Continuation of Chapter 2,  FEW CHOOSE TO LISTEN from

By Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Non-Duality versus Duality

At this point it would be helpful to introduce two terms that, although they are not specifically used in A Course in Miracles, nonetheless characterize the two dimensions of experience that are reflected in the Course's teachings, and therefore the two levels of language we have been discussing. These terms are non-duality and duality, respectively reflecting the pre-separation state of Heaven, the only true reality, and the separated world of the ego thought system, the world of illusion. These two levels are also frequently characterized in the Course by the terms knowledge and perception.

As has already been said, so much of the misunderstandings and confusion about what A Course in Miracles teaches, inevitably leading to distortions in students' teachings of others, can be traced back to not recognizing these two very different levels, and why Jesus' material has come in this form. The basic process in the Course's undoing of guilt is summarized in its emphasis, to restate this very important principle, on bringing the illusions of the ego's darkness to the light of the Holy Spirit's truth. As Jesus says of himself early in the text:

I was a man who remembered spirit and its knowledge. As a man I did not attempt to counteract error with knowledge, but to correct error from the bottom up (T-3.IV.7:3-4).
This statement reflects the fact that the correction of the ego thought system that he brought to the world's awareness occurred at the dualistic level of the error, not at the nondualistic level of truth. Thus he did not bring the truth of Heaven down to the world magically to shine away the darkness of sin, as is implied in the theology of Christianity. Furthermore we see in the Bible that Jesus is God's only Son who incarnated into the world of real sin. In John's gospel, the last of the four gospels to be written, Jesus is portrayed as the cosmic Christ, barely on earth and thus one who does not act or speak in human terms. Yet he is nonetheless one who has interceded in human affairs to take away the sins of those who believe in him.

On the other hand, the Jesus in A Course in Miracles is clearly different from the biblical character who bears his name for, among other things, he makes it very clear that he will not, because he cannot, remove our sins from us. One such example is seen in this passage:

God and His creations remain in surety, and therefore know that no miscreation exists. Truth cannot deal with errors that you want .... By uniting my will with that of my Creator, I naturally remembered spirit and its real purpose. I cannot unite your will with God's for you, but I can erase all misperceptions from your mind if you will bring it under my guidance. Only your misperceptions stand in your way. Without them your choice is certain. Sane perception induces sane choosing. I cannot choose for you, but I can help you make your own right choice (T-3.IV.7:1-2,6-11; italics mine).
In addition, the Jesus of A Course in Miracles speaks of living and teaching in the world, in the world's terms, a world that he never denigrates nor dismisses, though he clearly insists to us is illusory. For example, he says of the body that
it is almost impossible to deny its existence in this world. Those who do so are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial (T-2.IV.3: 10-1 1).
And clearly this is a denial he is not advocating.

This speaking to us in the world's terms is what Jesus does as well in the form of A Course in Miracles. He states repeatedly in the Course how what he is really saying cannot be understood. In one telling passage he even dismisses all the arrogant pretensions of the intellectual by saying:

You are still convinced that your understanding is a powerful contribution to the truth, and makes it what it is.  Yet we have emphasized that you need understand nothing (T-18.IV.7:5-6).
And so in A Course in Miracles Jesus teaches his students in the symbolic and metaphoric language of the myth, reaching them on the worldly level they can accept and understand. And yet, as we shall see presently, he occasionally points to the non-dualistic, abstract, and non-specific truth that is the content beyond the dualistic and specific symbols he employs.

Finally, 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.

We now consider the nature of non-duality and the problem it presents for a dualistic world.


Links to all parts of THE COURSE'S USE OF LANGUAGE

 I, part 1  I, part 2  I, part 3  I, part 4  I, part 5  I, part 6
II, part 1 II, part 2 II, part 3 II, part 4



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