End the tyranny of time

It is estimated that the average person has about 60.000 to 80.000 conscious thoughts a day. Over 99% of these thoughts are about either the past or the future. We try to predict the future (especially our physical and psychological safety in the future) based on what we learned in the past. As a Kundalini yogi teacher once put it: “Aside from the challenge of what we think all the time, the fact that we think all the time is just as serious a matter.” In a sense, we are all control freaks, trying to secure a safe future for our self (our ego, really) by making up stories about what might happen, based on what we remember from our interpretation of our previous experiences. If you think about it, that’s a pretty wobbly and silly basis on which to live life.

Enter A Course in Miracles and its view on time. In Workbook lesson 158, Jesus drops a bombshell for all his students who think they are on a long journey in time back to their acceptance of the Atonement. From his own viewpoint outside of time and space, Jesus has the formidable task of explaining the illusory nature of time to students whose very thinking is based on the notion of the reality of time: “Time is a trick, a sleight of hand, a vast illusion in which figures come and go as if by magic. Yet there is a plan behind appearances that does not change. The script is written. When experience will come to end your doubting has been set. For we but see the journey from the point at which it ended, looking back on it, imagining we make it once again; reviewing mentally what has gone by” (W-pI.158.4).

This stunning paragraph alone could warrant a complete book of its own, and this has indeed been written: if you really want to take a deep dive into this matter, please do read Kenneth Wapnick’s “A vast illusion: time according to A Course in Miracles“. It’s fascinating reading. We won’t go that deep into this in this blog post. But instead of unconsciously skipping over these lines because to the ego they are utterly incomprehensible and therefore vague rubbish, we could find a truly liberating message in this concept, one that will make you leap up with joy once you accept its consequences.

Take, for example, the fourth sentence: “When experience will come to end your doubting [about the question “What am I?”] has been set.” This strongly suggests predetermination, as does the entire paragraph. In fact, in Workbook lesson 292 Jesus assures us that “A happy outcome to all things is certain” (W-pII.292). He knows this for sure, since he speaks to us from outside time and space, and is therefore aware of all that ever happened or yet will happen within the dream, as the fifth sentence emphasizes: “We but see the journey from the point at which it ended, looking back on it, imagining we make it once again, reviewing mentally what has gone by.”

Does this mean that it really does not matter what I think, say and do each day, as everything is predestined anyway, even the fact that I am now reading this blog post? How would that relate to the notion of free will? Regarding the concept of free will, Jesus states that “Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time” (T-in.1:4-5); and “The power of decision is your one remaining freedom as a prisoner of this world” (T-12.VII.9:1). However, since our true will is the Will of God by definition (the ego’s will only consisting of feeble wishes to deny reality), Jesus concludes that “Awaking unto Christ is following the laws of love of your free will, and out of quiet recognition of the truth in them” (T-13.VI.12:1).

The seeming contradiction between the predetermination of linear time versus our free will is resolved once we realize that we solely choose to believe in time’s reality as a means to convince ourselves that we can deny the Will of God, which in reality is our own true Will (like it or not!), in which there is no room for individuality and separation from oneness. Once we get into the practice of focusing on the holy instant, that is, accepting the now as it is and calmly asking the Holy Spirit for help in what to think, say and do now, do we begin to notice that we are the architects of our own fate in this dream: we are not victims of an unpredictable and threatening force called time: we make time, either for the purpose of perpetuating the illusion of separation, or for the purpose of lessening our craving need for more, much more of such time.

Always remember that now is the closest approximation to eternity that this world offers (T-13.IV.7:5). Through our (self-)forgiveness practice, we learn that we are not a body chained in time and space (although this is still our common experience), but that we are formless spirit, at one with all life, at home with God outside time, merely dreaming of exile. Countless reports of people with near-death experiences conform this notion. As Jesus puts it in Workbook lesson 97, “I am spirit”: “You are the spirit lovingly endowed with all your Father’s Love and peace and joy. You are the spirit which completes Himself, and shares His function as Creator. He is with you always, as you are with Him. […] Each time you practice, awareness is brought a little nearer at least; sometimes a thousand years or more are saved. The minutes which you give are multiplied over and over, for the miracle makes use of time, but is not ruled by it” (W-pI.97.2:2-3:2).

Let’s review a pep talk from Jesus about time, as he urges us to choose the mind guide of the Holy Spirit every more often during the day: “The one remaining problem that you have is that you see an interval between the time when you forgive, and will receive the benefits of trusting in your brother.… The interval you think lies in between the giving and receiving of the gift seems to be one in which you sacrifice and suffer loss. You see eventual salvation, not immediate results. Salvation is immediate.… For a miracle is now. It stands already here, in present grace, within the only interval of time that sin and fear have overlooked, but which is all there is to time. […] The working out of all correction takes no time at all.… Be not content with future happiness. It has no meaning, and is not your just reward. For you have cause for freedom now.… The Holy Spirit’s purpose now is yours. Should not His happiness be yours as well? (T-26.VIII.1:1; 2:6–3:1; 5:8–6:1; 9:1-3,9-10).

You and I have every reason to end the tyranny of time right now. Let us be glad our safety as spirit is by definition guaranteed. All our uncertainty and misery stem solely from the mistaken choice of desiring to be unlike our Creator, and hitherto hiding into a dream about time and space, until we see there must be a better way, and we slowly start to remember our Identity as the Son of God. And this is really free will par excellence. “The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself” (T-27.VIII.10:1). So say goodbye to the tyranny of time by choosing the Holy instant a little more often each day. Happy practicing!

Jan-Willem van Aalst, June 2022

Lonely nevermore

One of the most common ailments that bother people is loneliness. Statistics vary somewhat between studies, but roughly one third of all people indicate that loneliness depresses them at times. They feel their very life is meaningless and futile, with no real hope of true happiness whatever they do. Where we used to associate loneliness mainly with elderly people, it now seems to be an ‘epidemic’ that reaches all adults, even adolescents. This includes not only the people who consciously notice it and can identify it as such — more often than not, people quickly distract themselves by whatever means available, to avoid the loneliness reaching full awareness. In the meantime we face an alarming amount of antidepressants being prescribed and swallowed, polluting the environment after they fail to bring any lasting change.

In A Course in Miracles, Jesus emphatically discusses this theme of loneliness. In Chapter 31 of the text, he has us realize that we all wander “…in the world uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1). In workbook lesson 182, Jesus goes on to explain a major reason for this loneliness: this world is not our home. Jesus assures us that deep down in our hidden unconscious mind, we all feel like an exile here: “This world you seem to live in is not home to you. And somewhere in your mind you know that this is true. A memory of home keeps haunting you, as if there were a place that called you to return, although you do not recognize the voice, nor what it is the voice reminds you of. Yet still you feel an alien here, from somewhere all unknown. ” (W-pI.182.1:1) So all feelings of loneliness reflect the ontological feeling of the loneliness that the Son of God caused himself by choosing to separate from God, and — by the Big Bang — to make up a physical universe in which he could hide from God.

In the same lesson, Jesus describes that the sleeping Son of God “goes uncertainly about in endless search, seeking in darkness… A thousand homes he makes, yet none contents his restless mind. He does not understand he builds in vain. The home he seeks cannot be made by him. There is no substitute for Heaven.” (W-pI.182.3) In other words, Jesus says that all of us must inevitably feel lonely, because we chose to deprive ourselves of our real Home in the Heart of God. So fundamentally, our question should not be: “How can I ease my loneliness?”, but rather: “Do I really wish to see myself as separated from my Source?” I can lose myself in hobbies, in promiscuous relationships, in a career, in booze or food, but these forms do nothing to alleviate the bitterness of the content: seeing myself as deprived from Love and on my own. Merely changing behavior never works. Only when the mind reaches the point where it dares to ask: “What am I?” is any serious change possible.

“What am I?” is the most fundamental question everyone must ask sooner or later. As long as we choose to answer this question with “I am a unique body with a special personality”, we belittle ourselves and invite the pain of uncertainly, loneliness and constant fear (of the retaliation by God the vengeful Creator, who won’t forgive us for having separated from Him). Anyone who still chooses this answer — and everyone chooses it as long as he thinks he lives, works, walks and sleeps here in time — is described by Jesus as follows: “He is afraid indeed, and homeless, too; an outcast wandering so far from home, so long away, he does not realize he has forgotten where he came from […] He seems a sorry figure; weary, worn, in threadbare clothing, and with feet that bleed a little from the rocky road he walks. No-one but has identified with him, for everyone who comes here has pursued the path he follows, and has felt defeat and hopelessness…” (W-pI.166.5:4-5;6:1-2)

How refreshing it is to read in section 14 of Workbook part II, called “What am I?” (right after lesson 350), to read that you and I are pure spirit. The body is an illusion in a dream! “You have chosen a sleep in which you have had bad dreams, but the sleep is not real and God calls you to awake [as spirit].” (T-6.IV.6:3) One of the main thrusts of A Course in Miracles is to invite us to wake up from this nightmare: “Come home. You have not found your happiness in foreign places and in alien forms that have no meaning to you, though you sought to make them meaningful. This world is not where you belong. You are a stranger here. But it is given you to find the means whereby the world no longer seems to be a prison house or jail for anyone.” (W-pI.200.4)

That’s an important key. Jesus does not push us to commit suicide, which would only be a typical example of first making the error real, and then acting on it, which doesn’t solve anything. “Nothing at all has happened but that you have put yourself to sleep, and dreamed a dream in which you were an alien to yourself…” (T-28.II.4:1). The way out of loneliness is merely the realization that we, as spirit, are not alone. “God is not a stranger to His Sons, and His Sons are not strangers to each other…” (T-3.III.6:3). What’s more, from Jesus’ perspective, this world of time and space is already over; we merely seem to be reliving again what has already gone by (W-pI.158.4). That’s why he can confidently state that “You will undertake a journey, because you are not at home in this world” (T-12.IV.5:1). This is also why Jesus says that his course is a required course, and that only the time we choose to take it is voluntary (T-in.1:3).

Sooner or later everyone will choose to follow this curriculum, as we go through the threshold of the pain of uncertainty, loneliness, and constant fear. It does not need to be A Course in Miracles, by the way; Jesus is very explicit in that his course is only one form of the universal curriculum, and we should not judge another’s path back to God. But as students of A Course in Miracles, we have every reason not to indulge in lonely depression, but to choose to take on the role as a Teacher of God and demonstrate the inner peace of God that is everyone’s inheritance: “Although you can keep it [your will to be at one with God] asleep you cannot obliterate it […] Rest does not come from sleeping but from waking [from the dream of duality]. The Holy Spirit is the Call to awaken and be glad. The world is very tired, because it is the idea of weariness. Our task is the joyous one of waking it to the Call for God.” (T-5.II.1:5;10:4-7).

So whenever I catch myself feeling lonely again, I can realize that this need not be (T.4.IV.1-8), because I am not a body; I am free, for I am still as God created me [that is, as pure spirit, at one with all life forms] (see workbook lessons 201-220). In fact, a good practice is to every now and then “realize how many opportunities you have had to gladden yourself, and how many of them you have refused” (T-4.IV.8:1). I can gladden myself because I can see the one all-encompassing light of God in all my brothers, and therefore in myself: “Light is not of the world, yet you who bear the light in you are alien here as well. The light came with you from your native home, and stayed with you because it is your own. It is the only thing you bring with you from Him Who is your Source. It shines in you because it lights your home, and leads you back to where it came from and you are at home.” (W-pI.188.1:5-8). So to conclude: live a normal life in this world, but centered in this realization of our real home, and you’ll be lonely nevermore.

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

Be the happy witness

To all readers familiar with A Course in Miracles, I would like to invite them to use today’s post as a meditation for the day, in which you seek and find the joy of your true mission in this particular incarnation in the waking dream of space, time and perception. It’s the closing paragraph from Lesson 166, “I am entrusted with the gifts of God”, and I add to this the inspiring closing call from the Manual for Teachers. Both excerpts emanate the same joyful lesson, which is given us to share with all who still seem to wander this world “uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1).

God has entrusted all His gifts to you. Be witness in your happiness to how transformed the mind becomes which chooses to accept His gifts, and feel the touch of Christ. Such is your mission now. For God entrusts the giving of His gifts to all who have received them. He has shared His joy with you. And now you go to share it with the world (W-pI.166.15:3-8).

Please note that this final sentence does not mean that you and I should go out and preach the form of A Course in Miracles to all those who still seem to keep themselves asleep. Course students realize that there are no others to awaken. Rather, I “share it with the world” by firmly holding in my mind the realization that I am “the dreamer of the dream, and that its content is not true” (T-28.II.6:7). I go out into the world looking like everybody else, but I have the responsibility for my own mind training and self-forgiveness foremost in my mind. I become the observer above the battleground as often as possible. This is really all that is asked of you and me: to simply be kind; towards everyone we meet, and certainly to ourselves.

And now in all your doings be you blessed.
God turns to you for help to save the world.
Teacher of God, His thanks He offers you,
And all the world stands silent in the grace
You bring from Him. You are the Son He loves,
And it is given you to be the means
Through which His Voice is heard around the world,
To close all things of time; to end the sight
Of all things visible; and to undo
All things that change. Through you is ushered in
A world unseen, unheard, yet truly there.
Holy are you, and in your light the world
Reflects your holiness, for you are not
Alone and friendless. I give thanks for you,
And join your efforts on behalf of God,
Knowing they are on my behalf as well,
And for all those who walk to God with me.

Blame to bliss

In the spiritual curriculum called A Course in Miracles, we learn that true lasting happiness and inner peace can only be found by ‘choosing once again’ the Voice of the Holy Spirit (i.e., the Voice for Love) as the guide for all your thoughts. This is because any thought we experience that is not one hundred percent love is an illusion, meant to keep intact the silly notion of individuality, the hallucination that we can exist apart from God. Indeed, the most oft-repeated statement in the entire Course is: “I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me”; that is, as pure spirit, forever at one with all my brothers and with my Source, my Creator. In my daily life (‘dream life’, really) in time and space, anything that I still reject/condemn, I can learn to reinterpret — above the battleground — in line with the Holy Spirit’s interpretation of unconditional forgiveness (there is that key word again!), and my life becomes a daily classroom on the journey to the acceptance of the Atonement, heralding the disappearance of the universe.

It all sounds appealing enough, but there’s one prerequisite that might be experienced as a trifle painful, to put it mildly. In order to choose between the ego and the Holy Spirit, first I need to fully understand the essence of each guide; and second, I need to be fully aware of each ego thought I still cherish, without condemning myself. In our mind training program, each time we become aware of an ego thought, there’s often a strong temptation to repress it, ignore it, ridicule it, etc., while we subconsciously feel guilty about still having ego thoughts. This, of course, effectively keeps the ego in the driving seat of the mind, and defeats our spiritual purpose. The Course practice is all about looking at each ego thought as the observer, without guilt, without condemnation. Otherwise we won’t be able to ‘choose again’.

It is only when the hateful, vicious cauldron of the ego essence becomes crystal clear to the decision maker in the mind, that the only meaningful choice in which teacher to follow becomes obvious and desirable. However, seeing your ego thoughts this clear for what they are is obviously not a very pleasant experience. That’s why it’s so important to cultivate your skill in acting as the observer. After all, an observer doesn’t react; the observer observes. As lesson 170 teaches us: “Today we look upon this cruel god [the ego] dispassionately. And we note that though his lips are smeared with blood, and fire seems to flame from him, he is but made of stone. He can do nothing. We need not defy his power. He has none. And those who see in him their safety have no guardian, no strength to call upon in danger, and no mighty warrior to fight for them. This moment can be terrible. But it can also be the time of your release from abject slavery” (W-pI.170.7:1-8:2).

Interestingly enough, since our interpretation of the ‘outside world’ always mirrors how we perceive our inside world of thought, the same lesson equally applies to all the turbulence that we now experience around us the past few years, be it a virus, a regional war or an identity-debate. The overriding sentiment in all these topics seems to be blame: people ought to think and behave like this or that, or otherwise they are framed as either extreme right-wing nazis, conspiracy theorists, or as leftists or mindless sheep, to name but a few labels. And each accusation, particularly when through the media it reaches a lot of people, seems to ignite the battle of blame a little more. Again Lesson 170: “With love as enemy, must cruelty become a god. And gods demand that those who worship them obey their dictates, and refuse to question them. Harsh punishment is meted out relentlessly to those who ask if the demands are sensible or even sane. It is their enemies who are unreasonable and insane, while they are always merciful and just” (W-pI.170.6).

Isn’t this exactly what’s happening in the world today? Isn’t this what, in fact, has been happening all along in the Course of human history? The intensity is merely increasing because thanks to the Internet, the world has become a village. It can be tempting to get depressed about this (in fact, we do have a worldwide depression epidemic on our hands), but as with everything that we perceive, there’s also another way of looking at this. Just as we first need to fully realize the intensity of the viciousness of our own ego thoughts (without losing ourselves in this watching), before being able to make the better choice, the world first needs to see the full intensity of the viciousness of the ‘cruel god’ of polarisation for a worldwide awakening to become conceivable. The blaming must get loud enough for a majority of the people to fully realize the insanity of it all, before they will make the better choice.

And the blaming is getting loud indeed. Instead of feeling depressed, try to interpret the current turbulence as a prerequisite for the mind’s decision maker to fully realize the insanity of making love an enemy. Only then can it dawn on the mind that the insanity is in fact silliness. Our own task, as always, is simply to keep nurturing the light within, and act as a beacon of loving light each day, in all the circumstances and events we find ourselves in, with anyone we encounter, without exception. Remember, no circumstance, event or meeting is coincidental: each can be interpreted as a lesson in love, offered us by the Holy Spirit, Who knows exactly what we need on our journey to the acceptance of the Atonement. Therefore: know thyself; practice the observer in silence 20 minutes twice a day and know that you are “spirit, a Son of God, free of all limits, safe and healed and whole, free to forgive, and free to save the world” as a Teacher of God (W-pI.97.7). Take your mind, and therefore your interpretation of the world, from blame to bliss. Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, April 2022

Damnation or salvation

Every day, and every minute within each hour of the day, we think have a myriad of choices to make: what clothes to wear, which meetings to prepare, what (not) to eat, which people to call, etcetera. On the level of the form and experience of our daily lives this may indeed be the case, but as all good Course in Miracles students know, in all these instances there’s really only one choice to make, with only two options to choose between. This choice is fueled by my desire for the spiritual purpose of my day: do I desire to focus on specialness and separation, or do I desire to focus on inner peace and sameness? On the level of form the choices may seem endless, but the spiritual content behind each of these choices always boils down between these two options.

Studying and practicing A Course in Miracles, students learn that this choice is actually the choice between damnation and salvation. The choice for the ego (specialness and separation) is really the choice for my own damnation. This is because my choosing the ego means that I seek to experience a state of being outside God/Heaven that in reality can never be obtained, as everything in time and space is an hallucination. I am therefore pushing my awareness of my true Identity further away, and yet still a bit further away. In other words, I’m choosing idle dreams, which nurture mindlessness. This hardly leads to the lasting happiness I truly desire.

The choice for the Holy Spirit (i.e., the Voice for the Oneness Love of God and His Creations) is actually the choice for my own salvation. This is because this is the choice for mindfulness: my willingness to re-evaluate – above the battleground! – my choice for darkness, acknowledging this will not lead to lasting inner peace, and then bringing the darkness to the light of Truth, that is: forgive myself for my previous choice for darkness, and choose once again to be a beacon of light, by allowing the Light within to shine. I also realize that each time I make this choice, the little ego feels severely threatened, and will most likely find a way to temporarily drag me back into mindlessness. That’s why Enlightenment usually does not happen overnight, but takes a series of lifetimes to attain. In each lifetime we clean up as much ontological darkness in our unforgiving mind as we can.

In his Course, Jesus helps us with the mind training that we so sorely need in this learning process. Let’s briefly look, for example, at Workbook lesson 140, titled “Only salvation can be said to cure”. This lesson teaches that cure is only applicable to the mind. It is the effect of our desiring the guidance of the Holy Spirit to the ego’s guidance. The Holy Spirit operates in time and space, and therefore guides us through illusions just as the ego does; but the guidance of the Holy Spirit brings us happy dreams, which eventually lead to the end of all dreams/ illusions/ hallucinations: “The happy dreams the Holy Spirit brings are different from the dreaming of the world, where one can merely dream he is awake. The dreams forgiveness lets the mind perceive do not induce another form of sleep, so that the dreamer dreams another dream. His happy dreams are heralds of the dawn of truth upon the mind” (W-pI.140.3:1-3).

Our most important task on any given single day is to become aware as often as possible of the moments we choose damnation instead of salvation in the mind. The subsequent experience in form in the dream will follow automatically, sooner or later. Ego choices may seductively lead to brief experiences of pleasure or ecstasy, but these never last, because our repressed guilt-feelings about the separation from our Creator have not been re-evaluated and let go. That’s why Jesus says in the same lesson: “Peace be to you who have been cured in God, and not in idle dreams. For cure must come from holiness, and holiness cannot be found where sin is cherished. […] There is no place where God is not. […] This is the thought that cures. […] This is no magic. It is merely an appeal to truth, which cannot fail to heal and heal forever.” (W-pI.140.5:1-6:5).

So whenever you attend a meeting, visit a shop, or watch the world news, try to be acutely aware – above the battleground! – of the choice you make for either damnation or salvation: do you desire separation, or do you accept sameness? If you are unsure about the right response, quickly ask the Holy Spirit for advice, and see if you can sense a feeling of peace envelop your energy system. If so, your response will be loving, leading to the best outcome for everyone. And of course you and I will stumble for time to time, which is yet another opportunity for self-forgiveness, our most important function here. Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, April 2022

The shriek-o-meter

This is a term coined by Catherine Austin-Fitts, a former member of the Bush administration in the nineties; now a strategic advisor on societal well-being. I think this humorous term aptly describes a disquieting phenomenon that has slowly but steadily become noticeable, namely the fear-mongering by the mainstream media. Regardless of the topic at hand, be it a virus, a war, or a gender-dispute, the overall trend is to bombard the consumer with the same particular viewpoint on the topic at hand, urge the viewer to adhere to it, and to separate from all those who think otherwise. Attacking dissent is even subtly encouraged. While in some form this has always been the case in history, it has become painfully apparent in the past decade; particularly the past few years it reaches a level which can indeed be summarized as ‘shrieking’.

In A Course in Miracles, the verb ‘shrieking’ is always associated with the ego. We read about it, for example, as in “…the self-accusing shrieks of sinners mad with guilt” (W-pI.134.7:4); “…projected fear shrieks in wrath, and claws the air…” (W-pI.161.8:3-4), “It [the unforgiving mind] looks upon the world with sightless eyes and shrieks as it beholds its own projections…” (W-pI.121.4:2), and, most consolingly, in the meditation offered us in Lesson 49: “Go past all the raucous shrieks and sick imaginings that cover your real thoughts…” (W-pI.49.4:3). Such references are clearly reminiscent of the way the mainstream media is now attempting to keep everyone’s attention riveted on fear, worry, anxiety, separation and attack.

This shrieking strategy is purposive, of course. When looking a bit closer at the governance frame the media companies must operate in these days, it becomes abundantly clear that nowadays it’s almost impossible for them to keep informing us in an independent, objective fashion. Most of the big media institutes are now more or less mouthpieces for the agenda of the large corporations and banks, who for some decades now increasingly control the political course of national governments. Their profits depend on an obedient population that consumes in their preferred way. The purpose of the shrieking, then, is to distract the mind sufficiently to prevent any serious questioning and opposition against this strategy of subtle slavery. The agenda is to make mindless, so that the decision maker will never take the opportunity to choose against it.

In other words, it’s simply the same ego game that has been going on in the waking dream ever since time began. It’s just being intensified lately, just as everything in the past few centuries seems to accelerate and intensify. From the viewpoint of A Course in Miracles nothing has changed, as linear time is merely an illusion with the sole purpose of keeping the ego intact; everything in the past and the future happens now. The ego uses time to keep asking the same pseudo-question: “The world asks but one question. It is this: ‘Of these illusions, which of them is true?'” (T-27.IV.4:4-5). Note the analogy with the current gender discussion, for example. Jesus continues: “Whatever form the question takes, its purpose is the same. It asks but to establish sin is real, and answers in the form of preference. […] Thus is all questioning within the world a form of propaganda for itself” (T-27.IV.4:8-5:3).

As Catherine Austin-Fitts notes, the thing to do with fear-mongering is not to attack it, as this only fuels more ego-thinking. It is much better to stop taking it seriously. In the same vein, Jesus invites us, in all the ego-turmoil, to turn on the observer above the battleground of perception (T-23.IV), calmly observe the ego-silliness, and turn inward to the better Guide: the Voice for Love. This is the journey from mindlessness back to mindfulness: “The memory of God comes to the quiet mind. It cannot come where there is conflict, for a mind at war against itself remembers not eternal gentleness. The means of war are not the means of peace, and what the warlike would remember is not love. […] Conflict within you must imply that you believe the ego has the power to be victorious. Why else would you identify with it?” (T-23.I.1:1-6).

This powerful and sobering passage lets out all the steaming air in the overly inflated balloon of the ego. It shows the way to peace. And so we can choose to see the world as a classroom in which we can decide to forget what the ego taught, choosing instead to learn from the Holy Spirit: “The ego made the world as it perceives it, but the Holy Spirit […] sees the world as a teaching device for bringing you home” (T-5.III.11:1). In other words, choose to not answer fear and attack with fear and attack. Always remember the universal law that as you sow, so will you reap. If you attack, you will be attacked. If you love, you will be loved. Whenever anyone seems to impinge upon your peace of mind, demanding to adhere to some ego agenda, choose not to respond with attack. Turn on the observer (decision maker) above the battleground, observe your thoughts and emotions non-judgmentally, and then ask the Holy Spirit what to think, say, and do.

Remember that it is very well possible to say “No” in a loving way. You need not comply with madness if you are urged to. Refusal to obey can be non-defensive, and even loving; after all, it is the Son of God responding to the Son of God. Defenselessness always works: it is the way in which Gandhi liberated the entire country of India. Therefore, practice often today the central message of the Course, for example as formulated in Chapter 25: “In [The Holy Spirit’s] perception of the world, nothing is seen but justifies forgiveness and the sight of perfect sinlessness. Nothing arises but is met with instant and complete forgiveness. Nothing remains an instant, to obscure the sinlessness that shines unchanged, beyond the pitiful attempts of specialness to put it out of mind, where it must be, and light the body up instead of it” (T-25.III.5:2-4).

The Course invites us to reinterpret all pitiful shrieks of the ego as lessons in forgiveness. Decide today to connect with your desire to learn to forgive totally and unconditionally, while always following the Voice for Love. This is the way back to the inner peace that is always available to all of us. This is the way back Home. Happy practicing!

Jan-Willem van Aalst, April 2022

The light beacon

To many people, the past few years the world seems to have become a rather fearful place. A two-year pandemic is followed by a regional military conflict with the potential to turn into world war 3 (some argue that this is already the case since 2019, carefully organized by a small elite who want to copy-paste the Chinese population control system to the entire world). What happens in the mind is that the ongoing stream of verbal thoughts gets increasingly flooded by fear-inducing input, which triggers ego-impulses of defense and attack. After all, Workbook lesson 135 in A Course in Miracles is aptly titled “If I defend myself I am attacked”, meaning that if I feel the need to defend myself, I obviously see myself als weak, fragile and threatened, which calls for attack in order to preserve the image that I made of myself and of what it means to be safe.

This constant flood of waves of mental terror can make it hard to remember key lessons Jesus offers us in his Course, such as 132 (“There is no world! This is the central thought the Course attempts to teach”, W-pI.132.5:1); lesson 133 (“I will not value what is valueless”, which includes anything that does not last, anything that is about taking from others, and anything that induces guilt over thoughts of separation and attack); Lesson 134, which explains that forgiveness can only work if I acknowledge the sameness in myself and all my brothers, including all my ‘enemies’; and last but not least, the aforementioned lesson 135, which invites us to question every belief we still hold about being separate, weak and vulnerable. Rather, the course invites us to practice to learn that we are the extension of God’s Love, which cannot be attacked.

Jesus’ point, however, is not that we should deny our concrete experiences in time and space, as in “Hey, I will ignore all of this, as it is all illusory anyway”. Theoretically this may be true, but our mind training requires these worldly experiences to learn to make the right choice for the Holy Spirit as our guide for thinking. In this learning process, it is almost impossible to deny our experienced existence as a body. In fact, as early as chapter 2 in the text, Jesus underscores this point: “Those who do so [deny their existence as a body] are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial” (T-2.IV.3:11). This does not contradict Jesus’ earlier statements that there is no world. It does mean that our experiences (as a part of our learning process) have very little to do with reality, which in the Course is equated with God (including the collective Son of God as the extension of His Love).

So rather than repeating to myself “There is no crisis. There is no war. There is no threat”, it is much more helpful to increasingly learn to turn on the “observer above the battlefield” (T-23.IV), and then non-judgmentally examine my thought stream, my feelings and emotions, and conclude: “I apparently fill my mind with thoughts of fear. This is my choice. Obviously I still believe my essence is a fragile body that can easily be threatened, is threatened, and must be defended at all cost. Watching the world news clearly fuels such impulses. But I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me. Like all my brothers, I am one spirit, eternally safe in the Heart of God. This is the ultimate truth, and only this. My current state of mind and body are not supportive in my process of awakening. Rather than feeling threatened, I could see this as yet another lesson to learn to forgive completely. Why should I choose to remain in fear about illusions, when I could just as easily choose to change my mind about what my true reality is?”

What would happen if you would decide, on a daily basis, a thousand times a day, decide to be a beacon of Light instead of a placeholder for fear? What if you would take the time, thirty minutes twice a day, instead of turning on the TV, to just sit quietly, and non-judgmentally watch your verbal thought stream of worries and fear float by, and then turn on the light in your mind? Unexpectedly, the body can be a great vehicle in this practice. Just visualise a love/light beacon shining forth from your heart and your lower belly (fourth and third chakra, respectively) and then slowly expand and intensify the light to encompass your entire body. Know that you are connecting to your true essence, your true heritage. And since you also know that God’s Light cannot be contained, you start to envelop your environment, your land, and eventually the entire world in this light, including everyone who is now being portrayed as evil by the regular media. For we remember that God’s Son is one. If I want to escape from the hell we call the material universe, I must be willing to see all my brothers as sinless, without exception. Forgiving all others is the means to absolve myself from all guilt, that is, from all illusory ephemeral specialness thoughts about separation.

The ego (the part of our mind that still likes to be apart from God) will still try to find a myriad of ways to distract our thinking from such healing practice. After all, a complete willingness to have the ego be completely undone for once and for all, is not mustered up overnight. Do allow yourself some slack in this learning process, reminding yourself that only infinite patience brings immediate results. Tell yourself often today that you are one spirit, united with your Creator and with all your brothers, and that the final outcome of the silly game of time, space and perception is certain: “A happy outcome to all things is sure” (W-pII.292), and “All real pleasure comes from doing God’s Will, which is Love” (T1.VII.1:4); “Do God’s Will, and not one seeming difficulty but will melt away before you reach it. You need take thought for nothing, careless of everything except the only purpose that you would fulfill” (T-20.IV.8:7). There is indeed nothing to fear (W-pI.48). Happy practicing!

Jan-Willem van Aalst, March 2022

The changeless other world

A Course in Miracles explains to us that we always see what we value, because what we value is what we want to see and therefore invite in, and then perceive. Projection makes perception: we first see within, choosing either the ego or the Voice for Love, and consequently outwardly perceive either guilt or the reflection of Love. Our ‘problems’, therefore, are never caused by what we perceive outside, but mirror the choice we made for the wrong inner teacher. A Course in Miracles may be seen as a curriculum in mind training so that we (a) clearly learn to distinguish between the two inner teachers, and (b) allow ourselves to be guided to consistently choose the only teacher that represents anything of lasting value, meaning the Holy Spirit, the Voice for Love.

In this slow learning process, we gradually learn to admit that the ephemeral, illusory world of time and space really holds nothing that we want; nothing inherently in it will bring us salvation (cf. W-p1.128). Since we all still cherish our multitudinous special relationships so much, that’s a rather painful message, which is one of the reasons the Course will never be hugely popular. The good news is that we can still choose to reflect God’s Love here in time and space, through complete unconditional forgiveness; indeed, that remains our main function throughout our days . As Jesus accedes in lesson 129: “You cannot stop with the idea that the world is worthless, for unless you see that there is something else to hope for, you will only be depressed” (W-p1.129.1:2).

Jesus already introduced this very same idea in Chapter 31 of the text: “All [the world’s] roads but lead to disappointment, nothingness and death. […] It is true indeed there is no choice at all within the world. But this is not the lesson in itself. The lesson has a purpose, and in this you come to understand what it is for.… Its purpose is the answer to the search that all must undertake who still believe there is another answer to be found. Learn now, without despair, there is no hope of answer in the world.… No longer look for hope where there is none. Make fast your learning now, and understand you but waste time unless you go beyond what you have learned to what is yet to learn. For from this lowest point will learning lead to heights of happiness, in which you see the purpose of the lesson shining clear, and perfectly within your learning grasp” (T-31.IV.2:3; 3:7-10; 4:2-3,6-8).

When we learn the happy lesson that we are not a body in time and space, but pure spirit – eternally safe within the Heart of our Creator – our days in the illusory waking dream simply become a classroom in which we gradually learn to accept the Atonement, until every remaining dark spot in our unforgiving mind has been brought to light. Talk about reasons to be cheerful! Or, as Jesus puts it in the same lesson: “Our emphasis is not on giving up the world, but on exchanging it for what is far more satisfying, filled with joy, and capable of offering you peace. Think you this world can offer that to you?” (W-p1.129.1:3-4). So it need not be depressing at all to realize that in this world no lasting love can be found, as it is the world of time, where all things shall pass. This, by the way, does not merely refer to how we perceive (i.e., interpret) the world. In chapter 29 of the text, Jesus reminds us: “The stars will disappear, and night and day will be no more. All things that come and go, the tides, the seasons and the lives of men; all things that change with time and bloom and fade will not return. Where time has set an end is not where the eternal is” (T-29.VI.2:8-10).

Still, we can always (and are invited to try to) choose to shift our perception to reflect the real world here and now – the experience of the changeless realm “where love endures forever, hate cannot exist and vengeance has no meaning”. This is not a choice to be made sometime in the future; there is no future. Each and every instant, we choose between the ego dream world and the reflection of God’s Love now. We make this choice by connecting with the stillness in us: “There is a place in you where this whole world has been forgotten; where no memory of sin and of illusion lingers still. There is a place in you which time has left, and echoes of eternity are heard. There is a resting place so still no sound except a hymn to Heaven rises up to gladden God the Father and the Son. Where Both abide are They remembered, Both. And where They are is Heaven and is peace” (T.29.V.1). Many of us experience something approaching this thought state of eternity during times of meditation, which is why a consistent meditation practice is so important.

Again, this changeless Home we all share is not something we lost; we merely chose to forget a while where it is, lured by the ego’s promise of specialness, autonomy and individuality. Yet all the while in this dream world, the communication link between God and His Son remains unbroken, unchanged and undisturbed. We’ve just seemingly clouded our Home, our eternal heritage in clouds of imagined sin, guilt and fear. Although we stubbornly tell ourselves this individuality is what we want and are, in reality it is merely a feeble wish, a petty parody of God’s Kingdom. As Jesus puts it in the same lesson 129: “How far away from this [the real world] are you who stay bound to this [dream] world. And yet how near are you, when you exchange it for the world you want” (W-p1.129.4:5-6).

The principle of learning to accept where salvation lies is simple; however, fully accepting and living it is hard work (“To say these words is nothing. But to mean these words is everything”, W-p1.185.1:1-2). This is why awakening from the dark dream is a slow process. We don’t skyrocket from hell to Heaven overnight. The daily practice boils down to giving up the value we place on all our special relationships; not as a sacrifice, but because we finally see the happy alternative that represents our true changeless home.

We end with a lovely combined quote from Jesus from Chapter 18 and workbook lesson 129: “When the memory of God has come to you in the holy place of forgiveness you will remember nothing else, and memory will be as useless as learning, for your only purpose will be creating. Yet this you cannot know until every perception has been cleansed and purified, and finally removed forever. Forgiveness removes only the untrue, lifting the shadows from the world and carrying it, safe and sure within its gentleness, to the bright world of new and clean perception. There is your purpose now. And it is there that peace awaits you” (T-18.IX.14). “Here is the world that comes to take its place, as you unbind your mind from little things the world sets forth to keep you prisoner. Value them not, and they will disappear” (W-p1.129.5:3-5). Happy practicing!

Jan-Willem van Aalst, March 2022

Love your brother as you love yourself

The idea behind this famous biblical quote is that you and I will be much happier if we treat others in the same way we would treat ourselves, meaning that we value others just as much as we value ourselves. Alas; although most of us really like the principle, if we scan our thoughts of the previous day, it is hardly what we put into practice. If I’m truly honest with myself, I’ll admit that my own needs are of the utmost importance, and I’ll see to it that they are met, even at the expense of others. This doesn’t just apply to survival-based needs such as food, clothing and shelter. Even trying to get home through the traffic jam painstakingly exemplifies this reigning ego-principle.

So why do we tell ourselves that we do subscribe to Jesus’ point of view about loving my brother as myself, but fail to practice it? In A Course in Miracles, Jesus elaborates a lot on this topic, and provides us with some major eye-openers that seem shocking on the one hand, but which on the other hand provide the only way out of the ego hell that will really work. Let’s briefly review some major points that Jesus makes in this regard. While doing so, it’s helpful to read this from an observer point of view. Since A course in Miracles is all about the undoing of the ego, it helps to observe the ego’s reaction as you read it. Same here.

First of all, Jesus tells us that we have forgotten that we have a mind at all, and, more precisely, that our mind comes with a decision maker that can choose, at any instant in time, between non-loving thought (the ego) and loving thought (the Holy Spirit, also called the Voice for Love). All this constant, relentless verbal chatter that seems to flutter through the brain are not our real thoughts, so Jesus informs us (cf. W-pI.10; W-pI.45). In fact, the only true thoughts we have are those that we think with God — a term which in the Course symbolizes pure Oneness Love, outside time and space. In other words, only our loving thoughts are true, and everything else comes down to “image making” (W-pI.15) in order to keep up the illusion that we can be separate from God and that we actually did succeed in doing so. This is why this universe in time and space is called a dream world (cf. T-18.II).

So, the first shock is the realization that my verbal thoughts are not my real thoughts. Or, as one reader humorously commented: “I think, therefore I lie”. But that’s only the beginning. Next, Jesus explains to us that the reason we do not love our brother is because we do not love ourselves. However desperately we try to keep up the image of ourselves as a sympathetic, loving, innocent and well-meaning person, Jesus tells us that we actually despise ourselves: “You think you are the home of evil, darkness and sin. […] You think if what is true about you were revealed to you, you would be struck with horror so intense that you would rush to death by your own hand, living on after seeing this being impossible” (W-pI.93.1:1). While we would vehemently deny such a statement about ourselves, something inside cringes, because we realize that, at some level deep down in the iceberg of our minds, we do believe it.

So it’s no wonder I don’t love my brother as I love myself. Or actually I do: since deep down I despise myself, I hate my brother like I hate myself. In fact, the core strategy of the ego to keep this self-hatred from surfacing, is to keep pointing fingers at everyone and everything else outside me: “I’m not evil — this or that other person is the culprit! Look at me: I’m just an innocent victim trying to be loving!” This principle, as all students of A Course in Miracles know well, is called projection: what we refuse to acknowledge in ourselves, we project out onto the world so that we can now see evil everywhere but in ourselves.

Why do you and I think so lowly of ourselves? Once we’ve attended Jesus’ lesson on the metaphysical foundation of this dream world, the explanation becomes crystal clear: I hate myself because I believe that am the one who rejected God and preferred separation, autonomy and individuality to my eternal place of peace in the Heart of God. As a result, there’s this gargantuan guilt about the savage sin of having separated from my Father. I can repress that guilt in a thousand ways by accusing others and constantly distracting my mind by focusing on idols (money, food, booze, special relationships, you name it), but… the guilt is still there, in the deepest recesses of the iceberg of my mind.

“To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning”, so we read in (T-24.in.2:1-2). Literally everything that I believed to be true about my very self needs to be re-evaluated; looked at again; and then transformed to what the Voice for Love would tell me instead about what I am. It’s remarkable to notice in A Course in Miracles how Jesus uses the biblical story of the prodigal son, to illustrate how utterly mistaken we were about our own worth: “Listen to the story of the prodigal son, and learn what God’s treasure is and yours: This son of a loving father left his home and thought he squandered everything for nothing of any value, although he did not know its worthlessness at the time. He was ashamed to return to his father because he thought he had hurt him. Yet when he came home, the father welcomed him with joy because only the son himself was his father’s treasure. He wanted nothing else.” (T-8.VI.4).

So Jesus’ clarion call to “love my brother as I love myself” still stands, but I first need to change my mind about who and what I am; about the degree to which I am worthy of love; about how much my Creator loves me, and about what will really make me happy. That’s a big chunk. I can now see why Jesus tells me that “to learn his Course I need to question every value that I hold”. A Course in Miracles invites me to train my mind to lower my fear sufficiently to allow the Holy Spirit to guide my daily thoughts, instead of the fearful ego, always busy keeping the gargantuan guilt in my mind deeply buried.

The basic means, principle and exercise to this end is called, you guessed it, forgiveness. Although, bottom line, this is really about forgiveness of everything I despise about myself because I feel so guilty about rejecting God. The daily practice is forgiving everyone and everything around me that I previously condemned. So we read in chapter 9 of the text: “If you would know your prayers are answered, never doubt a Son of God. Do not question him and do not confound him, for your faith in him is your faith in yourself.” (T-9.II.4). That final part is the key. Whenever I dislike someone or something, that’s a sure sign I still project my self-hatred. This is not something to feel guilty about. On the contrary, I’ve just been offered another “lesson of love” in the classroom of the Holy Spirit. I am now learning to observe the dream world as a dream. I am the dreamer of the dream, and I can choose to be a happy learner, and realize I am still the one Son of God the Father would gladly welcome back.

Of course, it’s diligently doing the workbook lessons that transfers this happy principle into daily experience. Review, for example, lessons 228 and 227 in the workbook: “God has condemned me not. No more do I.” (W-pII.228); “This is my holy instant of release.” (W-pII.227). Let’s review this lovely prayer from the latter: “Father, it is today that I am free, because my will is Yours. I thought to make another will. Yet nothing that I thought apart from You exists. And I am free because I was mistaken, and did not affect my own reality at all by my illusions. Now I give them up, and lay them down before the feet of truth, to be removed forever from my mind. This is my holy instant of release. Father, I know my will is one with Yours.”

This way I am being shown I can love my brother like I love myself. All I need to do is allow the Holy Spirit to clean up (“undo”) the darkness in my own mind, by non-judgmentally looking at that darkness with Him beside me. This does not mean I should renounce the world and become a monk, by the way. On the contrary: the Holy Spirit may impel you and me to be very active in the dream world. The difference is that my thoughts and actions are not guided by the ever-condemning ego anymore; they will be guided by the Voice for Love, which is the royal road to the peace which is my inheritance. So instead of projecting hate, attack and separation, I now extend love, thereby inviting others to make the same choice. And whenever I give love, I will receive it. Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

Helen and the Voice

Last week a relatively new Course Student expressed doubt to me as to whether the inner voice that Helen had ‘heard’ could really have been a divine instructive voice, quite apart from her own psyche. Could it not all have been fabricated, perhaps even unconsciously and with the best intentions? This is what I replied.

This is an understandable question. After all, there is a lot of chaff among the wheat when it comes to people who claim to hear and/or channel divine voices. On the other hand, one could also argue that it’s highly likely that not all of these cases are mere bogus. These are the aspects that convinced me of Helen’s authenticity:

  1. The metaphysics throughout the curriculum. Although Einstein questioned the reality of time and space as early as the beginning of the twentieth century, the theory of quantum physics was certainly not widespread, let alone accepted, in academic circles and in society as a whole; and certainly not in the field of clinical psychology, which was Helen’s line of work. In terms of quantum physics, the Course beautifully describes the process of how the observer (as mind) influences the observed, and how the decision maker manifests the illusory material universe. We know for sure that Helen was not familiar with these theories at that time. In addition, the Course aptly describes not only the true case of the Big Bang, but also the state that prevailed before time seemed to be. Pioneers in this field are only widely discussing these topics the past twenty or thirty years.
  2. Style of writing. As the dictation process progressed, the text increasingly came in so-called Iambic pentameter, a sort of natural syllable-rhythm perfected by William Shakespeare. At many places in the curriculum, this Iambic pentameter reaches a quality that would probably make Shakespeare envious. Now, it’s true that Helen was an ardent Shakespeare fan and knew much of his works, but her talent wasn’t such that she could outdo him in this regard.
  3. The Symphonic tapestry of the curriculum. Jesus does not present his course in a linear fashion as is usually the case, where each next step builds upon the previous. Rather, the entire curriculum is constructed as a complex symphony in which themes are introduced, expanded, fleshed-out, only to be set aside and recapitulated much later, sometimes ten to twenty chapters later. The themes of this curriculum are presented as a brilliantly woven carpet. It’s been often compared to the symphonic structures in Beethoven’s symphonies. It is hardly likely that Helen constructed such a tapestry herself.
  4. Her own resistance. Especially at the beginning of the scribing process, there were many altercations with the Voice about what she was to write down, which were born from serious resistance on her part. At various points, she tried all sort of ingenious tricks to ‘prove’ that this Voice made errors and could therefore not be authentic. But that never really worked. Having said that, she admitted that she was never able to fully accept the message. Near her deathbed, she reportedly said: “I know that what the Course says is true. I just cannot believe it.”, meaning that she acknowledged she would need more reincarnations to pass the final exam.

Personally, I suspect that this Voice is the same Voice that gave us the Bhagavad Gita and other Vedic scriptures some three thousand years ago in ancient India, and possibly also messages like “The impersonal life” by Joseph Benner. All these messages share striking similarities; perhaps not in form, but most certainly in content. At the time of the scribing, Helen was not familiar with such books. By the way, we would do well not to confuse the Voice of the Course with the Biblical Jesus, the gospels about whom were never completely free of the egos of the disciples/scribes. Yes, the Course certainly presents itself in Christian terminology, but its content leans much more towards Buddhism.