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After Hate, This Love

Two basic facts underlie the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles. First, what we experience as “love” in the world is actually hate. And second, everything that appears in and as the world is the same.

At first this appears ridiculous. Then it appears erroneous. Then it appears logical but undesirable.

Then it appears inevitable.

When it appears inevitable, we enter a state of denial that can apparently take lifetimes to wade through. Then comes a state of despair.

And that despair can be quite sustained and quite intense. It can be dangerous.

It can even be murderous.

But then – no warning – we give up. Not out of virtue and not because of reason. Not because we’ve evolved spiritually.

Because of defeat. Because of exhaustion.

Empty of desire, bereft of hope and deprived of reason, we become like corpses left to rot on a battlefield. Carrion. Dust to dust.

And yet.

When we give up, we do so because we see that the logic of the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles makes clear that there is nothing to do and nobody to do it.

But only ego sees this as “the end.”

To spirit it’s an engraved invitation to a joyful wedding where all life is married unto an open marriage with all life. And the reception goes on forever.

That marriage – and the party after – is not the end! It’s not Heaven, not Nirvana. It, too, is an illusion, else I could not speak of it. Yet in it, the singular spark of God (of which we know nothing) becomes a conflagration in which – at last – self-awareness dies.

Nisargadatta knew.

When you are very quiet, you have arrived at the basis of everything. That is the deep, dark blue state in which there are millions of stars and planets. When you are in that state, you have no awareness of your existence.

When there is nothing left to do, then everything becomes possible. And when everything is possible, you are free. And when you are free, you are happy. And when you are happy, all you want to do is extend that happiness to others, so you do, perfectly and consistently.

Hope does rise from the ash pit of despair but it does not rebuild a world and it does not rely on a separated self for its existence. It is simply an energetic ascending – a luminous spiral indistinguishable from the cosmos – in which fear and guilt do not exist.

When you let go of everything, what remains is love. For a while, the same old appearances will chug along – your wife, your brother, your best friend, your job, your back pain, your fantasies, your hobbies, your mortgage. But all these are orders of magnitude less stressful because you know – even if you are not yet sure that you know – that they are not real.

Neither fear nor worship the image: this is the law and the prophets.

Our work ends when we see the illusion as an illusion. There is nothing to do in or to or with an illusion. It disintegrates of its own accord, heeding laws we did not invent and over which we have no say.

There is no world. There is no separate self in existence anywhere. Ego shrouds these facts with darkness and despair, but there is another way to perceive them.

A Course in Miracles is an invitation to this alternative mode of perception, which it calls the Holy Spirit. There is no Holy Spirit! That, too, is just a dream within a dream within a dream.

And yet . . .

If you seek the peace that surpasses understanding, then you must consent to the destruction of both understanding and the one who would understand.

Today, may the love we share make it so.

On Being Right vs. Happiness

Here is one of my favorite sentences from A Course in Miracles: “do you prefer that you be right or happy (T-29.VII.1:9)?”

I like it for two reasons.

First, it’s a good question! It helpfully points to the impossibility of inner peace when one is stuck on being right about something. Being right means somebody else has to be wrong. Right and wrong are the parents of conflict, not peace.

The second reason I like it is because it literally makes the very error it says we should not make. In doing so, it demonstrates the futility of experiencing inner peace by any means offered by the world – including A Course in Miracles and its excellent questions.

Right and wrong are natural aspects of the body’s experience of both itself and the world. To minds that believe they’re isolated in bodies, right and wrong appear as obvious possibilities with high stakes. You have to choose and your choice matters.

This is as true for minor problems (should I read another chapter or go to bed) as for major ones – like, should the U.S. launch preemptive nuclear strikes against other nuclear powers?

A Course in Miracles suggests that getting worked up about the answers to those questions isn’t going to bring us peace. Make a decision, sure, but don’t confuse your decision with the cause of your peace or lack thereof.

In other words, within the context of a dream, decisions only seem to be causes of effects.

Since it, too, appears in a dream, this also applies to A Course in Miracles. Thus, that question posed by the text, so helpful in guiding our decision-making minds, is itself the very problem it claims to resolve.

Why do I say this?

Because there is a right answer to the question of do you prefer to be right or happy and every course student knows it.

The right answer is: I prefer happiness.

The question which aims to liberate you from the right / wrong conflict is itself embedded in that conflict.

Even A Course in Miracles cannot escape the framework of separation that gives rise to both ego and world.

This need not be cause for dismay! Instead, it reminds us that nothing – nothing – in the world will save us, and so motivates us to empty our hands, unburden our hearts of all attachments, and forget all that we’ve learned.

Peace is not a dream yet it is also not in a dream. It is your inheritance from a God who loves you. But you are still confused about what you are, and you are still clinging to illusions of what love is.

There is no question – much less an answer – that can save you. Salvation is not a mystery, and real happiness is not conditional. What do you refuse to give your God Who asks for nothing?

ACIM and the End of the World

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.

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?

No.

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?

Nothing.

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?

ACIM: Making it All the Same

Make this year different by making it all the same (T-15.XI.10:11).

I want to distinguish between oneness and sameness.

What is one has no parts that can be compared and found the same or different to any degree.

What is the same is separate but identical and thus equal.

In the world in which you and I live, we will not find “oneness.” We will find claims of oneness and ideals of oneness but their appearance is by definition set against “multiplicity” and “many” et cetera.

I suggest – with I hope all requisite humility – that oneness in this world is fool’s gold.

Sameness on the other hand is very much possible and – because it is tantamount to equality – becomes the closest thing to Godliness – Love (with a capital L) – that we’re going to bring forth in these bodies in this world.

The goal of A Course in Miracles is not oneness but rather to rediscover and then integrate a new way of thinking characterized by the Holy Spirit.

In course terms, the Holy Spirit – by emphasizing sameness and equality – undoes the ego’s emphasis on difference and inequality.

As we see that everything is the same, we realize that special love is not justified under any circumstances. You can prefer vanilla ice cream to black raspberry – that’s just a thing that happens in bodies, like drawing a next breath – but you can’t love vanilla ice cream more than black raspberry.

As this becomes clearer, the differences that naturally appear in our lives – between ice cream flavors, between my kid and some random kid in Tibet, between Joe Biden and Donald Trump – start to matter a lot less.

You start to see how ego uses those apparent differences to justify hatred and indifference. And it seems so reasonable! Of course you hate political rulers who break up families, deport kids, normalize violence against women . . .

And that – that right there – is the separation.

And so that – that right there – is the site of salvation.

And also, that – that right there – is why so many of us tend to romanticize A Course in Miracles by sidestepping its utterly radical emphasis on equality as the foundation of holiness and love.

. . .

I’ll write another post soon about how hard it can be to live this way (which is why we side-step it) but how living this way is actually deeply practical and peaceful.

This post is dedicated to Cheryl, who so kindly reminded me to reflect on this issue this past weekend, and who is always (well, mostly always) patient with my tendency to play ACIM know-it-all.

On Bodies, Separation and Love

Right now you are not with me. The hayloft is empty, save for my trestle table and chair, shelf upon shelf spilling with books. It’s quiet here but for chickens clucking below the window. I am alone, writing this. And what I write you will read later, in the privacy of your own space, which I can imagine but never know.

It seems that we are separated, yes?

Gazing east from the hay loft . . .

This can feel a little redundant or overly-simplistic but A Course in Miracles asks us not to overlook it: we believe that we are separate from our brothers and sisters, which is not great, so we should ask: what is the cause of this gap?

The answer, says the course, is the body. The body is the cause of the perceived gap between us.

Look closely: does the body not form an impenetrable wall around you? You can never live in “my” interior, as I can never live in “yours.” I mean, yes, we pretend to be “soul-mates” and “true loves” and whatnot but . . . when was the last time somebody else drinking a glass of water quenched your thirst?

The course suggests that if it weren’t for the body – this one right here, writing in the hay loft – then our union would be total and we would know the joy and peace of selfless Love. Without separate interests arising in separate bodies we would be one, and nothing could part us.

And yet . . . We go on with these bodies and this separation. Why?

The body saves you, for it gets away from total sacrifice and gives to you the time in which to build again your separate self, which you truly believe diminishes as you and your brother meet (T-29.I.4:7).

The course suggests here that bodies are our chosen means for making and emphasizing – and thus experiencing as realseparation.

But critically, the body only serves this function with our consent (e.g., T-29.I.5:1). The only reason you and I are not aware of our fundamental unity right now is because we refuse to challenge the erroneous conviction that what we are is in fact contained and constrained by a body.

So the suggestion then is that we look at this fact and see it clearly as possible. We don’t want to deny the body, and we don’t want to change it. We don’t want to integrate it with spirit. Healing isn’t our job but God’s. Our job is to notice our need for healing, our yearning for it, and then allow help to be given. Can you notice how your body is a barrier to Love?

If there is one cookie, we can’t both eat all of it. If I am walking on the beaches of Cape Cod then I can’t also be walking on the shores of Lake Champlain. If I have cancer I am not simultaneously cancer-free. In these ways, the body is a limit which makes the idea of sacrifice meaningful. I can’t take every human being in my arms – I can only take a few, mostly one at a time. Always we are giving up, letting go, until even love is frittered away and forgotten.

Sometimes I think I’m past all that. I wave my hand and say “I am not a body, I’m free” and then . . . forget all about the hard work of looking within with Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Of course, repeating words and ideas is a thing bodies do. There’s no such thing as an original thought. And bodies do this because it reinforces separation. Can we see it happening? Can we accept it is happening?

To see and accept this is not a judgment against the body. The body itself is neutral, neither good nor bad, weak nor strong (e.g., T-29.I.5:1). It’s not even a judgment against the belief system underlying the body’s privilege.

Instead, it’s the recognition of confusion in the mind which is healed by being recognized. You don’t have to solve a mystery, or learn a secret, or say the right prayer, or give up sex and chocolate or anything.

You just have to notice how your body works to minimize – really, to deny the very existence of – infinite and eternal and free-flowing Love.

Would you know that nothing stands between you and your brother and sister? Would you know there is no gap behind which you can hide? There is a shock that comes to those who learn their savior is their enemy no more (T-29.I.8:4-6).

We are scared of that shock because we associate it with a thing that happens in and to a body. Zap! But there’s something after the shock, and it’s softer and gentler. It quiets the storm and calms the waves.

It’s happiness.

The “happy message” of A Course in Miracles is simply that “God is Love” (T-29.I.8:7). But the Love in question is neither contained in nor constrained by the body. Instead, it is the Love we discover by letting go of the egoic shadow in order to embrace the “promise of the living God” (T-29.II.6:1).

God gave you all there is. And to be sure you could not lose it, did He give the same to every living thing as well. And thus is every living thing a part of you, as of Himself (T-29.VIII.9:7-9).

Those are radical sentences, and deeply comforting.

When we give attention to how our bodies function in the world, it is given to us to see beyond those bodies to Love, and so to be regulated by the body no more. This is not a problem of science or philosophy; it is not a question of religion. It is a simple gift which we give away in order to learn that all is in us, who are home in God, eternally.