This essay is shared by G. Don Murphy
From ‘A Course in Miracles’ Text chapter 21 (Reason and Perception), Introduction, (1:2-7).
“The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is no more than that, it is not less. Therefore, to you it is important. It is witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world.”
In 1984, while job hunting, I used to drop by the Unity church in Salt Lake City, Utah once in awhile to have tea and to visit with the secretary (Ruth). The secretary was a former Unity minister who became the leading teacher of ‘A Course in Miracles’ in Salt Lake City, Utah. I knew a little about ACIM, but it wasn’t my cup of tea so to speak at the time. Then one day while visiting Ruth, she exclaimed there was one lesson in ACIM she did not understand, lesson number 167 (There is one life, and that I share with God). Ruth asked me to read it to see if I could shed some light on it. After reading the lesson to my astonishment and amazement I was able to be of some assistance based on an early spiritual experience.
When I was 14 years old we lived on the outskirts of a small town in Oregon called Goshen. This one evening while alone in the bunkhouse I knelt and prayed to God. I prayed that I might serve Him. What immediately followed this prayer was totally unexpected to me. I was flooded with love, peace, and joy; and I was surrounded with an incredible sense of warmth and oneness with God. As I stood a Voice spoke clearly and precisely into my mind saying, “You are standing in My Presence even as Moses stood in My Presence on Mount Sinai”. I was then some how invited to look within myself, and I could see that God was everywhere within and without, and that I was one with Him inseparable in every sense of the word.
I then walked outside into the night. After awhile I saw a neighbor coming out of his house traveling towards his outhouse (outdoors toilet) some distance away in the night. Without giving it an ounce of thought I moved towards him and observed him walking. My vantage point was about fifteen feet in the air above him. Things seemed to be moving in slow motion, and I could see with crystal clarity that he thought he was his body, but I could see that he was not his body. I then became startled at being so far from my own body so I returned to it.
At one point I asked God, “What is it that I am supposed to do?” and God replied, “teach”. I replied, “teach what?”, and God did not reply, not then or ever again.
End of experience.
When I was around 21 years old I took this one class in psychology. Our textbook was titled, ‘Machinery of the Brain’ by Dean E. Woolridge. This book reduced man to a series of chemical actions and reactions to his environment, and the argument was extremely persuasive. It made sense and it was logical but it ran against my early experience at age 14, and the very instincts of my being. I really felt sick at heart and I didn’t know what to think. So I prayed for understanding.
Then one day not long thereafter I went swimming at the YMCA. After swimming while cooling off in the lounge, I noticed a small booklet on the table. I picked it up and began reading it. It was rubber stamped on the front of the booklet you may take this booklet, so I did. I finished reading it, and found it interesting, and it mentioned another book called, ‘Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures’ by Mary Baker Eddy. So I went out and bought the book and began reading it. Half way through the book my heart leapt with pure joy; I felt absolutely without question God had answered my prayer.
It is interesting to note that the premise of ‘Science and Health’ is summarized on one page (page 468) and in one paragraph (the scientific statement of being). What is extremely interesting is that lesson number 167 in ACIM (which is two and a half pages long), puts forth the same exact premise.
So anyway I was filled with great joy at having discovered this premise written in lesson 167, and of course because it was the same premise I was able to be of some assistance to Ruth in 1984. Both Ruth and I felt our meeting, as it revolved around this lesson 167 was indeed a miracle, benefiting the both of us.
If I were to supply a few helpful hints to someone studying ACIM (based on what I’ve experienced and learned), it would go something like this: ACIM is about perception correction, and the premise of that perception correction is found in Lesson 167. But what we as individuals want is more than just perception correction; we want to go home, this is the real goal. The real goal, which goes beyond the Course itself, is found written in Lesson 168, and the means to this real goal are found written in Lesson 169.
So to begin, without a doubt when we read something we begin to compare it with what we understand, believe and feel. In other words we are comparing the present to the past. In modern management this is called thinking in the paradigm.
I’ll give you an example: A few years ago, working as a GS-11 computer specialist for the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, I participated in management training.
So the objective of this particular training session was to introduce how the paradigm operates. By being aware of the paradigm concept (how we think and evaluate things) the goal was to inspire others to try to think outside of or beyond the paradigm.
Just one of many examples: A Swiss Engineer developed the digital watch, but when he presented it to Swiss clock makers it was rejected. The Swiss at the time were the leading clock makers the world over. This same Swiss Engineer later presented his digital watch design at a worldwide conference of clock makers. And a few Japanese clock makers were present and they immediately seized upon the digital clock concept, and within 15 years the Japanese became the leading clock makers the world over.
Turning this same training (thinking inside and outside of the paradigm) towards the study of spiritual things is extremely useful as well. In fact it is more than just useful in terms of ACIM, it is the main teaching model of the Course itself, at least as I see it.
In terms of ACIM, sight (perception) occurs in one of two ways: As a product of the paradigm the present is evaluated in terms of past learning, through judgment. And on the other hand we see past the past, beyond the paradigm, through vision. The net effect in both management training and ACIM is to shift the paradigm. In terms of ACIM this shift is moving us towards what is referred to as true perception (verses false perception). The Course clearly makes the point true perception is not an end in itself. True perception will not get you home, but it is very close to home, and it is a necessary step.
Text chapter 21 (Reason and Perception), section I, (2:1)
“How foolish is it to attempt to judge what could be seen instead.”
Text chapter 21 (Reason and Perception), section II, (8:1-4)
“Be willing, for an instant, to leave your altars free of what you placed upon them, and what is really there you cannot fail to see. The holy instant is not an instant of creation, but of recognition. For recognition comes of vision and suspended judgment. Then only it is possible to look within and see what must be there, plainly in sight, and wholly independent of inference and judgment.”
Text chapter 21 (Reason and Perception), section III, (4:7,8)
“For faith and vision and belief are meaningful only before the state of certainty is reached. In Heaven they are unknown. Yet Heaven is reached through them.”
Lesson 168 (Your grace is given me. I claim it now.) 3:1-4
“Today we ask of God the gift He has most carefully preserved within our hearts, waiting to be acknowledged. This the gift by which God leans to us and lifts us up, taking salvation’s final step Himself. All steps but this we learn, instructed by His Voice. But finally He comes Himself, and takes us in His Arms and sweeps away the cobwebs of our sleep.”
Lesson 169 (By grace I live. By grace I am released.) 3:1-6
“Grace is not learned. The final step must go beyond all learning. Grace is not the goal this course aspires to attain. Yet we prepare for grace in that an open mind can hear the Call to waken. It is not shut tight against God’s Voice. It has become aware that there are things it does not know, and thus is ready to accept a state completely different from experience with which it is familiarly at home.”
As for my own spiritual experience at 14, I found great comfort in reading years later the following written in Lesson 169: (12:3 13:1 13:4)
“Experience that grace provides will end in time, for grace foreshadows Heaven, yet does not replace the thought of time but for a little while. The interval suffices.”
“How could you finally attain to it forever, while a part of you remains outside, unknowing, un-awakened, and in need of you as witness to the truth?”
A number of years ago I took a 400 level class in Managerial Psychology. Our textbook itself was a collection of thesis papers written by graduate students. This one paper impressed me greatly; it was about the perceptual process, in very simple terms based on physiology and neurology.
It went something like this: You find yourself sitting in a room and you notice an apple on a table in front of you. So what is taking place: first light reflects off the apple and table and impinges on the retina of your eye. A signal is then sent to the brain via nerves. Brain cells related to memory are activated and an image of the apple and table are created in thought.
So we are not aware in reality of the apple or the table, we are aware of an image of an apple and table created in thought.
So clearly going beyond this thesis, accepting this thesis, what holds true for the apple and table holds true for everything else. The whole of the world exists to us in thought. But suppose what we thought was substance, was not substance at all, but only a dream. We know our dreams are made up of thoughts, images and memories but so too is the world, as it exists to us, made up of thoughts, images and memories in our mind.
Would you be content today having your children, and your children’s children being taught the world is flat and that the sun rotates around the earth, knowing what you know today?
The greatest obstacle in even considering mind as substance is what we think of mind today. We think of mind as being very intangible, but suppose the actual properties of mind are very tangible?
In beginning to contemplate mind as substance does not mean we ignore our physical bodies and physical universe, but it does mean we have begun to explore substance as being something other than what we thought it was. And if it is true, if mind is substance, it opens up an infinite number of possibilities. It would say to us the “laws” we thought were absolute, are not absolute at all, and if a law is not absolute it is not a “law” at all.
Lesson 76 (10:1)
“…, and realize how foolish are the “laws” you thought upheld the world you thought you saw.”
Text 6 IV (11:3)
“Fidelity to premises is a law of mind, and everything God created is faithful to His laws. Fidelity to other laws is also possible, however, not because the laws are true, but because you made them.”
Text 12 VIII (3:2)
“…, for miracles violate every law of reality as this world judges it. Every law of time and space, of magnitude and mass is transcended, …”
Lesson 167 (6:1-6)
“The mind can think it sleeps, but that is all. It cannot change what is its waking state. It cannot make a body, nor abide within a body. What is alien to the mind does not exist, because it has no source. For mind creates all things that are, and cannot give them attributes it lacks, nor change its own eternal, mindful state. It cannot make the physical.”
Lesson 167 (9:2)
“When the mind elects to be what it is not, and to assume an alien power which it does not have, a foreign state it cannot enter, or a false condition not within its Source, it merely seems to go to sleep awhile.”
Lesson 167 (10:1-3)
“Let us today be children of the truth, and not deny our holy heritage. Our life is not as we imagine it. Who changes life because he shuts his eyes, or makes himself what he is not because he sleeps, and sees in dreams an opposite to what he is?”
Lesson 167 (12:1-3)
“We share one life because we have one Source, a Source from which perfection comes to us, remaining always in the holy minds which He created perfect. As we were, so are we now and will forever be.”
I believe the first lesson I ever learned was how the Holy Spirit operates, how prayers are answered, and I’m referring to when I first read ‘Science and Health’. And believe me I’m not interested in teaching ‘Science and Health’ but it was my first introduction to written truth.
The point here is that I asked (I prayed)! But God (through His Voice the Holy Spirit) did not reveal the answer to me directly! The answer came to me through Mary Baker Eddy’s book ‘Science and Health’. I know with all my heart, mind and soul that I heard the Holy Spirit’s Voice speak to me through my brother (my sister). But had I decided to judge Mary Baker Eddy’s worthiness to write a book, or speak to me, I’m certain I would not have heard the Holy Spirit’s Voice.
As an example I remember this one joke that drives home the point very well. This man had great faith in God, so much so that when his boat sank in the ocean, he prayed God to save him. So here he was dog paddling in the ocean and along comes a ship that spots him. The man on the ship says, “can we throw you a life buoy, and drag you aboard?” The man says, “no, I have great faith that God will save me.”
So anyway along comes another two boats offering the man help, and the man refuses help saying, “no thanks, I have great faith that God will save me.” So the man eventual tires of dog paddling and drowns. When the man gets to heaven he was a little upset with God, and standing before God the man says, “why did you not hear my prayers for help?” God says to the man, “but I did hear your prayers for help. I sent not one, but three boats, your way to save you.”
Text chapter 9, section II (The Answer to Prayer), (4:8, 5:8-9, 6:3-5, 9:1-6)
“Listening to truth is the only way you can hear it now, and finally know it.”
“Your brother may not know who he is, but there is a light in his mind that does know. This light can shine into yours, giving truth to his words and making you able to hear them.”
“Salvation is of your brother. The Holy Spirit extends from your mind to his, and answers you. You cannot hear the Voice for God in yourself alone, because you are not alone.”
“To disbelieve is to side against, or to attack. To believe is to accept, and to side with. To believe is not to be credulous, but to accept and appreciate. What you do not believe you do not appreciate, and you cannot be grateful for what you do not value. There is a price you will pay for judgment, because judgment is the setting of a price. And as you set it you will pay it.”
G. Don Murphy