One of the things that a close (and multiple) reading(s) of A Course in Miracles will do for you is expose some of its more radical ideas, leaving you increasingly incapable of taking the text lightly, or settling for some version of the Happy Dream. I am constantly discovering new intensities in the Course, new calls to more radical communion with Jesus and with God.
This section, for example, includes this gem: “Do not deceive yourself into believing that you can relate in peace to God or to your brothers with anything external (T-I. VII.1:7). That’s a real doozy for those of anyone who is hoping to hold onto some part of the world to one degree or another. Like a lot of course language, it is unequivocal. Whatever we perceive in the world – helpful spiritual texts, good teachers and therapists, excellent exercise programs, well-cooked holiday meals, the perfect birthday present, beer, Buddha statues, whatever – is not, ever or in any way, going to bring us the peace and harmony to which we aspire. Period.
The text expands on this idea a bit. Physical impulses – to eat, to be held, to drink, to experience ecstasy, to dance, to listen to John Denver, to write poems – are all “misdirected miracle impulses” (T-1.VII.1:3). Why? Because peace and pleasure are part of the experience of doing God’s will, not our own. We are called not to be servants of the body but of the soul, the spirit. As the text puts it in what I consider to be the first of its truly beautiful passages:
Child of God, you were created to create the good, the beautiful and the holy. Do not forget this (T-1.VII.2:1-2).
Those are comforting and inspiring words. To create “the good, the beautiful and the holy” – as opposed to making the good enough, the generally pleasing and the something-less-than-sacred-but-not-profane – is to do God’s will. To hear his voice and be directed specifically.
It’s okay that we believe we’re in bodies here in the world. As Jesus points out in this section, for the time being, that’s how love is going to be expressed.
I find that comforting as well. My job is not to end my body or hate my body. I don’t have to indulge in some ascetic renunciation of physical experience – that’s not the point. The point is simply to concentrate on recalling my union with God. That act of recollection is really itself sacred – as I recall God, I am recalled by God. And my capacity to extend miracles will grow.
It is helpful, I think, to check ourselves from time to time (the lessons can help do this) and see where we’re at. What physical impulse are we honoring? What miracle might be obscured beneath it? Again, this is not to say that if we’re hungry we shouldn’t eat. On the contrary, we should eat and get on with it. But it is to say that stopping and briefly checking in with God can keep that recollection process alive and well. It’s like a download, maybe. We want to keep the lines open to facilitate the transfer.
Two quick other thoughts on this section. First, Jesus reminds us that doing miracles is what inspires our belief in them – thus, we aren’t waiting for faith to act. We act and discover the faith is already there waiting. It’s a subtle but critical distinction. I often find myself thinking that I’ll get around to this or that miracle when Jesus makes me ready – perhaps it’s some loving gesture to a family member, or a teaching project. But Jesus is always ready! And so doing miracles is not about focusing on the externals and deciding when they’re properly aligned, but rather leaping and letting God catch us. We are called – in these bodies in this world at this time – to be active learners, active followers.
Finally, this section restates the principle from Wholeness and Spirit that we are all – even unto Jesus – equal brothers and sisters. We are all gifted in identical measure because we are all the Creation of God. This principle cannot be stated often enough. The illusion of differences – this person is smarter, that one is more successful but luckily I’m better-looking than that other one – are the worldly foundation of conflict and anguish. All kinds of horror proceeds from this one basic mistake. We are brothers and sisters – without exception. Indeed, if Jesus – of all people, of all teachers – repeats that awe is an inappropriate response to him, then how can we possibly justify anything but the most perfect love of which are capable for one another?