The tragic hero

When we’re in the cinema watching a good movie, we can become totally immersed in what’s happening on the screen. It’s amazing to realize the biochemistry that runs through our veins merely because of our interpretation of the colored lights we see projected on the big screen. We deeply identify with the main character, and join in the struggle of the ‘good’ against the ‘bad’. We are not all bothered by CGI that makes it seem like incredulously impossible things are happening. And at the closing of the movie, we’re satisfied to have been acknowledged that the struggle of the main character was worth it. We secretly project this conclusion onto our own lives: yes, we’ve got ninety-nine problems, but in the end the struggle will be worth it. The problem is that since we unconsciously realize the hopelessness of the bodily life, we seek this acknowledgment of the usefulness of our struggle over and over again, and so we keep watching movies.

The PC gaming craze is essentially not very different. We all know alarming stories of kids who play for hours on a row while forgetting to drink, eat, and move about, fueling the growing epidemic of brainwave disorders. Especially the most aggressive warrior and war games are immensely popular. Why? Because I’m the hero! It affirms to my ego that it’s me against a dangerous and hateful world, which I can and must defend myself against at all cost. Imagining, then, through the game, that I’m powerful enough to survive in this hell – or, in some cases, even conquer it and become god over everything – is just one way of forgetting that under my skin, I’m deeply uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear. Such games serve as a convenient distraction to, again, forget the inherent hopelessness of living in a body. I can happily hallucinate that I am the hero who may be struggling now, but who will be victorious in the end. How tragic!

We actually don’t need cinemas or PC games to shroud us in this illusion. Our all too familiar nightly dreams serve this purpose equally well. While we dream, we are convinced we are the central figure in our dream world, where the most bewildering things can happen without us so much as raising an eyebrow about it. These may be ecstatic dreams or they may be fearful dreams, but in all cases the dream centers on the individual personality I call my self. Freud has argued that dreams are the expressions of unconscious wishes. And so we find in dreams, just as in movies, a chance to be the glorious hero in a strange and bewildering world where the most unexpected things can happen. As we read in A Course in Miracles: “Dreams… are the best example you could have of how perception can be utilized to substitute illusions for truth. You do not take them seriously on awakening because the fact that reality is so outrageously violated in them becomes apparent… Dreams show you that you have the power to make a world as you would have it be, and that because you want it you see it. And while you see it you do not doubt that it is real… You seem to waken, and the dream is gone.” (T-18.II.2).

The startling thing about A Course in Miracles (I somehow keep typing ‘curse in miracles’, a subtle ego projection…) is that Jesus tells us that what we usually regard as our daily reality, is every inch a silly dream as our nightly dreams. Jesus tells me that when I wake up in the morning, I do not wake up to reality; I wake up to the “waking dream” of time, space, and perception. As Jesus clearly states: “What you seem to waken to is but another form of this same world you see in dreams. All your time is spent in dreaming. Your sleeping and your waking dreams have different forms, and that is all.” (T-18.II.5) This is absolutely mind-boggling if you think about it seriously, and so we simply do not accept it.

Jesus in A Course in Miracles is well aware of this perfectly understandable refusal, and so he spends many passages patiently explaining this to our incredulous minds. For example, in (T-3.VII.4): “You can perceive yourself as self-creating, but you cannot do more than believe it. You cannot make it true… the belief that you can is the foundation stone in your thought system. […] You still believe you are an image of your own making.” And, from (T-20.III.4): “Do you like what you have made? A world of murder and attack, through which you thread your timid way through constant dangers, alone and frightened, hoping at most that death will wait a little longer before it overtakes you and you disappear. You made this up. It is a picture of what you think you are; of how you see yourself.”

This message of the illusory dream nature of what we regard as reality is only understandable once we seriously consider the metaphysical notions of duality and non-duality. A Course in Miracles is a strictly non-dualistic spirituality, with zero compromise. Remember the (to the ego highly frustrating) words of the introduction: “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.” According to A Course in Miracles, what is unreal is everything that is not love, and this would include the silly idea of the seeming separation from God, resulting in a physical universe and planet Earth. In the Manual for Teachers we read the following about the separation: “In time this happened long ago. In reality it never happened at all.” (M-2.2). Just like our nightly dreams, this universe and this world never happened! Heaven, the non-dual Kingdom of God, knows nothing about it. “Not one note in Heaven’s song was missed.” (T-26.V.5) Of course not, since Heaven knows not of time and space.

And yet you and I still believe we exist in time and space, even though we may intellectually begin to accept its illusory nature. The fact that I typed this blog and you are reading it, means that you and I still choose to believe in time and space, and therefore remain asleep in what we can regard as our ‘waking dream’.  Again, Jesus patiently unmasks this illusion, at a very gentle pace so that we have ample time to consider it without having to give up everything we cherish as valuable. In the end though, to find lasting inner peace means fully accepting that we are still choosing death, constantly chanting that what God Wills for us will never happen, but that this will not make us happy, since we think we are what we are not. “Can you who see yourself within a body know yourself as an idea?” (T-18.VIII.I:5). “What you have given ‘life’ is not alive, and symbolizes but your wish to be alive apart from life, alive in death, with death perceived as life, and living, death.” (T-29.II.6) These at first puzzling lines only make sense once we can accept that ‘death’ is anything that does not reflect the love of God here, and ‘life’ means eternal unchangeable life outside time and space.

We find an instructive summary of this mind-boggling phenomenon in Workbook lesson 167: “What seems to be the opposite of life is merely sleeping. When the mind elects to be what it is not, and to assume an alien power which it does not have, a foreign state it cannot enter, or a false condition not within its Source, it merely seems to go to sleep a while. It dreams of time; an interval in which what seems to happen never has occurred, the changes wrought are substanceless, and all events are nowhere. When the mind awakes, it but continues as it always was.” (W-pI.167.9). Luckily, we need not be afraid about this dream, since “Ideas remain united to their source. They can extend all that their source contains. […] But they cannot give birth to what was never given them.” (W-pI.167.5). Again, in the same important lesson: “The mind can think it sleeps, but that is all. […] What seems to die is but the sign of mind asleep. […] Yet mind is mind, awake or sleeping.”

A Course in Miracles is a mind-training curriculum that teaches us to look at this silly dream of ours, evaluate it honestly and correctly, and – this is the best part – learn to accept the only decision that will truly make us happy: accepting the Atonement and becoming a happy learner, a Teacher of God, quietly and calmly entering the real world, becoming enveloped in God’s Grace. And “Grace is the gift by which God leans to us and lifts us up, taking salvation’s final step Himself.” (W-pI.168.3). (This is meant metaphorically since God does not do anything; it is Jesus’ poetical way of picturing our own decision to return to God again.) So what ‘s a good way to go about this process of slowly waking up?

The essential ingredient to waking up is forgiveness, though not forgiveness as the world usually sees it. True forgiveness is asking the Holy Spirit to help me learn to withhold my condemnation of just about everything around me. I do this by looking at this devastation in my mind from above the battleground. Jeez, everything I seem to behold outside of me is in the mind! And so the dream world is, too. In other words, with the help of the Holy Spirit I can learn to look at this entire dream world, without attachment. I can then acknowledge without judgment that I, as holographic part of the one Son of God, deliberately chose this dream, and this need not be. Imagine yourself (as Ken Wapnick often taught) sitting in the cinema with Jesus beside you (as manifestation of the Holy Spirit) and looking with him at the movie we call our earthly world. Don’t identify yourself with the characters as you usually would in the cinema; just look. When you look closely, Jesus will make you realize that what you see is not a bunch of separated fragments fretting about on stage; it’s Christ, the one Son of God, seemingly fragmented, dreaming of exile in a barren desert. Forgive this image (that is, your ‘wrong’ mind) truly, and it is gone.

Again, since you and I are reading this, we haven’t done so yet in time, but that’s quite okay. Don’t be taken in by the ego’s constant seductive call to feel guilty about this and that. Keep asking The Holy Spirit for help, and forgive yet another bit of condemnation in your mind about some silly aspect of the dream. We won’t be hurled up into Heaven unexpectedly; we only wake up when we know we are ready for it and want nothing else. And this glad realization will come in time to every mind, guaranteed. Forget the tragic hero of the dream, and choose to become a happy learner.

Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “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


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