The capacity of the self-mind for delusion and self-deception is amazing. It seems almost infinite in variety and approach. It is easy to attract throngs with the promise of simple techniques which provide instant "happiness." There are many gurus of such "instant happiness," a couple of which have come into my awareness lately. One is a young mini-guru, the son of a well-known Indian teacher now deceased, who has thousands of followers on the West Coast. Currently also there is a doctor travelling the country teaching a "simple" technique to happiness. Many students of A Course in Miracles seem to think that he has boiled the Course down to ultimate simplicity. Now, I do not doubt for a moment the sincerity of these men or their desire to help. And, in that vein, their work will be helpful. But it is not the technique that works, but the commitment to healing. What amazes me is that people who would consider themselves serious students of A Course in Miracles could possibly equate these approaches with the Course.
The doctor's approach, for example, is this: Monitor your thoughts (this one step is completely in line with the Course) and ask if each is the "happiest" thought one can be thinking. If not, substitute a happier thought. Unfortunately this approach inherently assumes that happiness is both relative and dualistic, that there are degrees of happiness, that we know what happiness is, and that there actually exists something which is the opposite of happiness. Yet the Course repeatedly points out,
"Joy is eternal." [T439/471]
"Elusive happiness, or happiness in changing form that shifts with time and place, is an illusion that has no meaning. Happiness must be constant, because it is attained by giving up the wish for the inconstant. Joy cannot be perceived except through constant vision." [T433/464]
"A Son of God is happy only when he knows he is with God." [T126/136]A Course in Miracles is attempting to lead us to an awareness and identity which is always supremely happy without opposite. This can only be possible when we completely give up our mistaken idea of who and what we are. The Course is leading us to a complete relinquishment of the ego, of any thought of separate identity. Until then, there is no possibility for happiness for the separated self. As long as there is an idea of a "me" sufficiently distinct so as to have any sort of separate life or agenda, there is no possibility of the happiness to which the Course refers. Until there is the perception that everything is always already supremely happy, misery is all there is, regardless of whether we label it "fun," "joy," "happiness," or whatever. The problem is that we want the solution to the problem of misery without giving up the cause. We don't have any idea what happiness really is. In fact, if one holds any idea of happiness at all, it is false and a block to the happiness which already is. It is not the thoughts themselves that are the problem, but our whole way of "thinking." The "thinker" is the problem, not the thoughts.
At the very beginning of the Workbook for Students A Course in Miracles repeatedly tells us that our thoughts are meaningless,
"You will find, if you train yourself to look at your thoughts, that they represent such a mixture that, in a sense, none of them can be called 'good' or 'bad.' This is why they do not mean anything." [W6/6]So, where do we begin? The Course says that a change of mind is necessary. What sort of change of mind?
"about the world" [T415/445]
"about reality" [T158/170]
"about the meaning of the world" [M65/68]
"about the purpose of the world" [W374/384, 394/404]
"about yourself" [T168/181, W237/243, 311/318]
about the past [T332/356]
about the value of the body [T140/151]
"about those whom your ego has hurt" [T57/63]
"about the goal of prayer" [SOP15]
"on what you want to see" [W236/242]
"to think with God's" [T57/63]Since, according to A Course in Miracles, there is but one problem and one solution, there must be but ONE change of mind which includes ALL of these changes. Something so all-inclusive must be much more radical and fundamental than a mere change of opinion about a specific situation. What would characterize such a profound shift?
"the overcoming or surmounting of death...an awakening or a rebirth" [M65/68]
"...your change of mind becomes the proof that who accepts God's gifts can never suffer anything." [W310/317]
"Nothing external alters, but everything internal now reflects only the Love of God." [M30/31]Please note that the Course most often speaks in absolute terms. In the quotation above it says "EVERYTHING...reflects ONLY...." Is this something that can be brought about by a simple mental trick? All of these new-age, so-called "spiritual" techniques are but positive thinking in another guise. And A Course in Miracles is not just another positive thinking technique. In order to utilize any positive thinking technique requires that we evaluate our own thoughts as to positive versus negative, happy versus unhappy. Is this not judgement? How can we judge? A Course in Miracles seems very direct and specific about our ability to evaluate our own thoughts and feelings.
"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]"FIRST" recognize that you are miserable, even when you think you are happy.
"You no more recognize what is painful than you know what is joyful, and are, in fact, very apt to confuse the two." [T124/134]Are we willing to see the truth of this statement? If so, how would we be in a position to judge a "happier" or "positive" thought?
"Judgment without self deception is impossible." [M11/12]Can we admit that? Are we willing to be entirely without judgement?
"Judgment becomes impossible without the past, for without it you do not understand anything. You would make no attempt to judge, because it would be quite apparent to you that you do not understand what anything means. You are afraid of this because you believe that without the ego, all would be chaos. Yet I assure you that without the ego, all would be love." [T290/312]If we are judging, comparing or evaluating at all, we are using the past as reference. It is the only reference that we have with which to judge.
"The one wholly true thought one can hold about the past is that it is not here. To think about it at all is therefore to think about illusions. Very few have realized what is actually entailed in picturing the past or in anticipating the future. The mind is actually blank when it does this, because it is not really thinking about anything. The purpose of the exercise for today is to begin to train your mind to recognize when it is not really thinking at all. While thoughtless ideas preoccupy your mind, the truth is blocked. Recognizing that your mind has been merely blank, rather than believing that it is filled with real ideas, is the first step to opening the way to vision." [W13/13]"THE FIRST STEP" is seeing that our so-called personal or individual "mind" is actually a no-mind. It does not think.
"You also believe the body's brain can think. If you but understood the nature of thought, you could but laugh at this insane idea." [W157/159]
"This places you in a position of needing to learn a lesson that seems contradictory; - you must learn to change your mind about your mind. Only by this can you learn that it is changeless." [T113/121]What are we to do? As usual, A Course in Miracles is very specific about what works and what doesn't.
"...you cannot change your mind by changing your behavior...." [T57/63](2)
"Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result and not a cause." [T415/445]
"You prepare your mind for [the holy instant] 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." [T354f/380]This last statement is, in fact, the Course's definition of "a little willingness." In absolute terms, willingness is more than mere lip service. Understand that, from the Holy Spirit's perspective, a total commitment is still only a little willingness. Anything less than a total commitment is no commitment at all. Truth is total and knows no parts.
"We have repeated how little is asked of you to learn this course. It is the same small willingness you need to have your whole relationship transformed to joy; the little gift you offer to the Holy Spirit for which He gives you everything; the very little on which salvation rests; the tiny change of mind by which the crucifixion is changed to resurrection. And being true, it is so simple that it cannot fail to be completely understood. Rejected yes, but not ambiguous. And if you choose against it now it will not be because it is obscure, but rather that this little cost seemed, in your judgment, to be too much to pay for peace. This is the only thing that you need do for vision, happiness, release from pain and the complete escape from sin, all to be given you. Say only this, but mean it with no reservations, for here the power of salvation lies:
"I am responsible for what I see.
I choose the feelings I experience, and I decide
upon the goal I would achieve.
And everything that seems to happen to me
I ask for, and receive as I have asked." [T417f/448]"With NO RESERVATIONS,"....who has realized this? It is rather accepted today, at least conceptually, that one is responsible for his reactions, his interpretations. But that is only half of the story -PERCEPTION. It seems the above statement is unequivocal. It says "for what I see" not merely the way I see it. To bring A Course in Miracles fully into application requires that we also recognize our responsibility for the other half of the story - PROJECTION. That we actually "see" that everything arises in my mind, that my mind is the source of everything that appears. Many of the great mystics have reported this very experience, that mind is the actual source of all form that arises and that there is only one and I am it. Tat twam asi, that art thou. This is a fundamental teaching in the East. I am in everything and everything is in me. Until we see both halves of the story, we cannot see cause and effect as it really is.
The Course asks a couple of very pointed questions,
"What if you recognized this world is an hallucination?" What if you really understood you made this up?" [T413/443]Well, what if...? Here we find the crux of the problem. At some fundamental level we know that this is true and we also know that this world of appearances would disappear if we let go of our value in it. And we value our specialness more than we want peace. Since that is an insane admission, we abdicate responsibility for what we don't like and project it upon an imagined "external" world or even "God." The text of this same section goes on,
"Hallucinations disappear when they are recognized for what they are. This is the healing and the remedy. Believe them not and they are gone. And all you need to do is recognize that you did this. Once you accept this simple fact and take unto yourself the power you gave them, you are released from them."And we know that this is true. Yet we keep trying to hold on to some of the illusion while getting rid of the rest. THIS IS PROJECTION! Oneness cannot be fragmented. From cause comes effect, an inexorable law of the universe. If you want to be special, you get everything that comes with it.
"Hallucinations serve to meet the goal of madness. They are the means by which the outside world, projected from within, adjusts to sin and seems to witness to its reality. It is still true that nothing is without. Yet upon nothing are all projections made. For it is projection that gives the 'nothing' all the meaning that it holds." [T413f/443f]Without actually "seeing" this process of projection in operation, we do little more than genuflect to it. Intellectual understanding is incomplete because the intellect only understands through partial, broken knowledge. Who has seen that he makes the world? Who truly understands that the body arises in his mind? Who is willing with "no reservations" to take responsibility for war, poverty, pollution? This would certainly require a very radical shift in perception, would it not? Without this fundamental change of awareness, however, we are not moving in the direction of the Course. Accepting responsibility for perception is only the back half of the situation. This alone still fails to see cause as it is and, therefore misses the entire point.
"Projection makes perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is no more than that, it is not less. Therefore, to you it is important. It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result, not a cause." [T415/445]Who knows that he makes the sun rise and set? Who knows the sky is within him? Who knows that he makes time and space? Certainly not the human personality, the ego. This result of the desire for specialness continues to try to hold on to its specialness while isolating itself from its results by using the devices of time, space and form. It seeks to keep the "good" while rejecting the "bad." It does this by refusing to accept responsibility for the whole and, therefore, pretends to be a victim of a world outside his control. This is the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is the result of dualistic thinking. This is the result of judgement in its most profound sense. But, in lesson 31, the Course asks us to recognize,
"I am not the victim of the world I see." [W48/48]and continues with the suggestion that "the idea be applied to both the world you see without and the world you see within." Until one sees the problem as and where it is, there is no hope for any change of mind.
Where is one to begin? The Course gives us a "technique," ...sort of...
"Simply do this: Be still.... Empty your mind of everything it thinks is either true or false, or good or bad, of every thought it judges worthy, and all the ideas of which it is ashamed. Hold onto nothing. Do not bring with you one thought the past has taught, nor one belief you ever learned before from anything. Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God." [W350/360]Wholly empty hands and mind! Repeatedly the Course tells us not to decide anything beyond our single desire for the Peace of God. All of our attempts at evaluating or manipulating our progress, methods and thoughts are but interferences to the Holy Spirit. Along these same lines, we find the very first use of the phrase "change your mind" on page 10 of the text. Here the change is succinctly defined in a way that may have been overlooked,
"To change your mind means to place it at the disposal of true Authority." [T10/13]To "place it at the disposal." This does not imply that we do anything at all except give over all of our imagined separate control of "our" mind to the Holy Spirit. In Workbook Lesson 45 we are asked to see the nature of real thinking,
"God is the Mind with which I think."Today's idea holds the key to what your real thoughts are. They are nothing that you think you think, just as nothing that you think you see is related to vision in any way. There is no relationship between what is real and what you think is real. Nothing that you think are your real thoughts resemble your real thoughts in any respect." [W71/71]
Relatively early in the text Jesus speaks to us directly about the change of mind in a seemingly different approach, but a way that is very clear.
"If you want to be like me I will help you, knowing that we are alike. If you want to be different, I will wait until you change your mind." [T135/145]To be like him...EXACTLY like him. So what is that?
"The name of Jesus is the name of one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God. So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God." [M83/87]
"Jesus is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit." [M85/89]So, by turning over every decision, every thought to the Holy Spirit and deciding nothing by and of ourselves, each of us can and must eventually recognize our Christhood, a man no longer, now the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Only when this identification becomes complete is the transformation accomplished. Until then we operate almost exclusively in a dimension which is unreal.
"Of yourself you can do nothing, because of your self you are nothing." [T135/145]A Course in Miracles gives us many thoughts and practices in order to begin to retrain our mind to think with God's. Among these is Lesson 132 which asks us to practice by saying,
"I who remain as God created me would loose the world
from all I thought it was. For I am real because the world is
not, and I would know my own reality." [W238/244]
"I am real because the world is not." Clearly this points to the obvious conclusion that as long as you believe the world is real, you are making yourself unreal, operating in an imaginary fantasy. This lesson also tells us what the change of mind really means,
"...to change your mind means you have changed the source of all ideas you think or ever thought or yet will think." [W236/242]Change the SOURCE, not the thoughts. The "thinker," as we know him, is unreal. Anything he tries to do is but an interference with Truth.
The ultimate result, then, is
"Thus does the son of man become the Son of God. It is not really a change; it is a change of mind." [M30/31]We must not be deceived. There is no such thing as true happiness in the world as we know it. There is no possibility of real happiness for self-centered identity, the "me." Constantly facing the ever-approaching reality of death, deteriorating faculties and capacities, instability and constant change in the world about us, threats of all kinds to emotional and material security, there can be no more than momentary distraction from the misery of human existence, a modicum of temporary comfort and/or pleasure while secretly awaiting the next disaster. That, I suppose, can be and is labelled "happiness" by most, but what kind of happiness is it that shifts, changes and vanishes with the change of the wind? There is no true happiness without the realization of oneness. There is no happiness until we recognize our True Identity. There is no happiness without total unlimited joining. There is no happiness without the holy instant. And there can be no lasting happiness as long as we try, by hook, crook, or technique, to hypnotize ourselves to happiness while holding on to the ego, the only thing which interferes with the Real Happiness which always already exists.
Or, in another way of looking at it, A Course in Miracles asks another of its pointed questions,
"How else can you find joy in a joyless place except by realizing that you are not there?" [T89/97]
1. see M81/85
2. see also T25/29