Years ago a fellow student who had spent time with Tara Singh criticized Singh for using the phrase “bring into application.” Singh meant that it was not enough to study and learn: one had to actually embody that learning, to make it the fact of experience rather than an a mere ideal. The student felt that this was a form of dualism inconsistent with A Course in Miracles.
These kinds of metaphysical debates – is so-and-so sufficiently nondualistic, is so-and-so right in their understanding and practice of A Course in Miracles – are not as interesting to me as they once were. And it’s true they once were. If you scan old posts, you’ll find plenty of occasions where in spirit if not outright declaration I am taking sides on the nondualism and how-to-do-ACIM-right dialogue.
My interest in those dialogues began to abate when I discovered the role attention plays in our experience. Attention is present and responsive. It is alive. And once I began to see this clearly, and enter into relationship with it, the intellectual issues began to recede. Who cares about the physics of swimming when you can actually splash around in the waves?
This is not to say – as yesterday’s post makes clear – that I am opposed to intellectual analysis as a spiritual practice. Indeed, it is central to my experience of the course. I am by nature a student, and happiest when studying. My interest and facility with A Course in Miracles arises from that.
But – in my experience – Tara Singh was largely correct. Learning without application can be a form of resistance and denial. There is a difference between one who studies mercy and one who brings food and blankets to the homeless. Study is meant to inform application; application is more durable and fructive when informed by study. So balance matters.
Consciousness and awareness are experienced in a local way. If we look into our experience, it revolves around this body and this mind. Now that may not be a real or sustainable model for a lot of reasons – and we can talk about that, and we can engage the semantics – but doing so doesn’t bring the body or its prevalence to any end. All bodies serve the same approximate function: birth, hunger, reproduce, die.
And – within that cyclic function – to be aware. That is, to split into that which is observing and that which is observed. This division is an illusion: we are not separate from what is observed. We are what we are observing.
Believing the division is real – that we are not what we are studying – is what A Course in Miracles calls separation, and it is the primary source of our woe, both personally and collectively.
Intellectual study can bring us to the insight that the observer/observed divide is not reality but a form of perception. Intellectual study can give us the data, helpfully arrange it, and walk us through understanding it. But – and this matters – it cannot teach us how to live with the understanding.
That is an embodied holistic process and – kind of like parenting – you just have to do it. Nobody can do it for you.
Ask yourself this question: have you ever reached a point or had the insight that every spiritual book or essay or video you consume is saying the same approximate thing? Do you think while reading or viewing, “I know this?”
That’s an interesting juncture to reach, because it allows for this further question: if I already know all this, then why am I still so fucking petty and sad and confused and conflicted and so on?
The answer is: because you haven’t brought your vast admirable understanding into application.
Of course I am describing my own experience here. I’m not judging you. Probably you are a more tightly-wrapped box of chocolates than me. And no hard feelings if that’s so. But if this analysis resonates a little, then it’s worth asking: what would application of known spiritual ideals look like? Feel like?
And are you ready now to live that way?
For me, it is imperative not to do more reading in response to that question. There are only two answers to the question of readiness: yes or no. “Maybe” is just no another way. If you say no, you have to find out why you’re not ready. But if you’re ready – and probably you’re ready, or why else would you be reading this – then you have to leap. You have to leave the blue book behind and step into experience as a healed and healing presence.
All that really means is that we are giving attention to what is happening and discerning what, in this moment as it is given, is a just, creative and loving response.
This is harder than it sounds and leads to plenty of errors and missteps but it also speeds up the vivid here-and-nowness of inner peace.
This practical application of love is precisely what A Course in Miracles advocates. It
. . . emphasizes application rather than theory, and experience rather than theology . . . It’s only purpose is to provide a way in which some people will be able to find their own Internal Teacher (from the Preface).
Notwithstanding the various dramas that attend the course community – are Gary Renard’s ascended masters real, did Ken Wapnick wrongly edit the course, and blah blah blah – all ACIM is really saying is give attention, be kind and gentle in an ordinary way, and don’t worry about either the seeming big stuff or the seeming small stuff.
This is going to resemble an embodied dualistic experience! Don’t fret about that and don’t resist it. Don’t make a big deal out of it in any way. When we’re hungry, eat, and when we’re flowing with the divine Jesus river, flow, and when we’re tired and cranky, we remind ourselves it happens to everyone and try not to make things worse.
In a funny way, after many years of study into all these complex and fascinating philosophical and theological issues, I’m back to the playground where the best rule is simply to play well with others.