You are a miracle! (2)

In A Course in Miracles, workbook lesson 77 would have me learn that “I am entitled to miracles.” Jesus explains this by stating: “You are entitled to miracles because of what you are. You will receive miracles because of what God is. And you will offer miracles because you are one with God.” (W-pI.77.1:1-3). As we read in chapter 1 of the text, a miracle is an expression of unconditional love. Our natural heritage is to extend or share such expressions, and therefore receive them. And, since according to the Course, having and being are the same, Jesus adds in miracle principle 24: “You are a miracle, capable of creating in the likeness of your Creator.” Or, stated differently in chapter 6 of the text: “Teach only love, for that is what you are” (T-6.I.13:2). So what is the practical value of realizing that you and I are a miracle?

At a first glance, these lines seem to flatter the ego. Doesn’t it sound good to be told you are a miracle, capable of creating in the likeness of God? After all, that was the reason, in the ontological moment just before time began, that we tried to split off from our Creator, to be able to be a god in our own little isolated world! Alas, this is of course not at all what Jesus means when he compliments me that I am a miracle, as he explains in workbook lesson 76: “You really think that you would starve unless you have stacks of green paper strips and piles of metal discs. You really think a small round pellet or some fluid pushed into your veins through a sharpened needle will ward off disease and death. You really think you are alone unless another body is with you. It is insanity that thinks these things. You call them laws […] You think you must obey the ‘laws’ of medicine, of economics and of health. […] The body suffers just in order that the mind will fail to see it is the victim of itself. […] It is from this [recognition that you but attack yourself that] your ‘laws’ would save the body. It is for this you think you are a body.” (W-pI.76.3:2-5:7).

To summarize once more what I regularly try to bring across in these posts: you and I are not a body, but pure spirit. The one Son of God is still one, though seemingly asleep in a dream of separation and individuality, unconsciously feeling exiled but in reality still at home in God, Who knows nothing of this dream: “Nothing at all has happened but that you have put yourself to sleep…” (T-28.II.4:1). In the very same paragraph, Jesus links this unfortunate illusory hallucination to the purpose of the miracle: “The miracle does not awaken you, but merely shows you who the dreamer is. It teaches you there is a choice of dreams while you are still sleep, depending on the purpose of your dreaming [i.e., separation or Oneness; fear or love]” (T-28.II.4:2-4). So being a miracle, an expression of unconditional love, we both share and receive these expressions, since, again, in reality, being and having are the same: “Your claim to miracles does not lie in your illusions about yourself. It does not depend on any magical powers you have ascribed to yourself, nor on any of the rituals [e.g., the ‘laws’ above] you have devised. It is inherent in the truth of what you are. It is implicit in what God your Father is. It was ensured in your creation, and guaranteed by the laws of God.” (W-pI.77.2)

Given these insights, let’s look at some of those rather abstract fifty miracle principes in chapter 1, to see if we can now clarify these. For example, nr. 15: “Each day should be devoted to miracles. The purpose of time is to enable you to learn how to use time constructively. It is thus a teaching device and a means to an end. Time will cease when it is no longer useful in facilitating learning” (T-1.I.15). If we spend our days expressing the love that we are, regardless of the person or situation at hand, we are actually saving large intervals of time that would otherwise be needed to reach the end of the dualistic dream of time and space. You might object and say that time itself is illusory and that everything in time is happening now, and this is correct, but while we still hold one dark spot in the mind (many dark spots, for almost all of us), there’s forgiveness work to do. This reconditioning, or undoing, is a process that takes time, illusory though it may be.

The combination of 18, 21, 29 and 44 can also be helpful in this regard: “A miracle is a service. It is the maximal service you can render to another. It is a way of loving your neighbor as yourself. You recognize your own and your neighbor’s worth simultaneously. […] Miracles are natural signs of forgiveness. Through miracles you accept God’s forgiveness [i.e., Love] by extending it to others. […] Miracles praise God through you. They praise Him by honoring His creations, affirming their perfection. They heal because they deny body-identification and affirm spirit-identification. […] The miracle is an expression of an inner awareness of Christ and the acceptance of His Atonement.” (T-1.I.18,21,29,44). Again, any expression of unconditional love recognizes the inherent unity of Christ, the One Son of God, the spirit that is our shared essence. This undoes the hateful and fearful separation thought of the ego. The decision maker in the mind now consciously chooses forgiveness instead of condemnation.

So the next time someone seems to treat you unfairly, or you run into a situation that seems to cause you distress, you can now realize this person or situation expresses a call for love, which needs only one answer: love. We do this by quickly activating the decision maker in the mind, and then choosing not to condemn, but to follow the intuitive advice of the Holy Spirit. As we read in the section “Above the battleground”: “When the temptation to attack rises to make your mind darkened and murderous, remember you can see the battle from above. Even in forms you do not recognize, the signs you know. There is a stab of pain, a twinge of guilt, and above all, a loss of peace. This you know well. When they occur leave not your place on high, but quickly choose a miracle instead of murder. And God Himself and all the lights of Heaven will gently lean to you, and hold you up. For you have chosen to remain where He would have you, and no illusion can attack the peace of God together with His Son.” (T-23.IV.6).

Hence Jesus’ plea with us to “Teach only love, for that is what you are” (T-6.I.13:2). It should be obvious that you and I do not really believe this yet, for if we truly did, we would not need 1500 pages of A Course in Miracles with a workbook to practice a lifetime; heck, we would not even hang around here any longer. Still, the required change of every value that we hold dear (“Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning”, can only succeed once we embrace the correct notion of what we are. We are not a body; our essence is an expression of Love (“Can you who see yourself within a body know yourself as an idea?”, T-18.VIII.1:5), and we are still safe at Home in the Heart of God as the One Son of God. We experience the reflection of that essence here in this world through diligent practice of unconditional forgiveness. Tell yourself confidently today that you are entitled to miracles because you are a miracle. It’s a simple statement of a simple fact. Keeping this in mind, and expressing it in your daily activities, will bring you the peace that you seek.

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

The greatest gift to yourself (2)

When asked to describe A Course in Miracles in one word, most students would probably choose ‘forgiveness’. Indeed, the Course is replete with poetic descriptions of how the practice of forgiveness is the way out of all misery. Take for example lesson 122, called “Forgiveness offers everything I want”: “Do you want peace? Forgiveness offers it. Do you want happiness, a quiet mind, a certainty of purpose, and a sense of worth and beauty that transcends the world? Do you want care and safety, and the warmth of sure protection always? Do you want a quietness that cannot be disturbed, a gentleness that never can be hurt, a deep, abiding comfort, and a rest so perfect it can never be upset? All this forgiveness offers you, and more” (W-pI.122.1:2-2:1).

All these treasures, however, are unfortunately unattainable as long as one does not realize just what Jesus truly means when he talks about forgiveness. To really grasp Jesus’ notion of forgiveness, some basic understanding of the Course’s metaphysics is necessary. A Course in Miracles is a strictly nondualistic spirituality, which means it holds that God is the only reality; totally perfect, totally abstract, and completely outside time and space. God has but one Son (T-2.VII.6), Who is the extension of God’s Love. In the quantum possibility that God’s Son considered what it would be like to be separate from God was the ego-thought born. Desiring to be autonomous, the now split mind of the Son of God believed the ego’s conclusion that he had sinned against his Father, that this stain could never be removed, and that he was forced to flee and hide from the Creator by fragmenting into the billions of pieces we now call the physical universe.

In time, this seemed to happen long ago; in reality, it never really happened at all (M-2.2:7). “Not one note in Heaven’s song was missed” (T-26.V.5:4); God (Love) is completely unaware of this quantum tale, and we, as the now-sleeping Son of God, are in reality still safe at Home in His Love. However, seemingly fast asleep in the “waking dream” in time and space we call our lives, we all still stubbornly cling to the belief that this separation did indeed happen, for we still cherish our individual personalities so much. In reality though, there is still only one Son of God. And although there certainly seem to be billions of egos, in content all these egos are in fact of the one same ego. It’s only because we continually project out our own ego onto others that the illusion of many still stands.

So from the perspective of A Course in Miracles, forgiveness is not really about forgiving the bad behavior of others, as (1) behavior is only an effect, not a cause, and (2) in reality there is no-one else out there. Rather, forgiveness is only about forgiving myself, as the sleeping Son, for the projections of my own ego I had thrust upon everyone and everything around me, with the secret purpose to see evil everywhere save within myself. Since the seeming multiplicity in the dream we call our lives is an illusion, I am always upset at something that only seems to be outside of me, but which is really merely a projection of some dark spot that I refuse to see in my own conflicted mind. Still, though I may refuse to see it, unconsciously I realize this is my judgment upon myself, which no doubt is the way God judges me now, which is why everyone walks this planet “uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1), however much we try to hide that.

I know this metaphysical talk might be a bit hard to follow. Therefore, let’s look at two common examples you and I encounter in our everyday lives. Firstly, let’s say that the neighbors are loudly partying in their back yard — again! — until about five o’clock at night, and this is keeping me from getting a good night’s sleep. Politely discussing this issue with them afterwards doesn’t seem to improve things. My frustration mounts as I accuse them of (a) wasting their lives, and (b) hindering me in my night rest and also probably my alertness in practicing my workbook lesson the next day. Should I then remember Jesus’ call to forgive, and all I subsequently do is secretly say to them (in my mind): “Okay, I hate you for your despicable juvenile behavior, but I’m going to forgive you anyway, for Jesus tells me this is the way out of pain”, I’m really getting nowhere. This is not at all what Jesus means by forgiveness.

Instead, Jesus would have me realize that their ‘despicable’ behavior is but form, which masks the underlying content of their fear. These neighbors are choosing to party all night long only as an unconscious distraction against a deep-rooted fear! What is the fear? Unconsciously, they fear that they are indeed miserable sinners, that their guilt is real and punishment by God totally justified. Also, following the blocks to Love that peace must flow across (T-19.IV.A-D), unconsciously they are deathly afraid of the Love of God which would mean the end of their individuality, personality and autonomy! Hey, but wait a minute, we just said there is no-one else out there! Ouch – I am really talking about my own fears here! Since I do not want to face these fears, I seek to see it in “others”. I choose to feel upset by these “others” so I don’t have to look within and conclude that there is no sin (T-21.IV.3:1). If I would look, I’d immediately sense the end of my own little separated self, and God knows I’m not yet willing to give that up (Well, God thinks otherwise actually (T-23.I.2). Once I can realize that my frustration (Jesus uses the imagery of a sword) is aimed solely at myself, I can forgive myself for my silly projections, and ask the Holy Spirit how I could see “peace instead of this” (W-pI.34). Seeing myself in another light, I can now see my neighbors in another light, and silently express to them the love that we all seek, knowing we are one.

A second common example is with the people whom we consider ‘authority figures’, which would include for example your parents and your boss. Whenever you notice you’re getting upset with them because of how awfully they treat you or accuse you of everything you do poorly, it’s no use saying to yourself: “I really hate you for your unjustified accusations, but I’m going to practice forgiveness anyway, because the Course tells me that my forgiveness of my brother is the way out of hell. I’m going to be spiritually superior here and discard all the ego-based feelings that are keeping me in chains.” Except that in this practice, the feelings (thoughts really) are not discarded at all; they are merely driven underground, only to resurface again the next time something ‘unreasonable’ comes up – and sooner or later it always does. That’s why Jesus calls this “forgiveness-to-destroy” (S-2.II).

Again, in cases like these Jesus wants us to realize that we’re never upset for the reason we think (W-pI.5). The behavior we dislike is merely form; it’s the effect of a deeply rooted underlying fear of being unworthy of the Love of God, and of having to give up our most cherished possession in the face of our reunification with Oneness: the relinquishment of the individual self. This is our (that is, the ego’s) fear of the Love of God, and we’ll do anything to distract our minds from discovering the road to the “real world”, in which our perception is cleansed of such silly perceptions. Taking it one step further, since there is no-one else out there, this underlying fear I sense in others, is really merely a shadowy projection of that very same fear I hold deep within myself. Having made it to that point, I can now ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit to help me see myself differently. To the extent I can muster the courage to allow the Holy Spirit to undo this darkness in my mind, will my perception of my parents and my boss change for the better as well. I now realize we’re all on the same journey Home. That is true healing.

Course scholar Kenneth Wapnick often remarked that, regardless of our interpretation of the behavior of others, people are either expressing love or expressing a call for love (T.14.X.7). Although the latter sometimes takes on rather vicious forms, both psychologically and physically, it’s still a (desperate) call for love. And since in reality there is no-one else out there, am either expressing love or expressing a call for love, regardless of the form this takes. Which will serve me best? Will I keep myself in misery through continued condemnation of everything I perceive outside of me, this being just a projection of what I refuse to see in my own mind? Or will I stop, raise my mind above the battleground (T-23.IV) and ask the Holy Spirit to help me “see peace instead of this” (W-pI.34)? The choice is mine to make. Jesus cannot make this choice for me. Keeping the Course’s metaphysics close to my heart, in the knowledge that you and I and everyone around us are still safe at Home in the Heart of God, I can take Jesus’ hand and affirm that “Forgiveness is my function as the light of the world” (W-pI.62). Only then can I understand the beautiful lesson 122 in the first paragraph of this blog post. And although forgiveness only exists within the dream and is itself illusory, it is the only illusion that breeds no others (W-pI.198.3); this can therefore truly be called the greatest gift I can give to myself. Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst