Caught a cold this week. Been coughing and sniveling for the past few days, with noticeable headache. On a physical level, you might say that a virus managed to get in and attack my bloodstream. I could therefore choose to regard myself as a victim of forces beyond my control. Still, we read in A Course in Miracles that “all illness is mental illness” (P-2.IV.1:1). Since the state of the body is an effect of the state of the mind, the cause of the physical illness resides in the mind: “Illness is the result of a view of the self as weak, vulnerable, evil and endangered” (P-2.IV.6:1). Jesus adds that “The acceptance of sickness as a decision of the mind, for a purpose for which it would use the body, is the basis of healing. And this is so for healing in all forms” (M-5.II.2:1-2).
Although this recipe for healing sounds nice, in practice it can be rather hard to swallow and accept. After all, an aspirin alleviates my headache within an hour, whereas affirming that “I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me. I want the peace of God” (W-pI.201.1; W-pI.185.1) doesn’t seem to have any influence on the state of my body whatsoever. So what gives? Well, instead of listening to the ego’s voice barking at me that I should feel very guilty over being such a weak and miserable brat, I could also honestly look at myself and affirm that apparently I still have forgiveness work to do in my mind. The cold is really saying that I am not as far up the ladder as I thought I was. This awareness in itself is very valuable, since it brings the mind back to the work that still needs to be done.
To many students, one of the most discouraging aspects of A Course in Miracles is the realization that there’s a big difference between saying “I want the peace of God” and really meaning it. “To say these words is nothing. But to mean these words is everything. […] No one can mean these words and not be healed.” (W-pI.185.1:1;2:1). And even if I do mean it for an instant, this doesn’t mean that the symptoms vanish immediately, as Kenneth Wapnick has pointed out on several occasions. The body is inherently slow; any physical change takes time. On the other hand, there are also well-documented cases of “healing journeys” with for example instant remission of terminal cancer, ‘merely’ through an all-encompassing focus on oneness and love. But even such ‘success stories’ often do not last a lifetime. The mind has still not unequivocally chosen Love; there’s still forgiveness work to do.
The reason why we don’t do this is clear to most students of A Course in Miracles. Choosing Love means choosing against the ego, which means choosing against its concept of individual consciousness, autonomy, time, and space. When the forgiveness work is completely done, the body vanishes! If you think you are sufficiently spiritually advanced to be beyond the body, just watch your reaction when you walk on the street and are nearly hit by a car. Or try the scenario in which you have no food available at all for several days. Or picture yourself stumbling from a cliff, almost falling into a thousand-feet deep abyss. These are sobering experiments: I can tell myself a thousand times that “I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me,” but do I really mean it? If I’m honest to myself, I will admit that no, I do not really mean it as yet. I am still enamored of my little physical and psychological self.
Again, instead of feeling depressed and guilty about my lack of spiritual progress, I could remember that A Course in Miracles is a course in mind training, and the material world is a classroom in which I am offered loads of opportunities to choose to listen to the advice of the Holy Spirit. However, most of the time I apparently still choose the ego’s voice, which may weaken the mind but at least keeps up the illusion I exist. I do not yet realize the joy the Holy Spirit will give me. “Have you really considered how many opportunities you have had to gladden yourself, and how many of them you have refused?” (T-4.IV.8). I gladden myself by realizing I am one with all seemingly separated things. Condemnation of anything outside myself, then, means that I hurt myself.
Lesson 284, “I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt”, provides a wonderful summary of the proces of ending this hurt: “Loss is not loss when properly perceived. Pain is impossible. There is no grief with any cause at all. And suffering of any kind is nothing but a dream. This is the truth, at first to be but said and then repeated many times; and next to be accepted as but partly true, with many reservations. Then to be considered seriously more and more, and finally accepted as the truth. I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt.” (W-pII.284.1:1). The key lies in the gradual process of accepting this truth. No-one should expect to be enlightened overnight: by far the most of us need a lifetime, perhaps even much more, to reach such a level of acceptance.
Instead of bemoaning the uselessness of A Course in Miracles whenever you feel ill, stop and realize you’ve just been given an excellent opportunity for mind training, that is: forgiving your own mind that you’ve condemned yourself as weak by identifying with the separated ego. Do not feel guilty about that; do not fight the ego. And please do not hesitate to take an aspirin. It may be magic, but Jesus explicitly states that temporarily using magic (such as medicine) is not evil: “It does not follow, however, that the use of such agents for corrective purposes is evil. Sometimes the illness has a sufficiently strong hold over the mind to render a person temporarily inaccessible to the Atonement” (T-2.IV.4:4-5).
In other words, Jesus’ guidance is always kind, and you should therefore be kind to yourself. Being kind to yourself also means: realizing that keeping up a vigilant discipline for the Kingdom of God [by giving up judgment, and choosing forgiveness instead] (T-6.V.C.2) is not chastising yourself; it is the kindest thing you could offer to yourself. So be kind and train your mind. Do the work! Only then will you truly realize what it means to mean it when you think you want Love, the peace of God; and only then will you want it above all else. Remember, whatever enters in your life, in essence it’s yet another opportunity for practicing forgiveness.
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: