Saturday, December 08, 2007

Prose and Poetry in A Course in Miracles

A Course in Miracles, Jesus’ unworldly masterpiece, provides us with the offering to train our minds, systematically, to undo, by forgiveness, the dream of the false self and come into the direct awareness of our true Self.

While reading the sentences and paragraphs of the Text and doing the lessons in the workbook, we become aware of the perfect blend of medium and message, structure and content, sound and sense. For example, just look again at the Introduction.

This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time. The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance. The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite. This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:

Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.

Herein lies the peace of God.

This is a precise summary of 31 Chapters, 365 Lessons, and 29 sections of A Manual for Teachers, and it is only the beginning, simply and profoundly, an introduction.

In the regularly published version of the Course, the entire book appears to be in prose, although extraordinary poetic prose. What is astonishing is that Jesus makes a dramatic and clear shift from prose to poetry in both the Text and the Workbook. It is almost impossible to see this in the prose version. A close study by my friend, Steve Russell, reveals that the shift occurs in Chapter 26 of the Text, and in Lesson 98 of the Workbook. Thereafter, Chapters 26 through 31 and Lessons 98 through 365 are in blank verse, the verse that Shakespeare used for 80% of the lines of his 37 plays. Blank verse is a form of poetic meter called iambic pentameter. An iamb consists of two syllables, the stress on the second syllable, for example, chris TINE. Pentameter means five sets of iambs, or ten syllables. It is called blank verse because it is a form of verse that does not rhyme. (The term used for Shakespeare’s 154 Sonnets, for example, is iambic pentameter because they do follow a definite rhyme scheme.)

In Chapter 26, incidentally entitled, The Transition, Jesus makes the shift. In Section VII, The Laws of Healing, appears His last prose paragraph of the Text.

This is a course in miracles. As such, the laws of healing must be understood before the purpose of the course can be accomplished. Let us review the principles that we have covered, and arrange them in a way that summarizes all that must occur for healing to be possible. For when it once is possible it must occur.

The next paragraph, and all subsequent paragraphs in the Text, are aligned on the pages in blank verse.

All sickness comes from separation. When
the separation is denied, it goes.

For it is gone as soon as the idea

that brought it has been healed, and been replaced

by sanity. Sickness and sin are seen

as consequence and cause, in a relationship
kept hidden from awareness that it may
be carefully preserved from reason's light.

Do you hear it?

all SICK ness COMES from SEP ar A tion. WHEN
the SEP ar A tion IS de NIED, it GOES.

Now, Dear Reader, you can rhythmically read the rest of the stanza.

In the Workbook, Jesus uses blank verse for the first time for an entire lesson in Lesson 98, I will accept my part in God’s plan for salvation, and for every lesson, thereafter. (For some reason, Lesson 78, Let miracles replace all grievances, suddenly appears completely in blank verse.)

While pondering Jesus’ shift into blank verse, I found a sentence coming into my mind from Lesson 336:

For sights
and sounds, at best, can serve but to recall

the memory that lies beyond them all.

This is a perfect blend of sound and sense. As far as sense, the sentence reminds me that the highest level of perception simply serves to evoke the memory of God. It does not serve to make a better dream. When we learn through the mind training to undo the dreams of the false self, all we are ever doing is living in anticipation of remembering God, our natural inheritance. This phrase also comes to mind from today’s Lesson 340.

I was born into this world but to achieve this day.

I am here only to learn to see through the eyes of Christ, remembering God. The highest function that sights and sounds serve is to elicit this inherent, abiding memory of God.

As far as sound, the rhythm of Jesus’ poetry evokes His memory.

My heart is beating in the peace of God. (Lesson 267 , Title)

Just listen.

Find your pulse in your neck or on your wrist. Simultaneous with each beat of your pulse, say HEART, BEAT, IN, PEACE, GOD.

Now say the sentence aloud, filling in between the beats with my, is, ing, the, of.

Now, all together.

my HEART is BEAT ing IN the PEACE of GOD.

Try this one.

The hush of heaven holds my heart today. (Lesson 286, Title )

And finally.

and SOUNDS, at BEST, can SERVE but TO re CALL

Simply reading Jesus’ poetry that aligns with the beating of your heart can transport you beyond this world by remembering God.

As far as sights, look at this passage from What is a Miracle?

Miracles fall like drops of healing rain

from Heaven on a dry and dusty world,

where starved and thirsty creatures come to die.

Now they have water. Now the world is green.
And everywhere the signs of life spring up,
to show that what is born can never die,

for what has life has immortality.

(Paragraph 5)

I am so grateful to my friend, Steve Russell, who gives us a much more thorough explanation of the shift in the Introduction to his book, The Rhythm and Reason of Reality. He shows us precisely where Jesus makes the transitions from prose to poetry in the Text and in the Workbook.

He told me some time ago, that he found himself hearing the iambic pattern while studying the Course, and then he, systematically, began to examine the entire prose version by sitting down at a computer with a CD of the Course, reading each paragraph aloud. I realize now that with his musician’s highly-trained ear, he was able to listen for the ten beats in the prose paragraphs, and then he hit the Enter key, and resume reading the next line, and much to his joy he saw the pages fill up with sheer poetry, paragraphs of prose transforming into stanzas of blank verse.

I invite you now to take a look at Steve Russell’s wonderful book, a gift to us all.
Click Here: