In your study of A Course in Miracles (ACIM), it’s helpful to keep in mind that it is taught on two levels, precisely because it refers to two orders of reality- one true and one false. This may sound more confusing than it is from the get go, but let me explain why this is both necessary and for our benefit.
Level one simply speaks of the absolute truth of reality, which essentially states that the separation from God never happened, and in fact is impossible. True reality is defined as a non-dualistic oneness with God which is abstract, unlimited, eternal and without opposite. Given that the nature of Truth in God as ACIM describes it, is the opposite of what we experience as reality, there’s no way for us in our fragmented state of mind to comprehend- let alone imagine- what that must be like. It’s impossibly foreign to us while we experience ourselves as separate from God.
So in order to relate to us, and help us understand his message, Jesus knows he must meet us where we’re at by speaking to us on our level of understanding- enter level two. Because our level of understanding corresponds to the order of reality in which we think we exist, level two refers to our false world of duality, change and opposites. Here Jesus addresses us in a way that acknowledges who we think we are, and where we think we are; as individuals in bodies, who live in a material universe of change. He is able to do this without validating our illusions (what we believe is reality) as being true, due to his basic level one teaching that only God is real.
It’s important to recognise that he needs to do this if he’s going to have any hope at all of reaching us, and meaningfully teach us how we can use what we made and think is real- our bodies, relationships and experiences in the world- for his purpose of waking us up to what is true, but cannot yet grasp (level one- our abstract reality in God). In other words, Jesus acknowledges the dream world of separation we think we inhabit (level two), to teach us that we can use it, and thus our lives, in service of one of two purposes: the Holy Spirit’s or the ego’s purpose. We are free to adopt either one of their two ways of thinking and interpreting the world around us, and everything that seems to happen to us. But never both. They are mutually exclusive thought systems, so it is one or the other. You either choose the ego or the Holy Spirit as your guide.
The Holy Spirit’s right-minded goal is aimed at freeing us from our illusions and returning us to Reality (non-dualistic reality) via the practice of true forgiveness. On the other hand, the ego’s wrong-minded purpose is to keep us mindlessly stuck in the dream of separation, convinced of the reality of sin, guilt and fear. Representing diametrically opposed thought-systems, each purpose (the ego’s or the Holy Spirit’s) leads to completely opposite outcomes. Accepting the Holy Spirit’s purpose for perceiving everything in our lives as an opportunity to forgive, leads to a state of inner peace, joy and love. Following the ego’s guidance however, we are encouraged to see everything as a means to judge, blame and see ourselves as victims, which always results in an internal experience of fear, misery and hate.
It’s important to underscore that the Course’s level two teaching that refers to the physical world of duality, is firmly set within the framework of its foundational level one teaching, which stresses that only our non-dualistic reality in God is true. In fact, the level two teaching that we have a choice between two thought systems and their respective purposes, can’t be understood without the level one metaphysics. As the Course’s theoretical foundation, level one necessarily informs level two.
This is why it’s so important to understand that ACIM is written on two levels to begin with. It’s essential to understand that the two levels each reflect the two orders of reality on which its whole teaching is based- the metaphysical level that’s unconscious to us, and the physical level we are solely conscious of and appear to exist in. Overlooking this fundamental structure of the Course and why it’s written on these levels, will only lead us to misunderstand what its saying, distort and misapply the message, and fail to grasp the depth of its teaching.
Again, it’s the foundational level one principles that must contextualise the level two teaching for it to have any meaning. This is why Jesus first seeks to establish what is true at the very beginning of ACIM, with the following memorable lines from the introduction:
“Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.”(T-in.2:2-4)
With this, Jesus is providing the metaphysical context within which his teaching needs to be understood for it to be helpful to us. This is also why his introduction can be understood to summarise his entire teaching. Ultimately, all Jesus is really wanting us to learn to do, is to be able to make one single distinction: between what is true and what is false. This is because the clearer we are between what’s real and unreal, the more we can consistently choose what is true because it is true.
That’s the underlying basis for practicing the true forgiveness delineated by Jesus in A Course in Miracles. We practice it because we learn that we must be completely insane if everything we think is real, is nothing more than an illusion. It’s this terrifying realisation that will fuel our desire to regain our sanity and get back to Reality. It helps that Reality as the Course describes it, also sounds much better than anything we could ever dream of experiencing in the world of separation, and we are assured that that is definitely the case. After all, Reality in A Course in Miracles is defined as oneness in God- perfect love, unity, peace, joy, safety and power that is eternal, limitless, unchanging and without opposite.
In this sense then, we can appreciate why it’s imperative for Jesus to firmly establish what’s true. We need a benchmark against which to contrast the wrong-minded thought system and its illusion of separation, so he can help us recognise that we’ve been completely mistaken about everything. This will in turn motivate us to listen to the Holy Spirit, and use forgiveness to work our way backwards out of our madness to get back to truth.
Although he spends some time trying to explain what our true reality in Heaven is like (level 1), Jesus also admits that there’s little point in spending too much time on what is currently impossible for us to grasp, and cannot be taught but only known:
“This course will lead to knowledge, but knowledge itself is still beyond the scope of our curriculum. Nor is there any need for us to try to speak of what must forever lie beyond words.”(T-18.IX.11:1-2)
This is the case both in terms of what is true (the nature of God), as well as what is false and impossible (the question of how the ego came to be when it never was or has been). That is, while he does spend a lot of time explaining the ego thought-system and it’s dynamics, Jesus never tries to give us more than a brief, mythic explanation of the ego’s origin, going only so far as to liken it to a “tiny, mad idea” (T-27.VIII.6:2) that we took too seriously.
Similarly, when he speaks of our true home in God, only poetic symbolism that we can personally relate to suffices. This is precisely because it’s impossible to fully describe what is true and unlimited (Heaven/ God)- and also happens to to what we purposely chose to limit and forget- with inherently limited symbols that were designed to serve that very purpose (of limiting and forgetting Truth).
So in a way, level one establishes the “why” of doing the Course: we do it because a part of us suspects and trusts that Jesus might be right when he tells us that only God is real, and therefore what we are experiencing is false. Level two then establishes the “how” of doing the Course: how we use our insanity and illusions of a separated self and life to heal our mind of its illusory split, by consistently choosing the Holy Spirit as our teacher, and using his means of forgiveness to return to God.
Thoughts? Leave them in the comments below! xo