The quote, “The light in you is what the universe longs to behold,” comes from Workbook lesson 156: “I walk with God in perfect holiness.” I’ll admit that I chose this quote for a slightly cheeky reason, but also an instructive one nonetheless. What is it, pray tell? Well, I love this line because it’s moving and emotionally rousing, but on the more mischievous side of things, it also helps bring up an important point about the Course: the fact that it’s not designed to be read in a fully literal manner. Some parts are, but much of it isn’t. The language of metaphor is used liberally in ACIM, so it’s crucial to be able to recognise and differentiate between the two.
The Course is very much a work of art, and ought to be read as such; taking the time to savour its expressive elegance and profoundly stirring poetry. You simply cannot take everything it says literally without falling into a pit of confusion that will only lead- rather quickly- to accusations of the Course being contradictory and/or impossible to comprehend. Mistaking the figurative for the literal will only pile on unnecessary misunderstandings, and lead to misapplications of the teaching. Suffice to say, this will only hinder your progress with it.
So it’s important to note that ACIM is written in the language of metaphor, myth and illusion. However, that doesn’t mean that it need be hard to decipher. In fact, understanding why it’s written the way it is, is what can teach us how not to fall into the trap of confusing the literal with the figurative.
But first to the fundamentals to keep in mind when reading the Course. Remember that a foundational tenet of the Course is that the world is not real because the separation from God never occurred, and never could. Reality- which is equivalent to God, Heaven and Oneness- is a purely non-dualistic state of perfect, abstract, limitless, and unconditional love with no opposite. The world of duality is the illusory world of separation marked by time, space, perception, change and form- the world we know in which we appear to have a special, physical and psychological self. This is the world in which language as we know it appears to exist, given that only bodies communicate using words.
So when we say that the Course is written in the language of metaphor, symbolism and myth, we’re essentially saying that it’s written using dualistic language- that is, the language of illusion. This specifically shows up as passages in which God is depicted as having human and/or physical characteristics or spoken of in terms that imply that He is separate from us, thus implying that sin is real (aka the separation occurred). He is described as our Father for one; a very human role we can understand and relate to, seeing as though we all have biological fathers and possibly father-figures. At times, God is described as having physical body parts such as arms, a voice, and hands. He’s even depicted as experiencing human emotional states such as yearning, loneliness and a sense of incompletion.
Yet as we know from our foundational core tenet that the world isn’t real because the separation never occurred, Reality, and thus God, is non-dualistic. In other words, God/Source can’t have a body, so it’s not literally correct to describe Him in this anthropomorphic way. He doesn’t have eyes to cry from, or arms with which to hold us. So why does Jesus use this dualistic language that wrongly anthropomorphises God? Simply because He’s a masterful teacher. He knows that if we’re ever going to learn what he’s teaching, He needs to communicate to us using language that we can understand, which respects the condition in which we think we exist (as bodies).
There are parts of the Course where Jesus likens us to babies and infants in our spiritual development for good reason. His point isn’t to insult us, but merely to emphasise that we have a great deal to learn before we’ll able to communicate on his level, and understand the full scope of what who we really are, and the nature of reality. This simply means he has to meet us where we’re at; he has to speak to us in a manner that’s appropriate for our level of development, and proportional to our ability to comprehend.
Before your ego can jump up defensively to try to reinforce your specialness, keep in mind that we’re all essentially in the same boat if we think we’re here in this world
The point of understanding that we’re basically spiritual infants, is to also grasp that it’s impossible to truly describe God- what is totally non-dualistic, perfect, and abstract all-encompassing love- in dualistic terms to us in our current split-mind state. You cannot limit the limitless, and language is a limitation on true communication. It was designed to be inhernetly limited, as was everything else in the world of illusion.
It’s for this reason that Jesus uses the language of myth and metaphor. He’s simply trying to reach us the only way we can currently understand without fear, using the very tools we made to limit God, in order to lead us back to Him. Thankfully, it’s by referring back to this core tenet that the dualistic world is not real and only God’s non-dualistic oneness is real, that we can differentiate between what is intended literally and figuratively. Consider it your mental cheat sheet and baseline literal/figurative-checker that you can use to assess every passage in the Course against.
Keeping it in mind and applying it to lines in the Course, it’s easy to see that whenever you read anything that refers to God as having human or physical
Now rewind back to the quote above, and think about it from this basic literal/figurative cheat-sheet-checking framework: “The light in you is what the universe longs to behold.” Note that it contains two important points, both embedded within a dualistic framework. First, it asserts that you have a light within you, and secondly, it implies that you have hidden that light and that the universe is waiting, longing even, to see that light in you. Both ideas harken back to the Course’s ego-origin and dualistic world mythology: the idea that when the separation occurred, you could not completely lose yourself and sever your connection with God. Instead, the light of God- a remnant of your true Self as the Son of God- still remains hidden deep within you even as you believe you walk the earth as a body, and that the universe, or God/Source/Creator, yearns and expectantly awaits your return, much like the father in the prodigal son parable.
Another give away that this quote is purely intended to be understood as
So in summary, the universe, or God/Source, is not literally longing to behold the light in us. In truth, we already are, always have been and always will be the ‘light;’ one with the perfect peace, joy and love of the Universe/God/Source. But given we have no memory or understanding of this Self and only know ourselves as bodies, this quote is simply attempting to eloqeuntly remind us of what we’ve forgotten, and help motivate us to forgive so we can return to our true identity as spirit.
Let the beauty of the poetic nature of the Course move you by all means, but just be careful not to mistake the figurative, mythic, symbolic passages within it as literal truth. The metaphoric language is used to express the content of non-dualistic, perfect, unconditional and limitless love that is far beyond the capacity of words to convey, and our ability to comprehend in this world. But what it can help us do, is inspire us to follow Jesus’s advice so that we can undo the ego enough that we will eventually reach the point at which our need for words, and all symbols, is over. It is only then that we will have returned to our true eternal state of being, where we experience ourselves at one with God’s perfect love fully and directly.