Setting Aside A Course in Miracles

A Course in Miracles works so long as one thinks there is something to do and someone to do it. When truth is at last allowed to be true – which is to see illusion as illusion – then the course is no longer necessary. If you take a bus to Boston, you don’t stay on board after it pulls into South Station.

The suggestion is that we give attention in a gentle and sustained way to the sense of a discrete empirical self to whom things happen and who makes choices and takes actions which cause other things to happen. That “self” is comprised of memory, desire, concept and sensation. We simply give attention to this welter as it rises and falls. No more and no less.

To be aware of all this as it arises in sensation and thought is sufficient – there is nothing else to do or see. Indeed, there is nothing else that could be done or seen. To clearly see “all this as it arises in sensation and thought” is to see through it. It is undone of its own accord.

“Undone” doesn’t mean that self and external world disappear (though their more pernicious effects may be alleviated); rather, self and world are simply seen for what they really are – appearances coming and going.  There is no longer resistance to them; there is no longer any desire to modify them, avoid them or cling to them. Illusion is seen as illusion; truth is seen as true.

Consider, for example, a person being sawed in half by a magician. If you don’t know that it is an illusion, you might feel apprehension as the “trick” unfolds. You might want to rush the stage to save the soon-to-be-dismembered individual. Yet when it is seen that what is happening is an illusion, the need to do anything about it ends. There is nobody to be saved. There is no cause for worry or alarm. You sit back and enjoy the apparent show, or leave and go to another show.

There is no suggestion here that A Course in Miracles – or any other apparent spiritual path or practice, broadly defined – is bad or evil or unhelpful. On the contrary. Just as one can be grateful for aspirin when they have a headache, one can be grateful for a spiritual path when “seeking for inner peace” arises. And, just as when we reach for aspirin and not a hammer when our head hurts, so we reach for resonant spiritual paths or practices when we are “seeking” God, Heaven, Nirvana, enlightenment, inner peace and so forth.

A Course in Miracles is a means in a context where means and ends appear to be real. In that context, the course cannot be an end. It is important to be clear about this. Often, we objectify a spiritual path or practice, which is to make an idol of it, and therefore become distracted from the here-and-nowness to which the spiritual path or practice actually points. Use the course so long as it is helpful. And when you are done with it, set it aside.

Give attention to what appears to be happening: the whole of it. Attention is the new teacher – it is the Holy Spirit, to borrow the language of A Course in Miracles. In attention’s uncompromising and altogether neutral luminosity the nothing-that-is-everything is surely and naturally beheld. This is the end of seeking; this is what it means to be at peace.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • Annie March 25, 2016, 10:16 am

    So grateful you took the time and your full attention to shed a little light on the little home – the home where peace dwells.

    I’m gonna let this little light of mine shine and see what today brings.

    Wishing you and your Family a lovely Easter Holiday Weekend.

  • Sean March 25, 2016, 1:09 pm

    Thanks for reading, Annie . . . you have a good weekend, too . . .

  • Eric March 26, 2016, 9:37 am

    Well, well. Are minds really joined Sean? It’s been awhile Sean and for some reason you popped into my head yesterday and so I thought, “I wonder what he is up to?” and here we are. Nice to see that you’re writing again.

    Your blog here reminds me of a book with the rather presumptuous title, “The Short Path to Enlightenment”. I’m not sure why I even began to read this book considering the title has a rather neo-advaitic flavor to it. But it turned out to be a pretty decent read.

    The one thing that struck me about this book what its emphasis on needing a long path before the short path can be taken, otherwise there would be the danger of spiritual bypassing.

    To elaborate on what you spoke about a spiritual path, not only is it not bad, evil, or unhelpful; for most people it is absolutely necessary. Can, as Einstein asked, consciousness resolve the problem on the same level that created the problem? Probably a bad paraphrase.

    But to echo your statement that the course is not an ends, as the course says after the lessons are completed in the epilogue:

    This course is a beginning, not an end. Your Friend goes with you. You are not alone. No one who calls on Him can call in vain. Whatever troubles you, be certain that He has the answer and will gladly give it to you if you simply turn to Him and ask it of Him. He will not withhold all answers that you need for anything that seems to trouble you. He knows the way to solve all problems and resolve all doubts. His certainty is yours. You need but ask it of Him, and it will be given you. ~ACIM

    I have found myself moving away from the course. I can’t remember the last time I opened the book and read it, but it’s been awhile. In fact, I cannot seem to read any spiritual book for any length of time lately. I’ll begin one and then set it aside; begin another and set it aside.

    I think my reasons for moving away from ACIM might be a little different than yours. The orthodoxy and fundamentalism surrounding it is a turn off, with certain teachers claiming that their theological interpretation is THE interpretation, thus if you don’t agree with them, then you’re not really doing the course. Hmmm, I smell a religion brewing 🙂

    But I cannot say I’m done, that I truly see illusion as illusion.

    I have a question Sean, and this is not a challenge question, but a sincere one. From what I remember, you seem to live a kind of Thoreau-esque type of lifestyle. You work from home (is that correct?). Your home is in a rural area with nature in abundance, where you can walk early in the morning and it is quiet except for nature breathing sound into the world, (if I remember right). Your world seems rather peaceful in this respect.

    Here’s my world. I work in metal fabrication as an inspector. I deal with egos all day when inspecting people’s work. The environment is loud and dirty, and gossip runs rampant. I have to deal with the politics from the people on the floor and in the office.

    If I were to wake up early (which I do) to take a walk around my neighborhood, I would see (which I do as I drive to work) people fighting, crimes being committed, police detaining people, etc. etc. Petty crime is becoming rampant in Seattle.

    My question is, do you think that you could have come to your realizations in my environment as you have with the environment you live in? Yes, theoretically it is about within and not what is out there, but from your writings, the appreciation from your surroundings and nature seems apparent that what is out there has certainly helped you within.

    What do you think on this?

    Eric

    • Sean March 29, 2016, 12:47 pm

      Hi Eric,

      Thank you for writing. I missed our dialogue.

      I like Brunton, too. I wonder if his “overself” is related to/stems from Emerson’s “oversoul.” More and more the Transcendentalists, broadly defined, seem one of the west’s serious and sustained investigations of nonduality. Brunton strikes me as a branch of that tree.

      Perhaps Brunton’s long path vs. short path is helpful. It is not always clear the degree to which he is sharing based on his own awakening/non-awakening experience as opposed to his study of nonduality, which was impressive.

      The helpfulness of long vs. short path (vs. no path?) is maybe a question of the degree to which one insists on it vs. simply experiencing it. I don’t really know.

      Your question about the context in which I explore all these ideas made me smile. I have no idea what would have happened had I been delivered into a noisy factory and an urban landscape! But on the other hand, I have great respect for you, and it has apparently served you okay, so I suspect it would serve me as well.

      My own externals are full of challenges if one wants to see it that way: never enough money, way too much job uncertainty, petty academic politics, violent students, and on and on. So who knows . . .

      Anyway, as always, it is nice to hear from and share with you again, distance and context notwithstanding 🙂

      ~ Sean

  • Eric April 2, 2016, 9:52 am

    Hi Again Sean,

    I’m not sure if Brunton is speaking of the short vs. long path, but rather a long path is needed before the short path. The course says something on one of its lessons that miracles are everyone’s right, but purification is necessary first.

    I think jumping to the short path or “no” path prematurely can result in spiritual bypassing and pseudo transcendence. From my experience, everyone who speaks of this short/no path, has gone through a long path so to speak. Adyashanti comes to mind. Robert Wolfe is another. Adyashanti meditated for years and years before coming to his realization of the “no” path. Robert Wolfe spent years living in the woods alone before his. Even Krishnamurti was raised and groomed his entire life before his statements of no path. Not to mention his often stated, there needs to be a revolution of mind seems to me to be a beginning rather than end.

    From my experience, when the realization that there is really no path comes, this is certainly not an end, but merely a new beginning. The “me” thoughts still come and go, but it then becomes the practice of attention and awareness in place of speaking about theology and metaphysics.

    This is not to say that one must set aside speaking of theology and metaphysics, but it seems to me to almost be a chore to speak about theology these days. I think the course’s metaphysics are much more subtler than the concrete thinking in which theology arises.

    Though I should state that I am hardly advanced spiritually. In fact, I feel like a beginner. I don’t know if there is anything as being “spiritually advanced”. The term doesn’t really hold any meaning for me. Though the term spiritual master does make me actually laugh out loud.

    Anyway, I’m just babbling, but I thought I’d reply.

    Take care,

    Eric

    • Sean April 3, 2016, 7:00 am

      You’re not babbling.

      If there is an experience of long path leading to short path leading to enlightenment, then great. The suggestion is simply that it’s not the only path. There may also be the experience of other paths – quick, meandering, sudden, et cetera. And ultimately (as you point out), there are no paths, because how can anybody “go” to where they already always “are?”

      Again, if there is “seeking,” then “soughts” are going show up – and some will be resonant and helpful and others will be sterile and silly.

      One can always speak to the relative position – “this worked for me” – but that doesn’t necessarily translate to “therefore it will work for you” and it really can’t translate to “therefore this will work for everyone.”

      I’m not sure that we’re disagreeing here, so much as polishing certain facets of the same general diamond, as part of a shared “practice of attention and awareness . . . “

  • Richard April 2, 2016, 4:14 pm

    Reminds me of Robert Adams and this quote..

    “I think what some of us do is we read too many books and we make it too techni- cal, and we think we have to do things. We have to do this and we have to do that, and we give everything names, and we say consciousness is the light that shines in mind that becomes the ego. We don’t have to know about these things. All we have to know is, that I am not the body-mind phenomenon. I am absolute reality, that’s all you’ve got to know, and follow the absolute reality, become it, do whatever you have to do to become it. Prac- tice observation, mindfulness, watch your thoughts, Vipassana meditation, self-inquiry. Whatever you have to do, do it, to quiet the mind, and then you will see something brand new. You will realize that you were never born, that you do not persist right now and you can never die. You are free.”

    Richard

    • Sean April 3, 2016, 7:09 am

      clear and lovely!

      Thank you, Richard . . .

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