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
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
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....
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.
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) 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
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
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....
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.
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).
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
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....
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
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).
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).
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:
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"
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
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.
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