Comparing ACIM and Way of Mastery Question: This has come up a few times lately so I have a question for you – what is the difference between ACIM (A Course in Miracles) and Way of Mastery (WOM) and where do they conflict? First, perceived conflict – when looking upon teachings that come from the very highest levels of Wisdom – is not in the teachings themselves, but reveals the current limit of our own limit of awareness. Having said that, let me begin by sharing a critical, universal truth that all seeking awakening must begin with. This is the way Jeshua put it to me many years ago: Teaching is an art, not a science, and all forms of teaching but serve to sever the mind or soul from its infatuation with the illusions it has generated, and then entered into. The wise teacher speaks the language of the student first, then leads them beyond the very limits they do not know imprisons them. Both ACIM and WOM are expressions of this teaching art aimed at reaching downward into the labyrinth of where the student is, and providing ways and means to enter and – depending on the devotion, desire, and commitment of the student – to move through the process of enlightenment. 1
I am not an ACIM student. I am a disciple of Jeshua, who is the Master Teacher ‘in charge of the Atonement.’ He has selectively led me to small segments of ACIM, and – as far as I can tell – there is no conflict at all if one goes far enough in the enlightenment process. I have had many, many Course students come to me – and to WOM – who, frankly, seem to be suffering in a ‘stuckness’. It appears that they get stuck in a purely mental approach to waking, and this is a very common malaise that can occur if one doesn’t have access to teachers who have themselves gone beyond the level of purely mental/intellectual understanding, for they will be limited to meeting the student’s deeper obstructions with little more than recourse to ideas and statements about Reality, but don’t necessarily have the skillful art that can operate at subtle/deep levels of soul itself, nor even know how to “seduce” the mind out of its ruts of thinking/perceiving. In a nutshell, SOME students, following the lead of some ACIM teachers, say the body and world are simply unreal (there is a sense in which this is true) and thus tend to discount feeling, breath, and any need to participate in growing one’s capacity to serve others. Personally, I know that phase of the waking process. It’s actually found in many forms of spirituality around the world. Unfortunately, it can be a clever way to avoid any really ownership of egoic patterns, as well as submission to real transformation. Seeing the unreality of world, self, and purpose of Creation is actually a first step; as extraordinary as it may seem. What is often missed is the overall context of ACIM and a lack of understanding of where it fits along the spectrum of awakening, and the audience it relates to. There are certainly passages in it that reveal what comes once the radical correction in what I call the ‘seat of the soul’ is truly completed. This correction, by the way, has already been mapped out and described in certain universal spiritual pathways, and has been already spoken of by countless mystics and masters. Here, let’s just call this non-duality. There is a radical and absolute reconciliation between what seems to be the duality of spirit/matter, eternity/time, God/self, form/formlessness, without falling into the temptation to explain all realms of form away! Many ACIM students have found their way beyond this first step, and gone on to share and teach from deeper levels. For example, Brent Haskell’s Journey Beyond Words is one example. Marianne Williamson’s work can hardly be said to be limited by this first step in waking. Rather, she models a much deeper level which we find permeates WOM, and the PathWay Jeshua has led me to go through and develop for others over the past twenty years. He calls this ‘servantship’:
being moved by such compassion that one’s whole life is submitted to personal transformation; is moved by, and for, the very love of God/ Reality. And you know what? Everybody who takes up the path of genuine spirituality committed to fully waking is going to struggle, get lost, and find themselves in dilemmas they couldn’t possibly imagine before their journey begins! It’s part of the ‘rights of passage’ inherent in the waking process itself.
I have a sneaking suspicion that if Jeshua had felt “complete” with ACIM, there would have been no need for Way of Mastery.
You see, Mind has depth. It is more that just the component that forms mental concepts affecting perception. Feeling – in the context of cultivating presence, witnessing, and a growing capacity to meet all arising with Love itself – is a deeper level of Mind! Working at this level broadens profoundly the waking process, revealing revelation, insight, and capacity to enfold Creation not available at the limited level of thought and concept.
Photo by Kate Kavanagh
WOM contains the “ascending current” and absolute metaphysic found in ACIM, that yes, this is a dream, but in the sense of how we perceive it from contraction into the duality of a self separate from God/ Reality. It also emphasizes feeling as central to the process of turning Mind back upon itself to penetrate the roots of separation/ duality itself, and ends in a very radical non-dualism.
One way, I think, to show the broad stages of genuine awakening is to borrow Ramana Maharshi’s famous mystical syllogism. Here, we can see three distinct domains of consciousness, and gain some insight into what some students of ACIM (and some teachers) may be doing with it, and why: ACIM (as it tends to get interpreted in what I feel is a bit unfair to ACIM itself) would say with the first domain stated by Ramana: Brahman (Reality/God) alone is Real. The world is illusion. An absolute dualism, and not uncommon in world spiritual traditions to certain stages of development. Note, it’s the first step referred to earlier! And then Ramana takes the shocking leap that requires stages of awakening beyond the levels of mind dealing with subject-object perception and interpretation, or ‘intellect’ as we commonly use the term, to reveal: Brahman is the world! This just cannot be grasped from the first step of awakening (one which, by the way, the spiritual ego just loves to latch onto!) This final and extraordinary leap is probably found in ACIM, but just won’t be seen until the student has matured the capacity to be able to see it! It’s made explicit in WOM, in the final chapters of Book Three, The Way of Knowing, namely, that there is only God. ACIM says of itself that its purpose will not answer every question a teacher of god will have, and that its goal is a return to peace SO THAT one is willing to turn every decision over to the “Holy Spirit” (which, of course, is the most natural of the natural where the distortion of separation contracting awareness into separation is gone... that is, spirit leads, not ego). Logically, this implies it is NOT any kind of final word, nor a complete explanation or pathway in itself. Its fundamental modus operandi is to use reason to defeat our ideas about ourselves, and to point to higher possibilities. But a spiritual journey isn’t about ideas and words. It’s about becoming the ‘living Word’, which is about a quality of Being that, in the end, really can’t be contained in any teaching device, and that includes ACIM and WOM! I have a sneaking suspicion that if Jeshua had felt “complete” with ACIM, there would have been no need for The Way of Mastery. I don’t quite see WOM as just another form of what ACIM calls the universal curriculum. Many curriculums share common goals, but not all curriculums share all goals, or revelations.
WOM and ACIM both serve the skillful art of assisting the Mind/soul to: 1) wake up from false identity. 2) to see Reality/Creation more and more clearly. 3) to serve and participate in and as Creation itself. I hear often from ACIM students (and beginning WOM students) say that ‘its all just illusion. It’s unreal. I am only dreaming.’ I, too, entered and was identified with that, too. After all, we all pass into the First Step sooner or later. Hoping the beginning equals the end is a temptation to guard against! Those statements are true enough at their own level, but are only partial revelations of a full enlightenment. In essence, if I insist an object (thing, person, experience) is illusion in the sense of not real at all, I have JUST MADE my idea of it VERY REAL and am actually what ACIM refers to as ‘twice removed from Reality’. What does that mean? Something is arising. Mind forms an Idea about it, and then formulates a statement to represent the Idea. This is where we live incessantly until we begin to awaken from the Dream of Separation. And then the ego aspect insists upon it, and argues for it! And what is Reality? If we are to say anything at all, it is immediate and immediately known by being it, not by arguing about it or against what is immediately arising by calling it ‘illusion’, or ‘unreal’. What is unreal is the need to move two levels away from Reality in the first place! This is to recapitulate the primordial Separation in this moment. What ACIM refers to as the ‘Holy Instant’ simply isn’t available in any mediated level of attention/use of awareness. I feel that a common obstacle all students (and many teachers, especially if they cease being students!) risk is the hope that what they are studying is the ‘final word’ about Reality, unaware that they are settling for a new ‘translation/
But a spiritual journey isn’t about ideas and words. It’s about becoming the ‘living Word’
And the one word that is a symbol of the Idea that most perfectly reflects Reality has only four letters:
understanding’, rather than entering the way of radical transformation which opens one’s very being to the immediate apprehension in, of, and as, Reality as such. And the one word that is a symbol of the Idea that most perfectly reflects Reality has only four letters: LOVE. God IS, Love. It is QUITE true, of course, that as ACIM says, “what is real cannot be threatened, and what is unreal does not exist.” Yes to that! What IS real is not opposed to, or in conflict with anything at all. This is why Jeshua teaches us that Love “allows all things, trusts all things, embraces all things, [and in this way] transcends all things.” Love is not a dreamer, for it is not a separate “one”. And only Love is real. And it’s everywhere as the only thing that is actually real. We just aren’t seeing it, being it, allowing it because we are contracted in fear and guilt at the core of our deepest core. I have come to see into this radically in my own case, and in the case of thousands, even many who have been intellectual students, meditators, etc. for years: Until one can feel fully all the way into this core grip of fear and guilt, one will unconsciously defend it, and project a defense by ‘going up’ into the mind, clinging to ideas about the Big Three: Self, Reality/God, Creation. My ideas give me a place to hide as it were, but Love is never fully realized behind the buffer of ideas, no matter how lofty they may seem. We are contracting into mediating – and thus separating from – Reality, or (and this is the goal of all genuine spirituality) we are directly knowing the radiant, 6
shocking, liberating, infinite immediacy of Reality. We are in, and being moved by, Love! There is an immediacy of Presence that drops the soul into eternity, and opens creation infinitely, in a simple raindrop on a roof, or the falling of a tear, or a vision to end world hunger, or to write a love song to God, or cook the most loving meal your friends have ever had. ACIM says it very clearly, actually: Heaven is here, there is no other place. Heaven is now, there is no other time. WOM may go farther than ACIM in making it abundantly clear that this is true, and therefore, creation is already timeless and infinite and ceaseless in its unfolding, and invites us all to go all the way BACK INTO A CREATION UTTERLY TRANSFORMED and renewed and enfolded, and celebrated!
The key theme of ACIM is essentially Forgiveness, and of course, it is also a necessary condition of WOM. What WOM adds is the call to join the dance of creation without reservation anymore; to discover what it means to know GOD IS, and that heaven is here and heaven is now. It invites us to see more deeply that our waking requires us to come back down and into this world just as it is, for we do not fully awaken until we take up what he refers to as Servantship. This arises only as we come to see that our true Nature, and the nature of Reality are but one: Love. As Love is restored or re-membered, compassion for the whole of creation arises, and the very energy of desire goes through its final quantum shift: from desire for egoic safety, fulfillment, and meaning, through the desire to awaken from ego, and into the desire to serve Love’s healing of God’s ‘one Son’; every being yet imprisoned in the suffering of a fully illusory separation, fused to the vicious cycle of guilt, fear, and projection of these. This is why there is no liberation FOR the self, but only FROM it, INTO, Reality. Behold! For God looked upon all He created and said, “It is very good.” And when there is seeing with God Consciousness, what is seen is suffused in Holiness. And what is Holy drips and oozes with Beauty. The sipping of a cup of coffee becomes what it could never be while the veil of a separated ego-self seemed to yet demand contraction in fear and guilt. To become ‘ego-less’ is not to see that nothing really exists, but that what ego
projected was unreal. It is to awaken as Love itself in and under all conditions. It is not to be finally obliterated, but finally and fully Existent as the essence of Existence itself.
What we all need to do is, I think, give up the notion that one form of teaching is complete, and then cling to it doggedly, thus confusing the very purpose of the teaching as a tool with the real goal the teaching was designed for. Let us all be ceaselessly devoted to learning the power of innocence, of deepening Presence in wonder and curiosity, letting every moment teach us more deeply of the Love that God IS, of the potential of Love for dissolving all that may yet impede the extension of True Creation in, as, and for, this moment; this one, precious, eternal, Moment. For it IS heaven itself. Do we yet see it? Do we yet live it? Are we yet lived in it and by it? Are we really the presence of Peace, Trust, and Power? Are we truly liberated from the grip of fear and the need to ‘save’ a self that never was? Are we ceaseless students, eager to learn more and more of how to truly be helpful? Are we given fully to Love’s extension, or are we yet moved by our ‘love’ of our personal comfort? If not, regardless of one’s treasured from of spirituality, there are clearly further steps to be taken, a further depth to be plumbed, a further purification from illusion to be lived. In the end, ACIM and WOM are not the least bit important. What matters is the fruit they blossom in us, as us, through us, and for all beings in every single moment, and with each and every breath. I am only interested in the journey of all souls into their own immediate and fulfilled enlightenment. I will leave it to the academically inclined to compare and contrast ACIM and WOM. I think, somewhere, Jeshua has stated that is exactly what ego does!
jayem b For more information on Way of Mastery and Jayem’s PathWay teachings go to www.wayoftheheart.net or www.wayofmastery.com