It is quite possible to listen to God’s Voice all through the day without interrupting your regular activities in any way. The part of your mind in which truth abides is in constant communication with God, whether you are aware of it or not. It is the other part of your mind that functions in the world and obeys the world’s laws. It is this part that is constantly distracted, disorganized and highly uncertain.
Today we are to try to not listen to the distracted voice and to identify with the part of the mind where stillness reigns.
Listen in deep silence. Be very still and open your mind. Go past all the raucous shrieks and sick imaginings that cover your real thoughts and obscure your eternal link with God. Sink deep into the peace that waits for you beyond the frantic, riotous thoughts and sights and sounds of this insane world. You do not live here. We are trying to reach your real home. We are trying to reach the place where you are truly welcome. We are trying to reach God.
This is another lesson that ACIM students enthusiastically misunderstand. They take it to mean that they hear the Holy Spirit tell them wonderful things all the time.
We can’t hear the Holy Spirit’s voice all throughout the day because our mind’s are so cluttered. We keep them cluttered because we don’t want to lose our individual special identity.
Jesus does not say we hear God’s Voice all through the day, but that God’s Voice speaks to us all through the day. We are not going to listen because, again, of our resistance to losing our identity, expressed through the investment in perpetuating our specialness. That is why it is so important to read this (and all passages in A Course in Miracles) very carefully…
Students often think that just because they hear an inner voice it must be the Holy Spirit. They unfortunately have totally forgotten about the other voice, which was specifically and intentionally made to drown out the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit, as we saw in the above passage.
This is why ACIM emphasizes removing our investment in the ego. Hearing a “voice from the other-side” is likely egoic, too. Discernment is important.
Miracles have to be expressed in a way the recipient can hear without fear. Therefore, it must come where the recipient is at now. This doesn’t mean it is the highest communication of which he is capable, just what he is capable of now.
It is the content of love that should be our inspiration and guidance, not any preconceived notions about the form in which that love is to be expressed. This ensures our response will be kind and nonjudgmental, accepting people where they are, not where we want them to be.
Wapnick provides Plato’s analogy from Phaedrus about the charioteer and his two horses to provide a poetic description of the two wrong minds:
Let it [the soul] be likened to the union of powers in a team of winged steeds and their winged charioteer…. With us men… it is a pair of steeds that the charioteer controls; moreover one of them is noble and good, and of good stock, while the other has the opposite character, and his stock is opposite. Hence the task of our charioteer is difficult and troublesome. … He that is on the more honorable side is upright and clean-limbed, carrying his neck high, with something of a hooked nose; in color he is white, with black eyes; a lover of glory, but with temperance and modesty; one that consorts with genuine renown, and needs no whip, being driven by the word of command alone. The other is crooked of frame, a massive jumble of a creature, with thick short neck, snub nose, black skin, and gray eyes; hot-blooded, consorting with wantonness and vainglory; shaggy of ear, deaf, and hard to control with whip and goad (Phaedrus 246a; 253d-e).
Wapnick says it was the depiction in this analogy that influenced Freud’s understanding of Id (unconscious). The nature of the ego thought system is a reservoir of hatred, murder, and viciousness.
What we are asked to do is recognize the ego’s call and then decide against it. We are early in the practice and our resistance is great. Any movement toward recognition is movement.
These notes are primarily from Wapnick’s take on Chapter 2 in Journey Through the Text. They are really just for my personal understanding so are very sketchy and condensed.
This is the only chapter that contains ACIMs overall thought-system. Wapnick summarizes the thought system as:
the state of Heaven
the development of the ego system
all the mistakes within that system, leading to the mis-creation of the mindless body
our mistakes in the magical attempts to heal the body
the recognition of our mistake and choosing the miracle
our return home.
Wapnick says it is also unique because it is the first, and possibly the most pointed, discussion of the power of the mind and the importance of not depreciating that power.
The extension of love, which is repeated throughout ACIM, is a process beyond our ability to understand. Dualistic terms are used to help us grasp the nature of Heaven, but we will never be able to fully understand Heaven. We cannot understand it because our “understanding” exists in time and space while creation occurs beyond time and space. Creation is, in fact, the only reality.
The chapter begins with “the tiny mad idea”. There is a sense of lack that makes us think that we are not the first cause. We are not the creator. It is therefore up to us to fill the lack because God will not. This is the genesis of the ego thought system. Wapnick says this sets into motion a string of defenses, beginning with the myth that can be summarized in three words: sin, guilt, and fear. “The separation occurred and was quite serious: sinful, deserving of guilt, and leading to the fear of standing on the brink of annihilation because God angrily seeks to punish us for our sin. We think that if we do not do something very quickly, God/Reality will destroy us. This is the crux of the ego’s myth.” It creates a world where it can hide from the mind.
The ego’s strategy is to exist in a world of mindlessness with no memory of where the body or the world came from. The problem-ridden body requires solutions. ACIM calls these solutions “magic” because they are an attempt to fix the problem where it is not. The solutions/magic don’t work because our anxiety, self-hatred, and guilt never disappear and our special relationships are never satisfying. The real solution rests in the mind, but we exist in a world of mindlessness so are not aware of the mind.The miracle is ACIM’s term for returning to the mind – recognizing that the problem is not in the world of bodies. Eventually, we decide there must be another way and we become open to seeing another way.
Oneness: The sonship includes everything that seems to have a form, not just homo sapiens or living organism, and this includes all the galaxies, too.
“The Tiny Mad Idea”. The arrogant son believes that God did not do a good enough job at creation. Something is missing and only the Son can supply the lack.
You believe that what God created can be changed by your own mind.
You believe that what is perfect can be rendered imperfect or lacking.
You believe that you can distort the creations of God, including yourself.
You believe that you can create yourself, and that the direction of your creation is up to you. (Authority problem – who is the author of my reality?)
Inherent in the tiny, mad idea of being separate from God is the thought of scarcity: something is amiss in Heaven. The Son’s immediate response is: “I know what it is and what to do about it.” It is not difficult to recognize that same dynamic playing out in everyday life, where we actually believe we know the problems—our own or the world’s. Some are better at identifying them than others, but everyone has some idea of the nature of what is wrong, from heads of state to ordinary citizens. Even more absurd from the point of view of A Course in Miracles is that we think we know the solutions. All this grandiosity simply reflects the perceived authority conflict between God and the ego.
(Despite being an ACIM Teacher, perhaps this applies to Marianne Williamson’s desire to run for President? She has very strong convictions and genuinely believes she knows what the problem is and what to do about it. Her closing argument during the first debate was based on ACIM teachings (love will overcome fear), but her delivery was grandiose – SHE knows what Trump is doing and SHE knows the solution. She will harness love to defeat what it is he has done… An old-fashioned battle cry of good vs. evil which is at the crux of dualism, separation, and the stuff of the ego.)
Fear of the Atonement. Wapnick explains that Freud observed that when we are sound asleep, we do not want to wake up so incorporate all outside stimuli into our dreams: sounds, a full bladder, etc. Freud called it “dream of convenience”. The Fear of the Atonement is similar, except instead of not wanting to wake from physical sleep, we do not want to wake from the dream of separation. We want to bring the light of Atonement into our dream. This is often done by bringing God, the Holy Spirit, or Jesus into the world and asking them to solve our problems here. (Dear God, please ______________.) What we truly want is to awaken from the dream, not to have a happier one.
We value freedom of the body, but the only true freedom is freedom of the mind. Without freedom of the mind, there is only jailer and prisoner. (It is our decision-making minds that imprisoned us and the ego itself is the prison.) True freedom is freedom from this nightmare of guilt, pain, hatred, and death, and the key to choosing such freedom is realizing it is a choice. The function of the miracle is to help us understand our power to make the choice for true freedom.
Defenses. From Freud’s “defense mechanisms”.
The Ego’s Use of Defenses. Everything the ego does to ensure we do not choose the Atonement is a defense. The first line of defense is the unholy trinity of sin, guilt, and fear. The second line of defense is the body, which protects us from the guilt of our minds. (It is Freud who explained the dynamics of the defenses and put the term “projection” on the map.)
The Right Minded Use of Denial. The proper use of denial is to deny the power of the ego to change reality or take away the peace of God. Therefore, the proper use of denial is not to hide anything but to correct error. This brings all error into the light.
The Atonement doesn’t do anything, it undoes.
One of the operational definitions we can give for being in one’s right mind is to look at the wrong mind without judgment. This is how we practice true denial: looking at the ego and denying it’s truth. True denial is based on the power of the mind to choose again.
The World and the Body. Freud’s definition of pleasure was “tension reduction”. This is true of ACIM as well in that the ego’s pleasure comes from minimizing the painful tension born of the mind’s guilt. The focus on the body makes this possible.
Sickness/Not right-mindedness. (Wapnick apologizes on Helen’s behalf for the phrase “not right-mindedness. Her “hearing” wasn’t good in the beginning.) The mind’s guilt is the real sickness. It is the decision to choose guilt that is the problem. The remedy is the decision to be guiltless – to accept the Atonement.
Only the mind is capable of error. Wapnick says to imagine telling a government on the verge of war that there are no errors. The only error is in how minds look upon the world. “The cause of all symptoms—physical, psychological, or in the world at large—rests in the mind that believes it can separate from God, has separated from God, and is overwhelmed with guilt at the thought it has attacked Him by doing this.
Magic. Magic is the attempt to solve a problem where it does not exist. The body is neutral. It serves either the purposes of the Holy Spirit or the ego. It simply does what the mind tells it to do. Our upsets have nothing to do with the external, but only with the mind’s decision to choose the ego.
It is not necessary to protect the mind by denying the unmindful (the body). Practicing discipline in the face of an addiction can be a right-minded expression of shifting the problem from the addicted body to the mind addicted to guilt. Behavioral restraint alone, however, will not solve the problem of the mind’s faulty decision making. Solving the problem on the physical level can be a step toward allowing us to return to the real problem, but it cannot undo the decision to be guilty.
Denying our physical existence is an unworthy form of denial because it is not going to help us, either. Anything we do to keep ourselves alive is magic. Sitting down to eat, drink, sleep is a restatement of our belief in magic. ACIM does not want us to stop doing these things. If we need to take a pill for a headache or get surgery for an illness, that is magic (solving the problem where it does not exist). But we aren’t being asked to stop doing these things. Denying that the body is sick and needs help simply condemns us to further guilt. We need to be gentle and kind with ourselves and others and take care of our bodies.
The thing is, magic works. If we are lonely and call a friend, we feel connected. If we lack energy and go have lunch, we feel more energetic. But magic only offers temporary solutions. We inevitably get hungry and feel the pangs of loneliness again. But as long as we can acknowledge that we are in pain, we will eventually want to seek out a “better way”. A Course in Miracles is for those who have exhausted their search for relief in magic and are looking for that “better way”. The only way to choose the Holy Spirit, instead of the ego, is to recognize that the ego’s methods do not work.
The Power of the Mind. Cause and Effect. It is the cause we need to undo, not the effect. Do not seek to control the outcome of mis-thought (behavior), but our wrong choice (in the mind). This is a matter of our desire to correct our wrong decision and with this we need help. This is repeated in different ways throughout the text and workbook… You must change your mind, not your behavior …You do not need guidance except at the mind level… Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world.
The correction of fear is our responsibility. It does us no good to ask for things or relief from pain or fear because those are effects. We put our pain and fear there, so it is ours to correct. What Jesus and the Holy Spirit can do for us (remember – Jesus and the Holy Spirit are metaphors) is remind us to choose again.
Peace is an attribute in you. You cannot find it outside. Illness is some form of external searching. Health is inner peace. (I love that!)
Only our minds can produce fear. It produces fear whenever it is in conflict with what it wants – when wanting and doing are discordant. This can be correct only by accepting a unified goal. Our problems are never external, but the projection of an inner conflict. The conflict is an expression of fear.
Know first that this is fear. Fear arises from lack of love. The only remedy for lack of love is perfect love. Perfect love is the Atonement.
Wapnick says this explanation is primitive compared to later explanations, but outlines the basics of forgiveness…
Recognize that the problem is internal rather than external. (The experience of conflict in the body is the result of a projection of the mind’s fear.) We then recognize that the fear comes from a decision to reject love, and its undoing comes from correcting our mistake by choosing love instead of fear. Once the right choice is made, the fear and conflict disappear, and all that remains is the love we both have and are. Thus the Atonement, or process of undoing, is made complete.
It is important to respect the power of the mind. If we are taking a pill every day for headaches, we can at least be honest with ourselves and acknowledge “I realize this problem is coming from my mind, but I am still too frightened. My mind is so powerful it can even deny its own power.”
God is the cause and the Son is the effect. So, we need to undo God, not the Son???!! That’s confusing!! It’s only confusing because it is a cause and effect relationship that is completely different from what we introduce through mis-creation. The fundamental conflict in the world is between creation and mis-creation. Love is implicit in creation and fear in mis-creation. (Later in the text, mis-creation becomes “making”.)
Trying to master fear is useless. The only solution is to choose love. But as ACIM students, there is a very fine line we have to walk. Wapnick calls it the “Scylla and Charybdis” of the spiritual path. (Scylla and Charybdis were two sea monsters encountered by Odysseus. They were located close to one another and created an impassable situation for sailors. Odysseus had to choose which one he had to confront. They represent choosing between two evils.)
On the one hand, it is important to be true to our experience and not deny our separated existence—“In this sense the separation has occurred”—for this is “a particularly unworthy form of denial.” Therapists, and Jesus is the foremost, would never encourage patients to deny their experiences, however unreal they might be. This is a certain way to keep them and ensure they can never be corrected and undone. On the other hand, there is a danger of indulging the ego and reveling in the experiences of separation and specialness. This, too, is a certain way to keep them and ensure they can never be corrected and undone.
Forgiveness. We don’t need to save the world or teach the Course, our only responsibility is to change our minds and accept the Atonement. Forgiveness is the recognition that what others did to us has not hurt us. Forgiveness is a return to the right-minded perception that the body (ours or another’s) does not need correction. It is the decision maker that needs correction.
The Atonement has a special relationship with time because it collapses time. It stands at time’s end but it does not abolish time. As long as there is a need for Atonement, there is a need for time. The Atonement is how we free ourselves from the past. When forgiveness is complete and Atonement is accepted by all the sonship, we enter into the last stage – the last judgment.
The Last Judgment. The End of the Process. This is the son’s final judgment of the ego, not God’s final judgment of human beings. Everyone will finally come to understand what is worthy and what is not. Our sole responsibility in the Atonement is to recognize that the separation never happened.
Readiness is the only prerequisite for the process. We do not have to be perfect to be helpful to others.
The following passages caught my attention while reading the Text:
Yet the Bible says that a deep sleep fell upon Adam, and nowhere is there reference to his waking up. The world has not yet experienced any comprehensive reawakening or rebirth. Such a rebirth is impossible as long as you continue to project or miscreate. It still remains within you, however, to extend as God extended His Spirit to you. In reality this is your only choice, because your free will was given you for your joy in creating the perfect.
Only after the deep sleep fell upon Adam could he experience nightmares. If a light is suddenly turned on while someone is dreaming a fearful dream, he may initially interpret the light itself as part of his dream and be afraid of it. However, when he awakens, the light is correctly perceived as the release from the dream, which is then no longer accorded reality.
The body is merely part of your experience in the physical world. Its abilities can be and frequently are overevaluated. However, it is almost impossible to deny its existence in this world. Those who do so are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial. The term “unworthy” here implies only that it is not necessary to protect the mind by denying the unmindful. If one denies this unfortunate aspect of the mind’s power, one is also denying the power itself.
All forms of not-right-mindedness are the result of refusal to accept the Atonement for yourself. If you do accept it, you are in a position to recognize that those who need healing are simply those who have not realized that right-mindedness is healing.
It is pointless to believe that controlling the outcome of misthought can result in healing. When you are fearful, you have chosen wrongly. That is why you feel responsible for it. You must change your mind, not your behavior, and this is a matter of willingness. You do not need guidance except at the mind level. Correction belongs only at the level where change is possible. Change does not mean anything at the symptom level, where it cannot work.
In trying to get a feel for who Kenneth Wapnick was, I came across an interview with Kenneth Bok that was recorded in 2012, almost exactly a year from Wapnick’s death in December, 2013. It begins a bit rough but is quite informative. My notes follow…
Kenneth Wapnick was raised a secular Jew. He went to Hebrew school but didn’t like the language or the Jewish religion. It just didn’t resonate with him. What did interest him when he was young was music. His first real introduction into the world of classical music was at 16 years of age when his mother joined a Classical Music club. I imagine that’s one of those record clubs that existed back in the day? He was very moved by the music, especially Beethoven.
Around that same time, he read a a Primer on Freud by Calvin Hall which inspired him to read actual books by Freud. He did this while still in high school. That prompted his interest in Clinical Psychology. He never wavered from that interest and went on to get a Ph.D in Clinical Psychology. However, he would cut classes to go to the opera and to Carnegie Hall. Music was still what he most loved.
Music awakened something in him that he realized was more true than what he was studying in Psychology. It kept him spiritually honest at a time when he had no interest in spirituality or religion. He also loved great literature which functioned the same way for him, especially Hermann Hesse and Thomas Mann (esp. Doktor Faustus).
He went on to get a job as a clinical psychologist, got married, and subsequently got divorced. After the divorce he decided he would become a Trappist monk. He had been reading Thomas Merton who inspired him to live a life alone with God. In order to become a Trappist monk, however, he had to become Catholic, so he was making those preparations when he met Bill and Helen.
As far as Jesus goes, he really had no conscious feelings about him but used to sneak the New Testament into his room when his was much younger to learn about Christianity. Also, in the 1960s he bought a picture of Jesus that deeply moved him. It was a powerful portrait. Had his parents known their Jewish boy was doing these things, they would have been angry.
He wrote his thesis on mysticism with a focus on St. Teresa of Avila. She had an inner experience he could relate to based on his inner experience with music. He had many dreams, not necessarily of Jesus, but of God and inner experiences. One dream was of Thomas Merton telling him that Jesus was coming. He knew the dream was somehow significant.
His Jewish parents knew nothing of his decision to become Catholic and were very upset when they found out about his work with A Course in Miracles, despite his explanations that ACIM had nothing to do with Christianity. However, when they met Bill & Helen, they felt better about the decision because they were so impressed with both of them.
Wapnick met Helen and Bill in 1972. They both had very spiritual sides, but they didn’t “look” spiritual. They were academic and professional. They did project a lot of anger onto one another, however. Helen often knew she was projecting anger onto Bill, but Bill didn’t always recognize that he was projecting anger onto Helen, which could be very uncomfortable. They only really got along when they were working on ACIM, together.
Apparently, Helen believed in past lives and thought she had once been an ancient Jewish prophet. When asked what lives Wapnick might have led, he says that was nothing he ever got into. Not that it isn’t true, but that it just didn’t seem like something he should bother with.
He wasn’t with Helen when she was scribing ACIM, but met her just as she had completed the first edition. Wapnick was given the Hugh Cayce version to read. It had been carefully edited by Schucman, but was full of inconsistencies and bits of information that clearly had not come from Jesus. Helen’s ego had gotten in the way during the first 4 chapters. After that, the information she received was much more focused and clear.
An example of the ego getting in the way: Bill was a homosexual which was a problem for Helen. She wrote, during dictation, that homosexuality was abhorrent behavior. That was definitely Helen, not Jesus. She also wrote that Jung was psychotic, also not something Jesus would have said. Not everything Helen wrote down came from Jesus, some of it was just Helen.
Helen said she didn’t “hear” an inner voice, she saw words and wrote them down. She never took the words to be sacred. The “voice” never said it was Jesus. Helen said it was Jesus. In Helen’s experience, Jesus was the form. But being form, Jesus is an illusion and should not be confused with the content. Jesus is a metaphor. Helen went to some abstract area of her mind that we all have, and out came ACIM. In that space she went into, call it abstract non-specific love, she identified with Jesus so Jesus appeared to be the source. It has nothing to do with the Biblical or Historical Jesus. It isn’t literally Jesus.
That’s why the form of ACIM is so much like Helen. It is written in English, not in the language of the historic Jesus. She was heavily influenced by Plato, Shakespeare, Freud and psychology. So is ACIM. People try and make ACIM “special” and Helen “special”, but you have to be careful about specialness. Don’t put form over content.
Backing up a bit, Helen and Bill gave Wapnick the Hugh Cayce version which Wapnick read. He mentioned the many inconsistencies to them and they agreed. People often think that Wapnick was the sole editor of ACIM, but he and Schucman went through every single word together. (There is no way Schucman would have let him edit it by himself.) The bulk of the work took place in the first four chapters of the text because there were so many gaps from the not so nice egoic stuff they had taken out (like Jung being psychotic and homosexuality being abhorrent). It didn’t read well and it was difficult to edit.
In general, capitalization was the greatest struggle. They would have to decide how to use capitalization on certain terms to make them stand out. Commas were another problem. Sometimes Helen would decide to change her philosophy on commas or capitalization and they would have to go back through the entire text and redo all the commas or capitalization.
Wapnick began teaching ACIM when he and Helen were traveling through Oregon. She would give the talks, but then decided it would be better if Kenneth told the stories about she and Bill. After one of these sessions, he was asked if he’d be willing to teach a group of people. He agreed and never stopped teaching. He says he never saw himself as a public speaker. He saw himself as a teacher of teachers, which potentially explains the denseness of his writing.
He says that ultimately, teaching the course is not teaching metaphysics, it is a demonstration. If people really understood the first principal of miracles, they wouldn’t need to read anything else. ACIM is lengthy because it is repetitive. Learning is a process.
The reason he wrote Love Does Not Condemn, a work that Kenneth Bok admitted is just a tad too scholarly for him to understand, was to help put ACIM within the context of other western traditions. People were constantly attacking ACIM as being Gnostic so Wapnick began reading some of the Gnostic texts and was blown away by how similar they were to ACIM. Much of Love Does Not Condemnis about showing where ACIM is Gnostic and where it isn’t. It also resurrects the Gnostics. Like ACIM, Gnosticism is also very Platonic.
People often wonder how one woman could come up with ACIM, but ACIM wasn’t just written out of the blue, it comes out of a long, Western tradition. Neoplatonism wanted to now how you get from the Perfect One and end up with this world. ACIM gives us a context from which to understand that. It solves the Platonic problem.
When asked what ACIM’s role is in the evolution of Christianity on Earth, Wapnick replies that he is not a good prophet. He then goes on to say that nobody knows anything about the historical Jesus. Whatever his message was has gotten very messed up. The reason ACIM is written in Christian lingo is because we live in a Christian world. Even the East has become much more Christianized. However, Christianity isn’t very “Christian”.
ACIM is an attempt to set the record straight. It will be helpful in changing the world’s thinking, but we’re not there yet. It won’t happen in Wapnick’s time and probably not Kenneth Bok’s time, either. (I think Bok was under 30 years old at the time of the interview.) The world isn’t ready for it right now, but when it is, ACIM will be there and people will have access to it in it’s original form.
ACIM is not THE book. It doesn’t make sense to take it seriously in that way. To do so makes it “special” which is what happens in Christianity, too. Be kind to everyone and everything. That is ACIM.