Kenosis and A Course in Miracles

You must empty yourself of everything, including even the longing for life. You must give up everything, including control over your death. Forget about living and dying, and then forget you forgot about it.

You will ask, “what is left? What more do you want of me God? What else can I give?”

And then you will wait for an answer. Like standing alone on a high cliff overlooking the desert at night you will wait. You are not allowed to rush towards the answer; you are not allowed to make demands about how it is given. You have to rid your mind of all anticipation, foregoing even your right to be disappointed.

Even when you have given everything up, you will find you have not given everything up. When you let go and let go and let go and there’s nothing left to let go of, you still have your will. You still have this willingness to let go. Can you let go of even that? Can you let go of letting go? Can you let go of all conditions you have placed before God and Love?

Do you see how this involves forgetting? How it has to involve forgetting? Do you see how it is not a getting but a forgetting and that this is why you resist it?

When you do see this, then even your desire to please God will not remain. And then you will know perfection in a blade of grass, a ray of moonlight, a child’s laugh, crickets on a warm summer night. All the differences in the world will not be able to turn you away from loving everything equally and totally.

This is because what remains when nothing remains is what God gave us in Creation; what remains is the gift, which is being itself. This existence: this this. And it is not a gift, like a diamond in a black box, but rather a giving, continuous and everpresent, eternally freely extending itself as if it were alive and not dead, as if it were beyond the reach of life and death. Not an object but a process; not a process but a law, not a law but the end of the need for law.

This is what we call kenosis. This is the self-emptying of everything, even of kenosis. In A Course in Miracles, we call this “God takes the last step” (T-13.VIII.3:2). We call it coming empty-handed unto our God (W-pI.189.7:5). Most of us intellectualize it, make an idol of it. We make it a thing with which we can be in relationship. I certainly do.

And yet.

It’s not that. It can’t be objectified. It has no ability to even register our existence.

How much of you can you disappear? How still can your mind become?

Beyond God, what?


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17 Comments

  1. “It’s not a getting…it’s a forgetting.”
    Yes.
    “It’s not a gift…. It’s giving.”
    Yes.

    The more we understand that we understand nothing, the more inadequate words become.

    1. A challenging lesson for wordy students like you and me! But you are correct, of course. There is nothing to do – not even speak.

      That said, it’s nice to hear from you, Claudia 🙂 I hope all is well.

      ~ Sean

  2. Good Morning Sean,

    Reading the title of your post, I had a “Wow, Yes, Thank You” moment.

    Two weeks ago during an ACIM group session (on Zoom) we were having a lively discussion on letting go. I had been reading about kenosis or self-emptying in my study of Mary Magdelene and brought up the idea — which resonates in this heart as being the wide open space of love — for discussion, and our teacher simply dismissed it and moved on.

    That rankled. (I know . . . ego.) The Course may not use the word “kenosis,” but it “feels” like what we are called to do. I mean how else do you lose the “me” that always pulls and pushes from our made up center?

    Cynthia Bourgeault deems this self-emptying “the touchstone, the core reality underlying every moment of Jesus’s human journey.” In a later graph she says: “Kenosis is not the same as renunciation. Renunciation implies a subtle pushing away; kenosis is simply the willingness to let things come and go without grabbing on.” (Another “wow, yes, thank you” from me for that.)

    On New Year’s Eve a friend of mine told me that her Spirit-given word for the year is “loss.” Mine, if I heard correctly, is “free.” Self-emptying (with the requisite forgetting you mention) sounds like the path toward freedom.

    Simple but not easy . . . like all things ACIM. . . .😏

    Your words here are timely and helpful. Thanks for the guidance along the way.

    Love,
    Cheryl

    1. There are no accidents in salvation! I’m glad it was helpful, Cheryl. It was a big theme in my reading and thinking a while back, some of it appears now to be surfacing here. There seems to be something in it – for me – about giving attention to what works and when I do this, what does not work, simply fades away of its own accord. How much fading can we bear? How much forgetting? I start to see ego as an object – a belief system – one that I can actually just say, “that doesn’t work. It doesn’t help.” And then its stranglehold loosens. Anyway . . . yeah, it’s an old idea in our Christian tradition, kenosis – emptying even unto the cross – and it seems to resonate a little for some of us even now.

      I hope you’re well Cheryl . . . nice to connect 🙏🙏

      ~ Sean

  3. hi sean when i read your post i was curious NO i wanted to know about kenosis….so i googled it and read several posts about it…..then i felt i understood it…..a few minutes ago i opened one of krishnamurti’s books to a page about learning, knowing, not knowing in which he says ” to learn is not to accumulate, either knowledge, things, or relationships “. what an eye opener ! talk with you later….

  4. …spent last week on the couch with a incapacitating Covid migrane, and little by little even my thoughts slowed and quieted until I had just a few moments of still, silent being. That was the closest I have ever felt to just being in the present moment — no random thoughts, no judgements, no movement, nothing to do, nothing to think about. That experience has made the week following so interesting to observe life coming back into me and how fast it really is, and how “meaningless” so much of what we experience each day is. So your post on Kenosis has definitely sparked something I might not have understood before…and also the realization of how many layers we have to strip away, just to start to still our mind. I am so grateful for that experience. It is a great starting point!

    1. You remind me of these lines from the Gospel of Philip:

      . . . when you see something in this other space, you become it.
      If you know the Breath, you are the Breath.
      If you know the Christ, you become the Christ.

      ~ Sean

      1. That is beautiful … Since I’m such a newbie to these studies I am excited to know that passage having recently read the Gospel of Phillip. I will be revisiting it. Thank you Sean!

  5. Hello, I recently discovered your writing while looking for thoughts on ACIM lessons, and am drawn to your work. In reading your post and what has influenced you, I see you mention David Bohm. I had recently started reading The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot. He delves deeply into the work oh Bohm . I’m no physicist, but I guess even some physicist can’t understand his work, so I don’t feel too bad! But as I’m reading, I think I get glimpses of understanding and am awestruck. I was thinking/wondering what Bohm would say about the course: are they saying essentially the same thing? I’m new to it all. Thank you,
    Chris

    1. Hi Chris,

      Thanks for reading & sharing.

      It’s a funny thing. Tara Singh and Ken Wapnick are definitely my course “teachers” but reading Bohm was the one who made it real. Suddenly I understood what the course was saying and what I was doing studying and practicing it.

      Singh was a student of Krishnamurti and Bohm and Krishnamurti shared an extended dialogue about separation, truth, reality, life and death, et cetera. So for me anyway, Bohm feels on point in my ACIM study and practice.

      I have read all his work closely but his little book “On Dialogue” changed my life utterly. His dialogues with Krishnamurti are also deeply insightful; there are three volumes.

      Bohm understood that separation was an illusion and that time and space were not inherent qualities of the cosmos, but more like a species-specific interface. So in that sense, I think he would have absolutely appreciated what A Course in Miracles was teaching.

      On the other hand, I think he would have recognized that the language of the course – so Christian, so Platonic, so pedantic – was more likely to confuse people than not. I think he really respected Krishnamurti’s “spirituality” – which was less spiritual than rational and premised on inquiry rather than faith.

      In a sense, it was Bohm who taught me to take the course seriously and practically by giving close attention to the apparent divide between the observer and the observed as it occurred. That is, it stopped being theoretical and became an actual investigation in my life: how am I not that pine tree? Are Chris and I actually one? What is really going on?

      That inquiry sent me on a long study of writers whose work is not generally considered harmonious with ACIM – Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Heinz von Foerster, Louis Kauffman, Jan Koenderink, to name a few. It was deeply helpful to me. I now view that period of study as the Holy Spirit helping me find a language by which to better appreciate the simplicity and clarity – the Holiness, really – of A Course in Miracles.

      I am not a physicist either! But – especially in his work on dialogue – Bohm was also interested in helping people find a way to be mutally helpful, creative and kind. He understood – like Maturana – that love was life’s fundament in a real and sustainable way. This is the course’s premise as well. The question becomes: how shall we make it so in our living?

      Love,
      Sean

    1. They went on hold in late summer . . . we have talked about bringing them back but nothing concrete yet . . .

      ~ Sean

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