The roads this world can offer seem to be quite large in number, but the time must come when everyone begins to see how like they are to one another. People have died on seeing this, because they saw no way except the pathways offered by the world. And learning they led nowhere, lost their hope (T-31.IV.3:3-5).
It’s the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine (REM)
Few passages in A Course in Miracles speak so bluntly to its potential for nihilism as the one quoted above. Whatever you think matters in this world, whatever you think counts, whatever you think is helpful is . . . not. It leads nowhere. It’s nothing.
And unlike REM, the course does not suggest we’ll feel fine about this.
This is not an intellectual understanding, though it can begin as one. It is more in the nature of psychological trauma, of having some deep-down horror brought into the light. Your reasons for forgetting it are understandable, and you don’t want to be reminded now. You certainly don’t want a sustained relationship with it.
As the course makes clear, actually encountering the nothingness-that-is-the-world can make one long for death (which isn’t, by the way, either an escape or an end). To call this fact bleak is an understatement. Really, even calling it nihilism misses the point.
This juncture is painful, and is therefore experienced as such. And that is why we prefer not to reach it. Talk about it, sure. Speculate and hypothesize? Absolutely. Conflate reading about it in a book with actually living it? You bet.
Actually get there?
This is why the ACIM community prefers to focus on stuff like holy relationships and oneness. And when that doesn’t work, argue about whether so-and-so is right or wrong about holy relationsips and oneness. There’s plenty of chestnuts: Who’s your teacher? Which edition do you read? Do you see special lights?
All of these are are merely distractions from the difficult work of seeing an illusion for an illusion.
Oddly – or perhaps thankfully – all that really has to happen at this juncture is to see it’s all an illusion. It’s all a dream, without exception. Your kids, your lover, the sandwich you ate for lunch, the coffin your father was buried in and your father? All a dream.
And here’s the really hard part – there is nothing you can do in a dream about the dream.
I know, I know – we can “wake up” from the dream. We can avail ourselves of atonement, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, forgiveness . . .
But waking up – and Atonement, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and forgiveness – are part of the dream, too.
Where did you learn about waking up? In the dream.
Where did you hear that God is Love? That your deepest fear is that you’re powerful beyond measure? That Jesus is the way, the truth and the life?
In the dream.
A Course in Miracles, tantric orgasm, holy relationships, enlightenment, nonduality, double fudge brownies, Bob Dylan songs and Emily Dickinson poems . . . dream stuff. Equally utterly illusory.
When we see at last that whatever the world offers cannot save us, despair can feel natural and justified. Yet all that has really occurred is that you’ve seen through the illusion.
When we see that it’s a dream, and that nothing in the dream can save us from the dream, that’s the end. That’s the one thing we have to do. We can’t do anything else.
Stop looking for a way out of the dream. There isn’t one.
Stop pretending that one part of the dream is better or more important or sexier than another.
Stop pretending you’re the dreamer and that if you can only find the right interior switch you’ll magically be in charge of the dream.
Just see the dream in which there’s nothing to do and nobody to do it.
A Course in Miracles refers to this learning experience as the “lowest point” (T-31.IV.4:8). It emphasizes that “no pathway in the world can lead to God, nor any worldly goal be one with His” (T-31.IV.9:3). Indeed, anything you experience as a body in the world has the singular purpose of “confusion and despair” (T-31.IV.9:5).
So what is to be done?
When you reach that juncture of the dream, your role in the dream has ended. At that point, you’re in God’s hands, far beyond the reach of dreams.
The better question is: have you reached that juncture? If not, why not?