1) This is part of a letter we wrote to TZF’s good friend, Elsa Joy Bailey. This material, and a lot of other good stuff, can be viewed on her website, http://www.elsajoy.com. There is more on A Course in Miracles at TZF’s Letters page and Definitions page. Please note that A Course in Miracles and ACIM are registered marks of the Foundation for Inner Peace.
In your message, you asked for my thoughts on A Course in Miracles. The short answer to that query is very short, to wit, I love it.
The long answer is a little more complicated, but only because the ego loves to hear itself think.
Nancy and I came across A Course in Miracles over twenty years ago, and I count it among a half dozen or so Divine Devices put in my Way by the Teacher about which I can rightly say “this changed everything”. (Here, I use the first person pronoun not to exclude Nancy, but rather to avoid putting words in her mouth, as she and I see A Course in Miracles slightly, although only slightly, differently.)
As you very well know, Elsa, like all True Teaching Instruments, A Course in Miracles is ultimately about Self-Realization. That is, its focus and function are about realizing who and what we are (and are not) in Truth. In that sense, A Course in Miracles is irrational. It is not intended for the rational and separative-thinking mind, and therefore it is not, and cannot be, understood, and neither is it intended to be understood, by the rational mind.
Again, like all True Teaching Instruments, A Course in Miracles is precisely and beautifully designed to transcend the egoic mind, and thereby to transport the serious seeker beyond the limits and fetters (illusions) of the mind. That’s what it is for, and, properly undertaken, that’s what it does. Therefore, in my view and personal experience, A Course in Miracles truly is a course in miracles.
I suggest to seekers coming to A Course in Miracles for the first time, that they set aside the “Text” and the “Manual for Teachers” for six months, and devote themselves solely and privately (that is, not in the context of a group) to the daily lessons presented by the “Workbook for Students,” which I urge them to do every day precisely as directed, with enthusiasm, joy, and every expectation of success, and without trying to decipher or understand them, or in any other way to consider their merits. In a word, do the daily lessons just as if they had been prescribed by a trusted and beloved physician.
Why eschew groups? As I read it, A Course in Miracles is not a group activity. Rather, A Course in Miracles is written for and addressed to a singular seeker. In this sense, A Course in Miracles offers the serious seeker a traditional Guru/disciple relationship. That is, a relationship between the student and what A Course in Miracles calls the Holy Spirit.
Here, the Holy Spirit is the Guru; the seeker is the disciple. This intensely intimate, sacred relationship is fundamental to A Course in Miracles, and essential to its successful application. It is real, even every bit as real as if the Teacher were “flesh-and-blood”. And it is powerful. Indeed, it is the answer to the question asked by so many students of A Course in Miracles: “Do I need a Teacher or a Guru?” Properly undertaken, A Course in Miracles provides the seeker with a Teacher or Guru.
But, like the Guru/disciple or Teacher/disciple relationship in all traditions, this one is One-on-one. The seeker, alone and not as a group activity, personally and privately surrenders to the Guru, initially by faithfully and unconditionally obeying the instructions presented in the Workbook for Students. And the Guru, alone and not in a group, gives Himself or Herself wholly to the seeker. In a very real sense (ultimately, in the only sense that is real), the two become One.
In all spiritual traditions I know of, as well as here, the instructions and guidance given to a disciple by a Guru or a Teacher are private and secret. Further, the confessions by a seeker to the Guru or Teacher are private and secret. None of that is fit material to be debated or dissected among the other students or disciples of the Guru or Teacher. To be sure, these very debates, discussions, and dissections take place nonetheless among the disciples or devotees in all spiritual communities or ashrams, and undoubtedly always have, just as in fact they take place within the “community” of A Course in Miracles students today. But, all the same, I urge serious seekers to recognize, at least in the beginning, that they are fundamentally a waste of time and energy, or worse, distracting and confusing.
Please understand, Elsa, that none of the foregoing is intended to suggest that groups do not serve a valid and useful purpose, for obviously they do. In virtually all spiritual traditions, seekers are urged to seek like company, other seekers like themselves, from whom they can receive encouragement, nourishment, and reinforcement. We all need some of that a lot of the time, and others following the same or a similar path can provide it wonderfully. To hear a friend say, “Yes, I recognize that obstacle, I tripped over it, too” can be extraordinarily reassuring. But that is very different from providing the egoic mind a forum in which to rationalize what is fundamentally irrational, and what, if it is to do its wondrous thing, must remain fundamentally beyond the grasp of the rational mind.
So, again, for six months at least (or until the medicine has had a chance to “take”), I recommend that students of A Course in Miracles avoid any activity that gives the egoic mind an opportunity to claim the process for itself, and thereby covertly to transform A Course in Miracles into just another set of marginally helpful self-help books, which the egoic mind, feeling threatened (and rightly so), will desperately try to do.
For those students who are willing or able to do that, I am convinced A Course in Miracles will prove to be truly miraculous.
Anyway, that’s the long answer.
2) At TZF’s Open Forum, there evolved a discussion about A Course in Miracles which led to this post by us.
Every path employs a divine gimmick to accomplish the one identical goal, which is Realization that we are not the body we seem to be inhabiting but the entirety. Hatha Yoga employs physical postures and breathing exercises; Karma Yoga employs selfless labor; Bhakti Yoga employs absolute devotion. And so on. (For brief explanations of the yogas, please click here.)
All these paths, like all other paths, start from the false position that the seeker or practitioner is a person. They start there because that’s where we are when we encounter them.
As I see it, A Course in Miracles is no different, simply another divine yoga. A Course in Miracles’ gimmick is relationship. Starting from the seeker’s conviction that he or she is a person, A Course in Miracles introduces the concept of true relationship with another person, and then leads the seeker to accepting it. As the seeker enters and eventually embraces the process, he or she comes to recognize that he or she and the other person are in fact one being, not just in theory but in practice, like two ends of a seesaw, and that the sense of otherness, the sense of separation, is an illusion.
That point is as far as any of the world’s yogas, including A Course in Miracles, can take a seeker. But the work is not yet done. Once there, we are inwardly moved to rest our search, and to sit. We still read, we still practice, we still pray, we still contemplate. But now, what’s really going on is, we ripen, from the inside out.
Eventually, spontaneously, mysteriously, in its own time and in its own way, there awakens within us an awareness that the yoga itself was in fact a divine gimmick, that our own apparent self, that every apparent self, is the Self, the Divine One. Thus, as bhaktas, we see that the object of our devotion was not God as an other, but God within, which is our Self. As hatha yogis, we recognize that breath-and-breathing is itself alive, and that its life is the One Life that is our Self, God. As karma yogis, we see that our selfless work is actually divinely Selfish, Self-ful, and that the God to whom we had devoted it is in actuality our very own Self. And as students of A Course in Miracles, we see that there is no such thing as “a person”, much less two persons, that our relationship was all along with our own self, now recognized as the only Self, God.
Maturing within us, this awareness becomes wisdom, meaning it is self-activating, self-sustaining, and self-validating. Continuing to mature, wisdom becomes being, our being. Everything else falls away, until we are no longer seekers, until we are no longer. Totally transparent, we are it.
So perfect, so beautiful, so natural, and so exquisitely intimate is this delivery system, little wonder mystics from Assisi to Persia and everywhere else in between sing love songs to it.
For more about A Course in Miracles, see also “ACIM,1” and “ACIM,2” at TZF’s Letters page; and the reference at TZF’s Definitions page. For the Brother Theophyle cartoons about ACIM, please click here and here. Also, there are numerous sites on the web associated with A Course in Miracles. Here are a few:
The memory of God comes to the quiet mind.
Beside each of you is one who offers you the chalice of Atonement, for the Holy Spirit is in him. Would you hold his sins against him, or accept his gift to you? Is this giver of salvation your friend or enemy? Choose which he is, remembering that you will receive of him according to your choice. He has in him the power to forgive your sin, as you for him. Neither can give it to himself alone. And yet your savior stands beside each one. Let him be what he is, and seek not to make of love an enemy.