In our lives, we are constantly looking for ways to minimize pain and to maximize pleasure. These are the basic motivating drives in all living things. We attempt to meet these needs by manipulating — or at least adjusting to — a world external to us. And although at some level we grudgingly admit that we will never wholly succeed, as there will always be some form of pain to perturb our pleasure, we stubbornly soldier on, accepting this as a ‘fact of life’. In stark contrast, A Course in Miracles teaches us that “this need not be” (T-4.IV). In fact, Jesus assures us that we can leave all pain behind, not by changing the world, but simply through forgiveness. How could this be?
In the Course’s Workbook, lesson 23 states that “I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts.” When Jesus uses the word ‘world’, he equates this to a place of fear, anger, depression, hate, vengeance; in short: pain. Although we may sometimes experience the world as beautiful, wonderful, and blissful, sooner or later we realize that this does not last. Eventually, nothing in this world lasts. Even the most solid mountain ranges will eventually crumble. Beneath each fleeting perception of happiness, deep inside we realize that pain is never far away. Why is this so? Fasten your seat belt as Jesus puts the ultimate truth to us: We made this world as an attack on God. (W-pII.3.2:1). I challenge you to find a spirituality that proclaims this very same message!
The ‘we’ is the collective mind of the sleeping Son of God, who (metaphorically) considered the idea of what it would be like to be separate from his Creator. In taking this silly notion seriously, consciousness (and the ego with it ) seemed to come into existence: the Son being aware of himself and of something else (his Father). Guilt floods the mind of the Son over having shattered the oneness of eternity (or so he hallucinates). The ego counsels the Son to hide from the Creator through further separation, that is, by fragmenting into billions and billions of splintered bits, which we now know as the Big Bang and the origin of the material universe. Therefore, everything our senses behold is no more and no less than an effect of this fearful fragmentation, which is in turn an effect of the guilt and fear resulting from our imagined attack on God.
A Course in Miracles is a purely nondualistic spirituality, in that nonduality is defined as the only true reality. Nothing in the universe, including time itself, could ever have happened, and therefore never truly happened. Everything in time and space is but a silly dream, fearful though it may seem. The world we experience ourselves in therefore does not really exist! In the Workbook, Jesus puts it this way: “Each of your perceptions of ‘external reality’ is a pictorial representation of your own attack thoughts.” (W-pI.23.3:2); and, from the text: “It [the world] is the witness to your state of mind; the outside picture of an inward condition.” (T-21.in.1:5). We have therefore made (i.e., imagined) the world we experience, in an attempt to remain separate from God, cherishing our ‘autonomy’. These teachings put the responsibility for the pain and pleasure you and I experience, straight in our own hands! Why is this so?
Jesus explains: “If the cause of the world you see is attack thoughts, you must learn that it is these thoughts which you do not want. There is no point in lamenting the world. There is no point in trying to change the world. It is incapable of change because it is merely an effect. But there is indeed a point in changing your thoughts about the world. Here you are changing the cause. The effect will change automatically.” (W-pI.23.2). Again, this is because we did not come into the world unbidden; we made up this world in our crazy notion we had to hide from a vengeful God Who would most certainly punish us for our attack of separation. Jesus comforts us: “Nothing more fearful than an idle dream has terrified God’s Son, and made him think that he has lost his innocence, denied his Father, and made war upon himself.” (T-27.VII.13:3)
Jesus teaches us that the only reason we perceive attack, hate, and pain, is because we chose to have such thoughts in the mind. “It is with your thoughts, then, that we must work.” (W-pI.23.1:5). A Course in Miracles explains to us that we really only have two types of thoughts: either loving thoughts or non-loving thoughts. Consequently, there are only two teachers for our thoughts that we can choose to listen to: either the Voice for Love (called the Holy Spirit) or the Voice for fear (the ego). Jesus tries to make us see that we can indeed undo all the pain in our lives, merely by giving up attack thoughts, thereby undoing the ego. We do this simply by consistently choosing to listen to another teacher: the Voice for Love.
Well, to say “simply” is not really fair. The principle may be simple, but following through is extremely difficult. Why? Because although we want the happiness that Jesus promises us, we want it as an ego-individual. Attaining the promised state of happiness means we must choose to relinquish our very personality and individuality, and that is sort of frightening, to put it mildly. We may tell ourselves rationally that it will be great, because it means returning back to the unchanging eternity of nonduality, where there is only Love that never fades, but in our gut we still cling to this material life on earth, as the ego tells us this is all we have. To avoid spiritual discouragement, Jesus promises that spiritual awakening is a slow process that need not be painful or frightening: “So fearful is the dream, so seeming real, he [i.e., the Son of God; all of us] could not waken to reality without the sweat of terror and a scream of mortal fear, unless a gentler dream preceded his awaking, and allowed his calmer mind to welcome, not to fear, the Voice that calls with love to waken him. […] God willed he waken gently and with joy, and gave him means to waken without fear.” (T-27.VII.13:3-5)
The means constitute the practice of forgiveness of every dark spot that we still cling to in our unforgiving mind. This curriculum is called A Course in Miracles because the miracle is the realization that you and I are the dreamer of the dream we call the world, that we are doing all of this unto ourselves (T-27.VIII.10:1). We are not victims! By consistently choosing the Teacher of Love (i.e., the Holy Spirit, or Jesus, as his manifestation) we can gradually undo all the fear and pain in our lives. Again, this puts the responsibility for the happiness in our lives solely in our own hands: “The correction of fear is your responsibility. When you ask for release from fear, you are implying that it is not. You should ask, instead, for help in the conditions that have brought the fear about. These conditions always entail a willingness to be separate.” (T-2.VI.4:1-3). Practicing forgiveness means choosing to overlook all the silly forms in the world and accept the content of love and shared interests in everyone — including yourself! — as the focus of your mind.
This Course does not ask us to deny what we see on the world news. There will still be crime, fear and misery everywhere. We still need courtrooms and prisons. We still need medicine to ease acute physical pain. The Course simply calls on us to realize that all perception of pain calls for forgiveness, not for anger, fear, or depression. To once again cite one of the most oft-quoted lines in the Course: “Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world” (T-21.In.1:7). Any darkness I perceive around me has nothing to do with anything or anyone around me: it is merely a sure sign of a dark spot in my own mind. This is where the work needs to be done. How could you save the world if you cannot even master the darkness in your own mind?
A Course in Miracles is a course in mind training. It is not a Course in Love, but a Course in finding and undoing all the barriers that we have built against Love (T-16.IV.6). Jesus continually reminds us that we can find lasting happiness, if we bring our attention back from fearing and fighting the world (the outside) to examining our thoughts (the inside) and allowing Jesus, as manifestation of the Voice for Love, to gradually and gently undo all this pain and darkness for us. So resign as your own teacher (T-12.V.8:3) and choose to identify once again with your own inheritance: pure love. Be vigilant only for God and His Kingdom [that is, Love] (T-6.V-C). “Teach only Love, for that is what you are” (T-6.III.2:5). Your experience of the world and of your life will change accordingly.
See also “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: