Episode 10: American Culture Distorts Everything; It’s All Illusion

Episode 10: Lesson 2: American Culture Distorts Everything

Welcome to Episode 10 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Activists.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul. And today we’ll examine together Part I, Lesson 2 of The Course’s Workbook for Students.

As you can see from the previous nine episodes, I’m reading The Course with the following assumptions in mind:

  1. The Course does in fact represent the authentic voice of Jesus the Christ channeled in the 1970s through Helen Schucman, an atheistic clinical psychologist who worked for 20 years at Columbia University.
  2. That source along with The Course’s history, structure, and language indicate that its Jesus is specifically addressing North Americans and others living unconsciously in the belly of the imperial beast, the United States of America. The U.S. is today’s equivalent of the Roman Empire that executed the historical Jesus as an insurrectionist.
  3. Ignoring that specific audience, Americans typically interpret The Course in the spirit of the second century Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Like Aurelius, as seekers and would-be mystics, Course in Miracles students typically fail to see the contradiction between their recognition of the unity of all creation on the one hand and for example, the wars they support, fund, and fight on the other.
  4. The Course’s emphasis on illusion (or in its language that time, space, bodies, and history, and the rest of the external world do not really “exist”) recalls the insights of Plato’s “Parable of the Cave.” There, captives of Athenian culture are deceived into thinking that their ethnically circumscribed experiences represent reality. According to the parable (and The Course in Miracles), such conviction is entirely illusory. The fact is that within the cave we misperceive our bodies, the place where we live, our relationships with nature, other people, and our histories both personal and collective. None of these exist as our culture describes them. Instead, they are misshaped by the fact that we see them within a white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist, patriarchy.  
  5. The point of the course is to free students from those misperceptions allowing them for the first time to recognize the unity of all creation and to live accordingly.

With all of that in mind, Lesson 2 of A Course in Miracles asks us to apply to our everyday world the following insight: “I have given everything I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] all the meaning that it has for me.”

As I suggested in Episode 6, it helps, for clarity’s sake, to preface, for instance, Lesson 2’s central statement with the following phrase, “As an indoctrinated citizen of empire that is white supremacist, imperialist, capitalist and patriarchal, I have given everything I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] all the meaning that it has for me.”

Let me say it again: “As an indoctrinated citizen of empire that is white supremacist, imperialist, capitalist and patriarchal, I have given everything I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] all the meaning that it has for me.”

And what is it that I see in my context? I see a normalized, deceptive world of illusory shadows.

  • The world I see is white. There is not a person of color in sight.
  • It is white supremacist. The lawn signs for next month’s election advertise candidates that are overwhelmingly white. In other words, the community I see from my window is run by white people for white people who typically value white countries of origin (typically European), along with white food, dress, language, economic organization, religion, art, history, education, and family structure (all the elements of culture) above those belonging to people of color.
  • What I see in the contents of my room and from my window are items and structures that have been sold and bought according to capitalist market laws. Those laws say that absolutely everything (including life itself) can be owned, sold, and bought. There is even such a thing as “intellectual property.” My context takes this for granted, without question.
  • There are also unquestioned national borders that keep people “out” and “in.”
  • I see in the labels of the very clothes I wear testimony of imperialism, where non-white inhabitants of former colonies (in Latin America, Africa, and Asia) furnish products “for us” at slave wages. (Few question the rightness of this arrangement.) 
  • I see in my very body as a man a human being who is sitting in his office while his wife is preparing supper for him, even though she’d rather be writing like me. I am a beneficiary of male privilege.    

Lesson 2 of ACIM’s Workbook for Students suggests that all of what I’ve just noted represents meaning that is entirely relative and arbitrary – entirely questionable and subject to change. None of it has to be.  It all comes from and is accepted by me because I reside in my culture’s particular cave.

“As an indoctrinated citizen of empire that is white supremacist, imperialist, capitalist and patriarchal, I have given everything I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] all the meaning that it has for me.”

“As an indoctrinated citizen of empire that is white supremacist, imperialist, capitalist and patriarchal, I have given everything I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] all the meaning that it has for me.”

Today, as many times as you can, repeat that sentence almost like a mantram. I’ll do the same. It’s what we’re asked to do in Lesson 2.

In the meantime, thank you for listening. Till tomorrow, this is Mike Rivage-Seul wishing you a good day and God’s blessing.

If you want to review the first eight episodes in this series, please go to my podcast site at acim for activists .com (acimforactivists.com)

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

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