Click on an excerpt, audio or video tab to open.
Click on an excerpt, audio
or video tab to open.
Best viewed in Landscape
Seeing our day within the framework of a classroom guarantees our learning. This not only makes the day meaningful, but also provides comfort and security. There is a moving account of this in a remarkable passage in D. H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow, one of the twentieth century’s most beautifully written novels. Unfortunately, this British author is more widely known for Lady Chatterly’s Lover, hardly one of his better works. The Rainbow was Lawrence’s fourth book, written when he was only 28. It is striking that one so young had such profound insight into relationships, more so than any writer I have read, and thus shocking to think that such a beautiful and sensitive book was banned in England on charges of obscenity.
The story covers three generations. The first, Tom and Lydia Brangwen, came from different cultures, and their marriage was quite rocky. Lydia came to Tom with a daughter from a previous marriage, whose name was Anna. Lawrence portrays the healing of Tom and Lydia’s relationship, and although the word does not appear in this context, they forgive the differences, resulting in a genuinely deep bond between them. Lawrence then describes Anna, her parents having healed their rift, thus becoming pillars of strength supporting her little life:
Her soul was put at peace between them. She looked from one to the other and she saw them established to her safety, and she was free. She played between the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud in confidence, having the assurance on her right hand and the assurance on her left. She was no longer called upon to uphold with her childish might the broken end of the arch. Her father and her mother now met to the span of the heavens, and she, the child, was free to play in the space beneath, between.
The image of the arch transmutes to a rainbow later in the novel, and indeed, the book ends with this image. I have always been struck by the above passage, because the core of a good family is that children no longer feel they have to support the broken end of the parental arch, which devastates them as they are almost inevitably forced to buy into the pathology of the relationship and uphold one parent or the other. In this instance, however, the parents’ love for each other became the arch that framed young Anna’s life, freeing her to grow within the arch of love that became an arch of safety for her.
Many passages in A Course in Miracles reflect the same idea. Jesus wants us to feel the safety a child feels when protected by the love that surrounds it. We cannot grow, however, if we do not have the freedom to be a child, and do not experience the security that allows us to grow without assuming adult responsibility. Moreover, when we identify with the body and our day focuses on satisfying its needs, we are burdened with a great sense of responsibility. We try to make others responsible, but the truth is that we are responsible for trying to make others responsible. Yet when we live in our right minds, our only responsibility is to remain within the arch—the loving framework that Jesus, our older brother, offers us.
To extend the metaphor of the arch, we could say that the two pillars are forgiveness and the teacher of forgiveness, framing our daily lives if we so choose. Within its pillars of safety, we have the freedom to grow as minds, no longer identifying with a vulnerable body that is under constant threat. No safety or security can exist within the body, which is continually buffeted around; its needs met one minute, which then return the next, or else different needs arise. When we identify with the mind—the decision maker as learner —and learn the principle of forgiveness from the teacher of love, we are safe, and nothing that happens around us could ever hurt us. Regardless of world events—collective or personal—we remain safe because we remain within the arch. When we step outside, however—leaving the mind and fleeing to the body and its dream—we lose our happiness, because none exists outside the arch.
In his course, Jesus helps us remain within the arch that is our classroom. Recalling his statement from the text, “The ark of peace is entered two by two” (T‑20.IV.6:5), we can know it as the arch of peace.
D. H. Lawrence, The Rainbow (Wordsworth Editions Ltd, -Hertfordshire, UK, 1995), p.79.
Excerpted from The Arch of Forgiveness
We now address Sisyphus and his fate from a right-minded point of view. The inspiration for this different way of looking comes from Albert Camus (1913-1960), the famous French philosopher and writer (he was actually Algerian). In addition to being a profound thinker, Camus was a wonderful writer and won the Nobel Prize for literature, having written three novels—The Stranger, The Plague, and The Fall (all metaphorical presentations of his thinking)—and a series of plays, short stories, and essays.
Though Camus was an avowed atheist, there is a spirituality that flows throughout his work, which will be clear from my remarks below. Arguably his most important essay is “The Myth of Sisyphus,” which although he includes an appendix on the Greek myth, is not really about Sisyphus at all. The essay opens with Camus stating that the only serious philosophical problem is that of suicide. In talking about the state of the world, he frequently used the word absurd, which denotes the essential meaninglessness and senselessness of life. This philosopher’s response to the absurd was that suicide was not the answer. Indeed, there is meaning in the world if one is conscious of life’s absurdity, for it is one’s struggle against this human condition that makes life meaningful. What interested Camus in the myth was the period during which Sisyphus walked down the mountain after laboring mightily to get the boulder to the top, only to have it roll back down. Camus’ hero was able to become fully conscious of the futility of what he was doing and the absurd nature of the world, thus transcending his fate. He therefore became free, leading Camus to end his essay by writing: “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
From the point of view of A Course in Miracles, Sisyphus is happy because he is able to look at the absurd futility of his life without depression or despair. This right-minded looking opens the mind, enabling one to understand this is all a dream. And so we do not fight against the dream, rant and rave about its unfairness, or try to change or deny it. We simply accept the dream’s intrinsic nature, yet knowing it remains a dream. It therefore is not good or bad—a dream is a dream, an illusion is an illusion—and this enables us at last to transcend it and return to the mind. This is the other way Jesus holds out to us. To quote the important line again:
Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world (T‑21.in.1:7).
We do not seek to alter our fate of living in a futile world in which there is no hope and nothing can ever change. Instead, we work on changing our minds about it. In other words, we do not give the world power to take away the love and peace that is in our right minds.
Camus’ Sisyphus was happy because he did not give his fate power over him, and thus was able to rise above it. While Camus never specifically said this, we can infer from his statement that the worldly (godly or otherwise) powers could do whatever they chose to his body, but they could not affect his mind. That attitude is no different, for example, from that of Victor Frankl, the psychiatrist who endured the concentration camps in World War II, lost his family and work—they burned his manuscripts—but emerged a much stronger person because he realized that no matter what the Nazis did, they could not change him. They could affect his body and the bodies of his loved ones, but not his mind. Thus the perception of his “enemies” inevitably changed. When we allow ourselves to rise above the battleground to where Jesus is, and then look back down with him, we see everything differently. Things are indeed terrible on the battleground: bodies strewn everywhere, sometimes winning, other times losing; but in the end everyone dies, which means everyone loses. Again, there is no hope, for the finiteness of life is its futility. Yet above the battleground we are -masters of our fate. Perhaps we are not masters of the body’s “natural laws,” or what other bodies do, but we are in control of our minds. Herein lie our power, freedom, and joy. What makes us happy dreamers is that we recognize that the world is a dream.
Excerpted from From Futility to Happiness: Sisyphus as Everyman
We turn now to Thus Spoke Zarathustra, perhaps Nietzsche’s most popular work, and “On the Three Metamorphoses.” Zarathustra was the great Persian visionary and prophet (c.628–c.551 B.C.) whose ideas were dominant in Western Asia until about A.D. 650, and are still held by thousands in India and the rest of Asia. Not much is known about him, other than that he was the founder of Zoroastrianism (the Greek for Zarathrustra), one of the world’s clearest expressions of dualism—good and evil are both real in the world and, according to Zarathustra, good will ultimately triumph. This was not really Nietzsche’s philosophy, but he wanted an ancient spiritual figure as the protagonist of his book. Again, Nietzsche did not think highly of Jesus, whom he saw as a failure, dying much too early to have accomplished anything. Moreover, he did not like what Christianity did with him. Zarathustra was therefore a more familiar and comfortable figure. The book is in four parts. The first three were essentially written within a year or so of each other, and each part was written in about ten days, in a virtual white heat of creativity. These first three sections were published in 1883 and 1884, and the fourth part was completed in 1885 but did not appear until 1892.
As a prelude to our discussion of “On the Three Metamorphoses,” I want to comment briefly on a few passages from Thus Spoke Zarathustra that give us a flavor of the insights shared by both Nietzsche and A Course in Miracles, and that can thus serve as a backdrop for our discussion:
But if you have an enemy, do not requite him evil with good, for that would put him to shame.
Rather prove that he did you some good (p. 68).
This can be understood in the context of the section “The Correction of Error” from the text (T‑9.III). Nietzsche is telling us not to prove our brother wrong, even though he may be wrong from the world’s point of view. Instead, we need to show him that he did us some good. Of course the good, which we understand from our study of A Course in Miracles, is that whatever someone has done or has not done to us becomes an opportunity for us to forgive ourselves, and that is the good. Therefore, if someone is attacking or insulting us, we would not requite him with evil, or his perceived evil with good. Rather, we would choose to show him he is right because he is a Son of God, as are we. In this way, his perceived attack on us becomes the vehicle for our realizing that happy fact.
Shortly after this, Zarathustra states:
It is nobler to declare oneself wrong than to insist on being right—especially when one is right.
Only one must be rich enough for that (p. 68).
In other words, we have to be rich within ourselves (i.e., know our wholeness) to be able to say that we were wrong, even though we may have been right about a specific issue. This is reminiscent of the well-known line from the Course:
Do you prefer that you be right or happy? (T‑29.VII.1:9)
And then there is the following perfectly astonishing statement from earlier in the book that is directly relevant to the Course’s teaching of rising “above the battleground” (see T-23.IV). This means that we return to our mind and look back on the world, with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, at which point we see everything differently. Here is what Zarathustra—Nietzsche’s mouthpiece—taught:
I no longer feel as you do: this cloud which I see beneath me, this blackness and gravity at which I laugh—this is your thundercloud.
You look up when you feel the need for elevation. And I look down because I am elevated. Who among you can laugh and be elevated at the same time? Whoever climbs the highest mountains laughs at all tragic plays and tragic seriousness (pp. 40-41).
In other words, Zarathustra is saying to his listeners that although they may perceive the world as an ominous thundercloud, from where he is—above the cloud—it deserves only laughter. Although the words here are different, one can see the similarity in content to the Course’s “above the battleground.” This means that when we have not risen to the level of the mind, where Jesus is, and are thus in the world and identified with the ego thought system of separation and bodies, we will take matters here very seriously. It is only when we are above the clouds and look down that we realize that nothing here is what it seems. Then we can laugh at the “tragic plays and tragic seriousness.” Nietzsche’s work is replete with these kinds of insights, which again is why Freud made the comments he did, not to mention why he is the favorite philosopher of so many, professional and non-professional alike.
All quotations are from the translation by Walter Kaufmann (Viking Penguin, 1954).
Excerpted from The Stages of Our Spiritual Journey
Press play arrow to listen
Excerpted from Jesus: The Manifestation of the Holy Spirit
Press play arrow to listen
Excerpted from Love: Dark Night and Living Flame
Press play arrow to listen
Excerpted from To Believe a Lie
Press play arrow to listen
Excerpted from Forgiveness: “A Many-Splendored Thing”
Share on Social Media...