Ondanks het feit dat de Cursus zelf stelt: ‘This is a very simple course (T-11.VIII.1:1).’, ontstonden er onmiddellijk na het uitkomen van ECIW de nodige misverstanden.
Hieronder vindt je een Lighthouse artikel van Gloria en Kenneth Wapnick over die misverstanden die ontstonden meteen na het uitkomen van de Cursus en die nog steeds ontstaan, wat betreft het begrijpen van de inhoud van Een cursus in wonderen.
Zoals je ziet is het in het Engels, het is nog niet vertaald.
Echter er is wel een ander artikel wat dit onderwerp ook behandelt en wel is vertaald, namelijk door de Nederlandse ‘Vraag&Antwoord Service’.
Je kan dat artikel daar in het Nederlands lezen, met de titel: ‘De geschiedenis van de manuscripten van Een cursus in wonderen.’, onder deze link: http://www.eciw.nl/V&A/V1386.htm
Maar hier volgt dus het originele Lighthouse artikel uit: Volume 4 Number 4 December 1993.
A SIMPLE, CLEAR, AND DIRECT COURSE
A common source of misunderstanding for students of A Course in Miracles lies in not recognizing the original context for the scribing which was directly personal to Helen Schucman and William Thetford. Jesus’ “notes” (his word) to Helen were a mixture of personal messages and the objective teaching. Even though the more informal nature of the latter dropped off as the scribing progressed, we continue to find subtle references to Helen and her reluctance to learn the Course all the way through, as seen for example in “The Simplicity of Salvation,” the first section in Chapter 31 of the text. One reason for the writing of Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course in Miracles was to clear up any potential confusion as to the meaning of many passages, and of the Course itself. As is discussed at length in that book, Helen was in great conflict regarding A Course in Miracles as it was coming through her. While she had no questions whatsoever about the “voice’s” identity as Jesus, nor of the absolute truth of his words to her, the Course did arouse tremendous anxiety as its message was totally antithetical to her personal thought system. She was therefore in the uncomfortable position of writing down (over a seven-year period!) a document that undermined her ego’s very existence.
As a result of her great ambivalence—loving and being devoted to Jesus on the one hand, and terrified on the other of the implications to her ego of such devotion—Helen on occasion would attempt to disprove the legitimacy of the Course’s author, not to mention his message. Jesus gently chided her over these attempts, which, again, are documented in Absence from Felicity. And when these attempts would fail, Helen would then argue that this Course was too difficult and demanded too much of her. While some of Jesus’ responses to Helen were taken out of the published edition of the Course, as directed by Jesus himself, enough have remained to allow the reader to see the importance to Jesus of the simple, clear, and direct nature of the Course he was giving to Helen and to the world. It is the purpose of this article to underscore this very important aspect of A Course in Miracles—which emerges from Helen’s direct and personal experience of scribing the Course from Jesus, which allowed her in turn to experience his relationship with the Course—as a help for students who are becoming confused about the “different interpretations” of the Course that are being offered by its students and commentators.
Simple, Clear, and Direct
As A Course in Miracles becomes more and more popular, one can sample among students an increasing number of written and spoken commentaries that purport to express what the Course teaches. However, it is difficult to reconcile many of these positions with the very clear and unequivocal position Jesus himself took regarding his Course, which he most certainly did not see as being complex, difficult to understand, or open to interpretation, as he reminded Helen many times. The following statements from A Course in Miracles are illustrative—though not exhaustive—of his attitude:
This is a very simple course (T-11.VIII.1:1; italics ours).
The reason this course is simple is that truth is simple (T-15.IV.6:1; italics ours).
Like the text for which this workbook was written, the ideas used for the exercises are very simple, very clear and totally unambiguous. We are not concerned with intellectual feats nor logical toys. We are dealing only in the very obvious, which has been overlooked in the clouds of complexity in which you think you think (W-pI.39.1:2-4; italics ours).
… how direct and simple the text is (W-pI.39.2:5; italics ours).
You have surely begun to realize that this is a very practical course, and one that means exactly what it says (T-8.IX.8:1; italics ours).
This course offers a very direct and a very simple learning situation, and provides the Guide Who tells you what to do (T-9.V.9:1; italics ours).
It is important to note here that by “simple” Jesus does not mean simplistic or simple-minded. A Course in Miracles is simple because it says only one thing, without deviation, and without compromise:
How simple is salvation! All it says is what was never true is not true now, and never will be. The impossible has not occurred, and can have no effects. And that is all (T-31.I.1:1-4; italics ours).
This next passage, dealing with the answer of forgiveness to all problems, can certainly also represent Jesus’ view of A Course in Miracles—his answer to Helen and Bill’s request for “another way”:
… for here we have an answer, clear and plain, beyond deceit in its simplicity. All the complexities the world has spun of fragile cobwebs disappear before the power and the majesty of this extremely simple statement of the truth (W-pI.122.6:6-7; italics ours).
In response to Helen’s complaints about the difficulty of the Course he was teaching her, Jesus responded with the following passages, so that she would understand that his words—the reflection of the Holy Spirit’s purpose and God’s truth—could not be misunderstood and, moreover, require no interpretation:
In fact, in order to be simple it [the Holy Spirit’s purpose] must be unequivocal. The simple is merely what is easily understood, and for this it is apparent that it must be clear (T-17.VI.1:2-3; first and third italics ours).
Reflections are seen in light. In darkness they are obscure, and their meaning seems to lie only in shifting interpretations, rather than in themselves. The reflection of God needs no interpretation. It is clear (T-14.IX.6:1-4; italics ours).
Therefore, “shifting interpretations” of what Jesus is teaching in A Course in Miracles can only come about when people are in the “darkness” of their wrong minds, and are unconsciously perverting the “reflection of God,” which “needs no interpretation.”
Finally, in light of Helen’s (and all students’) proclivity for projection of guilt onto God and him, Jesus made this very clear statement to her:
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 (T-3.I.3:11).
It should be evident from these few quotations how Jesus viewed his book. Nevertheless, it has not prevented students from believing that A Course in Miracles can be subject to different and equally valid “interpretations,” nor from twisting its symbols around to suit their ego’s wishes. Can you imagine Helen saying to Jesus: “I understand what you are saying to me and teaching in this Course, but I think there is another interpretation you can give to this section and to these ideas that you have just dictated.” In all the years Helen and I (Kenneth) spent in going over the Course, both in preparation for the published edition, as well as in discussing different portions from the three books, it never once occurred to either of us that there might be another possible explanation for what Jesus was teaching so clearly and directly.
In this regard, I (Kenneth) remember in the very early years of the Course’s publication having a discussion with Helen about an individual who was attempting to teach the Course without really understanding it, and maintaining that it was saying something it was not, taking sentences out of context to prove his point. Helen was furious and incredulous at the same time: furious at the person for his arrogance in teaching something he clearly had no comprehension of, but pretended that he did; and incredulous at the idea that there would actually be people claiming that A Course in Miracles said something it obviously did not mean, and arrogantly believing they were right.
While she was not always happy with the Course’s teachings, Helen never forgot Jesus’ statements about its simplicity, clarity, and directness. And as has been documented in Absence from Felicity, she had little tolerance for those who sought to distort the Course’s teachings for the glorification of their own egos. Helen’s integrity was such that even though she had difficulty in applying the principles of A Course in Miracles to her own life, which she always readily admitted to, she never once attempted to change what it said to meet her ego’s needs. Specialness, after all, is only a problem when it is denied, leading inevitably to projection onto others. We are not asked by Jesus in his Course to be without the limitations imposed by our specialness, but only to escape the terrible burden of guilt we place upon ourselves (M-26.4:1-2), a burden which is maintained by our stubborn refusal to acknowledge the ego thought system we have made real and accepted within our minds. Honesty with oneself regarding the investment in specialness is essential to the process of forgiveness, for it undoes denial and projection, the ego’s “double shield” that protects its guilt and therefore its own existence. That is why Jesus pleads with us in the text:
Watch carefully and see what it is you are really asking for. Be very honest with yourself in this, for we must hide nothing from each other…. Think honestly what you have thought that God would not have thought, and what you have not thought that God would have you think. Search sincerely for what you have done and left undone accordingly, and then change your mind to think with God’s (T-4.III.8:1; T-4.IV.2:4-5).
Once again, A Course in Miracles is simple, clear, and direct in its teachings. It is the wrong mind that weaves the obscuring webs of complexity.
It is always helpful as a point of reference, to ensure that one does not get off-track when working with the Course, to keep in mind the original instant of separation when we chose against God and experienced the seeming effects of that choice. That ontological moment not only contains the original error, but is the source of all the succeeding ones as well, including the one we are discussing here. Yet, therein too is found the only answer to all problems: the Holy Spirit’s forgiveness. As the text explains:
Each day, and every minute in each day, and every instant that each minute holds, you but relive the single instant when the time of terror took the place of love.
And that instant is the
tiny tick of time in which the first mistake was made, and all of them within that one mistake…. [It also holds] the Correction for that one, and all of them that came within the first (T-26.V.13:1; 3:5).
And so we relive that moment when we believed in the reality of the separation, and took seriously the “tiny, mad idea.” Thus we became convinced that we could be different and therefore separate from our Creator and Source, with Whom we can only exist in perfect oneness and love. We believed in our insanity that there could be different interpretations of reality, and that the simple, clear, and direct truth of God’s Heaven could be discussed and debated. And that, in fact, our interpretation was every bit as valid, if not more so, than God’s.
Imagine the arrogance of the Son who believed not only that he could be right while God’s truth was wrong, but also was convinced that his happiness resided in his being right. The clarity of this single error of separation quickly was obscured by the complexity of the ego’s thought system. This complexity then was reflected in the projection of the separation thought which became the physical universe, wherein was contained the glorification of the Son’s newly-won separated individuality and triumph over God—his specialness as a self-created being, a seeming travesty of God’s perfect and unified creation. The ego’s attempt to use the world’s complexity to conceal the origin of the one error is dramatically described in the following passage from the text:
You who believe that God is fear made but one substitution. It has taken many forms, because it was the substitution of illusion for truth; of fragmentation for wholeness. It has become so splintered and subdivided and divided again, over and over, that it is now almost impossible to perceive it once was one, and still is what it was. That one error, which brought truth to illusion, infinity to time, and life to death, was all you ever made. Your whole world rests upon it. Everything you see reflects it, and every special relationship that you have ever made is part of it.
You may be surprised to hear how very different is reality from what you see. You do not realize the magnitude of that one error. It was so vast and so completely incredible that from it a world of total unreality had to emerge. What else could come of it? Its fragmented aspects are fearful enough, as you begin to look at them. But nothing you have seen begins to show you the enormity of the original error, which seemed to cast you out of Heaven, to shatter knowledge into meaningless bits of disunited perceptions, and to force you to make further substitutions.
That was the first projection of error outward. The world arose to hide it, and became the screen on which it was projected and drawn between you and the truth (T-18.I.4:1-6:2).
The hallmark of this newly-emergent dream of miscreation is that truth is relative and subject to different interpretations. This was the famous position taken by the Greek Sophists, who became enshrined in history through Plato’s Dialogues, where their arrogance is exposed and countered by Socrates’ repeated demonstrations of their ignorance, and his teaching that truth is absolute and not subject to whatever the Sophists would have it be. This argument continues today, and students of A Course in Miracles familiar with the section “The Laws of Chaos” will recall this important statement of the ego’s first law, which is based in part upon the original Sophist argument:
The first chaotic law is that the truth is different for everyone. Like all these principles, this one maintains that each is separate and has a different set of thoughts that set him off from others. This principle evolves from the belief there is a hierarchy of illusions; some are more valuable and therefore true. Each one establishes this for himself, and makes it true by his attack on what another values. And this is justified because the values differ, and those who hold them seem to be unlike, and therefore enemies (T-23.II.2).
Differences in interpretation of A Course in Miracles thus become the rallying cry of those hellbent on proving the reality of their perceived separation from God and from certain members of the Sonship.
The Fear of Truth
The workbook says that “Nothing the world believes is true” (W-pI.139.7:1), because the world was made “to be a place where God could enter not, and where His Son could be apart from Him” (W-pII.3.2:4). It follows then that when truth presents itself to us within the dream, as in A Course in Miracles for example, the ego mind must inevitably distort and change it, since the ego is the thought that it can change the truth of God’s creation into something else. And thus it is equally inevitable that we will not know who we are as Christ, God’s one Son, because the dream we call the world of separation and differences was made by us to be a place where our true Home and Identity would be forgotten. Therefore, as long as we believe we are here, we will be forever uncertain of who we and our brothers truly are. And so Jesus says about the world: “It is a place whose purpose is to be a home where those who claim they do not know themselves can come to question what it is they are” (W-pI.139.7:2). The conclusion of the ego’s plan is that all who come to this world enter as amnesiacs, having drawn a veil of forgetfulness across their minds to cover their true Identity, having substituted for it a parody of their true Self.
The explanation for our adamant refusal to accept the truth as true, therefore, lies in the investment we have in our individual identities. The ego tells us that without this—our specialness—we would then disappear into the “oblivion” of God. For accepting our reality as part of the unified Christ, is to accept the Atonement principle that the impossible never occurred. Therefore the ego—the belief in the reality of the separated and differentiated self—does not exist. To the extent that one believes in this false self—and everyone who comes into this world does believe in it—to that extent will the Course’s teachings of undoing specialness be experienced as threatening and fearful. Jesus uses the circumstances of his own murder as an example of the ego’s fear of the truth:
Many thought I was attacking them, even though it was apparent I was not. An insane learner learns strange lessons. What you must recognize is that when you do not share a thought system, you are weakening it. Those who believe in it therefore perceive this as an attack on them. This is because everyone identifies himself with his thought system, and every thought system centers on what you believe you are (T-6.V-B.1:5-9).
It would logically follow then that the investment in preserving one’s specialness would inevitably lead a student of A Course in Miracles to become frightened of what it truly teaches. A world of duality, differentiation, specialness, and individual identity cannot be long sustained in the presence of the teachings that reflect the perfect Oneness of God and Christ, and which lead the student to that state of oneness. Therefore, as students read the Course through the eyes of specialness, their wrong minds caution them to be careful of the truth which threatens their existence. The process can be described as follows: 1) having chosen the ego as our teacher, a message goes from the wrong mind to the brain not to see what is written; 2) we then are instructed to deny the Course’s simplicity, clarity, and directness; and 3) we are then directed to substitute complexity, confusion, and divergence from the Course’s message. Building upon Shakespeare’s famous statement from “The Merchant of Venice” about the devil citing scripture for his purpose, Jesus states in the Course:
Nothing the ego perceives is interpreted correctly. Not only does the ego cite Scripture for its purpose, but it even interprets Scripture as a witness for itself (T-5.VI.4:3-4).
… the ego, under what it sees as threat, is quick to cite the truth to save its lies. Yet must it fail to understand the truth it uses thus. But you can learn to see these foolish applications, and deny the meaning they appear to have (W-pI.196.2:2-4).
We thus can see that the ego, being no one’s fool, realizes that it is better to “join” the truth, rather than oppose it. It counsels the unknowing students that they would be better served to bring the truth to illusion for interpretation, rather than, as the Course repeatedly advocates, to bring their illusions to the truth. The form this takes is that students, under the guise of loving and honoring Jesus’ teachings, actually subvert the meaning of his words to read what they would like them to say, rather than what the words in truth do say. And all this without the students’ conscious awareness of their ego’s insidiousness.
Jesus discusses this ego dynamic in several places in the Course as an explanation for why students would choose to obfuscate, distort, or change the simplicity of his teachings. And clearly, it is not only Helen’s resistance Jesus was addressing in these passages, but everyone who chooses to be so tempted. We begin with a passage that was specifically meant to help Helen undo her ego’s attempts at obscuring the simple truths of the Course’s teachings:
This course is perfectly clear. If you do not see it clearly, it is because you are interpreting against it, and therefore do not believe it…. I am leading you to a new kind of experience that you will become less and less willing to deny. Learning of Christ is easy, for to perceive with Him involves no strain at all. His perceptions are your natural awareness, and it is only the distortions you introduce that tire you. Let the Christ in you interpret for you, and do not try to limit what you see by narrow little beliefs that are unworthy of God’s Son (T-11.VI.3:1-2,6-9).
And yet it is the “little beliefs” of specialness that so often lead students of A Course in Miracles to interpret its message from their wrong minds, meanwhile believing otherwise. They are not aware that they have an unconscious investment in correcting Jesus, proving that he is wrong while they are right, still maintaining that they are not as God created them, and in fact know better than He who they truly are. To all of these fearful ones who would seek to substitute their littleness for the magnitude of Christ, Jesus counsels in this confluence of two passages from the Course: Ask not of one’s petty strength—the tiny wings of the sparrow—how, with mighty power, the eagle soars (T-20.IV.4:7; manual, p. 8; M-4.I.2:1-2).
That the ego distorts A Course in Miracles is brought up again several chapters later, with Jesus emphasizing once more that without the ego’s involvement his Course would be readily understandable:
Being so simple and direct, this course has nothing in it that is not consistent. The seeming inconsistencies, or parts you find more difficult than others, are merely indications of areas where means and end are still discrepant…. This course requires almost nothing of you. It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more (T-20.VII.1:3-4,7-8).
Denying one’s attachment to specialness, and therefore one’s need to compromise the Course’s clear, simple, and direct truth, follows inexorably from having chosen to study it through the lens of the wrong mind. This is an inevitable occurrence once one is in the dream we call the world, and is certainly not sinful nor unexpected. However, it is a mistake not to recognize these dynamics of specialness and bring them to Jesus, so that we, together with him, may look on them without judgment or guilt, thus dispelling their seeming darkness. Without Jesus’ help, we would be oblivious to the ego’s lies; and therefore they would continue indefinitely under the protection of denial, only to lead to further distortions and misinterpretations of the Course through the dynamic of projection: all this being painfully reminiscent of what was originally done with Jesus’ message two thousand years ago.
In the section immediately following “The Laws of Chaos,” Jesus discusses more specifically the ego’s wrong-minded attempts to compromise truth by rationalizing away attack thoughts with smile-filled wrappings whose purpose is to conceal the gift of murder that lies underneath: another example of the ego’s ongoing efforts to bring illusion into truth so that we would think they are the same. This of course reflects the original mistake of equating our illusory ego selves with God. Thus he writes:
This course is easy just because it makes no compromise. Yet it seems difficult to those who still believe that compromise is possible. They do not see that, if it is, salvation is attack (T-23.III.4:1-3).
No compromise is possible with the simple truth, and the following three passages are Jesus’ even more pointed reminders to his students that they are truly terrified of his Course, and so are unwilling to “pay the price” of giving up their specialness. In their insanity they would choose the “freedom” of their individual uniqueness and self-importance over the “imprisonment” of the truth that would only make them free:
We have repeated how little is asked of you to learn this course…. And being true, it is so simple that it cannot fail to be completely understood. Rejected yes, but not ambiguous. And if you choose against it now it will not be because it is obscure, but rather that this little cost seemed, in your judgment, to be too much to pay for peace (T-21.II.1:1,3-5).
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 (T-13.II.7).
Eyes become used to darkness, and the light of brilliant day seems painful to the eyes grown long accustomed to the dim effects perceived at twilight. And they turn away from sunlight and the clarity it brings to what they look upon. Dimness seems better; easier to see, and better recognized. Somehow the vague and more obscure seems easier to look upon; less painful to the eyes than what is wholly clear and unambiguous. Yet this is not what eyes are for, and who can say that he prefers the darkness and maintain he wants to see? (T-25.VI.2)
And so given this tremendous ego need to change A Course in Miracles to protect itself, it stands to reason that it would be impossible for any student to learn the Course as long as the ego-identification is maintained at all. We can therefore understand that the flight into different interpretations is really a flight from the clear and simple teachings of the Course. As Jesus says:
Complexity is of the ego, and is nothing more than the ego’s attempt to obscure the obvious (T-15.IV.6:2).
You who have not yet brought all of the darkness you have taught yourself into the light in you, can hardly judge the truth and value of this course (T-14.XI.4:1; italics ours).
It is impossible to learn anything consistently in a state of panic. If the purpose of this course is to help you remember what you are, and if you believe that what you are is fearful, then it must follow that you will not learn this course. Yet the reason for the course is that you do not know what you are (T-9.I.2:3-5).
And in this telling passage—taken from the section “The Treachery of Specialness”—on the seeming power of specialness to drown out the Voice for truth, Jesus underscores the importance of undoing our identification with the ego’s lies:
You are not special. If you think you are, and would defend your specialness against the truth of what you really are, how can you know the truth? What answer that the Holy Spirit gives can reach you, when it is your specialness to which you listen, and which asks and answers? Its tiny answer, soundless in the melody that pours from God to you eternally in loving praise of what you are, is all you listen to. And that vast song of honor and of love for what you are seems silent and unheard before its “mightiness.” You strain your ears to hear its soundless voice, and yet the Call of God Himself is soundless to you (T-24.II.4; italics ours).
Humility and Arrogance
While certainly the thought system of A Course in Miracles is difficult to embrace at first, because of its total undermining of the ego thought system, students need to cultivate an attitude of humility in recognizing that the solution to the problem of not understanding does not rest in “different interpretations” of the teachings, but rather in the recognition of the fear of losing one’s specialness in the presence of truth. Humility would accept the fact that one’s ego would inevitably attack the Course by striving to change it; arrogance would deny such attack with a series of rationalizations and interpretations that simply confuse the issue still further.
As an aid in developing this attitude of humility, students would do well in calling to mind the words Helen heard herself speak one morning as she came out of her sleep: “Never underestimate the power of denial.” Jesus “borrowed” that idea later for the Course, where in several places he cautions his students against underestimating the ego’s power: the intensity of its drive for vengeance, the extent of its insanity, and our need to be vigilant against it (T-5.V.2:11; T-7. III.3:5; T-11.V.16:1; T-11.VI.5:1; T-14.I.2:6; T-16.VII.3:1).
Because of this great temptation to underestimate the power of identifying with the ego, Jesus speaks to his students as if they were children, who need to be taught by an older and wiser brother about what is true and what is false. Children believe they understand when they do not, and so Jesus cautions us:
Of all the messages you have received and failed to understand, this course alone is open to your understanding and can be understood. This is your language. You do not understand it yet only because your whole communication is like a baby’s (T-22.I.6:1-3; second italics ours).
Rather than stubbornly insisting that they know what is right, and that they have the wisdom of judging the difference between truth and illusion, students of A Course in Miracles would do well to approach its teachings with humility, wonder, and a sincere desire to learn from it, rather than trying to teach it (and others) what it says. Recalling that Jesus views his students as children who cannot discern truth from illusion, as their eyes are clouded with the specialness that is protected by denial and projection, one would gladly and humbly accept the loving hand that Jesus extends as a gentle guide on the journey home. The readiness to turn away from specialness and learn the curriculum still lies in the future, and awaits one’s growth into spiritual maturity and out of the fears of childhood that root one in the past:
This course makes no attempt to teach what cannot easily be learned. Its scope does not exceed your own, except to say that what is yours will come to you when you are ready (T-24.VII.8:1-2).
We thus urge all students to realize that this Course is a very difficult spiritual curriculum precisely because it is so simple, clear, and in direct opposition to the ego’s thought system. And so we say in closing: Respect your fear of A Course in Miracles as a direct threat to your specialness, and do not deny the illusions you have made and cherish as a substitute for the resplendent truth of God. If indeed A Course in Miracles is your spiritual path, then let it lead you, by stepping back and letting the simplicity, clarity, and directness of Jesus’ own words be your guide. Only then can he truly help you forget the hatred of specialness you have made real, and recall at last the simplicity of the love that has patiently awaited your remembrance.