"Spirit Need Not Be Taught
but the ego must be." [T48/53]
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to." Matthew 23:13 (NIV)
"The sole responsibility of God's teacher is to accept the Atonement for himself." [M46/48]
After only 20 years since its first publication, in this mass-culture, techno-media world of today, there has been such a proliferation of books, classes, organizations and "teachers" of A Course in Miracles that it is astonishing. There seems to be a growing cadre of "interpreters" and "experts" who seem determined to tell everyone else what it means. And, in some cases, this has become rather big business. There even seems to be a certain admiration for those who teach and organize the Course in a "businesslike" manner, i.e., for money and profit. To assume that this "businesslike" approach is a proof of the truth of the teaching is just as nonsensical as to regard oneself rich because he handles a lot of money in the counting room of a bank or owns trillions of 1920's Deutschmarks.
What, after all, is this furor about "teaching" (I would say preaching) or interpreting the Course? A Course in Miracles makes little or no provision for the sort of "teaching" that seems to be so prevalent today. In Jesus' time The Pharisees were the "lawyers" who set themselves up as authoritative arbiters of the "proper" interpretation of scripture. And not only were the very men who ordered Jesus crucified the most learned of their day, they were also considered by their community to be the holiest and most pious of men. Are we making the same mistake today? The Course is perfectly clear,
"Truth can only be experienced. It cannot be described and it cannot be explained." [T139/150]
Therefore it seems obvious that there is no need or possibility of teaching truth. Not only that but, as the title quotation suggests, only the ego can be taught. What is the ego? The Course has this to say about it,
"There is no definition for a lie that serves to make it true." [M77/81]
"is nothing" [T204/219]
"never was" [T91/99]
"does not exist" [T56/62] [T158/169]
"is not real" [T93/101]
"is insane." [T108/116] [T334/359] [W457/467]
"is a contradiction" [T48/53]
What could a lie be taught? What could nothing be taught? What could the unreal, the non- existent, the insane be taught? First it must be recognized that in the context of A Course in Miracles the word teach has a meaning somewhat different from the usual. In a section of the Manual for Teachers, more fully quoted below, the Course says, "To teach is to demonstrate." [M1/1] This being so, what can be demonstrated? Is there any necessity or any possibility of teaching or demonstrating anything to the unreal except its unreality? to nothing except its nothingness? to the insane except its insanity? And how would this be accomplished?
"You are asked to live so as to demonstrate that you are not an ego...." [T62/68]
"...through the ego you can hear and teach and learn what is not true." [T91/99]
Then to teach would be to demonstrate and therefore to learn what is NOT TRUE, that the "laws" of the world are not valid. In brief that
"There is no world! This is the central thought the course attempts to teach." [Lesson 132]
This statement is simple enough. It has no need of definition or explanation. Yet it must be demonstrated. To whom? To myself alone...there is no other.
In the short time since its first publication A Course in Miracles has already begun to engender many of the same errors as did the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth almost 2000 years ago. And how could one expect it to be different? Oscar Wilde once said that the mind, given a choice between being IN heaven and hearing a lecture ABOUT heaven, would choose the lecture about. Is this not the same choice that so-called "students" and "teachers" of the Course continue to make? Are not all the Course activities being used sub- consciously to avoid the present realization of Heaven rather than as a way to it? Could we see that any attempt to interpret the Course based on our human understanding is not clarification but confusion? The Course directs,
"Think not you understand anything until you pass the test of perfect peace, for peace and understanding go together and never can be found alone." [T278/299]
How can one then consider himself a "teacher" when he has not passed these stringent requirements which the Course itself puts on this state?
"You have one test, as sure as God, by which to recognize if what you learned is true. If you are wholly free of fear of any kind, and if all those who meet or even think of you share in your perfect peace, then you can be sure that you have learned God's lesson, and not your own." [T276/297]
and states very categorically,
"Whenever you think you know, peace will depart from you, because you have abandoned the Teacher of peace." [T278/299]
However, before we can explore any question concerning the need for a teacher or to teach, must we not first look more carefully at the Course's rather unique approach to this subject? A Course in Miracles uses both the words teach and learn in very specific and unconventional ways. By teaching it clearly does not limit this activity to specific formal or classroom-type situations. Perhaps the most succinct exposition of the Course approach to teaching is found in the Introduction to the Manual for Teachers,
"To teach is to demonstrate. There are only two thought systems, and you demonstrate that you believe one or the other is true all the time. From your demonstration others learn, and so do you. The question is not whether you will teach, for in that there is no choice. The purpose of the course might be said to provide you with a means of choosing what you want to teach on the basis of what you want to learn. You cannot give to someone else, but only to yourself, and this you learn through teaching. Teaching is but a call to witnesses to attest to what you believe. It is a method of conversion. This is not done by words alone. Any situation must be to you a chance to teach others what you are, and what they are to you. No more than that, but also never less.
"The curriculum you set up is therefore determined exclusively by what you think you are, and what you believe the relationship of others is to you. In the formal teaching situation, these questions may be totally unrelated to what you think you are teaching. Yet it is impossible not to use the content of any situation on behalf of what you really teach, and therefore really learn. To this the verbal content of your teaching is quite irrelevant. It may coincide with it, or it may not. It is the teaching underlying what you say that teaches you. Teaching but reinforces what you believe about yourself. Its fundamen tal purpose is to diminish self-doubt. This does not mean that the self you are trying to protect is real. But it does mean that the self you think is real is what you teach.
"This is inevitable. There is no escape from it. How could it be otherwise? Everyone who follows the world's curriculum, and everyone here does follow it until he changes his mind, teaches solely to convince himself that he is what he is not." [M1f/1]
What is clear here is that what is being taught has little or nothing to do with what is being said or done. Regardless of the appearance one is always teaching what he thinks he is. The teaching comes from his deepest convictions about the nature of reality and his relationship to it. Therefore, the teacher who approaches others from the position of "I know and you don't" is clearly teaching inequality and separation. Even the thought that there are others who need to be taught begins with a false premise and is therefore but a significant reflection of the original error.
If we examine closely can we not see that the deep motivations for "teaching" include a desire for elevated status and power, a need to control and manipulate, as well as a need for appreciation - all obvious ego drives? Furthermore, one must see that to make the teaching of A Course in Miracles a livelihood contains an additional major potential for deception. This is not to say that it must become corrupt only that it is most likely to do so. And history clearly demonstrates that this is most often the case.
Now I do not wish to categorically impugn the conscious motives of the vast cadre of preachers, priests and teachers. Most are sincerely committed to what they think is right; they are filled with good intentions. The Course, however, answers,
"Trust not your good intentions. They are not enough." [T355/380]
They get perhaps a glimpse of light (or not) and then set out to "save" their brothers. What these are completely blind to is the insidiousness and comprehensive scope of their own unconscious ego drives. Concerned more with appearances than Realization, with their own piety and virtue, fame and fortune, their own "righteousness," they seem to be filled with a burning desire to "do good." Yet the Course reflects this back to the individual,
"...seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world." [T415/445]
This clearly makes the entire concept of "saving others" delusional. A Course in Miracles is specifically a course in individual Atonement. Each is asked only to accept salvation for himself which, when fully realized, is also the salvation of the world. Nowhere does the Course even mention organizations, groups or teachers (in the formal classroom or workshop connotation of the word). The Course is a tough, radical and unequivocal teaching. What every religion in which there is any truth aims at, and what A Course in Miracles, as a reassertion of the fundamental principles of the original teachings of Jesus, aims at decisively, is a total transformation in a man, to undo his historic personal life in such a radical way, through renunciation and self-denial, that there is nothing left of that to which he immediately clings, in which he immediately has "his life." Yet this sort of religion, as sensual man understands it, is not at all what he wants. The upshot therefore is that we have historically seen in traditional Churchianity and are seeing today within the so-called "Course community" the creation of a highly respected class in the world at large - the priests. Their métier is to invert the whole situation, so that what man likes is what becomes religion, on the condition, however, of invoking God's name and paying something definite to the priests.
A Course in Miracles did not come into the world as an example of the gentle art of consolation. Neither did it come to attempt to solve the multifarious variety of earthly problems. It came into the world as . . . the absolute! And it is God's will that it be so. He will not, cannot because of what He is, suffer Himself to be transformed by men and become a kind, nice and generous Uncle George to the human race. And any attempt to bring the Course down to the level of human understanding and the solution to specific earthly "problems" is purely and simply a falsehood. Yet, the priests would say that the Course, Jesus, God, couldn't really mean it when it is said "Give up the world!" [T592/637] This is far too high a price! So the preachers offer a dilution, a compromise, as they have always done and profit in multiple ways from the exchange. For when the teachings of Jesus are toned down to suit the palate of the merely human, then naturally people will think well of it and quite naturally also of the amiable orator who can make of Christianity and A Course in Miracles so gentle a thing. If Jesus or the Apostles had been able to do this they would have found great favor with the people as did the Pharisees. But all of this is falsehood, it is a misrepresentation of A Course in Miracles which is the absolute.
But what then is the "practical" use of the Course? Is it merely a plague to us? Yes, that can be said: relatively understood, the absolute is the greatest plague to man. In all moments of laxness, sluggishness, dullness, when the sensuous nature predominates, A Course in Miracles seems madness, since it is irreconcilable with anything finite whatsoever.
Christ is never a threat to mortal man as long as he is kept at a distance, either 2000 years in the past or some indeterminate coming somewhere in the future. But an immediate Christ is the last thing the merely human wants to meet. And so it is true that sensuous man condemns a present Christ by saying "He is talking nonsense. He means nothing to me!" most certainly true, for He is the absolute. Christ came into the world, first as Jesus of Nazareth and currently as A Course in Miracles, not for consolation, humanly understood; on the contrary He and the Course both speak again and again of giving up the world, of surrendering the capacity to decide for oneself what is best. Who wants to hear this teaching?
There is a seeming infinite gap between God and man and so, for most, the requirement to be transformed into present Identity with Christ appears far more fearful and a far greater sacrifice than the most grave of human miseries. Not only that but it is also an offense to one's family, friends and neighbors. And so it will be as long as this world appears in its present form when it comes to being just like Christ. And if all of the studying and preaching of A Course in Miracles does not lead to precisely this Identity with Christ now then it is nothing, even blasphemy. For in relation to the absolute there is only one tense: the present. For him who is not a contemporary with Christ, with the absolute, the present has no real existence; he is always merely repeating the past regardless of the changing form.
To become a Christian in the Course in Miracles way (or any true way for that matter) is to loosen (in the sense of a dentist loosening a tooth from the gums) the individual from the false sense of security and continuity to which he clings with the passion of immediacy, and which clings to him with the same passion. This sort of Christianity was never, no more now than in the year 30, to man's taste, but was distasteful to him in the deepest part of his being, mortally distasteful. Man would rather die than submit to the requirement that he give up his precious "individuality." Therefore the result has been the arising of a well-respected class of priests, parsons and preachers whose function has been to transform the teachings of Jesus into their exact opposite. This Christianity of the preachers, with its emphasis on the external and the building of ever larger formal organizations, is directed toward cementing families and "relationships" more and more egoistically together, condoning and even blessing the multiplication of human form and influence, turning social gatherings into "religious" events, somehow reforming this world rather than transcending it, thereby resisting, perverting and confounding the actual teachings of Jesus.
So what is the function of an external teacher? Let us leave aside for a moment that extremely rare case of the one who has actually become a Realizer of the Truth, who lives every moment in the continuing recognition of Oneness, and therein finds that his function is somehow to extend the teachings. For the rest, those yet to "see" who seem to feel a need to "teach others," what possible use could their instruction be? What could they possibly demonstrate? For, after all, the Course says "To teach is to demonstrate." The only real service then that could be performed that might be in line with truth would be to proclaim and point out first the actual condition of human existence the utter futility, boredom, loneliness and essential cruelty as the Buddha did when he proclaimed "Life is suffering" and then beyond even that to the fundamentally illusory nature and meaninglessness of self-centered consciousness. The real external teacher, if he has a function at all, would point to the fact that you are, in every moment, actively and willingly in error. Nothing else can or need be learned.
"Learn now, without despair, there is no hope of answer in the world." [T608/654]
NO HOPE of answer in the world! These are strong, absolute and unequivocal words! Yet the key to this phrase is "without despair." Many have arrived at the realization that there is no hope here; suicide was their only alternative. And suicide is an exceedingly rational act for one who reaches the point of no hope and does not or will not recognize the possibility of a supernatural alternative to the world of men; who has not had at least an obscure experience of his eternal self. This condition is indeed despair or misery, something few are willing to look at soberly and clearly. Yet the Course suggests explicitly,
"You who are steadfastly devoted to misery must first recognize that you are miserable and not happy. The Holy Spirit cannot teach without this contrast, for you believe that misery is happiness." [T252/272]
What could make possible this sobering recognition but at least a vague inkling that there might be "a better way," another way of seeing? (Not, of course, within the paradigms of the temporal world.)
Beyond that, what is left to be learned? Perhaps we should look more deeply at what A Course in Miracles means by learning.
"It is the function of God's teachers to bring true learning to the world. Properly speaking it is unlearning that they bring, for that is 'true learning' in the world." [M15/16]
And what would unlearning look like?
"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.
"Yet in this learning is salvation born. And What you are will tell you of Itself." [T614/660]
To always know that you don't know is learning as A Course in Miracles instructs. So, what is the appropriate way of teaching according to the Course?
"Since you cannot not teach, your salvation lies in teaching [demonstrating] the exact opposite of everything the ego believes. This is how you will learn the truth that will set you free, and will keep you free as others learn it of you." [T92/100]
Once again, to demonstrate that "There is no world!" [Lesson 132] Yet who, in his temporal mind, would consider such a job? How could one gain popularity or status within the world, become beloved and/or respected, or make a livelihood from such a teaching? Would such a one be welcomed by the world? I think not! Yet this, undiluted and unvarnished, is the fundamental teaching of A Course in Miracles. Anything less is avoidance of the vital principle and therefore a distortion and a falsehood.
There is only one right relationship with A Course in Miracles: living it. This is the true teaching.
"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." [Lesson 37]
©1994 daan dehn
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