For most of us, daily life is characterized by the “99 problems” that we feel are confronting us all the time. If you really think about it, not a single hour passes without us worrying about this or that. There’s always something more that needs attention or fixing. When asked what the most desired goal in their life is, many people say something like “If I could just have peace of mind… you know, not have to worry all the time – Just… some inner peace.” And then we read in A Course in Miracles that “There is no peace except the peace of God” (W-pI.200). In fact, Jesus makes it clear that his entire curriculum is about attaining lasting inner peace: “Knowledge is not the motivation for learning this course. Peace is.” (T-8.I.1). It’s only when I carefully start studying the text and apply the lessons in the workbook that I slowly start to realize just what it takes to truly embrace that “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
The bottom line of this realization of what it takes to choose the peace of God, is succinctly summarized in workbook lesson 185, called “I want the peace of God”. Right at the beginning, Jesus says: “To say these words is nothing. But to mean these words is everything.” (W-pI.185.1) That’s a rather painful, if not insulting statement to the ego. And yet we do not have to delve very deeply in our mind to realize just how true this statement is. See how quickly you can find a recent moment in which you did not like this or that. Just a slight irritation; a twinge of annoyance. You might say that these are common, understandable emotions, part of life. Bottom line, though, even the slightest frustration is a statement you want things to be different. You want things to be your way. You do not want to admit that you might be wrong and Jesus might be right in saying: “Do you prefer that you be right or happy? For you cannot be both.” (T-29.VII.1). It takes a while to realize – and accept – that “a slight twinge of annoyance is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury.” (W-pI.21.1). It takes humility to accept that, indeed, apparently I do not truly mean it when I repeatedly affirm to myself that I want the peace of God.
And yet, in Workbook lesson 200, Jesus assures us that “Peace is the bridge that everyone will cross, to leave this world behind. […] God alone is sure, and He will guide our footsteps. He will not desert His Son in need, nor let him stray forever from his Home. The Father calls; the Son will hear.” (W-pI.200.9:4). But if I keep bumping my head by failing to let go of judgmental emotions, however small these seem to be, how do I go about this process? How do I get from saying “I want the peace of God” to truly meaning “I want the peace of God?” Hitting myself over the head with sin, guilt and fear is obviously not going to work, nor will a life as a monk in a mountain cave bring me across that bridge. So what does this ‘path to peace’ look like?
The first step is to honestly admit that all the special idols I pursue and enjoy in my life really do not work in the end. This includes my career, my hobbies, travels, possessions, and special relationships. I may experience brief moments of ecstasy, but pain in some form is never far behind. Nothing lasts. Brief pleasures are a very poor substitute for lasting inner peace. In this first step, I slowly realize that peace does not come from seeking salvation in externals. “Seek not outside yourself. For it will fail, and you will weep each time an idol falls.”, we read in (T-29.VIII.1). We cannot, however, stop at that first step, for the realization that nothing in this world will ever last, will only lead to deep depression, which is hardly the road to peace. Indeed, since in our gut we do realize that everything crumbles, we seek all sorts of sedatives and distractions such as coffee, alcohol, sugary food, drugs, and other senseless distracting, self-sabotaging activities. So we need an additional step.
The second step is what makes A Course in Miracles unique as a contemporary spiritual thought system: the notion that we may experience ourselves in this world, but that we are, bottom line, not of this world. As long as we believe we are separated bodies living in an unpredictable world of time and space, we cannot avoid seeking for safety outside ourselves. The really mind-blowing message of Jesus in ACIM is the quantum physical notion that time and space are wholly illusory. Everything our senses perceive and what we swear to be gospel truth because we perceive it, is nothing but a projected nightmarish wish made ‘true’ – “projection makes perception” (T-21.in.1). All effort spent to create a better world, therefore, is in vain: “There is no point in trying to change the world. It is incapable of change because it is merely an effect.”, we read in (W-pI.23.2). Immediately thereafter, Jesus adds: “But there is indeed a point in changing your thoughts about the world. Here you are changing the cause. The effect [i.e., how you perceive the world] will change automatically.”
Jesus continues to explain: “You see the world that you have made, but you do not see yourself as the image maker. You cannot be saved from the world, but you can escape from its cause. This is what salvation means, for where is the world you see when its cause is gone?” (W-pI.23.3). The process of practicing this is called, you guessed it, forgiveness. By honestly forgiving all the ‘evil’ I perceive outside myself, I eventually realize that in the end I am but forgiving myself for making and cherishing all these silly illusions that I wanted to be true, just to keep up the hallucination that I could indeed separate from Oneness, from my Source, my Creator. So to recap: accepting the peace of God requires, first, that I realize that peace doesn’t come from seeking outside of me; and secondly, that I am the dreamer of the dream. Peace is already within this dreamer, who merely needs to choose to awaken. This I cannot do without the help of the Holy Spirit. Within the dream I can choose to let my perception be guided by the Holy Spirit. From this new perception, born of my choice for the miracle, the Holy Spirit leads me up the ladder of the Atonement to the real world, the gateway to my Home, the lasting inner peace of God.
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Still, you and I know very well we won’t wake up next morning saying: “I want the peace of God and this time I really mean it!” Of course we do not. To help his students in practicing this increasingly honest level of forgiveness, Jesus gave the pamphlet “The Song of Prayer” to us. Please do read it from time to time. This will not only prevent you from feeling so guilty because of your seeming lack of progress; it will also instruct you how to ascend the ladder of Atonement step by step. By studying and practicing this pamphlet, I slowly realize that prayer is not asking for specifics; it is about increasingly allowing the natural communication between my mind and God’s to flow freely, by increasingly often choosing the Holy Spirit as the Teacher of my thoughts. The world, illusory though it may be, becomes a classroom in which I can let myself be guided to become a happy learner on the road to the real world, cleansed of false perception.
The Big Bang wasn’t the start of life; it was the start of a silly dream, which in reality never occurred. And although the scientists do not know yet how the universe will end, Jesus in ACIM assures us that it will end in laughter (M-14.5). We are all guaranteed to make it Home, as One. Okay, perhaps not in this lifetime, but most definitely in a future life. Could you ask for a more comforting thought than this?
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 Amazon.com: