10/16/2005

Rhythm and Reason of Reality

"This course has come from him because his words
have reached you in a language you can love
and understand."
(Manual For Teachers)


Introduction

Those of you who have discovered the unearthly masterpiece, A Course In Miracles, will no doubt be aware of, and grateful for, its divine message of the rememberance of God and reality through love and forgiveness, that are only made possible in the realization that this world is a dream of your own making. You may remember reading, amongst the literature concerning the scribing of the Course, references to the use of the poetic form called iambic pentameter. Most of you won’t know exactly what this means, some notwithstanding your own claims to the contrary. Of those who do know what the term means, most will not be able to easily discern the poetic form within the prosaic layout of the Course.

The purpose of this volume is to present the poetry of the Course in a totally accessible manner. You need know nothing about poetic forms and meters to begin enjoying it immediately. You may, however, wish to read this introduction, since the search to ascertain the extent of the poetic form within the Course has revealed another astounding dimension in its structural integrity.

Iambic pentameter is usually described as "lines consisting of five iambs", which in turn are described as "metric feet of two syllables each, the second syllable being the stronger". Such a description is useful to few. Put simply, a line of iambic pentameter sounds like this:

Da-dum da-dum da-dum da-dum da-dum.

This form is also called “blank verse”, a more general term denoting even rhythm without rhyming. Because the Course is presented entirely as prose, the extent to which this form is used is a surprising and exciting discovery.

The Text of A Course In Miracles can be seen as three distinct parts, two of twelve chapters each, and the last of seven chapters, each differentiated from the other by the use of meter. Within this structure, a gradual transition is made from prose to blank verse. Normal spoken English and prose is arhythmic, having sometimes one, sometimes two syllables between accents. The first twelve chapters of the Course are written in such prose, and the portrait of the human condition given is prosaic indeed. The very last sentence of Chapter 12 is the first glimpse of what, metrically speaking, is to come: “Your Father could not cease to love His Son.”

The second part begins with the first seven sections of Chapter 13 becoming increasingly iambic ~ one syllable between accents ~ until in section seven, “The Attainment of the Real World,” each paragraph contains on average only three or four irregularities. This is the metric characteristic of the second twelve chapters. Frequently, paragraphs begin with emphatic statements of light reality, given in iambic pentameter. “There is a light that this world cannot give;” is the first such occurrence. “You do not really want the world you see;” “We cannot sing redemption’s hymn alone;” “Your faith in nothing is deceiving you.” These glorious statements are each elucidated conceptually in the paragraphs that follow from them, but each also offers an opportunity to enter into real communication. For instance, you could read "You do not really want the world you see," and then read on to see what this means, or you could simply say: "Oh wow! That's actually true!" and spring immediately into Heaven. You are being prepared for a new mode of data transmission.

Deeper into the second part, increasingly strong “insertions” of iambic pentameter occur; longer passages that persist further into the paragraphs. For instance, in Chapter 21:

Thus they define their life and where they live,
adjusting to it as they think they must,
afraid to lose the little that they have.
And so it is with all who see the body
as all they have and all their brothers have.
They try to reach each other, and they fail,
and fail again.

Coincident with the approach of total iambic pentameter, Jesus makes this statement (in Chapter 22): “This is a crucial period in this course, for here the separation of you and the ego must be made complete.” And this:

This course will be believed entirely
or not at all.
For it is wholly true or wholly false,
and cannot be but partially believed.

Chapter 25 is the beginning of the final part. In Chapters 25 and 26 the final transition is made into perfect iambic pentameter, making feasible the presentation as poetry in the same manner as the works of Shakespeare are presented, with two columns of the short blank verse lines to a page. Encoded into the ongoing presentation of conceptual ideas is the true communication the Course aims to teach. Each line is a perfectly whole package of information. It is at this last part that this volume takes up the Text.

Some parts of these two chapters are still not regular enough to allow breakdown into lines, and so are presented as prose. Also, the regular iambic pentameter in these two chapters, and early in Chapter 27, often contains lines that have one extra syllable, or
short lines of only four or six syllables. These discrepancies are used to emphasize ideas in the same manner that the single lines of iambic pentameter were used in the second part, only rather than lifting you into communication, they drop you out momentarily, the aim being to teach you to recognize the difference.

In the remaining chapters of the Text, the iambic pentameter is perfect. Jesus never abbreviates words to achieve this, but does make use of words with an adaptable syllable count: Heaven as one or two syllables, idea as two or three. Maintenance of the meter accounts for what frequently seemed to be unusual syntax - but which now makes perfect sense, read as poetry.

A transition from prose to poetry also occurs in the Workbook, but it is much simpler, and quicker. The first ninety lessons are plain prose, with the exception of Lesson 78, which is totally poetic. The transition occurs entirely within seven lessons. Lesson 91 is prose. The following lessons have increasing percentages of verse, but the distinction is kept very clear. Any paragraph will either be entirely prose, or entirely poetry, and within the poetry there are very few uneven or short lines. Lesson 98 is pure poetry, and it is astonishing to discover that everything in the Workbook from Lesson 98 on is in iambic pentameter ~ the introductions to Reviews, the “instructions on themes of special relevance,” such as What is Forgiveness?, the prayers and the Epilogue.

The Manual for Teachers and Clarification of Terms are post-production add-ons to A Course In Miracles,
and refer to Jesus in the third person, indicating different authorship, actually a collaboration. They contain very few but very beautiful poetic passages, and these are also included here, as is a collection of iambic pentameter "zingers" from within the second part of the text.

Attempts to read the poetic form directly from the original prose layout often result in diminished comprehension. Conversely, the presentation as blank verse guarantees placing correct emphasis for understanding (though not understanding itself) , and the elegance and eloquence of Jesus’ poetry, and the regular rhythmic lope, offer an expanded experience of the Course to the musical mind. The final and most exciting discovery of all is that whole communication occurs without the need to understand concepts at all.

The magnitude and beauty of the Course, simply as a work of literature and without regard to its miraculous content, adequately belie any notion of its human authorship. The divinity of the ideas expressed is beyond question. Certainly the poetic and prosaic forms contained in A Course In Miracles are there because that was necessary for the healing of God’s Son, since this is the Holy Spirit’s only purpose.

~ Michael Russell~

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