Given the Sea, Swim

The other day I mentioned on a not-uncommon tension in Christianity: God is unknowable and ineffable and yet also, somehow, knowable (as loving, just, generous, et cetera). Does this tension adhere to A Course in Miracles as well?

I think it doesn’t, at least not in such an obvious way.

With respect to God and relationship with God, A Course in Miracles tracks two themes. First, the course is not directly aimed at repairing or amending our relationship with God. Its singular objective is to make it possible for us to hear in a sustained way the voice of the Holy Spirit, which it calls our “inner teacher.”

It’s that teacher who handles repairing and amending (clarifying and nurturing) our relationship with God.

So in that sense the course is literally just a course – you take it, you meet your inner teacher and . . . move on.

At the same time (the second track), the course literally abounds with references to God and relationship with God, all of which reinforce a single theme: you are not apart in any meaningful way from God but you do believe that you are. And since you believe this belief, you experience pain as if you actually are separate from God. And it doesn’t have to be this way.

Thus, God as posited by ACIM is not a distant creator separate in any way from its creation. God is not a mystery – unknowable and unfathomable in divine transcendent and glorious ineffability.

Rather, God is a personal and intimate reality immediately present in both time and space, awaiting our decision to remember said intimacy and choose not to reject it.

Thus God, ACIM-style.

The question is – because the question is always – is this formulation helpful?

There is no single answer to that question, which means there is no “right” answer to it. It is personal and local and subject to change. With respect to your experience of its helpfulness, only you can speak to it.

I began studying A Course in Miracles a little less than eight years ago. For about five of those years, the course was profoundly helpful. After a while, its helpfulness lessened. But to my mind this “lessening” affirms the overall effectiveness and utility of the course. Why? Because it did what it said it would do: it introduced me to my inner teacher and, as promised, my inner teacher took it from there.

My experience of the course deviates from that of many ACIM students, especially those for whom the course functions as a kind of ongoing spiritual path. For me, the Holy Spirit was understood as – and literally experienced as – “attention.” And attention eventually moved me away from supernatural causation, duality (mind vs. body), and unreflected languaging ((like “God” or “angels” or “atonement”) though this is a bit more complex and deserves its own post).

Attention gently carried me away from A Course in Miracles and towards an experience of stillness and love and being that is simpler and lovelier, more natural and serious, than anything I’ve heretofore known. It is enough; it is more than enough.

So for me, while I consider “God” a nontrivial idea, it doesn’t enter into my present experience in obviously tangible or causative ways.

Of course I am being a bit disingenuous here. In a sense, my life has been given wholly to the question of God’s reality, identity, accessibility and so forth. I remain deeply interested and curious about these ideas. But the energy around the inquiry has shifted considerably. The consequences are not as drastic. And the material under study is no longer quite so dense, abstract or theological.

In other words, the inquiry is fun and interesting and doesn’t have the life-and-death intensity it used to have. I am learning and my learning has no end. There is a sweetness in that and – to one who has long struggled to relax and be kind and gentle to oneself – some relief.

Thus, when asked (and sometimes still when not asked), I suggest that the answer to any spiritual conundrum/problem/rut/etc is to just give attention to what’s right there in front of you. If you’re in a zendo, do zazen. If you’re in a Christian church then give it all up for Jesus. If you’re studying ACIM, then study it.

If you’re in the sea, then swim.

Give attention to where you are and to what you are: give attention to the whole of what is given to you – the paths, the teachers, the obstructions, the distractions, the supplicants, the supports, the questions and answers, the hungers and lusts, the semantics and grammars, the that-which-is-not-yet-given. All of it. Let it all be and see how you fit into it all being.

Because you do fit, and you are home, but only you can see and know this.

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