A Course in Miracles is, to me, quite simply the most sophisticated, profound and practical spiritual document ever created on planet Earth. It is truly a document of the 20th and 21st centuries. Published in 1976, it has become a modern spiritual classic. Read just a little of the Course and you’ll say: “Who wrote this?” This is not coming from someone’s ego. There is no axe to grind and it’s not trying to sell us anything, rather it is giving us the opportunity to experience our own greatest happiness. What the Course says is not new. How could the truth be new? Truth is always true. What is new about the Course is its extremely high level of sophistication. It comes out of perfection. How simple is the truth....
As you’ll discover in reading Of Course!, while Ian Patrick has clearly set his foot on the path that leads us all home, he makes no claim on enlightenment or to be a master of the Course. He is, however, someone whose has dedicated his life to understanding the Course; to living the Course as best he can and sharing the Course with as many people as he can.... He makes no claim at being a scholar, but simply someone who has made a commitment to understanding and applying the principles of A Course in Miracles in his own life. What could be better than that? — Jon Mundy, Ph.D., author of Living A Course in Miracles, publisher of Miracles magazine, www.miraclesmagazine.org
From the text by Ian Patrick:
Once Upon A Time
Once upon a time, before I came across A Course in Miracles, my life was very different than it is now. Twenty-odd years ago, I was working in the oil industry. I was earning lots of money, more than I could possibly spend. At the age of twenty-five, I had bought a property in central London. I had a car. I travelled the world and had a full social life — a life of seemingly endless parties, drinks after work, relationships (well, more one-night stands than relationships, if I am truly honest). My life was full, yet it felt empty. Something was missing and I didn’t know what it was. Even more than my life feeling empty, it was myself who felt empty — empty, alone and purposeless.
One day, I was walking through St. James’s Park in London with a colleague, Dan, talking about the meaninglessness of life and how I felt like a hamster going endlessly round in its wheel. “What do we do all this for?” I asked. “There must be something more to life than this.”
I like to think, if I’m not being grandiose, that it was rather like Bill Thetford’s plea to Helen Schucman that “There must be a better way,” the result of which was Helen channelling A Course in Miracles.
Dan turned to me and told me about someone in the office who had done a course that had really helped him. Dan knew no details, but I immediately decided that I wanted to do this course, even though I had no idea what it was.
The course turned out to be a very powerful EST-type seminar. I learned there, for the first time, that I was responsible for what happens in my life and for my experience of it, whereas before I believed that life just happened to me and I was merely the helpless victim of circumstance. But my biggest gift was meeting people there who led me to psychologist and seminar leader Chuck Spezzano and my first exposure to A Course in Miracles.
“Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit. Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way. As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning point. This ultimately reawakens spiritual vision, simultaneously weakening the investment in physical sight.” (Text, p. 22)
My initial resistance to the Course was largely due to its Christian language. Once I discovered that these “objectionable” words were being used in profound psychological ways, the Course then felt like coming home. The truths I found in it were what I had been looking for even though I was not even conscious of my search.
“The Forgotten Song” (Text, p. 445) that the Course speaks about is not entirely forgotten and, in fact, plays always in our minds and hearts. Once we recognise it and our dim memory of Home begins to grow, we can never quite be the same. We do all reach our turning point and hear that song, eventually. There are no exceptions.
“The acceptance of the Atonement by everyone is only a matter of time... You can temporize and you are capable of enormous procrastination, but you cannot depart entirely from your Creator, Who set the limits on your ability to miscreate. An imprisoned will engenders a situation which, in the extreme, becomes altogether intolerable.” (Text, p. 21)
My life has meaning and purpose now. It may not look any different on the outside. I still do much the same things as before. I still face challenges and, sometimes, struggles. When I choose to apply the Course’s teachings, however, I experience deep peace, joy, and love that are not dependent on circumstances. I know the value of forgiveness and recognise it as my way of healing. I know I am going Home, because I am already there.
“Whereas I was blind, now I see.” — John IX, v. 25
The Two Worlds
How Not To Be Spiritual
I once gave a presentation to the ACIM Conference in Manchester entitled ”How Not to be Spiritual.” The point I was making with this facetious title was about recognising and forgiving our human-ness.
So long as we are in a body or, more accurately, believe that we are in one, we will have human desires and needs. And they are okay; they are not unspiritual. I believe it’s important to accept where we are on the path and to accept that we fall short of being fully realised spiritual beings.
As we know, the ego loves to judge. If we judge ourselves for feeling angry and fearful, for having human needs, making mistakes, or even for having judgements, we end up in a double bind. It is one more turn of the ego’s screw when we beat ourselves up.
In another chapter, I write about being on a giant Ferris wheel at a funfair, hurtling round at break-neck speed, and feeling absolutely terrified. My friend, sitting next to me, equally scared, kept shouting: “It’s only an illusion!” He was correct, but at the same time, it was okay for me-in-a-body to be terrified. It was more appropriate for me to accept myself than to attempt a metaphysical leap beyond myself.
Kenneth Wapnick often reminds us in his teachings to “remember to be normal.” Gary Renard says, more colourfully: “Don’t be weird.” For example, we do not have to pretend that we are not sick when we are, or to feel that we have failed as Course students if we go to the doctor.
I remember once feeling angry about something and trying all the tricks in the miracle book to let it go. I prayed, undertook forgiveness exercises and did a lesson, but still felt angry. Finally, I realised that I just wanted to be angry that day, and that was perfectly all right. I forgave myself for being angry. Immediately, the pressure was off and I even began to enjoy stomping around. Suffering comes from resisting our pain.
I am not suggesting that we do no nothing to heal our minds. At the same time that we accept exactly where we are on the path, it’s important to keep an eye on the goal and move in that direction. But acting spiritual is not the goal. The Course is always aimed at our thinking, not our behaviour.
For example, we do not have to make an effort to act in a certain way in order to be loving and kind. When our thoughts are aligned with the Holy Spirit, we will be automatically loving and kind.
Likewise, thinking that we must deprive ourselves to be spiritual is not the goal. “My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world” (Workbook, p. 18) does not mean we do not do things in the world. It just means that they are meaningless. “I will not value what is valueless” (Workbook, pp. 245-7) does not mean we have to avoid caring about things. It just means that they are valueless. It is how we think about what we do that counts.
Back to basics: One can have the most outrageously colourful sex life, for example, or choose to have none at all. What does it matter? So long as you are in a body, do whatever floats your boat. What does matter is your thinking — the meaning you give to what you do, your attachments, needs, etc. It is the latter that cause suffering and what the ego loves to hold you hostage to.
I have heard people talk about the dark side of humanity. There is no dark side! As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet: “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Correcting your thinking — which, with your willingness, is the job of the Holy Spirit — brings the recognition of truth and restores the awareness of your grandeur and wholeness. And it is an entirely internal process.
A couple of years ago, I saw a West End musical in which a friend of mine was performing. It was a foot-stompingly great show. The cast seemed to be enjoying themselves hugely and the audience responded with enthusiasm and standing ovations.
Afterwards, I called my friend to congratulate him on his performance. I told him that we loved the fact that the cast was having so much fun. He said that they had felt lifted by the audience’s energy.
It struck me that the dynamic in the theatre was a two-way process of giving and receiving. As much as the cast gave, they got back from the audience and vice versa.
A Course in Miracles tells us that this is how it always works. If we withhold from others, we feel diminished. If we withhold appreciation, gratitude, love and forgiveness, we lose. If we cling to what we think we need to keep to ourselves, we are actually ripping ourselves off.
“Never forget you give but to yourself.” (Workbook, p. 354) When we extend ourselves in giving, everyone benefits and we give ourselves a gift. We feel expansive, powerful, abundant, full and whole. We feel love.
This is a reflection, here on earth, of our true nature, as God knows it. Love can only extend itself. Otherwise, it is not love.
“The shining in your mind reminds the world of what it has forgotten, and the world restores the memory to you as well. From you salvation radiates with gifts beyond all measure, given and returned. To you, the giver of the gift, does God Himself give thanks. And in His blessing does the light in you shine brighter, adding to the gifts you have to offer to the world.” (Workbook, p. 357)
When we give in order to get, we are affirming lack and need. This is not giving at all, in the real sense. And we are diminished by reinforcing scarcity. “When you give ideas away, you strengthen them in your own mind.” (Workbook, p. 354)
I once noticed my own thinking about a friend who was about to achieve success. I thought that if he succeeded, it would mean that I had failed. And if he failed that would, somehow, make me feel better about myself. This is what the ego would have us believe. This is the thinking of the world.
I soon realised that withholding good wishes from my friend meant that I would lose out and feel smaller. I changed my mind, knowing that both of us would be blessed by me expressing my love, rather than my fear. And so would the world.
“Give gladly. You can only gain thereby. The thought remains, and grows in strength as it is reinforced by giving.” (Workbook, p. 354)
Let us practise giving freely and generously. That does not mean giving all your money and possessions away; it means giving all your love away. Let us do that and see how rich we feel.
“Now are we blessed, and now we bless the world. What we have looked upon we would extend, for we would see it everywhere. We would behold it shining with the grace of God in everyone. We would not have it be withheld from anything we look upon. And to ensure this holy sight is ours, we offer it to everything we see. For where we see it, it will be returned to us in form of lilies we can lay upon our altar, making it a home for Innocence Itself.” (Workbook, pp. 355-6)
When we allow ourselves to express, here, what is true in Heaven, we step closer to awakening to our true nature and to God. There is no other place to go and no other way to get there. Our only choice is the time we choose to make is so. How about now?