Freedom or imprisonment?

The spiritual curriculum of A Course in Miracles is often regarded as an overly intellectual and difficult mind training program. Many students don’t go beyond browsing the pages every now and then to see if their eyes rest on a lovely passage that can be used as an affirmation for the day. However, the fact that these students easily overlook much of the discussion about the psychological and metaphysical ingredients of the Course, is not chiefly due to a lack of intellectual ability. More often than not, these more confronting sections are skipped because there’s unconscious resistance at work. On some level, the message of A Course in Miracles is deeply threatening to the ego, and arouses tremendous anxiety. How does that work?

First of all, there are many places in the text where Jesus emphasizes the clarity and simplicity of his Course, starting with the introduction: “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God” (T-In.2:2-4). Thus Jesus states: “This is a very simple course. […] The reason this course is simple is that truth is simple” (T-11.VIII.1:1; T-15.IV.6:1). And in chapter 9 he assures us: “This course offers a very direct and very simple learning situation, and provides the Guide [i.e., the Holy Spirit] Who tells you what to do. If you do it, you will see that it works” (T-9.V.9:1). This, however, assumes that we are wholly willing to listen to this Guide, and follow through! But do we? Obviously, the answer is “No”, and the reason is equally obvious: although we do want inner peace, we do not want to relinquish our precious special ego. Still, that is exactly the heart of the message of this particular Course with this Guide.

And so Jesus gently chides us: “This Course is perfectly clear. If you do not see it clearly, it is because you are interpreting against it, and therefore do not believe it. [ …] This course requires almost nothing of you. It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more. […] And if you choose against it now, it will not be because it is obscure, but rather that this little cost seemed, in your judgment, to be too much to pay for peace” (T-11.VI.3:1-2; T-20.VII.1:7-8; t-21.II.1:5). This is usually not our own conscious conclusion. After all, we are sincerely looking for lasting inner peace. An important thrust of A Course in Miracles is that in order to find that desired lasting peace, one must face and undo all the dark spots that still reside in the mind — in everyone’s mind, since the Sonship is one in content, both in the eternal Kingdom of Heaven outside time and space, as well as in the waking dream we call the world.

A Course in Miracles, when seriously studied and practiced, inevitably heralds the complete undoing of the ego. It must be so, since Heaven — Oneness — is our true Home as the one Son of God, while the ego is the thought that symbolizes separation (‘not-oneness’). The former is real, while the latter is unreal, which, as we just saw above, does not exist. Since we are all so thoroughly identified with our body, with our unique personality, with our own special ego, no wonder that somewhere deep inside this course arouses tremendous fear: “This course has explicitly stated that its goal for you is happiness and peace. Yet you are afraid of it. You have been told again and again that it will set you free, yet you sometimes react as if it is trying to imprison you. You often dismiss it more readily than you dismiss the ego’s thought system. To some extent, then, you must believe that by not learning the course you are protecting yourself.” (T-13.II.7). What we think we protect, of course, is our individual autonomy as a body with a personality, in time and space. We still confuse unreality with reality.

Jesus tells us in his Course that we are not what we think we are. If you study A Course in Miracles believing you are an autonomous body, seeking a better state to live in, you’re in for some surprises. For example: the body was made (by the seemingly sleeping Son of God) to be able to hide from God and to be separate from everyone and everything, and the “world was made as a place where God could enter not”; in fact, Jesus even bluntly states that “This world was made as an attack on God” (W-pII.3.2:1,4). So if you think you are a well-meaning, love-oriented spiritual seeker, look a bit closer; there’s garbage in the mind to clean up. This is likely to arouse fear, which Jesus addresses in chapter 9 of the text: “It is impossible to learn anything consistently in a state of panic. If the purpose of this course is to help you remember what you are, and if you believe what you are is fearful, then it must follow that you will not learn this course. Yet the reason for the course is that you do not know what you are” (T-9.I.2:3-5).

So there we have it: you and I think we are a distinct personality living in a body; Jesus tells us you and I are pure spirit, still safe at Home in the Heart of God, but dreaming of exile in the desert of separation we call the physical world. Awakening from this nightmare means saying “not no” to the call of the Holy Spirit to accept the Atonement, that is, the return to Oneness. However, Jesus realizes that no-one will make such a radical choice overnight. He illustrates this using Plato’s parable of the cave, wherein a group of prisoners have been in the dark so long that they have come to shun any light whatsoever: “Prisoners bound with heavy chains for years, starved and emaciated, weak and exhausted and with eyes so long cast down in darkness they remember not the light, do not leap up in joy the instant they are made free. It takes a while for them to understand what freedom is. […] [Their] eyes [have\ become used to darkness, and the light of brilliant day seems painful to the eyes grown long accustomed to the dim effects perceived at twilight. And they turn away from sunlight and the clarity it brings to what they look up. Dimness seems better…”  (T-20.IV.10:1; T-25.VI.2:1-2).

This is why A Course in Miracles is not a spirituality to instantly make you feel good. This Course is here to carefully lead you out of the nightmare of time and space, back to the awareness of complete Oneness. And this calls indeed for a complete thought reversal in the mind, which takes time – a lot of time. Therefore, A Course in Miracles is given us as a structured learning process which carefully leads us along all the little steps that we simply cannot skip. To choose the Holy Spirit as our guide in this process, which boils down to a choice to forgive instead of condemn, means we will eventually reach a mind state of cleansed perception (called the real world in the Course), in a process that we can follow and accept: “Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality. Time is kind, and if you use it on behalf of reality, it will keep gentle pace with you in your transition. The urgency is only in dislodging your mind from its fixed position here. This will not leave you homeless and without a frame of reference.” (T-16.VI.8:1-4).

Wherein will the journey end once we reach this “real world”, that state of true perception, devoid of all judgment? How is this transition to Oneness made? In the manual for teachers, Jesus presents us with a pep talk, in order to boost our motivation some more: “The path becomes quite different as one goes along. Nor could all the magnificence, the grandeur of the scene and the enormous opening vistas that rise to meet one as the journey continues, be foretold from the outset. Yet even these, whose splendor reaches indescribable heights as one proceeds, fall short indeed of all that wait when the pathway ceases and time ends with it. But somewhere one must start” (M-19.2.5-8). The ‘start’ is the slow but steady process of complete mind reversal: to learn to perceive our individual autonomy as a prison within a nightmare, and to perceive our state of Oneness, outside time and space, as our Home and true freedom. The Holy Spirit will not fail to lead us through this transition if we practice our willingness to let Him. Happy practicing!


See also my “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:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2018 Course workshop at www.youtube.com.

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.

The greatest gift to yourself

When asked to describe A Course in Miracles in one word, most students would probably choose ‘forgiveness’. Indeed, the Course is replete with poetic descriptions of how the practice of forgiveness is the way out of all misery. Take for example lesson 122, called “Forgiveness offers everything I want”: “Do you want peace? Forgiveness offers it. Do you want happiness, a quiet mind, a certainty of purpose, and a sense of worth and beauty that transcends the world? Do you want care and safety, and the warmth of sure protection always? Do you want a quietness that cannot be disturbed, a gentleness that never can be hurt, a deep, abiding comfort, and a rest so perfect it can never be upset? All this forgiveness offers you, and more” (W-pI.122.1:2-2:1).

All these treasures, however, are unfortunately unattainable as long as one does not realize just what Jesus truly means when he talks about forgiveness. To really grasp Jesus’ notion of forgiveness, some basic understanding of the Course’s metaphysics is necessary. A Course in Miracles is a strictly nondualistic spirituality, which means it holds that God is the only reality; totally perfect, totally abstract, and completely outside time and space. God has but one Son (T-2.VII.6), Who is the extension of God’s Love. In the quantum possibility that God’s Son considered what it would be like to be separate from God was the ego-thought born. Desiring to be autonomous, the now split mind of the Son of God believed the ego’s conclusion that he had sinned against his Father, that this stain could never be removed, and that he was forced to flee and hide from the Creator by fragmenting into the billions of pieces we now call the physical universe.

In time, this seemed to happen long ago; in reality, it never really happened at all (M-2.2:7). “Not one note in Heaven’s song was missed” (T-26.V.5:4); God (Love) is completely unaware of this quantum tale, and we, as the now-sleeping Son of God, are in reality still safe at Home in His Love. However, seemingly fast asleep in the “waking dream” in time and space we call our lives, we all still stubbornly cling to the belief that this separation did indeed happen, for we still cherish our individual personalities so much. In reality though, there is still only one Son of God. And although there certainly seem to be billions of egos, in content all these egos are in fact of the one same ego. It’s only because we continually project out our own ego onto others that the illusion of many still stands.

So from the perspective of A Course in Miracles, forgiveness is not really about forgiving the bad behavior of others, as (1) behavior is only an effect, not a cause, and (2) in reality there is no-one else out there. Rather, forgiveness is only about forgiving myself, as the sleeping Son, for the projections of my own ego I had thrust upon everyone and everything around me, with the secret purpose to see evil everywhere save within myself. Since the seeming multiplicity in the dream we call our lives is an illusion, I am always upset at something that only seems to be outside of me, but which is really merely a projection of some dark spot that I refuse to see in my own conflicted mind. Still, though I may refuse to see it, unconsciously I realize this is my judgment upon myself, which no doubt is the way God judges me now, which is why everyone walks this planet “uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1), however much we try to hide that.

I know this metaphysical talk might be a bit hard to follow. Therefore, let’s look at two common examples you and I encounter in our everyday lives. Firstly, let’s say that the neighbors are loudly partying in their back yard — again! — until about five o’clock at night, and this is keeping me from getting a good night’s sleep. Politely discussing this issue with them afterwards doesn’t seem to improve things. My frustration mounts as I accuse them of (a) wasting their lives, and (b) hindering me in my night rest and also probably my alertness in practicing my workbook lesson the next day. Should I then remember Jesus’ call to forgive, and all I subsequently do is secretly say to them (in my mind): “Okay, I hate you for your despicable juvenile behavior, but I’m going to forgive you anyway, for Jesus tells me this is the way out of pain”, I’m really getting nowhere. This is not at all what Jesus means by forgiveness.

Instead, Jesus would have me realize that their ‘despicable’ behavior is but form, which masks the underlying content of their fear. These neighbors are choosing to party all night long only as an unconscious distraction against a deep-rooted fear! What is the fear? Unconsciously, they fear that they are indeed miserable sinners, that their guilt is real and punishment by God totally justified. Also, following the blocks to Love that peace must flow across (T-19.IV.A-D), unconsciously they are deathly afraid of the Love of God which would mean the end of their individuality, personality and autonomy! Hey, but wait a minute, we just said there is no-one else out there! Ouch – I am really talking about my own fears here! Since I do not want to face these fears, I seek to see it in “others”. I choose to feel upset by these “others” so I don’t have to look within and conclude that there is no sin (T-21.IV.3:1). If I would look, I’d immediately sense the end of my own little separated self, and God knows I’m not yet willing to give that up (Well, God thinks otherwise actually (T-23.I.2). Once I can realize that my frustration (Jesus uses the imagery of a sword) is aimed solely at myself, I can forgive myself for my silly projections, and ask the Holy Spirit how I could see “peace instead of this” (W-pI.34). Seeing myself in another light, I can now see my neighbors in another light, and silently express to them the love that we all seek, knowing we are one.

A second common example is with the people whom we consider ‘authority figures’, which would include for example your parents and your boss. Whenever you notice you’re getting upset with them because of how awfully they treat you or accuse you of everything you do poorly, it’s no use saying to yourself: “I really hate you for your unjustified accusations, but I’m going to practice forgiveness anyway, because the Course tells me that my forgiveness of my brother is the way out of hell. I’m going to be spiritually superior here and discard all the ego-based feelings that are keeping me in chains.” Except that in this practice, the feelings (thoughts really) are not discarded at all; they are merely driven underground, only to resurface again the next time something ‘unreasonable’ comes up – and sooner or later it always does. That’s why Jesus calls this “forgiveness-to-destroy” (S-2.II).

Again, in cases like these Jesus wants us to realize that we’re never upset for the reason we think (W-pI.5). The behavior we dislike is merely form; it’s the effect of a deeply rooted underlying fear of being unworthy of the Love of God, and of having to give up our most cherished possession in the face of our reunification with Oneness: the relinquishment of the individual self. This is our (that is, the ego’s) fear of the Love of God, and we’ll do anything to distract our minds from discovering the road to the “real world”, in which our perception is cleansed of such silly perceptions. Taking it one step further, since there is no-one else out there, this underlying fear I sense in others, is really merely a shadowy projection of that very same fear I hold deep within myself. Having made it to that point, I can now ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit to help me see myself differently. To the extent I can muster the courage to allow the Holy Spirit to undo this darkness in my mind, will my perception of my parents and my boss change for the better as well. I now realize we’re all on the same journey Home. That is true healing.

Course scholar Kenneth Wapnick often remarked that, regardless of our interpretation of the behavior of others, people are either expressing love or expressing a call for love (T.14.X.7). Although the latter sometimes takes on rather vicious forms, both psychologically and physically, it’s still a (desperate) call for love. And since in reality there is no-one else out there, am either expressing love or expressing a call for love, regardless of the form this takes. Which will serve me best? Will I keep myself in misery through continued condemnation of everything I perceive outside of me, this being just a projection of what I refuse to see in my own mind? Or will I stop, raise my mind above the battleground (T-23.IV) and ask the Holy Spirit to help me “see peace instead of this” (W-pI.34)? The choice is mine to make. Jesus cannot make this choice for me. Keeping the Course’s metaphysics close to my heart, in the knowledge that you and I and everyone around us are still safe at Home in the Heart of God, I can take Jesus’ hand and affirm that “Forgiveness is my function as the light of the world” (W-pI.62). Only then can I understand the beautiful lesson 122 in the first paragraph of this blog post. And although forgiveness only exists within the dream and is itself illusory, it is the only illusion that breeds no others (W-pI.198.3); this can therefore truly be called the greatest gift I can give to myself. Happy practicing!


See also my “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:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2018 Course workshop at www.youtube.com.

Three Course pearls for everyone

A Course in Miracles as a curriculum to learn how to attain inner peace, is not exactly an easy-to-read spiritual book, to say the very least. Its poetic language, metaphysics and advanced psychological treatment calls for a reader with at least moderately developed intellectual abilities, and had its scribe Helen Schucman exclaim in joy: “Thank God there is at last something [spiritual] for the intellectual!” However, as scholar Kenneth Wapnick noted in his two-volume book “The message of A Course in Miracles“, even those not intellectually inclined can learn a lot from its message, without having to fathom all the details of metaphysics or clinical psychology. Let’s look at three such pearls, just to get an idea of some examples.

First of all, everyone can learn from the Course that God is Love and not vengeance. God is not angry with us; God does not prefer or value some people (or races) above others; and God does not judge people after they die to assess whether they will be accepted into Heaven or condemned to eternal hell. God merely loves: “You who believed that God’s Last Judgment would condemn the world to hell along with you, accept this holy truth: God’s Judgment is the gift of the Correction He bestowed on all your errors, freeing you from them, and all effects they ever seemed to have. […] God’s Final Judgment is as merciful as every step in His appointed plan to bless His Son, and call him to return to the eternal peace He shares with him. Be not afraid of love. […] This is 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.S10.3-5).

Years ago in the Netherlands we had a huge billboard sign along the A20 highway, some 60 feet tall, showing a simple white surface with only three capitalized words on it: “God is Love” (Dutch: God is Liefde). That was it; nothing else. No advertiser identity, no hyperlink, nothing. I’ve never seen anything along a highway that was so very true! And as we read that God is but love (“God is but love, and therefore so am I” (W-pI.171-179)), we also come to realize that although we usually do not think too highly of ourselves, this Love of God is in us as well; or better yet, it is the inner essence of what we are: “No course whose purpose is to teach you to remember what you really are could fail to emphasize that there can never be a difference in what you really are and what love is. Love’s meaning is your own, and shared by God Himself. For what you are is what He is” (W-pI.127.4:1-3).

Following this joyful insight, a second “pearl” everyone can gain from A Course in Miracles is a growing ability to become aware of judgmental and condemnatory thoughts, and look at these without immediately living them out, which is what usually happens in the world. In A Course in Miracles, this is called “above the battleground”, in which ‘battleground’ refers to the mind, which is verily a battlefield of conflicting thoughts, which we perceive (through projection) by carefully looking around us at the world we believe we live in. “Be lifted up, and from a higher place look down upon [the world]. From there will your perspective be quite different. Here in the midst of it, it does seem real. Here you have chosen to be part of it. Here murder is your choice. Yet from above, the choice is miracles instead of murder” (T-23.IV.5:1-5, which incidentally is where my book and this blog got its name from).

Once we succeed in noticing our judgmental thoughts and stop ourselves from reacting immediately, we have activated the decision maker in our mind, who can then choose forgiveness instead of attack, as we read in lesson 55: “‘I can escape from this world by giving up attack thoughts.’ Herein lies salvation, and nowhere else. Without attack thoughts I could not see a world of attack. As forgiveness allows love to return to my awareness, I will see a world of peace and safety and joy” (W-pI.55.3). Everyone can learn to observe his/her own thoughts, feelings and emotions, without repressing them or ignoring them, but rather simply looking at them and deciding how to proceed, or what reaction to choose.

This brings us to a third pearl everyone can get out of A Course in Miracles, even without digging into metaphysics or psychology (desirable though that would be), which is to learn to trust intuition. We are all familiar with situations in which our brain seems to advise one thing, while the area of the lower belly, our gut feeling, says something quite different. In retrospect, intuition was usually right, especially if the intuitive feeling was peaceful and non-judgmental. “In every difficulty, all distress, and each perplexity Christ calls to you and gently says, ‘My brother,choose again'” (T-31.VIII.3:2). In A Course in Miracles, this peaceful intuition is referred to as the Holy Spirit, the Voice for God, or the Voice for Love. And to follow the advice of peaceful intuition, devoid of judgment, means following the advice of the Holy Spirit.

If all you get out of reading A Course in Miracles is that God is Love and not hate, that you need not be aimlessly tossed about by your feelings and your emotions about what seems to happen to you, and that you can find peace by following the quiet, intuitive advice of the Holy Spirit instead of the cackling rational brain, you are in fact making huge progress on your spiritual journey Home. In fact, the Course itself says: “Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God” (W-pI.189.7). For: Who with the Love of God upholding him could find the choice of miracles or murder hard to make?” (T.23.IV.9:8).


See also my “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:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2018 Course workshop at www.youtube.com.