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 that 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.


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  1. I’ve been orbiting the Course again, still trying to unpack it. Thank you for being so direct and kind (and so prolific!) with your messages! They’ve been wonderful to read. Practicing Love always sounded too simple to me. I wanted a practice, a method, a technique. Some magic mantra or ritual that will enlighten me. Just practice love. 🙏🏽

    1. The course is such a weird blend of familiar and reliable and completely bonkers. I sometimes feel I don’t spend enough time just appreciating that fact. I’m glad that what I write here is helpful, in its way; it’s certainly helpful to write it all out, my form of thinking out loud. Having smart thoughtful folks like you actually read it is a significant blessing. I know we don’t know one another well, but you always look and sound both happy and determined to extend that happiness to others. I’m glad our paths cross and that we are sharing this way. For all its weirdness, the company can be pretty cool.

      ~ Sean

  2. Bravo Sean, A friend from a weekly ACIM study sent me your article because I sent our group a text about being heartbroken and frightened by a certain part of society that still thinks something can be accomplished by violence. I wasn’t going to comment but something inside said, “spread the word”

    1. Thank you, Michael. Yes, there are many brothers and sisters – some near and some far – who still believe that violence can do anything other than bring forth yet more suffering and violence.

      They are scared – but unlike you, they are not yet able to look within and see the fear and ask for help. They look within, see the fear, and project it. And wars begin. It is an old sad story.

      But you’re right because “spread the word” is the better way! It is the better way because it recognizes our brothers and sisters as our equals. They, like us, are caught up in this painful cycle of fear and violence. When we ask for help, then help is given. And the help ends the fear. And we pay it forward happily.

      It is a hard thing to recognize in those who make war the cry for love. It is a hard thing to see in the oppressor the cry for love.

      But the hardest thing is responding to the war-monger and the oppressor WITH love IN love. And absolutely nothing else is called for, and nothing else can be offered. Violence has no justification.

      When we don’t see this, we are part of the problem! But when we see see it – when we embrace the joyful spiritual rigor of Lesson 152, say – then suddenly we become literal peace-makers, miracle workers who are fearless and gentle in the face of whatever the world wants to throw at us.

      Thank you for sharing and reminding me how important this work is, and that I am not alone in doing it. You are not fearful but brave and true, the light in the darkness for which we all of us long. Thank you!


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