On Reading Attentively

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 concept related to Perception and 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 fostered 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.

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  1. Sean, I’m on a second full read through of the course and I guess you are focused on the early chapters w/me right now. But I still love this synchronicity. Just this morning, I read and underlined that sentence you refer to above, “All your difficulties stem from the fact that you do not recognize yourself, your brother or God.” Upon reading it, my thought was one of such relief. The idea of “ALL” being sewn up in one solution relieved my heart because I struggle so w/keeping my arms around all the instructions and distinctions. I parse and distinguish everything, intellectualizing the meaning and always struggling to really understand. To think, ALL my difficulties can be resolved if only I can only learn to recognize myself, my brother and God?” No small feat, I know. In fact, it’s the whole point of the Course, but like the instructions on how to eat an elephant (one piece at a time) the thought that everything will be resolved when I truly learn this one thing, gives me peace.

    And I love how two people can read the same thing and get their own important soul lessons from it. It feels good to know I am growing alongside my brother.

    1. Hi Claudia,

      Yeah, I am rereading the first five chapters. I like them – it’s all there and I appreciate seeing it, or as much as I’m able. I am a reader by nature so I never really stop reading the course.

      It’s interesting, isn’t it, how we all find what we need in the text or lessons? That is one of my favorite aspects of the course – and one of the reasons that I try to steer clear of “right” and “wrong” readings: it just meets us where we are. It gives us as much as we’re ready to learn. It is very very subtle that way. I love it.

      I am with you 100% on intellectualizing the course, of course. What’s good is when I realize I am doing it, and then there is a little space for something new. It’s kind of a two steps forward, one step to the left, one back, turn around and run, crawl back experience for me but you know. God is patient!

      Eating elephants . . . that made me smile. Thank you, Claudia. Have a great day!

  2. Hi Sean,
    As I read your blog it reminded of these passages.

    I have made every effort to use words that are almost impossible to distort, but it is always possible to twist symbols around if you wish. ~ACIM

    You have surely begun to realize that this is a very practical course, and one that means exactly what it says. I would not ask you to do things you cannot do, and it is impossible that I could do things you cannot do. Given this, and given this quite literally, nothing can prevent you from doing exactly what I ask, and everything argues for your doing it. I give you no limits because God lays none upon you. When you limit yourself we are not of one mind, and that is sickness. Yet sickness is not of the body, but of the mind. All forms of sickness are signs that the mind is split, and does not accept a unified purpose. ~ACIM

    This course has explicitly stated that its goal for you is happiness and peace. Yet you are afraid of it. You have been told again and again that it will set you free, yet you sometimes react as if it is trying to imprison you. You often dismiss it more readily than you dismiss the ego’s thought system. To some extent, then, you must believe that by not learning the course you are protecting yourself. And you do not realize that it is only your guiltlessness that can protect you. ~ACIM

    Eric: These are always helpful reminders for myself when as Tara Singh described I look for modification rather than real change

    1. Thanks, Eric. Those are right on. And that’s a good observation of Taraji’s – it’s been a couple months since I’ve read him in large doses. I’ve been focusing on Bohm & writing.

      Hope all is well.


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