The practicality of A Course in Miracles has always spoken to me. The abstract and often complicated prose is grounded in lessons or tests that allow us to apply the Course to our lives. This is so helpful! We are not being called to learn a new belief system, to add another notch in the spiritual belt, but rather undo systems altogether – all of them – and see what is when they are gone.
God is not the right idea or a better idea than no-God or some other God. A Course in Miracles is of itself nothing and in time will disappear. God is before ideas – or outside them – not of them. Ideas are of the false self, the ego, and thus obstruct our knowledge – our direct experience – of God.
[A]ll that stands between you and the power of God in you is but your learning of the false, and of your attempts to undo the true (T-14.XI.1:9).
If you are a little like me, you love sentences like that! You savor them. Perhaps you memorize them and repeat them to friends (or insert them into blog posts). If we are not careful, the words can become idols themselves, blotting out the truth they would enlighten. Clinging to the words, one misses that to which they point. And so learning is lost, as are its helpful effects.
So how do we know if are “getting it?”
You have one test, as sure as God, by which to recognize if what you learned is true. If you are wholly free of fear of any kind, and if all those who met or even think of you share in your perfect peace, then you can be sure that you have learned God’s lesson, and not your own (T-14.XI.5:1-2).
That ends the reliance on words, doesn’t it! It’s so subtle you might miss it, but it brings to an end the specialness that can often result from a serious study of the Course.
Are we wholly free of fear? Is our peace perfect?
Grudgingly – not gracefully but not unwillingly either – one comes back to the practice. “Okay, Jesus. I’m not there yet. What now?”
Your part is very simple. You need only recognize that everything you learned you do not want. Ask to be taught, and do not use your experience to confirm what you have learned (T-14.XI.6:3-5).
And in case that’s not clear enough, we are given a little prayer, a little mantra, that we can use to restore ourselves to reliance on God and God’s teachers.
I do not know what anything, including this, means. And so I do not know how to respond to it. And I will not use my own past learning as the light to guide me now (T-14.XI.6:7-9).
It is so simple. We can ignore it, but it is very very hard to mistake it. The “I” that I believe is me is wrong in all respects and cannot serve. That which is broken, having taught itself to break, cannot teach itself wholeness and mending. But God can. So we turn to God. Always. In all things. We hold nothing back. We even release the judgment of whether the holding back is working.
Everything has to go.
The complete disappearance of fear and the presence of perfect peace seems impossible. Perhaps it seems idealistic but naive. Jesus cannot possibly mean it literally. And yet the whole Course would teach us that in fact, its meaning is literal. It is practical. The only reason we are not experiencing the perfect peace that is our inheritance is because we are placing blocks before it. Nothing less than unconditional surrender of the self we know and love is the solution.
How can you, so firmly bound to guilt and committed so to remain, establish for yourself your guiltlessness? That is impossible. It is only because you think that you can run some little part, or deal with certain aspects of your life alone, that the guidance of the Holy Spirit is limited . . . and by so limiting the guidance that you would accept, you are unable to depend on miracles to answer all your problems for you (T-14.XI.8:1-4, 6).
What is impossible for us is not impossible for the Holy Spirit. We contain the guide who can undo for us what maintains fear and thus obscures peace. It is not our job to do the Holy Spirit’s job or judge its usefulness. Rather, we simply need to stand aside and allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us.
Call not upon the ego for anything; it is only this you need do. The Holy Spirit will, of Himself, fill every mind that so makes room for Him (T-14.XI.13:5-6).
As often as possible then, stop and listen. Which teacher are we hearing? Whose guidance are we following? Are we passing the test of no fear and perfect peace?
If the answer is no, there is only thing to do: accept that somewhere, perhaps hidden, we are holding for our little selves that power and glory that is God’s. Return it. Let it go. There’s nothing abstract or metaphysical about it: the presence of fear or peace is always the barometer. We are forever capable of finding our way home.