Have you ever made a top-5 list of your worst fears? Although the list is different for everyone, things that are usually high on the list are: being confronted with a terminal disease; a loss of income; a nature catastrophe such as an earthquake or flooding; or being abandoned by that special love partner you depend on so much. In Holland there’s a saying that man suffers most from fears that in his lifetime never manifest. Moreover, many personal development programs teach us that we’re not as helpless as we sometimes think we are. We can do much in our lives to minimize the risk of most of our fears actually materializing.
A Course in Miracles discusses the theme of fear on various deeper levels. For one, we are told that there are only two basic emotions: love and fear (T-13.V.1). Jesus of course speaks in terms of content. There are many forms of emotions, but in content there are only two; only one of which is real. Right at the Introduction of the textbook, Jesus tells us that “The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.” At first, that’s pretty hard to swallow. After all, our fears feel very real. (T-in.1:8). In Chapter 13 Jesus says: “You have but two emotions; one you made [fear] and one was given you [love]” (T-13.V.10:1). In A Course in Miracles, the verb “making” almost always refers to illusions in the dream world of time and space. Since this entire physical world is an ego defense against love, it is made up entirely of fear. Since this fear feels so real, the Course’s main thrust is to help train the mind to let fear be undone, guided by the Holy Spirit, the Voice for Love. Great news, but the fear still feels very real… so what to do?
To undo fear, I must first understand why I am so fearful, and what exactly the fear is about. This is a process of peeling off layers. Studying A Course in Miracles, I come to realize that my fear of a terminal disease, or loss of income, or abandonment by a loved one are only shadows of a much deeper fear. Beneath this surface layer seems to boil a black cauldron of guilt — over having abandoned my Creator by attempting a life apart from Him. The ego is quite literally the thought of separation from Oneness. The ‘cardinal sin’ of separating from Unconditional Love (an apt synonym for God) must result in insurmountable guilt – it’s the most terrible thing imaginable. No wonder this guilt leads to fear of retaliation by a most vengeful Creator, who is obviously fully justified in punishing me. That’s quite a fearful situation I find myself in…!
Most of us are unaware of how many activities in our lives are aimed at pleasing some authority figure, hoping we won’t be punished. Many people suffer needlessly for years on end, just to prove that they do deserve mercy and should not be punished, since they already pay by punishing themselves. Also, we are very skilled in pointing at the “evil” outside of us, again to prove that others are sinful, but I am an innocent victim of forces beyond my control, so others should be punished; I rightfully deserve my place in Heaven. Each of these cases of course exemplifies the dynamic of projection: I feel guilty over having rejected God, but since I cannot tolerate this guilt, I project it out and see rejection and evil outside of me (including in God), which I subsequently fear so much. My fears about illness or money are nothing compared to this.
However, when we are ready to peel off another psychological layer, Jesus has a surprise in store for his students: this projected fear of attack is nothing compared to the fear of what lies beneath. “You could look even upon the ego’s darkest cornerstone without fear if you did not believe that, without the ego, you find within yourself something you fear even more. You are not really afraid of crucifixion. Your real terror is of redemption.” (T-13.III.1). Now at this point many an eyebrow is raised, to say the least. This, after all, seems ridiculous. Would I really be fearful of being told that I am loved by my Creator for ever and ever? Yet Jesus continues: “You would be willing to look even upon your savage wish to kill God’s Son, if you did not believe that it saves you from love. For this wish caused the separation, and you have protected it because you do not want the separation healed.” (T-13.III.2)
Now hold it for a second. What does Jesus mean by “I do not want the separation healed”? As a good Course in Miracles student, are not all my efforts aimed at healing the separation, by diligently looking at my unforgiving thoughts, and then choosing separation no more? The answer is: no, not as long as I still see myself and everyone around me as distinct individuals. This is where the nondualistic metaphysics of A Course in Miracles are so important to understand in some depth. The above sentence really reads: “You protect it [the separation] because you do not want individuality ended.” Our fear of redemption is our fear of Oneness, the negation of individuality. No matter how spiritually oriented I may have become, I obviously still regard myself as a body, separate from all other living things. As long as you and I still choose to remain asleep in time and space, the concept of a “Oneness joined as One” is meaningless to us (T-25.I.7). I believe I’d vanish into oblivion if I really gave up my individuality. To the ego, this would be hell. In reality, it is Heaven. So, again: what to do?
The message of Jesus’ curriculum is not to end the body by committing suicide. After all, (self-)attack only leads to more guilt, postponing the undoing of time and space a little longer (i.e., you’ll have one more re-incarnation to go through before you choose the ‘better way’). Instead, if I’m serious about the goal of attaining lasting inner peace, I should train my mind to undo the various psychological layers of fear. To this end, I must accept the metaphysical principles of nonduality to some degree. I do not have to fully fathom the principles of metaphysics (as this is virtually impossible while we think we live in time and space, with a linearly programmed brain), but I should be willing to accept that there is something much better than individuality. Two quotes that might be helpful in this regard: “It should especially be noted that God has only one Son. If all His creations are His Sons, every one must be an integral part of the whole Sonship. The Sonship in its oneness transcends the sum of its parts (T-2.VII.6:1). And from the workbook: “We are creation; we the Sons of God. We seem to be discrete, and unaware of our eternal unity with Him. Yet back of all our doubts, past all our fears, there still is certainty. For love remains with all its Thoughts, its sureness being theirs. God’s memory is in our holy minds, which know their oneness and their unity with their Creator (W-pII.11.4:1-5).” To the ego that’s the worst possible news.
Going through Jesus’ curriculum, we can slowly realize, without becoming overwhelmed by guilt, the simple truth of statements such as these: “You have built your whole insane belief system because you think you would be helpless in God’s Presence, and you would save yourself from His love because you think it would crush you into nothingness. You are afraid it would sweep you away from yourself and make you little. For you believe that magnitude lies in defiance and that attack is grandeur. You think you have made a world which God would destroy; and by loving Him, which you do,you would throw this world away, which you would. […] You can accept insanity [fear] because you made it, but you cannot accept love, because you did not. You would rather be slaves of the crucifixion than Sons of God in redemption. […] You are more afraid of God than of the ego, and love cannot enter where it is not welcome.” (T-13.III.5)
Since fear is strictly of our own making, it is also in our power to completely undo it; or, rather, have it be undone for us. How? You guessed it: forgiveness, the central theme of A Course in Miracles. Forgiveness — not of what I think others did to me, but forgiveness of what they have not done to me, since all evil outside of me is only a projection of my own unforgiving thoughts. In the same vein, I forgive myself (as mind) for what I have not done, since the separation never happened in reality, as time and space are illusory. In (T-1:VI.5), we read: “Perfect love casts out fear. If fear exists, then there is not perfect love. But: Only perfect love exists. If there is fear, It produces a state that does not exist.”
The trick is not to deny feelings of fear, but to practice the workbook lessons and thus condition the mind to give new meaning to these feelings. Yes, I’m still choosing to perceive a dream world of time and space, but I can do so right-mindedly, from an attitude of forgiveness. I realize that FEAR is an acronym for “False Evidence that Appears Real”. In the Psychotherapy pamphlet, we read: “No one in this world escapes fear, but everyone can reconsider its causes and learn to evaluate them correctly. God has given everyone a Teacher Whose wisdom and help far exceed whatever contributions an earthly therapist can provide.” (P–1.1:3) By non-judgmentally looking at all my unforgiving thoughts and giving them over to Jesus (or the Holy Spirit), the guilt that fuels all this fear is undone. And you know what? Worries over income, disease, earthquakes or personal rejection silently float to the background of the mind, because it doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is that I can choose to be a happy learner of this curriculum, knowing that in reality we are already safe at home anyway. The world of fear becomes a classroom of forgiveness, in which it is given me to let miracles of healing work through me.
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: