Thu, May 31st - 4:32PM
ACIM Basics #7 - The Miracle
What Does A Course in Miracles Mean by "Miracle"?
Basically, the "miracle" which Jesus speaks of in the Course, and which gives the Course its title, is that change of mind from ego to Holy Spirit that permits forgiveness to take place in our lives. The miracle and forgiveness are almost synonymous, except that "miracle" refers to what takes place in our mind, and "forgiveness" is the expression of that change of mind in the way we perceive ourselves and others. Behavior -- what we do in the world -- follows from that, since behavior is determined by how we perceive.
The Course asks of us that we undertake only one responsibility, which is to accept the Atonement in our own mind. That is accomplished by the "miracle," which is equivalent to allowing ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit or Jesus. Complete acceptance of the Atonement would mean that we allowed ourselves always to be an instrument of love in the world -- that we always would fulfill the one function of forgiveness that Jesus assigns us in the Course.
It is rather easy to be deceived about what is meant by the "miracle" the Course speaks of; about what is genuine acceptance of the Atonement; what is truly loving; what is truly the guidance of the Holy Spirit or Jesus; and what is "truly helpful." Those who undertake to study the Course can avoid this kind of deception by learning to be keenly vigilant for the ego. We must learn how to step back and look at our own minds, and then learn how to surrender our perceptions, therefore control of our behavior, to right-mindedness.
There is no behavior which is inherently loving in this world, and the more grandiose our behavioral plans are, the less likely they are to be the result of genuine spiritual guidance, or the "miracle." We need to remember that "I need do nothing" (T-18.VII) and that "A healed mind does not plan" (W-pI.135.11:1). It is a mistake to decide ahead of time that we know what is the most loving and holy thing to do in the world, or that we know ahead of time what a miracle would look like.
Regarding what the Course means by a "miracle," there are some answers in the Course that one should consult. See the Workbook, page 473 -- "What is a Miracle?" (W-pII.13) Also see the Clarification of Terms at the end of the Manual for Teachers - p. 81, "The Ego - The Miracle" C-2).
There is a Glossary-Index for the Course written by Kenneth Wapnick and available in hard copy, and many of the terms defined in that Glossary are presented on-line at the Web site of the Foundation for A Course in Miracles (http://www.facim.org/~facim/acim/glossary.htm ). Here's the definition of miracle found there:
the change of mind that shifts our perception from the ego's world of sin, guilt, and fear, to the Holy Spirit's world of forgiveness; reverses projection by restoring to the mind its causative function, allowing us to choose again; transcends the laws of this world to reflect the laws of God; accomplished by our joining with the Holy Spirit or Jesus, being the means of healing our own and others' minds.
(Note -- not to be confused with the traditional understanding of miracles as changes in external phenomena.)
Major references: T-1.I; T-2.V.11-18; T-25.IX.5-10; T-27.VI.4-7; T-28.II.4-12; T-30.VIII.3-5; W-pI.159.3-10; W-pII.13; C-2.5-10
For a more thorough discussion, and a good introduction to the entire Course, see Wapnick's The 50 Miracle Principles of ACIM which is available as a book, but also is published on line: http://www.miraclestudies.net/50PrincPreface.html
Also see the book entitled The Most Commonly Asked Questions about ACIM which is also published on the Web: http://www.miraclestudies.net/QuestIndx.html
Although it is clear that the "miracle" that the Course speaks of is a change of mind, still the question of whether the "miracle" changes the physical world frequently comes up in discussions about the Course. It's an important question and one that I think can promote a lot of confusion about the metaphysics and message of the Course. There have been times when I've wished that Jesus had chosen another title for his Course, but I think the choice was intentional precisely because Christianity, and the Catholic church in particular, has focused so much on the kind of miracles that involve changes in the circumstances of the world and the condition of the body.
The religions of the world generally focus on form over content. Christianity, as it has traditionally been taught and practiced, is very much a religion of form and formalities. It is a religion with considerable focus on the body, including the body of Jesus who says in the Course:
I do not want to share my body in communion because this is to share nothing. Would I try to share an illusion with the most holy children of a most holy Father? Yet I do want to share my mind with you because we are of one Mind, and that Mind is ours" (T-7.V.10:7-9).
God does not share His function with a body (T-23.IV.3:1).
The Course says the world is not only an illusory projection in the mind, but that time and space are part of that illusion. Jesus says "The world was over long ago" (T-28.I.1:6), as well as that the script which we think of as our lives is already written. It says that in our dream lives, where the illusion of forgiveness is necessary and helpful, we are really undertaking "a journey without distance" (T-8.VI.9:7). It is a journey that is already over (T-18.VIII.13; T-26.V.14:4; W-pI.158.3:6).
The Course is basically telling us that the dream never happened because it comes from an impossible idea (separation), and it involves time, which is not real. If the Atonement principle is true, time and space are not true; therefore it is not possible to change what happens in the dream (a script already written; a journey already over).
Change takes place in time and space, but God is changeless -- eternal. Time and space are not real. The language of duality, which speaks of creation in terms of change, cannot describe Heaven and what the Course calls "knowledge."
In working with the Course, it is important to keep in mind this very important statement: "seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world" (T-21.IN.1:7). Jesus makes it very clear that there is no point in trying to change the world, which means that it is a mistake to attempt to use the Course to heal the body; to obtain money; to find a special love partner, desired job, house, pleasant location in which to live; or to fulfill any of the other specialness goals sought after in service of our ego self identity. Peace and happiness can never be found in an illusory world which arises from the mistaken belief in separation from God -- separation from Love.
Peace and happiness are found only in our mind, regardless of what happens in the world. That's why the Course teaches us about the "miracle" which is a change of mind. It is in our mind where healing is needed and can take place. Once the mind is healed, the dream world disappears back into nothingness.
(In truth, the mind cannot sleep and dream (see Workbook Lesson #167. We really cannot understand that, and I think it's best to accept that.)
Within the illusion where time and change seem real, it certainly does seem that a change of mind leads to a change in the dream. Form (i.e., appearances, what is perceived) seems to change. For those with a serious interest in the Course, instead of getting caught up in confusion and debate about whether a miracle changes form, I suggest that it is best to focus on learning how to allow that change of mind which the Course calls a "miracle," without having any investment in the outcome other than caring to be at peace. It is the mind-changing "miracle" that makes forgiveness possible in our dream world, so that is what a student of the Course ought to be concerned about.
Our ego very much wants us to be concerned about healing the body and changing the circumstances of the world in which the body lives. That focus keeps us distracted from mind, which is the cause of everything that seems to happen to us, and is the source of true peace. The mind is the ego's cause, so of course our ego identity wants to keep us unaware of mind and focused on the world, which is effect not cause. The miracle the Course speaks of means the end of the ego thought system in our mind: "The ego's opposite in every way, - in origin, effect and consequence - we call a miracle" (C-2.5:1).
The ego's goal -- our goal when we identify as ego -- is to keep us unaware of mind; to keep ourselves effectively mindless!
A student of the Course is invited to focus on learning how to undo his or her identification with the ego thought system, which is characterized by self-centeredness, focusing on the self-centered needs of the body and personality, or the psychological self. Undoing the ego is what allows the Holy Spirit thought system (represented by Jesus) to be our guide. Confusion can arise if one requires changes in form (e.g., physical health, material circumstances) as a criterion for the miracle; if one become focused on the outer rather than on the inner (i.e., content, mind).
It is rather easy to confuse the ego's goals with the goal of the miracle, which is peace no matter what happens outwardly. From an ego point of view, the question arises: "Who wants a "miracle" that offers peace of mind without being concerned about changing the world or the body?"
The body may or may not appear to be healed as a result of genuine forgiveness resulting from the change of mind which is the miracle, but healing of the body is not a criterion for whether forgiveness has taken place. A person with a sick and dying body may still have a healed mind and be at peace. A person may live in poverty and still be at peace, and there are many stories about people who found their way to be at peace in the worst of circumstances, such as those of the WW II Nazi concentration camps. In any case, according to A Course in Miracles, changes in physical circumstances are an illusion -- scenarios in a dream which is already over.
The body which seems to live will seem to die. The miracle and forgiveness won't prevent that. But they will undo the belief that the body is truly alive and therefore truly capable of dying. Life and death of the body are both part of the illusion that arises from the belief in separation from God, as is a sense of lack and deprivation. The Course asks its students to focus on undoing the belief in separation, which means to undo our investment in the ego thought system with its fear and guilt, its sense of lack and its dedication to death:
When your body and your ego and your dreams are gone, you [mind - Son of God] will know that you will last forever. Perhaps you think this is accomplished through death, but nothing is accomplished through death, because death is nothing. Everything is accomplished through life, and life is of the mind and in the mind. The body neither lives nor dies, because it cannot contain you [mind - Son of God] who are life" (ACIM Text-6.V(A).1:1-4; brackets mine).
Whatever is true is eternal, and cannot change or be changed (ACIM Text-1.V.5:1).
Who is the "you" who are living in this world? Spirit is immortal, and immortality is a constant state. It is as true now as it ever was or ever will be, because it implies no change at all. It is not a continuum, nor is it understood by being compared to an opposite. Knowledge never involves comparisons. That is its main difference from everything else the mind can grasp (ACIM Text-4.II.11:8-13).
The changes the ego seeks to make are not really changes. They are but deeper shadows, or perhaps different cloud patterns. Yet what is made of nothingness cannot be called new or different. Illusions are illusions; truth is truth" (ACIM Psychotherapy Pamphlet-2.I.2:6-9).