In my neighborhood, I used to watch an elderly couple with their German shepherd dog go for a walk a couple of times a day. The dog had definitely reached the dog-age of retirement. Each year he walked a bit slower. Eventually he started to limp seriously on his hind legs. The next year I noticed the couple walked without a dog. But they aged themselves as well. Well before the dog died, she found herself confined to a motorized wheelchair. This lasted for about four years. Eventually, the husband found himself walking the neighborhood alone, and this year he passed away as well. The house was sold and their possessions taken to the local waste dump.
It made me realize the uselessness of many of my own worries, little and ‘big’. In sixty years from now, I myself won’t be walking this earth any longer. Fear about my bodily health, about whether people might like me or not, about cherished possessions that I might lose in an accidental fire become silly in that light. Frustrations over people who seemingly ignore everything and everyone in their environment; about things not turning out the way I had planned… it’s useless stress. As a ‘classroom’, they provide wonderful forgiveness opportunities, but such lessons also remind me just how much of the ladder I still need to climb to reach what A Course in Miracles calls the ‘real world’.
As humanity, we desperately cling to our brief existence in time. We strive to construct things that last. Still, we know that even “world wonders” such as the Taj Mahal and the Cheops pyramid will probably be gone in a few thousand years. Indeed, “All things must pass”, as George Harrison poignantly sang back in 1970, in the midst of the scribing of A Course in Miracles by Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford. We know that everything and everyone decays, withers away and dies. Since we know not otherwise, we accept entropy as an inevitable cosmic law, and try to make the best of the brief time that’s given us, at best hoping for another chance in a next life.
It is Jesus’ formidable task to convince his students that not only life in this world and this cosmos is a tragic mistake, literally nothing more than a feverish nightmare, but also that there is something much, much better that could instantly be our experienced reality if we would only be willing make a better choice about the purpose of life. Although Jesus knows that this better choice has already been made, since he stands outside of the dream of time and space, most of his sleeping brothers in time still firmly believe that this decaying body is all they have and are. They experience, as Jesus graphically describes it, that “Their growth is attended by suffering, and they learn of sorrow and separation and death. […] They seem to love, yet they desert and are deserted. They appear to lose what they love, perhaps the most insane belief of all. And their bodies wither and gasp and are laid in the ground, and are no more. Not one of them but has thought that God is cruel.” (T-13.In.2:6).
A major quality of A Course in Miracles, I think, is that it makes its students aware of the all-pervasive power of projection, the dynamic of seeing something undesirable about yourself in someone else, thereby hoping to get rid of the pain. This world started from the ontological premise that we could live apart from our Creator and therefore abandon God. Since the guilt and accompanying fear over this ‘horrendous act’ is too terrible to face, we project it away, magically hoping that by erasing it from awareness, it will be gone (which it isn’t of course). Thus, through projection we believe that God has abandoned us. Consequently, we either tell ourselves that God probably doesn’t exist, or we rack and sabotage ourselves, pleading to our Creator to have mercy on us when we die, after so much serviceable sacrifice. Whichever way we choose to think, as long as we still believe we are a body, the ego reigns supreme, ensuring that there will still be more time to separate and die in.
Much of part II of the Workbook of A Course in Miracles is devoted to helping us make another choice, now that we’ve come to see the tragic mistake of not gently laughing about the ‘tiny, mad idea’ (T-27.VIII.6:2) of autonomy on our own. As lesson 327 promises: “I am not asked to take salvation on the basis of an unsupported faith. For God has promised He will hear my call, and answer me Himself. Let me but learn from my experience that this is true, and faith in Him must surely come to me. This is the faith that will endure, and take me farther and still farther on the road that leads to Him.” (W-pII.327.1:1). However, we must be willing to call, as the title of the lesson reminds us (“I need but call and You will answer me.”). Honestly cultivating such willingness is a process that takes time, as the metaphor of the ‘road that leads to Him‘ clearly emphasizes.
In A Course in Miracles, Jesus teaches us that God has not abandoned us. Remember, God’s final “judgment” is this: “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.4:1). To which Jesus adds: “Do not abandon Love. Remember this, whatever you may think about yourself, whatever you may think about the world, your Father needs you and will call to you until you come to Him in peace at last.” (S-3.IV.10:6-7). This is not a call from some heavenly sphere, since God is already present in our mind, albeit buried: “Still deeper than the ego’s foundation, and much stronger than it will ever be, is your intense and burning love of God, and His for you.” (T-13.III.2:8) This awareness is what the ego constantly tries to bury.
A Course in Miracles is a course in mind training. It is not concerned with theological musings: “This course is always practical.” (M-16.4:1). Jesus knows very well we won’t change our mind just because he asks us to believe his blue eyes (if he would have them). Much of the curriculum is a daily disciplined training in honestly looking at what’s going on in the mind, refrain from judging, and then asking the Holy Spirit for help in guidance; help in making a better choice, one that will result in us experiencing peace. The promise of God is the feeling of inner peace that we experience through the withholding of judgment: “You have no idea of the tremendous release and deep peace that comes from meeting yourself and your brothers totally without judgment.” (T-3.VI.3:1).
Jesus in effect invites us: “Look at your choice to follow the ego. Let’s be honest, it’s failing you constantly. Why not try my alternative? Just test it [practicing forgiveness]. Experience how much better you’ll feel. You can go back to judgment anytime you want; no-one is forcing you. But it obviously can’t hurt to at least try out my road to happiness.” Indeed, many a student has reported that although much of the text remains vague and abstract, the experience of peace that follows from true forgiveness is unmistakable and irresistible, and this is what keeps them attracted and faithful to the message of the Course. Since the one remaining freedom of the sleeping Son of God is the choice of how much time he will take to wake up to peace, why not sooner than later? Test Jesus’ advice of withholding judgment this very day, and experience the peace that lasts; the convincing peace that heralds the end of death.
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 Amazon.com: