SEPARATION – REDUX FOR THESE TIMES

Andrew Brown’s recent article in the Browser reminded me of the Course teaching about the separation, which, due to the extreme divisions throughout the world, led me to re-visit that issue.

Brown tells about his years as a young man in Sweden when he observed unity there. He then contrasts that time with recent months when that is fractured by conflicting beliefs regarding immigrants. Their mostly cohesive society of the late 20th century is now divided by racial animus (as is ours). Brown tells how that led a Swedish white supremacist to murder school teachers and children. Brown describes the man’s mind set this way.

There is… the question that echoes at the edge of hearing, which has to do with the opaque banality of his life: the sense that beneath all the social explanations, and even the psychological ones, there is just a blank.

My first thought as I read this was: he is so separated from his fellow humans that he turned to murder as his only way to connect with them. Coupled with that is racial animus – his victims were immigrants of color.

But helpfully; Costica Bradaten gives us another insight in, “Why and how we fail.” *

Atavistic as it may be… we still find nothing worse than to be left out, all alone, the one in the corner no one talks to. There can hardly be a harsher predicament than to belong to no tribe ─ reclaimed by none, exposed to all ─ and therefore doomed to perdition.

The murderer sensed but did not understand that this world is an illusion. That was his blank. He was alone, separate and threatened by outsiders who upset his world view.

We have separation with in separation within separation. When we split our mind and separated from God we divided ourselves (at the least), by gender, families, clan, tribe, race, religion, countries and political beliefs.

This chain of separation then causes us to yearn for unity. Ironically we find it within each of the above categories. We form bands of brothers in armies, flocks in churches and mosques, and identity in our race. Thus, in our self-made separation from God we seek and find ways to overcome the hell of loneliness and join in special groups with our fellow humans, which, in itself, induces more separation.

Added to this jumble of beliefs is neoliberalism which for several decades has promulgated economic policies based on the belief that competitive markets and individual incentives lead to economic growth. Alone, living this way, too many among us behave in unsolvable ways; finding a seeming permanent individual solution for their “blank” illusory separation.

In a Jane Roberts Seth class I attended in the early 70s he shared this.

The only reason there is to suffer is to learn how not to suffer.

This paraphrase of his words could help in this discussion.

The only reason to separate is to learn how not to be separate.

One way many people do this is by joining in music groups which connect us in positive ways. We love to sing and to play musical instruments together. Sport also joins communities and team members, but all too often leads to unsavory competition. The ultimate way or goal; however, is to learn how to remember that we are still joined with God in Heaven.

In ACIM that process is the Atonement. It is Jesus’ most important goal in his course. In his Glossary Index Ken Wapnick defines it as,

the holy Spirit’s plan of correction to undo the ego and heal the belief in the separation: came into being after the separation, and will be completed when every separated Son has fulfilled his part in the Atonement by total forgiveness: its principle is that the separation never occurred.*

This passage: paragraph10, Section II of Text Chapter 6, gives us clear teaching about the Atonement and the separation.

The Holy Spirit uses time, but does not believe in it. Coming from God He uses everything for good, but He does not believe in what is not true. Since the Holy Spirit is in your mind, your mind can also believe only what is true. The Holy Spirit can speak only for this, because He speaks for God. He tells you to return your whole mind to God, because it has never left Him. If it has never left Him, you need only perceive it as it is to be returned. The full awareness of the Atonement, then, is the recognition that [the separation never occurred.] The ego cannot prevail against this because it is an explicit statement that the ego never occurred. [my emphasis]

It takes a leap of faith to believe that the separation never occurred. Our belief that this world is real is existential, so embedded in our split mind that we need a miracle to change our mind to find the little willingness take that step. That’s why Atonement is cited early in ACIM in Miracle Principles number 25 and 26.

25. Miracles are part of an interlocking chain of forgiveness which, when completed, is the Atonement. Atonement works all the time and in all the dimensions of time.
26. Miracles represent freedom from fear. “Atoning” means “undoing.” The undoing of fear is an essential part of the Atonement value of miracles. [my emphasis]

By working “in all dimensions of time” Atonement, takes place in the separation. Undoing fear reduces our ego-centered adherence to the separation. It leads us to remember our true reality in Heaven. The central sentence in the new Lord’s Prayer leads our mind to that truth.

The sleep of forgetfulness is only the unwillingness to remember Your forgiveness and Your Love. [T-16.VII.12]

The “sleep of forgetfulness” is the separation. It is based on our unwilling ego-centered mind. We need only to be willing to remember to replace the “blank” of illusion with the reality of God’s forgiveness and love. That is Atonement, which takes us to where our mind is eternally with God in Heaven. There, where illusions cannot enter, the Holy Mind God gave us resides eternally within God’s indissoluble union.

* Published in The Browser, 9/26/2017
*Glossary Index for A Course in Miracles 4th Ed. P.32

Mind/Consciousness: ACIM’s Position compared to those by Descartes and two contemporary Male Writers.

What is consciousness; and what is mind are very old questions. ACIM’s teaching about mind/consciousness is simple compared to philosophers and scientists. They eventually all admit that they really don’t know. Daniel Dennett has a position: discussed in his recently published very long book (considered later).

ACIM presents its concepts about mind and consciousness in the Introduction of “The Clarification of Terms.”  Paragraph seven there has a clear definition of Mind/Spirit. Brief discussions of consciousness are also in the text, Workbook and Psychotherapy Pamphlet, but the gist of it is in the “Clarification of Terms.”  Following is my summary of each of the five paragraphs of its Introduction.

1. ACIM is not philosophical. It corrects perception by achieving the Atonement through forgiveness. Individual consciousness is irrelevant as it represents the original error or sin which ACIM teaches to overlook. 2. Terms cause controversy, which can be overlooked. A unified theology is impossible. A unified experience is possible, which is ACIM’s purpose. 3. ACIM works in the ego centered separation to guide us on our path back to God (the Atonement). ACIM answers with simple ideas. The ego doubts so asks questions. 4. The ego demands answers which can’t be given, like how did the impossible Happen. Only experience can inform. Don’t let theology delay us. 5. Early in ACIM structure is examined then the central teaching emerges.

Here is the final sentence of the Introduction of the Clarification of Terms.

Since you have asked for clarification, however, these are some of the terms that are used. [there are six. Mind-Spirit is First]

The seven paragraph section of MIND–SPIRIT begins with the following.

The term [mind] is used to represent the activating agent of spirit, supplying its creative energy. When the term is capitalized it refers to God or Christ (IE, the Mind of God or the Mind of Christ). [Spirit] is the Thought of God which He created like Himself. The unified spirit is God’s one Son, or Christ.

This excerpt I often quote from Text Chapter 3 reinforces the above.

The statement “God created man in his own image and likeness” needs reinterpretation. “Image” can be understood as “thought,” and “likeness” as “of a like quality.” God did create spirit in His Own Thought and of a quality like to His Own. There [is] nothing else. [T-3.V.7.1-4]

Paragraphs two through six outlines the Course’s teaching regarding our split mind, consisting of the Right and wrong mind, and how the Right mind connects us to the Holy Spirit and the wrong mind to the ego. The Course’s succinct definition of consciousness is in Paragraph seven.

7. In this world the only remaining freedom is the freedom of choice; always between two choices or two voices. Will is not involved in perception at any level, and has nothing to do with choice. [Consciousness] is the receptive mechanism, receiving messages from above or below; from the Holy Spirit or the ego. Consciousness has levels and awareness can shift quite dramatically, but it cannot transcend the perceptual realm. At its highest it becomes aware of the real world, and can be trained to do so increasingly. Yet the very fact that it has levels and can be trained demonstrates that it cannot reach knowledge*. (my emphasis) *In the Course the word knowledge refers to the non-duality of Heaven.

The important first phrase in the above, ”In this world,” places consciousness in the separation and thus is illusory. It is a construct we make in our separated split mind with which we decide to choose to listen to either the ego or the Holy Spirit.

Following is a brief discussion of writings by Rene Descartes, Daniel Dennett and Antonio Damasio to contrast them with ACIM’s simple and clear view of mind and consciousness.

In, From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds (W.W. Norton, NY 2017), Dennett (mentioned above) traces at extraordinary length (476 pages) what his sub-title indicates: how he believes our minds and/or consciousness evolved along with the world.  Throughout his book Dennett excoriates Descartes for his philosophy because (referring to it as the Cartesian wound), he separates the mind from the body. Dennett ends his book with a jumble of assertions and then a synopsis about how Darwinian Evolution played a part in humankind’s journey from Bacteria to Bach and back. He includes this reference to Hume’s account of our knowledge of causation.

We can then see human consciousness as a user-illusion, not rendered in the Cartesian Theater (which doesn’t exist) but constituted by the representational activities of the brain coupled with the appropriate reactions to those activities. [p.412]

Does Dennett, therefore, believe that our [worldly] existence is an illusion, as does ACIM?   On the next page he declares,

This closes the gap, The Cartesian wound, but only as sketch of this all-important unification is clear at this time.

I find little support in his Book for his “Sketch.” During it he reminds us of Orgel’s Second Rule, ”Evolution is cleverer than you are.”  ACIM, though, teaches that we use our ego-centric wrong mind to cause the evolution of our illusory separated world. Thus, aren’t we more cleaver than evolution?

Dennett concludes his book with a lengthy discussion of how AI may influence our learning of how the brain is the mechanism for our activity.

The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, includes a discussion of Descartes’ “Discourse on the Method.”  The “Discourse” is presented there as, “the reasoning by which Descartes establishes the existence of God and the human soul.”  Part 5 of that article, Descartes’ Response to the Mind-Body Problem, gives an interpretation which calls to question common beliefs about his separation of the mind and the body. Here is the first Descartes quote in that article.

These questions presuppose amongst other things an explanation of the union between the soul and the body, which I have not yet dealt with at all. [p.11]

A “less mechanistic” view of Descartes thought follows. The mind and body work together, a different view of Descartes which lead the article’s author to state this.

…both are modes (mind and body) of a whole and complete human being. [And later] … the mind insofar as it is a thinking thing is a complete substance, while the body insofar as it is an extended thing is a complete substance, but each taken individually is only an incomplete human being. [p.16]

In the Fourth Replies, Descartes further argues,

that a substance may be complete insofar as it is a substance but incomplete insofar as it is referred to some other substance together with which it forms yet some third substance. This can be applied to mind and body as follows: the mind insofar as it is a thinking thing is a complete substance, while the body insofar as it is an extended thing is a complete substance, but each taken individually is only an incomplete human being.

These statements reveal a different and more complex interpretation of Cartesian thought than Dennett’s, and also Antonio Damasio’s.  In his book Descartes’s Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain (G.P, Putnam & Sons, N.Y.1994.), Damasio writes that the error is,

The abyssal separation between body and mind… specifically: the separation of the most refined operations of the mind from the structure of a biological organism. p. 249-250

Yet, in this passage page 252 Damasio could seem to agree with Descartes’ writing in his “Discourse.”

The truly embodied mind I envision, however, does not relinquish its most refined levels of operation, those constituting its soul and spirit. This is of course the difficult job, it is not: to move the spirit from its nowhere pedestal to a somewhere place, while preserving its dignity and importance…

The “somewhere place,” according to ACIM, is Heaven. There its dignity and importance need no preserving. “There is nothing else.”

This discussion is a prime example of the difference between the unity of Heaven and the dualistic nature of the separation where our made up world rules. Discourse, books, scholar’s papers, have, through the ages, delved into the unknown characteristics of the mind and consciousness. Jesus in his Course In Miracles does it simply in far fewer words.

The reason this course is simple is that truth is simple.
Complexity is of the ego, and is nothing more than the ego’s attempt to obscure the obvious. [T-14.IV.6]

The simple truth referred to is: we are united in spirit with God in Heaven. That is our most helpful concept to remember here in our daily life.

Adam and Eve and A Course in Miracles

Recent articles about the Adam and Eve Myth and the ancient Mesopotamian Gilgamesh story confirm their common content: God sends people who disobey him to an earth filled with strife, misery, sweat and tears. In the Biblical Myth God condemns Adam and Eve to a life of struggle, with the sweat of their brows. Many who discuss the fall of Adam and Eve ask why a compassionate and loving God would condemn his children to such lives.

A Couse in Miracles has a similar concept: we separated from God in Heaven and endure in a world filled with contradictions and complexity. But the Course teaches us that God did not cause the separation, we did, so Jesus provides us with this kind and comforting response.

God forgives and loves us.

One passage of many where that is expressed is at the very end of Chapter 16 in the New Lord’s Prayer: especially this sentence.

What can there be in us that needs forgiveness when Yours is perfect?

There is nothing in us which needs God’s forgiveness because our separation from God is an illusion.

And in this sentence the idea is strengthened.

The sleep of forgetfulness is only the unwillingness to remember Your forgiveness and Your Love.

Here “the sleep” is our dream in which we remembered not to laugh at a “…tiny mad idea,” that caused us to split our mind into the right and wrong mind and separate from God. Forgetfulness and unwillingness to remember makes the illusion.

One passage where Jesus discusses these concepts is in section VIII, The Hero  of The Dream. [the bodyEspecially the final section of Text Chapter27, The healing of the Dream.      Here is paragraph 6.

Let us return the dream he gave away unto the dreamer, who perceives the dream as separate from himself and done to him. Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh. In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects. Together, we can laugh them both away, and understand that time cannot intrude upon eternity. It is a joke to think that time can come to circumvent eternity, which [means] there is no time. [my emphasis]

Paragraphs 7-12 of Chapter 27 Section VIII include helpful thoughts which lead to the following. When we learn that we do all of this to ourselves (our separation from God), and realize we keep it secret from ourselves we can let go of this vale of tears and sweat, remember to laugh, and know that the illusion of time “cannot intrude upon eternity.”

Jesus’ gives us a kind way to let go the negative history of the Biblical Genesis myth and the Gilgamesh story.

He reminds us of God’s forgiveness and love.

That reminder helps us cope with our time here in the separation.