ACIM says that it is difficult for the untrained mind to believe that what it seems to picture is not there. I found myself looking at things in the room saying
That TV is not there.
That picture is not there.
That desk is not there.
That’s different from saying I do not see it as it is now. Is this just a gentle way of trying to get us to realize that what we see is not there? Or is it there, but just not in the way we think it is there?
Wapnick says it is literally not there. Furthermore, it is hard for us to believe that what we are seeing is not there… In “reality” all we are seeing is an out-picturing of our thoughts of separation, and specific forms that are projections of our illusory thought system.
So in reality, there really is nothing there? ACIM says we aren’t supposed to try to understand. We’re merely asked to practice. (Which is good because it’s much too difficult for me to contemplate what I’m seeing as not being there.)
Wapnick makes an interesting comparison. Michelangelo apparently said of his sculpture that he first saw an image in stone, and then took away what did not belong. This is essentially what we are doing. We have an image of our true Identity. All we need to do is clear away what does not belong. We do this by simply bringing the debris of our illusions to the Holy Spirit (metaphorically speaking, of course!) and it is cleared away for us.
Wapnick seems to be intentionally drawing on Original Sin. (Does ACIM do this?) He says, if my thoughts are meaningless because they are preoccupied with a past that does not exist, and the past does not exist because it is rooted in sin and separation, which never happened, then it must logically follow that “I see nothing as it is now.”
I think I see what he is doing – the sin and separation never happened. But he seems to be talking about a basic human experience, not necessarily a Christian one. The Jews didn’t believe in Original Sin and there are plenty of Eastern religions that don’t believe in God at all, yet all of them seem to think we are separate beings, at least to some extent. Is our tendency to project only because of a guilty belief in sin and separation?
Wapnick says everything I “see” is a defense against the holy instant. I see nothing as it is now because my mind is preoccupied with the past. My mind is preoccupied with the past because that’s all it can “see”. In the holy instant, there is nothing to see.
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.):
Heaven/One Mind [maestoso]
ego/wrong mind [allegro agitato]
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.
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 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:
The recall of the projection of guilt from the world of bodies to the mind
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
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.
I first learned of ACIM about 30 years ago, when I was in my mid-twenties. It was the 1980s and the New Age movement was in full swing. I was a solid mainstream Methodist so only ever flirted with the movement. Part of that flirtation involved joining an ACIM study group through the local Unity Church. That was WAY out there for me, but the group simply took turns reading through the text and commenting when so moved. There were different interpretations, of course, but there was something so incredibly compelling about the text and especially the group’s unstructured approach.
I eventually had babies and my husband and I moved to California. We joined a much more structured ACIM study group that met in Fullerton. It was led by Beverly Hutchinson whom I think was the founder of the Miracle Distribution Center. She was a great speaker and extremely charismatic, but we didn’t particularly care for the church-like approach so quit attending after a few months. I tried out different groups, hoping to find something more organic and open-minded like the study group I was a part of originally, but the only groups I could find were groups with leaders who presented their particular interpretation of the text in a sermon-like fashion. I also attended two ACIM conferences in Anaheim which were amazing but also disturbing. Both years I attended, the “conversation” devolved into argumentative, contentious debates from the audience toward certain speakers about how the text should be interpreted. (I’ve noticed the argument is still in full swing amongst several current ACIM “teachers”. That’s not surprising.)
In 2005, I went through a fairly serious crisis of faith. My father had died, I had an inoperable injury that made it very painful to walk, and my husband had lost his job which was financially painful. With 9/11 having occurred just a few years prior, Christianity had become extremely problematic and decidedly divisive, so I quit going to church and began dabbling in various eastern religions. Over the next several years, I also began an intense study of the Existentialists (Dostoesvsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus) and happily stumbled upon an obscure lecture by Kenneth Wapnick comparing Nietzsche’s three stages and ACIM. In that lecture, Wapnick said that Jesus was an atheist. That fascinated me!
At the time, I was making my way through ACIM with Marianne Williamson who was going through the lessons on Oprah Winfrey’s website. After having gained a fairly solid understanding of Nietzsche, I was certain her interpretation of ACIM was not Wapnick’s. I eventually quit following Williamson’s blurbs on the lessons and continued studying on my own through Lesson 266 or thereabouts before succumbing to the daily grind of raising kids and dealing with aging parents.
I haven’t been involved in a spiritual discipline since 2010 and I can’t exactly say why. Maybe the Existentialists talked me out of it? I definitely agree with Nietzsche that God is dead and that it is we who have killed him. I think what he meant is that we killed the Western metaphor that had been associated with God for over 2000 years because the Enlightenment made it unsustainable.
Kenneth Wapnick apparently agrees with Nietzsche. He says that all words are but symbols of symbols and it is therefore important not to confuse symbol with source. In ACIM, the existence of “God” is not to be taken literally. Nor are references to Jesus or the Holy Spirit meant to be taken literally. If Jesus is an atheist because God is dead and it is we who killed him, we just need a new form.
In the preface of the first volume, Wapnick says the sole purpose of the lessons in the ACIM workbook is to provide practice in forgiveness. Forgiveness must be practiced day in, day out, and even moment to moment. My life has been exceptionally crazy the past few years. I could really use a practice of forgiveness right now!