In the separation, mind became “a perceiver rather than a creator” (T-3.IV.2:1). It can be helpful in our ACIM practice to look closely at this distinction.
Sit quietly for a few minutes and give attention. Here, snow falls. Blue jays jaw in the hemlocks. Images of my father playing catch with me appear. Feelings of frustration with so much weather-related suffering arise. More snow. The hayloft is cold. What’s for breakfast?
I perceive all this, yes? The sounds and shapes and colors, the memories and feelings, the ideas. I don’t create it – I perceive it. It is given. I don’t perceive its source or cause, only the ongoing effects. I can’t turn blue jays into cardinals. Can’t make snow into rainbow-colored confetti. Can’t not think of pink elephants.
(Nor, by the way, can I perceive nothing).1
There is a lot of peace in realizing clearly both that mind perceives and how it perceives. The biggest insight is seeing how the perceiver (the self and the body) is also the perceived. We enter the loopy lovely spiral of creation.
One can understandably spend lifetimes in this space. There is a lot of happiness here. There is a lot of peace.
But A Course in Miracles suggests this space is the beginning rather than the end of healing. We have to investigate the truth of “before Abraham was, I am.” We have to go back to the beginning (e.g., T-3.VII.5:9).2
When we see how there is apparently only perception – and that the self, as such, is also a perception – then we can begin to give attention to “perceiving truly,” which in turn fosters love (T-3.III.1:8). This is different than merely giving attention. It evokes laws of Creation and an order in which those laws are known (rather than perceived). It removes the self as author of experience.
In other words, according to A Course in Miracles, there is something beyond perception. Or, to correct the first sentence of the preceding paragraph, there is not “only perception.”
Miracles, as A Course in Miracles uses the term, are designed to heal perception by teaching us how to only perceive truly in order to go beyond perception.
First question: What does it mean to perceive truly?
It means to accept what is perceived as given. The miracle “perceives everything as it is” (T-3.II.3:4). We don’t add to it, we don’t embellish it and we certainly don’t denigrate it.
It means not trying to make (or pretend that we have made) one part of perception truer than another (which is another way of saying, make it all the same). What is perceived is neutral; it’s the egoic self that brings evaluation and judgment into it.
It means that we don’t try to oppose perception in any way.
It means seeing – and accepting unconditionally – that we can’t oppose perception. “You cannot make untruth true” (T-3.II.6:2).
And finally, critically, it means understanding that “to perceive truth is not the same as to know it” (T-3.III.5:13).
A lot rides on that last distinction.
Right perception – true perception – is a beginning. It is a cornerstone. A Course in Miracles teaches that “right perception is necessary before God can communicate directly to His altars” (T-3.III.6:1). Right perception is adjacent to – without actually being – knowledge. It’s where we start.
Knowledge means certainty and the end of questioning (T-3.III.2:5). It is not variable (T-14.VIII.4:6). It does not induce action, because it is not related to the body or the world (T-3.III.6:8). To know is to be as God is, perfectly whole, imperturbable and peace-filled (T-13.VIII.2:3). Words do not apply and no image is fitting because knowledge is not symbolic (T-3.V.4:6-7).
Knowledge is impersonal (T-4.II.1:4). There is no self in it. There are no distinctions whatsoever in it (T-4.II.11:12).
It is tempting to claim that we have reached or attained or are in possession of knowledge. Or we make a goal of knowledge – it’s why we practice ACIM or see a therapist or go to church. We want to know God, know peace, know joy. Honestly, claims to knowledge and action purportedly undertaken on behalf of knowledge make us feel special.
But remember: specialness is always temptation. Only ego can be tempted, and the temptation always reinforces self-identification with a body. We want to be the one who “gets it,” the teacher not the student, or at least the favorite student. Our intention here is irrelevant; anything personal is always ego.
To want anything is to imply that what we are in truth is capable of lack, which is to accept sacrifice, which is to condone suffering. This is the opposite of truth! It is the opposite of the joy and peace which are our inheritance. It is important to see how our thinking functions, and to be entirely honest about its goals and effects. There is no other way to purify our thoughts and reach the ones we think with God.
The solution is to the problem of pretending we are further along spiritually than we actually are (which is just the problem of being distracted from what we are), is simply to go back and start again. Sit quietly and give attention for a few minutes. See what is given. See how you can’t oppose it. Rest in the space of non-opposition.
This leads to the second question: What is given in the space of non-opposition? That is, what is beyond perception?
- Common arguments pushing back on this include: what about a whisky blackout? Under anesthesia? Deep sleep? Am I not at those times perceiving “nothing?”
I think these are examples of impaired or altered perception, rather than no perception. The self remains in some embryonic degree because it reconstitutes itself, and incorporates the so-called “blank” into its being. “Can’t remember” is different than “nothing.”
- If there is one! The “loopy spiral” image suggests there is no actual beginning, only arbitrary declarations that vary according to the one doing the declaring. “Beginnings” and “endings” – and even “now” – are concepts contingent on linear experiences of time. The experience is one thing (that’s just a feature of bodies, particularly human ones) but the actual existence of time is another. The course (like many nondual paths) insists that time is not real and will – when we remember what we are in truth) – just disappear. It’s illusion, not reality. “Back to the beginning” then is symbolic, but of what? This is a fun and nontrivial question!