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“A HEROIC FRAME OF MIND”: APPRECIATING A COURSE IN MIRACLES A Tale of Two Heroes
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
Introduction: A Heroic Frame of Mind Eric Blom, prominent English musicologist, wrote of the third movement of Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Piano Sonata (#29), among the greatest of all sonatas: The slow movement is one of the longest and most elevated in all music. ... The truth is that patience to follow the present adagio is a listener’s virtue which has to be cultivated and that no one should approach such music lightly; but it is equally true that a better return for patience than the full appreciation of this movement is difficult to imagine and that music on an epic scale is the apt reward of those who come to it in a heroic frame of mind (all italics mine except for the first). How apt these words are to those making their acquaintance with A Course in Miracles. Indeed, one should not approach its epic majesty cavalierly. It requires patience, as with any great work of art, if its inspired genius is to be genuinely recognized and understood. Speed reading, or a quick examination of its poetic prose is certainly contra-indicated, as is presuming to understand, with only a number of readings, the vastness of its teachings and the grandeur of its symphonic structure. Could anyone hope to experience the all-encompassing essence of artistic masterpieces such as Goethe’s Faust, the late Beethoven Quartets, or Michelangelo’s David with only cursory encounters with the artist’s genius? A brief excerpt from an 1870 letter of Franz Liszt is relevant to the point I am making. In a reference I unfortunately have never been able specifically to locate, the renowned pianist-composer wrote the following regarding Richard Wagner’s beautiful and lengthy music-drama, Die Walküre: Great works should be embraced entire, body and soul, form and thought, spirit and life. One ought not to carp at Wagner for his lengths—it is better to expand one’s scale to his (italics mine). Liszt’s comment relates to the fact that attempting to change or edit the great composer’s work is not only disrespectful of Wagner’s art, but it also deprives the listener of a powerful if not profound musical experience. In other words, echoing Blom’s sentiments that came half a century later, Liszt was saying that one should not approach such music lightly, and that one needs to be in a heroic frame of mind to be able to appreciate fully Wagner’s masterpiece. Applying this to A Course in Miracles, we need always be aware of the need for us, its students, to grow into the Course’s magnitude, as opposed to bringing it down to our littleness. We need to adopt a heroic frame of mind to achieve this magnitude. Understanding this phrase depends of course on one’s definition of heroic or hero, and herein lies our tale of two heroes. Our first section, therefore, compares and contrasts the ego’s hero of the dream with the Holy Spirit’s hero of awakening, invoking a simple word play, hole and whole.
stomach. leaving a gaping hole where the Self we banished from ourkingdom should be.3:1-2).8:1). which is why Jesus asks us: If you perceived the special relationship as a triumph over God. of Heaven). needless to say. Our ego response to the question. From its inception. perpetually fighting to survive by fulfilling. investing it with power we believe we stole from Heaven.10:1. the projection of the wrong-minded thought system of separation (sin. Being nothing but the shadowy fragment of the mind’s ontological thought of lack. the ego’s self-portrait is complete. triumphing over it and leaving it helpless.V. guilt. for otherwise our littleness could never survive in the place . on the gross physical level. This is where our special love and hate partners come into play.2 The Two Heroes: Littleness (the hole: where love has left) and Magnitude (the Whole: where sin has left) The ego’s hero is the body. in which there is an innate lack or deficiency (an evocative Valentinian Gnostic term to denote the state of being outside the pleroma. and sex to fill the hole left vacant where love has left. therefore. This is the consummate glorification of the ego’s principle of salvation: one or the other. would you want it? . and water. taking the special something that is needed to supply the lack (T-1. The game of specialness has as its goal the triumph over another. it cannot help but be a veritable need machine. its needs for oxygen. and fear). and one thing only: to preserve the littleness of our self that lacks love by filling the hole of this self. The central theme in its litany to sacrifice is that God must die so you can live (T-16. Thus do all our special relationships give glory to the ego. one must die so another can live. lies in the inherent scarcity principle of the ego. completing the charade of filling the hole. our lungs. is a resounding Yes! We do want the triumph. material sustenance. or fullness. This hero’s life flows with the ego’s dreams of specialness: the triumph that fills the hole and fosters the illusion of greatness. And to defend this little speck of dust it bids you fight against the universe (T-18. Consider the body.V.. an expression of ego inflation. as we have done many times in these pages. when all that has really occurred is the decision to deny the magnitude of the Self. We take from outside and. And when we bring into play the psychological needs for pleasure and the amelioration of pain. drugs. the embodiment of the ego’s thought system of scarcity. establishing the illusion of wholeness. our lives are dedicated to one thing. No sooner do we satisfy these basic needs than the need returns. The dream of bodily satisfaction and victory over love has become the hero’s reality. filling the hole established by our perceived sin of separating from love. the false self we have adopted as our own has lacked God’s Love and Christ’s innocence.11:3-4). to wit: You think it safer to endow the little self you made with power you wrested from truth. alcohol. not to mention the psychological need for food. we incorporate what we have taken—“the power we wrested from truth”—into ourselves. attention. insignificant self is what we blow up in our experience. Its origin.I. and the body’s cells demanding to be filled once again. to use a Jungian term. the mind’s empty space where love has left. hiding its littleness of lack behind the arrogant illusion of magnitude: Within this kingdom [the separated world “where God can enter not”—2:6] the ego rules. approval from others.VIII.. We are always needing love.4). See how exactly is this ritual enacted in the special relationship (T-16. and cruelly. to invoke Freud’s concept of introjection. This little. From their beginnings as fragmented ego thoughts.
ignoring the mind’s content of having chosen guilt over innocence: . the place where sin has left. There is no meaning in the form. aimed at raising the form to take the place of God at the expense of content. as students of A Course in Miracles we need to be aware of the almost inevitable temptation to arrogantly believe we have attained its magnitude. shifting from the place where love has left to the “holiest of all the spots on earth” (T-26. It is the means whereby we see the face of Christ in our brothers and remember God. but also. we are not asked to recognize our wholeness as Christ. shifting from the guilt of scarcity’s hole to the oneness of our inherent wholeness as God’s true Son: The holy place on which you stand is but the space that sin has left. given our persistent emphasis on form (what our eyes see and our brains interpret). .3:1-6). And yet. we stubbornly insist we are right. But to hear this endless melody.IV.12:1-3). It is the lovely music of the Atonement that leads us to this sacred space wherein we hear the forgotten song. though we will always be wrong when we judge the meaning or value of a situation or relationship. arising in its place. unfortunately. and not form of any kind. The ego counsels us to focus only on the form. Yet without having attained a heroic frame of mind and learning what it means to accept the Atonement. we need do the ongoing work of looking at our egos and joyfully admitting we were wrong. Therefore. body to mind. one whose life is dedicated to recapturing the magnitude that had seemingly been thrown away. but the hero of the dream of awakening to our magnitude and true wholeness. Since our identification with the ego and its thought system of separation and specialness is so profound. Forgiveness is the pathway that leads us to this right-minded goal: from sin to holiness. not a hero of the dream of littleness and lack. and stand upon the ground where sin has left a place for Heaven’s altar to rise and tower far above the world.II. hell to Heaven. and reach beyond the universe to touch the Heart of all creation? What is Heaven but a song of gratitude and love and praise by everything created to the Source of its creation? The holiest of altars is set where once sin was believed to be (T-26.4:5]) that we had shunned for the ego’s dissonant discords of specialness. Attaining a Heroic Frame of Mind: The Humility of Being Wrong The shift from the ego’s hero to the Holy Spirit’s is the shift from form to content. We believe we have understood its teachings because we have understand its words. This arrogance not only permeates our everyday lives.. listening only to the Voice that will take us home by our attaining a heroic frame of mind. where sin has left.. Who could behold the face of Christ and not recall His Father as He really is? Who could fear love. and there will never be (T-16.V. sleep to awakening. but only to have the little willingness and dedication to doing whatever it takes—with everyone and in every situation—to remember our life’s purpose of moving through the clouds of darkness to the light.IX. we rejoin the endless flow of Heaven’s sweet tones (“that vast song of honor and of love for what you are” [T-24. it would be impossible to grasp its monumental content. Choosing to learn from a different Teacher and reflecting our desire to hear only the Atonement’s soft notes. our work with A Course in Miracles. In juxtaposition to this sorry excuse for a hero.3 where love has left. Jesus presents us with the genuine article. love is content. And here you see the face of Christ. The special relationship is a ritual of form.6:1). which is the substance of the ego’s mindless world of bodies.
meaning that we are great because of our Identity as God’s Son.. passing through the normal steps of spiritual development: a child. Apropos of this. fifty when for the first time I was audacious enough to perform the G Minor [Symphony #40].VII.4 when we have not yet done the work—day in and day out—that would allow us humbly to reflect in our lives the love that is the essence of the Course. . not having attained an inner maturity would seriously hinder his growing into the profound world of the Master’s final period. without any qualms. lion. if not crawl. In my workshops and classes I frequently read Helen’s lovely poem “A Jesus Prayer. I recall my younger days wherein I spent many an afternoon and evening (sometimes mornings as well!) as a standee at the old Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. familiar to almost all students of A Course in Miracles: “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” (T-29.” he stated. and later a book. we must first recognize our littleness. In other words. Relevant here is a favorite story of mine. And I wondered at all the young conductors who. the subject of one of my earlier workshops.. the Maestro stated: It needs some maturity to understand the depth of emotion which speaks in Mozart’s seeming tranquillity and measure. involving Bruno Walter.” I thought to myself that this was the perfect way not to learn it. Thinking we have mastered A Course in Miracles. We need to experience how unhappy this makes us. as Dr. To be sure.IV. Standing long hours outside. The essence of such growth into a truly heroic frame of mind is accepting what we can think of as the humility of being wrong. I was . when in fact we are barely ready for it. “I could better learn how to play it. and . for while performing it publicly might help him master the technical challenges of playing Beethoven. but with the same meaning of moving beyond the guilt and fear of spiritual childhood.1:9). and the tremendous pull toward surrounding ourselves with “the little interferers [that] pull us to littleness” (T-23.. had such a feeling of responsibility and of the difficulty to perform it. and then a child—different terms. even in inclement weather. Likewise. a late Beethoven sonata. CD.3:1). His answer. I wondered out loud. we progress through the stages of being a camel. Walter did years before me.in. in Nietzsche’s famous parable from Thus Spoke Zarathustra. One fellow standee was a music student who pridefully announced to me one day that he would soon be giving a piano recital and playing. before we can run. . we should feel humility as we stand before the Course. waiting to be granted entry into the majestic edifice (now given way to a gigantic office complex) made fast friends of us operaphiles. using the world as a classroom in which we grow and mature. and yet great in Him” (T-15... used differently.” in which we pray that we can grow up and become like our elder brother.. being so young. Or. we must first learn to walk. Jesus urges us to “Be humble before Him. among other things. Before we can remember the magnitude of our Identity as Christ. Speaking of God. being its source. finally achieving the innocence of the Child or spirit. to my mind the greatest Mozart conductor of the twentieth century. a man and then a spirit. brimming with the confidence of youth. as enunciated by this line from the text. and yet humble because He is our Creator and Source of the love that we are.4:1). is the height of our spiritual arrogance. “This way. recognizing the undoing of guilt we need accomplish before we can remember our Identity as Christ. we need to do the daily work so that we can grow up and attain a truly heroic state of mind. I ... just went ahead and conducted all these works which asked for such depth of feeling and such maturity of technique. In an interview near the end of his long and celebrated life. surprised me. how he could possibly perform such a musically and spiritually mature work in public. we need His help (through the Holy Spirit) to awaken to this reality as His one Son. Moreover.
.. By looking at the situation through the eyes of kindness and not specialness. our natural tendency is to see them as existing solely to wait on us. [The Holy Spirit’s] message is not indirect..6-8). imagine the gains to us when we can transcend these superficial perceptions and recognize that our going into the place of business was for our joint salvation. with anyone. The most challenging aspect of Jesus’ role as teacher is to motivate us to see the immensity of our learning opportunities. . Hold infinity in the palm of your hand. our bodies.13:7) before we can accept our magnitude. . Even at the level of the most casual encounter. regardless of the circumstances: truth and illusion.I. 193. that we learn a lot” (W-pI. which is why there is no order of difficulty in miracles (T1.1).4:8).. and therefore the experience of shared . as it threatens our very self (special and separated). for instance. but about them. Salvation has come (M-3. God and the ego. Each of them has the potential for becoming a teachinglearning situation.2:1. 161. vision or judgment. anywhere.2:1-2. It consists of what seem to be very casual encounters. Because our fear of reality (perfect love and oneness) is too great. that is why they are being paid. but look beyond the surface purposes to the underlying content we all share as children separated from their Father. it is possible for two people to lose sight of separate interests. That is the meaning of some of the early workbook lessons. And eternity in an hour. The size of the encounter is irrelevant. 24. And a heaven in a wild flower. “I do not perceive my own best interests” and “I do not know what anything is for” (W-pI. We must learn “to see a little. and what gives us pleasure and pain. When we are with someone.. . As we read from the manual for teachers about the seeming levels of learning: The simplest level of teaching appears to be quite superficial. Since time is illusory and everything happens simultaneously.5 how we cling with a passion to our certainty of being right about the world. For example. after all. In the famous words of William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence: To see a world in a grain of sand. Salvation and the complete healing of the mind is available to us at any time. we do not make the relationship about ourselves. these steps coalesce into one: no longer seeing another’s interests as apart from our own (M-1. we do not put our needs above another’s. What helps drive this point home is to remember that the sole cause of all distress is our belief in separation. the indirect learning Jesus discusses in the section on “The Happy Learner”: Indirect proof of truth is needed in a world made of denial. we need to learn gently and slowly. when involved with service people in a restaurant or department store. And what are these little steps that will exponentially metamorphose into the journey’s end? Very simply. serving our needs.I.25). Yet. That moment will be enough.4.1:2). even in the seeming minuscule. 5:2). everything we experience emanates from the decision-making mind’s choice between two simple alternatives. This idea cannot be emphasized enough. if only for a moment. And so we need to learn from our everyday experiences. but He must introduce the simple truth into a thought system which has become so twisted and so complex you cannot see that it means nothing (T-14.. taking the “little steps” of salvation (W-pI.
you have given it no power. treat Jesus’ teachings that way. And each world follows surely from its source. Two choices alone are available to us: Each has its outcome in a different world. we must. And that we do. Christ’s strength: You always choose between your weakness and the strength of Christ in you.X. and you accept it. .. that our fear of who we truly are—heroes of the Holy Spirit’s dream instead of the ego’s—impels us continually to give away our decisionmaking power to the powers of littleness that seem to determine what we think.. whenever we do not look at the world through the eyes of our special needs and selfcentered weakness.4). pledges. The certain outcome of the lesson that God’s Son is guilty is the world you see.VIII. including A Course in Miracles. the core of our existence. You do not have to strive for it [magnitude].. using them to reinforce our littleness and body identification. and do. as we just saw—Let not the little interferers pull you to littleness—and why he unveils the secret vows.3:5. 4:3-5. we can understand that our attitude toward A Course in Miracles reflects our attitude toward ourself.14:2). This is why Jesus reminds us: Alone we are all lowly. Jesus pleads with us: Be not content with littleness.. Simply by never using weakness to direct your actions. And yet we all experience the pull to littleness.2:3.1:5-7). but remain as God created us: “a Oneness joined as One” (T-25. because you have it.5-6). perforce. The italicized sentence above is crucial. . Our purpose. to live in a heroic frame of mind and not be tempted by the heroes of the ego’s petty nightmares of guilt and hate.VIII.1:1. therefore. It is the shift from the littleness of the separated state to the magnitude of our shared Self. This is why Jesus exhorts us to be vigilant.6 purpose—regardless of its form or magnitude—gently reflects the Atonement principle that we are not separate. T-21. The intense brightness is the spark of the Great Ray that is our reality as Christ. By so doing. We first look inside and choose the hero of our dreams. How could it not be? Can you who see yourself within a body know yourself as an idea? Everything you recognize you identify with externals. Will we be the hero of littleness or magnitude? Will we approach the Course’s magnitude in a heroic frame of mind or with the arrogance of the spiritually immature? If we think we are separated physical entities. and that choice determines how we perceive the world.V.VI. . All your striving must be directed against littleness. and promises we make to each other to keep the Sonship in a perpetual and mindless state of physical life in the world (T-28. something outside itself. to restate this crucial thought. To hold your magnitude in perfect awareness in a world of littleness is a task the little cannot undertake (T-15. my italics). You cannot even think of God without a body. but together we shine with brightness so intense that none of us alone can even think of it (T-13. or in some form you think you recognize (T-18. Littleness is the offering you give yourself. It requires tremendous discipline and constant vigilance to maintain awareness that littleness is a defense against recognizing our magnitude..7:1). Each of us walks this earth desperately trying to gain allies to reinforce our little identity. Asking us to be heroes of his dream.1:1). is to hold our magnitude in awareness throughout the day. but rather through the eyes of magnitude. for that preserves our individual and special state.3-4. for it does require vigilance to protect your magnitude in this world.. It is a . And the light of Christ in you is given charge of everything you do (T-31.I.in. feel. Projection makes perception (T-13.III. You offer this in place of magnitude. oaths.
and live through them in “momentary promptings of [their] imagination. such an unimaginative and loveless recitation of the Course would be. recognizing in Jesus’ words an extension of their inner love and wisdom. Let us listen and generalize from his exhortation to the performer. [The pianist needs] to yield to momentary promptings of his imagination during the performance. Here are some brief excerpts from Blom’s essay: The pianist who hands Beethoven to his public cut and dried.155. 1:1-4). For it is a matter of musical response that comes from within and cannot be instilled. rather than diminishing it as a way of diminishing ourselves. 195. .9:3). And the ones who walk the world as you do recognize their own (W-pI. the notes we listen for.VI. in the words of St. You do not change appearance.. mere repetition of the words or principles of A Course in Miracles without being infused by the student’s (or teacher’s) experience of their truth leaves one a lifeless spiritual automaton.8:1). as we saw just above.7:3). and truly live the hero’s life that Jesus holds out for us in his course. they let it speak. It is what lies behind .” In words familiar to readers of our newsletter. they do so by first recognizing the epic scale of the self within. . And when these awakening right-minded heroes approach A Course in Miracles. to which we can add those who sincerely wish to walk the world as they . To shift to a famous analogy.. Paul.7:2-5. and everything is lit with hope and sparkles with a gentle friendliness (T-31. Your forehead is serene. and we need to be very clear that when we experience the hopeless and despairing life of the ego’s hero we have no cause to point to but ourselves.7 world of terror and despair. your eyes are quiet. or live the Course from without—their words or actions—but havingidentified with its loving wisdom. The perception and experience of these mighty words go far beyond what is on the printed page.to [his] bitterness” (W-pI. Students in a heroic frame of mind do not speak. they exemplify Jesus’ teachings on resurrection (awakening from the ego’s dream of death) by demonstrating that he lives in them (T-11. for nothing but our own fear stands between us and the heroic frame of mind that will enable us to grow into magnitude. The choice is ours. Eric Blom. These are the happy effects of choosing to grow into the Course’s epic scale. like a noisy gong or clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1)... although it seems to be. but it is recognized... hearing the call that we be all that we are in order to hear the lofty music behind the Course’s simple notes. though you smile more frequently. In other words. The outcome of the lesson that God’s Son is guiltless is a world in which there is no fear.. . by those who walk the world as these genuine heroes do. teach. Therefore no one is “entitled. Such demonstration cannot be faked. Living the Heroic Frame of Mind We begin our concluding section with this brief passage from the beginning of Lesson 155: There is a way of living in the world that is not here. whom I quoted at the beginning of this article.I. without daring for a moment to let the music sway him by its own power is as lifeless as the actor who simply follows the producer’s instructions like an automaton. wrote an essay “On the Playing of Beethoven”5 in which he reflected on this need for a heroic frame of mind in the pianist setting out to play Beethoven. teach.
range. large or small. object. In the spirit of the first principle of miracles. or for no one. genuine heroes with a heroic frame of mind who would unite their forgiven voices in harmony with the hymn to Heaven.. and they look upon the world through the Heavenly judgment that sees either expressions of love or calls for it (T-14. And what was tiny then has soared into a magnitude of song in which the universe has joined with but a single voice . . but rather it is only on remaining in touch with the music within. true heroes who would hear the music of his message. Coming to the Course with a heroic frame of mind enables the student to comprehend fully this profound teaching. what Wagner termed the melos of music—the inner melody that unifies a composition and supplies its creative life. for real students. but his words have remained emblazoned in my heart for close to four decades.8 do. I did not remain in the monastery long enough to witness if this holy man’s efforts bore fruit. and sing their song of gratitude and praise. animate or inanimate. thereby learning how to live it every moment of every day. every relationship and outer event is approached in the same way: with love. it does not matter how superficial or significant an encounter is. and you will join the lights of Heaven there. one chorus. and is what distinguishes them from those whose fear still blocks the free flow of love to all things of the world.IV. so will you go with them. without exception and regardless of its myriad and disparate forms. In his course. Only then could their song rise up and into the world to call. one voice.I. And as they come to you to be complete. which “lies behind. And each one joins the singing at the altar that was raised within the tiny spot that sin proclaimed to be its own. rebuked his monks for being lax in their monastic vocation. long forgotten.5. an otherwise gentle and patient soul. for that is the message of A Course in Miracles: forgiveness is for all. For no one hears the song of Heaven and remains without a voice that adds its power to the song. how great will be the joy in Heaven when you join the mighty chorus to the Love of God! (T-26. or differing criteria for evaluating the relative importance of events. This consistency of love is the hallmark of true heroes. “All expressions of love are maximal” (T-1. learning to respond differently to different situations. during all times. When I was in a monastery in Israel. singing in joyous gratitude to the one God.X. there to be nurtured and nourished by the daily practice of forgiveness and kindness for all people. take it into their hearts. and makes it sweeter still. returning as one Son.” By so doing. as did their teacher before them. His vision permeates every person.. gently adapting to the form appropriate to the circumstance. I attended a community meeting where the angry abbot. the content of love remains the same. and situation in their day. 6:3). and in all circumstances. there to complete the journey begun in that ancient instant. significant or insignificant.1:4). I hear Jesus similarly calling for real monks.the notes. As observed earlier. He closed his talk with a rousing peroration in which he called for them to live as real monks. Everyone and everything call forth but one loving response. giving power to no one and nothing to interfere with the extension of Jesus’ love in joyous embrace of the seemingly fragmented Sonship. very shortly before I saw A Course in Miracles for the first time. Their focus is not on the world. Their united voices would call every last separated Son to the place where sin has left. the Creator and Source of all that is: Where sin once was perceived will rise a world that will become an altar to the truth. By their hearing the Holy Spirit’s forgotten song in their heart.7:1). No order of difficulty in miracles means no order.
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