We think we think (2)

What would you say if someone would ask you to describe the nature of your thoughts? Most of us would say it’s the verbal word stream in the brain that we usually are more or less aware of. We take that for granted: “I think, therefore I am” (Descartes). How startling, then, to read in workbook lesson 45 of A Course in Miracles that “Nothing that you think are your real thoughts resemble your real thoughts in any respect.” And a bit before that: “There is no relationship between what is real and what you think is real.” Jesus is bluntly saying that what we think we think are not our real thoughts, and, moreover, that what we think is real is nothing but illusion. That’s pretty radical. What does he mean?

As most Course students are well aware of, the seemingly sleeping one Son of God made up the dream of the physical universe in time, in an attempt to escape from an imagined wrathful God Who is out to punish His Son for the savage sin of trying to separate from Oneness. Ever since the Big Bang, the ego (i.e., the desire to be autonomous) has been in the driver’s seat in the mind of the seemingly fragmented Son of God. Its activity can be described as constant distraction. You and I tend to constantly focus on a zillion things outside of us, instead of turning inward to really see what’s there. That’s purposive. The ego’s greatest fear is that the sleeping Son might become aware of the Voice for Love (In A Course in Miracles He’s called the Holy Spirit) and renounce the ego, time, and space forever. To avoid that, we clutter the mind with senseless things that we feel are very important for our survival and happiness. But are they?

In the same lesson 45, we read: “Under all the senseless thoughts and mad ideas with which you have cluttered up your mind are the thoughts that you thought with God in the beginning [i.e., before the Big Bang]” (W-pI.45.7:1). And, earlier: “You think with the Mind of God. Therefore you share your thoughts with Him, as He shares His with you. […] Therefore, your thoughts are in the Mind of God, as you are. They are in your mind as well, where He is.” (W-pI.45.2:1-2,6-7). That’s not a statement the ego likes to hear, to put it mildly. At a first surface reading, this can cause considerable confusion. If my verbal thoughts are not my real thoughts… if I share my real thoughts with the thoughts of God, Who is literally within me, how should I then picture my real thoughts?

Let’s answer this question in two steps. First of all, if we expand the notion of ‘thinking’ to everything we do in response to a mind impulse, we can see that animals think as well. Of course they do not understand words and do not think verbally; however, as Pursah pointed out in Gary Renard’s latest book “The lifetimes when Jesus and Buddha knew each other”, animals think in pictures. When Gary focused his mind to ‘send’ loving pictures to his cat, she immediately calmed down. I’ve tried this myself while strolling around the neighborhood. I remember one dog (on a leash) who watched to see if I too, perhaps, was taking a dog with me (I wasn’t, I do not own a dog); but I took the opportunity to ‘send’ a blast of inner loving light to the pet. The result was startling. Tail straight up and barking gaily, he attempted vigorously to reach me in an attempt of unconditional embrace. It works from human to human too, by the way. Just try it in any meeting: the energy you emanate from your mind fills the room and noticeably influences the entire atmosphere.

Although this first step brings us a bit closer to the notion of the Thoughts of God, we are not quite there yet. God does not use words; God does not produce pictures. God is synonymous with Love (capital L, to emphasize that Love transcends time and space). Therefore, as our second step, the Mind (or Thoughts) of God can aptly be described as Love. This, and only this, makes up our real thoughts. This may sound terribly simplistic and even boring, but that is the bottom line. “Nothing that you think you see bears any resemblance to what vision will show you. […] Everything you have thought since then [the Big Bang] will change, but the Foundation on which it rests is wholly changeless. […] Here is your mind joined with the Mind of God [i.e., Love].” (W-pI.45.1:5,7:4,8:2).

Most meditation practices are aimed towards slipping past the cluttered verbal thought stream to the silence that lies beyond it. In fact, the practice in workbook lesson 45 is to “try to go past all the unreal thoughts that cover the truth in your mind, and reach to the eternal [i.e., Love].” (W-pI.45.6:3) Merely because the Son of God chose to fall asleep and listen to the constant distractions of the ego to prevent the mind from waking up again, does not mean our real thoughts are gone; that is, the Love of God still remains within the Son’s mind. As Jesus says in chapter 5 of the text: “Both Heaven and earth are in you, because the call of both is in your mind. The Voice for God [Love] comes from your own altars to Him. These altars are not things; they are devotions. Yet you have other devotions now. Your divided devotion has given you the two voices, and you must choose at which altar you want to serve. […] The decision is very simple. It is made on the basis of which call is worth more to you.” (T-5.II.8:5-12)

So this is why we exclaim, just like St. Paul in Jesus’ historic age: “Why is it that I keep doing the things I know I should not do, and I fail to do what I know is right?” This is because of our divided devotion. Somewhere deep inside we realize we yearn for the Love of God more than anything else, but on the other hand… the ‘price’ for that means giving up the cherished individual little self, and we’re not yet willing to do that. So the mind is in constant conflict. A Course in Miracles offers us the way out of this hellish dilemma. It’s called, you guessed it: forgiveness. Not to appease a wrathful God (God cannot be angry because Love cannot be angry), but to forgive ourselves for the silly mistake of falling asleep in an ego dream that doesn’t work. And although forgiveness, needed in time and space, is an illusion itself and therefore not of God, in the world we think we are it is the one thought that points the way out of the dream, because it recognizes the inherent sameness and oneness in everyone and everything, and therefore provides the miracles the Holy Spirit uses to heal the collective mind of the sleeping Son of God.

“God does not forgive because He has never condemned [a quote immortalized, by the way, in the movie “As it is in Heaven”]. And there must be condemnation before forgiveness is necessary. Forgiveness is the great need of this world, but that is because it is a world of illusions. Those who forgive are thus releasing themselves from illusions, while those who withhold forgiveness are binding themselves to them. As you condemn only yourself, so do yo forgive only yourself. Yet although God does not forgive, His Love is nevertheless the basis of forgiveness. Fear condemns and love forgives. Forgiveness thus undoes what fear has [seemingly] produced, returning the mind to the awareness of God [Love]” (W-pI.46-1:1-2:3). So our verbal thoughts turn out to be merely ego distractions, while forgiveness is the way to become aware of the Love that we both have and are, our real thoughts that we share with God. That is why our task is not to seek for love, but only to seek and find all of the barriers that we have built against it. (T-16.IV.6:1) “For this reason, forgiveness can truly be called salvation. It is the means by which illusions disappear.” (W-pI.46.2:4-5). Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

Our only function in the world

These troubled times, where nothing seems to be as it was just a year ago, can be rather challenging or threatening, depending on how we have learned to interpret the world around us. The ego obviously seduces us to get involved, have an opinion, and assess the possible consequences for our own personal (i.e., physical) safety, and how we might secure that safety. In other words, the current happenings stimulate judgment, condemnation, and polarization. For students of A Course in Miracles, it’s imperative that they often remember the ultimate goal of life here, and to employ the means to attain that goal. Workbook lesson 192, for example, reminds me that “I have a function God would have me fill.” (W-pI.192). This function, of course, is forgiveness of all the dark spots we still hold on to in our deluded minds. This function is the same for all of us. But how does that work out in a world that seems to spin into chaos?

First, that ‘ultimate goal of life’ is to accept the Atonement for ourselves. This means reaching the point in your mind where you say and truly mean “I want the peace of God, and nothing else”. At that point there would be no earthly desires left, and you would no longer reincarnate, as there would be no more lessons to learn. We would finally return to our Home in the Heart of God. Workbook lesson 192 puts it this way: “It is your Father’s holy Will that you complete Himself, and that your Self shall be His sacred Son, forever pure as He, of love created and in love preserved, extending love, creating in its name, forever one with God and with your self.” (W-pI.192.1:1). Furthermore, the Course tells us that in reality we are there already, since time and space are unreal. We still cling to the illusion of time only because we are not yet ready to give up our cherished special individual autonomous little self. All nice and well, but such lofty words seem to have little practical meaning here in this turbulent world. So what gives?

Jesus anticipated this objection, for in the same lesson, he immediately continues: “Yet what can such a function mean within a world of envy, hatred and attack?” (W-pI.192.1:2). We could just as well say: “…within a world of fear, anger and depression?”, since this is the very same thing. Jesus continues: “Therefore, you have a function in the world in its own terms. For who can understand a language far beyond his single grasp? Forgiveness represents your function here.” (W-pI.192.2:1-3). Therefore, the Course comes to us couched in dualistic (what Ken Wapnick calls Level II) terms that we can understand, and that yet reflect the nondualistisc (Level I) truth of Heaven, where we, once again, already are in reality. A Course in Miracles can therefore be seen as a lighthouse that reminds us of our original haven, and guides to our Home port, just by consistently choosing to focus on that light.

In Chapter 29 of the text, Jesus defines forgiveness in a most lovely way, integrating both Level I (nonduality) and our daily experience of Level II (duality): “Within the dream of bodies and of death is yet one theme of truth; no more, perhaps, than just a tiny spark, a space of light created in the dark, where God still shines. You cannot wake yourself [to nonduality, Level I]. Yet you can let yourself be wakened. […] Make way for love, which you did not create, but which you can extend. On earth [Level II] this means forgive your brother, that the darkness may be lifted from your mind.” (T-29.III.3:1-3;4:1-2). Returning to workbook lesson 192, Jesus adds in the same vein: “Forgiveness gently looks upon all things unknown in Heaven [level I], sees them disappear, and leaves the world [Level II] a clean and unmarked slate on which the Word of God can now replace the senseless symbols written there before.” (W-pI.192.4:1).

Students sometimes ask why I should forgive my brother, as Jesus elsewhere assures us there is no-one outside of me to forgive. Everything I perceive is a projection of my own guilt (about the imagined separation) and fear (of God’s retribution). Still, that’s exactly the answer to that question. If my function here is to make my mind ‘a clean and unmarked slate on which the Word of God can replace all senselessness’, I should see my projections for what they are, and forgive myself (with the help of Jesus) for choosing them, so that they disappear into the nothingness from whence they came. Jesus continues: “Forgiveness is the means by which the fear of death is overcome, because death holds no fierce attraction now and guilt is gone. Forgiveness lets the body be perceived as what it is: a simple teaching aid, to be laid by when learning is complete, but hardly changing him who learns at all.” (W-pI.192.4:2-3).

So whenever I feel tempted to formulate judgments about what I see happening in the world around me, my function here is to learn to swiftly stop this silly choice for auto-pilot, fear-based thinking. A much better choice would be to “not leave your place on high [i.e., above the battleground that is the world], but quickly choose a miracle instead of murder [i.e., choose to forgive]” (T-23.IV.6:4). Every threat and tribulation that I seem to experience in my life or in the lives of those around me, comes down to an opportunity to clean up a spot of darkness in my mind that I had heretofore not recognized. By choosing the Holy Spirit as my mind’s guide, I can now “make way for love” and lessen the need for still more time in this fearful dream world. That’s why forgiveness of myself, through the forgiveness of my brother, is my only function here.

This is by no means a function in which I, by definition, do nothing in the world, since it is all illusory. That would be a confusion of Level I and Level II. As Jesus clarifies in the text: “There is much to do, and we have been long delayed. Accept the Holy Instant [i.e., choosing forgiveness, igniting a miracle] as this year is born, and take your place, so long left unfulfilled, in the Great Awakening [the Atonement]. Make this year different by making it all the same.” (T-15.XI.10:9-11). So from now on, whatever you choose to actively do in this dream world, make sure it’s guided by the loving presence of the Holy Spirit (or Jesus) within you. And, to clarify the distinction between Level I and Level II still one more time: “We are one, and therefore give up nothing. But we have indeed been given everything by God [Level I]. Yet do we need forgiveness [Level II] to perceive that this is so. Without its kindly light we grope in darkness, using reason but to justify our rage and our attack. […] Therefore, hold no one prisoner. Release instead of bind, for thus are you made free. […] Be merciful today. The Son of God [i.e., everyone] deserves your mercy. It is he who asks that you accept the way to freedom now. Deny him not.” (W-pI.192.6:5-7:1;9:1-2;10:1-4). Or, more plainly stated: no matter how terrible the people around you seem to become, forgive them all instantly, that you may forgive yourself for still holding on to this silly dream. Make way for love today. Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, January 2021