What Am I?
(These are the comments from the first day's portion of the "What Am I" section - Lesson 351)
This section is one of the most powerful statements in the Course of its vision of our true nature, of how it can be realized within this world of time and space, and of the function that follows naturally from the fact of what we are. The opening paragraph is an extremely potent declaration, in the first person, of our real Identity. Often I find that reading something like this aloud, by myself, helps me to focus on it and to feel what it is saying. An interesting side effect is that, in making these statements firmly, saying them as if I truly believed them (even if I do not yet), arouses opposing thoughts in my mind. Noting those opposing thoughts and writing them down can be a very useful exercise in uncovering the hidden beliefs of the ego that have lodged in my mind, so that I can recognize their presence and decide that I do not want them.
For instance in the first sentence we read, "I am...complete and healed and whole." I find opposing thoughts that arise, such as, "I am far from complete; I have a long way to go." "I am fragmented, not whole." "I wish I were healed but I'm not." These are lessons the ego has taught me, and they are not true. I can recognize that these thoughts are blocking my acceptance of the Course's message, and I can choose against them. For example, I might say, "I feel incomplete and I believe in my incompleteness, but in reality I am already complete. I want to know my own completion."
"I am God's Son...shining in the reflection of His Love" (1:1).
The light in me is the reflection of God's Light and God's Love. I shine, but my glory is a reflected glory, as the moon's light is completely dependent on that of the sun. It is something that emanates from God and radiates through me but not from me, and unless I acknowledge my connection with my Creator, I mask that shining.
"In me is creation sanctified and guaranteed eternal life" (1:2).
This sounds like something that, in traditional Christianity, Jesus might say, similar to, "I am the way, the truth and the life." And indeed, Jesus might say this. But so can we! We are all what he was and is; that is what he is telling us in this Course. Creation is "sanctified" (made holy) in me. What I am, my very being, is what makes creation holy. I do not need to be made holy or to become holy; I am the source (a reflected source but still a source) of holiness. And what I am guarantees eternal life for all creation, because all creation is what I am. I am God's Son , the radiance of His Love which has shined out and become me; that is also what all creation is, the extension of His Love. The fact that I am God's Son, an emanation of His Being, like a sunbeam to the sun, guarantees eternal life because what God is, is eternal, and if I am simply an effect of God, Who is eternal, then I, too, must be eternal, "forever and forever" His effect.
"In me is love perfected, fear impossible, and joy established without opposite" (1:3).
We find it very difficult to believe that perfect love is in us. "You have so little faith in yourself because you are unwilling to accept the fact that perfect love is in you" (T-15.VI.2:1). So it isn't really that believing this is difficult ; it is that we are unwilling to accept it! Our ego identity depends on its not being true. If perfect love from God is in us, then what we are derives from God and not from ourselves alone, which is what the ego wants to believe. We would rather be fear than be love, because we made fear. The truth is still the truth; perfect love is in us, whether or not we believe it, whether or not we think we want it. What we believe cannot change God's creation.
Fear is impossible in me. Now that generates a lot of negative feedback, doesn't it? "If fear is impossible, then what the hell is this thing I am feeling?" What is it? The Course would reply that what we feel is an illusion, a non-existent nothing, a figment of our imagination. What it is is meaningless. What if, when I felt afraid, I told myself, "I think I am feeling fear, but fear in me is impossible"? What if I realized that what I think I am feeling is not in me , but in a delusional concept of myself I have mistaken for myself?
"...and joy established without opposite." That is my reality. I don't experience it that way now, probably. Even when I do feel joy, there is always an opposite lurking in the shadows. But that opposite, that fear, that dark presence, is unreal. It is nothing to be afraid of and does not, in reality, exist.
(These are the comments from the second day's portion of the "What Am I" section - Lesson 352)
"I am the holy Home of God Himself" (1:4). Wow! That makes more of an impact on us, put that way, than simply saying, "God is in me." I am God's Home. Home is not just some place God happens to be; it is where He resides, where He chooses to be, where He can make Himself comfortable, so to speak. In Psalm 132:14, God is said to have proclaimed about Zion, or Jerusalem, "This [is] my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it." Now, we are His home. Now, He speaks to you, and to me, saying that we are his rest forever, that He will dwell in us because He has desired it. That was His intention all along when He created us.
"I am the Heaven where His Love resides" (1:5). We may have naively believed that God lives in Heaven and not in us. Here, we see that, Yes, God lives or resides in Heaven, but we are Heaven . What a mind-blower that is! I'll bet you have thought, for most of your life, that if you were good enough, or if you were holy enough, or if you had enough faith, you'd get to go to Heaven. Sorry, no go. You can't go to Heaven because you are Heaven, where God's Love resides.
"I am His holy Sinlessness Itself, for in my purity abides His own" (1:6). Did you notice that all three of these sentences use words about God's place of residence? "...the holy Home...where His Love resides...in my purity abides His own." God isn't just passing through! He isn't just visiting. He lives here, in me, in you; this is His home; He abides [stays, remains] here, in us.
I have to confess that I can't quite yet wrap my mind around the idea that I am God's holy Sinlessness. "Sinlessness" seems like a rather abstract concept; I have a little trouble understanding how I can be sinlessness. The second half of the sentence helps me out a little: "...for in my purity abides His own." I can sort of grasp it by an analogy. A parent who gives his or her time and energy to raising a child, teaching it all they know, finds their own success and happiness in that child's success and happiness. "My child's happiness is my own. My child's success is my own." I think it is similar to that. God extended Himself as us. What we are is His extension. Our purity is His; if we are not sinless, no more is He. We are what He is, extended outward. If I am not pure, He is not, for our nature is His. If we are what He is, then it is true in reverse; He is what we are. Therefore, "I am His holy Sinlessness Itself."
(These are the comments from the third day's portion of the "What Am I" section - Lesson 353)
"Our use for words is almost over now" (2:1). Throughout the Workbook, words have been used to instruct and inspire us, and we have used the words given to us in our practicing. When we are truly ready to "graduate" from the Workbook and its level of training, we will be ready to leave specific words behind. We will be ready to spend our days in constant communication with the Holy Spirit, with no need for any special saying to act as a trigger, to entrain our minds along the lines of the Course, because, at that point, our minds will be fully trained. We will habitually practice holy instants and spend time often each day renewing our minds in God's Presence.
Few, if any, of us are truly at that point. I know, regretfully, that I am not. I have not followed the training program given to us faithfully, and so I still need more training, in which the use of words is still essential. I still need the crutch of words; or a better analogy than "crutch"--training wheels. I will be repeating the Workbook again next year. Not with reluctance or with a sense of defeat, oh no! I have made a great deal of progress in this last year, I think. The lessons stick with me during the day much better than ever before, and my mind does remember to apply them in response to "temptation." Not always, but more frequently.
"Yet in the final days of this one year we gave to God together, you and I, we found a single purpose that we shared" (2:2). Surely this is one of the goals of the Workbook, that we would come to realize that we share a common purpose with Jesus; we are saviors (see paragraph 3). We have begun to remember, not only our own guiltlessness, but our purpose, what we were created for: to extend love to others, as God created us by extending His Love.
"And this, our gift, is therefore given us" (2:3). Because we have learned that we are here to give blessing to the world, blessing is given to us. Because we have learned to forgive, we receive our own forgiveness. This is the law of love. This is the way love works.
When the training goal of the Workbook is fully achieved in us, we have not only found our own individual salvation, we have found that our salvation lies in bringing release to others. We are saved by saving others; forgiven by forgiving others; healed by healing others. "I will be healed when I let Him teach me to heal" (T-2.V(A).18:6).
(These are the comments from the fourth day's portion of the "What Am I" section - Lesson 354)
"The truth of what we are is not for words to speak of nor describe" (2:4). Words can only take us so far. They can bring us to the door of Heaven, but cannot bring us in. All the words of the Course itself, as wondrous as they are, can do no more than that. That is not a deficiency in the Course, nor a deficiency in words as such. Words are merely symbols. They can do no more than symbols can do, and that is quite a lot, and all that is necessary. The truth of what we are will, Itself, do the rest.
That truth, and the complete knowing of it, is beyond the reach of words, and therefore, beyond our reach within this world, which is a world of symbols and not of realities. Still, there is no reason for despair at that. What we are cannot be here, any more than a "real," physical person can exist within a dream, any more than a three-dimensional figure could enter a two-dimensional world. (Another example: an actual cube, with three dimensions, cannot exist on a sheet of paper; the best that can be done is a perspective drawing that suggests three dimensions.)
"Yet we can realize our function here, and words can speak of this and teach it, too, if we exemplify the words in us" (2:5). Even though we cannot fully know the truth of what we are, here in this world, we can express it; we can, as it were, create a perspective drawing that suggests that truth. How? By fulfilling the function God has given us, the function which the Course has repeatedly stated in various ways: forgiveness; to be happy; extension; to fulfill the Will of God; giving of ourselves; filling our part in God's plan; adding to God's treasure by creating our own; giving and receiving healing; using the Atonement. This is something words can speak of, and words can also teach forgiveness, if (at the same time) "we exemplify the words in us." If the words we speak run through our very beings like watermarks through a banknote, the words can convey what forgiveness is. If our lives are examples of what we are talking about, our words have power. In other words, if we fulfill our function of forgiveness, we can teach forgiveness. And that is our "perspective drawing" of the truth of our being. That is the reflection, in this world, of the Love that we are.
Consider the Course as an example of the very thing it is telling us here. Why are its words so powerful? I think that the reason is that they are spoken by one who exemplifies the words he speaks. Even in the way Jesus (the author) speaks to us, and deals with our flaws, our stubbornness and thick-headedness, our doubts and our vacillation, we can sense the reality behind the words he is giving us. Never once does he seem to become impatient with us. Never once does he belittle us or verbally snort in disgust at our stupidity. When he speaks of forgiveness, there is a spirit of forgiveness that runs through the very words themselves and conveys itself to us. When he tells us to look on everyone as our equal, we get the sense that he is looking on us as his equal. When he says we can see everyone without seeing any sin, we can tell that this is how he sees us .
That is where he is leading us, each and every one of us. It is what the Manual for Teachers, in the section on the characteristics of God's Teachers, calls honesty .
"Honesty does not apply only to what you say. The term actually means consistency. There is nothing you say that contradicts what you think or do; no thought opposes any other thought; no act belies your word; and no word lacks agreement with another" (M-4.II.1:4-6).
Only in fulfilling our function, only in making ourselves into an incarnation of the Course, can we come to realize and recognize its message for ourselves. Only in giving it to others, in word and in deed, can we come to receive it fully for ourselves.
(These are the comments from the fifth day's portion of the "What Am I" section - Lesson 355)
What is "our function," spoken of at the end of Paragraph 2? "We are the bringers of salvation" (3:1). Have I really considered that this is my function? Have I begun to realize that, each day as I live my life, this is what I am really living for--to bring salvation to the world? We are not talking here about rescuing people; we are talking about seeing them as God created them, and seeing them that way so clearly and so strongly that our vision of them begins to open their eyes to the same thing. We are talking about holding such an unambiguous picture of their innocence that they can see their own innocence reflected from us.
"We accept our part as saviors of the world, which through our joint forgiveness is redeemed" (3:2). We save the world by forgiving it. And we exercise this forgiveness as joint forgiveness, along with Jesus. We join with him in lifting guilt and blame from each person we interact with. This is how the world is "redeemed," bought back from its slavery to guilt and fear.
"And this, our gift, is therefore given us" (3:3). Once again the oft-repeated theme: we receive forgiveness as we give it.
"We look on everyone as brother, and perceive all things as kindly and as good" (1:4). This is the vision of a savior. This is how a savior sees things. To see everyone as brother is to see them as our equal, sharing in the guiltlessness of God's creation. To see all things as kindly is to realize that even what appears to be attack does not make the "attacker" unkind; behind the fear that drives the apparent attack is still a kind and gentle heart. Some of us, perhaps, have begun to realize this about ourselves and about others. We acknowledge that we have made mistakes, and that we have acted unlovingly, and yet we know that underneath that mask of anger and selfishness our hearts are kind. We do not want to hurt but we feel driven to it by circumstance, it seems the only way we can survive. That is the ego's lie to us, that attack is necessary for survival. The Course asks us:
"Do you not think the world needs peace as much as you do? Do you not want to give it to the world as much as you want to receive it? For unless you do, you will not receive it. If you want to have it of me, you must give it. Healing does not come from anyone else" (T-8.IV.4:1-5).
"There is no living thing that does not share the universal Will that it be whole" (T-31.I.9:1).
Our path to salvation lies in coming to realize that all livings things share the universal Will to be whole, that everyone wants peace just as we do, and that, beneath all the masks we wear so faithfully, what we are, all of us, is Love.
(These are the comments from the sixth day's portion of the "What Am I" section - Lesson 356)
Our function, then, is to bring salvation to the world. "We do not seek a function that is past the gate of Heaven" (3:5). In other words, we do not disdain this "lowly" calling of bringing healing to this world of form; we do not try to claim that we are fulfilling our function of creating (which is our function in Heaven), and cannot be bothered with the base forms within the illusion. Doing that is what one of my old Christian teachers used to call "being too heavenly-minded to be of any earthly use."
"Knowledge will return when we have done our part" (3:6). "Knowledge" refers to the perfection of Heaven, to direct knowing of the truth, rather than the lower avenue of perception of forms. "Our part" is to purify our perception of forms. Our part is to work within the illusion, to turn the nightmare into a happy dream; only when we have done this will knowledge return.
"We are concerned only with giving welcome to the truth" (3:7). We are not trying to directly apprehend the truth. We are not focused on having mystical experiences of God, on bypassing the world of form and leaving it behind, although, to be sure, we DO seek to enter the holy instant frequently to renew our vision of Heaven. Our primary concern, however, is on "giving welcome to the truth," that is, preparing ourselves for it, making things ready for it, educating ourselves to accept it. And that is something that goes on within this world, within this illusion we call physical life. Here, the many holy instants we experience (and which we desire to experience above all things) lead to a result: the Holy Spirit sends us out in "busy doing" here within the world, carrying with us the quiet center we have found in the holy instant, and sharing it with the world (T-18.VII.8:1-5).
(These are the comments from the seventh day's portion of the "What Am I" section - Lesson 357)
This passage is reminiscent of the paragraph in the Review V:
"Let this review be then your gift to me. For this alone I need; that you will hear the words I speak, and give them to the world. You are my voice, my eyes, my feet, my hands through which I save the world. The Self from which I call to you is but your own. To Him we go together. Take your brother's hand, for this is not a way we walk alone. In him I walk with you, and you with me. Our Father wills His Son be one with Him. What lives but must not then be one with you?" (W-pI.rV.in.9:1-9)
Christ sees through our eyes. Our ears are those that hear the Voice for God. Our minds are the minds that join together. As bringers of salvation, we have only one, single function: to hear the words Jesus speaks, and give them to the world. And what is the kernel of those words? Seeing the world with no thought of sin; hearing the message that the world is sinless; joining in union to bless the world.
Am I a blessing to those around me? Or a burden? Do I lift guilt from them, or do I lay it on them? I am not really grasping the message of the Course until I have begun to realize that I am here to be a channel of God's grace to the world, to release everyone I come in contact with from their guilt, and most especially from the guilt that I have laid upon them.
(These are the comments from the eighth day's portion of the "What Am I" section - Lesson 358)
"And from the oneness that we have attained we call to all our brothers, asking them to share our peace and consummate our joy."
We attain oneness gradually. In reality we don't strictly "attain" oneness, we remember it, we become aware of what has always been. But, in time, it seems as though we attain it bit by bit. We begin with very brief holy instants, flashes of remembrance, like a forgotten dream we are struggling to recall. Those moments of memory come more and more frequently, more and more clearly, and last longer and longer, until, one day, we remember fully and forever. Each instant we are in that oneness, we recognize that we are not there alone, and cannot be there alone. We experience peace and joy, and yet our joy cannot be consummated until everyone shares it with us, and wakes up to the reality of who and what they are. So we call to them, we reach out to them.
The state of mind we are seeking, which we might call the enlightened state of mind, is one which perceives its connection to all of God's creations, and is moved irresistibly to re-establish the full communication of that perfect oneness in all its parts. As the "bodhisattva" of Buddhist tradition foregoes Nirvana to save others, being unwilling to pass into that state of perfect bliss until "every blade of grass is enlightened," the right-minded continually call out to all their brothers, asking them to share their peace. Jesus exemplifies this attitude as he speaks in "The Circle of Atonement," T-14.V.9:4-10, and 8:6:
"I stand within the circle, calling you to peace. Teach peace with me, and stand with me on holy ground. Remember for everyone your Father's power that He has given him. Believe not that you cannot teach His perfect peace. Stand not outside, but join with me within. Fail not the only purpose to which my teaching calls you. Restore to God His Son as He created him, by teaching him his innocence."
"Stand quietly within this circle, and attract all tortured minds to join with you in the safety of its peace and holiness."
(These are the comments from the ninth day's portion of the "What Am I" section - Lesson 359)
Whether we really know it or not, "We are the holy messengers of God" (5:1). That is our function; it is what we were created to do--express God. This is our job here, and we won't be completely happy until we are carrying it out. The way this is worded here seems significant; we are "carrying His Word to everyone whom He has sent to us;" it does not say, "to whom we are sent." It is not so much that we go out looking for people to give the message to; rather, they come looking for us. That is a different attitude than the one which says, "Let us go out and convert the world." This is simply a passing along of the message of peace and the fact of forgiveness to everyone who comes into our lives. People don't just "happen" to show up in our lives; they are sent. And they are sent because we have something to give to them.
Let me begin to learn to ask myself, when someone shows up in my life, in my time, or perhaps in my face: "What do I have to give to this person? What is the Word of God I can communicate to her? What does God want to say to this person through me?" Or, in much simpler terms, "How can I be truly helpful to this person?"
Doing this--actually doing it, not just thinking about it--is how I learn that the Word of God is written on my heart (5:1). And doing this is how my mind is changed about what I am and what I am doing here. My mind won't be changed just by trying to change my mind; it is changed by carrying God's Word to everyone He sends to me. When I engage in that kind of active serving and forgiving of my brothers and sisters, I begin to form a new opinion of myself. I begin to see myself in a different light. That is the Holy Spirit's plan of salvation.
(These are the comments from the tenth day's portion of the "What Am I" section - Lesson 360)
Our function here is to "bring glad tidings to the Son of God, who thought he suffered" (5:3). The Son of God who thought he suffered is you, me, and everyone who comes into our life. What a wonderful calling! To announce, as the prophet Isaiah said in the Old Testament,
"...to preach good tidings unto the meek; ...to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to [them that are] bound;...to comfort all that mourn; ...to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isaiah 61:1-3).
This season of Christmas is said to be a time of "great joy for all people." In the Course we have a continuation of that message, and we are its heralds. We can announce, "Now is [the Son of God] redeemed" (5:4). The way is open for every one of us to find our way home, and to know first our perfect forgiveness, and then the immensity of God's Love.
"And as he sees the gate of heaven stand open before him, he will enter in and disappear into the Heart of God" (5:5). As these "glad tidings" are received, we will all, in the end, enter in through the heavenly gates, symbolic of entering into the awareness of perfect Oneness. In that Oneness we will disappear into the Heart of God. That word "disappear" does not, in any sense, mean that we shall cease to exist, or that we will be absorbed and somehow blotted out by the absorption. It is just that all sense of difference and separateness will be gone, along with all desire for it. We will disappear in the Oneness, but we will be in that Oneness, profoundly a part of it, radiantly fulfilling our function, shining forever in the eternal glory of God.