Agape Love and A Course in Miracles

Even into this vale of tears – this shimmering illusion of a world – does the Infinite find a way to reach us. Escher drawings, Nisargadatta ramblings, Mertonian insights on the streets of Louisville. Truly, to see a goldfinch in the garden in mid-August is to see the Face of God and live. Nothing is being kept from us.

And yet we are unhappy. We hurt each other, sometimes in terrible ways. We look the other way when our brothers and sisters choke on tear gas or go hungry or have no home in which to sleep. We overlook the goldfinch. What is wrong with us? And can A Course in Miracles help? Can living Christianly help?

Inasmuch as the problem is one of thought, then yes – A Course in Miracles, as a contemporary expression of Christianity, can help. When our minds change, our living changes. We leave the space of fear and isolation and enter the domain of agape love.

By “agape” I mean a love that subsumes all other loves, and by which we are personally transformed. Transformation in this sense is not a physical change, but a mental one. Our soul is enlivened and brought forth as a real force in the world. Love lays claim to us and the forceful presence of soul is our deep and abiding consent to union with it.

The fruits of this union are inner peace and joy, not as psychological extremes but as sustainable modes of living that shift but do not disappear. We dwell beyond the reach of abandonment.

Thus, this union includes our farewell to Ecstasy and Misery, the wild twins of our spiritual childhood, whose gifts fade in the light of the one who is light.

Ecstasy and Misery are processes of Eros – the love that inhabits a body and seeks its own reflection in other bodies. Erotic love matters, and I honor it. The happiness and pleasure it engenders – and even the sadness and loneliness it engenders – are not unwelcome. 

Yet I notice that erotic love lacks staying power. It is closer to lightning than fire. In it, every aspect of living intensifies to an almost unbearable degree. It is exquisite, both in its capacity for delight and its capacity for devastation. But it also takes me away from the world. It is harder to do the dishes, talk my daughter through grief, weed the garden, change the oil in the car, give attention to money problems . . .

Agape is the love into which eros is folded. It is our full, open-hearted and open-minded presence unto others in a way that sustains us as a collective, rather than individually or in specially-focused partnerships. Agape is mutual, a dialogue rich with honesty and sincerity. It is integral and congruent. It enables coherence; it undoes the disjointed, misguided emphasis on me, myself and I.

It can be helpful to ask: what sustains our “full, open-hearted, open-minded presence unto others?” What allows us to balance day in and out in a posture of attentive service? What is the natural, effortless flow of living that we name agape?

It is not hard to find this – indeed, it arises naturally and sustains itself perfectly. What’s hard about it – for me – is that it’s not sufficiently erotic. I resist agape because it celebrates us rather than me. Further, it expands “us” to include elephants and milkweed plants and stray dogs and people I’ve never even met.

It requires a love that is holy where “holy” is uninterested in the ongoing drama of Sean’s Personal Very Important Quest To Be Holy Through Oneness With God.

I want all my living to own the ecstatic psychedelic intensity of a heroic dose of psilocybin; I want big moves, dramatic answers, mirror balls on all the time. And yet, happiness, it turns out, is less lightning bolt than cooking fire, less God than simply home. And less home-as-place or home-as-other-body than a state of mind in which distinctions between others are irrelevant. I mean who wouldn’t you feed if they were starving? Can you really convince yourself that the God in Whom you are so mentally entangled wants others to suffer? 

So: what is the state that renders us maximally helpful to others all day every day?

The answer to that question may be glimpsed at the extremes – I do not deny the instructive value of Eros – but it actually lives in the stillness of the center, the quiet productivity of home and hearth, the soul at rest, the soul in creative repose.

Presently, the image that serves this sense of the divine – this soulfulness – is feminine. The father God’s run is coming to a close – not in the sense of death, but of correction. A Course in Miracles directs us not to ascended masters and light shows but to the sustainable peace of the maternal heart. Mother the cosmos, and let the cosmos mother you. It works just that way.

This was one of Tara Singh’s great insights (which I doubt he recognized): the Mother was absent from A Course in Miracles, and so he brought her in via Mother Theresa who, remember, Helen Schucman said was a real-world example of somebody living by ACIM  principles. Singh himself embodied a lot of cultural misogyny but his devotion to Mother Theresa speaks to a healing impulse – a correction through realignment of divine energy – that is worth attending.

The point is not that we should become Catholic nuns – Mother Theresa also embodied a lot of cultural misogyny. Rather, the point is to seek the model of living that allows us to bring forth a love that is inclusive, nurturing and non-discriminatory. One that expands beyond hierarchical modes of organizing being. 

Is the Infinite genderless? Of course. But our theological history has not handled that fact well and so we’re stuck with gendered imagery. I’m grateful to Tara Singh for his imperfect guidance; he knew, intuitively, there is One in whom all our errors – even the most violent and patriarchal, those in which our living is presently catastrophized – are gently corrected, as if they had never occurred, as if there were a love in which nothing but love endured.

8 thoughts on “Agape Love and A Course in Miracles”

    1. Thanks Wayne 🙂

      I was in seventh grade when I saw my first mirror ball. I remember slow-dancing with Kathy L. to Led Zeppelin’s “All of my Love” and just feeling so happy and amazed and grateful and complete . . . It was truly a religious moment for me. I’ve been chasing – or been guided by, depending on how one looks at it – the many graces of that dance ever since . . .

      1. Good Morning Sean,

        This being an ACIM blog, what came to mind in your response to Wayne is the Holy Instant, which we tend to remember as a moment frozen in time but is rather a portal to eternity — this Now. The visceral, peace saturated sense of “This is it.”

        Because it is. We can return to the memory in our minds but cannot return to the state of mind, or I guess, state beyond mind, through any act of will or desire, no matter how earnest.

        And I can see where adolescence, a slow dance, the magic of a mirror ball (sorry Wayne 😉), and the repetition of “All of My Love” in Palmer’s somewhat otherworldly voice would put you in that never-forgotten space (ahem) out beyond ideas . . .

        Cheryl

        1. EEEEEK. I meant Plant not Palmer . . . For some reason, I always misspeak when I type something to you.

          I have no idea why? 🥴

          1. Then again, Palmer probably sings with an otherworldly voice these days.

            And “Addicted to Love” is like an adult commercialized B-side “love” song (thinking of early MTV here)

            OK . . . I am done, Sean. I promise. . . 😳

            CJ

          2. LOL! I was wondering if you were thinking of Robert Palmer. “Addicted to Love” is a good song but not for slow-dancing 🙂

            Yeah, the proverbial now . . .

            The text suggests the Holy Instant is a question of desire and will – the moment we want to be the Holy Instant *is the Holy Instant (T-15.IV.1:4). Ken Wapnick would say this hinges on some clever analysis about who this “you” is. And plenty of other ACIM sections cloak the whole process in poetic & spiritual platitudes. Room for everybody to be right (if not at peace).

            More and more it feels a lot simpler, just a question of where attention is directed, and the spirit in which it is directed. I’m not averse to memories (first slow dance, first kiss, etc) nor to props – like mirror balls and prisms. I need all the help I can get 🙂

  1. About the Holy Instant, you are right, of course.

    And yes, the movement does not feel like the muscular action of ego, but rather a loosening at the “edges” to allow spiritual “will” to guide and direct.

    But so often we get in our own way to block or disrupt the natural, loving ebb and flow of a singular ocean . . . at least I know I do. So what is instantaneous spiritually speaking feels at ego level like a process of unclenching the cramp of “me” — little by little more and more, recognizing that the more I am OK with not being perceived as “right” or “special,” the more everything is OK and the more connected I feel to all of it.

    “The holy instant is a time in which you receive and give perfect communication. This means, however, that it is a time in which your mind is open, both to receive and give. It is the recognition that all minds are in communication. It therefore seeks to change nothing, but merely to accept everything.” T-15.IV.6:5-8

    1. . . . so often we get in our own way to block or disrupt the natural, loving ebb and flow of a singular ocean.

      I’m more inclined than not to consent to this frame but this is not consonant with A Course in Miracles. I don’t know if that matters to you or not; it unconditionally does not to me.

      The course suggests that everything Seans and Cheryls do – including peaks of spiritual insight, peace and outpourings of love – are just a dream from which God is absent, and the contents of which God knows not at all (though we do get a Holy Spirit to act as God’s proxy).

      For most of us that’s just too bitter a pill to swallow. Also it kinda sorta feels . . . off somehow.

      You are suggesting that the divine (which you cleverly avoid naming, hiding it in the image of a “singular ocean” with a “natural, loving ebb and flow”) is immanent, and that we can be more or less aware of this immanence – more or less attentive to its subtle movements in and through us, and in and through the collective, and the cosmos – and that the more attentive and aware we are, the less self there is asserting its disruptive prerogative.

      Thus, one can actually learn how to be more aware and attentive – through psychotherapy, church, meditation, entheogens, study, dumb luck, et cetera – and actually become stable in its application, effectively magnifying its positive effects and extending them potentially infinitely.

      As I said, this makes more sense to me than not, though I do understand why some ACIM folks get frustrated with it.

      Still, I’ve noticed over the years that folks who “wake up” through the course – and who are not marketing their awakening – tend to express it in terms like you’re using, which suggests that the course – contra it’s Vedantic underpinnings – may actually be a simple subtle tweaking of Christian monotheism than its early adopters and drafters believed.

      On that view, you, Cheryl, are a high priestess 🙂

      Anyway . . . someday we’ll be able to talk this stuff through in person. I’m dying to try some of those gluten-free desserts 🙂

      Thanks for being so clear –

      Love,
      Sean

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