I was walking with a friend recently, snowy back roads at twilight. While our spiritual paths are different, our general sense of what it means to be spiritual – what the goals are, what the work is, what the results are – is quite similar. Our talks are almost always fruitful.
We were talking about how as one’s relationship with God deepens, the simpler one’s external and temporal existence becomes. Problems are not so vexing; one’s sense of necessity softens. For example, this winter I have to come to regard sunlight on snow as perhaps the loveliest and most dazzling light ever created, and it is given to me on an almost daily basis. My attention to it has intensified to a white heat; my gratefulness in those moments is boundless.
I am only able to perceive winter light this way because I have changed my mind about beauty and giving. And that, I said to my friend, is the textbook definition of a miracle according to A Course in Miracles.
She said – less in response than simply thinking out loud – “they really need to change the name of that thing.”
Beyond a willingness to change, nothing else is required. Love will always do the rest perfectly.
In western (and Christian) culture, we are accustomed to thinking of miracles in terms of the suspension of the laws of physics, or really out-sized gifts from God. Jesus walked on water, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. We win the lottery. They are big events that always resolve in our special favor. Thus, when we are diagnosed with cancer, we pray for a miracle – which almost always means that we don’t die. And so forth.
But A Course in Miracles means something else entirely when it talks about miracle. A miracle is first and foremost an expression of love (See T-1.I.1:4, 3:2 and 9:2). Bill Thetford once described them as “the love that sustains the universe.”
It’s the shift in perception that removes the barriers or obstacles to our awareness of love’s presence in our lives.
So it is critical to see that this love is not external but rather “in” our mind. It is a thought (T-1.I.12:1), not an event. They are not caused by what is external so much as reflected there. Sunlight in winter has never not been astounding. But as I practice the course, I become less invested in the active egoic mind, and there is more space to simply appreciate what is given and so, like a blind man who suddenly regains his sight, I can actually see that light, sparkling and prismatic like the eyes of a thousand joyful angels.
And of course, that is not all that I “see.” There is also the cry of owls in the distance at three a.m. There is starlight in the February sky. My daughter playing fur elise on the piano. Homemade peach sauce over homemade vanilla ice cream. Cardinals at the feeder. Chrisoula’s laugh. Emily Dickinson poems received at deeper and deeper levels. The smell of cedar walking, and wood smoke back home while resting. Deer tracks. The brook humming beneath a thick sleeve of ice.
But all those are simply forms: a litany of things through which I can more or less consistently glimpse the love that is God, that is that-which-is, that is Source, Light, the Ground of all Being, etc. And thus perceived, these things lift me in turn, and from that space of gentle elevation, love extends readily and naturally through me. Miracles are not something one does but more in the nature of something one allows God to do without relation to specificity of form. Thus, beyond a willingness to change, nothing else is required. Love will always do the rest perfectly. We just need to get out of the way.
Resistance to the title – A Course in Miracles – is premised on the idea that miracles are not internal shifts of perception in the direction of love, but great big external events that please and sustain the egoic self. When we accept that they are “expressions of love” unrelated to what is external (in the same way a mirror is not related to what it reflects), then the title becomes altogether accurate.
At the time, I certainly didn’t respond positively to that title. However, when you get into the Course and then into the definition of what a miracle is, it does make sense. In fact, it’s the only appropriate name for the Course.
He is right, of course. There is no need to change the name of A Course in Miracles. Instead, there is a need to study it and bring what is learned into application. This takes a miracle: nothing else is needed.