Form and Content are related ideas which together are central to the curriculum of A Course in Miracles. Form is what the body’s eyes recognize. Form is that which we perceive, and which appears to be real.
Yet in truth, form is merely a vehicle for the content, which is always either love or a call for love. In more traditional nondualistic terms, we might say that “form” and “content” address the distinction between the appearance of things (form) and their true essence or meaning (content).
We might think of a book as an example. A lengthy book with hundreds of pages and a blue cover is not in and of itself healing – but the ideas which are reflected in its pages can be.
On this view, “form” refers to the physical or material aspects of the object – the paper, cardboard and ink that comprise the book. “Content” pertains to the underlying spiritual truth – that reality is beyond the physical world. That is the “meaning” of the book; it is the experience of understanding, or knowing, to which the book points.
In the context of ACIM, “content” typically refers to the remembrance of Love and peace (which, collectively, are healing), which are the true essence of reality and cannot actually be contained or held or possessed by form in any way. A Course in Miracles teaches that the transformation of perception reveals reality to us, and in that revelation we are saved. That is what miracles are.
Hinduism – especially Advaita Vedanta, to which the Course owes a nontrivial debt – also considers of reality and illusion along these lines. In Hinduism, “maya” refers to the illusory nature of the physical world that is experienced through our senses, which correlates to the idea of “form” in ACIM. “Brahman,” which is the ultimate reality, transcends the limitations of the physical world and is the true essence of existence, somewhat the way “content” functions in A Course in Miracles.
In both thought systems, reality is understood to be non-dual. Ultimate truth is beyond the reach of the material world.
Thus, confusing form and content is a major focus of correction in the Course. We are apt to take the form for the content, and thus miss the content altogether. Forgiveness is the means by our perception of separation – of duality – is transformed.
For example, we might see a homeless person asking for money. Responding with cash may or may not be called for – that is the level of form. But forgiveness reveals the content, which is seeing the homeless person as our equal, as our own self, and recognizing in them the same cry for love that exists in us.
When we see the content, then our response will be directed by Love because we are no longer insisting on differences. We are no longer relying on our own judgment to establish meaning and a hierarchy of values. Whatever we do will be what is most helpful in the grand plan of salvation, the scope of which is always beyond our limited faculties.