One thing I like about Ken Wapnick is that he is very realistic about what it feels like to actually practice A Course in Miracles. In Ending Our Resistance to Love he states very clearly “[Y]ou cannot be a happy learner until you first learn how miserable you are. If you are happy, peaceful and satisfied with your life, A Course in Miracles is not for you (21).”
Who wants to hear that? He is saying that the course’s promise of joy and peace is real, but in order to find it we have to plumb some pretty ugly depths. And we just don’t want to go there. We are okay acknowledging that horror show intellectually, but we don’t want to really look at it, or spend any time with it.
But Wapnick also says that half-measures aren’t going to yield much fruit. Wanting an easier, softer way isn’t going to work. Waiting for the flawless blueprint is no good.
Everyone wishes there were a precise, detailed formula to follow, but unfortunately there is none other than to trust that experiencing the pain of staying with your ego will help you get beyond it. That is the bottom line (Ending our Resistance to Love, 23).
I was remembering all that today as I read The Forgiving Dream, which closes Chapter 29 (The Awakening). At one point in the text Jesus asks who could wish for either an idol or a dream in which an idol appears real “unless he were in terror and despair (T-29.IX.3:3)?”
Tara Singh often writes that when the course poses a question, it’s not a bad idea to stop reading and try to answer it, or at least learn that you can’t – or won’t- answer it.
We are here in this dream. And in it, we have idols. Idols and illusions go hand in hand. For some of us, A Course in Miracles is an idol. Patriotism is an idol. Walking dogs is an idol. Even Ken Wapnick can be an idol. All of those things – be they ideas or people or places or circumstances – reflect the application of egoic judgment. This is good, that is bad. As soon as we do that, we are in the “dream of judgment” that turns a dream of Heaven to one of hell (T-29.IX.2:1-2). We all do it. It’s no use beating ourselves up. That’s why we are here – believing that we have bodies, and stories, and that other bodies with their own stories are out there, some of which can be used for pleasure, some of which are out to get us.
The only reason we experience this life as real is because we are “in terror and despair.” And if we are going to wake up, then we have to really make contact with those feelings. Not in passing, not at the level of words only, but in a real way.
In the text, Jesus is very clear that this work – this looking – is not optional if we are going to wake up. He also cautions us against becoming casual about it – assuming that we’re “almost there” or that being less scared and more kind counts as progress.
Whenever you feel fear in any form – and you are fearful if you do not feel a deep content, a certainty of help, a calm assurance Heaven goes with you – be sure you made an idol, and believe it will betray you (T-29.IX.9:1).
There is no middle ground there. It is very clear.
So there is a need then to be vigilant for fear “in any form.” Fear isn’t always traditional fear, like when we don’t want to speak publicly or leap off the trail at the sight of a snake. Sometimes fear shows up as guilt or hatred. Sometimes it shows up as self-satisfaction. Sometimes as denial. We have to seek it out in all its forms, see it for what it is – a block to God’s Love – and then ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit for help. If we are patient, once we’ve seen the fear and brought our inner teacher to the fore, the fear will gently be undone.
Sometimes I feel very holy. I get pleased with my progress and improvement. A little pride comes in, a little smugness. There are moments of peace and in subtle and not-so-subtle ways I put those moments on display. Look at me! Perceive my wisdom and bathe in the rays of my inspired Godly love! I think it is something that happens to all of us from time to time. We get a little insight and a little happiness – more than we are used to – and we want to make it permanent. We want to take credit for it. It’s like saying, “thanks, Jesus, but I’ve got it from here.”
Do you remember this story in Matthew’s gospel? Jesus takes Peter and two other disciples up a mountain to pray. At the summit, Jesus is transfigured, bathed in divine light. Moses comes and Elijah shows up too and it’s like one great big Abrahamic love-in. And Peter says you know what? I’ll make us some shelter. Let’s settle down. He wants to make the moment permanent. Who can blame him? It’s what we all want. But Jesus says no. They have more work to do. And he leads them back down the mountain to teach and pray and eventually be tortured and executed.
I think our practice is like that a little. There’s a break in the storm – a little light, a little inner peace – and we want to hunker down and stay. We don’t want to keep digging. It’s hard work, this waking up! Can’t we just pitch a tent and stay put?
But Jesus says no. Let’s keep going.
In Ending our Resistance to Love Ken Wapnick points out that a good starting point for A Course in Miracles is pain and resistance, the more the better. Let’s get really clear about about how bad things are.
You are much better off beginning with the assumption that you are a heartless, cruel, sadistic beast, than you are assuming that you are a holy child of God who loves everyone (57).
And we resist that! We resist it when Jesus says it, and when Ken Wapnick says it, and when our therapist says it, and when Buddha says it. All of them! And thus we stay separated for the simple reason that we cannot bear to face the fear that gives rise to the dream of separation, the horror show of the ego. We don’t want to see that we’re the ones making it all go. We’d rather compromise. We’d rather seek out a slightly less scary illusion. But if we are going to see it undone altogether, then we are going to have to go all the way with Jesus.
But remember. As much as Jesus insists we have to do this difficult work, he also insists that we are not doing it alone. He is with us, always.
Little child, the light is there. You do but dream, and idols are the toys you dream you play with (T-29.IX.4:3-4).
So there is darkness, yes. And it’s a frightening darkness and we haven’t yet worked our way all through it. Okay. But there is a light, too, and it is within us and we can call on it any time we choose. It will never fail to join us as we work our way through this tangle of hatred, terror and despair toward Heaven which waits – patiently – in the not-so-far-off distance.