Blame to bliss

In the spiritual curriculum called A Course in Miracles, we learn that true lasting happiness and inner peace can only be found by ‘choosing once again’ the Voice of the Holy Spirit (i.e., the Voice for Love) as the guide for all your thoughts. This is because any thought we experience that is not one hundred percent love is an illusion, meant to keep intact the silly notion of individuality, the hallucination that we can exist apart from God. Indeed, the most oft-repeated statement in the entire Course is: “I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me”; that is, as pure spirit, forever at one with all my brothers and with my Source, my Creator. In my daily life (‘dream life’, really) in time and space, anything that I still reject/condemn, I can learn to reinterpret — above the battleground — in line with the Holy Spirit’s interpretation of unconditional forgiveness (there is that key word again!), and my life becomes a daily classroom on the journey to the acceptance of the Atonement, heralding the disappearance of the universe.

It all sounds appealing enough, but there’s one prerequisite that might be experienced as a trifle painful, to put it mildly. In order to choose between the ego and the Holy Spirit, first I need to fully understand the essence of each guide; and second, I need to be fully aware of each ego thought I still cherish, without condemning myself. In our mind training program, each time we become aware of an ego thought, there’s often a strong temptation to repress it, ignore it, ridicule it, etc., while we subconsciously feel guilty about still having ego thoughts. This, of course, effectively keeps the ego in the driving seat of the mind, and defeats our spiritual purpose. The Course practice is all about looking at each ego thought as the observer, without guilt, without condemnation. Otherwise we won’t be able to ‘choose again’.

It is only when the hateful, vicious cauldron of the ego essence becomes crystal clear to the decision maker in the mind, that the only meaningful choice in which teacher to follow becomes obvious and desirable. However, seeing your ego thoughts this clear for what they are is obviously not a very pleasant experience. That’s why it’s so important to cultivate your skill in acting as the observer. After all, an observer doesn’t react; the observer observes. As lesson 170 teaches us: “Today we look upon this cruel god [the ego] dispassionately. And we note that though his lips are smeared with blood, and fire seems to flame from him, he is but made of stone. He can do nothing. We need not defy his power. He has none. And those who see in him their safety have no guardian, no strength to call upon in danger, and no mighty warrior to fight for them. This moment can be terrible. But it can also be the time of your release from abject slavery” (W-pI.170.7:1-8:2).

Interestingly enough, since our interpretation of the ‘outside world’ always mirrors how we perceive our inside world of thought, the same lesson equally applies to all the turbulence that we now experience around us the past few years, be it a virus, a regional war or an identity-debate. The overriding sentiment in all these topics seems to be blame: people ought to think and behave like this or that, or otherwise they are framed as either extreme right-wing nazis, conspiracy theorists, or as leftists or mindless sheep, to name but a few labels. And each accusation, particularly when through the media it reaches a lot of people, seems to ignite the battle of blame a little more. Again Lesson 170: “With love as enemy, must cruelty become a god. And gods demand that those who worship them obey their dictates, and refuse to question them. Harsh punishment is meted out relentlessly to those who ask if the demands are sensible or even sane. It is their enemies who are unreasonable and insane, while they are always merciful and just” (W-pI.170.6).

Isn’t this exactly what’s happening in the world today? Isn’t this what, in fact, has been happening all along in the Course of human history? The intensity is merely increasing because thanks to the Internet, the world has become a village. It can be tempting to get depressed about this (in fact, we do have a worldwide depression epidemic on our hands), but as with everything that we perceive, there’s also another way of looking at this. Just as we first need to fully realize the intensity of the viciousness of our own ego thoughts (without losing ourselves in this watching), before being able to make the better choice, the world first needs to see the full intensity of the viciousness of the ‘cruel god’ of polarisation for a worldwide awakening to become conceivable. The blaming must get loud enough for a majority of the people to fully realize the insanity of it all, before they will make the better choice.

And the blaming is getting loud indeed. Instead of feeling depressed, try to interpret the current turbulence as a prerequisite for the mind’s decision maker to fully realize the insanity of making love an enemy. Only then can it dawn on the mind that the insanity is in fact silliness. Our own task, as always, is simply to keep nurturing the light within, and act as a beacon of loving light each day, in all the circumstances and events we find ourselves in, with anyone we encounter, without exception. Remember, no circumstance, event or meeting is coincidental: each can be interpreted as a lesson in love, offered us by the Holy Spirit, Who knows exactly what we need on our journey to the acceptance of the Atonement. Therefore: know thyself; practice the observer in silence 20 minutes twice a day and know that you are “spirit, a Son of God, free of all limits, safe and healed and whole, free to forgive, and free to save the world” as a Teacher of God (W-pI.97.7). Take your mind, and therefore your interpretation of the world, from blame to bliss. Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, April 2022

Damnation or salvation

Every day, and every minute within each hour of the day, we think have a myriad of choices to make: what clothes to wear, which meetings to prepare, what (not) to eat, which people to call, etcetera. On the level of the form and experience of our daily lives this may indeed be the case, but as all good Course in Miracles students know, in all these instances there’s really only one choice to make, with only two options to choose between. This choice is fueled by my desire for the spiritual purpose of my day: do I desire to focus on specialness and separation, or do I desire to focus on inner peace and sameness? On the level of form the choices may seem endless, but the spiritual content behind each of these choices always boils down between these two options.

Studying and practicing A Course in Miracles, students learn that this choice is actually the choice between damnation and salvation. The choice for the ego (specialness and separation) is really the choice for my own damnation. This is because my choosing the ego means that I seek to experience a state of being outside God/Heaven that in reality can never be obtained, as everything in time and space is an hallucination. I am therefore pushing my awareness of my true Identity further away, and yet still a bit further away. In other words, I’m choosing idle dreams, which nurture mindlessness. This hardly leads to the lasting happiness I truly desire.

The choice for the Holy Spirit (i.e., the Voice for the Oneness Love of God and His Creations) is actually the choice for my own salvation. This is because this is the choice for mindfulness: my willingness to re-evaluate – above the battleground! – my choice for darkness, acknowledging this will not lead to lasting inner peace, and then bringing the darkness to the light of Truth, that is: forgive myself for my previous choice for darkness, and choose once again to be a beacon of light, by allowing the Light within to shine. I also realize that each time I make this choice, the little ego feels severely threatened, and will most likely find a way to temporarily drag me back into mindlessness. That’s why Enlightenment usually does not happen overnight, but takes a series of lifetimes to attain. In each lifetime we clean up as much ontological darkness in our unforgiving mind as we can.

In his Course, Jesus helps us with the mind training that we so sorely need in this learning process. Let’s briefly look, for example, at Workbook lesson 140, titled “Only salvation can be said to cure”. This lesson teaches that cure is only applicable to the mind. It is the effect of our desiring the guidance of the Holy Spirit to the ego’s guidance. The Holy Spirit operates in time and space, and therefore guides us through illusions just as the ego does; but the guidance of the Holy Spirit brings us happy dreams, which eventually lead to the end of all dreams/ illusions/ hallucinations: “The happy dreams the Holy Spirit brings are different from the dreaming of the world, where one can merely dream he is awake. The dreams forgiveness lets the mind perceive do not induce another form of sleep, so that the dreamer dreams another dream. His happy dreams are heralds of the dawn of truth upon the mind” (W-pI.140.3:1-3).

Our most important task on any given single day is to become aware as often as possible of the moments we choose damnation instead of salvation in the mind. The subsequent experience in form in the dream will follow automatically, sooner or later. Ego choices may seductively lead to brief experiences of pleasure or ecstasy, but these never last, because our repressed guilt-feelings about the separation from our Creator have not been re-evaluated and let go. That’s why Jesus says in the same lesson: “Peace be to you who have been cured in God, and not in idle dreams. For cure must come from holiness, and holiness cannot be found where sin is cherished. […] There is no place where God is not. […] This is the thought that cures. […] This is no magic. It is merely an appeal to truth, which cannot fail to heal and heal forever.” (W-pI.140.5:1-6:5).

So whenever you attend a meeting, visit a shop, or watch the world news, try to be acutely aware – above the battleground! – of the choice you make for either damnation or salvation: do you desire separation, or do you accept sameness? If you are unsure about the right response, quickly ask the Holy Spirit for advice, and see if you can sense a feeling of peace envelop your energy system. If so, your response will be loving, leading to the best outcome for everyone. And of course you and I will stumble for time to time, which is yet another opportunity for self-forgiveness, our most important function here. Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, April 2022

The shriek-o-meter

This is a term coined by Catherine Austin-Fitts, a former member of the Bush administration in the nineties; now a strategic advisor on societal well-being. I think this humorous term aptly describes a disquieting phenomenon that has slowly but steadily become noticeable, namely the fear-mongering by the mainstream media. Regardless of the topic at hand, be it a virus, a war, or a gender-dispute, the overall trend is to bombard the consumer with the same particular viewpoint on the topic at hand, urge the viewer to adhere to it, and to separate from all those who think otherwise. Attacking dissent is even subtly encouraged. While in some form this has always been the case in history, it has become painfully apparent in the past decade; particularly the past few years it reaches a level which can indeed be summarized as ‘shrieking’.

In A Course in Miracles, the verb ‘shrieking’ is always associated with the ego. We read about it, for example, as in “…the self-accusing shrieks of sinners mad with guilt” (W-pI.134.7:4); “…projected fear shrieks in wrath, and claws the air…” (W-pI.161.8:3-4), “It [the unforgiving mind] looks upon the world with sightless eyes and shrieks as it beholds its own projections…” (W-pI.121.4:2), and, most consolingly, in the meditation offered us in Lesson 49: “Go past all the raucous shrieks and sick imaginings that cover your real thoughts…” (W-pI.49.4:3). Such references are clearly reminiscent of the way the mainstream media is now attempting to keep everyone’s attention riveted on fear, worry, anxiety, separation and attack.

This shrieking strategy is purposive, of course. When looking a bit closer at the governance frame the media companies must operate in these days, it becomes abundantly clear that nowadays it’s almost impossible for them to keep informing us in an independent, objective fashion. Most of the big media institutes are now more or less mouthpieces for the agenda of the large corporations and banks, who for some decades now increasingly control the political course of national governments. Their profits depend on an obedient population that consumes in their preferred way. The purpose of the shrieking, then, is to distract the mind sufficiently to prevent any serious questioning and opposition against this strategy of subtle slavery. The agenda is to make mindless, so that the decision maker will never take the opportunity to choose against it.

In other words, it’s simply the same ego game that has been going on in the waking dream ever since time began. It’s just being intensified lately, just as everything in the past few centuries seems to accelerate and intensify. From the viewpoint of A Course in Miracles nothing has changed, as linear time is merely an illusion with the sole purpose of keeping the ego intact; everything in the past and the future happens now. The ego uses time to keep asking the same pseudo-question: “The world asks but one question. It is this: ‘Of these illusions, which of them is true?'” (T-27.IV.4:4-5). Note the analogy with the current gender discussion, for example. Jesus continues: “Whatever form the question takes, its purpose is the same. It asks but to establish sin is real, and answers in the form of preference. […] Thus is all questioning within the world a form of propaganda for itself” (T-27.IV.4:8-5:3).

As Catherine Austin-Fitts notes, the thing to do with fear-mongering is not to attack it, as this only fuels more ego-thinking. It is much better to stop taking it seriously. In the same vein, Jesus invites us, in all the ego-turmoil, to turn on the observer above the battleground of perception (T-23.IV), calmly observe the ego-silliness, and turn inward to the better Guide: the Voice for Love. This is the journey from mindlessness back to mindfulness: “The memory of God comes to the quiet mind. It cannot come where there is conflict, for a mind at war against itself remembers not eternal gentleness. The means of war are not the means of peace, and what the warlike would remember is not love. […] Conflict within you must imply that you believe the ego has the power to be victorious. Why else would you identify with it?” (T-23.I.1:1-6).

This powerful and sobering passage lets out all the steaming air in the overly inflated balloon of the ego. It shows the way to peace. And so we can choose to see the world as a classroom in which we can decide to forget what the ego taught, choosing instead to learn from the Holy Spirit: “The ego made the world as it perceives it, but the Holy Spirit […] sees the world as a teaching device for bringing you home” (T-5.III.11:1). In other words, choose to not answer fear and attack with fear and attack. Always remember the universal law that as you sow, so will you reap. If you attack, you will be attacked. If you love, you will be loved. Whenever anyone seems to impinge upon your peace of mind, demanding to adhere to some ego agenda, choose not to respond with attack. Turn on the observer (decision maker) above the battleground, observe your thoughts and emotions non-judgmentally, and then ask the Holy Spirit what to think, say, and do.

Remember that it is very well possible to say “No” in a loving way. You need not comply with madness if you are urged to. Refusal to obey can be non-defensive, and even loving; after all, it is the Son of God responding to the Son of God. Defenselessness always works: it is the way in which Gandhi liberated the entire country of India. Therefore, practice often today the central message of the Course, for example as formulated in Chapter 25: “In [The Holy Spirit’s] perception of the world, nothing is seen but justifies forgiveness and the sight of perfect sinlessness. Nothing arises but is met with instant and complete forgiveness. Nothing remains an instant, to obscure the sinlessness that shines unchanged, beyond the pitiful attempts of specialness to put it out of mind, where it must be, and light the body up instead of it” (T-25.III.5:2-4).

The Course invites us to reinterpret all pitiful shrieks of the ego as lessons in forgiveness. Decide today to connect with your desire to learn to forgive totally and unconditionally, while always following the Voice for Love. This is the way back to the inner peace that is always available to all of us. This is the way back Home. Happy practicing!

Jan-Willem van Aalst, April 2022