Sat, May 19th - 7:30PM
ACIM Basics #3 - The Nature of Reality
According to the Course, what is the nature of reality?This is a metaphysical question, metaphysics being that branch of philosophy which deals with fundamental questions about the nature of reality. One dictionary definition of "metaphysics is:
1. (used with a sing. verb) Philosophy The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value.
2. (used with a pl. verb) The theoretical or first principles of a particular discipline: the metaphysics of law.
3. (used with a sing. verb) A priori speculation upon questions that are unanswerable to scientific observation, analysis, or experiment.
from the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language,
Fourth Edition. Copyright 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
In the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles, reality is essentially God, Who is the only Reality and Who encompasses all that He creates in a non-dimensional state of "being" that is impossible for us to understand. Various names are given to the creations of God (e.g., Christ, Holy Spirit, Mind, Heaven) but that is only because our limited, dualistic form of communication requires word symbols. True communication is non-symbolic: direct communion taking place within the unified Mind and without the necessity of symbols. God's "knowledge" includes the fact of innocence which is the Atonement principle of the Course that separation (sin) is impossible. "Holy Spirit" is a word symbol for that aspect of "knowledge," and should not be taken as a symbol for something separate, but simply as an aspect of the truth that "God is," and that that truth can never be lost: "The innocence of God is the true state of the mind of His Son. In this state your mind knows God, for God is not symbolic; He is Fact" (T-3.I.8:1).
In our separated state, we are generally incapable of that form of communication Jesus calls "communion" in the Course, so we must settle for that very limited form of communication that uses symbols such as words. Jesus must accommodate our limitations in order to reach us, but I think one must be careful not to get caught up in the semantic details of word symbols when reading the Course so that one can penetrate to the content -- the deeper spiritual meaning -- that the words attempt to convey. And one must be very clear about recognizing when Jesus is using words in a metaphorical sense rather than a literal sense. Most misunderstandings of the message of the Course, and the resulting arguments, come from a failure to appreciate the limitations of word symbols, as well as a failure to recognize when statements are metaphorical rather than literal.
In general, any statement that implies that separation is real is metaphorical. Any statement that implies that God's knowledge includes separation, the body, the individual person or the world is metaphorical. It is not uncommon to interpret statements in the Course about God having only one Son to mean that there must somehow be separation between God and His Son -- a difference that God knows about and perceives, or that Christ perceives; that what is meant by "knowledge" somehow includes consciousness and awareness of an "other." It is only the necessity of using word symbols that reinforces this kind of limited human conception. Again, words are the communication tools of separation; dualistic symbols which cannot go beyond duality.
Following are some quoted passages from the Course material that have a bearing on this tendency to interpret dualistic sounding metaphors as meaning that separation -- duality -- is the nature of reality. I have inserted several bracketed comments.
God does not know of separation. ["Knowledge" does not include separation, therefore it cannot include consciousness and perception. See: T-3.IV.2] What He knows is only that He has one Son [but note that "knowledge" of one Son is knowledge of oneness, it is not perception of otherness]. . . .God comes to him who calls, and in Him he [the Son who called] recognizes Himself [Christ Who is one with God] (P-2.VII.1:11, 13-14).
It should especially be noted that God has only one Son. If all His creations are His Sons, every one must be an integral part of the whole Sonship. The Sonship in its oneness transcends the sum of its parts. However, this is obscured [to the split-minded Sonship, not to God] as long as any of its parts is missing [i.e., as long any mind believes that it is separate]. That is why the conflict cannot ultimately be resolved until all the parts of the Sonship have returned [but that "return" takes place only in one mind, which is why our only responsibility is to accept the Atonement in what seems to be our own mind]. Only then can the meaning of wholeness in the true sense be understood [by you as mind and the Son of God]. Any part of the Sonship can believe in error or incompleteness if he so chooses. However, if he does so, he is believing in the existence of nothingness. The correction of this error is the Atonement (T-2.VII.6).
If God has but one Son, there is but one God. You share reality with Him, because reality is not divided (T-10.III.10:1).
What is one cannot be perceived as separate, and the denial of the separation [which is what the Atonement does] is the reinstatement of knowledge. At the altar of God [i.e., the mind], the holy perception of God's Son [perception informed by the Holy Spirit -- "vision," "true perception," the "vision of Christ"] becomes so enlightened that light streams into it, and the spirit of God's Son shines in the Mind of the Father and becomes one with it. [This describes the transition from the "real world," which is still a perceptual illusion, to the world of "knowledge," or God's Mind.] Very gently does God shine upon Himself, loving the extension of Himself that is His Son (T-12.VI.7:1).
Reality as defined by A Course in Miracles is not physical, has no dimension, and cannot be perceived. It is not a phenomenon of time and space. Reality is created by God, and what God creates is like Himself (e.g., see: T-8.II.7:6; C-1.1:3; and many other passages throughout the Course). God is pure Spirit or Mind: formless, changeless, eternal, infinite Love, limitless unified perfection -- a Oneness Whose creations are not only like Him, but are in no way separate from Him.
There is no separation or multiplicity in the oneness of God and the Reality which is His Creation. Reality in the Course is synonymous with "Heaven" which obviously cannot be related in any way to the universe of form and perception that we generally call "reality."
Being changeless, separation, which is change, is impossible. Thus, what appears to change is not real, was not created by God, and is merely an illusion that in truth (and paradoxically, in terms of our conventional, linear-time bound way of thinking) never happened at all. So, time and space which are based on the belief in separation and change, are not part of Reality.
For time and space are one illusion, which takes different forms. If it has been projected beyond your mind you think of it as time. The nearer it is brought to where it is, the more you think of it in terms of space (T-26.VIII.1:3-5).
Let us return the dream he gave away unto the dreamer, who perceives the dream as separate from himself and done to him. Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh. In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects. Together, we can laugh them both away, and understand that time cannot intrude upon eternity. It is a joke to think that time can come to circumvent eternity, which means there is no time (T-27.VIII.6).
God holds your future as He holds your past and present. They are one to Him, and so they should be one to you. Yet in this world, the temporal progression still seems real. And so you are not asked to understand the lack of sequence really found in time. You are but asked to let the future go, and place it in God's Hands. And you will see by your experience that you have laid the past and present in His Hands as well (W-pI.194.4:1-6).
In order to understand the teaching-learning plan of salvation, it is necessary to grasp the concept of time that the course sets forth. Atonement corrects illusions, not truth. Therefore, it corrects what never was. Further, the plan for this correction was established and completed simultaneously, for the Will of God is entirely apart from time. So is all reality, being of Him. The instant the idea of separation entered the mind of God's Son, in that same instant was God's Answer given. In time this happened very long ago. In reality it never happened at all. The world of time is the world of illusion (M-2.2-3:1).
As a non-dualistic (non-separated) state, Reality is unable to be perceived since perception presupposes a subject-object dichotomy which is inherently dualistic -- which has separate parts that can interact -- and so cannot be real. As I have already said, in A Course in Miracles, true reality is synonymous with what is termed "knowledge," the state of being that is Heaven or the Mind of God (see "Perception versus Knowledge," T-3.III).
Again, refer to the Introduction to the ACIM text and note its profound, radical implications:
This course can therefore be summed up very simply in this way:
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.
What is truly real -- that true Reality which is God and of God -- cannot be threatened. Nothing which can be threatened is real, therefore nothing which can be threatened is a creation of God.
In the next to last chapter of the ACIM text is a section entitled, "Changeless Reality" which provides a summary statement about the nature of that true reality which is God and of God. The following quote is from that section:
Reality is changeless. It is this that makes it real, and keeps it separate from all appearances. It must transcend all form to be itself. It cannot change. The miracle is means to demonstrate that all appearances can change because they are appearances, and cannot have the changelessness reality entails....
Reality is changeless. Miracles but show what you have interposed between reality and your awareness is unreal, and does not interfere at all (T-30.VIII.1:6-2:1; 4:1-2).
Below are some relevant definitions from Kenneth Wapnick's Glossary-Index for A Course in Miracles with major Course references:
knowledge (Level I - Heaven): the activating agent of spirit, to which it is roughly equivalent, supplying its creative energy.
perception(Level II - illusion): the agent of choice; we are free to believe that our minds can be separated or split off from the Mind of God (wrong-mindedness), or that they can be returned to it (right-mindedness); thus, the split mind can be understood as having three parts: the wrong mind, the right mind, and the part of the mind (decision maker) that chooses between them; not to be confused with the brain, which is a physical organ and thus an aspect of our bodily self.
see: Mind of God (below)
Major references: T-2.IV.2-4; T-7.VI.4-9; T-8.IV.3-6; T-18.VI.2-8; T-31.III.3-5; W-pI.135.4-13; W.pI.132; M-5.II.1-2; M-8.3-4, 6; P-2.VI.3
Mind of God -
equated with the creative function of God which represents the activating agent of spirit, supplying its creative energy; as an extension of God, the Mind of Christ -- God's Thought -- shares in the attributes of the Mind of God -- One-mindedness; after the separation, the Mind of Christ appeared to be split in two: Mind and mind.
Major references: T-5.I.5; T-5.II.10-12; T.11.I.3-6; W-pI.45
Heaven, or the pre-separation world of God and His unified creation in which there are no differences or forms, and thus it is exclusive of the world of perception; not to be confused with the common use of " knowledge," which implies the dualism of a subject who knows and an object which is known; in the Course it reflects the pure experience of non-duality, with no subject-object dichotomy.
(see: Heaven - below)
Major references: T-3.III; T-6.II.7; W-pI.198.2-3; W-pI.43.1; C-4
the non-dualistic world of knowledge, wherein dwell God and His creation in the perfect unity of His Will and spirit; though exclusive of the world of perception, Heaven can be reflected here in the holy relationship and that state of mind called the "real world."
Major references: T-4.III.1; T-5.IV.1-3; T-7.I.2-6; T-18.I.11; T-30.V.3-4; W-pI.138