One of my personal struggles with A Course in Miracles always comes from the impulse to interpret it or assume that it does mean literally what it teaches. A contribution from me becomes essential to understanding. And where the egoic self insists on its own prerogative, God can only gently wait.
So I have to read carefully and slowly. I have to question what I read; I have to question my conclusions about the meaning of what I read. I have to beware of the inclination to assume I get it, or that I get it more than somebody else does. Whenever I start comparing myself to other ACIM students, or other spiritual seekers, it’s a sure sign that fear has entered my thinking. Confusion has entered my thinking.
That’s not a crime, of course. We aren’t called to suffer and do penance. But we are called to gentle correction which, in this instance, means a return to reading humbly, a return to reading with and not against the Holy Spirit.
Take, for example, this sentence from Perception versus Knowledge.
All your difficulties stem from the fact that you do not recognize yourself, your brother or God (T-3.III.2:1).
That is clear, isn’t it? It does not equivocate. Each and every one of my problems arises from the fact that I do not presently remember what I am, what you are, and what God is.
And yet . . .
I read that sentence and at a very subtle level, a barely noticeable level, I add a qualifier. Internally, I insert “Almost” before “All.”
Why do I do that? Why do I qualify what is direct? Why do I cloud what is clear?
The answer is actually not very complicated. The sentence as written is clear: what needs solving is not the external problem, but the internal reference point from which and to which the problem appears. I need to learn to see you, me and God through the eyes of Christ (with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit’s lens, et cetera). The course insists that there is absolutely no source of conflict or anguish in my life that cannot be solved that way.
Thus, that line is the very essence of Lesson 34: “I could see peace instead of this.”
Peace of mind is clearly an internal matter. It must begin with your own thoughts, and then extend outward. It is from your peace of mind that a peaceful perception of the world arises (W-pI.34.1:2-4).
The self I believe I am – what A Course in Miracles calls “the ego” – cannot bear such clarity. It fears a terrible consequence, the course assures us will come to pass.
There are no strangers in God’s creation . . . God knows His children with perfect clarity. He created them by knowing them. He recognizes them perfectly (T-3.III.7:7, 9-11).
When I use “almost” to qualify “all,” I create a space for my own judgment to wreak its havoc. Now I have to decide which problems are a result of not knowing God and which are not. I introduce degrees and intervals. Is that clear? I have literally brought the separation from God into the sentence. I have fosterd what Ken Wapnick rightly called level confusion (e.g. T-3.IV.1:5-6), and so I have closed myself off to the potential healing.
This is what happens when I am not careful and attentive in my reading. This is what happens when I am not humble. Thus, the imperative is always to slow down, to invite what is into my reading and study, and to be willing to learn according to its light-filled curriculum – and not the feeble substitute I make in the darkness of guilt and fear.