Most of us have a decided opinion about the president of the United States, the president of the Russian Federation, or any other prolific politician that comes to mind. Politicians are generally seen as being unreliable, opportunistic, and underhanded, if not outright evil. And yet we read in A Course in Miracles that our anger, in this case toward them, is never justified and that attack has no foundation (T-30.VI.1:1-2). The reason, so Jesus tells us, is that ultimately there is no world outside of us (W-pI.132.6:2), and so there are no politicians out there to get mad at. To many first-time readers of the Course, this seems a foolhardy denial of what we clearly perceive. So what gives?
A Course in Miracles cannot be understood without being aware of a clear distinction between two levels of reality, which are mutually exclusive. The first level, called Level I by Course scholar Kenneth Wapnick, is strict nonduality, or “not-two”. In nonduality, there is no time, no space, no observer, no consciousness, no existence. There is only God, Who in A Course in miracles is synonymous with unconditional Love. And this Love merely is, unchallenged and unchangeable. Although Jesus explains to us that this Love constantly extends itself in eternity, we should not try to picture this in terms of a three-dimensional space, as nonduality has no dimensions.
From a Level I perspective, you and I and all the life we perceive around us is no more (but also no less) than the extension of that Love, which in the Course is named the Son of God (capital S). This completely redefines two thousand years of Biblical conditioning that the Son of God is only one very special body, called Jesus. From the perspective of Level I, you and I are not bodies, but the same abstract extension of the Love of God. As we read in chapter 18 of the text: “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).
What we ‘think we recognize’ is the second level of reality, called Level II by Kenneth Wapnick. This is the ‘reality’ of form. It includes everything we perceive in the time and space around us; in short, everything we call our daily reality. Except that Jesus firmly stresses that what we see as reality, is not reality at all — it’s more like a dream. When we wake up in the morning, we think we wake up to reality, but Jesus assures us we merely wake up to another form of dreaming: “All your time is spent in dreaming. Your sleeping and your waking dreams have different forms, and that is all. Their content is the same. They are your protest against reality, and your fixed and insane idea that you can change it” (T-18.II.5:12-14).
The difficult thing about these two levels is that our brains, with which we think we can reason and understand reality, were made to be limited to the dream world in time and space (that is, Level II). So anything outside time and space, anything that’s not observable and not related to any concept we know, is by definition outside the realm of comprehension of the brain. Therefore, any time we talk about Level I we may get all excited, but in the meantime we are still convinced that Level II is the reality that we work and live in. We do not really feel that this abstract Level I is something we might actually experience.
Yet in A Course in Miracles, we are taught that we, as the collective Son of God (the extension of Love) ‘made up’ this Level II in order to experience a world wherein we could be God: “Dreams show you that you have the power to make a world as you would have it be, and that because you want it you see it. And while you see it you do not doubt that it is real.” (T-18.II.5:1). So the world you and I experience ourselves in was not thrust upon us. We “made it as we would have it be”, as the collective sleeping Son of God, who, from the perspective of Level I, is still an idea, the extension of the Love of God, a state which we have all but forgotten, but which is still our ultimate reality.
However, unlike most other (nondualistic) spiritualities, A Course in Miracles does not ask us to deny or dismiss the perceptual dream world of Level II. This would be “a particularly unworthy form of denial” (T.2.IV.3:11). Instead, we are invited to regard our dream in time and space, however illusory though it be, as a useful classroom, which is filled to the rim with opportunities to train the decision making part of the mind. In each person or situation that seems to confront me, I am offered the opportunity of choosing (a) condemnation, rooting my experience still further in the dream, or (b) forgiveness, which readies my mind to eventually awaken from this illusory dream (nightmare, really).
Even though on Level II, God seems to be completely absent (“This world was made as a place where God could enter not”, W-pII.3.2:1,4), His gifts of Love, peace and joy are yet within our mind’s reach, as we read in workbook lesson 105: “God’s peace and joy are yours. Today we will accept them, knowing they belong to us.” (W-pI.105). On almost every page of A Course in Miracles, we are taught that the experience of heaven or hell is a matter of (a choice in) the mind. It does not depend on anything outside of us. You and I can condemn or we can choose to forgive; the choice is completely up to us.
All these vile politicians are merely another aspect in the dream the Son of God has chosen to try to usurp the role of God as Creator, which was the ontological condemnation. In order to escape the imagined wrath of God for this ‘cardinal sin’, we point at all the seemingly separated fragments outside of us, saying in effect to God: “Don’t be angry with me — I’m innocent. All evil is done by them (which includes more or less everything we perceive outside of us). Obviously, politicians are a particularly convenient aspect in the illusory dream to blame and condemn. However, since all life still shares the same guilty ego, each time we point a finger at someone or something, we might realize that’s a projection to avoid having to face our own suppressed guilt about the separation. And that’s why in the Level II dream world of time and space, we all walk ‘uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1). We just constantly distract our minds to avoid these feelings, by continually pointing at “evil” outside of us.
Lesson 105 and 106 offer us a particularly beautiful combination of mind training exercises to undo all this silliness that we take so seriously. In order to experience the peace and joy of God we want so much, we must share it with everyone we meet or even think of. Let’s use politicians for this. Lesson 105 invites us to: “Think of your ‘enemies’ a little while, and tell each one, as he occurs to you: My brother, peace and joy I offer you, that I may have God’s peace and joy as mine.” […] Now you are ready to accept the gift of peace and joy that God has given you. […] Now you can say, ‘God’s peace and joy are mine’, for you have given what you would receive.” (W-pI.105.7:1-6).
If you find such a forgiveness exercise extremely difficult, try lesson 106, “I will be still and listen to the truth”, which is an invitation to lay aside the ego’s shrieking voice. Close your eyes and picture all the politicians that you despise, one by one. Try to visualize white light within each of them; the same white light that we all share as the one Son of God. If you then try to focus on stillness, the truth of that image (which is content, not form) will make itself known to you, usually in the form of a warm peaceful feeling within your body. You can try it with anyone you seem to have an upset with. So choose once again today the gentle road of miracles (forgiveness) instead of murder (condemnation), and experience how much more peaceful your days become.
— Jan-Willem van Aalst