The thought was to bring up some major points that Ken Wapnick would often make in his talks and writings on ACIM, hoping this would help to clarify things for you as you go along. I know that listening to and reading his talks has greatly aided my understanding of the Course, so maybe it will be for you, too.
Please keep in mind that I have done my best to just briefly summarize some of the key points, and if I’ve made any mistakes here, they are mine and not Ken’s. You might want to explore his stuff more for further clarification when you have time. Hope this helps : )
1) Be Kind…because everyone is fighting a hard battle.
We’re all in the same boat here, or maybe “ship” is a better metaphor in that the Course says we’re all part of the “Sonship.” We’re all part of humankind, too. If we are not practicing kindness (which includes compassion and forgiveness) to ourself and everyone we meet, we’re denying that at essence we’re all the same, and we’re missing the central point of the Course.
2) “Level Confusion”
Related to kindness is the idea that there are two levels to all of this, what Ken W. called “Level One” and “Level Two.”
In Level One, that of Heaven, there is only Truth, or Reality, and whatever is not that, namely everything that the ego made as a defense against the Truth, is false. This is All or Nothing. If there is any separation or duality involved, it’s not IT. No compromise can be accepted in this.
In Level Two, that of the world that we currently believe that we’re in, we can often make the mistake of not being kind and “normal” in everyday life and recognizing that we’re all still here because we’re in fear at a core level. So we do not seek to teach or preach or change anyone, or tell them, for example, that “it’s all an illusion, so why are you crying?” but we meet them where they are at, and do our best to be “truly helpful.” We also do our best to be normal and do things that everyone else is doing. Unless our not being normal is not increasing separation or specialness in our minds, in which case we follow our inner guide.
3) You can’t get to the light until you first face the darkness.
As the Course says: “Our task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and to find all the barriers within ourselves that we have built against love.”
It’s easy to fall into the trap of what has been called “premature immaculation” (heard that from Lama Surya Das) and think that you’re almost enlightened when you are in fact in denial of some deeply repressed feelings and/or judgments of others/oneself. If you’re still here in this world, there’s a very good chance that there’s more to look at.
5) “This is a Course in Cause and not Effect.”
The Course famously says: “Seek not to change the world, but to change your mind about the world.”
In other words, this Course is really not about changing behavior or anything else “out there” in the external world (the Effect), it’s about changing our mind (the Cause) by listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit (the “Voice for God” ) and not the voice of the ego. Much of the Course is attempting to differentiate between the ego and the Holy Spirit so that we can indeed tell the difference between the two. After all, we cannot choose correctly if we can’t distinguish between these voices.
6) “Projection makes perception.”
The Course distinguishes between “extension,” which is what God does, and what we do when we share love by remembering our wholeness, remembering that the separation never happened; and “projection” which is what the ego does as a way to hide from its feeling of guilt and fear of God. Everything that the ego does, including creating a seeming world “out there” is projection. If we are seeing others as any way separate from us, then we are following the ego’s plan to hide from us the truth of our oneness.
Also, there are only 2 ways we can project our guilt. We can project onto our own body, thus creating sickness, or we can project it onto another body in the form of judgment/condemnation. I would suggest that many sensitive, spiritually-oriented people tend to project guilt onto their own bodies, which results in ill treatment of the body in one way or another. The flip side of this is what the Course calls “magical” thinking, which is to think that by making the body feel better, we can somehow make ourselves happy. This can only bring temporary relief, however, because we’ve dealt only with the effect, not the cause, which is in our mind. So again, better to change our mind where the real “problem” lies, not our body or anything outside ourselves.
7) “Seek not to change the Course.” Bring not Truth to the illusions; bring illusions to the Truth.
Ken W. talks about a Freudian psychological principle called “The Dream of Convenience.” We’ve all had these kinds of dreams: We’re dreaming at night and someone outside of the dream turns on a light. Instead of waking up, we bring the light into the dream and keep on sleeping.
It’s the same with studying the Course on the path of awakening from the dream. Instead of “bringing illusions to the Truth,” we instead often “bring Truth to the illusions” by bringing the Course into our life-dream and trying to use it create a “happy dream” in the world. But the Course is calling us, and often quite firmly and pointedly, to completely wake up from the dream, not to simply make a happier life for ourselves in a dream world. Over the years since the Course was published, people have done this and in effect changed the Course to fit their own pre-conceived ideas of what it’s saying, reading things out of context and not fully understanding the non-dual message of the Course.
Which brings up another issue that Ken W. often touched upon in his talks and writings, namely that ACIM is really a unique and internally coherent thought system that really cannot be compared to or combined with any other spiritual path. Which does not mean that it is the only path, or the best, or “special,” it just means that it is its own unique and coherent system that if learned as Jesus is asking us to learn it, can bring us all the way home. That means it alone can bring us all the way home.
Ken W. also cautioned about the Course becoming more popular, observing that this generally isn’t necessarily a positive development in that popularization generally means that things are getting taken out of context and watered down, once again bringing “Truth to illusion” as opposed to illusion to Truth.
But Ken has also said that we must be kind and meet people where they are at, so perhaps even a little bit of Jesus’ medicine is better than none at all…
8) “Ideas leave not their source.”
For now, let’s just say that we are already and have always and will ever be One with God, and that’s Reality. As the Course says, we are a Thought in the Mind of God, and because thoughts or ideas “leave not their source,” we have never been separate from God, we only think/believe that we are. Our incorrect thoughts are merely clouds obscuring the light of the sun, which has always been shining, day and night, night and day. Again, the Course is here just to help us look at those clouds, and realize that it is in our own power to remove those clouds and reveal the light beyond them.
Also, the world is just a thought that the ego projected, and because ideas leave not their source, there really is no world outside of that “tiny, mad idea” of separation. The Course tells us that it is entirely within our power in any moment to identify with that thought (the ego’s plan), or to identify with the Holy Spirit. The choice is ours.
9) Form Vs. Content
The Course tells us that words are just “symbols of symbols.” Even the Course itself is a purely symbolic way of pointing to the One Reality which is beyond all language and can only be experienced, not talked about. In one of our recent Text readings, Jesus says (I paraphrase), “God is not a symbol, God is Fact.” Also, Jesus was a man, but the “Form” that he took did not matter, what he symbolized for all of us was the idea of perfect love (the “Content”) that we all have deep in our minds. This is why it really doesn’t matter if we use the words “Jesus” or “Holy Spirit” to signify that idea of perfect love – any other words that work for us personally would be just as good.
By the way, to say that words are “symbols of symbols” means that when, for example, the Course talks about God, it uses words (symbols) to symbolically explain to us “children,” who are very identified with the ego and thus have no clear understanding of what God is, what God is in fact like. But the word “God” is itself a symbol for us, so the words used to describe God and anything beyond this world are but symbols of symbols. Beyond them is the literal Fact or Truth, which is the experience, which is beyond all language. This is why the Course tells us to seek only the experience and don’t let words or theology delay us from that experience of God.
10) “Don’t make the error real.”
We’re not trying to destroy the ego, but rather to cease to identify with it. When we fight the ego in an attempt to destroy it, we’re just making it that much more real in our mind. Better than try to destroy the ego, then, is to just observe the ego for what it is and stop identifying with it. Gradually, over time, it will simply dissolve into the nothingness which it is.
11) “Above All, Be Kind.”
This message bears repeating (plus the Spinal Tap reference ; ). Better to forget the whole Course if it is only serving to create more separation and specialness, and keeping us from being kind to everyone, including all and excluding none.