Question #1: It seems that at some point all theologies converge, and in so doing, they leave behind their individual forms and become pure Truth. I am having trouble dealing with this because - it implies that the Christian forms of the Course are … (forgive me) … disposable and temporary. Knowing this I sometimes find myself becoming impatient with the continuous anthropomorphism of the text, and wish it would be more direct. Needless to say, this interferes with my personal progress, though not with my reverence. In your experience is this a common phenomenon? Does it pass with time? Is it just an ego-strategy? How should I handle it?
Answer: The Course’s Christian context has been a problem for students right from the beginning, and they have raised the same important question you have. To restate and slightly expand your question, why does a universal message have to come in such a specific religious framework? And does that not inevitably breed further separation, at the same time denying the universality of the specific religion?
Indeed, the Christian language of A Course in Miracles, not to mention the presence of Jesus throughout the material, can pose a great challenge to many students. If their ego is looking for a way to invalidate the material, or throw up obstacles to learning, then Jesus and Christianity can be helpful allies in this battle against the truth. On the other hand, asking the Holy Spirit for help can introduce yet another classroom in which forgiveness of our specialness can happily be learned.
While one would never want to restrict A Course in Miracles to a particular cultural group, it can nonetheless be said that in the main it is directed towards a Western audience. Its language, cultural expressions, and Freudian, Platonic, and Shakespearean elements, all speak to a reader comfortable within the Western tradition. And it can certainly be said that the predominant influence in the Western world for the past 2000 years has been Christianity, with Jesus clearly being the dominant figure, either as symbol of the love of Heaven, or the special love (and hate) of the ego. And so there could not be a Western student -- Christian, Jew, agnostic, or atheist -- who in one way or another has not been affected by Jesus or the religions that have evolved in his name. Thus the Christian framework of A Course in Miracles provides a natural opportunity for students to practice forgiveness of their past experiences.
In the end, of course, all specific symbols disappear into the Oneness of God. But until that day arrives, we need specifics to be the little steps of forgiveness we take towards attaining the non-dualistic reality that lies beyond all dualistic concepts and beyond all symbols. As the workbook says: "God will take this final step Himself. Do not deny the little steps He asks you take to Him" (W.pI.193.13:6,7). Thus, the Christian anthropomorphisms reflect our own anthropomorphic view of ourselves, since in truth we are not bodies or specific persons, but non-human thoughts in the mind. However, as long as we identify with the specific person whose image we see every morning in the bathroom mirror, then, again, we need a learning curriculum that uses specific symbols that meet us in the condition in which we think we exist (T.25.I.7:4). Christianity provides us with one of those sets of symbols, and for the opportunity it offers we should all be grateful.
Question #5: So what's with all of the male gender-specific language? So far I've not come across one reference to 50% of the worlds population. Or are females just another illusion? I still love the Course, but this gender language thing is an annoyance.
Answer: This question is similar to #10 found in the Foundation’s publication, "The Most Commonly Asked Questions About A Course in Miracles," authored by Gloria and Kenneth Wapnick. A slightly modified answer from this book is that Jesus does not practice the art of "political correctness." Rather, his Course is written linguistically within the male-dominated Judaeo-Christian tradition, and uses the patriarchal biblical language on which that tradition is based. Consequently, the Course conforms to this religious culture by using terms that are exclusively masculine. Jesus himself speaks of his use of ego-oriented language:
This course remains within the ego framework, where it is needed.…It uses words, which are symbolic, and cannot express what lies beyond symbols (C.in.3:1,3).
And so it is clear that the Course’s meaning in using this masculine language lies elsewhere. While the form of the Course’s words is the same as the twenty-five-hundred-year-old Western tradition, its content is exactly the opposite. This provides a good example of a principle enunciated twice in the text, that the Holy Spirit does not take our special relationships (the form) away from us, but instead transforms them (by changing their purpose -- the content) (T.17.IV.2:3,4,5,6; T.18.II.6). Therefore, the reader is given a wonderful opportunity to practice forgiveness by having whatever buried judgmental thoughts are unconsciously present be raised to awareness by the Course’s "sexist" language, so that they may now be looked at differently with the Holy Spirit’s help. In this way, a special hate (or love) relationship with patriarchal authorities -- religious or secular -- may be transformed into a holy relationship, the relationship now having forgiveness and peace as its purpose, instead of judgment and attack.
In like manner, we can understand the Course’s usage of the term Son of God. For two thousand years, it has exclusively been used in Christian theology to denote only Jesus, the biblical God’s only begotten Son, and Second Person of the Trinity. Moreover, Jesus’ specialness was accentuated by St. Paul’s relegating the rest of humanity to the status of "adopted sons" of God (Galatians 4:4). To accentuate the point that he is our equal, Jesus in A Course in Miracles uses the same term that heretofore had excluded everyone except himself. Now, however, it denotes all people: God’s children who yet believe they are bodies and separate from their Source and therefore different from Him. And even more specifically, the term Son of God denotes the students who are reading and studying A Course in Miracles, a usage clearly made regardless of their gender.
This term is thus deliberately used to help correct two thousand years of what A Course in Miracles sees as Christianity’s distortion of Jesus’ basic message, in this case the perfect equality and unity of the Sonship of God. And so in the Course Jesus presents himself as no different from anyone else in reality (although certainly he is different from us in time). Therefore, to state it once again, the same term -- Son of God -- that was used only for Jesus is now used for all of us. Moreover, the term is also used to denote Christ, God’s pre-separation creation, His one Son. Again, we see usage of the same form as in traditional Christianity, but with a totally different content. The phrase Son of God can also be easily understood as synonymous with child, a term which is also often used in the Course.
The reinterpretation of Son of God from exclusive to totally inclusive is crucial to the Course’s thought system. And because of Jesus’ reason for using this term, students -- men and women alike -- should be vigilant against the temptation to change the Course’s "offensive" language. While such practice is understandable, it does serve to undermine one of Jesus’ pedagogical purposes. It would be much more in keeping with the teachings of A Course in Miracles to leave the form as it is, and change one’s mind instead. In these circumstances, one would do well to paraphrase a famous line from the text: Therefore, seek not to change the course, but choose to change your mind about the course (T.21.in.1:7). Therefore, since the Course’s form will not be changed, students would be wise to use their reactions as a classroom in which they can learn to forgive, not only Jesus, Helen, or A Course in Miracles itself, but also all those in the past (or present) who have been perceived as treating them or others unfairly.
One final note on the subject of the Course’s masculine language: It has long been a grammatical convention that pronouns referring back to a neuter noun, such as "one" or "person," take the masculine form of "he." Clearly, since a central teaching of A Course in Miracles is that we are not bodies, the issue, once again, is merely one of form or style.
* The above is reproduced from the Foundation for A Course in Miracles' Question and Answer Service with the kind permission of Dr. Kenneth Wapnick and the Foundation for A Course in Miracles.