A Vast Illusion: Time According to A Course in Miracles
by Kenneth Wapnick. Ph.D.
© Foundation for A Course in Miracles.Temecula, CA. 1990, 2006
THE METAPHYSICS OF TIME
I have elsewhere1 discussed the two levels on which A Course in Miracles is written, but a brief discussion now would be in order as well. The first level deals with the metaphysics of the Course, treating the difference between the perfect reality of Heaven and the imperfect illusory physical world; the second level contrasts, within the illusory world, the ego's teachings of separation and attack with the Holy Spirit's visions of joining and forgiveness. These two levels are seen in chart 1, and we shall refer back to them throughout the book. In Part I, our emphasis will be almost entirely on the metaphysics (Level One), while Part II will focus on our experience of the ego's world of time, and its undoing through the miracle (Level Two). Part III integrates both levels, as it treats the end product of forgiveness (Level Two), which culminates in the undoing of the world that never was (Level One).
We begin now with the state of Heaven, which A Course in Miracles describes as:an awareness of perfect oneness, and the knowledge that there is nothing else; nothing outside this oneness, and nothing else within (T-18.VII.1:6).Therefore, God and Christ are one, even though God is First Cause and we as His Son are His Effect. This seemingly dualistic description should not be taken literally, but rather as the Course's means of describing something that cannot he under-stood by a human brain:It must he understood that the word “first“ as applied to Him [God] is not a time concept. He is first in the sense that He is the First in the Holy Trinity Itself. He is the Prime Creator, be-cause He created His co-creators. Because He did, time applies neither to Him nor to what He created (T-7.1.7:4-7).This state of Heaven therefore is eternal, for "Eternity is an idea of God" (T-5.III.6:3).
In an extremely important passage, A Course in Miracles states that "Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh" (T-27.VIII.6:2). This "tiny, mad idea" is the belief that the Son can be separated from his Father, usurp his Father's function as Prime Creator, and thus the effect can seem to become First Cause. Further, the Course teaches: "In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects" (T-27.VII.6:3).
Moreover, A Course in Miracles clearly states that time is non-existent, and that its seeming origin was when the tiny, mad idea of separation was taken seriously. The Course out-lines the effects of this seriousness:A timelessness in which is time made real; a part of God that can attack itself; a separate brother as an enemy; a mind within a body...(T-27.VIII.7:1).And yet, despite this seeming seriousness, Jesus says to us:Together, we can laugh them both [accomplishment and real effects] 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.6:4-5).The Course uses the metaphor of sleep to describe the separation, and its ensuing thought system as a dream: "You dwell not here, but in eternity. You travel but in dreams, while safe at home" (T-13.VII.17:6-7). Yet, when the Son of God seemed to fall asleep and have a dream of separation, the entire world of time appeared to roll out like a long carpet (see chart 2). It seemed to happen in one instant, a tiny tick of time. And within that tiny tick was contained the entire world of time and space as we know it, the entire scope of evolution, which within this world of illusion spans billions of years. One of the difficulties in understanding this concept—to which we shall return over and over again in this book—is that our experience of time, as well as its intellectual understanding, is linear. Therefore, billions of years seem like an interminably long period of time. In the reality of the illusion, however, this entire scope of billions of years occurred in one instant. At one point Jesus comments: "What is a hundred or a thousand years to Them [God and Christ], or tens of thousands?" (T-26.IX.4:1). Thus, one of the handicaps of using the analogy of the carpet is that it depicts time as linear. The advantage on the other hand, is that it corresponds to our experience of time.
A Course in Miracles explains that simultaneously with the birth of the ego's thought of time God "gave" the Correction, the Holy Spirit, Who undid all the mistakes that were made in that one instant. This is illustrated in chart 2. The top part of the carpet represents the ego script, which is already written. The bottom half, which in a sense runs concurrently with the top because the Correction occurred simultaneously, represents the undoing of all those errors. More specifically, if the basic core of the separation world is defined as special relationships, then concurrent with these thoughts in our minds are thoughts of holy relationships, which undo our special relationships through forgiveness. In a sense, therefore, the top half of the carpet is the ego's world, a world of separation, specialness, and attack. The bottom half is the same script, as it were, but now healed, so that the Holy Spirit's thought of forgiveness—the Atonement principle that the separation never truly occurred—has already replaced the ego's.
We are thus basically speaking of a "dual duality," comparable to the two levels mentioned at the beginning of the chapter. The first duality is between being awake in eternity, and asleep in a dream of time. The second is between the two scripts, the ego's and the Holy Spirit's. Within this second duality, the split or separated mind is divided into three parts: the part the Course describes as the wrong mind, which contains the thought of separation taken seriously; the right mind, the part which contains the memory of God—the Holy Spirit— which remembers to laugh at the separation thought; and the part that chooses between these two, which we shall refer to as the decision maker or observer.
The ego's script was written and chosen by us as decision makers—we are, so to speak, the writers, directors, producers, actors, and actresses. It is so difficult to conceive that both scripts have already occurred because this understanding is so dramatically opposed to our own individual experience. However, it is an essential element of A Course in Miracles' metaphysics of time, without which one cannot truly under-stand the Course's teachings on forgiveness. In summary, then, we can say that the instant the entire physical world seemed to occur, in that same instant the Correction for it occurred as well. The Course explains, in the context of a section on sickness:Yet separation is but empty space, enclosing nothing, doing nothing, and as unsubstantial as the empty place between the ripples that a ship has made in passing by. And covered just as fast, as water rushes in to close the gap, and as the waves in joining cover it. Where is the gap between the waves when they have joined, and covered up the space which seemed to keep them separate for a little while? (T-28.III.5:2-4)Therefore, a helpful metaphor is the decision maker (observer) as the part of our minds (see chart 3) that chooses to review the ego's movie (wrong mind) or the Holy Spirit's correction (right mind). Remember that the entire movie including the correction has already been filmed, and encompasses the world of evolution, spanning billions of years. Within this gigantic epic is an almost infinite number of segments or video tapes, each corresponding to the expression of a thought: "All thinking produces form at some level" (T-2.VI.9:14). We have available to us in our minds a "switch" whereby we can instantaneously interchange these smaller tapes, either within the ego or the Holy Spirit scripts, or move from one to the other, "tuning in" to either the ego's or the Holy Spirit's thought. Both have occurred and are already present in our minds in what we call the world of time. Another way of conceptualizing this phenomenon is that as we sit in front of our movie or video screen, the decision maker part of our minds is viewing the script at a very slow speed, experiencing all the effects of its thought, which occurred in one instant and has, in fact, already disappeared.
Thus, we are as observers sitting in front of a screen watching what has already taken place, as if it were occurring for the first time. Our experience, however, is that we are actually part of what we are observing. So in the right-hand part of chart 3, which represents the television screen, what we are seeing also includes all the aspects of the script which involve us. The reality is that we are really observing this, choosing which part of the script we wish to observe via the decision maker part of our minds. This is the meaning of A Course in Miracles' statement (discussed below) that we are watching something from a point at which it has already been completed.
Now the trick in all this, and why the Course refers to time as a magic trick or "sleight of hand" (W-pI.158.4:1), is that it appears as if we are actually living in this moment. In truth, however, we are merely re-experiencing something that has already happened. Thus there is no real connection between the "we" that sits observing, and the "we" that we are observing, except that we have made a connection. And thus what we have made becomes real to us, as if the connection were real. When we turn the set off, what we have been observing is gone. Our fear of this of course is enormous, as we believe that if the image on the screen disappears, so do we. Thus we delay this choice for a long, long time, and that is why the world, including most spiritualities, attempts to keep real certain aspects of the giant epic movie.
An example of this phenomenon of becoming what we observe occurs while watching a movie in a theater. Even though intellectually we understand that there is really nothing on the screen except the projection of a film from a projector that is behind us, our experience nonetheless is that we are actually observing something on the screen that is real, for we feel the same emotions as if something were actually happening to us. We experience horror, fear, guilt, happiness, joy, or sadness, and can begin weeping or laughing as if something were really occurring. Thus, for all intents and purposes from the psycho-logical point of view, something is happening on the screen.
None of this would have an impact on us at all, if what were on the screen did not remind us of what we believe is within ourselves. Even more specifically, it affects us because the thoughts underlying the emotions are within us: the outer is nothing more than the reflection of what is within—no more, no less. And so even though we realize on one level that what we are observing in front of us is illusory, we still react as if it were real, and were, in effect, happening to us or to people with whom we identify. Thus, it seems to us as if we are actually going through our daily activities, making choices in the present that determine future situations, controlled by events of the past. In reality, to state it once again, we are merely watching ourselves going through these activities, making choices that determine what is to come, and being affected by what has preceded this moment. This makes no sense when understood this way by a mind that has chosen reason, but we must never forget that the ego is literally built on no-sense. Thus, it makes no sense for us to attempt to understand nonsense.
Another example of psychological identification is our responding to what we read in the newspaper or watch on the television news. If we respond in terms of happiness, joy, anger, or fear, it could only be because psychologically we are identifying with the event. Otherwise, the situation or person would have no effect on us. Hence, we are only seeing ourselves, or better, a projection of ourselves, in that particular situation: we are watching, not being. A parallel to this is what is usually referred to as an out-of-body experience. Here, the individual appears to be literally outside the physical experience observing the body perform. This helpful analogy, however, should not be extended too far, as even the experience of being outside the body is part of the video tape library, as we still experience ourselves as separate beings. Besides, the mind does not dwell in the body at all.
Thus, we are observing events that seem to be real and happening right now. In actuality we are only observing what has already happened—we are replaying a tape as it were, yet forgetting that we are doing so. When we remember that we have chosen what we are experiencing, the chains that seemingly bound us to the screen, and ultimately to the observing chair itself, disappear and we are free. Thus, it is our denial of what we have chosen that causes us to believe that we are in the dream, and so it becomes as real to us as our sleeping dreams do at night. We live in a technological age of instant replays and VCRs, where we can fast-forward, reverse, pause, and still-frame, and who knows what ingenuity the ego will devise in the future? What is so interesting about these technological breakthroughs is that our intangible mind, through its physical instrument the brain, is devising a mirror of the same mechanisms of the mind that not only made up the brain, but the entire physical universe as well. We are merely living out the thoughts of the mind, having produced the world of form by projection, a world that has never left its source in the mind.
It should really come as no surprise that this entire world, and all of our experiences here, are a grand deception. The original ego thought of separation from God was a lie; how then can what is projected from this thought be anything but a lie? Thus we should never underestimate the power of our ego-body to lie and deceive. It is also clear, to anticipate our discussion later in the book, that we can never awaken to reality from this dream of "reality" without help from outside the ego dream. This help is the Holy Spirit, or His manifestation Jesus. It was believing that we could exist on our own, without God, that led us into the dream in the first place, and so it is by choosing the Help of God that we awaken from it.
It is this kind of overall explanation which makes sensible some of the otherwise inexplicable passages that occur in A Course in Miracles. For example, one line, which I will discuss later, states: "The revelation that the Father and the Son are one will come in time to every mind" (W-p1.158.2:8). Furthermore, the time when this recognition will come to us has already been set: the script of our acceptance is already written. What is not set is when we will choose to re-experience that part of the script. The significant implications of this idea will be discussed in Chapter 2.
Returning to our VCR analogy, let us assume that we all have remote controls and can press any number of different buttons. The decision maker (or observer) in our minds then chooses to press the button that activates the tape containing our awakening from the dream, which is the acceptance of the Atonement. At that point we are choosing to switch to the Holy Spirit's script, forgiving everyone in the world and calling forth the remembrance that we are one with God. Once again, that part of the script has already been filmed and thus has already "happened," but we are still free to choose when we will review it. This choice is the only notion of free will that the Course accepts as meaningful (T-in.l; W-pI.158.2:8-9; W-pI.169.8:1-2). And of course we cannot choose not to choose again; but we can delay this choice. As the Course explains:You can temporize and you are capable of enormous procrastination, but you cannot depart entirely from your Creator, Who set the limits on your ability to miscreate (T-2.III.3:3).This limit, the Holy Spirit's presence in our minds, ensures that at some point within the hologram of time, we shall choose to awaken from the dream.
A Course in Miracles teaches, however, that we do not abruptly awaken from the dream. Before we can fully awaken, we first have to switch from the ego's nightmares to the Holy Spirit's happy dreams. That progression—from nightmares to happy dreams—undoes the belief that God will punish us. Only then can we accept the Atonement for ourselves. This intermediate step, the attainment of which is the goal of the Course, is expressively described in this passage:Nothing more fearful than an idle dream has terrified God's Son, and made him think that he has lost his innocence, denied his Father, and made war upon himself. So fearful is the dream, so seeming real, he could not waken to reality without the sweat of terror and a scream of mortal fear, unless a gentler dream preceded his awaking, and allowed his calmer mind to welcome, not to fear, the Voice That calls with love to waken him; a gentler dream, in which his suffering was healed and where his brother was his friend. God willed he waken gently and with joy, and gave him means to waken without fear (T-27.VII.13:3-5).There is an interesting parallel found in the teachings of Basilides, one of the great Gnostic teachers of the second century. He had a fascinating theory, which on first reading sounds totally preposterous. Basilides maintained that Jesus did not die on the cross. Rather, he changed his form and instead Simon of Cyrene hung crucified, while Jesus was off on a tree laughing. Basilides, who remained in opposition to Church teachings and its leaders, saw Jesus derisively laughing at all the people (primarily the Jews) who could not understand what was truly happening. The content of Basilides' inspiration was correct; namely, that Jesus "remembered" to laugh at the tiny, mad idea of the ego and not take it seriously. Thus, he knew that he was not being crucified, as he was not his body. Merely an observer, Jesus watched himself, knowing that what he was seeing was not real but only a dream. We may thus conclude that Basilides' mind could not fully encompass the magnitude of the thought of Jesus' non-derisive laughter. The inspiration thus filtered through his limited ego mind, manifesting itself in the form of attack.
Related to the concept of not taking the world's dream seriously is what psychologists term "lucid dreaming," referring to the phenomenon of people, who in the midst of a nocturnal dream, are aware that they are dreaming. In the dream itself they are aware that they are the dreamer and the dream. Thus, they may be in the midst of a terrifying night-mare, and suddenly can remember it is a dream. The dream continues, but the terror disappears. A Course in Miracles' counterpart to the lucid dreamer is the happy dreamer, who while living in this illusory world, suddenly realizes that he or she is not really here.
To continue with the analogy of the lucid dreamer, but now in the context of sitting in front of a VCR, it would be as if we as observers were watching a video tape, and suddenly realize that we are watching something that has already happened. We are observing ourselves as a figure in the dream, yet still within the dream, but now we are aware that it is nothing but a dream. This shift in awareness is represented in chart 3 by the two lines emanating from the observer, representing the ego and the Holy Spirit. It is as if there are two voices speaking to us as we view our screens. The ego is saying: "Keep tuned to my station and believe that the body's drama you are watching is really happening to you." The Holy Spirit's Voice reminds us that what we are observing is nothing but a dream. Before we can really hear the full clarity of His message, however, we first have to consider the idea that there is another way of looking at the dream. This other way, again, is the happy dream of forgiveness.
The video (or movie) analogy is a somewhat simplified way of presenting the concept, and has the drawback of being linear. A computer, with all its complexity, is in fact a better analogy to use, except that it is a more complicated way of making the point. Imagine ourselves sitting in front of a computer screen, with a myriad number of programs from which we can choose, and many different buttons we can press. This analogy better reflects the complexity of our individual lives and our interactions with the world. The computer also serves as a helpful analogy of the relationship between the mind (observer) and the brain (body), inasmuch as the mind has programmed the brain, just as the computer programmer tells the computer what to do. Without a program and a source of energy, the computer cannot function. Like-wise, the brain (and therefore the body) is totally "lifeless" without "instructions" from the mind.
Another helpful analogy is a kaleidoscope, a small tube in which mirrors reflect light transmitted through bits of loose colored glass contained at one end, causing them to appear as symmetrical designs—and often beautiful ones at that—when viewed from the other end. Actually, the state of the split mind is better understood as a kaleidoscope within a kaleidoscope, a split within a split, the first one being the projection outward from the primordial split mind, which is the original piece of glass. The projection is the original thought of separation or fragmentation from God. Therefore, the world that is projected out is identical to the separation thought that has been projected, and so the glass continues to shatter. Each projected thought, as it were, becomes its own kaleidoscope. The actual process is mind-boggling, and defies any attempt at rational or logical apprehension, for the complexity is overwhelming to our very limited human thinking. The trick of time is that this seeming instant of fragmentation now appears to have happened over an immense span of time; time's linearity is but the veil that hides the simultaneous co-existence of every part of the shattered glass.
Transferring to the kaleidoscope the previously discussed idea of the observer and the observed, we can understand that the observer —the decision maker—is outside of what it observes. Within the kaleidoscope there is no difference between the observer and the observed. They are one: the part is in the whole; the whole is in each part. This is similar to a psychotherapist analyzing a dream, interpreting all its symbols as being part of the dreamer; i.e., the dream and dreamer are one. We who have dreamed the dreams of our lives, in truth stand outside of them, yet we still believe we are in them. Moreover, we believe that we are controlled by them.
Still another way of conceptualizing the "mind within a mind" model is to think of each fragment as a computer chip, filled with information (or thoughts), and each thought itself is a chip, and on and on. The process "begins," to the extent that one can speak of a temporal limit to what is beyond all time, with the single chip of the one Son's separation thought. From there the chip fragments continuously—chip within chip, kaleidoscope within kaleidoscope. As A Course in Miracles describes the process:You who believe that God is fear made but one substitution. It has taken many forms, because it was the substitution of illusion for truth; of fragmentation for wholeness. It has become so splintered and subdivided and divided again, over and over, that it is now almost impossible to perceive it once was one, and still is what it was.... You do not realize the magnitude of that one error. It was so vast and so completely incredible that from it a world of total unreality had to emerge. What else could come of it? Its fragmented aspects are fearful enough, as you begin to look at them. But nothing you have seen begins to show you the enormity of the original error, which seemed to cast you out of Heaven, to shatter knowledge into meaningless bits of disunited perceptions, and to force you to make further substitutions (T-18.I.4:1-3; 5:2 6).This kaleidoscope image also incorporates one of the key ideas of a hologram: the whole is contained in every part. The holographic process consists of splitting a laser beam of light (a beam with a single wave length as opposed to the multiple waves of ordinary light) into two. One beam (called the reference beam) illuminates the object being photographed, while the other (called the working beam) interferes with the light that is reflected from the object. Both beams are then directed to a photographic plate, where their interaction is then re-corded and forms the hologram. When, finally, a laser beam shines through this holographic image it is perceived by the viewer three-dimensionally. Even more to the point here, any part of the object perceived in the photograph contains within it the whole. In other words, the part defines the whole and recreates for the perceiver, as it were, the nature of the whole object.
In this respect, the statement in the Seth material (a series of books by Jane Roberts, channeled from an entity named Seth), that all incarnations are occurring simultaneously, is similar to the Course's teachings that all events have occurred in one instant, yet appear to he unfolding sequentially over time. Thus all incarnations, that in this world of time and space would span billions of years, are encapsulated in a time-space hologram of this one instant. If we think of the mind of the Sonship of God as being a unified, pristine pane of glass—the Christ as God created Him—then the separation is the seeming shattering of the glass into billions and billions of pieces. This is what is conveyed in the kaleidoscope image, where the little pieces of glass represent the shattered parts of the Sonship. Thus, the observing part of our minds sits in front of the kaleidoscope, which in our earlier image was the VCR set, and can turn the tube and see whatever it has chosen to see and experience at any particular time.
Given these premises, we can begin to realize that at any given moment our minds can make a decision, for example, to be living in New York State at the end of the twentieth century, while in another part of our minds we experience ourselves in a totally different time and space, another period in history, past or future. Again, we can think of the chip within a chip image, or kaleidoscope within a kaleidoscope. We are unaware of this because we have limited our minds by making laws of time and space, which program our brains and limit the experience of ourselves. People who have past life regressions, or who can look into the future, are simply removing some of the limiting barriers that formerly prevented them from experiencing much more of what is actually within their own minds.
There is a very important adaptive purpose in these barriers. For example, consider the world of perception from a purely physiological point of view. Our brains are continually bombarded by thousands upon thousands of sensory stimuli--sights, sounds, smells, etc. We automatically—and it is so automatic that we are not aware of it—screen out everything that is not needed at the time. For example, when one gives a speech that is being taped, the attention is on the talking and interaction with the audience. When the tape is replayed, how-ever, one hears sounds that were not in awareness during the taping: cars passing, birds chirping, rain falling, or refrigerator motors whirring, all of which were not heard at the time of the taping because the brain had selectively tuned them out. This obviously is a very important adaptive mechanism, because there is no way that we could function in this material world if we were paying equal attention to all stimuli simultaneously.
If we move from the physiological to the psychological dimension of the mind, we observe this same screening-out process at work, There would be no way that we could live in this world if, for example, at the same moment I am talking with you I am involved in talking with thousands of other people from previous or future incarnations, all of whom are included in the script that is already written. Thus, it is an adaptive part of living in the world of time, as we set it up, that we pay attention only to what is currently occurring in a particular dimension of time and space that we have chosen to experience. And yet, again, the whole of the mind's experience is found within every fragment of that experience.
In summary, then, the carpet, video tape, kaleidoscope, and hologram images all help in different ways to illustrate some key parts of A Course in Miracles' concept of time; namely, that we are observing what has already happened, and that what appear to us to be distinct events taking place in a linear progression of past, present, and future, are rather all present simultaneously in our minds because the whole of time occurred in one single instant. We focus directly only on segments of the total fragmentation at any given moment, and choose whether to view the ego's version of separation, attack, anger, and specialness, or the Holy Spirit's correction of all this through forgiveness and holy relationships. Thus our only true choice, always and ever, regardless of its form, is whether to choose the ego or the Holy Spirit, to remain asleep in the observer's chair or to awaken from the dream, leave the chair entirely, and reunite with our Source.
We will come back to these central ideas many times as we encounter them in various passages from the Course. We will then develop them more in depth and deal with some of the difficulties and paradoxes involved in these ideas.
Q: Before going on, would you say something about the frequent misunderstanding of what these principles imply? This idea that everything has already occurred seems to encourage a fatalistic attitude toward events in our lives, because it suggests that we have no choice in a particular situation. For instance, it could be interpreted to mean that if someone shoots his wife, that since the script was already written there was no possible way for him to decide otherwise than for him to shoot his wife. People are inclined to think that it does not really matter because the script is already written. Would it not be more accurate to think that not only do we have a choice of what video to focus in on, but we also have a choice of what aspect in that video we are going to focus on? Thus, not only has it occurred in time that this man has shot his wife, it has also occurred in the same instant that he has not shot his wife, and that he actually chose one of these to focus on. Is this what you are saying?
A: Yes. It is helpful in this case to go back to charts 2 and 3, and consider the ego version where you attack your wife, and the Holy Spirit's version where you forgive your wife. There could be other kinds of options as well. The aforementioned line in the Course "All thinking produces form at some level" (T-2.VI.9:14) is enlightening in this regard. Applying it to your example, it means that the thoughts of shooting your wife, of putting the revolver down, or of doing something else entirely, have already happened. Thus you are not really having a new thought, but merely accessing different thoughts in your mind. Therefore, you are re-experiencing a thought that you once had. This is a mind-boggling idea, but it is the key to understanding what A Course in Miracles says about time. We are re-experiencing because we are observing again on the screen what has already happened. That is why a computer analogy is a little more helpful than that of the video tape. A computer expands the possibilities immensely, whereas as I have already said, the video tape is limited to a linear modality. The main idea is that it is all there, so it does make a difference what you are choosing to observe right now. If you continue to choose the ego script then you become more involved with your guilt, which means that your finger, as it were, becomes almost frozen on the ego button. You just keep playing the same script of guilt over and over again.
Many years ago the physiological psychologist Donald Hebb from McGill University proposed a theory that learning occurs when certain neural pathways in the brain become fixed. These pathways become like a canal: the more it is used through habit patterns, the deeper it becomes, and so the more difficult it is to break out of it. Analogous to this is the guilt-attack cycle, wherein the more we attack people the more guilt we feel, which makes us attack even more. So it does make a difference how often we choose to see dreams of vengeance, murder, jealousy, depression, and guilt, for such choices root us still further in the ego thought system, and so we are merely choosing to he more and more miserable. In the end, from a Level One perspective, it does not make any difference as we will see when we look at chart 4. But it does make a difference certainly in terms of what we are experiencing as we sit in the chair looking at all of it. This is evident in the question posed in the workbook, "Why wait for Heaven?" (W-pI.188.1:1). Why would we delay when we could be at perfect peace, and why exchange that peace for anxiety and conflict? In other words, why remain asleep tortured by night-mares, when we can simply awaken to the peace of God?
Q: When Einstein's brain was studied it was discovered that it had more crevices and deeper pathways in it. It was not any heavier, or a different size from anybody else's brain. Is this an example of what you arc saying?
A: Yes, and this implies that he used his brain more. I think that it would be possible to find a counterpart for that in terms of right-minded thinking; we are not talking about right brain and left brain, incidentally, but right-minded thinking, i.e., forgiveness as opposed to guilt and attack.
It is interesting to note the physiological expressions of the dynamics of the mind, as we have just been considering. Since these dynamics represent the thoughts that are in our minds, it makes sense that they will be projected out onto our bodies. Similarly, we find these mind dynamics expressed in current technology, such as in movies, video tapes, and computers: in all of these, we find the outward expression of what has already happened in our minds.
Returning to the original question, again let me caution against adopting a laissez faire, fatalistic, or passive approach to our experience here. In fact, such an approach is really an ego trap for keeping us here. A Course in Miracles teaches us that we are responsible for what we are experiencing (T-21.II.2:3-5); however, what we are responsible for is choosing to review this experience in our minds, which has already happened. In other words, we are responsible for what we are viewing; i.e., which video tape or computer files we are going to access.
Still another point is relevant here. If one seeks to use these metaphysical principles as a justification for doing nothing, then one is misunderstanding the different levels. On the level that says that all has already happened, and in fact that nothing has happened—"all" being thought—then there is no body that can even do nothing, or even have such a thought. But once I believe I am here, puzzling over a question such as this, then I am already believing that time and space are real. Therefore, seeking to justify a behavior (or absence of a behavior) on grounds of it being an illusion is not being honest, since I have already chosen to believe that I am here. Thus we must remain faithful to the context of our underlying belief system if we are ultimately to change it.
Q: Would it be accurate to say that when our fingers are stuck on the ego remote control button, as we are making ego choices, and then we decide to change to the Holy Spirit's but-ton, that that channel would still show the same action but it would be viewed differently? And isn't it also true that if we had listened to the Holy Spirit earlier, we would not have had to go through all this extra time, we would not have had to be stuck on the ego button?
A: That is quite right. This will be brought out when we talk about the miracle in Part Two. The lesson in all of this is that we do not have to sit and watch the same patterns or themes in our movies again for two hours, five hours, five years, or five lifetimes. This is one of the basic ideas in the Course: saving time. We do not have to sit through all these terrible reruns, which is what our experience in this world really is. All experiences are reruns. This means that even though we are experiencing ourselves talking about things for the first time and interacting with others for the first time, we are really, in terms of the analogy we have been using, sitting in front of a screen watching ourselves going through these experiences. However, we have so repressed the observer dimension that it seems as if we are sitting in a room talking, over a period of time, and our experience is that we are doing this for the first time. In reality, though, we are observing something that has already happened. That again is the mind-boggling aspect of this idea. Our freedom does not lie in choosing what is in the script, or on the video tape, computer program, or the kaleidoscopic pieces of glass; our freedom rather lies in choosing what we are going to see when, and how quickly we are going to let go of guilt by choosing the Holy Spirit's version.
Furthermore, as an added comment on your question, if we had only listened to the Holy Spirit at the beginning, there would have been no ego scripts to undo. A Course in Miracles emphasizes that the ego speaks first, is wrong, and that the Holy Spirit is the Answer (T-5.VI.3:5-4:3; T-6.IV.1:1-2). If there had been no mistake, there would have been no need for the Answer. In another context, the "Exultet," a liturgical hymn for the Easter Vigil ascribed to the fourth-century St. Ambrose, exclaims the blessing of Jesus' presence: "0 happy fault, 0 necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!" Thus, if there had been no original sin ("happy fault"), there would have been no Redeemer.
Q: To return to the Seth books, there was an interesting account of Jane Roberts and her husband sitting in a restaurant. As they looked across the table at each other they both recognized that what they were seeing were their "probable realities." In other words, they saw an aspect of what they could have been, which was understood to be a negative thing in their lives. They recognized that they could have made that one choice which would have led to these negative experiences. They were aware that they were seeing the other channel, so to speak, and were very grateful for being where they were. Does this correspond to the idea you are explaining?
A: Yes, that is a good example of how this phenomenon works. There are many other examples like that in esoteric literature which, if looked at from this point of view, make a lot of sense. When we discuss the notion of the miracle, we shall see that the real power of A Course in Miracles lies in its speaking to us very practically within this metaphysical con-text, i.e., how we learn to press the Holy Spirit's button, and ultimately switch the television set off and leave the observer's chair entirely.
1See, e.g., the section on theory in my Glossary-Index for A Course in Miracles, and Forgiveness and Jesus: The Meeting Place of A Course in Miracles and Christianity, Fourth Edition, pp. 19-23. See Related Material at the back of this book for additional information.
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