Early in my study of A Course in Miracles, I ran into a roadblock that I’ve since learned is pretty common. This world and this body were illusions – hallucinations with no more substance than a passing breeze. The course appeared unequivocal on this point. But if that was true, then what was the point of . . . well, of anything?
One of the hallmarks of my practice has been that whenever I drift to close to this “it’s all just a dream” theme, I am gently cautioned against disregarding my life on that basis. It is as if Jesus is saying, Yes, it’s all one big illusion, but the only way out is to pay attention to it.
One of favorite lines in the course has to do with the body:
The body is merely part of your experience in the physical world. Its abilities can be and frequently are overvaluated. However, it is almost impossible to deny its existence in this world. Those who do so are engaging in particularly unworthy form of denial (T-2.IV.3:8-11).
It is helpful to remember that the ego is perfectly happy to use (misuse, really) course principles to reinforce its existence and importance. When someone you love dies, and you deny your grief and anger under the guise of “it’s not real,” you are subtly reinforcing the separation. It is the ego that does not want us looking at our grief and fear and anger and guilt – the obstacles to inner peace – because when we do look at them, undoing them becomes not only possible but desirable.
The metaphysical framework of the text shouldn’t be underestimated or ignored but remember that A Course in Miracles is fundamentally a practical tool. It is a course, after all. Learning its its goal. And it would not be helpful to simply add some more complex theological ideas to our mental arsenal.
Thus, the illusory nature of our lives as bodies in this world functions as a sort of backdrop. It’s the dressing before which we enact our day to day lives. And that enactment is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. There, the course asks us to do one sure thing: bring Jesus to the process.
In other words, we are called to remember that we are not alone. We have a teacher – or a guide or mentor – who will help steer us through the dream. He does that be keeping us in touch with forgiveness, which is the reversal of projection. We recognize that the scarcity and anguish we see “in the world” is in fact inside of us, and as we forgive it in its external form, it is forgiven internally as well.
As we practice forgiveness, the more that guide or mentor – who speaks for our “right mind,” that part of the mind which has not forgotten its identity in God – can undo the illusion. The undoing itself is not our business. Our job is simply to muster the willingness to practice forgiveness with our chosen teacher.
It is not – when you get down to it – an especially sexy spiritual path. Specialness bleeds out of it pretty quickly. It doesn’t matter if we are married or not married, a plumber or a librarian or a master theologian, devoted to a monastic ideal or eating truffles and shopping for shoes. So long as we are doing it with Jesus, we are moving in the direction of Heaven.