From Chapter 17: THE REALITY OF JESUS
pp. 456 - 465 (2nd ed.) Helen and Jesus: The Illusion and the Reality
We begin with the process by which A Course in Miracles was scribed. Up to now in the book we have discussed the scribing from the perspective in which Helen experienced Jesus and the dictation. Here, in view of our discussion in the previous sections, we can take another step in understanding the true nature of the Course's scribing.
About a year or so after the Course was published, an obviously sincere woman approached Helen and asked how Jesus could have possibly written the Course, as he did not know English. While on the one hand the question might appear to be simplistic, on the other hand it helps focus the inquiry on the role Jesus actually played in the scribing of A Course in Miracles. At first blush, and as the story of the scribing is usually told, it would seem as if the person of Jesus stood within Helen's mind with a microphone, dictating to her -- word for word, in English! -- the three books of the Course. It must be remembered, of course, that on one level this was Helen's experience. But similar to the misperception of the sun's rising and setting every day, one's experience, though valid for the individual, nonetheless, should not be taken for the actual truth, let alone as a model in form for other people's experience. Before continuing my comments on the Course's scribing, I should like to relate a relevant incident involving Helen and Jesus. This incident, perhaps more than any other, illustrates the two levels with which one can describe one's relationship with Jesus: the appearance and the reality. I shall first relate the circumstances as they occurred, and then discuss them in the context of our relationship with Jesus.
One afternoon during our San Francisco trip in the summer of 1976, Helen and I visited a lovely chapel that had been built by the brother of a Maryknoll Sister who was a dear friend of ours. As Helen and I sat quietly, an eyelash fell into Helen's eye, She related to me how this was not an uncommon experience for her, as her eyelashes were long. However, she continued, this was never a problem because Jesus always took the eyelashes out for her. Helen then described to me how she would close her eyes and pray, and when she opened them the eyelash would be out. And so sitting in the chapel, we proceeded to close our eyes and pray together. Sure enough, moments later, there was the eyelash resting on Helen's cheek.
Clearly, Helen's experience was that Jesus took the eyelash out of her eye, but this really makes no sense unless one is prepared to believe that Jesus plucked the eyelash from Helen's eye with his finger, or variations thereof. Since I knew that discussion of this magical Jesus would only make Helen anxious, I refrained from bringing it up, although I did indirectly a couple of years later in the discussion on prayer that led to the scribing of "The Song of Prayer." What I believe did happen with the eyelash is as follows.
Consider again that Jesus literally does not do anything. He remains an abstract presence of love in our minds, analogous to a lighthouse that simply shines its light into the dark night. Those ships that are lost at sea perceive the light and sail towards it. The light itself does not actively call to them, but its presence reminds them of where safety lies, So does Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) serve as a reminder. As is obvious from this book, Helen spent a lifetime attempting to run away from Jesus, continually turning from his light and using the darkness of her ego concerns and judgments as a hiding place. That is why early in the dictation Jesus told her, relative to the two stages involved in escaping from darkness: "The first is the recognition that darkness cannot hide.... The second is that there is nothing you want to hide, even if you could." Incidentally, this statement, from which I have already quoted, is currently found in slightly edited form in the first paragraph of the section "The Escape from Darkness" from Chapter One of the text.
One of the ways Helen expressed this running away was by attacking her eyes. Vision has always been a major symbol in spirituality, and A Course in Miracles is no exception. It would therefore stand to reason that Helen's ego would attack her eyes as symbolic of her attempts not to see what Jesus was teaching her. In fact, while Helen was taking down the Course, she went through a period when she was sure she was losing her eyesight. Panic-stricken, she checked into the Eye Institute that was part of the Medical Center. But she was released after a couple of days when all the tests came back negative. Soon afterwards, her eyesight returned. And for many, many years Helen was "meditating" on developing a detached retina, since her fear of this was so great. And, indeed, near the end of her life she did "succeed" finally in detaching her retina.
Another example of Helen's resistance to sharing in Jesus' vision came in the context of a series of efforts he asked her to make to look at him on the cross, presumably so that she would be able to see that he was not suffering. Very often I would try to help Helen in this, praying with her as she "saw" the cross. But she would always shift Jesus to the lower left-hand corner of her visual field, thereby avoiding seeing him full face. She was never able to see him as he asked.
On a much smaller scale, then, Helen's "detached eyelashes" also can be understood as reflecting her resistance to seeing what Jesus would have her see. Thus, on a level she was not in touch with, she would make a decision to separate from his love and therefore from the vision of Christ that is the goal of the Course. This decision, coming from fear, was essentially as non-specific as the love that Jesus represented, even though it manifested in specific forms. In this case, the eyelash in the eye was the effect of the cause: Helen's decision to separate from Jesus' love. When Helen decided to let Jesus help her with the eyelash, she was reflecting on this bodily level the decision made in her mind to move closer to Jesus and to join with his love. Thus she undid the cause of the eyelash in the eye -- being separate from Jesus -- by choosing to join him. At this point, with the cause undone, the effect was undone as well, and so the eyelash ended up on Helen's cheek.
The point in all this is that Jesus in reality did nothing. Helen did all the work; first in moving away from Jesus (leading to her putting the eyelash in her eye), and then in moving back to him (leading to her removing the eyelash from her eye). Yet her experience, similar to the aforementioned example of the sun rising and setting, was that Jesus helped her. In reality, just as the sun remains relatively stationary as the earth rotates and revolves around it, Jesus' love and light remained still, while Helen moved away and then towards him.
Returning now to Helen and the Course, while her experience most definitely was of Jesus -- a person outside herself -- relating to her and dictating to her, in truth the reality was much different. Helen was able to return her mind to that memory of God's Love -- her true Identity -- symbolized by her as Jesus. By uniting with him, she united with love. That union has no form or specifics, for love, as we have seen, is abstract and beyond all divisions of the ego. This love, of which Jesus was the manifestation, flowed through the separated mind we know as Helen (the water taking shape in the glass1) and came out to the world as the three books we know as A Course in Miracles. Thus, it was Helen's mind that gave the Course its form; the content came from outside her ego mind, from a love that nonetheless is within her mind, as indeed it is in all of us. Recall Helen's own description, given in Part 11, that Jesus made use of her "educational background, interests and experience, but that was in matters of style (i.e., form) rather than content."
As one looks at the particulars of the Course's form and structure, one can find almost exact parallels with Helen's own life. Helen was American and obviously English speaking, the idiom and language of the Course. She was a Freudian psychologist and educator, and the Course contains a sophisticated psychodynamic study of the ego, coming within a curricular format: text, workbook for students, and manual for teachers. Its goal, moreover, is that we learn from our inner Teacher, the Holy Spirit, so as to become teachers of God. Despite her clear ambivalence, Helen nonetheless identified with the Christian tradition, more specifically Roman Catholicism, and was very well versed in the Bible.
A Course in Miracles falls within the traditional Christian framework, correcting the distortions and misunderstandings of this two-thousand-year-old tradition, in addition to containing over eight hundred quotations and allusions to the Bible, Helen was a lover of Shakespeare as well as the great English poets, and the writing of the Course is quite Shakespearean in form, with large portions of the material coming in blank verse and iambic pentameter, the poetic meter of Shakespeare. Helen possessed a keenly logical mind -- the reader may recall her love if not worship of logic as a college student -- and the Course's theory is presented with a rigorous logic, that once its basic premises are accepted, cannot be argued with. Finally, Helen had great respect and love for Plato, and a number of specific allusions to Plato's work are included. In addition, as I pointed out in Love Does Not Condemn, A Course in Miracles comes within the philosophical tradition that, even though it traces its beginnings to the pre-Socraties, more properly begins with Plato, the true father of Western philosophy, along with Socrates.
The one seeming exception to this list in terms of the formal characteristics of the Course is the strong Gnostic theme that runs throughout the material, not to mention usage of specific Gnostic terminology.2 Helen and I never discussed the subject (my interest in it did not really begin until after her death), but to the best of my knowledge she had no conscious awareness of this important philosophical and religious movement. However, since Platonists were among the leading Gnostics, and Platonic Gnosticism is reflected in much of the Course's teachings, there must have been part of Helen's mind that was familiar with this tradition.
Therefore, again, Helen was responsible for the Course's specific form; the abstract love of Jesus -- the source -- for its, content. To a question raised by a North Carolina group that we had once visited, Helen responded that naturally A Course in Miracles was psychological and set up as a curriculum, since she was a psychologist and educator. I reminded her after- wards, however, that she became a psychologist and teacher because of a decision she had made prior to, and on a level different from her conscious existence as Helen Schucman. This was similar to the fact that the three people closest to the Course -- Helen, Bill, and I -- all had Ph.D's in Clinical Psychology. The Course teaches that time is not linear, and choices are made on the level of the mind -- outside time -- independent of the brain and body with which we identify.3 Therefore, our choices to become psychologists, and Helen's to become an educator as well, were hardly accidental. Helen's becoming a psychologist and teacher was necessary so that her brain could accept the Course's teachings in that form. The difficulty in understanding this phenomenon, as mentioned briefly above, comes from our linear-programmed brains which cannot go beyond their own programming, to understand the mind's non-linearity.
However, Helen's experience, as we have seen, was that Jesus used her particular talents and abilities, just as she experienced him as specifically helping her. In fact, the reader may recall these lines from the original dictation (see above, p. 291), omitted in the published Course:
You must have noticed how often I have used your own ideas to help you.And then in the context of how the Holy Spirit teaches us "to use what the ego has made to teach the opposite of what the ego has learned" (found in slightly modified form in the published text, pp. 109f, and presented in Part 11 of this book), Jesus said to Helen:
You could not have a better example of the Holy Spirit's unified purpose than this course. The Holy Spirit has taken very diversified areas of your past learning, and has applied them to a unified curriculum.In truth, once again, it was really the mind beyond Helen -- called here the Holy Spirit -- that took the "diversified areas" of her life and "applied them to a unified curriculum."
Therefore, we can now better understand, on a more sophisticated level, the true nature of Helen's relationship with Jesus. An abstract and non-specific presence, Jesus remains a thought of perfect love within the minds of all people who still believe in the reality of the dream. The thought we know as Helen rejoined the thought we know as Jesus. Within the dream of the world, this union of love manifested itself as A Course in Miracles. The Self of Helen we have described as the perfectly objective and impersonal priestess is the more complete expression of this union, as it more directly reflected the abstract impersonal nature of this love.
Given this reality, we can now also understand the motivation behind the pamphlet The Song of Prayer and its preceding message. By focusing on the specifies of her ego's concerns, Helen was virtually able to bury the love of her Self; the miracle of this love became sacrificed for the magic contained in the demands for answers to her questions. Returning to our earlier analogy, instead of holding an almost infinite container to the flowing waters of Jesus, Helen presented him with the narrow thimble of her ego needs, that he might fill only that, In this sense, again, the love of Jesus was made more "manageable." To repeat part of the message:
A specific question is actually a decision about the kind of answer that is acceptable. The purpose of words is to limit, and by limiting to make a vast area more manageable .... Answers are not up to you. Any limit you place on them interferes with hearing.All the questions about specifics thus came to symbolize the limitation placed on love by fear. At first, at the lower rungs of our ladder of prayer, they can represent our attempts to join with Jesus in an acceptable way that would minimize our fear of uniting with his love. However, it is an easy temptation to become seduced by the "answers" and thereby avoid the true Answer. Getting beyond this temptation, again, was the purpose of Jesus' message to Helen. It is always helpful, therefore, to be reminded of the difference between symbol and reality, appearance and truth: the forms of the world only have meaning to the extent that they help us to move beyond them to the content of God's Love that is our only desire and goal.
From the perspective of this discussion on the meaning of prayer, we can return now to the "prayer" meetings with Judy, Bill, Helen, and me, and our practice of asking for guidance with decisions regarding the worldly life of the Course. There is a danger in attributing everything that occurred in the early Foundation years to inspiration. The "danger" comes in presenting an ideal to the world that makes it extremely easy to set up a specialness model, wherein students of A Course in Miracles end up feeling like failures because they do not "measure up" to the example we supposedly set. Mistakes were made during those early years, and there was nothing sacred or sacrosanct about how we proceeded. That we were well-intentioned there is no question, but students of the Course are familiar with these very important cautionary words, already partially quoted above:
Trust not your good intentions. They are not enough, But trust implicitly your willingness,This last reference, of course, is to the little willingness we are asked to give to the Holy Spirit to abandon our belief that we are correct in our perceptions and values. So often when people ask for specific answers to specific questions they are really asking the Holy Spirit or Jesus to provide them with the answers for which they have already unconsciously wished. Thus they are bringing truth to illusion, rather than illusion to the truth as we are asked repeatedly to do in the Course. Since we made the world -- the illusion -- specifically to exclude the Love of God, it is the height of the ego's arrogance then to ask God (or His symbolic manifestations) to enter it to help solve a problem He knows nothing about. That is why, again, A Course in Miracles asks us to bring our illusory beliefs and perceptions to the truth that is within our minds, where in the presence of its light the darkness of our fears and concerns simply disappears.
The ego thought system is almost all unconscious to us, and so for the most part we are unaware of the silent investments we have in the outcome of events. This is the advantage to moving beyond specifics -- there is far less likelihood of one's hearing being "contaminated." In the section on Helen's "Special Messages," I mentioned Helen's unreliability when it came to specifics. To restate this important point, unconscious ego conflicts and demands most easily surface when one's attention is riveted on specific questions, needs, and outcomes. When one is at rest in the peace of God, there is no serious concern with outcomes, and the answer is always known and understood. This does not mean, certainly, that decisions are not necessary. As Jesus states in The Song of Prayer:
There are decisions to make here, and they must be made whether they be illusions or not (S-1.I.2:4).And in the psychotherapy pamphlet, Jesus reminds us that "Even an advanced therapist has some earthly needs while he is here" (P. 21), meaning that some attention needs to be given to money. The point is that the problem lies in placing emphasis on hearing the specific answer to a question, for such concern draws away from the real Answer.
Thus, when the Course was being taken down by Helen, part of her mind rested with Jesus, and his message of love and truth passed through her mind purely and without impediment. Concern with decisions regarding the Course, however, was always a product of a split mind that was invested in what was done, and so the "answers" lacked the purity of the Course itself. Once again, it is essential not to forget the crucial distinction between form and content. It was the love of Jesus alone -- the content -- that was the source of A Course in Miracles, but the guidance regarding its life in the world of form came, I believe, from minds that were often too involved in the answers of the world, and not necessarily always the Answer of Heaven.
Part of the special message of October 5, 1976 is deserving of a repeat quotation:
To God all things are possible, but you must ask His answer only of Himself.This extremely important caution against believing that the inner voice Is God's simply because one experiences it as such, was underscored by this statement in the manual for teachers: "Only very few can hear God's Voice at all" (M-12.3:3).
Before continuing on, I should like to introduce a slight digression to tell a story that points up the mistake of holding Helen (or any of our "holy" group) as an example of impeccable hearing regarding specifies. Some time ago I received a telephone call from a very distraught man, who related to me how he had been receiving specific guidance from the Holy Spirit over the past few years, I do not recall most of the details of our conversation, but I do remember that he was being told very specific things regarding places, dates, etc, One piece of this guidance stated that he was going to die on a specific date, which was due now in three days, And this man was calling me the day before he was supposed to enter the hospital for minor surgery, which was to take place on the very day the Holy Spirit told him would be his last.
I explained to him the confusion of form and content, using Helen's hearing mistakes as examples, including her errors in the death dates of Louis, Bill, and herself. Fortunately, he understood, and feeling relieved, entered the hospital for his surgery. A week or so later he called to tell me that he was safely home, the operation a success, and he was obviously very much alive. I frequently caution students of A Course in Miracles about this kind of mistake, urging them to be suspicious of any specific guidance they receive, even more so when Jesus and the Holy Spirit sound urgent or demanding. Love is always patient, since it knows not of time. The content may be from the Holy Spirit, but the form always is the product of the individual's separated mind.
A good example of this confusion of form and content is the "explanation" Helen received about the Course's timing, the "celestial speed-up" message (see above, pp. 200f). Unfortunately, this story is frequently' taken by students of A Course in Miracles to be the literal truth. Rather, it should be understood as a set of symbols that were adapted to Helen's conceptual level of understanding at the time, and the meaning of which is beyond all concepts. Thus, this "explanation" was the form in which Helen could beat understand the startling events of that summer of 1965. In an important passage, already alluded to, Jesus teaches:
The value of the Atonement [by which is meant here any expression of love from the Holy Spirit] does not lie in the manner in which it is expressed. In fact, if it is used truly, it will inevitably be expressed in whatever way is most helpful to the receiver. This means that a miracle, to attain its full efficacy, must be expressed in a language that the recipient can understand without fear. This does not necessarily mean that this is the highest level of communication of which he is capable. It does mean, however, that it is the highest level of communication of which he is capable now. The whole aim of the miracle is to raise the level of communication, not to lower it by increasing fear (text, pp. 20f; T-2.IV.5).Again, Helen's ego was not able at that point in her life to understand the illusory nature of time, which would have been too fearful for her; it did not get discussed in the Course until much later. Therefore, as Helen's thinking was still subject to the belief in time as linear, the level of explanation she could accept was commensurate with this belief. If she required an explanation later on, which she did not, it would doubtlessly have come in a more sophisticated fashion.
I conclude this chapter with some comments and examples regarding Helen's wisdom. I cite these as evidence for the holiness of the Self that was always present in her, though well-hidden most of the time.
(The next section of this chapter is
entitled "The Unconscious Priestess,"
1 Ref: the water glass, Absence from Felicity 446-7:
To understand this very important teaching, let us consider a glass of water. For the purposes of this example, we shall think of water as abstract and formless, thereby having the properties of spirit. Thus water will here symbolize for us the abstract and formless nature of God's Love, which alone is reality, and which is a reality we truly share as God's Son. As the Course states: "Complete abstraction is the natural condition of the mind" (workbook, p. 297; W-p.I.161.2:1). This reality as Christ, however, is beyond our limited and separated ego self, to which we give a name, history, anticipated future, etc. It is therefore impossible for us to know God in this world, because as the Course explains, this world in general, and bodies and brains in particular were made to fulfill the ego's purpose of keeping knowledge of God, Christ, and Their unity away from us ("Thus were specifies made" [workbook, p. 297; W-p.I.161.3:1] ).2 These are discussed at length in my aforementioned book Love Does Not Condemn.
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