What is the Course Trying to Teach Us?
“Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God”.
So Begins A Course in Miracles. How can it be that such simple statements require more than 1200 pages of text, lessons and a teacher’s manual to communicate?
Even more curiously, earlier in the introduction, it says that “The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of Love” [which it equates with that which is Real), “For that is beyond what can be taught.” But if it can’t be taught then it can’t be communicated in 1200 pages (or 12 well chosen words, for that matter), what’s the point of the course? Exactly what is the course trying to teach us then? This is the puzzle at the heart of the two seemingly simple but profoundly counter-intuitive central statements of A Course in Miracles.
According to the introduction, “It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance.”
Removing the blocks…Let’s examine that.
The Central Truth of A Course in Miracles – “God Is”
From Chapter One to the end of the workbook, The Course repeats its greatest truth and the core of its teaching – “There is only God”.
God is therefore our natural condition or state. It would make very little sense to learn our own natural state. While we might learn about it, a “natural state” is a matter of direct awareness. We can only remember or become re-aware of it. The course is all about what is preventing us from remembering.
For this reason, the course repeatedly calls us to discover, and then let go of, our blocks and resistance and let that memory, which is also and always our present reality, return to our awareness. How complicated could it be to become re-aware of the only Reality that is? It’s not complex. Indeed, it’s the only thing that is truly simple because it’s the only reality there is and it’s absolutely “One”; no parts or process, no pieces, no past, no future, no complexity whatsoever. How could it be simpler?
As the course makes clear though, it’s not the truth that’s complex; it’s us. But if our Reality is ultimately and absolutely simple and totally unified, how can we be complex? The simple but difficult to comprehend answer is that we can’t be! “Nothing unreal exists”
This is a restatement of the central puzzle or paradox at the heart of the Course’s teaching. How can we be completely unaware of the only reality there is, a reality that is absolutely unified and “without a second”. And how can it be that anything complex and also “fearful”, which certainly seems to describe much of our experience, be nothing but an illusion?
“Reality is absolutely One”. This is often referred to in Eastern teachings as “Non-Dualism.” Christian mystics sometimes refer to the “Unitive” state and the “Unitive Life”. When it is expressed as absolute union in a world of separation, this also says, “God is Love”. In the world of seemingly obvious multiple people and things, it manifests as the desire and striving for oneness.
Even if you don’t seem to know it, The Course says, this is your deepest desire; to return to awareness of your always and already oneness with God/Reality, the very source and substance of Love. All feelings of love in this world are but intimations of this one longing and One Love.
It says that God and you are always and already profoundly and deeply intertwined to the point of identity, though you may not experience this yourself or even understand how this could be, given your worldly experience. Stated in the language of relationship it says “God loves you”. And since God and love and reality are all one to The Course, in its most succinct statement of its truth it says simply, “GOD IS”.
Since this simple reality can’t be taught, despite its numerous and variously stated reminders of this truth, this is not what the course is trying to teach us. It’s simply (and constantly) reminding us that this is the truth, regardless of what we may think or experience. Remembering and experiencing this reality is our ultimate goal, despite clearly stating that it is “outside the learning goals of the course”.
So while the course continually calls us, moment to moment, to drop the whole game, this whole world of seemingly real complexity, fear and conflict, it says that it can’t teach us or even lead us to the absolute awareness of primordial oneness itself. It says that nothing stands in our way except our own mind and that not the course, not even the Holy Spirit, can change our mind. We are the only ones who can do that.
And since “There is only God”, our mind must already be part of God, so how hard could that be? And yet, there’s that 1200 page course leading us to what can’t be taught or learned, but which is paradoxically now and always has been our own real state and indeed the only thing that’s real.
So once again, what is the course trying to teach us if it can’t show us the ultimate goal or how it can be reached?
My next essay will explore this question.