Humility and Uncertainty: A Course in Miracles

Yet the essential thing is learning that you do not know (T-14.XI.1:1).

To be a student of A Course in Miracles is in part to embrace humility and in part to develop a tolerance for uncertainty. It is not only these things, but these things help. They can buttress a spiritual practice that is bent on seeing clearly there is neither anything to do nor anyone to do it.

Getting close enough to life to love and keep it going,

To be possessed of humility is to be humble. “Humble” comes from the Latin root “humus” which means earth or ground. We tend to think of humility in terms of social structure and where we are on it relative to others, but we can also think of it in terms of being grounded – of being close to the earth in a stable and nurturing way.

This sense of humility also encourages us to think in terms of actual humus – the dark soft organic matter composed of centuries of decomposition. The bones of animals, the fallen limbs of trees, leaves and feathers, rain and moth wings – all of it settles and is gently converted to a rich fertile soil from which life springs.

It is as if humus says to us: there is no death, there is only life being born again and again.

So let’s say that when we are humble, we are turning towards the ground – to the source of life itself. We are consenting to be born again, this time eternally, as that from which all instances of Life spring.

In a way, that’s pretty fancy talk, and possibly too vague to be helpful.

The point is to conceive of humility not in terms of how we are behaving with other people, or how they are perceiving us, but rather as decision to turn our attention to the Source of life. We want to discover our rootedness in it, our inseparability from it. We are not separate from life observing life – we are life gazing at itself, one with itself, forever.

To be humble is to give attention to what grounds us in Life.

The more still we become, the more clearly we see that there is nothing to do and – importantly – nobody to do it.

That’s humility. What about uncertainty?

To be uncertain means that we don’t know. A Course in Miracles suggests that being still – that resting in uncertainty – is a prerequisite to peace.

I do not know what anything, including this, means. And so I do not know how to respond to it. And I will not use my own past learning as the light to guide me now (T-14.XI.6:7-9).

Most of us don’t want to say we don’t know what anything means. We may not know everything, but to say we know nothing is a bridge too far. Yet the course urges us to adopt precisely that posture. What happens when we do?

Our lives are composed of reactions. If we give careful attention, this is clear. Things appear to happen, we judge them as good or bad, then take action based on those judgments, and then judge the outcomes, which is really just more stuff happening . . .

On and on it goes.

If we can say with clarity that we don’t know what anything means, then our foundation upon which to exercise judgment is undone. In that moment, it no longer functions.

And so in that moment, we perceive Life with great clarity, and see that we share it in unconditional ways.

Light is unlimited, and spreads across the world in quiet joy. All those you brought with you will shine on you, and you will shine on them in gratitude because they brought you here (T-13.VI.11:8-9).

The slower we are to judge, the more likely we are to begin to notice that we are neither central players nor particular reference points with respect to life. It’s happening, and we’re happening in and with it, but we’re not making the whole thing go. And the whole thing isn’t happening just to entertain us.

This insight attends us when we are no longer interfering with life. The more still we become, the more clearly we see that there is nothing to do and – importantly – nobody to do it.

Uncertainty doesn’t mean we are unhappy or confused. It simply means that we’re content to let life be life. We aren’t putting all our faith in our own perception and models. We aren’t forcing “our way” on the world. In course parlance, we are letting go of our own learning in favor of adopting that of the Holy Spirit.

And “Holy Spirit” in this instance is really just code for “breathe and be still.”

So we do that: we breathe, we humble ourselves, and we rest in the uncertainty of Life.


  1. I love the picture…your youngest?

    Nurturing, feeding, trusting.

    Our daily soul work.

    Blessings to you and yours ♡

    1. Hi Annie,

      Yeah, that’s Fionnghuala bottle-feeding sheep. I am missing that beautiful weather. Spring lambs are popping up around here now and it seems cruel – very cold and blustery and deep snow to our waists. The older I get the more I long for the light & warmth of spring and summer.

      And yeah, soul work – feeding what is there to be fed, and making sure the food is there in the first case. Keeping it simple . . .

      I hope all is well with you and your family, too.


  2. I was just now driving, and entertaining thoughts of “I Am entertainment” (in contrast to I need to be entertained). Right then a bee landed on my windshield. A couple of friends and I use the bee for “be”, as in “change the be-e, instead of trying to be the change …”. I even use Holy Be-e, as you just reinforced for me with your decoding!

    Thanks for bringing me with you, and letting your light shine. It’s made a “world” of difference!

  3. Hello, Sean. I really appreciate knowing that humility comes from the root “humus,” and I love your framing humility as a turning to Source for grounding. That we can humbly take our epistemic/existential uncertainties there, too, is a real game-changer for die-hard, problem-solving “smarty-pants.”

    Also want to say that, for me, one of your gifts as a teacher/commentator is to clarify ACIM themes in a way that is satisfying yet motivates me to return to the original text. Nicely done, that. 🙂 Thanks so much.

    1. You’re welcome, Margaret. Thank you for reading.

      Yeah, the ability – or opportunity maybe – to lay down the mantle of “i’ve got this” is life-saving. Oddly it’s exponentially more empowering than the alternative, almost like realizing that you’ve been playing a non-zero-sum game by zero-sum rules. Make the adjustment and everything changes, including the pressure to be right, better, optimal, et cetera.

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