Continuation of Chapter 2,  FEW CHOOSE TO LISTEN from

By Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.

Inconsistent Form and Consistent Content
The Solution for Students of A COURSE IN MIRACLES

Let us now consider six other examples of this inconsistency in the Course's language, where Jesus appears to be saying something that would clearly contradict the basic tenets of the Course:

1) There are several instances in the workbook where Jesus uses the word God when it is really the Holy Spirit Who is meant. Lesson 193 is entitled "All things are lessons God would have me learn," and yet throughout the Course it is the Holy Spirit Who is clearly designated as our Teacher, and certainly not the real God Who does not even know we are here. And in fact, the lesson begins with the statement:

God does not know of learning. Yet His Will extends to what He does not understand....

God sees no contradictions [i.e., duality]. Yet His Son believes he sees them. Thus he has need for One [the Holy Spirit] Who can correct his erring sight, and give him vision that will lead him back to where perception ceases. God does not perceive at all (W-pI.193.1:1-2; 2:1-4).

Clearly then, the word "God" -- a one syllable word that fulfills the metric demands of the title's iambic pentameter (a not uncommon reason for Jesus' choice of certain words) -- is a symbol for the Holy Spirit, itself a symbol, as we shall see later.
2) Earlier in the workbook come the two lessons, 29 and 30, that are probably more misunderstood than any other: "God is in everything I see." and "God is in everything I see because God is in my mind." Taken literally, the lessons seem to reflect pantheism, the religious belief that has God present in all material form. Yet the meaning of the workbook lessons, as is indeed explained in them, is that it is the purpose of God that is "seen" in everything because that purpose is in our minds (e.g., see W-pI.29.1-3; W-pI.30.2). And that purpose is the forgiveness taught to us by the Holy Spirit. Lesson 193 carries this idea through in a more sophisticated fashion. But clearly Jesus does not mean for his students to believe that God Himself is present in a world of form He does not and can not even know about, because it is not real. Again, the word "God" should not always be taken literally by Course students to mean the non-dualistic Creator.
3) Another frequently misunderstood passage comes in Lesson 184:
Think not you made the world. Illusions, yes! But what is true in earth and Heaven is beyond your naming (W pI.184.8:1-3).
Students who believe that God did indeed make the physical world of individual existence use this passage as "proof" of their position; namely, that we made up the illusory world of pain, suffering, and death, but that God created the physical world of beauty, joy, and happiness. However, what has not been understood is that the passage is referring to the real world, which is "made" by the Holy Spirit and not by the Son's ego. This can be seen in these statements from "Perception and Choice" in the text, which we presented earlier in this chapter in another context:
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....

There is another Maker of the world....

There is another purpose [forgiveness] in the world that error made, because it has another Maker Who can reconcile its goal with His Creator's purpose [creation]....

The Maker of the world of gentleness [the real world] ... (T-25.III.2:1-3; 4:1; 5:1; 8:1; italics mine).

Further still, the statement quoted above from the workbook, "what is true in earth and Heaven," finds its meaning in this concept of truth being reflected in the world.

Earlier statements in the text also establish clearly that the Son of God does not make the real world, as we see in the following passages, cited earlier in Chapter One. Quoting from the famous verse from the gospel of John (3:16), Jesus makes a correction in the Course:

The statement "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" needs only one slight correction to be meaningful in this context; "He gave it to His only begotten Son" (T-2.VII.S: 14).
And then he clarifies this point later on:
I said before that God so loved the world that He gave it to His only-begotten Son. God does love the real world, and those who perceive its reality cannot see the world of death. For death is not of the real world, in which everything reflects the eternal.  God gave you the real world [through the Holy Spirit] in exchange for the one you made out of your split mind, and which is the symbol of death (T 12.III.8:1-4; italics mine).
4) In the workbook for students, Jesus very clearly states that God does not understand words and does not hear prayers:
Think not He hears the little prayers of those who call on Him with names of idols [of specialness] cherished by the world. They cannot reach Him thus.  He cannot hear requests that He be not Himself, or that His Son receive another name than His....

Turn to the Name of God for your release, and it is given you.  No prayer but this is necessary, for it holds them all within it. Words are insignificant, and all requests unneeded when God's Son calls on his Father's Name. His Father's Thoughts become his own. He makes his claim to all his Father gave, is giving still, and will forever give. He calls on Him to let all things he thought he made be nameless now, and in their place the holy Name of God becomes his judgment of their worthlessness (W-pI.183.7:3-5; 10; italics mine).

That workbook passage is similar to the discussion at the beginning of  The Song of Prayer [Note: this pamphlet is now included in the Third Edition of ACIM] where Jesus addresses the issue of asking (or praying to) God for specifics. Our Creator and Source does not hear our prayers for what does not exist (in the world of duality), but calling upon Him recalls to us the non-dualistic truth in which is found the answer to all our supposed needs. That is why, incidentally, there is no order of difficulty in miracles. All problems -- regardless of their seeming magnitude -- are solved in the same way: by recognizing, through the miracle of choosing the Holy Spirit's truth instead of the ego's illusion, that all problems are equally unreal. And so Jesus says to his students, in an important passage the reader will recall from our discussion in All Are Called (pp. 316-17), as well as having been cited earlier in this book:
To ask for the specific is much the same as to look on sin and then forgive it. Also in the same way, in prayer you overlook your specific needs as you see them, and let them go into God's Hands.... What could His answer be but your remembrance of Him? Can this be traded for a bit of trifling advice about a problem of an instant's duration? God answers only for eternity. But still all little answers are contained in this (S-1.I.4:2-3, 5-8).

And this is underscored, as we have seen, by this statement in the manual: "God does not understand words, for they were made by separated minds to keep them in the illusion of separation" (M-21.1:7).

Yet given all this, the thoughtful student of the Course is astounded to find that virtually the entire second part of the workbook, Lessons 221-360, consists of one beautiful prayer after another addressed to God the Father, not to mention the above-cited workbook Lesson 71 where we are told to ask our Creator and Source for very specific help. And so students may feel justified in complaining to Jesus that he has presented them with contradictory messages. In fact, Jesus anticipates this complaint and specifically addresses it in The Song of Prayer, in a passage we discussed at great length in the section on prayer in Chapter Seven of All Are Called:
You have been told to ask the Holy Spirit for the answer to any specific problem, and that you will receive a specific answer if such is your need [See, for example, T-11.VIII.5:5-6; T-20.IV.8:4-8, there were also early personal messages to Helen in that regard, see for example Absence from Felicity, p. 293]. You have also been told that there is only problem and one answer [See W-pI.79-80]. In prayer this is not contradictory (S-1.I.2:1-3).
These seemingly mutually exclusive statements are not contradictory because they represent different levels of teaching, meant to be commensurate with students' differing levels of readiness. At the beginning of what later in the supplement is called "the ladder of prayer" (S-1.II) -- the process of forgiveness -- the belief in specifics dictates that God's Love be expressed in those terms. As students make their way up the ladder -- i.e., lessen their identification with the ego's specialness -- they can experience this Love more and more abstractly, and draw closer and closer to its true nature.

Therefore, teaching to those on the higher reaches of the ladder, Jesus states that God is not involved in the illusory dualistic world of specifics at all. However, when he teaches to those on the first levels, as he so frequently does in A Course in Miracles, he refers to a God whose Love for His children extends into the dream, where specific needs seem to be met and requests for specialness seemingly granted. And so we can understand Jesus' "higher" teachings on prayer as reflecting our choosing again so that we now can identify with the right mind (the Holy Spirit; i.e., the memory of God) instead of the wrong mind. From this perspective, then, prayer is not literally asking God for things, even though that may be our experience, but rather it refers to our turning to a right-minded image of God that for us metaphorically represents the abstract non-dualistic God that is beyond our dualistic experience and understanding.

5) A wonderfully clear example of how loosely Jesus uses his words -- letting them mean one thing in one place, and another thing elsewhere -- is with the phrase "miracle of healing." Early in the text he is quite emphatic in saying:
Our emphasis is now on healing. The miracle is the means, the Atonement is the principle, and healing is the result.  To speak of "a miracle of healing " is to combine two orders of reality inappropriately. Healing is not a miracle. The Atonement, or the final miracle, is a remedy and any type of healing is a result (T-2.IV.1:1-5; italics mine).
One could not ask for a more precise statement. And yet there are five places elsewhere in the Course where Jesus speaks of a "miracle of healing" (T-19.I.14:5; T-27.II.5:2; T-27.V.1:3; T-28.IV.10:9; and M-22.4:4), clearly violating his own earlier injunction to his students. Again, a student would seem justified in asking Jesus why he presents conflicting messages in a Course that claims to be so clear and direct. Here is what his answer would be:

In the original statement, which is made early in the text, I am teaching my students that the miracle is the means and healing is the result, establishing a cause and effect relationship between them, the understanding of which is crucial to the learning process in those early parts of the text. That point having been made and the distinction established, however, I am now able to use the poetic phrase "miracle of healing" more freely later in the Course. I repeatedly emphasize in my teaching that purpose is everything, for it alone provides meaning to behavior and circumstances. And so here the inconsistency on the level of form is reconciled by the differing purpose for the passages in question.

6) A constant and consistent inconsistency in the Course is Jesus' juxtaposing statements that speak of salvation coming happily and joyously in an instant (e.g., T-26.VIII; W-pI.182) with statements that urge patience in what is a long and painful process of forgiveness (e.g., M-4.I-A.3-8; VIII). Here, too, there is no contradiction, as long as one remembers that Jesus is speaking on different levels. From the point of view of timelessness or the holy instant -- the dimension that transcends the ego's time-bound view of sin (past), guilt ("present"), and fear (future) -- all that is required is the change of mind from the ego to the Holy Spirit. Since time is an illusion, this can only occur in an instant, as stated in Lesson 182: "I will be still an instant and go home."

On the other hand, however, within the illusion of time -- where students of the Course believe they are while at the beginning of the ladder -- the undoing of guilt takes a very long time, as is reflected in the six stages of the development of trust in the manual for teachers. The transition from the fifth to the sixth stage, which is the real world, is spoken of like this: "And now he must attain a state that may remain impossible to reach for a long, long time" (M-4.1-A.7:7).

As can be seen from the above discussion, if a person's ego wishes to invalidate the authority of A Course in Miracles, it can easily find "cause" by pointing to these seeming incongruities in the language. Similarly, people seeking to change the Course's teachings around to suit their own needs can also find innumerable passages to "support" their position. As a safeguard against making these mistakes, a student should always evaluate any particular statement in the Course in the light of the Course's overall metaphysical teaching. In summary, therefore, we can observe once again that Jesus is reflecting different aspects of the process of forgiveness, as seen from different rungs of the ladder. When one holds the true teaching of A Course in Miracles in mind, then the differing statements in form are understood as teaching metaphors or symbols that gently reflect the different stages of our journey home.



Index Link Box For 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

Reproduced with the kind permission of the author and the
Foundation for A Course in Miracles which holds copyright
in this work, ©1997

A Course in Miracles is copyrighted by the Foundation. Portions herein are reproduced with permission.


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