I am not religious.
I *really* don't mean to be offensive...I only mean to get clear on a point that we've been dancing around together, and "undo some of my unconscious guilt" (see previous posts) by setting the record straight.
Like the title says (and it says something about you that you are even reading a blog with a title like this, by the way...) --
How can that be, my reader(s) ask(s)? I have all kinds of posts on this blog about Jesus and the Holy Spirit...I talk about receiving Guidance from Something not me and forgiveness and sin/guilt and...I use the G-O-D word a lot.
Okay, don't hate me yet. I mean this with the utmost sincerity and respect for your belief system. But here's the thing I need to say in order to say exactly why I'm not what I *maybe* seem to be:
Religions -- They offer specific rules to follow, codes of ethics, and stories that followers by and large consider true. They teach there is a God "out there" or "up there," and almost all of them insist that their teachings are superior to other teachings. They teach the use of ritual and make items and locations sacred. Almost all of them teach people how to be better people, the pay off to all that hard work and restraint being a better after-life of some kind. They also mostly teach that to not do the right things means you are bad, a sinner, an infidel, etc. and that your after-life is pretty much going to suck eggs.
A Course in Miracles (ACIM) is not a set of rules to follow in the world. It does not consider itself "special" as in "the only way to reach Heaven is my way" (in fact, it specifically says there are many paths). It discourages the use of ritual, or at least encourages the student to notice when they've retreated into ritual (an ego device), even extending that caution to the "blue book" itself.
It does not prescribe churches or even groups, although people in the world use both forms as ways to extend their practice of it. And yes, all those things I wrote above about religions can be found within the, for lack of a better word, ACIM Community.
But ACIM is not a religion and has nothing to do with it other than the fact that the people in both camps are equal and have shared interests. What is ACIM? It a specific form of mind watching practice based on what I feel is a Calling within the One Mind to awaken. What the heck does that gibberish mean? Let's unpack this together.
- "A Course In Miracles" -- This is just a book -- blue to be precise, hence my nickname "the blue book" -- that a couple people brought into this world in the early 70's. It has a text (the symphonically presented teachings of metaphysics), a 365-day workbook, and a Teacher's Manual.
- "Form" - this is a shell, or a shape, or a empty container that gets filled with some kind of content. Content is the key here. Content can be helpful or not helpful, good or bad, based on love or based on fear.
- "Calling" - this is the Will of the unified One Mind that we are part of to know Itself totally. As perceived by a sleeping mind, it feels like a pull towards something at a higher level of mind/heart. We sleeping ones answer the Calling when we finally say --in whatever words -- "There must be a better way." That's generally when we see the egoic reality we've been living has always led us to pain and suffering eventually.
- "One Mind" -- this is the part of our mind that is joined with everything else. No, I can't prove this scientifically. If you are interested in the thought-provoking science that seems to be pointing this direction, I would be preaching to the choir to dive into that subject. Since I'm not here to prove anything to anyone or teach anyone anything -- I'm really teaching my Self what I want to learn (another long story) -- I'm off the hook on this one. :)
- "Awaken" -- in our everyday reality (and in my apparent day job) this is equivalent to being de-hypnotized. It's like returning from a trance in which a mistaken perception was believed as truth. A more direct connotation is that there is "sleep" happening and that who or what is asleep is not aware of the truth...they are dreaming about something and think erroneously that the dream and the figures in the dream, including themselves, are the truth.
Okay, so we have this One Mind that has split and has fallen partly asleep (yet another long story) and that wants to wake up (although it also fears waking up, which leads to resistance...again, a long story).
Drum roll, please....
A Course In Miracles, then, is a particular 'form' or symbol in the dream that represents the content of the AWAKE part of the mind. To put it very simplistically, practicing A Course In Miracles is like allowing a gentle, parental hand to gently wake you up from a long dream. Many spiritually-identifiable "isms" can also be this gentle, parental hand for a Truth Seeker -- Buddhism, Catholicism, Sufism, etc. The key is not the form (which itself is neutral and nothing and just part of the dream), but the content. Where does the content come from? YOU, the decision-maker. YOU, the part of you that is seemingly split and is always choosing what to listen to -- either your Awake Mind or your Asleep Mind/ego.
Am I saying that, given this premise, it would be theoretically possible to Awaken reading a phone book? Yes, I guess I am. That's exactly, in fact, what I am saying.
Most of us need a little more help and encouragement and how-to steps than that, though. But many people have awakened, no doubt, following whatever "religion" (i..e. form) that they either fell into or that called to them. The key is Willingness. Maybe it was just through practicing extraordinary kindness like the Dalai Lama.
But I am sure it only really happens that a mind awakens when they have become the "mystic" in some sense, who begins to read between the lines, so to speak, and see that heaven is not a place you end up when you die and that the "kingdom lies within." Awakening is about transcending experience and the world of form and seeing that only LOVE is the Real Deal Truth. And...they may never use or think those words at all. The Truth is not a set of words. It is the transcendent meaning beyond them.
I'm also sure that each awakened one had to fight the ego's resistance and face the fear and guilt in their minds so they could laugh at it. Hence the stories about the Buddha's and Jesus's temptations. YOU are the Buddha being tempted. YOU are also Jesus. Their promise to you is that YOU were there when they made the choice to Awaken, and now all YOU need to do in reality is accept this is true and that nothing else is.
Easier said than done, I know, which is why we have books and practices and switchbacks.
So I hope that has answered the issue of ACIM and the Jesus-talk. I LOVE JESUS, but he's not better than your prophet and he doesn't save the world, because there isn't one. I LOVE Jesus, but I know that's because Jesus is a symbol of LOVE in my mind.
Here's another way to look at it: Think of ACIM as a helpful antidote for a part of the dreaming mind that been steeped in, and identifies with, a tradition of Christianity where sins are really important and guilt is inevitable (as are crucifixion and sacrifice and death and punishment etc.) It is a form that stays within the verbal, psychological, and religious lexicon of the West, but gradually manipulates it into more true-er reflections. The mind is being unwound from the dream, or turned upright like a capsized boat.
It takes a wrong mind and rights it.
Personally, although I grew up with Lutheran and Catholic family, I was never religious, even as a kid. I was a seeker though, even as a kid. And I felt the love that could sometimes (not usually, but occasionally) reach me through the stories.
Perhaps because I only skimmed the surface of these traditions I was able to relate to A Course In Miracles but not get bogged down too much in its words and symbolism. Like many students, if it's your path, you feel its Truth, even when you can't understand what it's really trying to say. It's not about the characters in the play or even the lessons they teach. They are only important as stepping stones in your thinking. Until you finally aren't thinking anymore and are just an open form that allows itself to be thunk by Love.
If talk of Jesus is offensive, and it is surprisingly hard for many ACIM students to deal with, consider it JAFL -- "Just Another Forgiveness Lesson" (coined by the Disappearance of the Universe Yahoo group organized around Gary Renard's book about ACIM teachings).
And if that's too hard, but you really want to Awaken, try loving and forgiving every name and business in the phone book. :)