One day back in the early 70’s when my son, Stephen, was a very young boy, we were driving around the town where we lived in central Illinois, and he was standing in the middle, just in back of the front seats in his customary position, taking everything in. Then he asked, looking at a factory, a dark building with few windows, dark and gray, stretching for a block, “Daddy, is that a school?” Having been a junior high English teacher, I laughed at the aptness of his comparison. After all, factories are organized to turn out finished products completely alike in appearances, and schools seem intent trying to stamp out finished students who look alike in spite of the fact that each student is as remarkable individual.
Not to worry, though, because we have both come to learn through
A Course in Miracles that, in fact, there are no factories, there are no schools; there is no world. Through the Course we have learned, systematically, to train our minds to distinguish the difference between what is real and what is unreal, as Jesus sums up in His Introduction.
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.
It is quite possible, in fact, it is necessary to let go of the belief that what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell is real, and that what you do not see, hear, taste, touch, and smell is real. This is the great undoing, enabling homo sapiens to evolve in to homo illumina, the wise ones into those filled with light, experiencing oneness with God. Coming into this experience of oneness is completely natural because it is our inheritance; we are as God created us.
Thomas Merton once expressed it this way.
My dear brothers and sisters, we are already one. But we imagine we are not. So what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are.
To demonstrate that this is our birthright, individuals across the centuries have come into this experience of being what we are in truth in a variety of ways. One great example is Joel Goldsmith (1894-1964). What I love about Goldsmith is his ability to express the Truth I have learned through the Course with a different set of metaphors. The other day, Stephen brought to my attention a wonderful chapter in Goldsmith’s book, The Art of Spiritual Healing, entitled The Language of Spiritual Healing. I was so inspired by this chapter because of the way he found his own language to express his experience.
The Infinite Way is a spiritual teaching consisting of principles which anyone may follow and practice, irrespective of his religious affiliation. The Infinite Way reveals the nature of God to be one infinite power, intelligence, and love; the nature of individual being to be one with His qualities and character, expressed in in¬finite forms and variety; and the nature of the discords of this world to be a misconception of God's expression of Himself in His universe. These are universal principles based on the message of the Master, Christ Jesus, who taught that man can realize his oneness with God through conscious com¬munion with God, thereby bringing about peace on earth, harmony, and wholeness. Joel Goldsmith, The Art of Spiritual Healing (San Francisco, Harper, 1959), p. 40.
He goes on to express how to reverse our deeply-ingrained belief that our senses are showing us what is real by teaching us to look through what we apparently see to what is real.
You train yourself to see people, not as they look, but to see through their eyes, back of their eyes, realizing that there sits the Christ of God. As you do that, you learn to ignore appearances, and instead of trying to heal or reform someone, or improve him, you are really bearing witness to his Christ-identity. (Goldsmith, p. 42)
It matters not what the outer senses may testify. Something within has to sing a song, and the song it must sing is, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. . . I in the midst of you am mighty.” (Goldsmith, p. 43)
He goes on to make his meaning absolutely clear.
In the work of The Infinite Way, the words "real" or reality" pertain only to that which is spiritual, eternal, im¬mortal, and infinite. Only that which is of God is understood to be real or is recognized as reality. With this definition of reality in mind, it should be easy to grasp the statement that we cannot see, hear, taste, touch, or smell reality. (Goldsmith, p.50)
It all comes down to our awareness, to our conscious awareness. Goldsmith expresses it perfectly in one sentence:
The mind is an instrument of awareness. (Goldsmith, p. 43)
Our mind, our consciousness, can, in truth, be aware of only one state, the peace of God, our real Self. However, our consciousness can appear to be aware of another state, an unreal state, the state of fear and conflict brought to us by our senses. Goldsmith demonstrates with every sentence how to use this instrument truly, being aware of what is real, spiritual, eternal, immortal, and infinite, in the middle of a world made up by our senses.
It requires the faculty of the Soul to behold reality. Reality pertains only to that which is discerned through an inner awareness. Jesus referred to this as, “Having eyes, see ye not? And having ears, hear ye not?” In other words, there is that which must be seen and heard with the Soul faculties. (Goldsmith, p. 50)
As a healing practitioner, he makes a very useful distinction between existence and non-existence.
When we speak of sin and disease as unreal, we do not mean that they are nonexistent. We are not just fooling ourselves and using our imagination in saying that they are unreal or untrue, but if a person has ingrained in him from infancy that the material is the real and the material body the whole, then to him the disease is existent. When sin, disease, and death are called unreal, it is not a denial of the so-called existence of these things: It is a denial of their existence as a part of God or reality. (Goldsmith, p. 51)
The beginning of wisdom is the realization that these conditions need not exist. Freedom from them comes not from seeking relief from God, but through seeking God and rising to that dimension of life in which only God is. There is not freedom from discord; there is not freedom from sin, false appetites, or desires; there is not freedom from poverty: There is only freedom—freedom in God, freedom in Spirit. (Goldsmith, p. 51)
Towards the end of this essay, he makes it all crystal clear by using the metaphor of a mirage.
Let me illustrate this. If you were traveling on the desert and saw, as is often the case, that the road ahead of you was covered with water, and if that were your first experience in the desert, you would automatically stop your car because obviously you could not drive through a sea of water. Your first thought would probably be, "What shall I do? How will I get through that water? How can the water be removed from the road?"
You look around and do not see any help. Then you look back again at the road, and if you look long enough, intently enough, you awaken to the fact that there is no water there. What you have been seeing is a mirage, an illusion. You smile, start your car, and go forward. As long as you were seeing water on the road, you would sit there helplessly waiting for that water to be removed, but the moment that you understood it to be a mirage, an illusion, the water disappeared, and you were free to go forward. (Goldsmith, p. 53)
The mirage of the water does exist because, for a moment, it is your awareness. But that awareness of its existence does not make it real. My awareness of the reports of my senses does not make the reports real. My awareness of the existence of sin and disease does not make them real. Only by shifting my awareness to the peace of God do I experience what is real.
When I make this shift to the awareness of my Real Self as God created me, then sin and disease cease to exist. It is always on or off, 0 or 1, all or nothing, love or fear. That which exists or does not exist is dependent on my awareness. And I can always ask for help to shift my awareness from seeing water to experiencing the peace of God. This is healing. This is forgiveness.
Healing takes place, not through the intervention of some God, but through arriving at a state of consciousness in which sin, disease, and death have no reality, a consciousness which no longer battles these forms of discord and no longer tries to get rid of them. Our attitude toward them is the same as our attitude toward the water on the desert after we have discovered that it is not water, but an illusion, or mirage. (Goldsmith, p. 54)
. . . you awaken to the fact that there is no water there. You smile, start your car, and go forward.
When my awareness shifts to the peace of God, my heart fills with gratitude, I smile and go forward.