The Courses’ teachings on the frame and the picture as related to content are interesting. The first couple times I read the Course I overlooked the value of this analogy, but when it finally dawned on me what was being said I began to appreciate the illustration.
To appreciate this teaching one must look at the problem it is attempting to solve which is related to communication in this world.
In the heavenly realm communication was instantaneous and perfect. There was complete understanding.
However, in this world we must use our bodies as communication devices along with symbols called words. This imperfect means is a cause of imperfect communication of one mind to another. Lack of full understanding in communication is the cause of much of the conflict in this world. The spiritual communities of the planet are afflicted by this problem just as much as other groups and ACIM students are no exception. The Course states, “I have made every effort to use words that are almost impossible to distort, but it is always possible to twist symbols around if you wish.” T-3.I.3
Even though the Course was presented as clearly as possible in symbolic words there are still many students at variance with each other as to the truth of different teachings.
This problem also occurs in general communication with associates. Most arguments are caused by imperfect communication. Think of the last argument you were in and you can probably recall something you said that was just not correctly understood.
This is where the Course’s analogy of the frame and the picture comes in.
The picture represents the true content of what is being presented and the frame represents the imperfect symbols that have to be used in this world. A problem occurs when the student focusses on the frame, or the symbols, rather than the picture or true meaning. When this happens, it is as if the frame grows to overwhelm the picture so all we see is the frame, but little or nothing of the picture, or the real truth.
So it goes when we study the Course. If all we do is register the black and white symbols without seeking all the meaning behind the symbols then the study of the Course becomes like the guy merely looking at a picture frame, but seeing no picture.
Take for example the argument among students as to whether there is only one Son of God, or many Sons. The truth of the matter is represented by the picture, but if a student interprets by only the black and white symbols of the words, he will see only the frame and miss the truth. The problem is that both sides will insist they are seeing the true picture or content but “What you consider content is not content at all. It is merely form, and nothing else.” T-14.X.7
The trouble is that “The ego is incapable of understanding content, and is totally unconcerned with it.” T-14.X.8
What is the concern of the ego then?
The concern of the ego is with the frame, or outward symbol only but “when two or more join together in searching for truth, the ego can no longer defend its lack of content.” T-14.X.8
And that is the key. There must be a sincere search for truth and the sharing thereof. The student will never receive correct communication from either a book or individual unless he sincerely desires to correctly understand what is being said.
Again, think back to the last argument you had where you were misunderstood. Do you feel that the other person really wanted to understand how you saw things?
The solution to the problem is simple. All involved must have a sincere desire to correctly understand what is being communicated and look at the content or the picture, and not the frame. This is an obvious first step yet ignored by many who just want to pick a side and argue that it is right.
“Truth can only be recognized and need only be recognized.” T-7.IV.1
“Truth can still set you free. Look as the Holy Spirit looks, and understand as He understands.” T-5.III.11
“Take not the form for content, for the form is but a means for content. And the frame is but a means to hold the picture up, so that it can be seen… Without the picture is the frame without its meaning. Its purpose is to set the picture off, and not itself.” T-25.II.4
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