It can be hard to find a teacher for A Course in Miracles, given the nature of the material and the plethora of men and women out there identifying themselves as guides. How do we know who to listen to? Should we just go it alone?
A Course in Miracles is a method: a scripture yoked to a series of actionable lessons that allow one to bring its spiritual principles into application. It’s more in the nature of a blueprint to build a chapel, rather than the chapel itself.
A lot of aspirational writing about the course – mine included – is well-intentioned but fundamentally confused. It’s like going to a building lot with a bunch of tools and materials and then talking for hours about the beauty of architecture and the spiritual aspects of shelter. The time for talk is done; build or move on.
For many years I turned to Ken Wapnick as a teacher for the simple reason that he appreciated – to a fault, really – the practical nature of A Course in Miracles. Though some of his earlier writing was bent on contextualizing ACIM with western traditions of gnosticism and platonism, the later work began to focus explicitly on living with A Course in Miracles. What does it mean to wake up in the morning and go through one’s day as an ACIM student? That is not an insignificant question and Ken’s attention to it was almost always clear and practical.
For example, he writes here about the usefulness of understanding the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles in relation to sex.
What the mind does with sexuality has intention, as with every aspect of our bodily experience. Until now, the body had the negative goal of proving that separation is real, the same goal shared by the specifics of victimization and the pleasure-pain principle. One of sexuality’s purposes, therefore, was to prove that something outside outside the mind gives pleasure and happiness . . . This kind of thinking, then, becomes the ego’s justification for finding union through the body (Form versus Content: Sex and Money, 44).
So that is a useful way to approach the dilemma – I use that word carefully! – of sex: what is it we want? What is it for? Wapnick’s writing is a useful means of understanding the fundamental underlying metaphysics without getting lost in them.
This is not to say there is not a place for writing that inspires, that witnesses to the expanding experience of oneness – those glimpses of the divine even here in our belief in separation. In fact, sometimes that kind of writing is even more helpful than its pragmatic counterpart.
Again, it is a question of purpose: what is it for?
There are times in my practice of A Course in Miracles when I do not feel especially confused about what to do. As elegant and abstract as the text is (and the lessons can be), it is not inaccessible. When we make contact with our inner teacher – which is, as Helen Schucman pointed out in the preface, the sole objective of the material – we enter a very dynamic and fluid learning environment. It can be quite thrilling, actually.
In that setting, I am not at a loss for what to do but I am grateful indeed for a kind of spiritual coaching, a reminder of why this path matters and where it leads.
For example, here is Tara Singh writing in A Gift for all Mankind about the challenge of living with – and finding freedom from – the physical brain’s relativity and penchant for past and future.
Can you come to an intense awareness that you want to be out of this mess of “knowing” and prejudice? Do you want to come alive, be reborn and resurrected? Do you want to know the Absolute – not opinion, but the Absolute? Love is Absolute. The brain can’t know it, and the computer can’t know it. But A Course in Miracles makes it accessible – the direct Word of God (31).
That moves me. That strengthens me. And my practice is fortified accordingly.
Of course, discernment in this regard is needed. There are a lot of writers and teachers – in the ACIM community and elsewhere – who are merely benevolent wordsmiths. Ultimately, Tara Singh is not merely inspirational but also deeply practical.
You have to first stop the thought by seeing that it is unreal. There is no other way. Seeing it as unreal awakens one . . . Wanting to know the eternal is to get into another deception of thought which says that you have to “become.” It is moving away from your reality as God created you. Rather than seek the eternal, come to forgiveness that sees the external as unreal (Dialogues on A Course in Miracles, 52-53).
That is why I identify him as my teacher. He is practical and inspirational, and on both counts grounded in A Course in Miracles as an expression of the perennial philosophy (a phrase I am not aware of his using, and so I use it carefully in this context).
What am I saying? That teachers matter, one. That we need to give attention to what we need – or, to put it another way, to what a given teacher is for. Inspirational writing is not helpful when we are confused and need clarity at the formal level. Similarly, clear writing about the methodology of the course can be arid when we need an almost angelic eloquence to lift our experience of application.
In course terms, our real teacher is the Holy Spirit – that subtle but reliable manifestation of the healed mind, the unsplit mind. Hearing that teacher, however, can be tricky without somebody midwifing the process. That is why formal teachers – like Wapnick, like Tara Singh and others – matter. The right one brings us closer to the Teacher we already are.