Commentary on Lesson 1

"Nothing I see . . . means anything"

A Course in Miracles is written is a most unusual way. Both The Text and the Workbook begin with the most profound and difficult principle first. And perhaps it is this lesson which is the most significant. After reading the entire Text of A Course in Miracles one then comes to Lesson 1. Interesting juxtaposition! Over 600 pages of theoretical material and then . . . "Nothing I see means anything." The introduction to the Workbook says, "A theoretical foundation such as the text provides is necessary as a framework to make the exercises in this workbook meaningful." The entire Text is but the preparation for and explanation why "Nothing I see means anything." That's it!

I wonder how many students of the Course have given this lesson much attention. It is so simple, yet so completely unequivocal, not subject to any form of interpretation or reduction. It is clear -- "Nothing I see means anything."

One must be cautious here: this lesson does not imply that there is no ultimate meaning anywhere. Unfortunately, this is the interpretation often subtly and sub-consciously given by the mind, allowing some to conclude that they are permitted, even urged, to make up and live all sorts of fictions. What then is meaningless?

First of all, in and of itself no thing means anything. Nothing can be known separate from the environment in which it appears. Separate things and events in and of themselves are meaningless. Only the context of the totality in which they appear has meaning. There are no separate things, only relationship and process.

For example, apart from the earth in which it grows or the experience in which it is somehow appreciated, a plant is dead, nothing. It has no life, no function, no meaning. Therefore in considering the life of the plant where does one stop his perception? At the roots? At the surrounding soil? What about the rain and the sun? What about those who live in, with or through the plant? Are these not all part of the life and meaning of the plant? Where does one part of this scene end and the other begin? Where does one draw the line? Can we begin to see the truth of "the observer is the observed"?(1)

What is also often overlooked are the words "I see" which are very key to this lesson. I and SEE are both also completely meaningless. The perception of things and events as separate and unrelated is itself a meaningless mechanism because, as we have noted, things and events outside of the context in which they appear mean nothing. Without the perception of their relationship to the whole of life's process, any interpretation of meaning is necessarily partial. It should be obvious that partial meaning is equivalent to no real meaning, for it is certainly incomplete and therefore false. Accordingly, this entire habit of partial seeing is itself meaningless. Meaning only exists within the context of the whole; seeing things, events and separation divides and therefore distorts whatever meaning there might be.

An additional limitation of "my" seeing is that it is entirely personal and self-referencing: "What use is this thing to me?" From this limited perspective mold merely ruins my bread. In a slightly larger context, the same mold is the source of penicillin. This larger context, however, is also limited and self-referencing, albeit with a larger scope, and therefore has its limitations too, as we have seen. What about an even larger context? What about absolute or ultimate meaning? Do we even care? Are we willing to see that all of our "problems" arise from the profound ignorance of the fundamental relationship which exists among everything, the inability (or is it unwillingness?) to perceive a universal context?

Another way of hearing this lesson (as a synthesis, in fact, of all the early lessons) is "MY seeing (which includes my so-called 'thinking' as an integral part) does not mean anything." In fact, my way of seeing things as separate and, at best, only partly related blocks the real meaning of things from my awareness. Not only does my seeing mean nothing, but also "my," the place from which I see, which is an integral part of that mode of perception. The fundamental basis of sight necessarily includes the mechanism of seeing. All of this is false and, therefore, meaningless.

Possibly the primary reason that MY seeing doesn't mean anything is that the place from which "I" see is non-existent.

"Of yourself you can do nothing, because of yourself you are nothing." [T135/145]

In order to have meaning, perception must have a meaningful perspective from which to perceive, some way of seeing or understanding the whole of it. The "I" is no such place.

"The world you see does not exist because the place from which you see it is unreal." [T559/602]

So we see also that "I" doesn't mean anything either. The "I" is a meaningless place, non-existent -- how could it's seeing be meaningful? Looking from a distorted location through a distorted lens, ignoring and overlooking the essential relationship among all things, what else can one see but a distorted, disjointed and therefore meaningless perception?

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©1994 daan dehn


1. attributed to both Einstein and Krishnamurti