I’m reading Jonathan Haidt’s, The Righteous Mind in order to pass on the Course’s helpful principles more convincingly. His “Central Metaphor” for Part I is; we are like a rider and an elephant. The rider = controlled processes, and the elephant = automatic processes: finally, the rider evolved to serve the elephant.”
Haidt writes, “To change minds talk to the elephant first.
We react to emotional, gut feelings and then rationalize them with after the fact reasons. The rider and elephant metaphor is similar to ACIM’s split mind in which we dance between the right mind of our decision making self and the wrong mind of the ego. The right mind is the rider and the wrong mind is the elephant. The rider represents the processes we use when we search for spiritual ways to smooth the ways we travel through the world to make the “rough places smooth.” Both concepts help us to understand our day-to-day encounters with duality.
The following passage from the Introduction to Text Chapter 24 presents a first difficult step. The beginning six statements sets the problem, and the following three help us begin to solve it. The problem is; what do we do about beliefs that suffuse and permeate our life.
Paragraph 2 sentences 1-6. To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning. No belief is neutral. Every one has the power to dictate each decision you make. For a decision is a conclusion based on everything that you believe. It is the outcome of belief, and follows it as surely as does suffering
There is no substitute for peace. What God creates has no alternative. The truth arises from what He knows. And your decisions come from your beliefs as certainly as all creation rose in His Mind [because] of what He knows.
The first part is unsettling, and the second part helps us to remember that we are still united with God. Plus, it tells us that we are responsible for our behavior because our beliefs cause and shape them. It is at once frightening because we have to let go of reliance on God interceding in our existence here, but it is also empowers us to take responsibility for our moment-to-moment decisions here in the separation.
Even though learning ACIM makes one uneasy, ultimately it will not be as unsettling as coping with the world without it. Our world is filled with anxious situations, but for many of us our worry about basic security, food and shelter is not so severe in this time of history. Nevertheless, as we have seen recently, it can be shattered in a few hours or in an instant by storms or earthquakes. Thus is duality demonstrated physically. It also pervades our lives psychologically with our right mind still at home with God in Heaven and our wrong mind playing out the ego’s dramas of greed, selfishness and attack. Or if it works for you, think of us as the rider of the elephant.
In the play Educating Rita, when explaining to her tutor Frank why she enrolled in the Open University; Rita tells him about her family singing together in a pub. Rita noticed that her Mother was crying, and asked, “What’s the matter Mum.”
She replied, “I need a better song to sing.”
Rita told Frank, “That’s what I want; a better song to sing.”
I study the Course to find a better song to sing. We find that metaphor in several places. The Pamphlet “The Song of Prayer” is the most obvious example, but my favorite is, “The Forgotten Song,” found in Section I of Text Chapter 21. It’s one of my favorites because it helps me see the reality of our spiritual state with God. (Following is section I paragraphs 6-10.)
Listen,–perhaps you catch a hint of an ancient state not quite forgotten; dim, perhaps, and yet not altogether unfamiliar, like a song whose name is long forgotten, and the circumstances in which you heard completely unremembered. Not the whole song has stayed with you, but just a little wisp of melody, attached not to a person or a place or anything particular. But you remember, from just this little part, how lovely was the song, how wonderful the setting where you heard it, and how you loved those who were there and listened with you.
The notes are nothing. Yet you have kept them with you, not for themselves, but as a soft reminder of what would make you weep if you remembered how dear it was to you. You could remember, yet you are afraid, believing you would lose the world you learned since then. And yet you know that nothing in the world you learned is half so dear as this. Listen, and see if you remember an ancient song you knew so long ago and held more dear than any melody you taught yourself to cherish since.
Beyond the body, beyond the sun and stars, past everything you see and yet somehow familiar, is an arc of golden light that stretches as you look into a great and shining circle. And all the circle fills with light before your eyes. The edges of the circle disappear, and what is in it is no longer contained at all. The light expands and covers everything, extending to infinity forever shining and with no break or limit anywhere. Within it everything is joined in perfect continuity. Nor is it possible to imagine that anything could be outside, for there is nowhere that this light is not.
This is the vision of the Son of God, whom you know well. Here is the sight of him who knows his Father. Here is the memory of what you are; a part of this, with all of it within, and joined to all as surely as all is joined in you. Accept the vision that can show you this, and not the body. You know the ancient song, and know it well. Nothing will ever be as dear to you as is this ancient hymn of love the Son of God sings to his Father still. (my emphasis)
Towards the end of Steve Martin’s classic comedy, “The Jerk,” he loses all his comically acquired wealth. Then as he walks out of his mansion in his underwear he picks up a lamp saying, “All I need is this lamp,” (then a chair and other “things”).
As I read the Forgotten Song I think, “All I need is this Course,” to help me get through what George Eliot referred to as “the dim lights and tangled circumstances” of our world.