The Forty-Seventh Principle of A Course in Miracles

The miracle is a learning device that lessens the need for time. It establishes an out-of-pattern time interval not under the usual laws of time. In this sense it is timeless (T-1.I.47:1-3).

In A Course in Miracles, time is a human construct the Holy Spirit uses to help us remember our identity in Creation. It is the means by which we perceive separation and are empowered to bring it to an end. We perceive a past in which we are separate, and from which – in the present – we can learn how not to be separate in the future by undoing past and future now.

Time is effectively the measure of the gap between fear and love, for those who are as yet unable to recognize that fear does not exist and only love is real. Miracles shorten the gap and thus decrease our need for time in order to learn. What would ordinarily take a thousand years can take an instant thanks to the miracle.

Time is your friend, if you leave it to the Holy Spirit to use. He needs but very little to restore God’s whole power to you. He Who transcends time for you understands what time is for. Holiness lies not in time but in eternity (T-15.I.15:1-4).

Our ideas about time are that it is clear and strict – a second is not a minute but a minute is comprised of sixty seconds, a minute is not an hour but an hour is comprised of sixty minutes, an hour is not a day, a day is not a month, et cetera. But that has to do with the measuring of time, not time itself. The Course suggests that time – because it is a thing we make – is much more malleable. And we can use it to good ends.

How long is an instant? As long as it takes to re-establish perfect sanity, perfect peace and perfect love for everyone, for God and for your self (T-15.I.14:1-2).

Gradually, as the gap between our self and God shrinks, we loosen our grip on the future and the past. We begin to see the illusory nature of time, and we don’t need the illuson of order it offers. The present moment expands; beginnings and endings cease to matter in the way that they once did.

Essentially, miracles allow us to perceive the world – and the relationships of which it is comprised – without the shadow of the past or the future upon them When we perform a miracle, when we are miracle-minded, we step outside the illusion of time and perceive truly, which is to say, lovingly.

There is no fear in the present, only the “crystal cleanness” of our release from guilt (T-15.I.13:7).

All of this is to say that miracles are not subject to the laws of time. They intervene in time and reveal both its illusory nature and the fact that we are the ones making it up. Miracles make clear that we are not subject to the laws of time, save by our decision to pretend otherwise. In this way, we become empowered. We see that separation is not being forced on us by external forces, but is rather an internal decision to accept a distorted and limited way of thinking.

What does this look like in practice?

Miracles are manifestations of love and unity in our living. Say that somebody is angry with us; rather than respond to their anger, we perceive the fear which underlies their anger, and we recognize that the fear is not their fear but our shared fear. Then we can respond to the fear rather than the anger. And the response to fear is always love.

This shortens the need for time because when anger is healed by the recognition that love holds everything, it does not need to return. It is undone forever; it is literally replaced by the knowledge of eternity. When Love is all that we perceive, then the need for time is undone.

The Forty-Sixth Principle of A Course in Miracles

The Holy Spirit is the highest communication medium. Miracles do not involve this type of communication, because they are temporary communication devices. When you return to your original form of communication with God by direct revelation, the need for miracles is over (T-1.I.46:1-3).

The Holy Spirit is in our mind in a real and practical way (T-5.I.3:3). He is our capacity to remember the wholeness of God and manifest holiness in our lives in the world. When we listen to the Holy Spirit, and align our living with His quiet guidance, then we are as near to God as it is possible to be in a lonely dream of the world as the site of God’s death.

The Holy Spirit bridges the gap between the ego’s construction of a false self and world, and the truth of Creation. When we listen to the Holy Spirit, we perceive the lies we tell ourselves – and the lies we sell to others – and become willing to learn what it means to live without falsehood of any kind.

This willingness is holiness, and it is the path to salvation, ours and the world’s.

Joy has no cost. It is your sacred right, and what you pay for is not happiness. Be speeded on your way by honesty, and let not your experiences here deceive in retrospect (T-30.V.9:9-11).

Miracles are effects of listening to – of learning from, of working with – the Holy Spirit. They are shifts in perception which reveal what is true and what is false and allow us to bridge the illusory gap between. In this way, we move from fear to love, and the separation and its effects are naturally undone.

In other words, miracles are the application of the Holy Spirit’s lessons, which are continuously offered. They help us to lean away from the ego’s distortions and misdirections which means we are leaning towards the Holy Spirit’s offering of purification and remembered innocence.

Miracles are temporary because they are fundamentally transitional. They are like waystations and walking sticks for our spiritual journey. Without them we could not travel as happily or readily. But they are not themselves our destination; they are not the summit of the mountain.

Importantly, when we reach the “end” of this journey, we will no longer need miracles. Nobody needs a map of the trail when they’ve reached their destination. When we are home with God, then there are no gaps, and our need for communication – as we understand and practice it in the context of separation – is over.

When the Atonement has been completed, all talents will be shared by all the Sons of God. God is not partial. All His children have His total Love, and all His gifts are freely given to everyone alike (T-1.V.3:1-3).

A Course in Miracles teaches us that knowing God means direct and unmediated connection with the divine. It is a deep and sustainable experiential knowing of our oneness with God and all of Creation. This knowing is not conceptual; it is not contingent on information and belief. When we are standing in a river, we know what flowing water feels like. Knowing the Love of God is like that. You don’t need language at all.

When we remember this form of communication – this direct knowing – then we are no longer in denial about our shared inherent divinity and unity with all of life. Given that, there is no longer any need for the corrective function of the miracle. We’ve left the misperceptions of the ego behind to be fully aligned with the truth as God knows it.

Thus, dialogue with the Holy Spirit and the miracles that arise from that dialogue are invaluable practical tools on our spiritual journey to remembering the oneness that is God’s Love. They help us let go of the ego’s distorted narrative and misguided directives. They remind us that our function is to remember our shared unity with all Creation; they help us manifest that remembrance until “everyone recognizes that he has everything” and “individual contributions to the Sonship” are no longer necessary (T-1.V.2:6).

But they are not themselves God; they are not themselves Love. When their work is over – like any scaffold – they are undone and exist no more. Only God remains.

The Forty-Fifth Principle of A Course in Miracles

A miracle is never lost. It may touch many people you have not even met, and produce undreamed of changes in situations of which you are not even aware (T-1.I.45:1-2).

The miracle’s capacity for healing is not contingent on our awareness – or even our acceptance – of it. Even when we do not perceive its effects, those effects are there. It’s like gravity; we don’t walk around noticing that the reason we’re grounded is gravity. We can but we don’t have to. Gravity just works.

Like gravity, miracles just work. Like the sun, they are always present. Even when clouds cover the sky, the sun is the source of light and warmth. Our personal awareness is not a prior condition for either the existence or the utility of miracles.

More critically, the effects of the miracle are not only about us. They extend unto the world, unto all our brothers and sisters (broadly defined to include starfish, gophers and rain forests), often in ways that we cannot predict and may not have intended. This means, by the way, that some of what we experience as a miracle is simply the ripple effects of miracles kindled in the minds of our brothers and sisters. There is always cause for gratitude.

So our intentions and understanding are not pre-requisites for miracles. Only our willingness matters. Only the openness of our hearts and minds.

Open-mindedness comes with lack of judgment. As judgment shuts the mind against God’s Teacher, so open-mindedness invites Him to come in . . . Only the open-minded can be at peace, for they alone see reason for it (M-4.X.1:2-3, 6).

Imagine that we are in relationship and that our relationship is unbalanced. I overshare with you, say, and you put up with it. I routinely transgress your boundaries – not maliciously but definitely selfishly. One day you realize that the transgression hurts both of us, and so you gently set a boundary I cannot transgress.

You experience this as relief; I may experience this a rejection. In your relief you are able to repair some other relationships, exponentially expanding your capacity to help and be present to others in useful ways. You are able to extend love more fluidly; you are able to receive love more openly.

Maybe I stew in hurt for a while and then reach out to a therapist to try and understand what happened. Maybe I pray on it. And a month or a year or more later, maybe I realize the way that you acted helped both of us. And then I can begin to repair other relationships, expanding my own capacity for helpfulness and love.

That is a way it can happen when we practice A Course in Miracles. That is a way that working miracles can unfold in time, healing those with whom they reach.

By the way, the other relationships that we heal may well be unaware of what transpired between you and I. They may know nothing of our struggle and our shared healing from that struggle. Yet they are able to bask in the light our healing brings. They know its effects, even without being able to name the cause of those effects.

Note, too, that our experience of the miracle – mind and yours – was not the same. The healing occurred in different ways and at different times. It assumed different forms. But the healing itself is undeniable. And its effects are not contingent on its form.

The only effect of the miracle is healing, but in the context of separation this always appears in varying forms. The miracle meets us where we are in precisely the way we need it to meet us. This is what A Course in Miracles means when it refers to Atonement as an “interlocking chain of forgiveness” (T-1.I.25:1).

We may never know the full extent of the effects of the miracles that appear in our living, but we can be confident that they are never lost. They are never without effect or purpose. Miracles are always at work in the world to restore to us our shared identity in and as Christ.

The Forty-Fourth Principle of A Course in Miracles

The miracle is an expression of an inner awareness of Christ and the acceptance of His Atonement (T-1.I.44:1).

In A Course in Miracles, Christ is the manifest symbol of the unconditionally loving aspect of God. Christ knows reality as God created it, and thus sees it truly. Christ does not hold personal judgment, and eschews all privilege in relation to others. Christ serves, eternally.

Christ practices forgiveness as the only means of undoing the perceived separation from God and Creation, from which error all conflict and thus all suffering arises. There is no loss or sacrifice anywhere in the system. To believe otherwise is the separation.

There is no loss; to think there is, is a mistake. You have no problems, thought you think you have (T-26.II.3:2-3).

On that view, the miracle is an understanding that arises as an effect of our inner awareness of Christ as our actual identity. It is a way of perceiving the world as Christ perceives it, and of serving the world as Christ serves it. Its fundament is oneness from which it does not – from which it cannot – deviate.

In A Course in Miracles, when we “work” a miracle, we are not shifting the physical or material world around us. We are not altering the perceived context of a relationship. We are simply consenting to have our perception of the world and our place it in it interpreted differently. We are saying “yes” to transformation through this re-interpretation. We no longer insist on the fear-driven biases of ego; we turn instead – gratefully, with open hearts and open minds – to the Holy Spirit and say, “teach me another way.”

The Holy Spirit shows us beauty and joy. He shows us peace and the potential for peace. He shows us a way in which we can activate that potential by loving what is beautiful and joyful, and allowing our living to be guided accordingly. We are entitled to miracles, and we are invited to share miracles with one another. Indeed, we are called to do this. Doing so makes us happy.

When we consent to be taught by the Holy Spirit, and when we devote ourselves to His teaching, then our awareness of Christ-as-reality, as our reality, is enhanced. It ceases to be an idea and becomes instead an actual way of living in the world. We naturally become miracle-minded; we naturally extend the light that miracles bring. We are not alone but more than that, we understand we can not be alone.

To think with Christ inevitably yields behavioral changes. We forgive someone who cuts in front of us; we say we’re sorry when we cut in front of them. We notice a lack of empathy in us and pray that it be remedied. We realize we are hurting ourselves in this or that relationship, and takes steps to remove ourselves in order to minimize suffering.

If we do those things first and then wait expectantly for the result of inner peace, then we will be disappointed. But if we make contact with Love and the Potential for Love within us – if we recognize Christ, and seek only to bring forth Christ – then what occurs in the world will gently and quietly remind us we have chosen correctly. We have remembered Christ and accepted the atonement – the corrected perception – that Christ offers us.

Notes on Self-Defense

These notes were culled from today’s newsletter on the Peace of Christ.

I want to notice the inclination to defend myself. I want to give attention to the experience of self-defense. Where does it arise in the body? What mental fantasies does it evoke? What family memories arise? Where in the culture is it most easily justified? Where is it most effectively challenged?

I want to see and feel and hold the whole skein of the urge to defend myself against the attack of another.

Sometimes when I do this I realize how silly attack and defense are. There are so many moving parts – not only in me but in literally everyone in the world, really literally the whole cosmos – that it is impossible to say with certainty what is happening, let alone what the best course of action is in a given situation (e.g., T-14.XI.6:7-9).

Oddly, this insight – that there is no justification for action – doesn’t mean that there’s no decision to be made, no choice to be exercised. It just shifts the choice to a simpler, more abstract level.

I.e., since I can’t interpret this situation on behalf of love and peace, am I willing to let the Holy Spirit interpret it for me?

The Holy Spirit always chooses in favor of happiness. In the context of separation, we experience this as calm and quiet, as contentedness and communion. We can breathe; our nervous system slows down; we aren’t in a terminal state of high alert. In this state, we naturally cooperate with one another, coordinating our thinking in order to consistently and sustainably act from love and not from fear.

Therefore ask: what behaviors make you happy? Make you calm? Facilitate dialogue?

For me, helping others helps. If I can’t help them, then at least not hurting them. Connecting with others in non-dramatic ways – saying hi, asking how the weekend was, checking in. Playing well and sharing, also known as sandboxing. Taking care of myself, taking care of others whose care is entrusted to me. Keeping it simple.

Being at least willing unto all of the above . . .

We have to be careful. Ego will cheerfully translate “happy” into a state in which we get revenge on everyone who ever did us wrong, current company not excluded. Ego is very skillful with language.

The truest happiness to which I can attest means realizing we are no longer in conflict because we have let the cause for conflict go. We are surrendering control of what happens to the Teacher of God, the interior voice that speaks always for our Father in Heaven, Who our brother Jesus heard and obeyed, becoming the Christ, and is thus our model for living peacefully and happily in the world.

Jesus lived exactly the way you live when you know – not believe but know – that your Father in Heaven holds every thing and every one in love and there is nothing – not even crucifixion – to fear.

Our only work is to consent to be held by love – in love and for love – and this is not a doing, nor even an undoing, but an acceptance. It is a state of stillness and quiet so tender that in its presence even the hardest and cruelest of hearts must melt.

Rejoice: Notes on ACIM Lesson 41

These are my notes for a recent Sunday discussion group. If you are interested in joining, let me know.

In Lesson 41 I want to look first at the first paragraph, and bring our attention to certain words in it. I’m often critical of the pompous and obtuse language of A Course in Miracles, but it is deliberate. There are no accidents in salvation, and there are precious few in the lexical choices in ACIM.

The first word is “eventually.” Eventually means “after a sequence of events or challenges in time.” Lesson 41 is explicitly acknowledging that our Course practice occurs in time. This is an implicit way of saying, forget about the metaphysics of time (and the world and all of that) and just do the work.

It is also an invitation to relax our expectations of when we’ll awaken. The promise that we will awaken is made – it’s clear in the categorical nature of “completely,” which means without exception or qualification – but the precise time and date . . . we don’t need to know that. It won’t help us do the work.

Nor is this a new idea. The Gospel Jesus urges us to “keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour at which I come” (MT 25:13). We are not waiting for an end times in which Jesus appears apocalyptically but we are waiting on salvation.

Again, as ACIM students – we are kind of like updated disciples, if you will – we just have to do the work that’s in front of us. Giving attention to how we are in relationship with thinking, with our brothers and sisters, with the world that seems to be our home, and our willingness to be corrected with respect to all of it. It’s enough; it really is. Lifetimes can pass doing this work.

That first paragraph in the lesson includes a lot of names for suffering but the two given primacy are “loneliness” and “abandonment.” These are experiences that we all know. They are inherent in the human frame. We fear abandonment and loneliness is always a symptom of abandonment. Nobody is immune. Yet the Course promises that these experiences will be “completely” overcome when we truly know that God goes with us wherever we go, whatever we do.

Our confidence in that idea is what helps us accept the truth of “nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists” (T-in.2:2-3).

It’s important to remember that our local experience of loneliness and abandonment – like being alone when we’d rather have a friend on hand, or being left by a partner for someone else – is a symbol of the actual loneliness from which we suffer, and abandonment we fear, which is the loneliness of being separated from – or abandoned by – God. The deeper the apparent suffering, the closer we are to seeing through the symptom to the actual harm.

When we know that God goes with us everywhere, as a function and extension of what we are in Creation, then the external circumstances won’t matter. How could they? We are one with God. But so long as they do matter, we need a program like A Course in Miracles. And we need each other to bring our shared practice to fruition.

The separation is not about the local you – the “Sean” – although that is where we work it out. That is what the second paragraph of the lesson makes clear – the so-called “cures” that we come up with for our anxiety, depression, misery, helplessness, et cetera. We have pharmaceuticals and psychotherapy, we have television and potato chips, we have yoga and meditation, we have cigarettes and alcohol. All of these things affect our local experience of loneliness and fear. But none of them address the underlying problem of separation. Effectively, they distract us from it. Do them or don’t, but don’t pretend anything or anyone is being healed thereby.

The cures offered by the world don’t solve the problem of separation because separation is not a real problem. It’s an imagined problem, a vast and ornate fantasy manufactured to hide a clear and simple truth, which is that we cannot be separate from Creation or Creator. It’s like watching Lord of the Rings on a screen and believing it’s on us to help Frodo make it to Mount Doom. We can think that way all we want but it’s never going to change the fact that Frodo, his journey, and Mount Doom are all fictitious.

On the other hand, since we are working this separation thing out in the context of separation, then it will seem like we are fixing it. Some lottery tickets do come in. Some bodily ills are healed. Some relationships do last a lifetime and make us safer and happier than we ever dreamed was possible.

In that way, these sentences from the lesson are simultaneously relative and absolute truth:

You can never be deprived of your perfect holiness because its Source goes with you wherever you go. You can never suffer because the Source of all joy goes with you wherever you go. You can never be alone because the Source of all life goes with you wherever you go (W-pI.41.4:1-3).

We don’t believe this because – if we are being honest – in the context of separation it’s obviously not true. And the Course is saying, that’s okay. Don’t worry about that – how things appear or what you happen to believe about them. It’s better to be honest about where we are then to fake it. Forgiveness isn’t about making an idol of some future state and then pretending it’s already accomplished. It’s about facing our present wretchedness – the “dark and heavy cloud” obscuring out true self – so that we can “eventually” pass through it to “the light beyond.”

En route to that light, our lives will become happier but not because of what we’re getting. Joy is an effect of what let go. Freedom is about what we no longer insist on carrying. Happiness is the simple effect of knowing ourselves and others as God does. Judgment is not required at all.

The one practice period to which we are called begins with repeating the idea and then just letting go of any investment in or attachment to our thoughts. That’s the release upon which our joy, freedom and happiness depend. This means allowing our thoughts to just be what they are without getting involved. We don’t have to change or fix anything. We just have to notice when we are judging our thoughts – this one is good, this one is not – and not buy the judgment. So we judge, so what? There is another judge who knows better than we do. We’re in that judge’s care now.

The lesson says something interesting here. It says that we are trying to “leave appearances and approach reality” (W-pI.41.7:4). Here, our thoughts are “appearances.” Even the observer of these appearances is an “appearance.” “Reality” is what happens when we know that the observer and the observed are not separate, when the thinker and the thought are equally unreal then they collapse into one another. In this way, guilt and fear are undone. There is only this: this this. Which is another way of saying, there is only God. Which is another way of saying, God goes with us wherever we go.

If there is only God then everything – including the illusion that one can be separate from God – is also God. The specific dream goes away upon awakening – no more “Sean,” no more “Ted,” no more “Sandy” – but the mind that dreams remains. This is why the lesson can insist that it is quite possible to reach God – even in the dream. Not because God is in the dream, but because the mind that dreams can always wake up. “The way will open, if you believe that it is possible” (W-pI.41.8:4). Even if it doesn’t, the effort is never wasted (W-pI.40.8:7).

Since separation is an illusion, there is no such as failure in this practice. Therefore, we can let what “seems” be. We don’t have to enter the conflict any more. Together, we will gently and happily do what is in front of us, committing the results to a power greater than ourselves, and rejoice that it is so.