Pleasure or happiness?

First, a word of caution with this one. While reading this, try to watch your mind for any scraps of guilt that might surface. These are merely another opportunity to forgive your own mind for yet another illusion. Used this way, it can beautifully serve your own process of awakening. If you push the guilt away, you are merely saying you need more time to accept the Atonement. This isn’t wrong in and of itself, but remember that the purpose of a Teacher of God is to save time (M-1.2:11).

In A Course in Miracles, Jesus often contrasts the ego world of time and space with the nondualistic state of Heaven in terms of negative and positive aspects.  In the Course, hell is more or less defined as the world, that is, the state of mind in which God is rejected and thus seems to be absent. For example, in Lesson 138 we read that we invented the world to be “…a means for demonstrating hell is real, hope changes to despair, and life itself must in the end be overcome by death.” (W-pI.138.7:3) This is our ‘proof’ that the separation from God’s eternal oneness actually did succeed. In section 14 of the manual, “How will the world end?”, Jesus tells us that “The world will end in joy, because it is a place of sorrow. […] The world will end in peace, because it is a place of war. […] The world will end in laughter, because it is a place of tears. Where there is laughter, who can longer weep?” (M-14.5:1)

Jesus teaches us that states of mind such as fear, anger, depression, hate and jealousy are all of the ego, for they are born of judgment (actually, condemnation would be a more fitting word). “The ego analyzes; the Holy Spirit accepts” (T-11.V.13:1). “Only complete forgiveness [of all condemnation] brings all this [peace] to the world. […] To turn hell into Heaven is the function of God’s teachers, for what they teach are lessons in which Heaven is reflected.” (M-14.5:7). This had led many students to train the mind to be vigilant for any negative thoughts and emotions, and then quickly practice forgiveness. They assume that anything negative is of the ego, while positive feelings point to the sure direction of the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Simple enough, isn’t it?

Alas, it is a bit more subtle than that. I remember once seeing a video of an excerpt of one of Kenneth Wapnick’s workshops, in which he recalls that sometimes students ask him if ecstasy is of the ego. Ken explains that he has no choice but to ‘unfortunately confirm to these well-meaning students that indeed, feelings of exhilaration and ecstasy are most often of the ego.’ (the exception being a revelation, which is extremely rare.) The positive thoughts and emotions that identify the presence of the Holy Spirit are of an entirely different order. While living our lives, we think we strive to find happiness. What we most often do, however, is chasing after pleasure. When this momentarily seems to work, we confuse this with happiness. That’s why you’ll hear someone speak about ‘the happiest moments of my life’. These were actually mere fleeting moments of pleasure.

Happiness, in the context of A Course in Miracles, is not of this world. It is a state that, once attained, does not change. Pleasure can be defined as the bodily sensations that we experience when we are glad something ‘great’ happens in relation to events, persons, or situations. The commercial spin doctors try to uphold this confusion all the time. “You want happiness? Buy my product!” What they don’t tell you is that the feeling of pleasure that this product might give you is so fleeting that it can hardly be called happiness (“Well, buy more of my product”, is the predictable response). The only type of pleasure that leads to happiness is following the Holy Spirit’s guidance: “All real pleasure comes from doing God’s Will” (T-1.VII.1:4). In this context, “real pleasure” would be synonymous with happiness. All other pleasure is of the ego, which will hardly lead to happiness at all.

Jesus aptly explains the nature of fleeting pleasures in section 4 of the Manual for teachers, see character trait V: Joy, expanding on his statement in chapter 19 that “pleasure and pain are the same illusion” (T-19.IV-B.12). Kenneth Wapnick notes in his workshop “What it means to be a Teacher of God” that this pertains to the pleasure and pain that are associated with the body. I experience pain (physically or psychologically) when I (as a body) do not get what I want. I experience pleasure when I (as a body) do get what I want. I then tend to call this joy. I label it as happiness. This is not the joy that Jesus refers to in the Manual. Real joy comes only from doing God’s will, which will eventually lead to the non-changing happiness of awakening into the heart of God.

The catch in this distinction is that pleasure is experienced by me as an individual in time, while obviously the happiness of being with God requires me to relinquish my individuality. That is why our deepest fear is not of crucifixion (pain, judgment) but of redemption (ending duality and awakening as the Love of God) (T-13.III.1:10). That is also why many Course students attempt to bring God and Jesus into this illusory world, asking Them to fix things here so they might experience happiness. But these students are not really asking for happiness: they are asking for respite from pain in the form of pleasure. Such requests are alien to God (since He does not know of duality) and it merely blocks the awareness of the voice of Jesus or the Holy Spirit, who would gladly help us undo such unfortunate mistakes.

One more word of caution: please do not condemn pleasure, joy, exhilaration or ecstasy if you notice someone else (or yourself) experiencing this. It is tempting, for example, to condemn a group of party animals who are ‘having a good time into the wee small hours’ as “wallowing in their ego without them being aware they’re only sedating the pain of the separation”. I should always remember that judging others means judging myself, as there is only one Son of God. It’s quite alright to enjoy things in the world. However, if I am truly seeking happiness that lasts, I ought to realize that I shouldn’t expect to find salvation in these ‘little joys’. They won’t last! At best, they could help me to ready my mind for the more serious mind searching for the barriers that I have built against Love (T-16.IV.6:1). Spending my time chasing enjoyable things defeats that very goal.

So to conclude with Monty Python: it’s generally a good idea to “Always look at the bright side of life”. But be sure you do not use this as a cover to refrain from the more serious mind training that is the very essence of Jesus’ curriculum. The really essential statement in Monty Python’s song would be (near the end): “You’ve come from nothing; you’re going back to nothing. What have ye lost? Nothing!” And then laugh about the silliness of this dualistic dream we call the universe and the world. And simultaneously keep practicing your vigilance for God’s Kingdom, the third Lesson of Love (T-6.5.C:1), through unconditional forgiveness of your own unforgiving mind.

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


The Joyful Last Judgment

In the Bible, the Last Judgment is depicted as a fearful event in which God sorts out the ‘good’ souls from the ‘bad’ souls. It’s a concept everyone fears, even those who do not consider themselves religious. You may tell yourself intellectually that there probably is no God and therefore no Last Judgment, but in our gut we are all uncertain about what happens after we die, however much we attempt to push that out of awareness. In the ego’s thought system, fear of inevitable punishment is never far away.

How very different then is the picture of the Last Judgment that Jesus paints in A Course in Miracles! Certainly, the Last Judgment will come to pass, but only in the sense that it will literally be the last judgment… by the sleeping Son of God. As Jesus says fairly early in the text: “The Last Judgment is generally thought of as a procedure undertaken by God. Actually it will be undertaken by my brothers with my help. It is a final healing… The Last Judgment might be called a process of right evaluation. It simply means that everyone will finally come to understand what is worthy [valuable] and what is not.” (T-2.VIII.3:1) This refers to the distinction between duality (i.e., time, space, and perception) and nonduality (wherein only God=Love exists). The Last Judgment heralds the Second Coming of the Son of God [back to nonduality], which means the end of the cosmos, the end of time and space, and the end of all illusions of separation. With the Last Judgment, the Son of God realizes that “…what was not true is not true now, and never will be. The impossible has not occurred, and can have no effects. And that is all.” (T-31.I:1).

The Last Judgment by the Son of God is therefore a declaration of liberation from illusions. It is the acceptance that we have been mistaken about our tiny, mad idea of wanting to separate from our Creator, making up a cosmos of time and space in which we could fantasize about individual power. It brings to mind this oft-quoted passage from the text: “What if you recognized this world is an hallucination? What if you really understood you made it up? What if you realized that those who seem to walk in it, to sin and die, attack and murder and destroy themselves, are wholly unreal? Could you have faith in what you see, if you accepted this? And would you see it? Hallucinations disappear when they are recognized for what they are. This is the healing and the remedy.” (T-20.VIII.7:3). The Last Judgment means that The Son of God acknowledges that perception is only about illusion, and that the assumption that we will be happier without God was a painful mistake (though not a sin, for sin is impossible). Also, the Last Judgment includes the joyful realization that there is something much, much more desirable, which is the Son’s birthright: eternal peace at Home with His Creator.

Carefully studying what A Course in Miracles says about the Last Judgment should erase any remaining fear of the concept. Still, although we might accept this intellectually, as long as we still believe we live and work and breathe in time and space, we are not as yet prepared to actually manifest it. Jesus knows this, and comforts us: “…We are not prepared as yet to welcome [this] with joy. As long as any mind remains possessed of evil dreams, the thought of hell is real. God’s teachers have the goal of wakening the minds of those asleep, and seeing there the vision of Christ’s face to take the place of what they dream. The thought of murder is replaced with blessing. Judgment is laid by, and given Him Whose function judgment is [i.e., the Holy Spirit]. And in His Final Judgment is restored the truth about the Holy Son of God. […] And all he sought before to crucify are resurrected with him, by his side, as he prepares with them to meet his God.” (M-28.6)

The above passage, by the way, has been taken by many an ACIM student to mean that they should ‘spread the word’ and convert as many souls as possible to the Course’s message. This is what Kenneth Wapnick has termed “making the error real”. Why? Because such an urge means that you see time and space as very real, and that moreover things could turn out disastrous if no-one takes any action. This is a focus on externals which does not work, since the ‘problem’ is internal, i.e., in the mind. These well-meaning people might re-read chapter 12 in the Manual for teachers, which reminds us that the number of teachers needed to save the world is one — namely, you. As Ken Wapnick explains: “It is not that you get the word out; you accept the Word in.” After all, there is no-one out there; we are all integral part of the one Son of God. So if you, as sleeping Son of God, change your mind in the holy instant — outside of time — this suffices. Salvation has come.

Although theoretically you and I could do this in an instant, almost all of us will experience this is as a very slow learning process. This is largely because of the seeming enormity of the consequence of this choice: After all, without judgment, the world is without a cause. To be more precise, my body and my individuality are now without a cause. As Jesus says: “With this holy sight, perception gives a silent blessing and then disappears, its goal accomplished and its mission done. […] Without a cause, and now without a function in Christ’s sight, it merely slips away into nothingness. […] Bodies are now useless, and will therefore fade away.” (W-pII.10.2:3;6) Oops, this means (as a personality) will fade away into nothingness. Consider that for a minute. Swallow and take a deep breath. Am I really ready to judge, without hesitation, that this is where salvation lies? If you and I are honest, the answer is: “nope!” No wonder we need some slack. Judgment fuels the availability of time, which is indispensable as long as we want to perceive a special self.

An understandable but faulty defense that often surfaces is to disregard Jesus’ notion of the Last Judgment as unreachable: “So the Last Judgment is when the last sleeping son of God judges that only Love is valuable and desirable? Wow, that’s a loooong way off. Better forget about the whole notion and have another beer.” We should, however, never let the Course’s metaphysics get too far away from us. Time certainly seems linear to our brains, but time in truth is holographic, which means that the whole is contained in each part. Everything in time is happening now. Every loving thought reverberates now in every mind throughout the universe. Only one teacher is needed to save the world because there is only one mind, as there is only one Son. That is why Jesus repeatedly emphasizes that we should not focus on changing the world, as it is only an effect of the mind. The only thing we should ‘do’ is look at the darkness we have chosen — the original ontological judgment of thinking we’d be better off separate from God — evaluate its meager success, and then choose again.

The choice to end judgment therefore solves the authority problem, which Jesus states is really the only problem we have ( Giving up judgment means gladly acknowledging that Jesus is right, and we have been wrong — about everything. It’s not that we have been sinful, but we have been much mistaken (T-10.V.6:1). Giving up judgment means that we are willing to step back, to allow the mind to be guided by Jesus and The Holy Spirit, trusting in the conviction that they alone know what will make us truly happy. As Jesus concludes in workbook essay 10: “You who believed that God’s Last Judgment would condemn the world to hell along with you, […] accept 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.10.3:1;5)

It may be a useful practice to keep that in mind whenever you feel yourself becoming upset, fearful, or depressed. The next time you notice you are not at peace anymore, for whatever reason, try to momentarily pause the movie of your life, take a bird’s eye point of view, and say something like: “Ah, there I go again judging this or that. I do this because this is the ego’s game of maintaining individual specialness. But how important is that? Does it really matter? What does matter in this world? It merely pictures my mind, which I apparently condemn. that’s not peace. Lack of peace means pain. I don’t want pain. Do I prefer to be right or happy? Stubbornly maintaining that I am right has never made me truly happy. Hmm, I could see peace instead of this, by stepping back and allowing the Holy Spirit to inform me, through intuition, what’s best for me to think or say or do. That’s not being meek, that’s being honest. Why shouldn’t I try it now?”

This is oftentimes a great recipe for quickly bringing the mind back to the state of inner peace. And should you not succeed today, you can at least be glad that you now realize what’s actually going on in the mind, and ready yourself for the next attempt. Ultimately no-one can fail in this, as the Last Judgment of the Son of God has already happened; we are merely reviewing what has gone by (W-pI.158.4:5). It is in our power to decide just how much time we will want to take before arriving at that moment again. As Jesus says: “Do not fear the Last Judgment, but welcome it and do not wait, for the ego’s time is “borrowed” from your eternity” (T-9.IV.9). And, pointedly: “The purpose of time is solely to “give you time” to achieve this judgment [i..e, the Last Judgment].” (T-2.VIII.5). Again, it is in our power to use time for any purpose we choose. A good reason to be cheerful indeed!

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


A wrong-mind right-mind dialogue

In the following dialogue, taken out of the life of an ordinary student of A Course in Miracles, “W” stands for the wrong-minded part of the student’s mind, while “R” stands for the right-minded part of that same mind. It’s the split mind we all share.

W.: “What’s that noise out there in the street. I’m trying to study. Haven’t they got something better to do?”

R.: “It’s indeed disturbing, as long as you focus on it. But only if you focus on it.”

W.: “Yeah? Easier said than done, if you ask me. I just can’t seem to shut out such environmental sounds. And I don’t want to be forced to study with ear plugs in, either. People should start to realize just how much of their lives they’re throwing away, while they could choose to spend their days looking inward and undo some ego conditioning.”

R.: “I see your point. But then again, perhaps you are unconsciously afraid you might be throwing your life away because you are studying something you perhaps do not really want to study.”

W.: “That’s not fair. This is not about my study. And I don’t think I’m throwing my life away either. I practice my Course workbook lessons each day. I feel connected to the Holy Spirit a little more every day. The Course has become a real solid rock in the turbulence of my life. No, this is about people who are constantly living on autopilot. It also happened at the supermarket this morning. They’re either selfishly and hastily filling their basket, or taking forever in checking out that same basket and exit the store. It’s a real bother.”

R.: “You know why that happens.”

W.: “Yeah, of course I know. These are forgiveness lessons the Holy Spirit wants me to learn, so I can forgive my own condemnation of them and blah blah. Well, I’d say I’m ready for some other forgiveness lessons. I can handle these by now.”

R.: “No, it’s plain to see you cannot. If you could, you would not still feel upset by these people. You know you could see peace instead of your anger, but you still choose not to see peace. No, please don’t start to feel guilty now. That will push the mastery of these lessons merely further away. What did Jesus tell you to think whenever you feel upset?”

W.: “To recognize the upset as a decision of my own, and then to remind myself that I do not want to feel upset. But their mindlessness upsets me!”

R.: “Any upset in your mind must ultimately be accepted as your own responsibility. You could see peace instead of your upset, if you would prefer peace. But do you? Consider who is upsetting you. There is literally no-one out there in truth; this you realize by now. You’re upset due to a projection of your own mind. So actually, you are upset because of you.”

W.: “And you told me not to feel guilty? Great job you’re doing there, man. I’m feeling upset over mindlessness, and you’re saying I am upset because am mindless. That’s just swell.”

R.: “On the contrary, you have every reason to be very cheerful. You have just realized — one more time — that your distress is never caused from the outside, but it’s strictly your own choice. And you have the power to determine your own state of mind. There is no greater power in the world. And you can employ it. So be glad indeed, and choose once again.”

W.: “So you’re really telling me I am upset because I want to feel upset?”

R.: “Absolutely, and you already know this. Your upset is purposive. You want to be treated unfairly all the time. No, resist the temptation to deny that. As a good Course student, you know very well why you want to be in misery all the time.”

W.: “Well, since you are so all-knowing, remind me of it once again.”

R.: “Very well. You want to feel unfairly treated because this seems to prove without a doubt that the separation is real, but that someone else is responsible for it. If the evil is out there, God will surely punish the evil-doers and accept you back in Heaven. Rationally you think this is ridiculous, but in your gut you know you still believe it, just as you still believe all the laws of chaos. In fact, you have known about this dynamic for quite some time now, but you still persist in pushing that insight out of awareness, because the consequence of accepting it is too fearful.”

W.: “It just doesn’t make sense. You’re saying that all the evil I see around me, out there on the streets and on the evening news, exists only in my own mind. It’s a strange message that I can’t help but feel just a trifle ambivalent about, if you don’t mind.”

R.: “Last week you re-read the line in chapter 11 about looking at illusions. “No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected.” (T-11.V.1) You are still not looking inward at your illusions. In doing your workbook lessons, you do practice on forgiving others — though not all the time as yet — but you are not yet consistently applying that forgiveness to the dark spots in your own mind. Outer and inner are really one and the same. This you also know already. Still, to repeat, the consequence of accepting this is still too fearful to you. No, this is not to make you feel guilty. It’s this way with virtually everyone who still walks the face of this planet. The fact that you are now slowly learning to evaluate all externals as projections of your own mind is a giant step. You also know that in the end everyone will choose again correctly, which will effectively erase all past mistakes. Conclusion: it’s strictly up to you how much time you are willing to suffer from upsets. Remember the preface to the text: “This is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum.  It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time.” So be honest: how much longer do you still want to suffer?”

W.: “Now you are making me feel guilty. You know very well that I cannot trust my own good intentions, as they will not be enough. The text is very clear on that.”

R.: “It is. However, if you read on in that same section, in fact the very next sentence, you will remember that it also says that you merely need to trust implicitly your willingness to be guided, whatever else may enter. Of course you still have shadow thoughts of condemnation. That is why you are still here in time and space: to re-evaluate these dark thoughts and choose once again. You are perfectly correct in reminding yourself that you cannot undo mistakes on your own. Luckily, you don’t have to. You don’t have to do anything on your own. A little willingness to be guided by Jesus (or the Holy Spirit, which is much the same since they are both symbols of God’s non-judgmental love) is all that is asked. This means a letting go of your conviction you know best, and allowing the presence of Jesus in. It’s the willingness to accept that your own judgment may have been wrong, and Jesus’ judgment might be right. But then again, you already know that, too. Perhaps it’s time to shift the focus from merely reading the text and lessons to actually asking Jesus for help. Why not try it now?”

W.: “I don’t know. Every time I turn inward and ask Jesus for guidance, nothing seems to happen. There’s no voice, there’s no presence.”

R.: “When you think you ask sincerely and nothing is happening, you can be sure you are not asking sincerely. Jesus is there for you all the time, but his presence is very easily drowned out by the constant mind chattering. Since you are clearly still upset — or perhaps fearful is a better word — this might be an excellent opportunity to allow Jesus in and give him your upsets. Look at them, and place them in his hands. Just try it.”

W.: “How?”

R.: “Stop interfering. Turn your attention inward and be still. No, don’t start to fight your thought stream. That won’t work. Light up the light in your mind. Perceive light in you. Notice your breath going in and out. Breathe a little slower and deeper. Now in all honesty, recite your favorite prayer and then be still. We’ve already referred to this prayer before. Say:

I must have decided wrongly, because I am not at peace.  [yes, breathe.]
I made the decision myself, but I can also decide otherwise.   [feel the gladness here.]
I want to decide otherwise, because I want to be at peace.   [feel that in your gut.]
I do not feel guilty, because the Holy Spirit will undo all the consequences of my wrong decision if I will let Him.   [another deep breath here.]
I choose to let Him, by allowing Him to decide for God for me.”  
[great. be still.]

W.: [silence]

R.: “There you go. You feel better instantly. There’s no denying that simple fact. Of course you did not hear any voice. It’s the experience that counts, because it’s experience that convinces. Of course you and I will go through this same process several thousand times more in several thousand different forms. This does not matter. It is inner peace that is valuable. Fear can never be valued save in illusions. And you do not want fear, so you really do not want illusions, although oftentimes you believe you do. What you really want is inner peace. And you have been shown the way to experience inner peace. Your path has been set from the moment you chose to become a Teacher of God, with the mightiest of companions to guide you. Stumbling daily is all part of the process. This will not effect the final outcome in the least. As long as you keep practicing the willingness to allow your mind to be guided, you are doing great. You will increasingly teach only love. And each time you do, you will remember a little better what you are, and feel more peaceful because of it.”

W.: [after more silence] “Until the next time, pal.”

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