Question #12: I have been studying the Course for some years now, and being a psychologist would like to establish a workshop and/or a support group for people trying to live according to its principles. My idea is basically to help people see their projections on others and then make a group effort of asking for help to the Holy Spirit. Would this type of work be in accordance to the principles of the Course and do you have any more suggestions or opinions? I know I have to teach what I need to learn.
Answer: The bottom line answer to your question is that there are no guidelines in A Course in Miracles for behavior; i.e., "What should I do?" Jesus reminds us that his is a course in cause (the mind), and not in effect (the body, or behavior) (T.21.VII.7:8). Thus, our only function is to ask for help in getting our egos out of the way so that we may be free to be guided in whatever action (or non- action) would be most helpful and loving to all people involved in the situation. The following statement is representative of this all-important Course teaching: "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false" (T.16.IV.6:1,2). And so, before knowing how you should (or should not) proceed with your thought of starting a group, bring to the Holy Spirit any ego investment you might have in having such a group. When you are reasonably sure your ego is safely out of the way, then simply follow His guidance.
One other point: a temptation in any group, especially the kind that you envision, is to circumvent the difficult individual effort students are asked to make in order to bring their egos to the Holy Spirit , by diluting the process and displacing the "work" onto the group. At best, groups facilitate this individual work we are all asked to do; at worst, they depreciate the power of our minds to change our decisions and misperceptions, not to mention reinforce the ego’s specialness. Good luck!
Question #105: What is the best method to study A Course in Miracles? In my experience, study groups bear little resemblance in content to what is expressed by the Foundation, so I do the work alone. Should the text be read first, before beginning the workbook, or hand in hand? If I begin the workbook and miss several days or weeks, do I need to begin again or pick up where I left off? Does it matter? I would prefer to work with other people, but most of them I've spoken to aren't even aware of the non-dualistic nature of the Course. I find when I try to explain that aspect, generally people are not willing to hear it and try to convince me that I have it wrong. Also I've heard people say they like the Course because they can combine it easily with their other spiritual practice - - I find it nearly impossible to do that and have moved away from spiritual teachings I used to hold dear. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm the one who is confused. Please advise.
Answer: (1) In keeping with the actual theory of the Course, there actually is no best method for studying it. It in essence is a curriculum undertaken by the student under the guidance of the Holy Spirit or Jesus. The "training is always highly individualized" (M.9.1:5). Jesus advises us to study the text very carefully and not proceed too quickly lest we plunge unnecessarily into overwhelming fear (T.I.VII.4,5), and he also explains that the "theoretical foundation.…the text provides is necessary as a framework to make the exercises in this workbook meaningful" (W.in.1:1), so he clearly expects his students to spend time with the text at some point in their process. But he does not say which should be done first. So if you are comfortable studying the text while you are doing the lessons, that is what you should do.
He also tells us not to do more than one workbook lesson a day (W.in.1:6). The middle of Lesson 95 might be helpful in answering your question about what to do if you miss several days or weeks in your practice of the lessons. The instruction there focuses on recognizing the ways in which the ego creeps into the process, and that we ought to respond to "our lapses in diligence, and our failures to follow the instructions for practicing the day’s idea" with forgiveness (W.pI.95.8:3). That is the key. Jesus does not keep track of how punctual we are in following he instructions for the day; his interest is only in helping us train our minds to think more and more in terms of forgiveness. It makes the most sense, though, to pick up where you left off, rather than begin all over again.
(2) The Course says nothing about groups. Some people find it helpful to study with others; some do not. It depends entirely on the preference of the individual. In our experience, it is more common than uncommon that people find the uncompromising nature of the Course’s non-dualism intolerable and fear provoking, which then causes them to dilute its message to make it say something that it does not, or to mix it with other systems, thereby doing justice to neither. One of the Course’s strengths is the manner in which it integrates a metaphysics of non-dualism with living in the world. This is quite a challenge, but the Course gives us all the support we need in our journey back to our home in Heaven, the state of perfect Oneness.
Question #276: I belong to a group that meets weekly to study A Course in Miracles. It is essentially a leaderless group, in that we meet at each others' homes, and the host(ess) sets the form and tone of the meeting. Overall, there is an agreement that we will study the Course, and that to understand and practice it is our purpose. However, over the years, it has regularly happened that someone will bring up the ideas put forth elsewhere. Sometimes these thoughts are brought up, discussed, etc., and we're back to the main theme again. Other times, the meeting gets quite sidetracked and the theme becomes decidedly un-Course-like. What to do then? Sometimes one of us will make a comment to get things back on track, and that works fine, but sometimes that comment is clumsy, and others don't make any indication that they support it. Other times no one says anything at all. We have tried, over the years, to make a better definition of our purpose, but our egos have a field day with that, and we have really argued with each other, and at one point part of us split off and formed another group. So, the question I think is, “How can I practice the loving lessons of the Course, when I’m still in the process of learning those lessons?” I will appreciate your comments.
Answer: Readiness does not mean mastery, Jesus tells us (T.2.VII.7). You simply practice as best you can; then review what happened, bring your mistakes to the love of Jesus, and ask his help to forgive yourself for not being perfect. There actually is no more effective way to learn this Course. The willingness to apply whatever you have learned is all that counts in the end, not how well you applied it. The ego would be thrilled if you put the practice of the Course on hold until you thought you had learned everything. Jesus, on the other hand, just asks that we turn to him and ask his help every step of the way, without judging ourselves. The essence of the process is learning how to trust, and identify with, his loving presence in our minds. He asks us to “trust implicitly your willingness, whatever else may enter. Concentrate only on this, and be not disturbed that shadows surround it. That is why you came. If you could come without them you would not need the holy instant. Come to it not in arrogance, assuming that you must achieve the state its coming brings with it” (T.18.IV.2:3,4,5,6,7).
There is nothing in the Course about how to conduct group study, and it is not essential to be part of a group in order to learn and practice the Course. If you want to be in a group, however, it can be an excellent opportunity to practice what you have learned about special relationships and the authority problem. You can be there with the Holy Spirit or Jesus guiding you, in which case you would be learning how to perceive your interests as the same as everyone else’s, despite the differences in form and behavior. Or you can be there with the ego, in which case you would be reinforcing the ego’s view that your interests conflict with others’ interests and that the differences among you are serious and meaningful. It is no different than any other special relationship in that sense. You may choose to leave the group and form another one with the ego guiding you -- which will result in condemnation, resentment, frustration, specialness, etc., or with the Holy Spirit or Jesus guiding you -- which will result in your being peaceful, and without judgment of yourself or anyone else.
Question #493: We have a person who comes to our meetings who is very hostile and angry. It is obvious that she has mental problems. She has been asked to leave one ACIM group and has been forcibly removed from an AA meeting by the police. We have tried to think of her as our greatest teacher and welcome her. No one tries to provoke her and rarely does anyone argue with her. It just elevates the situation. We let her have her say and say thank you and go on with the meeting. Rarely can anyone follow her train of thought. The other week, she was very angry and started yelling at the group. I had this vision of a three-year-old pulling a temper tantrum. I was not angry as I would not be angry at a three-year-old. I would however leave the room or remove the child. I don't believe spiritual is being a doormat and saying it's okay because that is the way you are and it is all right to treat me like this. I do believe the Course wants us to come from a place of love and not anger. Is it unreasonable to ask for a certain type of decorum from her at the meetings? Would it ever be appropriate according to A Course in Miracles to ask someone to leave if they refused to abide by the rules?
Answer: This type of situation is more common than not in groups, and it is one that has led to distortions and misinterpretations of Course teachings. Yes, it is entirely in keeping with the spirit and message of A Course in Miracles to ask someone to leave a group. Depending on one’s inner guidance, it can be the only loving thing to do, for all concerned. Your analogy with a three-year-old having a temper tantrum is a good one. It does no good for either the parent or the child to condone that type of behavior; the child needs to know that there are limits and that the parent is in control, however much the behavior signals the opposite. This applies to adults as well. Somewhere deep within our minds we are absolutely terrified that we might be right in thinking that the ego is all there is -- that all is chaos and we can never return to our true Home. We desperately want to hear that we are wrong about that. We may not choose to turn in that direction, but there is at least some comfort in knowing we are not caught in a black hole of chaos and despair, that there is a way out if we choose to go in that direction.
But the key idea, as you say, is to learn how to stop hurtful, aggressive behavior in a way that is firm and resolute, yet kind. This requires some insight in our own tendencies to project our guilt onto others and then judge them so that we will come out on top -- the innocent ones. If that tendency, along with all fear and feelings of victimization can be set aside, if only for an instant, then the way for love to respond has been cleared. And then we can "step back and let Him lead the way" (W.pI.155).
* 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.