A Course in Miracles: What is Cause and Effect

Cause and effect refer to the influence X has in contributing to the production of Y. In other words, Y is partially dependent on X for its existence.

In the context of separation, we believe that external forces like weather or other people cause us to behave certain ways and feel certain things. This backwards understanding of cause-and-effect is essential for projection’s effectiveness. However, because fear cannot actually be projected – thoughts do not actually travel – the real cause is our mind’s decision to insist on separation rather than atonement, which is its refusal to recognize its own wholeness which in turn reflects its true creativity and decision-making power.

Thus, in A Course in Miracles, “cause and effect” is understood primarily in the context of the mind and its relationship to the external world. “Cause” are thoughts and beliefs held in mind, and “effect” are the experiences and perceptions that arise as a result of those thoughts and beliefs.

This is fundamental to the ACIM teaching that the outer world is a reflection of the inner world of the mind, which itself underscores that the secret to salvation is that we are doing this to ourselves. When we change our thoughts and beliefs, we naturally change their experiences and perceptions as well.

This understanding of “cause and effect” differs from the concept in physics, which is based on the principle that every action or event in the physical world has a cause, and that cause produces a specific effect. In physics, cause and effect relationships are usually described in terms of interactions between particles, forces, and energy, while in ACIM, the relationships are more about the mind and its influence on perception and experience.

The Course is not the only religious tradition which focuses on the mind’s role in shaping reality. For example, in Buddhism, the concept of karma refers to the principle that our intentional actions produce consequences or effects, either in this life or future lives.

More contemporary new age practices – kin to ACIM but not precisely identical – such as Law of Attraction also make a point of emphasizing the role the mind plays in shaping reality. No suggestion is made that those paths and traditions are more helpful or accurate with respect to reality than A Course in Miracles; rather, it is to notice the way in which the fundamental concept is not alien to human experience.

Our goal with respect to this understanding is to shift our focus on the external world as causing our experiences, and recognizing it instead as a kind of mirror which indicates our internal state.

A Course in Miracles: What is Form and Content

Form and Content are related ideas which together are central to the curriculum of A Course in Miracles. Form is what the body’s eyes recognize. Form is that which we perceive, and which appears to be real.

Yet in truth, form is merely a vehicle for the content, which is always either love or a call for love. In more traditional nondualistic terms, we might say that “form” and “content” address the distinction between the appearance of things (form) and their true essence or meaning (content).

We might think of a book as an example. A lengthy book with hundreds of pages and a blue cover is not in and of itself healing – but the ideas which are reflected in its pages can be.

On this view, “form” refers to the physical or material aspects of the object – the paper, cardboard and ink that comprise the book. “Content” pertains to the underlying spiritual truth – that reality is beyond the physical world. That is the “meaning” of the book; it is the experience of understanding, or knowing, to which the book points.

In the context of ACIM, “content” typically refers to the remembrance of Love and peace (which, collectively, are healing), which are the true essence of reality and cannot actually be contained or held or possessed by form in any way. A Course in Miracles teaches that the transformation of perception reveals reality to us, and in that revelation we are saved. That is what miracles are.

Hinduism – especially Advaita Vedanta, to which the Course owes a nontrivial debt – also considers of reality and illusion along these lines. In Hinduism, “maya” refers to the illusory nature of the physical world that is experienced through our senses, which correlates to the idea of “form” in ACIM. “Brahman,” which is the ultimate reality, transcends the limitations of the physical world and is the true essence of existence, somewhat the way “content” functions in A Course in Miracles.

In both thought systems, reality is understood to be non-dual. Ultimate truth is beyond the reach of the material world.

Thus, confusing form and content is a major focus of correction in the Course. We are apt to take the form for the content, and thus miss the content altogether. Forgiveness is the means by our perception of separation – of duality – is transformed.

For example, we might see a homeless person asking for money. Responding with cash may or may not be called for – that is the level of form. But forgiveness reveals the content, which is seeing the homeless person as our equal, as our own self, and recognizing in them the same cry for love that exists in us.

When we see the content, then our response will be directed by Love because we are no longer insisting on differences. We are no longer relying on our own judgment to establish meaning and a hierarchy of values. Whatever we do will be what is most helpful in the grand plan of salvation, the scope of which is always beyond our limited faculties.

A Course in Miracles: What is the Body?

In A Course in Miracles, the body is the apparent physical entity in the world with which we identify. The body is always personal; it is always unique; it is always separate from other bodies.

Thus, the body is a symbol – perhaps the most enduring – of separation itself. Not only are we physically separate – if you jump in the pool, I don’t get wet – but we also have separate interests. You need to heal from alcoholism; I need to heal from growing up in an alcoholic household. You eat meat and I don’t.

These differences are magnified by the body, and their value in our judgment overwhelms our natural capacity for sharing and extending love. In essence, we forget what we are.

When we identify with the body, we basically enter into competition with one another. The world is a symbol of scarcity, and we have to fight each other for its resources. We might enter into temporary alliances but they are always fragile and subject to change.

The body is vulnerable – it is subject to illness, injury and ultimately death. The ego argues the body is our home – it is what we are in truth. Ego’s existence depends on our acceptance of this argument. When we accept it, then we also accept ego’s arguments for how to navigate the world and protect ourselves.

Ego always leads to suffering, neglect and unhappiness. The evidence for this is literally right before our eyes.

In contrast, the Holy Spirit gently reminds us that we are not bodies but minds which cannot be contained in any form whatsoever. Therefore, on the ego’s view, the body leads to fear and conflict, perpetuating separation. But on the Holy Spirit’s view, which reflects the Peace of God, the body is merely a means of communication, through which we might remember our identity in and as Creation, by teaching Creation’s peace to other apparent bodies.

Thus the body, although an illusion, can becomes a site of learning and teaching when seen with Christ’s healed Vision, which is the Holy Spirit’s only teaching goal. We awaken in the body by learning that we are not the body. When we align our thoughts and actions with the Holy Spirit, the Teacher of God, then the body becomes a means of healing, forgiveness and love.

We don’t have to fight the body or fear the body. We don’t have to celebrate or revere it. We simply have to allow it to be and do what it does, and interpret its function solely in light of the Holy Spirit’s guidance and instruction.


The Seventeenth Principle of A Course in Miracles

Miracles transcend the body. They are sudden shifts into invisibility, away from the bodily level. That is why they heal (T-1.I.17:1-3).

Miracles are shifts in perception from fear to love. Where there was pain and suffering, there is now innocence and joy. This is the happiness A Course in Miracles teaches us. This is what healing IS.

Another way to understand the miracle is as an invitation to give attention to the level of the mind rather than the body – to understand that it is only the level of mind that is creative and thus capable of healing.

It is your thoughts alone that cause you pain. Nothing external to your mind can hurt or injure you in any way. There is no cause beyond yourself that can reach down and bring oppression (W-pI.190.5:1-3).

Miracles are shifts of awareness that occur when we align ourselves with the power of Love and let go of the limiting beliefs and judgments that keep us stuck in the ego’s perception of the world. There is another way.

The body is a symbol of separation and limitation. When we confuse the body with our own self, then it becomes a source of suffering. Its physical and emotional pain become our pain. However, when we shift our perception to the level of the mind, then we see beyond the limitations of the body and remember the truth of our divine nature which is fundamentally happy and creative.

Thus, miracles are a means of healing because they help us transcend the limitations of the body and connect with our true spiritual identity. We remember ourselves as God created us. By shifting our awareness to the level of the mind, we experience a sense of inner peace, joy, and fulfillment that easily transcends anything we could achieve through physical means alone.

“Invisibility” here simply refers to our willingness to no longer be “blinded” by the world (e.g., W-pI.189.1:2), and instead to rely on our natural Christ vision.

This shift into invisibility means that we see beyond the physical appearances of things and recognize the spiritual essence that underlies them. We see beyond the surface level of the world and perceive the deeper truth of our interconnectedness, our unity with all Creation.

In this way, our new vision allows us to no longer be bound by the limitations of the body and the ego’s arguments about what we are. We remember our Creator, and naturally reclaim the peace, joy and love that are our true nature.

Sex, Holiness and A Course in Miracles

I am not a body is not synonymous with bodies aren’t real.

A Course in Miracles is specific about two (among other) points: there is no world (W-pI.132.6:2) and we are not bodies (W-pI.199.8:7).

Often we infer, or project, another point: there are no bodies either.

But that addition is a distraction.

Healing is our shared journey away from fear and towards love. Nothing more, because there is nothing more, and nothing less, because anything less is not worthy of us.

The measuring stick is: fear makes us suffer; love makes us happy. Are we happy or not? Check your internal state and adjust as necessary. Don’t worry about being right; be happy.

Being happy does not require a PhD in philosophy. Knowing the difference between fear and love is natural. The ability is inherent in us. Moving from fear to love is a natural effect of the ability.

In happiness we were created; in happiness we live.

However, we can resist this happiness, and in other ways obstruct the naturally free flow of love, which is our joy. But “natural” does not mean easy. In the context of separation, “natural” is not even guaranteed.

We have to lean into and become the very being we are, not the being we project.

Moving away from fear and towards love, and learning how to remain in love, necessarily involves others. In ACIM, if that is our path, then the other is unconditionally related to our healing.

Oneness must be inclusive of twoness.

The other always appears to us as a body, separate from our own body, with which – with whom – we can interact. Only minds join, sure – but for us, for now, they do so through the medium of bodies.

Healing is the Holy Spirit’s form of communication in this world, and the only He accepts. Hre recognizes no other, because He does not accept the ego’s confusion of the mind and body (T-7.V.3:2-3).

Healing means that our bodies are used only for communication (T-7.V.1:3). Thus, another way to think of the body is as a channel for either fear or love.

True communication promotes love because to communicate is to love; accordingly, a failure to communicate makes us fearful.

That is because the only message we ever truly give or receive is love (see, e.g., the sixteenth miracle principle). When we are giving and receiving this message, we are happy. When we are not aware that we are giving and receiving it – when we allow ego to hide it from us – we suffer.

A Course in Miracles is open-minded about what form communication adopts as it gives and receives love. It can be a smile (M-3.2:5). It can be words (W-pI.rIV.in.7:4). It can be psychic vibing (M-25.2:2). It can be a beautiful walk in nature (T-17.II.6:3).

It can also be sex.

The Course is less open-minded about sex than other forms of communication. In the final draft Helen gave to Ken Wapnick for editing, all the early references to sex – there were plenty – were ommitted, an ommission with which Ken happily collaborated. Many of those early references are not as liberal or progressive as one might think.

What is going on with communication, sex, holiness and A Course in Miracles?

I know folks whose ACIM practice includes a daily yoga regimen. They do not seem anxious that this conflicts with A Course in Miracles.

I know folks whose course practice includes weekly ACIM study groups and semi-annual larger gatherings. Do these students stress about using their bodies that way – gathering to talk and listen, hug and laugh?

They don’t. Because gathering in the interest of deepening our spiritual practice and helping others deepen theirs is spiritual, wholesome, and healthy.

We keep sex private which is a judgment against sex. And the ego trap is to try to figure out why we judge against it. But there’s an easier way: stop judging against sex. What happens?

The sex question is easy once we realize it’s just another thing bodies do, like sneezing or yawning. In and of itself it is perfectly neutral.

Then the question becomes: what is sex for?

The answer is: communication. Sex is a form of communication with one another. It’s not the only form or the best form, but it is a nontrivial form. All of us – in personal, intimate, even mysterious ways – are connected to sex as a form of communication.

Whatever else it does, sexual connection – whatever form it takes – extends something that reaches beyond merely the individual body’s survival.

This suggests that the body’s survival is not the be-all end-all of our existence, as A Course in Miracles insists over and over is the case.

Our longing for safe, joyous, ecstatic and deeply mutual sexual connection – which includes celibacy, masturbation, asexuality, friends with benefits et cetera – indicates that at its best and most merciful sex is not about fear but about love. I am using “love” in the Maturanan sense. Holy sex means recognizing – and experiencing by actually living with – the other as radically equal to us.

The other is equal to you; they do not need to justify their existence to you, nor you yours to them. This shared equality – forever mutually confirming itself in and as the other – is the ground of divine ecstasy that sex sometimes brings to the surface.

Your pleasure is their pleasure, and theirs is yours. Their joy is your joy, and yours is theirs. This is always true, but when we experience it through sex, it can feel like all of Creation awakening in us at once.

In that light, sex with the other becomes a means of learning that we are not separate from the other, nor they from us. Our equality – established by love – points only at a unity which includes and transcends the body. Sex, like all forms of communication – becomes a site of teaching and learning our fundamental equality and thus healing the perception that we are separate from God.

In a relationship whose foundation is spiritual, the extension allowed and brought forth in sexual union would probably be unthinkably inspiring and healing. I mean, the sex is good, yes. But the extension of the underlying spiritual predicate is transformational, a light in the darkness by which our journey’s end is literally only as far away as a gaze that says – as it were – are you thinking what I’m thinking, and a return gaze which says, yes. Yes.

A Course in Miracles Lesson 189

I feel the love of God in me now.

This lesson is dog-eared in my book – I’ve read it and re-read it, folded the corner for easy access, held it open on my lap while drifting between analysis and prayer, thought and the space between thoughts.

I love this lesson. I come back to it often.

There is a light in you the world cannot perceive. And with its eyes you will not see this light, for you are blinded by the world (W-pI.189.1:1-2).

These are powerful lines – both a promise of what is already accomplished, and a description of why we still think it has not been accomplished. It offers the mysterious but deeply helpful image of the world blinding us to the truth of what we are.

Can you look at the world for a moment – the walls around you, the trees and clouds, the cats and the unwashed dishes and the cars and bookshelves and beaches and imagine all of it is hiding from you what you are in truth?

This world is beautiful sometimes but often not. It is terrifying sometimes, and sometimes cruel. Somebody is always suffering somewhere, which is proof that you could be next.

. . . do not let your mind forget this law of seeing: You will look upon that which you feel within. If hatred finds a placed within your heart, you will perceive a fearful world, held cruelly in death’s sharp-pointed, bony fingers (W-pI.189.5:3-4).

That is what most of us ARE seeing. But A Course in Miracles teaches us another way, a way to see “a world in which forgiveness shines on everything, and peace offers its gentle light to everyone” (W-pI.189.3:5).

Yet is the world of hatred equally unseen and inconceivable to those who feel God’s Love in them . . . If you feel the Love of God within you, you will look out on a world of mercy and of love upon a world of mercy (W-pI.189.4:1, 5:5).

We seek for love outside of ourselves – in the form of relationships, or food, or money or shoes or whatever. Yet the Love of God is already within us, waiting to be recognized and acknowledged. The only thing that keeps us from experiencing this inner love is our own thoughts and beliefs.

We are, as the Course so consistently points out, doing this to ourselves (T-27.VIII.10:1). The world we see testifies to our internal state; it shows us whether we are listening to ego or the Holy Spirit.

If we would remember God – if we would cleanse the interior landscape and restore the world to peace and mercy, justice and love – then we must come to stillness. That is the direction in which the lesson points.

Be still, and lay aside all thoughts of what you are and what God is; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself. Empty your mind of everything it thinks is either true or false, or good or bad, of every thought it judges worthy, and all the ideas of which it is ashamed. Hold onto nothing (W-pI.189.7:1-3).

This is easier said than done. Yet the exercise is helpful even if all we take from it is “I can’t do that. I don’t know how.”

It is a profound gift to realize that we cannot let of the world, the self, our ideas and thoughts, our values and ideals, our trauma and our treasure. It is a gift because only when we realize how incapable we are – how far from grace we are – are we able at last to open what the Love of God reveals.

Not as a matter of virtue or discipline or merit. But simply because we no longer have the capacity to resist. We surrender to the Light.

And what that light reveals is that we need nothing but the Love of God. Hence the directive – very much at the heart of my practice of A Course in Miracles – “Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God” (W-pI.189.7:5).

This is a joyful poverty. It is not a sacrifice – it is not even a letting go. It is more like a realization that there is nothing we want or need but the Love of God. Hence the essence of the beautiful prayer which concludes the lesson:

Father, we do not know the way to You. But we have called, and You have answered us. We will not interfere (W-pI.189.10:1-3).

The way to reach God is merely to let God be God. Nothing could be easier; nothing else is.

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