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...we need to clarify what is meant by non-dualistic and dualistic systems, since this distinction reflects the crucial difference between A Course in Miracles and almost all other spiritual thought systems. By non-duality we are referring to the part of A Course in Miracles that reflects the two mutually exclusive dimensions—knowledge and perception, spirit and matter, Heaven and the world—only one of which is real. Therefore, the clear conclusion of this non-dualistic metaphysics is that God cannot be present in the illusory world, since this would compromise the absolute nature of God’s Oneness by implying that there could actually exist a state that is outside of perfect unity, an evident and logical impossibility. Duality, on the other hand, reflects the belief that both dimensions—the spiritual and the material—are real and co-exist. Consequently, it is possible within such spiritual systems that God be present if not active in the phenomenal universe, since the world originated with Him, is really out there, and obviously in need of His help and intervention. Moreover, the very fabric of materiality somehow carries within itself some aspect, traces, or reflection of the divine.
Excerpt from The Message of A Course in Miracles, Volume Two
FR. NORRIS CLARKE: … a Christian would have great trouble with the notion that God does not know everything that is going on, even a dream …
DR. KENNETH WAPNICK: A lot of students of the Course have the same trouble …
CLARKE: … since God is the sustainer of all being, even of the one that’s thinking and everything that we think or dream. Even a dream isn’t just simply nothingness. It is the activity of a real dreamer. Hence to think of something going on that God doesn’t know and isn’t somehow supporting and cooperating with would be a very difficult notion of God for me to make sense out of—that God is not really the sustainer of all being, and doesn’t know what we know, i.e., our dreaming. That would be implying limitation on God. It would seem to us that He should know that, with compassion, and try to bring us back to reality. It is not a limitation to know the imperfect, but only to be it.
WAPNICK: The interesting thing about your statement—that God’s not knowing about the dream places a limitation on Him—is that it is used by A Course in Miracles as proof of its own position. The Course would say that even knowing about this imperfect world, let alone interacting with it, would limit God by stating that imperfection actually exists, reflecting that the impossible has happened. This would support the ego’s belief that it has successfully placed a limit on God by “creating” something outside perfect oneness. This once again highlights the differences between A Course in Miracles and Christianity. We always come back to that basic metaphysical distinction. A Course in Miracles, after all, is a perfect, non-dualistic system. There is nothing outside totality, wholeness, the everything, or in St. Paul’s wonderful phrase, God is All in All, which Jesus quotes a few times in the Course. Therefore, again, how could the perfect God know about an illusory imperfect world?
Excerpt from A Course in Miracles and Christianity: A Dialogue
Projection makes perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is no more than that, it is not less. Therefore, to you it is important. It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. … Perception is a result and not a cause. … And you will see the witness to the choice you made, and learn from this to recognize which one you chose. The world you see but shows you how much joy you have allowed yourself to see in you, and to accept as yours. And, if this is its meaning, then the power to give it joy must lie within you (T-21.in.1:1-6,8; 2:6-8; italics mine, except for 2:8).
The choice therefore is always between the ego’s hatred and pain or the Holy Spirit’s forgiveness and joy (W-pI.190). Indeed, His is the only joy we should seek, for only that joy is dependent on the eternal and not on anything of this impermanent world.
It is only when we are able to recognize our hatred of others in all its myriad forms—subtle and overt, special love and special hate—that we can meaningfully ask for help to shift our perception of the figures in the dream that we are dreaming. At first we believe we are shifting our perception of our partner in specialness, but it is not too long before it dawns on us that that shift is not really in what we are perceiving outside our minds. In truth, accepting the Holy Spirit’s correction of forgiveness of another reflects our forgiveness of ourselves—in our minds. Having authored the dream and all the figures in it by our thoughts projected outwards, we are reflecting the mind’s forgiveness of itself. Therefore, the ego’s make-believe story of our seeming sin against God and His Son also had no effect, and therefore never happened in reality. In other words, from recognizing the full extent of our attack thoughts towards others, we are able to “learn from this to recognize which [witness we] chose.” The source of our anger, and in fact all distress, rests within the decision-making aspect of our minds, which the ego sought to hide from our awareness by its double shield of oblivion: repressed guilt and a projected world. Through the Holy Spirit’s kind reinterpretation of our perceptions, we come to realize that all this originated from our minds’ decision to be separate and to remain separate. And now that we are finally aware of this mistake, we can at last make the correct choice and have all our past errors be undone for us through the Holy Spirit in our right minds.
When, following the Holy Spirit’s guidance, we truly look at the world, we find it is indeed a sorrowful and hopeless place. What we see—if we really look—is the exact duplicate of our “inward [and hopeless] condition” of hate, guilt, and death. To revisit that important line from the Introduction to Chapter 13: “The world you see is the delusional system of those made mad by guilt” (T-13.in.2:2). The terrifying vision of this guilt—looking at the full extent of our insane hate, the source of our guilt—is indeed so intolerable that many people seek to cover it over with a fifth split: the pollyannish face of happiness that really serves as the “third shield of oblivion,” what we sometimes refer to as the state of blissninnyhood. This face is discussed at length in Few Choose to Listen (pp. 161-67), but its importance deserves a few words here.
Unfortunately, a tendency in many students of A Course in Miracles is to deny the grim bizarreness of this world, masking it under these blissninny veils of what can be termed a “positive spirituality.” The problem with this happy face is that it is really the face of denial, masquerading as optimism or spirituality. This attitude, once again born of denial, sees only the “good,” and this perception enables them to pretend that within the ego’s dream world of separation there is no pain, hatred, or murder. Not seeing any problems in the world outside, they then inevitably deny themselves the only opportunity—the royal road —for getting back in touch with the world inside.
Teachers are rendered superfluous if there is no classroom for their students, and no curriculum to teach them. The sorrow of the world we made as a substitute for God is the very classroom Jesus uses, that he may instruct us through the curriculum of our special relationships how the world reflects back to us the real problem of our minds’ decision for guilt and individuality. Thus, if one covers over the world’s sadness with a smiling face, then one is obviating the only motivation there is for changing one’s mind: to say, “There must be a better way.” As we observed earlier, it is only by seeing the pain outside that one can know that this reflects the pain of sin, guilt, and fear that we believe is within our own minds. Thus, the pain of what we are seeing, for which there is no true answer and thus no hope that can be justified, becomes the motivation for truly asking for help. If all is wonderful outside, then the only real hope—of returning to the mind and correcting the original error—has been taken away.
Excerpt from The Message of A Course in Miracles, Volume One
We turn now to the errors of practice that have sprung up around A Course in Miracles, still in its early infancy, and actually have been common throughout the histories of almost all spiritualities. Even more specifically, we find interesting parallels between students of the Course and the Gnostics of the early Christian centuries, not to mention the orthodox Christians themselves. We can group these errors into three general categories:
1) spiritual specialness: believing that one’s self or group is somehow ontologically different or better than others, if not more beloved by God.
2) making the error real: establishing the world and the body as real by assigning them negative or positive values; forms of this mistake involve spiritualizing matter, developing ethical or moral systems of asceticism, libertinism, or moderateness, and believing that spiritual practices have meaning and power in and of themselves.
3) minimizing our investment in the ego’s thought system: believing that any spiritual path is easy and requires little or no effort, for one need only hear the Voice of the Holy Spirit.
In these three categories we will see that the misunderstandings of its students have led to conclusions, both theoretical and practical, directly opposite to what A Course in Miracles actually teaches. On one level we should not expect otherwise. Following upon the basic premises of this book and of the Course itself, we recognize the tremendous investment our egos have in holding to the beliefs that 1) separation and thus specialness is real; 2) this world of error is real and created by a power outside our own mind; and 3) our guilt and fear are not the awesome “truth” about ourselves we have made them out to be, and can easily be handled by the ego’s plan. To remove our investment in these three “facts” of the ego’s world is to undo the very foundation of the ego system.
Thus, in general, we can understand these errors to be defenses against the truth that is found in the Course. As A Course in Miracles points out, and as has been mentioned several times already, when the ego is confronted by the loving truth of the Holy Spirit it becomes afraid, for the truth of our reality as God’s Son is the greatest threat to the integrity of its thought system. The Course explains:
The ego is … particularly likely to attack you when you react lovingly, because it has evaluated you as unloving and you are going against its judgment. … This is when it will shift abruptly from suspiciousness to viciousness, since its uncertainty is increased. … It remains suspicious as long as you despair of yourself. It shifts to viciousness when you decide not to tolerate self-abasement and seek relief. Then it offers you the illusion of attack as a “solution.” … When the ego experiences threat, its only decision is whether to attack now or to withdraw to attack later. … Even the faintest hint of your reality literally drives the ego from your mind, because you will give up all investment in it. … The ego will make every effort to recover and mobilize its energies against your release (T‑9.VII.4:5,7; T-9.VIII.2:8-10; 3:4; 4:2,5).
Therefore, if the ego cannot attack directly—because the Son would find that totally unacceptable—then it “withdraws” to attack later through distortion; its form of passive resistance. Thus the ego follows the axiom: “If you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em.” Unable to convince us not to pursue A Course in Miracles, the ego nonetheless is able to distort the Course’s teachings sufficiently to allow its truth to be clouded over, protecting the ego’s belief system from ever being looked at openly and honestly. Jesus asks each of us in the Course to “Be very honest with yourself … for we must hide nothing from each other” (T-4.III.8:2). Thus we must openly look at these errors and bring them to his love, after which they can be released. Without such honest examination, the truth will continue to be obstructed, and its light “forbidden” entry into the hidden portals of the ego’s darkened mind, where it would surely heal our mistaken thoughts.
Excerpt from Love Does Not Condemn
This de-emphasis on the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles has given rise to a strong anti-intellectual movement regarding the Course, not too dissimilar from a more general movement that can be noted in our society today. This movement has also been associated with the overemphasis on experience and feelings that has overrun psychology, a movement whose contemporary roots date back to the post-World War II period. Students of A Course in Miracles may therefore argue that understanding its theory is irrelevant, and that study of the text is a waste of time, clearly ignoring this warning at the end of the first chapter:
This is a course in mind training. All learning involves attention and study at some level. Some of the later parts of the course rest too heavily on these earlier sections not to require their careful study. You will also need them for preparation. Without this, you may become much too fearful of what is to come to make constructive use of it. However, as you study these earlier sections, you will begin to see some of the implications that will be amplified later on (T-1.VII.4).
One then sees many students emphasizing the workbook at the expense of the text, rather than viewing each book as a companion to the other. The error here is similar to what we have already discussed. It reflects the same unconscious Gnostic error of believing that our ego identification is weak and can be easily discarded, leaving our minds open to receive—instantaneously and joyously—the Word of God. This anti-intellectual stance is thus in many cases the expression of a fear of looking at the ego thought system in all its ugliness. As we have commented before, no one really wants to deal with the horrifying sin and guilt our egos have convinced us is our reality.
Thus, rather than carefully reading the text—which lays out the brutal nature of the ego thought system, necessitating our dealing with it —a student may dismiss such discussions of the ego as not being important. Again, this misses the whole point of the Course’s efficacy as a spiritual teaching, and discounts the inherent unity of its curriculum, which does depend on understanding and recognizing our investment in perpetuating the ego’s thought system, precisely by not looking at it. As we have already discussed, it is in not looking at the ego that it is allowed to survive as a thought system in our minds. To be sure, A Course in Miracles is not always easy to understand, let alone practice. Yet the ultimate difficulty does not really lie on a conceptual or intellectual level, but rather is found within the teaching itself. This teaching, as we have discussed throughout this book, strikes terror in minds which still identify with the ego self. And it is this very ego self that is so threatened by what the Course presents to us.
Finally, we should underscore that the attempt to dismiss the Course’s teachings also reflects a denial of what A Course in Miracles is. It is an intellectual system, at least in form. In fact, the scribe Helen Schucman had exclaimed to Jesus at the close of the dictation: “Thank God there is at last something [on the spiritual life] for the intellectual.” There already exist many fine spiritual systems—ancient and contemporary—that are non-intellectual. All these are as valid as the Course in their potential to lead their serious students to God. To deny the Course its particular uniqueness is to diminish its contribution, just as forcing a non-intellectual approach into a Procrustean bed of the intellect would wreak equal havoc on that system. Moreover, it is important to realize that working through the Course’s intellectual presentation leads one to an experience of peace, and that experience, not a mere intellectual understanding, is the goal of the Course.
Therefore, students should pay careful attention to the Course’s teachings on the ego, and should resist the temptation to change the form to suit their personal requirements. Above all, one should have humility as one stands before it. The Course urges us to “Be humble before Him, and yet great in Him” (T-15.IV.3:1), meaning that we are great because of our Identity as God’s Son, and yet we are humble because He is our Creator and Source, and we need His help (through the Holy Spirit) to awaken to our reality as His Son. Likewise, we should feel the humility of recognizing the learning we need accomplish before we can remember our Identity as Christ. Trying to change, distort, or scale A Course in Miracles down to our size is an expression of the ego’s arrogance.
Excerpt from Love Does Not Condemn
Wrong-mindedness is looking at the material world through material eyes. That is what the ego is all about. So those are all the passages in the Course that detail the dynamics of the ego and what specialness is all about, which was all predicated on the seeming reality of our guilt, our sinfulness, our need to project onto other people, cannibalize other people, and kill in order to get what we want.
The correction for this, right-mindedness, is Jesus looking at the material world, the ego thought system, but from the perspective of the spiritual. That is where he speaks very often using the term reflection. That is where he says that love is impossible in this world, but forgiveness, which is love's reflection, is possible here. He talks about the reflection of holiness here, which is what the holy relationship is. He talks about the holy instant. He uses the word holy even though holiness is not possible in this world, but the holy instant and the holy relationship are the reflections of what is true. Again, he is looking at the ego's thought system, a dualistic thought system, from the perspective of the spiritual, but the way that he writes about it, the way that it is presented, and the way that we are asked to practice it is as if we were here. It is looking at the material world, but through the eyes of vision. It is still within the world of duality, which means it is still illusory.
One-mindedness is looking at the spiritual world through spiritual sight. This is recognized in the passages that deal directly with what the state of Heaven is like. There are not many of them, because there is no way we could understand them. These are the passages in A Course in Miracles that tell us what truth is, what reality is, what non-duality is. When you understand that, at least intellectually, you have a perspective by which you can understand what illusion is, and what duality is. That is what would help you not fall into the mistake of taking passages out of context, twisting them around so they will mean what you want them to mean, which will always be to affirm the reality of your specialness at the expense of truth. When you truly understand what oneness, reality, and non-duality mean, you will not make that mistake. You will then have a perspective, a context, a framework in which to understand all of the statements of right-mindedness in the Course, all of the statements in the Course that deal with the role of the Holy Spirit, and that deal with the role of the miracle and the role of forgiveness. If you do not have that perspective, you will think that what Jesus is talking about should be taken as literally true. It should not be taken as literally true, but he must speak to us on this level because that is where we believe we are.
Later we will look at passages that basically show us how Jesus was aware of this problem, and how he is aware of what he was doing in his course. The problem is that his students are not aware of what he is doing in the Course, and so in some way they skip over these passages because they do not seem that important, and therefore they miss the whole point. This will help you not miss the point, so that your lifetime's work with the Course will become a truly productive one and will be one that will truly lead you on the journey, which in the end will help you transcend your ego. If you are a student of the Course, you would not want to settle for anything less. That would always be the fundamental question you should ask yourself. Why would I settle for less when I could have everything? Why would I settle for a little glimpse of love when I could have that total experience of love? Why would I want Jesus' pinky when I could have his whole being? Why would I settle for less than everything? Yet that is what people do when they work with the Course, because they are not aware of what it is saying.
WAPNICK: Well, I think again we are quite in agreement over these main points, but I would like to restate some of the points you made regarding the Course, especially in relation to the position of Christianity.
To begin with, A Course in Miracles would certainly disagree that the “final blissful union with God” occurs in a transformed or “glorified” body. Its position, as we have seen, is that bodies keep us separate and in a state unlike our true Identity as spirit and Christ, God’s one Son. Therefore, you would never find a dichotomy such as St. Paul made between God’s only Son, Jesus, and the rest of us, God’s adopted sons.
Regarding Jesus, A Course in Miracles would not deny that Jesus is divine, as long as it is understood that so is everyone else as Christ, and that ontologically there is no difference between us. However, it is also the case that in Christ there is no individuality. God’s one Son has but one name: Christ. The Course would also not speak of Jesus as having been part of the “original Christ consciousness that tried to break off from God,” etc. Again, to speak in such a manner gives the separation a reality the Course emphatically states never happened. Nor would it even use the word “consciousness” to describe the state of Christ, since that is an inherently dualistic term that belies the non-dualistic unity of Heaven.
Coming to the crucifixion of Jesus, I would like to add to your comments, Norris. The Jesus of A Course in Miracles was demonstrating the inherent falsity of the unconscious thought we hold that we have killed God and His Love. By allowing the dreamers of the world’s dream—the separated ones—to act out in form their unconscious belief of murdering God and crucifying His Son, Jesus demonstrated: 1) the body is not our reality; 2) God, His Son, and Their Love cannot be destroyed; and 3) the dream of death had no effect on him, since he was not asleep, and therefore invulnerable to the attack thoughts and behavior within the dream. As I said before, the Course states that the message of the crucifixion is: “Teach only love, for that is what you are.”
One more point about Jesus and the Gospels: Since the biblical account of Jesus is so discrepant from the one in the Course, one could not truly say, as you did, that according to the Course “the Gospel account is just symbolic of the remembrance of Jesus by his disciples.” I am reminded of something you said to me many years ago, Norris. After hearing me state that the Course came as a correction to Christianity, you commented, and quite accurately, that when you correct something you retain the basic framework of the original. But A Course in Miracles retains nothing of the original framework of Christianity. And the same could just as truly be said about the Course and the biblical account of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
Similarly regarding the doctrine of the Eucharist: As we have seen, there are at least two passages in the Course that specifically refute the Church’s teachings about Jesus’ desire to share his body with his followers. However, like anything else of the ego’s world, the ritual of communion could be used by the Holy Spirit to serve a different purpose—in this case, as a reminder that Jesus came to share his mind with us, not his body. But in and of itself, the sacrament has no meaning apart from this general purpose of forgiveness.
Finally, while A Course in Miracles would not really use the term “morally responsible” as it is commonly used in our society, it certainly would encourage its students to live in a loving and forgiving way, as you mentioned. Moreover, as we have discussed, the Course quite emphatically encourages its students to be responsible, but on a much deeper level. As students of A Course in Miracles, we are asked to be totally responsible for all our thoughts, which come from our mind’s decision to join with the ego or with Jesus. From that decision come our beliefs, feelings, and behavior. If this underlying decision is not changed from the ego to the Holy Spirit—from the wrong to the right mind—then simply modifying behavior will never heal. And in the long run this would reinforce a lack of responsibility on all levels of our experience—as is witnessed by the history of this planet—since we had not assumed the primary responsibility for our original decision to be separate from the Love of God.
To make the point still once again, the essential characteristic of A Course in Miracles that lies at the core of the differences you have nicely summarized is that it is a non-dualistic spirituality. Christianity, as Judaism before it, is a dualistic thought system in which God and the world, spirit and matter, co-exist as separate states, both of which are real. Reality is thus seen to be a dimension of opposites—as with good and evil—in marked distinction from the Course’s understanding of reality as being only perfect unity in which there are no opposites.
But we certainly, once again, agree that it is not helpful for people, whether they are students of the Course, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, or whatever their spiritual path, to confuse the different paths. As was mentioned right at the beginning, the Course says it is only one path among many thousands.
Excerpt from A Course in Miracles and Christianity: A Dialogue
This workshop is probably one of the most important ones I have ever done, and probably will ever do. Despite that, it was never a topic I thought I would have to present until relatively recently, because of the tremendous amount of misinterpretation that is going on regarding A Course in Miracles. And rather than this being a trend that will fade away, I don't think it will. You can already see the seeds for the kinds of misunderstandings that people are having, both in terms of their own study of the Course, certainly their application of what they study to their personal lives, and then, unfortunately, to their teaching of it. This kind of misunderstanding is due to an idea I have commented on frequently: level confusion.
Many years ago now, Gloria and I were talking about the Course, what it was, its role, etc., and Gloria said something I had never actually thought of in this way, although obviously I knew it was true. She said she felt that this course really had a hidden level to it that practically no one was aware of. Not hidden in the sense that someone was hiding it, that Jesus was deliberately trying to mislead people, or be obscuring, or to hide what the Course was saying, but that this level was hidden simply because of the tremendous amount of fear that was present in almost all students of the Course. Later we will discuss this more in terms of the fear of losing one's specialness and one's identity, and what exactly that means. Because of this tremendous fear and the tremendous investment in maintaining one's identity with one's self—or what one thinks is one's self—this means almost automatically that one will never really understand these deeper levels of what the Course is talking about and what Jesus' message is.
If you do not understand this and are continually screening this out, there is no way you could understand what the Course is saying, and this is what, again, gives rise to all of these misinterpretations. The people who misinterpret and misrepresent the Course are not evil, wicked, sinful people, but most of them, unfortunately, lack what the Course is always asking of its students, and that is humility. It is the arrogance in thinking that you understand something when you do not. It takes the form in many different places of taking statements, concepts, and ideas from the Course totally out of context, and using them as ways of justifying what you really want the Course to be saying to you. This would be an example of what in the Course Jesus repeatedly speaks about: the mistake of bringing the truth to the illusion, rather than bringing our illusions to his truth.
As you know, this is the fundamental process that forgiveness or the miracle represents—that we bring our illusions to the truth of the Holy Spirit's presence in our minds. In doing that, we would finally be able to look at these illusions without judgment and without guilt, thereby letting them go. This course, however, is so fearful to everyone's ego because of what it truly is saying that what one almost inevitably does is translate the Course into the language that one can understand. The problem is that the language that one can understand is the language of specialness that preserves one's individual identity and therefore the identity of everyone else, and ultimately the seeming reality of the world.
The problem is that we do not know this is what we are doing, and we think that we are understanding and mastering the Course. We think that by teaching the Course over and over again we are going to learn it, and we are not aware that learning this course really means that we must question, as Jesus says at one point, every value that we hold (T-24.in.2:1). The most important of these values is the value of our own specialness, the value of our own identity, and believing that we are really here, when we are not here at all. This means that people who are studying A Course in Miracles so they can learn it and live it, will not be learning it at all, because they will be going in a totally different direction from where the Course is leading them.
So sincerity, in terms of our approach to the Course, is not enough. That is what Jesus means when he says, "Trust not your good intentions. They are not enough" (T-18.IV.2:1-2). What you really need, as he explains in the next line, is a little willingness (T-18.IV.2:3), and it is the little willingness to be able to admit that you were wrong and, in the end, that Jesus was right, and that what he says in A Course in Miracles is right. But to make the point still once again—and I will probably make it dozens of times in the course of this class—you will not know what he is saying, and you will not know the truth of what he is teaching because you are so frightened of what that is. What you will find yourself doing is seeing a part of the Course and not understanding its connection with the whole, because it is this deeper layer, the so-called hidden level of the Course that contains the whole. In a nutshell, and this is a point I will be elaborating on a great deal, what we are really talking about is not really understanding the difference between reality and illusion; not really understanding what non-duality means, and therefore not understanding what duality means. This whole course hinges on our recognizing what reality is and what illusion is.
Many of you are familiar with the Preface that is now found in all editions of the Course. The first two parts were written by Helen herself, and they describe how she scribed the Course and what the Course is as a series of books. The last part, "What It Is," was written by Jesus just as the Course was, and that begins with his talking about the difference between knowledge and perception, reality and illusion. This is central to understanding what this course means, and that is why we will spend a great deal of time talking about what reality is in terms of its being non-dualistic, and what illusion is as dualistic.
Differences are inevitable in a world of form that was founded on differences, the world originating with the thought that there was a difference between God and His Son. In the physical universe of perception such differences are the norm, and in A Course in Miracles, again, Jesus does not ask us to deny our physical experience in this world, nor our awareness of differences. It is the underlying investment in maintaining the thought of separation that is the issue. Similarly, judgments are unavoidable here; for example, I must have made a judgment to write this book and not some other; you, the reader, likewise have made a judgment to read this book and not some other. When Jesus tells his Course students not to judge, he really means not to condemn.
Therefore, while on the one hand we must inevitably identify with our groups of preference (the form), we must on the other hand be vigilant against the special love and/or hate judgments (content) that almost as inevitably creep into our group identifications and behavior. In other words, differences in understanding and presentation of the Course’s teachings will, without question, almost always arise, and this does not mean that others’ comments on A Course in Miracles should necessarily be agreed with nor supported on the level of form, if the form be mistaken. After all, once again, differences do exist in the world that we believe is real and is our home, and so it would be, to cite a passage quoted before, “a particularly unworthy form of denial” (T‑2.IV.3:11) for Course students to deny any experience in the world of form. As Jesus teaches regarding healing and the perceptions of sickness:
The body’s eyes will continue to see differences. But the mind that has let itself be healed will no longer acknowledge them (M‑8.6:1-2).
By this Jesus means that the healed mind acknowledges differences on the level of form, but does not acknowledge these differences as meaningful or as having any effect on reality. And so we can see differences in Course teachers and students, and even seek to correct mistakes if so guided, but without this affecting the awareness of our shared reality as God’s one Son.
We can thus conclude that despite these perceived differences in the world, students need not carry with them an emotional investment of judgment, which could only mean that the differences have been eagerly sought after and therefore welcomed. In that case the differences have been taken seriously, to be exposed as sins and then justifiably opposed in the name of truth. And as has been discussed in All Are Called (e.g., pp. 131-33), this is due to the strong unconscious need to have other people be wrong so that we can be right, in clear opposition to the right-minded perception of the Holy Spirit:
When you react at all to errors, you are not listening to the Holy Spirit. He has merely disregarded them, and if you attend to them you are not hearing Him. … To perceive errors in anyone, and to react to them as if they were real, is to make them real to you. You will not escape paying the price for this, not because you are being punished for it, but because you are following the wrong guide and will therefore lose your way (T-9.III.4:1-2; 6:7-8; italics mine).
Instead of these misperceptions, Jesus would urge his students to “remember … to laugh” (T-27.VIII.6:2) at the silliness of making differences ultimately important. Again, it can very often be a helpful experience to learn how to differ with another without becoming upset, and without letting the ego make the difference into a major symbol of separation and sin, therefore justifying attack. In “The Correction of Error” in Chapter 9 of the text, just quoted from, Jesus provides us with guidelines for correcting the form of someone’s mistake, yet honoring and respecting the content of his correctness as God’s Son:
To the ego it is kind and right and good to point out errors and “correct” them. This makes perfect sense to the ego, which is unaware of what errors are and what correction is. Errors are of the ego, and correction of errors lies in the relinquishment of the ego. When you correct a brother, you are telling him that he is wrong. He may be making no sense at the time, and it is certain that, if he is speaking from the ego, he will not be making sense. But your task is still to tell him he is right. You do not tell him this verbally, if he is speaking foolishly. He needs correction at another level, because his error is at another level. He is still right, because he is a Son of God. His ego is always wrong, no matter what it says or does (T-9.III.2; italics mine).
The key here is learning to be appropriate to one’s role of correcting form (as with a school teacher instructing third graders in the rudiments of arithmetic), without overreacting to mistakes. Clearly Jesus is talking about our responses or interpretations of mistakes, and not to the form of the mistake itself, which many times it is loving to correct, and most unloving not to.
Excerpt from The Message of A Course in Miracles, Volume Two
This process of changing from the wrong to the right mind, shifting our thoughts under the guidance of our new Teacher, can be understood within the figure-ground framework that determines our physical perceptions. The section “How Can Perception of Order of Difficulties Be Avoided?” in the manual for teachers, part of which we have already considered, begins with a description of “the world’s perception”:
It rests on differences; on uneven background and shifting foreground, on unequal heights and diverse sizes, on varying degrees of darkness and light, and thousands of contrasts in which each thing seen competes with every other in order to be recognized. A larger object overshadows a smaller one. A brighter thing draws the attention from another with less intensity of appeal (M‑8.1:2‑4)
In other words, the way that our eyes perceive the external world is through a process of filtering out what we are not interested in, while focusing on what we are. Thus we contrast what we have judged to be meaningful and meaningless, rejecting the latter and accepting the former into our perceptual awareness. So for example, while I am sitting here at my computer, the contents of the room around me are relatively insignificant and I am largely unaware of them. On the other hand, my computer and what I am writing is my principal focus.
Applying this basic principle of perception to the central theme of A Course in Miracles, we can see how when we listen to the ego and identify with its strategy of making the Son of God mindless, then the body and the world become the figure—the foreground—while the mind recedes so far into the background as to be virtually unknown. It is within this modality that our attention is riveted on our individual needs and how our special relationships can fulfill them. Everything else is rendered unimportant, most of all the thought system of forgiveness that would undo this specialness. However, when we ask Jesus for help and share his true perception, then it is the world that recedes into the background, becoming the classroom in which our lessons of forgiveness are the only true focus.
It is this shift that makes room for Christ’s vision to determine the perception that Jesus refers to as the judgment of the Holy Spirit. This is where we perceive with a judgment totally without condemnation: our brother is either expressing love or calling for it. Either way, our response will be loving: if you are expressing love, then as your brother in Christ, I can only respond in kind; if, however, through your attack you are expressing your fear, which is itself a call for the love you are desperately seeking to deny because it is the truth T-12.I.8; T‑21.VII.5:14), then as your brother in Christ, I can only respond by extending it to you. And so, in full keeping with Jesus’ single purpose for our lives here, regardless of your behavior, I am always responding in but one way: extending love. Thus, once again, my only true function is to ask his help that I may forgive. By Jesus and I joining together in this one purpose, my ego’s belief in the reality of separation and separate interests is undone through Christ’s vision. This leaves only His Love to extend naturally through me to the now-forgiven world, understood to be one with me, God’s one Son.
Excerpt from The Message of A Course in Miracles, Volume One