Welcome to Episode 22 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Activists.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul. And today we’re focusing on Lesson 14 of ACIM’s Workbook for Students. Its leading thought reads, “God did not create a meaningless world.”
The lesson is extraordinarily important, because its elaboration highlights an ACIM idea that is often misunderstood by social justice activists – even to the point of their discontinuing the course at this point – that is, if they didn’t already do so on page one where the course is summarized in the memorable words, “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.”
Following that line, Lesson 14 puts the same thought this way (and I’m quoting here): “A meaningless world is impossible because:
- The world you see has nothing to do with reality. It is of your own making, and it does not exist.”
- “Think of all the horrors of the world that cross your mind. Name each one as it occurs to you, and then deny its reality.”
- “Say, for example, ‘God did not create that war, and so it is not real.’ ‘God did not create that airplane crash, and so it is not real.’ ‘God did not create that disaster (specify), and so it is not real.’”
- “God did not create cancer or heart attacks,” and so they are not real.
- “God did not create (specify a situation that is disturbing you) and so it is not real.”
Does A Course in Miracles really saying that “It’s all in your mind?” Does it teach that I’ve somehow created the world that I see; that I should ignore evil simply by denying its reality, and instead think only positive thoughts about some imagined perfect world “as God created it?”
Isn’t that what philosophers call solipsism? I mean is ACIM trying to convince me that I alone exist; that I’ve created the entire world in my mind; that I’ve created you as well? Isn’t that what solipsism is?
If so (I’m thinking as a social justice warrior) show me the exit. I’ve already had enough of A Course in Miracles. I refuse to deny the reality of war, hunger, preventable disease, racism, patriarchy, and imperialism. That’s what I want to see ended. And I believe that was true for Jesus too. (Remember, ACIM claims to embody his voice and teachings.)
But (let me assure you) solipsism is not what A Course in Miracles teaches.
Instead, what it does propose is a profound redefinition of reality – of the word “real.” (Now please try to stick with me here.)
For ACIM “real” means what is permanent, what is lasting and indestructible, what will never disappear. For instance, today’s war in Yemen is not real because it will eventually disappear. One day, it will seem like a bad dream. The same is true even for severe illness like cancer. If I have it, a day will come when I won’t. I’ll die or be cured. My personal tragedies will also one day end. In the language of ACIM, they are not real.
In fact, for A Course in Miracles, since everything except God’s ultimate being will pass, nothing apart from God’s reality truly exits. Nothing apart from God has any meaning. Meaninglessness belongs to the human realm. It’s found in Plato’s Cave.
That’s a central teaching of ACIM: This too will pass. God’s reality is all that truly exists.
And who is this God that alone exists? Let me put it this way:
- In a universe where (as quantum physicists have discovered) everything is energy (even though much of it appears to be solid), God is the sum total of all such vitality in the universe.
- This includes the energy of consciousness.
- Such Universal Conscious Energy finds expression in what human perception identifies as solid objects – animals, plants, minerals, soil, water, human bodies.
- So, (contrary to common belief) God’s energy as it appears not only in human beings, but in those animals, mountains, rocks, water, and soil is conscious and can be addressed interpersonally and prayerfully.
- However, in the language of A Course in Miracles, none of the externals of those objects is “real” in the sense of everlasting. Each will pass away as it now appears as its energy melts back into God’s Universal Quantum.
- The bottom line here is that for A Course in Miracles, only the divine energy underlying the objects’ appearance is truly “real,” truly “exists,” has any “meaning.”
What I’m saying here is that ACIM uses the term “real” analogously. In fact, analogy is all we’ve got to discuss ultimate realities and the meaning of life. And that’s because human language was invented to describe objects encountered by human beings in everyday life.
So, when our necessarily limited human categories are compared to invisible, transcendent Reality, our perceptions necessarily appear as comparisons such as “It’s like a dream;” or “It’s like a world of shadows.;” or “It’s all illusion.”
In the language of The Course, war and evil don’t exist; they have no meaning; they too will pass. As a result, we’ll end up wondering if events (like war, plane crashes, and other tragedies) really happened, or if they actually occurred as we remember them.
Confusion like that is compounded by the cultural distortions of Plato’s Cave, where “thought leaders” lie about and misrepresent objects of perception. For sure, such fabrications have no reality, no meaning.
So, with all of this in mind, what is Lesson 14 really saying in its leading thought, “God did not make a meaningless world?”
Well, it is not saying that we should ignore wars, plane crashes, cancer, or personal tragedies. God’s underlying presence is somehow manifest or contradicted even in events like those. And no manifestation of God should ever be ignored. All such apparent tragedies should be taken seriously, analyzed, prayed over, and (as we’ll see in future workbook lessons), “forgiven” (which also has a special ACIM meaning).
And yet, it remains true (as Lesson 14 says) that “God did not create a meaningless world.”
No, the statue bearers in Plato’s Cave have created meaninglessness. We’ve created it ourselves by attempting to endow with ultimate meaning the appearances that have caught our attention – our bodies, our money, our country, our wars, homes, cars, computers, and all the apparently concrete forms that Life’s Energy takes.
Compared with God’s Self-conscious energy, all those entities are unreal. They’re a giant step below the Reality that is ultimately important. In that sense, they are meaningless creations of our minds and culture.
In conclusion and departing from ACIM’s insistence on its terms “unreal” and “illusion,” while understanding those terms analogously, we might say there are at least four levels of reality, each one more “real” than the previous one. They include:
- What passes for reality within Plato’s Cave
- The reality reflected in our actual dreams
- The reality of the conscious universe as incarnated in bodies like yours and mine and in the apparently physical world.
- God’s ultimate reality which I earlier described as the sum total of energy in the universe, and which includes consciousness.
Along the lines of those distinctions, my own meditation teacher of 22 years, Eknath Easwaran put it this way:
Dreams are real As long as they last. When we awake We do not pass From unreality to reality, But from a lower level of reality To a higher one. Is it not possible that There exists A level of reality That is higher still Compared with which The passing satisfactions of everyday life Are no more lasting Than a dream. “Yet until we do wake up,” Easwaran continues, “nothing sounds more absurd than the assertion that we are dreaming, and nothing seems more solid than this world of the senses. Why should this be so? If original goodness is our real nature, why are we unable to see it? The answer is simple: because we see life not as it is but as we are. We see “through a glass darkly,” through the distorting lenses of the mind – all the layers of feeling, habit, instinct, and memory that cover the pure core of goodness deep within.”
Easwaran’s words, I think, well summarize the teaching of ACIM’s Lesson 14 – and of A Course in Miracles in general. We’d all do well to meditate on those words as a practical response to the lesson at hand.