My thoughts about A Course in Miracles, the Course community, and news about various Course related projects and events.
Morality and A Course In Miracles
Although Jesus in the Gospels speaks of self-righteousness and Jesus in A Course In Miracles speaks of fear, none of the theories or traditions of morality seem to address these issues. Modern social science has suggested, with some degree of validity, that fear in combination with self-righteousness is a predictor of violent aggressive behavior. Those who view themselves as holy are more likely to do unholy deeds simply because they consider themselves to be holy. As an extreme example, Christopher Scarver beat Jeffrey Dahlmer and another inmate to death with a metal bar while the three were on a prison work detail together. Scarver said that God told him to do it. How do fear and self-righteousness fit into a comprehensive framework of morality?
The morality of morality (meta morality) - How do issues of authority and control (authorship?) relate to moral traditions and systems? How are moral systems used to maintain or reform the status quo when one level of moral development conflicts with another? For example, when the post-conventional morality of social justice and civil disobedience clashes with the conventional morality of law and order? Or when cultural worlds collide?
Sex is only briefly discussed in A Course In Miracles (urtext). Marriage and gender roles are not discussed at all, as such. Both sex and marriage are a large part of human life and they play a prominent part in many moral systems (both conventional secular and religious). Can ACIM’s stance on “special relationships” be viewed as an attack on the religious or secular institution of marriage?
I began the week with the belief that A Course In Miracles (ACIM) lacked any substantial discussion of morality or right conduct in the world. This, it seems, has been the consensus of opinion among both students and teachers of ACIM for the last forty-five years.
After researching the question of moral philosophy and ethics in general, I soon realized that A Course In Miracles is packed full of morality and ethics, from beginning to end, but that I had been blind to it . . . until I looked. When I focused on the issue, I discovered I had only a child's understanding of what morality and ethical persuasion looked like.
The morality of ACIM is a bigger project than I first imagined it would be. These notes are from a few days of effort.
The idea of morality relates to the principles that distinguish between good and bad behavior [appropriate and inappropriate behavior]. A moral system is a particular collection of values, a set of rules or a way of thinking in relation to right conduct. Different forms of morality focus upon different aspects. The most basic type of morality involves controlling behavior, without regard for consequences or reasons motivating the behavior. Some forms of morality emphasize motivation rather than outcomes, and others look only to consequences.
Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of moral development holds that the nature of moral reasoning that forms the basis for ethical behavior, has six developmental stages. His research method used storytelling techniques to tell people stories involving moral dilemmas. In each case, he presented a choice to be considered, for example, between the rights of some authority and the needs of some deserving individual who is being unfairly treated.
By studying the answers from children of different ages to these questions, Kohlberg hoped to discover how moral reasoning changed as people grew older. The sample comprised 72 Chicago boys aged 10–16 years, 58 of whom were followed up at three-yearly intervals for 20 years. His methodology is generally seen today as being flawed by limiting his study to boys.
Kohlberg identified six levels of moral development divided into three basic categories: pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional. The youngest children had not yet developed any internal moral compass and they simply behaved as they were instructed by the adults in their lives. As the children matured they tended to become familiar with the social and legal norms of their place in society, and their behavior was conforming to what those around them expected. At the level of conventional morality, authority is internalized but not questioned, and reasoning is based on the norms of the group to which the person belongs.
According to Kohlberg, only a small percentage of people progress to post-conventional morality. Individual judgment is derived from self-chosen principles, and moral decisions are based on individual rights, justice, and rationality.
Kohlberg believed that conventional moral thinking is as far as most people get. That is to say, most people take their moral views from those around them and only a minority think through ethical principles for themselves.
1. What religion or tradition tells you (Authoritarian)
2. What an individual feels is right or wrong in any situation. (Moral Subjectivism)
3. What society generally agrees is right or wrong. (Cultural Relativism or Legalism)
4. What results in the most benefit to the individual. (Ethical Egoism or Hedonism)
5. What result benefits society as a whole the most (Altruistic Utilitarianism)
6. Rational virtuous character (Phronesis - Classic Greek Idealism)
7. Emotions like love and sympathy lead to relationships of caring (Feminist Ethical Morality)
8. Theory of Compassionate Action (Zen master Thich Nhat Ha)
[9. Morality constitutes “the right thing to do” depending on our circumstances, not some code of conduct, a set of rules that must be upheld. (Vajrayana Buddhism]
10. Morality of voluntary agreements and obligations. Promise Keepers. Conventional / secular
11. Arete (Greek: ἀρετή), in its basic sense, means "excellence of any kind". The term may also mean "moral virtue". In its earliest appearance in Greek, this notion of excellence was ultimately bound up with the notion of the fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one's full potential.
This is one of the more famous quotes from ACIM:
“You must change your mind, not your behavior.” ACIM Text T-2.VI.3.4
But, the Course also states:
"The Golden Rule asks you to behave toward others as you would have them behave toward you. This means that the perception of both must be accurate. The Golden Rule is the rule for appropriate behavior. You cannot behave appropriately unless you perceive correctly." ACIM Text TT-1.III.6.2
The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as you want to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in most religions and cultures. It can be considered an ethic of reciprocity in some religions, although other religions treat it differently. The maxim may appear as a positive or negative injunction governing conduct:
a. Treat others as you would like others to treat you (positive or directive form)
b. Do not treat others in ways that you would not like to be treated (negative or prohibitive form)
c. What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself (empathic or responsive form)
In the Far East the idea dates at least to the early Confucian times (551–479 BC). This concept appears prominently in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and the rest of the world's major religions. The Golden Rule was first documented in the Code of Hummurabi in ancient Babylon (1770 BC).
A Course In Miracles clearly endorses a basic and nearly universal moral guidance. ACIM is in line with every mainstream religious tradition.
One main focus of A Course In Miracles are the instructions for Miracle Workers. A miracle, according to the Course, is any interpersonal expression of love. There are no big or small miracles, and a miraculous expression of love could be nothing more than a smile.
"Perhaps the seeming strangers in the elevator will smile to one another, perhaps the adult will not scold the child for bumping into him; perhaps the students will become friends. Even at the level of the most casual encounter, it is possible for two people to lose sight of separate interests, if only for a moment. That moment will be enough. Salvation has come."
ACIM Manual for Teachers M-3.2.5
A few of the many principles relating to miracles in ACIM:
"Miracles are healing because they supply a lack; they are performed by those who temporarily have more for those who temporarily have less."
"Through prayer love is received, and through miracles love is expressed."
"Miracles are teaching devices for demonstrating it is more blessed to give than to receive. They simultaneously increase the strength of the giver and supply strength to the receiver."
"A miracle is a service. It is the maximal service you can render to another. It is a way of loving your neighbor as yourself. You recognize your own and your neighbor's worth simultaneously.'
"Miracles are a kind of exchange. Like all expressions of love, which are always miraculous in the true sense, the exchange reverses the physical laws. They bring more love both to the giver <and> the receiver."
"Miracles reawaken the awareness that the spirit, not the body, is the altar of truth. 2 This is the recognition that leads to the healing power of the miracle."
"Miracles are natural signs of forgiveness. Through miracles you accept God's forgiveness by extending it to others."
I am here only to be truly helpful.
I am here to represent Him 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.
"The truly helpful are God's miracle workers, whom I [Jesus] direct until we are all united in the joy of the Kingdom." ACIM Text T-4.VII.8.7
“I [Jesus] am your model for decision. By deciding for God I showed you that this decision can be made, and that you can make it.” ACIM Text T-5.II.9.6-7
“For this alone I need; that you will hear the words I speak, and give them to the world. You are my voice, my eyes, my feet, my hands through which I save the world” (W-pI.rV.in.9:2-3).
The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices, or cardinal sins, is a grouping and classification of vices within Christian teachings, although it does not appear explicitly in the Bible. Behaviors or habits are classified under this category if they directly give birth to other immoralities. According to the standard list, they are:
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.” Matthew 5:21
“Anger is never justified.” ACIM Text T-30.VI.1.1
“If you respond with anger, you must be equating yourself with the destructible, and are therefore regarding yourself insanely.” ACIM Text T-6.I.4.7
In this world you can become a spotless mirror, in which the Holiness of your Creator shines forth from you to all around you. You can reflect Heaven here. Yet no reflections of the images of other gods must dim the mirror that would hold God's reflection in it. Earth can reflect Heaven or hell; God or the ego.
ACIM Text T-14.IX.5. 1
God is no image, and His creations, as part of Him, hold Him in them in truth. They do not merely reflect truth, for they are truth. T-14.IX.8.6
Many are afraid of blasphemy, but they do not understand what it means. They do not realize that to deny God is to deny their own Identity, and in this sense the wages of sin is death. ACIM Text T-10.V.1.4
This day is God's. It is my gift to Him.
I will not lead my life alone today. I do not understand the world, and so to try to lead my life alone must be but foolishness. But there is One Who knows all that is best for me. And He is glad to make no choices for me but the ones that lead to God. I give this day to Him, for I would not delay my coming home, and it is He Who knows the way to God.
And so we give today to You. We come with wholly open minds. We do not ask for anything that we may think we want. Give us what You would have received by us. You know all our desires and our wants. And You will give us everything we need in helping us to find the way to You.
ACIM Workbook Lesson 242
honor is the natural greeting of the truly loved to others who are like
M-27.7. Teacher of God, your one assignment could be stated thus: Accept no compromise
in which death plays a part. 2 Do not believe in cruelty, nor let attack conceal the
truth from you.
The body does appear to be the symbol of sin while you believe that it can get you what you want. While you believe that it can give you pleasure, you will also believe that it can bring you pain. To think you could be satisfied and happy with so little is to hurt yourself, T-19.IV.A.17.10
"It [the ego] literally believes that every time it deprives someone of something, it has increased." ACIM Text T-7.V.9.8
“The inheritance of the Kingdom is the right of God's Son, given him in his creation. Do not try to steal it from him, or you will ask for guilt and will experience it. Protect his purity from every thought that would steal it away and keep it from his sight.” ACIM Text T-14.V.4.1
T-5.VI.10. You need not fear the Higher Court will condemn you. 2 It will merely
dismiss the case against you. 3 There can be no case against a child of God, and every witness
to guilt in God's creations is bearing false witness to God Himself. 4
“ . . . . reviewing some of the external places where you have looked for salvation in the past;--in other people, in possessions, in various situations and events, and in self-concepts that you sought to make real. Recognize that it is not there, and tell yourself: My salvation cannot come from any of these things.” W-pI.70.7.5
The thinking about morality and ethics which originated with Plato and Aristotle focused upon excellence of character. This is to say that morality is fundamentally related to what kind of persons we are. Thus, virtuous behavior is what a virtuous person does. It may seem circular to express it this way, but the various specific virtues are identified in order to establish the identity of the character In the abstract, an honest man tends to consistently speak honestly, and by so doing in actual practice is what establishes an identity as an honest man., for whom honest speech is a character habit.
In the ancient world, courage, moderation, and justice were prime species of moral virtue.
A virtue is a settled disposition to act in a certain way. Gentleness, for instance, is the settled disposition to act so that physical affront is out of the question and psychological shock or insult is minimized. Gentleness includes both words and deeds. This settled disposition includes a practical knowledge about how to be gentle in every situation, and that each is treated according to their individual sensitivity. It also includes a strong positive attitude toward learning how each individual is likely to respond to any apparent lack of civility. Gentle people, then, are not ones who occasionally act gently, or even who regularly act gently but who do so out of some other motive; rather they are people who reliably act that way because they place a high intrinsic value on manifesting gentleness, and they are good at it. Mr. Rogers is prime example of a genuinely gentle character.
Harm is impossible for God's teachers. They can neither harm nor be harmed. Harm is the outcome of judgment. It is the dishonest act that follows a dishonest thought. It is a verdict of guilt upon a brother, and therefore on oneself. It is the end of peace and the denial of learning. It demonstrates the absence of God's curriculum, and its replacement by insanity. No teacher of God but must learn,--and fairly early in his training,--that harmfulness completely obliterates his function from his awareness. It will make him confused, fearful, angry and suspicious. It will make the Holy Spirit's lessons impossible to learn. Nor can God's Teacher be heard at all, except by those who realize that harm can actually achieve nothing. 12 No gain can come of it.
Therefore, God's teachers are wholly gentle. They need the strength of gentleness, for it is in this that the function of salvation becomes easy. To those who would do harm, it is impossible. To those to whom harm has no meaning, it is merely natural. What choice but this has meaning to the sane? Who chooses hell when he perceives a way to Heaven? And who would choose the weakness that must come from harm in place of the unfailing, all-encompassing and limitless strength of gentleness? The might of God's teachers lies in their gentleness, for they have understood their evil thoughts came neither from God's Son nor his Creator. Thus did they join their thoughts with Him Who is their Source. And so their will, which always was His Own, is free to be itself. M-4.IV.1.
Fear is always a sign of strain, arising whenever what you want conflicts with what you do. This situation arises in two ways: First, you can choose to do conflicting things, either simultaneously or successively. This produces conflicted behavior, which is intolerable to you because the part of the mind that wants to do something else is outraged. Second, you can behave as you think you should, but without entirely wanting to do so. This produces consistent behavior, but entails great strain. In both cases, the mind and the behavior are out of accord, resulting in a situation in which you are doing what you do not wholly want to do. This arouses a sense of coercion that usually produces rage, and projection is likely to follow. Whenever there is fear, it is because you have not made up your mind. Your mind is therefore split, and your behavior inevitably becomes erratic. Correcting at the behavioral level can shift the error from the first to the second type, but will not obliterate the fear. T-2.VI.5.1
It is possible to reach a state in which you bring your mind under my guidance without conscious effort, but this implies a willingness that you have not developed as yet. T-2.VI.6.1
Yet we have learned that behavior is not the level for either teaching or learning, since you can act in accordance with what you do not believe. To do this, however, will weaken you as a teacher and a learner because, as has been repeatedly emphasized, you teach what you <do> believe. An inconsistent lesson will be poorly taught and poorly learned. T-7.V.2.4 .4-6
I do not perceive my own best interests. In no situation that arises do you realize the outcome that would make you happy. Therefore, you have no guide to appropriate action and no way of judging the result. W-pI.24.1.1-2
As the teacher of God advances in his training, he learns one lesson with increasing thoroughness. He does not make his own decisions; he asks his Teacher for His answer, and it is this he follows as his guide for action. This becomes easier and easier, as the teacher of God learns to give up his own judgment. M-9.2.1-3
Judgment, like other devices by which the world of illusions is maintained, is totally misunderstood by the world. It is actually confused with wisdom, and substitutes for truth. As the world uses the term, an individual is capable of "good" and "bad" judgment, and his education aims at strengthening the former and minimizing the latter. There is, however, considerable confusion about what these categories mean. What is "good" judgment to one is "bad" judgment to another. Further, even the same person classifies the same action as showing "good" judgment at one time and "bad" judgment at another time. Nor can any consistent criteria for determining what these categories are be really taught. M-10.1.1-7
RE: Marriage and special relationships - Weber-Caspers Martin Not in my opinion, Tom Fox. Early in the text we are told "planning ahead is good advice" in areas in which 'we have taken responsibility'. A marriage is constituted by the commitment of two or more people taking responsibility, as in taking care of each other. I also think that mentioning parents and their responsibilities for children as well as the teaching on a special savior for everyone hint in that direction. I do recall that nowhere is a special relationship of any kind just brushed off as merely inappropriate. In the end, it is the raw material for the holy relationship under the workings of the atonement. ...."The Love of God must for a while be communicated from one body to another" (paraphr? Txt). Possessivenes and jealousy are traits of the ego's version of love and partnership, which is mostly to barter, idolize and exclude, IMO.
[some more relevant quotations:
Behavior is response, so that the question “response to what?”
becomes crucial. Since stimuli are identified through perception,
you first perceive the stimulus and then behave accordingly. It
follows, then, that:
63 As ye perceive,
So shall ye behave.
64 The Golden Rule asks you to behave toward others as you
would have them behave toward you. This means that the perception
of both must be accurate. The Golden Rule is the rule for
appropriate behavior. You cannot behave appropriately unless you
perceive accurately, because appropriate behavior depends on lack
of level confusion. The presence of level confusion always results
in variable reality testing and therefore in variability in behavioral
appropriateness. Since you and your neighbor are equal members
of the same family, as you perceive both, so you will behave toward
both. The way to perceive for Golden Rule behavior is to look out
from the perception of your own holiness and perceive the holiness
1.70 All shallow roots must be uprooted
because they are not deep enough to sustain you. The illusion that
shallow roots can be deepened and thus made to hold is one of the
distortions on which the reversal of the Golden Rule rests. As these
false underpinnings are given up, the equilibrium is temporarily experienced
as unstable. However, the fact is that nothing is less stable
than an orientation that is upside down. Nor can anything which
holds it that way be really conducive to greater stability.
2.25 Denial should be directed only to error, and projection should
be reserved only for truth. You should truly give as you have truly
received. The Golden Rule can work effectively only on this basis.
T 1 B 36f. Consider the Golden Rule again. You are asked to behave
toward others as you would have them behave toward you.57 This
means that the perception of both must be accurate, since the Golden
Rule is the Order for appropriate behavior. You can’t behave appropriately
unless you perceive accurately, because appropriate behavior
DEPENDS on lack of level confusion. The presence of level confusion
ALWAYS results in variable reality testing, and hence variability in
T 1 B 36h. Since you and your neighbor are equal members of the
same family, as you perceive both, so will you behave toward both.
The way to perceive for Golden Rule behavior is to look out from the
perception of your own holiness and perceive the holiness of others.
GOLDEN RULE in 14 Traditions of the world (scripture)
0. The Global Course (ACIM)
When you meet anyone,
remember it is a holy encounter.
As you see him, you will see yourself.
Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself
or lose sight of yourself.
The Course, urtext, par 1376.
Do not do unto others whatever
is injurious to yourself.
One should treat all creatures in the world
as one would like to be treated.
Treat not others in ways
that you yourself would find hurtful.
What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.
This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.
Hillel, Talmud, Shabbat 31a
In everything, do to others
as you would have them do to you;
for this is the law and the prophets.
Jesus, Matthew 7:12
I am a stranger to no one;
and no one is a stranger to me.
Indeed, I am a friend to all.
Guru Grant Sahib, pg.1299
One word which sums up the
basis of all good conduct...
Do not do to others
what you do not want
done to yourself.
Confucius, Analects 15.23
8. Baha'i Faith
Lay not on any soul a load that you
would not wish to be laid upon you,
and desire not for anyone the things
you would not desire for yourself.
Balra 'u' llah, Gleanings
We affirm and promote respect
for the interdependent web of all existence
of which we are a part.
This is the sum of duty:
do not do to others what would cause
pain if done to you.
Not one of you truly believes
until you wish for others
what you wish for yourself.
The Prophet Mohammed, Hadith
Regard your neighbor's gain
as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss
as your own loss.
Tái Shang Kan Ying Píen, 213-218
13. Native Spirituality
We are as much alive
as we keep the earth alive.
Chief Dan George