Studying the Course, however, is a different kind of study. Newcomers to the Course need to decipher its difficult language and structure. Then, we need to commit to doing the Workbook lessons, and to recommit every so often when we seem to reach a plateau. Next, we need to let those ideas we've gleaned from our studies percolate for a while. To let them mix with other ideas—ideas we've carried around our entire lives.
That percolating takes a long time in most cases because the ideas we've always believed conflict, much of the time, with what the Course teaches. We may find ourselves spending years trying to put all the pieces together, realizing our old ideas don't fit into the new ones; jamming one idea up against another, hoping the strange combination of ideas somehow makes sense; sometimes force-fitting ideas together until … we begin to realize and understand and believe there really are two ways to think of life and the world around us.
To me, it seems we never stop learning. However the time we approach the "end of learning" arrives when we've accomplished two of three important things. My thanks to William Diedrich of Transformative Leadership Systems for this list of three.
- We think we understand what we're studying, as in “Yes, this makes sense. I get it intellectually. Maybe I don't fully understand all of it, but generally I'm in agreement.”
- We believe what we have learned and understand. This is deeper than thinking we understand. Believing is more profound. A strongly held belief may even become faith that what we've learned is Real and True.
- Finally, we would like to come to the place that we know what we have learned is so. That's the third level in the series: knowing, without any doubt, with absolute certainty, that what we've learned is True with a capital “T.” However, the Course discusses Knowledge and Knowing as being in the domain of our Creator and explains it is not accessible by us while we seems to be here.
I met William Diedrich through LinkedIn where he posted a question that led to this blog article. (Sidenote: You might be surprised at the topics discussed on LinkedIn, especially considering it's primarily a business-oriented site). Here's his question:
The illusion of individuality: Many spiritual teachings say that individuality is an illusion and that there is only one of us. Do you think this? Or Know this? Believe this? Or do you disagree?
The last part of William's question was easy to answer: I do not disagree. ACIM and other spiritual paths point to the Oneness of all creation. Millions of ACIM followers have learned of the Sonship, the extension of the Love that God Is.
But his remaining questions generated deep thought and discussion.
- For starters, what's the difference between thinking, believing and knowing?
- Do any of these three connect with the idea of faith?
- And where does learning fit into the picture?
So, after some meditation, I've working on a short story (it may morph into a novel) about Marianne, a nurse who is struggling to find Knowledge. It's titled “Marianne's Ego and Other Deadly Dreams.” I've posted the opening chapter and will publish it in due time. It explores the topic in what I hope you'll find an entertaining fashion.
Image Credit: Daniel Voyafer (Flickr) Creative Commons