A Course summary in twelve lines

No Course in Miracles student is beyond fear, anger or depression all the time. Being a Course student means practicing vigilance for ‘the Kingdom’, which means checking as often as we can which guide we have chosen to direct our thoughts: either the ego or the Holy Spirit. In this practice, it is helpful to memorize some particularly striking statements that capture a key aspect of Jesus’ message. Let’s review some of these, summarized in a dozen lines. These may help you to quickly get on track again if you notice you just stumbled in your mind training practice, by rejecting something or someone. Jesus’ statements are printed in boldface.

I am never upset for the reason I think. I could see peace instead of this. (W-pI.5; W-pI.34). The first thing to realize whenever we feel not at peace and start blaming someone or something for it, is that “being-not-at-peace” always involves purposive projection. Therefore, my upset is really about some guilty belief within me that I projected out, because I still refuse to look at it. Before inspecting that belief, however, I need remember that I am a Son of God and therefore could choose to experience inner peace, instead of my disquiet. The very moment you actually follow up on this, you’ll feel better.

The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself. (T-27.VIII.10:1). The next step is to realize that nothing comes to me unbidden. My lack of inner peace has a purpose. Once I can ‘righteously’ point my finger at all the wrongs outside of me, I have a convincing case for God that I am an innocent victim and should therefore be accepted back into Heaven, while others should be sent to hell. Unconsciously, that’s the goal in mind whenever I choose not to be at peace. So indeed, whenever I feel fearful, angry or depressed, I am actually doing this to myself. Nothing outside of me can disturb the peace in my mind unless I grant it power to do so.

There is no world! This is the central thought the Course attempts to teach. (W-pI.132.6:2-3). The first two lines above are preposterous from the ego’s point of view. After all, I can make a long list of things that happened to me which were clearly entirely out of my sphere of influence. Only when I seriously consider the metaphysical foundation of A Course in Miracles, which states that everything in time and space is an illusory dream, our reality as spirit being completely outside time and space, does this become comprehensible. Five-senses perception keeps us imprisoned in a nightmare of separation! The Son of God is one in content, even in its seemingly fragmented state with many forms. Although each of us seems to have private thoughts, in content we are always choosing between ego or Holy Spirit, each and every instant.

I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me. (W-pI.201-220). If there is no world, then there are no bodies, which means that my body does not really exist. However, if the Course stayed at that, it would merely be depressive. The fact is that you and I are pure spirit, created by a wholly benign Creator in His likeness. We are not at peace solely because we took the ‘tiny, mad idea’ seriously that separation from God is in any way possible. We project our horrendous guilt about this mistake (the ego says: sin) because we are mortally afraid that God will hunt us down and punish us severely, and justifiably so.

God is but Love, and therefore so am I. There is no cruelty in God and none in me. (W-pI.R.V-in.10:8; W-pI.170). Most of us in the Western world were brainwashed early on with the fixed and fearful notion that God is both loving and punitive. However, in A Course in Miracles, Jesus clearly states that Love (=God) does not condemn, and therefore the wrathful attributes of God are solely projections of the guilt of the scholars who wrote the scrolls. That is why Jesus in his Course quotes the parable of the prodigal son: this son, who had squandered everything for nothing of any value, being afraid his father would punish him at his return, noticed to his astonishment that his father welcomed him back with joy, since the son was his treasure. Thus it is with our Father, too.

Teach only love, for that is what you are. The Holy Spirit is in you in a very literal sense. (T-6.I.13:2; T-5.II.3:7). Since God is only Love, we are only love. We do not regard ourselves that way because unconsciously we feel so wretched, which is ultimately about our decision to separate from God, which in reality never happened, but which will remain in the mind as long as we choose to remain asleep in time and space. Happily, the Holy Spirit is always present in this dream, and He can use everything in the dream to turn the tables on the ego, that is, turn an attack into a forgiveness lesson. This Holy Spirit is not some external agent; He is the Voice for Love, or our choice for right-minded thought. Since our essence is love, the Holy Spirit is indeed literally inside our mind.

Seek not outside yourself. For it will fail, and you will weep each time an idol falls. (T-29.VII.1.1-2). In the Course, an ‘idol’ is anything outside of us we associate salvation with: money; possessions; special relationships; you name it. However, since everything outside of us merely serves the purpose of distracting our minds so that we shall not look inside and see there is no sin and guilt, any focus on externals is bound to reinforce guilt and fear in some subtle way, since that is the essence of the separation thought we call the ego. We try a thousand idols to find lasting happiness, and of course none of these work for more than a little while. Jesus’ point by the way is not to turn our backs on the world, but merely to make no big deal of it, since the material world is nothing.

I need do nothing. I need only be vigilant for God and His Kingdom. (T-18.VII; T-6.V-C). Frantically pursuing idols makes sure we stay on the ego’s road to nowhere, which may affirm our seemingly separated individual autonomy; but it also keeps us in misery and pain, providing yet more opportunities to see evil and guilt outside of us, justifying the tragic cycle of attack — defense. Jesus is telling us that salvation is not found by frantically pursuing it, but merely by taking a step back and allowing the Holy Spirit (the Voice for Love) to guide our thoughts. Since this is a choice against the ego with which we still identify so deeply, this choice engenders enormous resistance. That is why Jesus implores us to be vigilant for this choice, the only one that will make us happy.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. (T-16.IV.6:1) This is probably the most often quoted statement of the Course. And yet it is also probably the most ignored statement of the Course. Most students blissfully employ the Course to make themselves feel better in this dream world of time and space. We all yearn to find some lasting love amidst the devastation of our material lives. Instead, Jesus invites his students to start looking inside, in the mind where we have built our useless barriers against true love: the Love of God, which means that there is no individuality. And so again, we love the quote, but the unconscious resistance against it is enormous.

The way you see your brother is the way you see yourself. We will enter Heaven together, or not at all. (W-pI.181). Although these are not literal quotes, they nonetheless convey a central theme within A Course in Miracles: I cannot hope to find salvation without seeing all lifeforms as equally worthy of God’s Love. Remind yourself that each time you point your finger accusingly at someone or something, three of your fingers are pointing at yourself. Again, I’m only accusing a projection of some part in myself that I have not yet been willing to forgive. So every time I meet someone, I am given another chance at salvation, by making it a holy encounter, that is: forgive myself for the darkness that’s apparently still in my own mind.

Anger is never justified. I will forgive, and this will disappear. My salvation comes from me. (T-6.in.1:7; T-30.VI.1:1-2; W-pI.193.13:3; W-pI.70.10:5). This triad should be self-explanatory by now. The “this” in the second sentence refers to my upsets, which I have chosen with the purpose of holding on to my precious individuality and therefore keeping the oneness love of God at bay. When I forgive, I take back my own projections of fear, and acknowledge that all life is one, kept perfectly safe by a wholly benign Creator outside time and space. However, Jesus cannot change our mind for us. Therefore, my salvation must come from me, through my choosing a better Teacher to guide my thoughts.

To say these words is nothing. But to mean these words is everything. (W-pI.185.1:1-2) You and I could walk around for decades uttering the quotes above, but we won’t progress an inch unless we start to really mean them, that is: live them. We can do this at our own pace. As Jesus says in the introduction: “This is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary”. We won’t accept the truth overnight. The process is more or less as follows: “…at first to be but said and then repeated many times; and next to be accepted as but partly true, with many reservations. Then to be considered seriously more and more, and finally accepted as the truth.” (W-pII.284.1:5-6). It doesn’t matter, since time is already over anyway. We are merely seemingly reliving what is already over. Just nurture your willingness to focus on choosing the right Teacher, here and now, and you are well on your way to the real world, free of any condemnation.

— Jan-Willem van Aalst




Sex, guilt, and the neutral body

Spirituality and sex are often regarded as an awkward couple. And that’s generally because sex and religion are such fiendish enemies to each other. Many traditional religious books particularly rage about women who focus on sex. Of course, more often than not, that’s merely a projection by the religious scholars who wrote these books to cover their guilt about their own uncontrollable need for sexual intercourse, as the ongoing stream of scandals within the churches clearly illustrates.

Why is sex such a ‘hot topic’ for so many of us? This is for two reasons, which are really the opposite sides of the same coin. Firstly, on our list of sought-after peak pleasures, sex usually ranks on top. In fact, if you ask anyone which feeling comes closest to the experience of the divine, the answer is usually: the height of the orgasm. In addition, we associate sex with our innate ability to create new life, which of course is the core of all expression of divinity: creation! We ignore the fact that the peak pleasure of sex is only of an instant’s duration. We become addicted to having more. And still more. Just to experience that ‘divine peak moment’.

The other side of the coin might be concisely summarized as guilt. This manifests on several levels. Firstly, there’s often the association with what we were told during our upbringing by the reverend, minister, priest or pastor, namely that sex is sinful and should not be sought after, since the body is filth. But we still crave for it. That’s guilt. The second level of this guilt is about what our focus on sex does to our relationship with God. We secretly acknowledge that the entire mechanism of sexual intercourse is a feeble parody on the divine power of the eternal Creator. We engage in sex only to tell ourselves that we are capable of divine creation as well, while deep down inside we know we are fooling ourselves, and will probably be severely punished in the afterlife.

And last but not least, guilt about sex is especially fueled because we realize that in the end it does not really fulfill at all. Sure, there’s great ecstasy at the peak of the orgasm, but there’s always the fear that some form of pain or misery will come of it. Especially the insatiable need of testosterone-driven men to repeatedly reproduce is the chief cause of countless marital fights, abuses, divorces and even murder (e.g., in the case of adultery). While on the one hand lovers think they find completion of themselves through sexual intercourse, there’s always the fear and suspicion that the other might find someone who is regarded as ‘even better’, as countless pop hits attest to. Moreover, if we have sexual intercourse with too many partners, we will inevitably call some horrible disease upon us. And so everyone associates to sex both pleasure and pain, however unconsciously this may be.

Oddly, in A course in Miracles we find absolutely nothing about sex. Just search your digital copy for the word ‘sex’; you won’t find it. The overly quick explanation is usually that this is because Jesus’ message is not about the body; it’s purely about the mind. We reason that since sex is obviously of the body and not of the mind, Jesus has no reason to mention it. Still, Jesus does talk a lot about the body in his Course. At a first glance it seems that Jesus, too, disregards the body as worthless. However, when one reads Jesus’ words more carefully, it becomes clear that in A Course in Miracles, the body is regarded as neutral, which is distinctively different from rejecting it, as so many religions and spiritualities do.

In the Course, Jesus explains to us that we may regard the body as a useful mirror of the mind. Contrary to widespread popular belief, the body is never the cause of what seems to happen to us; it’s merely the effect of a choice of thought. This is perhaps best exemplified in Ken Wapnick’s “Love does not condemn”, which is by far the best resource available today to learn to forgive religion as a whole (!). In chapter 17, Ken mentions the Gnostic treatise “The Acts of John”, written somewhere between 100 – 300 A.D. In this somewhat bizarre story, John comes upon a young man who has killed his father for objecting to the son’s sexual affair with a married woman. John resurrects the father, causing such contrition in the young man that the son quickly cuts off his own genitals and presents them to his lover, exclaiming: “There you have the source of all this!” The young man proudly reports to John what he did, but he is quickly reproved by the apostle: “You should not have destroyed the place of your temptation, but the thought which showed its temper through those members; for it is not those organs which are harmful to man, but the unseen springs through which every harmful emotion is stirred up and comes to light” (Love does not condemn, p.558).

This Gnostic parable could have been taken right out of the Course. Now we can see why Jesus’ focus is always on the mind, since it is the thoughts we choose that automatically direct the actions of the body. More specifically, the core of every thought is its purpose, of which there are only two: (a) the ego’s purpose of attack and separation, and (b) the Holy Spirit’s purpose of forgiveness and inner peace. This also pertains to everything regarding the body: what do we use it for? Although we usually employ the body to reaffirm our belief in the separation, being the ego’s chief survival mechanism, the mind is perfectly free to choose to employ the body, including sex, for the right-minded purpose of forgiveness and inner peace.

This brings to mind Pursah’s Gospel of Thomas that was handed down to Gary Renard, in which we read the following puzzling anecdote: “A woman in the crowd said to him [Jesus], ‘lucky are the womb that bore you and the breasts that fed you.’ He said to her: ‘lucky are those who have heard the word of the Father and have truly kept it. For there will be days when you will say, “Lucky are the womb that has not conceived and the breasts that have not given milk”.’ (Pursah’s gospel of Thomas, statement 79). Importantly, Jesus is not saying that sex is sinful. He is merely explaining that a change of mind from ‘more and more separation’ (being the chief goal of sex) to the forgiving lessons of the Holy Spirit will automatically lead to the much deeper desire of lasting inner peace, instead of the short, fleeting pleasure of sex.

The ego eagerly uses such reasoning to nurture the guilt in our minds: “See – since you are obviously still focused on sex (and the body in general), you will never make it back to heaven. Forget about it and keep listening to me.” Jesus and the Holy Spirit, however, remind us of the fact that we may very well use the body for their loving purpose of forgiveness and inner peace, as we read in the Workbook section called “What is the body?”: “The body is a dream. Like other dreams it sometimes seems to picture happiness, but can quite suddenly revert to fear, where every dream is born. […] Made to be fearful, must the body serve the purpose given it. But we can change the purpose that the body will obey by changing what we think that it is for. The body is the means by which God’s Son returns to sanity. […] The Son of God extends his hand to reach his brother, and to help him walk along the road with him. Now is the body holy. Now it serves to heal the mind that it was made to kill. […] You will identify with that you think will make you safe. […] Identify with love, and you are safe. Identify with love, and you are home. Identify with love, and find your Self.” (W-pII.5.3:1-5:3; italics mine).

To summarize, sex in and of itself is never sinful, and should therefore never give rise to guilt. Be sure, however, that you are aware of the purpose of your sexual life: is it (a) to indulge in the ego-need for still further separation and an imitation of divine creation; or is it (b) to forgive your own condemnation of everyone and everything, and to walk the Holy Spirit’s way back to the oneness of the Son of God? Sex only becomes problematic once you regard it as salvation in and of itself. Such a purpose will always fail. Jesus asks his students to employ their bodies as the eyes, the ears, the hands, the feet through which his healing message saves the world. The form of the bodily actions, including sex, then becomes completely irrelevant – it’s solely the content, or purpose of what we use the body for which guides our journey back Home. So happily dismiss the ego’s purpose for sex, and choose once again the oneness love of Christ as your prime focus, since that is what you and I are.

— Jan-Willem van Aalst




What happens is what I desire

A Course in Miracles is a spiritual message rooted in nonduality. It teaches not only that God did not create the universe; it even goes as far as to say that the universe, time and space, yes life as we think we know it, is ultimately just a dream; an hallucination. Or better yet: a nightmare, as it is the effect of the root thought of attack, separation, and autonomy. Filled with guilt over this imagined savage sin and fear of retaliation by the Almighty Creator, the seemingly sleeping Son (all of us combined) seemed to fragment in time and space into a zillion splintered fragments (what we know as ‘the Big Bang’), hoping against hope to hide from God. At the same time we keep up the illusion that the separation was in fact accomplished. All challenges, decay and death “prove” that we in fact did shatter the perfection of the Oneness of God, and are now on our own.

Clearly, the implication of this message is that the sole responsibility for whatever seems to happen in the universe, let alone our interpretation of it, is purely our own. To the ego, that’s a most inconvenient conclusion. After all, the mechanism of projection allowed the Son to repress his guilt about the separation. Projection lets the guilt rest on everyone and everything, except on me. Obviously, the evil is “out there“; not in me. And I will gladly suffer at the hand of all this evil, just to “prove” that I am an innocent victim of a cruel world. Surely God will accept me back into Heaven when my brief candle as shameful sinner flickers and goes out…

Jesus in A Course in Miracles (who, incidentally, is the manifestation of the Voice for Love and should not be confused with the biblical Jesus) has some rather painful messages for his students in this regard. That is, “painful” for the frightened separated ego, as Jesus puts the responsibility for everything that happens in our lives right in our own lap. Remember what Jesus teaches about the secret of salvation: “You are doing this unto yourself” (T-27.VIII.10:1). The word “this” refers to everything we experience in the world we think we live in, which, if we are truly honest, boils down to a life in which all of us walk “uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1).

Many students unconsciously skip such passages. For example, have a look at chapter 21 in the text, where Jesus implores us to honestly admit: “I am responsible for what I see. I choose the feelings I experience, and decide upon the goal I would achieve. And everything that seems to happen to me I ask for, and receive as I have asked.” (T-21.II.2:3-5). Wow. And as if that isn’t insulting enough, take a look at workbook lesson 253, where Jesus would have me say to myself: “It is impossible that anything should come to me unbidden by myself. Even in this world, it is I who rule my destiny. What happens is what I desire. What does not occur is what I do not want to happen. This I must accept” (W-pII.253.1:1-5; italics mine).

What? Watch your mind as you take this in. At this point, the ego raises a pile of seemingly valid objections: “That’s plain bullshit! So you’re telling me that I deliberately caused my own cancer, because I wanted to? Preposterous! So my cousin got hit by a car last week because he invited this? And you would maintain that deformity in newborn babies is the result of their own choice? Come on, Jesus, it’s quite obvious you are making a fool of yourself!” And so we slam the blue book shut. We throw it at the wall, or try to flush it down the toilet. There are even several reports of people having set the book aflame.

However, as Course scholar Kenneth Wapnick never tired of explaining, this is merely a typical case of the pitfall of level confusion. Since A course in Miracles is rooted in nonduality, we should always consider Jesus’ messages on two levels: (I) the metaphysical level, and (II) the experiential level in time and space, where you and I believe we are. From the point of view of our level II daily experiences, Jesus’ quotes above indeed seem ridiculous. Of course I do not want cancer; of course my cousin doesn’t want to get hit by a car. Still, what we fail to realize is that although there seem to be many egos, in content the ego is one, with only one purpose: keeping up the illusion that the separation has indeed been accomplished; that we are assailed by evil in everyone and everything outside of us; that we are innocent victims of a world that caused us, instead of the world being an effect of that ego thought system.

What does that insight mean on a practical level, where I indeed get ill, am involved in accidents and eventually decay and die? It means that in all such cases, the one ego has yet again found a way of affirming its reality: “See?! We obviously are apart from God. Perfection and oneness are filthy lies. Look at what happens in the world! See what happens to you! Isn’t it obvious that God is cruel, and hellbent on your punishment? And look over there, and there; attack, struggle and strife. Yet more evidence of the reality of this world. Jesus offers but fairy tales! Be afraid, be very afraid. Cherish your own innocence [projections, really] and hold on to the infinitely small chance that you might be accepted back into Heaven if you but suffer sufficiently in this dangerous life!”

And so we keep alive the silly madness of being a powerless victim in a world we did not cause, just to “prove” our innocence. In Chapter 18 of the text, Jesus says: “Call it not sin but madness, for such it was, and so it still remains. Invest it not with guilt, for guilt implies it was accomplished in reality. And above all, be not afraid of it. ” (T-18.I.6:7) The only way out of this hell is to shift the way we interpret what happens in the world, with the help of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. This shift is called the miracle, which does not look on love, but “…on devastation, and reminds the mind that what it sees is false” (W-pII.13.2). Changing the way we interpret this devastation, namely from “a just punishment” to “a useful classroom in which we learn to forgive”, allows us to ascend the ladder of the acceptance of the Atonement.

This may seem vague and impractical, but we could choose to apply this at any moment, in any circumstance. One workshop participant recently shared with the group how he was able to make this “mind-shift” while being hospitalized for surgery. Instead of feeling fearful, victimized and anxious, he chose to place his trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and just allowed all things to be as they were. The nurses were surprised to experience such a peaceful man in such an acutely dangerous situation. In fact, they admired the self-discipline this man had obviously mastered. In truth, it was just a gentle surrendering, a “quiet melting-in”, a choice for right-mindedness instead of the raucous shrieks of the ego. The surgery was successful, and he later reported that he had experienced hardly any pain during the whole event whatsoever.

The trick here is that once you are willing to lift the decision-making part of your mind to the place “above the battleground”, postponing all judgment, we realize that our imagined identity in this dream world of time and space, isn’t our real identity at all. The body may indeed seem to experience cancerous cells; however, we could choose to reinterpret this as a useful sign that we still need to forgive something, instead of a cruel punishment meted out by God. Your body mirrors your mind! Moreover, since this body is hardly the first that I have experienced in time, it’s quite possible that in previous lives I have had deformities. All this doesn’t matter from the metaphysical point of view. Instead of bemoaning the cruelty in the world, I could choose to see everything as a forgiveness opportunity offered me by the Holy Spirit. And the result of that choice is inner peace, my greatest gift to the world which is still ruled by “uncertainty, loneliness, and constant fear.”

So Jesus would say, “Why not admit that deep inside you know very well that this world is a place where starved and thirsty creatures come to die. Why not admit that deep inside you know you are an exile here, and that this desert you call the world is not your real home. You are dreaming about autonomy and separation, stubbornly maintaining that you know better than God. But do you want to be right or happy? For you cannot be both. Child of God, you have not sinned, but you have been much mistaken. Nothing has happened but that you have put yourself to sleep, imagining what it would be like to be apart from your Creator, which is obviously impossible. Your Father loves you and will call to you until you choose to come Home to Him in peace at last. Until then you are free to crucify yourself as often as you choose. But how long do you want to postpone peace? Allow me to help you change your mind about all this silliness. Why wait for Heaven?”

A Course in Miracles offers us a unique way to discover and accept – without guilt, fear, anger or depression – the simple fact that you and I still choose to have a split mind: on the one hand, we do want to experience our inheritance as the Love of God; on the other hand, we still crave to be a special individual, autonomous and on our own, stubbornly insisting we know better than the Voice for Love. Burying the guilt about that wish merely keeps the misery of the illusion of time and space intact. And time and space are always accompanied by attack, guilt and fear, since this was the root cause of the universe in the first place.

As always, it’s helpful to remember that the outcome of this struggle is certain, for you and for me, and for every seemingly separated living thing. Time and space will have an end. The universe will disappear, and we will return Home into the Heart of God. It doesn’t matter how many lives this might yet take. As the Epilogue of the Clarification of Terms reminds us: “Forget not once this journey is begun the end is certain. Doubt along the way will come and go and go to come again. Yet is the ending sure. No one can fail to do what God appointed him to do. When you forget, remember that you walk with Him and with His Word upon your heart. Who could despair when hope like this is his?” (C-ep.1:1-6).

— Jan-Willem van Aalst




Clinging to the nightmare

We all try to make the best of our time on earth while we are here. We try to be kind and loving; we work on personal development; we visit places that seem to exhibit the most beautiful aspects of nature. And yet, in spite of our efforts, life inevitably ends in sickness, entropy (decay, really) and death. “All things must pass”, as the saying goes, including ourselves. And so we try to protect the little lot we think we have, and we hope we never have to experience devastating disaster or war. Yet it seems we are only born here to die again. What’s the meaning of it all? Many great minds have pondered this question.

A Course in Miracles, as a spiritual curriculum for attaining lasting inner peace, offers a rather uncompromising answer. Having come to us from outside time and space, we are taught that this entire world in time and space is nothing but a dream, and a bad dream at that. Section 4 in the Clarification of terms is especially clear about this: “The world you see is an illusion of a world. God did not create it, for what He creates must be eternal as Himself. Yet there is nothing in the world you see that will endure forever.” (C-4.1). And all Course students are familiar with Jesus’ bombshell in lesson 132: “There is no world! This is the central thought the Course attempts to teach.” (W-pI.132.6:1-2).

In other words, Jesus in A Course in Miracles bluntly tells us that the world we think is our daily reality, is nothing but a horrific illusion, which we made up, with the explicit purpose to experience autonomy and individuality, apart from God: “The world was made as an attack on God. It symbolizes fear [of retaliation]. And what is fear except love’s absence? Thus the world was meant to be a place where God could enter not, and where His Son could be apart from Him. Here was perception born, for knowledge could not cause such insane thoughts.” (W-pII.3.2:1-5).

At first it is very difficult to be told, let alone accept, that the physical world you and I seem to live in, including time and space and the universe itself, is nothing but a dream in which the One Son of God is dreaming of continual separated fragmentation in billions and billions of seemingly separated pieces, all the while living “uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1) because the guilt that the sin of separation caused, will sooner or later have to be paid for in inevitable death. And yet we do not doubt the reality of the world as we rise, eat, go to work, relax, and prepare for another night. Why is that?

Jesus’ simple answer is that we do this because we want to be asleep, however painful it might feel at times, and however dreary the eventual individual ending is. “[The world] will remain no longer than the thought that gave it birth is cherished.” (W-pII.3.1:3). As long as we do cherish the idea of living as a special individual, with special talents that can ‘make a difference’,  we will continue to believe in the dream of separation. As long as we do not doubt its reality we will continue to believe that all kinds of people and circumstances can influence us (read: hurt us). We firmly believe in the “stimulus-response” (or: attack-defend) paradigm of the world.

We know this all too well from our nightly dreams. Even though the weirdest things can happen while we are asleep, as long as we are dreaming we do not doubt the reality of the dream. The difference between our nightly dreams and the ‘waking dream’ we call ‘the world’, is our reaction when waking up. Regardless of whether I had pleasant dreams or a nightmare, when I wake up I realize that ‘it was just a dream’. I realize I was dreaming a dream, which isn’t real. I forget about the dream and move on. However, I fail to realize that I am also the dreamer of the world which isn’t real either, and that I could also choose to forget about this ‘dream world’, and go back Home into the Heart of God.

Enter A Course in Miracles. As we read in section II of chapter 28: “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, and but a part of someone else’s dream. The miracle does not awaken you, but merely shows you who the dreamer is.” (T-28.II.4, italics mine). The dreamer is the one Son of God, seemingly asleep in the nightmare of separation which is pictured as a universe with millions of bodies, from planetary size to humanoid size, each one being “a tiny fence around a little part of a glorious and complete idea.”(T18.VIII.2:5). However, just like our nightly dreams, the world and the universe are misty illusions.

This message would leave us deeply depressed, if Jesus wouldn’t offer us a much better alternative. However much the ego would like us to think that choosing to wake up from the dream world means annihilation, or ‘being erased’, as one workshop participant put it, Jesus tells us that we will find the real world, the gateway back to Heaven. And it’s solely our own choice: “[The miracle] teaches you there is a choice of dreams while you are still asleep, depending on the purpose of your dreaming. Do you wish for dreams of healing, or for dreams of death?” (T-28.II.4:3-4)

The importance of this message warrants a further citation of this section: “The miracle is the first step in giving back to cause the function of causation, not effect. For this confusion has produced the dream, and while it lasts will wakening be feared. […] Like every lesson that the Holy Spirit requests you learn, the miracle is clear. It demonstrates what He would have you learn, and shows you its effects are what you want. In His forgiving dreams are the effects of yours undone, and hated enemies perceived as friends with merciful intent. Their enmity is seen as causeless now, because they did not make it. And you can accept the role of maker of their hate, because you see that it has no effects. Now are you freed.” (T-28.II.10).

In terms of personal development programs, Jesus’ call to us is something like: “What do you want? Do you want to go on living your life on auto-pilot, moving from one misery to the next, ending in death? Or do you want to become a happy learner and choose happy dreams in the real world, in the firm conviction that ‘disappearing into the heart of God’ is much more preferable than remaining an autonomous separated individual who thinks he knows better than God?” Almost every Course student experiences this awkward balance between our desire for the Love of God on the one hand, and the desire for specialness on the other. And we would so much like to have both…

Again, A Course in Miracles is a veritable bombshell under the foundation of the ego. Jesus patiently explains to us, without judging us at all, just how much we still cling to this self-inflicted nightmare we think is our very essence. Its metaphysical non-dualistic foundation makes A Course in Miracles one of the most radical spiritualities available to us today. And yet, sooner or later each seemingly separated little self will get to the point where the pain of the nightmare becomes too much, and exclaim that there must be a better way, echoing Bill Thetford’s outcry and Helen’s agreement that set in motion the scribing of A Course in Miracles in 1965.

Before you hit yourself over the head about still failing to consistently make the only right choice in this regard, please turn to the Manual for Teachers and read section 4 again about the characteristics of God’s teachers. These are not just about being honest with yourself, but especially about being tolerant, gentle, joyful, defenseless, generous, patient, faithful, and open-minded. And the most important characteristic is trust. Trust in the fact that you, too, will successfully make the journey Home, sooner or later. Just ask yourself every once in a while: “Why wait for Heaven?” (W-pI.188.1:1) And then happily choose the intuitive advice of the Holy Spirit again, being the Voice for Love, which is what you and I are. Congratulations on your choice to be a happy learner!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, January 2023




The mirror of the mind

In Workbook lesson 304 of A Course in Miracles there is a passage that is easily overlooked, but is nevertheless a bombshell for the mind if we realize its full implication. It is this: “Perception is a mirror, not a fact. And what I look on is my state of mind, reflected outward” (W-pII.304.1:3-4). Just think about that first sentence. From the moment we wake up until bedtime, we spend our time perceiving the world around us with our five senses. And every Course student knows that perception always comes with interpretation, or ‘giving a meaning to what you see, hear, taste, touch or feel’. In this passage, Jesus states that perception is a mirror; it mirrors what I have already made real in my mind. So everything I interpret about my perception of any situation, event, or encounter, tells me something about my (usually unconscious) state of mind. Many Course students are familiar with Jesus’ statement in Chapter 21 of the text: “It [the world] is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition” (T-21.in.1:5).

In the next Chapter in the Text, Jesus further clarifies this by stating that “...everyone sees only what he thinks he is.” (T22.I.5:2). And although we may consciously tell ourselves we are a good, honest, loveable person, deep down the iceberg of our mind, we are not at all happy with our self image, as Jesus assures us: “You think you are the home of evil, darkness and sin. You think that if anyone could see the truth about you he would be repelled, recoiling from you as if from a poisonous snake. 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” (WpI.93.1). Luckily, Jesus immediately comforts us by stating that “These are beliefs so firmly fixed that it is difficult to help you see that they are based on nothing” (W-pI.93.2:1). This brings to mind the equally comforting passage in Chapter 19: “The Son of God can be mistaken; he can deceive himself; he can even turn the power of his mind against himself. But he cannot sin. There is nothing he can do that would really change his reality in any way, nor make him really guilty” (T-19.II.3:1-3).

And so, to sum it up to this point: what our senses tell us mirrors the illusory self-image we have made real in the mind. That’s why almost everyone focuses so much on all the evil in the world: we think we see misery outside us, but this actually tells us how miserable we unconsciously feel about ourselves. At many places in his Course, Jesus underscores the key lesson that our physical eyes do not really see anything real; all our senses perceive only illusion, since everything in time and space is an illusion. The Son of God constructed this illusion in a feeble attempt to hide from God’s imagined wrath for the thought of desiring to separate from Him (which of course could never happen in reality). Since we made the world out of guilt and fear, all our perception is drenched in this line of thought. In Workbook lesson 23, Jesus explains: “The world you see is a vengeful world, and everything in it is a symbol of vengeance. Each of your perceptions of “external reality” is a pictorial representation of your own attack thoughts. One can well ask if this can be called seeing. Is not fantasy a better word for such a process, and hallucination a more appropriate term for the result? You see the world that you have made, but you do not see yourself as the image maker” (W-pI.23.3:1-4:1).

That final sentence, of course, is the key. We are convinced, at least unconsciously, that we are being tossed about as powerless victims in a threatening world. What a complete reversal of thought, then, to read that you and I have made up this world, and purposefully too; that is: to hide from the imagined wrath of of our Creator over our ‘tiny, mad idea’ of separation! How silly! It’s all make-belief. We’ve fallen asleep and we are still “…dreaming of exile, but perfectly capable of awakening to reality” (T-10.I.2:1), So while this ‘bombshell’ may appear at first as a daunting prospect, it is actually the best news that you and I could get, since it affirms that we are the all-powerful dreamer of the dream (T-27.VII), and that we have the power to change the dream and eventually wake up to reality. As good Course students, we know why we do not joyfully welcome this realization and wake up immediately: the fear of permanently losing our precious little individual ‘autonomous’ ego-self is still too great.

Choose, then, not to shrink from what you may see in this mirror. Illusions have no power to hurt you, unless you grant them that power, to uphold the silly illusion of individuality. It’s much better to choose to faithfully practice looking at the mirror in the mind, without judgment. Sure there’ll be a lot of seeming darkness, but together with Jesus or the Holy Spirit you and I can laugh it all away. Not to cover it up, but from the realization that all this heaviness has no foundation whatsoever, and really comes down to nothing. And we can do it at our own pace. Jesus does not require us to be enlightened today, or tomorrow, or even in this particular lifetime. He just invites us to look at the illusions we chose to construct, with his love besides us, above the battleground — and then forgive yourself for having taken so seriously this ‘tiny, mad idea’.

All the darkness in our mind comes from an ego we made up ourselves. We’ve come to think of it as monstrous, and ruling our mind. It is not so. When we patiently practice the looking at the mirror of the mind, as an observer, without judgment, we make room for Jesus’ love. It’s as simple as that. In Chapter 20 of the Text, Jesus states: “This course requires almost nothing of you. It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more” (T-20.VII.1:7-8). Except, of course, that our resistance is still enormous. So we need to practice our motivation daily, even hourly, to keep trying to ‘cross the bridge to the real world’, in which, as Ken Wapnick puts it in his Journey through the Workbook, “…the memory of God’s Love is restored to our awareness, and we remember we are one with Him who is our source”, referring to Chapter 16 in the Text: “The new perspective you will gain from crossing over will be the understanding of where Heaven is. From this side, it seems to be outside and across the bridge. Yet as you cross to join it, it will join with you and become one with you. And you will think, in glad astonishment, that for all this you gave up nothing! The joy of Heaven, which has no limit, is increased with each light that returns to take its rightful place within it. Wait no longer, for the Love of God and you. And may the holy instant speed you on the way, as it will surely do if you but let it come to you” (T-16.VI.11). Happy practicing!

Jan-Willem van Aalst, January 2023




The birth of Christ

What, isn’t that a bit late for a blog topic, a full week after Christmas? Well, apart from the observation that for many people Christmas isn’t primarily about the birth of Jesus of Nazareth anymore but rather simply yet another excuse to forget about life’s ‘problems’ for a while, “Christ” in A Course in Miracles denotes not just Jesus but the entire Sonship, made up of all seemingly separated life forms combined. So I chose the blog title ‘The birth of Christ’ as a reminder that from a Course perspective, this Season ought to be about inviting the Christ Mind in us to be ‘reborn’ again, that is, remembered again in the mind, which is what you and I are in reality, right now. You and I are not separated bodies but connected minds, and the quality of our lives directly mirrors the quality of the thoughts we choose, which in turn mirrors the amount of inner peace we will experience.

So ‘the birth of Christ’ should be read as ‘remembering who you are in essence, and practicing that realisation in thought, word, and action on a daily basis’. You and I are an integral (holographic) part of the Son of God, Who was created by Love as Love. “Teach only love, for that is what you are”, we read in (T-6.13:1). Each time I remember my function of seeing the sameness in myself and my brother, whoever it may be in whatever circumstance, Christ is metaphorically ‘reborn’ in my mind. Each rebirth is therefore nothing more (but also nothing less) than a ‘re-minder’ to myself that although I still choose to experience myself as a seemingly separated individual on a planet in time and space, the Christ Mind is nevertheless within me (poetically speaking: within my heart), and I want to reconnect to that by switching the inner teacher in my mind from ego to Holy Spirit.

In the introduction to the Fifth Review in the Workbook in particular (just before lesson 171), Jesus addresses this notion of the rebirth of Christ in our minds. Let’s review some key snippets from this inspiring introduction. “This is the thought which should precede the thoughts that we review. Each [lesson to follow] but clarifies some aspect of this thought, or helps it be more meaningful, more personal and true, and more descriptive of the holy Self we share and now prepare to know again: God is but Love, and therefore so am I. This Self alone knows Love. This Self alone is perfectly consistent in Its Thoughts; knows Its Creator, understands Itself, is perfect in Its knowledge and Its Love, and never changes from Its constant state of union with Its Father and Itself” (W-pI.RV-In.4.1:-5). This ‘Self’ is the Christ, our collective true Identity as part of God, Who is Love.

So we can see that the ‘rebirth of Christ’ can happen to us many times even during one single day. We might even say that each time we manage to truly forgive a person, a situation or an event, we’ve allowed the Christ in ourselves to be reborn again. Jesus then comments: “Let us raise our hearts from dust to life, as we remember this is promised us, and that this course was sent to open up the path of light to us, and teach us, step by step, how to return to the eternal Self we thought we lost. (W-pI.RV-In.5:4). And then Jesus applies the concepts of rebirth and renewal once again to himself, though to be manifested in anyone who chooses his line of thought: “I am renewed each time a brother learns there is a way from misery and pain. I am reborn each time a brother’s mind turns to the light in him and looks for me” (W-pI.RV-In.7:2-3). Since in the Course, Jesus is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, he can rightly state that he himself is reborn in each mind who chooses the Holy Spirit as the mind’s guide instead of the ego.

So the concept of ‘the rebirth of Christ in me’ might be succinctly summarized as follows, in Jesus’ own words from the text: “Let me be to you the symbol of the end of guilt, and look upon your brother as you would look on me. Forgive me all the sins you think the Son of God committed. And in the light of your forgiveness he will remember who he is, and forget what never was” (T-19.IV-B.6:1-3). Thus we follow in the example Jesus has given us as an elder brother, and in this sense his message (or line of thought) is ‘born again’. Seven chapters later, Jesus adds to that: “judge him [your brother] not, for you will hear no song of liberation for yourself, nor see what it is given him to witness to, that you may see it and rejoice with him. Make not his holiness a sacrifice to your belief in sin. You sacrifice your innocence with his, and die each time you see in him a sin deserving death. Yet every instant can you be reborn, and given life again. His holiness gives life to you, who cannot die because his sinlessness is known to God; and can no more be sacrificed by you than can the light in you be blotted out because he sees it not” (T-26.I.6:4-7:2; my italics).

So why not turn the Christmas ‘ritual’ into a ‘lesson of Love’ that Jesus would gladly have us all learn, namely to be merely a reminder and an assurance that we really would be happier choosing the advice of the Holy Spirit than choosing the advice of the ego, which is what most of us usually do, even at Christmas time. Let’s close with this happy summary of the true nature of the essence of you and me and all our brothers around us: “You who would make a sacrifice of life, and make your eyes and ears bear witness to the death of God and of His holy Son, think not that you have power to make of Them what God willed not They be. In Heaven, God’s Son is not imprisoned in a body, nor is sacrificed in solitude to sin. And as he is in Heaven, so must he be eternally and everywhere. He is the same forever. Born again each instant, untouched by time, and far beyond the reach of any sacrifice of life or death. For neither did he make, and only one was given him by One Who knows His gifts can never suffer sacrifice and loss (T-26.I.7:3-8). Happy rebirthing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, December 2022



The useful message of symptoms

It’s a well-known public secret that most medicine does not really cure in and of itself; it merely supports the self-healing process (salutogenesis) of the body. This self-healing process can also be stimulated through mind training. In the past decade, many stories have reached me of remarkable physical healings. Almost all of them involved the invitation of love. These are not stories they just heard from others; they are stories of their own experiences. More than a few of these, for example, relate to the remission of serious cancer after sending sharply focused love or light to the location of the symptoms, leaving physicians baffled. One of the most well-known examples of this “self-healing” is of course published by Brandon Bays in her book “The Healing journey”. And there are many other examples of how much more powerful our healing abilities are than we usually realize.

But what do we actually heal in such cases? When Jesus in the Psychotherapy pamphlet of A Course in Miracles calls on us to “Heal thyself”, he is certainly not primarily talking about the physical body. In fact, the Course repeatedly states that the body is merely an effect of the mind. Especially the Psychotherapy pamphlet is very clear on this: “All illness is mental illness. It is a judgment on the Son of God, and judgment is a mental activity. […] Once God’s Son is seen as guilty, illness becomes inevitable. It has been asked for and will be received.” (P-2.IV.1:1-2;2:1-2). So my physical symptoms reflect some form of unforgiveness in my mind, and it is there that the healing work needs to be done.

“Certain it is that all distress does not appear to be but unforgiveness. Yet that is the content underneath the form”, we read in (W-pI.193.4:1-2). It’s important here to be acutely aware of feelings of guilt or victimhood. With the former, I’m inclined to bash myself for obviously having made myself ill, while as a good Course student I should know better by now. In the latter case, I may protest that I do forgive, but my DNA is obviously stronger than my power to forgive. Both conclusions are ego-strategies that will not work, for both render my image of myself inadequate. They key here is to realize that, as again the Psychotherapy pamphlet says, my perceived self is a concept that I made up. (P-1.I.3:3). That is, I still attribute some reality to my body. That is the illness. “Sickness is insanity because all sickness is mental illness […] Illness is therefore a mistake and needs correction.” (P-2.IV.8:1;7:1).

In both physical healing as well as in psychotherapy, most people want to be healed without having to give up their cherished self-concept of an individual body that can be happy on its own. And yet the most oft-repeated lesson in A Course in Miracles teaches us that “I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me.” (W-pI.201-220). And so Workbook lesson 136 summarizes how we use sickness as a defense to having to recognize this truth: “Sickness is not an accident. Like all defenses, it is an insane device for self-deception. And like all the rest, its purpose is to hide reality, attack it, change it, render it inept, distort it, twist it, or reduce it to a little pile of unassembled parts. The aim of all defenses is to keep the truth from being whole. […] Sickness is a decision. It is not a thing that happens to you, quite unsought, which makes you weak and brings you suffering. It is a choice you make, a plan you lay, when for an instant truth arises in your own deluded mind, and all your world appears to totter and prepare to fall. Now are you sick, that truth may go away and threaten your establishments no more.” (w-pI.136.2:1-3;7).

So “heal thyself” means healing the mind — by accepting the truth of what I am, which is the same as what you and everybody else are: the one Son of God, created by Love as Love, albeit asleep in a dream of seeming separation. Accepting this truth means gently forgiving myself for still wanting to believe I am in a separated body in a threatening world. For true healing, I am to look at that “tiny, mad idea” of separation from oneness, and stop evaluating myself as the home of evil because of my cardinal sin of separation, however unconsciously I buried that thought. Healing means I once again choose to love my self as the Son of God. I once again choose to see all life as one. I once again choose to see this world as a classroom in which I happily learn the lessons of Love, offered me daily by the Holy Spirit.

In her book ‘Dying to be me’, Anita Moorjani shares with us her story of her near death experience, after a rapid terminal cancer process. Her spirit was told she had to go back since she still had a part to play in the dream world. Two of the most important lessons that she took back with her are: “Love yourself unconditionally” (since most of us, bottom line, despise ourselves) and “Live your life without fear”. So Jesus’ call to “Teach only Love, for that is what you are” (T-6.I.13:2) most certainly also means “Teach yourself only Love, since that is what you are.” Obviously, “self” refers to the self as spirit; however, since the body is merely a mirror of the mind, you should also love your body, in the sense that the body offers you countless opportunities for forgiveness, and so accept the Atonement.

To get back to the the power of mind training for supporting the salutogenesis process that I started this blog with, and all the remarkable stories of physical healing through the engulfment of the self in loving inner light: the effectiveness of such practice depends on what it is used for. If it is used solely to ‘cure’ the bodily symptoms, while the underlying unforgiveness is not dealt with, the effects (if any) will bring temporary alleviation at best. The ‘light of Love’ ought to reflect your choice to identify with your Identity as Love, and that nothing else exists. As always, ask the help of the Holy Spirit, the Voice for Love, Who will not hesitate to help wherever He is truly welcomed. Though as always, the Course dictum “To say these words is nothing. But to mean these words is everything” (W-pI.185.1:1-2) also holds here.

How do you know you succeeded? Jesus explains: “You will recognize you practiced well by this: The body should not feel at all. If you have been successful, there will be no sense of feeling ill or feeling well, of pain or pleasure. No response at all is in the mind to what the body does. Its usefulness remains, and nothing more.” (W-pI.136.17:2-3). So ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’, might be restated as: ‘A loving thought a day keeps the doctor away.’ Dear seemingly separated fragment of the Son of God, heal thy mind; return to Love and accept God’s healing assurance: “You are still My holy Son, forever innocent, forever loving and forever loved, as limitless as your Creator, and completely changeless and forever pure. Therefore awaken and return to Me. I am your Father and you are My Son.” (W-pII.12.5).

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, December 2022



The watcher of the thoughts

A Course in Miracles teaches its students to practice unconditional forgiveness. This does not mean that in the years to come, as good Course students we will never find ourselves condemning anyone or anything any longer. On the contrary, for a very long time we will still cherish our ever-condemning ego, as countless students can attest to. Feeling guilty about that is the best way to keep the silly, seemingly separated ego alive and kicking. Therefore, forgiveness should first and foremost be about self-forgiveness: realizing that with each and every negative interpretation, however minor it may seem, we still reject both God and our own true Identity as the one Son of God. This is not sin; it’s a silly mistake. This is what we should forgive ourselves for, each and every day.

What can help us speed along this forgiveness journey is merely honestly admitting that in our minds, we still choose to hold on to conflicting goals: on the one hand, our deepest desire is to make our way back into the Heart of God (=Love) where we belong, thus ending this stilly dualistic time-space dream that has never worked, does not work and will never work. But on the other hand we will do just about anything, even up to murder, to keep our imagined special autonomous individual self alive, separated from all other things that live. That’s the basic conflict in everyone’s mind; hence the title of this blog site “Miracles or murder”. While many choose to become frustrated over realizing that they obviously keep this conflict ongoing in the mind, the key is to become the watcher, or the observer of that conflict; calmly, without hitting yourself over the head for being such a poor Course student, or complaining that this Course is too difficult to learn.

The reason that this choice to become the watcher-of-thoughts will work is that by choosing to be the observer instead of the self-inflicted victim, there is no repression. If you can accept (embrace) everything as it is now, there is nothing to hide. And when there’s nothing to hide, there’s nothing to project. And without projection, there is no guilt. And it is this ‘melting away of the iceberg of guilt’ that will truly bring us back Home into the Heart of God that in reality we never left (we only convinced ourselves we did, in a hallucinatory nightmare called the time-space universe). Once we become the observer, we begin to see the silliness of all self-centered ambitions, anxieties and happenings. Once you make that practice into a habit, you’ll never watch your television screen the same way again. In fact, there’s a fair chance the time will come when you’ll discard that silly thing.

This is not to say that you will turn your back on everything that happens in the world, ‘since it’s all an illusory dream anyway’. On the contrary: you may still be very involved in happenings in the world, helping out wherever you can, but you will do it following a different teacher. The goal will shift from ‘feeling good because I’m more advanced than others’ to truly seeing the sameness in everyone and everything; I will realize that whichever way I look upon anything outside of me is really how I see myself and my relationship to my Creator. Practice, therefore, on a daily basis to watch your own thoughts, and tell yourself a thousand times a day that it’s okay to love yourself and to forgive yourself for anything that is not pure love. Forget about your silly demand to become enlightened this very day, but gratefully enjoy your own journey back Home, a journey in which all things, events, encounters and circumstances can be reinterpreted as helpful to that End. (M-4.I-A.4:5).

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, November 2022

The tragic joke called time

By far most of us feel that if there’s one thing we can reliably depend upon, it’s the continuity of time. After all, there’s nothing so certain as the sun rising and setting each day, is there? How confusing, then, to read in A Course in Miracles that “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. […] 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.158.4:1-3;5). Since our brain literally functions in the linearity of time (past – present – future), we really have no way of grasping the reality, let alone the consequences of this for our fixed notion of our very existence as a body in time that is born, ages, and finally dies.

For me, the bombshell sentence in that important workbook lesson 158 is: “When experience will come to end your doubting has been set.” (W-pI.158.4:4; my italics). This seems to imply predetermination. This statement seems to literally say that the moment when I will fully have accepted the Atonement is already determined, since in reality all of time has already happened. Jesus, standing outside time, seems to be serenely aware of everything that has ever happened, happens, or will happen in time, completely at ease because he knows that “A happy outcome to all things is sure” (W-pII.292): since time is an illusion, nothing can happen that could impact reality at all. Early in the text, he even says: “… let me remind you that time and space are under my control” (T-2.VII.7:9) Add to that the ego-insulting message that “I need do nothing” (T-18.VII), and it might seem as if I can just give up all my plans, ambitions and worries in my life, as the movie of time will invariably unfold of itself anyway, regardless of what I think, say, or do.

However, this would be a shining example of falling into the trap of what Kenneth Wapnick calls Level confusion. It’s hardly helpful to pretend we can live our daily lives just focusing on nonduality (Level 1), while ignoring the daily forgiveness lessons in our everyday lives (Level 2); lessons we obviously need to learn to accept the Atonement. Moreover, the Course makes it clear in many places that the mind is blessed with free will, which God nor Jesus would even consider toying with. However, in the introduction to the text, Jesus clearly adds the following nuance: “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 in the aforementioned workbook lesson 158, Jesus assures us: “The revelation that the Father and the Son are one will come in time to every mind. Yet is that time determined by the mind itself, not taught.” (W-pI.158.2:8-9).

The solution to this rather confusing concept of the nature of time (again, due to the inevitable level confusion that arises once our linearly programmed brain starts to think about reality outside time), is to visualize the almost infinite stretch of time as a holographic spiral, in which the mind repeatedly goes back and forth between the guide called the ego and the guide called The Holy Spirit. Whenever we choose the ego (that is, about 99,9% of the day, and every minute in each day), we “[…] but relive the single instant when the time of terror took the place of love.” (T-26.V.13:1). In other words, whenever we choose not to be loving, we simply relive the original instant of choosing separation, which in reality never happened. The goal of this continuous wrong-minded choosing is to produce more illusory time to be able to uphold the illusion of a separated, autonomous, individual little self. Yet the joke of time could never intrude upon reality. Billions of imaginary dream years of tragic ego-choosing has not changed the reality of nonduality in the slightest: “Not one note in Heaven’s song was missed” (T-26.V.5:4).

Workbook lesson 169 gently puts the frantic mind at rest, assuring us that we need have no care or worry whatsoever about the nature of time, or the myriad mistakes we will inevitably make before finally learning to fully accept the Atonement and end time forever: “There is no need to further clarify what no one in the world can understand. When revelation of your oneness comes, it will be known and fully understood. Now we have work to do, for those in time can speak of things beyond, and listen to words which explain what is to come is past already. Yet what meaning can the words convey to those who count the hours still, and rise and work and go to sleep by them? Suffice it, then, that you have work to do to play your part. The ending must remain obscure to you until your part is done. It does not matter. For your part is still what all the rest depends on. As you take the role assigned to you, salvation comes a little nearer each uncertain heart that does not beat as yet in tune with God.” (W-pI.169.10:1-11:5).

So our task today, and all of our days, is still solely to practice our mind’s decision maker ‘above the battlefield’, and utilize the countless forgiveness opportunities that are offered us on a daily basis. That is what time is for: to master unconditional forgiveness all the time, without exception. Always keep in mind these comforting lines from the Epilogue of the Clarification of Terms: “Forget not once this journey is begun the end is certain. Doubt along the way will come and go and go to come again. Yet is the ending sure. No one can fail to do what God appointed him to do. When you forget, remember that you walk with Him and with His Word upon your heart. Who could despair when hope like this is his? Illusions of despair may seem to come, but learn how not to be deceived by them. Behind each one there is reality and there is God. Why would you wait for this and trade it for illusions, when His Love is but an instant farther on the road where all illusions end? The end is sure and guaranteed by God.” (C-ep.1).

For those interested in a more in-depth discussion of the tragic joke called time, I would encourage you to read and study Kenneth Wapnick’s brilliant book “A vast illusion: time according to A Course in Miracles“. Not only does Ken clearly explain the Course’s metaphysics about time and space, but also how we can use time — while we still experience it as such in our current incarnation — to gently aid us on our daily practice of learning to accept the Atonement, according to the daily Lessons of Love that are offered us by the Holy Spirit. Let’s close with this beautiful quote from Chapter 13 in the text: “The Holy Spirit interprets time’s purpose as rendering the need for time unnecessary. He regards the function of time as temporary, serving only His teaching function, which is temporary by definition. His emphasis is therefore on the only aspect of time that can extend to the infinite, for now is the closest approximation of eternity that this world offers.” (T-13.IV.7:3-5). Have an inspired day living in the now!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, November 2022

The Holy Spirit as a symbol

A Course in Miracles comes to us in Christian terminology and symbology because that is what most of us in the Western world have been growing up with. Heck, we even number our years according to what we estimate was the birth year of Jesus Christ. Its content, however, is universal, containing elements from both Christianity as well as, for example, Buddhism. In the Course, terms such as “Christ” and “The Holy Spirit” are obviously rooted in Christianity, but they are defined in a markedly different way from how they are presented in the Bible. For one, “Christ” does not exclusively refer to Jesus, but to all seemingly separated life combined; and “the Holy Spirit” is not seen as some divine ghost that comes to bless people, but rather as the Voice for Love that is always available within each and everyone, patiently waiting to be heard and accepted again.

Nevertheless, in A Course in Miracles, the Holy Spirit is often referred to as some entity outside of us, since that is what our deluded, sleepy minds are capable of to understand. In section 7 of part II of the Workbook, just after lesson 280, Jesus specifically addresses the question “What is the Holy Spirit?” (W-pII.7). Some excerpts: “The Holy Spirit mediates between illusions and the truth. Since He must bridge the gap between reality and dreams, perception leads to knowledge through the grace that God has given Him, to be His gift to everyone who turns to Him for truth” (W-pII.7:1); “From knowledge, where He has been placed by God, the Holy Spirit calls to you, to let forgiveness rest upon your dreams, and be restored to sanity and peace of mind. Without forgiveness will your dreams remain to terrify you” (W-pII.7:4).

However, students should never forget that words are “symbols of symbols, and therefore twice removed from reality” (M-21.1:10). In reality, the Holy Spirit is merely the part of our mind that reflects God’s Will, which Jesus assures us is our own will, since it is our deepest desire. After all, “God” in the Course is equated with unconditional Love, and the Sonship (all seemingly separated life combined) as the extension of that unconditional Love. You and I were created — as spirit — by God as the extension of His Love! This is what you and I truly are. Therefore, the Holy Spirit represents all my truly loving thoughts, which I still choose to bury a while because I am still enamoured of the concept of individuality, and therefore afraid to give it up and ‘disappear’ forever into the Oneness of the Love of God.

As a symbool, therefore, we should never forget that the Holy Spirit is not a separate being, but rather a simple (yet all-powerful) reminder of our heritage. Jesus emphasized this quite early in his Textbook (Chapter 5); let’s revisit: “The Voice of the Holy Spirit does not command, because It is incapable of arrogance. It does not demand, because It does not seek control. It does not overcome, because It does not attack. It merely reminds. It is compelling only because of what It reminds you of. It brings to your mind the other way, remaining quiet even in the midst of the turmoil you may make” (T-5.II.7:1-6).

Therefore, do not feel inadequate if you feel you cannot hear, or connect with, this Voice for Love all the time. It’s much better to simply acknowledge the two voices in your mind: the ego on the one hand, and the Voice for Love on the other hand. In each incarnation in the dream world, you and I are simply on a journey to learn to distinguish the two, and to learn to ever more often choose the Voice that we really want, because this guide will lead us back Home to the Love of God, instead of the pain and loss that the ego always leads to, brief pleasures notwithstanding. What else is new? Remind yourself often today to love yourself unconditionally; accept that you are where you are on the spiritual ladder, and be glad that the Holy Spirit is always available to ‘choose once again’: “Do not refuse to hear the Call for Love. Do not deny to Christ what is His Own. Heaven is here and Heaven is your home.… [….] Remember this: whatever you may think about yourself, whatever you may think about the world, your Father needs you and will call to you until you come to Him in peace at last” (S-3.IV.8:5-9; 10:7).

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, October 2022