In the Spill of Creation

Last night – a little after one a.m. – I walked across the road into recently-cut hayfields all the way to where the forest pushes against what is yet open, maple saplings and goldenrod and flimsy white pines not quite reaching my knee the visible testament of Creation’s Will which is never not extending.

Partly by feel – for the absence of the moon and my resistance to flashlights made seeing difficult – I found my way to the old stone wall and sat  a while facing north. Ursa Major lumbered over the dark horizon taking with him the old ideal of narrative. In the distance, a great-horned owl asked the perennial question, and farther away, another answered. It was cold but not too cold, and loneliness never entered into it.

*

Separation we might call the internal sense that we are not whole, are somehow broken or dysfunctional, and it always manifests as the desire that external circumstances be other than what they are. It is the salient fact of our human-shaped lives: deep down we are convinced that some critical aspect or element is either missing or defective and so experience devolves to a quest for healing, a search for what is lost. It is an old story, and we are very good at telling it. But we have to ask: is there another way?

Separation is not a psychological problem nor a theological problem – psychology and theology are responses to the problem. Sometimes they are helpful; sometimes they are not. And we are rarely any good at telling the difference. God is simply the idea of liberation – a proposed manifestation of liberation, say – concocted by a mind that believes it is jailed. But you cannot be saved if you are not fallen or otherwise in crisis. You can squeeze your eyes shut and call it night, but that does not make it night. It does not mean you need a lamp: you need to open your eyes.

*

Again: the problem is that we think there is a problem that requires solution (or resolution), and that this “problem” can be solved by (yet more) thinking. It is like we are banging our heads against a wall and we want the pain in our heads to stop so we decide to just bang a little harder. We can have the insight that “the problem is that we think there is a problem” but if it remains an intellectual ideal then we are still caught. Why? Because so long as we insist there is a solution (a healing) then we are ipso facto accepting the premise that there is a problem. And there is no problem. Nothing is wrong. Nothing is broken. Nothing is missing.

*

A large part of the problem many students have with A Course in Miracles is that they take it literally. This is what fundamentalists always do: ignore nuance, ignore subtlety – avoid the responsibility to think critically – and just pretend that asking no questions (or asking only shallow questions not designed to lead to answers) equals faith and faith is sufficient unto God and Heaven, period.

But A Course in Miracles is not going to save your body from death, it is not going to make you rich or beautiful or wise, it does not contradict the laws of science, and it is not proposing a supernatural reality in which angels and other metaphysically light-filled bipeds visit and offer direction. If you believe in it, it will let you down. If you cling to it in a storm, you will drown.

The course is simply an extended and poetic metaphor for the problem that all human beings have: deep down we are convinced that some aspect of our lives is missing or defective and so our lives become a search for what is missing. By virtue of repetition, it allows us to see the inherent futility in seeking and thus to stumble to a standstill, to the sweet bewilderment in which it at last becomes possible to surrender, to let go, to simple give attention without expectation or desire of return.

Please see this: every time we pick up A Course in Miracles because we think it is going to help, or that it’s somehow necessary, then we are tacitly consenting to remain imprisoned and confused. Loveliest of all lovely mornings is the one where we reach for the blue book and stop ourselves because we know that whatever must happen next, it cannot be contained by a book. Or a teacher. Or a diet. Or a prayer. Or a practice.

*

Last night, walking back, the winds picked up – their beautiful timbre and bluster jostling my steps beneath riotous stars and the vivid seam of Via Lactea and I remembered what my late uncle said, the two of us drunk and facing the sea: “always piss with and not against the wind.”

*

So you see, the spiritual search – however well-intentioned, however sincerely undertaken, however rigorously brought to application – is what makes the non-problem problematical. It is like looking for our glasses while our glasses are on our face. Everywhere we look, our glasses are there, but we don’t know it. Our search is doomed because we already have what seek. Indeed, our seeking is only possible because we have what we seek.

That last sentence matters. “Our seeking is only possible because we already have what we seek.” What does it mean? People sometimes say to me, “I don’t know God.” Or, “I don’t know peace.” And my answer is always the same: “how do you know that you don’t know?”

If we stay with that question – which is entirely a question of whether we are ready to stay with it – then we will understand that this whole idea of separation – and the concomitant quest for God and healing – is nothing more than an elaborate (and largely unhelpful) fiction.

Emily Dickinson – (who cleared the New England trail, who bore the requisite lamp) knew.

Blue is blue – the World through –
Amber – Amber – Dew – Dew
Seek – Friend – and see –
Heaven is shy of Earth – that’s all –
Bashful Heaven – thy lovers small –
Hide – too – from thee –

This life is it: in all its apparently messy and convoluted and unsolvable gorgeousness. Heaven isn’t what you think: it’s what is when you stop taking what you think seriously. Blue is blue all the world through. Or, as A Course in Miracles puts it:

Truth is. It can neither be lost nor sought nor found. It is there, wherever you are, being within you (T-14.VII.2:2-4).

With the wind, with the wind . . .

*

One day earlier this summer I stopped reading and went into the woods not to admire the light or the trees or the birds only but to build something: to clear something: a trail, then several trails, then barely perceptible paths between trails. When the nagging feeling arose that I was bereft of God – when the old story begged a fresh rendition – I did not answer with words but with an ax and bow saw. I chose these tools because they are quieter than a chainsaw, and slower than a chain saw, and don’t reek of gas and oil like a chain saw, and also because they ask something of my attention that I was hungry to give, that I was ready – at last – to give.

*

Everyone comes to the remembrance that nothing is lost and everything whole in their own way and their own time. It is a personal choice, somewhat tethered to insight and willingness and – often – desperation. It is in the nature of an allowance from the deep interior we so rarely visit (Dickinson will show you how, if you let her). We piss with the wind, we consent to know what we know without being coy or childish about it, and we choose the right tools and go where they can be fructive.

I asked myself this question: will it disturb a chickadee? The sweet resin of birch and pine filled the air as I worked. In the morning moose scat lay where the day before I’d opened a way, as if in blessing, as if in love. In time, the trails became like lines drawn in the sea with trailing fingers: there but not there, as I was there and then not. And it was okay, it was more than okay. And what but thank you – a thousand times thank you – can I say to you who were with me all the while?

*

How tired I am, how wordy and joyful, Creation spilling through morning and all . . .

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Eric September 24, 2014, 7:45 pm

    Sean: A large part of the problem many students have with A Course in Miracles is that they take it literally. This is what fundamentalists always do: ignore nuance, ignore subtlety – avoid the responsibility to think critically – and just pretend that asking no questions (or asking only shallow questions not designed to lead to answers) equals faith and faith is sufficient unto God and Heaven, period.

    But A Course in Miracles is not going to save your body from death, it is not going to make you rich or beautiful or wise, it does not contradict the laws of science, and it is not proposing a supernatural reality in which angels and other metaphysically light-filled bipeds visit and offer direction. If you believe in it, it will let you down. If you cling to it in a storm, you will drown.

    Eric: Sean I’m not sure how long I have been reading some of your blogs, but I can say that I have seen your perception of A Course in Miracles evolving and in turn have seen my own evolving as well.

    I absolutely agree about the subtle nuances of A Course in Miracles and often times it is taken too literal. The idea that one just does all their forgiveness lessons and *poof*, the body disappears and we “go home” to God. Really, this isn’t much different than the traditional Christianity’s approach to salvation. Maybe not so much in form, but content. The idea that if we just do the right thing, then eventually, sometime in some future we will be rewarded with eternal bliss in the place of some spiritual realm called Heaven. All the while overlooking here and now.

    Maybe this is why Tara Singh was always so insistent in being vigilant for God. Maybe this is why he warned of being casual about it or for seeking modification. Being completely vigilant for God ends the seeking, if at least temporarily. It ends casualness which keeps seeking alive. And in this suspension of seeking, we can begin to really give attention or maybe more accurately, really be attentive to what we have been overlooking here and now. We see the glasses are on our face. We get a glimpse of Heaven and earth passing away, or not existing as separate states.

    I was talking with someone about Ken Wapnick the other day about how he used to be my favorite teacher, but I changed my mind. The person asked me about it and I gave a few reasons for my change of mind. The person responded about being impressed that I could find cracks in Ken’s explanations/interpretation. I responded that no, it wasn’t about “finding cracks” in Ken’s explanations/interpretations, but more simply that Ken does/did indeed interpret the course. We all do. I do. You do. He does. She does. They do. etc. etc. We interpret the course because we all read it through the lens of our attitudes, beliefs, values, and experiences. We read the symbols through the lens of our perception and perception IS interpretation. And I think when we really accept that, not just for others, but for ourselves, it really lets the course breathe. It let’s us breathe. The course is no longer static, but dynamic and we in turn become more dynamic. It’s liberating. Conclusions then become only temporary in nature in which they are not endings at all.

    And I think when we let the course become more dynamic, our experience becomes more dynamic. We begin to drop away the idea that we can get rid of our ego and that there is some linear process in which we do enough forgiveness lessons and this will happen. It is the idea that if one does 20,597 forgiveness lessons then Ta Da, they are finished. But I think Martin Luther King Jr. said it better than any course teacher, when he said, “Forgiveness is not a series of acts, but a permanent attitude.”

    Trying to rid oneself of the ego will do as you say, let you down. It is also a circular process because what is trying to get rid of the ego, but the ego? It is merely the self concept trying to get rid of aspects of this self concept to make a better self concept that is supposedly no longer a self concept. In other words it is modification masquerading as transformation.

    We need to be more gentle with ourselves as it is our own judgment that keeps us seeking. The course is gentle with us. It tells us that we will make mistakes as long as we’re here. It says that our function is to overcome limitations, but not to be without them. And it tells us that we will make many self concepts as our learning goes along. It is not asking us to get rid of the ego or even destroy it. Trying to get rid of it only keeps seeking alive. It also keeps fear alive when we see that our efforts in trying to get rid of it are not working. But there is another way….

    “The wicked shall perish” becomes a statement of Atonement, if the word “perish” is understood as “be undone.” Every loveless thought must be undone, a word the ego cannot even understand. To the ego, to be undone means to be destroyed. The ego will not be destroyed because it is part of your thought, but because it is uncreative and therefore unsharing, it will be reinterpreted to release you from fear. The part of your mind that you have given to the ego will merely return to the Kingdom, where your whole mind belongs. You can delay the completion of the Kingdom, but you cannot introduce the concept of fear into it. ~ACIM

    • Sean Reagan September 26, 2014, 12:20 pm

      Hi Eric,

      It’s great to hear from you. This idea of evolution is very much on my mind these days. I am not where I was, even a few months ago, and in some ways, the course feels dispensable. Today the course, tomorrow the New Testament. It’s all the same . . .

      But evolution – I question it! I feel that what is happening is more in the nature of simply seeing more clearly what is, and that change (in the sense of time) does not really enter into it.

      I know that sounds pretentious (and even passive aggressive) . . . But I think what you and I are saying, it is like the light is always there and we finally recognize it, and we aren’t even really doing anything. I am having a very hard time writing or talking about it. But still.

      It’s strange in its way because you are right: we evolve in this regard. But I wonder if “evolution” is the right word – I am not being critical of you for using it, because I am using it, too. Cheryl and I have talked about it recently – in an email or comment thread, I’m not sure.

      One thing that happened to me this summer was I read a line of Krishnamurti’s in a dialogue with David Bohm: “I don’t think there is psychological evolution at all.”

      And I thought: My God, he’s right. And then everything changed because there was nothing to do in the sense of learning or improvement. It was just a question of remembering that there is no such thing as psychological evolution and so nothing to do, nothing to project, nothing to hide, nothing to run from, et cetera.

      It’s the doing – the internal doing – that ties us up in knots.

      Amendment: I didn’t say My God he’s right – I said, shit, what if he’s right? And then it slowly dawned on me over a few weeks that he was right. And Tara Singh, who was Krishnamurti’s student in some significant ways, takes a similar stance. It’s not about getting wiser or richer or healthier; it’s about becoming present. The rest of it takes care of itself.

      “Life takes care.” That is what Tara Singh so often says. I appreciate that so much . . . And yes, being gentle – there is no reason not to be and every reason to be . . .

  • Eric September 28, 2014, 8:58 am

    Sean: But evolution – I question it! I feel that what is happening is more in the nature of simply seeing more clearly what is, and that change (in the sense of time) does not really enter into it.

    I know that sounds pretentious (and even passive aggressive) . . . But I think what you and I are saying, it is like the light is always there and we finally recognize it, and we aren’t even really doing anything. I am having a very hard time writing or talking about it. But still.

    It’s strange in its way because you are right: we evolve in this regard. But I wonder if “evolution” is the right word – I am not being critical of you for using it, because I am using it, too. Cheryl and I have talked about it recently – in an email or comment thread, I’m not sure.

    Eric: Hi Sean. I know you’re not being critical of my using the word evolved and it’s probably not the exact right word. It’s a good thing we’re not trying to come up with an unchangeable definition in what we’re trying to describe 😉

    I also question your answer possibly being passive-aggressive. I don’t see it that way. I just happened to have read an article from a certain “course teacher” yesterday, who spoke about the course and “real spirituality” and I thought that was passive-aggressive. At the very least, it was a demonstration of specialness and some of the fundamentalism you spoke about. But I digress.

    Do you remember a conversation in which I quoted Shunyru Suzuki? The quote was, “You are all perfect just as you are, and you could use some improvement.” (paraphrased).

    What I said that I really liked about this quote was that it spoke of our perfection and the improvement wasn’t about trying to improve the self. It was about improving our awareness of our perfection. You might even say, becoming aware of perfection itself.

    There have been other ways in which what I tried to express has been expressed. Such as, we must forget to remember. Learning is actually unlearning everything we have taught ourselves, etc. So the paradox is, that in some ways, it seems that we’re progressing forward in some kind of evolving, when we are really progressing back to God. Not in a doing, but in an undoing.

    I think that anyone who has had the overwhelming experience(s) that everything is going to be OK or that everything is OK, in those moments, there is no seeking. There is no attempt at modification. There is no attempt to want to learn more, be more, do more, because everything is there in this moment. There is nothing lacking with knowing that everything is OK. When the course states that a tranquil mind is no small gift, I think it is a bit of an understatement.

    But I think the more consistent and constant we come to these Holy Instants (or let awareness rest on perfection instead of all that we have made in the attempt to replace it), forgiveness is no longer a series of acts that we try to perform in hopes of some future salvation and “getting home” to God, as is sometimes popular in some course circles. Forgiveness starts to become a permanent attitude with the awareness that we are already at home in God.

    • Sean Reagan October 1, 2014, 12:23 pm

      I do remember that quote – it is wonderful. Yes – I resonate with all this, especially the way you articulate it here:

      . . . . improving our awareness of our perfection. You might even say, becoming aware of perfection itself.

      And it is good that we aren’t trying to etch anything in stone here! But it’s fun to talk and write for sure . . .

      Thanks, Eric . . .

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