friend's previously quoted letter about the chamber music concert she attended. It provides a wonderful metaphor for our holy relationship with Jesus (our lead violinist), the subject of this section:

Yet I saw also that the second violin, the viola and the cello were always waiting for a very subtle gesture, a nod, at times just a wink, of the first violin. They would wait for this small gesture before starting again their playing, after each and every pause. And immediately after this tiny gesture, the four of them would play together again, perfectly in time. Once again no one was ahead. No one was behind. Yet they all would start only after the tiny nod of the first violin.

The mind's holy relationship, the source of all holy relationships in the world, is between our decision maker and Jesus. And so we walk with him, taking his hand as we make our way on the journey through the ego's world of special relationships, corrected by forgiveness, and leading us beyond all relationships:

When you unite with me you are uniting without the ego, because I have renounced the ego in myself and therefore cannot unite with yours. Our union is therefore the way to renounce the ego in you.… My strength will never be wanting, and if you choose to share it you will do so. I give it willingly and gladly, because I need you as much as you need me (T-8.V.4:1-2, 6:9-10).

Jesus needs us in the sense that he cannot help us if we do not first choose to avail ourselves of his love. It is the same need he speaks of in his inspiring words to us from the workbook:

For this alone I need; that you will hear the words I speak, and give them to the world. You are my voice, my eyes, my feet, my hands through which I save the world. The Self from which I call to you is but your own. To Him we go together. Take your brother's hand, for this is not a way we walk alone. In him I walk with you, and you with me (

Everything in A Course in Miracles that is positive is really a right-minded correction for the thought system of the ego, which always speaks first (T-5.VI.3:5). We have loved the ego from before time was, cherishing its gifts of individuality and specialness. Now we have to be taught that we have another love, and one that offers us the untarnished gifts that will lead us to everlasting life. Loving the Beloved is part of the rich tradition of Western spirituality (as well as in the East; e.g., bhakti yoga), beginning with The Song of Songs from the Old Testament and extending throughout the mysticism of both Judaism and Christianity. Some of its famous examples are the writings of Sts. Bernard of Clairvaux and John of the Cross, filled with ardor for their Beloved. These great mystics used the symbols of love in invoking their attraction to the love that transcends sensuality and bodies, and reflects the attraction of love for love spoken of in the Course (T-12.VIII). Some of Helen's poems are directed at her beloved Jesus and reflect the emotion of this love, albeit non-sensually, for the one who symbolizes a love that is not of this world (M-23.4). In these excerpts from "Love Song," we read:

My Lord, my Love, my Life, I live in you.
There is no life apart from what you are.
I breathe your words, I rest upon your arms.
My sight is hallowed by your single star.…

The world I see is enemy to me
When I forget my lovely Love is you.…

My Lord, my Love, my Life, let me forget
All things except the loveliness you know.
(The Gifts of God, p. 53)

To be sure, all such expressions and experiences are symbolic, but they are the necessary corrections for our having first made the ego the beloved. As long as we believe we are individuals with special love relationships, we need a symbol of an individual with whom we have a non-special love relationship. This is Jesus, or any other figure that represents a non-ego presence in our minds.

Indeed, without such right-minded symbols, our relationships would be vacuous and sterile, leaving room only for the deceitful special love in which fester guilt and hate. Let us recall our young lover Lorenzo who, still beneath the moonlit sky, says to Jessica (I have quoted this in prose):

The man that hath no music in himself, nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils; the motions of his spirit are dull as night, and his affections dark as Erebus2: Let no such man be trusted.

The seeming sweetness of the ego's lies are not "the concord of sweet sounds" that come from the decision-making mind joining with the light-filled presence of its true love. That is why I frequently say in my classes that we should never believe anyone who tells us 2 + 2 = 4. Do not trust such persons, despite their good intentions, for they will simply reinforce the ego's "treasons and stratagems" of having us believe that the separated world is reality. If they do not have the music of right-minded reason in their hearts, their thoughts, words, and actions will be dark, and they will inevitably confuse mind and body, dreamer and dream. This would merely confound our search for the only love that will lead us beyond the world to the Love that is our home.

It is for this right-minded love we yearn, a yearning that gives our world the only meaning it has. The journey on which Jesus leads us begins with the special loves we experience as bodies, the projection into form of the ego's nightmarish thought system of separation, suffering, and sin. Embracing him and his loving teaching, we learn that the outside dreams merely mirror the mind's secret dreams (T-27.VII.11:4-8). From these we are quietly led to the happy dreams of forgiveness in which we increasingly experience the love born of our mind's decision for our Beloved, the teacher of truth whose love softly dissolves the ego's false love. From these dreams we awaken to the oneness of knowledge that is beyond all separation and specialness, the Love that moves the sun and the other stars, to evoke Dante's inspiring conclusion to his Commedia (The Divine Comedy). This, then, is the true holy relationship, our unity with God.

Beyond Metaphor: The True Holy Relationship

To recap, it is essential as we make our way back from the world—to the wrong mind, the right mind, and at last to the One Mind—that we not fall prey to the ego's ace in the hole: confusing symbol and source. We never want to lose sight of the content (source) behind our experiences of form (symbol). This means that we understand more specifically the nature of the symphonic journey we take with Jesus: from the discords of the ego's special relationship to the touches of sweet harmony that are our holy relationships in the world, coming to the recognition that these are reflections of the mind's holy relationship with our beloved. And finally, we learn that even this song of songs is not the end, but reflects our true holy relationship with the Beloved Who is beyond all symbols: "For God created the only relationship that has meaning, and that is His relationship with you" (T-15.VIII.6:6).

We all know how wonderful it feels when our special partners return our adoration and love, yet we also have come to learn how these pale into insignificance when placed next to the glorious love we feel in our right minds, which we so frequently identify as Jesus. But even this love, the holiest we can aspire to in the illusion, dissolves into nothingness when we remember our Source, and the love beyond all loves that is the oneness with our Creator. Regardless of the sheer beauty of the sweet harmonies of our relationships here, reflecting the sweet harmony of our mind's relationship with Jesus, they are still part of the dualistic world of perception. It is only when we "hear" the non-dualistic song of creation that unites Creator and created, that we are home. The pamphlet calls it the song of prayer:

… the single voice Creator and creation share; the song the Son sings to the Father, Who returns the thanks it offers Him unto the Son. Endless the harmony, and endless, too, the joyous concord of the Love They give forever to Each Other (

Words fail in the presence of this song for we are at the journey's end. This is the state beyond all symbols—beyond forgiveness, sweet harmony, and even our teacher, for there is nothing left to forgive, harmonize with, or learn. The complex nothingness of the ego has dissolved into the simple Everything of God:

As nothingness cannot be pictured, so there is no symbol for totality. Reality is ultimately known without a form, unpictured and unseen.… Forgiveness vanishes and symbols fade, and nothing that the eyes have ever seen or ears have heard remains to be perceived (T-27.III.5:1-2; 7:1).

We have reached the End that is pure being, and Jesus would have us wonder why we ever would have preferred the cacophonous dissonance of the ego to the sweet soundless song of the Love of Loves, the oneness of our Self and of our God:

Now are we one in thought, for fear has gone. And here, before the altar to one God, one Father, one Creator and one Thought, we stand together as one Son of God. Not separate from Him Who is our Source; not distant from one brother who is part of our one Self Whose innocence has joined us all as one, we stand in blessedness, and give as we receive. The Name of God is on our lips. And as we look within, we see the purity of Heaven shine in our reflection of our Father's Love (W-pI.187.10).

And we are "glad and thankful it is so" (W-pI.200:11:9).

1. Over the years I have discussed this issue at length, particularly in Few Choose to Listen, Vol II of The Message of A Course in Miracles, and "Duality as Metaphor in A Course in Miracles," a 1993 workshop that is available on CD and downloadable MP3.
2. An ancient Greek symbol of darkness belonging to the dark underworld of Hades, the classical world's version of the afterlife.

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On Becoming the Touches of Sweet Harmony – The Holy Relationship as Metaphor – Part 1 of 2 Fri, 01 Jun 2018 16:01:38 +0000 Volume 22 Number 2 June 2011Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.Introduction: Metaphor in A Course in Miracles We live in a world of wrong- and right-minded symbols, and what they represent—the mind's thoughts of hate and love respectively—can only be experienced indirectly since our identification with the body precludes knowing the contents of the split mind, let alone the […]

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Volume 22 Number 2 June 2011
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Introduction: Metaphor in A Course in Miracles

We live in a world of wrong- and right-minded symbols, and what they represent—the mind's thoughts of hate and love respectively—can only be experienced indirectly since our identification with the body precludes knowing the contents of the split mind, let alone the Mind of God. Enter the metaphor, which helps us express more poetically, and in a more penetrating manner, experiences that would otherwise not be truly understood or even accessible to us. In this way, much as Freud used the metaphoric language of dreams (and other human experiences) to gain access to the unconscious, A Course in Miracles uses symbols as the royal road (to use Freud's famous phrase) to express the inexpressible. Music, using musical notation instead of words, has always been a wonderful means of accomplishing this, and in this article we shall employ music as a metaphor to explore the holy relationship, a core theme in the Course and one directly related to its concept of forgiveness. More specifically, we shall discuss musical performance, wherein instrumentalists place their artistry in the service of the composer, making their individual contributions secondary to the primacy of the music itself. We begin, however, with a brief discussion of the role of symbol and metaphor in the Course.1

I have often urged students to read A Course in Miracles as they would poetry, e.g., an epic poem or Shakespearean play, not as a scientific treatise or academic text. In other words, with a literary masterpiece we let the words (symbols and metaphors) and rhythms play on the imagination, which would then unveil the work's meaning and power to inspire us to be more than we believe we are. And so, we should not take literally much of what we read in the Course, needing rather to have its poetic language enter the heart (mind) instead of merely stimulating the brain. Without this approach, we would remain below, in the world of form, while Jesus' purpose in his course is to lift us above the battleground of bodies to the mind's content of a peace that is beyond the intellect and understanding. To state this another way, without understanding the role of metaphor and symbol in A Course in Miracles, we would be prone to confusing symbol (body) and source (mind), as Jesus specifically cautions us not to do (T-19. IV-C.11:2). Inevitably, then, our elder brother's otherwise clear message that we are minds and not bodies will be misinterpreted and misapplied.

In view of this, we read the following from the introduction to the clarification of terms:

This course remains within the ego framework, where it is needed. It is not concerned with what is beyond all error because it is planned only to set the direction towards it. Therefore it uses words, which are symbolic, and cannot express what lies beyond symbols (C-in.3:1-3; italics mine).

This need is explained by the Course's underlying metaphysics, which teaches that the body does not exist outside the mind (ideas leave not their source). Restating this, the mind is the cause, and the body (and world) only an effect. Moreover, as implied above, since the mind is beyond time and space, which exist only in the material universe, our words must be symbolic. As the Course itself says, paraphrasing a famous passage from Plato's Republic (596c-602b):

Let us not forget … that words are but symbols of symbols. They are thus twice removed from reality (M-21.1:9-10).

This is further amplified by the following statement that explains why A Course in Miracles uses the dualistic (or symbolic) language of the world. The ego has us believe we are not decision-making minds but mindless bodies that judge, attack, and then forgive. This is the condition in which we think we exist, and therefore the one that Jesus seems to address:

All this [forgiveness and the holy relationship] takes note of time and place as if they were discrete, for while you think that part of you is separate, the concept of a Oneness joined as One is meaningless.… Yet must It [our Teacher] use the language that this mind can understand, in the condition in which it thinks it is.…[It leads us beyond illusions] to the truth that is beyond them (T-25.I.7:1,4-5; italics mine).

Consequently, the language of A Course in Miracles can be understood as the expression in form of the Son's right-minded choice for Atonement over separation. Its symbols and metaphors reflect what we could not otherwise understand about the mind and its nonspatial and atemporal thought systems of attack and forgiveness. Likewise, this article uses metaphor as a paradigm for understanding and practicing the true holy relationship, the mind's joining with the Holy Spirit. This metaphor, again, is the performance of music in the concert hall.

Music as Metaphor

In the opening scene of Act V of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, the ardent youth Lorenzo is alone with Jessica, Shylock's daughter, and invoking the magic of music as they sit under the moonlight, the young lover says to his beloved:

Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.

This beautiful passage, dear to music lovers for centuries, can be a wonderful metaphor in and of itself, insofar as A Course in Miracles is guiding us to have our holy relationships in the world be touches of sweet harmony. Nowhere can this sweet harmony be better seen than in the music world's finer orchestras and chamber groups, where the wills of the individuals become ancillary to the will of the conductor, or, if one may speak of it this way, the will of the music. In the Foundation's early years in Roscoe, New York, where for thirteen years we ran a Conference and Retreat Center, my wife Gloria and I held meetings that from time to time were aimed at helping the staff work better together, seeing themselves, in effect, as members of an orchestra. After one such meeting, we sent out the following:

Apropos of our last staff meeting, we thought you would all find the following description of the Budapest String Quartet relevant and of interest. Please let the idea expressed here of allowing your individual voice to serve the whole, without losing your own particular gift, be the model for your participation in the Foundation's work.

What followed was a slightly abridged description of this master of all string quartets, taken from an article by Joseph Wechsberg that accompanied a record album of the Budapest playing the Beethoven Late Quartets:

String quartet devotees who care little about bigness and business admire the Budapest String Quartet for its beautiful tone, its perfect integration, its impeccable taste, its careful phrasing, its character and style, and, above all, its depth of interpretation.… The Budapest is never satisfied merely to perform music with a well polished surface; the four men do not just play music, they make it.… Their ensemble work is miraculous…. But although the four instrumental voices are perfectly blended, the individual work of the performers is always clearly discernible.…

Last year we received a letter from Patrizia Terreno, an Italian friend of ours who gave a description of a string quartet concert she had just attended that, interestingly enough, paralleled the above account of the Budapest:

It was such a joy to see them playing! They were perfectly attuned…. It was evident that they were following a kind of inner melody. No one was leading. No one was following. The four of them were just trying to follow their score and play it at their best together. And the score was just giving them a reason for being happy together and share with the audience the wondrousness of their joint inner hearing.

The point here is that the musicians were able to place themselves in the service of the music, what should be the purpose of all music making, rather than seeking the individual glory that comes from virtuosic mastery of their instruments. They were faithful to both form and content. Having mastered the challenges of their individual instruments and compositions they were playing (the form), they were able to be attuned to the "silence between the notes" (the content), Isaac Stern's marvelous phrase that should be quite familiar to readers of this newsletter. Their bodies went on automatic pilot, as it were, allowing the music of the heart to express itself through their bodies' musical artistry. These musicians would remain faithful to the musical notation, at the same time hearing the inner music (what Wagner called the melos, described before in these pages) in a perfect integration: within the differentiated instruments and different notes played by the musicians, there was forged a unity of sound and soul, form and content.

Similarly, the holy relationship can be seen as the effect of at least one of the partners demonstrating fidelity to the right-minded purpose for the various roles we share (e.g., parent-child, spouses, friends, employer-employee), at the same time remembering the practice of forgiveness that leads to the ultimate goal of becoming ego-free. This theme of respecting individual needs and aspirations (form), yet blending in with the shared interest of another (content) is our segue to the next section.

The Holy Relationship (Body) as Metaphor

The process of form serving content is Jesus' goal for us in our relationships; indeed, it is how he would have us live our lives in general. He tells us that one of the hallmarks of the special relationship is its triumph of form over content, whereby the ego has our physical and psychological needs trump the need to remember the Love that created us. Once this need is hidden in the inner vaults of the mind, the ego preserves itself through the content of guilt and the forms and rituals of specialness that rule the mind and body. The following passage, stripped of its larger metaphysical context (our special hate relationship with God), makes explicit this need to bury the right mind's content of love behind the worshipping of form:

Whenever any form of special relationship tempts you to seek for love in ritual, remember love is content, and not form of any kind. The special relationship is a ritual of form, aimed at raising the form … at the expense of content. There is no meaning in the form, and there will never be. The special relationship must be recognized for what it is; a senseless ritual in which … form has triumphed over content, and love has lost its meaning (T-16.V.12:1-4).

When the pain of these relationships becomes too great and we are impelled to ask for help, Jesus responds by exposing the deleterious consequences of our choice for the ego's specialness, which excludes him and his love. Following his baton, we are able to listen to the music of the relationship, recognizing its true purpose of learning. This allows us to transcend the various forms of specialness and identify instead with the Course's symphonic content of shared interests. Our teacher helps us to accentuate our sameness rather than the special differences that meet our special needs, freeing us to meet the one need for the relationship. Paraphrasing the following passage, substituting need for prayer, we may say:

[Our] only meaningful need is for forgiveness, because those who have been forgiven have everything. Once forgiveness has been accepted, need in the usual sense becomes utterly meaningless. The need for forgiveness is nothing more than a request that you may be able to recognize what you already have (T-3.V.6:3-5).

Under the tutelage of our Conductor, we can liken our experience of holy relationships to a great Bach double fugue where two separate themes unite in a cohesive and sometimes majestic whole. Here, in the world of bodies, individuals can learn to remain true to their uniqueness, and yet be devoted to the greater music of the relationship, placing themselves in its service. Or, to switch musical genres, we see ourselves as in an operatic duet where two voices blend together as one, even as the particular timbre of the individual voice, essential to the whole, is discernible. We need to harmonize with our special partners, joining with them to hear the underlying melos of forgiveness that is the only purpose for being in this world of discord and dissonance. We need to trust that the relationship is already perfect since minds are one in their common need and purpose. In fact, our seemingly separate minds are already healed in a perfect reflection of a Oneness joined as One. This inherent unity merely waits for our return to sanity, reflecting the spirit of Lesson 181, "I trust my brothers, who are one with me." The point of the lesson is that we trust that beyond the ego, ours or another's, shines the right-minded Atonement that has already corrected the mind's errors.

Armed with this trust, we are able to relate to other people through the gentle eyes and ears of needlessness (to coin a phrase), looking past their "sins" to hear what they are truly saying, expressing love or calling for it (T-14. X.7). And we answer this call in God's loving Name, in a form that can be comfortably accepted:

The value of the Atonement does not lie in the manner in which it is expressed. In fact, if it is used truly, it will inevitably be expressed in whatever way is most helpful to the receiver … in a language that the recipient can understand without fear (T-2.IV.5:1-3).

Being right-minded means that we have shifted the purpose for each day from need-satisfaction to learning to apply the principle of shared interests, from the time our eyes open in the morning to when they close at night. This newly found purpose is the fulcrum around which revolve our perceptions of every event, situation, and relationship we encounter. It provides meaning and significance to our personal lives in what, devoid of the Holy Spirit's reason, is a meaningless world. The rallying cry of our daily experience is the perception of sameness instead of difference. The New Year's resolution Jesus gave us in the text can be renewed each and every morning as our eyes open to greet another day of learning:

Make this year [day] different by making it all the same. And let all your relationships be made holy for you. This is our will (T-15.XI.10:11-13).

This resolution must be our will if we are clear about our wish to awaken from the nightmarish hell of lives born of differentiating hate that have been preserved in our differentiating relationships, wherein another's need and purpose are seen as separate from our own. Jesus helps us shift attention from the dissonance of the ego's goal of reinforcing separation and differences, its salvation, to recognizing that everything and everyone is the same. His unifying theme pulls together seemingly disparate forms into the glorious sound of forgiveness. All things in the world are perceived now as nothing but the projection in form of the wrong-minded content we share as fragments of the one split mind. Yet within us is the healing music of forgiveness, the shared right-minded content that restores to our awareness the reflected content of Heaven's perfect Oneness. It is this reflection in the form of our sameness that corrects the ego's insistence that we are separate and different from each other. At last, we allow the Holy Spirit to teach us the true meaning of forgiveness, denying the ego's denial of the universal sameness of God's Son:

The light that joins you and your brother shines throughout the universe, and because it joins you and him, so it makes you and him one with your Creator. And in Him is all creation joined.… What teaches you that you cannot separate denies the ego. Let truth decide if you and your brother be different or the same, and teach you which is true (T-22.VI.15:1-2,6-7).

The shift from perceiving the differences in form to the mind's underlying sameness of content is the basis of healing. This true perception underlies everything in our multitudinous world of differences, and it is our Teacher's role to help us integrate our intellectual understanding with an everyday experience of forgiveness. Hearing the sweet sounds of the miracle allows us to make the kindness of forgiveness the daily theme of our lives, wherein we think about others and not ourselves, having relationships be about them and not us. Such healing undoes the belief in separation that is our only problem. The fear of what it means no longer to be separated requires that we go slowly. We invite our Teacher to walk beside us in the little steps of forgiveness (W-pI.193.13:7) that kindly dissolve the barriers of projected fear that kept us imprisoned in our hate. In the presence of the touches of sweet harmony, the discordant sound of the nothingness of our specialness will gently "melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew," to quote Hamlet, leaving only the everything of our Self that is entirely beyond the world of symbols:

Nothing points beyond the truth, for what can stand for more than everything? Yet true undoing must be kind. And so the first replacement for your picture is another picture of another kind.
As nothingness cannot be pictured, so there is no symbol for totality. Reality is ultimately known without a form, unpictured and unseen.… Forgiveness is the means by which the truth is represented temporarily (T-27.III.4:6–5:2,5).

And behind each brother that we forgive stand not only thousands more (T-27.V.10:4), but God Himself. The following passage from the text uses our relationships with each other as a metaphor for our relationship with God. We can also read it as our split mind's relationship with His reflection, Jesus or the Holy Spirit:

Dream softly of your sinless brother, who unites with you in holy innocence.… Dream of your brother's kindnesses instead of dwelling in your dreams on his mistakes. Select his thoughtfulness to dream about instead of counting up the hurts he gave. Forgive him his illusions, and give thanks to him for all the helpfulness he gave. And do not brush aside his many gifts because he is not perfect in your dreams. He represents his Father, Whom you see as offering both life and death to you (T-27.VII.15:1,3-7).

Summarizing the article to this point, we return to the metaphor of musical performance and look to the orchestra. Just before the conductor enters and raises his baton, the oboe typically sounds an A, called concert A, and the concertmaster (the lead violinist) stands as the rest of the orchestra tunes itself to the single note that brings them into harmony. Similarly, Jesus asks us to tune ourselves to his concert A—Atonement. Brought into alignment with the single focus of our mind's relationship with him, we tune our relationships to the single purpose of forgiveness, the means of Atonement. Our holy relationship with our beloved teacher becomes the unifying element in the symphony of forgiveness, without which undoing the mind's belief in separation is impossible.

1. Over the years I have discussed this issue at length, particularly in Few Choose to Listen, Vol II of The Message of A Course in Miracles, and "Duality as Metaphor in A Course in Miracles," a 1993 workshop that is available on CD and downloadable MP3.

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The Silent Characteristics of God’s Teachers [1] Tue, 15 May 2018 16:00:54 +0000 Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D. Jesus’ section title in the manual for teachers—“What Are the Characteristics of God’s Teachers?”—is deceptive, for in his introduction to it (M-4.1:6; 2:2), as well as elsewhere, he makes it clear he is speaking about advanced teachers. Thus the ten characteristics of these advanced ones—trust, honesty, tolerance, gentleness, joy, defenselessness, generosity, patience, faithfulness, […]

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Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Jesus’ section title in the manual for teachers—“What Are the Characteristics of God’s Teachers?”—is deceptive, for in his introduction to it (M-4.1:6; 2:2), as well as elsewhere, he makes it clear he is speaking about advanced teachers. Thus the ten characteristics of these advanced ones—trust, honesty, tolerance, gentleness, joy, defenselessness, generosity, patience, faithfulness, and open-mindedness—are the lovely fruits of a process undertaken by teachers of God, the term used in the manual to denote all students of A Course in Miracles. Common to this process is one salient characteristic; indeed, it is the only one Jesus states as a requirement:

A teacher of God is anyone who chooses to be one. His qualifications consist solely in this; somehow, somewhere he has made a deliberate choice in which he did not see his interests as apart from someone else’s. Once he has done that, his road is established and his direction is sure (M-1.1:1-3).

What, then enables them to progress on their journey? The following addresses this issue.

When we left Heaven as one Son, we did so alone, having separated ourselves from the oneness of our Self, at one with our Source. Subsequent attempts at joining through the body, following the ego’s seduc­tions of specialness, have met with frustrated and continual failure, a debilitating experience indeed:

There is nothing so frustrating to a learner as a curriculum he cannot learn. His sense of adequacy suffers, and he must become depressed. Being faced with an impossible learning situation is the most depressing thing in the world. In fact, it is ultimately why the world itself is depressing (T-8.VII.8:1-4).

At some point the pain of separation becomes too great and we cry out: There must be a better way! (T-2.III.3:5-6). The Holy Spirit’s answer reminds us that the solution to all suffering is the aforementioned shift of perception from separate to shared interests. Recognizing our unity of purpose allows us to enter the circle of Atonement, the home of all teachers of God who have recognized the inherent unity of the Sonship—in Heaven and on earth. To be among them, therefore, we must include all people in our forgive­ness, otherwise we can never enter. To follow Jesus thus means to stand with him in this circle of peace, for only there can he be found:

I stand within the circle, calling you to peace. Teach peace with me, and stand with me on holy ground. . . . Each one you see you place within the holy circle of Atonement or leave outside, judging him fit for cruci­fixion or for redemption. . . . Judge not except in quietness which is not of you. Refuse to accept anyone as without the blessing of Atonement, and bring him into it by blessing him. . . . Come gladly to the holy circle, and look out in peace on all who think they are outside. Cast no one out, for here is what he seeks along with you. Come, let us join him in the holy place of peace which is for all of us, united as one within the Cause of peace (T-14.V.8:4-5; 11:1,4-5,7-9).

We stand quietly within this holy circle, silent to our egos, by loving as Jesus loved, setting aside temp­tations to exclude certain people or groups from this love. The great temptation of the world is to decide there are certain members of the Sonship of God who belong outside the circle of Atonement, or are more special and belong within it—opposite sides of the same error. Forgiveness undoes this temptation, not only bringing others to the silent circle, but ourselves as well. Thus we make our way along the road that leads us home to love.

Having experienced the love of God through forgiveness, we step back to the world and bring the same message to all those we meet, for thus we strengthen it in ourselves:

Yet this a vision is which you must share with everyone you see, for otherwise you will behold it not. To give this gift is how to make it yours (T-31.VIII.8:5-6).

Bringing this love to others, who could not but be filled with joy through this gift, which we receive as we extend it? If others reject the gift, or circumstances seem to move against this love, we teachers of God wait patiently, assured of the successful completion of our function. Out of this patience, there is no need to impose our will on others. This frees us to treat them with tolerance and consistent gentleness, always gen­erous with the gift that is not ours but God’s, regardless of the response of others. Our patience with our brothers and sisters is born of our faithfulness, trusting that God’s Will is done on earth as in Heaven. As we continue on the path Jesus has set before us, we remain constantly vigilant of our ego’s desires, defense­less with our personal self, as our minds remain open to the impersonal Self of Christ that lights our way home.

In a world that has forgotten him, Jesus needs us to be his teachers. To tired eyes grown weary of dark­ness, he asks us to bring his light, offering a vision of peace, joy, and happiness in place of the pains and sorrows inherent in the world of fear. He asks us to let him be visible in us, drawing others to himself as he draws us all to God. In this sense, as Jesus says in A Course in Miracles: “I need you as much as you need me” (T‑8.V.6:10). He needs our eyes to see the suffering in the world and yet see the light shining beyond it; he needs our ears to hear the calls for help of people frightened into responses of attack and violence; he needs our arms and feet to bring his hope and comfort to those who have forgotten him; he needs our voice to speak his message of salvation that all our sins have been forgiven. Most of all, he needs our willingness to become his messengers of love. As he brought God’s forgiving word into the world, so are we to bring that same word to our world. Jesus asks only that we make his purpose our own, and in the union of our will with his, help unite the world in salvation’s single purpose: the forgiveness of our sin—the decision to remain separate from the Love that created us and that we are.

Through the unified perception of all people as children of God, we extend the love and oneness we have experienced, thereby strengthening it in ourselves and in the Sonship. Filled with Jesus’ peace, we bring it to all who are without it. The Course’s answer to suffering—accepting the Atonement for ourself— is a simple one. Since we are not the healers of the world, the arbiters of divine justice, the correctors of mistakes, our only responsibility is to be as free as possible within ourselves to allow the One Who is the Healer to work through us. To believe that any of us knows what is best for the world, let alone for ourselves, would be the height of arrogance. Jesus asks only that we let him be himself in us, that he may bring himself to others through us. Our responsibility is simple:

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).

Unless we see ourselves as part of the same process of healing and correction we are trying to bring about, we but reinforce our belief in separation from God and from the Sonship. As A Course in Miracles says in this important statement: “To perceive the healing of your brother as the healing of yourself is thus the way to remember God” (T-12.II.2:9). There is no other way. The problem of the separation cannot be undone through a process that reinforces the separation itself. To keep one person outside the circle of heal­ing is to exclude the rest; for that one becomes the projection of one’s guilt over the separation, and sym­bolizes the end of God’s perfect creation.

Our one function, therefore, is to undo the guilt that prevents us from being God’s messengers on earth. Whatever our worldly roles, their focus is not only the benefit they bring to others, but the benefit they bring to us. Our lives are the classrooms in which we learn our own lessons of forgiveness in the face of tempta­tions to see people as other than companions on the same journey.

In conclusion, our task is not to teach others, nor to give a wisdom or spirituality that they lack, but to remind them of the truth that is already within them, and therefore a truth they can choose, reversing their prior mistaken decision of preferring the ego’s illusions to the Holy Spirit’s truth. When we complete His lessons we become advanced teachers of God, Whose Love and peace emanate from our very presence, as they did through Jesus. These advanced teachers of God thus serve as the perfect reminders to others that they, too, can choose again: peace instead of conflict, love instead of fear, the Holy Spirit instead of the ego. Experiences of pain are recognized, therefore, as coming from the decision-making mind, not the body. By their symbolizing the mind’s correct choice, these holy teachers of God call to the minds of those in pain to choose against their misery, and to choose happiness and peace instead. Theirs, then, is the silence of the innocent mind that by its very presence stills the ego’s raucous shrieking of guilt, recalling to us Shakes­peare’s wonderful description in “The Winter’s Tale”.

The silence often of pure innocence
Persuades, when speaking fails. (II,ii)

Therefore, it is the still, silent Voice of truth, speaking through the teacher of God’s silence, that truly heals. Writing of the Sons of God who witness to this truth, Jesus states:

The witnesses for God stand in His light and behold what He created. Their silence is the sign that they have beheld God’s Son, and in the Presence of Christ they need demonstrate nothing, for Christ speaks to them of Himself and of His Father. They are silent because Christ speaks to them, and it is His words they speak (T-11.V.17:6-8).

The advanced teachers of God speak volumes, but always in silence, because it is Christ’s Voice to which they have listened, and it is Christ’s Voice through which they speak. And in that single Voice of Love and truth is the Sonship healed as one, now seen in Christ’s unified and unifying vision.


1. Portions taken and adapted from my books Forgiveness and Jesus: The Meeting Place of A Course in Miracles and Christianity, and The Message of A Course in Miracles: Volume I, All Are Called.



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