ACIM and Responding to Suffering

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The metaphysics of A Course in Miracles are clear: there is no world (W-pI.132.6:2) and we are not bodies (W-pI.199.8:7-8). On this view, what happens merely appears to happen; it’s an illusion. It’s like winning the lottery in our dreams at night – we still wake up poor.

To bodies in the world, and to minds that believe they are encased in and limited to those bodies, the metaphysics of ACIM will always be insane. From the perspective of bodies and egos, injustice happens. Evil happens. Bad things happen to good people. Only a fool would deny this.

And, indeed, the course is not asking us to deny this. Rather, it is asking us to reframe it – to understand that it is all happening in a dream, and to invoke the guidance of powers that transcend the limitations of body and ego, powers that are in the dream by not of it, and so can point beyond it.

In the tradition of ACIM, we call those “powers” Jesus or the Holy Spirit. What we name them is less important than our ability to rely on them in times of need – which is to say, to not rely on our own judgment. “Not my will but yours” is really the point.

The fundamental practice of ACIM is to see the world as blessed and saved, and – since we cannot see this way unaided – to avail ourselves of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, who can and – more importantly – can teach us how to see it that way, too. They teach us to see peace and love by teaching us how to bring forth peace and love as a function of what we are in truth.

In spiritual terms advocated by the course (T-12.I.10:1-2), that which appears as injustice, immorality, horror, and evil is a call for love. And the only helpful response to that call is love itself.

What will love look like in the world of bodies? How will it appear in the world of form? That is not our call!

Perhaps it will look like a protest march or civil disobedience. Perhaps we will make donations of food or money or time. Perhaps we will pray our knees or console someone whose grief is temporarily greater than ours.

If we ask for guidance and are even the tiniest bit willing to hear and accept it, then whatever we do will serve the cause of love. And that will be sufficient in the world because we are not the ones doing it.

A Course in Miracles makes clear that in the context of illusions and dreams, we are the keepers of our brothers and sisters, and they, in turn, are our keepers. It’s good to have a grasp on the metaphysics – it can inspire, nurture and comfort us – but really, here in the dream, the only question that matters is: how can we help our brothers and sisters? And: are we ready to let them help us?

Whatever it is that opens your heart – whatever form of service brings forth your compassion, caring, concern – is the voice to trust when you ask: what do I do with all this suffering I perceive? It will guide you to the most helpful posture you can assume in this world, and in doing so will take you – with all of us – beyond the world.


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8 Comments

    1. You’re welcome, Hillary. Yes, me too. I think for me part of the struggle is facing my own capacity for hatred, which is my own capacity to be an oppressor and – in nontrivial cultural ways – my actual oppression, more as an effect of systems to which I consent to be part but still. It’s hard to see that the problem is in no small part me, and I don’t mean that in the ACIM sense of “I am doing this to myself.” That’s also true but it still cashes out in a lived way that calls me to be responsive.

      The past six months or so have been interesting ones in my practice, a deeper understanding of the radical nature of ACIM and some willingness to go where it seems to call me to go – a space of nonviolence, equality, etc. I hope to be clearer about this – both in practice and writing – going forward.

      Thanks as always for sharing.

      ~ Sean

  1. Jesus became lucid within this dream/simulation. According to scriptural accounts he manifested miraculous powers to heal people and he even raised the dead. Now he is referred to as the Son of God – and God the Son.

    ACIM Principle 18:

    “A miracle is a service. It is the maximal service you can render to another.
    It is a way of loving your neighbor as yourself. You recognize
    your own and your neighbor’s worth simultaneously.”

    There is the day to day ego-noise and angers but there is also the recognition that is mentioned in principle 18. It seems like a weak and frail voice. How do we strengthen or fully realize this miracle truth?

    1. Hi Edward,

      I’m not sure if you’re asking this rhetorically (I think you are) but in case anybody wants my two cents on this excellent question, the answer to how we strengthen the apparently weak and frail voice of the Holy Spirit is . . .

      We give attention to it and not to ego. We listen to it and not to ego. We follow its guidance, not ego’s.

      That is the practice! That is what a disciplined ACIM practice looks like: over and over choosing the Holy Spirit rather than the ego. Forgetting and trying again. Fighting it and trying again. Quitting and coming back. Keep coming back. Always.

      Over and over and over we give attention to the gentle clarity of the Holy Spirit, teaching us to know all our brothers and sisters as our equal in Christ, and perceive only cries for love and extensions of love, the response to which is always simply love.

      That is what “mind-training” (T-1.VII.4:1) means. We teach our minds to hear only the Voice for God, which is non-violent and crystal clear. And as we hear it, we manifest its teaching: we extend the miracle of joy and peace unto the world.

      When I meet Jesus in the stillness of mind – beyond projection, beyond thought – I meet a brother who understood this, and who made it his practice, even unto a cross. He gave attention to Love and became – in a nontrivial way – Love Itself. And two thousand some odd years later we find ourselves similarly situated: we suffer, and others suffer with us, and there is a better way. It is in our heart and mind, and it this better way the Holy Spirit both reveals and teaches us to follow.

      To be Christ is to be a follower of Love, humble and grateful, content entirely to be the least and the last, for only then do we remember our shared equality.

      ~ Sean

  2. Hi Sean,

    I am on lesson 102.

    It prompted me.to ask myself why I choose suffering? What value does it hold for.me?

    I woke up suffering this morning, as I always do, to that leason.

    In the questions I posed to myself the answer was.

    Suffering for now, this morning just stopped, I did not have any big peaceful boom, and I suspect I don’t need those anymore.

    The suffering just seemed to stop, and that is enough.

    Thanks for being here, so that I can look at ideas with myself.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Tom. Owning our willingness to suffer – and extension of the ACIM principle we are doing this to ourselves – is a foundation of peace. Thanks for reminding me.

      ~ Sean

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