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On Darkness, Light and Jesus

One thing I like about Ken Wapnick is that he is very realistic about what it feels like to actually practice A Course in Miracles. In Ending Our Resistance to Love he states very clearly “[Y]ou cannot be a happy learner until you first learn how miserable you are. If you are happy, peaceful and satisfied with your life, A Course in Miracles is not for you (21).”

Who wants to hear that? He is saying that the course’s promise of joy and peace is real, but in order to find it we have to plumb some pretty ugly depths. And we just don’t want to go there. We are okay acknowledging that horror show intellectually, but we don’t want to really look at it, or spend any time with it.

But Wapnick also says that half-measures aren’t going to yield much fruit. Wanting an easier, softer way isn’t going to work. Waiting for the flawless blueprint is no good.

Everyone wishes there were a precise, detailed formula to follow, but unfortunately there is none other than to trust that experiencing the pain of staying with your ego will help you get beyond it. That is the bottom line (Ending our Resistance to Love, 23).

I was remembering all that today as I read The Forgiving Dream, which closes Chapter 29 (The Awakening). At one point in the text Jesus asks who could wish for either an idol or a dream in which an idol appears real “unless he were in terror and despair (T-29.IX.3:3)?”

Tara Singh often writes that when the course poses a question, it’s not a bad idea to stop reading and try to answer it, or at least learn that you can’t – or won’t- answer it.

We are here in this dream. And in it, we have idols. Idols and illusions go hand in hand. For some of us, A Course in Miracles is an idol. Patriotism is an idol. Walking dogs is an idol. Even Ken Wapnick can be an idol. All of those things – be they ideas or people or places or circumstances – reflect the application of egoic judgment. This is good, that is bad. As soon as we do that, we are in the “dream of judgment” that turns a dream of Heaven to one of hell (T-29.IX.2:1-2). We all do it. It’s no use beating ourselves up. That’s why we are here – believing that we have bodies, and stories, and that other bodies with their own stories are out there, some of which can be used for pleasure, some of which are out to get us.

The only reason we experience this life as real is because we are “in terror and despair.” And if we are going to wake up, then we have to really make contact with those feelings. Not in passing, not at the level of words only, but in a real way.

In the text, Jesus is very clear that this work – this looking – is not optional if we are going to wake up. He also cautions us against becoming casual about it – assuming that we’re “almost there” or that being less scared and more kind counts as progress.

Whenever you feel fear in any form – and you are fearful if you do not feel a deep content, a certainty of help, a calm assurance Heaven goes with you – be sure you made an idol, and believe it will betray you (T-29.IX.9:1).

There is no middle ground there. It is very clear.

So there is a need then to be vigilant for fear “in any form.” Fear isn’t always traditional fear, like when we don’t want to speak publicly or leap off the trail at the sight of a snake. Sometimes fear shows up as guilt or hatred. Sometimes it shows up as self-satisfaction. Sometimes as denial. We have to seek it out in all its forms, see it for what it is – a block to God’s Love – and then ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit for help. If we are patient, once we’ve seen the fear and brought our inner teacher to the fore, the fear will gently be undone.

Sometimes I feel very holy. I get pleased with my progress and improvement. A little pride comes in, a little smugness. There are moments of peace and in subtle and not-so-subtle ways I put those moments on display. Look at me! Perceive my wisdom and bathe in the rays of my inspired Godly love! I think it is something that happens to all of us from time to time. We get a little insight and a little happiness – more than we are used to – and we want to make it permanent. We want to take credit for it. It’s like saying, “thanks, Jesus, but I’ve got it from here.”

Do you remember this story in Matthew’s gospel? Jesus takes Peter and two other disciples up a mountain to pray. At the summit, Jesus is transfigured, bathed in divine light. Moses comes and Elijah shows up too and it’s like one great big Abrahamic love-in. And Peter says you know what? I’ll make us some shelter. Let’s settle down. He wants to make the moment permanent. Who can blame him? It’s what we all want. But Jesus says no. They have more work to do. And he leads them back down the mountain to teach and pray and eventually be tortured and executed.

I think our practice is like that a little. There’s a break in the storm – a little light, a little inner peace – and we want to hunker down and stay. We don’t want to keep digging. It’s hard work, this waking up! Can’t we just pitch a tent and stay put?

But Jesus says no. Let’s keep going.

In Ending our Resistance to Love Ken Wapnick points out that a good starting point for A Course in Miracles is pain and resistance, the more the better. Let’s get really clear about about how bad things are.

You are much better off beginning with the assumption that you are a heartless, cruel, sadistic beast, than you are assuming that you are a holy child of God who loves everyone (57).

And we resist that! We resist it when Jesus says it, and when Ken Wapnick says it, and when our therapist says it, and when Buddha says it. All of them! And thus we stay separated for the simple reason that we cannot bear to face the fear that gives rise to the dream of separation, the horror show of the ego. We don’t want to see that we’re the ones making it all go. We’d rather compromise. We’d rather seek out a slightly less scary illusion. But if we are going to see it undone altogether, then we are going to have to go all the way with Jesus.

But remember. As much as Jesus insists we have to do this difficult work, he also insists that we are not doing it alone. He is with us, always.

Little child, the light is there. You do but dream, and idols are the toys you dream you play with (T-29.IX.4:3-4).

So there is darkness, yes. And it’s a frightening darkness and we haven’t yet worked our way all through it. Okay. But there is a light, too, and it is within us and we can call on it any time we choose. It will never fail to join us as we work our way through this tangle of hatred, terror and despair toward Heaven which waits – patiently – in the not-so-far-off distance.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Claudia Theodore February 9, 2013, 10:23 am

    So, I guess it is normal that I vascillate between utter wake-in-the-dark-night terror and the calming peace of God’s light, depending on where I am on any given day in my practice. Lately I’ve been disappointed that the reappearance of the black fear means I have been a back-slider, but your message gives me hope that perhaps that really means I’m making progress! Ha. Jesus really does have quite a sense of humor through all this learning. Thanks Sean. I enjoy reading your insights about this wonderful journey home from a fellow journeyman.

    • Sean Reagan February 9, 2013, 4:22 pm

      Hi Claudia,

      You and I can start the ACIM back-slider club – there will be a lot of members!

      Yeah, in a counter-intuitive way, it is the presence of the dark side and the rough stuff and all of that which indicates we are doing okay. I have struggled a fair amount with Wapnick as a teacher but on this he is clear and helpful – the course is for these feelings. This is what it does. It allows us to see all the baggage and the crap and whatever-we-want-to-call-it without running from it. When we look at the hard stuff with Jesus we are essentially allowing Jesus to judge it instead of us – and there is great peace in giving up the role of judge. But of course, most of us – me included certainly – give it up slowly, one painful half-inch at a time.

      Anyway – thanks for reading & writing!


  • Anil February 9, 2013, 10:10 pm

    Sean, Claudia –
    If you start the Back_Sliders Club, may I join too ? (:
    Ken is tough in many ways, and I have(continue) to struggle with his teaching/method, but I agree – he’s right about this stuff – 100%.
    Happy Sunday to you all.

    • Claudia February 10, 2013, 9:55 am

      Sean and Anil,
      I have to be honest and confess that I am new enough to ACIM (on lesson 133 today) to not yet know about anyone’s teaching method, and to say I am a back-slider already may be a bit of a misnomer intended to convey the roller-coaster of comprehension I seem to ride, which ranges from seemingly inspired, brilliant revelation and vision about the path before me, to feeling like I am caught in a thudding grey mind trap of a dullard, where all I see is a blur of senseless words on a page in a book with no pictures. There are times when several days of insight (and the corresponding fruit borne of forgivnesss lessons) are strung together and I think I’ve figured out the way to live a brilliant final life that will culminate in enlightnent, but these are soon followed by times of complete blindness, confusion, sadness, guilt and disgust with myself and my inability to see the real world. And reminding myself “this need not be so” just seems to make me feel worse.

      But then I read what you write Sean, and realize I am okay; this is what it is like to walk this new path, and as long as I keep trying, and show a little bit of willingness, the Holy Spirit will take anything I offer as a teaching tool. I’m just really glad “They” have the patience of saints, because I have a feeling I am really going to need it.

      Sean, thanks for providing a place to express these thoughts. It matters.

      • Sean Reagan February 10, 2013, 3:57 pm

        You’re welcome, Claudia.

        Those days of insight are going to outweigh the times of blindness soon. They always do in the end.

        ~ Sean

    • Sean Reagan February 10, 2013, 3:52 pm

      The more the merrier, Anil! We can prop one another up.

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