Striving for Littleness: A Course in Miracles

A frequent theme of A Course in Miracles is that of littleness and grandeur – the former representing the ego and the latter, God – cannot coexist (T-9.VIII.6:4-5). We are explicitly urged not to be content with littleness – but rather to seek a majesty and magnitude befitting the wholeness in which we are indelibly created and thus create alike.

Littleness and glory are the choices open to your striving and your vigilance. You will always choose one at the expense of the other (T-15.III.1:7-8).

There are a couple ideas I want to be clear about in my thinking here. The first is that the course is accepting – tacitly – that striving and vigilance are part of our experience in the world. They are facets of our learning. This is important to see because it is easy with the course to drift off into “it’s all a big illusion” and nothing matters. Forgiveness is hard work and it requires some tenacity and some discernment. We do not simply announce our intention to accept Jesus and then coast off into a Heavenly sunset. Rather, we realize that we are bereft and we begin to work our way back to wholeness. For some of us, the way back is A Course in Miracles and its generous view of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

So if we are students of the course, then we are going to strive for glory and we are going to be vigilant on behalf of the Kingdom. Two thousand years ago Jesus taught his followers to repent because the Kingdom of God was near – literally at hand. As John Crossan has said, this reflects a sapiential eschatology – that is, God waits for us to act and to join him, not the other way around. It is a radical perspective – quite out of sync with most of Christianity which continues to emphasize a distant judge whose retribution in the form of an apocalypse we must await in fear and trembling.

This striving is not effortful although I think it appears that way sometimes. It certainly feels that way at times! For me, it requires a level of attention that is not always natural or habitual. Hours can pass before I look up and remember that I want to think with Jesus and not the ego. So I have to be attentive and forgiving – okay, I slipped for a few hours but I’m back. I am turning my mind and its thoughts over to Jesus. This process is also facilitated by creating space in which it is possible to be still and quiet. For me, that is most often in the early morning before Chrisoula and the kids wake up.

I try to avoid what Krishnamurti called “pre-meditated meditation.” That is, I don’t sit in a particular position or take any particular approach. Sometimes I am on a zafu, sometimes on my knees, and sometimes I just sip tea in a rocking chair. Sometimes I am deeply quiet and sometimes I chat with Jesus and sometimes I just fret about work or one of my children or how to pay the mortgage or whatever. In all those spaces, I simply try to be with Jesus: I try to think with him. I try to see my thoughts with him. That’s all. No more but no less, either.

The other aspect of that quote from the text that I appreciate is the difference between littleness and grandeur. In the context of that section, it is making a clear distinction between things of the world and things of God.

Everything in this world is little because it is a world made out of littleness, in the strange belief that littleness can content you. When you strive for anything in this world in the belief that it will bring you peace, you are belittling yourself and blinding yourself to glory (T-15.III.1:5-6).

Eschatology is a word that refers to endings. In Christianity, it reflects the so-called end times, the end of the world. Eschatology is a kind of world-negation – either because God is coming to end the world or because we are going to leave it by finding God. The course is not so dissimilar, really. The afore-mentioned passage clearly indicates that we cannot find peace or joy or meaning in the world because it is so little – indeed, it is the very manifestation of littleness. The world is not sufficient unto God – and so we who are God’s creations, one with God, and creating alike God cannot be content with it or in it.

Thus, an ACIM student who strives for God and is vigilant for God’s presence is negating the world. That’s confusing! Our egoic self would like us to understand that negation in terms of no more cheesecake, no more hugs, no more sex, no more Emily Dickinson poems, no more midnight walks with the dogs, no more riding horses with our daughters, no more this and no more that.

But we are not giving anything up. We are not turning away from the world so much as revising or rethinking the world. We are in it to learn how to undo it. And so we eat the cheesecake and keep Jesus in mind. We make love and keep Jesus in mind. We play tag with the kids and keep Jesus in mind. We change the oil in the car and keep Jesus in mind. And so on. That’s it – and it’s hard to accept sometimes that it’s enough. Just staying close to the idea of Jesus in our mind is enough to undo the world and deliver us to the gates of Heaven.

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