How shall we organize our thinking? Through what lens or prism shall we allow our thoughts to pass in order to see brought forth clarification and subsequently helpfulness and love?
When made the subject of contemplation, clarity begets helpfulness, which initiates service, which is love. Through service the one loves the other and through service that love is reciprocated. Since the peace and happiness which are products of love are together our objective, it behooves us to be clear on how it is brought forth and how it is blocked from being brought forth.
That is why giving attention to how we organize our thinking matters.
Perhaps most importantly, at this phase of our study and understanding, we should also ask: how shall we avoid confusing this lens or prism for that which it produces?
On Selecting a Prism
Most folks who end up reading what I write are students of A Course in Miracles or are thinking about being students of A Course in Miracles or want to understand what, if anything, should come after studying A Course in Miracles.
The course is an example of a prism. It is a way of organizing one’s thoughts in order to clarify them, give attention to what is clarified, and to live in accordance with what is brought forth as it is brought forth.
There are other ways – Buddhism, atheism, social Darwinism, Zoroastrianism, et cetera – and they are each effective and not effective precisely according to the manner and being in which they are brought forth.
One can’t choose the “right” prism; one can only attend the prism that appears. It is attendance that brings forth love – not the prism – but this is a subtle point easily missed, especially when one is evaluating all the many prisms, or lenses, that are presenting.
The appearance of a prism often takes the form of having to choose it. When this occurs, the so-called decision is only hard if one believes there is in fact a right and a wrong choice and that both are available and each precludes the other.
From a dualistic standpoint, this analysis feels sound, but it is actually not.
Hold the apparent choices in mind and give attention to the one that makes you happy – that is, what makes you feel safest, lightest, most interested, most familiar, most likely to learn something, be of service to others, et cetera.
There is an answer to this question! And when you see this – that there is an answer, and what that answer is – then you also see how the so-called choice was never actually a choice between disparate options but rather a question of attending with diligence, patience and care that which was always so.
It Organizes What?
I have good friends whose lives are “organized” according to the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Their thinking includes the nomenclature of addiction and recovery, and the spiritual principles brought forth by Bill Wilson and Bob Smith in the early half of the twentieth century.
I also have good friends whose lives are “organized” according to Mahayana Buddhism; they live in religious communities centered around zazen and sesshin, guided by a hierarchy of teachers and students. The language they use a blend of historical and contemporary Buddhism.
I also have good friends and family members whose lives are “organized” according to Catholicism. I have friends and family members who hew to various progressive strands of Protestant Christianity and Judaism. There are even a few who are evangelical conservatives, whose religion is unabashedly yoked to their support for Donald Trump and the various “Make America Great Again” policies he espouses.
Of course, my own thinking is organized through the prism of A Course in Miracles, a prism that was sculpted to a most helpful degree through my study of nondualism in the western tradition, including in particular second order cybernetics and constructivism.
The prism – be it AA, Buddhism, some strand of Christianity or ACIM – is simply what is helpful. Our lives make more sense in light of it; our confusion abates. We feel, however faintly, some sense of alignment with the universe. We are happier than we were before, and our happiness is not shallow or self-contained but magnifies and extends itself – is manifest in – those with whom we we are bringing forth a world.
Thus, it is okay – more than okay, really – to discard ways of organizing our thinking that are harmful, and to be rigorous in the attention we give to those ways that remain as we discern what makes us happy and what impedes the free flow of happiness.
Confusing Prisms With What They Bring Forth
If I hold an actual prism to the sun, the light passes through it and – by operation of the glass – is separated into its component colors. Rainbows abound. I am never not amazed by this, never not made joyful, in a natural and quiet way.
However, the prism is not a rainbow. It’s merely a tool by which rainbows – otherwise hidden to a given organism – are revealed.
It is important that I not confuse the prism for that which it brings forth.
Say that I organize my thinking according to A Course in Miracles. Forgiveness, atonement, projection, love . . . all these concepts and ideas, when allowed to pass through ACIM, clarify for me, and the clarification is helpful.
“Clarify” in this case means “understand in ways that allow for useful application” and “helpful” means “making the bringing forth of love less effortful.”
The clarification and the love that it brings forth are what matters; I am grateful for the tool but I do not confuse it for the effect it produces. When it rains, we don’t get out a hammer and nails; we move into the shelter the hammer and nails helped build.
A Zen student might say that one wants to not confuse the finger pointing to the moon for the moon itself.
I am under no illusion that what is helpful to me will be helpful to you or anybody else. In fact, sometimes the exact opposite is the case. I know this because I directly observe what is helpful for others being not-helpful for me.
For example, I know some folks for whom worship services centered around eating peyote are helpful and bring forth admirable levels of service, insight and peaceableness. It is how they organize their thinking.
Those services do not have the same effect for me. They are scary and destabilizing. To the extent they are helpful it is simply in how obviously they make clear “not this.”
I extrapolate from this that my subjective experience of A Course in Miracles will be seen the same way by at least some other folks. I do not experience this as a crisis! On the contrary, it allows me to relax into a state of gratitude and attention for my path, or prism, or means of organizing my thinking – there is nothing left to defend, and nothing on behalf of which I should proselytize.
Again, the critical element is not the prism but that which the prism brings forth. When we encounter love – in and through communion with others, most of whom are organizing their thoughts with different models (or prisms) than we are – it is the love we experience and accept and extend; not the means by which the love was brought forth in the other (although that may be of subsequent interest).
In other words, I have not lost my friendship with those whose worship includes peyote. I don’t use their prism, and they don’t use mine, but we recognize the love that is brought respectively, and its extension is not contingent on prisms. It transcends experience.
Yes but . . .
It has been hard for me – and the process is still underway and I suspect will endure so long as the host organism endures – to surrender my inclination to worship/cherish/defend the prism over the beauty the prism brings forth. I am not writing this because the rainbow holds me fast!
This difficulty appears to inhere in homo sapiens. We love our tools and are skilled at studying them in order to improve them, a cycle which often subsumes common sense. Do we really need cars that go ninety miles an hour? Nuclear weapons? Even iPhones seem to be a few dance steps beyond actual utility.
Yet I am grateful that our brains work this way! I am amazed that objects such as scythes and guitars and toilets exist – let alone actual prisms. The problem seems to lie in turning this power of thought, this analyze-to-improve habit to thought itself, which is to say, to being itself. This is how we end up with gods and sacraments and in-groups and inquisitions and so forth.
The “other way,” to which Bill Thetford turned, bringing Helen Schucman along with him, seems to lie in attending the love our living together naturally brings forth, and noticing the fundamental simplicity of this bringing forth, and the way it is not really contingent on what is external – our tools, our shelter, our partners and so forth – but is actually an internal way of seeing or giving attention which is nondual.
Anyway, the point being made in this post is to simply make use of the prism that presents itself to us, ever attending the happiness it naturally brings forth, and allowing that happiness to deepen and expand on itself until the even the prism that initially brought it forth is eclipsed.
A Course in Miracles may be helpful in organizing our thinking, but the real joy is the clear way it brings love and peace through happiness into our living, allowing us to bring happiness unto others. What a world is made accordingly!