From the moment we are born into this world, we learn to perceive differences. No two people are the same; not even identical twins are. We admire artists with special talents, and we strive to develop our own unique personality, hoping in our own unique way to make a difference in this world. On the other hand, many differences are also perceived as dangerous. People with different belief systems might attack us for what we believe — we call them terrorists — and character differences between spouses account for two out of five marriages ending in divorce. Still, whether positive or negative, we would all accede that differences characterize the world, and therefore truth.
Then along comes Jesus with A Course in Miracles, telling us that our perceptions of differences are merely forms of mind distraction used by the ego to keep us rooted in the illusory dream of time and space. We, as seemingly separated individuals, in league with the ego, like to perceive differences because it sets us off from everything and everyone around us; this way we can continue to believe (hallucinate, really) that you and I are separate individuals, autonomous and on our own. It’s just that this focus never leads to peace; no inner peace and therefore no outer peace. Beneath the surface of well-being, we all walk the planet “uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1), heading towards an inevitable physical death. This is taken to be fact of life, which everyone will have to deal with as best as he can.
“If this were the real world, God would be cruel”, Jesus states in (T-13.in.3:1). He explains that the goal of his mind-training curriculum of A Course in Miracles is to realize that lasting inner peace is quite possible. This is attained by giving up the perception of differences, which automatically leads us to give up judgment; the heart of forgiveness. In this respect, Jesus asks us to reconsider the reality of differences on the level of content. Surely, on the level of form in the material world, everything differs. But: “Where do all these differences come from? Certainly they seem to be in the world outside. Yet it is surely the mind that judges what the eyes behold. It is the mind that interprets the eyes’ messages and gives them ‘meaning’. And this meaning does not exist in the world outside at all. What is seen as “reality” is simply what the mind prefers. […] It alone decides whether what is seen is real or illusory, desirable or undesirable, pleasurable or painful.” (M-8.3)
This distinction between form and content is crucial to understand, if we are to successfully follow Jesus’ advice and attain lasting inner peace. What if, in spite of all the differences in form you and I see in people around us, their very essence as spirit (the content) would be the same in everyone, regardless of differences in form? Rejection would become impossible. “Only the different can attack. So you conclude because you can attack, you and your brother must be different.” (T-22.VI.13:1-2). We only reject each other because some aspects (forms, be they physical or psychological) in others are perceived as threatening. But what if we taught ourselves to see beyond form to the inherent sameness in each of us as the One Son of God? Jesus continues: “Yet does the Holy Spirit explain this differently [note the pun]. Because you and your brother are not different, you cannot attack. […] The only question to be answered […] is whether you and your brother are different.” (T-22.VI.13:3-6).
Jesus does not ask us to deny that in our worldly experience, we are still convinced of the reality of perceived differences and therefore feel justified to feel threatened. However, he also notes that each time we succeed in practicing true forgiveness, discarding differences, we have an experience of oneness and inner peace that transcends the ego. It is this continued experience that A Course in Miracles aims at. The way to do this is to shift our perception of our relationships with everyone we know. Literally everyone. The key distinction lies in a shift from an unholy relationship, which is based on the perception of differences, to a holy relationship, which is based on the perception of sameness, which Jesus calls vision. That is why Jesus pleads with us at the end of each year to “Make this [next] year different by making it all the same. And let all your relationships be made holy for you. This is our will. Amen.” (T-15.XI.10:11-14)
Please note the subtle but crucial distinction above: “be made holy for you“. This shift is not something we can do on ego-power. We have to be willing to step back and let the mind be guided by a better teacher: the Holy Spirit. This, in turn, requires that you look within and see no lack. The Holy Spirit, being invited in, then “…extend[s] this [absence of lack] by joining with another, whole as himself. He sees no differences between these selves, for differences are only of the body. […] Think wat a holy relationship can teach! Here is belief in differences undone. Here is the faith in differences shifted to sameness. And here is sight of differences transformed to vision. Reason now can lead you and your brother to the logical conclusion of your union.” (T-22.in.3:1-4:5)
Again, this sameness and union are not the case on the physical level of bodily form, but you and I are not bodies — we are spirit. One of the unique characteristics of A Course in Miracles is that Jesus does not ask us to deny our experience of being in a body. He says: “The body was not made by love. Yet love does not condemn it and can use it lovingly, respecting what the Son of God has made and using it to save him from illusions.” (T-18.VI.4:7-8). In fact, the even encourages us to use the body to extend his vision of sameness to everyone we meet: “For this alone I need; that you will hear the words I speak, and give them to the world. You are my voice, my eyes, my feet, my hands, through which I save the world.” (W-pI.rV.in.9:2-3).
Accepting that the seeming differences of the body do not matter does not mean that we should reject the body, or the world. In fact, Jesus says that to deny our physical experience in this world is a “particularly unworthy form of denial” (T-2.IV.3:11). Just like Buddha, Jesus pleads with us to walk the spiritual middle road of leading a normal life, but centered on the Holy Spirit as the only Guide to the mind, Who will always help in efforts to see the truth of sameness. Only by choosing to join with another — in the mind — do I allow the Holy Spirit to correct the ontological error of separation. He then gladly and instantly turns my special relationship into a holy relationship. Now I am healed.
This, on the other hand, also does not mean one should never end a relationship because “this would be the mistake of focusing on differences in form instead of the sameness of content”. In our spiritual curriculum, not all relationships are meant to last life-long. Just leave your decision whether or not to break up to the Holy Spirit. It may be that a peaceful splitting up may eventually be the most loving decision for all parties involved. Even if you do acknowledge the same loving light in the both of you, the form of the relationship may shift, as do all forms. That’s okay. As Ken Wapnick emphasized in this regard: “The difference between the special relationship and the holy relationship is simply one of perception: through whose eyes do we perceive the relationship, the ego’s sin or Holy Spirit’s innocence?” This choice, “between two choices or two voices” (C-I.7:1), between form and content, between differences and sameness, is the only real freedom that we have left while asleep in the dream. Practice your decision making power well. Make the next year different by making it all the same.
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: