In A Course in Miracles, workbook lesson 156, “I walk with God in perfect holiness”, Jesus offers us some imagery in the world we think we live in that can seem quite bewildering: “All things that live bring gifts to you, and offer them in gratitude and gladness at your feet. […] The waves bow down before you, and the trees extend their arms to shield you from the heat, and lay their leaves before you on the ground that you may walk in softness, while the wind sinks to a whisper round your holy head.” (W-pI.156.4:2,4). While the ego may feel flattered to be portrayed as so very special, it would also quickly decide that this entire course obviously belongs to the realm of fantasy, which would be foolish to pursue any further. So what gives?
If we read the lesson carefully, we will note that Jesus is not saying this is our actual experience in this world where we live our lives: he holds out a picture of what could be our experience. The key sentence is 6:2, where we read: “As you step back, the light in you steps forward and encompasses the world.” (W-pI.156.6:2; my italics). ‘Stepping back’ means we gladly decide to “resign as our own teacher” (T-12.V.8:3), acknowledging that we have been wrong about everything all the time, that Jesus is right, and that we now choose to listen to the Voice of the Holy Spirit — the Voice for Love — to guide our thoughts and actions. From a practical point of view, this means to monitor our minds for any dark spots of unforgiveness (i.e., judgment, condemnation), and then quickly forgive ourselves, that is, withhold the judgment and ask what to think and do instead.
But even if we would successfully practice that throughout the day, we shouldn’t expect ‘the waves to bow down before us, and see the trees extend their arms to shield us from the heat’. The key, therefore, is to see that Jesus is using metaphorical language. We should not take these words literally. Jesus does this often in his Course; this is because the truth that he holds out to us, and which we yearn for deep beneath all these layers of fearful ego defenses, cannot be described in words. See for example workbook lesson 20, entitled “I am determined to see”. If taken literally, this makes no sense. After all, setting aside those who are physically blind, our eyes already see. However, Jesus does not refer to the sight of the eyes, but to the inner vision of the mind’s eye. This is about the difference between form and content that scholar Ken Wapnick talks about so much. The forms our eyes behold are myriad (and ultimately meaningless), while the content that the vision of the mind (“the mind’s eye”) beholds, has only two options: either love or fear/hate (or, as Kenneth Wapnick liked to rephrase it, either love or a call for love).
In other words, Jesus tries to explain to us that once we relinquish our investment in the forms of the world (which were only made by the sleeping Son of God to distract our attention from the mind’s decision maker to choose love once again anyway), which we do through forgiveness and asking for help to see things differently, the content of the Holy Spirit’s Love and gentle guidance shines forth automatically. This leads to the memory of our inheritance, our Identity as the One Son of God, which has no form. The problem is that we think we don’t want to relinquish this investment, because we don’t want to relinquish our individuality. And as long as we stubbornly believe that our eyes report reality to us, we simply won’t do it, at least not consistently and all the time. That’s why most of part I of the workbook focuses on having us realize that our focus on form will never lead to the happiness and peace that we truly seek in life. And so Jesus tries to install a new belief, as expressed in, again, workbook lesson 20, “I am determined to see”: “You want salvation. You want to be happy. You want peace. […] Your decision to see [again, not with the physical eyes, but with the mind] is all that vision requires. […] Remind yourself throughout the day that you want to see.” (W-pI.20.2:3-5;3:!;4:1; my italics).
Now, you might ask something like: “Okay, so if I try this, I may not see the trees extend their arms to shield me, but what experience would vision bring me, then?” Actually, this experience is not so alien at all. Just try a slow stroll on a sunny day in a beautiful nature resort; or it could be a forest, a park, or a riverside nearby. Most of us are familiar with the brief experience of feeling completely at one with nature, once we choose to focus on stillness in such a setting. Try to remember a moment, perhaps long ago, when the world seemed to shimmer into the background, and a feeling of complete peace and oneness surrounded you, even if only for an instant. Don’t you remember having had such a moment? And once you focus on that, you could also choose to practice that principle in your busy everyday life. Every day you and I meet dozens of people. What if we would choose to see past the form of these bodies, and instead consistently visualize the very same light in everyone that Jesus says shines in all of us? Again, to the ego, this amounts to fooling ourselves; but to the Holy Spirit, this amounts to reflecting the Light of Heaven in the illusory dream of fragmented forms.
This is the light in all of us that never dies. Jesus speaks of this in lesson 156: “The light in you [i.e., everyone] is what the universe longs to behold. All living things are still before you, for they recognize Who walks with you. The light you carry [i.e., the Love of God] is their own. […] As you step back [that is, once we are willing to…] the light in you steps forward and encompasses the world [again, in the collective mind]. […] In lightness and in laughter is sin gone, because its quaint absurdity is seen. It is a foolish thought, a silly dream, not frightening, ridiculous perhaps, but who would waste an instant in approach to God Himself for such a senseless whim?” (W-pI.156.5-6).
Well, obviously we all do, for Jesus immediately continues by reminding us that: “Yet you have wasted many, many years on just this foolish thought.” (W-pI.156.7:1) And if you consider that this very likely isn’t the first time you are born here on this planet, we may understand “many, many years” as thousands of years. That’s why one of Jesus’ central points in his Course is the question: “Why wait for Heaven?“, as we read in workbook lesson 188: “Why wait for Heaven? Those who seek the light are merely covering their eyes. The light is in them now. Enlightenment is but a recognition, not a change at all. Light is not of the world, yet you who bear the light in you are alien here as well. The light came with you from your native home, and stayed with you because it is your own. It is the only thing you bring with you from Him Who is your Source. It shines in you because it lights your home, and leads you back to where it came from and you are at home.” (W-p1.188.1:1-8)
Again, the trouble is our tremendous resistance to choosing to consistently focus on the content of light instead of on the forms of the world, as this heralds the end of the ego, with which we so desperately identify, since this holds up the illusion of being autonomous and on our own. That’s why lesson 156 concludes with the very helpful question: “‘Who walks with me?’ — This question should be asked a thousand times a day.” (W-pI.156.8:1) I’ve said it before and will say it again: Jesus means this literally. Any time we notice we dislike, reject or judge something, however small it may seem, this question should pop up automatically: ‘Who walks with me?’ Is it the ego, leading to rejection, judgment and unhappiness, or the Holy Spirit, leading to acceptance, peace and happiness? That’s why, outside the realm of perception, time and space, we do “walk” with God in perfect holiness. But we must be willing to remember that inheritance by stepping back (see lesson 155), and choosing the light of the Holy Spirit’s Love to guide us. The ego will tell you that once you loosen that grip, things will go terribly wrong. But once you genuinely try this, you will notice, in glad astonishment, that your life starts to flow much more smoothly.
Be determined to see today. All that is asked of you is a little willingness to step back. To conclude with the uplifting instruction from workbook lesson 20: “What you want is yours. Do not mistake the little effort that is asked of you for an indication that our goal is of little worth. Can the salvation of the world be a trivial purpose? And can the world be saved if you are not?” (W-pI.20.3:2-5). Practice this stepping back, that is, withholding judgment and asking for help in the guidance of your thoughts, many times each hour today. And remember Jesus’ gentle guidance: “Do not be distressed if you forget to do so, but make a real effort to remember [to see with the inner light of vision]. […] What you desire you will see. Such is the real law of cause and effect as it operates in the world.” (W-pI.20.5:2-6).
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: