If you were completely honest with yourself, you would have to admit that no matter how much you have tried to put together a life, there are times when you say to yourself, “There’s something seriously wrong here, and there must be a better way.”
Fortunately for you, for all of us, not only is there a better way, but this way has been mapped out in a how-to-manual that appeared on this planet in 1975, A Course in Miracles. This unworldly masterpiece was scribed by Helen Schucman who heard an “internal voice,” Jesus’ voice, say to her on October 21, 1965, “This is a course in miracles, take notes.” For the next seven years, she dutifully transcribed the Text, Workbook, and Manual for Teachers. (Kenneth Wapnick, Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course in Miracles, Foundation for A Course in Miracles, 1991, p. 199.)
You are in the fix you’re in because you faithfully followed the instructions of an unwritten manual, folklore passed down through the generations, teaching you that seeing is believing. You eagerly learned early on to trust as real what you see, hear, taste, smell and touch. Whatever was not sensed was unreal. This way of seeing seems completely natural.
Let’s test out this belief by being real specific. Let’s take a look at what is around us. I’ll go first.
I am sitting on my couch looking out of my window, gazing at the landscape bathed in the sunlight of a beautiful day in June. I close my eyes and make the decision that when I open them, I want to see only the objects before me.
I see the cylindrical, mesh bird feeder containing black sunflower seeds. A Cardinal alights and pecks at the seeds. I am reminded of an incident when I was 6 or 7, and a friend and I were shooting at birds with BB guns. We wounded a Blue Jay, and we were chasing it through the neighborhood, when an old lady came running out of her house, chastising us for killing birds, and we said it was a Blue Jay, and she immediately let us off the hook because that was OK by her, Blue Jays menaced other birds.
And other associations immediately flooded in. At that time, my mother, father, sister and I lived in a little village, Moorepark, Michigan—my parents owned a general store, and we lived in the back in one room separated from the store by a curtain; no running water, only well water from a pump, an outhouse in the back; we went to a one-room schoolhouse, grades K-8, one teacher, Mrs. Steininger; across the street was a gunsmith, Bergie Hughey, who also ran a one-pump gas station; my friend, Rudy, and I played in the fields and swamps all day, exploring and hunting frogs with bows and arrows.
Whew. Now, I am back from that trip down memory lane, and I am going to try it again. This time, I will close my eyes, and when I open them, I will make the decision to look at only the space between objects, wanting to see, in effect, only the air.
Now I am looking with soft eyes, in fact, I am not seeing as much as experiencing. Gazing in this manner, I find that my mind is peaceful, still, unoccupied, and tranquil. I am scanning what is before me, but I am not naming objects, and since I am not naming things, I am not flooded with associations. I am simply content; my mind is empty. When I do look at something, like a bird at the feeder, I experience only love. I continue gazing with soft eyes, becoming increasingly mellow, content, tranquil, loving, peaceful, unified and free. A tree branch, laden with green leaves, lifts and falls in the soft breeze, the leaves shimmering, the tops green and the undersides flashing gold.
While writing the draft of this essay, I did the exercises and then wrote about my experience, and at this point, I went so far out, losing all sense of being a body, fading into a state of consciousness of oneness, of light, so that what was inside my mind and what was outside were blended together. At this point, I just decided to stay there, and I put down my pen for the day.Now I am back, and this passage comes to mind.
Beyond this world there is a world I want.
I choose to see that world instead of this,
for here is nothing that I really want.
Then close your eyes upon the world you see,
and in the silent darkness watch the lights
that are not of this world light one by one,
until where one begins another ends
loses all meaning as they blend in one.
This is seeing through the eyes of Christ.
And so today, this instant, now, we come
to look upon what is forever there;
not in our sight, but in the eyes of Christ.
The world fades easily away before
His sight. Its sounds grow dim.
There is a silence into which the world
can not intrude. There is an ancient peace
you carry in your heart and have not lost.
Now, Dear Reader, you try it.
First, close your eyes and decide when you open them that you will want to see only objects, name them, and let your mind be flooded with associations.
* * *
Now, close your eyes and decide when you open them that you will look only at the space between objects, wanting to see only the air, if you will, allowing your mind to be free.
* * *
If you managed to let it all go, you may find it difficult to come back to reading this essay. Good!
Take your time.
What you may have experienced is a paradox, that seeing and naming objects now seems unreal; while looking at the air seems more Real.
A “paradox” is defined as “a situation that seems to be absurd or contradictory, but in fact may be true.” It comes from the Latin paradoxum, “contrary to opinion,” from dokein, meaning “to think.”Here is the paradox that underlies
the making of the world. This world is not
the Will of God, and so it is not real.
In the Course Jesus teachers you to recognize that what you unconsciously, habitually, take for granted is not so. And in this recognition is an opportunity to experience something else, that which is Real.You do not seem to doubt the world you see. You do not really question what is shown you through the body's eyes. Nor do you ask why you believe it, even though you learned
a long while since your senses do deceive.
That you believe them to the last detail
which they report is even stranger, when
you pause to recollect how frequently
they have been faulty witnesses indeed!
Why would you trust them so implicitly?
Why but because of underlying doubt,
which you would hide with show of certainty?
All along you have been trying with underlying doubt to make the unreal, objective world, Real, thereby preventing yourself from experiencing what is Real. That is why you are in the fix you’re in, and indeed, there is another way.Complete abstraction is the natural condition of the mind.
“Abstraction” is defined as “a state in which one is deep in thought and not concentrating on the surroundings.” “Abstract” comes from the Latin abstrahere, meaning “to drag away.” Our objective world seems to be natural, but in fact, it is unnatural, and our natural condition is to be dragged away from the objective world, from our surroundings.
Complete abstraction is the natural
condition of the mind. But part of it
is now unnatural. It does not look
on everything as one. It sees instead
but fragments of the whole, for only thus
could it invent the partial world you see.
The purpose of all seeing is to show
you what you wish to see. All hearing but
brings to your mind the sounds it wants to hear.
Thus were specifics made.
. . . what you wish to see. Remember, in your practicing you closed your eyes and instructed yourself in what you wished to see. You have the power of decision to see either the unreal, or the Real. When you choose to see the unreal, you carve it out of unity.You live by symbols. You have made up names
for everything you see. Each one becomes
a separate entity, identified
by its own name. By this you carve it out of unity.
Now, everything is in place for you to begin to experience a better way. The word “experience” comes from the Latin experiri, meaning “to try out.” You just “tried out” seeing objects. This experience of seeing leads to beliefs and beliefs lead to perception. For your entire life, objects have seemed Real, leading you to trust that seeing is believing. Then, a moment ago, you practiced seeing with soft eyes. This experience could lead you to seeing something more real than objects, and this can lead you to a belief in the Real beyond the objective world.In effect, then, what you believe you do see. That is what I meant when I said, "Blessed are ye who have not seen and still believe," for those who believe in the resurrection will see it.
The good news is that you can begin, right now, to change your beliefs by having new experiences, resulting in new interpretations and new beliefs, leading to new perceptions.
Experience does teach.
This course is perfectly clear. If you do not see it clearly, it is because you are interpreting against it, and therefore do not believe it. And since belief determines perception, you do not perceive what it means and therefore do not accept it. Yet different experiences lead to different beliefs and experience does teach. I am leading you to a new kind of experience that you will become less and less willing to deny. Learning of Christ is easy, for to perceive with him involves no strain at all. His perceptions are your natural awareness, and it is only the distortions you introduce that tire you. Let the Christ in you interpret for you, and do not try to limit what you see by narrow little beliefs that are unworthy of God's Son. For until Christ comes into his own, the Son of God will see himself as Fatherless.
You no longer have to tire yourself out by maneuvering in your surroundings that have no source in Reality. You can be aware of new experiences that will lead to new beliefs and new perceptions.
You can practice by looking at the space between objects.
Finally, you are always looking into a mirror, what is first “inside” is then “outside.” You see what you decide to see, as the preceding exercise demonstrated. If you decide to see old beliefs projected out, you will see in your mirror an objective world. If you decide to see through the eyes of Christ, you will see the reflection of love and peace that is your natural inheritance.
This is the way Jesus expresses it in a sonnet.This world you seem to live in is not home
to you. And somewhere in your mind you know
that this is true. A memory of home
keeps haunting you, as if there were a place
that called you to return, although you do
not recognize the voice, nor what it is
the voice reminds you of. Yet still you feel
an alien here, from somewhere all unknown.
Nothing so definite that you could say
with certainty you are an exile here.
Just a persistent feeling, sometimes not
more than a tiny throb, at other times
hardly remembered, actively dismissed,
but surely to return to mind again.
This is not your Home, but you can learn to experience Home here by deciding to see in a better way by looking through the eyes of Christ.
It is always your decision.