Yesterday I took A Course in Miracles to work with me. I had a dozen meetings with students lined up which means – adjusting for the absent-mindedness of college students – that I was going to have five or six meetings with students and a lot of free time. I found myself reading the Introduction mainly. I tend to gloss over intros because I’m in a hurry to get to what really matters, yet I think – in this case at least – that’s a mistake.
I remember the first time that I felt as if I understood the Intro. My son was trying to fall asleep and I was reading ACIM in a rocker beside his bed. Now, for me, reading the text of A Course in Miracles often goes like this: I read a few paragraphs and then I stop and say, “okay Jesus. What did I just read?” I’m a smart guy, but it’s fascinating how much of the Course just rolls right over my head. If it wasn’t for that inner teacher . . .
Yet at the same time, it is an incredibly simple Course. Basically, it’s saying the same thing over and over with slight variations: Only God is real, everything else is a dream.
And that day – asking Jesus to help me better appreciate those introductory sentences – I saw that the Introduction was really the Course in miniature, especially these cornerstone lines:
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
For a long time I read that without grasping it. It felt like a fortune cookie saying – deliberately obtuse sentences masquerading as wisdom. But more and more I realize that the secret to reading A Course in Miracles is to take it at face value. It means just what it says.
If I perceive that something can be threatened, then it’s not real. That evening, I tried to think of something that couldn’t be threatened – and it was hard. My body? No, that feels threatened all the time. My son’s body? Nope, I worry about my kids’ safety and health every day. Okay, what about the book I’m holding? No, fire would threaten it. I kept going and I kept coming up with blanks: everything I could see in the world was capable of destruction or decay. And the course was saying to me: okay, then all that’s not real.
And yet . . . nothing unreal exists. This is the same statement somewhat tweaked. It reaffirms the first line but clarifies it. It is saying, but don’t worry that nothing real can be threatened because nothing unreal exists. That worry you feel? That fear? That sense of lack? It’s all founded on illusion and is thus an illusion itself. Let it go!
Truly, if we can accept that, then we will experience the peace of God.
And yet, as I have been writing lately, our intellectual understanding of the course does not always translate to its application. Accepting the world of our bodily experience as an illusion is a pretty high hill. How are we supposed to deal with that?
Well, I take it step by step – one act of forgiveness at a time. And the thing is – that’s enough. Our willingness to accept the course even though it’s confusing and seemingly complicated – and the willingness to forgive the world one chunk at a time – is all that’s needed. There is a true peace in that process, and there is a growing faith that our forgiveness is not in vain but is lighting the way to Heaven.