We all regard the apparently inevitable decay and death of the physical body as one of the few certainties in life. Religions take it to be God’s punishment for our cardinal sin of not obeying Him. Scientists simply have no clue as to why entropy reigns supreme. So why do bodies decay?
Contrary to what most religions have taught for millennia on end, A Course in Miracles teaches us that God did not make the body (M-22.5:5), nor anything composed of matter, since God creates only Love (cf. W-pI.173). The body is a deceitful hallucinatory attempt of the ego to be on its own. The body is ‘proof’ that the separation from God has actually been accomplished. However, if the ego made the body to ‘prove’ it can do very well without God, why would it make a body that inevitably decays and dies? If the ego proclaims it has overthrown God, wouldn’t a body that lives forever be far more convincing? Why the decay?
For a plausible answer, we should first recap why the ego invented the body. In the ontological instant of the separation (in quantum physics we would call this a quantum possibility, in this case the possibility of separating from God) the ego immediately ‘told’ the seemingly sleeping Son that God would most certainly punish his heinous Son for such a sinful deed. The result: mortal fear and guilt! However, so the ego counsels, there is a way to escape this punishment, namely: hiding in an almost infinite collection of splintered fragments. This ‘solution’ of almost endless further separation is of course the only ‘solution’ the ego can come up with, since the ego is the idea of separation. The sleeping Son, overwhelmed with gargantuan guilt and in mortal fear of punishment, listens to the ego and sets in motion the Big Bang. From that moment on, time and space seemed to be. A zillion ‘bodies’ seem to endlessly disperse into the void.
The first target of the ego — to hide from Love, the state of Oneness — has now been achieved. Since the Son has chosen to follow the ego’s counsel, Oneness has now been erased from the awareness of the seemingly sleeping Son of God. The Son of God is now convinced he is a body. Although the Son is rather ambivalent about that body, He nevertheless regards this as his identity and his safety. In A Course in Miracles, Jesus has a slightly different view: “The body is a tiny fence around a little part of a glorious and complete idea. It draws a circle, infinitely small, around a very little segment of Heaven, splintered from the whole, proclaiming that within it is your kingdom, where God can enter not.” (T-18.VIII.2:5)
In truth, this is all illusory, but let’s follow the progression of the illusion for now, since anyone who still lives on psychological auto-pilot firmly believes this is reality. The ego must make sure that the Son of God never changes His mind about choosing the ego, for that would definitely mean the end of its reign. Therefore, the ego makes sure the body demands the mind’s constant attention, so that the memory of Oneness never comes into awareness. What better way to have the mind continually focus on the body than making sure the body is needful? We must breathe every few seconds, and if we do not drink and eat daily, the body is soon finished. We must constantly be vigilant about our nutrition and exercise lest we be hurt by legions of bacteria, viruses, and parasites. For most ‘living’ creatures, the body requires so much attention that any kind of psychological or spiritual vision is absolutely out of scope. Meanwhile the ego smiles.
Still, there is an additional, much more important reason for the ego to stress the body’s impermanence. A body that decays and dies ‘proves’ that Oneness is a lie: the attack and separation clearly succeeded. God failed; the ego is victorious! As we experience ourselves now, we clearly cannot be of God. We’re on our own; we made it! Consider: “…if oneness [i.e., eternal life] still remained untouched, who could attack and who could be attacked? Who could be victor? Who could be his prey? Who could be victim? Who the murderer? And if he did not die, what ‘proof’ is there that God’s eternal Son can be destroyed?” (W-pII.15.2:4). Since the ego is the idea of attack and separation, it cannot but continue to attack and separate, even in the made-up world of time and space. Therefore bodies must attack and be attacked, perishing in the end, as the ego cannot be anything other than its own source mechanism.
So there we have it: we listened to the ego’s seductive counsel of attempting autonomy on our own, to find ourselves in separated bodies that only live for an instant on the timeline of the cosmos, like a firefly’s brief glow in the night. Could the seemingly sleeping Son of God really be satisfied with this? Of course not! If you look closely at the world, you’ll see very few bodies (i.e., people) in a state that even remotely approaches happiness. Still, this misery is no doubt better than the morbid guilt and mortal fear of the terrible wrath of God over the ‘cardinal sin’ of attacking and separating from Him. I’d rather exist as a painful individual than face annihilation into oblivion should I choose Oneness and return to the Creator Whom I’ve rejected. That’s why Jesus teaches us in (T-13.III.1:10) that we’re not really afraid of the crucifixion (i.e., death); our real fear is of redemption, that is, the disappearance of our individuality once we choose Love (Oneness) again. So we accept decay as part of life. We’re totally insane, though the insanity is consistent.
So much for scientists who are currently delving into possibilities to double or triple our life span. They’ll no doubt succeed one day in significantly lengthening the longevity of our body cells. In fact, lab experiments on chicken’s body cells have shown that in absence of stress, body cells can be kept alive for over ten times the normal lifespan of a chicken. But here’s the catch: a life without stress is impossible in duality, as long as there still remains one scrap of guilt’n’fear over perceived sin and its consequences. And once we accept the Atonement and finally reach the real world (in the mind), free of guilt and fear, we will no longer choose the body as our home. So eternal life in time and space is by definition a fairy tale.
If at this point you are thoroughly disgusted about your body, hold your horses. As Jesus reminds us in Workbook part II, essay 5 (“What is the body?”), everything depends on purpose. Where we initially gave the body the purpose of attack, separation, decay and death, we “can change the purpose that the body will obey by changing what we think what it is for.” (W-pII.5.3:5) In other words, the body can also be used as a means by which the seemingly sleeping Son of God can return his mind to sanity. How? “The Son of God extends his hand to reach his brother, and to help him walk along the road with him. Now is the body holy. Now it serves to heal the mind that it was made to kill. You will identify with what you think will make you safe. […] Love is your safety. Fear does not exist. Identify with love, and you are safe. […] Identify with love, and find your Self.” (W-PII.5.4:3)
The bottom line is that it shouldn’t matter in the slightest that our body inevitably decays and dies. It is the stuff of the dream that we have chosen, to attempt the separation. It is not truth: “not one note in Heaven’s song is missed” (T-26.V.5). If, by studying and practicing a curriculum such as A Course in Miracles, we can learn to identify with our true Self, we’re well on our way to rediscover the everlasting peace that is still our source; the peace of the Father who holds not even the slightest grudge over what we were convinced we committed. We are like the prodigal Son, fearing to return Home. Learn to kindly help your brother and forgive all mistakes your perceive, and you will learn of the Love for your Self and for God. This is the royal road to everlasting peace.
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: