Why do we find the Course so hard to understand? (July 17, 2010)

As you know if you’ve opened the book, A Course in Miracles is notoriously difficult to understand. Why is that? Is the author just bad at getting his message across? Is he purposefully opaque? Or are we just to feeble-minded to understand what he’s saying?

The author of the Course, whom I believe to be Jesus, actually weighs in on this in material that was edited out of the published Course. In a section urging Helen and Bill to study the notes he is dictating to them, he suddenly starts talking about mental retardation. He first talks about its constructive use, saying that a person is born mentally retarded as “a temporary device, agreed on beforehand, to check the miscreative activities of a strong but misdirected will.”

But then he talks about its detrimental use:

Mental retardation can also be used as a maladaptive defense, if the wrong (or attack) side is employed. This produces the “pseudo-retardation syndrome” which is justly classified as a psychiatric (or disturbed-level) symptom. Both of you do this all the time. Bill acts as if he does not understand even his own special language, let alone mine, and you cannot read at all. This represents a joint attack on both yourselves and me, because it renders your mind weak, and mine incompetent. 

Pseudo-retardation is a real syndrome. I read accounts from the psychological literature online in which, for instance, a child of normal intelligence would put on a guise of being retarded, to the point of being placed in a special classroom, as a means of controlling her situation.

Jesus is saying this is why Helen and Bill are having trouble with the Course. When he says that Bill cannot understand “his own special language,” that is a reference to the Course, whose “special language” Jesus had told them was “a combination of both yours [Helen’s] and his [Bill’s].”

Could this apply to us? Could it be that we do understand what the Course is saying, but to defend ourselves against an uncomfortable message, we put on a guise of retardation, a guise so convincing that even we ourselves are fooled? Is it possible that we understand the Course, but we just don’t like what we understand? If so, this does make our mind seem weak (feeble) and it does make Jesus’ mind seem incompetent (not competent enough to get its message across).

Therefore, could it be that studying the Course needs to be a process of getting really honest about the message that does register in our minds, but that we flick away before it can fully emerge into consciousness? Might understanding the Course be as simple as no longer putting on an act of being retarded?

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