"Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Herein Lies the peace of God."
Course in Miracles
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The Body and the Dream
VIII. The Illusion of Suffering
Suffering is an emphasis upon all that the world has done to injure you. Here is the world's demented version of salvation clearly shown. Like to a dream of punishment in which the dreamer is unconscious of what brought on the attack against himself, he sees himself attacked unjustly and by something not himself. He is the victim of this "something else," a thing outside himself for which he has no reason to be held responsible. He must be innocent because he knows not what he does, but what is done to him. Yet is his own attack upon himself apparent still, for it is he who bears the suffering. And he cannot escape because its source is seen outside himself.
Now you are being shown you
escape. All that is needed is you look upon the problem as it
and not the way that you have set it up. How could there be another way to solve a problem which is very simple but has been obscured by heavy clouds of complication which were made to
the problem unresolved? Without the clouds, the problem will emerge in all its primitive simplicity. The choice will not be difficult, because the problem is absurd when clearly seen. No one has difficulty making up his mind to let a simple problem be resolved if it is
as hurting him and also very easily removed.
The "reasoning" by which the world is made, on which it rests, by which it is maintained, is simply this: "
are the cause of what I do. Your presence
my wrath, and you exist and think
from me. While you attack, I must be innocent. And what I suffer from is your attack." No one who looks upon this "reasoning" exactly as it is could fail to see it does not follow, and it makes no sense. Yet it seems sensible because it
as if the world were hurting you. And so it seems as if there is no need to go beyond the obvious in terms of cause.
a need. The world's escape from condemnation is a need which those within the world are joined in sharing. Yet they do not recognize their common need. For each one thinks that if he does his part, the condemnation of the world will rest on him. And it is this that he perceives to
his part in its deliverance. Vengeance must have a focus. Otherwise is the avenger's knife in his own hand and pointed to himself. And he must see it in another's hand if he would be a victim of attack he did not choose. And thus he suffers from the wounds a knife he does not hold has made upon himself. This is the
of the world he sees. And looked at thus, the world provides the means by which this purpose seems to be fulfilled.
the purpose but are not themselves a cause. Nor will the cause be changed by seeing it apart from its effects. The cause
the effects which then bear witness to the cause and not themselves. Look, then, beyond effects. It is not here the cause of suffering and sin must lie. And dwell not on the suffering and sin, for they are but reflections of their cause.
The part you play in salvaging the world from condemnation is your
escape. Forget not that the witness to the world of evil cannot speak except for what has seen a need for evil in the world. And this is where your guilt was first beheld. In separation from your brother was the first attack upon yourself begun. And it is this the world bears witness to. Seek not another cause nor look among the mighty legions of its witnesses for its undoing. They
its claim on your allegiance. What conceals the truth is not where you should look to
the truth. The witnesses to sin all stand within one little space. And it is
you find the cause of your perspective on the world.
Once you were unaware of what the cause of everything the world appeared to thrust upon you, uninvited and unasked, must really be. Of one thing you were sure—of all the many causes you perceived as bringing pain and suffering to you, your guilt was not among them. Nor did you in any way request them for yourself. This is how
illusions come about. The one who makes them does not see himself as making them, and their reality does not depend on him. Whatever cause they have is something quite apart from him, and what he sees is
from his mind. He cannot doubt his dreams' reality because he does not see the part he plays in making them and making them seem real.
No one can waken from a dream the world is dreaming
him. He becomes a part of someone else's dream. He cannot choose to waken from a dream he did not make. Helpless he stands, a victim to a dream conceived and cherished by a separate mind. Careless indeed of him this mind must be, as thoughtless of his peace and happiness as is the weather or the time of day. It loves him not but casts him as it will in any role that satisfies its dream. So little is his worth that he is but a dancing shadow, leaping up and down according to a senseless plot conceived within the idle dreaming of the world.
This is the only picture you can see, the one alternative that you can choose, the other possibility of cause if you be
the dreamer of your dreams. And this is what you choose, if you deny the cause of suffering is in
mind. Be glad indeed it is, for thus are you the
decider of your destiny in time. The choice is yours to make between a sleeping death and dreams of evil or a happy wakening and joy of life. What could you choose between
life or death, waking or sleeping, peace or war, your dreams or your reality? Yet if the choice is really given you, then you must see the causes of the things you choose between exactly
they are and
they are. What choices can be made between two states, but one of which is clearly recognized? Who could be free to choose between effects when only one is seen as up to him?
An honest choice could never be perceived as one in which the choice is split between a tiny you and an enormous world, with different dreams about the truth in you. The gap between reality and dreams lies not between the dreaming of the world and what you dream in secret.
are one. The dreaming of the world is but a part of your own dream you gave away and saw as if it were its start and ending both. Yet was it started by
secret dream, which you do not perceive, although it caused the part you see and do not doubt is real. How could you doubt it while you lie asleep and dream in secret that its cause is real?
A brother separated from yourself, an ancient enemy, a murderer who stalks you in the night and plots your death, yet plans that it be lingering and slow—of this you dream. Yet underneath this dream is yet another in which you become the murderer, the secret enemy, the scavenger and the destroyer of your brother and the world alike. Here is the
of suffering, the space between your dreams and your reality. The little gap you do not even see, the birthplace of illusions and of fear, the time of terror and of ancient hate, the instant of disaster, all are here. Here is the
of unreality. And it is here that it will be undone.
are the dreamer of the world of dreams. No other cause it has, nor ever will. 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. Accept the dream He gave instead of yours. It is not difficult to change a dream when once the dreamer has been recognized.
Rest in the Holy Spirit and allow His gentle dreams to take the place of those you dreamed in terror and in fear of death. He brings forgiving dreams in which the choice is not who is the murderer and who shall be the victim. In the dreams He brings, there
no murder and there
no death. The dream of guilt is fading from your sight, although your eyes are closed. A smile has come to lighten up your sleeping face. The sleep is peaceful now, for these are happy dreams.
Dream softly of your sinless brother, who unites with you in holy innocence. And from this dream, the Lord of Heaven will Himself awaken His beloved Son. Dream of your brother's kindnesses instead of dwelling in your dreams on his mistakes. Select his thoughtfulness to dream about instead of counting up the hurts he gave. Forgive him his illusions and give thanks to him for all the helpfulness he gave. And do not brush aside his many gifts because he is not perfect in your dreams.
He represents his Father, Whom you see as offering both life and death to you. Brother, He gives but life. Yet what you see as gifts your brother offers represent the gifts you dream your Father gives to you. Let all your brother's gifts be seen in light of charity and kindness offered you. And let no pain disturb your dream of deep appreciation for his gifts to you.
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A Course in Miracles
What is the Real World?
The real world is a symbol like the rest of what perception offers. Yet it stands for what is opposite to what you made. Your world is seen through eyes of fear and brings the witnesses of terror to your mind. The real world cannot be perceived except through eyes forgiveness blesses, so they see a world where terror is impossible and witnesses to fear can not be found.
The real world holds a counterpart for each unhappy thought reflected in your world, a sure correction for the sights of fear and sounds of battle which your world contains. The real world shows a world seen differently, through quiet eyes and with a mind at peace. Nothing but rest is there. There are no cries of pain and sorrow heard, for nothing here remains outside forgiveness. And the sights are gentle. Only happy sights and sounds can reach the mind that has forgiven itself.
What need has such a mind for thoughts of death, attack, and murder? What can it perceive surrounding it but safety, love, and joy? What is there it would choose to be condemned, and what is there that it would judge against? The world it sees arises from a mind at peace within itself. No danger lurks in anything it sees, for it is kind and only kindness does it look upon.
The real world is the symbol that the dream of sin and guilt is over and God's Son no longer sleeps. His waking eyes perceive the sure reflection of his Father's Love, the certain promise that he is redeemed. The real world signifies the end of time, for its perception makes time purposeless.
The Holy Spirit has no need of time when it has served His purpose. Now He waits but that one instant more for God to take His final step, and time has disappeared, taking perception with it as it goes and leaving but the Truth to be Itself. That instant is our goal, for it contains the memory of God. And as we look upon a world forgiven, it is He Who calls to us and comes to take us home, reminding us of our Identity which our forgiveness has restored to us.
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A Course in Miracles
All fear is past, and only love is here.
All fear is past because its source is gone and all its thoughts gone with it. Love remains the only present state, whose Source is here forever and forever. Can the world seem bright and clear and safe and welcoming with all my past mistakes oppressing it and showing me distorted forms of pain? Yet in the present, love is obvious and its effects apparent. All the world shines in reflection of its holy light, and I perceive a world forgiven at last.
Father, let not Your holy world escape my sight today. Nor let my ears be deaf to all the hymns of gratitude the world is singing underneath the sounds of fear. There is a real world which the present holds safe from all past mistakes. And I would see only this world before my eyes today.
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All fear is past, and only love is here.
The real world is described as
"bright and clean and new, with everything sparkling under the open sun. Nothing is hidden here, for everything has been forgiven and there are no fantasies to hide the truth. The bridge between that world and this is so little and so easy to cross, that you could not believe it is the meeting place of worlds so different. Yet this little bridge is the strongest thing that touches on this world at all. This little step, so small it has escaped your notice, is a stride through time into eternity, beyond all ugliness into beauty that will enchant you, and will never cease to cause you wonderment at its perfection."
(T.17.II.2.2-6) (ACIM OE T.17.III.8)
Jesus assures us that we can cross over the bridge into the real world when we are ready. He tells us that it is easy to cross. It is just a change of mind from grievances to miracles. It is about letting go of our fears, especially our unconscious fear of God. A friend called me last night to tell me two of her AA sponsors deserted her and she wondered if this was an indication that God wants to punish her. The question startled me because it seemed laughable that anyone could have a thought like this. Yet ultimately, we all hold the belief that whatever is going wrong in our lives, it has something to do with God. We often wonder aloud how God could allow this (whatever the concern is about) to happen.
Jesus speaks of the simplicity of salvation in crossing this bridge to the real world.
"The real world is attained simply by the complete forgiveness of the old..."
(T.17.II.5.1) (ACIM OE T.17.III.11) And what is the old? The old is the world of form. It is
"the world you see without forgiveness."
(T.17.II.5.1) (ACIM OE T.17.III.11) It is a world of "one or the other," of attack, betrayal, and of all the other distorted forms of fear. It is our old, conditioned thoughts that keep us going around and around on this hamster wheel. As Regina Dawn Akers has said, it is a hamster wheel of thoughts that go nowhere. We start with a thought, "I can't do anything right." Now we see evidence in the world of this thought and we experience failure. As a result of this experience, it affirms, for us, our original belief that we can't do anything right. It is a self-defeating cycle that needs to be released if we are to know who we are. It is all based on unconscious guilt, which results in the belief that there is something wrong with us, and with this belief, we experience self-hatred. This self-hatred is expressed as self-attack. The self-attack comes in many forms, whether sickness, problems with money, addictions, relationships, or in the form of accidents and attacks from others. The world becomes the delivery system for the punishment our guilt demands.
Jesus says that to forgive is merely to remember only the loving thoughts you gave in the past and those that were given you. All the rest must be forgotten. We are asked to forgive our brother for what he did not do.
"Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred. It does not pardon sins and make them real."
(W.PII.Q1.What is Forgiveness.1.1-2) This is the only way we can understand why forgiveness can be so complete, because, in this dream, nothing real has happened. Nothing we have done has any effects. All of it is a dream. We have not sinned and there is thus no cause for guilt.
"The major difficulty that you find in genuine forgiveness on your part is that you still believe you must forgive the truth, and not illusions."
(W.134.3.1) Forgiveness too is an illusion, but it is an illusion that ends illusions.
"Forgiveness, then, is an illusion, but because of its purpose, which is the Holy Spirit's, it has one difference. Unlike all other illusions it leads away from error and not towards it."
(Clarification of Terms 3.1.3-4)
"Forgiveness is the only gift I give, because it is the only gift I want. And everything I give I give myself. This is salvation's simple formula."
No matter how long we have studied this Course or how well we think we understand the material, we still stubbornly hang onto this world, our thoughts, and our dramas. While we are in this world and believe in sin, guilt, and fear, we must continually be willing to bring our dark thoughts to the Holy Spirit. On this side of the bridge, we are all insane. We don't know our true Self. When we choose to let go of our alien will,
"He guarantees that only joy can be the final outcome found in everything. Yet it is up to us when this is reached;"
In this Lesson, Jesus tells us that the mistakes we think we have made are the source of our fear. When the source of the fear is gone, which is a belief in our past mistakes, there is only peace. Fear comes from the belief that we will be punished for the mistakes of the past. We replay our past mistakes in our memories and this brings up feelings of guilt and shame. Notice the fear that comes up when these come to mind. When we feel guilty over these past mistakes, we expect punishment and live in fear of the consequences of what we have done. Now the world feels oppressive and dangerous to us rather than bright and welcoming. In this Lesson, Jesus assures us,
"Love remains the only present state, whose Source is here forever and forever,"
(W.293.1.2) and love and fear are mutually exclusive. We can only experience love when fear is gone.
"Can the world seem bright and clear and safe and welcoming, with all my past mistakes oppressing it, and showing me distorted forms of fear?"
What do we do with this guilt? We hate the guilt. We can't handle it in our minds, so the ego has given us an answer, which is to project it onto others and see it in them. There are many targets for our guilt, but projecting it solves nothing since this is how we keep it. Yet the ego does not want us to see its strategy for keeping us in guilt. The guilt in our minds is what makes us think we deserve punishment. The world becomes the delivery system for that punishment. No wonder we expect conflict, difficulties, attacks, disappointments, betrayals, and all kinds of problems and issues in our lives. They are all manifestations that come about as a result of guilt. Jesus shows us how all this is a setup by the ego. When we see this, we become motivated and willing to take responsibility for the guilt on behalf of our own happiness.
When we don’t defend against the guilt but take responsibility for it, it is an indication of our willingness to be wrong, to learn another way, and to be vulnerable, which is where our strength is. When we defend, we proclaim weakness, demonstrating that there is an enemy outside of us.
"Who would defend himself unless he thought he were attacked, that the attack were real, and that his own defense could save himself? And herein lies the folly of defense; it gives illusions full reality, and then attempts to handle them as real. It adds illusions to illusions, thus making correction doubly difficult. And it is this you do when you attempt to plan the future, activate the past, or organize the present as you wish."
You might say, "But I don't feel any guilt." Yet if you feel fear, the guilt is there. It is fear of God's punishment for the belief that we killed Him in order to achieve separation from Him and establish our independence. Without belief in sin and guilt, fear would be gone. The sins of the past bring guilt into the present, and this creates fear of punishment for what we believe we have done. Without the past, there can be no fear. When there is no fear, there is only the experience of the present, where love always abides and has always been.
"Love remains the only present state, whose Source is here forever and forever."
Love is never obvious in form. Why is that? I say I love my son unconditionally, but if there is any fear present, it is not unconditional, total, and pure love. Whenever we focus on form, such as on another body, fear will always be present. Our fear is about loss, danger, sickness, and all kinds of calamities that may come to them. We worry that something may happen to those we say we love. We focus our "unconditional love" on our partner, yet hold in our minds the fear that our partner may leave us, disappoint us, or hurt us in some way. There is always fear attached to our special relationships.
"The miracle returns the cause of fear to you who made it."
(T.28.II.11.1) (ACIM OE T.28.III.26) That source, of course, is in our own wrong mind, where we hold mistaken thoughts and beliefs about who we are.
Jesus tells us,
"Yet in the present love is obvious, and its effects apparent."
(W.293.1.4) It is all about undoing past mistakes through forgiveness. When we willingly take all fear thoughts to the Light of Truth---to the Holy Spirit---they are quietly dispelled. We bring these fear thoughts out of the closet, admit them truthfully to the Holy Spirit, and trust Him to bring the miracle. Thus, we shift our perception from a world of separation, where we believe our reality is a body that is impermanent and where fear is a reality, to a world of holiness. This is the real world. Here,
"All the world shines in a reflection of its holy light, and I perceive a world forgiven at last."
Our part is to watch the mind for fear thoughts as they arise. They may show up as worry, a sense of vulnerability, anger, fear of rejection, impatience, hopes that we cling to, expectations we have, judgments and thoughts of hate, belief in unworthiness and anything that detracts from our peace and joy. When we are willing to look at these thoughts with the loving presence of the Holy Spirit, they are released. Behind these thoughts is the truth of who we are. Then we can know,
"All fear is past and only love is here."
For me today, thoughts of mice have been swirling in my mind. As the cold weather arrives, mice are looking for a warm place for the winter, and we are seeing evidence of their presence. I have been terrified of these creatures from a young age when we lived in the country and the house was overrun by mice. It has taken me many years not to freak out when I see them scurrying about. I am much calmer now, but the mind is not at rest at the thought of their appearance. Recently, I chose to go deeper and inquire what the real fear was about. A healed mind would not obsess about mice in the house. We had already taken all the action necessary for prevention and eradication of this problem. In my inquiry, I saw the first level of fear was that I was not in control. Under the belief in my need for control, I uncovered a deep sense of vulnerability. And going deeper,`` I recognized that when I feel vulnerable, I feel a lot of fear. I asked Holy Spirit to help me to release this fear. I was willing to see that the fear had nothing to do with mice. My deep desire for peace was the motivation to give over to Spirit my wrong-minded perspective and allow the healing to happen.
"The outcome of the lesson that God's Son is guiltless is a world in which there is no fear, and everything is lit with hope and sparkles with a gentle friendliness. Nothing but calls to you in soft appeal to be your friend, and let it join with you. And never does a call remain unheard, misunderstood, nor left unanswered in the selfsame tongue in which the call was made. And you will understand it was this call that everyone and everything within the world has always made, but you had not perceived it as it was. And now you see you were mistaken. You had been deceived by forms the call was hidden in. And so you did not hear it, and had lost a friend who always wanted to be part of you. The soft eternal calling of each part of God's creation to the whole is heard throughout the world this second lesson brings."
(T.31.I.8.1-8) (ACIM OE T.31.I.8)
Everything in this world is impermanent. Everything can be threatened. It is all destructible, including our bodies. It is a world of time and space in which pain, sickness, and death prevail. It is a world where we are continually under threat and in a struggle for personal power, hoping for fleeting happiness, and living with expectations that the next thing will bring the happiness we are seeking. We work to maintain our individuality, personality, and self-concepts, believing we are in competition for limited resources, and always feeling under threat of attack.
Yet Jesus tells us right at the beginning of this Course,
"Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists."
(T.IN.2.2-3) (ACIM OE T.IN 4) We must conclude that if everything in our seeming world can be threatened, it cannot be real. We might ask, "What is real that can't be threatened?" It is the totality of perfect love, the truth of who we are---perfect, whole, and complete, shining in innocence, peace and joy, completely and totally safe, radiant and eternal. The truth about us can never be changed or threatened, no matter what we currently believe about ourselves. Our reality has nothing to do with the body.
The real world has none of our past mistakes in it. We are currently blind and deaf to the real world because we believe the senses that show us this world of illusion. Behind the fear, we are all joined in singing together a hymn of gratitude to God. We are not limited to a body, with a mind stuck in our brain. In truth, we are unlimited beings surrounded only by God's Love.
"Father, let not Your holy world escape my sight today. Nor let my ears be deaf to all the hymns of gratitude the world is singing underneath the sounds of fear. There is a real world which the present holds safe from all past mistakes. And I would see only this world before my eyes today."
Love and blessings, Sarah
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