I first bought the book when I was 28. My original plan had been to start the workbook on my 29th birthday to be completed on my 30th. Oh how naive I was. I started it, sure, but damn that is one dense text. I got hardly anywhere in the Text itself and tried instead to go directly to the Workbook. After a couple of months, the exercises became too time consuming and I put it down for longer and longer periods of time. My 30th birthday came and went, and even though I stopped picking up the book entirely, I never moved it to the bookshelf even though I went years between picking it up. It always had a prominent position on my coffee table even when I moved apartments, it moved with me and still never made it to the book shelf.
The language itself was such a commitment. How could this be the way to God if the text was this difficult to get through? I slogged, I was uncommitted, I was bored and I was disappointed. This wasn’t fitting my plan. It felt like when you plan to go on a trip somewhere to ‘Find Yourself’ and instead just … find yourself. This wasn’t making me feel anything profound or different or spiritual. This felt like bad homework. So, I let it go.
I’m now coming up to my 33rd birthday and I have picked it up again. This time, I’m not looking at the workbook but am solely focused on the Text itself. At first, the language made me feel nothing. But underneath it, I kind of wondered if it’s a tool in the way I found the structure of Zen to be a tool — a path that’s been walked by so many before me that it was merely intended to limit the expected, more avoidable distractions that are bound to arise. Working with a Zen teacher I trust taught me that it’s ok to accept their knowledge and wisdom. The point of the container they provide is not mind control but to simplify the path to knowledge. As I go further into it — though it’s never fully spiritual, my intellect is always engaged — I am feeling more from its words. Often, I see the fear and resistance in me. The concept of the Holy Spirit has been a hard one for me. The premise that I do not have direct access to God but require an intermediary scares me. The ancient Christian language scares me. “Aren’t I too smart to be a Christian?” I’ve thought more than once.
There have been days I’ve felt euphoria, there’s been days I’ve felt lots of fear and rejection. I’ve cried twice so far when reading. There’s fear of being fooled and there’s hope that it’s safe to believe. My favorite parts are when the narrator speaks directly to me of their experience, when clarification on mis-documented or misinterpreted moments from the bible is given. Those are all the parts I’ve highlighted as most of it reads so densely as a philosophy text that I just have to trust it’s logic as it feels too advanced for me to poke any holes in (though I still find myself looking for them).
One question posed early on in the Text is “Watch carefully and see what it is you are really asking for. Be very honest with yourself in this…” (page 62). After some time of sitting and writing on the question, this answer came to me: to learn to love. That is what I want from my most honest place from the Course. I feel hyper-defended and wary of others in my life. It is difficult and disappointing to read that the path to God, according to the text, cannot be reached alone — which is how I’ve convinced myself thus far in my life I am safest. It reads, “The Kingdom cannot be found alone, and you who are the Kingdom cannot find yourself alone.” (page 143) My aloneness is one piece of how I have identified myself as special, as separate, as ‘above.’ Breaking that apart is scary and difficult for me to imagine.
On days when I’m flowing, I understand what the Holy Spirit’s role is. I see that I can’t solve the problems of the ego from the same level as the ego. I do need something external and beyond. The statement “Your mission is very simple. You are asked to live so as to demonstrate that you are not an ego…” (page 68) was jarring. That’s it? But that’s all that I am. How will I know where I end and everyone else begins?
Oh. I see.
I feel as though much of my self-help was leading me to this. There was always a bit of disappointment when a book ended, certainty that it hadn’t gone deep enough, like if it was the truth then it wouldn’t have ended. Perhaps I was taking baby steps, easing towards a readiness to this ‘God language’ that would allow me to read it and not run in the other direction. Much of the infrastructure of the text I had discovered on my own. I think that is why I am able to proceed with studying it. I found there to be an underlying current of Truth beneath all the noise and activity and words of daily life. This I had come to refer to as God on my own. I had identified that a life where I had reached my potential would be one in which I felt free, honest, expansive and kind. If I am understanding the text’s premises correctly, the book centres on Truth, freedom, extension and love/joy. This correlation helps me to know I am following a truth discoverable for myself which I believe to be the only way to know one is on the right path. Outsourcing wisdom to others is too dangerous, as history has proven.