At the beginning of April, I was interviewed on a podcast called “Sunday with Mundy” hosted by Jon Mundy, a leading light in Course in Miracles (ACIM) circles.
Jon was interested in my own podcast site, “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Warriors.” He wondered about my thesis there that ACIM represents the channelled voice of Christ addressed to North Americans living in the belly of the United States Imperial Beast. In veiled terms, the Christ of ACIM, I contend, speaks against what my late colleague at Berea College, bell hooks, called the “white supremacist, imperialist, capitalist, patriarchy.”
In this episode of Jon’s show, Ted Kneupper, an emeritus ACIM scholar from Slippery Rock University is my dialog partner (along, of course with Dr. Mundy).
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of prayer and penance that prepares the so-called Christian world for Easter (April 17th).
Lent should be especially welcome this year when would-be followers of Yeshua have somehow been caught up in a faith-contradictory fever of war.
In traditional terms Lenten “penance” is the English translation of the theological term metanoia. It refers to a change of heart and mind; it’s connected “conversion” and “reformation.”
More specifically, metanoia is about atonement in the sense of at-one-ment. That means acceptance of the spiritual reality that all human beings represent a single entity.
In the eyes of Life’s Great Spirit, there are no Americans, Russians, Chinese, or Africans. All of us are even more than brothers and sisters. In the great scheme of things, there is actually no distinction between us. There are no valid borders – not between Russia and Ukraine, not even between the U.S. and Mexico.
That’s the meaning of Yeshua’s injunction: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Our neighbors (even if they live in Russia or Ukraine) are ourselves.” That’s what Paul meant when he said that in the Great Mother’s order, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.” (Galatians 3:28). There is really only one of us here.
You see, missing from the entire debate about the war in Ukraine and about U.S. policy everywhere has been faith, diplomacy and compromise in place of the reigning machismo, self-assertion, militarism, refusal to give in (e.g., about Ukraine’s admission to NATO) and belief in American or Russian “exceptionalism.”
So, this Lent, how about embracing at-one-ment and giving up chauvinism? During the war in Ukraine, the continued U.S. occupation of Syria, its genocidal bombing of Yemen and Somalia, its famine-inducing sanctions of Afghanistan, and its illegal support of Israel’s apartheid system, it’s time for American Christians to embrace the viewpoint of Yeshua and Paul. Only that can save us now.
It’s high time to leave behind the ethnocentrism, jingoism, and warmongering our government, the arms industry, and the mainstream media would have us faithlessly endorse. It’s time to give up chauvinism for Lent.
And that’s hard, isn’t it? It’s difficult because it entails admission of our own responsibility for strife in the world rather than blaming fictional others. They’re “fictional” because in the eyes of our Mother, there are no “others” to blame. You and I – “Americans” – are 100% responsible for the disastrous state of the planet. Again, there is no one else to accuse.
So, if we’re thinking about what to “give up for Lent,” how about giving up chauvinism, jingoism, militarism, and war?
Join the peace movement founded not on a spirit of “Don’t Look Up,” but on determination to spend the next 40 days looking within and changing the ugliness and bringing to light the loveliness we see there.
Welcome, my friends to Episode 24 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Activists.” My name Is Mike Rivage-Seul and I’m your host for this series.
Today’s central teaching in Lesson 16 of A Course in Miracles Workbook for Students is “I have no neutral thoughts.”
Before we get to that, let me remind you that my podcast’s approach to ACIM is different from most interpretations. As seen in Episode 3, it’s taking the position that A Course in Miracles ‘authorship, literary form, historical context, language, and content all indicate that Jesus’ revelation there was intended not primarily for humankind as a whole, but for North Americans living specifically in the belly of the beast of the U.S. system of white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist patriarchy that is waging a war (i.e., attacking) the world’s non-white poor majority. ACIM’s overall appeal is to stop the attacks.
Put otherwise, ACIM implicitly recognizes that our world is engaged in a bloody class conflict in which we must take sides. We’re either on the side of the poor or the world’s aristocratic oppressors. Neutrality is impossible. And since our world is shaped by white supremacy, capitalism, imperialism, and patriarchy, those who claim to be neutral end up on the side of the dominant aristocrats. Not to decide – not to take sides – is to decide in favor or the given order.
With all of that in mind, here are the most salient assertions of Lesson 16 which is the focus of today’s episode:
Everything you see is the result of your thoughts.
Every thought you have brings either peace or war
Therefore, none of your thoughts are neutral or idle.
Instead, they are either true or false.
Peaceful thoughts are true and come from love.
Warlike thoughts are false and come from fear.
Please pause over those assertions and see if they resonate. Even if they don’t, nonetheless, give them serious and prayerful thought.
Personally, I can think of no better commentary on this lesson than the famous “Twin Verses” from the Buddhist Dhammapada. I learned them years ago from my meditation teacher, Eknath Easwaran who recommended spending even up to half an hour going slowly over the verses’ words:
Of course, you don’t need to go that far today. But please give them serious thought anyhow.
Here they are:
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: we are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by selfish thoughts cause misery when they speak or act. Sorrows roll over them as the wheels of a cart roll over the tracks of the bullock that draws it.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: we are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts give joy whenever they speak or act. Joy follows them like a shadow that never leaves them.”
Please try to recall today’s ACIM teaching throughout the day: Remember, neutrality is impossible in this life characterized by class conflict. In questions of war and peace, you must take sides. If you refuse to do so, you’ve already taken the side of the imperial warmongers who are driven by fear rather than love.
It’s the goal of A Course in Miracles to have our every thought, word, and deed driven by love.
Here’s a simple reflection to put in perspective Lesson 15 of ACIM’s Workbook for Students. Please read the lesson first (here) then my reflection.
My thoughts in Plato's Dark Cave
My keepers and I
Made them all up.
They are no more than
ILLUSIONS, I'm told
On a dank moss-covered wall
Where nonsense penumbra flicker
From opaque flat screens,
Computers, and vagrant iphones.
It's all mirrors and smoke
Projected by cruel and powerful
Who lie through their teeth.
That our country is somehow
Free and virtuous,
That our borders are sacred
While those of others
Must be kept open
To the plunder
Of those same manipulators
Who (we're told)
Are just doing business
Waging "just wars"
To keep us all
Prosperous and safe.
But that's just a lie
Don't you see?
We've bought their images
Slurped their Kool-Aid
Worshipped their projections
To the truth
That "America" is
"The world's greatest purveyor"
Not of prosperity,
But "of violence."
The lies masquerade
As common sense
Only to free our captors
Transfers (i.e. steals) resources
From the world's
Whose brave resistance
As socialism, communism
And illegal immigration.
All those shadow projections
But stand 180 degrees opposed
To God's honest truth
That sees no separation
No impoverished enemies
From people oppressed
By "American" crimes --
Not even from Muslims
Russia, Cuba, Venezuela,
North Korea, Nicaragua,
Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq,
Think on that
Then see how many
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
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.
Welcome to Episode 21 in this series called “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Warriors.” My name is Mike Rivage-Seul, and I’m your host on this podcast.
Today we’ll focus on Lesson 13 of ACIM’s Workbook for Students. Its main idea is summarized in these words, “A meaningless world engenders fear.” That is, today’s lesson expands Lesson 12’s insight that “I am upset because I see a meaningless world.” Today’s instruction identifies the specific emotion aroused by meaninglessness. The emotion in question is fear.
Before we turn to that notion, let me remind you of our podcast’s general approach to A Course in Miracles. As I pointed out in episodes 3 and 4, we’re interpreting ACIM as though it was written primarily for U.S. citizens living in the belly of the U.S. empire that is the latest iteration of global domination embodied, for instance in Rome and the British Empire.
A Course in Miracle’s Historical context, authorship, language, and literary genre makes that clear. The voice of Jesus in ACIM is not the voice of the historical Jesus, but of a Christ addressing well-educated, well-to-do Americans far removed from the poor, uneducated, and mostly illiterate victims of empire the Jewish master addressed in the first century of our era. As well see later in much greater detail, ACIM calls Americans away from imperial values of individualism, competition, separation, domination, and patriarchy.
With that said, let’s turn our attention specifically to Lesson 13. It reminds us that the cause of our fear is our country’s loss of meaning. To repeat: Lesson 13’s main idea is “A meaningless world engenders fear.”
Such expression insists that although our national anthem identifies “America” as “the home of the brave,” we are in reality an extremely fearful people. In fact, ours is better described as “the home of the frightened.”
Today’s lesson 13 calls ACIM students to come to grips with the most profound reason for our fear. It’s because the meaning stories we were raised on have disintegrated before our eyes leaving us with a meaningless world. Understandably, we find that extremely unnerving.
As we’ve seen before, we once thought that:
Our country is the greatest in the world
We’re a Christian nation
God is on our side
We live in a democracy
Our politicians represent “the people”
Our wars are just
Our armed forces are invincible
Our soldiers are heroic
Law enforcement protects and serves us
None of these formerly self-evident statements any longer proves convincing:
As Dr. King pointed out, far from being the “greatest” in terms of virtue and goodness, our country is instead the world’s “greatest purveyor of violence.” As such, it is the root cause of most of the world’s problems.
This means that the God of Jesus is not our God; we are therefore not his followers; we are not “Christian.”
God is not on our side; we are not divinely favored. Instead, America is more like the Roman Empire responsible for the execution of Yeshua of Nazareth.
Neither is the United States a democracy. In fact, it never was. As Federalist Paper # 10 makes clear, the Founding Fathers specifically rejected democracy in favor of a republic where (as John Jay put it) “Those who own the country ought to govern it.”
And Jay’s imperative has been obeyed throughout U.S. history. This truism has been unmistakably underlined in the Citizens United SCOTUS decision. Its aftermath shows that politicians represent their donors rather than “the people.” (This is why a coal baron like Joe Manchin can defy the will of West Virginians on issues they overwhelmingly favor like Medicare for all, a $15.00 minimum wage, pharmaceutical pricing, family leave, and college debt forgiveness.
As for our wars being just, think about the lies that got us into Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Those same conflicts give the lie to convictions about the heroism of service in the U.S. military, whose personnel General Smedley Butler (already in the 1930s) implied are no better than brainwashed Mafia foot soldiers.
And just try to convince any black people you know that the police protect and serve them. Most would laugh in your face, if they didn’t burst into tears.
As pointed out in Lesson 12, A Course in Miracles itself can also engender fear. That’s because its relentless insistence that our favorite convictions (like those just mentioned) are 180 degrees opposite those of the divine order, can be extremely disorienting.
In the words of today’s lesson, “Recognition of meaninglessness arouses intense anxiety in all the separated ones” – that is, in everyone who sees herself or himself in competition and strife with fellow human beings. And that includes most of us.
And just whom is it that we Americans see ourselves in competition with? Largely, it’s with the poor, but ultimately, it’s with God.
Competition with the poor is evinced by that fact that (at least since the end of the Second Inter-capitalist War) ALL our wars have been fought against the impoverished identified as terrorists, communists, Muslims, and (as a Great Man once put it) “bad hombres.” (On this, please view the speech of the highly decorated ex-CIA operative John Stockwell.)
The real crime of the poor, however, is simply their poverty. It makes us afraid that they’ll rise and take our stuff [which our ancestors – and current wars – have taken from them (e.g., from Native Americans, from 250 years of enslaved Africans, in wars over oil, markets, water, raw materials etc.)].
Lesson 13 goes even further, however. It’s not only the poor we fear. It’s God we’re afraid of because (as the lesson puts it) “we think we’re in competition with God.” That is, we’re afraid of God whose primary function (we’re taught) is to legislate, judge, condemn, and punish. We’re afraid of this oppositional God. We might even say that he turns out to be not only our competitor, but an abusive enemy who threatens us all with eternal torture.
No wonder we’re upset. No wonder we’re all afraid. No wonder that we find all that questionable if not downright meaningless.
Lesson 13 asks us to face that discordant music. Again, it says, “A meaningless world engenders fear.”
Accordingly, the lesson asks us to spend 3 or 4 periods of no more than a minute each doing the following: “With eyes closed, repeat today’s idea to yourself. Then open your eyes and look about you slowly saying: ‘I am looking at a meaningless world.’ Repeat this statement to yourself as you look about. Then close your eyes and conclude with: ‘A meaningless world engenders fear because I think I am in competition with God.’”
As usual, I’ll fulfill this assignment today as well. Remember that specifically as North American inhabitants of empire, we are at this point in The Course attempting to clear our minds of common misconceptions that have encumbered and polluted our consciousness. With that uncomfortable task foremost in my mind, this is Mike Rivage-Seul wishing you well and God’s abundant blessings.
Welcome to Episode 18 of A Course in Miracles for Social Activists. I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul. I’m a liberation theologian, social activists, and longtime student of A Course in Miracles. On this podcast (for reasons outlined in Episode 3 we’re understanding ACIM as written specifically for North Americans living in the belly of our imperial beast.
From that viewpoint, A Course in Miracles calls us to quit attacking the world’s poor and to stop believing that they are attacking us. Whether they live in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iran, Cuba, Russia, Syria, Somalia, or China, they are not our enemies. They are our sisters and brothers.
Towards understanding that message more fully, today’s ACIM lesson can be very powerful. It asks us so-called “Americans” to face the fact that (as the lesson puts it) “My thoughts” (about such people – and everything else for that matter) “do not mean anything.” The lesson asks us to clear our minds of all falsehoods (i.e., of ALL our brainwashed thoughts without exception) and even to make our own the prayer, “Release me, Lord, from all that I now believe.”
Is that radical enough for you? “Release me, Lord, from all that I now believe.”
By inspiring that prayer, Lesson 10 calls attention to the fact that we are all quite thoroughly propagandized – especially, I would say, by religion and white supremacist American history. For instance, we’ve been instructed from childhood in a religious mythology that would have us accept a story like the following:
God is an old man in the sky watching our every move.
If we disobey his commands, he will judge, condemn, and punish us for all eternity, torturing us in a lake of fire causing the worst pain imaginable.
He (sic) is especially concerned about sex.
That is, he gave us a sex drive second in power only to the instinct for self-preservation.
Yet he will punish any sexual thought, word, or deed outside the marriage context with the hell just described.
And this God, who (according to these beliefs) threatens to treat us as only a pathologically cruel parent would, somehow loves us!
[George Carlin is especially eloquent on all of this (though rather scatological, I must admit). For a good laugh and a dose of truth, check him out].
As for our political beliefs, we’ve been taught (with equal problematics) that:
Our country’s founders were extraordinary even saintly men.
Even though they committed genocide against the original inhabitants of the land our so-called Founding Fathers stole.
And even though the nation’s fortunes were built directly on the backs of millions of kidnapped and enslaved Africans who worked without pay for nearly 300 years (1619-1865), who were subject to formal segregation for another hundred years after that, and who still describe their condition as second class.
We are also taught to believe that our country is a force for good in the world even though it remains (as described by Dr. Martin Luther King) the “greatest purveyor of violence” on earth.
And despite all our election riggings at home (through voter suppression laws, gerrymandering, bought elections, etc.) – not to mention routine interference in other countries’ elections – “we” are somehow authorized to pontificate about democracy throughout the world.
And even though in the last 20 years we’ve fought seven wars against Muslims (killing well over a million of them in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia, and who knows where else?) we can lecture the Chinese on their alleged “genocide” of Uyghurs “imprisoned” in re-education camps one-sidedly vilified in our mainstream media.
(Again, as George Carlin might remind us, all of this is no less B.S. than our unquestioned religious beliefs.)
In any case, you get the idea. Lesson 10 wants us to clear our minds of all the false ideas that plague our thinking processes – i.e., it asks us to provisionally discard EVERYTHING we’ve been taught to believe – especially religiously, politically, and historically!!
So, following the lesson’s direction, try to spend a minute or so five times today reminding yourself as random thoughts occur to you:
My thought about ____ does not mean anything.
My thought about ____ does not mean anything.
“This idea will help to release me from all that I now believe.”
We’ll move on to Lesson 11 next time. Till then, this is Mike Rivage-Seul wishing you well and God’s abundant blessings.
Welcome to Episode 16, Lesson 8 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Warriors.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul. Like you, I’m a seeker and student of A Course in Miracles (ACIM), which can be so inspiring, but quite confusing too. ACIM is also commonly depoliticized in the same way that the Powers That Be have always depoliticized the revolutionary message of Jesus the Christ. We’re trying to avoid that misreading here.
So, thank you for joining me as I work through the text’s gems and perplexities.
Remember, the overriding thesis of this podcast is that A Course in Miracles is not for everyone. More than anything else, the text’s origins, language, style, and content reveal that it is primarily addressed to North Americans living in a cultural cave where we are propagandized and deluded (often unwittingly) by parents, pedagogues, priests, politicians, publicists, and philosophers. According to A Course in Miracles, Jesus is directly addressing us Americans there.
So, what is he saying to us?
Lesson 8’s main thought is expressed as follows: “My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.” Today and tomorrow, I want to focus on two sets of past thoughts that dominate our minds and separate us from reality as far as our spiritual and activist lives are concerned. I’m talking about conceptions we learned as children concerning our own country and about the Jesus who is presented as addressing us in A Course in Miracles.
Today, let’s talk about our shared preoccupations with our country’s past – about patriotic notions that keep us mired in childish illusions we should long ago have outgrown.
Recall that the topic of “the past” was already broached in yesterday’s lesson. It reminded us that when we examine the circumstances of our own lives, when we consider our relationships, work, and beliefs, when we look at the world, we see only the past, almost never the present, the exclusive residence of what we call “real.”
With that in mind, we expressed yesterday’s thought in this way: “I see only the past as portrayed by my keepers as shadows on the wall of our cultural cave.”
Historically and politically, those shadows, I reminded us, generate what The Course calls “meaningless” thoughts about patriotism, nationality, Founding Fathers, our sacred borders, the supposed superiority of our economic system, and the need to protect ourselves from the world’s poor by spending $2 billion per day on the money laundering scheme we call “national defense.”
Today, I want to underline that last point. We spend our military budget fighting wars against the world’s poor. Yes, it’s the poor that our cave’s shadows portray as our enemies. Again, that’s what I want to focus on here.
Please think about it. The world’s poor turn out to be the only ones we’ve fought wars against since the Second Inter-Capitalist War (1939-1945). Our keepers have convinced us that the poor are our enemies. That’s why our country never takes on any enemy that has anything that resembles the wealth or military might that America possesses. We only attack the relatively defenseless and poor. That’s why countries such as North Korea believe that they need nuclear weapons. (Without them, the U.S. long ago would have overthrown Kim Jong-un.)
But here’s the rub. Despite all “our” spending on weapons of war and despite our “enemies” inferior weapons systems, poor farmers, mothers, grandparents and children defending their homelands from U.S. imperialists have defeated our “glorious” army in case after case. Most obviously, I’m talking about Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq where the thrashings our military has endured have been so glaring that they are impossible to deny. Our country hasn’t won a war since 1945!
Yet the generals, our politicians, and the arms corporations they serve continue to tell us that “our” military is invincible. (Talk about shadow reality!!) Such claims would be laughable if their horrendous results were not so tragic in terms of slaughtering and further impoverishing the world’s already poor. They’d be laughable if military spending didn’t empty our national treasury of the money that could give us Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, forgiveness of student loans, free college educations, a guaranteed basic income, and a bright and secure future for our children and grandchildren.
In other words, and for purposes of this podcast, our convictions about militarism represent past beliefs that we’ve been taught to accept without question. They are among the most destructive of what Lesson 8 refers to as the “past thoughts” that preoccupy and blind our minds. They are there so prominently that seeing their shadow nature is nearly impossible to acknowledge and even more difficult to articulate without being accused of somehow “hating America.”
All of this is especially noteworthy in the context of our study here. As we move through A Course in Miracles, we’ll find that the term “attack” will be centralized. The Course will remind us repeatedly that attack is an illusion. We are not under attack by anyone, The Course insists. When we attack others, we are attacking ourselves. For as The Course says, there is really only one of us here.
What we perceive as attacks represent self-defense by poor people that the U.S. insists on attacking. So, “counterattack” is not only self-defeating. It is completely illusory.
More particularly, all of this should remind us that:
It’s the United States that is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world. (Martin Luther King said that)
“Our” government, military, and police are attacking the poor everywhere, at home and abroad.
Immigrants and asylum seekers are in no way attacking us or causing our problems. (They are the poorest most powerless people in the world!)
Venezuela is not attacking us
Nor is Nicaragua
Nor is China
Nor is Iran
Nor is Cuba
Terrorists like Al Qaeda are themselves the creation of the United States
Every attack on “terrorists” creates more of them – i.e., more resistance to U.S. aggression.
Please think about all of that today as you listen to the news, as you read the mainstream media, or listen to better news sources such as “Democracy Now.” When designated “enemies” and their “attacks” are referenced, say to yourself “My mind is preoccupied with past thoughts. No one is attacking us. There is no need for counter-attack.”
Tomorrow we’ll take up the past thoughts that preoccupy our propagandized minds about Jesus of Nazareth.
Till then, this is Mike Rivage-Seul signing off and wishing you God’s blessings.
Please see other episodes in this series on my podcast site here.
Welcome to Episode 15 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Activists.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul. Today we’ll examine together Part 1, Lesson 7 of The Course’s Workbook for Students. It’s found on pages 11 and 12 of the text. Its central idea reads: “I see only the past.”
For our purposes here, I’d express today’s main idea like this: “I see only the past as portrayed by my keepers as shadows on the wall of our cultural cave.”
However we express it though, today’s lesson is setting us up to leave the past aside and consider everything anew, as if for the first time.
In fact, the text goes on to explain that this idea (I see only the past) is the basis of all the Workbook lessons we’ve practiced so far. In the text’s words, seeing only the past:
“Is the reason why nothing that you see means anything.
It is the reason why you give everything you see all the meaning that it has for you.
It is the reason why you do not understand anything you see
It is the reason why your thoughts do not mean anything.
It is the reason why you are never upset for the reasons you think.
It is the reason why you are upset because you see something that is not there.”
As we have seen, The Course considers the past as “unreal.” Its events unfolded in yesterday’s present. But that present is gone forever. It is now “unreal.” However, the fact remains that what we’ve learned through past experience determines what we see in the present. In mundane terms, it’s only because of the past that we know what cups, pencils, shoes, hands, and faces are for. It’s almost impossible to view such items as if we didn’t know their purposes.
In political terms, what we see in our world is also largely governed by what we learned as children — in this instance, about our country’s history. As we saw earlier, the shadows on our cave’s wall have established controlling ideas in our minds that determine what we see. Controlling ideas have taught us for instance, that America is the greatest in the world, that it’s a democracy, that its Founders were nearly saintly men, that the policeman is our friend, and that all of us are equal under the law. All those ideas prevent us from looking at our country with new eyes – from seeing it as it “really” is today.
(And, as we’ll see, if we understand what we’ve learned in the past against the eternal and lasting Ground of Being that alone is real (in the sense of eternal and lasting) we’ll reconceive our learnings from the past in a brightly critical light.)
Politically speaking and because this podcast is about the way A Course in Miracles can move us from unreal perceptions, it’s not too early to point out that the only way we can escape our cave’s interiorized misperceptions is to leave empire’s cave altogether. It is to follow the example of the prophet Jesus by somehow “incarnating” in the imperialized world he inhabited. There, we’ll inevitably encounter stark criticisms of white supremacy, imperialism, capitalism, and patriarchy.
Of course, you can make that happen by travel that intentionally goes beyond tourism and whose specific purpose is political education. For example, ventures like that brought me to Brazil, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Cuba, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Israel, Jordan, India, and (during my five years of graduate study in Rome) to Poland and most of the countries in western Europe. Moreover, stepping outside our cultural cave as a kind of political archeologist is best accomplished by learning the relevant languages.
But no one can learn all the world’s languages. And few can travel extensively in the less developed world as I’m suggesting.
However, we can through reading and documentary films encounter new unaccustomed visions that move us beyond seeing “only the past” as portrayed within our cultural cave. To that end, I’d suggest the following list:
Vijay Prashad’s The Poorer Nations: a possible history of the global south
Haitian director, Raul Peck’s documentary “Exterminate All the Brutes”
Suggestions like those terrify the controllers within our cave who carry statues before the fire that burns behind our backs. They’re afraid students like us will actually understand our manipulation at our keepers’ hands. For that reason, they hate what they vilify as “critical race theory,” but what is only seeing the past “again for the first time” from the viewpoint of those victimized by white supremacy, imperialism, capitalism, and patriarchy.
Understanding the past that way can change understandings of the world. And changed understanding (from one based on fear to understanding based on love) represents what A Course in Miracles’ means by the term “miracle.”
Please give Lesson 7 and the thoughts I’ve just shared prayerful consideration throughout this day. Several times for a minute or so, say to yourself whenever your eyes fall upon familiar objects, “I see only the past in this _____ (pencil, shoe, hand, body, face). While watching the news describing and analyzing the day’s events, say “I see only the past in this issue.”
Again, the point of all this is to deconstruct our familiar ways of seeing the world.
Until next time, then, this is Mike Rivage-Seul thanking you for listening. Please join me tomorrow for Lesson 8 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Warriors.” In the meantime, God’s blessings on you all.
Please see other episodes in this series on my podcast site here.
Welcome to Episode 14 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Activists.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul. Today we’ll examine together Part 1, Lesson 6 of The Course’s Workbook for Students. It’s found on page 10 of the text. Its central idea reads: “I am upset because I see something that is not there.”
To put this lesson in context, let me go back to the very beginning of ACIM, where the entire course is summarized in just three short sentences:
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.
Yes, according to the text, these words summarize The Course in Miracles in its entirety. Everything else is commentary.
But what do those brief sentences mean? What is meant by the word “real?” Similarly, what does “unreal” mean? And what about the word “exists?”
Answering these questions will help A Course in Miracles students understand today’s lesson, “I am upset because I see something that is not there.”
My reading and study of A Course in Miracles tells me that the word “real” refers to what truly exists. And the only thing that truly exists is found in the present moment. However, “real” does not refer to what is perceived by my senses at this moment. Those sense perceptions are temporary and passing. For A Course in Miracles, the term “real” refers to what some people call “God.” It refers to what does not change or die. Other than “God” we might call it:
The Spirit or Power that informs everything
What holds all things together constantly creating, dissolving, and recreating life forms
The unalterable Background of all sense perceptions
The Ground of those sensitivities
On the other hand, the word “unreal” has four meanings. It refers:
To anything that doesn’t last forever – to everything that changes, that dies, that cannot or will not persist.
To the past which is irretrievably lost.
To the future which does not yet exist, and which in any case will be experienced as the “present.”. (Both past and future, then, are “unreal.”)
To the contents of what our reflections so far have referred to as our cultural cave. We’ve already seen again and again that we’re all prisoners of our worldly “keepers” (the ones carrying those statues in front of the cave’s fire). They are our parents, priests, pedagogues, politicians, propagandists, and publicists. They are no better than us prisoners in their condition of living in the cave’s “unreal” space. They don’t grasp reality either. In fact, intentionally or not, their job is to deceive us. They are selling a world that is white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist and patriarchal. What we learn at their feet is illusion. It is unreal.
In summary then, the “real” is the background of what the present moment presents to us. The unreal belongs to present, past, and future phenomena, and to the “wisdom” of the world.
In this podcast, we’re highlighting what A Course in Miracles has to say about that worldly wisdom (those projected shadows) contrasted with the teachings of the historical Jesus who became one of history’s foremost manifestations of the eternal unchanging Christ or God-consciousness.
Now keeping that in mind will help you understand both yesterday’s Workbook lesson and today’s as well. Yesterday’s lesson said, “I am never upset for the reasons I think.” And, as you may recall, I listed a host of my upsets regarding the Democratic Party e.g., its failure to keep its campaign promises, and its climate policies that threaten the destinies of my children and grandchildren on an overheated planet. Besides anger, I said, those reasons sparked emotions in me including betrayal, despair, confusion, frustration, cognitive dissonance, fear, a sense of having been robbed, rage, and sadness. Now, if you think about it, all those sentiments and the reasons attached to them are inescapably connected to the past and future. They are based on what the Democrats did and failed to do last year. They are evoked by anticipation of my children’s grandchildren’s futures.
Today’s lesson reminds us “reasons” like those are “unreal.” They are, in the words of today’s lesson, “not there.” This is because they belong to the past and future which unlike the present, exist no longer or not yet. So, the experiences I listed are not the “real” reasons for my upset. They relate to the past and future and therefore are “not there.”
But what then is in fact “there?” Not the past, not the future, but the present shadows I and my fellow prisoners are taking in. However, as we’ve seen, those shadows also depict an unreal world. So, even my present moment is “unreal” if I forget its unchanging Background or informing Spirit. Within Plato’s cave, you and I are “seeing” something that is not there. We’re seeing a world that is white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist and patriarchal. The “real” embraces none of those things.
In other words, we’re trapped. We’re living in an unreal world X 4. It is a changing world inescapably tied to the past, the future, and to a deceptive shadow theater.
And that returns us to Lesson 6, “I am upset because I see something that is not there.”
In keeping with the intention of this first part of A Course in Miracles, today’s lesson simply asks us to face up to the actual reason for any upset we might experience in our lives. We’re upset because we’re seeing something that is not there. If we saw the Ground of Being that is there, we would not be upset. We would know, in the words of The Course, “the peace of God.”
Towards achieving that peace, the lesson tells us to spend “three or four brief practice periods today . . . preceded by a minute or so of mind searching.” We’re looking for upsetting thoughts like those I listed yesterday – for whatever upsets you personally that may not be political at all. It might have to do with your relationships, with your job, with childhood trauma, with unrealized ambitions.
But this time when we confront our upsets, we’re instructed to say for example,
I am angry at _____ because I see something that is not there.
I am worried about _____ because I see something that is not there.
Again, the purpose here (and of the entire first part of our Workbook lessons) is to clear our minds of false perceptions.
So, use the words of today’s lesson to empty your mind of that’s irrelevant. Say repeatedly:
I am upset because I see something that is not there. . ..
I am upset because I see something that is not there. . ..
This is Mike Rivage-Seul signing off. Please join me again tomorrow when we’ll examine Lesson 7. Till then (and always) God’s blessings on you all.
For previous episodes in this series, please go to my podcast site.