Being honest about choosing darkness

One of the more striking aspects of the spiritual thought system called A Course in Miracles is that it would have us explicitly look at all the dark thoughts in the mind, in order to be able to let them go. This is in stark contrast to many contemporary spiritual and new age systems, which would have us focus solely on the love in the mind. In this sense, A Course in Miracles offers a much more tightly integrated combination of psychology and spirituality. In many places, Jesus stresses the importance of this looking, for example in Chapter 13: “You may wonder why it is so crucial that you look upon your hatred and realize its full extent. You may also think that it would be easy enough for the Holy Spirit to show it to you, and to dispel it without the need for you to raise it to awareness yourself.” (T-13.III.1-2).

This would be the easy fix we all want. The general idea is something like: “Please Jesus, take all this rotten darkness from my mind so that I can just be at peace in the Love of God.” The trick, however, is that unconsciously we do not want to be ‘at peace in the Love of God’ as the One Son of God: we want it as an individual. However, since oneness knows not of individuality, this is impossible. That’s why Jesus ends that same paragraph in chapter 13 with the dazzling statement: “You are not really afraid of crucifixion [i.e., pain, darkness]. Your real terror is of redemption [i.e., Oneness Love, light]”. So, to dispel the dark conflicts in the mind forever we must first realize just how miserable our ‘autonomous individuality’ (which is the embodiment of separation) really makes us. If you and I solely focus on the love and light that we cherish so much as a separated individual, the separated ego remains in the driving seat, blissfully steering our life further into nowhere-land. Your autonomy remains, but it will not lead to lasting inner peace.

In Chapter 11 of the text of A Course in Miracles, after having explained the contrast between God and the ego, that is, between oneness and separation, light and shadow, truth and illusion, Jesus guides us: “No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected.” (T-11.V.1:1). That’s the bottom line. Think about that for a while. All the distractions in our lives, be it about careers, hobbies, money, partner relationships, you name it, are ego ploys to avoid having to look at the dark illusion of separation. Jesus proceeds: “We are ready to look more closely at the ego’s thought system because together we have the lamp that will dispel it, and since you realize you do not want it [after ten chapters of text], you must be ready. Let us be very calm in doing this, for we are merely looking honestly for truth. The dynamics of the ego will be our lesson for a while, for we must look first at this to see beyond it, since you have made it real.” (T-11.V.1:2-5).

This practice of looking is of course one of the main thrusts of the 365 lessons of the workbook of A Course in Miracles. For example, lesson 93, an oft-quoted lesson, titled “Light and joy and peace abide in me”, starts off with the shocking message that “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). That’s pretty graphic language! The reason we believe this is our unconscious guilt about the ontological separation from God, which is the ‘tiny, mad idea’ that we still take seriously, no matter how deeply we have buried that. That’s why Jesus, in the same lesson, continues to say that “These are beliefs so firmly fixed that it is difficult to help you see that they are based on nothing. […] These thoughts are not according to God’s Will. […] This is enough to prove that they are wrong, but you do not perceive that this is so.” ( W-pI.93.2:1;3:2-4).

So that is why “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.” (T-24.In.2:1). Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised to feel not just a twinge of resistance, but a whirlwind of resistance. After all, this Course undermines the very image of our individual self we cherish so much! That’s why Jesus continually pleads with us to honestly look at how miserable our separated autonomy makes us, and to try to follow up on his workbook instructions, to actually feel the peace we could experience instead. So in lesson 98, we read: “Here [i.e., by accepting your part in God’s plan for salvation] is an offer guaranteeing you your full release from pain of every kind, and joy the world does not contain” (W-pI.98.6:1).

As Course scholar Kenneth Wapnick often pointed out in his workshops and his books, our ego immediately conjures up all sorts of objections: “That would mean I would have to give up everything that’s unique and special about me. But who would I be without all this? Wouldn’t that lead to total nothingness? It just doesn’t feel enticing.” And before you know it, you unconsciously conclude: “Nah, I don’t believe it. I am not willing to let go of my unique personality. Sure, along with that come my judgments, my grievances, my addictions, but hey, I think I’d still be better off with these than joining Jesus on this so-called road to oneness, which I cannot really picture anyway.” Or perhaps you say to yourself that you will want oneness in due time, but not just as yet.

Ken’s point (and Jesus’ as well) is that it is important to explicitly articulate this resistance; this obvious preference for darkness. Why? In his “Journey through the workbook”, he explains: “If you hear yourself say these words [i.e., your resistance to Jesus’ message], and understand the fear [of redemption, of oneness] that caused them, there will be no guilt, which thrives on being hidden. [Remember, illusions are protected by not looking at them]. Guilt prevents awareness through repression, and then protects itself through projection, which is when you inflict suffering on another or yourself. […] Again, you need, in all honestly, let yourself be free enough to say to him [Jesus]: ‘I do not believe you.’ If you can speak thus, there will be no guilt.” (Journey through the workbook, vol. 3. p.48; brackets mine).

As good students of A Course in Miracles, what we usually tend to do if we catch ourselves having forgotten the lesson for the day for a long while, is feeling a twinge of guilt, then very quickly repress that, and blame something or someone else for our lack of diligence. And though we subsequently vow to ourselves to try harder, the cause of the resistance, guilt and fear, have not been brought to the surface. We will then remain in this vicious circle of allowing the ego in the driver’s seat, still guiding us to nowhere. So why not be honest to yourself, and say, explicitly, without guilt or fear: “All nice and well, these workbook lessons from Jesus, but my ego really doesn’t want this and therefore doesn’t believe it. Of course not, for this Course ultimately heralds the end of the ego, and since I’m so thoroughly identified with my individual personality, this must engender fear. I will allow myself some slack, and try to really experience the inner peace that the diligent practice of the workbook leads to.”

Now we can better understand why Jesus introduces his workbook by stating: “Remember only this: you need not believe the ideas [lessons, exercises], you need not accept them, and you need not even welcome them. Some of them you may actively resist. None of this will matter, or decrease their efficacy. […] You are merely asked to apply the ideas as you are directed to do. You are not asked to judge them at all. You are asked only to use them. It is their use that will give them meaning to you, and will show you that they are true.” (W-pI.In.8-9). This is also why Jesus closes the workbook with the famous lines: “This course is a beginning, not an end. Your Friend [the Holy Spirit, the Voice for Oneness Love] goes with you. You are not alone.” (W-Ep.1:1-3). So please practice hearing yourself articulate your resistance. It’s an effective way to undo the guilt about the tiny, mad idea that never happened anyway.

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

You are a miracle! (2)

In A Course in Miracles, workbook lesson 77 would have me learn that “I am entitled to miracles.” Jesus explains this by stating: “You are entitled to miracles because of what you are. You will receive miracles because of what God is. And you will offer miracles because you are one with God.” (W-pI.77.1:1-3). As we read in chapter 1 of the text, a miracle is an expression of unconditional love. Our natural heritage is to extend or share such expressions, and therefore receive them. And, since according to the Course, having and being are the same, Jesus adds in miracle principle 24: “You are a miracle, capable of creating in the likeness of your Creator.” Or, stated differently in chapter 6 of the text: “Teach only love, for that is what you are” (T-6.I.13:2). So what is the practical value of realizing that you and I are a miracle?

At a first glance, these lines seem to flatter the ego. Doesn’t it sound good to be told you are a miracle, capable of creating in the likeness of God? After all, that was the reason, in the ontological moment just before time began, that we tried to split off from our Creator, to be able to be a god in our own little isolated world! Alas, this is of course not at all what Jesus means when he compliments me that I am a miracle, as he explains in workbook lesson 76: “You really think that you would starve unless you have stacks of green paper strips and piles of metal discs. You really think a small round pellet or some fluid pushed into your veins through a sharpened needle will ward off disease and death. You really think you are alone unless another body is with you. It is insanity that thinks these things. You call them laws […] You think you must obey the ‘laws’ of medicine, of economics and of health. […] The body suffers just in order that the mind will fail to see it is the victim of itself. […] It is from this [recognition that you but attack yourself that] your ‘laws’ would save the body. It is for this you think you are a body.” (W-pI.76.3:2-5:7).

To summarize once more what I regularly try to bring across in these posts: you and I are not a body, but pure spirit. The one Son of God is still one, though seemingly asleep in a dream of separation and individuality, unconsciously feeling exiled but in reality still at home in God, Who knows nothing of this dream: “Nothing at all has happened but that you have put yourself to sleep…” (T-28.II.4:1). In the very same paragraph, Jesus links this unfortunate illusory hallucination to the purpose of the miracle: “The miracle does not awaken you, but merely shows you who the dreamer is. It teaches you there is a choice of dreams while you are still sleep, depending on the purpose of your dreaming [i.e., separation or Oneness; fear or love]” (T-28.II.4:2-4). So being a miracle, an expression of unconditional love, we both share and receive these expressions, since, again, in reality, being and having are the same: “Your claim to miracles does not lie in your illusions about yourself. It does not depend on any magical powers you have ascribed to yourself, nor on any of the rituals [e.g., the ‘laws’ above] you have devised. It is inherent in the truth of what you are. It is implicit in what God your Father is. It was ensured in your creation, and guaranteed by the laws of God.” (W-pI.77.2)

Given these insights, let’s look at some of those rather abstract fifty miracle principes in chapter 1, to see if we can now clarify these. For example, nr. 15: “Each day should be devoted to miracles. The purpose of time is to enable you to learn how to use time constructively. It is thus a teaching device and a means to an end. Time will cease when it is no longer useful in facilitating learning” (T-1.I.15). If we spend our days expressing the love that we are, regardless of the person or situation at hand, we are actually saving large intervals of time that would otherwise be needed to reach the end of the dualistic dream of time and space. You might object and say that time itself is illusory and that everything in time is happening now, and this is correct, but while we still hold one dark spot in the mind (many dark spots, for almost all of us), there’s forgiveness work to do. This reconditioning, or undoing, is a process that takes time, illusory though it may be.

The combination of 18, 21, 29 and 44 can also be helpful in this regard: “A miracle is a service. It is the maximal service you can render to another. It is a way of loving your neighbor as yourself. You recognize your own and your neighbor’s worth simultaneously. […] Miracles are natural signs of forgiveness. Through miracles you accept God’s forgiveness [i.e., Love] by extending it to others. […] Miracles praise God through you. They praise Him by honoring His creations, affirming their perfection. They heal because they deny body-identification and affirm spirit-identification. […] The miracle is an expression of an inner awareness of Christ and the acceptance of His Atonement.” (T-1.I.18,21,29,44). Again, any expression of unconditional love recognizes the inherent unity of Christ, the One Son of God, the spirit that is our shared essence. This undoes the hateful and fearful separation thought of the ego. The decision maker in the mind now consciously chooses forgiveness instead of condemnation.

So the next time someone seems to treat you unfairly, or you run into a situation that seems to cause you distress, you can now realize this person or situation expresses a call for love, which needs only one answer: love. We do this by quickly activating the decision maker in the mind, and then choosing not to condemn, but to follow the intuitive advice of the Holy Spirit. As we read in the section “Above the battleground”: “When the temptation to attack rises to make your mind darkened and murderous, remember you can see the battle from above. Even in forms you do not recognize, the signs you know. There is a stab of pain, a twinge of guilt, and above all, a loss of peace. This you know well. When they occur leave not your place on high, but quickly choose a miracle instead of murder. And God Himself and all the lights of Heaven will gently lean to you, and hold you up. For you have chosen to remain where He would have you, and no illusion can attack the peace of God together with His Son.” (T-23.IV.6).

Hence Jesus’ plea with us to “Teach only love, for that is what you are” (T-6.I.13:2). It should be obvious that you and I do not really believe this yet, for if we truly did, we would not need 1500 pages of A Course in Miracles with a workbook to practice a lifetime; heck, we would not even hang around here any longer. Still, the required change of every value that we hold dear (“Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning”, T-24.in.2:1) can only succeed once we embrace the correct notion of what we are. We are not a body; our essence is an expression of Love (“Can you who see yourself within a body know yourself as an idea?”, T-18.VIII.1:5), and we are still safe at Home in the Heart of God as the One Son of God. We experience the reflection of that essence here in this world through diligent practice of unconditional forgiveness. Tell yourself confidently today that you are entitled to miracles because you are a miracle. It’s a simple statement of a simple fact. Keeping this in mind, and expressing it in your daily activities, will bring you the peace that you seek.

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

The greatest gift to yourself (2)

When asked to describe A Course in Miracles in one word, most students would probably choose ‘forgiveness’. Indeed, the Course is replete with poetic descriptions of how the practice of forgiveness is the way out of all misery. Take for example lesson 122, called “Forgiveness offers everything I want”: “Do you want peace? Forgiveness offers it. Do you want happiness, a quiet mind, a certainty of purpose, and a sense of worth and beauty that transcends the world? Do you want care and safety, and the warmth of sure protection always? Do you want a quietness that cannot be disturbed, a gentleness that never can be hurt, a deep, abiding comfort, and a rest so perfect it can never be upset? All this forgiveness offers you, and more” (W-pI.122.1:2-2:1).

All these treasures, however, are unfortunately unattainable as long as one does not realize just what Jesus truly means when he talks about forgiveness. To really grasp Jesus’ notion of forgiveness, some basic understanding of the Course’s metaphysics is necessary. A Course in Miracles is a strictly nondualistic spirituality, which means it holds that God is the only reality; totally perfect, totally abstract, and completely outside time and space. God has but one Son (T-2.VII.6), Who is the extension of God’s Love. In the quantum possibility that God’s Son considered what it would be like to be separate from God was the ego-thought born. Desiring to be autonomous, the now split mind of the Son of God believed the ego’s conclusion that he had sinned against his Father, that this stain could never be removed, and that he was forced to flee and hide from the Creator by fragmenting into the billions of pieces we now call the physical universe.

In time, this seemed to happen long ago; in reality, it never really happened at all (M-2.2:7). “Not one note in Heaven’s song was missed” (T-26.V.5:4); God (Love) is completely unaware of this quantum tale, and we, as the now-sleeping Son of God, are in reality still safe at Home in His Love. However, seemingly fast asleep in the “waking dream” in time and space we call our lives, we all still stubbornly cling to the belief that this separation did indeed happen, for we still cherish our individual personalities so much. In reality though, there is still only one Son of God. And although there certainly seem to be billions of egos, in content all these egos are in fact of the one same ego. It’s only because we continually project out our own ego onto others that the illusion of many still stands.

So from the perspective of A Course in Miracles, forgiveness is not really about forgiving the bad behavior of others, as (1) behavior is only an effect, not a cause, and (2) in reality there is no-one else out there. Rather, forgiveness is only about forgiving myself, as the sleeping Son, for the projections of my own ego I had thrust upon everyone and everything around me, with the secret purpose to see evil everywhere save within myself. Since the seeming multiplicity in the dream we call our lives is an illusion, I am always upset at something that only seems to be outside of me, but which is really merely a projection of some dark spot that I refuse to see in my own conflicted mind. Still, though I may refuse to see it, unconsciously I realize this is my judgment upon myself, which no doubt is the way God judges me now, which is why everyone walks this planet “uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1), however much we try to hide that.

I know this metaphysical talk might be a bit hard to follow. Therefore, let’s look at two common examples you and I encounter in our everyday lives. Firstly, let’s say that the neighbors are loudly partying in their back yard — again! — until about five o’clock at night, and this is keeping me from getting a good night’s sleep. Politely discussing this issue with them afterwards doesn’t seem to improve things. My frustration mounts as I accuse them of (a) wasting their lives, and (b) hindering me in my night rest and also probably my alertness in practicing my workbook lesson the next day. Should I then remember Jesus’ call to forgive, and all I subsequently do is secretly say to them (in my mind): “Okay, I hate you for your despicable juvenile behavior, but I’m going to forgive you anyway, for Jesus tells me this is the way out of pain”, I’m really getting nowhere. This is not at all what Jesus means by forgiveness.

Instead, Jesus would have me realize that their ‘despicable’ behavior is but form, which masks the underlying content of their fear. These neighbors are choosing to party all night long only as an unconscious distraction against a deep-rooted fear! What is the fear? Unconsciously, they fear that they are indeed miserable sinners, that their guilt is real and punishment by God totally justified. Also, following the blocks to Love that peace must flow across (T-19.IV.A-D), unconsciously they are deathly afraid of the Love of God which would mean the end of their individuality, personality and autonomy! Hey, but wait a minute, we just said there is no-one else out there! Ouch – I am really talking about my own fears here! Since I do not want to face these fears, I seek to see it in “others”. I choose to feel upset by these “others” so I don’t have to look within and conclude that there is no sin (T-21.IV.3:1). If I would look, I’d immediately sense the end of my own little separated self, and God knows I’m not yet willing to give that up (Well, God thinks otherwise actually (T-23.I.2). Once I can realize that my frustration (Jesus uses the imagery of a sword) is aimed solely at myself, I can forgive myself for my silly projections, and ask the Holy Spirit how I could see “peace instead of this” (W-pI.34). Seeing myself in another light, I can now see my neighbors in another light, and silently express to them the love that we all seek, knowing we are one.

A second common example is with the people whom we consider ‘authority figures’, which would include for example your parents and your boss. Whenever you notice you’re getting upset with them because of how awfully they treat you or accuse you of everything you do poorly, it’s no use saying to yourself: “I really hate you for your unjustified accusations, but I’m going to practice forgiveness anyway, because the Course tells me that my forgiveness of my brother is the way out of hell. I’m going to be spiritually superior here and discard all the ego-based feelings that are keeping me in chains.” Except that in this practice, the feelings (thoughts really) are not discarded at all; they are merely driven underground, only to resurface again the next time something ‘unreasonable’ comes up – and sooner or later it always does. That’s why Jesus calls this “forgiveness-to-destroy” (S-2.II).

Again, in cases like these Jesus wants us to realize that we’re never upset for the reason we think (W-pI.5). The behavior we dislike is merely form; it’s the effect of a deeply rooted underlying fear of being unworthy of the Love of God, and of having to give up our most cherished possession in the face of our reunification with Oneness: the relinquishment of the individual self. This is our (that is, the ego’s) fear of the Love of God, and we’ll do anything to distract our minds from discovering the road to the “real world”, in which our perception is cleansed of such silly perceptions. Taking it one step further, since there is no-one else out there, this underlying fear I sense in others, is really merely a shadowy projection of that very same fear I hold deep within myself. Having made it to that point, I can now ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit to help me see myself differently. To the extent I can muster the courage to allow the Holy Spirit to undo this darkness in my mind, will my perception of my parents and my boss change for the better as well. I now realize we’re all on the same journey Home. That is true healing.

Course scholar Kenneth Wapnick often remarked that, regardless of our interpretation of the behavior of others, people are either expressing love or expressing a call for love (T.14.X.7). Although the latter sometimes takes on rather vicious forms, both psychologically and physically, it’s still a (desperate) call for love. And since in reality there is no-one else out there, am either expressing love or expressing a call for love, regardless of the form this takes. Which will serve me best? Will I keep myself in misery through continued condemnation of everything I perceive outside of me, this being just a projection of what I refuse to see in my own mind? Or will I stop, raise my mind above the battleground (T-23.IV) and ask the Holy Spirit to help me “see peace instead of this” (W-pI.34)? The choice is mine to make. Jesus cannot make this choice for me. Keeping the Course’s metaphysics close to my heart, in the knowledge that you and I and everyone around us are still safe at Home in the Heart of God, I can take Jesus’ hand and affirm that “Forgiveness is my function as the light of the world” (W-pI.62). Only then can I understand the beautiful lesson 122 in the first paragraph of this blog post. And although forgiveness only exists within the dream and is itself illusory, it is the only illusion that breeds no others (W-pI.198.3); this can therefore truly be called the greatest gift I can give to myself. Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

How do I get past condemning?

As good Course students, we know that our most important function here in this life is to learn how to truly forgive. Yet we all notice that we keep rejecting people and circumstances; we want things to be different. No matter how hard we try to think and live lovingly, the ego seems to be undefeatable. Very frustrating. How do I get past condemning, so that I can truly experience the lasting inner peace I desire so deeply?

On February 7th, 2021, I did an online workshop on this topic for “Miracles in Contact“, the Dutch Course community. The workshop lasted 90 minutes (50 for the lecture, and 40 for group interaction about the practical application of the ideas). The video contains visual references to Course passages I quoted. Although the talk was in Dutch, manually edited English subtitles are available. On YouTube, you can view the workshop here:

“How do I get past condemning?” – MIC workshop, Feb. 7th, 2021.

Enjoy! Please do not hesitate to leave a comment on the YouTube page, or ask your question at the end of this blog page.

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

Three Course pearls for everyone (2)

A Course in Miracles as a curriculum to learn how to attain inner peace, is not exactly an easy-to-read spiritual book, to say the very least. Its poetic language, metaphysics and advanced psychological treatment calls for a reader with at least moderately developed intellectual abilities, and had its scribe Helen Schucman exclaim in joy: “Thank God there is at last something [spiritual] for the intellectual!” However, as scholar Kenneth Wapnick noted in his two-volume book “The message of A Course in Miracles“, even those not intellectually inclined can learn a lot from its message, without having to fathom all the details of metaphysics or clinical psychology. Let’s look at three such pearls, just to get an idea of some examples.

First of all, everyone can learn from the Course that God is Love and not vengeance. God is not angry with us; God does not prefer or value some people (or races) above others; and God does not judge people after they die to assess whether they will be accepted into Heaven or condemned to eternal hell. God merely loves: “You who believed that God’s Last Judgment would condemn the world to hell along with you, accept this holy truth: God’s Judgment is the gift of the Correction He bestowed on all your errors, freeing you from them, and all effects they ever seemed to have. […] God’s Final Judgment is as merciful as every step in His appointed plan to bless His Son, and call him to return to the eternal peace He shares with him. Be not afraid of love. […] This is God’s Final Judgment: “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.S10.3-5).

Years ago in the Netherlands we had a huge billboard sign along the A20 highway, some 60 feet tall, showing a simple white surface with only three capitalized words on it: “God is Love” (Dutch: God is Liefde). That was it; nothing else. No advertiser identity, no hyperlink, nothing. I’ve never seen anything along a highway that was so very true! And as we read that God is but love (“God is but love, and therefore so am I” (W-pI.171-179)), we also come to realize that although we usually do not think too highly of ourselves, this Love of God is in us as well; or better yet, it is the inner essence of what we are: “No course whose purpose is to teach you to remember what you really are could fail to emphasize that there can never be a difference in what you really are and what love is. Love’s meaning is your own, and shared by God Himself. For what you are is what He is” (W-pI.127.4:1-3).

Following this joyful insight, a second “pearl” everyone can gain from A Course in Miracles is a growing ability to become aware of judgmental and condemnatory thoughts, and look at these without immediately living them out, which is what usually happens in the world. In A Course in Miracles, this is called “above the battleground”, in which ‘battleground’ refers to the mind, which is verily a battlefield of conflicting thoughts, which we perceive (through projection) by carefully looking around us at the world we believe we live in. “Be lifted up, and from a higher place look down upon [the world]. From there will your perspective be quite different. Here in the midst of it, it does seem real. Here you have chosen to be part of it. Here murder is your choice. Yet from above, the choice is miracles instead of murder” (T-23.IV.5:1-5, which incidentally is where my book and this blog got its name from).

Once we succeed in noticing our judgmental thoughts and stop ourselves from reacting immediately, we have activated the decision maker in our mind, who can then choose forgiveness instead of attack, as we read in lesson 55: “‘I can escape from this world by giving up attack thoughts.’ Herein lies salvation, and nowhere else. Without attack thoughts I could not see a world of attack. As forgiveness allows love to return to my awareness, I will see a world of peace and safety and joy” (W-pI.55.3). Everyone can learn to observe his/her own thoughts, feelings and emotions, without repressing them or ignoring them, but rather simply looking at them and deciding how to proceed, or what reaction to choose.

This brings us to a third pearl everyone can get out of A Course in Miracles, even without digging into metaphysics or psychology (desirable though that would be), which is to learn to trust intuition. We are all familiar with situations in which our brain seems to advise one thing, while the area of the lower belly, our gut feeling, says something quite different. In retrospect, intuition was usually right, especially if the intuitive feeling was peaceful and non-judgmental. “In every difficulty, all distress, and each perplexity Christ calls to you and gently says, ‘My brother,choose again’” (T-31.VIII.3:2). In A Course in Miracles, this peaceful intuition is referred to as the Holy Spirit, the Voice for God, or the Voice for Love. And to follow the advice of peaceful intuition, devoid of judgment, means following the advice of the Holy Spirit.

If all you get out of reading A Course in Miracles is that God is Love and not hate, that you need not be aimlessly tossed about by your feelings and your emotions about what seems to happen to you, and that you can find peace by following the quiet, intuitive advice of the Holy Spirit instead of the cackling rational brain, you are in fact making huge progress on your spiritual journey Home. In fact, the Course itself says: “Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God” (W-pI.189.7). For: Who with the Love of God upholding him could find the choice of miracles or murder hard to make?” (T.23.IV.9:8).

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

A successful workbook practice (2)

Many students of A Course in Miracles have a somewhat two-edged relationship with the workbook lessons, and that probably includes you and me. Once convinced that a diligent daily practice of these lessons is the way to reach the ‘real world‘, that is, the peaceful inner world of cleansed perception, we become really motivated to follow up on Jesus’ daily instructions. However, once we find that we cannot keep up even five minutes of mind training three times a day, feelings of disappointment, guilt, and a sense of inadequacy soon surface. What happens next is that we either set the workbook (and the Course) aside for a while (sometimes for a long while), or hit ourselves over the head and try even harder, turning it into a heavy, demanding ritual that becomes a dark looming cloud in our minds.

Jesus of course wants neither. The very first workbook lesson stresses the latter point: “[…] These exercises should not become ritualistic.” (W-pI.1.3:5). In the manual for teachers, Jesus cautions his students once more: “Routines as such are dangerous, because they easily become gods in their own right, threatening the very goals for which they were set up.” (M-16.2:5). Also in the workbook, Jesus tells his students to focus on the general message of a lesson, and not be compulsive about exact wording: “It is not necessary to cover the comments that follow each idea either literally or thoroughly in the practice periods. Try, rather, to emphasize the central point…” (W-pI.R-I.3:1-2).

Whether we’re compulsive or forgetful, in either case Jesus knows there’s ego-resistance at work, for the road to the real world means the demise of the ego. Each successfully practiced workbook lesson brings the ego a little further to the background. As long as we still identify with our individual ego-personality, of course there’s going to be resistance. Jesus is very gentle and open with us on this phenomenon: “It is difficult at this point not to allow your mind to wander, if it undertakes extended practice. You  have surely realized this by now. You have seen the extent of your lack of mental discipline, and of your need for mind training. […] Structure, then, is necessary for you at this time, planned to include frequent reminders of your goal and regular attempts to reach it. Regularity in terms of time is not the ideal requirement for the most beneficial form of practice in salvation. It is advantageous, however, for those whose motivation is inconsistent, and who remain heavily defended against learning.” (W-pI.95.4:2-4;6:1) So while rituals are not our aim, regular structured practice periods are ‘beneficial’.

For those of us who tend to frequently forget about the practice periods (which would include virtually all Course students), Jesus calmly, gently yet sternly guides his students back to the ‘groove’ they need to find to once again make progress: “Do not, however, use your lapses from [the] schedule as an excuse not to return to it again as soon as you can. There may well be a temptation to regard the day as lost because you have already failed to do what is required. This should, however, merely be recognized as what it is: a refusal to let your mistake be corrected, and an unwillingness to try again.” (W-pI.95.7:3-5). And, in lesson 40: “You are urged to attempt this schedule and to adhere to it whenever possible. If you forget, try again. If there are long interruptions, try again. Whenever you remember, try again.” (W-pI.40.1:4-7). In other words, forgetfulness is not a sin or an inherent inadequacy; it’s a mistake, born out of the aforementioned resistance, that calls for correction, not for self-punishment or depression.

However, once we get that point, the next step is to realize that we should try to generalize our practice of the lessons to all situations we seem to find ourselves in from day to day. In a sense, you might say that the workbook offers two modes of practice. The first mode of practice happens in the place, usually at home, where you concentrate on reading the instructions and spend the required time to practice what Jesus asks. The second mode, however, comprises all the situations that upset us, in the turmoil of our lives: when we feel fearful, angry, depressed, desperate; whenever we are caught in special relationships. These are the hardest situations to practice the workbook lessons, but it is exactly the successful practice during just such events that will put us well ahead in our mind training.

Jesus elaborates on the importance of our ‘practice during distress‘ in the first review (of the first 50 lessons) in the workbook: “It will be necessary […] that you learn to require no special settings in which to apply what you have learned. You will need your learning most in situations that appear to be upsetting, rather than in those that already seem to be calm and quiet [for example, when reading the workbook lesson]. The purpose of your learning is to enable you to bring the quiet with you, and to heal distress and turmoil. This is not done by avoiding them and seeking a haven of isolation for yourself.” (W-pI.R-I.4:2-5).

At first, this may seem to contradict Jesus’ repeated instructions in several workbook lessons to practice our focus on a ‘haven of meditation’, for example in workbook lesson 44: “Try to sink into your mind, letting go every kind of interference and intrusion by gently sinking past them. Your mind cannot be stopped in this unless you choose to stop it. It is merely taking its natural course. […] While you practice in this way, you leave behind everything you now believe, and all the thoughts that you have made up. Properly speaking, this is the release from hell.” (W-pI.44.7:2-4;5:4-5). This might seem to suggest that we should especially practice in a meditative setting. However, the purpose of this meditative practice is to be able to always find the peace you need, however bad the situation seems to be: “You will yet learn that peace is part of you, and requires only that you be there to embrace any situation in which you are.” (W-pI.R-1.5:1). This certainly includes situations in which we find ourselves in arguments, accusations, sickness, terror, anxiety, you name it.

So Jesus’ meditative instructions are meant to enable us, as decision maker, to choose peace no matter what situation we find ourselves in. Meditation is therefore a means to an end, not a goal in itself. Some students make their meditative ritual into a false god, with a special altar, special candles, or special music. Before they know it, that’s the only place where they believe they can find the peace of God. The purpose of the workbook, however, is to develop the skill to reach and choose this inner peace anytime of the day, in any situation. “And finally you will learn that there is no limit to where you are, so that your peace is everywhere, as you are.” (W-pI.R-1.5:2). As long as we are not yet on such an advanced level, we need structured periods of quiet practice. However, we speed up our learning significantly if we can learn to connect with that inner tranquility in times of turbulence, in spite of the aforementioned resistance that will also be there. Why not try it today?

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

We think we think (2)

What would you say if someone would ask you to describe the nature of your thoughts? Most of us would say it’s the verbal word stream in the brain that we usually are more or less aware of. We take that for granted: “I think, therefore I am” (Descartes). How startling, then, to read in workbook lesson 45 of A Course in Miracles that “Nothing that you think are your real thoughts resemble your real thoughts in any respect.” And a bit before that: “There is no relationship between what is real and what you think is real.” Jesus is bluntly saying that what we think we think are not our real thoughts, and, moreover, that what we think is real is nothing but illusion. That’s pretty radical. What does he mean?

As most Course students are well aware of, the seemingly sleeping one Son of God made up the dream of the physical universe in time, in an attempt to escape from an imagined wrathful God Who is out to punish His Son for the savage sin of trying to separate from Oneness. Ever since the Big Bang, the ego (i.e., the desire to be autonomous) has been in the driver’s seat in the mind of the seemingly fragmented Son of God. Its activity can be described as constant distraction. You and I tend to constantly focus on a zillion things outside of us, instead of turning inward to really see what’s there. That’s purposive. The ego’s greatest fear is that the sleeping Son might become aware of the Voice for Love (In A Course in Miracles He’s called the Holy Spirit) and renounce the ego, time, and space forever. To avoid that, we clutter the mind with senseless things that we feel are very important for our survival and happiness. But are they?

In the same lesson 45, we read: “Under all the senseless thoughts and mad ideas with which you have cluttered up your mind are the thoughts that you thought with God in the beginning [i.e., before the Big Bang]” (W-pI.45.7:1). And, earlier: “You think with the Mind of God. Therefore you share your thoughts with Him, as He shares His with you. […] Therefore, your thoughts are in the Mind of God, as you are. They are in your mind as well, where He is.” (W-pI.45.2:1-2,6-7). That’s not a statement the ego likes to hear, to put it mildly. At a first surface reading, this can cause considerable confusion. If my verbal thoughts are not my real thoughts… if I share my real thoughts with the thoughts of God, Who is literally within me, how should I then picture my real thoughts?

Let’s answer this question in two steps. First of all, if we expand the notion of ‘thinking’ to everything we do in response to a mind impulse, we can see that animals think as well. Of course they do not understand words and do not think verbally; however, as Pursah pointed out in Gary Renard’s latest book “The lifetimes when Jesus and Buddha knew each other”, animals think in pictures. When Gary focused his mind to ‘send’ loving pictures to his cat, she immediately calmed down. I’ve tried this myself while strolling around the neighborhood. I remember one dog (on a leash) who watched to see if I too, perhaps, was taking a dog with me (I wasn’t, I do not own a dog); but I took the opportunity to ‘send’ a blast of inner loving light to the pet. The result was startling. Tail straight up and barking gaily, he attempted vigorously to reach me in an attempt of unconditional embrace. It works from human to human too, by the way. Just try it in any meeting: the energy you emanate from your mind fills the room and noticeably influences the entire atmosphere.

Although this first step brings us a bit closer to the notion of the Thoughts of God, we are not quite there yet. God does not use words; God does not produce pictures. God is synonymous with Love (capital L, to emphasize that Love transcends time and space). Therefore, as our second step, the Mind (or Thoughts) of God can aptly be described as Love. This, and only this, makes up our real thoughts. This may sound terribly simplistic and even boring, but that is the bottom line. “Nothing that you think you see bears any resemblance to what vision will show you. […] Everything you have thought since then [the Big Bang] will change, but the Foundation on which it rests is wholly changeless. […] Here is your mind joined with the Mind of God [i.e., Love].” (W-pI.45.1:5,7:4,8:2).

Most meditation practices are aimed towards slipping past the cluttered verbal thought stream to the silence that lies beyond it. In fact, the practice in workbook lesson 45 is to “try to go past all the unreal thoughts that cover the truth in your mind, and reach to the eternal [i.e., Love].” (W-pI.45.6:3) Merely because the Son of God chose to fall asleep and listen to the constant distractions of the ego to prevent the mind from waking up again, does not mean our real thoughts are gone; that is, the Love of God still remains within the Son’s mind. As Jesus says in chapter 5 of the text: “Both Heaven and earth are in you, because the call of both is in your mind. The Voice for God [Love] comes from your own altars to Him. These altars are not things; they are devotions. Yet you have other devotions now. Your divided devotion has given you the two voices, and you must choose at which altar you want to serve. […] The decision is very simple. It is made on the basis of which call is worth more to you.” (T-5.II.8:5-12)

So this is why we exclaim, just like St. Paul in Jesus’ historic age: “Why is it that I keep doing the things I know I should not do, and I fail to do what I know is right?” This is because of our divided devotion. Somewhere deep inside we realize we yearn for the Love of God more than anything else, but on the other hand… the ‘price’ for that means giving up the cherished individual little self, and we’re not yet willing to do that. So the mind is in constant conflict. A Course in Miracles offers us the way out of this hellish dilemma. It’s called, you guessed it: forgiveness. Not to appease a wrathful God (God cannot be angry because Love cannot be angry), but to forgive ourselves for the silly mistake of falling asleep in an ego dream that doesn’t work. And although forgiveness, needed in time and space, is an illusion itself and therefore not of God, in the world we think we are it is the one thought that points the way out of the dream, because it recognizes the inherent sameness and oneness in everyone and everything, and therefore provides the miracles the Holy Spirit uses to heal the collective mind of the sleeping Son of God.

“God does not forgive because He has never condemned [a quote immortalized, by the way, in the movie “As it is in Heaven”]. And there must be condemnation before forgiveness is necessary. Forgiveness is the great need of this world, but that is because it is a world of illusions. Those who forgive are thus releasing themselves from illusions, while those who withhold forgiveness are binding themselves to them. As you condemn only yourself, so do yo forgive only yourself. Yet although God does not forgive, His Love is nevertheless the basis of forgiveness. Fear condemns and love forgives. Forgiveness thus undoes what fear has [seemingly] produced, returning the mind to the awareness of God [Love]” (W-pI.46-1:1-2:3). So our verbal thoughts turn out to be merely ego distractions, while forgiveness is the way to become aware of the Love that we both have and are, our real thoughts that we share with God. That is why our task is not to seek for love, but only to seek and find all of the barriers that we have built against it. (T-16.IV.6:1) “For this reason, forgiveness can truly be called salvation. It is the means by which illusions disappear.” (W-pI.46.2:4-5). Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

Our only function in the world

These troubled times, where nothing seems to be as it was just a year ago, can be rather challenging or threatening, depending on how we have learned to interpret the world around us. The ego obviously seduces us to get involved, have an opinion, and assess the possible consequences for our own personal (i.e., physical) safety, and how we might secure that safety. In other words, the current happenings stimulate judgment, condemnation, and polarization. For students of A Course in Miracles, it’s imperative that they often remember the ultimate goal of life here, and to employ the means to attain that goal. Workbook lesson 192, for example, reminds me that “I have a function God would have me fill.” (W-pI.192). This function, of course, is forgiveness of all the dark spots we still hold on to in our deluded minds. This function is the same for all of us. But how does that work out in a world that seems to spin into chaos?

First, that ‘ultimate goal of life’ is to accept the Atonement for ourselves. This means reaching the point in your mind where you say and truly mean “I want the peace of God, and nothing else”. At that point there would be no earthly desires left, and you would no longer reincarnate, as there would be no more lessons to learn. We would finally return to our Home in the Heart of God. Workbook lesson 192 puts it this way: “It is your Father’s holy Will that you complete Himself, and that your Self shall be His sacred Son, forever pure as He, of love created and in love preserved, extending love, creating in its name, forever one with God and with your self.” (W-pI.192.1:1). Furthermore, the Course tells us that in reality we are there already, since time and space are unreal. We still cling to the illusion of time only because we are not yet ready to give up our cherished special individual autonomous little self. All nice and well, but such lofty words seem to have little practical meaning here in this turbulent world. So what gives?

Jesus anticipated this objection, for in the same lesson, he immediately continues: “Yet what can such a function mean within a world of envy, hatred and attack?” (W-pI.192.1:2). We could just as well say: “…within a world of fear, anger and depression?”, since this is the very same thing. Jesus continues: “Therefore, you have a function in the world in its own terms. For who can understand a language far beyond his single grasp? Forgiveness represents your function here.” (W-pI.192.2:1-3). Therefore, the Course comes to us couched in dualistic (what Ken Wapnick calls Level II) terms that we can understand, and that yet reflect the nondualistisc (Level I) truth of Heaven, where we, once again, already are in reality. A Course in Miracles can therefore be seen as a lighthouse that reminds us of our original haven, and guides to our Home port, just by consistently choosing to focus on that light.

In Chapter 29 of the text, Jesus defines forgiveness in a most lovely way, integrating both Level I (nonduality) and our daily experience of Level II (duality): “Within the dream of bodies and of death is yet one theme of truth; no more, perhaps, than just a tiny spark, a space of light created in the dark, where God still shines. You cannot wake yourself [to nonduality, Level I]. Yet you can let yourself be wakened. […] Make way for love, which you did not create, but which you can extend. On earth [Level II] this means forgive your brother, that the darkness may be lifted from your mind.” (T-29.III.3:1-3;4:1-2). Returning to workbook lesson 192, Jesus adds in the same vein: “Forgiveness gently looks upon all things unknown in Heaven [level I], sees them disappear, and leaves the world [Level II] a clean and unmarked slate on which the Word of God can now replace the senseless symbols written there before.” (W-pI.192.4:1).

Students sometimes ask why I should forgive my brother, as Jesus elsewhere assures us there is no-one outside of me to forgive. Everything I perceive is a projection of my own guilt (about the imagined separation) and fear (of God’s retribution). Still, that’s exactly the answer to that question. If my function here is to make my mind ‘a clean and unmarked slate on which the Word of God can replace all senselessness’, I should see my projections for what they are, and forgive myself (with the help of Jesus) for choosing them, so that they disappear into the nothingness from whence they came. Jesus continues: “Forgiveness is the means by which the fear of death is overcome, because death holds no fierce attraction now and guilt is gone. Forgiveness lets the body be perceived as what it is: a simple teaching aid, to be laid by when learning is complete, but hardly changing him who learns at all.” (W-pI.192.4:2-3).

So whenever I feel tempted to formulate judgments about what I see happening in the world around me, my function here is to learn to swiftly stop this silly choice for auto-pilot, fear-based thinking. A much better choice would be to “not leave your place on high [i.e., above the battleground that is the world], but quickly choose a miracle instead of murder [i.e., choose to forgive]” (T-23.IV.6:4). Every threat and tribulation that I seem to experience in my life or in the lives of those around me, comes down to an opportunity to clean up a spot of darkness in my mind that I had heretofore not recognized. By choosing the Holy Spirit as my mind’s guide, I can now “make way for love” and lessen the need for still more time in this fearful dream world. That’s why forgiveness of myself, through the forgiveness of my brother, is my only function here.

This is by no means a function in which I, by definition, do nothing in the world, since it is all illusory. That would be a confusion of Level I and Level II. As Jesus clarifies in the text: “There is much to do, and we have been long delayed. Accept the Holy Instant [i.e., choosing forgiveness, igniting a miracle] as this year is born, and take your place, so long left unfulfilled, in the Great Awakening [the Atonement]. Make this year different by making it all the same.” (T-15.XI.10:9-11). So from now on, whatever you choose to actively do in this dream world, make sure it’s guided by the loving presence of the Holy Spirit (or Jesus) within you. And, to clarify the distinction between Level I and Level II still one more time: “We are one, and therefore give up nothing. But we have indeed been given everything by God [Level I]. Yet do we need forgiveness [Level II] to perceive that this is so. Without its kindly light we grope in darkness, using reason but to justify our rage and our attack. […] Therefore, hold no one prisoner. Release instead of bind, for thus are you made free. […] Be merciful today. The Son of God [i.e., everyone] deserves your mercy. It is he who asks that you accept the way to freedom now. Deny him not.” (W-pI.192.6:5-7:1;9:1-2;10:1-4). Or, more plainly stated: no matter how terrible the people around you seem to become, forgive them all instantly, that you may forgive yourself for still holding on to this silly dream. Make way for love today. Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, January 2021

The body that reads he’s not a body (2)

In A Course in Miracles, a mind training curriculum that sets the direction towards the experience of lasting inner peace, its author Jesus faces the challenge of convincing us, who still believe we are a body reading his book, that we are not a body; in fact, that in truth there is no physical world whatsoever (W-pI.132.6.2), and that everything we perceive is no more real than the dreams we dream at night. Clearly, this is one of the reasons Jesus uses so much symbolism and poetic metaphoric language in his Course, for a message this radical does not lend itself well to a purely scientific approach, since by far most of science is itself rooted in the basic assumption that time and space are real; that we can observe and influence the world through well-controlled experiments. Again, in the Course Jesus tries to get his message across that we are not a body, but pure collective spirit, still at home in the Heart of God, though asleep in a nightmare from which we can awaken. It comes down to conveying a purely nondualistic message to a dualistic audience that still identifies itself thoroughly with a body, whether conscious of that or not. How does Jesus try to pull that off?

In chapter 18 of the text, Jesus asks us: “Can you who see yourself within a body know yourself as an idea? Everything you recognize you identify with externals, something outside itself. You cannot even think of God without a body, or in some form you think you recognize.” (T-18.VIII.1:5-7). Think a while about that! One chapter later, Jesus summarizes the inherent unreality of the physical body: “The body no more dies than it can feel. It does nothing. Of itself it is neither corruptible nor incorruptible. It is nothing.” (T-19.IV-C.5:2-5). To further convince us that we could do very well without the body, he says about his own experience: “I was a man who remembered spirit and his knowledge” (T-3.IV.7:3), and from the manual, where he speaks of himself in the third person: “The name of Jesus is the name of one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God. So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God. The man was an illusion, for he seemed to be a separate being, walking by himself, within a body that appeared to hold his self from Self, as all illusions do. […] In his complete identification with the Christ — the perfect Son of God […] — Jesus became what all of you must be. […] He led the way for you to follow him.” (M-5.2:1-3:2)

Again, the difficult thing about this message that this is a nondualistic message, read by those who still feel that duality is their daily experience. To completely give that up and enter into a completely unknown state is somewhat frightening to imagine, to say the least. Jesus realizes this well, and his teaching is always gentle and patient. Nowhere does Jesus “order” us to give up the body we still cherish so much: “It is almost impossible to deny its existence in the world. Those who do so are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial. […] The body can act wrongly only when it is responding to misthought.” (T-2.IV.3:10-11;2:5). In effect, the Holy Spirit, of which Jesus as author of A Course in Miracles is a manifestation, can use the concept of the body, which was made by the one ego of the one Son of God, to turn the tables on the ego, to point the way out of the dream: “The body was not made by love. Yet love does not condemn it and can use it lovingly, respecting what the Son of God has made and using it to save him from illusions” (T-18.VI.4:7-8). So the body isn’t rejected as something negative, as in many other spiritualities; rather, it becomes a useful tool for learning the Holy Spirit’s lessons of love (T-6.V).

That is also why, although only one teacher of God is necessary to save the world (M-12), this one teacher appears to us as many bodies that remind other bodies of the Alternative, the choice for Love. Jesus explains: “Why is the illusion of many necessary? Only because reality [nonduality] is not understandable to the deluded. Only very few can hear God’s Voice at all […] They need a medium through which communication becomes possible to those who do not realize that they are spirit. A body they can see. A voice they understand and listen to, without the fear that truth [nonduality] would encounter in them. Do not forget that truth can come only where it is welcomed without fear. So God’s teachers need a body, for their unity could not be recognized directly.” (M-12.2:8). This is how Jesus uses duality to bring his message of nonduality across: “This course remains within the ego framework [duality], where it is needed. It is not concerned with what is beyond all error [nonduality], because it is planned only to set the direction towards it.” (C-in.3:1-2)

Nowhere does Jesus push his students to give up the body before his message of nonduality is welcomed without fear. In fact, his focus is always on the mind that ultimately is the cause of the body. That’s why A Course in Miracles is a course in mind training. When the mind is completely healed, the body will cease to be valued, and will merely vanish because it will simply be forgotten, together with everything in time and space (which is why Gary Renard’s first book is called “The disappearance of the universe”). But we’re not there yet: “Our emphasis is now on healing [the mind]. The miracle [through forgiveness] is the means, the Atonement is the principle, and healing is the result.” (T-2.IV.1:1-2; my italics).

True salvation, or the acceptance of the Atonement, is therefore a slow process within the dualistic dream of time and space, which is exactly what we need to handle our fear of renouncing our individuality and autonomy, illusory though they may be: “Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality” (T-16.VI.8:1). In Chapter 27 of the text we read why Jesus emphasizes this: “So fearful is the dream, so seeming real, he [the Son of God] could not waken to reality without the sweat of terror and a scream of mortal fear, unless a gentler dream preceded his awaking, and allowed his calmer mind to welcome, not to fear, the Voice that calls with love to waken him; a gentler dream, in which his suffering was healed and where his brother was his friend. God willed he waken gently and with joy, and gave him means to waken without fear” (T-27.VII.13:4-5).

Realize though, that when you study A Course in Miracles, Jesus is not promising a “better” life to remain in the dualistic dream world of time and space, as many other spiritualities promise. The Course is uncompromising in its metaphysical foundation: lasting inner peace can never be found within a body in the dualistic dream of time and space. Jesus uses poetic dualistic language only to help ready the mind for an honest evaluation of dualism (the ego) versus nondualism (God, being Oneness Love). It may perhaps be comforting to know that salvation is guaranteed. That is, everyone is guaranteed to discard the body sooner or later, not with regret, but with a sigh of relief: “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.158.4:3-5).

So whenever you find yourself reading that blue book of Jesus’ mind training curriculum, try to be aware of the nondualistic message he tries to bring across that lies beyond the often beautiful poetic dualistic language. Accept for now that you still identify deeply with a physical body — there’s absolutely no need to feel guilty about that. But following Jesus’ instructions in the text, the workbook and the manual, you can perhaps train your mind in seeing yourself as the formless, abstract, eternal light of Love that all of us are, and which collectively makes up the one Son of God who has in truth never left his Home in the Heart of God. We have not sinned. Our Father loves His Son and wants nothing but His Son. Don’t reject or neglect the body, but bring it ever so slowly a bit more to the background. At the same time, bring the light of oneness slightly more to the foreground. You will find the world around you will light up as well, for your experience of the world around you merely mirrors the state of your own mind.

To conclude with the lovely workbook lesson 190: “My holy brother, think of this awhile: The world you see does nothing. It has no effects at all. It merely represents your thoughts. And it will change entirely as you elect to change your mind, and choose the joy of God as what you really want. Your Self is radiant in this holy joy, unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable, forever and forever. […]  Lay down your arms, and come without defense into the quiet place where Heaven’s peace holds all things still at last. Lay down all thoughts of danger and of fear. Let no attack enter with you. Lay down the cruel sword of judgment that you hold against your throat, and put aside the withering assaults with which you seek to hide your holiness. Here will you understand there is no pain. Here does the joy of God belong to you.” (W-pI.190.6:1-3;9).

Which dream do we want? (2)

In the early workbook lessons 31 and 32 in A Course in Miracles, we read that we are not the victim of the world we see, because we invented it (W-pI.32.1:2). Jesus goes on to state that “You can give it up as easily as you made it up. You will see it or not see it, as you wish.” (W-pI.32.1:3-4). At first, this seems rather odd, if not insulting. Did I make up everything I see in the world news? Did I make up the illness that I see striking the loved ones around me? Did I make up all the things that seem to go terribly wrong in my life? What is Jesus talking about?

In these early workbook lessons, Jesus is subtly and gently introducing the Course’s metaphysics to us. Its strictly nondualistic essence is rather radical to say the least, and needs careful introduction if it is to be accepted to any degree. Consider: according to the Course, the world you and I seem to live in is just as much a dream as our nocturnal dreams are. When we wake up in the morning, we actually wake up to the “waking dream”, which is just as illusory as our nightly dreams. In fact, time and space are themselves unreal. The body was strictly made to experience a life within time and space; it cannot go beyond them. Our essence is therefore not a body, but spirit, outside time and space. Bodies are forms; spirit is content. Although there seem to be billions of bodies (forms), they all emanate from the same content, which is spirit.

To any seemingly separated body living here, this whole story seems preposterous, at least while we are convinced our sensory organs report the truth to us. But is it the truth? Quantum physicists have found that ultimately, both time and space are indeed illusory. But most scientists are still in great resistance to this conclusion, for it ultimately means that many decades of ‘scientific evidence’ will have to be reconsidered, which, again, is way too radical and, since we still trust our sensory organs, lacks any practical application for our daily lives. But the real reason we don’t follow through on that conclusion, according to Jesus in A Course in Miracles,  is that we don’t want to give up this world, since that would mean giving up our perceived individual autonomy of the self we think we are.

Again speaking from a nondualistic metaphysical point of view, the cause of the world was the “tiny, mad idea” (T-27.VIII.6:2-3) of wanting to be on our own, separate from the Oneness Love which is God. We, as Christ, the One Son of God, are the effect of that Love. The “tiny, mad idea” is the quantum possibility of the One Son of God musing about how it would be to not be an effect, but to be a creator himself; to be on his own. At that point consciousness was born and the ego with it. The ego is not some evil entity on its own. The ego is merely the thought system of separation, of individuality, and therefore of attack on oneness, which the One Son of God seemed to consider seriously. When the Son realized the consequences of this seriousness, his mind was flooded with guilt. Deathly afraid of the perceived wrath of God the Creator, the terrified amnesiac Son of God followed the advice of the ego to fragment into billions of pieces, to hide from the vengeful Creator. This caused the Big Bang and the beginning of the dream of time and space.

So when Jesus says we invented the world we see, in one sense he means this literally: every separated form we see around us is but part of the ‘waking dream’ in which we invented to hide in a myriad of forms so God cannot find us and punish us. But here’s the trick: since the Son of God finds the guilt over his heinous ‘sin of separation‘ too terrible to face, he projects this away, so that all evil now seems to be outside him. So every fragmented form in the dream of time and space thinks that sin and guilt are in everyone and everything else. Consequently, anything and anyone can attack the innocent little I, and so each of us walks this dream-like planet “uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1). That’s why the Course describes the making of this world as an attack on God (W-pII.3.2:1), and summarizes it as a veritable hell (P.2.IV.3:1) — a hell, mind you, that we made up, and which remains nothing more than a dream (a nightmare really), from which we could choose to awaken as soon as we want to.

One of the most confronting aspects of A Course in Miracles is Jesus’ message that this world — this hell — was not thrust upon us: we wanted it and we made it; we still want it; we still make it; we still choose it. This is the ego’s strategy of maintaining the illusion of separation from God, but having all others but me be responsible for it: “The world you see depicts exactly what you thought you did. Except that now you think that what you did is being done to you. The guilt for what you thought is being placed outside yourself… […] But once deluded into blaming them you will not see the cause of what they do, because you want the guilt to rest on them” (T-27.VIII.7:2-4; 8:2). At least I can keep up the illusion that I am an innocent separated individual, not to be punished by God.

So when Jesus says we invented the world we see, he means this also in the sense that “I have invented my perception of the world I see”. I’ve chosen to interpret the world as guilty, hostile, and poised to attack me as an innocent individual — in short, I’ve chosen the ego as my guide in the world. And precisely because my interpretation is my choice, my mind is able to choose another interpretation. This freedom of choice is my only hope of finding a way out of pain, a way out of the dream, out of time and space, and back to my true inheritance as an effect of the oneness Love of God. The way out of the nightmare is to change my perception of the world, by choosing another Teacher, Who fortunately came with us into the dream of time and space, since our link with God can never be broken .

This other Teacher is called the Holy Spirit in A Course in Miracles. In the workbook, He is more or less introduced in lesson 34: “I could see peace instead of this”. The lesson’s title might as easily have been: “I could see The Holy Spirit instead of this”, or “I could see God’s Love instead of this”, or “I could see Jesus instead of this” — these are all expressions of the same content. As soon as I realize that the world is not being done to me, but I (as holographic part of the sleeping Son of God) am the dreamer of this dream of time and space, I can withdraw my investment in the myriad of forms, and focus on the content in my mind. And this content is always either fear (ego) or love (Holy Spirit). Instead of seeing guilt, hate, attack and pain all around me (which is a sure sign that I also unconsciously think this is within myself, my conscious thoughts to the contrary), I could choose to see past the forms to the loving content of light that’s the essence of all that I perceive. This is what Jesus calls true perception.  And this is a choice — the most important choice to be made in this life.

“It is from your peace of mind that a peaceful perception of the world arises.” (W-pI.34.1:4). That is why A Course in Miracles is a curriculum in mind training (T-1.VII.4:1). Our mind is usually not very much at peace, but this need not be (T-4.IV.1). A peaceful mind is a choice, and A Course in Miracles can be a useful aid in training the mind in true perception and find peace. Now, this inner peace will certainly not immediately put an end to all the horrors we see on the world news. But instead of believing in the reality of the dream and trying to fix the dream (which will never work because it doesn’t solve the cause of the world), we could learn to think beyond the dream and once again identify with the Holy Spirit, the Voice for God’s Love, which is our true inheritance. If I want to experience any measure of peace in my life, I will have to start with my self, that is, within my mind, and not hope for something external to magically bring me peace. Remember: “Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world” (T-21.in.1:7).

Changing my mind about the world results in true perception and ushers in the real world, which is still within the dream world of time and space, but doesn’t breed any more separation, guilt, and fear. How’s that for motivation? As you practice this new perception (through your daily practice of A Course in Miracles), you become a light of love in this world that shines away the darkness of uncertainty, loneliness, and constant fear. And this will not go unnoticed: emanating peace results in peacefulness around you. Which dream would you choose; that is: which teacher would you choose in this dream world? This is ultimately the only remaining freedom of choice in this dream world. Choose wisely, in spite of doubts and fears. “Concentrate only on this [your willingness to choose another teacher], and do not be disturbed that shadows surround it. That is why you came. If you could come without them you would not need the holy instant [of choosing Love once again]” (T-18.IV.2:4-6).


See also “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles“. This guidebook, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com:

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