- Study Materials Library
- Further Resources
Week Intensive part 5 - The Branching of the Road & Substitution
Editor’s note: This transcript has been lightly edited to bring clarification to certain points of the dialogue and for easier readability. For this reason, it does not match the corresponding audio mp3 word—for—word. However, the overall content and the expressed ideas remain unchanged.
David: A couple of passages were coming to mind before when I was in meditation. Even for someone who has worked with the Course quite some time the ideas can still seem to be kind of gibberish at times. It can seem like you’re learning a new language at times, like it’s a completely different language. One of the passages that I picked up today is a little paragraph that could be helpful to us because it is using the analogy of a baby coming into the world and seeing all these figures moving around and hearing all these jumbled noises. It doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense and Jesus is turning it around as an analogy and he’s saying That’s about how you are on the spiritual journey, you’ve learned all these things and I’m giving it to you as plain and straight and clear as you can possibly ever get it and it seems like these sounds and these ideas aren’t making a lot of sense. And it’s using the whole analogy that you are like a baby on the spiritual journey. He says on page 437 in the text, chapter 22, the second section under Your Brother's Sinlessness:
That’s a kind of a neat little turnaround, kind of encouraging. It says for many who begin on the spiritual journey it will get more and more understandable and comforting.
Now a few pages later, there’s a statement I bring up a lot because as I’ve worked with the Course it’s become really apparent that this is a course in non-compromise, it’s not a course in grey areas and it’s important to get at the meaning of what that non-compromise is. Here’s a statement that really seems to summarize that. It’s the second full paragraph on page 440 and it says in the middle of the paragraph:
And again that flies in the face of experiences in this world because a lot of times it can seem like Hey, life is not so bad, or Life is better than it was before, and yet this statement is clearly pointing us in the direction we were talking about the other day with wrong-mind, right-mind, black or white, all or nothing kind of thing. Statements like that can seem steep but the more you go into it, it starts to make some sense in the sense that peace or happiness has to be an absolute. There is no such thing as almost perfect or fairly pure or things like that. There has to be a purity of heart that we are moving towards, that is the goal. A couple of pages later there is another little one that says:
And then the last one in kind of a series of them, a few pages later The Branching of the Road, the first paragraph on page 444 says:
It reminds me a little bit of the Robert Frost poem I had to memorize in high school The Road Not Taken, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” and it goes on and on and he talks about how glad he was that he took the path that wasn’t the well worn path, but it was the path that brought him somewhere. Jesus continues,
I think those passages paint a bit of a picture about this course. It’s one of those things that takes the commitment. Probably if you are working with the Course and decide that it’s your path and that you really do want to follow it, there is nothing more frustrating than standing at the branching of the road and delay. In other words many people have tried to take this course and thought Well I want it to bring happiness and peace to my life and I want to hold on to the world as I’ve constructed it, and be peaceful. And in one sense that’s like standing at the branching of the road, because the whole point of the Course is to help bring about a transformation of the mind where you let go of the world as you constructed it and open your mind to vision in the mind. And I think these passages really give a glimpse of that.
Is there anybody who has any experiences or any questions about the branching of the road? It’s not a branching of the road like the old way, that was kind of like there was always the do’s and don’ts of spiritually depending on which church, which philosophy, which spirituality you followed. It was like, Let’s see what these people believe, you know, these are your do’s; these are your don’ts; tow the party line; be a good whatever. But the Course is saying that it’s not a matter of do’s and don’ts in form, but it is a matter of do’s and don’ts in terms of thinking, of right thinking and wrong thinking. So we really want to bring everything we discuss back to that.
There are so many controversies in this world that are just based on right behavior, wrong behavior, morality, and ethics and that’s another delay manoeuver. It can be a starting point to start talking about some of those things but it’s definitely not where we want to stay, if it’s just another delay manoeuver.
Friend: Yeah that section’s always been real meaningful to me. And when I wrote that account of my experience that was the one that came to mind, because it just seemed to relate so perfectly to how it’s felt to me all along. The way of coming to the branch many times and I think that this was probably the first time that I really, really realized in a much deeper way that it wasn’t a branch in doing one thing versus doing another. It was about coming to the branch of choosing right-mindedness instead of wrong-mindedness. That’s the branch, and what I do comes from choosing one or the other. That’s the choice, not the form. Like you said it’s not a choice in form. It’s not a choice of going to a certain city versus not going; that wasn’t the branch. The first few steps along the way is what seems most difficult and it’s only because you think you can go back and undo it, it’s like you know, I haven’t gone that far, maybe I can run back quick but it’s No, once you’ve chosen, it says, you have the power of Heaven behind you. It can’t be undone and so then it’s like that’s helpful to me to read that and think Oh yes, it’s just the first few steps that are difficult, remember that. Because at first it’s like Oh, what have I done, this is too hard, this is just too hard, I can’t do this.
Friend: And what were you able to do, step back and perceive the doubting as wrong mindedness?
Friend: Yes, and again it was making that choice again, in each moment you come to that branch and each moment you make that choice, it’s not like yes, I made that choice way back when. Huh, well I’m glad that’s over, it’s like no, every moment you know you come to that branch. And for me that’s just a symbolic representation of a time when I felt it real strongly, being at that branch but it’s every moment that I’m choosing right-mindedness or wrong-mindedness. And yes when I have the doubts it has to be wrong-mindedness.
Friend: In the wrong-mindedness what’s happening is the I is creeping in and taking over what the Holy Spirit is going to do.
David: And that’s why it’s really important to go into it real carefully. Because as the teacher of God goes along, the teacher of God is being called out of the world, as Jesus was saying years ago, and all the sages and mystics in all of the traditions of the perennial wisdom, have talked about. Being called out of the world or being in the world but not of it so to speak, it still seems like there is a body walking around. But the mind change is enormous. And as things go along, the teacher of God, there are things that in the world seem like they are appropriate. There are situational appropriate behaviors. Like a lot of times to go to a funeral and to cry and grieve can be a situational appropriate behavior. So the teacher of God is being called out of the world by Jesus, and Jesus says at one point “Make your invulnerability manifest.” In other word you are to be a messenger of peace, of light and joy regardless of the circumstances, you know you aren’t going to have situational appropriate emotions or situationally determined emotions. You are going to have Holy Spirit determined emotions. And that can seem a little awkward as the teacher of God begins his journey because it’s not like how should I be feeling here, kind of I’ve always felt this way when I’ve walked into whatever, hospitals, or when I’ve walked through cemeteries, when I’ve gone to funerals or when I’ve seen bloody accidents. Or I’ve seen movies where there are chase scenes and blood and guts and everything and I’ve always reacted this way. Now there’s a transition taking place where we are being asked to perceive the world —everything— differently and change our way of thinking and it can be awkward initially.
Friend: Because we know the old scripting and this is calling for something new and unfamiliar and there aren’t a whole lot of role models for the new way of being so it feels like very uncharted waters sometimes.
Friend: I had that experience at a funeral last summer when my friend died of Aids. It had been like two years in time that I’d spent with him in this illness and just coming to such clarity with him that he was not his body, he was not, he did not have Aids to me. I did just not see him that way at all and when he died I immediately went to the Course and looked up everything it said about death. And I found all these wonderful passages that were just such a comfort to me and just spent a lot of quiet time and a lot of time praying and felt his presence with me. I even felt him like over my shoulder and I was talking to him. I just felt like he was right there with me. And I would say, what was it you were trying to teach me and it was like flashes were coming to me like Oh, my gosh, that was it, that was it. One right after the other, all the insights that he was trying to teach me through this process that I had known him and I had this feeling of him just smiling and laughing and going Good, you’ve got it finally! I was just so joyful and I even thought well, am I to go to his funeral or not because I didn’t feel like I had anything incomplete with him. You know we had talked, you know days before he had died and I felt real complete and I had told him everything I felt about him and he had told me, and it was like there was nothing more left unsaid. But I felt I was to go to the funeral and I went and my experience of funerals in the past has always been once I start crying I just cannot stop. It’s like just a flood of tears and I just feel intense grief. I didn’t shed a tear and I had several people around me who were real close friends of mine who again that’s another thing if there’s somebody that’s close, that I perceive myself as close to and if they’re crying it’s just like an automatic trigger to me that I just go into it too. And this one friend of mine was just sobbing and sobbing and sobbing through the whole thing and I just felt like I could hold her and I could be with her and everything but it just didn’t feel like it always had before, it felt different. And just throughout the whole thing, then we drove to the cemetery and we had this ceremony there, it was just all of it together… I had this feeling of him being right there with me and saying It’s ok, it’s ok, I’m fine, nothing happened and it was just such an incredibly different experience for me and I was so grateful for that just to see that it doesn’t have to be perceived as a tragic thing.
David: And again, not to project your feelings, to deny things or whatever, that’s what we are here for today, everything we go into; if they trigger and you want to process and trace them back, that’s what the mind shift is all about. It’s really to trace it back and see the meaninglessness of it. When the meaninglessness isn’t seen it can seem like a sad picture or there can be all kinds of emotions, shreds of fear, grief, and so on and so forth, pain and sadness, all those kinds of things. And the Course’s simple teaching is; whenever you are not feeling happy, peaceful or joyful it’s a misperception and you have another choice.
Early on in the text Jesus will go through about sadness, depression, all these different things, the name of the section is This Need Not Be. He goes through these emotions that seem to be devastating one at a time, and then, “This need not be.”
It doesn’t avoid things; it just kind of traces them through, and always talks about it as a decision. On the surface it doesn’t seem like a decision. It seems like there can be waves of emotion, sometimes without even a specific reference. At times the emotion seems to be tied into a specific event that’s being perceived or a specific memory that’s being brought up into awareness, but at times it seems to be very general, like when people have chronic depression and you say, “Well, what are you thinking about?” and it’s “I don’t know but I don’t feel like life is worth living.” There’s not even a real sense of what the specific connections are. It’s difficult at times to even have a starting point in those kinds of cases. In every case Jesus is saying it’s always a misperception, it’s always a decision; you’re deciding for that particular emotion.
It’s always helpful to go through the metaphysics and the other day, instead of the Adam and Eve story, I told you the “Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh.” T-27.VIII.6 There’s another passage in the Course that really starts to describe the fall in very graphic terms. And I think it can be helpful because most people don’t spend their days giving a conscious thought to the fall of man. I mean there just seem to be so many specific problems—job related problems, relationship problems, and financial problems. These things seem so concrete, they seem so real; they seem like they take so much energy to deal with that most people do not think about the fall of man when they wake up in the morning. And passages like these are really helpful because that’s the problem. The problem is the belief in separation and no matter how far removed, no matter how far the mind seems to have gone into this maze (and there’s layers and layers of complexity that seem to make the fall an obscurity), that really it’s just that one problem we talked about. So the passage that is talking about the two emotions on page 347 is the one that really starts to talk about the fall.
Friend: That’s Chapter 18. Are we going to be in the first section, The Substitute Reality.
David: Yes. And this time looking at the fall instead of “The tiny mad idea at which the son of God remembered not to laugh.” This time it’s coming at the fall in terms of substitution. And I think substitution is an interesting kind of thing in the sense that there’s truth and there’s illusion, and it’s kind of like when they talk about babies being switched at birth, in a sense there’s a substitution, a switch has taken place. The mind when it fell asleep, it switched, it took serious this thing called illusion, and it forgot reality. So really that’s the first and only substitution that’s ever taken place. The substitution of illusion for truth—that’s the first substitution. And the mind was so horrified that it started making all kinds of substitutions and adjustments to try to handle the first one without dealing with the original one. It just started making up things. It’s kind of like when a child does something and he thinks it’s terrible, he thinks Oh my gosh, if my Mom and Dad ever found out about this and so he tells a lie and he tries to cover it, and he tells another one and another one and another, and it seems to him like I can’t let Mom and Dad find out about the first thing, it’s too horrendous so if I have to tell 15 lies; if I have to weave a web around it and to really make it obscure, then that will be good. Mom and Dad won’t ever find out about it, it would take a real sleuth to get back to that. You’ve seen those movies; you know where people seem to be wanting to help each other. We watched one last night as a matter of fact, where it starts with one lie and pretty soon you have the web of deceit. I think of movies like Tootsie with Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange, when the Dustin Hoffman character really likes her and he needs a job; his first thing is to get the job. He goes into deception right away and he dresses up like a woman, then he seems to fall in love and the Jessica Lange character really confides in him. Female to female so to speak, and she really trusts that character. And then he falls in love, and it’s like Now what am I going to do, like all of the people in the soap opera that he’s on… He finally goes off the script and takes off his wig and all the people go, “Aaah!” There’s this big lie and all these substitutions taken place.
And those are all just good metaphors for precisely what the mind has done in this world and for each one of us to take a good look at— am I going to continue to keep adjusting, am I going to continue to keep substituting? We’ve substituted bodies, families, cars, homes, jobs. We’ve substituted travel, we’ve substituted pleasures, conveniences, comforts, oh, it’s just a web of things to make up a kingdom and to try and forget about that first substitution. And Jesus is saying it ain’t going to work, substitute all you want, come back here, come back with me and let’s look at the first one, the only one and then you’ll be free. You’ll remember who you are.
Friend: It kind of gets back to like we were saying But it ain’t so bad so what we want to do then is Let me take just a few of these lies, they’ve worked, they seem to have worked and they seem to be kind of fun, so we’ll take a few of these lies and we’ll use these to get rid of the rest, you know, and that’s where a lot of conflict comes in.
David: Yes, just when you start looking at it, it seems to be conflict, because the substitution has seemed to work, and now the mind is being taught that they really haven’t worked. And the word adjustment is important too. It’s like when that first substitution was made, the mind has followed it with a series of adjustments. I remember when I was in college taking The Psychology of Adjustment, and really just questioning the underpinnings. There’s something fishy about adjustment, I just didn’t like that word. There was something that adjustment meant, and coping mechanisms. Why cope? Why not go to the source and be free forever? I remember when I worked at Goodwill, I worked in Work Adjustment. I was a Work Adjustment supervisor and most of the work that we were supposed to be doing was helping these mentally retarded, schizophrenic adults with many, many seeming different disabilities: physical, emotional, mental, psychological adjust to work. Become productive citizens; build their productivity; learn work skills and everything. And the clients were coming to me, they had issues with their supervisors, productivity and pay and this and that. They had a lot of mental issues they wanted to talk about; relationships with their families and so on and so forth. And I remember the program I was working in, they wanted us all to take a behavior modification approach to work adjustment. At the time I had just come across the Course and I had all my progressive ideas and it felt like doing all this behaviour mod was like working with one hand tied behind your back saying Come into my office and let’s talk for a minute and we’ll see if we can get down to something a little bit deeper than how many chips did you get in your work adjustment charting and all that.
So what we want to do is to see that adjustment hasn’t worked either. Seeing that all the things we’ve done in our life to adjust and to make it better, none of them have worked. And he talked earlier about the two emotions. We’ll pick it up at maybe the third paragraph.
That even starts to raise a little bit because last night when we were talking about how if the body is either attractive or repulsive, based on physical characteristics, it is emphasised. And you can apply that to many, many different things. I would say probably the most common thing is dating, relationships, you know, this whole thing of Bachelorette No.1, would you describe yourself? Sometimes it has a lot to do with the physical and all this stuff about even dating, Well, they make such a good couple, they are both attractive or They are both unattractive and they match up well. You know there is always an emphasis on the body and the physical and that. That one just goes into things really deeply.
But now here’s where he’s going to begin describing the original problem, the fall. He says,
So there is the screen that we talk about all the time. You know, the problem is not on the screen, and the screen arose, the guilt was hurled out onto the screen. So the screen is supposed to take all this guilt, it’s supposed to then seem like it’s the cause; it’s the source of all the problems and the screen is not the problem. The screen was made to hide the ego. So everything we talk about is going to be coming back to tracing it back so we can get back to the ego and unveil it.
And then the injunction in the next paragraph is “Let them all go, dancing in the wind, dipping and turning till they disappear from sight, far, far outside of you. And turn you to the stately calm within, where in holy stillness dwells the living God you never left, and Who never left you.” T-18.I.8
Now this is another way of looking at all these images we’ve been talking about. Like these little feathers, if you can just step back and see the world as a swirl of feathers or a swirl of images, I mean that’s the mystic state in a sense, that’s a real detachment. My friend and I came across all these ants the other day, a mass on the sidewalk and as you step back they are like the swirling feathers, they are just weaving and weaving and weaving and weaving. You don’t try and pick out who are the leading ants, who are the hard workers, who are the dominant ants, who are the submissive ants. I mean this is what this world is, analysing, breaking apart. It’s just a swirl and you can really stand up straight and look and see the swirl. It’s from getting down there so to speak, at the level of the world and breaking it apart and not seeing it as a swirl of feathers but seeing it as uh These are real people around me; this is real murder going on;, this is real crime;, this is real sickness; this is real pleasure; this is real good stuff…, all the good things in life you know. It’s that breaking it apart and making it more than the swirl that’s investing it with guilt. Because you can’t see that it’s just a swirl and they’re all equally just a bunch of feathers. Some of these feathers seem to be more important than others of these feathers. This feather seems to spend lots of those green paper strips on this feather, now on this, 49 cents on this feather, you know, they just don’t seem to be the same.
Friend: It seems like you spend a lot more time with some feathers than you do with other feathers.
Friend: Today when I was sitting out on the porch and even when I was walking around the neighbourhood and seeing cars come and go and people go in their houses and come out, it was like I had that same feeling of Well pull it way back, like you’re in an airplane watching this. Like when you look at the ants it seems like they have very purposeful movement. I was watching ants the other day too and it was like they really act like they know exactly what they are doing, exactly where they are going and why they are doing it and you know it’s not like they are analysing it, they don’t take a few steps, stop, then take a few more and stop, I mean they just keep going. And I was thinking Well you know, it looks like these people moving around seem to have like this purposeful movement. They get in their car and they go and they drive here and they go there and they do this and that and I was thinking, This is no different, it’s like just pulling it way back and I’m looking at these people thinking Oh, there’s all these separate people living in their separate houses living their separate lives with their separate families and their separate jobs and their separate problems, and it’s like no, no, pull it way back, you know?
Friend: You know, as you were talking I like to sort of draw and so I’ve got my original God just being one and then all of a sudden just the one line which is the split and then another line and just lines and then pretty soon boxes and then pretty soon little boxes and pretty soon little circles. And it’s like we are getting further and further away from God, and so we say Now we need to find some substitutions, what do we have here? We have a mess that we created so we have to create some substitutions for God. God is so far away, and look what we’ve done, how guilty, and then there’s fear, so let’s find something pleasurable so we can stand this insanity. So we build in all these other fun things and things to spend money on and hot air balloons, watching the Grand Canyon from hot air balloons you know, fun things and whiskey and wine and parties and you know, wonderful careers and let’s keep hiding from truth, because especially now we are not even worthy of getting back to God. So now God becomes fear, punishing, and judgemental. I’m guilty, I’m fearful which makes us feel like we’re fearful, punishable and judged or we can project out fear, punishment or judgement on other people. So it’s like this big old mess but here’s Holy Spirit just quietly on the side taking the error back to God saying You can forget all that, you can actually deny all that, use that defence mechanism of denial and just come back to God because I’m here, because it’s such a mess you can never understand it, you don’t know what this is all about, the only thing… Let me know for you is what I’m seeing it as. Back to that I don’t know.
David: Yes even that in the denial it’s important to be real specific about that, because the world, the ego’s use of denial would be to not deny the screen. In other words, here we are talking about this is a feather, just like this is a feather, but Jesus says, You are so invested in the body that the denial of the body is inappropriate use of denial. He says, There is an appropriate use of denial and that’s to deny the belief that error can hurt you. So again you see how when denial is aimed… deny the belief that error can hurt you. Don’t go out there and start reading your Course and going around hospitals and saying you know, You are not a body, you’re not sick and so on and so forth. Or get into a discussion with somebody, I’m not here, you’re not here, we are not having this conversation. Sometimes that would be good example of a defence, trying to deny the projection, when Jesus is saying Deny the belief that error can hurt you which is what we were getting into last night. Even though some situations may initially be perceived as threatening, you can quickly bring it back and choose with the Holy Spirit, choose your right mind, choose a miracle and deny the belief that error can hurt you.
The miracle or the right mind just sees the false as false. It doesn’t arrange the images, it doesn’t try to distinguish between the images, it sees the whole tree—trunk, branches… false, no distinction between them. And that’s where the release comes in. It doesn’t break it apart. It doesn’t break apart the ego; it sees that illusions are one as well. Mind is one. If mind is one and illusions are one, then wrong mind is one. It’s not fragmented. All these constructions of private minds, of time and space… all of that is just the wrong mind. And the only thing that can see that is the right mind, nothing but that, anything that would try to figure it out kind of from within the wrong mind would have to just be the wrong mind.
Home | About this Website
| Study Materials | Contact | Donate | Resources - Order