Wapnick’s Journey Through the Workbook Prelude

The 6th seal from the Morgan Beatus

Wapnick says there are two significant themes that recur throughout the workbook:

  1. Our identity within the illusion as a mind – wrong mind (the ego), right mind (the Holy Spirit), and the decision-making part that chooses between them.
  2. Our ego’s wish to be right and prove Jesus wrong.

There are two levels reflected in the Course’s teachings:

  1. Level One distinguishes between truth and illusion, oneness and separation, God and the ego.
  2. Level two relates only to the ego’s separated world of illusion, and contrasts the wrong-minded thought system of guilt, attack, and defense – the ego’s world of special relationships – with the right minded thought system of forgiveness – the Holy Spirit’s world of holy relationships.

Level One: The Ego’s Unholy Trinity

Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh. In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects. (T-27. VIII. 6:2-3.)

The insane idea is that God’s Son could actually separate from his Creator and Source. This could never happen, but in the illusory dream of the Son’s mind, it did happen and it set into motion a cosmic drama. There are three main characters in this drama: the ego, the Holy Spirit, and the decision-making Son of God. This trio comprises the split mind, which is perceived to be completely separate from the Mind of Christ, God’s true and undivided Son.

As the myth proceeds, the ego protects the illusion by attempting to convince God’s Son that the Son is a separate, sinful, and guilty entity. The principal characteristics of the separated mind thus became sin, guilt and fear of death. The ego feigns sweetness and concern, begging the Son to trust it. When the son conceded, the Voice for God was effectively silenced and the ego was allowed to continue to weave it’s web of illusion.

Psychologically, this is known as projection. We believe we can take what is in the mind and project it safely outside of ourselves. We put it “out there”. When we project a thought of separation (individuality, sin, guilt, fear of death…) the result is a physical world of separation (individuality, sin, guilt, fear of death…). This is the world of linear time. This projection not only gives rise to a separated world, but a fragmented one as well. The ego’s projected thought system shattered into an almost infinite number of pieces, much like what happens to glass when it breaks. Each fragment is unique, yet each maintains the characteristic of the glass. This is what created the quasi-infinite number of Sons.

Level Two: The Ego’s Wrong-Minded Thought System of Guilt and Attack

The fragments, now in the world as individual bodies, express the ego thought system in individualized ways and maintain the fundamental ego wish to project the responsibility for the separation onto something or someone else. In order to maintain the illusion, as individual bodies, we have a wish to be treated unfairly, and we see the sin in others that we do not want to see in ourselves. This is how we keep our individual identities while divorcing the sin that the ego created through the separation.

Guilt (the belief we have sinned) is the ego’s first shield of oblivion. The second shield of oblivion is achieved by the ego convincing the Son to abandon his mind and enter the mindless state of physicality. This is achieved through the use of special-relationships. The Son believes he is a creature of lack and scarcity when all that is really missing is the memory of God’s love that has disappeared from his awareness. He believes something is missing and attempts to fill the lack through attack. Of course, society does not condone direct assault so the attack is concealed as special love. We make ourselves dependent on others and believe we “need” them. We attempt to get what we want by making demands and bargaining with others, and agreeing to give them what they “need” in return. The ego, of course, plans to give as little and get as much as possible.

The ego’s plan, however, is not “God-proof”. There remains a voice of sanity within our right minds which continually calls us to choose again.

Level Two: The Holy Spirit’s Right-Minded Thought System of Forgiveness 

The Holy Spirit is the memory of who we are as Christ. That memory is our teacher. The Holy Spirit undoes the ego’s double-tiered strategy of guilt and projection. This is the right-minded focus. Through the right-minded focus, we interpretwhat our bodies tell us, rather than simply relying on sensory input. If you attack me physically or verbally, I have a choice whether or not to give your actions power over my own behavior. I may not be able to control your behavior, but I can control my own. There is nothing in the world that has control over my behavior except me. 

This is what the concept of forgiveness is about. The healing power of forgiveness is explained by A Course in Miraclesthrough the principle of cause and effect which rests on two principles:

  1. Every effect must have a cause. Without effects, there can be no cause.
  2. If anything exists, it must be a cause.

If I am upset, it is not because of what the fragment that is “you” has done (the form), it is because my mind has chosen to be upset (the content). If I do not react as if what you do is a sin, my defenselessness demonstrates that your so-called “sin” had no effect and thus is not a cause. If your sinful attack is not a cause, it cannot exist. Thus are sins forgiven. If I no longer focus on changing your behavior, but only on my own, I change my mind’s interpretation of your behavior from the ego’s purpose for the relationship to that of the Holy Spirit’s. The problem and the solution are in the mind, not the body.

When we make this shift, our experience of the world as a prison from which we want escape changes to the world as classroom. The workbook lessons help us realize that we were wrong in the choice for the ego and that instead, we can happily and gratefully choose the Holy Spirit as our teacher. 

Introduction to the Workbook

According to Wapnick, the idea of the workbook is to practice with specifics in order to learn what non-specificity means. It teaches us the importance of generalizing in our every day lives. We deal with specifics in order to realize that everything is non-specific. There is absolutely nothing in our lives that the Holy Spirit cannot help us with – not on the level of specifics, but with undoing the cause of our perception of the problem. We cannot withhold any part of the ego thought system from the Holy Spirit because if we do, we are withholding all of it.

It is important to see the connection between the Text and the Workbook. You cannot just “do ACIM’ by doing the workbook lessons because the workbook without the text is meaningless. Furthermore, the Course is only a beginning. It is not an end. It gets us to a point on the path and then the Holy Spirit (our Internal Teacher) takes us the rest of the way.

ACIM trains us to see that everything that happens in the world is an opportunity to learn. That is the meaning of generalizing the lessons.

Despite the Workbook saying that the training period is one year, the only real rule is to not do more than one lesson a day. (I am thankful for that because I know from experience, I will miss days of lessons!)

Part I of the workbook reflects the undoing of the ego thought system which makes room for the right-minded thinking reflected in Part II. The early lessons are meant to help us realize how much we don’t know, how little we understand, and how wrong we are about our perceptions.

The purpose of the workbook is to have us look very specifically at the way we perceive everyone and everything. We are not asked to deny the world, our bodies, our feelings, etc., we are simply asked to give everything a different purpose. Purpose is everything. You cannot learn there is no world if you deny it. It is important, as the workbook states, to not decide for ourselves that there are some people, situations or things in which the ideas are inapplicable. That is denial.

Wapnick gives the example of a cloistered nun who refused to say “the Blessed Sacrament does not mean anything” because for Catholics, it the Blessed Sacrament is sacred. But even the Blessed Sacrament is a projection so in and of itself, does not mean anything.

The workbook should not require a lot of time and hard work. If it does, then we are doing it incorrectly. Forgiveness is not a struggle and the lessons need not be done perfectly. We do not forgive. That is done for us. Our task is simply to “deny the denial of truth.” Our function is to look. Not to do.

ACIM Text – Content

Forbidden Fruit, Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel (1509)

Yesterday’s discussion focused on form. Today the focus is content – the perfect idea of Love we all have hidden in our minds. Wapnick continues the theme of symphony and says he is acting as conductor. This is extremely dense so I am going to try and unpack it as best I can.

There are three aspects of the thought system, and in keeping with the musical motif, Wapnick has added musical terms to go along with them. (They are indicated in brackets.):

  1. Heaven/One Mind [maestoso]
  2. ego/wrong mind [allegro agitato]
  3. Holy Spirit/right mind [molto adagio e dolcissimo]

Maestoso. Majestic. In music it means to be performed in a broad, majestic manner.

Allegro agitato. Allegro means fast. Agitato means agitated. The ego thought system reflects this. It spins out quickly and is agitated in its fury.

Molto adagio e dolcissimo. Very slowly and sweetly. This is the Holy Spirit’s correction for the ego. It is Forgiveness. We go through the process of undoing the ego in a very measured, slow, way. If we move too quickly, we go back to allegro agitato and cover the ego’s guilt and hate rather than letting the light of truth slowly and sweetly shine it away.

One Mind/God/Maestoso

There is really nothing to say of God beyond, “God is”. That is why the following terms, of which all are God, are used frequently throughout ACIM but not explained.

Heaven/Knowledge – Gnosis. Heaven and Knowledge are used interchangeably in ACIM. It is spoken of throughout ACIM, but never described because it is in the realm of God and there is nothing we can say about God. We speak of “activity” in heaven as extension/creation. God extends his Love and Will in a manner transcending space and time.

The extension of God’s love is Christ. Christ is synonymous with Self. Self is spirit/our true nature. The extensions of Christ are called creations, another term that is never explained. The World’s notions of creation have nothing to do with Christ’s creations because Christ’s creations are simply extensions of non-dualistic Love.

Mind is another term that cannot be explained. The Mind of God and the Mind of Christ are completely indivisible, undifferentiated, and unified. Mind, or pure spirit, is at one with itself. The egoic mind is split and fragmented.

Oneness is a very important term. Because the changelessness state is perfect, there could not possibly be a world of change that is real. There are no opposites in Heaven. Opposites only exist within the world of illusion. Wapnick concludes, “Truth alone is true, being majestic perfection: maestoso.”

Wrong Mind/Ego (Separation)/Allegro Agitato. 

The Ego – The “Tiny, Mad Idea and the Split Mind. “In time, this happened very long ago. In reality it never happened at all.” The “it” is the “tiny, mad idea”. This is the thought that arose within God’s Son that there could be something other than the Creator – something more than Love and Oneness. The thought that we could separate from God was the beginning of the dream. It is an illusion.

The Mind of Christ appeared to split, and there arose a mind that contained the separation thought. This is known as the split mind and is separate and distinct from the Mind of Christ/Mind of God. This split mind keeps on splitting. The Mind of God can only love. The separation thought can only separate, and it does so in a frenetic and agitated manner: allegro agitato.

Myth of the Split Mind

In this myth, the split mind originally split into three parts and then into an infinite number of fragments. The original three are:

  • The ego thought system (the wrong mind)
  • The Holy Spirit’s thought system (the right mind)
  • The decision maker (the Son of God is a synonym for the decision maker and can be equated with the dreamer).

The Wrong Mind and the Right Mind are two contradictory and mutually exclusive ways of looking at “the tiny mad idea”. They are two different ways of perceiving and understanding the separation.

The decision maker fell asleep and thus became the dreamer. The way out of the dream is for our decision makers to look at what they are dreaming. Wapnick presents the decision maker as a judge and the Right Mind and Wrong Mind are attorneys. The ego (Wrong Mind) speaks first and presents its case to the judge. The ego says that having an individual life that is independent of God is glorious. He says that God is a tyrant who doesn’t allow a dissenting voice. The ego says that ideas do leave their source.

When the judge asks what the Holy Spirit has to say, the Holy Spirit (Right Mind) says nothing because love is silent. Love does not oppose. This is based on the idea that ideas do not leave their source. The separation never happened, which is the Atonement and the basis of the Holy Spirit’s silent answer.

The decision maker/judge, enamored by his separate self, declared the ego not guilty. The Holy Spirit disappeared from our awareness, but remains present, hidden in our split minds. Consciousness is identical to the split mind.

Once the ego is chosen by the decision maker, it is the Son’s belief in it that gives it power. The ego doesn’t owe its existence to the separation, but to the Son’s belief.

Sin, Guilt, Fear

The ego’s purpose is to ensure that the Son of God will never change his mind. It does so by implementing strategies, battle plans, etc. which serve the purpose of making us mindless. (We can never change our mind if we don’t know we have one.) Mindlessness can’t happen unless the Son willingly chooses it so the ego provides the motivation for choosing it. In ACIM, Jesus tells us we are better off being mindful.

The myth: First the ego convinced the Son that he is separate from God (an idea that has left its source). The ego then convinces the Son that in order to win this separation, the Son had to kill God. This is known as sin. This, in turn, leads to guilt and the idea that the Son should be punished for his sins which creates fear. This is the unholy trinity: sin, guilt, fear. The Son’s Mind is now a battleground on which he is in grave danger of being destroyed by God’s punishment. It can only be God or the Son: one or the other. “An angry father pursues his guilty son. Kill or be killed.” Seeking to get rid of the battleground that is his mind, the Son decides it is better not to have a mind at all and becomes mindless. The ego becomes the only voice the Son hears.

The World

The world is a mindless projection made by the ego to hide from God. It is the thought of being separated from God projected out. This World of Separation is Perception, because ideas leave not their source (the source being the ego). It is not truth. A veil of forgetfulness causes us to forget where we came from. We only know where we came to. We arrived in the world and have come to trust our senses. We have come into a body ruled by a brain, not a mind.

There are two levels of defense: the thoughts of sin, guilt and fear and the world of sin, guilt and fear. The thoughts defend against the Right Mind’s Atonement principle. The world pronounces sin, guilt and fear real, but transmutes them so they are perceived outside, in another. Sin, guilt and fear no longer exist in our minds but in everyone else.

We live our lives solving one problem after another until we say, “there must be another way”.

Right Mind/Holy Spirit (Atonement)/Molto Adagio e Dolcissimo

“Miracle” is the name for the right-minded thought system of ACIM. It is the mind’s choosing again. ACIM helps us to realize that the world is a dream. The miracle makes us aware that we are the dreamer. We are not affected by other people, but by the mind having made all of this up. ACIM not only helps us recognize the illusory nature of the world, but helps us understand our motivation behind it.

The role of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in ACIM are to help us look at the world in a different way. We can choose again. Forgiveness is the process and has three steps:

  1. The recall of the projection of guilt from the world of bodies to the mind
  2. Once back in the mind, to see the guilt for the defense it is, preventing us to choose again so we can decide that the Holy Spirit is the true teacher
  3. Forgiveness is complete once the guilt has been chosen against.

This process is adagio e dolcissimo because the Holy Spirit’s guidance is slow, sweet and sure.ACIM Text – ContentThis process is adagio e dolcissimo because the Holy Spirit’s guidance is slow, sweet and sure.

ACIM Text as Symphony (Form)

I received all 4 volumes of Kenneth Wapnick’s Journey Through the Text of A Course in Miraclesand am a little overwhelmed. Journey Through the Workbook of A Course in Miraclesis 8 volumes while Journey Through the Text is only 4 volumes. But each volume is roughly the size of two volumes of Journey Through the Workbook. It’s a LOT of information!

Wapnick says the journey through ACIM should be leisurely so I am going to take him at his word and not turn this into an obsessive compulsive exercise that has to be finished by the end of the year. I’m just going to float down the river with it and see where I end up, beginning with Wapnick’s explanation in the Prelude to Journey through the Textthat the text is a symphony.

Wapnick explains that much of the discussion in ACIM is differentiating between form and content. Form is external. Content is internal. Form is what we observe in the world of bodies while content is the mind’s thought or meaning behind the form. Wapnick says the Course is the perfect integration of form and content because the way in which the text is written is an integral part of what it teaches.

Wapnick’s lengthiest discussion on form is a comparison of leitmotif in symphony to the text in ACIM. He explains that Wagner perfected the use of leitmotif by associating certain musical themes with characters or emotions. In Parsifal, his final opera, there were motifs for faith. In Tristan and Isolde, his greatest work, there were motifs for yearning and death. When these themes reappeared in Wagner’s work, they would undergo changes in harmony, rhythm, and intervals to mirror the internal changes in the drama. This same form is found in ACIM.

  1. From the perspective of the musical composer from 1885 to 1940;
  2. From the perspective of the narrator from 1943 to 1945;
  3. From Mann’s actual writing of the novel, during WWII and after the war;
  4. From the perspective of the reader.

These levels interrelate and are important because they are not only about the great composer and his mental deterioration, but also about the rise and fall of Nazi Germany – from ascension to power to maniacal insanity. Mann was a fan of Wagner and used leitmotif in Doktor Faustusin a similar way to Wagner’s use of leitmotif in music, heightening the drama of the rise and fall of Nazi Germany.

Similarly, A Course in Miracleshas many passages that can be taken one, two, or three ways and often the text is best understood if the passages are taken as all three at once.

Wapnick shows the similarity of ACIM and the use of leitmotif in DoktorFaustusby taking an anonymous passage written about Mann’s Doktor Faustusand substituting the word “Jesus” for “Mann” and “text” (as in ACIM text) for “Doktor Faustus”:

Jesus wants to explore the many elements of the myth [the birth of the ego, its fall, and our return home]. The text is only marginally linear. The themes are explored by techniques such as montage, and use musical structure. It is musical in structure with each element introduced over time in a manner that develops unceasingly complex connections between these elements. And ultimately one can see the entire picture of all the elements and their interconnections to make a central statement. All these elements and their interconnections constitute the entire statement and are indispensable.

Wapnick also connects Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with the text of ACIM. He says the Fifth Symphony is an overwhelming experience if one truly listens to it. In the same way one does not “enjoy” a Beethoven symphony or any of his great works, one does not “enjoy” the Course’s text, either. It is not an enjoyable read because, like the Fifth Symphony which plumbed the depths of Beehthoven’s psyche, ACIM is meant to upset us.

Another aspect where ACIM is similar to music is in the need for an interpreter. Most of us are unable to read the notes of a great symphony and hear it in our heads. We must hear it performed which requires a conductor and instrumentalist. The conductor and instrumentalist are the mediator between us and the composer’s genius. It is very important to listen to a conductor who understands the real meaning of the composer’s work. Wagner says when this happens, each of the separate parts falls logically and naturally into place. While listening to the music, it is as though we are in the presence of an organic unity and living experience. We no longer just hear the music but transcend it. However, when we listen to a conductor who may conduct all the notes brilliantly but doesn’t fully understand the meaning of the work, there is no organic connection or heart to the music. It’s just music.

The conductor must come before a musical masterpiece with a sense of humility in order to fully realize it. Wapnick suggests we come before ACIM with that same sense of humility because it isn’t just about words, it’s about transcendence. The brilliance doesn’t lie in the words, it lies in that there is something that transcends the words which we are able to grow into if we approach it with humility.

Wapnick says that our ever-deepening experiences of the Course is similar to what happens when we are in the presence of great music. The more we listen, the more we realize there is something there we hadn’t heard before. What we hope for in working with ACIM is that “our study, understanding, and application be an organic process of growth and transformation.”

The Introduction to the ACIM Text

Wapnick says the first 4 chapters are a summary of the entire ACIM text. Chapter 5 on is beautifully written, poetic even. But the first 4 chapters are extremely clumsy. The information the first 4 chapters contain, however, is immense.

The reason the writing is so clumsy in these chapters is because the scribing process was not a matter of direct dictation as may ACIM students seem to think. It was a collaborative effort. Helen Schucman was essentially in conversation with an inner voice that never provides a name, but she assumes to be “Jesus”. Her colleague, Bill Thetford, encouraged Schucman to write down everything the voice said. She would bring it to Thetford and read it to him while he typed.

According to Wapnick, the problem with what was written down is that much of it was a conversation. The voice would say something and Helen would ask a question about it and there would be tangential questioning on the part of Helen until the voice nudged her back to the topic at hand. In the case of the first 4 chapters, this was the introductory stuff, both in terms of the text and in terms of the conversation.

Schucman was very upset and embarrassed about the first four chapters and did not want to publish the text the way it was first edited. Wapnick said he facetiously told Schucman to ask Jesus to dictate the first 4 chapters more clearly, but she said she couldn’t go through the process again so agreed to let Wapnick edit it as best he could and to publish it as is.

That ACIM is “scribed” is my biggest block to it. I don’t know what I think about scribing. Artists, poets, musicians and novelists often talk about having a sort of genius that comes to them from time to time. Elizabeth Gilbert has an excellent Ted Talkon how artists do not have genius, genius comes to artists. Perhaps Schucman’s scribing was artistically similar. She did not want to be identified as the writer until after her death, which is interesting. Perhaps she was worried about what it would do to her reputation as a psychologist? Society isn’t particularly kind to people who hear voices.

The introduction to the text did not exist when they were first organizing the text. So Schucman told the voice that they couldn’t simply begin with the first principal, the voice had to come up with something better. Here is what it provided:

This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time. The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.

This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:

Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists. 
Herein lies the peace of God.

Wapnick compares this introduction to Beethoven who, after submitting the greatest of all his piano concertos, Sonata No. 29, added two chords that now open the exalted third movement.

Wapnick says the two themes expressed in the introduction are:

  1. The course is an undoing. It is meant to remove the interference to our remembering Love’s purpose.
  2. Unlike Christianity and Judaism, ACIM is non-dualistic.

So, the first 4 chapters do not read well, but what they contain is remarkable.

As Wapnick says, let the symphony begin!

(But first, I must get through the rest of the Introductory Materials…)

Explanatory Information for A Course in Miracles

I have several versions of ACIM, including the controversial “Hugh Lynn Cayce text”. ( This is a version of ACIM typed by Helen Schucman that she gave to Hugh Lynn Cayce in confidence. It came into the public domain after Schucman’s death.) I plan to use the Third Edition of ACIM that was published by Foundation for Inner Peace as the primary version.

These are my notes/summary of the precursory information to the Third Edition…

How it Came to Be

ACIM came out of a common goal of Helen Schucman and William Thetford to work through their strained and difficult relationship. They were professors of Medical Psychology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. The head of their department told them he was tired of their angry and aggressive attitudes exclaiming, “There must be another way.” A voice soon after came to Helen which showed them another way.

Helen says the voice made no sound, but just gave her a sort of inner dictation which she took down in a shorthand notebook. It wasn’t automatic. It could be interrupted and picked back up again at any time. It made her very uncomfortable, but it seemed to be a special assignment she had somehow agreed to complete, so she continued.

It became a collaborative experience between she and Bill Thetford. She would bring her shorthand notes to him and he typed them as she read them aloud. The entire process took over 7 years and without his collaboration, she would never have finished.

What is It?

ACIM is a spiritual practice that emphasizes application rather than theory, and experience rather than theology. It’s aim is thought reversal. The Text is largely theoretical and explains concepts upon which the Course’s thought system is based. The ideas in the text contain the foundation for the Workbook’s lessons. Without the practical application of the Workbook, the Text would remain a series of abstractions. The Text and Workbook are meant to be used in tandem.

The Workbook contains 365 lessons, one for each day of the week. It is not necessary to do one lesson a day, however. The instructions only say that not more than one lesson should be done a day.

The Course is not an end, it is a beginning. At the end, the reader is left in the hands of her own Internal Teacher who will direct subsequent learning.

What it Says

Nothing real can be threatened,
Nothing unreal exists,
Herein lies the peace of God.

The world we see reflects our own internal frame of reference. “If we are using perceptions to justify our own mistakes – our anger, our impulses to attack, our lack of love in whatever form it may take – we will see a world of evil, destruction, malice, envy and despair. All this we must learn to forgive, not because we are being “good” and “charitable”, but because what we are seeing is not true. We have distorted the world by our twisted defenses, and are therefore seeing what is not there. As we learn to recognize our perceptual errors, we also learn to look past them or “forgive.” At the same time we are forgiving ourselves, looking past our distorted self-concepts to the Self That God created in us and as us.”

The Self That God created needs nothing. It is safe, loved and loving. It seeks to share rather than get – to extend rather than project. In contrast, the world uses special relationships as a final weapon of exclusion and to prove separateness. The Holy Spirit, however, transforms those relationships into perfect lessons in forgiveness and in awakening from the dream.

The body responds only to the intentions of the mind. If the mind wants to use the body for attack in any form, it becomes prey to sickness, age, and decay. If the mind accepts the Holy Spirit’s purpose for the body, it becomes a useful way of communicating with others. Forgiveness reverses the thinking of the world. When we hold no one prisoner to guilt, we become free.