On Playing Well With Others

Years ago a fellow student who had spent time with Tara Singh criticized Singh for using the phrase “bring into application.” Singh meant that it was not enough to study and learn: one had to actually embody that learning, to make it the fact of experience rather than an a mere ideal. The student felt that this was a form of dualism inconsistent with A Course in Miracles.

These kinds of metaphysical debates – is so-and-so sufficiently nondualistic, is so-and-so right in their understanding and practice of A Course in Miracles – are not as interesting to me as they once were. And it’s true they once were. If you scan old posts, you’ll find plenty of occasions where in spirit if not outright declaration I am taking sides on the nondualism and how-to-do-ACIM-right dialogue.

My interest in those dialogues began to abate when I discovered the role attention plays in our experience. Attention is present and responsive. It is alive. And once I began to see this clearly, and enter into relationship with it, the intellectual issues began to recede. Who cares about the physics of swimming when you can actually splash around in the waves?

This is not to say – as yesterday’s post makes clear – that I am opposed to intellectual analysis as a spiritual practice. Indeed, it is central to my experience of the course. I am by nature a student, and happiest when studying. My interest and facility with A Course in Miracles arises from that.

But – in my experience – Tara Singh was largely correct. Learning without application can be a form of resistance and denial. There is a difference between one who studies mercy and one who brings food and blankets to the homeless. Study is meant to inform application; application is more durable and fructive when informed by study. So balance matters.

Consciousness and awareness are experienced in a local way. If we look into our experience, it revolves around this body and this mind. Now that may not be a real or sustainable model for a lot of reasons – and we can talk about that, and we can engage the semantics – but doing so doesn’t bring the body or its prevalence to any end. All bodies serve the same approximate function: birth, hunger, reproduce, die.

And – within that cyclic function – to be aware. That is, to split into that which is observing and that which is observed. This division is an illusion: we are not separate from what is observed. We are what we are observing.

Believing the division is real – that we are not what we are studying – is what A Course in Miracles calls separation, and it is the primary source of our woe, both personally and collectively.

Intellectual study can bring us to the insight that the observer/observed divide is not reality but a form of perception. Intellectual study can give us the data, helpfully arrange it, and walk us through understanding it. But – and this matters – it cannot teach us how to live with the understanding.
That is an embodied holistic process and – kind of like parenting – you just have to do it. Nobody can do it for you.

Ask yourself this question: have you ever reached a point or had the insight that every spiritual book or essay or video you consume is saying the same approximate thing? Do you think while reading or viewing, “I know this?”

That’s an interesting juncture to reach, because it allows for this further question: if I already know all this, then why am I still so fucking petty and sad and confused and conflicted and so on?

The answer is: because you haven’t brought your vast admirable understanding into application.

Of course I am describing my own experience here. I’m not judging you. Probably you are a more tightly-wrapped box of chocolates than me. And no hard feelings if that’s so. But if this analysis resonates a little, then it’s worth asking: what would application of known spiritual ideals look like? Feel like?

And are you ready now to live that way?

For me, it is imperative not to do more reading in response to that question. There are only two answers to the question of readiness: yes or no. “Maybe” is just no another way. If you say no, you have to find out why you’re not ready. But if you’re ready – and probably you’re ready, or why else would you be reading this – then you have to leap. You have to leave the blue book behind and step into experience as a healed and healing presence.

All that really means is that we are giving attention to what is happening and discerning what, in this moment as it is given, is a just, creative and loving response.

This is harder than it sounds and leads to plenty of errors and missteps but it also speeds up the vivid here-and-nowness of inner peace.

This practical application of love is precisely what A Course in Miracles advocates. It

. . . emphasizes application rather than theory, and experience rather than theology . . . It’s only purpose is to provide a way in which some people will be able to find their own Internal Teacher (from the Preface).

Notwithstanding the various dramas that attend the course community – are Gary Renard’s ascended masters real, did Ken Wapnick wrongly edit the course, and blah blah blah – all ACIM is really saying is give attention, be kind and gentle in an ordinary way, and don’t worry about either the seeming big stuff or the seeming small stuff.

This is going to resemble an embodied dualistic experience! Don’t fret about that and don’t resist it. Don’t make a big deal out of it in any way. When we’re hungry, eat, and when we’re flowing with the divine Jesus river, flow, and when we’re tired and cranky, we remind ourselves it happens to everyone and try not to make things worse.

In a funny way, after many years of study into all these complex and fascinating philosophical and theological issues, I’m back to the playground where the best rule is simply to play well with others.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Mike Smith March 6, 2017, 3:24 pm

    Great to stumble upon you again!! I bought your book a couple of years ago- loved it (Went looking for it a few months back.. can’t find it in my house filled with too much stuff I don’t need!!)

    Anyway.. I am inspired by your take on things.. thanks
    Mike

    • Sean March 7, 2017, 8:36 pm

      You’re welcome, Mike – thanks for reading – glad you’re here . . .

      ~ Sean

  • Eric March 8, 2017, 7:48 am

    Sean Quote: Years ago a fellow student who had spent time with Tara Singh criticized Singh for using the phrase “bring into application.” Singh meant that it was not enough to study and learn: one had to actually embody that learning, to make it the fact of experience rather than an a mere ideal. The student felt that this was a form of dualism inconsistent with A Course in Miracles.

    Eric: I just have to touch on this, because while this idea is extremely silly, it is also very prevalent in spiritual circles. The course never uses the term non dualism once in it’s entire long tome. Instead it uses the terms wrong mindedness, right mindedness, and Onemindedness. It also says that it is a beginning and not an end and also only one way for some people to find their Inner Teacher.

    I find it difficult to make a comment about the idea of bringing the course into application as something dualistic and going against ACIM without being rude, but this is just absolutely silly and the amount of denial and dissociation that must be in one’s mind for this to seem to make sense, must be rather extreme for they would have to be overlooking so many things.

    What about the reader reading the book itself? That would be considered dualistic as there is an observer reading symbols written by another person. What about the voice dictating the course and speaking to the reader? There is a “speaker” so to speak and then a listener. What about the fact that the voice is telling the reader to forgive their brothers. What does this imply? What about the idea of choosing between the voice for the ego and the Voice for God?

    And then what about the everyday things such as getting up for work, brushing one’s teeth, taking a shower, eating, using the bathroom. Using the bathroom?!!! Oh the duality!! Cause not only do I go to the bathroom from my Yin, but also my Yang! Now am I not only stuck in the cycle of birth and death, but of pee and poop!!

    The point is, worrying about this being dualistic and that being non dualistic is wasted effort and are only ideas and concepts that we as humans made. As the course tells us that action MUST occur here. The course is not telling us to deny our everyday lives, but to engage in them correctly.

    Nondualism has become an over saturated pop spiritual platitude that people use to sound more esoteric. The word itself is not, it’s the conceptual ideas that we superimpose onto that word and give meaning to that we think makes it that way. It is like when someone throws in the word Quantum before another word to make it sound like some science-spirituality.

    And to bring up Gary Renard, because I find this example one of the most silly of all. Gary’s “ascended masters” tell Gary that to say Namaste to someone is belittling them, because it implies duality with using “I” and “you”. This is extremely silly and an attempt to be clever that when looked at closer, stumbles and falls in dissociation from the obvious. The obvious being that there are supposedly 2 ascended masters speaking with 1 individual which resulted in a book written by this individual that multiple readers are reading. Also the idea that Jesus didn’t use pronouns such as “I”, “you”, “they”, etc. when he spoke to his apostles is absurd as the voice in the course certainly uses them when addressing the reader. The other obvious point is that Namaste coincides with the course because roughly translated it is I see the light in you that is in me. Or as the course would say, to see the Christ in him that is also in you.

    The course is a practical course to be brought into application in our everyday lives where we make the choice between wrong mindedness and right mindedness (see Rules for Decision to see everyday application).

    Tara Singh was right. It is not enough to just read the course or discuss it, it must be brought into application. Singh said something in one of his books that always stood out for me. He said that most people aren’t really looking for real change, but modification. That rang true about me as I think most people looking at themselves honestly would agree about themselves. This echoes what the course says in the Pamphlet for Psychotherapy, when it says that the patient is looking for ways to keep the self concept intact, but without the suffering it entails.

    The course itself says that it emphasizes application. Worrying about if this or that is non dualistic, dualistic, semi-dualistic, or “pure” non dualistic are IMO wasted energy on concepts that in all reality to application mean nothing, which is why the course smartly, doesn’t bother with such terms.

    Eric

    • Sean March 8, 2017, 2:12 pm

      Well, yes. But it’s an easy issue to be confused by. If you look at early posts on this site, I was certainly confused by it. We are all learning.

      I think the absence of “duality” and “nonduality” just reflects Helen’s (and later Ken Wapnick’s) bias for western terminology when it came to philosophy and theology. Both Ken and Tara Singh used “duality” and “nonduality” in their course-related teaching.

  • Eric March 9, 2017, 9:10 am

    Good morning Sean,

    Yes I remember some of your earlier posts and I particularly remember your invitation to meet up for a cup of coffee, even though it was an illusion, which even though I said nothing at the time, I have to be honest and found it to be completely unnecessary to make that statement. I guess in a way I never really got caught up in “it’s all an illusion” proclamation that is common in spiritual circles and especially course circles, or to say it another way, I’ve never really dismissed the relative in favor of the Absolute metaphysical beliefs/ideas. That’s not to say that that makes me spiritually advanced or anything as I am far from it. It’s probably more of my over analytical mind.

    I have to admit that the first part of your reply does have me confused. When you state “and later Ken Wapnick’s) bias……” it seems you’re implying that Ken helped write ACIM, instead of merely helping edit it, as his bias would have been able to dictate what words should be inserted or omitted into ACIM. Of course having read every edition of the course, the obvious is that non-duality was never edited out.

    Also you’re stating that Ken had a bias against the term, but as with most course students know that Ken had very much a bias towards the term if anything else. In fact, he developed his theology of the course that not only was it non-dualism, but “pure non dualism.”

    Another explanation that the course doesn’t use the term non-duality can also be, because it is not trying to get bogged down in a theology/belief of a term that comes with baggage. Non duality means different things to different people. One could go on a non dual website and see people argue over what non dualism is. Some describe it with a subtlety, while others are more literal.

    Take Ken Wapnick. His “pure non dualism” theology essentially took high abstract metaphysical ideas and attempted to reduce them down to a very concrete physical numerical number. That number being the number 1 instead of Oneness. Even though the course says (in the supposed non-dual part of the course) that Creation is the sum of all God’s Thoughts in number infinite, not finite.

    Wapnick took many liberties with the course in the attempt to pigeon hole it into his “pure non dualism” theology. It wasn’t the course saying non-dualism, it was Ken saying that the course was saying non-dualism. Yes Ken said those things in his teachings, but he said many things that I did not agree with in his theology. He even took liberties in changing the wording in one of the course’s passages on his question and answer site and replaced a word with the word non dual, that one person told me I was wrong in my assessment and provided the passage a “proof”. Also, in my opinion, in Wapnick’s need to pigeon hole ACIM into his “pure non-dualism” theology, he became that theologian in the course who says there is a light, but emphasized the distance.

    I think you already know my position on Wapnick. Though I read him quite a bit in my early days of studying the course, he does not resonate with me and the more I read the course itself the less he does. He had taken many liberties with the course, he tried to set himself up as the premiere teacher of the course, and went as far as threatening other people with legal repercussions if authors, websites, and/or discussion boards did not quit quoting and/or using the A Course in Miracles title. He really believed that his interpretation of the course was not an interpretation, but a factual explanation of what the course said. I’m sorry, but that is arrogant. Everyone interprets the course, because it is a book with symbols, and symbols are read through ones’ perception and perception IS interpretation. Not only is it arrogant, but it is patently untrue. His interpretations have changed over the years, sometimes so dramatically, that he would have to write multiple pages in his preface explaining why he no longer believed what he once believed. I am so grateful that Wapnick lost the copyright to ACIM, so that people can be free to talk about it and write about it, whether I agree with them or not.

    As far as Singh. You have to remember, Singh is of Eastern Indian descent, where Vedantas such as Advaita Vedanta is taught and originated. He was also a friend and student of J. Krishnamurti before he came onto the course, so it makes sense that he would use this wording. But again to be honest, it was this wording that was the least appealing to me in reading Singh, though he did not speak of it in such a dogmatic tone.

    Dualism and non dualism tend to point towards beliefs and can tend to spiral down the Advaita Trap of “see the beautiful tree?”, “there is no tree and so seer to see the tree and no speaker telling you that there is no tree and no seer or no speaker and no listener to hear these circular words and logic.”

    Instead the course uses real practical terms of wrong mindedness, right mindedness, that points to healing the split mind to OneMindedness.

    • Sean March 10, 2017, 5:46 pm

      Oh, I don’t know. “Jesus,” “crucifixion,” “atonement” and “resurrection” et cetera have a lot of baggage, too . . . Helen was working with the language & concepts to which she was both personally and professionally devoted. And she was very supportive of Tara Singh and his teaching, which reflected a considerable conceptual extension of her ideas. I don’t think the distinction you’re drawing is a big deal, other than its helpfulness to your own learning experience (which is important).

      Sean

  • Eric March 10, 2017, 10:28 pm

    Well sure, which is why in the first few chapters of the course (which it states is it’s foundation) carefully takes the time to unpack this baggage through explanation and redefinition of these loaded terms. Something it does not do with the term non dualism.

    Yes, I’m aware that Helen was supportive of Singh, in fact, she said he should teach ACIM and I agree. She was also supportive of Ken when she was alive, but his interpretation then was quite a bit different from his later “pure non dualism” theology he pontificated.

    And yes it is helpful for myself. But what is my distinction? That Ken doesn’t resonate with me because his liberties he took, reversal of course statements, the idea that God is far far away, his interpretation was the truth, not supporting his enforcement of his truth? Etc etc

    Ironically Ken continually called ACIM students some of the worst people on the face of the earth, but it was his, not the courses’ teaching that helped facilitate the very behavior and thinking he railed against. This was due to the level confusion of his “pure non dualism” theology, so maybe the distinction isn’t all that small

  • Mike March 20, 2017, 5:34 pm

    “I’m back to the playground where the best rule is simply to play well with others.”, and I LOVE to get to play here with you. I actually found you a couple of years ago trying to resolve the Renard controversy after reading his DU. I had already started to recognize MY interest in conflict and how it needed “impossible to resolve” questions to satisfy it (ie spiritual ones). How you played so nice with that subject was a real turning point for me. For the first time there was more admiration for how someone did (and could!) play nice, which meant not even giving as much attention to WHAT was being played with. And as for me finding everything saying the same thing (now), I get this feeling that everyone came from the same town! (like people having the same accent. every author or youtube or new aquaintance must have grown up together!)

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