"If I am bound, my Father is not free."
The Course often sets forth a set of what, for us, seem to be rather confusing interrelationships. It says that how I treat my brother is a reflection of how I treat myself. It says how I treat myself is a reflection of how I treat God. It says how I treat my brother is a reflection of how I treat God. For all three you could substitute the phrase "how I see" for "how I treat."
This set of connections seems confusing to us only because we persist in conceiving of our Self, our brother and God as separate beings. We are not separate. It is not simply that how I see myself reflects how I see God; it is how I see God, because I am part of God, an extension of Him, an extrusion of His nature. God is all that is. There is no other.
Therefore, "If I accept that I am prisoner within a body, in a world in which all things that seem to live appear to die, then is my Father prisoner with me. And this do I believe..." (1:1-2). The Course is constantly telling me that I believe things I don't think I believe. In "The Fear of Redemption" it says I believe I have crucified God's Son. And here it tells me that I believe God is a prisoner.
I certainly don't go around saying that God is a prisoner. The idea that God is a prisoner seems shocking to me; my mental concept of God is that He is omnipotent. How can I believe something without being aware I believe it? Actually it is quite easy; I do it all the time. And sometimes I've even caught myself doing it.
For instance, sometimes I have noticed that when another person approaches me in a very open and loving way, my first reaction is not welcome but suspicion. I think that behind the appearance of love there is probably some ulterior motive, something that I need to be on guard against. "What does this person want from me?" might be my thought. Or perhaps I suspect them of trying to manipulate me in some way. What that kind of response is indicating is that I believe love Itself is suspect. I don't trust love. I don't trust my own, I don't trust the love of others, and above all, I don't trust God's Love.
Another way I see that same suspicion of love in myself is when I feel loving feelings for another person. I suspect my own motives, particularly if the person is an attractive female. Again, there is the underlying belief, a belief I have not consciously admitted to myself, that Love cannot be trusted.
What this lesson is saying is that when I accept myself as a prisoner, I am betraying a hidden belief that God is a prisoner, too. This is so because the facts of reality are that God and I are one, part of the same Being, or rather, I am part of His Being. Since reality is One, what I believe about any part I am believing about the Whole, whether or not I realize it. "If I am bound in any way, I do not know my Father nor my Self. And I am lost to all reality" (1:3-4).
We could easily use this line to condemn ourselves and get into a guilt trip. There isn't one of us who doesn't seem himself or herself bound in some way. We all feel we are limited by the laws of the world--laws of nutrition, laws of finance, laws of health, laws of marriage. We all believe that we will die. We all believe that certain of our weaknesses are real and can't be overcome; if we did not believe that we would have already overcome them! We all believe that we are limited by time and space; for instance, that if a friend moves a thousand miles away we can no longer relate to them as closely as we have before. So am I then "lost to reality?" Is my situation hopeless?
No, it isn't hopeless. All we need to do is recognize these beliefs in ourselves and admit that we do hold them. We need to see that every belief in our own limits is a belief that God is limited; every belief that I am imprisoned or trapped in some way is a belief that God is imprisoned and trapped. Notice what we are doing. Acknowledge we are doing it. And simply tell God, for instance, "I'm seeing You as limited and blocked, and You are not limited and blocked. Help me to see that." And that is all.
"Father, I ask for nothing but the truth. I have had many foolish thoughts about myself and my creation, and have brought a dream of fear into my mind. Today, I would not dream. I choose the way to You instead of madness and instead of fear. For truth is safe, and only love is sure" (2:1-4).
That is all. Acknowledge that you have had "foolish thoughts" (not "sinful thoughts"), and ask for the truth. That's all.
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