by Celia Hales
To “know thyself” has been the great preoccupation of many people for a long time. According to the new Circle of Atonement edition of A Course in Miracles, the maxim was featured in the Roman era, when someone whose name is lost to history inscribed these words in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo. (And there are indications, found elsewhere, that the maxim goes back to Egypt.) Now, in modern era New Age texts, the maxim has been given new meaning, a meaning that we can help us, for the first time, put into practice what it means.
We have puzzled over this saying for generations, because we were looking at the wrong self—an egoic self who befuddled our minds and confused our lives. We have been lost to an ego that made a persona for us that was wrong. We have been lost to materialism, and “getting mine” in a rapacious sense. Now we are coming around to something better.
A Course in Miracles, now a spiritual classic that first became available in 1976, says that a concept of the self is not needed—nor even desirable. Moreover, a concept is “meaningless.” (COA ed. ACIM, T-31.V.7) This is because all concepts are, at base, idols. And when A Course in Miracles was channeled, most of us were lost in the ego, making the attribution of an idol very apt.
Now we have a sequel to ACIM, a book channeled in the same way, by a woman hearing an interior voice whom she knew to be Jesus. (The receiver of ACOL is Mari Perron.) This “continuation” of ACIM (so dubbed in its pages, A.4) is entitled A Course of Love. A Course of Love goes a step beyond the ego, the ego that was largely dismantled by A Course in Miracles. ACOL delves into the self, the very self that “know thyself” means, and this is the Self with a capital “S.”
We can look into these new ideas without trying to form a concept of the self, without trying to form something that is meaningless. We can simply use the ideas to form a new identity—an identity that follows naturally when the ego has been given up as a bad idea. (A new identity, in fact, is what A Course of Love, seek to establish in us.
Our “little” self, with a lower-case “s,” is called the “personal” self in ACOL. This is the self we present to the world, and regardless of where we are on our pathway back to God (for that is where we are heading), we still present this personal self to the world. In the beginning of our journey (the time of A Course in Miracles), it is an egoic self, caught in the ways of this world, lost in illusions of who we are and what we are about. Later on, in A Course of Love, we learn that there is a “Christ-Self” deep within each of us, a Christ-Self who is longing to come out to see the light of day. This Christ-Self will be learning as we walk along our pathway, for, though it is part of God, this Christ-Self is not limitless, as God is. We are and remain finite, but we do, even in the beginning of our journey, get glimpses of where we are heading.
And we are heading to Christ-consciousness (called “Awakening” in A Course in Miracles). This Christ-Self will, in a mystical sense, join with a larger Self as we proceed. A lovely symbol of what we are is given in ACOL. (C:7.6) ACOL describes a “dot” of the body, which the Christ-Self surrounds and embodies. When we follow our guidance, we will look beyond this dot to a larger circle, “white space” still farther out, and this white space is the One, the All, God Himself in His larger dimensions. Thus the inner Christ-Self becomes One with All-That-Is. In this transformation, our heart and mind are joined as well.
Our heart, the center of our self, will know things that our mind could never hope to know. Our heart doesn’t need “proofs” of God’s existence, the way that the mind often hopes to find. The heart just feels warmth when it approaches the numinous. And A Course of Love is very good at encouraging us to sense the warmth of God’s love that undergirds us all.
We appeal to this new Self when we decide to know ourselves (“know thyself”), when we have journeyed long and hard, along rough highways, to the new entity being born. ACOL says that we are living in the time of Christ, the new time that follows the time of the Holy Spirit. And in this new time, we are merged with God and have a direct link to Him. This link is the Self, the Self of the united mind and heart, the larger Self whom we access that is beyond the body, but yet a part of it. This Self, in fact, is called the “elevated Self of form,” and it is our new being in a world that we will newly change, or that we will create. (Some of us will change the world, and some—maybe many more—will create a new world.)
We have long thought that we could come into our own only when we die. We thought that to meet God face-to-face would mean that we were on the Other Side, having crossed the threshold of death.
Not so, says the newest spiritual words as channeled in A Course of Love. We can know God (and “know” is the operative word here) while in this world. We are invited into a direct relationship with Him, for we are no longer fearful of talking with God. Previously, when we were enthralled by the ego, we feared God in a very real sense. So the Holy Spirit was given us as a less-fearful alternative, an intermediary.
There is no reason that being in this world in physicality, physical bodies, has to mean separation from God. We entertained a “tiny, mad idea” (FIP ed., ACIM,T-27.VIIII.6) so long ago, and this led us to believe that we could make a world, indeed a universe, that we would like better than what God had provided for us. How wrong we were! And now we know how wrong we were, and we seek restitution. We thought we “fell” from grace, and indeed we did try to go it alone, without God’s help. But we never actually separated from Him; we could not do so and live, for we are a part of Him. Now He is calling us to return to His fold, just as the prodigal son returned to his father. (This, in fact, is the archetype for our experience here on earth.)
This return will involve a heightened awareness of reality, the kind of heightened awareness that will finally give us a happy existence. In the normal course of events, at first we will get glimpses of this new awareness, Christ-consciousness, but these glimpses are just that—glimpses–and will not last. Then we find that the glimpses lengthen, and so we are experiencing real vision for the first time. After this, we maintain Christ-consciousness for a while, trying with all our might not to let it slip away (for if it does, we will form a new ego). Maintenance of Christ-consciousness, though, is an in between state that does not last. Finally, we sustain Christ-consciousness. And with our new awareness, we move to change and/or create a new world. (and the channeler is very keen to have us “create” a new world).
All of this enlightenment process does not happen suddenly, in most cases. Of course, sometimes there is a quick descent of Christ-consciousness or Awakening, and the person affected may be very confused about what has, in fact, happened. But the pathway, as outlined in A Course in Miracles and A Course of Love, is usually gentle, and time keeps pace with us. We do not return to reality with the “sweat of terror and a scream of mortal fear.” (FIP ed., ACIM,T-17VII.13) We are, indeed, gently slipping into eternity when we are living as Christ-conscious beings. Time is and has always been simply a measure, a way, of spreading out reality so that we can experience it in a measured way.
So the larger Self guides our journey from now on. In union with the All, the One, our God. And this is the Self whom we truly need to know in the maxim, “Know thyself.”
We no longer turn to outside authorities to point out the way for us. We understand that learned authorities of the past are just that—past. Many of them say the same things, and these things are often no longer relevant to our lives. So we turn to inner contemplation and meditation, prayer and the miracle, to guide us surely.
“Know thyself” has become an integral part of who we are, for we are no longer looking out on the world with egoic eyes, no longer seeking for aggrandizement in a misguided world. We are knowing the true Self in true reality. We are reaching both within and outside the dot of the body to a Self Who is one with God.
We have come home.