A true nondual teaching comes from the understanding of the Sanskrit word, Advaita, meaning “not two”, or “no second,” which identifies the individual self (Atman) with the ground of reality (Brahman), meaning “I Am” and “God” are the same.
On the surface most ACIM (A Course in Miracles) students and teachers might say, Oh, I know that. And you will hear many teachers of the Course say that it’s a nondual teaching. It’s Not. Keep reading and see why this is really important if one is to Awaken to Self-Realization of the essential nature as “I Am” and through that direct experience Know The Self while still in a seeming body suit and at the same time see many of the promises mentioned in the Course (i.e., The Real World, Beyond The Body, God Takes the Last Step, The Resurrection, I Need Do Nothing, Into His Presence Would I Enter Now, etc.).
This may have started when Ken Wapnick first began receiving emails with questions like this, which is taken from the Center for a Course in Miracles extensive article on this subject.
Q. In Eastern Advaita/nondualism there is no room for relationships like Cause-Effect, Father-Son, Creator-Creation. Why then maintain that A Course in Miracles is “nondualistic” in essence? Isn’t that confusing?
A. (from Ken): The Course uses dualistic terms in its teaching only because Jesus knows that the language of separation or duality is all that we can understand right now. Jesus is very clear about his intentions with language in the Course. So to answer your question, we are simply going to let the Course speak for itself by providing a few relevant references:
“Since you believe that you are separate, Heaven presents itself to you as separate, too. Not that it is in truth, but that the link that has been given you to join the truth may reach to you through what you understand. Father and Son and Holy Spirit are as One, as all your brothers join as one in truth. Christ and His Father never have been separate, and Christ abides within your understanding in the part of you that shares His Father’s Will. The Holy Spirit links the other part – the tiny, mad desire to be separate, different and special – to the Christ, to make the oneness clear to what is really one. In this world this is not understood but can be taught…It is the Holy Spirit’s function to teach you how this oneness is experienced, what you must do that it can be experienced, and where you should go to do it.”
(Continued Answer from Ken): There are many other places where Jesus makes it clear that the Course’s metaphysical foundation is nondualistic, despite the dualistic nature of the language employed. For example, in speaking of the Father and the Son, words which suggest two separate Beings, he says, “What He [the Father] creates is not apart from Him, and nowhere does the Father end, the Son begin as something separate from Him” (W.pI.132.12:4).
First, let us say that by nonduality we mean that A Course in Miracles recognizes only one dimension of reality: spirit and the state of perfect oneness, what the Course refers to as the realm of knowledge. Everything else, the dualistic world of separation and perception, of form and matter, of thinking and concepts is illusion, and thus does not really exist.
This ontological interpretation by Ken goes on to include an additional 60-page document on the subject which further muddles the true interpretation, the understanding, and the direct experience of nonduality which essentially is the knowledge of what God is and what you are that is reading this.
A Course in Miracles is what is called a progressive path of awakening, and the nondual teaching of Advaita referenced here is termed the nondual Direct Path. Both paths and many other teachings can be and often are viable, experiential, and helpful approaches to awakening if they are understood and practiced or taught correctly. When used in its most helpful application, the Course reveals some beautiful ideas of the psychological and metaphysical understanding taking place in awakening while offering simple practices, understanding and release from this seeming fixed location and identity.
The progressive path of A Course in Miracles is using what it calls “mind training” to gradually introduce the ideas of two thought systems – fear and love – working in the mind that believes it is a separate self, basically a split-off fragment of the consciousness of God (or Source) into a multiplicity of consciousnesses living in a personal self-identity (personal self) in a material world of time and space.
This progressive path involves a one-year mind training with a systematic way of meeting the personal self where they think they are and helping them to move from the thought system of fear, time and space, and duality to the thought system of love, inner peace, and happiness.
For this reason the writer of this blog, Bill Free (who still enjoys and loves the teaching of the Course), feels that it is not only helpful to understand the true meaning of nonduality but that it is essential to understand this if one desires to awaken from the separate self-identity and experience what the Course is pointing to.
The correct understanding of true nonduality is the understanding and direct experience one requires to Self-realize lest our attention and projection stays on duality and, therefore, veils the truth from ourselves and we remain asleep in the dream of seeming separation.
Thankfully, there is a growing interest in the Course community regarding the nondual teachings of Rupert Spira and other nondual teachers of Advaita.
If you don’t know Rupert Spira, he’s one of the world’s leading authorities on the subject of nonduality, Advaita and the origin of the nondual understanding and its epistemology.
In my interview with Rupert while at the Garrison Institute in New York attending his seven-day retreat, I read to Rupert Workbook Lessons 360-365, and after listening he said, “I counted four entities that you are referring to in that reading.” (It was two short paragraphs.) The Direct Path only uses One: “I” or “I Am” in referring to the essential Self, Pure Presence that is also referred to as God. This can be experienced by everyone by asking within, What is Aware of my experience, right now?
There is a certain level of duality using the language of Him, God, Son of God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, your Guide, Your Teacher, and so on. On another level of nonduality, A Course in Miracles speaks of One Self United with my Creator; The Self that I am; God is, and I cease to speak; and God has no name.
One more important detail of differences in the teaching of A Course in Miracles and true nonduality that can be very confusing is the Course calls consciousness the world of the ego and the body while true nondual teaching sees consciousness as the Absolute, Atman, pure oneness. This difference is paramount if one is to understand and experience the meaning of God taking the last step.
One suggestion for learning and understanding true nonduality is the pointing of Rupert Spira’s teaching where you can look deeper in a more intimate investigation of your own understanding of this knowing of I Am as God Created me (from the Course) awakening by whatever means one is being drawn to follow. My experience of following Rupert Spira for over five years after seven years of inquiry with Mooji has been for me that other means of understanding.
The teachings of A Course in Miracles, in my experience, were invaluable for letting go of religious, dogmatic, Christian and other worldly ideals and beliefs accumulated over 50 years. This article isn’t implying the Course is faulty or not helpful; it can be and is for many who love and follow its teaching. It’s simply to illuminate a point of the Course as a progressive path and possibly save you time in reaching its goals.
If A Course in Miracles is the whole truth, what are we still searching for?
Maybe you’re not searching and like me you have realized you are the truth, and the search is over. It’s so good, right? However, a lot of Course students are still working on forgiveness instead of Being the light that holds all things within itself as One, knowing the Self.
It’s very simple really: We are just not sure how to have this direct experience using the Course. The Course speaks to you on two levels, and most of us don’t recognize that we stay fixed in the duality of the Course language even though it tells us beginning with Workbook Lesson 200 that the need for words is over now and we’re moving into the phase of a direct experience; that God promises to come to us in the quiet, and he will take the last step. (This is only a figure of speech.) For most Course students, I would have to say that the direct experience is long delayed as we stay located in a fixed position of analyzing or studying the illusion under the guise of mind training or even more subtle and more spiritual, “Attainment of the Happy Dream.”
As I was setting up the background for some of my questions for the interview with Rupert, I read the introduction to the clarification of terms in The Manual for Teachers to him which explains that it’s written in the framework of the ego thought system and that the Course is not concerned with what is beyond all error. This would be Knowing the Self.
I am remembering in this meeting that the Course says in many places, This is not the end, only the beginning, that its aim is not to teach us the meaning of love for that is beyond what can be taught. And there is another section in Workbook Lesson 189.7 which says at one point to forget this world, forget this Course and come with wholly empty hands unto your God. Basically, inviting Course students to begin to consider letting go of duality (although it is never explicit, it is implicit all through the Course).
These are only a few of the places that mention the unfinished or incomplete nature of A Course in Miracles, and there are many statements of this nature in the Course. I have heard over the years from Course students saying that the next level or step up from a Course in Miracles is such and such. And this is only my own point of view of course, but I have to say Neti, Neti to anything in the realm of duality or making a better dream. They may in fact be great spiritual teachings and helpful in the release from suffering on the journey home, but if it is steeped in duality, it’s just another step towards the final step or the placeless place of Oneness.
When I go back and read the language of the real world in the text, Chapter 13, Section VII, you also see that this world is not experienced with the body’s eyes, perceptions or senses. Clearly one can see that there is more to the direct experience of nonduality than merely understanding and applying the lessons of a Course in Miracles in your life. The aim of A Course in Miracles is to remove the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is our natural state. And if we can let go of the entire Course, as mentioned in Workbook Lesson 189.7, and all the dualistic characters and seeming separate entities, we will find the nondual direct path and know thySelf.
Attainment of the Real World
Sit quietly and look upon the world you see and tell yourself: “The real world is not like this. It has no buildings and there are no streets where people walk alone and separate. There are no stores where people buy an endless list of things they do not need. It is not lit with artificial light, and night comes not upon it. There is no day that brightens and grows dim. There is no loss. Nothing is there but shines and shines forever.”
The world you see must be denied (duality), for sight of it is costing you a different kind of vision. You cannot see both worlds, for each of them involves a different kind of seeing and depends on what you cherish. The sight of one is possible because you have denied the other. Both are not true, yet either one will seem as real to you as the amount to which you hold it dear. And yet their power is not the same, because their real attraction to you is unequal.
It has been my experience that bringing the true nondual teaching of Advaita into the teaching of A Course in Miracles that a much deeper connection is made as the “Self as God created me” while the language of duality in the Course is blending into a sort of transparency where there is no “Jesus,” “God,” “Holy Spirit,” or use of personal pronouns. There is only Oneness. It’s like a gradual dissolving of the duality language of not only the Course but in everything I read and understand.
If you’re interested in expanding your understanding and opening your heart to a fuller experience of your own God Self,you might consider exploring Rupert Spira’s teachings in the nondual tradition or his teacher Francis Lucille and then go back and re-read A Course in Miracles from a nondual point of viewing. You may find that you are no longer reading the Course as something to attain or learn or apply, but you will be reading it from and as the embodiment of I Am.
And if you’d like to deepen your understanding of nonduality as it relates to ACIM, you can watch this teaching offered a few years ago, A Course in Miracles and Nonduality which is the beginning of two years of reading all the workbook lessons online in a Facebook Live environment offering a reinterpretation from some of the Christian and pronoun language to a more nondual understanding. Hundreds of Course students and people with different spiritual backgrounds have written in gratitude for the new understanding and direct experience they are finding with the Course from this radical and practical reinterpretation.
You can follow the free ACIM Workbook Lessons in a Nondual Translation here if you are interested.