One of the problems with poetic and mythological language – which is very much the language of A Course in Miracles – is that it can promote a sense, often quite subtle, that reality is complex and mysterious and primarily the purview of those who “get” the code (the language) while the rest of us stumble around in vain for meaningful insight (crumbs) which our betters from time to time see fit to scatter for our scrambling.
To the extent I have an objection to the course, it is this. But it’s nothing to get worked up about. Either A Course in Miracles works for us or it doesn’t – the language resonates in a helpful way or not. If not, there are plenty of versions of the universal curriculum (including those that eschew phrases like “universal curriculum”) out there and there’s nothing wrong with taking a couple or a dozen for a spin, or even devoting your entire life to one.
To the extent that we are on a nondual path – and not everyone who studies ACIM is – we are simply angling towards the realization that the tree we are sitting beneath or gazing at is just a tree and nothing more than a tree and that is perfectly okay. In fact, it is more than okay. It is all. No secrets, no mysteries! And from that basis do we begin to sense – begin to know (which is not the knowing of the human brain) – oneness.
Of course we can complicate this – of course we can. And we do. We can say the tree is a complex system – roots and branches, chemical processes, photosynthesis, living and dying. We can say the tree is part of the history of the region – New England maple syrup, California’s redwoods. We can say point to the tree’s symbolic value in Emily Dickinson’s Some Keep the Sabbath or Jack and the Beanstalk or the life story of certain executed political prisoners . . .
Those are fun and interesting – and often important and useful – exercises, but none of them obviate the simple fact that the tree is just a tree. The simplicity of this seeing – what I tend to call “giving attention,” which may or may not be a useful phrase – becomes the ground from which a more stable vision or awareness emerges, or seems to emerge. It’s there and the less clutter we have banging around in what we call our minds, the easier it is to partake of this vision, to experience this vision, to be this vision.
So we are not becoming wise! We are not growing closer to truth or God or Jesus! Those are ideals that distract us from the unchanging reality that is our only home and our only being.
Krishnamurti said one time to David Bohm that there was no such thing as psychological evolution. He wasn’t denying physical evolution (“we are star dust/we are golden”); he was simply saying there is no self that learns and grows and improves in time. I resisted this but my resistance was a clue: that which we are loathe to face is often the very blossom that our poor bouquet most needs.
If there is no self, then there is nothing to improve or make better or educate or adapt or anything. That is not complicated! If you don’t have apples, you can’t make apple sauce. And the closer we look, the clearer and more simple this truth becomes. Everything about us that we cherish is rooted in thought: father, son, husband, lover, poet, teacher, Christian. Et cetera. Even our materiality – I’m so sexy, I’m not sexy enough, whatever – is rooted in the idea of sexy. Bodies are just bodies but standards are the stuff of thought. All of that shifts and moves and alters like sand beneath the tide. I can argue with it, I can prettify it with language, I can sell it to you, I can buy it back, I can take it up with Oprah or my therapist or Tara Singh but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s just thought. And thought is as substantial as an alphabet drawn in the sea. Just try to send a letter that way . . .
I am not suggesting that thought can’t change – it can and does. I am saying that it can’t improve. It can’t get better. We can’t get better. Thought – which is the self – is always the same static, sometimes pleasing and sometimes not. We can avoid this insight for a long time but that doesn’t make it less true. It doesn’t make it hard to see.
When we give attention to this fact – the transiency of thought – we see the way it is essentially a series of images just passing before our attention. And we start to become less interested in the specific image – those sirens – than the stream which bears it along. This is – if you will pardon a phrase from my younger days – a pretty trippy moment, when we push beyond the specificity of thought to the flux of which it is composed and which it composes.
So we are not becoming wise! We are not growing closer to truth or God or Jesus! And what a relief! Those are ideals that distract us from the unchanging reality that is our only home and our only being. Put them aside and see what happens. See what is there. Pascal said “you would not seek me if you had not found me.” What else can we say? How else would we say it?