If I were pretending to know something, which I am not, because I don’t, I might write the following.
When you are “awake,” there will be no “you” to partake of the experience, and no “other” with whom to share it. It’s not an experience that one has, nor a state one observes, nor an understanding one shares.
This is another way of saying that “awakening from the dream” is also a dream.
I’m not saying you won’t sometimes have experiences of being one with the cosmos. Or that you won’t sometimes feel a total melding of your soul with someone else’s. Unity and related spiritual insights abound. They happen to bodies in the world. We are renewed and inspired when they happen.
But A Course in Miracles is making a slightly different kind of offer. It doesn’t aim to improve improve the dream by upping its ecstasy quotient. Rather, the course reveals that the dream is a dream, and thus restores to the mind which dreams awareness of its creative power.
This, in turns, paves the way for “what waits in perfect certainty beyond salvation” (T-28.III.1:1) – peace beyond understanding, love beyond separation, the Face of God, et cetera.
If we want that – or think we do – then it starts with the basic insight that the experience we are presently having – being bodies in a world with other bodies, a world in which time passes and stuff happens, all bound up in a narrative thread that includes A Course in Miracles and “awakening from the dream” – is literally the separation.
Look around you and look within you. Outside of you, is a world constructed by distinctions – a tree is not a horse and neither are the crease in the hills where the morning sun appears.
There are similar constructions inside of you: different words for different things, different moods and sensations. An idea about pie is not an idea about justice. And neither is your desire to hold and be held by your beloved.
Differences and distinctions – separation – abound, both within and without.
Because you are an aspect of separation, there is nothing you can do about separation. A Course in Miracles suggests that separation is an illusion but you’ll never know that because you are part of the illusion. All your works and ideas and goals are part of the illusion.
Yes, in the context of the dream, a lot does seem to happen. You study ACIM, you fall in love, you take up knitting, you see ghosts, you vote in elections, you give up meat, you get sober . . .
But upon waking, the dream and all its contents vanish. And they take the dreamer with them. Remember the dream you had on June 14th, 1994? Of course not. Awakening is like that but without the one saying “I don’t remember” and the other saying “of course not.”
What you do in the dream is unrelated to reality and thus unrelated to awakening. The mind dreaming this dream will not remember it upon waking. The “you” in the dream – i.e., the “you” writing and reading this – is not the dreamer.
You don’t have to believe that, any more than you have to believe in gravity for gravity to work. But it is the course’s bottom line, metaphysically speaking. There are other paths, for those for whom this is too bitter a pill to swallow.
There are two common responses to this “bitter pill.” The first is resistance (two big subforms of which are a) ignoring it and/or b) arguing against it). That’s a form of delay that can last lifetimes.
To that latter question I think the course actually offers a couple of helpful answers. Neither ends the dream but both can make us happier within the dream, which is nicer than the alternative and which coincidentally seems to grease the skids for God’s gentle intervention. 1.
First, help others. Be of service to your brothers and sisters. When we help each other, we help ourselves, because we’re all the same. It’s like if you fix the broken wheel on a cart, you are actually attending all the wheels because you’ve relieved pressure on them. The other three don’t have to work extra hard to compensate for the broken one.
A simply effective way to help others is to live by the Golden Rule. Treat others they way you’d like to be treated, and don’t make it conditional. Don’t get hung up on whether it’s working or not working. Just live by the rule and let the pieces fall where they fall, which they’re going to do anyway. 2
Second, notice how your mind functions. What’s the difference between thinking and what you think about? Are you a thought? Notice how mind uses projection and denial to handle what it doesn’t like. Notice how bias shapes what it does like. Notice how forgetting and remembering happen. What’s the link between thought and behavior? Is there one? If you can, find out what happens when you’re asleep or under anesthesia or in a whisky blackout – not what happens in the world while you’re out but what happens to you. Where do you go? What are you doing?
The previous paragraph can sound like it’s drifting too far from canonical ACIM but it’s actually consistent with the overall tenor of the lessons, albeit stripped of their Christian and mystical overtones. Give attention to mind for its own sake; this is a fascinating practice and well worthy of what we are in truth.
Again, being a servant unto others and giving attention to how your mind works aren’t The Answer. There isn’t The Answer. But they are a means by which you can lighten up and notice in a deeper way what’s going on. Remember: it doesn’t matter if you wake up or not. That’s just another part of the dream. Your job is to notice the dream (e.g., T-28.II.4:2-5, 7:1, 10).
Stay close to the ACIM metaphysics. Don’t water them down or supplement them. Then just be as helpful as you can be to others, always with an eye on the function of your mind. This will work wonders, truly.
- There is not a lot to say about this. The course refers to God taking the last step (e.g., T-17.II.4:5), which is true but in such an abstract sort of way that even mentioning it is kind of ridiculous. God isn’t a being in any way remotely recognizable to us and doesn’t actually do (or not do) anything. Nor is there anyone for God to do things to but . . . the course does not want us to be overly dispirited at this junction. I’m here to suggest you let everything go, including God, Jesus and A Course in Miracles, and also to be a friend in the despair and confusion that seems to attend that part of the process. Though remember, there are lots of way to Boston
- I am occasionally reminded by folks that there’s a flaw in the Golden Rule, namely, its presumption that others do, in fact, want to be treated like you do. They may not! While I think this gilds the lily a bit too finely, it’s not without merit. When I say “treat others as you’d like to be treated” I mostly mean in broad and abstract ways – like access to food and shelter, freedom to make one’s own decisions in both big and little ways, love who one wants to love, etc. I am not suggesting that just because I happen to adore prisms you all ought to have a bunch, too.