Someone asked me the other day: what does A Course in Miracles teach? And I foundered trying to answer it because everything I wrote seemed bent on making the Course attractive to new students or me attractive as a Course writer. How hard it is to be honest! How hard to accept how little the truth asks of us – simply that we let it be.
There is a natural tendency to glorify so-called spiritual paths and to credit ourselves just for walking on them. In my own life, I did that most acutely with Buddhism. I wasn’t serious about it. I didn’t want to do the work. I liked the idea of being Buddhist – and I liked the local Buddhist culture a lot – but it didn’t resonate in a deep way.
It wasn’t until I was nearly forty that I was ready to be grounded in a spiritual path – to study the scripture, listen to the teachers and integrate a practice with my daily life. I’m hardly immune to the fantasies and prattling that characterize a lot of ACIM, but I’ve managed to stay attentive to it, and relatively disciplined, and so in a stumbling sort of way, I have made a space in which it can function.
One of the harder aspects of the Course is coming to terms with the fact that it is rigorous and demanding, and that the work we are called to do is not especially sexy or appealing. We are not seeking the beauty of Love itself but rather those blocks which impede our awareness of Love itself. That is its core teaching.
And those blocks are ugly, stubborn, repellent, cunning and quite frequently terrifying. But if one is going to practice A Course in Miracles, that is the work. That is what we do.
Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false (T-16.IV.6:1-2).
It is fun to think of ourselves as truth-seekers and bringers of the light and all of that. It’s fun to call each other “brother.” But ACIM is not well-suited to clubbiness (all the evidence to the contrary notwithstanding) and sooner or later we have to see that we aren’t really bringing light but shadow. We have to see that what this particular path calls for is not truth-seekers but people who are ready to a) look at the obstacles to truth and b) accept a guide who can undo those obstacles.
I am slowly coming to appreciate this in a very deep way. The truth is given – it is there. We don’t have to become pilgrims in search of anything. But if God, or Love, is present – right here, right now – then why can’t we see it or feel it or know it?
To be a student of A Course in Miracles is to be ready at last to focus like laser on that question. We are done looking for God. We take on faith that God is. We are ready now to consider the mind that has arranged to not only obscure God’s isness but to make even looking at that obscurity a dangerous sin. It is not for the faint of heart!
Thus, A Course in Miracles teaches us that the atonement is simply the recognition that Love is given. It dawns in our mind as we gently seek out the clouds that block it and allow Jesus and the Holy Spirit to undo them for us. It is the marriage, not the month’s rapture, to paraphrase the poet Jack Gilbert. It is the work of a lifetime. And when we begin it in earnest – and begin to sense those first faint glimmers of light – no other work will satisfy.