There are no politicians!

Most of us have a decided opinion about the president of the United States, the president of the Russian Federation, or any other prolific politician that comes to mind. Politicians are generally seen as being unreliable, opportunistic, and underhanded, if not outright evil. And yet we read in A Course in Miracles that our anger, in this case toward them, is never justified and that attack has no foundation (T-30.VI.1:1-2). The reason, so Jesus tells us, is that ultimately there is no world outside of us (W-pI.132.6:2), and so there are no politicians out there to get mad at. To many first-time readers of the Course, this seems like a foolhardy denial of what we clearly perceive. So what gives?

A Course in Miracles cannot be understood without being aware of a clear distinction between two levels of reality, which are mutually exclusive. The first level, called Level I by Course scholar Kenneth Wapnick, is strict nonduality, or “not-two”. In nonduality, there is no time, no space, no observer, no consciousness, no existence. There is only God, Who in A Course in miracles is synonymous with unconditional Love. And this Love merely is, unchallenged and unchangeable. Although Jesus explains to us that this Love constantly extends itself in eternity, we should not try to picture this in terms of a three-dimensional space, as nonduality has no dimensions.

On Level I, you and I and all the life we perceive around us is no more (but also no less) than the extension of that Love, which in the Course is named the Son of God (capital S). This completely redefines two thousand years of Biblical conditioning that the Son of God is only one very special body, called Jesus. From the perspective of Level I, you and I are not bodies, but the same abstract extension of the Love of God. As we read in chapter 18 of the text: “Can you who see yourself within a body know yourself as an idea? Everything you recognize you identify with externals, something outside itself. You cannot even think of God without a body or in some form you think you recognize (T-18.VIII.1:5-7).

What we ‘think we recognize’ is the second level of reality, called Level II by Kenneth Wapnick. This is the ‘reality’ of form. It includes everything we perceive in the time and space around us; in short, everything we call our daily reality. Except that Jesus very firmly stresses that what we see as reality, is not reality at all — it’s more like a dream. When we wake up in the morning, we think we wake up to reality, but Jesus assures us we merely wake up to another form of dreaming: “All your time is spent in dreaming. Your sleeping and your waking dreams have different forms, and that is all. Their content is the same. They are your protest against reality, and your fixed and insane idea that you can change it.” (T-18.II.5:12-14).

The difficult thing about these two levels is that our brains, with which we think we can reason and understand reality, were made to be limited to the dream world in time and space (that is, Level II). So anything outside time and space, anything that’s not observable and not related to any concept we know, is by definition outside the realm of comprehension of the brain. Therefore, any time we talk about Level I we may get all excited, but in the meantime we are still convinced that Level II is the reality that we work and live in. We do not really feel that this abstract Level I is something we might actually experience.

Yet in A Course in Miracles, we are taught that we, as the collective Son of God (the extension of Love) ‘made up’ this Level II in order to experience a world wherein we could be God: “Dreams show you that you have the power to make a world as you would have it be, and that because you want it you see it. And while you see it you do not doubt that it is real.” (T-18.II.5:1). So the world you and I experience ourselves in was not thrust upon us. We “made it as we would have it be”, as the collective sleeping Son of God, who, from the perspective of Level I, is still an idea, the extension of the Love of God, a state which we have all but forgotten, but which is still our ultimate reality.

However, unlike most other (nondualistic) spiritualities, A Course in Miracles does not ask us to deny or dismiss the perceptual dream world of Level II. This would be “a particularly unworthy form of denial” (T.2.IV.3:11). Instead, we are invited to regard our dream in time and space, however illusory though it be, as a useful classroom, which is filled to the rim with opportunities to train the decision making part of the mind. In each person or situation that seems to confront me, I am offered the opportunity of choosing (a) condemnation, rooting my experience still further in the dream, or (b) forgiveness, which readies my mind to eventually awaken from this illusory dream (nightmare, really).

Even though on Level II, God seems to be completely absent (“This world was made as a place where God could enter not”, W-pII.3.2:1,4), His gifts of Love, peace and joy are yet within our mind’s reach, as we read in workbook lesson 105: “God’s peace and joy are yours. Today we will accept them, knowing they belong to us.” (W-pI.105). On almost every page of A Course in Miracles, we are taught that the experience of heaven or hell is a matter of (a choice in) the mind. It does not depend on anything outside of us. You and I can condemn or we can choose to forgive; the choice is completely up to us.

All these vile politicians are merely another aspect in the dream the Son of God has chosen to try to usurp the role of God as Creator, which was the ontological condemnation. In order to escape the imagined wrath of God for this ‘cardinal sin’, we point at all the seemingly separated fragments outside of us, saying in effect to God: “Don’t be angry with me — I’m innocent. All evil is done by them (which includes more or less everything we perceive outside of us). Obviously, politicians are a particularly convenient aspect in the illusory dream to blame and condemn. However, since all life still shares the same guilty ego, each time we point a finger at someone or something, we might realize that’s a projection to avoid having to face our own suppressed guilt about the separation. And that’s why in the Level II dream world of time and space, we all walk ‘uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1). We just constantly distract our minds to avoid these feelings, by continually pointing at “evil” outside of us.

Lesson 105 and 106 offer us a particularly beautiful combination of mind training exercises to undo all this silliness that we take so seriously. In order to experience the peace and joy of God we want so much, we must share it with everyone we meet or even think of. Let’s use politicians for this. Lesson 105 invites us to: “Think of your ‘enemies’ a little while, and tell each one, as he occurs to you: My brother, peace and joy I offer you, that I may have God’s peace and joy as mine.” […] Now you are ready to accept the gift of peace and joy that God has given you. […] Now you can say, ‘God’s peace and joy are mine’, for you have given what you would receive.” (W-pI.105.7:1-6).

If you find such a forgiveness exercise extremely difficult, try lesson 106, “I will be still and listen to the truth”, which is an invitation to lay aside the ego’s shrieking voice. Close your eyes and picture all the politicians that you despise, one by one. Try to visualize white light within each of them; the same white light that we all share as the one Son of God. If you then try to focus on stillness, the truth of that image (which is content, not form) will make itself known to you, usually in the form of a warm peaceful feeling within your body. You can try it with anyone you seem to have an upset with. So choose once again today the gentle road of miracles (forgiveness) instead of murder (condemnation), and experience how much more peaceful your days become.


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.

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Articulate your choice for darkness

One of the more striking aspects of the spiritual thought system of A Course in Miracles is that it would have us explicitly look at the darkness in the mind, in order to be able to let it go. This is in stark contrast to many contemporary spiritual and new age systems, which would have us focus solely on the love in the mind. In this sense, A Course in Miracles offers a much more tightly integrated combination of psychology and spirituality. In many places, Jesus stresses the importance of this looking, for example in Chapter 13: “You may wonder why it is so crucial that you look upon your hatred and realize its full extent. You may also think that it would be easy enough for the Holy Spirit to show it to you, and to dispel it without the need for you to raise it to awareness yourself.” (T-13.III.1-2).

This would be the easy fix we all want. The general idea is something like: “Please Jesus, take all this rotten darkness from my mind so that I can be at peace in the Love of God.” The trick, however, is that we do not want that ‘peace in the Love of God’ as the One Son of God: we want it as an individual. However, since oneness knows not of individuality, this is impossible. That’s why Jesus ends that same paragraph in chapter 13 with the dazzling statement: “You are not really afraid of crucifixion [i.e., pain, darkness]. Your real terror is of redemption [i.e., Oneness Love, light]”. So to dispel the dark conflicts in the mind forever, we must first realize just how miserable our ‘autonomous individuality’ (which is the embodiment of separation) really makes us. If you and I solely focus on the love and light that we cherish so much as a separated individual, the separated ego remains in the driving seat, blissfully steering our life further into nowhere-land. Your autonomy remains, but it will not lead to lasting inner peace.

In Chapter 11 of the text of A Course in Miracles, after having explained the contrast between God and the ego, that is, between oneness and separation, light and shadow, truth and illusion, Jesus guides us: “No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected.” (T-11.V.1:1). That’s the bottom line. Think about that for a while. All the distractions in our lives, be it about careers, hobbies, money, partner relationships, you name it, are ego ploys to avoid having to look at the dark illusion of separation. Jesus proceeds: “We are ready to look more closely at the ego’s thought system because together we have the lamp that will dispel it, and since you realize you do not want it [after ten chapters of text], you must be ready. Let us be very calm in doing this, for we are merely looking honestly for truth. The dynamics of the ego will be our lesson for a while, for we must look first at this to see beyond it, since you have made it real.” (T-11.V.1:2-5; my italics).

This practice of looking is of course one of the main thrusts of the 365 lessons of the workbook of A Course in Miracles. For example, lesson 93, an oft-quoted lesson, titled “Light and joy and peace abide in me”, starts off with the shocking message that “You think you are the home of evil, darkness and sin. […] You think if what is true about you were revealed to you, you would be struck with horror so intense that you would rush to death by your own hand, living on after seeing this being impossible” (W-pI.93.1:1). That’s pretty graphic language! The reason we believe this is our unconscious guilt about the ontological separation from God, which is the ‘tiny, mad idea’ that we still take seriously, no matter how deeply we have buried that. That’s why Jesus, in the same lesson, continues to say that “These are beliefs so firmly fixed that it is difficult to help you see that they are based on nothing. […] These thoughts are not according to God’s Will. […] This is enough to prove that they are wrong, but you do not perceive that this is so.” ( W-pI.93.2:1;3:2-4).

So that is why “To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning.” (T-24.In.2:1). Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised to feel not just a twinge of resistance, but a huge cauldron of resistance. After all, this Course undermines the very image of our individual self we cherish so much! That’s why Jesus continually pleads with us to honestly look at how miserable our separated autonomy makes us, and to try to follow up on his workbook instructions, to actually feel the peace we could experience instead. So in lesson 98, we read: “Here [i.e., by accepting your part in God’s plan for salvation] is an offer guaranteeing you your full release from pain of every kind, and joy the world does not contain” (W-pI.98.6:1).

As Course scholar Kenneth Wapnick often pointed out in his workshops and his books, our ego immediately conjures up all sorts of reservations: “That would mean I would have to give up everything that’s unique and special about me. But who would I be without this? Wouldn’t that lead to total nothingness? It just doesn’t feel enticing.” And before you know it, you unconsciously conclude: “Nah, I don’t believe it. I am not willing to let go of my unique personality. Sure, along with that come my judgments, my grievances, my addictions, but hey, I think I’d still be better off with these than joining Jesus on this so-called road to oneness, which I cannot really picture anyway.” Or perhaps you say to yourself that you will want oneness in due time, but not just as yet.

Ken’s point (and Jesus’ as well) is that it is important to explicitly articulate this resistance; this obvious preference for darkness. Why? In his “Journey through the workbook”, he explains: “If you hear yourself say these words [i.e., your resistance to Jesus’ message], and understand the fear [of redemption, of oneness] that caused them, there will be no guilt, which thrives on being hidden. [Remember, illusions are protected by not looking at them]. Guilt prevents awareness through repression, and then protects itself through projection, which is when you inflict suffering on another or yourself. […] Again, you need, in all honestly, let yourself be free enough to say to him [Jesus]: ‘I do not believe you.’ If you can speak thus, there will be no guilt.” (Journey through the workbook, vol. 3. p.48; brackets mine).

As good students of A Course in Miracles, what we usually tend to do if we catch ourselves having forgotten the lesson for the day for a long while, is feeling a twinge of guilt, then very quickly repress that, and blame something or someone else for our lack of diligence. And though we subsequently vow to ourselves to try harder, the cause of the resistance, guilt and fear, have not been brought to the surface. We will then remain in this vicious circle of allowing the ego in the driver’s seat, still guiding us to nowhere. So why not be honest to yourself, and say, explicitly, without guilt or fear: “All nice and well, these workbook lessons from Jesus, but my ego really doesn’t want this and therefore doesn’t believe it. Of course not, for this Course ultimately heralds the end of the ego, and since I’m so thoroughly identified with my individual personality, this must engender fear. I will allow myself some slack, and try to really experience the inner peace that the diligent practice of the workbook leads to.”

Now we can better understand why Jesus introduces his workbook by stating: “Remember only this: you need not believe the ideas [lessons, exercises], you need not accept them, and you need not even welcome them. Some of them you may actively resist. None of this will matter, or decrease their efficacy. […] You are merely asked to apply the ideas as you are directed to do. You are not asked to judge them at all. You are asked only to use them. It is their use that will give them meaning to you, and will show you that they are true.” (W-pI.In.8-9). This is also why Jesus closes the workbook with the famous lines: “This course is a beginning, not an end. Your Friend [the Holy Spirit, the Voice for Oneness Love] goes with you. You are not alone.” (W-Ep.1:1-3). So please practice hearing yourself articulate your resistance. It’s an effective way to undo the guilt about the tiny, mad idea that never happened anyway.

 


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.

How do we choose to see ourselves?

One of the more surprising aspects of Jesus’ message in A Course in Miracles is that beneath the surface of our everyday lives, we see ourselves quite differently from what we usually think. Generally, we consider ourselves to be well-meaning, kind, loving, and helpful people. However, in workbook lesson 93, Jesus has a surprise in store for us: “You think you are the home of evil, darkness and sin. You think that if anyone could see the truth about you he would be repelled, recoiling from you as if from a poisonous snake. You think if what is true about you were revealed to you, you would be struck with horror so intense that you would rush to death by your own hand, living on after seeing this being impossible.” (W-pI.93.1) This is of course not what we consciously think about ourselves… but deep down in the iceberg of the mind, this notion is “firmly fixed” (W-pI.93.2:1).

For Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) to be able to help us on our spiritual path of accepting the Atonement, this “firmly fixed belief” must be looked at and re-evaluated. If we are to be miracle-minded, that is, intrinsically willing to perceive only love and to express only love, we must be willing to correct this faulty perception of ourselves. Until then, our awareness of miracles will be impeded to a certain degree by the subtle viciousness of the ego, and we subsequently keep ourselves in darkness. As of workbook lesson 91, called “Miracles are seen in light”, Jesus explicitly addresses this fixed belief about ourselves, and helps to ready the mind for a true change in this regard. “While you remain in darkness, the miracle remains unseen. Thus you are convinced it is not there. […] The light is useless to you then, even though it is there. You cannot use it because its presence is unknown to you. And the seeming reality of the darkness makes the idea of light meaningless.” (W-pI.91.2:2-9).

To Jesus, any situation we find ourselves in is always very simple (at least in content, although the form may be quite confusing indeed). The way we choose to see ourselves equals the choice for the mind teacher we choose to listen to, and the options are but two: either the ego’s seductive voice of individuality, or the Holy Spirit’s Voice for the Oneness Love of God (meaning “not-two”, and therefore the end of individuality, which the ego dreads). To Jesus, then, this choice comes down to an identification with either weakness or with strength, respectively: “You always choose between your weakness and the strength of Christ in you. And what you choose is what you think is real. Simply by never using weakness to direct your actions, you have given it no power. And the light of Christ in you is given charge of everything you do. For you have brought your weakness unto Him, and He has given you His strength instead.” (T-31.VIII.2:3-7).

Put this way, it seems to be very simple indeed. Just choose to identify with the strength of Christ instead of the ego, and the rest of our days will be spent in the blissful perception of the real world, cleansed of all perceptions of darkness, both within you and without you, to paraphrase George Harrison. Alas; if it were that simple, you and I and everyone around us would already have done so. Jesus realizes this well, of course, and in workbook lesson 91 he highlights both the fact that though the principle is simple, the process of accepting its consequences is far from easy: “This [leaving the weakness behind of identifying with the ego] is accomplished very simply, as you instruct yourself that you are not a body. […] You can escape [your identification with] the body if you choose. You can experience the strength in you” (W-pI.91.5:2-6). That is the simple part.

Now the hard part, where Jesus would have us ask ourselves: “Miracles are seen in light. The body’s eyes do not perceive the light. But I am not a body. What am I?” (W-pI.91.6:2-5). This, of course, is the bottom line of almost all spiritual schools of thought. Though it may be hard to swallow if you chew on it for a while, as long as we stubbornly keep believing that we are an autonomous individual body, convinced that we know what’s best for us, we are really telling Jesus and the Holy Spirit to get lost; we are refusing our mind to let both the perception and expression of miracles flow through us; in fact, we are telling God that we’d rather be in the world where He can enter not (“The world was meant to be a place where God could enter not”, W-pII.3.2:1,4). And, as Jesus reminds us: “Faith goes to what you want, and you instruct your mind accordingly.” (W-pI.91.5:3). We want to be autonomous, answering the question of “What am I?” with “A body!”

Next, Jesus tells us that our own answer to the question “What am I?” has been a tragic mistake (for some 14 billion years now) that has not made us happy at all, if we consider it honestly. “What you think you are is a belief to be undone. But what you really are must be revealed to you. […] The truth of what you are calls on the strength [of Christ] in you to bring to your awareness what the mistake conceals. If you are not a body, what are you?” Again, to the ego, this question is terror because it points to its disappearance. The ego is therefore quick to tell the Son that merely asking this question will mean a certain death by the (justified) punishment by God. As Jesus explains: “You think you would be helpless in God’s Presence, and you would save yourself from His Love because you think it would crush you into nothingness. You are afraid it would sweep you away from yourself and make you little… […] You think you have made a world God would destroy, and by loving Him, which you do, you would throw this world away, which you would.” (T-13.III.4:1-3).

Given our complete and utter identification with a physical body, this perceived fear of the Love of God (meaning the end of individuality) is quite understandable. Elsewhere in the text Jesus comforts us that, yes, we will choose to return to the Love of God, but this will happen as a slow process with which our mind’s acceptance can keep pace: “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. […] You will first dream of peace, and then awaken to it. Your first exchange of what you made for what you want is the exchange of nightmares for the happy dreams of love.” (T-16.VI.8:1-2; T-13.VII.9:1-2).

First, though, we need to actually experience the effects of choosing to let the Holy Spirit’s intuitive voice of Love to guide our thoughts and actions: “You need to be aware of what the Holy Spirit uses to replace the image of a body in your mind. You need to feel something to put your faith in, as you lift it from the body. You need a real experience of something else, something more solid and more sure; more worthy of your faith, and really there.” (W-pI.91.7:2-4). The answer, as always in A Course in Miracles, is forgiveness, that is, the complete relinquishment of judgment (condemnation, really) of both our brothers and ourselves. But to master that form of true forgiveness, we need the program of structured exercises that the workbook offers. Only by actually doing the exercises in the workbook can we experience the vision of Christ that we need, to ultimately attain the real world.

“it is important to remember that miracles and vision necessarily go together. This needs repeating, and frequent repeating“.  (W-pI.91.1:1-2; my italics). There are no shortcuts. You and I cannot say on some rainy afternoon: “Okay, that’s decided then. From now on I will only choose the Holy Spirit. This guarantees my happiness for the rest of my days.” Jesus is not joking when he asks us to pose the following question to ourselves: “‘Who walks with me?’ – This question should be asked a thousand times a day, till certainty has ended doubting and established peace.” (W-pI.156.8:1-2). Remember, enlightenment requires vigilance for the Kingdom of God. ‘Doing the workbook’ must include our following up on the practice periods, including the meditative times of silence in which the Holy Spirit’s Voice is given room to be heard. So after telling yourself, as in lesson 91: “I am not helpless, but all powerful. I am not weak, but strong. I cannot see in darkness, but in light.”, do spend time in silence to let the truth of this become your inner experience, if only for a moment. It will be enough. You will realize the one answer to the question “What am I?”, and know that it is only a matter of time before this truth will become your actual experience, and time does not really exist. Learn to use time constructively, that is, to render the need for more time unnecessary, through continued forgiveness of yourself, your brother, and the world.


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.