Two quick thoughts before I start rambling. First, many of you have compassionately reached out regarding Mac’s death and I am grateful for that. It strengthens and comforts me, and that strength and comfort naturally extend. Thank you.
Second, I mention Daan Dehn in this post and paraphrase some of his teaching. That, of course, can be a risky process. You may want to check out his site to ensure I haven’t twisted his wisdom to suit my own ends. He is a kind and serious student and teacher.
My identification with the Holy Spirit proceeds apace but is not yet total or perfect. I feel grief for my daughter, frustration at my stumbling spiritual practice, angry that the basement is flooding today and so on and so forth. I won’t lie about that.
Therefore, I offer these thoughts as one who walks beside – perhaps even a little behind – you, as we share this path. If what I say is helpful, then great. If not, no hard feelings.
The sequence of lessons I am currently working through aims to undo the traditional understanding of what it means to give and receive. In the world’s eyes who gives, loses, and who receives, gains by the giver’s loss. If I bake a batch of cider doughnuts and give them to you, I don’t have any doughnuts but you do. It is a system based on sacrifice.
A Course in Miracles would reverse that, teaching instead that “to give is to recieve (W-pI.108.7:3). It is a critical lesson.
Sacrifice is so essential to your thought system that salvation apart from sacrifice means nothing to you. Your confusion of sacrifice and love is so profound you cannot conceive of love without sacrifice (T-15.X.5:7-8).
This is about more than just rethinking our attitude toward sharing doughnuts or stepping outside our comfort zone to hug more or overcoming our fiscal insecurity to pay for coffee or whatever. Those things are fine, of course – often better than fine – but they do not reflect the utter thought reversal contemplated by A Course in Miracles.
Thus, when we study and practice the idea that giving and receiving are one in truth, we are actually tackling – indeed, we are revising, are seeing anew – cause and effect.
Effect and cause will be far better understood from this time on, and we will make much faster progress now. Think of the exercises for today as quick advances in your learning, made still faster and more sure each time you say, “To give and to receive are one in truth” (W-pI.108.10:2-3).
I don’t think this is a hard concept to talk about. It is not especially hard to understand intellectually. The challenge for many of us – certainly for me – is how do we take it beyond the level of opinion and intellect? How do we actually live it rather than simply hold it up as a spiritual ideal?
One way to do that is to find a helpful teacher.
I have written before about my first experience of reading Tara Singh. A handful of his sentences and my understanding of the Course and my practice was altered at the deepest levels. I could literally feel certain resistances crumble inside of me. A dozen veils lifted; clouds parted. It was instantaneously powerful and transformational.
That intensity has grown quieter and steadier over the years, but my devotion to Tara Singh has not diminished. For me, he is a clear, lucid and inspiring ACIM teacher. I read a little of his work almost every day. It both grounds and lifts me. His radiance touches the eternal and I respond accordingly.
Ken Wapnick has also been an important influence. Indeed, as I grow with the Course – and in particular as I write about it and learn what it means to write about it – my admiration and respect for him expands. I wrote to him once, forgiving him for focusing so much on western cultural influences (which I believed ran generally counter to the Course’s expansive and inclusive applicability and specifically denigrated its Vedantic leanings). He was very gracious and kind and supportive.
All that said, the single most helpful advice I have ever received came via email from a man that most Course students I talk to have never heard of. Indeed, before I read and eventually wrote to him, I didn’t know who Daan Dehn was either.
I encountered his teaching because a few years ago I hit a wall. I understood A Course in Miracles pretty well and I had a daily practice, but something was missing. There was a certain shallowness to my experience. Perhaps it’s better to say there was a certain familiarity to it. It was beginning to resemble just another dish at the New Age Christian/Half-assed Buddhist buffet table I’d been patronizing since my early twenties.
When I gave space to the possibility that I was “talking the walk,” as they say, it became clear that despite my best intentions and sincere efforts, I was simply repeating old mistakes. I was refusing awakening. I was doing the same unhelpful dance and pretending it was different because I was doing it in a new set of clothes.
This quickly deepened into a crisis. I truly wanted a more vivid and helpful experience of Jesus and the Holy Spirit and the awakening that was their promise. But I felt trapped by my past and my habits and by my obvious spiritual limitations. I knew that I couldn’t just say the Course was radically transformational. I didn’t want to be shallow and superficial. But I wasn’t sure what else to do. I didn’t know how to get to the next level.
One rainy afternoon I was sitting at the table with my laptop, drifting through a bunch of ACIM links, one of which led me to this essay by Daan. I read the first paragraph and sat back. The clarity and intensity blew me away. It spoke to me in the same way Tara Singh had. I felt as if I had been peering in vain through a dusty window and somebody had just given me a cleaning agent and some rags.
For some there seems to come a time, usually after years of intense devotion to the Course (or any other spiritual path for that matter), that something changes radically, the Course no longer seems to “work,” at least not in the sense that many testimonials say it does. This is a crucial time; many quit at this point and go shopping the metaphysical buffet for another “path” that “works.” Yet here is the real beginning of A Course in Miracles.
In time, I emailed Daan. He had spent significant time with Tara Singh. I trusted his knowledge and experience. I asked him a lot of questions, most of which he answered. There was one, however, to which he seemed to give short thrift. I asked him what it meant to know – to truly know at the experiential level – that time and the body were illusions.
That question came from the heart: I could talk a blue streak about ACIM metaphysics but could not longer pretend that I knew at the deepest levels what they meant. How does one know when they are in illusion and when they are not? I was begging him: tell me. Please. Give me the answer.
Daan wrote back: “find out.”
It may be no better advice has ever been given me. Certainly no more practical advice has been. I didn’t especially appreciate it at the time (it felt dismissive), but I understood that my resistance to it was a clue. So I gave those two words some attention.
It turns out they are quite powerful.
I return to those two syllables quite often. More than I care to admit, I forget to offer the gift of wordiness to the Holy Spirit. I take back the academic and intellectual mindset that properly offered is part of God’s gift. Clinging to eloquence and the intellect inevitably leaves me lost and frightened and defensive. The light is blocked. Love is pushed away.
Those two words are a perennial salve. They remind me that awakening is not a mental puzzle. They remind me that I cannot talk or write my way either to or through the proverbial Gates of Heaven. They restore some humility and engender willingness.
Find out. Find out.
In the preface to A Course in Miracles, Helen Schucman says that A Course in Miracles “emphasizes application rather than theory, and experience rather than theology (viii). She notes that the workbook “emphasizes experience through application rather than a prior commitment to a spiritual goal (ix).
It is the difference between reading about gardening and actually planting, nurturing and harvesting one. The former cannot possibly substitute for the latter. And if you are hungry, you cannot eat a book about gardening. You cannot chow down on a conversation about food. You have to grow food.
In A Gift for All Mankind, Tara Singh pointedly asked his students whether they were ready to muster the intense awareness necessary to end the duality of life in the world.
Do you want to come alive, be reborn and resurrected? Do you want to know the Absolute – not opinion, but the Absolute? (31)
If one answered in the affirmative, then he said that A Course in Miracles was a miracle that enabled one to be so reborn and to know the Absolute not as a good idea but as a fact.
[A Course in Miracles] says neither learning, nor religion, nor affluence has worked. Why? Because learning must be brought into application – application is what is missing (35).
Daan’s suggestion that I “find out” what the Course meant when it taught about Reality emphasized application and experience. This is what the Course envisions as well. We are urged to make contact with our internal teacher – the Holy Spirit. This is a deeply personal experience that happens outside of words. It is obviously true that external teachers and fellow students can be helpful. It’s not a crime to read and write about our learning. But none of that can substitute for the personal relationship with the One Teacher who knows.
In the end, we have to find that Teacher and learn what it means to be their student. There is nothing else to do, and nobody can do it for us.
I raise all this because, while practicing Lesson 106 a few days ago, it was clearly intimated that I was remaining attached to thinking and outcomes, and thus not accepting the full breadth of what the Holy Spirit could offer. Lesson 106 invites us to step fully into the truth of “to give and receive are one in truth” (W-pI.108). But I was allowing myself to be satisfied with an intellectual grasp of the concept. I was fooling myself. I was insisting on dull sleep, not the “intense awareness” that Singh taught was precedent to awakening.
Please understand that this deception – this unwillingness, this refusal to be resurrected – is not itself a problem. It happens. Don’t regret it and don’t castigate yourself. Don’t judge it in yourself or in others. Let it be.
The solution to internal deception is always the same: see the fact of resistance, refuse to hide it or hide from it, and resolve to find out – in the most intimate and naked way possible – what it means to awaken.
Fear obstructs us. Fear is what stands between what we think we are and what we are in Truth. It is no more complicated than that. Yet we are always in the presence of the One who can deliver us from that fear by passing through it beside us. I am in relationship with that One. You are, too. Together we are Christ. Is it not time to find out – literally – what that means?