Awakening to Truth through A Course in Miracles

Truth needs no interpretation, because it needs no defense (T-17.IV.10:2). It is one without another, perfect in its simplicity (T-26.III.1:8).

That’s the suggestion A Course in Miracles makes. In truth there is no choice, because there is nothing to choose between (T-26.III.1:10). Thus there is no conflict anywhere in the system. That’s not the way we live right now – eternally happy and always at peace. But it was once, and it will be again.

That, too, is a suggestion the Course makes.

For now, ensconced in bodies beholden to a world in which uncertainty is the law and the death the certain end, what the truth is is not really our concern. It’s like we want to travel to Boston but the car is broken. First we have to fix the car, or find another way to travel. Boston will be there.

In A Course in Miracles, the “way to travel” has to do with the interior guidance we follow for our living. We have two choices – the Holy Spirit and ego. The Course teaches us how to clearly discern between them and, based on that discernment, to make a decision to listen to one and not the other, so as to no longer be conflicted and torn.

Ego and the Holy Spirit have profoundly different teaching styles which produce very different outcomes. We are always listening to one or the other, and with a little practice, can notice their effects instantaneously. The Holy Spirit produces awareness of a calm and sustainable happiness that naturally gives itself away. It is in us but not of us (M-4.I.1:5).

The ego produces both possessiveness and defensiveness, always with a barely-manageable intensity. Happiness is a fleeting feeling we pursue and cling to, not a thing we are and thus effortlessly extend.

Both the Holy Spirit and the ego are in the human mind as ways of interpreting and understanding what we perceive. Both are telling a story. Both are familiar but ego tends to be the one to which we most readily give attention. We have been conditioned by family and culture to take its teaching literally for a thousand lifetimes. It adds up.

The ego interprets against truth, distorting it to make competition and conflict seem reasonable and inevitable. The world is full of clashing interests and agendas; as bodies we are vulnerable; if we don’t look out for number one who will?

And then, having sold us that bridge, the ego comes up with all kinds of ideas about how to look out for our selves, not a single one of which ever involves seeing the falsehood of the underlying construct, which is the separated, alienated self which is itself an illusion.

The Holy Spirit also interprets, but always in favor of truth. It knows we are not ready for a direct experience of Love, so it facilitates a happier and happier dream. Where once we suffered alone, now we share and celebrate. The Holy Spirit understands what illusions are but, rather than resist them, it uses them to teach us how to see beyond illusion, and thus to become increasingly open to truth.

So our ACIM practice in many ways is simply to look in a deep and sustained way at our thoughts – at the patterns in our thinking – and notice how thought functions. Can we see when we are projecting? Can we see how bias subtly arises to shade our view?

This has to do not with the content of thought but with its function – the way that thought works. That is what we want to see, and that is what the Holy Spirit will gently undo. The specific projection is never the problem; it’s the inclination to project at all that is the problem. And so that is what needs to be healed.

And as we do this, in time, we slowly awaken. The sleep of forgetfulness ends, one miracle at a time. We begin to perceive in harmony with truth because our minds are no longer held captive by ego, entranced by its deception and manipulation. We go slower and judge less; we are less attached to particular outcomes because we trust God. We know that all things work together for good (e.g., M-4.I.1:4). Acceptance, not understanding, is required.

There is a lot of happiness in this way of living. The happy dream is no joke. Nor is the happy dream static or one-off. It becomes happier and happier as we open more and more to the Love and understanding that is our natural state of being in creation.

We do not have to protect the truth. We do not have to seek, study or contemplate oneness. We simply have to give attention to the Holy Spirit, following its lead, and learning from its reliability, that our faith in God is not misplaced, and can only lead to an ever-deeper experience of joy and peace.

Walking Away from Golgotha

A Course in Miracles uses crucifixion as a symbol of the separation which occurs routinely in our living as the sense of being unfairly attacked. It’s an abstraction with consequences to which we can respond with love.

Crucifixion symbolizes the attempt to combine attack and innocence (T-27.I.1:1). There is the one who does the crucifying – the attacker, the victimizer, the evil one, i.e. you – and there is the innocent one being crucified, being victimized, i.e., me.

You’re the Roman soldier with a hammer, and I’m Jesus laying down on splintered wood.

The thing is, the desire to be crucified – to suffer and sacrifice – is not separate from the desire to crucify. You can’t have the one without the other. When I feel victimized – misunderstood, neglected, wronged, whatever – then by definition I have brought forth the one who victimizes. I make my brother an enemy, a crucifier which – wait for it – means I have crucified him.

There is – thank Christ there is – another way.

The suggestion the Course makes – the healing it offers – is that this view of crucifixion reflects a deep confusion about what we are in truth, what our brothers and sisters are in truth and, critically, what God is.

You cannot sacrifice yourself alone. For sacrifice is total. If it would occur at all it would entail the whole of God’s creation, and the Father with the sacrifice of His beloved Son (T-27.I.1:7-8).

When I perceive myself as victimized I am actually victimizing you. I feel righteous in this – how could I not? I am the Christ and you are the murderer of Christ. In this way, I make myself the sign that you have lost your innocence; you need only look at me to be reminded of your condemnation (T-27.I.2:3).

Do we really believe God thinks that way? Or would condone behavior that reflects thinking that way?

When we realize the answer is “no,” and then commit to thinking differently – to thinking as God thinks, which is to consent to be reminded that our will and God’s Will are not separate but perfectly aligned – then healing begins. We remember our shared innocence.

Wish not to make yourself a living symbol of [your brother or sister’s] guilt, for you will not escape the death you made for him. But in his innocence you find your own (T-27.I.1.2:6-7).

When I free you from responsibility for my suffering, then I naturally witness to your innocence. And here is the thing: when I witness unto yours, I also witness unto mine. Just as sacrifice is total, so is salvation. Only innocence recognizes innocence. We are liberated as one because we are one.

The world cannot be saved by attack. You and I cannot be saved by attack. Our innocence can only be remembered – brought to mind – when we lay down our weapons, release our ideas about just war and righteous conflict, and meet one another in the space which arises when attack is no longer viable.

This is hard to do. It requires that we be intentionally vulnerable; it requires that we be radical; it requires that we accept, literally, that our only function is to “love in a loveless place” (T-14.IV.4:10).

It requires that we enter into a sustained committed – indeed, a monogamous – relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Leave all decisions to the One Who speaks for God, and for your function as He knows it. So will He teach you to remove the awful burden you have laid upon yourself by loving not the Son of God, and trying to teach him guilt instead of love. Give up this frantic and insane attempt that cheats you of the joy of living with your God and Father, and of waking gladly to His Love and Holiness that join together as the truth in you, making you one with Him (T-14.IV.5:4-6).

Today, let us be neither the one with the hammer nor the one on the cross. Let us walk away from Golgotha together, hand-in-hand, to remind our brothers and sisters of our freedom and our peace. What other function could possibly be worthy of us?

Personal Statement re: ACIM

I began to study A Course in Miracles at the end of a long spiritual drought. I had walked away from the Catholic church forever, ending a decades-long relationship that had shaped and guided all my fundamental belief systems. It was a big deal.

happy place

I’d known about the Course – had flirted with it a couple times, made fun of it now and then – but the third time I picked it up, I was in crisis and it was somehow clear that this strange book was – for better or worse – the help that was being given. I gave myself to it accordingly.

A Course in Miracles was familiar but alien, attractive but oddly conservative, and more confusing than not, but I came to it with the fervor of a drowning man grasping at driftwood. I was lost and scared, lonesome and depressed. ACIM was the unexpected – and not always desired – solution.

A couple things happened. The first was that around lessons 79 and 80 I had a traumatic but not unhelpful spiritual insight. In the woods with the dogs at 4 a.m., moonlight striating snowy pines, I saw clearly that the God I’d been worshiping was basically the cruel and judgmental one Jonathan Edwards identified in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. I was intellectually ashamed and spiritually devastated. The God of Love to which the Course referred did not exist anywhere in my cosmology or theology. How could that have happened?

The second thing that happened was that I discovered the work of Tara Singh. Each sentence and line illuminated my mind. The clarity of his thinking, the intensity of his devotion, the rigor of his practice . . . It changed my relationship to the Course forever. Any remaining hint of a New Age, Oprahesque psychological vanity project was utterly dissolved.

That first year, those two events, and that first round of lessons . . . I did not look back. I have been a slow and self-willed learner, yes, but I have not turned back. I have not refused to hear.

I do not profess any expertise with the Course, save a certain stubborness and devotion. It is my path; there is no other. A Course in Miracles offers me the possibility of transformation at the level of the mind. It undoes what is personal and thus painful, ever shifting the psychological trendline away from fear and towards Love. It restores to awareness the truth that what I am is not separate from Creation, and that the erroneous belief otherwise produces all conflict.

I have no other word for this but healing. It is the other way to which Bill Thetford alluded, inaugurating Helen’s years-long writing project, through which – at long last – I came in a practical and radically helpful way to Jesus. I remembered my function.

All conflict is internal, and the solution is always to become nonviolent. Nonviolence means to cease resistance of every kind. It is to let go of everything that makes attack and defense feel necessary, rational, justified, valuable et cetera. When we become nonviolent, we create openings in our lives and the world through which Love passes, gently restoring us to a sustainable and non-dramatic happiness that is easy to give away. Giving it away is what it is.

The commitment to living nonviolently forces you into a sustained relationship with the holy instant. It asks that you give everything to God, without qualification or condition. The joy is all-encompassing. Nothing in my life prepared me for what would happen when I decided to take A Course in Miracles seriously, and to consent to whatever transformation it brought forth.

Healing is collaborative. It cannot be done alone. It occurs in relationship. Every relationship is a question: will you rest in the Holy Spirit’s judgment of you, which is God’s judgment, or will you struggle yet another day – yet another hour, yet another minute – in the ego’s judgment of you?

The Holy Spirit sees us as totally innocent and teaches us how to remember our innocence by helping others become happy, joyous and free. The Holy Spirit frees us to create as God creates. It teaches us that we are each a Guest at the Altar of Life, and that our sole function is to respond to the cries for love that we hear there.

The Holy Spirit guides us toward a life of service unto our brothers and sisters, which both begins and ends with self-love. God has one Child, not many, and that child has one function: to remember her own innocence by discovering in it in everyone else.

The ego sees us as always at risk of loss, always called upon to sacrifice, and without recourse of any kind save attack and defense. It demands that we compete with others for scarce-and-getting-scarcer resources rather than cooperate with them. It demands that we ignore their cries for help rather than communicate and respond to those cries with love and mercy.

The spiritual path to which A Course in Miracles calls us is a collaborative study and practice. We collaborate with all Creation, with all Life, and we do not fear the limits that the body seems to impose on us. We accept them happily as opportunities to share with our brothers and sisters the joyful news that the sleep of forgetfulness is but a dream from which we can easily awaken.

It is possible to be naturally, deeply and seriously happy. We can be at peace with all life, and our living can be informed by a radiant coherence that is in us but not of us. All we have to is give up the fight against ourselves.

Again, I share with you – in writing, in dialogue, one to one, and so forth – not because I have anything special to say or offer, but because it is only with you that I remember I am not special, and so together we can rest – however briefly – in holiness. Even a minute is enough.

Thank you, always, for sharing this path with me.

Searching for God Correctly

A Course in Miracles teaches us that our lonely journey in search of God will fail because it excludes that which it would find (T-14.X.10:7).

It is impossible to remember God in secret and alone. For remembering Him means you are not alone, and are willing to remember it (T-14.X.10:1-2).

The search for God has many names – it is simultaneously a quest for peace, for meaning, for comfort, for order, for grace, for aid, for an end to suffering and pain. It is, in the deepest sense, a longing to be loved and, especially, to know we are loved, to trust we are loved.

Ego interprets this longing in terms of form. The “form” of A Course in Miracles, or the “form” of church, or the “form” of a therapist, or the “form” of a lover, or the “form” of yoga. The form becomes of the object of pursuit; the form becomes all that matters.

To the ego, if the form is acceptable the content must be. Otherwise it will attack the form (T-14.X.8:2-3).

If our spiritual practice can be affected by a shift in form – the church burns down, the text is misplaced, our lover leaves us – then it is not a spiritual practice of healing but rather an active ongoing denial of our responsibility to accept and extend miracles. This is a hard truth that we all have to face at some point. Facing it is what drives us to accept the Holy Spirit and its holy alternative.

The Holy Spirit translates the form of our lived experience (which includes our addiction to form) into relationships, all of which are the same because they are all simply opportunities to remember love by receiving love and to receive love by offering love. This simplicity accelerates healing by making clear that all life is a simultaneously a cry for love and a response to that cry (T-14.X.7:1).

A lot rests on “simulteously.”

When we live this way, then the form our living takes recedes in importance. Eventually it disappears. We accept our role as miracle-workers by accepting our need for miracles. Our one need is for love and our sole function is to join with our brothers and sisters in order to remember love.

Everyone seeks for love as you do, but knows it not unless he joins with you in seeking it. If you undertake the search together, you bring with you a light so powerful that what you see is given meaning (T-14.X.10:5-6).

A Course in Miracles is a course in learning what we are in truth. It undoes the false identity endorsed by the ego and restores to awareness the holiness of all Creation, which is holy because we are not apart from it.

In practice, the Course is an invitation to reframe our lives. We are not really husbands, daughters, lawyers, or alcoholics. We are not really democrats or republicans, or Athenians or Spartans. We are brothers and sisters remembering that our Father in Heaven loves us. This remembering is active; it is our calling and our function. We are participants in it; our cooperation matters.

Where there is love, your brother must give it to you because of what it is. But where there is a call for love, you must give it because of what you are (T-14.X.12:2-3).

This is but another way of saying that nothing real can be threatened, and nothing unreal exists (T-in.2:2-3).

Therefore, in a nontrivial way, we can set aside the grand search for God – whatever name we have given it, however personal we take it, whatever secret goal it contains – and instead tend to our brothers and sisters. It is possible for us to welcome them home, one and all, without exception, and to allow them in turn to give us welcome.

Truly, there is nothing else to do anymore, and only we can do it.

The Thirty-Fifth Principle of A Course in Miracles

Miracles are expressions of love, but they may not always have observable effects (T-1.I.35:1).

Most Christian traditional understandings of miracles imply observable effects that appear supernatural. Or at least spectacular enough that nobody could ever call them ordinary. Jesus walking on water, say, or turning water into wine. Closer to home, we win the lottery or the cancer goes into remission.

A Course in Miracles takes a different approach.

The course teaches us that miracles are shifts in perception away from fear and towards love. This perceptual shift shifts our psychological stance away from isolation and dishonesty and towards integrity and self-reliance. We glimpse our true self, the one that God created as an extension of His innocence and perfection. We are literally the site of infinity and eternity remembering themselves.

However, this transformative shift does not always mean that we can “see” it or otherwise take note of it with the body’s senses. Its effects may fall well outside the body’s capacity for attention and awareness. Love is not merely an emotion – much less a prescribed ritual of behavior – but is rather the very ground of our identity and being. How do you “see” seeing? Can you point to attention?

The changes induced by the miracle occur at the level of the mind. While they may have effects in the external world, those effects might be judged negligible. They might even not appear, at least to us. For example, say we have a friend we have long considered too greedy or aggressive. Maybe we see ourselves as victims of his behavior. We did nothing wrong but it always seemed that we ended up hurt. We mean well but the truth is, guilt and fear are the authors of the relationship.

The miracle intervenes on this by allowing us to see clearly our role in the relationship. It allows us to become responsible without feeling guilty. We stop blaming the other and turn the situation over to the Holy Spirit. It’s not a performance for anyone, like a priest or a therapist. ACIM forgiveness liberates our friend from our judgment – because, having taken responsibility for our interior state, we no longer need to project the guilt and fear we find there onto him. We simply give it to the Holy Spirit.

In this way we remember peace.

Nothing has necessarily changed externally but internally everything has changed. We aren’t angry anymore. We aren’t hurt. We aren’t running away from anything. We stop attacking our friend with our fantasies of his guilt.

The change is meaningful in our experience – it makes us happy because we have remembered to decide for peace – but this does not automatically mean that it will lead to observable changes in our external situation or in our relationship with our friend. The gift is, we don’t need the external to change. We practice forgiveness and we allow the situation to evolve as it evolves. We let God’s Will be done rather than insisting we want it to be different.

Happy dreams come true, not because they are dreams, but because they are happy. And so they must be loving. Their message is “Thy will be done,” and not “I want it otherwise” (T-18.V.4:1-3).

The course’s emphasis on internal change reflects its overall teaching that the external world is simply a reflection of our internal state. Therefore, our primary goal is not to change the world, but to change our perception of it. And that, as they say, is an inside job. It is also why miracles can be effective even though they do not appear to change the observable world in any way.

A true miracle transforms perception, which is what forgiveness is, and thus leads to our increased awareness of the Cause for peace and happiness. Our lifelong resistance to this Cause dissolves, even if only a little. Our practice is devoted to this change of mind, independent of the world “out there.” That world shifts and changes all the time and its changes always add up to nothing. All that truly matters is the shift in our mind away from fear and towards love.

The Thirty-Fourth Principle of A Course in Miracles

Miracles restore the mind to its fullness. By atoning for lack they establish perfect protection. The spirit’s strength leaves no room for intrusions (T-1.I.34:1-3).

Miracles – which are shifts in perception away from fear and towards love – testify to what mind is and therefore also witness to the creative power of mind. What mind is is what mind does. The split mind heals itself by recalling its own wholeness; every miracle attests to this.

When the mind is full, it does not recognize lack. When nothing is missing, the mind is free to create as God – its Creator – creates. That is, it creates in love, for love and as love. It does not perpetuate the separation in any way. Rather, it sees beyond the error sustaining separation to what is true. In tha way, it undoes separation entirely.

Healing is not fixing – and atoning is not ownership of – the effects of so-called sin. Rather, healing and atoning are both synonyms for right-seeing – which itself is a synonym for forgiveness in A Course in Miracles. This means that healing and atoning do not recognize the illusion of separation nor any of that illusion’s apparent effects. They do not see and overlook the illusion or its effects. They simply do not recognize it at all. It does not exist.

A Course in Miracles brings us to another level of being and of thinking and of knowing oneself.

When our minds rest in God, without lack and thus with no need to project unfulfillment of any kind, we remember the Holy Spirit’s strength. It is the Holy Spirit who clears our mind of confusion and worry and brings us to peace. When we say that the Holy Spirit allows no intrusions in our mind, we are saying that the ego no longer has a means of raising its bad arguments and mean-spirited logic. The Holy Spirit does not abide ego’s diseased obsession with conflict. It restores the mind to peace.

Ego is the part of the mind that believes in duality, reinforces separation, and always experiences lack because it always projects – always casts out – what is internal. Ego promotes forms of behavior which in turn justify its belief system. With ego, something is always missing. It is the part of us that always feels isolated, alone and incomplete. Ego needs this sense of lack to keep us alert to its voice. Ego promises freedom from suffering and it promises abundance but it never delivers. Never deliving is what the ego is.

In contrast, the Holy Spirit knows that we both have and are everything. There is no cause for conflict anywhere; there is only the Cause for joy and peace. Therefore, miracles are effectively shifts in thinking away from the ego’s view and towards the Holy Spirit’s. To “atone” is to allow an error of separation to be corrected by the Holy Spirit. We don’t correct the error, the Holy Spirit corrects it. We just get out of the way. To atone is to give consent to the Teacher of miracle-minded thinking. We are not, in fact, separate, isolated or incomplete, but are instead interconnected aspects of a unified whole that does not admit division.

When we identify with the ego, we feel vulnerable and threatened. But when we shift our identification to the Holy Spirit, we realize that nothing can actually threaten what we are in truth. We are invulnerable to attack and thus have no need of defense. We are no longer susceptible to the fear and guilt caused by taking on the ego’s perspective of a weakened self in a dangerous world.

Miracles show us – and allow us to remember – that we rest in the peace of God, and extend to others the love that God extends to us. Our natural state of being can only reflect peace and wholeness, and acceptance and love. This is our identity.