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).
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.
Has our study of ACIM’s Workbook for Students upset you yet? According to today’s lesson 12, it should have. You should be upset to learn that you’ve been tricked and fooled all your life. So have I.
We’ve been falsely taught, for instance, that the world is inherently frightening, sad, violent, and insane. However, it is none of these things. Instead, our so-called “leaders” carrying those statues before the fire in Plato’s Cave have created a fake world for us. And that world has filled us with an unnecessary, paralyzing fear since birth.
That’s upsetting to admit, don’t you agree? (It is for me especially at this age of 81. Why has it taken me so long to wake up?)
To be more specific, all our culture’s favorite convictions turn out to be untrue. For instance, we’ve been lied to:
About the importance of our personal histories where “my story” and “my” experience are supremely significant. (They are not!)
About individualism as somehow central to life in this world. (On the contrary, we’re all connected. There is no real distinction between any of us.)
About innate human competitiveness. (That’s a lie arbitrarily imposed by the reigning, time-bound capitalist economic system.)
About a God whose essence is to legislate, judge, condemn and punish
About an afterlife consisting in consignment an eternal lake of fire or of playing a harp on a cloud somewhere up in the sky
About the legitimacy of power claimed by politicians, generals, priests, and other manipulators who in the end are like the emperor without his clothes. (Their power is completely illusory.)
About laws of all kinds (They’re all creations of the wealthy and powerful statue-bearers – to keep wealth where it is. Apart from traffic regulations and the like, laws are generally instruments of oppression.)
About the goodness of the United States. (As Dr. King said, it’s the world’s “greatest purveyor of violence.” That’s not good!! The U.S. is as vile as any other empire.)
About the sacredness and inviolability of borders. [Capitalists ignore and cross them all the time (with devastating effect), while forbidding workers to do the same.]
About the importance of power, profit, pleasure, and prestige (None of them is lasting or real.)
Etc., etc., etc.
It can’t be repeated enough: Today’s lesson’s insistence that ALL these convictions are illusory or meaningless is very upsetting. But, let me say it again this way: None of the convictions I’ve listed and many, many more are anything more than human creations. Not one of them is part of Life’s inherent order.
Doesn’t that irritate you?
Nonetheless (as Lesson 12 points out) the realization of the world’s meaninglessness could also make us “indescribably happy.” The happiness would come from the realization that the world does not have to be crazy, insane, violent, sad, or under anything like its present “leadership.”
As we’ll discover in future lessons, the revelation of God’s order (once we’ve detached from the world’s meaningless disorder) will disclose glorious, undreamt of horizons of meaning.
In the meantime though, keep working on the task of dispelling the cultural illusions this first part of A Course in Miracles sets before us. Follow Lesson 12’s instructions:
Quite deliberately, three or four times during the day, for just a minute or so, “(W)ith eyes open. . . look around you, this time quite slowly. . . from one thing to another. . . ” saying to yourself, “I think I see a fearful world, a dangerous world, a hostile world, a sad world, a wicked world, a crazy world. . . But I am upset because I see a meaningless world.”
As usual, I’ll join you in performing this exercise.
So, till next time, this is Mike Rivage-Seul wishing you well and God’s blessings.
Welcome to Episode 19 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Activists.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul.” And today we turn our attention to Lesson 11 in ACIM’s Workbook for Students.
It invites us to think clearly about the purpose of life – about its meaning. It tells us “My meaningless thoughts are showing us a meaningless world.”
Of course, today’s lesson follows up on yesterday’s where we ended up praying: “Lord release me from all that I now believe.” Yes, The Course still has us in the process of trying to clear our minds of false ideas about God and life itself, but also (as social justice activists) about our country, its history, and what it’s doing in the world. (This process of thought-purgation, cleansing, and removal of intellectual debris will continue in The Course for some time. So be patient.)
Today’s lesson asserts that our thinking processes misguided by the world and our culture have us on a tragically wrong track about life’s purpose. Let’s think about that.
Apropos of doing so, Neale Donald Walsch suggests that every morning as we look in the mirror, we should ask ourselves four questions – all of them connected with today’s lesson. Walsch’s questions are:
Who am I?
Where am I?
Why am I here?
What am I going to do about that?
Our culture gives superficial answers to all those questions. It tells us that:
We are an Americans.
We live in the greatest country in the world.
We are here to enjoy ourselves and accumulate as much money and as many goods as possible.
So, all of us should go out and shop till we drop.
Clearly, none of those answers is true. To begin at a superficial level, we’re not the only “Americans.” That name belongs to people living in this entire hemisphere. Canadians are also North Americans, and so are Mexicans. Brazilians and Venezuelans are South Americans. Nicaraguans and Hondurans are Central Americans. As citizens of the United States, we might more accurately call ourselves “Usians.”
At a deeper level, of course, all of us are human beings. But what does that mean? Are we simply individual animal bodies colliding against one another as we scramble around in fierce competition for scarce goods? A lot of people believe that. Our culture seems to say so.
Yet all of us know deep down that our scrambles, collisions, and competitions soon end exactly like a dream. At the end of their lives (and often before) “Americans” holding this view end up inhabiting what Lesson 11 calls “a meaningless world.” (That’s the significance of the term “meaningless” in A Course in Miracles. It refers to what doesn’t last. What is unreal or meaningless simply doesn’t last.)
For A Course in Miracles, the only reality that lasts is the single Divine Energy that manifests itself in bodies like our own and in the entire universe. That Energy includes consciousness. In traditional language, the only thing that lasts, the only thing that’s Real and Meaningful is (please excuse the misused and debased expression) “God.”
And here’s the Good News of The Course: we are all part of God. At our essence, we are expressions of divine energy. We are spirits having the very temporary bodily experience we call “my life.”
Relative to Source, the Ground of Being, Ultimate Reality, and “God,” we are all really one Energy. Everything is. We’re like waves on the ocean. We arise like waves, exist as such for a short time, and then return to being part of the ocean.
According to this view, there is really only one of us here. The distinctions between any of us are all quite superficial – like the distinction between those waves. I’m talking here about nationality, skin color, cultural differences, personalities. . . We’re all in this together. We’re in competition with no one. We are one with each other and with animals, plants, minerals, earth, fire, wind, and water.
The purpose of life then is to live from that place. It is the only reality. All the rest is unreal; it is meaningless; it will soon pass; and we’ll be left only with vague memories of events that we won’t be even sure really happened as we recall them. It’s like they never occurred.
Doesn’t that ring true for you? (Well, maybe not yet. But stick with The Course, and it soon might.)
In the meantime, living from the place I’ve just been describing (i.e., from a conscious awareness of the unity of all creation) has political consequences. Those are what concern me especially in this podcast specifically about the connections between A Course in Miracles and social activism.
If we adopt ACIM’s approach (which, by the way, reflects basic Christian mysticism) we might draw the following highly political conclusions:
We are not principally “Americans” at all. We are human beings. Even more deeply, we are expressions of Divine Energy manifesting itself in very temporary and rapidly changing bodies. While each of us is “special,” we are no more special than the poor women and children seeking asylum at our borders. They are us.
And as for where we are, we are not really in a place called “America” or even in the United States. Those designations are human inventions intended to obscure humankind’s basic unity. I know this is difficult to accept. However, the Great Conscious Divine Energy recognizes no borders, no national identities. No one owns the earth or any of its parts. It belongs to everyone. Immigrants and asylum seekers belong here as much as any of us.
Thirdly, our purpose in life is to live from a consciousness of the unity of all creation and of all human beings. This means that competition is out; cooperation is in. It means that capitalism’s destruction of the congealed energy we call “Planet Earth” is out; treating the earth as a living being deserving our love and respect is in.
Fourthly (answering the question of what to do about this consciousness) it seems to me that for starters, we’ve got to:
Stop all our wars – every one of them – drastically cutting military budgets meant to defend us from the world’s poor. In the words of Pope Francis, “War never again.”
Work on creating a world with room for everyone
Where labor can claim as much mobility as capital in ignoring and crossing borders
Open our borders to those seeking asylum from our wars against them, our destruction of their homes, schools and hospitals, and the devastation of their ecosystems at the hands of our colonialism and neo-liberal capitalism.
Yes, all our thoughts about American exceptionalism, about consumption and competition, about war and borders are all meaningless. They have created a meaningless world that has no future.
It’s up to us Course in Miracles students to reverse all of that. It’s the only way to the “inner peace” that A Course in Miracles aims at. In the words of Lesson 11, today’s idea (“My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world”) “contains the foundation for the peace, relaxation, and freedom from worry that we are trying to achieve.” Accepting the truth of the thought that “My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world” is also the only way towards achieving world peace.
So today, for our practice periods, simply follow the directions the lesson gives. It says, “Begin with your eyes closed, and repeat the idea slowly to yourself,” ‘My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world.’ “Then open your eyes and look about near and far, up and down, — anywhere. During the minute or so to be spent in using the idea, merely repeat it to yourself, being sure to do so without haste, and with no sense of urgency or effort. . .. Three practice periods today will probably be sufficient.” I intend to join you in doing that throughout my day.
Then, in a day or so, let’s get back together to focus on Lesson Twelve.
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.
Today, we have reached Lesson Nine in A Course in Miracles’ Workbook for Students. It reads, “I see nothing as it is now.”
The lesson addresses the fact that most of us are living in the past. So, we end up with a world view dictated by ideas and understandings that my wife, Peggy, keeps dismissing as “so 20th century.”
For those committed to social justice, such dated concepts and explanations have to do with patriotism, but also with Jesus whose voice is centralized in A Course in Miracles.
As for outdated patriotism, we continue to live as though the U.S. were not the failed state that it is – as though, for instance, China’s system were not proving much more efficient in providing for its people and responding to emergencies such as COVID-19. China has been spectacular in eliminating grinding poverty.
Meanwhile, the failed nature of the U.S. system is shown by its systemic gridlock. It simply cannot make the decisions that must be taken even to deal with basic health care. For instance, with a population of just over 300 million, America has lost over 800,000 to COVID-19. At the same time, with a population four times larger, China has lost fewer than 5,000 to the pandemic.
Even more basically, the U.S. economy and political system are far less efficient than China’s.
Here in the United States, we’ve become dependent not on producing goods and services, but on the financial sector – on investments, banking, debt, stocks, and bonds. As economist Michael Hudson keeps pointing out, these sectors are unproductive and parasitic. They represent overhead rather than productive income.
By contrast, China has a far healthier economic system that actually provides manufacturing jobs and a rising standard of living for its people. In our globalized economy, that’s possible, because industries are drawn to China by wages that are much lower than in the U.S.
Yet, even with low wages, the Chinese working class is prospering, because of the country’s centralized economy that provides health care gratis and free education for its people along with subsidized housing, food and transportation. Those “social wages” constitute the equivalent of thousands of extra dollars added to each month’s paycheck for Chinese workers.
Besides that, the nationalized Chinese banking system (absent the profit motive) can easily remedy any debt problems by simply erasing debts should any sector develop problems.
As a result of all this, catching up with China will be virtually impossible for the United States as long it continues embracing the neo-liberal capitalist model. For one thing, that arrangement finds it unthinkable to engage in long-term planning; it can’t see beyond projected returns on a quarterly basis. Among other liabilities, that makes it impossible, for example to cope with climate change, that demands anticipating weather events decades from now.
In fact, to actually compete with the centrally planned elements of China’s economy, the U.S. would have to follow systemic suit. However, America’s programs of privatization, deregulation and tax reduction has the country moving in the exact opposite direction.
Course correction would have to include the ideologically “impossible” steps of taming of wage spirals by:
Taking de facto central planning away from Wall Street and returning it into the hands of elected government officials
Raising taxes on the 1%
Nationalizing the banking system
Enacting a Green New Deal to provide productive, environment-saving jobs for the unemployed and under-employed
Providing free tuition for all post-secondary students
Forgiving the $1.5 trillion that students still owe for their educations, thus freeing them to actually buy homes, automobiles and other necessities
Nationalizing health care thus relieving both employers and employees from the burden of meeting the costs of medical treatment and pharmaceuticals
The sad truth however is that without some apocalyptic catastrophe and without transcending our hamstrung two-party system, the chances of taking such measures (even if Democrats were to retain control of both houses of Congress) are nil. Consequently, China will continue to outstrip the United States economically and socially. Simply put, its system is more flexible than the neo-liberal model.
In today’s 9th lesson in A Course in Miracles, Jesus’ voice is once again addressed specifically to North Americans. He calls us to depart from the vision promulgated by the propaganda of our cave-prison. His message suggests for instance that China (and other socialist countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela) are not our inveterate enemies. According to A Course in Miracles, no one is our enemy. No one is attacking us. There is really only one of us here. The Chinese are our sisters and brothers. There is no distinction between them and us.
Today’s lesson tells us that understanding this simple idea (as difficult as it might be to accept) “is a prerequisite for undoing your false ideas.” It is necessary to clear the mind of its “debris that darkens it.”
So, today during your practice periods as you watch the news that touches our country’s “official enemies,” say to yourself:
I do not see China as it is now.
I do not see Russia as it is now.
I do not see Venezuela as it is now.
I do not see Nicaragua as it is now.
I do not see North Korea as it is now.
I do not see Cuba as it is now.
See if you can remember to repeat this exercise three or four times during the day.
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.