“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

You’ve probably read this quote before. I come across it frequently. It is often attributed to Nelson Mandela, but in fact originates from Marianne Williamson’s 1992 book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”. The popular interpretation of the quote presents it as a bold statement of self-worth and a reclamation of an individual’s power — almost a validation of ego. As a motivational quote, I can understand how some take this surface view, but those with a closer understanding of A Course in Miracles will find a deeper meaning behind Williamson’s words.

A Course in Miracles

A Course in Miracles (ACiM) presents a spiritual path available through self-study of the foundational text and accompanying Workbook Exercises, which are published and distributed exclusively by The Foundation for Inner Peace. As a tool for spiritual growth and ongoing examination of the joys and mysteries of life, I have found it to be an exciting and refreshing resource. It is a modern day rehashing of ancient religious and philosophical ideas, developed with an understanding of modern psychology. I am constantly inspired by the myriad ways in which ACiM teachings interact and reinforce the science and techniques of HeartMath® and the elimination of self-deception as taught by The Arbinger Institute. They combine to create a philosophy for living that has the power to awaken us to our True Selves.

The Ego

In the language of A Course in Miracles, ego means something a little bit different than our common understanding. We think of ego as our own self-esteem or self-worth, hence the popular misinterpretation of my opening quote. ACiM, however, presents the ego as an opposing force to “spirit” — a method of self-deception that emphasizes our separateness rather than our togetherness. If spirit is a way of being that eliminates the barriers between us and our brothers, ego is a way of being that builds up those walls, encouraging fear and judgment rather than love. We have the choice to live from spirit, our natural way of being, or from ego, the human condition that seems in conflict with our spiritual essence.

As Thomas Merton said,

“Despair… is the ultimate development of a pride so great and so stiff-necked that it selects the absolute misery of damnation rather than accept happiness from the hands of God…”

Ego is the force that binds us to our pride, whereas spirit is the acceptance of happiness from the hands of God, the happiness that Marianne Williamson calls “the glory of God that is within us.” Instead of revealing it, ego blinds us to the goodness of those around us. It encourages us to judge ourselves and others, to compare ourselves. How quick are we to judge? How quick are we to compare? What would our world be like if instead of engaging with our egos, we brought our spirit to the forefront instead?

ACiM teaches that although ego is a powerful motivator, and a very human feeling, it in fact grounds us to the human experience — and we were spirit first. The joy of A Course in Miracles is that the central miracle is this reminder of who we really are. ACiM calls us to actively remember and re-awaken ourselves to a way of being that embraces the divinity within all of us.

I recommend A Course in Miracles to anyone who is seeking a way of being in the world that releases them from fear and into love, from ego and into spirit. It’s not an easy read, so join a study group! If you are in Kansas City, please stop by Unity Temple on the Plaza on Mondays from 6:30-8:00 pm in the Heritage Room for the ACiM study group. I facilitate the meetings and enjoy learning with my co-sojourners each week.

A Course in Miracles provides a philosophical basis for interpreting my life like no other work has. I used to think of myself as a human being who occasionally had a spiritual experience. Now I truly understand and believe that “I am a spiritual being having a human experience.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts – Tweet @ace_wagner or leave a comment on the blog!