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.
- From the perspective of the musical composer from 1885 to 1940;
- From the perspective of the narrator from 1943 to 1945;
- From Mann’s actual writing of the novel, during WWII and after the war;
- 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.”