Often when I step back a bit from A Course in Miracles – disentangle myself from its metaphysics, the demands a sincere ACIM practice makes (or seems to make) – I am struck by its simple origins. It began when two people agreed to try and find a way out of mutual conflict. And it began too with willingness with respect to relating to Jesus.
“This is A Course in Miracles. Please take notes.” That was the first clear directive that Helen Schucman recieved from what she initially called “the voice,” and what she later identified as Jesus. What follows is well-known. She did take notes – quite faithfully, in a sort of stubborn way – and shared them with Bill Thetford.
Relationship – with Jesus and with one’s brothers and sisters – is the ground of the Course. Its helpfulness is premised on being open to our healed mind (symbolized by Jesus and the Holy Spirit) and extending love to others.
In time we learn those two forms of love – listening and loving – are not separate but more like two sides of the same coin.
So we can learn a lot, I think, simply by focusing on that ideal of relationship, that powerful early example the scribes offer of kindness and willingness. It wasn’t that Schucman and Thetford set out to create a new spiritual path, or become popular gurus, or get rich off a vedantic revision of Christianity. It was simply a desire to be kinder and gentler in relationship with others.
And – importantly – it also reflected a willingness to hear Jesus and then do what was asked. This is as true of Thetford as Schucman. As she says in the preface, Bill had his “special assignment” too.
Thus, if we look at the origins of the Course, we might ask where we are in respect to it: are we working diligently at being nicer to people, especially perhaps those people to whom we don’t really want to be nice? Are we making space in our life for a relationship with Jesus, one that is not premised on answers to our questions?
Maybe we can ask: if Jesus asked us to “takes notes,” would we?
Of course, we are at different places with respect to how this works – and even how it ought to work. I know that. The Course meets us where we are and it’s no use pretending otherwise. Often I think I’m half a step away from Heaven and then I’m gently reminded how much work remains. It’s okay. You reach a point where the expectation of divine reward subsides a little. You trust that what is happening is what is supposed to be happening. The ego’s ranting and raving becomes a little less influential. There is some space in which peace is not a stranger.
Perhaps it is never a bad idea to keep things simple. For me, sometimes, that takes the form of stepping back from the Course, looking at it more generally and more gently. I try to avoid heavy duty analysis in favor of gratitude. I come away remembering that all that is really going on here is that a) I am learning to be in relationship with my right mind and b) I am learning to be in relationship with you. The one facilitates the other.
And truly, that is the work of a lifetime.