It is true that the early chapters of A Course in Miracles can seem fragmented, a little inconsistent tonally. We learned in the mid-1990’s that part of what accounts for this is the significant editing that went on in the early days, translating the book from the raw (and often deeply personal) channeled text to something more fitting for general consumption and application.
Yet I find the principles of miracles section – which, after the introduction, is our first taste of Jesus in this particular incarnation – to be both aesthetically pleasing and theologically sound. In fact, the more I read the text and apply the lessons, the more I think that one could learn all they need simply by reading and rereading these fifty principles.
As I go forward with this project of delving into the text, I am going to come back to these principles repeatedly. As much as the formal introduction, I think this section acts as a sort of thematic overview of all the major principles and ideas that comprise A Course in Miracles.
Today, I want to focus on just one principle – the first one.
There is no order of difficulty in miracles. One is not “harder” or “bigger” than another. They are all the same. All expressions of love are maximal. (T-1.1.1:1-4)
That first sentence is a profound statement of non-duality. It upends our whole world construct. The ego – the vicious progenitor of the supposed separation from God – relies on differences. Everything is parsed out into good and bad, big and small, hot and cold. This and that.
And in that world, it makes complete and total sense that there should be orders of difficulty. It is certainly harder to run a marathon than to walk ten feet to pick up the paper. Cancer is worse than a headache. It is harder to forgive murder than to forgive a delicious loaf of home-baked bread.
Yet the course – right here in the first sentence – insists that that paradigm is not just faulty but nonexistent. Why? Because the miracle can heal anything – and it can do this precisely because there are not multiple problems out there with varying degrees of difficulty. As we will learn in Lessons 79 and 80, there is only one problem and it has but one solution. The problem is the perception of separation from God. And love – the atonement through forgiveness – is the solution.
The first miracle principle does another thing that I think is incredibly helpful. It tells us what a miracle is – it gives us a useful definition. A miracle is an “expression of love.”
As we deepen our relationship with the course – as it loses its newness, no longer a bright shiny new age object, and as we begin to use the text and lessons as the means by which we remember God – we often get lost in the deep abstraction of the course. It can feel complicated and wordy. What are miracles? How am I supposed to work them?
Miracles are simply expressions of love – that’s it. If we remember nothing else, it’s worth remember that. Moreover, all expressions of love are maximal – when we love, we are doing all that needs to be done. There isn’t anything else.
So what constitutes an expression of love?
Sometimes it’s going to the big stuff – a relationship that has been conflicted and painful for years will be healed through a hug or a handshake. We make peace with a fatal medical diagnosis. We’re able to care for a parent as they age, putting aside our grievances to serve them.
And sometimes it’s the little stuff – a smile at a stranger as we walk down the street. Saying yes to our child when they ask us to read Angelina Ballerina’s Christmas for the thirty-seventh time that day.
No kindness – not act of love – is wasted. They are all equal expressions of the Divine Love of which we are an inseparable part.
This first principle is therefore one of the best “rules” that one can have when working in a practical way with the Course. It has a tendency to anchor us in the present – the Holy Instant – by directing our attention to what we can do right now.
I walk around thinking about issues – my money problems, my resistance to spiritual growth, my resistance to exercise, my challenging students, the prevalence of war, bad banking laws, the sham of the U.S. two-party political system, whatever – and the answer is always an expression of love. And it is always in the moment that the opportunity to express love exists.
It might be:
admiration for a lovely birch tree
a prayer for someone I love far away
a prayer for someone I hate far away
a hug to someone nearby
a decision to listen carefully
playing games with a child
a long walk with the dog
growing flowers where everyone can see them
baking muffins for the family before they wake up
All of these are expressions of love, nods in the direction of Jesus who asks only that we offer miracles to our brothers and sisters. This is what the first miracle principle reminds us: we can do this. We want to do this.