There is one life, and that I share with God.
Lesson 167 is one of the more challenging daily lessons in the ACIM workbook. Its emphasis on non-duality, its exploration of the unreality of death, and its call that we seek to mirror the Thoughts of God right now today challenge me on many levels. I want to take the abstractions and make them specific, turn death into a metaphor, and postpone perfection. In a way, this lesson invites me to confront the source of my resistance to the course in general, paving the way to the radical healing it can impart to the willing.
Although I like talking about non-duality as much as the next student of A Course in Miracles, in truth the concept is overwhelming. Our brains incline toward opposites; the body’s perception is grounded in duality. The body is one thing, the bed is another, and the book another, and the window another, and the stars outside another, and . . .
There are not different kinds of life, for life is like the truth. It does not have degrees. It is the one condition in which all that God created share. Like all His Thoughts, it has no opposite (W-pI.167.1:1-4).
If the course is right, then we cannot rely upon the perception inherent in our bodies. We need to make contact with the mind that considers no opposite because it knows there is no opposite to consider. This is not an intellectual experience, but a spiritual one. We can’t reason our way to it. We provide the willingness to learn, and so we learn, and at some point in the learning the conditions of knowing ourselves as mind are revealed. It is more in the nature of a gift than an accomplishment.
Yet the brain insists it can somehow learn this on its own. We don’t want to give up the body’s centrality. We like the warm bed while the wind blows and we like the stars that flicker in the dark and cavernous sky. We want to bring God down to this level. Abstraction is terrifying to us because all we know is the specificity of separation. But we can’t have both. This lesson reminds us that we are going to have to choose.
At the heart of that non-duality is the teaching that death is not real. God created Life, what God created has no opposite, and so Life cannot end. There is not state in opposition to it.
There is no death because what God created shares His Life. There is no death because an opposite to God does not exist. There is no death because the Father and the Son are one (W-pI.167.1:5-7).
Again, this confounds our physicality – all that we know of life in the world is that it ends. When we are happy, we know that some unhappiness waits down the road. When we are joyful, we know that sadness is still in the wings. We know that our bodies and the bodies of those we love are going to slow down and break and then stop altogether. Don’t tell me death isn’t real. Don’t do that.
And yet the course insists: no death. And so I look for compromises. I can accept the idea that death is not real because I can make it a metaphor of sorts. I can say, for example, that I will turn to dust but that dust will assume the shape of a willow tree or a rose or a dung beetle. In that way, well sure, life goes on.
But the course does not teach that. I can compromise all I want but A Course in Miracles does not. Again, Lesson 167 brings me face-to-face with the tension between what I want and what the Course teaches.
Finally, this lesson urges me to give up the specificity of separation and stop clinging to the supposed reality of death and simply accept that what I am is a Thought in the Mind of God – whole, pure, unchanging and eternally joyful. Why wait?
Let us today be children of the truth, and not deny our holy heritage. Our life is not as we imagine it . . . We will not ask for death in any form today. Nor will we let imagined opposites to life abide even an instant where the Thought of life eternal has been set by God Himself (W-pI.167.10:1-2, 4-5).
And I say: yes, that sounds nice. I’ll get to it tomorrow. Tara Singh taught that there are two problems: we can’t see a truth and we think we can put of God until tomorrow. This lesson suggests that we don’t have to do that – that we can slip out of the sorrowful dream of separation and wake up to Oneness. And in response, we hedge. We like it, we talk about it, we write about it but . . . we won’t do it. Not yet.
So seeing our resistance that way – having it brought so clearly to our awareness – what can we do? It seems impossible sometimes, the idea that we can just stop being bodies and brains, stop fighting love, stop insisting on the horror show of sleep. It’s too much. It’s too hard.
At the end of the lesson, we are reminded that all we have to do in the world is be willing to learn. If we make our decisions with the Holy Spirit and allow healing to happen, then dreams of hell will shift slowly over to dreams of Heaven – right here, right now – and then the step from sleeping to waking will be as no step at all.
A sleeping mind must waken, as it sees its own perfection mirroring the Lord of life so perfectly it fades into what is reflected there. And now it is no more a mere reflection. It becomes the thing reflected, and the light which makes reflection possible (W-pI.167.12:3-5).
When we face our resistance, we see what blocks the recognition of God’s Love. We don’t have to do anything about it. When we see it clearly and associate it with our unhappiness, then we are ready to allow Jesus to show us a different way. We are ready to let the Holy Spirit assist us in a new way of seeing. All that is done for us, according to our willingness. The new life is already there and as it is revealed we are reminded that it is our truth, and our source, and our real life.
Lesson 167 is hard, but it is also a sign of fidelity. We are ready to go deeper and see more clearly the nature of the separation, and thus move more surely in the direction of atonement. That movement is itself joyful – reflecting Heaven – and ensures our safe awakening in God.
Sean, I’m so grateful that you brought up this lesson. I did the workbook back in 2007 and have read through the lessons since then, several times and at random, but I had forgotten that lesson 167 speaks of death. “Death” will soon be an in-your-face experience, I fear, in my life in the near future, as a family member will probably be passing on soon. My mind has been a pendulum recently, one second recognizing that there is no death, then saying, “Yeah, but . . .” and remembering past happy times and then with pain the fact that I might never see this person again because I have given up my pre-Course idea that when we get to heaven, we’ll walk around on golden streets with our loved ones. And we do not exist as bodies anyway. And I feel sad about that. Then the next minute I’m pondering the teachings of the Course and I find a profound peace about the Truth that there is only Life and that we are all There now and always, and I feel joyful and want to reach out and hug the sky! As you said, why wait? But the “Yeah, but’s” keep coming back. I’m glad Jesus has faith in me because boy some days I wonder if I’ll ever get it!
Anyway, my point in this comment is to thank you for writing about Lesson 167. As always, your posts always seem so timely for me.
Sean and Aleta, yes, this is a timely lesson I am heading for soon (I am on 143 today) and it brings me to my knees w/gratefulness because it is exactly what I need to learn right now. Yesterday a member of my family whom I love deeply was diagnosed with a terminal disease. My response was odd and different from any other time I’ve ever heard such news (something I attribute to my lessons) in that I did not crumble. Since hearing the news, I have been watching my emotions as they pass through me and by me, and while I am aware of a quiet sadness and a sense of loss, I have been able to temper that with the knowledge of the truth that when I sense lack, it is a sign that I’m not right-thinking or seeing it as Jesus would have me see it. The thought came to me, as I had the opportunity to hold her, that we are spirit, we are one, and we are never separated. I hope that’s right thinking, because it helped. This morning I simply have asked God to carry me through this experience, as I go through it on this worldly plane, and for the Holy Spirit to guide and teach me every single lesson I need to release the blocks to awareness to God’s love that this experience can bring, so I don’t have to learn this one again. I am afraid my heart will be ripped out as I let her body go, but then I am reminded to trust that what I am learning is true and that there is no need for the sorrow, because this world is a dream, we are all going home, where we will at last realize we have always been there, safe and at one with God.