A couple of years ago a friend of mine shared a dream with me in which he said he had been told that "Phase I" of A Course in Miracles was about over and "Phase II" was about to begin. We puzzled over this at the time in that there were no other specifics and have continued since then to inquire as to the meaning. Around the same time I personally began to realize that, while I thought I "understood" what A Course in Miracles was saying, that I did not in fact know the actuality of hardly any of it. The words began to blur together on the page. I often found myself just staring at a page that used to have meaning for me as if it were blank or written in Swahili. During the past two years I have met up with an increasing number of Course "old-timers" who have come upon similar realizations. For example, a few months ago I was attending a study group meeting in Sedona, Arizona, the facilitator of which is a long-time student of the Course along with his wife. They had just returned from a seminar with Ken Wapnick in New York. He opened the session by sharing with the group that he had just realized that he didn't know what this blue book was saying and that he felt a need to start all over again with the basics. Lately the connection between all of these occurrences and the meaning of "Phase II" has begun to make sense.
For many, the appeal of A Course in Miracles is in the testimonials of how it "works" found, for example, in the second part of the video "The Story of A Course in Miracles." At a recent meeting of group facilitators, a young woman handed out a sheet containing the story of a man who, after a few months with the Course, was "much happier and easier to get along with" and who had received a substantial raise at work as a result. These testimonials are certainly attractive to beginners, most of whom come to the Course in crisis and searching, not for radical transformation, but some way to patch up their own personal, falling-apart lives.
In the past 18 or so years since A Course in Miracles was published, somewhere approaching a million copies have been sold. As I have travelled and shared my experiences with the Course, it seems to me that students have, for the most part, "climbed up the ladder" of the Course. By this I mean emphasizing the "positive" aspects of the teaching, basking in the feelings of "the Peace of God is shining in me now" or singing songs about "Into His Presence" or chanting "I am not a body, I am free." Study groups have formed, many of which have grown into churches and educational organizations. Million-seller books have been published. The Course is rapidly becoming big business. Does this seem familiar? Is this not another repeat of what humans have always done with teachings attempting to awaken Truth in this world? It seems that the vast majority overlook or mostly ignore the fact that A Course in Miracles is a SELF-STUDY program, requiring deep, personal, inner work.
"This is a course in mind training." [T13/16](1)
It tells us clearly,
"The sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself." [T22/25f](2)
and expands on this theme in this way:
"Those who see themselves as whole make no demands. Your holiness is the salvation of the world. It lets you teach the world that it is one with you, not by preaching to it, not by telling it anything, but merely by your quiet recognition that in your holiness are all things blessed along with you." [W56/56]
I have begun to see that the Course, like many other mystical documents, is written on two levels -- one let us call the horizontal or mundane level. At this level it seems understandable enough and appealing to the ordinary intellect and relevant to our "normal" earthly life. It uses terms and concepts with which we are familiar and we tend to interpret and evaluate the Course, its concepts and its efficacy using our typical linear and relative thought pattern -- "my" ego, more peaceful, more joyful, progress, evolution, etc. This is the level for the student who is casual or merely curious. While participating at this level may plant some seed deep within the mind, it does not even begin to approach the real fundamental teaching of the Course.
For some there seems to come a time, usually after years of intense devotion to the Course (or any other spiritual path for that matter), that something changes radically, the Course no longer seems to "work," at least not in the sense that many testimonials say it does. This is a crucial time; many quit at this point and go shopping the metaphysical buffet for another "path" that "works." Yet here is the real beginning of A Course in Miracles. What is happening? In the section in the Manual for Teachers on the development of trust the Course outlines six steps or phases that a Teacher of God goes through. A thorough rereading and understanding of these steps should allow one to answer this question for himself. As additional food for thought I would like to include a brief piece which was received by Joel Goldsmith and shared at a lecture in 1964--
THE MYSTIC LIFE
The start of the spiritual life is a state of self-deception. The spiritual path seems to promise peace, joy, freedom to one's self. It appears to offer God's grace to you and to me. We confidently believe that evils will not come nigh our door, that ills will miraculously fade, and abundant good will forever be our measure. Hopefully, we enter the Way, feeling ourselves set apart from other men, free of their trials, temptations and fears. Truly this must be Paradise in which men walk as though angels, God-inspired, God-protected, God-sustained.
And for a while it really seems as if all this were true. We appear to flourish by our understanding. Our cup runneth over by our spirituality. In other words we are puffed up. Here Satan enters in the form of our self with desire for greater light, higher vision, a more saintly bearing. Our self would add to our self more of God, more of good, more of grace; seeking to retire even more from the world of men to have more of God, to commune more with Him, to feel more of His Presence. Our self is in the ascendancy, but must diminish, and here the long nights of struggle begin.
Today, feeling high in spirit, as if the world were ours; tomorrow, doubting and wondering; the next day plunged into an abyss, convinced that God has forsaken us. But why? Have we not lived the chaste life in the past? Have we not meditated and communed? Have we not sought to show what good things follow those who walk with Him? Why hast Thou forsaken us when we would have more of Thee? Has not our very goodness, obedience, diligence, earned for us more of Thy good? So seeks the self to glorify itself by earning more of God. So seeks the self to satisfy itself. Always the self would draw to itself more of Him to the glory of the self. Prideful self must puff itself even in His Light. The see-saw of spiritual pride and self-dejection goes on and on, up and down, and sometimes around, until realization dawns. Up to now we have been glorifying the self with God. Spiritual grace has made us vain with pride in our spiritual progress, our spiritual fruitage, our spiritual development and rewards. The self may not advance through spirit. The self may not be glorified or pleased with itself. The self may not adorn itself with life, but must don sackcloth and ashes until its extinction. Thus begins the pain and poverty of spiritual progress. Thus the dying daily starts within one's self.
The Way is strait and narrow. The dying self is not content to peacefully pass away, but must resist with every bit of remaining strength, succumbing to its inevitable fate. The self will not easily or quietly yield and every day's delay is agony to the soul that would surrender itself to God. Only in the final dark night is self extinguished and God reveals Itself. In this Light no self glorifies itself by God contact, no self shows forth the fruitage of the Spirit, no self remains.
All through this period it would seem as if we as individuals were really becoming more spiritual, more honest, more moral, more happy and, for a long while, it is that sense that we ourselves are something better than our neighbor. It is only when, in some deep problem, that God reveals Itself to us as our Self, that there is no longer a self to be proud of anything or to take pride in its accomplishments or to glory over this, that or the other thing because that which is now our God-self is the only Self, living in Its own expression. And that which was our humanhood is extinct. There is no more personal pride and you can tell that the moment it comes to you. You no longer have judgements or criticisms or condemnation for the other man's sins or faults because you understand them. And your prayer always is that their eyes be opened, that they may be awakened and, above all things, that they may be forgiven for their ignorance -- not punished nor held in punishment to their own offenses.
We might think of our "ascent" to truth in this way: we currently live below the clouds which block the direct light of the Sun from our view. We see and live in a dim and diffused light. Initial steps to free ourselves from the burden of our personal past seem to bring a new sense of freedom and lightness. As we rise nearer the clouds the light seems to get a little brighter, but then, in order to penetrate the cloud, we must enter into it. One of the real classics of Christian mysticism is called The Cloud of Unknowing. In this 14th century masterpiece the author speaks from his own experience of this cloud which puts our knowledge of all created things out of sight. In the cloud it seems that the light has been lost along with any sense of direction -- up/down, in/out, left/right, forward/backward. The Course itself refers to this state,
"The bridge [to the real world] itself is nothing more than a transition in the perspective of reality. On this side, everything you see is grossly distorted and completely out of perspective. What is little and insignificant is magnified, and what is strong and powerful cut down to littleness. In the transition there is a period of confusion, in which a sense of actual disorientation may occur. But fear it not, for it means only that you have been willing to let go your hold on the distorted frame of reference that seemed to hold your world together. .... This will not leave you homeless and without a frame of reference. The period of disorientation, which precedes the actual transition, is far shorter than the time it took to fix your mind so firmly on illusions." [T322/346]
Even though it is no more substantial than a cloud, this darkness often seems like an impenetrable wall. And it is impenetrable by the self, the "me," the ego. Our own efforts no longer make any difference at all; they may but bring us more pain. This is the time of willingness, waiting and surrender. This is all we can do for we must be, in Biblical terms, "lifted up" into the light beyond the clouds.
"The holy instant is the result of your determination to be holy. It is the answer. The desire and the willingness to let it come precede its coming. You prepare your mind for it only to the extent of recognizing that you want it above all else. It is not necessary that you do more; indeed, it is necessary that you realize that you cannot do more. Do not attempt to give the Holy Spirit what He does not ask, or you will add the ego to Him and confuse the two." [T355/380]
But it does take great effort to live in the land of not-knowing without running away.The "higher" level on which A Course in Miracles is written could be thought of as vertical or out-of-time. The Course itself uses this very same distinction.(3) It communicates from an absolute, not relative viewpoint. It is absolutely uncompromising and unequivocal. All of our habitual thinking, on the other hand, is based on relativity -- degrees, levels, shades of meaning -- no absolutes. This vertical approach is for those who have begun to have the "ears to hear," who have reached the state of not-knowing described near the end of the text,
"I do not know the thing I am, and therefore do not know what I am doing, where I am, or how to look upon the world or on myself." [T614/660]
who now recognize the necessity of finding the real depth and meaning of the Course.
"Phase II" then is the real beginning of the work of A Course in Miracles. It requires climbing all the way back down the ladder and digging underneath to find a solid foundation on which to place the ladder before the real climb can begin. The Course is about undoing, unlearning -- letting go of old, outmoded, erroneous concepts, of our educated ignorance, and entering into a state of agnozia, of not-knowing and profound surrender. This approach is clear and specifically revealed many ways throughout the Course, beginning with the Introduction,
"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."
"Removing the blocks" is what A Course in Miracles is about. It even anticipates our habit of looking for the wrong thing or in the wrong way:
"Those who seek the light are merely covering their eyes." [W347/357]
"Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false." [T315/338]
"The search for truth is but the honest searching out of everything that interferes with truth." [T267/287]
"The removal of blocks, then, is the only way to guarantee help and healing." [T142/153]
so that, in the end, we may experience the real meaning of Love. The Course suggests that it will happen in this way,
"Love is not learned. Its meaning lies within itself. And learning ends when you have recognized all it is not. That is the interference; that is what needs to be undone." [T369/396 ]
and ultimately "what needs to be undone" may be summarized by one simple word -- ego, the entire idea of self-centered, self-constructed identity, the whole notion of specialness and uniqueness. It is for this reason, however, that we actually fear and resist the Course even while (3/7/94)"studying" it.
"Learning is ultimately perceived as frightening because it leads to the relinquishment, not the destruction, of the ego to the light of spirit." [T48/53]
And this relinquishment must be unequivocal, complete and total.
Jesus often said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Obviously he was not referring to the cartilage appendages on the sides of our heads. He must have meant something deeper, more internal. He also told his disciples,
"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now." [John 16:12]
A Course in Miracles is many of those things which we now have the language to say and some may now have "the ears to hear." "Phase II" then is the "dirty work", so to speak. It is learning to really read and hear the Course. It is not the fun or exciting part, nor is it comforting or consoling. It is only the dull, unintelligent ego-brain that seeks and needs fun and excitement, or comfort and consolation, failing to recognize that all these are but more blocks to the awareness of Love's Presence.
Phase I and II then do not refer to external public phases, but individual internal phases. It is just that the Course has been in existence long enough now for increasing numbers of students to "hit the wall", to use a runner's term, and be ready for Phase II.
"Phase I" will continue with organizations getting larger and more entrenched. Fortunes and fame will be made in the name of the Course. It is likely that we will soon have "bishops", "cardinals", and maybe even a "pope" of A Course in Miracles. That's just they way it is on the human scene. The Course itself even points to our predisposition to distort everything,
"I have said that the ego's rule is, 'Seek and do not find.' Translated into curricular terms this means, 'Try to learn but do not succeed.' The result of this curriculum goal is obvious. Every legitimate teaching aid, every real instruction, and every sensible guide to learning will be misinterpreted, since they are all for facilitating the learning this strange curriculum is against. If you are trying to learn how not to learn, and the aim of your teaching is to defeat itself, what can you expect but confusion? Such a curriculum does not make sense." [T210f/226]
There are a few who have begun to recognize the truth of A Course in Miracles, who have begun the real inner work. "Phase I" is for the many; "Phase II" is for these few who will really change the world through their total surrender, allowing a profound and radical transformation to happen in their lives.
©1994 daan dehn
last modified 14 June 2005
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1. compare W69/69 and W164/166f
2. compare T79/85, T503/540, and M46/48
3. Text, Chapter 1, sub-chapter II