Suppose your spouse (or parent, colleague, manager; whomever) got angry at you because you failed to do something that was clearly expected from you. It could be as simple as not being considerate, or failing to empty the garbage bin or do the laundry, or having spent too much money on something worthless… the list of possibilities is endless. Chances are that you feel unfairly treated; and before you know it you’re in ‘blaming mode’, in a counter-attack that seems fully justified. Later on, when you think about why you slipped into unkindness when this really wasn’t your intent from the outset, you might conclude that you felt that your search for happiness was sincerely threatened by this other person, and you really felt the other needed to change to set this straight. Even if you’re into spirituality and can acknowledge the fact that the quarrel was merely a typical scene of projection back and forth, it’s still a thought mechanism that is alive and well in the mind.
Jesus (that is, the author of A Course in Miracles) would say that this is because we are not yet fully aware of the purpose behind that purpose. In feeling unfairly treated and picking a fight with someone, with anyone, we are first and foremost affirming to each other that my body is real and your body is real, and so the separation from God is reality as well. Furthermore, by body is obviously better than your body, so you are the one to be blamed for everything, including the cause of the separation, and God should allow me back into Heaven when I die and send you to hell. So my deeper purpose behind the superficial purpose of our quarrel is to affirm that I really exist and I am the ‘better’ of the two of us; so God should notice and love me, not you. The ego obviously wants to have its cake and eat it too.
As early as lesson 25 in the workbook, Jesus would have us realize that we usually do not realize what we think or do is for. So he explains: “At the most superficial levels, you do recognize purpose. […] For example, you do understand that a telephone is for the purpose of talking to someone who is not physically in your immediate vicinity. What you do not understand is what you want to reach him for. And it is this that makes your contact with him meaningful or not.” (W-pI.25.4:2-6). With this simple example, Jesus tries to make us see that our true purpose for this call is to once again find an opportunity to either underscore separation (the ego’s interest) or to see the Holy Spirit’s goal of sameness in both of us. So while on a superficial level we can think of many purposes for our thoughts and actions, on the deeper level there are only two: either to align with the ego’s purpose of separated autonomous individuality, or to align with the Holy Spirit’s purpose of gently undoing all separation, condemnation and autonomy.
It can be of enormous help to train the mind to be always be acutely aware of this deeper purpose behind our thoughts and actions. In fact, attack becomes impossible once this deeper purpose is held in awareness, for how could sameness attack sameness? We must, however, be willing to see all situations this way, and that’s somewhat of a challenge, to put it mildly. Why is it a challenge? Because in doing so, I would have to admit to Jesus that he was right all along and I was wrong; not only about everything I perceive in this dream world of time and space, but about the very fact that I believe I exist as a separate autonomous unique individual. I may be willing to agree that Jesus is right when he says that I am wrong every time I judge, but I’m not likely to agree that Jesus is right when he says that I really do not exist, since “it is a joke to think that time can come to circumvent eternity” (T-27.VIII.6:5).
This is why A Course in Miracles is a slow process, that takes us step by gentle step in slowly reconsidering the foundation that the very concept of our personality rests on. This concept is entirely based on separation: “You see a lot of separate things about you, which really means you are not seeing at all. […] You will not question what you have already defined.” (W-pI.28.2:5;4:1). In this important workbook lesson, called “Above all else I want to see things differently”, Jesus invites us to practice this shift of perception from separation to sameness with very simple objects. He uses a table as an example: “In saying, ‘above all else I want to see this table differently’, you are committing yourself to seeing. […] You could, in fact, gain vision from just that table, if you would withdraw all your own ideas from it, and look upon it with a completely open mind. […] In using the table as a subject […], you are therefore really asking to see the purpose of the universe. […] You are making a commitment to each [subject] to let its purpose be revealed to you, instead of placing your own judgment upon it.” (W-pI.28.4:3-6:3).
Again, Jesus is talking about the deeper purpose of either adhering to the ego’s concept of separation, or to the Holy Spirit’s concept of unified oneness. My perception of the purpose of that table in this sense merely symbolizes my perception of the purpose of my own personality or identity, and also my perception of the purpose of the universe. Therefore, when we really pay attention to Jesus’ true message in these deceptively simple early lessons in the workbook, we can see that A Course in Miracles is a spirituality that really takes its students to the very essence of life’s great questions: “What am I?”, “Why am I here?”, “What’s the purpose of my life?”, “Where is everlasting happiness to be found?” The one answer to all of these questions lies in my acceptance of the Atonement; that is, choosing to accept my true Identity as an extension of the Oneness Love of God. Or, as Jesus puts it: “Teach only love, for that is what you are.” (T-6.I.13:2) I reach that point of acceptance not by becoming a monk, not by denying the dark spots in my mind, but rather by practicing mind training in very specific daily situations, such as a quarrel with my spouse, my kids, my parents, colleagues, boss, you name it.
Instead of losing myself once again on autopilot in judgmental counter-attack, my main daily assignment is to reach that place above the battleground a little sooner than I did yesterday, and realize the deeper purpose that I unconsciously side with in any situation, from hour to hour, from minute to minute, from instant to instant. Sure, I will obviously choose the wrong purpose many times each day. After all, I’m still in love with my own special unique autonomous individuality. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be hanging around here anymore. So each time you realize you once again slipped into a judgmental counter-attack, don’t feel bad and guilty — be glad! That realization, coupled with the sincere desire to “want to see things differently” (W-pI.28), is the greatest gift you can give yourself in any situation. That realization is what makes you an effective Course student. Once you choose to really let go of your own investment, and ask the Holy Spirit what to think, say or do instead, you may be amazed at the miracles that ignite from that peaceful, loving state of mind, with effects that you would never have thought possible. And that experience is the real fuel for the motivation for really wanting to learn Jesus’ Course. 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:
See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)
Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.