The two requiems

In musical terms, a requiem is a contemplation about the transiency or the ending of life, and a plea to God to be reunited with the Light and to be saved from eternal death. They are often deeply emotional, large-scale works involving a considerable orchestra, a large choir and several soloists. The requiem is regarded by some as the pinnacle of human musical expression. Some of the most beloved requiems available today are those of Mozart, Fauré, Verdi and Brahms. The texts usually range from religious to humanistic.

Verdi’s requiem (“Missa da requiem”) and Brahms’ requiem (“Ein deutsches requiem”) make for interesting comparisons. Verdi’s requiem is intensely dramatic, almost operatic, with the highlight obviously being the hugely famous “Dies Irae”, referring to the supposed wrath of God for our savage sinfulness. Verdi’s requiem is verily drenched in death and despair. Brahms’ requiem, on the other hand, is one of solace and homecoming. Brahms refused to add any reproving biblical references; his message was that death is not the end, but rather the reunification with our Creator, wherein we will finally experience eternal peace once again.

This is not to say that I think one requiem is better than the other. Both are obviously sublime masterpieces of the highest quality. They do, however, represent two very different thought systems, namely the two that are treated in-depth in A Course in Miracles. The ego thought system, aptly pictured in Verdi’s requiem, holds that our coveted separation from God was a serious sin, for which the price cannot be anything other than suffering and death. Life here on Earth is permeated by the despairing feeling of “seeking but not finding”, the ego’s maxim par excellence (T-12.V.7:1). At the very best, when we die we might beg to God to be released from eternal death, as we have attempted to pay for our sins through immense suffering here.

Brahms’ requiem breathes an entirely different atmosphere, very often reminiscent of how the Course describes the nature of the Holy Spirit. To be sure, there are dramatic parts, as in (for example) the second movement, where we are told that “All flesh is like grass”, and in the sixth movement we are told that “Nothing here has an enduring state” (i.e., all things must pass). But the overall message is that death is not a punishment, but a liberation, a homecoming in which we will remember again Who we truly are, and where no loss is conceivable whatsoever. Many students will recognize here the way Jesus presents his loving message in the Course: ‘do not deny your every day experiences here as a body, but do come to realize that your mind is choosing nothing but a silly dream, whereas you could also make the choice of returning to your true Home where you will no longer be an individual, but forever at one with God/Love, eternally at peace.’

Our one problem is that, as with both requiems, we want both stories to be true. And so we seem to be in perpetual conflict. We yearn to return to the oneness of God/Love, but at the same time we demand that we can experience that as a separated individual, as we are still terribly afraid to lose the very special unique identity we think we have made of ourselves. In other words, we still cling to the four beliefs that Jesus summarizes for us in Chapter 2 of the text: “First, you believe that what God created can be changed by your own mind. Second, you believe that wat is perfect can be rendered imperfect or lacking. Third, you believe that you can distort the creations of God, including yourself. Fourth, you believe that you can create yourself, and the direction of your own creation is up to you.” (T-2.I.9-12).

Even when we can intellectually accept that these “gross distortions” are too preposterous to believe, we still engender great resistance to accepting the truth of our oneness instead. The ego, after all, must keep guilt alive in order to ensure its existence. Therefore the ego constantly distracts the mind, thereby telling us not to look inward, for if we did God would surely find us and destroy us. But Jesus demasks this strategy: “This you believe, and so you do not look. Yet this is not the ego’s hidden fear, nor yours who serve it. Loudly indeed the ego claims it is; too loudly and too often. For […] beneath your fear to look within because of sin is yet another fear, and one which makes the ego tremble. What if you looked within and saw no sin? This ‘fearful’ question is one the ego never asks.” (T-21.IV.2:4-3:2). This is of course the message of the Holy Spirit: nothing happened. The Son of God has not sinned and we are still safe at Home. We are merely choosing to dream about exile from Home, and the dream is not the truth.

It all comes down to which thought system you and I choose to identify with on a daily basis, even from moment to moment. Who is my ‘beloved’? Whom do I want to be intimate with? The ego or the Holy Spirit? It’s a good habit to ask yourself this very question the moment you wake up. Your firm decision for the right-minded answer will direct your thoughts, words and actions in the proper direction throughout the day. And if, every time you notice you once again choose to be intimate with your beloved ego once more, you can become aware of that choice. You can then quickly ‘raise your mind above the battleground’ (T-23.IV), look at the situation with Jesus’ loving presence beside you (i.e., within you), and then happily choose again. So please don’t feel guilty over choosing to be intimate with your preferred requiem. Just honestly realize what your chosen requiem represents, without feeling guilty, and survey the road this chosen thought system will lead you to: either to illusions or to truth. And then make your choice once again. A thousand times a day. 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


See my Feb. 2020 Course workshop on YouTube called “A kingdom to rule” (English captions/subtitles available).

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page:

One thought on “The two requiems

  1. If you want to experience top-notch performances of these requiems, I would recommend for Verdi the recording by Claudio Abbado (ironically one of the most ego-free conductors ever to have lived) and for Brahms the recording by Von Karajan with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Wiener Singverein and Gundula Janowitz. Absolutely nobody outdoes Gundula. And here we have a choir that not merely sings the message, but clearly fully believes it.


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