What Does Abundance Mean?

Before I began to practice A Course of Miracles, I accepted without question that one could measure their spiritual wellness by virtue of external conditions.

What does abundance mean? A new age dynamic blend of spiritual health and wellness. Or something like that.

And secretly – even though I actively campaigned against this idea in my life – I believed that material abundance was a sign of God’s favor. At a minimum it testified to one’s ability to partake of the world’s natural rhythms of wealth and power.

Rich and successful people were better than I was at prayer, or the law of attraction. They were more holistic. More this or more that.

Rarely did I ever stop to ask what does abundance actually mean? What’s the point of all that stuff?

It’s a good question, a worthwhile one.

Most definitions of abundance focus on the “large amount” aspect. Abundant wealth means lots of money. Abundant land means plenty of acreage. Abundant health means quarterly marathons, organic veggies and daily yoga.

But are all abundances created equal?

Or, more to the point, was there something beyond this idea of abundance, something that was even more critical to regaining my spiritual equilibrium?

A Course in Miracles introduced me to the concept – and then began helping me bring it into application – that the things of the world, be they relationships or objects or even feelings – were not real.

Moreover, it suggested that my perception of the world was fatally skewed. I had no idea what the world was for. None.

Therefore, the idea that I could usefully define abundance and then make it happen in my life, and use it as a yardstick to assess my relationship with God, got tossed out the window.

The flip side was true as well. I had long cherished an ideal of spiritual poverty. Show me a rich man and I’ll show you a needle’s eyes before which camels could only sob in frustration. That kind of thing. Unfortunately, for all my devotion to it, there was no Truth to it.

Any abundance measured in the world’s terms – be it wealth or health or whatever – isn’t good or bad.

It’s nothing.

Thus, the focus of my spiritual practice is no longer mastering mental tricks or generating a lot of enthusiasm for certain ideas. I’m not trying to fool or manipulate or control the universe.

I’m trying to let it go.

I do that by making my relationship with God – I mean actual daily sustained contact with God – the focal point of my life.

The rest of it – lack, scarcity, abundance, wealth, health, insight – is static, illusory roadblock to that interior meeting place I am – have always been – joined to the Divine, without need or want of any kind.

Undoing the Narrative I

Certain movies and other texts can help one relate to and better understand the metaphysics and even the process of awakening described in A Course in Miracles. They can bring us into contact with the narrative I – the central actor and director of our story – and see how that self can be undone, simply by seeing there is nothing to undo.

I had an example of this a couple of weeks ago with Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.

Specifically, I found myself utterly entranced with both the film-making and the story-telling. The movie felt exquisite to me. Where a lot of movies bludgeon us with CGI effects, violence, graphic sex and language, Tarantino (at least in Basterds – not so much in earlier films) employs a scalpel. He’s inside your experience before you know he’s inside it; he’s working from the inside out.

And it hit me – a little more than halfway through the movie – that this obsession with telling an artful story, a transformative story, a gripping story, a forget-everything-and-keep-your-eyes-on-the-screen story had a spiritual correlative.

It is how the ego crafts and gives meaning to the story of its own existence. It is how and why it feels nigh on impossible to let go of our own narrative, our own personality in favor of waking up to something that is simpler, clearer and more natural. Something that is impersonal and all-inclusive.

We fall easily into the lure of our personal stories and their private meanings. I’m Irish-Catholic, a poet, a recovering drunk, a student of A Course in Miracles. I’m from the Northeastern United States, not the South and not the West. Leonard Cohen and Emily Dickinson are instructive. I struggle with caring about making money. On and on it goes. You’ve got one, too. Several, in fact.

Who is the “you” that Jesus addresses in A Course in Miracles? Is it Helen Schucman? Ken Wapnick? Gary Renard? You? Me?

We can bypass those individuals and say instead that the text addresses the observing mind which has chosen – regrettably and unnecessarily – to attach itself to the ego and its wily story. It is like an enormous gorgeous quilt confusing itself for a single fraying thread. And the thread is very good at convincing the quilt to keep on with its confusion.

So while I go crashing and stumbling through the world – healing myself, getting better, making mistakes, coming to terms, discovering new obligations, making new friends, pining for old ones – the observing mind, the Christ mind, the source mind – all of which are thoughts thought by God – simply is. No sweat, no worries. Nothing happened, so nothing to fix.

So much of what I believe I have to do – from writing this blog post to loving Jesus to helping feed my family – is contingent in some way on the magnetic personal story, the narrative composed by the ego. So many colors and tastes – so much exquisite detail – a cast to die for – such a dense and multi-layered narrative fabric. Stories within stories within stories.

And yet.

What we are after – inner peace, sustainable and non-dramatic love – is absent from that story. Ego doesn’t do love. Oh, it’s definitely a theme. There are characters who symbolize it. It pops up as an idea. But it never delivers. It can’t. Love and peace are the one thing the ego can’t – won’t ever – give us. By definition it can’t let us see this is all just a movie, just an illusion, just a dream. If it did, we’d walk away in a second. We’d leave the theater without a second thought and go straight home.

I didn’t finish watching Inglourious Basterds. It was as if a bell had rung, and once ringing, could not be unrung. I didn’t want the inspired trance of story anymore – not Tarantino’s and certainly not the ego’s. I wanted awareness – right thinking, right mind, right now.

Whatever we call waking up, it begins with awareness. It begins with the end of casualness. We begin to sense that our lives are playing out on a screen and that they are not real, at least not as we presently perceive and understand them. That invokes some responsibility. We need to discern the true from the false. Thus, something new – not of us but in us – is triggered.

As you watch your life unfold – you who long for the promise of Heaven as I do – ask what it is that the ego drama seeks to hide from you? Could it be that there is no drama? That there is no viewer, no screen, no projector? That you are It and you always have been and right now – right now – you can settle and enjoy the unalterable peace that surpasses understanding?

We are telling ourselves a story – a good one in its way – but its sole purpose is keep us asleep, hidden, angry, guilty, estranged, lonely and unproductive.

There is another way. We can give attention to the narrative – in particular the one telling it – and allow our attentiveness to dissolve them. There is no I. When the center is everywhere, there is no center.  We who never left our home are home.

A Course in Miracles Fraud

Yesterday, while searching online for some information about ACIM teachers – I am trying to better appreciate and understand what prompts people to charge money for “teaching” ACIM – I ran into two articles that threw me for a loop, distracting me from the love that is our fundament.

The first was over at EWTN which is a conservative Catholic news service. The author, Edward R. Hryczyk, quoting extensively from a Catholic priest (Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel) who knew Helen Schucman is deeply critical of A Course in Miracles. He not-so-subtly implies that it’s deceptive at a radical level – the work not of Jesus but of a demon, an embodiment of diabolical intent.

In other words, the course doesn’t just depart from traditional Catholic dogma and theology. It affirmatively seeks to lead people away from God and into hell. The priest claims as proof the pain and anguish and suffering of Helen Schucman’s last years.

Mr. Hryczyk suggests that Catholics to be gentle but uncompromising with ACIM students. He says they are usually sincere in their search for Christ, trying to fill a spiritless void, but are dangerously led astray. Their only hope is to return to the teachings and traditions of the Catholic church, as mediated by the Magisterium; helping them find that way back is the only appropriate mode of interaction.

I’m generally immune to a lot of what conservative or fundamentalist Christianity offers. Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty good at accepting where those believers are at, finding what common ground (if any) is available, and trying to steer away from any painful conflict. If there’s room for dialogue, great. If not, that’s okay, too. I don’t want to hurt people.

But I was raised Catholic – cradle to my late thirties. Two of my children are baptized. I went to a Catholic college, studied Catholic theology, and even looked into being an Edmundite priest. I believed and even when the going got really tough, I tried to keep believing. I wanted to keep the faith.

Eventually, after much prayer and contemplation and talk with friends and family, I let go of the Catholic church. It was the right decision for me and it planted the seeds of a fruitful spiritual practice that has been challenging, inspiring and transformative. I am grateful.

But that article – the priest’s confidence that he was right, the subtle allusions to an evil capable of manifesting in the world, the author’s certainty that I and others like me are bound to a gnostic philosophy that can only lead us to hell – actually shook me. I don’t like saying that – in part because it shows how I am still invested in publicly presenting some spiritual “ideal” – but the truth is, I was rattled.

And – as this post testifies – I am still sorting through that experience.

I never believed in a God that didn’t love everyone unconditionally. But I did believe in a God that was stern, demanding and judgmental. He didn’t hate me – but he was perpetually disappointed in me. And that wasn’t going to change in Heaven. I didn’t fit in the world and I had little hope that I was going to be much a right fit up there, either.

And – deep down in the recesses of my belief system – I accepted the presence of an angel who had chose to rule in hell rather than follow in Heaven. I was susceptible to his wiles. The devil was real and hot on my heels, always throwing rock bands and beautiful women and drugs and whatever else he could into my path. I was his best hope and we both knew it.

So the real risk was not rejection by the somewhat cold and elusive God, but my own acceptance of the evil alternative.

What a harsh and painful spirituality! What a painful religious narrative in which to be shackled! And clearly I have not uprooted all of it, as it has surfaced yet again. A couple thousand words written by a man I don’t know, quoting a priest I’ve never met, and all the relentlessly difficult baggage of that church and its grim stories and mythology rises to the surface.

So what does one do as a student of A Course in Miracles? How does one respond to this sort of moment?

Well, one thing that we can do is hold our “relentlessly difficult baggage” in the light. We can keep it on the table, so to speak. When the ego rears its head and runs rampant through our lives, we can simply acknowledge it and offer it to the Holy Spirit. This is what clear seeing and non-resistance are. We can’t keep secrets and know the peace of Christ, therefore whatever ugliness we’d rather hide away is going to have to lifted up into light and given to the One who knows what to do with it.

The other article that I read (since gone from the web but you can get a general flavor from this thread) appeared in an online journal devoted to the Book of Urantia. The author, Philip Eversoul, affirmatively rejects any possibility that A Course in Miracles can be reconciled with Urantia teachings. In fact, in somewhat the same spirit as the EWTN article, he points out that the course is not the work of Jesus but of Caligastia, who is the Urantian equivalent of the devil.

That article and its ideology is less frightening to me. But it did bring out my inner theological lawyer. I’m modestly familiar with the Urantia book. I don’t claim to know it extensively and I certainly am not a follower or student of that tradition. But I own it. I’ve read it. I’ve talked to people about it. And I respect it as one of many paths that are available to spiritual seekers.

Still, I believe that Mr. Eversoul was mistaken in some of his observations about the course. Notably, he concluded that A Course in Miracles claims – despite its protestations to the contrary – to be the only way to get to God (i.e., see the preface which asserts that the course is “but one version of the universal curriculum”).

Like a drunken lawyer I practically leaped to my feet to rebut the charges. I was ready to write emails, letters to the editor, a whole blog post exposing the “wrongness” of Mr. Eversoul – which is, of course, a way highlighting the “rightness” of me.

This is a different kind of conflict than with the EWTN article, but it’s still a conflict. The need to be right where others are wrong is itself wrong-minded thinking. It is fundamentally unloving. It focuses on error, on behavior and on bodies. It ignores the inherent perfection of love as our shared spiritual experience.

And, contrary to belief, this sort of ego-based argumentation is not about  correction in the name of love. It’s about keeping our own hatred and guilt hidden by projecting it out into the world.

So yes. I was surprised by the intensity of my reaction. If you asked, I would have pointed out that I’m doing a lot better than I was a year ago, three years ago, ten years ago. Because I practice the course, because I seem to be able to make contact with that still inner voice, I don’t resort to lovelessness the way I once did.

But there I was acting like a man bent on hurting others in a vain attempt to exorcise his own hurt. There was no other way to see it, no better way to frame it. I was right and Mr. Eversoul was wrong. And I was angry that he was wrong. And all I could think to do was take that spark of anger and turn it into a conflagration.

On the one hand, I am grateful for those two readings. They open new grounds for forgiveness, which is always a blessing. I don’t want to correct anybody; I don’t want to defend A Course in Miracles or attack another tradition. That’s not my job. I don’t want to fan the flames of guilt and anger and hate – my own or anybody else’s.

I want to turn the whole thing over to Jesus in whom it can be healed, according to the power of love.

And yet.

I am chastened this morning. I woke before dawn, but couldn’t roust myself from bed for a prayerful walk. Instead, I lay there wondering if I was wrong about the course. Maybe I am still Catholic. Maybe the followers of the Urantia teachings are right. Maybe there’s another path I still haven’t found yet and that’s the one that’s good and right and true.

That doubt – that ability to question even what so clearly works, and works well, where no other practice did – is the ego’s most insidious tool. It is like a sharp invisible scalpel that neatly slices through our faith and conviction. It guts our little willingness, leaving it bloody and disemboweled.

It wants me to turn back, reject the course, abandon hope and continue a confused and meaningless search for God where God can be neither found nor remembered, let alone known.

Ultimately, even this doubt must be brought up into the light and set on the table. It’s the fear that A Course in Miracles is a lie, that all my friends – old and new alike – who turn to it and share with me – are misled and thus can only mislead

“Trust me,” whispers the ego. “Follow me.”

Its voice is by turns seductive and logical. What harm can come from going to mass tomorrow? Why is the Urantia book gathering dust in the basement while A Course in Miracles is on the bedside night table?

A Course in Miracles was the first spiritual path that made clear to me that I was allowed to be happy – naturally joyful, full of inner peace. There were no arduous rituals, no impossible-to-please deities. It was unequivocal in its acceptance of other spiritual paths. It wasn’t selling itself. It was there for me if I wanted it and there were no hard feelings if I continued on my way.

It was deep, resonant, consistent and loving. I saw those qualities in it – and recognized, however dimly, that they were qualities inside of me, as well.

Never before had I felt so close to Heaven, so near to Jesus. Never before had I been so hopeful that my seeking might have an end.

But those are just words. They are symbols. And however happy I am these days, the interior remains stormy, or at least capable of storm. My conviction drifts. By the tiniest bit – recessed, nearly hidden – I cling to the old world of bodies and pain and guilt.

I remember reading somewhere Ken Wapnick saying that we should never underestimate the ego. And in my recent reading of The Obstacles to Peace, I was struck by how graphic and violent and ugly the images of the ego and its world are. Fear’s messengers bring the stuff of nightmares.

No little shred of guilt escapes their hungry eyes. And in their savage search for sin they pounce on any living thing they see, and carry it screaming to their master, to be devoured (T-19.IV.A.12:6-7).


So I keep it simple. I name the fears and the doubts and lift them up where they can be seen and forgiven. I even put them, as best I can, into words. Here you go, Jesus. Take it away. Do what you will.

He promises love. He promises peace. And all he asks in return in a little gratitude, a little willingness. He asks me to look at my brothers and sisters and see in them what they cannot see in themselves.

Love, too, would set a feast before you, on a table covered with a spotless cloth, set in a quiet garden where no sound but singing and a softly joyous whispering is ever hears. This is a feast that honors your holy relationship, and at which everyone is welcome as an honored guest. And in a holy instant grace is said by everyone together, as they join in gentleness before the table of communion (T-19.IV.A.16:1-3).

So I am grateful then – or willing to be grateful – to Philip Eversoul and Edward R. Hryczyk. I am grateful that they so carefully and in such great faith wrote the articles I read yesterday. I am grateful for their willingness to share, to be vulnerable in a public space, to try and educate, to try and save.

And I lift these words of mine – which may bring comfort, which may cause conflict – in the same spirit. Heal all of us, Jesus, poor teachers and students alike. Of ourselves we can do nothing but with your guidance and in your presence, we may slowly be moved to love.

That is my prayer, joined with that of my brothers and sisters. May you hear all of us and lead us to the home we share in God.

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A Course in Miracles: Our Special Function

A critical aspect of our study and practice of A Course in Miracles revolves around discovering and bringing into application our special function as miracle workers. How we do this will vary in form, but the fundamental content remains the same: we are always asserting the guiltlessness of God’s children (T-14.V.2:1)

As a student of A Course in Miracles, I am often frustrated with the limitations of words. In fact, it is clear that on some level they are agents of separation. Words specify and thus impair generalization. What is X cannot be Y and it certainly cannot by itself be a unified alphabet.

Yet we are here to communicate, by whatever means necessary. We have a function, a role to play in the atonement – which ends our shared mistaken belief that we are from God – and it is unique to us inside the illusory world in which we believe we live.

It is possible to make both too much of this fact and too little.

We make too much of it when we “invest” in the world. That is, when we start to compare our gifts or skills to other people in an effort to judge one better or worse. This person is a more successful writer by virtue of their book sales. That person is a better ACIM teacher because they have more speaking gigs.

Suddenly, we are focused less on our contributions to the healing contemplated by Jesus in A Course in Miracles than we are on vain compare-and-contrast exercises which can only yield frustration.

In other words, I cannot simultaneously hear the Holy Spirit’s call to heal and the ego’s call to destroy.

We make too little of our special function when we start to block it. Is that the ego I hear or the Holy Spirit? If I follow that suggestion, how will I be able to keep a roof over my family’s head? We let doubt in – quite often in the guise of (apparently) reasonable questions. So long as I’m allowing the ego to henpeck my function to death, then I’m not going to fulfill my function.

I can’t stand by idly while the ego performs its execution by degrees.

For me, answering the call to write without judgment is a form of healing. And it’s hard. It’s hard because writing itself is challenging, but it’s also hard because my ego has gotten very subtle and seductive in its efforts to keep me silent. This almost always takes two forms: the desire to steer clear of the perils and pitfalls of spiritual pride, and a belief that by avoiding right work I remain poor as the world defines it and thus have an honorable badge attesting to my devotion to Jesus.

There is some value in both of these ideas, but my investment in them is unhealthy. I use them to stop (or impede) the work I am called to do. They are the raucous jeers I listen to in lieu of the Holy Spirit’s gentle song of guidance.

As I have pursued this blog – and related writing projects – I am always given opportunities to see how the ego messes with me. How it sets up traps, promotes circular reasoning, brays and prattles to keep me frozen, submissive, fearful, uncertain.

Yet I am also able to witness the Holy Spirit’s capacity for inducing miracles with just a shred of willingness on my end. New friends show up. People ask questions that I need answered myself. Wisdom flows over the transom and I drink it like a sinner left too long in the desert.

On Level One, there is one child of God and it’s us – all of us, without exception or qualification. Thus, what happens on Level Two – where this blog is, where I am, and where you are reading it – is an illusion. We cannot really make any changes on Level Two because it’s akin to drawing pictures in a pool of water.

We have to change our mind on Level One.

Yet – somewhat paradoxically – the only real way to do that is to interact with the images and ideas that we encounter on Level Two. We have to forgive them – the mouth-watering cheesecake, the boss who fires us, the illness that wracks us or our loved ones. It’s all grist for the mill of forgiveness.

The course teaches us that our special function is “the special form in which the fact that God is not insane appears most sensible and meaningful to you” (T-25.VII.7:1).

The content is the same. The form is suited to your special needs, and to the special time and place in which you think you find yourself, and where you can be free of place and time, and all that you believe must limit you (T-25.VII.7:2-3).

So it’s okay to be who you are – who you believe you be, the very best that you believe you can be. Be a healer or a teacher. Be a successful business leader. It’s all the same because it’s all part of the one dream we’re having – the dream of separation. Yet by forgiving those dream elements in front of us – by giving them over to the Holy Spirit, by choosing to look at them with Jesus instead of the ego – we empower those Holy Teachers to undo illusions for us. We learn that a child of God “cannot be bound by time nor place nor anything God did not will” (T-25.VII.7:4).

What is undone on Level Two is undone for all of us. You are not called to heal the dream for you alone – but for me, too. For all of us.

And the more we do it, the easier – the more natural – forgiveness becomes. And that in turn opens up new playing fields in which forgiveness opportunities abound. We are sleepers chained to an unhappy dream, bound to a nightmare of our own making. But our special function – that still voice inside that whispers go here, do that, say this, write that – is the opening through which all healing and all love flows.

Pry that opening wider with forgiveness – engage the dream with the willingness to have it undone for you. Then it will be undone for all of us, brothers and sisters alike. Heaven itself asks for nothing less; it can offer nothing more.

Are Arten and Pursah Real?

The question of whether Arten and Pursah are real often comes up in relation to questions about whether Gary Renard is a fraud. His writing revolves around Arten and Pursah’s teaching; his ACIM practice is intimately connected to their appearance and his relationship with them. Is it possible he made them up? And what happens if he did?

In general, I have no qualms about recommending Renard’s work to course students. Whatever drama Arten and Pursah present, their perspective on the course is traditional and – salty language aside – unremarkable. You can get pretty much the same thing from Ken Wapnick, albeit without spiritual histrionics. What works for you?

Also in general, I tend to shy away from characterizing course-related material in terms of “right” and “wrong” – or, in this case, “real and “unreal.” Rather, there are only helpful and unhelpful teachers and books and approaches. Again, it is a question of what works for a given student at a given point in their learning. Gary was helpful to me in the first year or so of my study; after that, not so much.

But to me that speaks to the helpfulness of his work, not its “rightness” or “wrongness.”

A Course in Miracles suggests that those of us who want conflict are going to find it. Diving into the question of whether Arten and Pursah are real or unreal is a good example of that inclination. Why does it matter? What about your ACIM practice will change based on one or the other answer?

As I mentioned, I read The Disappearance of the Universe early in my studies of A Course in Miracles. Someone I trusted lent it to me. And I loved it. It was easy to read, it was reassuring, it broke down some of the harder metaphysical ideas and concepts and made them accessible.

Yet as I dove deeper into the course, I started to stumble into a lot of the conflict that swirls around Gary. There’s the whole question of whether Arten and Pursah are real or just clever marketing devices. There’s his debates with other course teachers. There’s various other fantastic claims that he makes. There’s the way in which he hawks longevity vitamins.

I am not immune to conflict! I also like to be right and – by being right – to prove other people wrong. So I indulged that drama for a while.

But here’s the thing. At the same time I was given Renard’s book, I was also given Tara Singh’s book Nothing Real Can Be Threatened. And that book – its gravity, its clarity, its grounded reassurance, its love – literally entered my being as if it was breathing me. I was lifted by Tara Singh. I was changed.

And as Tara Singh’s teaching took hold and directed my learning, Renard’s work and the conflict that surrounded it just . . . faded. I wasn’t interested because it wasn’t helpful.

I felt strongly then – and still feel now – that we have to take what works and not lose sleep when something doesn’t. In A Course in Miracles Jesus reminds us to ask of everything: what is it for? (T-4.V.6:7-9) If it’s not taking you closer to Heaven and God – as measured by your happiness – then drop it and move on.

If we want to be distracted by conflict, we can be. But there is another way.

Of course, this does not answer the question: are Arten and Pursah real or fake?

For me, Arten and Pursah are real creations of Gary Renard by which he brings forth his understanding and practice of A Course in Miracles. I do not believe they are real the way my wife or my dog or my horse is real. I understand that reasonable and thoughtful course students disagree with me. I understand that Gary Renard disagrees.

And I have no interest in fighting with them over that. Again, if it works for you, then use. And if it doesn’t, then don’t worry about it.

Very few of us are called to attend the learning of anyone other than our own self. It is not my job to protect A Course in Miracles from other teachers, be they Marianne Williamson or Gary Renard or Liz Cronkhite.

It is okay to say “no” to a course teacher. I do this with Gary but only after I said yes for a while. I said “yes” to Tara Singh and have yet to need to renounce or amend that embrace. I said “not yet” to Liz Cronkhite and then “yes” and then “no.”

My point is that you are allowed to take any position you like with respect to Arten and Pursah, and the position you take will be the one that is most helpful to you at this stage of your learning. That might change with time and it might not.

When we find ourselves investing in conflict, it can be helpful to ask what the conflict is for? Is it deepening our forgiveness practice? Is it helping us understand parts of A Course in Miracles that are complex? Is it supporting our brothers and sisters in their study?

Or is it distracting us, by feeding an ego narrative that we are right where somebody else is wrong?

Tara Singh spoke often about the “lovelessness” of suggesting that we “get it” and others don’t. In general, it is not a helpful place to be.

If a text or teacher is helpful, then great. Make use of it. Share it. Learn from it. We are going to get where we’re going anyway, and the Holy Spirit and Jesus can and will use everything that comes along to help us remember that we never left our home in God, and that the way to remember is to extend love to our brothers and sisters. We can count on that. That is dependable.

Finally, I note that the course teaches us early on that whatever meaning something has, we have given it that meaning (e.g., W-pI.2). Whatever value we perceive in the world, be it positive or negative, we put it there.

In Disappearance of the Universe, Arten and Pursah make the following observation with respect to their reality.

It’s not necessary for your readers to believe in us. Our words can benefit people whether they have trust in us or not. It’s the Holy Spirit’s message that matters – not those who appear to be bringing it.

This is a good point! And goes very much to the question of helpfulness. By all means ask yourself whether Arten and Pursah are real. Look into it. Find the answer that works for you. But remember always that what informs your seeking and learning is love, and that the form love takes – be it Gary Renard and his ascended masters, Tara Singh and his service-oriented teaching, or Liz Cronkhite and her coach-based teaching model – will vary and shift, without ever diminishing the love that is the ground of our shared identity.

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Reading: John Beavin’s “The Parable of the Stars”

One of the more interesting – and challenging – aspects of being a Course in Miracles student is my desire to share it. It’s not an inherently bad impulse at all, but if I’m not careful in the application it can be a bit tricky.

For example, a lot of my close friends and people that I work with on a daily basis, have major issues with Jesus and Christianity. They’re happy that I’m happy but for them, the Course is just another failed branch of a tree they gave up on long ago. And when I try to talk about the Course without talking about Jesus, it doesn’t work. It’s just mushy philosophy, a cross between soft Buddhism and the Law of Attraction.

Even with friends who are perfectly happy to listen to someone talk about Jesus, I seem to stumble. It’s like I am having an interior experience – call it a bumpy transition from fear to love – that just won’t translate. Even with my wife and children I often feel an inept witness to this powerful, transformative experience.

So I have this longing then – this dream, say – for a text that is simple and clear and presents the Course in a way that isn’t too abstract, isn’t likely to alienate. I read a lot of Course material, and it’s all helpful in its way, but nothing has

A couple of weeks ago,  I read The Parable Of The Stars
by John BeavinIt’s an elegant and lovely text – fourteen or fifteen pages of story and images that goes right to the heart of the Course in a way that can certainly be renewing for long-time students but is also a blessing for non-students.

First and foremost, it’s fun to read. Like the parables of Jesus, it’s short – easy to partake of in a single sitting but rich enough to yield fruit for years. Parables, Beavin suggests, “allow us to observe logical occurrences which seem external to our lives, and then, gently, when we are ready, begin to see it really is our own story.” There is playfulness here, and joy.

The crux of the story won’t be unfamiliar to those of you who have spent any time with A Course in Miracles. There’s a beautiful light – existing as beauty itself, a condition in which no lack of any kind exists – and it suddenly explodes into billions of fragments.

Each of these fragments is a star wracked with guilt over the belief that they attained their individuality at the cost of destroying the original beautiful light. This guilt and fear causes them to twinkle, to frantically try and outshine their brother and sister stars, to take the place of the original light.

That doesn’t work, of course, and as some the stars give up in exhaustion, they hear the faint strains of a song sung by the original Light. It’s a soft, peaceful song that reminds the little stars that they already are the light they are struggling to become. They can relax. They are perfect the way they are. There is nothing to fix, nothing to improve.

Beavin has neatly and accurately translated the Course into a simple story about forgiveness, about remembering our true identity in Heaven. Reading The Parable of the Stars was like a playful push – this isn’t so difficult! – and I laughed when I was finished, because I was happy, because those blocks to love had shifted a little, had dissipated a little. That’s no small gift!

I gave the book to my wife to read. While she respects and honors my spiritual practice, she finds the text too obtuse. Her spirituality is deep and inspirational to me, and I have really struggled to share the Course with her in a way that isn’t overbearing. She read “The Parable of the Stars” and immediately connected it to the ideas she so often hears me babbling about. In fact, it has facilitated a deepening of our ongoing conversation about Jesus and God and our abstract spiritual identity, because it is the text we can share in common. “It’s like when the stars start twinkling . . . ” or “it’s like when the stars hear the song . . . ”

I also asked my 12-year old daughter to read the book. She appreciated it, too. I don’t ask her to read the Course, because she’s too young. I feel grateful that there is a text I can offer her – and my other children as they grow a bit older – that sums up Course principles. It’s not that I want my family to follow the Course because I do – but I do want them to understand and appreciate the choice that I have made, and continue to make. Beavin has absolutely created a work of art that facilitates that sharing.

The book is illustrated by Jennifer Bennett. The artwork actually reminded me of this quote from the book’s dedication (to Bill Thetford and Helen Schucman): “While the Course is, itself, the height of spiritual simplicity, overcoming our addiction to futile ‘twinkling’ usually requires a lifetime of studying and practicing the unique, life-renewing principles found in ACIM.”

I say that because the illustrations are so deceptively simple. Yet the more I look at them, the more beautiful and revealing they seem. They are a perfect addition to Beavin’s words, just the right blend of color and design. I think Beavin and Bennett are both deeply intimate with the delight of creation.

I’m a good example of a Course students who can be awfully serious. You know the type. Somebody cracks a joke during a study group and this guy doesn’t laugh because there’s no time for silliness. This is about waking up, damn it! And while I know that intellectually – and, yes, I’m working on it – there are still plenty of moments where I approach A Course of Miracles in a state of solemnity and gravitas that  is a poor substitute for the joyous peace and freedom we are promised.

In the end, this was perhaps was most appealed to me about reading Beavin’s book. The simplicity and playfulness was a useful counterpoint  to the part of my practice that wants to be professorial, masterful. In other words, it undid some of the specialness I feel about being a Course student. Reading “The Parable of the Stars” was like being reminded that this isn’t rocket science, that any time I want I can go home in joy and rest.

You can also listen to Beavin’s book on CD – his wife, Lainie Beavin narrates, and John handles the vocals. Their friend and collaborator, Tom Sciro, plays keyboards. I’m a reader by nature, but the disc is cool, too.

Anyway, over the years I’ve acquired a big library of ACIM material, but this gets a special place. When I want to share the Course with young friends or people who don’t want to be encumbered with what they perceive as overly religious or metaphysical language, this is my goto book.