Free Will and Creation

“In the service of the right mind the denial of error frees the mind, and re-establishes the freedom of the will. When the will is really free it cannot miscreate, because it recognizes only truth.” (T-2.II.2:6-7)

“If you are afraid, you are valuing wrongly. Your understanding will then inevitably value wrongly, and by endowing all thoughts with equal power will inevitably destroy peace. That is why the Bible speaks of “the peace of God which passeth understanding.” This peace is totally incapable of being shaken by errors of any kind. It denies the ability of anything not of God to affect you. This is the proper use of denial. It is not used to hide anything, but to correct error.” (T-2.II.1:6-10)

Our will is not free when we are in our wrong mind. It may feel as though the will is free (and ego thinking will loudly declare it to be so), but instead it is overshadowed by the ego’s thought system, which is fear-based and thus ruled by fear rather than freedom. The ego’s thought system stems from the belief that we exist separate from God and the world, that I am here, and that God and the world are there.

Recognizing that we’ve become caught up in the ego’s thought system is the first step toward realizing our freedom. With that recognition comes the ability to choose again to deny the ego’s thoughts and the feelings it reflects in the body by looking beyond those thoughts and feelings to something deeper, to that place within where peace exists undisturbed. This doesn’t require controlling thoughts or feelings; it requires only that thoughts and feelings be left alone as we turn our attention to the deeper place of peace within.

This deeper place of peace is never not there; it is always present. It is the fundamental truth of existence, the place where we realize our connection to the very nature of Being. It is the I Am, that which is before all else, and which simultaneously is all else, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, encompassing all and leaving out nothing. It is the pre-separation state, eternally existing outside of the thought of separation.

This is the place toward which the Course continually redirects us, methodically guiding us back through the maze of our own miscreations to return to the fundamental truth of Being. Rooted there, the will truly is free to create as God gave his creations, living in peace and extending love outward from within to reflect Heaven on earth.

 

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Sickness is a defense against the truth

Lesson 136 is often particularly challenging to Course students. The ego, as it so often does, views this lesson from its very limited and personal perspective, and objects to the narrow interpretation it superimposes onto the lesson that it is to blame for any sickness that befalls the body. This interpretation misses the deeper message of the lesson.

The world is an illusion, a dream arising in the mind that has imagined itself separate from its source, and has responded by contracting in fear. That initial contraction leads to yet a deeper sense of separation, and yet more contraction and more fear, creating a snowball-effect that takes the mind further and further away from the truth of its being, and gives rise to a dreamed world which the mind mistakenly thinks real, and within which it loses itself and loses sight of its true nature.

Ego is nothing more than the thought system that arises to replace the pure knowing of Self which seems to have been lost. It is a response born of panic, a movement of the mind that feels cast adrift and left to its own defenses. This isn’t something that can be thought of in terms of individual volition, because it is beyond the concept of individualization and volition, and represents the means by which God’s Being, which is infinite and unlimited, can know something finite and limited. Ego has made sickness, but not in the way that we’re accustomed to thinking about cause-and-effect and personal responsibility.

And yet the Course speaks to the mind in that way, because the mind can only think in such personal, dualistic terms. To quickly move the mind away from its objections, however, the Course moves past what the mind understands to what the heart can remember, and draws us back to the memory of our Source by reminding us that “You can but choose to think you die, or suffer sickness or distort the truth in any way. What is created is apart from all of this.” (W-136.11:4-5)

When the body is seen for what it is—a projection in and of the mind—it becomes clearly seen that the body in and of itself cannot feel, that all sensations originate in the mind, and not in form. The very idea of sickness is then recognized for what it is—an idea in the mind. The need for so-called sickness to resolve dissolves with this recognition. And with this need now gone the mind is free to create willingly and openly rather than from a place of contraction and fear.

“Now is the body healed, because the source of sickness has been opened to relief. And you will recognize you practiced well by this: The body should not feel at all. If you have been successful, there will be no sense of feeling ill or feeling well, of pain or pleasure. No response at all is in the mind to what the body does. Its usefulness remains and nothing more.” (W-136.17)

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Cause and effect

Early in my years as a Course student, I worked as a volunteer at a medium security prison for men. One day a participant of the program I was facilitating came to class looking visibly upset and angry. When I asked him why, he explained that the paperwork needed to transfer him to a facility he preferred hadn’t been done correctly, and that his opportunity for a transfer was gone; there was no way to bypass the heavily bureaucratic system under which the prison operated. He’d been counting on the transfer, and was quite disturbed by the feeling that those in control of something so important to him had made such a blunder, and that an impersonal system prevented it from being corrected.

He and I talked some about it, and about the difficulty of feeling powerless. Principles from the Course came to me, and gave shape to how I responded to his hurt and resentment. Something was said that helped him see the situation in a different light, and his anger suddenly released. I could see the darkness in his mood was gone, and peace had entered where anger had been.

The next day he approached me before the start of class looking quite shaken and bewildered. “What happened?” I asked.

He explained that after yesterday’s class he had gotten called into the office, and told that his paperwork had been done, and that he’d been accepted for the transfer. It was impossible—these things didn’t happen—but happen it did. There was no explanation; it was as though the original mistake had never been made.

I’d been learning about the ego’s use of cause and effect, and about how ego creates a sense of continuity in the world of form through the use of cause-and-effect. This continuity has an obvious practicality in the world of form, but becomes problematic when used in the service of blame. I realized that through forgiveness this young man had undone what he had done in laying blame at the feet of the bureaucracy and its workers, and that this undoing was being reflected in the world of form by showing up as though the original mistake had never happened. He was bewildered because none of it made sense from the standpoint of ego. From the standpoint outside of the ego, however, it made perfect sense.

The split mind creates relationships between things, calls one cause and the other effect, and then uses them to create a sense of continuity within the dream, guaranteeing that they will perpetuate via the belief that such a relationship between cause and effect actually exists. Forgiveness allows us to slip the bonds of cause and effect, and return to the open freedom of the present moment, where the past cannot impose itself upon the present.

It’s important to note that this understanding can’t be used to create an outcome. Attempting to use forgiveness to gain a desired result is simply another ego activity, one that will never work. Forgiveness is not a means towards gaining a result; it is a means of giving up what’s not true so that Truth can be remembered, and known. Remembering and knowing Truth—God, Self, Oneness, Love—is our greatest joy, and the experience towards which the Course continually reorients us with gentleness and love.

“Cause and effect are very clear in the ego’s thought system, because all your learning has been directed toward establishing the relationship between them. And would you not have faith in what you have so diligently taught yourself to believe? Yet remember how much care you have exerted in choosing its witnesses, and in avoiding those which spoke for the cause of truth and its effects.” (T-16.III.2:6-8)

 

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Dreamer, dreaming, dream

The split mind, the part of the One Mind which has lost itself in the thought of separation, projects the world and loses itself in that projection, similarly to how we can daydream a scenario and lose ourselves within our mind into that daydream without ever leaving our outer reality.

The Course speaks of this as a personalized process, one that can be interpreted as being initiated by the separate self, but the separate self in the dream is not what dreams. Nor is it separate from the dreamer. The self loses itself in its own thoughts and seems to have an existence all its own. But this happens within the mind thinking it, in much the same way we can lose ourselves in our own daydream by getting caught up in a drama of our own imagining. The me in which the daydream arises and the me in the dream are not separate, and yet it is the me in the daydream who must recognize it’s in a dream it no longer wants, and return itself back to its self outside the dream. The return is facilitated not by the self which identifies as being separate, but by the self that is both in the dream and outside of it. They are one and the same, but are not experienced as such by the self which thinks that the dream is its reality. Because of this, the Course speaks to the self on two levels: it speaks to the separate self because that is the level where help is needed; but also to the encompassing Self because that is where return is found.

“Can God’s Son lose himself in dreams, when God has placed within him the glad Call to waken and be glad? He cannot separate himself from what is in him. His sleep will not withstand the Call to wake. The mission of redemption will be fulfilled as surely as the creation will remain unchanged throughout eternity. You do not have to know that Heaven is yours to make it so. It is so. Yet to know it, the Will of God must be accepted as your will.” (T-13.XII.10)

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The dream

“What is seen in dreams seems to be very real. Yet the Bible says that a deep sleep fell upon Adam, and nowhere is there reference to his waking up. ” (T-2.I.3:5-6)

The world is in the mind.

This isn’t just philosophical speculation; this aligns with actual experience.

The world teaches that a mind results from the activity of a brain which resides in a body which itself resides in a world along with other bodies. But what knows an object called “a brain”? Or an object called “a body”? Or any collection of objects that comprise that which is called “the world”? These objects are known by the mind, and are experienced by the mind.

What is experienced in dreams during sleep reflects this. Objects in dreams seem real, but they existence only in the mind dreaming them. Similarly, the world appears in a dream dreamt by one mind.

Separate selves are characters in this dream, aspects of the totality of the one mind. Yet just as we can experience losing ourselves in our sleeping-state dreams without being completely lost to our waking-state selves, so can we lose ourself within the sleeping-state dream of the one mind without completely losing ourself to the waking-state self within God.

Always present with us is God’s Voice, calling us back. When His Voice is heard and heeded, the journey back can begin.

 

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Ego is not real

“The distractions of the ego may seem to interfere with your learning, but the ego has no power to distract you unless you give it the power to do so. The ego’s voice is an hallucination. You cannot expect it to say “I am not real.” Yet you are not asked to dispel your hallucinations alone. You are merely asked to evaluate them in terms of their results to you. If you do not want them on the basis of loss of peace, they will be removed from your mind for you.” (T-8.I.2)

When it learns about ego, the mind often busies itself with casting about looking for what is ego in both its own and in other minds. This is just another one of the mind’s many distractions, one that serves to keep it focused on ego rather than atonement. The ego is not real. Its only reality is what the mind gives it.

When the mind withdraws belief from the judgments and activities of the ego, ego gradually winds down on its own, much in the way that a spinning fan will wind down after it’s unplugged.

Be patient, this can take time. Especially for those thoughts in which belief has been heavily invested. Remaining firm in the desire to experience peace while remaining open and willing to receive guidance and help will enable the process to unfold in the shortest and most fulfilling way.

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One wholly perfect teacher

“HOW MANY TEACHERS OF GOD ARE NEEDED TO SAVE THE WORLD?

“The answer to this question is–one. One wholly perfect teacher, whose learning is complete, suffices. This one, sanctified and redeemed, becomes the Self Who is the Son of God. He who was always wholly spirit now no longer sees himself as a body, or even as in a body. Therefore he is limitless. And being limitless, his thoughts are joined with God’s forever and ever. His perception of himself is based upon God’s Judgment, not his own. Thus does he share God’s Will, and bring His Thoughts to still deluded minds. He is forever one, because he is as God created him. He has accepted Christ, and he is saved.” (M-12)

Jesus saw through the separation to the truth within—that God is not separate or apart—and having realized this truth, lived from it by uniting his will with God’s, thus fufilling his part in the atonement (at-one-ment). This is what we are all called to do: give up all the mistaken ideas of self to which we cling, and let that which is deepest within move us in service to the whole.

To the ego this can be an affront, an insult to that which thinks it has a will and existence all its own. But what is an affront to the ego is heaven to the soul. Following our deepest longing, the one that lies beneath and behind all the shallow cravings and desires of the separate self, is our greatest joy.

“Thus does the son of man become the Son of God. It is not really a change; it is a change of mind. Nothing external alters, but everything internal now reflects only the Love of God. God can no longer be feared, for the mind sees no cause for punishment. God’s teachers appear to be many, for that is what is the world’s need. Yet being joined in one purpose, and one they share with God, how could they be separate from each other? What does it matter if they then appear in many forms? Their minds are one; their joining is complete. And God works through them now as one, for that is what they are.” (M-12.2)

 

 

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The Detour into Fear

To understand how “the detour into fear” came about, it’s necessary to let go of worldly concepts of personal individuality, which are constructs of the mind, and allow a deeper understanding to take root, one that bypasses the intellect and is anchored instead in the heart. The heart is our connection to God’s Mind, to Self, and can comprehend what our limited minds cannot.

The detour into fear came about as the result of a choice freely made with God’s Will. Contained within the knowing of I Am is the potential of there being an opposite: That-Which-I-Am-Not, or other. That single idea seeds separation by allowing God’s Mind to entertain of Its own free will the idea of otherness, and allowing Itself to enter into an experience where It seems to be what It is not—where something separate from itself can exist. The Mind, with its power to insert itself into its own imaginings, much like we have the power to insert ourselves into our daydreams and lose ourselves there for a while, felt the fear of separation arise within this imagining, and instead of turning from it, took the detour into fear and seemed to lose itself in the dream. Thus did the separate self arise.

This didn’t happen in some long ago past. Past, present, and future all belong to time, which is a mental construct meaningful only to the limited mind of the separate self in the world of form. When this is fully comprehended it becomes easy to see that salvation lies only in healing separation Now.

Any attempt to articulate the process giving rise to the separation is merely metaphorical. The limited intellect of the self can think only in terms of time and space and objects, while understanding how the split occurs requires letting go of the need to think with those terms. Because of Who we are, though, we can understand how the separation comes about. But not with the intellect.

Deep within is a Knowing that knows, and that understands, and remembers. This is the Self, the Truth of us, That which knows Its wholeness in God, and which calls to us to relinquish our misunderstandings and return to the knowing of the truth of ourselves as happy, whole, and loving in God.

“To extend is a fundamental aspect of God which He gave to His Son. In the creation, God extended Himself to His creations and imbued them with the same loving Will to create…The inappropriate use of extension, or projection, occurs when you believe that some emptiness or lack exists in you, and that you can fill it with your own ideas instead of truth…These related distortions represent a picture of what actually occurred in the separation, or the “detour into fear.” None of this existed before the separation, nor does it actually exist now. (T-2.I.1-2)

“Let us return the dream he gave away unto the dreamer, who perceives the dream as separate from himself and done to him. Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh. In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects. Together, we can laugh them both away, and understand that time cannot intrude upon eternity. It is a joke to think that time can come to circumvent eternity, which means there is no time.” (T-27.VIII.6)

 

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Evil thoughts

“The might of God’s teachers lies in their gentleness, for they have understood their evil thoughts came neither from God’s Son nor his Creator. Thus did they join their thoughts with Him Who is their Source. And so their will, which always was His Own, is free to be itself.” (M-4.IV.2:8-10)

“…the ego has no power to distract you unless you give it the power to do so. The ego’s voice is an hallucination. You cannot expect it to say “I am not real.” Yet you are not asked to dispel your hallucinations alone. You are merely asked to evaluate them in terms of their results to you. If you do not want them on the basis of loss of peace, they will be removed from your mind for you.” (T-8.I.2)

“Have faith in (your brother) who walks with you, so that your fearful concept of yourself may change. And look upon the good in him, that you may not be frightened by your “evil” thoughts because they do not cloud your view of him. And all this shift requires is that you be willing that this happy change occur. No more than this is asked.” (T-31.VII.5:1-4)

Thoughts arise as part of a process outside our own agency. They are not of our doing. We need take no responsibility for their appearance. Our one responsibility is to evaluate them on the basis of whether they rob us of peace, and give them over to be removed from the mind if they do and we don’t want that result.

This is the process of purification, and while it is not done by the self, its doing is accomplished through the agency of the self, whose sole choice is whether to choose separation. That simple decision—whether to experience separation—gets reflected by the mind, such that choosing for separation will bring more of such thoughts, which are then projected out into the world of form. Likewise, choosing to relinquish separation causes a gradual cessation of such thoughts over time, and projects peace out into the world.

This is how relationships serve salvation. They give us the opportunity to observe the thoughts that arise in the context of relating with others, and to question those thoughts which keep us from peace, and open the mind and heart to a different understanding, one that sees past separation and hate to love and wholeness.

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Choose Again

A common belief holds that God gives us free will to choose whether we do right or not, and that we’re subject to God’s punishment if we make the wrong choice and don’t repent.

The Course states something radically different, that free will isn’t given to us, but is instead inherent in each of us as an extension of God Himself. We share His Will as a natural result of this, and want for ourselves what God wants for us—perfect happiness. When the first choice was made to listen to ego, we believed the erroneous thought system it represents. This choice was freely made, but once made the choice itself was forgotten as we were plunged into the confusing and dark illusion of separation.

In choosing to listen to the voice of the ego, no wrongdoing has been done. The idea of choosing against God’s Will is an ego idea. The choice for ego is reflective of God’s Will in that it is chosen freely. In choosing it, however, we experience unhappiness, and then seek for happiness within that thought system where it can’t be found. But we can never be completely lost—always the true happiness at our core keeps calling to us to return from the unhappiness of that one choice and all the seeming choices that were made since.

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