Understanding the Seventh Principle of Miracles

The seventh principle of A Course in Miracles – “miracles are everyone’s right, but purification is necessary first” (T-1.I.7:1) – is both lovely and confounding. It reflects the course’s semantic affinity for Christianity and – I say this carefully and lovingly – the course’s sometimes maddening poetic abstraction.

In traditional Christianity (and also Judaism), to purify or become pure was to cleanse one’s body through ritual, usually washing of some kind. Baptism is a classic example.

I do not mean to suggest that these rituals cannot have meaning or purpose for some people; clearly they do. However, that is not the meaning intended by A Course in Miracles.

In the context of the course, “purification” does not refer to the body. It has nothing to do with waking early, sleeping in hair shirts, becoming celibate or vegetarian, praying more, studying the course more, washing up before prayer or anything like that.

Rather, it reflects our increasing capacity to discern between the thoughts that we think with God – which are loving thoughts, which are extensions of Creation – and those that we think with the ego. Thoughts that have an egoic root induce guilt and fear and loneliness and angst and so forth, while those we think with God induce inner peace.

Miracles reflect a shift away from thinking with the ego and towards thinking with God, through the Holy Spirit. This is a matter of giving attention to what is going on inside us; the course is very much about the interior rather than the exterior landscape.

When we are aware of our thoughts we naturally become aware of what impedes love because it is not love. We become aware of those habits of thinking that lock us into fear and guilt and we become interested in an alternative because we no longer want the pain and grief associated with thinking that way.

In a sense, when we do this, we are “purifying” our mind. We are bringing it into greater alignment with its natural inclination to love.

There is another aspect to this principle that bears mention. It emphasizes a critical idea in A Course in Miracles: miracles are inclusive. They are for everybody. To think otherwise is to confuse the healing intention of the course.

It is easy to get wound up with traditional notions of “purity” and “purification.” They imply that we are insufficient and dirty, that some people are perhaps more spiritual than others, that a spiritual hierarchy has value (people who make rituals, people who enforce them) and so forth. But getting wound up is really just another form of resistance; another way of keeping at bay the very answer for which we long.

So as always, our focus is not on what keeps the mind looking at external problems but rather on what is inside of us: the egoic thoughts that one by one, two by two, we bring to the Holy Spirit in order that what is loving in them might be saved, and what is unloving might be set aside as illusory.

There is no peace in illusions: only in surrender of illusions that enable us to encounter reality as God created it.

{ 8 comments… add one }
  • sean.l June 21, 2014, 3:28 am

    sean I saw with fear I could never purify myself.and then it was revealed to me I am pure.i have never sinned. am I deluded

    • Sean Reagan June 21, 2014, 10:01 am

      Hi Sean,

      No, you’re not deluded. That is the truth of what we are – I think we all just come to that realization at different times and in different ways. But we do not need to be improved or refined or anything. Perfection is accomplished and we are it.

  • Eric June 21, 2014, 10:29 am

    Hi Sean,

    I really like that you pointed out the part about inclusion. I was just discussing this idea on another board when the people decided to ban someone, because they felt this person was attacking them.

    Side note: As I saw it, this person was simply “attacking” these people rigidly held beliefs and had a lot to offer. Maybe she did not present herself in a way that was more inviting, but she did have insight IMO.

    Anyways, I find this idea of inclusion not only important, but essential. I also often find it to be an idea that is difficult for me at times as I look on some of my brothers and sisters. But during this conversation about this banned person, something happened that helped me see things a bit differently.

    One of the people suggested (I’m changing names to protect the innocent 🙂 ) that until they saw themselves as John, Mary and even Hitler, they would be in prison. It dawned on me as I read this, that this idea really doesn’t work, because it is the attempt to merge one self concept with another and call it one.

    Salvation doesn’t come from realizing that I am John, Mary, or even Hitler, because those are self made self concept made from the learning of the world. Salvation comes from realizing that I am none of those and neither are my brothers and sisters.

    As the course tells us:

    Like you, your brother thinks he is a dream. Share not in his illusion of himself, for your identity depends on his reality. Think rather of him as a mind in which illusions still persist, but as a mind which brother is to you. He is not brother made by what he dreams, nor is his body, “hero” of the dream, your brother. It is his reality that is your brother, as is yours to him. Your mind and his are joined in brotherhood. ~ACIM

    Eric: I love the miracle principles and I think the essence of what the course is saying in all of those pages are in these 50 miracle principles. They are something that I often come back to and re-read. I find that some students often dismiss the first portion of the course as “the beginner” part of it, but I find that the foundation of what the course is trying to teach is in the first portion of the course. It is not something to be dismissed later on reading the course, but to remain as a solid foundation incorporated in our reading of the course.

    As the course also tells us:

    This is a course in mind training. All learning involves attention and study at some level. Some of the later parts of the course rest too heavily on these earlier sections not to require their study. You will also need them for preparation. Without this, you may become much too fearful when the unexpected does occur to make constructive use of it. However, as you study these earlier sections, you will begin to see some of their implications, which will be amplified considerably later on. ~ACIM

    Eric: I’m going to quote from the HLC Edition, because I prefer it, but these quotes are also in the FIP edition, just some of the wording is a bit different.

    In the miracle principles, the course tells us:

    The miracle acknowledges all men as your brothers and mine. It is a way of perceiving the universal mark of God in them. The specialness of God’s Sons does not stem from exclusion but from inclusion. All my brothers are special. If they believe they are deprived of anything, their perception becomes distorted. When this occurs, the whole family of God, or the Sonship, is impaired in its relationships. Ultimately, every member of the family of God must return. The miracle calls him to return because it blesses and honors him even though he may be absent in spirit. ~ACIM-HLC

    Eric: And the course says something interesting about miracles. They depend on cooperation.

    Miracles make minds one in God. They depend on cooperation because the Sonship is the sum of all that God created. Miracles therefore rest on the laws of eternity, not of time. ~ACIM

    Eric: I think this comes back to your earlier blog about sharing and nothing is for us alone. As the course tells us that to share is to make One. I think this idea is beyond fundamentally important. It is fundamentally essential. What I appreciate about your writings Sean, is that your not looking at this with a solipsistic viewpoint, and unfortunately, I see quite a few course students look at their brothers from a solipsistic viewpoint. I appreciate how you are including your brothers, instead of merely relegating them to being your illusions (which is possessive), objects to be used for your personal salvation.

    The course tells us that there is nothing outside you. Throughout the years, this statement has been paraphrased to being, there is nobody out there. This may seem like a moot point bringing this up, and I have been told that I am playing semantics with this, but I really don’t think I am.

    When the course tells us that there is nothing outside us, it is saying there is nothing separate from us. There is nothing outside our awareness. This is a statement of inclusion and not exclusion. As you and I share the same mind, we are in each other’s Awareness, as we share this Awareness and there is nothing outside this Awareness that we share.

    The idea that there is nobody out there, brings the implication of solipsism. Now Sean, you’re nothing more than my illusion (possessive). You’re an object for me to use. You have no reality. I made you up.

    Well, I may be splitting hairs, but I think it comes to a level confusion of the Absolute and relative.

    I think the course’s language is inclusive while the second example is not. It is essentially believing that saying our brothers are merely illusion of our own making is the answer, when I believe the course states it is the problem, as in this passage:

    Each one peoples his world with figures from his individual past, and it is because of this that private worlds do differ. Yet the figures that he sees were never real, for they are made up only of his reactions to his brothers and do not include their reactions to him. Therefore he does not see that he made them and that they are not whole. For these figures have no witnesses, being perceived in one separate mind only. ~ACIM

    If you see your own hatred as your brother, you are not seeing him. ~ACIM

    Your private world is filled with the figures of fear you have invited into it, and all the love your brothers offer you, you do not see. As you look with open eyes upon your world, it must occur to you that you have withdrawn into insanity. ~ACIM

    You see what is not there, and you hear what is soundless. Your behavioral manifestations of emotions are the opposite of what the emotions are. You communicate with no one, and you are as isolated from reality as if you were alone in all the universe. In your madness, you overlook reality completely, and you see only your own split mind everywhere you look. God calls you and you do not hear, for you are preoccupied with your own voice. And the vision of Christ is not in your sight, for you look upon yourself alone. ~ACIM

    Eric: This comes right back to those two passages I spoke about before that state:

    In sleep you are alone, and your awareness is narrowed to yourself. And that is why the nightmares come. You dream of isolation because your eyes are closed. You do not see your brothers, and in the darkness you cannot look upon the light you gave to them. ~ACIM

    God’s Will is your salvation. Would He not have given you the means to find it? If He wills you to have it, He must have made it possible and very easy to obtain it. Your brothers are everywhere. You do not have to seek far for salvation. Every minute and every second gives you a chance to save yourself. Do not lose these chances, not because they will not return, but because delay of joy is needless. God wills you perfect happiness now. Is it possible that this is not also your will? And is it possible that this is not also the will of your brothers? ~ACIM

    Eric: When we look around and see our own split mind everywhere, we are looking at illusions. When we look on our brother as a body, we are seeing illusions. Yet that is not our brothers’ reality and it is not our own. When the course tells us that we communicate with no one and see our own split mind everywhere, I think it is essentially defining solipsism and stating this is the problem that needs correction, not the correction as the course is often interpreted as.

    So I’ll be signing off on my little rant here, but just want to leave you with two side notes.

    The first is, I came across something you wrote about John Denver. Did you know that John Denver was A Course in Miracles student? He wrote the preface of one of Jerry Jampolsky’s books.

    Second, I want to thank you for your writings, as they often bring me back to just how profound and beautiful A Course in Miracles is. I still cannot wrap my head around how that one guy thinks that A Course in Miracles is terrible writing. LOL.

    Eric

    • Sean Reagan June 22, 2014, 7:32 am

      Hi Eric,

      Thanks for sharing. I love that insight: that we are none of those historical narrative figures and neither is anybody else. I think that is exactly what the course is saying, and it is also exactly why the course can be – and is – so challenging sometimes. We are always leaning on the familiar, always translating abstraction in terms of specificity (which are always personal) and it doesn’t work. Our intentions are good but we still end up lost.

      We have to let go of what we think we have which includes ideas about Hitler, Mary, et cetera. What is left? We think nothing and it is terrifying.

      I like the principles, too, and find them – as Ken Wapnick would say – the overture to operatic splendor. The essence of the course is in them.

      The cooperative aspect of miracles was very hard – is still hard sometimes – for me to accept. It is always more fun and interesting to be a special or unique miracle-worker; but that is to misunderstand miracles entirely. So it’s a learning process!

      Your ideas about solipsism are great – I share them entirely. And again, it is so hard to grasp – and then to accept and hold – because we want it to be about us. That is our default – or maybe our learned – state: survival of the self by any means necessary. But it doesn’t work, because the whole premise is faulty – we are a bunch of ones trying to reconcile but One, already whole and never compromised. I do think that we need in one another – in our apparently separated state – in order to remember this. That is what the course teaches – as you point out – and that is my (limited) experience as well.

      John Denver is very important to me! I grew up listening to him (because my mother loved him). His lyrics were always floating around in my brain – the idea that one could talk to God in nature and hear a “casual reply” and “the song that I am singing/is a prayer to nonbelievers/to come and stand beside us/we can find a better way.”

      In all the complex beauty and psychological chaos of Catholicism, Denver was like a little light in which God was love and you were allowed to be happy. So I am very grateful to him . . .

      And thank you for the kind words re: the blog!

      Sean

  • Eric June 21, 2014, 10:34 am

    I like Shunryu Suzuki’s quote about our perfection.

    ” You are all perfect just as you are and you could use some improvement.”

    Eric: I take this to be we are perfect, we just need to improve our awareness of this fact.

    or as the course asks:

    What if you looked within and saw no sin? This “fearful” question is one the ego never asks. And you who ask it now are threatening the ego’s whole defensive system too seriously for it to bother to pretend it is your friend. Those who have joined their brothers have detached themselves from their belief that their identity lies in the ego. A holy relationship is one in which you join with what is part of you in truth. And your belief in sin has been already shaken, nor are you now entirely unwilling to look within and see it not.~ACIM

    • Sean Reagan June 22, 2014, 7:34 am

      That is a wonderful quote! And yes – that “improvement” is in the nature of remembrance or awareness. I think we catch glimpses of perfection and need to hone that ability to see it more clearly and consistently and not lose it.

  • Eric June 21, 2014, 11:12 am

    I was sitting here further thinking about this blog and how miracles are everyone’s right and realized that there was something similar written on the back of my “Original Edition” copy of ACIM book. I don’t know if this is by design or just a coincidence of the number 7, but on the back of this edition it quotes Lesson 77 and it says:

    I am entitled to miracles.

    You are entitled to miracles because of what you are. You will receive miracles because of what God is. And you will offer miracles because you are one with God. Again, how simple is salvation! It is merely a statement of your true identity. It is this that we will celebrate today.

    Your claim to miracles does not lie in your illusions about yourself. It does not depend on any magical powers you have ascribed to yourself nor on any of the rituals you have devised. It is inherent in the truth of what you are. It is implicit in what God your Father is. It was ensured in your creation and guaranteed by the laws of God.

    Today we will claim the miracles which are your right since they belong to you. You have been promised full release from the world you made. You have been assured that the Kingdom of God is within you and can never be lost. We ask no more than what belongs to us in truth. Today, however, we will also make sure that we will not content ourselves with less. ~ACIM

    • Sean Reagan June 22, 2014, 7:38 am

      I have always loved these lines: “You are entitled to miracles because of what you are. You will receive miracles because of what God is.” And I also love this lesson’s (implicit) teaching that there is really nothing to do at the level of form in order to receive a miracle – no ritual, no power, no skill, et cetera. Miracles are inherent. “Inherent” is such a beautiful important word in the course. If it is inherent it is already there and we need do nothing – we just have to stop actively forgetting/resisting what is.

      Thank you Eric!

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