Early in the second act of Hamlet, King Claudius secretly summons Hamlet’s school chums, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, from Germany to spy on Hamlet who suspects that Claudius, his father’s brother, recently usurped the throne after having poisoned his father. When they first meet, Hamlet is surprised and asks them what they have done to deserve being sent to prison. They ask him what he is talking about, and he says that Denmark is a prison. They disagree, and Hamlet speaks this famous line, “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” (Hamlet.11.2:251)
This sentence can be broken down into three parts:
1) There is nothing
For a split-second, I am always only looking at a blank slate.
No thing I look at and give a name to exist at all.
2) but thinking makes it so
I keep missing the fact that nothing exists until my thinking, automatically, brings it into existence.
Things but represent the thoughts that made them.
Our brains in conjunction with our senses write on the blank slate.
3) good or bad
I quickly preoccupy my thinking by automatically slipping into judgment.
In the context of A Course in Miracles, that is a powerful sentence coming to us from across the centuries, echoing the title of Jesus’ Lesson 1, Nothing I see means anything. The lesson begins with this sentence: The reason this is so is that I see nothing, and nothing has no meaning. This is followed by Lesson 2, I have given everything I see all the meaning it has for me, and the first sentence reads: I have judged everything I look upon, and it is this and only this I see.
Obviously, Jesus begins his 365 Lessons by making clear and precise the problem we face. We take for granted, for granite, that what we see is trustworthy, and we walk around with the strongly ingrained belief that “seeing is believing.” His Lessons enable us to practice learning that what we see is illusory, of our own making, and that we can learn to see differently; we can learn to see with vision.
What I think I see now is taking the place of vision. I must let it go by realizing it has no meaning, so that vision may take its place.
I am willing to recognize the lack of validity in my judgments, because I want to see. My judgments have hurt me, and I do not want to see according to them.
Overcoming my conditioning that “seeing is believing” is, obviously, a giant obstacle. In addition to the Lessons, it does help to see a clear demonstration that it is the judging brain that uses the eyes to “see,” but this is not vision. (In a recent blog post, “Stick out your tongue and look at me: Images we see in the world are first formed deep in our brains," I use the BrainPort to demonstrate this.)
Recently, I came across a fascinating article demonstrating that we are more than a brain, more than a body and brain, more than our sensory perceptions, more than our petty judgments. When we manage to strip away our nothingness, we can come to experience our wholeness. The article demonstrates what we are without our brains; we are souls.
In 1991, Pam Reynolds was found to have an aneurysm on her brain stem. Faced with a ticking time bomb, she opted for an experimental operation called a "cardiac standstill." The surgeons put her under anesthesia, taped her eyes shut and put molded speakers in her ears that emitted loud clicks, about as loud as a jet plane taking off. When her brain no longer responded to those clicks, the surgeons lowered her body temperature to 60 degrees and drained the blood out of her head, like draining oil from the engine of a car. The aneurysm sac collapsed for lack of blood. The surgeons drilled into her skull, snipped the aneurysm and sewed it up, and then reintroduced the blood into her body.
Finally, they raised her body temperature and brought her back to consciousness.
When Reynolds awakened, she had a story to tell. She said she floated upward and watched part of the operation. She could describe what the operating theater looked like and how many surgeons there were. She could describe the unusual-looking bone saw that cut open her head, as well as the drill bits and blade container. She heard conversations, including one in which a female surgeon observed that Reynolds' left femoral vein was too small for a tube, to which the chief neurosurgeon responded, "Try the right side."
Records from the surgery confirmed all these details. Reynolds' neurosurgeon says he is flummoxed by the episode: "From a scientific perspective," he told me, "I have absolutely no explanation about how it could have happened."
Her story raises the question: Was Reynolds' consciousness operating separately from her brain?
Reynolds' experience — and that of many others — is prompting researchers at institutions such as the University of Montreal and the University of Virginia to investigate the astonishing proposition that a person might have a consciousness — or (gasp) a soul — that can operate when the brain is off-line. (Barbara Bradley Hagerty, The God Choice, USA TODAY, June 22, 2009, p. 9A)
It is always fun to see an empirical demonstration of the truth of what we are.
I am not a body. I am free.
For I am still as God created me.
No matter what my brain tells me, I am still, i.e., I remain as God created me; and I am the stillness of God’s creation. That which I am has been expressed with a variety of words—soul, mind, the Christ, God’s Son, Atman, spirit, light, Self.
You are one Self, united and secure in
light and joy and peace. You are God's Son,
one Self, with one Creator and one goal;
to bring awareness of this oneness to
all minds, that true creation may extend
the allness and the unity of God.
You are one Self, complete and healed and whole,
with power to lift the veil of darkness from
the world, and let the light in you come through
to teach the world the truth about yourself.
All we are asked to do, and it is everything, is to forget, relinquish, forgive our small self, and the world it projects. We are asked to recognize that nothing is good, or bad, but my "stinking" thinking makes it so. And this nothingness is all going on in a small, dark place in the back of my brain, and it is that that I write on the blank slate.
Just for a moment, let me step back and ask for help to forgive what I have made, now.
Forgiveness gently looks upon all things
unknown in Heaven, sees them disappear,
and leaves the world a clean and unmarked slate
on which the Word of God can now replace
the senseless symbols written there before.
Forgiveness is the means by which the fear
of death is overcome, because it holds
no fierce attraction now and guilt is gone.
Forgiveness lets the body be perceived
as what it is; a simple teaching aid,
to be laid by when learning is complete,
but hardly changing him who learns at all.
And I must be constant, I must be exceedingly vigilant, I must be determined, because the brain and body unite to convince me to turn away from the truth of what I am. The brain and body present a strong case. The temptation is great to accept what the brain offers.
For example, just do this:
1. While sitting at your desk in front of your computer, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles.
2. Now, while doing this, draw the number ‘6’ in the air with your right hand.
3. Notice that your foot now changes directions, moving counter-clockwise.
Our brains have a mind of their own, if you will, and we cannot seem to will it otherwise. But the good thing is there is only God's Will, and our brains/bodies are not real. Jesus makes this absolutely clear in His Introduction to the Course.
Nothing real can be threatened.
What is real is truth, light, peace, joy, serenity, God, infinity.
Nothing unreal exists.
What is unreal is made by the brain and body senses, and it is finite.
Herein, lies the peace of God.
Recognizing the truth and relinquishing, forgiving, what is not so gives us peace.
At the end of the pay, Horatio holds the dying Hamlet in his arms, and he says his last words, The rest is silence.
Horatio: Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
Returning to God on earth as in Heaven is resting in silence, stillness, and peace.