In A Course in Miracles, a mind training curriculum that sets the direction towards the experience of lasting inner peace, its author Jesus faces the challenge of convincing us, who still believe we are a body reading his book, that we are not a body; in fact, that in truth there is no physical world whatsoever (W-pI.132.6.2), and that everything we perceive is no more real than the dreams we dream at night. Clearly, this is one of the reasons Jesus uses so much symbolism and poetic metaphoric language in his Course, for a message this radical does not lend itself well to a purely scientific approach, since by far most of science is itself rooted in the basic assumption that time and space are real; that we can observe and influence the world through well-controlled experiments. Again, in the Course Jesus tries to get his message across that we are not a body, but pure collective spirit, still at home in the Heart of God, though asleep in a nightmare from which we can awaken. It comes down to conveying a purely nondualistic message to a dualistic audience that still identifies itself thoroughly with a body, whether conscious of that or not. How does Jesus try to pull that off?
In chapter 18 of the text, Jesus asks us: “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). Think a while about that! One chapter later, Jesus summarizes the inherent unreality of the physical body: “The body no more dies than it can feel. It does nothing. Of itself it is neither corruptible nor incorruptible. It is nothing.” (T-19.IV-C.5:2-5). To further convince us that we could do very well without the body, he says about his own experience: “I was a man who remembered spirit and his knowledge” (T-3.IV.7:3), and from the manual, where he speaks of himself in the third person: “The name of Jesus is the name of one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God. So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God. The man was an illusion, for he seemed to be a separate being, walking by himself, within a body that appeared to hold his self from Self, as all illusions do. […] In his complete identification with the Christ — the perfect Son of God […] — Jesus became what all of you must be. […] He led the way for you to follow him.” (M-5.2:1-3:2)
Again, the difficult thing about this message that this is a nondualistic message, read by those who still feel that duality is their daily experience. To completely give that up and enter into a completely unknown state is somewhat frightening to imagine, to say the least. Jesus realizes this well, and his teaching is always gentle and patient. Nowhere does Jesus “order” us to give up the body we still cherish so much: “It is almost impossible to deny its existence in the world. Those who do so are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial. […] The body can act wrongly only when it is responding to misthought.” (T-2.IV.3:10-11;2:5). In effect, the Holy Spirit, of which Jesus as author of A Course in Miracles is a manifestation, can use the concept of the body, which was made by the one ego of the one Son of God, to turn the tables on the ego, to point the way out of the dream: “The body was not made by love. Yet love does not condemn it and can use it lovingly, respecting what the Son of God has made and using it to save him from illusions” (T-18.VI.4:7-8). So the body isn’t rejected as something negative, as in many other spiritualities; rather, it becomes a useful tool for learning the Holy Spirit’s lessons of love (T-6.V).
That is also why, although only one teacher of God is necessary to save the world (M-12), this one teacher appears to us as many bodies that remind other bodies of the Alternative, the choice for Love. Jesus explains: “Why is the illusion of many necessary? Only because reality [nonduality] is not understandable to the deluded. Only very few can hear God’s Voice at all […] They need a medium through which communication becomes possible to those who do not realize that they are spirit. A body they can see. A voice they understand and listen to, without the fear that truth [nonduality] would encounter in them. Do not forget that truth can come only where it is welcomed without fear. So God’s teachers need a body, for their unity could not be recognized directly.” (M-12.2:8). This is how Jesus uses duality to bring his message of nonduality across: “This course remains within the ego framework [duality], where it is needed. It is not concerned with what is beyond all error [nonduality], because it is planned only to set the direction towards it.” (C-in.3:1-2)
Nowhere does Jesus push his students to give up the body before his message of nonduality is welcomed without fear. In fact, his focus is always on the mind that ultimately is the cause of the body. That’s why A Course in Miracles is a course in mind training. When the mind is completely healed, the body will cease to be valued, and will merely vanish because it will simply be forgotten, together with everything in time and space (which is why Gary Renard’s first book is called “The disappearance of the universe”). But we’re not there yet: “Our emphasis is now on healing [the mind]. The miracle [through forgiveness] is the means, the Atonement is the principle, and healing is the result.” (T-2.IV.1:1-2; my italics).
True salvation, or the acceptance of the Atonement, is therefore a slow process within the dualistic dream of time and space, which is exactly what we need to handle our fear of renouncing our individuality and autonomy, illusory though they may be: “Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality” (T-16.VI.8:1). In Chapter 27 of the text we read why Jesus emphasizes this: “So fearful is the dream, so seeming real, he [the Son of God] 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; a gentler dream, in which his suffering was healed and where his brother was his friend. God willed he waken gently and with joy, and gave him means to waken without fear” (T-27.VII.13:4-5).
Realize though, that when you study A Course in Miracles, Jesus is not promising a “better” life to remain in the dualistic dream world of time and space, as many other spiritualities promise. The Course is uncompromising in its metaphysical foundation: lasting inner peace can never be found within a body in the dualistic dream of time and space. Jesus uses poetic dualistic language only to help ready the mind for an honest evaluation of dualism (the ego) versus nondualism (God, being Oneness Love). It may perhaps be comforting to know that salvation is guaranteed. That is, everyone is guaranteed to discard the body sooner or later, not with regret, but with a sigh of relief: “The script is written. When experience will come to end your doubting has been set. For we but see the journey from the point at which it ended, looking back on it, imagining we make it once again; reviewing mentally what has gone by” (W-pI.158.4:3-5).
So whenever you find yourself reading that blue book of Jesus’ mind training curriculum, try to be aware of the nondualistic message he tries to bring across that lies beyond the often beautiful poetic dualistic language. Accept for now that you still identify deeply with a physical body — there’s absolutely no need to feel guilty about that. But following Jesus’ instructions in the text, the workbook and the manual, you can perhaps train your mind in seeing yourself as the formless, abstract, eternal light of Love that all of us are, and which collectively makes up the one Son of God who has in truth never left his Home in the Heart of God. We have not sinned. Our Father loves His Son and wants nothing but His Son. Don’t reject or neglect the body, but bring it ever so slowly a bit more to the background. At the same time, bring the light of oneness slightly more to the foreground. You will find the world around you will light up as well, for your experience of the world around you merely mirrors the state of your own mind.
To conclude with the lovely workbook lesson 190: “My holy brother, think of this awhile: The world you see does nothing. It has no effects at all. It merely represents your thoughts. And it will change entirely as you elect to change your mind, and choose the joy of God as what you really want. Your Self is radiant in this holy joy, unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable, forever and forever. […] Lay down your arms, and come without defense into the quiet place where Heaven’s peace holds all things still at last. Lay down all thoughts of danger and of fear. Let no attack enter with you. Lay down the cruel sword of judgment that you hold against your throat, and put aside the withering assaults with which you seek to hide your holiness. Here will you understand there is no pain. Here does the joy of God belong to you.” (W-pI.190.6:1-3;9).