The Magnitude of A Course in Miracles
Message of A Course in Miracles, Conclusion to Volume 2, which
is entitled Few Choose to Listen, copyright 1997
by the Foundation
for A Course in Miracles
A Course in
Miracles provides one of the most important statements ever witnessed
to by mankind. It teaches us that not only is the world illusory -- and
therefore not created by God -- but that the physical universe was indeed
made as an attack on our Creator (W-pII.3.2:1). Thus Jesus explains the
motivation for the world's seeming existence, not to mention the purpose
behind the individual life of each of us who believe we walk this earth.
Understanding the Course's unique contribution to world spirituality has
been the principal burden of All Are Called, while Few Choose
to Listen has accented the ego's attempts to diffuse this powerful
teaching. Fearful of the implications of what A Course in Miracles
truly teaches, the ego has tried to present the Course in its own image
and likeness, substituting its littleness for the true magnitude of Jesus'
vision. In fact, given the need of the ego to preserve itself by denying
the truth that would extinguish its existence, it will probably take decades
(if not centuries) for this gift to be understood and fully integrated.
Correcting student errors early on in the Course's earthly life will help
ensure that such integration will take place, and that the purity and power
of its message will survive.
from the world of music -- from the 19th -- century pianist-composer Franz
Liszt and the 20th-century conductor Bruno Walter -- provide us with a
suitable framework within which we conclude this book's discussion of the
ego's attempts to sabotage a student's study of A Course in Miracles.
In their remarks, these two musical giants could well have been speaking
of A Course in Miracles and its students.
In a 1870 letter
-- a reference I, unfortunately, cannot locate* -- Liszt wrote regarding
Richard Wagner's beautiful though lengthy music-drama, Die Walkure:
works should be embraced entire, body and soul, form and thought, spirit
and life. One ought not to carp at Wagner for his lengths -- it is better
to expand one's scale to his (italics mine).
Wagner's operas (or
music dramas as he called his mature works) broke new ground in the musical
and operatic world, not only for the composer's daring harmonies and integration
of music and drama (Beethoven and Shakespeare were his models), but for
the extraordinary expanse of his works. The third act of Die Meistersinger
alone, for example, exceeds in length a considerable number of complete
operas in the standard repertory. Wagner's was a flawed genius to be sure,
but a genius nonetheless. And Liszt's comment relates to the fact that
attempting to change the Master's work was not only disrespectful to Wagner's
art, but was also depriving the listener of a powerful if not profound
Our previous discussions
of the ego's need to perpetuate its little self help us to understand what
Liszt was saying, as true now as it was in the 19th-century musical world.
Paraphrasing that great pianist, we may say that instead of expanding our
little scale to the heights of A Course in Miracles, we scale the
Course down to ourselves, finding all manner of justifications for doing
so. As long as we prefer the ego's story over the Holy Spirit's, it will
be the ego's fearful message that we hear, choosing not to listen
to the Course's saving message of awakening from the dream of individuality
and returning home. Thus, our statement to ourselves, "I do not want
to see what this is saying," becomes: "The Course is not saying
this." And so the message is given to our brains to change A Course
in Miracles to mean something other than what it is truly teaching.
instead of bringing our ego's illusions to Jesus' truth in A Course
in Miracles, we end up dragging down the Course's truth to conform
to our illusions. Examples on the level of form include attempts to change
the masculine terminology on the grounds
A Course in Miracles is
unfair to women, or to remove the offensive Christian language because
the Course seems to exclude members of other religions. Some even have
tried to de-emphasize the religious language on the basis that the Course
excludes practitioners of non-theistic spiritualities. Channeled writings
have already appeared -- some of which purport to be from Jesus -- stating
not only that their source is the author of A Course in Miracles,
but also claiming to improve on the original by correcting, elucidating,
simplifying, de-intellectualizing, or even transcending the Course. All
of these, not surprisingly, de-emphasize, distort, or simply dismiss the
Course's non-dualistic metaphysics as being irrelevant at best, or nonexistent
on the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles has given rise to a strong
anti-intellectual movement regarding the Course, not too dissimilar from
a more general movement that can be noted in our society today. This movement
has also been associated with the overemphasis on experience and feelings
that has overrun psychology and society at large, a movement whose contemporary
roots date back to the post-World War II period of t-groups, sensitivity
training, and the Gestalt psychology of Fritz Perls. Students of A Course
in Miracles may therefore argue that understanding its theory is irrelevant,
and that study of the text is a waste of time, clearly ignoring this previously
cited caution at the end of the first chapter in the text:
is a course in mind training. All learning involves attention and study
at some level. Some of the later parts of the course rest too heavily on
these earlier sections not to require their careful study. You will
also need them for preparation. Without this, you may become much too fearful
of what is to come to make constructive use of it. However, as you study
these earlier sections, you will begin to see some of the implications
that will be amplified later on (T-I.VII.4; italics mine).
In addition, as was
covered in Chapter One, many students emphasize the workbook at the expense
of the text, rather than viewing each book as a companion to the other.
The mistake here is similar to what we saw in the previous chapter. It
reflects the same unconscious error of believing that our ego identification
is weak and can be easily discarded, leaving our minds open to receive
-- instantaneously and joyously -- the Word of God. This anti-intellectual
stance is thus in many cases the expression of a fear of looking at the
ego thought system in all its ugliness. As we have commented before, no
one really wants to deal with the horrifying sin and guilt our egos have
convinced us is our reality.
Thus, rather than
carefully reading the text -- which lays out the brutal nature of the ego
thought system, necessitating our dealing with it -- a student may dismiss
such discussions of the ego as not important. Again, this misses the whole
point of A Course in Miracles' efficacy as a spiritual teaching,
and discounts the inherent unity of its curriculum, which does depend on
understanding and recognizing our investment in perpetuating the ego's
thought system, precisely by not looking at it. As we have already
discussed, it is in not looking at the ego that it is allowed to
survive as a thought system in our minds. To be sure, A Course in Miracles
is not always easy to understand, let alone practice. Yet the ultimate
difficulty does not really lie on a conceptual or intellectual level, but
rather is found within the teaching itself. This teaching, as we have discussed
throughout the book, strikes terror in minds which still identify with
the ego self. And it is this very ego self that is so threatened by what
Jesus presents to us in his Course. I should underscore that the attempt
to dismiss as irrelevant the high intellectual level of the Course's teachings
also reflects a denial of what A Course in Miracles is. It is
an intellectual system, at least in form, and there already exist many
fine spiritual systems -- ancient and contemporary -- that are non-intellectual.
All these are as valid as the Course in their potential to lead their serious
students to God. To deny A Course in Miracles its particular uniqueness
is to diminish its contribution, just as forcing a non-intellectual approach
into a Procrustean bed of the intellect would wreak equal havoc on that
system. Moreover, it is important to realize that working through Jesus'
intellectual presentation leads one to an experience of peace, and
that experience, not a mere intellectual understanding, is the true goal
of the Course.
should pay careful attention to A Course in Miracles' teachings
on the ego, and should resist the temptation to change the form to suit
their personal requirements. Above all, to close with the theme with which
book opened, one should have humility as one stands before its magnitude.
As we have seen, speaking of God, Jesus urges us to "Be humble before Him,
and yet great in Him" (T-15.IV.3:1), meaning that we are great because
of our Identity as God's Son, and yet we are humble because He is our Creator
and Source, and we need His help (through the Holy Spirit) to awaken to
our reality as His Son. Likewise, we should feel the humility of recognizing
the learning we need accomplish before we can remember our Identity
as Christ. Trying to change, distort, or scale A Course in Miracles
down to our size is an expression of the ego's arrogance, not our advanced
spirituality. One would do well to remember a statement made by Bruno Walter,
perhaps the greatest Mozart conductor of this millennium's closing century.
some maturity to understand the depth of emotion which speaks in Mozart's
seeming tranquillity and measure. ... I was ... fifty when for the first
time I was audacious enough to perform the G Minor [Symphony #401]. I ...
had such a feeling of' responsibility and of the difficulty to perform
it .... And I wondered at all the young conductors who, without any qualms,
just went ahead and conducted all these works which asked for such depth
of feeling and such maturity of technique.**
Clearly, people do
not have to be fifty before they can feel they have understood A Course
in Miracles, or are prepared to teach it. However, we should be able
to accept with humility the need to learn from this wonderful gift from
Heaven, rather than to allow the ego's arrogance to tell us that, since
the Love of God is all that we now experience, we have already learned
and mastered everything the Course can teach. True humility, in the spirit
of Bruno Walter's attitude towards Mozart, would have us welcome gladly
the truth that in this world we have much to learn. Thus, we gratefully
accept the spiritual tool and inner Guide that would teach us how to remove
"the blocks to the awareness of love's presence" (T-in.1:7), and return
home at last to the Love that lies --liberally paraphrasing the inspiring
words of Dante's beatific vision of his Commedia -- beyond the sun
and all the other stars.***
* It is quoted in Martin Bernheimer's article,
"Die Walkure: The Chronology of a Music Drama," that accompanies the RCA
Victor recording of that work (LD 6706).
** From a recorded conversation with Arnold
Michaelis, included in the Columbia recording
of Walter conducting various Mozart works (ML
*** The original Italian reads: "L'amor che muove
il sole e I'altre stelle."
Commedia: Paradiso, XXXIII, 145.
TO INTRODUCTION: "Humility Versus Arrogance"
TO ARTICLE: "A Simple Clear and Direct Course"
"Humility and Arrogance," CONCLUDING SECTION OF ABOVE ARTICLE=>
Studies Navigation Table