My Course Story
When I was 5 I already understood the ego. But I didn’t know there was an alternative. I did not know there was a Truth.
When I was 18 I heard a story about this man called Siddhartha searching for the Truth and that he found it. I immediately knew that this was correct, and that I had to find it too.
I read a bit (Zen Buddhist stuff, Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie), experimented. After a few years of gradually increasing depression, I realised nobody else cared about me and then I realised that I didn’t care about me either. This thought stopped my thinking for a moment, and in the silence I realised there was a tiny seed in me - a part that cared about my wellbeing. In the sudden stillness, I, knowing myself to be wholly insane and therefore in no position to offer any thoughts of value, allowed the seed to sprout and grow into a tree, gradually taking control of my life. This led to some abrupt changes in my behaviour.
I later realised that moment was what the Buddhists call ‘stream entry’, and there was no going back. Everything I did conspired to take me closer to enlightenment, which, now I had a much better idea of what it was, I definitely didn’t want. I couldn’t put the genie back in the bottle but I managed to dig my heels in quite firmly and halt progress for a few months. But it’s kind of like when you stand on the sand at the water’s edge and the waves keep washing away the sand, undermining your feet.
Eventually I found myself again curious about this enlightenment stuff. And a one-page advert in an alternative newspaper caught my eye. They said you can meditate for many lifetimes or we can just give it to you. It was one of these sort of ‘energy transmission’ blessing sort of things. After many years of involvement, and also some unrelated traumatic experiences (i.e. a forgiveness lesson that was both protracted and accute) I trained to ‘give’ the blessing myself. The ‘training’ felt like my internal furniture was being rearranged to make space, and I was then able to be a conduit for the blessing. I learned quite a lot from that group:
- the art and the science of how to pray (the bottom rung of the ladder at least)
- a concept of God that I could relate to, which my Quaker upbringing had not provided
- how to get out of the way
- the idea that the giver and the receiver both gain
and many other little things that I think helped prepare me.
A group of us signed up to share a form of this blessing whereby each participant both gives and receives 64 of these blessings, in the middle of Stonehenge at a ‘special cosmic moment’ or something. At one point in the weekend, while eating lunch, I overheard a story someone was telling, in which they visited a church of St Thomas in India and felt this great connection with St Thomas and was asking about it and was told There will be a book. And she asks “how will I know which book?” You will know. Sure enough, a while later she encountered a book called The Disappearance of the Universe and it sort of ‘jumped out at her’. She knew that was the book. And it turned out to be all about St Thomas and more. I, a passive overhearer of this story, was very intrigued, made a note of the book title and ordered it as soon as I got home.
Meanwhile, on another day when I was in the laundry, I saw a notice about the local Quaker meeting and it winked at me. It felt like I was supposed to go there and help. So I went. I will temporarily defer to another’s memory of this encounter because her report is funnier. She’s a regular there, and makes it her business to go and talk to new people. Someone else approached me first and apparently I put them off very quickly as if to say “No, I’m not here for you.” Then our current hero, whose name is Jules comes and talks to me and we are almost immediately on the same page. She hints at having some difficult stuff going on in her life and there’s a tear in her eye. I tell her I want to hear about it. We end up getting sandwiches and sitting on the beach for the rest of the day talking. She mentions A Course In Miracles as being her thing. I don’t know what that is. Sounds like some Christian thing. Probably not for me, but glad it works for her.
So, then I’m reading this book, The Disappearance of the Universe (hereafter just “DU”) and it’s the most interesting thing I’ve ever read. I’m taking notes of all the little things that make total sense but change my worldview in significant ways:
- God did not create the universe, we/I did
- The path ends at oneness with God
- Jesus/Jeshua was (in his time) the most advanced spiritual teacher so far and therefore a step further than Buddha. Buddha was only one with mind.
- The Bible and therefore Christianity have very little to do with the actual historical Jesus and God.
- Buddha, like Jesus, is now an ascended master, one with God who wants nothing more than to welcome us home with open arms.
- Therefore a close relationship with Jesus or the Holy Spirit is no different than a relationship to Buddha. They are one voice. And that voice is my voice, my true voice, the voice that is always there in me but never uttering a word.
- The voice is always telling us how to get home.
- Jesus had the same disinterest in the physical universe as did Bodhidharma.
- Anything that is not perfect does not exist.
- Energy is nothing.
These ascended masters appearing to Gary also kept referring to this “spiritual document” which intrigued me. Then they reveal that it’s called A Course In Miracles (hereafter just “the Course”) at which I metaphorically jump out of my seat and exclaim: That’s that thing Jules does! So I email her about it. She finishes reading DU before I do, partly because I’m not the fastest reader and partly because for the first time ever in all my reading, I’ve encountered resistance. I can see that the ideas I’m reading make sense, and contain no harm, but I just don’t want to receive them. Jules strongly encourages me to persevere and so I undertake to read a minimum of one page a day. I can read more if I want, but not less. And so I get through it.
A few months later at the beginning of January 2011 (age 26), as I finish DU and am ready to move straight onto the Course, Jules gives me a lovely second edition that she found in a charity shop for £5 a few years earlier.
The first words I read from it, I recognise as my own voice. Like, the wisest, sanest possible future version of me. Like the me I’ve always known I am, but perfected. As I read, I marvel at the Course’s beauty, elegance and instructiveness. It’s an intensely personal experience, as we all know, but there are some things about my initial experience of the Course that I’ve come to understand are uncommon:
- It all just made immediate sense to me.
- Neither the trinitarian nor the masculine language bothered me.
- I didn’t suffer from ‘level confusion’; I was able to easily follow every level transition without even thinking about it - it was obvious to me.
- I encountered no resistance and found everything that Jesus said totally gentle and loving. There is just nothing in the Course for me to react to.
Some of that may be attributable to the preparation that DU provided. The lack of level confusion is probably attributable to my already having an intuitive grasp of Buddhism.
I went through it quite linearly: Text, Workbook, Manual, Supplements
THE END THE BEGINNING