by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
Growing up, my family spent many lazy days on the rugged, mystical Oregon coast where my grandmother lived. The drive from where we lived near Portland, through the mountains to the coast, was beautiful.
On one such trip, when I was very young, I remember sitting in the back seat and needing to look up to see out of the car window. I was mesmerized as I saw a magical fog hanging like a cloak near the top of the mountains. I can still feel that experience to this day, and the thought that came to my mind, “This is not real.” I had no idea what that meant at the time and simply dismissed it. It wasn’t until years later, when I found A Course in Miracles that this thought and vision came back to me, and I began to understand what it truly meant.
This world is not your home…
“This world you seem to live in is not home to you. And somewhere in your mind you know that this is true.” (W-182.1)
A Course in Miracles tells us this world is not our home. The world that we see is an illusion we have chosen to value rather than our home in heaven. It says the world is nothing more than a dream to be awakened from. This seems not only to be the most difficult concept for us to grasp, but also the most controversial.
People use this thought the Course so boldly puts forth as a way to discount the Course or to say it is blasphemous. Casual readers of the Course use this thought as an excuse to be detached from the world, feeling that if it is an illusion, then it doesn’t matter what they do. But if understood correctly, this thought really is our salvation.
…no more than a reminder…
“Salvation is no more than a reminder this world is not your home.” (T-25.VI.6)
This idea is really not a new thought in the realm of spiritual truth. According to the old Christian hymn, “This world is not my home. I’m just a passin’ through…” The Aboriginal tribes of Australia call our present experience “dream-time.” Most spiritual teachings have some sort of reference to this thought or idea, but, nevertheless, it doesn’t make this thought any less challenging to live or apply.
We feel very bound to this world, and because we do, it would make no sense to deny it. The Course does not ask us to do this. It asks us to look at what we think is our reality and decide whether we value it more than the peace of God. Today if we choose the world with all its feelings of separation and judgment, then we get the world. But, if we choose the peace of God, then it is time for us to do the work that allows this world to be a steppingstone to Heaven.
…a gentler dream…
“So fearful is the dream, so seeming real, he could not waken to reality without the sweat of terror and a scream of mortal fear, unless a gentler dream preceded his awaking, and allowed his calmer mind to welcome, not to fear, the Voice that calls with love to waken him; a gentler dream, in which his suffering was healed and where his brother was his friend. God willed he waken gently and with joy, and gave him means to waken without fear.” (T-27.VII.13)
I remember having a dream that brought this idea home. In my dream, my husband and I were to meet our friend at the stage door of a theater on Broadway in New York City. Our friend had performed on Broadway and always had the best stories to share. We were both so excited to see him and hear about his latest escapades.
Suddenly, I realized I didn’t have my shoes on, and I knew they were inside the locked theater. Paul, my husband, found a way in, and said he would go and get my shoes. So, I stood shoeless outside for quite a while as my anger grew. I knew my husband had forgotten about me and was busy talking and laughing with our friend. As there is really no logic to dreams, all of a sudden the locked doors to the theater were unlocked. I walked in and found my husband, shoes in hand, standing there talking and laughing just as I expected. I was so mad! “How could you forget me?” I furiously questioned. I then woke up, but I was still angry.
Paul was already up making coffee downstairs. I could hear him happily humming away. “He is so uncaring,” I fumed. I walked downstairs and just looked at him.
“What?” he asked.
“What,” I angrily exclaimed, “I’ll tell you what! You left me outside that theater with no shoes while you went inside to have fun!”
As those words left my mouth, I knew how silly they sounded, but I didn’t care. The irritation was still so real to me. I went on to tell him the whole dream.
After all my ranting, he looked at me with confusion on his compassionate face and said, “But, sweetie, it was just a dream.”
He was right. It was just a dream, but it was a dream that seemed so real that I felt justified to carry my anger with me into waking.
You are the dreamer…
“You are the dreamer of the world of dreams. No other cause it has, nor ever will. Nothing more fearful than an idle dream has terrified God’s Son, and made him think that he has lost his innocence, denied his Father, and made war upon himself.” (ibid)
A Course in Miracles tells us we are as God created us. That is our true essence, and yet we often see little reason to validate this fact in the world. War, starvation, and even the slightest acts of anger toward each other make us feel less than Christ-like. But, our heavenly inheritance is not dependent upon anything we have done or not done; it is solely dependent on Who our Creator is. We are part of our Father’s DNA, so to speak. We cannot escape that, but we can act unlike Him. If we act like unruly children, does this mean we have really separated from Him? In the illusion, it feels that way, but in truth, no.
So here we are. We are children of infinite love experiencing a finite, depressing existence. This experience can make us feel limited, lost, and alone, but it cannot change the reality that we are complete, loved, and safe.
…perfectly capable of awakening to reality
“You are at home in God, dreaming of exile but perfectly capable of awakening to reality. Is it your decision to do so?” (T-10.I.2)
We are all simply dreaming, and we can awaken. Sounds simple, but is it? I clearly knew my dream was a dream, but I was still angry with my husband. I could even justify my anger; my thinking made the dream real to me, whether or not it was real. It was a dream that, if I let it, masked the reality of my husband and myself. It did not change our reality, but it did distract me from that awareness.
What helped me let go of my desire to stay in the anger of the dream was my husband’s willingness to listen and to join with me in understanding. He didn’t get mad for being unjustly accused. He simply listened and reminded me it was a dream. He didn’t dismiss my feelings; he loved me through them. His understanding helped me forgive him, not for what he had done, but for what I thought he had done.
“Forgiveness is the only thing that stands for truth in the illusions of the world.”
We are told the function of the Holy Spirit is to help us look at what we think is happening in our lives (our dreams that obscure our reality), and move past those “dreams” to the truth. According to the Course, that is forgiveness. Forgiveness is a willingness to stop the insanity that we think is real and allow the Holy Spirit to show us what is really going on. One of my favorite passages on forgiveness is in workbook lesson 134. It says,
“Forgiveness is the only thing that stands for truth in the illusions of the world. It sees their nothingness, and looks straight through the thousand forms in which they may appear. It looks on lies, but it is not deceived. It does not heed the self-accusing shrieks of sinners mad with guilt. It looks on them with quiet eyes, and merely says to them, ‘My brother, what you think is not the truth.’”
What is the world showing you? Are you experiencing the peace, love, and joy that you were created to extend? Or are you stuck in a nightmare of anger, fear, depression, frustration, and judgment? It may feel like a nightmare, but it can be transformed into a happy dream.
We can begin to awaken to truth, as we let forgiveness rest on our minds and listen as it gently whispers, “What you think is happening in this situation or in that experience with another, is not the truth.” Allow God’s love to gently awaken you to a new vision, a new experience of the world and yourself. It’s time to wake up together. This dream is no substitute for the real thing!
May this holiday season be one where we together look with love, kindness, and compassion and allow the reality of Heaven, not the illusion of lies, to be born in us and the world.