The seventh principle of A Course in Miracles – “miracles are everyone’s right, but purification is necessary first” (T-1.I.7:1) – is both lovely and confounding. It reflects the course’s semantic affinity for Christianity and – I say this carefully and lovingly – the course’s sometimes maddening poetic abstraction.
In traditional Christianity (and also Judaism), to purify or become pure was to cleanse one’s body through ritual, usually washing of some kind. Baptism is a classic example.
I do not mean to suggest that these rituals cannot have meaning or purpose for some people; clearly they do. However, that is not the meaning intended by A Course in Miracles.
In the context of the course, “purification” does not refer to the body. It has nothing to do with waking early, sleeping in hair shirts, becoming celibate or vegetarian, praying more, studying the course more, washing up before prayer or anything like that.
Rather, it reflects our increasing capacity to discern between the thoughts that we think with God – which are loving thoughts, which are extensions of Creation – and those that we think with the ego. Thoughts that have an egoic root induce guilt and fear and loneliness and angst and so forth, while those we think with God induce inner peace.
Miracles reflect a shift away from thinking with the ego and towards thinking with God, through the Holy Spirit. This is a matter of giving attention to what is going on inside us; the course is very much about the interior rather than the exterior landscape.
When we are aware of our thoughts we naturally become aware of what impedes love because it is not love. We become aware of those habits of thinking that lock us into fear and guilt and we become interested in an alternative because we no longer want the pain and grief associated with thinking that way.
In a sense, when we do this, we are “purifying” our mind. We are bringing it into greater alignment with its natural inclination to love.
There is another aspect to this principle that bears mention. It emphasizes a critical idea in A Course in Miracles: miracles are inclusive. They are for everybody. To think otherwise is to confuse the healing intention of the course.
It is easy to get wound up with traditional notions of “purity” and “purification.” They imply that we are insufficient and dirty, that some people are perhaps more spiritual than others, that a spiritual hierarchy has value (people who make rituals, people who enforce them) and so forth. But getting wound up is really just another form of resistance; another way of keeping at bay the very answer for which we long.
So as always, our focus is not on what keeps the mind looking at external problems but rather on what is inside of us: the egoic thoughts that one by one, two by two, we bring to the Holy Spirit in order that what is loving in them might be saved, and what is unloving might be set aside as illusory.
There is no peace in illusions: only in surrender of illusions that enable us to encounter reality as God created it.