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.

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.

On War and A Course in Miracles

Given the state of the world – especially with respect to its diverse and vivid potential for sustained & catastrophic violence – it is helpful to revisit some basic principles of how one lives in a chaotic dysfunctional world when one is a student of A Course in Miracles.

A primary metaphysical assertion of A Course in Miracles is that the world is not real (e.g., W-pI.132.6:2). It’s important to remember that the course is not denying that the world appears real; rather, it is asserting that the appearance is not in a 1:1 alignment with Love.

If we are lost in the desert, the mirage of an oasis is not a real source of water or salvation but it is a real mirage. Pretending otherwise can literally end in death.

If you happen to prefer chocolate ice cream to vanilla, then you are going to experience eating chocolate rather than vanilla ice cream. If you prefer hiking to running, then you’re going to experience scaling mountains rather than competing in local 5Ks. And so forth.

The particular experience we have is not a problem to be solved, nor an evil to be resisted, but simply a confusion to be corrected. And neither the confusion nor the correction are in the experience. Rather, they are in the mind that perceives the experience.

Bodies don’t undo bodies. The world doesn’t end in the world itself. Only minds change and under certain useful constraints, they can change in the direction of healing, which is to say, Love.

Thus, A Course in Miracles is not an invitation to deny our experience of being embodied in a world full of other bodies.

It is not an invitation to make an intellectual argument about Love that proves other course students wrong, or other Christians wrong, or other philosophers wrong.

Rather, it is an invitation to perceive the world with an internal Teacher who – unlike our rigidly embodied self – knows what’s illusory and what is not.

Please note that if you agree with what is written here, then you implicitly accept the existence of the body and the world’s reality. Some guy on the internet is right!

Please also note that if you disagree with what is written, then you explicitly accept the existence of the body and the world’s reality. Some guy on the internet is wrong!

With respect to this right/wrong binary there is – as Bill Thetford so aptly pointed out, inaugurating A Course in Miracles – another way.

The other way is to simply attend one’s living without a lot of drama, and to let their inner teacher – the Holy Spirit – handle the decision-making. Not my will but Thine be done.

What does this have to do with the world’s habit of threatening sustained and catastrophic violence?

It is not our job to start, prosecute or end war or [insert your calamity here].

At the level of the body, our job is to adopt a stance toward war exemplified by the Golden Rule: you don’t want anybody killing your body, so don’t kill other bodies. You don’t want other governments advocating killing your body, so don’t support a government that advocates killing other bodies.

That’s it. That’s always the answer to how to live in the world as a body (e.g., T-1.III.6:4). Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. When we accept that, then “what to do” with this or that external crisis is solved neatly and quickly forever.

And then we can get on with the work of forgiveness: seeing our brothers and sisters as one self and one mind.

Most of us are happy to say┬áthat we see our brothers and sisters as one self and one mind. But the course is given to us precisely because we don’t see them that way but can be taught to see them that way. Until we learn that way of seeing, then we are going to remain attached to the illusion that truth and love are actually in bodies.

So for the time being, we have to work it out at both levels – mind and body.

You are only reading this post because – like the one who wrote it – you still believe in a world in which a body serves a function that can be other than neutral. It can’t. The body is literally the manifestation of an argument. Asking it to be anything else just doubles down on the original confusion.

Offer the body to the work of peace: do unto others as you would have them do unto you, and then forget about it. Don’t sweat the war. Or the ice cream or the 5K. Practice love in the face of conflict so that you can learn – once and for all, quite literally – that Love never went to war in the first place.

Love,
Sean