The Course’s Language Is Clear, Simple, Direct

by Robert Perry

A Course in Miracles is nothing but a series of words, which really amounts to marks on paper. Everything, therefore, hinges on how we interpret those words. Different interpretations lead to entirely different ways of understanding and practicing the Course. The influential approach of Ken Wapnick states that we should read the Course's words as largely metaphorical, as metaphor that is designed to conceal the real meaning of the Course, in order to shield minds that would be too threatened by its radical truths. If we read the Course in this way—as metaphor-to- conceal—then we obviously will end up with a very different Course than if we read the Course more literally.

How, then, do we approach the Course's words? As with all significant questions around the Course, we need to look to what the Course itself says. There is in the Course a whole pattern of thought around its own language and the clarity of teaching. This, I believe, must be our cue in approaching the all-important act of interpreting its words.

The point of this study is to explore how the Course itself views its language, particularly with the question in mind of whether it wants us to approach its language more literally or more metaphorically. For, as I said, from this single decision flows all else.

The way the document is arranged is like a pyramid, beginning with the apex and ending with the foundation. It is presented, in other words, in reverse order from how I did it:

1. Summary: I include a brief summary of the conclusions I have gleaned from the study of all the passages.

2. Theme Summaries: This is a brief summary of the major themes that I can discern in the various passages.

3. Themes: This is a longer presentation of each theme.

4. Passages: These are the actual passages that form the basis for the study, with key points of relevance drawn from each passage. These key points are then reassembled and form the basis of the themes (which then form the basis for the theme summaries, which in turn form the basis for the overall summary).

You may want to read just the summary, but I would encourage you to read further. There is a whole world of thought around this topic in the Course. It is especially thought-provoking because we tend to associate spiritual language with a kind of suggestive, mind-teasing, poetic vagueness. Yet the obvious thrust of these passages is that, from the Course's standpoint, truth would not express itself in this way. For the sake of reaching us, truth would express itself clearly, directly, and unambiguously. This has implications for spiritual language in general, and sweeping implications for how we approach the Course in particular.

Summary

The key concept behind the Course's use of language is what I will call interpretive distance. All we see is how things appear, but what we want to know is what they really mean, what they really are. We therefore must go from appearance to meaning, or from appearance to truth. We do this through the act of interpretation, which starts with appearance and seeks to arrive at truth. The more distance there is from the appearance to the truth (the more the appearance does not clearly and obviously reflect the truth), then the longer the distance that interpretation must cover—the longer the interpretive distance. For instance, if you ask me what time it is, and I say "2:00," interpreting my statement is very easy. There is very little interpretive distance. However, if in response to your question, I tilt my head, narrow my eyes, and reach up and take hold of my ear lobe and wiggle it, then there's no clear relationship between appearance and meaning, which means you have a lot of interpretive distance to traverse. The distance is so great that you may never arrive at a firm conclusion of what I actually meant by that strange response. Because interpretation is so error-prone, the longer the interpretive distance, the more likely it is that interpretation will take a wrong turn somewhere along that road.

According to the Course, truth minimizes interpretive distance, while the ego maximizes interpretive distance.

Let's start with truth. Truth is innately obvious, totally apparent, and utterly simple (easy to understand). In the state of knowledge (our natural state), truth is completely obvious to us. There is no distance between truth as it appears to us and truth as it really is. However, we are now in a state of separation from the truth, a state of perception. In this state, there is a distance between how things appear to us and what they really are. Perception, then, is a state which by definition contains interpretive distance.

In this state, truth wants to reach us. It does not want to hide. It wants to make itself known to us. However, the ego, which is what distanced us from truth in the first place, wants to make sure that truth never reaches us. It, therefore, tries to co-opt the search for truth. Under its guidance, we don't travel a straight road from appearance to truth. Instead, we get lost along the way. Our search for truth gets caught up in cleverness, inventiveness, and ingenuity. The road, in other words, gets extremely convoluted. All this complexity appears to be the avenue to the truth, yet we've actually wandered off the straight road and into maze-like detours from which we never escape. These detours lead to dead-ends, false truths that are full of contradictions. In the ego's search, we never make it to the real truth.

So, when it searches for truth (when it goes from appearance to truth), the ego creates maximum interpretive distance. In the same manner, when it goes the other way, when the ego expresses its "truths" in words or symbols (in appearances), it also creates maximum interpretive distance. It uses words which sound impressive and which therefore serve to hide their actual content, which is incoherent. The ego doesn't want us to make it from its appearance to its meaning, because it doesn't want that meaning exposed for what it is: nonsense. So, in expressing its truths, the ego is really hiding them, for it doesn't want its truths revealed as the lies they are. With the ego, what you see is not what you get.

In contrast, truth expresses itself with a lack of interpretive distance, which is another way of talking about clarity. It uses words simply and directly, words that are almost impossible to not understand. And it uses symbols only sparingly, because symbols have greater distance between appearance and meaning—greater interpretive distance. Because of this, symbols can be interpreted in many ways and are therefore easily misunderstood. Symbols and clarity lie on two ends of a spectrum. The more symbolism, the less clarity. And truth aims to be clear.

The nature of the Course's words and ideas flow directly from the above picture. Like truth, the Course is simple, obvious, unambiguous, direct, perfectly clear, and unequivocal. It cannot fail to be understood. This is true of its ideas and also of its manner of expression. In its focus on clarity, it devalues symbolism. It instead focuses on words, words it uses very carefully. It means exactly what it says, which means it should by and large be taken literally. It makes simple statements that are easily remembered. It carefully clarifies its statements and ideas. It tries to use words that can't be distorted. Rather than dressing up senseless contradictions as holy mysteries, it uses words that make perfect sense. It avoids the cleverness and complexity that characterize the ego's search for truth and focuses instead on simplicity.

In other words, the Course places an overriding emphasis on lack of interpretive distance. It wants its words (appearance) to so directly reflect its content (meaning), that we have a very short distance to travel in the act of interpretation. It wants the meaning to be apparent in the words, rather than have the meaning lie in interpretations that constantly shift because they have no clear guide. This lack of interpretive distance flows from the fact that the Course, like truth, wants us to understand it, so that we can apply it, use it, and thereby return to the truth again.

The Course admits that we don't experience it as clear and obvious. It says, however, that that's not because of it, but because of us. Our ego doesn't believe the Course and resists doing what it says. And so the ego lays a thick fog across that interpretive road from words to meaning, so that we grope about in this fog and never make it to the end of the road. In practice, this means that we twist the Course's words around, interpret against it, refuse to see what it clearly says, and turn its literal statements into allegories. We purposefully obscure the obviousness that shines from its words. We see what it's saying, but we defend ourselves against what we see, and so appear to not understand. Because of its clarity, we can't fail to understand, but we can deny and distort what we do understand.

Theme Summaries

Truth is simple, understandable, unambiguous, obvious

The Course's simplicity is grounded in the nature of truth. Truth is simple (4 refs), clear (2), obvious (2). Obviousness is its essential characteristic. It does not hide or keep secrets. It stands in open light (2), wanting to be understood (2), wanting to make itself plain. It is direct. It is sincere—it means what it says. Because the ego fears the truth, it therefore fears the obvious.

The nature of simple

Simple is what is "easy to understand" (Webster's). What is simple cannot fail to be understood. It teaches the obvious (2). It is direct and clear. It is unequivocal—it has only one possible meaning. It is the opposite of complexity, which obscures the obvious. Its emphasis is on being understood, not on cleverness of design.

The ego is senseless

The ego makes no sense. It is full of contradictions. It tries to conceal this behind impressive sounding words, but those words don't hang together. They are full of contradiction and don't make coherent sense.

Words should…

Words, rather than sounding impressive, should be geared toward sense and clarity. They should make sense, mean what they say, and be hard to distort. A teacher's words should be simple, clear, easily understood, and easily remembered.

Clear vs. open to many interpretations

Knowledge is direct. In knowledge, there is no distance between the knower's understanding of an object and the object itself. Perception, however, involves just the sort of distance that knowledge lacks. With perception, there is a distance between the appearance of a thing and its real meaning, between what the perceiver sees and what he initially understands. This distance requires an interpretive process aimed at closing the distance. Interpretation, however, is very subjective and can easily go wrong. Therefore, the shorter the distance between appearance and meaning, the better, because it requires less interpretation and so things can't so easily go wrong. That's what clarity is—a short interpretive distance. And that is the problem with symbols. With symbols there is a long distance between appearance and meaning. Symbols are open to many interpretations. They are by nature equivocal. Therefore, symbols and clarity lie on two ends of a spectrum. The more symbolic, the less clear.

The course is practical, able to be applied, usable

The Course is practical. It is about practical application that leads to practical change. This is reflected in the way it is expressed. First, it means what it says, and this allows it to be applied. Second, it is specific, and this too allows it to be applied.

The Course is simple, clear, understandable, obvious, unambiguous, direct, literal

The Course is simple (6 refs), understandable (3), unambiguous (2), direct (2), perfectly clear (2), and unequivocal. It deals in the obvious (3). It cannot fail to be understood (2). It means exactly what it says, which means it should by and large be taken literally. It makes its ideas, its points, its messages, and its goal perfectly clear. It tries to use words that can't be distorted. Because they are Jesus' words, they contain no contradictions that we must accept as religious mysteries. Instead, they make perfect sense. They are (at least at times) so obvious that no one can honestly deny he understands them.

The Course's lack of clarity comes from our ego not wanting to see what it says

The Course doesn't seem clear, literal, consistent, obvious, and specific. However, that's not because of the Course, but because of us. We don't believe what it says. We don't want to do what it says, pay the price that it asks, take the steps required to go in its direction. We defend ourselves against its message. And this leads us to twist its symbols around, to interpret against it, to make its literal statements into allegories, and to obscure its simple, clear message.

The Course is not complex

The Course is constructed not to dazzle us with its cleverness, complexity, inventiveness, and ingenuity. All of that is the ego's attempt to obscure the obvious truth, and the Course's aim is to reveal that truth. The Course is designed not to impress us, but to get results in our lives. Therefore, it avoids complexity and merely states the simple truth.

Themes

Truth is simple, understandable, unambiguous, obvious

The Course's simplicity is grounded in the nature of truth. Truth is simple (4), clear (2), obvious (2). Obviousness is its essential characteristic. It does not hide or keep secrets. It stands in open light (2), wanting to be understood (2), wanting to make itself plain. It is direct. It is sincere—it means what it says. Because the ego fears the truth, it therefore fears the obvious.

  • Truth/love is simple (7, 10, 13, 27—these are passage numbers; see below)
  • Truth is obvious (12, 13)
  • Love/reason wants to be understood (13, 14)
  • Truth/love stands in open light (13, 16)
  • Truth/God's reflection/Holy Spirit's lessons is clear (25, 26)
  • The gift required of you to learn the Course is true, therefore simple, understandable, unambiguous (7)
  • Course is simple because truth is simple (10)
  • Complexity is not of the truth but of the ego (10)
  • Obviousness is the essential characteristic of reality (12)
  • The ego fears reality, and therefore it fears the obvious (12)
  • Love wants to be known and understood (13)
  • It has no secrets, nothing it wants to hide (13)
  • It walks in welcome and in sunlight (13)
  • Its sincerity is so simple and obvious it can't be misunderstood (13)
  • Reason wants to make plain (14)
  • Reason therefore wants to make obvious (14)
  • Truth does not constantly shift, for it does not hide and evade capture (16)
  • It stands in open light, in obvious accessibility (16)
  • The Holy Spirit's lessons are clear (25)
  • The application of the Holy Spirit's purpose is simple (27)
  • His message is not indirect (42)

The nature of simple

Simple is what is "easy to understand" (Webster's). What is simple cannot fail to be understood. It teaches the obvious (2). It is direct and clear. It is unequivocal—it has only one possible meaning. It is the opposite of complexity, which obscures the obvious. Its emphasis is on being understood, not on cleverness of design.

  • Simple is what cannot fail to be understood (7)
  • Simple is the opposite of inventive or ingenius—lacks cleverness of design (8)
  • Simple is what teaches the obvious (that only reality is true, that to achieve a goal you have to travel in its direction) (9, 15)
  • Simple is obvious, the opposite of complexity, which obscures the obvious (10)
  • Simple means direct (11)
  • Simple means it cannot be misunderstood (13)
  • Simple means easily understood (27)
  • To be easily understood it must be clear (27)
  • To be clear it must be unequivocal (27)
  • To be simple, then, it must be unequivocal (27)

The ego is senseless

The ego makes no sense. It is full of contradictions. It tries to conceal this behind impressive sounding words, but those words don't hang together. They are full of contradiction and don't make coherent sense.

  • Ego asks you to do the impossible—make error real then overlook it (17)
  • The ego then says you must accept the meaningless, have faith in mysteries, to save yourself (17)
  • The ego is senseless (18)
  • It conceals this behind impressive sounding words (18)
  • But these words, when put together, lack consistent sense (18)
  • The ego joins contradictory words, words that when put together don't make sense (20)
  • It does this without even seeing the contradiction—which is astonishing (20)

Words should…

Words, rather than sounding impressive, should be geared toward sense and clarity. They should make sense, mean what they say, and be hard to distort. A teacher's words should be simple, clear, easily understood, and easily remembered.

  • Make sense (17, 18, 20)
  • Mean what they say (1)
  • Be used so as to be almost impossible to distort (2)
  • Rather than sounding impressive, words should make sense when put together (18, 20)
  • A wise teacher teaches in simple statements that are clear, easily understood, and easily remembered (21)

Clear vs. open to many interpretations

Knowledge is direct. In knowledge, there is no distance between the knower's understanding of an object and the object itself. Perception, however, involves just the sort of distance that knowledge lacks. With perception, there is a distance between the appearance of a thing and its real meaning, between what the perceiver sees and what he initially understands. This distance requires an interpretive process aimed at closing the distance. Interpretation, however, is very subjective and can easily go wrong. Therefore, the shorter the distance between appearance and meaning, the better, because it requires less interpretation and so things can't so easily go wrong. That's what clarity is—a short interpretive distance. And that is the problem with symbols. With symbols there is a long distance between appearance and meaning. Symbols are open to many interpretations. They are by nature equivocal. Therefore, symbols and clarity lie on two ends of a spectrum. The more symbolic, the less clear.

  • Symbols stand for something besides themselves (35)
  • What is in light is clear. Its meaning lies in itself (26)
  • What is in darkness is obscure. It meaning seems to lie in shifting interpretations. (26)
  • God's reflection is in light. It needs no interpretation. It is clear. (26)
  • The Atonement has no symbolism because it is clear (28)
  • The Atonement is clear because it exists in light (28)
  • Only the ego's attempts to shroud it in darkness make it seem ambiguous (28)
  • The lamb of God is a symbol that has been misunderstood (29)
  • This section is short because it is not symbolic (30)
  • Symbolic means open to more than interpretation (30, 32, 34)
  • Symbolic therefore means equivocal (30)
  • Must understand the separation clearly, which means without symbols (31)
  • That which is fact is not symbolic (31)
  • The symbolism is open to many interpretations, but certain ones must be wrong (32)
  • Cervantes didn't understand his own symbolism—didn't get the real point of his own writing (33)
  • The Holy Spirit is a difficult concept to grasp because it is symbolic (34)
  • The symbolic is difficult to grasp because it's open to different interpretations (34)
  • Images are symbols (35)
  • Perception involves interpretation (36)
  • Therefore, because interpretations vary, you can perceive in many ways (36)
  • This is not knowledge, which is not open to different ways of understanding something (36)
  • Knowledge needs no translation (37)
  • Perception involves a translation process through the senses (37)
  • Perception involves interpretation, which is more creation than reception (37)

The course is practical, able to be applied, usable

The Course is practical. It is about practical application that leads to practical change. This is reflected in the way it is expressed. First, it means what it says, and this allows it to be applied. Second, it is specific, and this too allows it to be applied.

  • Course is about practical application (6)
  • You can apply the Course because it means what it says (1)
  • You say it is not specific enough to understand and use, but it is (6)

The Course is simple, clear, understandable, obvious, unambiguous, direct, literal

The Course is simple (6 refs), understandable (3), unambiguous (2), direct (2), perfectly clear (2), and unequivocal. It deals in the obvious (3). It cannot fail to be understood (2). It means exactly what it says, which means it should by and large be taken literally. It makes its ideas, its points, its messages, and its goal perfectly clear. It tries to use words that can't be distorted. Because they are Jesus' words, they contain no contradictions that we must accept as religious mysteries. Instead, they make perfect sense. They are (at least at times) so obvious that no one can honestly deny he understands them.

  • Course is simple (7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15)
  • Course deals in the obvious (5, 15, 19), which has been obscured by the complexity of our thinking (5)
  • Course is understandable (4, 7, 19)
  • Course cannot fail to be understood (7, 19)
  • Course is unambiguous (5, 7)
  • Course is direct (5, 11)
  • Course is consistent (11)
  • You can apply the Course because it means what it says (1)
  • "Means exactly what it says" equals "literal" (1)
  • The Course in itself is perfectly clear (3, 5)
  • You can understand the Course (4)
  • Ideas in Course are simple, direct, clear, totally unambiguous (5)
  • Course is simple—opposite of inventive, ingenious (8)
  • Course is simple—teaches that only reality is true (9)
  • Course is simple because truth is simple (10)
  • Course is simple and direct, therefore consistent (11)
  • The Course is a simple teaching in the obvious (15)
  • Jesus has tried his best to use words that cannot be distorted (2)
  • Jesus places a value on what is easily remembered over what is poetically graceful (21)
  • Many think Jesus deals with mysteries that make no sense. Yet Jesus' words make perfect sense because they come from God; they are sensible now and forever, because they speak of eternal ideas (17)
  • The words we speak are so obvious that no one can honestly deny he understands them (19)
  • Jesus makes it clear what miracles are, what the resurrection was, that he is like us (22)
  • Jesus carefully clarifies his role and a Bible quote (23)
  • Jesus presents points and messages that he says are perfectly clear (24)
  • The Course makes the goal clear (25)

The Course's lack of clarity comes from our ego not wanting to see what it says

The Course doesn't seem clear, literal, consistent, obvious, and specific. However, that's not because of the Course, but because of us. We don't believe what it says. We don't want to do what it says, pay the price that it asks, take the steps required to go in its direction. We defend ourselves against its message. And this leads us to twist its symbols around, to interpret against it, to make its literal statements into allegories, and to obscure its simple, clear message.

  • However, we can use our inventiveness to distort any symbols (2)
  • If it is not clear to you, you are interpreting against it (3)
  • Not seeing the literal nature of the Bible comes from the ego's bias (2)
  • You don't understand the Course yet because you are like a baby who has not yet learned its native tongue (4)
  • It is your belief in the opposite of the Course that makes it seem unclear (5)
  • You say it's not specific enough to apply because you don't want to do what it specifically advocates (6)
  • If you choose against the gift required of you to learn the Course, it's not because it's obscure, but because it seemed like too big a price to pay (7)
  • The problem is not lack of simplicity, but lack of belief in the simple truths it teaches (9)
  • The seeming inconsistencies come from you being inconsistent, wanting an end, but not wanting to use the means to get there (11)
  • The Course's goal seems difficult to reach, but only because you've been going the other way, and to achieve a goal you have to go in its direction (15)
  • The one who denies he understands the Course's words does so because of defensiveness and self-deception, not because the words are not obvious (19)

The Course is not complex

The Course is constructed not to dazzle us with its cleverness, complexity, inventiveness, and ingenuity. All of that is the ego's attempt to obscure the obvious truth, and the Course's aim is to reveal that truth. The Course is designed not to impress us, but to get results in our lives. Therefore, it avoids complexity and merely states the simple truth.

  • Course is not concerned with being intellectually clever and complex (5)
  • Not a course in the play of ideas (6)
  • Course is not inventive, ingenious—that's ego (8)
  • Complexity is the ego's attempt to obscure the obvious (10)

Passages

Course is Understandable

1. Practical, means what it says

You have surely begun to realize that this is a very practical course, and one that means exactly what it says. |s2 I would not ask you to do things you cannot do, and it is impossible that I could do things you cannot do. |s3 Given this, and given this quite literally, nothing can prevent you from doing exactly what I ask, and everything argues <for> your doing it. (T-8.IX.8:1-3)

Urtext version

You have begun to realize that this is a very practical course, because it means exactly what it says. So does the Bible, if it is properly understood. There has been a marked tendency on the part of many of the Bible's followers, and also its translators, to be entirely literal about fear and its effects, but not about love and its results. Thus, "hellfire" means burning, but raising the dead becomes allegorical. Actually, it is particularly the references to the outcomes of love that should be taken literally because the Bible is about love, being about GOD.

  • It's practical
  • Because it means what it says
  • The Bible is like this too if properly understood
  • The biblical references to the outcomes of love (like raising the dead) should be taken literally
  • "Means exactly what it says" equals "literal"
  • Not seeing the literal nature of the Bible comes from the ego's bias

2. Almost impossible to distort

I have made every effort to use words that are almost impossible to distort, but it is always possible to twist symbols around if you wish. (T-3.I.3:11)

Urtext version

I have made every effort to use words which are almost impossible to distort, but man is very inventive when it comes to twisting symbols around.

  • Jesus has tried his best to use words that cannot be distorted
  • However, we can use our inventiveness to distort any symbols

3. Perfectly clear

This course is perfectly clear. |s2 If you do not see it clearly, it is because you are interpreting against it, and therefore do not believe it. |s3 And since belief determines perception, you do not perceive what it means and therefore do not accept it. (T-11.VI.3:Heading-3)

  • The Course in itself is perfectly clear
  • If it is not clear to you, you are interpreting against it

4. This language can be understood because it is yours

Of all the messages you have received and failed to understand, this course alone is open to your understanding and can be understood. |s2 This is <your> language. |s3 You do not understand it yet only because your whole communication is like a baby's. (T-22.I.6:Heading-3)

  • This course is your language
  • You can understand it
  • You don't understand it yet because you are like a baby who has not yet learned its native tongue

5. Simple, clear, direct, unambiguous

Like the text for which this workbook was written, the ideas used for the exercises are very simple, very clear and totally unambiguous. |s3 We are not concerned with intellectual feats nor logical toys. |s4 We are dealing only in the very obvious, which has been overlooked in the clouds of complexity in which you think you think.

If guilt is hell, what is its opposite? |s2 This is not difficult, surely. |s3 The hesitation you may feel in answering is not due to the ambiguity of the question. |s4 But do you believe that guilt is hell? |s5 If you did, you would see at once how direct and simple the text is, and you would not need a workbook at all. |s6 No one needs practice to gain what is already his. (W-pI.39.1-2)

  • Ideas in Course are simple, direct, clear, totally unambiguous
  • Course is not concerned with being intellectually clever and complex
  • Course deals in obvious, which has been obscured by the complexity of our thinking
  • It is your belief in the opposite of the Course that makes it seem unclear

6. Course is specific enough to understand and use

You may complain that this course is not sufficiently specific for you to understand and use. |s2 Yet perhaps you have not done what it specifically advocates. |s3 This is not a course in the play of ideas, but in their practical application. |s4 Nothing could be more specific than to be told that if you ask you will receive. (T-11.VIII.5:1-4)

  • Not a course in the play of ideas
  • Course is about practical application
  • You say it is not specific enough to understand and use
  • But that's because you don't want to do what it specifically advocates

7. Understandable, unambiguous

We have repeated how little is asked of you to learn this course. |s2 It is the same small willingness you need to have your whole relationship transformed to joy; the little gift you offer to the Holy Spirit for which He gives you everything; the very little on which salvation rests; the tiny change of mind by which the crucifixion is changed to resurrection. |s3 And being true, it is so simple that it cannot fail to be completely understood. |s4 Rejected yes, but not ambiguous. |s5 And if you choose against it now it will not be because it is obscure, but rather that this little cost seemed, in your judgment, to be too much to pay for peace. (T-21.II.1:1-5)

  • The gift we are asked to give in order to learn the Course is small
  • This gift is also true, therefore simple, understandable, unambiguous
  • If you choose against it, it's not because it's obscure, but because it seemed like too big a price to pay

Course is Simple

8. The Course is simple

However, this answer does not attempt to resort to inventiveness or ingenuity. |s7 These are attributes of the ego. |s8 <The course is simple>. (C-IN 3:6-8)

  • Course is not inventive, ingenious—that's ego
  • Course is simple—opposite of inventive, ingenious

9. Very simple

This is a very simple course. |s2 Perhaps you do not feel you need a course which, in the end, teaches that only reality is true. |s3 But do you believe it? (T-11.VIII.1:1-3)

  • Course is simple—teaches that only reality is true
  • The problem is not lack of simplicity, but lack of belief in the simple truths it teaches

10. Complexity is of ego

The reason this course is simple is that truth is simple. |s2 Complexity is of the ego, and is nothing more than the ego's attempt to obscure the obvious. (T-15.IV.6:1-2)

  • Course is simple because truth is simple
  • Complexity is not of the truth but of the ego
  • Complexity is the ego's attempt to obscure the obvious

11. Simple and direct

Being so simple and direct, this course has nothing in it that is not consistent. |s4 The seeming inconsistencies, or parts you find more difficult than others, are merely indications of areas where means and end are still discrepant. |s5 And this produces great discomfort. |s6 This need not be. (T-20.VII.1:3-6)

  • Course is simple and direct, therefore consistent
  • The seeming inconsistencies come from you being inconsistent, wanting an end, but not wanting to use the means to get there

Obvious

12. Reality is innately obvious

The ego is afraid of the obvious, since obviousness is the essential characteristic of reality. (T-9.VII.2:7)

  • Obviousness is the essential characteristic of reality
  • The ego fears reality, and therefore it fears the obvious

13. Love has no secrets

Love wishes to be known, completely understood and shared. |s6 It has no secrets; nothing that it would keep apart and hide. |s7 It walks in sunlight, open-eyed and calm, in smiling welcome and in sincerity so simple and so obvious it cannot be misunderstood. (T-20.VI.2:5-7)

  • Love wants to be known and understood
  • It has no secrets, nothing it wants to hide
  • It walks in welcome and in sunlight
  • Its sincerity is so simple and obvious it can't be misunderstood

14. Reason makes plain

For reason's goal is to make plain, and therefore obvious. (T-22.III.1:3)

  • Reason wants to make plain
  • Reason therefore wants to make obvious

15. Course is simple teaching in the obvious

To you who seem to find this course to be too difficult to learn, let me repeat that to achieve a goal you must proceed in its direction, not away from it. |s4 And every road that leads the other way will not advance the purpose to be found. |s5 If this be difficult to understand, then is this course impossible to learn. |s6 But only then. |s7 For otherwise, it is a simple teaching in the obvious. (T-31.IV.7:3-7)

  • Course seems difficult to learn; its goal seems difficult to reach
  • But it seems difficult because you've been going the other way
  • But to achieve a goal you have to go in its direction
  • If this is difficult to understand, then the Course is impossible to learn
  • Otherwise, it is a simple teaching in the obvious

16. Truth stands in obvious accessibility

Truth does not come and go nor shift nor change, in this appearance now and then in that, evading capture and escaping grasp. |s2 It does not hide. |s3 It stands in open light, in obvious accessibility. (W-pI.107.6:1-3)

  • Truth does not constantly shift, for it does not hide and evade capture
  • It stands in open light, in obvious accessibility

Words

17. My words make perfect sense

The ego's plan is to have you see error clearly first, and then overlook it. |s5 Yet how can you overlook what you have made real? |s6 By seeing it clearly, you have made it real and <cannot> overlook it. |s7 This is where the ego is forced to appeal to "mysteries," insisting that you must accept the meaningless to save yourself. |s8 Many have tried to do this in my name, forgetting that my words make perfect sense because they come from God. |s9 They are as sensible now as they ever were, because they speak of ideas that are eternal. (T-9.IV.4:4-9)

  • Ego asks you to do the impossible—make error real then overlook it
  • The ego then says you must accept the meaningless, have faith in mysteries, to save yourself
  • Many associate this approach with Jesus
  • Yet Jesus' words make perfect sense because they come from God
  • They are sensible now and forever, because they speak of eternal ideas

18. The ego's words lack consistent sense

For their teacher is senseless, though careful to conceal this fact behind impressive sounding words, but which lack any consistent sense when they are put together. (T-14.X.8:9)

  • The ego is senseless
  • It conceals this behind impressive sounding words
  • But these words, when put together, lack consistent sense

19. Who can deny he understands these words?

Yet who, in simple honesty, without defensiveness and self-deception, would deny he understands the words we speak? (W-pI.182.2:5)

  • The words we speak are so obvious that no one can honestly deny he understands them
  • The one who denies he understands does so because of defensiveness and self-deception, not because the words are not obvious

20. Joining contradictory words

In this world, there is an astonishing tendency to join contradictory words into one term without perceiving the contradiction at all. (P-2.II. 2:2)

  • The ego joins contradictory words, words that when put together don't make sense
  • It does this without even seeing the contradiction—which is astonishing

Emphasis on Clarity

21. The wise teacher

A wise teacher teaches through approach, NOT avoidance. He does not emphasize what you must avoid to escape from harm as much as what you need to learn to have joy. This is true even of the world's teachers. Consider the confusion that a child would experience if he were told, "Do not do THIS because it might hurt you and make you unsafe, but if you do THAT you will escape from harm and be safe, and then you will not be afraid." All of this could be included in only three words: "Do only that." That simple statement is perfectly clear, easily understood, and very easily remembered. (Urtext version)

  • A wise teacher teaches in simple statements that are clear, easily understood, and easily remembered

Change the prayer to read:

If you will tell me what to do,
ONLY THAT I will to do.

Note: HS objects to doggerel sound of this, and regards it as very inferior poetry. Answer: Its hard to forget, though. (Urtext)

  • Jesus places a value on what is easily remembered over what is poetically graceful.

22. I have made it clear

I have asked you to perform miracles, and have made it clear that miracles are natural, corrective, healing and universal. (T-2.II.1:2)

  • I have made it clear what miracles are

I have also made it clear that the resurrection was the means for the return to knowledge, which was accomplished by the union of my will with the Father's. (T-3.V.1:3)

  • I have made it clear what the resurrection was

I have made it perfectly clear that I am like you and you are like me, (T-6.I.5:1)

  • I have made it clear that we are like each other

23. Careful clarification

I have been careful to clarify my role in the Atonement without either over- or understating it. (T-1.VII.5:4)

  • I have been careful to clarify my role without over- or understating it

You took a lot of notes on "Those who are ashamed of Me before men, them will I be ashamed of before God." This was rather carefully clarified, even though the quotation is not quite right, but it doesn't matter. (Urtext)

  • This Bible quote was rather carefully clarified

24. Point/message is perfectly clear

A further point must be perfectly clear before any residual fear still associated with miracles can disappear. (T-3.I.1:1)

  • Making a point that must be perfectly clear

The message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear:

|s2 Teach only love, for that is what you are. (T-6.I.13:1-2)

  • The message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear

25. Goal/miracle is clear

Like every lesson that the Holy Spirit requests you learn, the miracle is clear. (T-28.II.10:1)

  • Every lesson of the Holy Spirit, including the miracle, is clear

The new beginning now becomes the focus of the curriculum. |s2 The goal is clear, but now you need specific methods for attaining it. (T-30.In.1:1-2)

  • We have already made the goal clear

26. Reflection of God is clear

Reflections are seen in light. |s2 In darkness they are obscure, and their meaning seems to lie only in shifting interpretations, rather than in themselves. |s3 The reflection of God needs no interpretation. |s4 It is clear. (T-14.IX.6:1-4)

  • What is in light is clear. Its meaning lies in itself.
  • What is in darkness is obscure. It meaning seems to lie in shifting interpretations.
  • God's reflection is in light. It needs no interpretation. It is clear.

27. Simple, clear, unequivocal

The practical application of the Holy Spirit's purpose is extremely simple, but it is unequivocal. |s2 In fact, in order to be simple it <must> be unequivocal. |s3 The simple is merely what is easily understood, and for this it is apparent that it must be clear. (T-17.VI.1:1-3)

  • The application of the Holy Spirit's purpose is simple
  • Simple means easily understood
  • To be easily understood it must be clear
  • To be clear it must be unequivocal
  • To be simple, then, it must be unequivocal

Problem With Symbolism

28. Atonement is without symbolism

The Atonement, too, is totally without symbolism. It is perfectly clear, because it exists in light. Only man's attempts to shroud it in darkness have made it inaccessible to the unwilling, and ambiguous to the partly willing. (Urtext)

  • The Atonement has no symbolism because it is clear
  • The Atonement is clear because it exists in light
  • Only the ego's attempts to shroud it in darkness make it seem ambiguous

29. Lamb of God

I have been correctly referred to in the Bible as "The Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world." Those who represent the lamb as blood-stained (an all too widespread conceptual error) do NOT understand the meaning of the symbol.

Correctly understood, the symbol is a very simple parable, or teaching device, which merely depicts my innocence. The lion and the lamb lying down together refers to the fact that strength and innocence are NOT in conflict, but naturally live in peace. (Urtext)

  • The lamb of God is a symbol that has been misunderstood

30. Symbolic = equivocal

Reply to HS question: Is this all? The reason why this [section] is so short, despite its extreme importance, is because it is not symbolic. This means that it is not open to more than one interpretation. This means that it is unequivocal. (Urtext)

  • This section is short because it is not symbolic
  • Symbolic means open to more than interpretation
  • Symbolic therefore means equivocal

31. Separation/God is not symbolic

We have discussed the fall or Separation before, but its meaning must be clearly understood, without symbols. The Separation is NOT symbolic. It is an order of reality, or a system of thought that is PERFECTLY real in time, though not in Eternity. (Urtext)

  • Must understand the separation clearly, which means without symbols
  • The separation is not symbolic—it is perfectly literal; it is fact

God is not symbolic; He is Fact. (T-3.I.8:2)

  • God is not symbolic; He is Fact

32. Symbolism is open to many interpretations

The symbolism here is open to many interpretations, but you may be SURE that any interpretation which perceives either God OR His creations as if they were capable of destroying their own Purpose is wrong. (Urtext)

  • The symbolism is open to many interpretations, but certain ones must be wrong

33. Cervantes didn't understand his own symbolism

Cervantes wrote an excellent symbolic account of this procedure, thought he did not understand his own symbolism. The REAL point of his writing was that his "hero" was a man who perceived himself as unworthy because he identified with his ego and perceived its weakness. He then set about to alter his perception, NOT by correcting his misidentification, but by behaving egotistically. (Urtext)

  • Cervantes didn't understand his own symbolism—didn't get the real point of his own writing

34. The symbolic is difficult to grasp

The Holy Spirit is a difficult concept to grasp, precisely because it IS symbolic, and therefore open to many different interpretations. (Urtext)

  • The Holy Spirit is a difficult concept to grasp because it is symbolic
  • The symbolic is difficult to grasp because it's open to different interpretations

35. Symbols stand for something else

Images are symbolic and stand for something else. (T-3.V.4:7)

  • Images are symbols
  • Symbols stand for something besides themselves

Down on Interpretation

36. Seeing involves interpretation

You can see in many ways because perception involves interpretation, and this means that it is not whole or consistent. |s4 The miracle, being a way of perceiving, is not knowledge. (T‑3.III. 2:3‑4)

  • Perception involves interpretation
  • Therefore, because interpretations vary, you can perceive in many ways
  • This is not knowledge, which is not open to different ways of understanding something

37. Knowledge needs no interpretation

The ability to perceive made the body possible, because you must perceive something, and with something. That is why perception involves an exchange or translation, which knowledge does not need. |s3 The interpretative function of perception, a distorted form of creation, then permits you to interpret the body as yourself in an attempt to escape from the conflict you have induced. (T‑3.IV. 6:1‑3)

  • Perception involves a translation process through the senses
  • Knowledge needs no translation
  • Perception involves interpretation, which is more creation than reception

Up on Literal

38. The word is used literally

There is a kind of experience that is so different from anything the ego can offer that you will never recover. The word is used quite literally here, — you will never be able to hide again. (Urtext)

It might even be more helpful here to use the literal meaning of transferred or "carried over," since the last step is taken by God. (T-5.I.6:6)

39. I mean this statement literally

The only aspect of time which is really eternal is NOW. That is what we REALLY mean when we say that now is the only time. The literal nature of this statement does not mean anything to the ego. It interprets it, at best, to mean "don't worry about the future." This is NOT what it really means at all. (Urtext)

When I said "I am with you always," I meant it literally. |s8 I am not absent to anyone in any situation. (T-7.III.1:7-8)

40. The sense is literal

They do not realize that to deny God is to deny their own Identity, and in this sense the wages of sin <is> death. |s6 The sense is very literal; denial of life perceives its opposite, as all forms of denial replace what is with what is not. (T-10.V.1:5-6)

You have learning handicaps in a very literal sense. (T-12.V.5:1)

41. Literally

By collapsing time, it literally saves time, much the way "daylight saving time" does. It rearranges the distribution of light. (Urtext)

They will literally take it over because of their strength. |

(T-2.II.7:5)

It is hard to recognize that thought and belief combine into a power surge that can literally move mountains. (T-2.VI.9:8)

The ego literally lives by comparisons. (T-4.II.7:1)

The ego is quite literally a fearful thought. (T-5.V.3:7)

Vision is sense, quite literally. (T-22.III.1:6)

Miscellaneous

42. His message is not indirect

His message is not indirect. (T-14.I.5:2)

One Comment

  1. Mary Benton
    Posted October 20, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

    It is obvious that A Course In Miracles uses both literal and metaphorical language. However, the claim that the Course uses metaphor to conceal the truth contradicts everything the Course says about itself, not to mention our general understanding of what metaphor is. It has been said that metaphorical language expresses meaning beyond what is possible in literal language.

    A Course In Miracles is more like a work of art than a scientific treatise. The author admits that his terminology is not precise while claiming that the Course is perfectly clear. The author’s aim is not to teach us philosophy and theology, but to lead us to “a universal experience (which is) not only possible but necessary. It is this experience toward which the Course is directed. Here alone is consistency possible because here alone uncertainty ends.” ( C-in.3 ).

    Without this recognition controversy will be endless. People can approach the Course in different ways. So be it. To the extent that we experience peace and forgiveness we are on the right track. The Course is a great work of art containing endless meaning. It can’t be worked out like geometry with diagrams to match.

    The aim of the Course is bring us peace. If we give ourselves to it as openly and as honestly as we can it will lead us to the certainty of the universal experience.

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