Each time we are confronted with the death of a loved one, be it through illness, an accident, suicide, or simply old age, we are sharply reminded of the impermanence of life. What’s more, we are simultaneously reminded that our own life is finite, which sometimes leads to a rethinking about what’s the use of all that we do (and also what’s the use of all our worrying). On a spiritual level, each death we perceive is an unconscious affirmation (by the ego) that God has indeed not forgotten about our cardinal sin of separation from Him. Each death ‘proves’ this was actually accomplished, and in due time He will snatch back the life we stole from Him, though only after much suffering on our part.
No matter how much we distract the mind by busying ourselves with family, career, hobbies, and other personal ‘goals’, this is a basic fear that lurks in all of us, no matter how deep is it is repressed. How refreshing, then, to read a completely different view on the concept of death in A Course in Miracles! This is due to the unique metaphysical foundation of strict nonduality that its entire thought system rests on. It’s a unique view on what is reality and what is illusory. To attain the inner peace that is A Course in Miracles‘ goal, a basic understanding of the distinction between nonduality and duality is required, so let’s recap. I know I do this a lot in my blog posts, but since repetition is the mother of skill, another summary, in this case from the perspective of life and death, may be helpful.
Whenever we’re confronted with the passing of a loved one, we might realize that we see that person as a body; and consequently, we see ourselves as a body as well. A Course in Miracles, however, teaches us that you and I are not a body; we are pure spirit — but not in the sense of a ‘light’ or a ‘soul’ that’s ‘trapped’ in a specific body. Spirit is completely outside time, space, and perception. Though in the world we think we live in everything is characterized by differences and change, in the world of spirit everything is one. So when we read in A Course in Miracles that you and I are pure spirit (cf. W-pI.97), one spirit is not different from another spirit — you and I are the very same spirit. Only in the world of time and space does this spirit seem to manifest itself as a myriad of separated bodies. In other words: forms differ, but the content is the same.
Scholar Kenneth Wapnick often used the very helpful distinction of a Level I and Level II view of reality. Level I equals nonduality, in which God is the only reality, and you and I and all life combined are but the unified extension of God’s changeless Love. Our linearly programmed brains cannot really grasp this, but according to A Course in Miracles you and I are not made of flesh and blood and bone (W-pI.107.8:2). You and I are one changeless spirit, eternally united with God (Who equals Love) in a ‘oneness joined as one’ (T-25.I.7:1). This is Level I, the only true reality. This is certainly not our daily experience. Level II comprises the totality of time and space: the universe, the world, our lives, in short, what we generally think of as reality. A Course in Miracles calls this ‘the waking dream’ and states that this is completely illusory. The Son of God has seemingly fallen asleep in a dream of time and space, hoping to retain his imagined autonomy and hide from God, Who must be angry about what His Son did to Him.
This is why Jesus says in chapter 24 of the text: “You may be surprised to hear how very different is reality from what you see. You do not realize the magnitude of that one error [of seriously considering separation from God]. It was so vast and so completely incredible that from it a world of total unreality had to emerge.” (T-24.I.5:1-3). In this ‘waking dream’ of time and space, we have forgotten what our true reality is. But that does not mean it is gone or lost. And so Jesus invites us: “Can you imagine what a state of mind without illusion is? How would it feel? Try to remember when there was a time — perhaps a minute, may be even less — when nothing came to interrupt your peace; when you were certain you were loved and safe. Then try to picture what it would be like to have that moment be extended to the end of time and to eternity. Then let the sense of quiet that you felt be multiplied a hundred times, and then be multiplied another hundred more. And now you have a hint, not more than just the faintest intimation of the state your mind will rest in when the truth has come.” (W-pI.107.2:1-3:1).
So when someone passes away, it’s the seeming end of what never had any reality anyway. It’s one fragment within the dream of the sleeping Son of God, on its journey to fragmenting yet once again. Although A Course in Miracles does not take a definite stand on the issue of reincarnation (cf. M-24), since that would give the concept of time a reality it simply does not have, both the text and workbook contain several allusions to us repeatedly coming back in different bodies, each with the same wrong-minded goal of separation from oneness, and with the same right-minded goal of learning the forgiveness lessons of the Holy Spirit (cf. T-6, the lessons of love). Also, in one of Gary Renard’s books, he was treated by Arten and Pursah on a rollercoaster experience of all the bodies he had inhabited on his journey home so far. So you and I can be reasonably sure that — at least from the perspective of Level II — we’re been here before many times. As long as we have not yet fully accepted the Atonement (“see the face of Christ in all your brothers and remember God”, M-5.2:1), you and I will be here for several lifetimes to come, until we have learned the final lesson, and only peace remains.
That places the concepts of birth and death in an entirely different perspective. You need never be afraid of death again! This is not to say, though, that you ought not to have any feelings when confronted with death. A Course in Miracles calls upon its students to remain normal persons; so as a loved one passes, you mourn just like anyone would do, and you certainly don’t tell everyone at the funeral that they should cheer up because it’s all illusory anyway. The only difference is that your mind is now capable of viewing it all from ‘above the battleground’ (cf. T-23.IV.5:1-7), and you realize you are in a classroom in which the Holy Spirit offers you yet another opportunity for forgiving a remaining dark spot in the mind. The dark spot is a decision to want to die, since this would ‘prove’ once again that the separation actually happened, and we can definitely mock God. After the mourning, we can now gently smile at such silliness. The world is a classroom in which we can learn to end the hopeless cycle of reincarnations. As Jesus says in chapter 19, in a quote that also appeared in the Bhagavad Gita three thousand years earlier: “How can the immortal die?” (T-19.II.3:6).
— Jan-Willem van Aalst