I think this section of A Course in Miracles contains a couple of ideas that are easy to overlook but which – if looked at, meditated on – can be very helpful in understanding the bedrock of the belief system that is A Course in Miracles. As well, this section contains a critical analysis of how the ego operates that can’t be overlooked if we are really intent on seeing it undone.
The first idea is this:
It is hard to understand what “The Kingdom of Heaven is within you” really means. This is because it is not understandable to the ego, which interprets it as if something outside is inside, and this does not mean anything. The word “within” is unnecessary. The Kingdom of Heaven is you. What else but you did the Creator create, and what else but you is his Kingdom? (T-4.III.1:1-5)
At first blush, this can seem like an awfully big pill to swallow. How can we be the Kingdom of Heaven? We’re fallible, greedy, inconsistent, error-prone . . . All true. But the “you” that Jesus addresses is not the “you” you think you are. It is a deeper you, a you with whom you have had only glancing contact. This is a strange but critical idea. We have projected our whole self onto the ego and have long since settled on it as our true self. But that is merely an idea of what we are and bears no relationship to the truth.
When Jesus says that we are the Kingdom of Heaven, he is not suggesting that Sean Reagan in his little corner office cluttered with toys and books and a sleeping dog is Heaven – that Sean is just an image projected by the ego. No, Jesus is referring to God’s Creation which is abstract and whole and One.
I like those lines because they helpfully reframe Heaven as not a spatial location but a condition and – most importantly – a condition inherent in what we are. The Kingdom of Heaven is Love. It is the energy of Creation, of Creating. The “we” we’re just starting to turn on to is those things as well.
The other lines I appreciate are these:
The reason you need my help is because you have denied your own Guide and therefore need guidance. My role is to separate the true from the false, so truth can break through the barrriers the ego has set up and can shine in your mind (T-4.III.2:4-5).
There is a tendency amongst Christians – and it is certainly the case with me – to focus so exclusively on Jesus that exaltation or rejection become the only options. He becomes the impossible ideal and all we can do is worship him or hate him – or, more likely, both.
But in A Course in Miracles, Jesus is very much an elder brother – a fellow human being who has completed the journey we are taking and thus can help us along the way. That’s not a metaphor. He’s not the only son of God. He is expressly our equal, albeit with more experience in spiritual matters. This has been both difficult for me to accept and extraordinarily liberating. It is as if Jesus has left the cross, walked away from the altars, and joined me in my life in a tangible way.
I see that Jesus in these lines because implicit in his recognition that we have denied our Guide is the fact that he is not that Guide. Most Christian would really struggle with that! I still do from time to time. It is sentences like this that call me to this particular spiritual path and urge me to follow it as closely and surely as I can. A personal relationship with this very accessible, very proactive Jesus is the quickest way to salvation of which I am aware. Not the only way, of course – but if you hear the call, and if it is right for you, a very beautiful and efficient way.
Regarding the ego . . . This was (and maybe still is) one of the more challenging ideas that I’ve dealt with in the course. We are accustomed to the ego in its Freudian capacity, which is not precisely what ACIM means when it says ego. A lot of the definitions that we come up with our hard to grasp because, like God, they are so abstract. But the ego is the post-separation questioning aspect of our minds. It’s a belief system, an idea. It’s a big idea, too, one that we need to not take lightly. After the separation, the ego stepped in as the self. We projected identity onto it and it took it gladly. We – believing that we had split from God and faced retribution – were only too happy to let the ego take the rap.
But the ego doesn’t do such a great job. It can’t really undo all the guilt and fear that flowed from the separation for the simple reason that those guilt and fear feelings are its raison d’etre. So the ego bargains. It gives us a temporary existence under its terms. It denies or projects the guilt and fear.
And sooner or later we end up saying what Bill Thetford said: there has to be a better way.
The ego does not mean us well. As we come closer and closer to the heart of its belief system – as we see it more clearly – we simultaneously draw nearer to its undoing. This is unbearable to the ego. It knows nothing of Spirit – nothing! Yet it knows that it’s not the be-all end-all. It doesn’t mind God as an intellectual abstraction because that kind of God is just dandy for guilt and fear.
But it will not stand our approach to love. It will fight viciously to avoid this. I don’t think it’s said enough in Course circles but if your life is not falling apart and if you’re not feeling insane at some point then you’re probably not working the Course. The undoing is not always pleasant or graceful!
Yet it is almost always freeing. And as time passes – as we allow the process to work and stop resisting and actively interfering – some real peace and joy becomes real in our lives .Little bits at first but then more and more. It’s worth it. It’s worth a little effort and a little discomfort.