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“Ancient”

I love doing word studies in the Course. It is simply amazing how much you can learn by tracking a word–any word–as it recurs throughout the Course.

Back in December, I decided to research the word “ancient.” So I collected the 70 references to it in the Course. Then I categorized them. For instance, there are eight references to “ancient hate” (interesting!), five ancient promises, three ancient truths, etc. Then I began writing about each one, trying to tease out what particular function the word “ancient” was serving in each case. As I continued, I noticed more and more recurring themes. As always, I could see that Jesus had a very specific system of meaning behind that simple word, and that each time he used the word he was drawing on that system of meaning.

Slowly, things resolved into a very simple picture. On the one hand were the ancient things of God: ancient song, call (from God), promise (from God), truth, home, love, etc. These things are ancient because they existed at the beginning of time or usually even earlier. However, eons ago we turned our back on them. We walked away and forgot them. Given our neglect and rejection of them, and given the untold ages of time that have passed, you would think they would have slowly disappeared. You would think the ancient song would have died out. You would think that God would have forgotten His ancient promises to us.  You would think our ancient home would have fallen into disrepair. But in fact, they have all remained completely unchanged, as new and fresh as they were in the beginning. God’s side has remained absolutely constant, in spite of the fact that we turned our back and walked away a long, long time ago.

On the other hand are the ancient things of the ego: ancient hate, lessons, thoughts, memories, dream, past, fear, enemy, etc. These are characterized by three things. First, they are self-destructive. For instance, we have been holding onto “ancient promises to die”–an obviously self-destructive thing. Second, they are absolutely senseless. Our ancient dream of sin, for instance, is referred to as “foolish,” “silly,” and “senseless.” Third, in actual fact they are gone; their roots were long ago pulled up. Only our decision to maintain them makes them still seem to be there. And therein lies the meaning of “ancient” in this context. If the hate, lessons, memories, fear, etc. are indeed ancient, that means we have been actively maintaining them for eons–in spite of the fact that they are self-destructive, senseless, and nonexistent. Given how baseless and painful they are, we must be maintaining them by sheer force of will–and since ancient times. What an ironic picture!

So what relevance does this have to my journey with the Course? These blogs, after all, are about our personal journey. The relevance is that, as I’ve reflected on this picture over the past weeks, it is giving me a new view of my journey. I tend to see my journey in a very unreflective way. I tend to see myself as sincerely struggling against a collection of objective barriers. There is the temperament I came in with, which however unenlightened it is, seems hardwired into my brain. There are the difficult situations I have to deal with. Then there is the fact that God seems rather silent and forgetful. He often doesn’t seem to answer the phone. Given these objective barriers to spiritual progress, the journey consists of me slowly and sincerely chipping my way through the solid rock of a mountain.

The references to “ancient,” however, convey a whole different view. First, they say that I’ve been at this for a long, long time–a span of time beyond what I can conceive. Can that really be true? Have I been stuck in the same patterns for so long that those patterns can rightly be called ancient? Second, it says that I am not sincerely chipping my way through an objective mountain. Rather, I am stubbornly hanging onto ego patterns that are self-destructive, senseless, and were long ago uprooted. And I am doing so for untold eons! It sounds completely crazy. Meanwhile, God has been absolutely faithful to me. He has kept His ancient promises to me completely intact. He has kept my ancient home “unchanged by time, immaculate and safe.”

It’s all very sobering. The main thought I’m left with is this: Can I really have been fiercely hanging onto self-destructive foolishness for eons? Is that what’s going on here? Are the ego patterns I’m grappling with actually ancient? This makes me analogous to an alcoholic who has stubbornly maintained his addiction for the last 10,000 years in spite of all the devastation it has wrought, constantly coming up with new excuses to keep it going, believing they are reasonable, and then using them to repeat the same old patterns.

The final question is: Can I make this the view of my journey that I carry with me? Can I see trying to forgive, for instance, not as a sincere struggle against objective barriers, but as a case of at last shaking off some of my ancient insanity? That’s what I’ve been attempting to do over the last several weeks.