THE COURSE'S USE OF LANGUAGE
THE SYMBOLISM OF DUALITY,
Continuation of Chapter 2, FEW
CHOOSE TO LISTEN from
Volume Two of THE
MESSAGE OF A COURSE IN MIRACLES®
By Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
Inconsistent Form and
The Solution for Students of A COURSE
It is the language of metaphor and
symbol that supplies the solution to this problem, and the following key
passage from the text provides the clearest explanation in A Course
in Miracles of the principle underlying how Jesus has gone about teaching
the truth of the non-duality of perfect oneness to his younger siblings
who believe they live in the duality of separation, and experientially
know of no other dimension:
Since you believe that you
are separate, Heaven presents itself to you as separate, too. Not that
it is in truth, but that the link that has been given you to join the truth
may reach to you through what you understand [i.e., the language of
duality]. Father and Son and Holy Spirit are as One, as all your brothers
join as one in truth. Christ and His Father never have been separate, and
Christ abides within your understanding, in the part of you that shares
His Father's Will. The Holy Spirit links the other part -- the tiny, mad
desire to be separate, different and special -- to the Christ, to make
the oneness clear to what is really one. In this world this [non-dualistic
truth] is not understood, but can be taught [through the symbol and metaphor
of dualistic language].
The preceding discussion is not the only
place in A Course in Miracles, however, where Jesus elucidates this
idea of having to couch his non-dualistic truth in a dualistic form. We
see it also clearly reflected in the section in the manual, referred to
in the previous chapter, that deals with the one teacher of God who saves
the world. Importantly, in this passage as in the characteristics of God's
teachers presented in an earlier section in the manual, Jesus is here clearly
referring to advanced teachers, in contrast to the "non-advanced"
level of Course students who have yet to learn the Course and are still
"at the beginning stages of their functioning" (M-4.1-2). The first part
of his passage was cited in the previous chapter.
The Holy Spirit serves Christ's purpose
in your mind, so that the aim of specialness can be corrected where the
error lies. Because His purpose still is one with Both the Father and the
Son, He knows the Will of God and what you really will. But this is understood
by mind perceived as one, aware that it is one, and so experienced. It
is the Holy Spirit's function to teach you how this oneness is experienced,
what you must do that it can be experienced, and where you should go to
All this takes note of time and place
[the world of duality] 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. It is apparent that a mind so split could never be the
Teacher of a Oneness which unites all things within Itself. And so What
is within this mind, and does unite all things together, must be its Teacher.
must it use the [dualistic] language that this mind can understand,
in the [separated and dualistic] condition in which it thinks it
is. And It must use all learning to transfer illusions to the truth,
taking all false [dualistic] ideas of what you are, and leading you beyond
them to the [non-dualistic] truth that is beyond them (T-25.I.5:1-7:5;
italics mine, except for "is" in the last sentence).
God's teachers appear to be
many, for that is what is the world's need, Yet being joined in one purpose,
and one they share with God, how could they be separate from each other?
What does it matter if they then appear in many forms? Their minds are
one; their joining is complete. And God works through them now as one,
for that is what they are.
Why is the illusion of many necessary?
Only because reality is not understandable to the deluded. Only very
few can hear God's Voice at all, and even they cannot communicate His messages
directly through the Spirit which gave them. They need a medium through
which communication becomes possible to those who do not realize that they
am spirit. A body they can see. A voice they understand and listen to,
without the fear that truth would encounter in them. Do not forget that
truth can come only where it is welcomed without fear. So do God's teachers
need a body, for their unity could not be recognized directly ....
The teachers of God appear to share the illusion of separation, but because
of what they use the body for, they do not believe in the illusion despite
appearances (M-12.2:5-3:8; 4:6; italics mine).
Thus, we see again that a non-dualistic
truth -- i.e., one teacher -- is presented in a dualistic context
-- i.e., many teachers -- so that it could be understood within
the dream of duality. And so never let it be said that Jesus does
not clearly state his purpose in speaking dualistically, nor that he compromises
the non-dualistic truth that his Course came to teach.
These two references above make it clear
that Jesus did not mean that the form of his message be taken for
the message's content itself. The reader will perhaps recall the
strong emphasis he places in A Course in Miracles on recognizing
the importance in the ego thought system of the forms of its special
relationships, and how they are always substituted for the content of
love. One such passage will suffice:
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 to take the place of God at the expense
of content. There is no meaning in the form, and there will never
be (T-16.V.12:1-3; italics mine).
These words can be taken as a caveat for
all students of A Course in Miracles who would seek to understand
its principles by almost slavishly holding to the literal meaning of the
words, rather than using them as symbols to go beyond to their true meaning.
This is why Jesus offers the following statement in the "Clarification
of Terms," explaining that his words by their very nature will be inconsistent
and not the literal truth, and that therefore his students should
look beyond the inconsistent words to the consistent content of
This course remains within
the ego framework [i.e., duality, the utilization of words and concepts],
where it is needed. It is not concerned with what is beyond all error [i.e.,
non-duality] 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.... The course is simple. It has one function and
one goal [i.e., content]. Only in that does it remain wholly consistent
because only that can be consistent (C-in.3:1-3, 8-10).
Again, we can see how clearly Jesus is
making the distinction between his inconsistent words and consistent content.
There are still other examples in A
Course in Miracles of Jesus "explaining" his use of dualistic language.
These evidence how central to the presentation of the Course curriculum
is this procedure of utilizing symbols to reflect the non-dualistic truth
of Oneness beyond all symbols, a reality that cannot be understood within
the dualistic world of separation. We cite some of these passages here:
In this world, because the
mind is split, the Sons of God appear to be separate. Nor do their minds
seem to be joined. In this illusory state, the concept of an "individual
mind" seems to be meaningful. It is therefore described in the course as
if it has two parts, spirit and ego (C-1.2).
This last passage about the non-dualistic
(i.e., "simple") nature of truth is echoed in the following brief statement
from the supplement Psychotherapy:
Purpose, Process and Practice. [Note:
this pamphlet is now included with the latest Third Edition of the Course.]
It deals with the need to couch such simplicity in terms understandable
to a complicated world of duality:
The idea for today ... applies to your
inner and outer worlds, which are actually the same. However, since
you see them as different, the practice periods for today will again
include two phases, one involving the world you see outside you, and the
other the world you see in your mind. In today's exercises, try to introduce
the thought that both are in your own imagination (W-pI.32.2; italics mine).
God is a Means as well as End. In Heaven,
means and end are one, and one with Him. This is the state of true creation,
found not within time, but in eternity. To no one here is this describable.
Nor is there any way to learn what this condition means. Not till you go
past learning to the Given; not till you make again a holy home for your
creations is it understood.
A co-creator with the Father must have
a Son. Yet must this Son have been created like Himself. A perfect being,
all- encompassing and all-encompassed, nothing to add and nothing taken
from; not born of size nor place nor time, nor held to limits or uncertainties
of any kind. Here do the means and end unite as one, nor does this one
have any end at all. All this is true, and yet it has no meaning
to anyone who still retains one unlearned lesson in his memory, one thought
with purpose still uncertain, or one wish with a divided aim.
This course makes no attempt to teach
what cannot easily be learned. Its scope does not exceed your own, except
to say that what is yours will come to you when you are ready. Here are
the means and the purpose separate because they were so made and so perceived.
therefore do we deal with them as if they were (T-24.VII.6:5-8:4; italics
Learning is change. Salvation does not
seek to use a means as yet too alien to your thinking to be helpful, nor
to make the kinds of change you could not recognize. Concepts are needed
while perception lasts, and changing concepts is salvation's task. For
it must deal in contrasts, not in truth, which has no opposite and cannot
change (T-31.VII.1: 1-4; italics mine).
While truth is simple, it must
still be taught to those who have already lost their way in endless mazes
of complexity. This is the great illusion (P-2.V. 1: 1-2).
Finally, this passage from the text, to
be examined again later, also makes the point that God's non-dualistic
truth must be reflected in the dualistic world of illusion if the Son is
to be awakened from his dream. As the bridge or link between these two
dimensions, the Holy Spirit (the "Maker" and "Corrector") is the means
for such awakening:
God's laws do not obtain directly
to a world perception rules, for such a world could not have been created
by the Mind to which perception has no meaning. Yet are His laws reflected
everywhere. Not that the world where this reflection is, is real at all.
Only because His Son believes it is, and from His Son's belief He could
not let Himself be separate entirely. He could not enter His Son's insanity
with him, but He could be sure His sanity went there with him, so he could
not be lost forever in the madness of his wish....
Therefore, we can clearly see from these
few examples how Jesus is "admitting" to inconsistency in the form of his
teaching, although his content is absolutely consistent. This is
an extremely important point for students of A Course in Miracles
to understand, which is why I keep underscoring it. Without such understanding,
they will inevitably lapse into misinterpretations that will seriously
impede their progress on the journey Home, which is A Course in Miracles'
ultimate goal for them.
There is another Maker of the world,
the simultaneous Corrector of the mad belief that anything could be established
and maintained without some link that kept it still within the laws of
God; not as the law itself upholds the universe as God created it, but
in some form adapted to the need the Son of God believes he has (T-25.111.2;
4: 1; italics mine).
A parallel example of how a spiritual
teacher uses words that might suggest one thing while his message is quite
another is found in the teachings of Ramana Maharshi, the 20th-century
Indian holy man. He is questioned by a disciple about an earlier statement
that the Heart is "the seat of consciousness and ... identical with the
Self." The student is confused because his Master seems to be treating
the heart -- this spiritual symbol -- as a distinctive physical organ,
carefully situated within the body.
Maharshi's answer is reminiscent of
Jesus' teachings in the Course of the need to present a non-dualistic truth
in a dualistic (i.e., physical) context:
... the person who puts the
question about the position of the Heart, considers himself as existing
with or in the body. While putting the question now, would you say that
your body alone is here but that you are speaking from somewhere else?
No, you accept your bodily existence. It is from this point of view that
any reference to a physical body comes to be made.
One more important point need be made regarding
the Course's dualistic language, and it is one which Jesus did not need
to explain, because it was self-evident to Helen as she was taken down
his dictation. This relates to the fact that Jesus' original teaching was
to two people: Helen Schucman and William Thetford. And so his teachings
on forgiveness, which ultimately can occur only within the mind
of the individual student, were couched in the dualistic language which
reflected the mutual classroom that constituted Helen and Bill's relationship.
And a classroom, it should be added, they both believed consisted of two
people: each other. It was through that classroom that Jesus hoped to lead
them both to the non-dualistic content of his love, which existed in their
joined minds beyond the dualistic form.
Truly speaking, pure Consciousness [i.e.,
spirit] is indivisible, it is without parts. It has no form and shape,
no "within" and "without." There is no "right" or "left" for it. Pure Consciousness,
which is the Heart, includes all; and nothing is outside or apart from
it. That is the ultimate Truth.
From this absolute stand-point, the
Heart, Self or Consciousness can have no particular place assigned to it
in the physical body. What is the reason? The body is itself a mere projection
of the mind, and the mind is but a poor reflection of the radiant Heart.
How can That, in which everything is contained, be itself confined as a
tiny part within the physical body ... ?
But people do not understand this.
They cannot help thinking in terms of the physical body and the world....
It is by coming down to the level of ordinary understanding that a place
is assigned to the Heart in the physical body (Maharshi's Gospel:
Books I and II; T.N. Venkataraman; Tiruvannamatai, 1939; pp. 73-74; italics
While on the subject of Helen and Bill
being the original recipients of the message, let me briefly digress to
mention that another potential source of confusion for students is in not
knowing that certain statements in the Course had direct specific reference
to Helen and Bill, and not the general audience. A major reason
for the writing of Absence
from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A COURSE
IN MIRACLES was to help students of the Course better understand the
context in which A Course in Miracles came, which would help them
better understand how certain statements should be taken. Let me give one
example which makes the point.
Many students of A Course in Miracles
have taken the opening lines of the Introduction -- "This is a course in
miracles. It is a required course." -- to mean something to the effect
that this is a required course for the world, although the specific form
may be different. However, the meaning of these lines was nothing of the
sort. The statement was originally part of Jesus' humorous response to
Helen's complaint about the "notes" she was taking down and supposed to
study. She wondered to Jesus one day whether this course was an elective,
which she wrongly (and her ego hopefully) assumed it was. Jesus' emphatic
response, which then later became incorporated into the text's Introduction,
No, it [this course]
[an elective]. It's a definite requirement. Only the time you take
it is voluntary. (Absence from Felicity, p. 219).
In like manner, the famous passage from
the gospels where the biblical Jesus says that it would be easier for a
camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter
the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24) has been a temptation throughout the
centuries for some biblical students to conjecture about the metaphysical
meaning of the camel and the needle. The truth, however, is that the reference
was to the "needle" or narrow stone arch that kept camels from coming into
the sacred temple area that was decidedly off-limits to them. Similarly,
students of the Course would do well to remember that the form and context
of A Course in Miracles was very much influenced by Helen's individual
personality and the unforgiving circumstances of her relationship with
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