Does our long exile from Heaven come down to fear? Is it possible that A Course in Miracles exists in order to relieve us of debilitating fear? Does salvation lie therein?
The escape from darkness involves two stages: First, the recognition that darkness cannot hide. This step usually entails fear. Second the recognition that there is nothing you want to hide even if you could. This step brings escape from fear. When you have become willing to hide nothing, you will not only be willing to enter into holy communion but will also understand peace and joy (T-1.IV.1:1-5).
In terms of A Course in Miracles, fear is the opposite of love (T.in.1:8). Fear is of the ego, while love is a gift of and from God. It is God. Fear is inherent in what we make, while love is inherent in Creation. Fear is the persistent illusion obscuring the reality which is Love.
We live in fear because we believe we are guilty: we believe that we separated from God and set ourselves up as equals to God and are at war with God. And so we are terrified of God’s retribution. As the ego understands life, life is permanently shadowed with the terrible fear that at any moment it will killed off and dropped into hell. Sinners in the hands of an angry God, indeed.
All fear is ultimately reducible to the basic misperception that you have the ability to usurp the power of God. Of course, you neither can or have been able to do this. Here is the real basis for your escape from fear. The escape is brought about by your acceptance of the atonement, which enables you to realize that your errors never really occurred (T-2.I.4:1-4).
There are times in my practice when I make contact with this fear, and though I hate it because I don’t like being scared and I don’t like admitting that I’m not a spiritual genius, it is always an edifying experience. It reminds me how simple A Course in Miracles really is: there is really nothing but to look at this fear. We don’t have to personally undo it; we just have to give attention to it with a Teacher who can undo it.
The first thing that fear teaches us – because it is the first goal of the ego, really – is that our problem is not in the mind but rather outside of us. I am scared of being poor, of going hungry, of being hurt in love, of being left alone, of seeing my loved ones die, of nuclear war, of the cancellation of my favorite sitcom . . . how long the list is!
Part of the practice of being an ACIM student, is simply to practice being gentle and kind with ourselves. We don’t judge where we are in the awakening process. We don’t compare ourselves to other students, and we don’t compare the course to other spiritual traditions.
When I am focused on that list, being driven by the items on that list, I am identified with my body. I am buying into the ego’s lie that “mind is dangerous, and that to make mindless is to heal” (T.8.IX.6:3).
In other words, I am projecting my fear outward and denying that I am doing so. The projection is used to displace the true source of my fear (which is my decision to believe I can be and am separate from God); the denial is used to hide the fact of projection, lest I actually give attention to it in the interest of healing.
Thus, the first step in undoing this process is to be aware of projection, to give attention to it. I want to see it happening. I want to see that I am scared of offering a little book about A Course in Miracles, say, and realize it as a projection of the ego, a deliberate attempt to deflect attention from the true source of my suffering.
Second – and perhaps most importantly – I want to do this looking without feeling guilty, remorseful, judgmental and disappointed and so forth.
I can usually get in touch with the fear when I want to, but it is very hard for me to do so without also indulging in a lot of self-disparagement. I get angry and disappointed with myself for being this imperfect, this fearful, this spiritually immature. Perhaps you know what I am talking about. And rather than let the fear be, I try to fix the external symptoms. I try to one-up them. I try to muscle them into submission. But that doesn’t work, either, because it is effectively trying to solve the problem out there in the world, and that is not where the problem actually is.
Seek not escape from problems here. The world was made that problems could not be escaped (T.31.IV.2:5-6).
We have to learn to let those external problems just be . . . We can’t do anything to them other than simply see them the way one sees a painting on a wall or a movie on a screen. This requires a lot of patience. It requires a degree of love and kindness with which we are altogether unfamiliar because its object is us.
Thus, part of the practice of being an ACIM student, is simply to practice being gentle and kind with ourselves. We don’t judge where we are in the awakening process. We don’t compare ourselves to other students, and we don’t compare the course to other spiritual traditions. We just try to be as clear and willing as possible, without expectation as to what is or should happen next.
Sometimes I have to make dealing with fear very simple: when my children were little and woke up terrified from scary dreams, how did I treat them? Did I ignore them? Berate them? Get intellectual and analytical on them?
Of course not. I held them. I let them cry while murmuring “it’s okay, it’s okay.” When they settled down, I told them some stories. I tucked them back in and rested beside them until they fell asleep again.
That is a good way to treat someone who is frightened! So can we offer ourselves that same level of tenderness, gentleness and love? We don’t have to do it alone.
If it helps you, think of me holding your hand and leading you. And I assure you this will be no idle fantasy (W-pI.70.9:3-4).
Simplify! More and more I understand that directive in terms of my interior life. As each apparently individual problem and symptom arises, look beyond it to the fear which is its source, and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in looking beyond that to the Truth which remains unchanged. This can seem like a lot of work. It can seem like a psychological summit we aren’t ready to scale. But the course is explicit: healing is not impossible.
I would not ask you to do things you cannot do, and it is impossible that I could do things you cannot do. Given this, and given this quite literally, nothing can prevent you from doing exactly what I ask, and everything argues for your doing it. I give you no limits because God lays none upon you (T.8.IX.8:2-4).
It is not that this is easy – if it were, we wouldn’t need A Course in Miracles. But we can say it is simple. Face your fear without judgment: ask for help in doing so. The help will be given, and in turn we will see our fear for what it is: the ego’s paltry construction project which cannot withstand God’s Love, our true inheritance, and will dissolve within that Love, as soon as we are ready.