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

4 thoughts on “Our only function in the world

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