Q: #977: I'm totally new to A Course in Miracles .
So far my understanding is that we are pretty much lost and confused,
wandering in the fields of illusion but not aware of it. I gather that
the Course is our guide out of these illusions or more precisely, a
guide to help us become aware of them. Is that what the Course means by
the Atonement? And with Atonement, can we experience the illusion at
will without becoming lost and confused again. Can we enter the
illusion simply to be at play in it or to provide guidance to others?
Would individuals who can do this be the Ascended Masters I've read of
A: It is tempting to try and understand A Course in Miracles
by relating it to other spiritual teachings. But while the language
of the Course does bear a resemblance to other spiritualities, its
metaphysical and psychological teachings are unique.
In the Course, Jesus gives us the following advice for getting in touch with God's Love in our mind, "Do not bring with you one thought the past has taught, nor one belief you ever learned before from anything" (W.pI.189.7:5). This same statement (though a rather tall order) provides an excellent guideline for approaching the Course itself.
So, in order to answer your questions, we first need to take a brief
look at what the Course actually teaches. It is true that, as a number
of spiritual paths do, the Course tells us our entire physical
existence is an illusion. The Course also informs us that this world
came from an attack thought and therefore is not a nice place. Jesus
refers to this as "a dry and dusty world, where starved and thirsty creatures come to die" (W.pII.13.5:1). Of
course, Jesus wants us to know that we did not really come here at all.
But we came here in our mind in an effort to escape the terror of the
thought that we could separate from God and destroy His Love.
Uniquely, the Course teaches that this world was the ego's answer to
the conflicted and terrorizing belief that we had killed God and that
God will somehow rise back up and strike us down in punishment. The ego
lulled us to sleep with its promise that if we just accepted it as our
teacher, we could banish all memory of God from our mind and thus be
safe from such horror.
But the Course further teaches that despite the ego's best effort,
the memory of God and His Love remains in our mind. From the ego's
perspective this memory of God's Love is an awful thing that, should we
ever get close to it, will be its demise. And since we are almost fully
identified with our egos, we think God's Love will be the end of us.
However, the Course lets us know that there is another part of our
mind. Jesus aims his message at the decision-making part of our mind
that chose the ego. He reminds us that there is another
internal Teacher still available to us -- the Holy Spirit. He informs
us that choosing the Holy Spirit instead of the ego will result not in
our destruction, but rather in our gradually waking up and finding
ourselves at home in Heaven, still safe within the Love of God.
The Holy Spirit represents the memory of God's Love that we brought
with us into this dream. If we turn to the Holy Spirit for help, He
will transform any situation in our lives into a classroom in
forgiveness. He does this is by reminding us that we have not separated
from God's Love nor have any of our brothers. As we begin to know this
more and more, we will see that we all share the same attacking ego
(that dreamed up this attacking world) and the same loving thoughts
inspired by the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, we will recognize that there
is nothing to forgive because we are not separate (from each other or
from God) and so nothing has really happened. At that point we will
know that this is all an illusion.
This is what the Course means by Atonement -- the undoing of the ego
and the healing of the belief in separation (facilitated by our turning
to the Holy Spirit for help).
At the very end of the journey we will awaken and know this was all
a dream. But the end of the journey is not our concern. Our task is to
turn toward the Holy Spirit and let Him transform our life into a
classroom. In so doing, we will become more loving and less filled with
anxiety and pain. Increasingly, we will come to know that our body
(physical and psychological) is nothing more than an idea in the mind
that never left its source. As we recognize this, the love in our mind
will naturally extend to all we encounter.
The idea of entering this illusion to be at play does not make sense
from Jesus' perspective. Only the ego thinks that there is fun to be
had here. After all, if we knew we were at home in Heaven and perfectly
safe, why would we go looking for fun in a world that was made to keep
us feeling "barren and separate" (T.19.15:1) ?
Likewise, the Course does not concern itself with the concept of
Ascended Masters. It does inform us that anytime you come from the Holy
Spirit's Love instead of the ego's attack, you are a Teacher of God.
But that does not make you ascended. It just makes you sane for however
long your right-minded thinking lasts.
Basically, anyone who thinks he or she is here has the same lesson
to learn. We all desperately want to know that the separation never
happened, we are not guilty, and we are just "dreaming of exile but perfectly capable of awakening to reality” (T.10.I.2:2).
Somebody like Jesus would be an example of what the Course calls a Teacher of teachers (M.26.2:2). Jesus seemed
to be here but knew he was not. He only appeared in order to serve as a
reminder of truth for the rest of the Sonship. But again, Jesus
represents the end of the journey and that really is not our concern
(other than to let him serve as our guide and inspiration).
The Course helps us recognize that we are at the beginning of the
journey. If we study it sincerely and with an open mind, we will
realize that this is a journey worth taking and that there is a strong
and loving hand we can hold along the way.