But for the grace of God

Many concepts in A Course in Miracles such as God, Christ, love, death, mind, crucifixion and salvation have an entirely different meaning from how we once learned them. This is part of the reason why A Course in Miracles is so difficult to comprehend at first, and one of the main drivers for my book and blog called “Miracles or murder”. Although perhaps not apparent at first, gratitude is another concept that is completely redefined in the Course. Let’s briefly examine in what way.

In this world, we usually feel grateful if we feel we are fortunate, particularly when we experience ourselves to be more fortunate than others. As we read in workbook lesson 195: “Gratitude is a lesson hard to learn for those who look upon the world amiss. The most that they can do is see themselves as better off than others. And they try to be content because another seems to suffer more than they.” (W-pI.195.1-3). The number of people that thank God — consciously or unconsciously — for having ‘saved’ them from an accident, a serious illness, or a natural catastrophe, are countless.

As scholar Kenneth Wapnick remarked, the popular saying “There but for the grace of God go I” is hardly a kind and loving thought. I am grateful I have been spared, even though you may not have been. I am grateful I don’t have cancer, while many others are not so fortunate. I got what I wanted, but quite possibly at the expense of others. In other words, our gratitude is usually based on comparisons and differences, and upon a sense of inequality of worth between myself and others. Needless to say, this is hardly the concept of gratitude that Jesus in A Course in Miracles would want us to embrace .

Workbook lesson 195 explains: “Your gratitude is due to Him alone Who made all cause of sorrow disappear throughout the world. […] You do not offer God your gratitude because your brother is more slave than you; nor could you sanely be enraged if he seems freer. Love makes no comparisons. And gratitude can only be sincere if it be joined to love.” (W-pI.195.1:7;4:1-3). In other words, we should be grateful to God and our brothers for the fact that in truth all life is one, and that the ‘tiny, mad idea’ of the ego and its world of separation and differences is not true, and never will be.

In chapter 2 of the text, Jesus tells us: “It should especially be noted that God has only one Son. If all His creations are His Sons, every one must be an integral part of the whole Sonship. The Sonship in its Oneness transcends the sum of its parts.” (T-2.VII.6:1-3). So once again we see why it’s so important to keep the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles  always in the back of your mind when you read it. Workbook lesson 195 thus emphasizes: “We thank our Father for one thing alone: that we are separate from no living thing, and therefore one with Him. […] Therefore give thanks, but in sincerity.” (W-pI.195.6:1;5:1).

To be sure, you should not feel guilty over, for example, being healthy while others are perhaps not so fortunate at the moment. Also, it is not very loving and kind to dismiss other people’s suffering, by saying: “This is all illusory anyway. In truth all life is One, so I’m only going to focus on that, and not try to mend anything that isn’t real at all.” Such thinking would be what Kenneth Wapnick calls level confusion. The staggering metaphysics of A Course in Miracles do not imply that we do not pay attention to the world in our everyday lives. On the contrary, this world can be seen as a useful classroom in which we learn how we can allow the ego to be gently undone completely, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

When you and I accept our function of true forgiveness here in this dualistic dream world, we become a Teacher of God. This means that our kind and loving demeanor serves a gentle reminder to others that they, too, can make the same choice of the relinquishment of judgment, in the grateful realization that all life is one and the ego is a silly mistake. Once more from workbook lesson 195: “Let your gratitude make room for all who will escape with you: the sick, the weak, the needy and afraid, and those who mourn a seeming loss or feel apparent pain, who suffer cold or hunger, or who walk the way of hatred and the path of death. All these go with you. […] Then let our brothers lean their tired heads against our shoulders as they rest a while. We offer thanks for them. For if we can direct them to the peace that we would find, the way is opening at last to us.” (W-pI.195.5:2-3;7:1-2).

Now to be sure, it may at first be hard to feel gratitude when asked to see the sameness in yourself and, say, the leading politicians of your nation. Or with others whom you really don’t like. Realize though, in gladness, that this is the great reconditioning of the mind that A Course in Miracles offers us; namely that from shifting form form (“he’s the president”) to content (“he’s merely a mirror of my own mind, as there are no others”). The only reason that we find this difficult is, as we read in chapter 15 of the text: “You have little faith in yourself because you are unwilling to accept the fact that perfect love is in you.” (T-15.VI.2:1). My gratitude should therefore come from the realization that perfect love is not only within me, but within ‘all living things’, regardless of form, since life is one.

We conclude with the lovely message from workbook lesson 195: “Walk, then, in gratitude the way of love. For hatred is forgotten when we lay comparisons aside. […] Gratitude becomes the single thought we substitute for our insane perceptions [of separation]. God has cared for us, and calls us Son. […] What more remains as obstacles to peace?” (W-pI.8:1-2; 9:4-5;8:3). The grace of God is not just for me, but for everyone, without exception. Practice this realization often during the day, so that eventually you can sincerely answer the question what your prevailing state of mind is with one word: gratitude.

 


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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The immediacy of salvation

Students of A Course in Miracles, and spiritual aspirants in general, practice hard to learn to let go of their little separated self, and accept instead their identification with their larger Self, which somehow transcends the individual. They imagine that one day they’ll be enlightened, having left behind all the pain and sorrow that they still perceive at times. But in workbook lesson 188, which was by the way one of Bill Thetford’s favorites, Jesus says: “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.” (W-pI.188.1:1-4).

Such a statement could easily lead to a massive spiritual guilt trip, as the simplicity of this call is apparently still too difficult for us, as sincere spiritual seekers, to turn into daily experience. In Chapter 26 of the text, Jesus also comments on this: “The one remaining problem that you have is that you see an interval between the time when you forgive, and will receive the benefits of trusting your brother […] You see eventual salvation, not immediate results. […] Be not content with future happiness. It has no meaning, and it is not your just reward. For you have cause for freedom now…” (T-26.VIII.1:1;3:1;9:1-3). So how do we do that?

Well, certainly not by thinking that we need to work still harder on being spiritual. Rather, A Course in Miracles invites you and me to do less, meaning: do less on my own. Happiness – now – means I step back as my own teacher, and ask the Holy Spirit what to think, say and do instead. Otherwise, I am tempted to instruct the Holy Spirit how to help me, which of course never works. Remember, one of the central themes of A Course in Miracles is: “I need do nothing” (T-18.VII). We should merely invite the Holy Spirit (i.e., the Voice for Love) in. In Chapter 18 of the text, we also read: “It is not necessary that you do more; indeed, it is necessary that you realize that you cannot do more. Do not attempt to give the Holy Spirit what He does not ask, or you will add the ego to Him and confuse the two.” (T-18.IV.1:5-6).

As with almost everything in A Course in Miracles, the principle is simple, but its application is far from easy. The core of our resistance to this simple rule of thumb is that each time we practice this, we make the ego slightly smaller; a bit less important. Should this become a habit, the ego would eventually diminish and disappear… which ultimately means that would disappear! And so the ego seeks and finds all sorts of subtle strategies to keep judgment and condemnation alive and well, so that we can comfortably identify with a very special personal self, which was the root cause of the universe and the planet and all its billions of life forms on it anyway.

All students of A Course in Miracles are familiar with its teaching that the world we seem to live in is not our home. Happily, Jesus also speaks a lot about what our real Home is. Actually, much of his curriculum boils down to continually motivating its students to associate time and space with misery, and to accept the guidance of the Holy Spirit as the one way to return Home in the Heart of God. Again in Lesson 188, we read: “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. This light can not be lost. Why wait to find it in the future, or believe it has been lost already, or was never there?” (W-pI.188.1:5-2:2). In other words, why wait for Heaven?

In Chapter 3 of the text Jesus tells us that seemingly having lost something does not mean it is gone; is merely means we forgot where it is (T-3.VI.9). This implies that I am in control of my own happiness or unhappiness, not in the future, but right now: “Let the darkness go, and all you made [material misery] you will no longer see, for sight of it depends on denying vision. Yet from denying vision it does not follow that you cannot see…” (T-13.V.8:5-6). What do I need to do to see? Simply this: “Sit quietly and close your eyes. The light within you is sufficient.” (W-pI.188.6:1-2). A few lines further in the same lesson, Jesus then invites us to “…take your wandering thoughts [i.e., judgments], and gently bring them back to where they fall in line with all the thoughts we share with God. [i.e., non-judgment]”. We will not let them stray. […] We will forgive them [i.e., wandering thoughts] all, absolving all the world from what we thought it did to us. For it is we who make the world as we would have it.”  (W-pI.188.9:2-10:3; my italics).

To summarize: Yes, accepting the Atonement is a slow process in time, which may take many lifetimes to master. At the same time, the choice for the Holy Spirit as the leading Guide of the mind can always be made now. In fact, this choice can only be made now, as now is the only time there is, as any reader of Eckart Tolle will remember. As Jesus concludes: “The peace of God passeth your understanding only in the past. Yet here it is, and you can understand it now. […] You will first dream of peace, and then awaken to it. Your first exchange of what you made [material misery] for what you want [the Love of God] is the exchange of nightmares for the happy dreams of love. In these lie your true perceptions, for the Holy Spirit corrects the world of dreams, where all perception is.” (T-13.VII.8:1-9:3).

So why not try it right now? Sit quietly and close your eyes. Calmly observe all your “wandering thoughts”, that is, anything you are not completely peaceful about, and realize these thoughts really do not serve you any longer, and so there is no reason anymore for you to focus on them. Then invite the Voice for Love, by silently saying: “The peace of God is shining in me now. Let all things shine upon me in that peace. And let me bless them with the light in me.”  (W-pI.188.10:4-7). 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.

What a wonderful world

This evergreen by Louis Armstrong, initially released in 1967 and covered by many artists since, invites us all to look only at the good things in life, and focus on the inherent love that is our desire beneath our superficial daily doings. It is often sung at spiritual events as well, where it is used as an affirmation to remind us of the beauty of life that is there for all of us, but for the choosing. All the ‘bad’ things and people that subsequently seem to cross our path are then at least not our fault, and we can continue to feel blissful about our advanced spiritual focus.

In A Course in Miracles, this world is depicted quite differently, namely as “…a dry and dusty place, where starved and thirsty creatures come to die” (W.pII.13.5:1). That’s hardly a wonderful world! Moreover, the Course’s workbook starts out by letting us know that nothing here means anything. What!? A Course in Miracles is one of the very few spiritualities that offer such a shocking view on the world and the material universe, and it is completely consistent about this stance throughout. So how could this be, if the goal of the Course is to attain a lasting state of unshakable inner peace, in the awareness that all life is one, and all the hurts in the world are illusory? This sounds somewhat contradictory, to say the least.

The explanation, of course, lies in the metaphysics that are the rock on which its message rests securely. When we say we want lasting inner peace, we usually mean we would like to experience that as a good healthy individual ego. A Course in Miracles brings us the most uncomfortable message that the entire ego, yea individuality whatsoever, is completely illusory, and even more so, the entire phenomenal universe and all our senses that behold it as well. The Course more or less equates the material world with hell, and summarizes the combined aspects of time and space as a hallucinatory nightmare. Why? Because the material universe is nothing but the imagined effect of the thought of separation from Oneness (God), and the body is nothing but a pitiful attempt to hide from the supposed wrath of the Creator over this ‘savage sin’, by splitting up in billions of fragments that now seem to have a life of their own. Jesus, in summary, is telling us that our seemingly individual autonomous personalities really do not exist in truth.

Now before you head for a deep depression about Jesus’ message (which would again be an ego tactic), hold on, and bear with him. A Course in Miracles would not be of much use if it stayed at that. There is, of course, a much better experience for us, one that reflects the truth of what we collectively are, namely the One Son of God (albeit seemingly asleep). The secret of salvation is but the realization that all the pain and misery in our lives come from choosing the wrong focus, or teacher, in the mind. As long as we focus on individuality, we continue to invite separation. It is only when we choose to step back and let the Voice for Love (i.e., he Holy Spirit) be the guide of our mind, that peace not only becomes possible but inevitable.

We will, however, only make this choice for a better mind teacher once we fully realize the silliness of the “joke” of thinking we can actually exist, separated from God, in a material universe that was made as a place where He could enter not and we could be on our own. Our continuous wish to see separation is mirrored in how our physical senses work: “All idols of the world were made to keep the truth from being known to you, and to maintain allegiance to the dream that you must find what is outside yourself to be complete and happy. It is vain to worship idols in the hope of peace. God dwells within, and your completion lies in Him. […] Look not to idols. Do not seek outside yourself.” (T-29.VII.6).

So this is why A Course in Miracles is not your everyday spirituality that states that this world can be a place of love. It does promise that love can be a consistent experience in the mind, but only if we fully realize that the material world itself is merely illusory, and not at all what we want. Yet the Course does not ask us to deny our experiences in this ‘nightmare’ we seem to live in. Rather, it invites us to calmly and honestly look (in the mind) at what it is we choose to focus on each and every minute of the day, and then happily “choose again” to experience this world as a classroom for real spiritual growth, which ultimately leads us entirely out of the world, to real eternal peace.

The world cannot be a wonderful world, if all things inevitably decay and die and pass away. The world cannot be wonderful as long as we perceive politicians and crooks that we exclude from the light in us. The world only becomes wonderful once we realize, with gladness and in gratitude, that there is no world! (W-pI.132.6:2). Having chosen the Holy Spirit as the one guide to our thoughts, all the various competing forms the senses behold shift to the background, while we bring to the foreground the content of the light of Love we all share. And this is no idle wish; it is the way out of hell. “The body’s eyes will continue to see differences, […] but the healed mind will put them all in one category: they are unreal.” (M-8.6:1-5). Now we can forgive every unforgiving thought we hold in our own mind. Now we can see past all seeming differences. “Now can you say to everyone who comes to you in prayer with you: “I cannot go without you, for you are a part of me.” And so he is in truth.” (S-1.V.3:8-10).

To summarize: this world only becomes a ‘wonderful world’ once we realize that there is no material world, and that all life that we perceive around is us but a mirror of the mind. This perception can be guided either by the ego or the Holy Spirit. And it is entirely up to you and me which guide we choose; this power of choice is our one remaining freedom. And what a power it is! The world becomes wonderful once we choose to regard it solely as a classroom in which there is only love or calls for love, to which only one answer suffices: the answer the Holy Spirit gives us. And so Jesus says to us in the Song of Prayer pamphlet: “Hold out your hand. This enemy has come to bless you. […] He is a Son of God, along with you. He is no jailer, but a messenger of Christ. Be this to him, that you may see him thus.” (S-1.III.5:3-9). Practice in seeing this not in some, but in all people you meet, regardless of behavior. The world is wonderful because through it we can learn to end the separation.


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.