On Sunday April 18, 2021 Rev. Peter Graham gave a talk for the Community Miracles Center's Sunday Gathering. A lightly edited transcription of the talk is presented here.
Welcome everybody. So nice to see everybody today at our Sunday gathering. It is a beautiful sunny day today. Rev. Vincent and I will be playing in our first softball game since last January in Las Vegas. So we are celebrating that type of play. It's another form of play, and it's a happy experience. We're all pretty happy about that. Rev. Vincent is joining us today from the fields. So, that's a really a great thing.
My talk today is "Seek Only Truth to Experience the Truth." I've been reminded of this lately because I do feel like my understanding of the Course has broadened recently. I feel like my light ... that there has been a lightness in my life that has happened recently, productivity, a lot of really good things. The experience that I've been having has been more one of laughter and joy, just having fun with things, and not taking things so seriously. That's been a real nice experience to have, although I will share some recent things that I also found challenging. But I wanted to talk today just about some of those experiences which are actually different in a certain way.
What I've been noticing in my own life as I go about my study in A Course in Miracles (and I was sharing this a little bit with my Thursday night class) is just what a profound and genius document of philosophy that we are studying. It is a literary document that has amazing literary standards. I mean, for gosh sakes, it's written in iambic pentameter. It uses metaphors. It uses, sometimes, literal interpretations. It requires us, as students, to be able to distinguish that. It has, of course, a theology that undoes the mistakes of Christianity – saying that there is no sin, guilt and fear – undoing this idea that we have to get our salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus.
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In terms of psychology, it uses modern day psychology. In fact, it meets us exactly where we are because without this modern interpretation of denial and projection, we really couldn't have the understanding of the Course. But today I want to emphasize something a little bit different around that. I want to talk a little bit about the philosophy of A Course in Miracles and why that is such a genius document. Now I've read in different places and by different Course authors that, philosophically speaking, the Course doesn't just come from the spiritual realm – abstract – nor is it tied to any other spiritual philosophical thought system on the planet.
In fact, A Course in Miracles was very much written for the Western mindset, the Western mindset that has been very influenced by Judeo-Christian thought and by Greek thought. In more modern times the Western mindset has been influenced by capitalism – the idea of being very busy, doing and being productive in the world, creating things and doing things. In the Eastern world, there was a different development. Since early times in the Eastern world there was this notion, there were spiritual documents, that said the world was an illusion. There was this notion in Hinduism and Buddhism, not all of it, but there were texts. There were beliefs that it was okay for people to actually put down their striving in the world for the material things, and go to an ashram or go off and be an asetic. It was okay to truly explore the origins of our life here, the phenomenon of our existence, the physical realm and the physical existence.
That's really what we're doing here in A Course in Miracles. In terms of what I can understand from A Course in Miracles, it's really putting those principles forth. In the reading from today that was read so beautifully, it talks to us about how we appear to have these lifetimes—or these lives where we are bodies—and we have all these adventures, (right?) serial adventures. We're trying to seek for pleasure and avoid pain, and do what we're conditioned by the ego to do. But what I think is fascinating is that, like my title says today, we have always been seekers of the truth. We have always done that. One of the things that I was interested in is I heard a Course teacher talk about how the Course came out of the philosophical tradition of Neoplatonism. You might see in that "Neo" meaning new, and "Platonism" meaning referring to Plato. Now, before everyone gets all upset, why am I mentioning Plato?
Well, I've mentioned Plato in the past, so it's okay. But Jesus references Plato in A Course in Miracles. He references the Allegory of the Cave, which I've talked about in the past as well. But it's also true that Plato was just starting to get this. Brilliant as he was, he didn't have the whole truth. There was another philosophical thought system that came from one of the students of his academy. His name, the founder of Neoplatonism, was Plotinus. Plotinus lived between the 2nd and 3rd century. I found this fascinating because, as I've said, in my philosophical understanding of where the Course comes from—Plotinus was a genius. He took ideas from the traditions of the Greeks, from the progressive Christian thinkers and not the Saint Paul Christians, which is where most of Christianity gets its theological basis. He also took the teachings of the Gnostics. He merged them all.
What Plotinus did was, he started this idea that we are all calm. And again, this is in the Western world. I'm not talking about the Eastern world and the Eastern religions or spiritual philosophies. What he did is he came up with this idea, this kind of paradigm, that there is the One which we would say in A Course in Miracles is like God. Then he said, the One then expanded and created in His mind what was called the intellect. Because it was simply One, it just floated, emanated out, and created this intellect. This intellect, if you think about it, is thought. That's what it represents. It's thought. From there, there was this further creation of what we might today consider the unique soul. That is this experience of folks having a separate existence from the One.
What is amazing is that it was at this period in time when the various folks who came after Plotinus basically decided – they came to the philosophical conclusion – that the mind was supreme over matter. Now, what does that mean? In our terms it means that Spirit is eternal, and the body is temporal and is therefore not real. So what is it that lasts? Spirit, right? And so it was an important moment in history in a sense because for the West, now there was intellectual permission to begin to emphasize not as much the material life and the day-to-day "... serial adventures" (OrEd.Tx.27.79) of the body, as the Course says. Now Western people could also go within and contemplate their true reality, to seek truth.
What's interesting about this is that Plotinus lived under the Roman Empire, and actually he lived for a time in Rome itself. He became a counselor to the Roman emperor. Things were pretty bad in Rome at that time. The Romans were being besieged by Germanic tribes. Some of you might remember that from your history. He was a counselor because he was very well known as a deep thinker and smart person. And the emperor at the time came under his influence. What is funny and ironic is that the emperor got so enthralled with Plotinus's ideas about letting go of the material world that he stopped really wanting to be the emperor. He started just being more of a monastic person – more contemplative, more thoughtful. The emperor didn't really see it as important to take care of the day-to-day things of the Roman empire. And the empire suffered over it. Although the emperor's soul may have benefited, it wasn't necessarily the experience of Rome that benefited. Nonetheless, this is how it went.
What I want to say about this is that we study A Course in Miracles, and as we go through we study, and we practice it, As Rev. Tony says, it's really important to embrace this idea that we're practitioners, that we're healers. Primarily our own healing, but also others in terms of who comes in contact with us. But it's really, really important for us, I believe, to just continue to be open to the various dimensions of studying A Course in Miracles and how it opens up. Until we know or experience that we may be awakened it's important to really keep our minds open and curious to what A Course in Miracles says.
I think probably many of you may have this experience, and I think sometimes I do too. One of the reasons I go to a class or facilitate a class in the Text is because it disciplines me to read the Text. Because my Western mind really does want to get caught up in the busyness of the world. But having the structure of a class really helps me. What I find as I continue to do this – on this expansion, in this journey – is that Holy Spirit is constantly prodding me and giving me little gems of wisdom or little insights. I know each one of us is different. We all have our own different styles of learning the Course, experiencing the Course, healing, miracle working, forgiving, and all of that.
Plus I do think it's truly important for us to embrace the intellectual part of A Course in Miracles as well. The intellectual part is cool. The intellectual part is fun and curious. Before this talk, I didn't really know what Neoplatonism was, but I had always been curious about it. And so I went and studied it and it's not easy. It's not easy. I had to look up a lot of words and, like with anything, the vocabulary of any field is the thing that you have to master in order to become more proficient at it. And so you do that and you look at it. It took me to looking at Gnosticism, to these different thoughts, and this different historical time period which it has influenced.
What that does is that it furthers my love for A Course in Miracles and my understanding of it. The genius of it really, and the practicality of it. Jesus, he transmitted the Course to Helen and Bill, he didn't transmit it to some alien being in another galaxy, right? The genius of it is that he put it in the language that's going to last – using iambic pentameter – for centuries. The genius of it is that he took in it the intellectual traditions of psychology, of philosophy, of theology, and made it an advance for us.
So advanced in fact, that it is now on par with any spiritual philosophy or document on the planet. It has now taken the Western mind and put us in a place where we can awaken, and we can see this as a dream. And it's done it, in a way, by taking our own word vocabulary of the Western world – "salvation," and "sin," and "guilt," and the experience that Jesus had – and how that was taught to us. It's taken everything and reinterpreted so that we can have this experience and understanding in our own minds.
Just think about the lessons this week, what did the lessons all say? Not only do they refer to truth as today's lessons do, but what they also did was say, "Take five minutes every hour," right? "Take five minutes of every hour and think about the lesson, apply the lesson." And our Western minds are thinking, "What five minutes?! Oh my God, I'm so busy. I've got this to do. I've got to watch NetFlix. I've got my work to do. I've got deadlines." And I have to tell you, I got caught this week. That's one of the things I was telling you about.
Once I turned in this talk title and subject on Wednesday, oh my God, everything started happening in my life. I started to have all these deadlines because, as a teacher, we're going back to partial, in-person learning which is exciting. But then I had all these trainings I had to go to, and I had grades to do. I had a new class to prep for, and there was softball starting today. And I had all these other Covid things we had to do for Covid health screenings ... things that we had to do. And I noticed I started getting cranky, and I noticed I started getting irritable. And I noticed actually, I started thinking, "I think I want to go back to the time when I was less busy, and I had more time, and I could chill out more."
Folks what I know is this, if you're attending this today you, like me, in your own way, are seekers of the truth. That truth is our reality. And our reality is always peace. It's always joy. Remember to laugh along the way. Everything is always furthering our awakening experience, and it's a joint venture. We're doing it together.
So whether your path is to be intellectually curious, like I am, or to go out into the streets and minister to needy folks out there, or if your path is the job that you have, or maybe it's your family, or whatever it might be —know this— the Holy Spirit is going to be there, and the Holy Spirit is going to instruct you in the ways that are best for you. The only thing that our job is to always acknowledge that there is a higher truth. There is another reality, and that we are on our way. ♥
Rev. Peter Graham is CMC's 40th minister. He currently (03.28.22) serves as a CMC's Associate Minister and is Secretary of CMC's Board of Directors. He was ordained by the CMC on Feb. 23, 2002.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the June 2021 (Vol. 35 No. 4) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.