One Mind and A Course in Miracles

When we say that we are “one mind” or “there’s only one of us here,” we are not talking about discrete material reality. We are not going to trade these bodies for spirit cloaks, or for angel bodies, or prismatic spiral nebulae or something like that.

Rather, when we talk about “one mind,” we are really talking about content: at that level, it is possible to see that there really is only one mind because we all have the same shared content.

A Course in Miracles teaches us that ideas do not leave their source – when we share them, they stay where they are (T-26.VII.4:7). If we think of the one mind in terms of content, then we can see that we are not really sharing anything in the sense that I have a slice of pie and offer you half. It’s all already there! So what we perceive as a new idea is more like light reaching us from a lamp that was always there. We are remembering what we always knew, albeit dimly.

So, you know, Tara Singh writes something profound and transformational and I respond to it: “Oh! I never thought of that, that way! But now I know! Thank you Taraji!” But you see, all that has happened is that the one mind grew a little bit clearer, a little bit brighter. If I project a unique or special wisdom onto Tara Singh – if I pretend that there was a spiritual lack in me that he filled from his personal store of spiritual abundance – then I am denying the one mind. I am pretending that Singh has something I don’t. But if I think of the insight I acquired from him as more in the nature of a light going on – one that was always there, just dimly – then it’s not such a big deal. It’s my idea, too. And yours. And so on.

We tend to think of spirituality in linear terms: So-and-so is enlightened, so-and-so is getting there, and this other so-and-so hasn’t even really started the journey. Or some of us are in the middle of the ladder of prayer while others are at the top rung. We all do this but I question its efficacy. I don’t think it reflects reality but rather a pervasive (even pernicious) view of reality – a sort of competitive, consumeristic view. The hierarchy abounds, and we celebrate the spiritual hero who stands alone on the altar – whether it’s Tara Singh, Ken Wapnick, Eckhart Tolle or the local priest or rabbi.

A better way to see it is that we all compose an enormous circle (whose center is everywhere) that is always moving and always in flux. One can be here or there in the circle, but no part of it is superior to another. So Tara Singh occupies this region of the circle, and Saint Augustine occupies this part, and you are here and I am there but we are all composed by and composing the same circle. If a light goes on here in the circle, then it reaches there. So when you awaken a little because you are reading somebody, the insight isn’t flowing from their mind to your mind, but is akin to a light flowing through the circle. You might think of it as dawn: the slow beautiful tides of sunlight gently flowing across a darkened landscape, brightening it bit by little bit.

Now, it is important to see that ideas, too, are physical in a way. Most neurophysiologists would say that an idea has material components: chemical, electrical, and so forth, and that these are measurable. So, in a sense, ideas are another level of the material – a very subtle level, but still.

But while we can measure the brain’s activity, and thus see when thought is creating pleasure or fear, say, and while we can do this in very nuanced ways, we are still not able to see the content of the thought. I mean, you can hook me up and say, well, Sean is very happy right now. You can see it here in this image of his brain, and it shows up in these chemicals in his body and all of that, but you can’t say whether I am happy because I am remembering an old dog or dreaming of a new one.

Eventually we all see as a result of our practice that there are no problems externally: it is all about our thoughts. That is why A Course in Miracles teaches us that we can only be hurt by our own thoughts (W-pII.281.1:5).

And that is what I mean by content: and that level is available to all of us, and it is a shared level. We aren’t aware of all of it, but so what? You aren’t aware of all of your personal thoughts either – until somebody asks you to recall the birth of your daughter, you aren’t walking around thinking of the birth of your daughter. But it’s there. And that is true of what we are calling the “one mind” too – all of the information is there, all of it is shared, and all of it is available to all of us.

This is just a way to think of it – maybe it is helpful and maybe it isn’t. I’m not trying to argue with anybody who’s happy taking another approach. God knows I have a long way to go myself. But I am saying that when I give attention to how thought works, and how projection works, this is what I see. I see shared content that readily transcends or flows through what we are calling material containers (bodies, brains, etc.). I see that in very simple and practical ways, there is one mind, and that its salient qualities are love and what flows from love – peace, balance, sanity, equality and so forth.

Of course, the only way to make contact with this one mind is to stop projecting our own specialness (and the specialness of others) onto it. That’s what gums up the works. Hence the emphasis A Course in Miracles places on ending projection as the way to liberate our brothers and sisters and our selves (e.g., T-9.VI.3:1-5). Hence David Bohm’s emphasis on suspending judgment as a critical facet of dialogue. To wit:

If we can all listen to each other’s opinions, and suspend them without judging them, and your opinion is on the same basis as anybody else’s, then we all have ‘one mind’ because we have the same content – all the opinions, all the assumptions. At that moment, the difference is secondary (Thought as a System 204).

Of course, this was why Tara Singh repeatedly emphasized that life was not personal.

For the wise, the externals are never the issue.
Action always starts
with one’s own internal correction.
It is the action of Love,
independent of personality,
that effortlessly transforms relationship.
There are beneficient forces at work in Life.
(Love Holds No Grievances 10).

Attention reveals to us that our separate lives are in fact more in the nature of a collective: at readily accessible levels, we are one. In order to realize this, we have to stop projecting our own ideas and opinions outward: we have to stop judging life. This is a literal application that we are called to make moment by moment. For example, when we think that someone is behaving wrongly at work or in our family or in the public sphere, we have to see the judgment inherent in that thought, and become responsible for seeing what is unloving through to love itself. No matter what action we take or don’t take at the material and external level, we have to to the internal work of coming to impersonal love.

This is hard work! And opportunities for practice abound, at least in my life. I am never not astounded at how selfish, mean-spirited and casual I can be. But I’m not alone, of course. Eventually we all see as a result of our practice that there are no problems externally: it is all about our thoughts. That is why A Course in Miracles teaches us that we can only be hurt by our own thoughts (W-pII.281.1:5).

So, you know, there is nothing especially mystical about this, which can come as a let down! It is really about the hard work of loving in a loveless place, and about becoming responsible for own unlovingness. We don’t have to solve our unlovingness – but we do have to see it, and we do have to become willing to be done with it. Until we sincerely reach the Thetfordian insight – there must be another way – then healing will remain simply another projection, a good idea that we polish alone, cherishing the secret dream of specialness.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Eric November 9, 2014, 12:54 pm

    Hi Sean,

    Funny, I was just thinking about this the other day when I was reading from John Sherman’s book, “Look at Yourself”. The book is basically a transcript of John speaking with people about the process of looking at yourself. In one of the sections a person asks about feeling compassion for others and John replies that we are all in this together. He then followed this statement up with a line that really resonated with me. He said, compassion is not something we choose, but something that we spend most of our lives trying desperately to get rid of.

    That sounds very negative at first glance, but I think when it is looked at closer, it is very true. I think that on some level all of us have a deep sense of compassion, but there is often an overlying fear on top of that. We see others suffering in the world and we feel that compassion, but it hurts to see our fellow brothers and sisters like this, and not knowing what to do we often times look to something to distract us from this. We look to materialism, religion, sports, gossip, celebrities, politics, etc. We can then even grab a hold of the ideas and points of views within each of these distractions to then justify trying to get rid of our compassion, because “those people’s” ideas and points of views are different from ours.

    The course continually speaks about private minds with private thoughts, making up private worlds. Yet it also states that to share is to make one or alike. Yes egos can come together for a purpose, but that is more of a temporary allegiance where each ego gets what it wants, rather than the communion of communication.

    In the Urtext, it expounds a bit on the line, “The Father and I are One.” It then goes on to say that this means to be of One Kind. In all of the editions of the course it is followed with this line:

    To be one is to be of one mind or will. When the Will of the Sonship and the Father are One, their perfect accord is Heaven. ~ACIM

    Eric: I’ve mentioned this to other course students to find that not many agree with me, but this sentence to me says that mind and will are essentially synonymous. If we understand the mind to be not really about the concrete specifics, such as I am an American white male, who leans to the left in politics, etc. but looks past that to something more abstract and deeper, to be of one mind is to be of one will. The Will of Life itself. I think when we really stop and bring our attention past all of our little ideas in our private minds with our private thoughts, we can see this really is true.

    Throughout the years I have had many people write to me to tell me that it was because of me and my writings they were able to quit smoking. That I helped them see smoking in a whole different light. And as much as I may sometimes want to take credit that somehow I had some magic touch, I remind them that I didn’t really do anything. They were the ones who quit smoking. All I did was help show them that they already had the key to do so. Deep down, they already knew anything I had to tell them. My words just resonated with some people in way that brought this to the forefront. It is this little way that I can experience compassion for my fellow brothers and sisters.

    Eric

    • Sean Reagan November 14, 2014, 5:19 pm

      I’m curious (not sure you’ll see this – kinda dropped the ball here responding to comments for a few days) but what do you think of this line from Schopenhauer:

      Man can do what he wills but he cannot will what he wills.

      Are you familiar with Schopenhauer at all? I am not at all but this moves me for some reason.

  • Eric November 15, 2014, 11:01 am

    Hi Sean,

    I’m not at all familiar with Schopenhauer. As far as the line, I think it has at least a couple POV.

    If the line had said, “Man can do his will, but cannot will his will”, then I would see it as man can do his will as given/shared by God, but since man is not self creating, he cannot will his will.

    I could also see the line as it is written as man can do what he thinks is his will (which is more like his wishes), but he cannot make this his will as much as he tries, though he can make it seem to be. In this sense, man with his private mind, with private thoughts, which create his private world may seem to be self willing, but since in essence this is not man’s true will, he cannot truly will it to be.

    But at the same time, since man is not self creating, this misuse of will is still of the power of Will, which is why the course says that man can use the power of mind against himself.

    This all reminds me of the section in Chapter 30 titled “Freedom of Will” which states:

    Do you not understand that to oppose the Holy Spirit is to fight yourself? He tells you but your will; He speaks for you. In His divinity is but your own. And all He knows is but your knowledge, saved for you that you may do your will through Him. God asks you do your will. He joins with you. He did not set His Kingdom up alone. And Heaven itself but represents your will, where everything created is for you. No spark of life but was created with your glad consent, as you would have it be. And not one Thought that God has ever had but waited for your blessing to be born. God is no enemy to you. He asks no more than that He hear you call Him “Friend.”

    How wonderful it is to do your will! For that is freedom. There is nothing else that ever should be called by freedom’s name. Unless you do your will, you are not free. And would God leave His Son without what he has chosen for himself? God but ensured that you would never lose your will when He gave you His perfect answer. Hear it now that you may be reminded of His love and learn your will. God would not have His Son made prisoner to what he does not want. He joins with you in willing you be free. And to oppose Him is to make a choice against yourself and choose that you be bound. ~ACIM

    • Sean Reagan November 19, 2014, 5:18 am

      Hi Eric,

      Thank you for sharing that. The distinction between wish and will was actually one Schopenhauer explored; your intuition is right on. Perhaps you were Schopenhauer in a past life.

      Or maybe you are just smart and thoughtful. 🙂

      My sense too is that he is addressing the issue that we are not self-creating. We did not make our will. I think he also understood will in the sense of life: a flower “wills” to blossom, scatter seed, die, et cetera. It is not so personal to us, reflective of our likes/dislikes as we move through the world. It is hard to find language for that which isn’t all poetic, but it’s that sense that there is a flow (David Bohm called it a flux in order to avoid the perception of linearity or bounds) of which we are composed and compose in turn and it contains but is not contained by the discrete material (separated) reality in which we are so invested.

      Those passages you cite call to mind the course reading that “you” is not the material narrative self (or not only that) but also the self created by God. A little trippy but not unhelpful.

      What do you think of John Sherman?

  • Eric November 23, 2014, 3:53 pm

    Hi Sean,

    I like John Sherman for mainly this reason. His teaching is about looking at yourself, or what I would call looking within. It’s rather simple, yet very effective, because once we really begin to look within, we can also look without and see our relationship to everything.

    But what I really like about Sherman is that he meets people where they’re at. He doesn’t put on a spiritual air about himself. In his book, someone is telling him how scared they are sometimes and how life can feel so overwhelming. It is not uncommon these days to have the “teacher” tell the person that they are merely stuck in their story or in the dream, which to me is kind of a cop out. Instead, Sherman simply tells the person that oh yes, life can feel scary at times and overwhelming. He doesn’t try to be dismissive of the person or their experiences. He only urges them to diligently practice looking despite the fear or the feelings of being overwhelmed.

    People also ask him a lot of questions such as can they still read the Bible or some other scripture or practice meditation or Yoga, etc. And he states that of course they can, just keep practicing looking.

    I just feel a genuineness and humanness to Sherman that I don’t feel with a lot of “modern teachers”. I think there is just a lot of platitudes being spoken, with spiritual speak to sell themselves and Sherman kind of breaks away from that. I also like that he is completely open to talk about his past as a criminal and doesn’t play it down. I heard someone interview him and tried to somehow spiritualize his past, and he interrupted them and said, no no no, it was nothing like that. He was simply screwing up. 🙂

    His book, “Look at Yourself” (which is essentially transcripts of some lectures) was quite good and I’d recommend it to anyone. It is certainly one of the most no nonsense books on spirituality that I have read.

    Eric

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