Episode 16, Lesson 8: We’re Preoccupied with Patriotic Illusions We Should Have Outgrown

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
  • So was Osama bin Laden
  • So to a large extent is the Taliban
  • 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.

Episode 15, Lesson 7: On Visiting Our Country’s Past Again for the First Time

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:

  • James W. Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me
  • Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States
  • Oliver Stone’s and Peter Kuznick’s The Untold History of the United States (accompanied by video documentaries for each chapter)
  • Eduardo Galeano’s The Open Veins of Latin America
  • Walter Rodney’s How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
  • 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.

Episode 14, Lesson 6: I Am Upset, Because I See Something That Is Not There

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:

  • Source
  • 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
  • Life Itself
  • Truth
  • Love
  • Supreme Goodness
  • Light

On the other hand, the word “unreal” has four meanings. It refers:

  1. To anything that doesn’t last forever – to everything that changes, that dies, that cannot or will not persist.
  2. To the past which is irretrievably lost.
  3. 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.”)
  4. 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.

Episode 13, Lesson 5: I’m Angry at the Democrats But Not for the Reasons I Think

Welcome to Episode 12 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Activists.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul. Today we’ll examine together Part 1, Lesson 5 of The Course’s Workbook for Students. It’s found on pages 8 and 9 of the text and its central thought reads: “I am never upset for the reason I think.”

In practice, the lesson invites students to search their minds three or four times during the day for “sources” of upset and the feelings that result. In the text’s words, we are to apply the day’s idea to “any person, situation or event you think is causing you pain. . . The upset may seem to be fear, worry, depression, anxiety, anger, hatred, jealousy, or any number of forms.” The lesson emphasizes however that the diversity of emotions is illusory. In the end, it is caused by something hidden. That something will be identified in later lessons.

Following the lesson’s instruction, you might say simply,

I am not angry at _____  for the reason I think.
I am not afraid of _____  for the reason I think
I am not worried about _____ for the reason I think.
I am not depressed about _____ for the reason I think. 

In attempting to follow those instructions and after last Tuesday’s shellacking of Democrats at the polls, it’s not difficult for a Course in Miracles social justice warrior like me to list my own current sources of upset and their corresponding emotions. They include

  • Anger when I realize that I seem to care more about getting Democrats elected than the Democrats themselves do! I mean, I can’t understand why they sit around idly while the Republicans in state after state draw gerrymandered maps that effectively deprive Blacks and Hispanics of their Constitutional rights to vote. Why have the Democrats not passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to protect their own constituents? They seem not to care. In response, I find myself caring less and less.
  • A sense of betrayal over Democrats’ expectations that constituents will vote for them even though the party hasn’t followed through on its campaign promises about immigration reform, a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, and immediate control of pharmaceutical prices. Biden’s party surely hasn’t earned my vote.
  • Despair over Democrats’ refusal to act on the Green New Deal, college debt forgiveness, protection of those voting rights, and increased taxes on the rich despite the popularity of such measures.
  • Confusion when I realize that Democrats can’t pass those extremely popular pieces of legislation despite currently controlling the presidency and both houses of Congress.
  • Frustration when despite the pandemic, the Biden administration steadfastly refuses to implement Medicare for All.
  • Cognitive dissonance when I hear Joe Biden champion environmental protection at the Glasgow COP 26 meeting, while at the same time encouraging G7 countries to increase oil production and refusing to shut down the Enbridge Pipeline and similar Big Oil projects.   
  • Fear for my children and grandchildren when I perceive the implications of the White Fascist Party once again taking over our government in 2022 and 2024. I’m convinced that the White Party’s Donald Trump is coming back in some form.
  • A sense of being robbed when my so-called representatives without a second thought, can find billions for the money laundering scheme called “national defense,” and billions more in the form of tax benefits for the rich and subsidies for fossil fuel companies, but can’t find similar funding for popular programs like those I referenced earlier. That’s your money and mine that they’re laundering.   
  • Rage at the patriarchy’s insistence on controlling women’s bodies in so many ways not limited to contraception and abortion.
  • Sadness when I realize that all the issues just listed give the impression that the country I love is in the process of degenerating into a failed state before our very eyes.   

Yes, I (and perhaps you) may be feeling the disparate emotions like just listed – anger, betrayal, despair, confusion, frustration, cognitive dissonance, fear, a sense of being robbed, rage, and sadness. However, according to lesson 5 of A Course in Miracles, all those feelings are the same. As we’ll see in subsequent lessons, they all reduce to one as yet unnamed emotion caused by something also unnamed that is no more real than the shadows in Plato’s cave.

For today, however, it’s enough to take inventory of the sources of your own upset and the emotions they evoke. Try to do that for several brief periods during the day.

Then, we’ll get back together for further exploration of the illusions we experience in our culture’s version of Plato’s Cave. Remember, our guide here is Jesus the Christ. His purpose in these initial lessons is to free us from the illusions governing life here in the belly of the beast as empire justifies its destruction of the world reducing us all in the process to the level of the wretched of the earth.

A Course in Miracles will instruct us in how to resist that cruel reduction in Jesus’ spirit. Please join me tomorrow for more on that vital topic.     

Episode 12, Lesson 4: These Thoughts Do Not Mean Anything

Welcome to Episode 12 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Activists.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul. Today we’ll examine together Part 1, Lesson 4 of The Course’s Workbook for Students. Its main idea reads as follows: “These thoughts do not mean anything. They are like the things I see in this room [on this street from this window, in this place].”

As Lesson 4 puts it, the purpose of today’s introspection is (1) to help students separate the meaningful from the meaningless, (2) to help them take a first step towards seeing that the meaningless is found outside us, while the meaningful is found within, and (3) to begin training students’ minds to separate similarities and dissimilarities.

Towards those ends, the lesson itself asks us to review “the thoughts that are crossing your mind for about a minute. Then apply the idea to them.” The lesson further instructs us to “identify each thought” that crosses our mind “by the central figure or event it contains, for example: This thought about _____ does not mean anything. It is like the things I see in this room [on this street, and so on].” In keeping with our reflections so far – about Plato’s Parable of the Cave – the lesson twice refers to our common thoughts in terms of “shadows.”

With that in mind and in the spirit of the social justice focus of this podcast, here are 25 ideas generally accepted without question in U.S. culture. According to today’s lesson, all of them are entirely meaningless. They’re illusions; they are completely untrue. Ask yourself if you still believe them.

  1. “America” is the greatest country on earth.
  2. Ours is a Christian nation and God is on our side.
  3. The Founding Fathers established a democracy.
  4. The U.S. Constitution is not subject to interpretation according to changing historical circumstances.
  5. All U.S. citizens are equal under the law.
  6. The U.S. Supreme Court is unbiased and fair.
  7. U.S. politicians serve “the people” and not their donors.
  8. The policeman is your friend.
  9. White people from Europe embody the highest achievements of human society.
  10. “America’s” wealth accumulation has nothing to do with land stolen from the indigenous or with 400 years of unpaid and underpaid labor from African slaves and their descendants.
  11. Capitalism-as-we-know-it represents the best possible economic system.
  12. Intellectual property is a thing.
  13. Life itself can be morally patented.
  14. Vital resources are scarce.
  15. Capitalism is not the reason for climate change.
  16. With 4.5% of the world’s population, the United States deserves to control the entire world.
  17. With 20% of the world’s population, China should be subject to the United States.
  18. Foreigners (from e.g., Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala) want to come to America because of its greatness and not because U.S. wars and climate destruction have devastated their countries.
  19. Borders are sacred.
  20. The notion of patriarchy is an invention of what Rush Limbaugh called “feminazis.”
  21. Women should obey celibate churchmen in matters like contraception and abortion since the celibate clergy know more about the way women’s bodies work than women themselves.
  22. The fact that up to 50% of fertilized ova end up spontaneously aborted is irrelevant to the abortion debate.
  23. Our country is under attack by terrorists and immigrants (i.e., by the poor of the world).
  24. To defend ourselves from such attacks, we need to spend $2 billion each day.
  25. Nuclear and space weapons can defend us from terrorism.

To repeat, according to A Course in Miracles, none of these ideas is true. Not one. Instead, they have been foisted upon us by the ones in the cave who carry statues before the shadow-producing fire – viz. by our parents, pedagogues, priests, politicians, publicists, propagandists, and philosophers. All of them are like us; none of them knows anything but shadows. As we’ll see, only the hated prophetic escapees from our culture’s cave, only those who have realized that all reality is one and that the earth belongs to everyone, know the truth.  

In fact, as noted in the introduction to the Student Workbook, truth lies 180 degrees away from the just-listed common convictions of our white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist patriarchy.

So, to complete today’s exercise, give some thought to the 25 convictions I’ve listed. I’m sure you can think of others. Then as instructed by today’s lesson say to yourself, “This thought about _____ does not mean anything. It is like the things I see in this room, [on this street and so on].

I’ll see you here tomorrow to review Lesson 5.

For previous episodes on “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Warriors,” please see my podcast site. Also, please consider purchasing a copy of A Course in Miracles, so you might really give it a try and better follow these podcast episodes.

Episode 11, Lesson 3: I Do Not Understand Anything at All about COP 26 or Climate Change

Welcome to Episode 11 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Activists.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul. And today we’ll examine together Part I, Lesson 3 of The Course’s Workbook for Students.

In the first part of the Workbook, we’ve been deconstructing our illusory understandings of the world. We’ve been imagining ourselves as residents in Plato’s Cave completely deceived by our culture, its educational system, by its advertising, its politicians, priests, and publicists. It’s all illusion.

In line with that insight, today’s lesson reads: “I do not understand anything I see in this room, [on this street, from this window, in this place].”

For purposes of this podcast and its concern with social justice, the lesson’s central idea might better be phrased, “As a captive in my culture’s version of Plato’s Cave, I do not understand anything I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place.]”

Or: as a beneficiary of a system that is white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist, and patriarchal, I understand nothing at all about the world.

The truth of this last phrasing was especially illustrated this morning on Amy Goodman’s “Democracy Now” and its coverage of the 26th meeting of COP (Congress of Parties) on climate change. The meeting began today in Glasgow, Scotland.

Global South guests on this morning’s “Democracy Now” described it in scathing terms invisible to most of us who are even taking the trouble to notice that COP 26 is taking place. “Democracy Now’s” guests spoke of:

  • White Supremacy: They described the Glasgow gathering as “the whitest and the most privileged climate summit ever, with thousands from the Global South unable to attend because of lack of access to COVID vaccines and visa issues.”
  • Dysfunctional Capitalism: They added that the exclusion of participants from the Global South was intentional to silence their voices highly critical of specifically capitalist schemes such as carbon trading and “Net Zero Carbon Emissions” that will permit the world’s biggest “free market” polluters (mainly the United States) to continue business as usual. As a result the Paris Climate Accord goal of keeping global temperatures below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, will not only be missed, but global temperatures will reach the catastrophic level of 3 degrees above those pre-industrial measures.
  • Neo-Colonial Imperialism: The capitalist world’s business as usual includes ongoing subsidization of the fossil fuel industry and unabated plans for expanded oil drilling and pipelines across lands belonging to indigenous peoples. Unchanged business plans means that Africa’s 1.5 billion people who are responsible for about 3% of global warming will continue bear a vastly disproportionate share of climate change’s ravages. Those consequences will predictably turn the continent’s largely agrarian populations into impoverished climate refugees. The refugees will in turn be xenophobically excluded from seeking asylum in countries like our own.
  • Patriarchal Rule: Even though 60-80% of the non-industrialized world’s farmers are women, the ones making the decisions that will adversely affect their livelihoods are men like Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, and the predominantly male CEOs of fossil fuel corporations.   

In the light of all of this, Lesson 3 might well read, “I do not understand anything at all.” I don’t even know how white supremacy works because (as a white person) it works for me. I do not how capitalism works, because (as an American) it benefits me. For the same reason, I do not know how imperialism or patriarchy work.

In Plato’s Cave, I know nothing about climate change.

But guess who does know about climate change and how the world works for whites, capitalists, imperialists, and men. It’s those would-be delegates excluded from the Glasgow conference. It’s those spokespersons from the Global South who know the ins and outs of the real effects of carbon trading and “Net Zero” policies. It’s those poor women farmers made to bear the brunt of climate chaos.

It’s the poor who according to Christian faith (and Jesus’ voice in A Course in Miracles) constitute the site of God’s revelation of what’s wrong with the world and what to do about it. Indirectly, A Course in Miracles is asking us to listen to them – to the voices of the excluded who resonate with the voice of Jesus. The historical Jesus was one of them.

Think about those people from the Global South today as you repeat (almost as a mantram) the central expression of Lesson 3. As you focus randomly on whatever your eyes light upon, say “I do not understand anything I see in this room, [on this street, from this window, in this place].”

As you watch television, or read the paper say, “As a beneficiary of a system that is white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist, and patriarchal, I understand nothing at all about the world.”

To access previous postings in this series on A Course in Miracles, please go to my podcast site.

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

Episode 10: Lesson 2: American Culture Distorts Everything

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 9: Part I, Lesson I: As a prisoner in Plato’s Cave, Nothing I See Means Anything

Welcome to Episode 9 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Warriors.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul.  And today we’ll turn our attention to Part 1, Lesson 1 of The Course’s Workbook for Students.

Remember, we’re re-reading The Course from below – from the position occupied by Jesus of Nazareth whose words channeled specifically to North Americans represent the entire content of ACIM’s three volumes. Be reminded that the historical Jesus necessarily saw reality “from below.” He was poor, imperialized, working class, and stood in opposition to the Roman Empire and to temple authorities who lay in bed with the Roman occupiers.

As we saw in our last episode, the purpose of A Course in Miracles as described by Jesus in its Introduction is to help students “think differently” – to see the world as he saw it. Such adjustment of vision is necessary because as The Course insists, the world’s way of seeing things is completely skewed. Its world vision is 180 degrees opposed to God’s vision – to the vision of Jesus the Christ.

As The Course implies again and again, it’s like all of us are imprisoned in Plato’s Cave where everything we see as real is merely only a shadow of something completely artificial. It’s all illusion. In effect, we take for reality what are only shadows of statues projected for us by the frauds who control our world.

The course would have us escape the captivity of our culture’s cave. It would have us follow Socrates and Jesus.

To that end, the point of the first part of Book I – more than 200 lessons – is to help deconstruct the world we’ve been tricked into accepting as real.

So, buckle up. Open your book to the third page of your student workbook. Pause this recording and prayerfully read the chapter for yourself. Follow its directions as closely as possible. Then come back here.

The central thought of Lesson One reads: “Nothing I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] means anything.” “Nothing I see in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] means anything.”

To make that thought clearer, I suggest reading it like this: As a prisoner in Plato’s Cave, I see nothing in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] that means anything. As a prisoner in Plato’s Cave, I see nothing in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] that means anything.”

Alternatively, you might read today’s central thought to say: “As one indoctrinated into the ideology of a white supremacist, imperialist, capitalist, patriarchy, I see nothing in this room [on this street, from this window, in this place] that means anything.” Everything I see in this room, on this street, from this window, in this place is shadow; it’s illusion; it’s all unreal.

Let those thoughts sink in. Repeat them whenever you can throughout the day: “As a prisoner in Plato’s Cave, everything I see is meaningless. It’s all illusion, shadows, deception.”

Thank you for listening. Tomorrow we’ll move on to Lesson 2.

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

Episode 8: The World Will Call You Crazy for Embracing Jesus’ Truth

In the introduction to A Course in Miracles’ Workbook for Students, Jesus calls us to “see things differently” — so differently that our white supremacist, imperialist, capitalist patriarchy will call us insane.

Previous episodes of this series, “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Warriors,” may be found on my podcast site. Please visit it when you can.