A successful workbook practice (2)

Many students of A Course in Miracles have a somewhat two-edged relationship with the workbook lessons, and that probably includes you and me. Once convinced that a diligent daily practice of these lessons is the way to reach the ‘real world‘, that is, the peaceful inner world of cleansed perception, we become really motivated to follow up on Jesus’ daily instructions. However, once we find that we cannot keep up even five minutes of mind training three times a day, feelings of disappointment, guilt, and a sense of inadequacy soon surface. What happens next is that we either set the workbook (and the Course) aside for a while (sometimes for a long while), or hit ourselves over the head and try even harder, turning it into a heavy, demanding ritual that becomes a dark looming cloud in our minds.

Jesus of course wants neither. The very first workbook lesson stresses the latter point: “[…] These exercises should not become ritualistic.” (W-pI.1.3:5). In the manual for teachers, Jesus cautions his students once more: “Routines as such are dangerous, because they easily become gods in their own right, threatening the very goals for which they were set up.” (M-16.2:5). Also in the workbook, Jesus tells his students to focus on the general message of a lesson, and not be compulsive about exact wording: “It is not necessary to cover the comments that follow each idea either literally or thoroughly in the practice periods. Try, rather, to emphasize the central point…” (W-pI.R-I.3:1-2).

Whether we’re compulsive or forgetful, in either case Jesus knows there’s ego-resistance at work, for the road to the real world means the demise of the ego. Each successfully practiced workbook lesson brings the ego a little further to the background. As long as we still identify with our individual ego-personality, of course there’s going to be resistance. Jesus is very gentle and open with us on this phenomenon: “It is difficult at this point not to allow your mind to wander, if it undertakes extended practice. You  have surely realized this by now. You have seen the extent of your lack of mental discipline, and of your need for mind training. […] Structure, then, is necessary for you at this time, planned to include frequent reminders of your goal and regular attempts to reach it. Regularity in terms of time is not the ideal requirement for the most beneficial form of practice in salvation. It is advantageous, however, for those whose motivation is inconsistent, and who remain heavily defended against learning.” (W-pI.95.4:2-4;6:1) So while rituals are not our aim, regular structured practice periods are ‘beneficial’.

For those of us who tend to frequently forget about the practice periods (which would include virtually all Course students), Jesus calmly, gently yet sternly guides his students back to the ‘groove’ they need to find to once again make progress: “Do not, however, use your lapses from [the] schedule as an excuse not to return to it again as soon as you can. There may well be a temptation to regard the day as lost because you have already failed to do what is required. This should, however, merely be recognized as what it is: a refusal to let your mistake be corrected, and an unwillingness to try again.” (W-pI.95.7:3-5). And, in lesson 40: “You are urged to attempt this schedule and to adhere to it whenever possible. If you forget, try again. If there are long interruptions, try again. Whenever you remember, try again.” (W-pI.40.1:4-7). In other words, forgetfulness is not a sin or an inherent inadequacy; it’s a mistake, born out of the aforementioned resistance, that calls for correction, not for self-punishment or depression.

However, once we get that point, the next step is to realize that we should try to generalize our practice of the lessons to all situations we seem to find ourselves in from day to day. In a sense, you might say that the workbook offers two modes of practice. The first mode of practice happens in the place, usually at home, where you concentrate on reading the instructions and spend the required time to practice what Jesus asks. The second mode, however, comprises all the situations that upset us, in the turmoil of our lives: when we feel fearful, angry, depressed, desperate; whenever we are caught in special relationships. These are the hardest situations to practice the workbook lessons, but it is exactly the successful practice during just such events that will put us well ahead in our mind training.

Jesus elaborates on the importance of our ‘practice during distress‘ in the first review (of the first 50 lessons) in the workbook: “It will be necessary […] that you learn to require no special settings in which to apply what you have learned. You will need your learning most in situations that appear to be upsetting, rather than in those that already seem to be calm and quiet [for example, when reading the workbook lesson]. The purpose of your learning is to enable you to bring the quiet with you, and to heal distress and turmoil. This is not done by avoiding them and seeking a haven of isolation for yourself.” (W-pI.R-I.4:2-5).

At first, this may seem to contradict Jesus’ repeated instructions in several workbook lessons to practice our focus on a ‘haven of meditation’, for example in workbook lesson 44: “Try to sink into your mind, letting go every kind of interference and intrusion by gently sinking past them. Your mind cannot be stopped in this unless you choose to stop it. It is merely taking its natural course. […] While you practice in this way, you leave behind everything you now believe, and all the thoughts that you have made up. Properly speaking, this is the release from hell.” (W-pI.44.7:2-4;5:4-5). This might seem to suggest that we should especially practice in a meditative setting. However, the purpose of this meditative practice is to be able to always find the peace you need, however bad the situation seems to be: “You will yet learn that peace is part of you, and requires only that you be there to embrace any situation in which you are.” (W-pI.R-1.5:1). This certainly includes situations in which we find ourselves in arguments, accusations, sickness, terror, anxiety, you name it.

So Jesus’ meditative instructions are meant to enable us, as decision maker, to choose peace no matter what situation we find ourselves in. Meditation is therefore a means to an end, not a goal in itself. Some students make their meditative ritual into a false god, with a special altar, special candles, or special music. Before they know it, that’s the only place where they believe they can find the peace of God. The purpose of the workbook, however, is to develop the skill to reach and choose this inner peace anytime of the day, in any situation. “And finally you will learn that there is no limit to where you are, so that your peace is everywhere, as you are.” (W-pI.R-1.5:2). As long as we are not yet on such an advanced level, we need structured periods of quiet practice. However, we speed up our learning significantly if we can learn to connect with that inner tranquility in times of turbulence, in spite of the aforementioned resistance that will also be there. Why not try it today?

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

We think we think (2)

What would you say if someone would ask you to describe the nature of your thoughts? Most of us would say it’s the verbal word stream in the brain that we usually are more or less aware of. We take that for granted: “I think, therefore I am” (Descartes). How startling, then, to read in workbook lesson 45 of A Course in Miracles that “Nothing that you think are your real thoughts resemble your real thoughts in any respect.” And a bit before that: “There is no relationship between what is real and what you think is real.” Jesus is bluntly saying that what we think we think are not our real thoughts, and, moreover, that what we think is real is nothing but illusion. That’s pretty radical. What does he mean?

As most Course students are well aware of, the seemingly sleeping one Son of God made up the dream of the physical universe in time, in an attempt to escape from an imagined wrathful God Who is out to punish His Son for the savage sin of trying to separate from Oneness. Ever since the Big Bang, the ego (i.e., the desire to be autonomous) has been in the driver’s seat in the mind of the seemingly fragmented Son of God. Its activity can be described as constant distraction. You and I tend to constantly focus on a zillion things outside of us, instead of turning inward to really see what’s there. That’s purposive. The ego’s greatest fear is that the sleeping Son might become aware of the Voice for Love (In A Course in Miracles He’s called the Holy Spirit) and renounce the ego, time, and space forever. To avoid that, we clutter the mind with senseless things that we feel are very important for our survival and happiness. But are they?

In the same lesson 45, we read: “Under all the senseless thoughts and mad ideas with which you have cluttered up your mind are the thoughts that you thought with God in the beginning [i.e., before the Big Bang]” (W-pI.45.7:1). And, earlier: “You think with the Mind of God. Therefore you share your thoughts with Him, as He shares His with you. […] Therefore, your thoughts are in the Mind of God, as you are. They are in your mind as well, where He is.” (W-pI.45.2:1-2,6-7). That’s not a statement the ego likes to hear, to put it mildly. At a first surface reading, this can cause considerable confusion. If my verbal thoughts are not my real thoughts… if I share my real thoughts with the thoughts of God, Who is literally within me, how should I then picture my real thoughts?

Let’s answer this question in two steps. First of all, if we expand the notion of ‘thinking’ to everything we do in response to a mind impulse, we can see that animals think as well. Of course they do not understand words and do not think verbally; however, as Pursah pointed out in Gary Renard’s latest book “The lifetimes when Jesus and Buddha knew each other”, animals think in pictures. When Gary focused his mind to ‘send’ loving pictures to his cat, she immediately calmed down. I’ve tried this myself while strolling around the neighborhood. I remember one dog (on a leash) who watched to see if I too, perhaps, was taking a dog with me (I wasn’t, I do not own a dog); but I took the opportunity to ‘send’ a blast of inner loving light to the pet. The result was startling. Tail straight up and barking gaily, he attempted vigorously to reach me in an attempt of unconditional embrace. It works from human to human too, by the way. Just try it in any meeting: the energy you emanate from your mind fills the room and noticeably influences the entire atmosphere.

Although this first step brings us a bit closer to the notion of the Thoughts of God, we are not quite there yet. God does not use words; God does not produce pictures. God is synonymous with Love (capital L, to emphasize that Love transcends time and space). Therefore, as our second step, the Mind (or Thoughts) of God can aptly be described as Love. This, and only this, makes up our real thoughts. This may sound terribly simplistic and even boring, but that is the bottom line. “Nothing that you think you see bears any resemblance to what vision will show you. […] Everything you have thought since then [the Big Bang] will change, but the Foundation on which it rests is wholly changeless. […] Here is your mind joined with the Mind of God [i.e., Love].” (W-pI.45.1:5,7:4,8:2).

Most meditation practices are aimed towards slipping past the cluttered verbal thought stream to the silence that lies beyond it. In fact, the practice in workbook lesson 45 is to “try to go past all the unreal thoughts that cover the truth in your mind, and reach to the eternal [i.e., Love].” (W-pI.45.6:3) Merely because the Son of God chose to fall asleep and listen to the constant distractions of the ego to prevent the mind from waking up again, does not mean our real thoughts are gone; that is, the Love of God still remains within the Son’s mind. As Jesus says in chapter 5 of the text: “Both Heaven and earth are in you, because the call of both is in your mind. The Voice for God [Love] comes from your own altars to Him. These altars are not things; they are devotions. Yet you have other devotions now. Your divided devotion has given you the two voices, and you must choose at which altar you want to serve. […] The decision is very simple. It is made on the basis of which call is worth more to you.” (T-5.II.8:5-12)

So this is why we exclaim, just like St. Paul in Jesus’ historic age: “Why is it that I keep doing the things I know I should not do, and I fail to do what I know is right?” This is because of our divided devotion. Somewhere deep inside we realize we yearn for the Love of God more than anything else, but on the other hand… the ‘price’ for that means giving up the cherished individual little self, and we’re not yet willing to do that. So the mind is in constant conflict. A Course in Miracles offers us the way out of this hellish dilemma. It’s called, you guessed it: forgiveness. Not to appease a wrathful God (God cannot be angry because Love cannot be angry), but to forgive ourselves for the silly mistake of falling asleep in an ego dream that doesn’t work. And although forgiveness, needed in time and space, is an illusion itself and therefore not of God, in the world we think we are it is the one thought that points the way out of the dream, because it recognizes the inherent sameness and oneness in everyone and everything, and therefore provides the miracles the Holy Spirit uses to heal the collective mind of the sleeping Son of God.

“God does not forgive because He has never condemned [a quote immortalized, by the way, in the movie “As it is in Heaven”]. And there must be condemnation before forgiveness is necessary. Forgiveness is the great need of this world, but that is because it is a world of illusions. Those who forgive are thus releasing themselves from illusions, while those who withhold forgiveness are binding themselves to them. As you condemn only yourself, so do yo forgive only yourself. Yet although God does not forgive, His Love is nevertheless the basis of forgiveness. Fear condemns and love forgives. Forgiveness thus undoes what fear has [seemingly] produced, returning the mind to the awareness of God [Love]” (W-pI.46-1:1-2:3). So our verbal thoughts turn out to be merely ego distractions, while forgiveness is the way to become aware of the Love that we both have and are, our real thoughts that we share with God. That is why our task is not to seek for love, but only to seek and find all of the barriers that we have built against it. (T-16.IV.6:1) “For this reason, forgiveness can truly be called salvation. It is the means by which illusions disappear.” (W-pI.46.2:4-5). Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst

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

The body that reads he’s not a body (2)

In A Course in Miracles, a mind training curriculum that sets the direction towards the experience of lasting inner peace, its author Jesus faces the challenge of convincing us, who still believe we are a body reading his book, that we are not a body; in fact, that in truth there is no physical world whatsoever (W-pI.132.6.2), and that everything we perceive is no more real than the dreams we dream at night. Clearly, this is one of the reasons Jesus uses so much symbolism and poetic metaphoric language in his Course, for a message this radical does not lend itself well to a purely scientific approach, since by far most of science is itself rooted in the basic assumption that time and space are real; that we can observe and influence the world through well-controlled experiments. Again, in the Course Jesus tries to get his message across that we are not a body, but pure collective spirit, still at home in the Heart of God, though asleep in a nightmare from which we can awaken. It comes down to conveying a purely nondualistic message to a dualistic audience that still identifies itself thoroughly with a body, whether conscious of that or not. How does Jesus try to pull that off?

In chapter 18 of the text, Jesus asks us: “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). Think a while about that! One chapter later, Jesus summarizes the inherent unreality of the physical body: “The body no more dies than it can feel. It does nothing. Of itself it is neither corruptible nor incorruptible. It is nothing.” (T-19.IV-C.5:2-5). To further convince us that we could do very well without the body, he says about his own experience: “I was a man who remembered spirit and his knowledge” (T-3.IV.7:3), and from the manual, where he speaks of himself in the third person: “The name of Jesus is the name of one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God. So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God. The man was an illusion, for he seemed to be a separate being, walking by himself, within a body that appeared to hold his self from Self, as all illusions do. […] In his complete identification with the Christ — the perfect Son of God […] — Jesus became what all of you must be. […] He led the way for you to follow him.” (M-5.2:1-3:2)

Again, the difficult thing about this message that this is a nondualistic message, read by those who still feel that duality is their daily experience. To completely give that up and enter into a completely unknown state is somewhat frightening to imagine, to say the least. Jesus realizes this well, and his teaching is always gentle and patient. Nowhere does Jesus “order” us to give up the body we still cherish so much: “It is almost impossible to deny its existence in the world. Those who do so are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial. […] The body can act wrongly only when it is responding to misthought.” (T-2.IV.3:10-11;2:5). In effect, the Holy Spirit, of which Jesus as author of A Course in Miracles is a manifestation, can use the concept of the body, which was made by the one ego of the one Son of God, to turn the tables on the ego, to point the way out of the dream: “The body was not made by love. Yet love does not condemn it and can use it lovingly, respecting what the Son of God has made and using it to save him from illusions” (T-18.VI.4:7-8). So the body isn’t rejected as something negative, as in many other spiritualities; rather, it becomes a useful tool for learning the Holy Spirit’s lessons of love (T-6.V).

That is also why, although only one teacher of God is necessary to save the world (M-12), this one teacher appears to us as many bodies that remind other bodies of the Alternative, the choice for Love. Jesus explains: “Why is the illusion of many necessary? Only because reality [nonduality] is not understandable to the deluded. Only very few can hear God’s Voice at all […] They need a medium through which communication becomes possible to those who do not realize that they are spirit. A body they can see. A voice they understand and listen to, without the fear that truth [nonduality] would encounter in them. Do not forget that truth can come only where it is welcomed without fear. So God’s teachers need a body, for their unity could not be recognized directly.” (M-12.2:8). This is how Jesus uses duality to bring his message of nonduality across: “This course remains within the ego framework [duality], where it is needed. It is not concerned with what is beyond all error [nonduality], because it is planned only to set the direction towards it.” (C-in.3:1-2)

Nowhere does Jesus push his students to give up the body before his message of nonduality is welcomed without fear. In fact, his focus is always on the mind that ultimately is the cause of the body. That’s why A Course in Miracles is a course in mind training. When the mind is completely healed, the body will cease to be valued, and will merely vanish because it will simply be forgotten, together with everything in time and space (which is why Gary Renard’s first book is called “The disappearance of the universe”). But we’re not there yet: “Our emphasis is now on healing [the mind]. The miracle [through forgiveness] is the means, the Atonement is the principle, and healing is the result.” (T-2.IV.1:1-2; my italics).

True salvation, or the acceptance of the Atonement, is therefore a slow process within the dualistic dream of time and space, which is exactly what we need to handle our fear of renouncing our individuality and autonomy, illusory though they may be: “Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality” (T-16.VI.8:1). In Chapter 27 of the text we read why Jesus emphasizes this: “So fearful is the dream, so seeming real, he [the Son of God] could not waken to reality without the sweat of terror and a scream of mortal fear, unless a gentler dream preceded his awaking, and allowed his calmer mind to welcome, not to fear, the Voice that calls with love to waken him; a gentler dream, in which his suffering was healed and where his brother was his friend. God willed he waken gently and with joy, and gave him means to waken without fear” (T-27.VII.13:4-5).

Realize though, that when you study A Course in Miracles, Jesus is not promising a “better” life to remain in the dualistic dream world of time and space, as many other spiritualities promise. The Course is uncompromising in its metaphysical foundation: lasting inner peace can never be found within a body in the dualistic dream of time and space. Jesus uses poetic dualistic language only to help ready the mind for an honest evaluation of dualism (the ego) versus nondualism (God, being Oneness Love). It may perhaps be comforting to know that salvation is guaranteed. That is, everyone is guaranteed to discard the body sooner or later, not with regret, but with a sigh of relief: “The script is written. When experience will come to end your doubting has been set. For we but see the journey from the point at which it ended, looking back on it, imagining we make it once again; reviewing mentally what has gone by” (W-pI.158.4:3-5).

So whenever you find yourself reading that blue book of Jesus’ mind training curriculum, try to be aware of the nondualistic message he tries to bring across that lies beyond the often beautiful poetic dualistic language. Accept for now that you still identify deeply with a physical body — there’s absolutely no need to feel guilty about that. But following Jesus’ instructions in the text, the workbook and the manual, you can perhaps train your mind in seeing yourself as the formless, abstract, eternal light of Love that all of us are, and which collectively makes up the one Son of God who has in truth never left his Home in the Heart of God. We have not sinned. Our Father loves His Son and wants nothing but His Son. Don’t reject or neglect the body, but bring it ever so slowly a bit more to the background. At the same time, bring the light of oneness slightly more to the foreground. You will find the world around you will light up as well, for your experience of the world around you merely mirrors the state of your own mind.

To conclude with the lovely workbook lesson 190: “My holy brother, think of this awhile: The world you see does nothing. It has no effects at all. It merely represents your thoughts. And it will change entirely as you elect to change your mind, and choose the joy of God as what you really want. Your Self is radiant in this holy joy, unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable, forever and forever. […]  Lay down your arms, and come without defense into the quiet place where Heaven’s peace holds all things still at last. Lay down all thoughts of danger and of fear. Let no attack enter with you. Lay down the cruel sword of judgment that you hold against your throat, and put aside the withering assaults with which you seek to hide your holiness. Here will you understand there is no pain. Here does the joy of God belong to you.” (W-pI.190.6:1-3;9).

Which dream do we want? (2)

In the early workbook lessons 31 and 32 in A Course in Miracles, we read that we are not the victim of the world we see, because we invented it (W-pI.32.1:2). Jesus goes on to state that “You can give it up as easily as you made it up. You will see it or not see it, as you wish.” (W-pI.32.1:3-4). At first, this seems rather odd, if not insulting. Did I make up everything I see in the world news? Did I make up the illness that I see striking the loved ones around me? Did I make up all the things that seem to go terribly wrong in my life? What is Jesus talking about?

In these early workbook lessons, Jesus is subtly and gently introducing the Course’s metaphysics to us. Its strictly nondualistic essence is rather radical to say the least, and needs careful introduction if it is to be accepted to any degree. Consider: according to the Course, the world you and I seem to live in is just as much a dream as our nocturnal dreams are. When we wake up in the morning, we actually wake up to the “waking dream”, which is just as illusory as our nightly dreams. In fact, time and space are themselves unreal. The body was strictly made to experience a life within time and space; it cannot go beyond them. Our essence is therefore not a body, but spirit, outside time and space. Bodies are forms; spirit is content. Although there seem to be billions of bodies (forms), they all emanate from the same content, which is spirit.

To any seemingly separated body living here, this whole story seems preposterous, at least while we are convinced our sensory organs report the truth to us. But is it the truth? Quantum physicists have found that ultimately, both time and space are indeed illusory. But most scientists are still in great resistance to this conclusion, for it ultimately means that many decades of ‘scientific evidence’ will have to be reconsidered, which, again, is way too radical and, since we still trust our sensory organs, lacks any practical application for our daily lives. But the real reason we don’t follow through on that conclusion, according to Jesus in A Course in Miracles,  is that we don’t want to give up this world, since that would mean giving up our perceived individual autonomy of the self we think we are.

Again speaking from a nondualistic metaphysical point of view, the cause of the world was the “tiny, mad idea” (T-27.VIII.6:2-3) of wanting to be on our own, separate from the Oneness Love which is God. We, as Christ, the One Son of God, are the effect of that Love. The “tiny, mad idea” is the quantum possibility of the One Son of God musing about how it would be to not be an effect, but to be a creator himself; to be on his own. At that point consciousness was born and the ego with it. The ego is not some evil entity on its own. The ego is merely the thought system of separation, of individuality, and therefore of attack on oneness, which the One Son of God seemed to consider seriously. When the Son realized the consequences of this seriousness, his mind was flooded with guilt. Deathly afraid of the perceived wrath of God the Creator, the terrified amnesiac Son of God followed the advice of the ego to fragment into billions of pieces, to hide from the vengeful Creator. This caused the Big Bang and the beginning of the dream of time and space.

So when Jesus says we invented the world we see, in one sense he means this literally: every separated form we see around us is but part of the ‘waking dream’ in which we invented to hide in a myriad of forms so God cannot find us and punish us. But here’s the trick: since the Son of God finds the guilt over his heinous ‘sin of separation‘ too terrible to face, he projects this away, so that all evil now seems to be outside him. So every fragmented form in the dream of time and space thinks that sin and guilt are in everyone and everything else. Consequently, anything and anyone can attack the innocent little I, and so each of us walks this dream-like planet “uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T-31.VIII.7:1). That’s why the Course describes the making of this world as an attack on God (W-pII.3.2:1), and summarizes it as a veritable hell (P.2.IV.3:1) — a hell, mind you, that we made up, and which remains nothing more than a dream (a nightmare really), from which we could choose to awaken as soon as we want to.

One of the most confronting aspects of A Course in Miracles is Jesus’ message that this world — this hell — was not thrust upon us: we wanted it and we made it; we still want it; we still make it; we still choose it. This is the ego’s strategy of maintaining the illusion of separation from God, but having all others but me be responsible for it: “The world you see depicts exactly what you thought you did. Except that now you think that what you did is being done to you. The guilt for what you thought is being placed outside yourself… […] But once deluded into blaming them you will not see the cause of what they do, because you want the guilt to rest on them” (T-27.VIII.7:2-4; 8:2). At least I can keep up the illusion that I am an innocent separated individual, not to be punished by God.

So when Jesus says we invented the world we see, he means this also in the sense that “I have invented my perception of the world I see”. I’ve chosen to interpret the world as guilty, hostile, and poised to attack me as an innocent individual — in short, I’ve chosen the ego as my guide in the world. And precisely because my interpretation is my choice, my mind is able to choose another interpretation. This freedom of choice is my only hope of finding a way out of pain, a way out of the dream, out of time and space, and back to my true inheritance as an effect of the oneness Love of God. The way out of the nightmare is to change my perception of the world, by choosing another Teacher, Who fortunately came with us into the dream of time and space, since our link with God can never be broken .

This other Teacher is called the Holy Spirit in A Course in Miracles. In the workbook, He is more or less introduced in lesson 34: “I could see peace instead of this”. The lesson’s title might as easily have been: “I could see The Holy Spirit instead of this”, or “I could see God’s Love instead of this”, or “I could see Jesus instead of this” — these are all expressions of the same content. As soon as I realize that the world is not being done to me, but I (as holographic part of the sleeping Son of God) am the dreamer of this dream of time and space, I can withdraw my investment in the myriad of forms, and focus on the content in my mind. And this content is always either fear (ego) or love (Holy Spirit). Instead of seeing guilt, hate, attack and pain all around me (which is a sure sign that I also unconsciously think this is within myself, my conscious thoughts to the contrary), I could choose to see past the forms to the loving content of light that’s the essence of all that I perceive. This is what Jesus calls true perception.  And this is a choice — the most important choice to be made in this life.

“It is from your peace of mind that a peaceful perception of the world arises.” (W-pI.34.1:4). That is why A Course in Miracles is a curriculum in mind training (T-1.VII.4:1). Our mind is usually not very much at peace, but this need not be (T-4.IV.1). A peaceful mind is a choice, and A Course in Miracles can be a useful aid in training the mind in true perception and find peace. Now, this inner peace will certainly not immediately put an end to all the horrors we see on the world news. But instead of believing in the reality of the dream and trying to fix the dream (which will never work because it doesn’t solve the cause of the world), we could learn to think beyond the dream and once again identify with the Holy Spirit, the Voice for God’s Love, which is our true inheritance. If I want to experience any measure of peace in my life, I will have to start with my self, that is, within my mind, and not hope for something external to magically bring me peace. Remember: “Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world” (T-21.in.1:7).

Changing my mind about the world results in true perception and ushers in the real world, which is still within the dream world of time and space, but doesn’t breed any more separation, guilt, and fear. How’s that for motivation? As you practice this new perception (through your daily practice of A Course in Miracles), you become a light of love in this world that shines away the darkness of uncertainty, loneliness, and constant fear. And this will not go unnoticed: emanating peace results in peacefulness around you. Which dream would you choose; that is: which teacher would you choose in this dream world? This is ultimately the only remaining freedom of choice in this dream world. Choose wisely, in spite of doubts and fears. “Concentrate only on this [your willingness to choose another teacher], and do not be disturbed that shadows surround it. That is why you came. If you could come without them you would not need the holy instant [of choosing Love once again]” (T-18.IV.2:4-6).

See also “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles“. This guidebook, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com:


Organized fear in the dream

In less than a year’s time, the entire world seems to have been transformed in a place of heightened anxiety. Billions of people are mortally afraid their lives may be snuffed out by a monstrous virus we have never seen the likes of before. Although an increasingly growing group of scientists assure us that the mass hysteria is utterly disproportionate (currently, in all countries over 99,9% of the population survives, and the mortality rate has now dropped significantly), many governments seem to stimulate the mass fear, possibly driven by economic motives as dictated to them by Big Pharma or the World Economic Forum. Or so the ‘conspiracy theorists’ among us argue.

From the perspective of A Course in Miracles, it is totally irrelevant whether or not the mass hysteria is organized or not. In the seventeenth century, when the letterpress allowed for the wide dissemination of knowledge, governments viciously attempted to stop people from reading books, as this could undermine their comfortable position of power. Forms shift and change throughout the ages, but the underlying content always remains the same: we made this world to be a place of fear, a place “where God [Love] could enter not” (W-pII.3.2:4). Why? Because all fear is but a shadowy reflection of the original fear of the seemingly sleeping Son of God Who hallucinated (just before the Big Bang) that the Unity of Oneness had been shattered. The cause? Merely His silly wish to be autonomous, thereby negating the very definition of Oneness. Thus was the ego born, and time and space with it. Or so we believe.

In a verily insane association, the ego needs the ongoing awareness of fear, just to be able to constantly ‘prove’ that the separation from Oneness has actually occurred: all seemingly separated fragments are actually on their own in a world that is unmistakably real. After all, you and I see with our very own eyes that bodies are attacked; they are hurt and wounded, and they die. Who would be so foolhardy as to deny that this frail body is all you and I have, and that we need to guard and protect it with any means we can muster, no matter how fallible these means are? Answer: Jesus does, by the four infuriating words: “And God thinks otherwise” (T-23.I.2:7).

In A Course in Miracles, Jesus has the formidable task of teaching us the difference between what is true and what is a hallucination. True to its nondualistic metaphysical foundation, the Course regards everything in time and space as an illusion. Therefore, our bodies and our personalities are ultimately not real. “What if you recognized this world is an hallucination? What if you really understood you made it up? What if you realized that those who seem to walk about in it, to sin and die, attack and murder an destroy themselves, are wholly unreal? Could you have faith in what you see, if you accepted this?” (T-20.VIII.7:3-7).

The answer, of course, is “No; if I accepted this, I would gently smile about the silliness of the time-space dream I perceive around me”. The problem is that we still like to cling to our bodies, to have this “little mound of clay” (T-19.IV-B.4:8) be our home, because we still like to try to attain divine autonomy all on our own, apart from our very Source and Creator. You and I have been trying this for many, many lifetimes on end. Of course, we have never found it, because an illusion remains an illusion, no matter how convinced we are we wake up to reality each morning. Jesus teaches us otherwise: “What you seem to waken to is but another form of this same world you see in dreams. 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 [Oneness], and your fixed and insane idea that you can change it” (T-18.II.5:12-15).

According to A Course in Miracles, the truth of the matter is that you and I are the same pure spirit, yearning to return the Oneness we believe we left. Reminiscent of Buddhism, Jesus teaches us our true goal in life is to undo all our false beliefs in separation, sin, guilt and fear, and accept once again our true Identity as the One Son of God, ending all individuality, all time and all space forever. In the Course this is called the acceptance of the Atonement. This is the great awakening from the dream of time and space. And although this may seem to require many, many centuries for all seemingly separated souls to accept his, to Jesus time is utterly irrelevant. The outcome is certain: time and space will have an end (W-pII.2.I:3-4), and all life will return to the Oneness it never truly left.

Importantly, Jesus does not ask of us to deny or repress what our senses behold in this dream world. But he does plead with us to interpret it differently. This effectively means he asks us to choose another Teacher to interpret what we behold, for the world I perceive is always merely an effect of the quality of my thoughts. “If the cause of the world you see is attack thoughts, you must learn that it is these thoughts which you do not want. […] There is no point in trying to change the world. It is incapable of change because it is merely an effect. But there is indeed a point in changing your thoughts about the world. Here you are changing the cause. The effect will change automatically.” (W-pI.17.2)

In other words, it’s no use attempting to fight the current wave of fear, whether it is organized fear or not. However, this does not by definition mean that you and I just sit by and do nothing, while still experiencing fear. A Course in Miracles calls on us simply to switch teachers: stop living on ego auto-pilot, and ask the Holy Spirit (the Voice for Love) what to think, say and do instead. This loving intuitive Inner Teacher may perhaps call on you be very active in this world to lovingly help ameliorate the sufferings of many fear-filled people. Whatever it is, choose to listen to His Voice!

But how do you know it’s the Voice for Love and not the ego in disguise? Just be sure that your guide makes you aware of inner peace inside. If you feel an urge, or even ecstasy, that’s usually the ego. On In contrast, a calm, loving inner peace is always the sure sign that whatever you are directed to think, say or do will result in the best outcome for everyone. So practice the attainment of inner peace today by quietly consulting your Inner Teacher. To conclude with an oft-quoted Course quote: “Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world” (T-21.in.1:7). Happy practicing!

— Jan-Willem van Aalst, November 2020

Stop fearing and fighting the world (2)

In our lives, we are constantly looking for ways to minimize pain and to maximize pleasure. These are the basic motivating drives in all living things. We attempt to meet these needs by manipulating — or at least adjusting to — a world external to us. And although at some level we grudgingly admit that we will never wholly succeed, as there will always be some form of pain to perturb our pleasure, we stubbornly soldier on, accepting this as a ‘fact of life’. In stark contrast, A Course in Miracles teaches us that “this need not be” (T-4.IV). In fact, Jesus assures us that we can leave all pain behind, not by changing the world, but simply through forgiveness. How could this be?

In the Course’s Workbook, lesson 23 states that “I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts.” When Jesus uses the word ‘world’, he equates this to a place of fear, anger, depression, hate, vengeance; in short: pain. Although we may sometimes experience the world as beautiful, wonderful, and blissful, sooner or later we realize that this does not last. Eventually, nothing in this world lasts. Even the most solid mountain ranges will eventually crumble. Beneath each fleeting perception of happiness, deep inside we realize that pain is never far away. Why is this so? Fasten your seat belt as Jesus puts the ultimate truth to us: We made this world as an attack on God. (W-pII.3.2:1). I challenge you to find a spirituality that proclaims this very same message!

The ‘we’ is the collective mind of the sleeping Son of God, who (metaphorically) considered the idea of what it would be like to be separate from his Creator. In taking this silly notion seriously, consciousness (and the ego with it ) seemed to come into existence: the Son being aware of himself and of something else (his Father). Guilt floods the mind of the Son over having shattered the oneness of eternity (or so he hallucinates). The ego counsels the Son to hide from the Creator through further separation, that is, by fragmenting into billions and billions of splintered bits, which we now know as the Big Bang and the origin of the material universe. Therefore, everything our senses behold is no more and no less than an effect of this fearful fragmentation, which is in turn an effect of the guilt and fear resulting from our imagined attack on God.

A Course in Miracles is a purely nondualistic spirituality, in that nonduality is defined as the only true reality. Nothing in the universe, including time itself, could ever have happened, and therefore never truly happened. Everything in time and space is but a silly dream, fearful though it may seem. The world we experience ourselves in therefore does not really exist! In the Workbook, Jesus puts it this way: “Each of your perceptions of ‘external reality’ is a pictorial representation of your own attack thoughts.” (W-pI.23.3:2); and, from the text: “It [the world] is the witness to your state of mind; the outside picture of an inward condition.” (T-21.in.1:5). We have therefore made (i.e., imagined) the world we experience, in an attempt to remain separate from God, cherishing our ‘autonomy’. These teachings put the responsibility for the pain and pleasure you and I experience, straight in our own hands! Why is this so?

Jesus explains: “If the cause of the world you see is attack thoughts, you must learn that it is these thoughts which you do not want. There is no point in lamenting the world. There is no point in trying to change the world. It is incapable of change because it is merely an effect. But there is indeed a point in changing your thoughts about the world. Here you are changing the cause. The effect will change automatically.” (W-pI.23.2). Again, this is because we did not come into the world unbidden; we made up this world in our crazy notion we had to hide from a vengeful God Who would most certainly punish us for our attack of separation. Jesus comforts us: “Nothing more fearful than an idle dream has terrified God’s Son, and made him think that he has lost his innocence, denied his Father, and made war upon himself.” (T-27.VII.13:3)

Jesus teaches us that the only reason we perceive attack, hate, and pain, is because we chose to have such thoughts in the mind. “It is with your thoughts, then, that we must work.” (W-pI.23.1:5). A Course in Miracles explains to us that we really only have two types of thoughts: either loving thoughts or non-loving thoughts. Consequently, there are only two teachers for our thoughts that we can choose to listen to: either the Voice for Love (called the Holy Spirit) or the Voice for fear (the ego).  Jesus tries to make us see that we can indeed undo all the pain in our lives, merely by giving up attack thoughts, thereby undoing the ego. We do this simply by consistently choosing to listen to another teacher: the Voice for Love.

Well, to say “simply” is not really fair. The principle may be simple, but following through is extremely difficult. Why? Because although we want the happiness that Jesus promises us, we want it as an ego-individual. Attaining the promised state of happiness means we must choose to relinquish our very personality and individuality, and that is sort of frightening, to put it mildly. We may tell ourselves rationally that it will be great, because it means returning back to the unchanging eternity of nonduality, where there is only Love that never fades, but in our gut we still cling to this material life on earth, as the ego tells us this is all we have. To avoid spiritual discouragement, Jesus promises that spiritual awakening is a slow process that need not be painful or frightening: “So fearful is the dream, so seeming real, he [i.e., the Son of God; all of us] could not waken to reality without the sweat of terror and a scream of mortal fear, unless a gentler dream preceded his awaking, and allowed his calmer mind to welcome, not to fear, the Voice that calls with love to waken him. […] God willed he waken gently and with joy, and gave him means to waken without fear.” (T-27.VII.13:3-5)

The means constitute the practice of forgiveness of every dark spot that we still cling to in our unforgiving mind. This curriculum is called A Course in Miracles because the miracle is the realization that you and I are the dreamer of the dream we call the world, that we are doing all of this unto ourselves (T-27.VIII.10:1). We are not victims! By consistently choosing the Teacher of Love (i.e., the Holy Spirit, or Jesus, as his manifestation) we can gradually undo all the fear and pain in our lives. Again, this puts the responsibility for the happiness in our lives solely in our own hands: “The correction of fear is your responsibility. When you ask for release from fear, you are implying that it is not. You should ask, instead, for help in the conditions that have brought the fear about. These conditions always entail a willingness to be separate.” (T-2.VI.4:1-3). Practicing forgiveness means choosing to overlook all the silly forms in the world and accept the content of love and shared interests in everyone — including yourself! — as the focus of your mind.

This Course does not ask us to deny what we see on the world news. There will still be crime, fear and misery everywhere. We still need courtrooms and prisons. We still need medicine to ease acute physical pain. The Course simply calls on us to realize that all perception of pain calls for forgiveness, not for anger, fear, or depression. To once again cite one of the most oft-quoted lines in the Course: “Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world” (T-21.In.1:7). Any darkness I perceive around me has nothing to do with anything or anyone around me: it is merely a sure sign of a dark spot in my own mind. This is where the work needs to be done. How could you save the world if you cannot even master the darkness in your own mind?

A Course in Miracles is a course in mind training. It is not a Course in Love, but a Course in finding and undoing all the barriers that we have built against Love (T-16.IV.6). Jesus continually reminds us that we can find lasting happiness, if we bring our attention back from fearing and fighting the world (the outside) to examining our thoughts (the inside) and allowing Jesus, as manifestation of the Voice for Love, to gradually and gently undo all this pain and darkness for us. So resign as your own teacher (T-12.V.8:3) and choose to identify once again with your own inheritance: pure love. Be vigilant only for God and His Kingdom [that is, Love] (T-6.V-C). “Teach only Love, for that is what you are” (T-6.III.2:5). Your experience of the world and of your life will change accordingly.

See also “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles“. This guidebook, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com:


So much, for so little (2)

In order to motivate his students to seriously study and apply the mind training for inner peace he offers in A Course in Miracles, Jesus promotes his curriculum by stating that “This course requires almost nothing of you. It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more.” (T-20.VII.1:7-8). What the Course offers us is lasting inner peace. This leads the mind to what Jesus calls the real world; free of sin, guilt, and fear. This is the preparation for the experience of Heaven, or nonduality. However, a few chapters later Jesus tells us bluntly that “To learn this course requires a willingness to question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning.” (T-24.in.2:1-2). So is Jesus tricking us? What does he mean?

All good teachers know that they’ll motivate their students best by emphasizing much-desired rewards. And Jesus does this brilliantly. Here’s an example, wherein he refers to the “plan” of the Holy Spirit for our salvation: “Once you accept His plan as the one function that you would fulfill [i.e., forgiveness], there will be nothing else the Holy Spirit will not arrange for you, without your effort. He will go before you making straight your path, and leaving in your way no stones to trip on, and no obstacles to bar your way. Nothing you need will be denied you. Not one seeming difficulty but will melt away before you reach it. You need take thought for nothing, careless of everything except the only purpose that you would fulfill.” (T-20-IV.8:4-9). And, from the workbook: “What could you not accept, if you but knew that everything that happens, all events, past, present and to come, are gently planned by One Whose only purpose is your good? Perhaps you have misunderstood His plan, for He would never offer pain to you.” (W-pI.135.18:1-2)

The trick, then, is to realize that Jesus’ Course delivers the promised rewards (in the way he describes them) only once we truly want to learn it. A part of our mind does want to learn his Course, otherwise we would not be studying this blue book and attempting to apply its lessons in our everyday lives. But once we slowly start to realize the ultimate consequence of accepting the guidance of the Holy Spirit, namely: the disappearance of our personality, the body, the world and the universe, we experience a slight twinge of resistance, to put it mildly. We start to self-sabotage our study and practice: “In addition to recognizing your difficulties with sustained attention, you must have noticed that, unless you are reminded of your purpose frequently, you tend to forget about it for long periods of time. […] There may well be a temptation to regard the day as lost because you have already failed to do what is required. This should, however, merely be recognized as what it is: a refusal to let your mistake be corrected, and an unwillingness to try again.” (W-pI.95.5:2-7:5)

So what a lot of students of A Course in Miracles do, is start to blame themselves for being such a poorly motivated student; they determine to try harder this day, and still harder the next day. In short, they start to fight their ego, and their much-desired inner peace is farther away than ever. Such students would do well to re-read section VII in chapter 18, called “I need do nothing”: “You need but to remember you need do nothing. It would be far more profitable now merely to concentrate on this than to consider what you should do. […] It is extremely difficult to reach Atonement by fighting against sin. Enormous effort is expended in the attempt to make holy what is hated and despised [the body].” (T-18.VII.5:5-6;4:7-8). A bit further on, Jesus explains the relationship between the body and our resistance to learn his course: “To do anything involves the body. And if you recognize you need do nothing, you have withdrawn the body’s value from your mind. Here is the quick and open door through which you slip past centuries of effort [of doing things with the body], and escape from time. This is the way in which sin loses all attraction right now.” (T18.VII.7:1-4).

Jesus italicizes “right now” to remind us that our notion of time is a hindrance to our acceptance of his teaching: “It is impossible to accept the holy instant without reservation unless, just for an instant, you are willing to see no past or future. Release is given you the instant you desire it.” (T-18.VII.4:1-2). At this point it may be helpful to remember the metaphysical basis of A Course in Miracles that time and space, the world and our body were not thrust upon us unwillingly: the seemingly sleeping Son of God made these, listening to the seductive lies of the ego, to keep us rooted in the illusion that we could be separate from our Creator, seemingly existing on our own as an autonomous individual. The ego convinces us that the future will be based on what we experienced in the past. It seeks to avoid the now, for only in the now are we able to reconsider the choice for the ego in the ontological instant, and choose once again the Holy Spirit, the Voice for God. To repeat: since this would ultimately mean the end of our personality, of the body, the world and the universe — in short: the end of the ego — we continually focus on externals, since our individual identity is the very last thing we would want to let go of.

Jesus invites us to reconsider this: “There is one thing that you have never done; you have not utterly forgotten the body. […] You still have too much faith in the body as a source of strength. What plans do you make that do not involve its comfort or protection or enjoyment in some way? […] You are not asked to let this happen [forgetting about the body] for more than an instant, yet it is in this instant that the miracle of Atonement happens.” (T-18.VII.1-2). So the statement “I need do nothing” refers to our bodily actions in the world of time and space. By shifting our focus from externals (the world, the body, time) to the inner world of the mind, we could realize — and experience! — that if we but allow our thoughts to be guided by the Holy Spirit, life indeed flows much more easily. And the Holy Spirit is not likely to lead you to a solitary life in a mountain cave, renouncing the world — He is far more likely to guide you through a very busy life, with ample opportunities to forgive.

We overcome our tremendous resistance to making this choice to “resign as our own teacher” (T-12.V.8:3) not by fighting the ego, but by being kind to ourselves: “When you fail to comply with the requirements of this course, you have merely made a mistake. This calls for correction, and nothing else. […] Let all these errors go by, recognizing them for what they are. They are attempts to keep you unaware you are one Self, united with your Creator, at one with every aspect of creation, and limitless in power and in peace. This is the truth, and nothing else is true.” (W-pI.95.9:1-10:3). So what should be our focus? “Let us therefore be determined […] to be willing to forgive ourselves for our lapses in diligence, and our failures to follow the instructions for practicing the day’s idea. This tolerance for weakness will enable us to overlook it, rather than give it power to delay our learning.” (W-pI.95.8:3-4; my italics). Could you imagine a gentler spiritual teacher than this?

So this is why Jesus comforts us that “I need do nothing” amounts to “Concentrate only on this [the willingness to be guided], and be not disturbed that shadows surround you. That is why you came. If you could come without them you would not need the holy instant. Come to it not in arrogance, assuming that you must achieve the state its coming brings with it.” (T-18.IV.2:4-7). And also, in the manual: “Do not despair, then, because of limitations [our perception that we are not good enough]. It is your function to escape from them, but not to be without them.” (M-26.4:1-2). This course indeed requires almost nothing of us. Again, “It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more.” Yes, we must be willing to learn it, but we must especially be willing to forgive ourselves for not being wholly perfect and fully dedicated right away. Learning this course is a process, which takes time, as long as we believe we exist in time. Rather than hitting yourself over the head with a guilt trip each time you notice you sabotage yourself, remember the characteristics of God’s teachers: trust; honesty; tolerance; gentleness; joy; defenselessness; generosity; patience; faithfulness, and open-mindedness. Forgive yourself for still thinking you are a human body. Decide to accept the gentle correction of the Holy Spirit, and rest in his loving guiding arms, and happily realize: “I need do nothing.” The more you forgive yourself, the easier your life’s events will flow. Are you willing to forgive yourself yet?

— Note: While I am in the process of writing my next book, I may be revisiting some previous blogs. This one was written in January, 2018.

The misty monster inside (2)

An important reason why many people give up on their study and practice of A Course in Miracles is that this is not your everyday “feel-good spirituality”. In fact, scholar Ken Wapnick once said that to the ego this spiritual curriculum is a horror story, as it signifies its inevitable demise. This is because A Course in Miracles teaches us how to look at the darkness of the large chunk of the mind’s ‘underwater’ part of the iceberg, together with The Holy Spirit, and how we can learn to allow the Holy Spirit to shine that darkness away forever. In other words, unlike most spiritualities, A Course in Miracles does not teach us to deny or ignore the darkness inside the mind; it rather teaches us to look at it and evaluate it correctly, after which it may gently be undone. Still, we have to be willing to look first. This engenders tremendous resistance, since we are all afraid of what we might find should we truly look at the unconscious, which is unconscious because we are too fearful to allow it into awareness.

To make his students realize just how fearful they are of this large chunk of their mind ‘below the watershed’, Jesus uses some rather forceful language: “You think you are the home of evil, darkness and sin. You think if anyone could see the truth about you he would be repelled, recoiling from you as if from a poisonous snake. You think if what is true about you were revealed to you, you would be struck with horror so intense that you would rush to death by your own hand, living on after seeing this being impossible.” (W-pI.93.1). Jesus is serious about this. And although in the same lesson Jesus explains to us that this horrid image of self is an illusion, since our “sinlessness is guaranteed by God” (W-pI.93.6:1), we nevertheless cannot undo these beliefs if we do not honestly examine them, together with him. “No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected. […] We are ready to look more closely at the ego’s thought system because together we have the lamp that will dispel it, and since you realize you do not want it, you must be ready. Let us be very calm in doing this, for we are merely looking honestly for truth.” (T-11.V.1:1-4).

Again, many students do not recognize themselves at all in this frightening description of self. On the contrary, they see themselves as kind, loving beings who are learning to focus solely on love, and sharing that. After all, in the very same Course Jesus also says: “Teach only love, for that is what you are.” (T-6.III.2:4). While this is true, this doesn’t mean that we already fully believe this about ourselves, certainly not unconsciously. Spending your days repeating blissful affirmations about the love that you are, without examining the dark unconscious beliefs Jesus talks about, is like ignoring your garden while you keep saying to yourself: “There’s no weeds, there’s no weeds, there’s no weeds.” And guess what? They’ll take your garden! An infallible test for assessing just how much darkness still lurks in your mind is in writing down a list of all the little dislikes, irritations, regrets and rejections you manifest during the day. Even the smallest annoyance offers a valuable message. Remember, “A slight twinge of annoyance is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury.”(W-pI.21.2:5) Just try it for at least one day; you’ll be surprised. The key point in this exercise, by the way, is not to feel guilty or dismayed by seeing more items on the list than you had expected, concluding that you are such a lousy spiritual aspirant.

Then, of course, there are those unfortunate students who pretend to see nothing negative at all in the world, and do not allow any negative interpretation to come into awareness. As Ken Wapnick has emphasized in many a workshop, such an attitude is really born of double denial; first, the denial of the misery of the world, and secondly the denial of the fact that the world is merely a projection — a mirror if you will — of what’s in the mind, which is where the world’s misery actually resides. If we refuse to see this misery, the Holy Spirit has no classroom to bring us the forgiveness lessons that truly heal the mind. As Ken Wapnick notes in The message of A Course in Miracles: “Teachers are rendered superfluous if there is no classroom for their students, and no curriculum to teach them. The sorrow of the world we made as a substitute for God is the very classroom Jesus uses, that he may instruct us through the curriculum of our special relationships how the world reflects the real problem of our minds’ decision for guilt and individuality.” (pI, p.178). This way, I’ll never get to the turning point where I exclaim that “there must be a better way”. Twenty years from now I’ll unhappily conclude that I still have an ego. Workbook lesson 135 puts it this way: “You merely take away the hope of healing, for you fail to see where hope must lie [i.e., in the mind].” (W-pI.135.10:5)

A Course in Miracles therefore urges us not to deny any negativity that we feel, however small it may seem. Rather, we should pay careful attention to it, from ‘above the battleground’. The smallest annoyance I become aware of can be reinterpreted as yet another forgiveness lesson offered me by the Holy Spirit. If I can catch myself before I live it out, and instead ask the Holy Spirit: “I am making a mistake. Please help me look at this differently“, I am undoing condemnation, which is the invitation for love to take its rightful place in the mind. This is why A Course in Miracles in so many places stresses the importance of our special relationships: with people, with hobbies, with possessions, you name it. These can act as the royal road to the dark kingdom of the subconscious mind. Of this kingdom, Jesus reflects back to us how we feel about it: “At times, it does not seem I am its king at all. It seems to triumph over me, and tell me what to think, and what to do and feel.” (W-pII.236.1:2). This is because we have rendered it unconscious, believing we have (and are!) a monster inside, ultimately because in the ontological unholy instant we sinned by attempting to separate from God, and pushing the guilt over that sin out of awareness, because it is too horrible to face.

A Course in Miracles shows us that, indeed, you and I do believe we have a monster inside, but this monster is made solely of mist: it’s a flimsy veil which we constructed out of our horror over a sin which never happened. Therefore, the same mind that made the veil can decide to end its investment in it. Jesus cannot do this for us, but with his help, our work of undoing it cannot fail to succeed. Many Course students know the following prayer by heart: “I must have decided wrongly, because I am not at peace. I made the decision myself, but I can also decide otherwise.  I want to decide otherwise, because I want to be at peace. I do not feel guilty, because the Holy Spirit will undo all the consequences of my wrong decision if I will let Him. I choose to let Him, by allowing Him to decide for God for me.” (T-30.XII.6:7-10) “Be very firm with yourself in this [prayer] and keep yourself fully aware that the undoing process, which does not come from you, is nevertheless within you because God placed it there. Your part is merely to return your thinking to the point at which the error was made, and give it over to the Atonement in peace.” (T-30.XII.6:1-2).

To conclude: A Course in Miracles is a spirituality that goes way deeper than just having you focus superficially on the love and oneness in yourself, in others, in everything. While this is a focus towards the truth, you and I will not truly awaken if we do not honestly examine, with the Holy Spirit’s help, the secret sins and hidden hates that we have pushed ‘underwater’ out of awareness. Spiritual awakening does not come from ignoring the misty monster inside “because it is illusory anyway”. Awakening comes from shining the mist (Jesus uses the word ‘clouds’) away with the lamp that we hold together with Jesus: “Since all illusions of salvation have failed you, surely you do not want to remain in the clouds, looking vainly for idols there, when you could so easily walk on into the light of real salvation. Try to pass the clouds by whatever means appeals to you. If it helps you, think of me holding your hand and leading you. And I assure you this will be no idle fantasy. […] Remind yourself that your salvation comes from you, and nothing but your own thoughts can hamper your progress. […] You are in charge of your salvation.” (W-pI.70.10)

— Note: While I am in the process of writing my next book, I may be revisiting some previous blogs. This one was written in December, 2017.

Fear as a classroom

The world appears to be duly immersed in the fear of the Covid-19 virus. After a relatively quiet summer, with few infections, the emotions in the public debate are sharply on the rise again, which only seems to polarize the already painful oppositions in the society even more. These emotions are not just about the virus itself; they’re as much about the strategy the government employs to cope with the crisis, and the possible effects of that strategy. Some say that the government should go much further in rigorous measures, while others claim that the government is merely keeping folks in a state of fear, driven by a pharmaceutical agenda. In both cases, people are extremely worried about the economic and humanitarian consequences that we are all facing, even to such an extent that the ‘cure’ (the rigorous measures) may be worse than the disease (the virus). In short, the world is engulfed in uncertainty and fear, to an extent we have not seen since the second world war.

It is not the intention of this blog to ventilate a particular point of view about all this. For one, it is obvious that corona is a very nasty illness, with very nasty symptoms with those with an already weakened immune system. At the same time, the death ratio turns out to be much lower than the initial horror scenarios would have us believe (at this point, still less than 0.1% of the population), while the influenza death toll appears to be much lower than in previous years. In the Netherlands, each day there are over 200 deaths due to the most common diseases such as heart and vascular disease, lung cancer, heart failure, dementia, strokes, etcetera. Deaths due to corona now slightly contribute to that number, while the ‘missing’ influenza deaths remain to be re-identified. Still, the specter of corona indicating an extremely painful ending of your life has become a firmly fixed notion, further fueling the disruption of society.

From the perspective of A Course in Miracles, this is all part of the same ‘waking dream’, which is wholly illusory. The Course teaches us that you and I are not a body; we are pure spirit, and literally nothing in the world of time and space is able to change that Identity as the Son of God in the least. In other words, according to the Course, there is no reason to have any fear whatsoever about anything (W-pI.48); not in the past, not in the future, not ever. As a spirit, everyone is perfectly safe by definition. Still, although these may be inspiring and comforting words, almost all Course students still intimately identify with the little separated ego self, meaning that we still intimately identify with our body, at least for the major part of the day. We may consistently tell ourselves: “I am not a body. I am free. For I am still as God created me” (W-pI.201-220), but at the same time we still see our body age and deteriorate, and we try to postpone death as long as possible.

In A Course in Miracles, Jesus explains that we, being the One Son of God, made this all up to be able to have a place “where God can enter not”, where we can experience ourselves as an autonomous individual, while at the same time being able to hide from the purported wrath of a vengeful God, which in reality does not exist. So in the text, Jesus asks us: “Do you like what you have made? — a world of murder and attack, through which you thread your timid way through constant dangers, alone and frightened, hoping at most that death will wait a little longer before it overtakes you and you disappear. You made this up. It is a picture of what you think you are; of how you see yourself. […] All these are but the fearful thoughts of those who would adjust themselves to a world made fearful by their adjustments” (T-20.III.4:2-6). Everything in the world is but a dream that mirrors the idea of separation, attack and death that is the ego.

Already early in the text of the Course, Jesus lets us know he does not demand we deny our existence in the waking dream of time and space; that would be “a particularly unworthy form of denial” (T-2.IV.3:11). As long as we still unconsciously believe that our body is our identity (which is the case for everyone who wakes up each morning in a body), it is a good idea to take good care of the body. Jesus does not even object to the use of medicine to alleviate pain (T-2.IV.4). What’s more, the body can be lovingly employed by the Holy Spirit, the Voice for Love, to manifest Jesus’ message in this dream world, if we choose to let Him. As we read in the workbook: “You are my voice, my eyes, my feet, my hands, through which I save the world” (W–pI.rV.in.9:2-3). So we can use the body as an instrument of salvation.

By placing my thoughts under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (i.e., focusing my attention on loving intuition), everything in this ‘waking dream’ becomes a lesson in love. Since in reality there is no world outside of me, and there is no-one else (and no viruses), everything I perceive and interpret mirrors how I perceive and interpret myself: either as a son of the ego in a frightening world, or as the Son of God in a dream in which we all share the same Light source. This Light is our essence as Christ, the one Son of God. By choosing to have my interpretation of everything I perceive outside of me be guided by the Holy Spirit, I eventually learn to interpret myself in that Light. Eventually this will lead to my acceptance of the Atonement.

So from the perspective of A Course in Miracles, the best thing we can do in these turbulent days of societal fear is non-judgmentally looking at our own interpretation of what we perceive and interpret around is. And as soon as we notice, despite our best intentions, that we start to judge again, we can now kindly thank the ego for that, and then quickly hand that judgment over to the Holy Spirit, instead of indulging in it or feel terribly guilty about it, which is what happens with many Course students. Guilt keeps the ego going, including our fear of a terrible ending of our fragile life here on earth. The end of guilt signifies the end of fear, and ultimately the end of the dream.

Choose to be a beacon of peace. Do not condemn any worldly opinion about this virus whatsoever. Know that a dream is a dream is a dream, and choose to have your thoughts and behavior be guided by the Holy Spirit, the Voice for Love, by taking a step back and following your loving intuition. This, by the way, does not mean at all that you become indifferent to the world. On the contrary, you can be very involved with the world on a daily basis helping people. Jus ask what Love would do. Whatever the form this help might take, you will offer everyone you meet the most beautiful gift imaginable: acceptance of the other (and therefore also of yourself) as the guiltless Son of God Who is safe forever. Seen this way, all fear is but a classroom in which we learn our lessons in love.

See also my “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles“. This guidebook, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com:


See my Feb. 2020 Course workshop on YouTube called “A kingdom to rule” (English captions/subtitles available).

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.