I think it’s helpful to approach A Course in Miracles as if it were written by Jesus especially for you. In a way, because you are the one interpreting the symbols on the page, it is written just for you. The experience that you have reading the text is – like revelation itself – deeply personal. There’s really nothing else quite like it.
This particular section – Revelation, Time and Miracles – feels a bit choppy to me these days. On the one hand, that’s the result of the significant (and largely helpful) editing that took place in regards to these early sections. But on the other, it also feels as if Jesus is working hard to introduce the key concepts relevant to the Course while simultaneously bucking us up for the radical transformation that’s to follow.
He jumps around a lot. Here, he says – have a definition of revelation. Oh, and here’s why revelation is not really relevant at this stage of your learning. Here’s how you should view me and here’s what I can do for you vis a vis God. Here’s what I think about time.
And so forth.
Later, the text is going to become much more fluid, much more thematically consistent from section to section. Right now, we’re getting a lot of ideas and terms and mini pep talks thrown at us in rapid fashion. It’s almost like Jesus is doing everything he can to overwhelm us, assuming that if we can stick around for this metaphysical hodge-podge, then we’re good to go for the duration.
I want to tease out a couple of ideas in this section that feel important to me. The first is the distinction drawn between revelation and miracles. The description of revelation – the complete . . . suspension of doubt and fear” (T-1.II.1:1), reflecting the “original form of communication between God and his creations (T-1.II.1:2) sounds so desirable, doesn’t it? That’s what we’re after. That’s the prize.
We’re all in this together. We’re all figuring out that we’re one. It doesn’t matter how it appears or how it feels right now. Our perception is not the Truth.
And when you get a taste of it, your life is altered forever. This happened to me twice last year – once for several electric minutes and then once at a lower but still intense level for about a day and a half. It’s like you’re plugged in to some vibrant current that’s pure sunlight, pure love. The first time it happened – complete fluidity of self, bleeding into all things, and all things bleeding into self – was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
I spent months trying to get it back, trying to make it mine.
What interests me in this section, though, is that Jesus doesn’t seem particularly interested in or impressed with that state. He raises it for a reason, of course, but he quickly emphasizes that miracles – which are impersonal expressions of love between equals – are more important. They are, he says, “are more useful now” than revelation.
Why? In part because miracles “induce action” (T-1.II.2:3). I love that line! It is a reminder to me that we are called to acts of love – to smile at strangers, to bake bread for our family, to volunteer at senior centers, to dial down our emotions in conflict, to forgive, and to generally devote ourselves to pushing back fear in favor of loving gestures at all times.
Clearly, from Jesus’ perspective, getting good at doing miracles is far more important right now than the thrilling look-at-me-I’m-enlightened experience. He’s not denigrating that at all – just sort of setting it aside in favor of observing that our practice as miracle workers is actually focused on performing – on doing – miracles.
That feels like practical common sense advice, to me.
There are another pair of sentences that I want to touch on, simply because they were ones that I resisted deeply when I first read them and have since come to appreciate. They’re towards the end of the (somewhat confusing) discussion about how miracles abolish the need for time.
The miracle substitutes for learning that might have taken thousands of years. It does so by the underlying recognition of perfect equality of giver and receiver on which the miracle rests. (T-1.II.6:7-8)
It’s easy to miss the implication of the first sentence. But the phrase “thousands of years” is a pretty clear and unequivocal endorsement of reincarnation. We live for something less than ten decades in these bodies – that’s nothing compared to thousands of years of living the Course contemplates. Although he doesn’t say so (and somewhat coyly avoids saying so in the Manual for Teachers when he addresses the subject head on), Jesus indicates that a) we’ve been at this for longer than we’ve been in these bodies and b) the realization of our goal might be measured in centuries, not years.
I resisted that because reincarnation has always confused me. An early Zen teacher said helpfully that most people have enough trouble figuring out this life, never mind adding the drama and complexity of other lives to the mix. It’s not that I disputed the idea. I simply never really found it helpful.
I also didn’t like the idea that awakening wasn’t going to happen until 2788 or something crazy like that. I need it now!
However, I’ve chilled out. For one thing, in an odd way it is somewhat of a relief to know that this “class” takes a long time. It takes some of the pressure off. And for another thing, it’s clear that if I am devoted to the study and practice of miracles, that I am going to substantially decrease the length of time involved. Miracles, says Jesus, are a ready means of controlling time.
This, of course, relates to my earlier point – that the focus in on miracles, not on the glorious state of waking up. That will happen when it happens. In the interim, I’m happy to practice being the kindest most loving most forgivingest guy I can be.
The second sentence – the one about perfect equality – was also troubling to me for a long time. I hate to admit this about myself, but I wanted specialness to be part of the equation. I wanted to be one of Jesus’ chosen buddies, a trusted disciple. But this section – both by defining the miracle as impersonal and then noting that those who extend miracles and those who receive them are fundamentally equal – really put a crimp in my plan to be The Guru.
This issue can still rear its head. Why does Gary Renard get to have sexy ascended masters while I’m stuck with a quiet voice in my head that only shows up consistently before the sun rises and if I’ve walked my dogs in the woods? How come Marianne Williamson is endorsed by Oprah? How come David Hoffmeister gets to call everyone “beloved” without sounding like an idiot and I can barely pull off “brother” and “sister?”
In Revelation, Time and Miracles Jesus is telling me – us – to relax. We’re all in this together. We’re all figuring out that we’re one. We’re equals – you and me, Gary Renard and us, David and Marianne. It doesn’t matter how it appears or how it feels. Our perception is not the Truth.
So again, what matters is our willingness to practice the Course – that is, to devote ourselves to miracles each and every day, those natural gestures of love that open the way to Heaven.