Perhaps few lessons in A Course in Miracles are as confusing or troubling as Lesson 15. For one thing, it’s a flat out strange idea for most people – we only think we think the thoughts we think and we only take them seriously because they show up as images. We conflate spiritual vision with the body’s considerably weaker seeing. It’s confusing.
And of course the second reason this lesson throws people is because of its reference to “light episodes.”
Ah, the light episodes – the bright white frame that surrounds familiar objects, proof that we’re finally advancing along the spiritual ladder. More people ask me about this than anything else. I’m not seeing the lights yet! What’s wrong with me?
First, put the light episodes to the side. They’re a sideshow – and an optional sideshow at that – to the more important work of the lesson. We are learning how to work with our mind here. We are training it to perform miracles, to align it with God, to embrace right-mindedness so gracefully and gratefully that error of any kind fades away like smoke in a heavy wind.
To do that, we need to come to terms with the gap between “seeing” – which is what our bodies do – and real vision, which is the natural function of our minds as miracle workers.
This lesson encourages us to look closely at the dense material objects that surround us and recognize them only as images. It is reminiscent of the work we have already done in Lesson 7 and Lesson 4 (and earlier lessons). We believe the physical world revealed to our senses is the real world. Yet this is merely conjectured form into which content – love or the call of love – is poured.
Two key ideas then are presented in this (and related) lessons. First, we have to begin to see beyond form to content. A good model for this is Jesus’ view of the crucifixion. In Special Principles of Miracle Workers he notes that when he asked God to forgive the soldiers responsible for his execution he wasn’t talking about the execution but the wrong-mindedness symbolized by it. The particular form that the error takes does not matter, but the underlying thought process giving rise to it does. We have to begin to get in the habit of looking – of seeing – beyond the forms, or images, that our thoughts construct.
The second idea in this lesson has to do with cause and effect. We tend to believe that we are victims of the world – outside influences act on us, driving our behavior. It seems logical enough, right? But the Course asks us to consider that the exact opposite is the truth – that we look inside, decide what kind of world we want to see, and then project it outward. Nothing happens to us that we haven’t asked for. We are not passive victims but powerful actors.
Hence, those images that we see – the world we experience – is really just a proxy for the internal struggle between salvation and separation. And it can’t be “fixed” or healed out there – it has to be handled on the inside.
Lesson 15 – which includes the important caveat that this idea is likely to go right over our heads but that’s okay right now – is a big step in helping us to develop this new perspective. In terms of thought reversal – seeing past form and reversing cause and effect – it’s a lot to handle in just one day of application.
One other thought. This lesson includes a critical subtext: take your thoughts seriously. They matter. They are powerful. Your power of thought has literally created a world. We have an extraordinary capacity for Love and for healing calls for Love and we are only just beginning to appreciate it. If this lesson feels significant – and it should – consider that it’s merely a prelude to the wonders to come.
Now about the lights. Human experience is such that we make the spiritual far more mystical or even magical than it needs to be. We feel awe in the presence of channeled texts. We believe that psychics of this or that stripe can provide us with otherwise inaccessible information. Please understand that I am not knocking channeled texts – I am a student of a channeled text! And I’m cool with psychics too. I own some Tarot cards. I’m hip to my clear quartz crystals. But I’ve been lifted by non-channeled texts too. And as I continually grow closer to Jesus, so-called psychic experiences – communing with the seeming dead, knowing the future, being healed without pills, etc. – begin to feel more natural, more . . . just the way things are.
All of God’s gifts – literary, psychic, healing, teaching – are given to all of us in equal measure. It is a function of the separation that we believe otherwise – and perceive otherwise. Needing light episodes is just another way of glorifying the body’s experience in the world – no different than sex or imported Belgian chocolate or walking your dog at 4 a.m. beneath the stars. They don’t really matter. If you’re not having them, consider the possibility that you don’t need them – that you have already accepted the truth of Lesson 15, that you are already committed to trading sight for vision.
Above all, don’t allow them to become hallmarks of good or advanced students. Like all our experiences in this world, they are just another illusion. Do the lessons, study the text and practice forgiveness. That’s really all that’s needed.