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God is the Real Alternative

A hammer is mostly useless if you don’t know what it is for. You cannot dig very well with it. It’s not helpful when baking bread. And even when you learn its purpose – to help build – it is only truly useful in the presence of boards and nails.

That is the nature of our power of decision, our capacity to choose, which was given to us in creation. It accomplishes nothing until we know what it is for. It seems meaningful to choose between Buddhism and Christianity, or between Catholicism and A Course in Miracles, but it’s not. It seems meaningful to choose between working to eradicate world hunger and being an investment banker, but it’s not. It seems meaningful to choose between owning in the country and renting in the city, but it’s not.

Here in the world, all our choices are simply a matter of form. It is like a game of dress-up. We can put different clothes on and pretend we’re kings and queens or hobos or little match girls but only the surface – only the superficial – changes.

Seek not escape from problems here. The world was made that problems could not be escaped. Be not deceived by all the different names its roads are given. They have but one end . . . All of them will lead to death (T-31.IV.2:5-8, 11).

Our study and practice of A Course in Miracles leads us to this place: we see at last the utter futility of the world. We see that for all its seeming alternatives – in religion, in politics, in culture, in psychology, in class – the world offers nothing but a road to death. And since choice has no meaning where the end is sure and inevitable, we see at last that our choices in the world of form are empty and meaningless.

It is very hard to look at this truth clearly and steadily and not feel fear and sadness. Everyone who looks at this truth sees at first only sacrifice: I have to give up my children? My walks with dogs? My sacred correspondence with other ACIM students? Baking bread? Bluets? Gardening? Sex?

A lot of us – me included – turn away at this point. It’s easier, or seems to be. And some who stay, simply give up. The stakes are very high at this juncture. Very high.

There is no choice where every end is sure . . . Men 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.3:1, 4-5).

Both of these outcomes – turning away and giving up – are premised on hopelessness. They seem natural. Nobody escapes them entirely.

But we are urged to indulge neither one of them. Why? Because it is only when we see the complete lack of choice offered in the world, that we open to another alternative. From this low point – and it absolutely feels low and depressed and hopeless – our greatest learning begins in earnest.

It is like the hammer. We’ve been carrying this tool around for years. We’ve been trying to dig holes in the desert with it, and trying to make cups from clay with it, and trying to scratch stories in the dirt with it. And it never works! Or it works only bluntly and poorly.

And then – just as we’re about to say the hell with it and throw it away into the bushes – we turn the corner and find a pile of lumber, some saw horses, nails of varying sizes, a level and some chisels, and even a blueprint.

Suddenly, we understand. Suddenly, the tool is meaningful.

Like that, when we stop trying to exercise our power of decision in the world – when we see it cannot meaningfully be used there – then it will be given us to see where we can use it.

No longer look for hope where there is none . . . From this lowest point will learning lead to heights of happiness, in which you see the purpose of the lesson shining clear, and perfectly within your learning grasp (T-31.IV.4:6, 8).

Every choice the world offers us – from how we’d like our steak cooked to whether we’re going to follow Jesus or the Buddha – is illusory and thus mistaken. Death is the only end the world truly offers. This is all A Course in Miracles aims to teach us: our power of decision is useless here in the world, but there is an alternative.

There is cause for hope. And it lies in no small part on rejecting – on refusing to accept – the idea that any solution or victory or progress can exclude our brothers and sisters. We are going to Heaven together, and we cannot go until we are all of gathered and ready.

[a]ll the lesson’s purpose is to teach that what your brother loses you have lost, and what he gains is what is given you (T-31.IV.8:5).

Thus, the alternative is revealed as we stop looking for meaning where it cannot be found. It is revealed when we stop investing in choices that are choices in form only. It is revealed when we trust – even in the face of apparently crushing hopelessness – that God has not left us.

So we grow still and attentive. We look closely at what we choose. We stare down sacrifice and withdraw faith from illusion. We trust each other without condition or qualification, and in that trust, remember God.

And then – in that memory – our power to choose becomes powerful indeed.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Claudia May 9, 2013, 3:01 am

    Oh Sean. I audibly sighed and covered my eyes when you reminded me that the cause for hope lay in bringing my brothers and sisters along w/me. Just when I (my ego) was feeling better because I pretended I could drop them off and move ahead w/out them.
    Me: “La di da. La di da. Moving on. Leaving y’all behind.”
    Sean: “Bam. Go back and get ’em.”
    Me: “What a buzz kill.”
    But the illusion of choosing to separate myself from my brother as a way of separating myself from guilt or conflict is a lesson I seem to need to learn over and over again. I am always gently pointed back to forgiveness and seeing Christ in my brother instead of abandoning him and making his pain real. It is so much easier sometimes to just pretend I can leave it all behind. But then I pick up your writing and once again I’m lead back to the truth. Thank you.

    • Sean Reagan May 9, 2013, 6:27 am

      Hi Claudia,

      Yeah, I hear that. The first few times I read the Course I sort of skipped over those parts that included reference to helping others, or the idea that we were in this together. I wanted awakening on my terms! I don’t know why that was so hard for me – this notion that I should walk beside everyone, rather than ahead or far behind. But the ego does love to be special! And undoing that can take a lot of time. It does seem easier to pretend we can go it alone but for some reason – stubborn as we are – the truth that we can’t do it that way seeps in. So there is hope!

      Thanks for reading & for the kind words.

      ~ Sean

  • Eric May 9, 2013, 8:13 am

    Hi Sean,

    You wrote : Yeah, I hear that. The first few times I read the Course I sort of skipped over those parts that included reference to helping others, or the idea that we were in this together. I wanted awakening on my terms! I don’t know why that was so hard for me.

    Eric: The one thing I find the more I read the course, is the idea of relationship. The course tells us over and over again that we cannot find salvation alone, that salvation is in our brothers. It even tells us that looking for the Holy Spirit in ourselves alone, our thoughts will frighten us.

    In fact, the course tells us this about its special means of saving time

    Your way will be different, not in purpose but in means. A holy relationship is a means of saving time. One instant spent together restores the universe to both of you. ~ACIM

    We are told that miracles are interpersonal (not just intrapersonal) and that they require cooperation, because the Sonship is the sum of all God’s Created. We are told that God has made salvation easy to obtain when the course says,

    “God’s Will is your salvation. Would He not have given you the means to find it? If He wills you to have it, He must have made it possible and very easy to obtain it. Your brothers are everywhere. You do not have to seek far for salvation. Every minute and every second gives you a chance to save yourself. Do not lose these chances, not because they will not return, but because delay of joy is needless. God wills you perfect happiness now. Is it possible that this is not also your will? And is it possible that this is not also the will of your brothers? ~ACIM

    Eric: Yet, we find ways around this. We make clever labels of ACIM and call it “pure non-duality” and then attempt to make the abstract metaphysics of ACIM into a concrete math equation and reduce everything down to a numerical number, thus creating a very dualistic, “non-duality” or the idea of solipsism through dismissing a lot of what the course says about brothers.

    It just seems another way to look for one’s own individual salvation. “My brothers are nothing more than ego fragments”, we say, believing this is an enlightened state of thinking. But this is not what the course says is. This is the problem the course tries to correct when it says,

    In sleep you are alone, and your awareness is narrowed to yourself. And that is why the nightmares come. You dream of isolation because your eyes are closed. You do not see your brothers, and in the darkness you cannot look upon the light you gave to them. ~ACIM


    You see what is not there, and you hear what is soundless. Your behavioral manifestations of emotions are the opposite of what the emotions are. You communicate with no one, and you are as isolated from reality as if you were alone in all the universe. In your madness, you overlook reality completely, and you see only your own split mind everywhere you look. God calls you and you do not hear, for you are preoccupied with your own voice. And the vision of Christ is not in your sight, for you look upon yourself alone. ~ACIM

    Eric: We communicate with no one? And what is the separation but a break in communication? And what is communication synonymous with? Creation. The course tells us, to share is to make One. The metaphysics of ACIM cannot be really understood through the lens of the concrete mind.

    The “non-duality” of the course is about OneMindedness. It never uses the word non-duality and I think for good reason. Even in non-dual circles, they cannot even agree as to what this means. And the course itself uses both singular and plural throughout it.

    In the introduction before Lesson 321, the course both asks and answers what Creation is when it says,

    “Creation is the sum of all God’s Thoughts, in number infinite and everywhere without all limit. Only Love creates and only like Itself.”~ ACIM

    Eric: Creation is the sum of all God’s Thoughts in number infinite, not finite. It then says that Creation is the Holy Son of God (singular) and then says we are the Sons of God (plural) a few sentences later. This is just saying what the course says early on in the text when it says that God has only One Son, because all His Creations are His Sons. The Sonship is the sum of all that God has created.

    If as the course says in the miracle principles that God is the Giver of Life, then His Creation must be Life itself. This is the Son. The Son of God IMO is not some super persona as often described in the non-duality metaphysics that is sometimes taught. The Son of God is Life itself. We are part of Life and Life. We are all a Thought of God in number infinite.

    The course does teach non-duality, but IMO not in the sense of a math equation. This can be a pitfall to the teachings of the course and dismiss the very heart of the course. Relationships, communion, sharing, communication, etc.

    I’ve even seen it go so far as to say there are no brothers. What a sad way to exclude the very teachings the course is trying to teach. As the course tells us that present joining (with our brothers) is our dread.

    We (myself included) have a fear of joining. We may “lose ourselves”, but the reality is, we can only find ourselves in our brothers. But we keep that little space between us. We may even make up metaphysical thought that on the surface seems profound, but is just another defensive tactic. What better way to cover up the fear of joining with our brothers, than to say they are illusions or there are no brothers. Yes, the body is an illusion. the concepts we make up about our brothers are illusions, but their Changeless Reality along with our own are not.

    We are the Sons of God.

    BTW, The Real Alternative is one of my absolute favorite sections of the course.


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