12/31/13

A Miracle on Fourth Street

Some ten years ago, Carmen was working as Head Concierge at the Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville. I drove her to and from work, especially on those days that she worked second shift. The employee parking lot was a block away from the hotel and the streets of downtown Louisville are dark and lonely as the night reaches toward midnight.

 The second shift supposedly ended at 11 PM, but it was a very rare event for Carmen to actually leave the job at that scheduled time. I would arrive by 11 and wait in the car in an alley next to the Brown, near the employee back entrance. Sometimes I would wait there for more than an hour before Carmen finally emerged. Sometimes I would take a nap while waiting.

One warm summer evening I got a sudden urge to stop and buy a pack of Kool filtered cigarettes at the Seven - Eleven as I headed out from home for the fifteen minute drive downtown. I don't know why. Kool is not my brand of cigarettes. I had not bought a pack of Kools in the ten years before that day, nor in the ten years since then. But, I had the idea and it seemed important, so I did it. I stopped and bought one pack of Kool filtered cigarettes. 

I opened the pack and smoked one of the Kools as I drove I-64 toward downtown. I didn't like it that much, so I set the pack on the seat next to me and forgot about it.

Carmen was working later than usual that night. As I waited in the car nearly dozing, I spotted a figure in the rear-view mirror walking up the alley from behind me. It was a young black man wearing jeans and a tee-shirt walking barefoot, with a pair of heavy work boots tied by the laces slung over his shoulder. He looked tired and running on empty.

As the young man passed the back of the Brown Hotel, he stopped to pick a few cigarette butts from the employee's ashtray before continuing on. I just sat there, watching quietly.

As the young man came to the end of the alley at Fourth Street, a jolt ran through me. I should give that unwanted pack of Kool cigarettes to this guy!

I fished a five dollar bill out of my pocket, slipped it behind the cellophane cigarette pack wrapper, got out of the car and trotted after the young man. By the time I got to Fourth Street, the young man was already nearly across Theater Square and he was about to turn down another alley toward Fifth Street.

Chasing strangers down the dark alleys of Louisville in the middle of the night did not appeal to me, so I yelled, "Hey, man! You dropped this!" as I held the cigarette pack above my head and waved it at him. It was a lie, but he stopped and turned. I threw the pack of Kools at him and it landed at his feet. As he bent to pick it up, I turned and went back to my car.

Five minutes later, Carmen came out. I drove to the end of the alley and turned onto Fourth Street. I looked as we passed Theater Square and I spotted my unknown friend sitting on a bench with his face in his hands, sobbing.

Maybe one day I will hear his side of this story, but maybe not. That's OK.

   

-  oOo   -

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky

12/30/13

Being truly helpful

One of the most practically significant affirmation contained within A Course in Miracles appears in the early chapters of the Text.

I am here only to be truly helpful.
I am here to represent Christ, who sent me.
I do not have to worry about what to say or what to do because He who sent me will direct me.
I am content to be wherever He wishes, knowing He goes there with me.
I will be healed as I let Him teach me to heal.

If the goal of the Course is the healing of our fragmented mind, this affirmation provides us with a concise blueprint of how that is accomplished by means of our individual intention manifested in daily practice and application. "I will be healed as I let Him teach me to heal."

The first big problem is encountered in the first line of the affirmation. "I am here only to be truly helpful."  Quite apart from the impossibility of knowing what is and what is not "truly helpful" to the greater plan of atonement, there is the added challenge of holding a unified and consistent intention to want only that.

"The truly helpful are invulnerable because they are not protecting their egos, so that nothing can hurt them. Their helpfulness is their praise of God . . . The truly helpful are God’s miracle workers, whom I direct until we are all united in the joy of the Kingdom. I will direct you to wherever you can be truly helpful, and to whoever can follow my guidance through you. "

One cannot be truly helpful while listening to and following the voice of the ego.

"I do not have to worry about what to say or what to do because He who sent me will direct me."

Memorizing these five lines is a worthy and useful undertaking. Carmen and I have each done so, and repeat it to ourselves silently and to each other out loud many times each day. The value of doing this cannot be easily explained, but I recommend it.

  1. I am here only to be truly helpful.
  2. I am here to represent Christ, who sent me.
  3. I do not have to worry about what to say or what to do because He who sent me will direct me.
  4. I am content to be wherever He wishes, knowing He goes there with me.
  5. I will be healed as I let Him teach me to heal.


-  oOo   -

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky

8/19/13

One Course, Two Visions


One Course, Two Visions: A Comparison of the Teachings of the Circle of Atonement and Ken Wapnick on A Course in Miracles
by: Robert Perry, Greg Mackie, and Allen Watson,
Published by The Circle of Atonement., 2003

A person would need to be fairly familiar with the players and authors who have associated themselves with A Course in Miracles to recognize, however slightly, any of the names mentioned above. However, within the insular world of self-identified Course students, they are each well known. There has been a fair amount of history between Perry and Wapnick. History of the unpleasant political in-fighting and litigation type. The Perry camp and the Wapnick camp each have its die-hard supporters, and there are several other Course camps in addition to these two.

Free market ego competition at it's best? Worst? I don't know. It is what it is.

What these two competing camps have in common is the view that their respective understandings of what A Course in Miracles really means is superior to the other.

This book, One Course, Two Visions, does a good job of itemizing the specific areas of disagreement between Perry and Wapnick. For a beginner who is overwhelmed and intimidated by the prospect of actually studying the Course itself, this book might be a good introduction. Not only does the book cover a lot of ground in a summary way, its entire premise is an excellent reminder that there are many different ways to interpret the Course. Those who say differently ought be regarded with skepticism.

-  oOo   -

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky

Navigating the invisible seas of spirit

A Course in Miracles is without doubt the greatest self-contained work on practical esoteric Christian mysticism of the 20th Century to first appear in the English language. Its influence is rivaled only by the collected writings associated with the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff from the first half of the last Century, but most of those works are available to English speakers only in translation. A notable exception is Maurice Nicoll's collected works published in Psychological Commentaries On the Teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.

A Course in Miracles (ACIM) was originally published in multiple separately bound volumes. The first limited commercial printing of the Course was in four paper-bound volumes, known as the Criswell edition, in 1975. The next commercial printing in 1976 consisted of three hardbound volumes, in alignment with the principal divisions of the work into an explanatory and largely theoretical Text, the practical implementation of the ideas through daily spiritual exercises in the Workbook for Students, and a third smaller treatise called the Manual for Teachers.

By any measure the combined work collectively known as A Course in Miracles represents a large and challenging piece of reading material. The ideas presented are difficult to accept and the presentation is abstract. A Course in Miracles has the reputation, and deservedly so, of being a difficult read.

For this reason, among others, numerous authors have published many books attempting to explain the material in a less onerous fashion. Many people are drawn to the secondary explanations at the expense of neglecting the original.

This is understandable. Every book written about A Course in Miracles is easier to read than is A Course in Miracles itself. The general idea is, I suppose, to first gain a simplified grasp of the material before undertaking the difficult job of studying the original. But, there is considerable risk involved by proceeding in this way.

First, it has happened that erroneous ideas about the teaching of A Course in Miracles are accepted and take root in the mind of the student in a way that is difficult to dislodge.

Second, the student never actually gets around to the study of the Course itself.

This is not to suggest the many and varied books about A Course in Miracles lack value. This is not the case, but their value lies in supplementing a student's study of the Course. Care must be taken to avoid using the secondary materials as substitutes for the original.

Reading the original material is categorically different from reading second-hand interpretations and opinions. It is different is a way that cannot be easily explained.

The intricate and sometimes seemingly convoluted connectedness between all the various ideas contained within A Course in Miracles cannot be expressed explicitly, but they must be discovered through experience, practice, and effort. The fewer the filters injected between the original and the student, the greater is the possibility for latency.

-  oOo   -

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky

8/2/13

A Course In Miracles 1975 Criswell Edition

In the summer of 1975 Judy Scutch had a small number of reduced photo offset reproductions of the edited  A Course In Miracles manuscript printed and bound as paperbacks. Because of the large size of the material, it was necessary to divide it into four separate bound volumes. A total of three hundred four-volume sets were printed that summer in 1975, in three separate printings of one hundred sets each. These have come to be known as the Criswell Edition, after the name of the printer. At least two complete sets of the Criswell survive today. Until recently, I owned one of these sets, but that is now held by the Course In Miracles Society (CIMS). a non-profit organization located in Nebraska. The other set has been owned by Stephen Horrillo. You can see photos of his set here.

The Criswell Edition did not include the Clarification of Terms, which now appears at the end of the Manual for Teachers,  because the Criswell Edition was printed in the summer of 1975, before the Clarification was written later that Fall.

The process of printing the Criswell Edition involved photographing each page of the typewritten manuscript and reducing the size from the original 8.5 in. x 11 in. U.S. letter size to the 5.25 in. x 8.25 in. size of the finished books.


The pages that were published in the Criswell looked exactly like the typewritten manuscript, but smaller.
As you can see, this contents page for the ACIM Text was printed from a photograph of a typewritten page. You can also see that the printing on the reverse side show through. This is indicative of thin, inexpensive and pulpy paper. This is not a criticism of the product, since inexpensive was the objective, so much as it is a  factor in evaluating the scarcity of surviving examples of the Criswell. Thin, cheap and pulpy paper deteriorates faster that more expensive acid-free paper and it is more easily damaged by use. You can tell by looking at the pictures of the Criswell set shown above that these books were never read or used. The spines are not broken, there are no loose or missing pages, the corners are not bent or rounded, there are no marks or writing on the pages and there are no creases in the covers. This set is pristine and rare, but by all the appearances that can be extracted by examining photographs, so is the other set.

At least two sets of the Criswell have survived and they each appear to have never been read. This may explain why they have each survived into the 21st Century in such good condition. If the original owners had used the volumes for any serious study, the books would have likely fallen apart fairly quickly. The spines would have been broken and the pages would have started to wear at the corners and fall out.

Here are the two set shown side-by-side. The difference in the colors of the covers does not mean anything. The only way to know if the two sets have the same color covers or different color covers is to have both sets in the same room under the same lighting condition at the same time, and viewed with the same pair of eyeballs.






-  oOo   -

Tom Fox
Louisville, Kentucky