A Course in Miracles: Beyond the Body

The experience of being embodied is always painful. This is not a criticism of the body; it is a statement about what we are in truth and how our confusion about our identity causes us to suffer by conflating “true self” with a body.

Critically, this suffering cannot be mitigated in a body or by a body. It has to be corrected further upstream, in the abstract and sometimes mysterious domain of thought, or consciousness, where the basic error of “what we are” occurs (it is an ongoing error, not a one-and-done error).

When I say that embodied experience is painful I obviously mean headaches, menstrual cramps, stubbed toes and cancer. But I also mean orgasms, endorphin rushes after long runs, the taste of triple chocolate fudge cake and throwing sticks for puppies by the sea.

We are not bodies. Nothing the body does is natural to us; it might be natural for a body, but it isn’t natural for us because we are not bodies.

The world you see is the delusional system of those made mad by guilt. Look carefully at this world, and you will realize that this is so. For this world is the symbol of punishment, and all the laws that seem to govern it are the laws of death. Children are born into it through pain and in pain. Their growth is attended by suffering, and they learn of sorrow and separation and death. Their minds seem to be trapped in their brain, and its powers to decline if their bodies are hurt. They seem to love, yet they desert and are deserted. They appears to lose what they love, perhaps the most insane belief of all. And their bodies wither and gasp and are laid in the ground, and are no more. Not one of them but has thought that God is cruel.


The association of self with body (which is not separate from the association of self with world, i.e., the one brings forth the other) is a painful error which cannot be corrected at the level of the symptom. You don’t move your hand to a different part of the fire in order to end the burning; you take your hand out (and then find a professional who knows what to do with burns).

So, in this sense, the healing contemplated by A Course in Miracles is all or nothing. We are either bodies or we aren’t; it’s not a question of degree.

It takes time and commitment to reach the juncture where the truth of “all or nothing” clarifies. And even then it can be hard to accept. The temptation is to redeem the body. We mostly do this intellectually. We say “I know I’m not a body” and then do yoga, go for a run, and drink kale smoothies.

And here’s the thing. We could pound whiskey for breakfast, shoot heroin for lunch and visit Fight Club at night and the error would still be the same. And so would the error’s effects.

Of course, at the level of the body kale and heroin are not not be the same. But we are not bodies. The body cannot be redeemed.

But listen: the body cannot be redeemed because it doesn’t need to be. The problem is not the body; the problem is that we think we are bodies. We think we’re in bodies. We think what happens in and to bodies happens to us.

It’s like reading Lord of the Rings and wondering whether we should hop into the story and help Frodo ascend Mount Doom. Or try and talk Sauron out of his evil ways. That’s just not how reality works.

If we are not bodies, and the body is merely a communication device (e.g., T-6.V.A.5:5), neutral in its own right (T-20.VII.4:4), then what are we?

This is a really important question! Literally every lesson of A Course in Miracles is aimed at helping us answer it. And when we do find the answer, the embodied experience stops being painful because we now hold it in right perspective.

(Hint: it stops being an “experience”).

It’s like if we’re trying to build a house and somebody gives us a hammer. Holding the head, we try to drive nails with the handle. It doesn’t work – it can’t work. But once we hold it rightly, it works fine.

Right this very moment you are like Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde confusing itself for a wax disc. The wax disc is just a medium; it could as easily be a frisbee or a serving plate. The music goes on both perfect and perfectly unaffected.

Or, right this very moment you are like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony confusing itself for the paper on which the score is written.

Both of the preceding paragraphs are not wrong but they are similes. They point towards a truth that cannot actually be contained in language (any more than you can be contained in a body). Practicing A Course in Miracles is one way to effectively get at this truth.

And what is this truth? We move towards it when we remember that we are abstract, not material. We are closer to the light in which the material appears, not materiality itself.

Every mind contains all minds, for every mind is one. Such is the truth. Yet do these thoughts make clear the meaning of creation? Do these words bring perfect clarity with them to you? What can they seem to be but empty sounds; pretty, perhaps, correct in sentiment, yet fundamentally not understood nor understandable. The mind that taught itself to think specifically can no longer grasp abstraction in the sense that it is all-encompassing.


The body is nothing in and of itself; it merely has the function we give it. But in order to really experience the peace and joy inherent in holding this perspective of the body, we have to know what we actually are.

To say we are not bodies is a negative statement. It’s valuable because it closes down an avenue of thought that is erroneous. But what is the positive statement? “In truth, I am _____.”

How would you answer that? In terms that are true for you and not merely learned from the past – from ACIM or Nisargadatta or Tara Singh or John’s Gospel?

Our answer is literally the end of suffering – ours and everyone else’s. No other question merits our attention. And there is only one answer that will save us. “Only one answer” is not a form of pressure but of grace.

You know I’m right. How do you know?


  1. “Instructions for living a life.
    Pay attention.
    Be astonished.
    Tell about it.”

    Sean, Mary Oliver would be so proud of you!


  2. Sean, you ask, “How do you know?”

    “I” can’t know anything. It is the one that is not a body that Knows, right? (Thank goodness!)

    “In truth, I am _____”? How do I answer that? The course inspires me to say, “In truth, I am.” And leave it there. Or maybe just, “In truth.”

    But the instructions were to answer in terms that are true for “me” (here, now, today, I assume).

    So, maybe,

    “In truth, I am more than what I see. I know I am eternal.”

    Great questions. Thanks.

    1. Thank you, as always, for reading and sharing Claudia. I think that question is interesting both in terms of the answer it brings forth (or doesn’t bring forth, which is also informative!) but also because it lets us rest – find rest, find repose – in a process of inquiry that is so essential to our ACIM practice. Nice to hear from you today – I hope all is well!

      ~ Sean

      1. Hello, I just received your book One or TwoSteps Only and I had to put it down to let you know how truly helpful it is to me. Thank you
        Peace and joy to you

        1. Hi Sharon,

          Thank you so much for reading and sharing. I’m glad the book is helpful. The course has been a true gift in my life, making clear how to become happy and at peace and have something meaningful to share. Even though the course meets us where we are – it is very personal – it is still the case that we meet people through it who help us remember that together we are Christ and that Christ does not die. Big promises! But they are kept IN us FOR us. . .

          Again, thank you for reading and being here. I’m grateful to share this path with you. Please stay in touch 🙏


      2. Sean, I’ve been a student for well over twenty years and you and your book One or Two Steps Only came at the right place at the right time for me on my journey
        There was so much I can quote from your book but your mention of “You cannot behold the world and know God” is what I needed to hear. Sean, Thank you for your open truthful insight into ACIM
        Thank you…thank you…thank you

        1. Thank you, Sharon . . . I’m glad to hear that. It is always a happy thing to experience deep resonance, which is always the remembrance of what we are in truth. It flows both ways 🙏 My gratitude is deep.


          1. Good morning Sean, you mention Tara Singh and I see he has written several books. Would you recommend a good starting point? Blessings and Love

          2. Hi Susan,

            The first Tara Singh book I read was “Nothing Real Can Be Threatened.” Somebody gave it to me in response to a comment I made about Gary Renard at a meeting. I was being judgmental probably, and this friend saw that I needed the unconditional clarity of Taraji, and made the gift. We always get what we need when we need it 🙂

            So for me that’s always the foundation, and I think it is a very readable and thorough overview of his teaching. I come back to it often.

            My FAVORITE Tara Singh book is “The Voice that Precedes All Thought,” but I do wonder sometimes if it’s a good book to start with. It’s really a bunch of books, essays, letters and poems sort of bunched together. I find it deep, rich and breathtaking but it does rest on the foundation of all the rest of his work, which I have studied quite closely.

            That foundation includes: “Love Holds No Grievances,” “How to Learn from A Course in Miracles,” “A Gift for all Mankind, Commentaries on A Course in Miracles,” and others, all of which I think are worth reading, at least for those of us for whom Tara Singh is a real Teacher. Take together the books can be somewhat redundant (there is only so much to say, after all), but for me they were all helpful at a critical juncture. My gratitude is so vast.

            “The Future of Mankind,” “How to Raise a Child of God” and others are less as ACIM-based texts and more social commentaries/cultural criticisms/etc. I don’t find them as helpful as the rest of his work, but once upon a time I read them in order to be thorough.

            So I guess, long story short, “Nothing Real can be Threatened,” is where I’d suggest somebody start with Tara Singh, if they were curious.

            Thanks, Sharon. Let me know how it goes.


          3. Good morning Sean
            Ever since I was a young girl I was obsessed with the notion of Time. I was introduced to Ken Wapnicks book “A vast illusion of Time according to ACIM” and wondered if you read it and if so your thoughts. I found a lot of material that encouraged me to venture back to parts of the book that mention Time which helped however some of the language regardless of how many times I read it flies over my head. Would love to hear any thoughts you might have on Time.
            Love ❤️ Sharon
            ps: I just received my Singh book and just started reading 🌞

          4. Hi Sharon,

            Ah . . . synchronicity moment.

            I was painfully obsessed with time as a child, but not in a healthy way – like, become a physicist or a maker of watches or something like that. I felt it as a process that stole things – memories, experience and even life. I was very little and I couldn’t talk about it and so nobody could help me with it. It was the source of a lot of guilt and anxiety and more over the years.

            Here’s a sort of meandering answer about Ken’s book. When I was in my first year studying ACIM, a number of folks were recommending Ken as a teacher and so I read a LOT of what he wrote. I did not find Ken’s earlier work – the more academic stuff, like Time in A Course in Miracles – very helpful. I’m not sure why. I think that when Ken was trying to put ACIM into specifically western contexts of philosophy/metaphysics/etc, he was less clear and helpful than when he was just writing in simpler language about what the course was and how we should practice it. I found his later work – the living A Course in Miracles sequence of books – VERY helpful. And that’s the work of Ken’s that I turn and return to most often.

            However, what do I know? The beauty of the course as a self-study program means that we are all going to end up with exactly the teachers and secondary materials that we need when we need them. Tara Singh was so much more helpful to me in those early years – I was consumed by his ideas and they guided me to other thinkers (Krishnamurti, then David Bohm, then a number of other physicists and philosophers) who gently grounded and directed my practice. Truly I am somewhat in awe of this, noticing how we all experience ACIM in slightly different ways, for slightly different reasons, even as we are gently guided to the same peace, which is the same innocence.

            In other words, I think it’s very cool that you found that book helpful, and I am very GLAD that you found it and were helped by it. For all I know I just wasn’t ready for it, and won’t be for another few years. I can be a VERY slow learner 🙂

            Drop an email or another note here to let me know what you think of Tara Singh. I hope all is well, Sharon 🙏🙏


          5. Will do Sean and like you I’m a slow learner and I thank my Guide for that. He knows how to get me to the place I yearn to be-Home with Him in Everlasting Oneness through Forgiveness
            Like it says in the COT3
            “Forgiveness..the illusion of help because we are helpless..Forgiveness the Thought of Peace that comforts me and settles my mind and reflects His Love here on earth.
            ACIM is helping me forgive myself and there are no words to express my gratitude for the Course and all it lay’s at me feet.
            Have a nice day Sean and be well.
            Love ❤️ Sharon

  3. 🌞 good morning Sean, I hope you are enjoying your morning. I was hoping that you could offer insight on these two (2) references to time in the Book.
    In chapter 15 II 2 “do not be concerned with time, and fear not the instant of holiness that will remove fear. “ and chapter 29 VII 9:2
    “Save time my brother and learn what time is for”. And speed the end of idols in the world made sad and sick by seeing idols there”.
    Ive given much thought and written notes about these two (2) truths from Jesus but I’m still confused.
    Jesus says to learn what time is for to save yourself time and then I shouldn’t worry about time.
    I hope I’m making sense 🤗
    Thank you Sean
    Love ❤️ your friend Sharon

    1. Hi Sharon,

      In the context of separation, linear time is an invention. Not that long ago, time was cyclical and largely unnoticed – it followed the sun and the moon and the seasons. “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Nor was there history; history only exists when we can write things down (writing is an extension of memory).

      The concept of having time, or spending time, did not exist. The inventions of clocks and calendars slowly eclipsed the natural cycles which were not abstract but deeply embodied – the moon in its phases, the tides coming and going, the garden growing, baby deer appearing in spring et cetera. In a similar way, the invention of writing created history – gods and goddesses, kings and queens. Suddenly there was a past and a future; suddenly the cycle was broken and what remained was a line.

      So you and I are subject to linear time as a metaphysical abstraction that is utterly tyrannical. Time is money, it wastes us physically, we are forced to race against it, et cetera.

      Really, “The End of Doubt” is just urging us to see that while ACIM and its concept of Atonement appear IN time, it points to an awareness that is actually OUTSIDE of time in the way – properly understood – winter is outside time, crescent moons are outside time, and tomatoes growing on the vine are outside time. Nothing dies but returns.

      In a sense, the course is suggesting that the invention of linear time – and the way it has metasticized – are products of fear. We are scared of change and death and so we are trying to control them. And yet, they cannot touch what we are in truth. Change and death are part of a cyclical process called Life – they are not threats to that process, they are not the end of that process.

      Right now it is time for the sunflowers to bloom in our garden – the sunflowers are alive and they are not concerned at all with time. Can we be intelligent in the way of the sunflower – and bloom and turn to the light without worrying about time? Where is a beginning or an end to a sunflower? Its crown contain the seeds by which sunflowers will appear again after winter’s desolation. The sunflowers I gaze at now are extensions of the sunflowers I gazed at last year.
      This is not an abstraction but reality itself. It is right there to be seen 🙂

      When we “save” time we are really accepting that time is simply a construct – an idea that we can use or not use according to its helpfulness. Then we are not its victims but its kind master. Let us use it to remember that we are not its subjects, and that it does not control life but rather appears in and as and to life. Let us use it to bring our brothers and sisters to peace with us.

      The “End of Doubt” asks an interesting question: “How long can it take to be where God would have you?” (T-15.II.3:1). If we give attention to this question, then we will see that the answer is: it takes no time. No time at all. Creation is outside of time; time is merely a toy invented by the separated to sustain the separation. But like everything else in the context of separation, it can be given to the Holy Spirit, and put to a better use: we can use time to learn that Creation is outside of time, and that we are as God created us.
      There is nothing to fear and everything to love.

      It takes no time to be who and what we are; it takes no time to be in reality. But we are allowed to use time to remember this truth. And when we do, we serve the God of Love who would have us remember what we are in truth now.

      Thank you as always, Sharon. I hope that’s helpful.


  4. What am I? Popeye comes to mind and impertinently refuses to go away until I say this: I Yam What I Yam. Gently cooked by the Holy Spirit until I soften into what I always was and never stopped being and never will stop being, and I see that in you, Sean and everyone here, which makes it easier to see it in myself. Which, ACIM says, is why we have to work miracles of Atonement for other “people,” because when we see it in “them,” we know it’s in ourselves, too. I am me, I am you, we are I.
    Thank you to every-not-a-body.

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