A Course in Miracles, its Teaching about Death.

My experience with death is limited because I have never been present when a fellow human died. But once I held one of my wife Marianne’s small dogs when it was dying and told her, “It’s OK to go.” As she did I felt the warmth of her being leave as her small body became cold.

I was appalled at the North  Country Catholic ritual of a wake for my Paternal Grandmother. Her descendants actually fed her corpse. Thankfully I was told about it so did not have to see it. Her grown sons wept by her grave. That was an insight into how they loved her for being the embodiment of Kindness and love.

My father died in Hospital early during a summer morning alone with a nurse. My mother died when I was in England at Glastonbury as I dreamed of her and my father dancing above the famous spring there as kings and queens playing cards.
Except for my mother, they died long before I was a student of A Course in Miracles. Now as a student of ACIM I refer to death as passing or passed away. ** (please see footnote)
My wife Marianne passed away long after we were both students of the Course (27 years). She always said, “I’m going first.” She did after 18 hours of discomfort and pain refusing any medical help. She went home to God sleeping with her head on a pillow in front of her laptop. It was appropriate because it was where she sent reams of helpful advice to her hundreds of female friends.

I was shocked. I had no Idea that she would pass away that morning. I went there to check on how she was, and she was gone. Nevertheless, her passing brings to mind the title of one of J.S. Bach’s many vocal compositions.
“Death, where is thy sting?”

Jesus answers Bach’s question.   In A Course in Miracles he teaches us that Death has no ‘sting’ because death, like every illusion in our dream of separation does not exist. Marianne knew that as she set aside her body and returned home to the mind of God. This Lesson from The Workbook for Students imparts that message. [in the passage the pronoun it refers to the body]

   LESSON 294. My body is a wholly neutral thing.

I am a Son of God. And can I be another thing as well? Did God create the mortal and corruptible? What use has God’s beloved Son for what must die? And yet a neutral thing does not see death, for thoughts of fear are not invested there, nor is a mockery of love bestowed upon it. Its neutrality protects it while it has a use. And afterwards, without a purpose, it is laid aside. It is not sick nor old nor hurt. It is but functionless, unneeded and cast off. Let me not see it more than this today; of service for a while and fit to serve, to keep its usefulness while it can serve, and then to be replaced for greater good.  (my emphasis)

My body, Father, cannot be Your Son. And what is not created cannot be sinful nor sinless; neither good nor bad. Let me, then, use this dream to help Your plan that we awaken from all dreams we made.

The concept outlined in this Workbook lesson also answers the question I asked as an Altar Boy when the priest recited this from the Apostle’s Creed.
“I believe in the resurrection of the body…”

I always thought, “That’s silly, what will we do here with billions of resurrected bodies?” In ACIM we learn that we will lay our bodies aside when we are finished with them. Then as spirit we return to the mind of God in Heaven.

There are dozens of referrals and discussions of death in ACIM. The first is in the Text in Chapter I.

The emptiness engendered by fear must be replaced by forgiveness. That is what the Bible means by “There is no death,” and why I could demonstrate that death does not exist. I came to fulfill the law by reinterpreting it. [T-1.IV 4.1-3]

Jesus discusses the crucifixion in Chapter VI where he explains why it was a
Demonstration. He could not die because he lives as spirit as we all do, and
his body was an illusion.

The last reference to death comes in the pamphlet The Song of Prayer.

The body’s healing will occur because its cause has gone. And now without a cause, it cannot come again in different form. Nor will death any more be feared because it has been understood. There is no fear in one who has been truly healed, for love has entered now where idols used to stand, and fear has given way at last to God. [S.3.III.6.3-6]

Between these two excerpts Jesus repeats his teaching about death
over and over in various contexts. Here is that view from Ken Wapnick’s
Glossary-Index for A Course in Miracles (4th ed. P.53).

…the final witness to the seeming reality of the body and the separation from our creator, Who is life;

…if the body dies then it must have lived, which means its maker — the ego — must be real and alive as well;

…also seen by the ego as the ultimate punishment for our sin of
separation from God.

The quiet laying down of the body after it has fulfilled its purpose as a
teaching device.
Marianne gave us a meaningful example of the last sentence of Ken’s definition, as he also did when he passed away in December of 2013. Marianne and Ken were friends. She appreciated his teaching, and he valued her writings. Here is one of them.

Mama was canning peaches when I left for school that September morning in 1939. I stood watching the jars of peaches as mama took them out of the canner; the little boiling bubbles of peach juice rising gaily toward the tops of their glossy jars. As I stood nibbling my last tiny delicious nubbin of toast spread with home-made raspberry jam—my favorite— papa cracked me hard across my shoulders and told me to get my books and get off up the hill to meet the school bus.
Each Friday my teacher Miss Dutcher, gave me permission to study the un-abridged dictionary that sat often unattended, on the enormous mahogany table in the center of the school library. I was all alone in that lovely pine-paneled room and I was near the end of the “G’s”. The meaning of GREATNESS was the word I was memorizing.
Just then the clock over the library door ticked loudly in the silent room announcing my time to leave. I climbed down carefully from the little wooden bench built for short people so we could reach to the top of the dictionary pages…..carefully because I could still feel the pain from being struck that morning.
I gathered up my notebook and pencils and as I headed for the library door I glanced at the alabaster bust of Abraham Lincoln who sat to my right partway up the wall. I liked Lincoln’s look—his soulful eyes, beard and shock of dark hair far better than George Washington’s big nose and stern face across the room. As I walked through the doorway past President Lincoln he winked at me and suddenly there was — the list.
It was in front of my face, yet I could see through it across the hall to the cranberry colored drinking fountain. The marble hall floor seemed solid beneath my brown shoes; my desk — third in the row of seven was exactly where I expected it to be. My navy blue dress with tiny red stars around the hem looked as it always did. Rev. Rev. Premru was by the blackboard ready to give his Friday afternoon talks about the Bible. Everything seemed the same yet there was –the list– before my face.
Everything was the same, yet everything was different. Gradually the list seemed to become a part of my forehead and a part of me. I was eight years old.
god is real – you are real – god is sprit
you are spirit – your home is heaven – there is one truth and that truth is love
your life goals are honor and respect – you are on a journey
nothing you see is real – light shines on you
Her emphasis was on life as she passed into God’s eternal love.
** Instead of me trying to summarize common thinking about death I refer you to two recent articles republished in, www.thebrowser.com. In Why We Can’t Stop for Death, John Gray reviews four books about death. (New Statesman, 2 Sept. 15). The other article is, Living In The Age Of Permawar, (Mohsin Hamid, Guardian, 22 Aug. 15). These articles provide in-depth discussions of ordinary beliefs about death, as opposed to Jesus’ helpful teaching in ACIM.
One of the books Gray reviews is, The Worm at the Core, (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, Allen Lane). It’s a revitalization of Ernest Becker’s thought in his 1973 Pulitzer winner, The Denial of Death. Becker believed that the denial of death “is the driving force of civilization.”
In is article Hamid discusses his beliefs about death from his perspective from growing up is Pakistan. He refers to death as a “permawar” with sharks stalking us all. All of the authors of these works focus on the body. Hamid does bring up religion as a dual thought process; one which teaches love in the purist sense (as does the Course) and also as, “one of the great soundtracks of the permawar, you cannot, do not, deny.”

Forgiveness in A Course in Miracles

Forgiveness is the basis of all helpful ideas that guide us through our days here in this world. But to use Course concepts of forgiveness we need to change our mind about old entrenched and basic beliefs considering forgiveness. Here is a commonly accepted definition of forgiveness from the OED. (It could define the Catholic Church’s sacrament of penance: AKA confession).

1. The action of forgiving; pardon of a fault, remission of a debt, etc. †In OE. also:
Indulgent permission.
The etymological sense, ‘condition or fact of being forgiven’, is not
clearly evidenced even in OE., though in expressions like ‘the
forgiveness of sins’ the word may admit of being thus interpreted.
2. Disposition or willingness to forgive.

Here is ACIM’s definition from Part II of the Workbook for Students; it’s the first of 14 questions.

                               1. What Is Forgiveness?
Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred. It does not pardon sins and make them real. It sees there was no sin. And in that view are all your sins forgiven. What is sin, except a false idea about God’s Son? Forgiveness merely sees its falsity, and therefore lets it go. What then is free to take its place is now the Will of God. [W-pII.1.1-7.] (my emphasis}

The Course answer includes four more paragraphs followed by ten lessons in which Jesus builds on the ideas in the answer. So, knowing the entrenched ideas associated with forgiveness, he gives us a detailed explanation for a very different way to think about an old concept.

Clearly in the above answer,
“…what your brother did has not occurred …it sees there was no sin…”
is diametrically opposed to common beliefs about forgiveness.

There is no need for a sacrament of penance with this statement. But, how can we change our beliefs and let go of past affronts and assaults on our minds and bodies?

We have a helpful lesson from Shakespeare’s play, Much Ado About Nothing. In it Claudio falls in love with a beautiful girl named Hero. He asks her to marry him and she accepts, but before their wedding a villain sets up a false scene that convinces Claudio that Hero is unfaithful. Then cruelly, he denounces her during their wedding. That leads Hero’s father and the priest to set up another ruse which convinces Claudio that Hero died of grief because of his false accusation.

Then Claudio (still believing Hero is dead), is told about the villain’s treachery. Then he pardons her and tells her father to choose a punishment for him. It is; pray at her grave daily and marry Hero’s cousin who Claudio is told, is very much like Hero. During that wedding they exchange lines that cause Claudio to realize that the girl before him is Hero. He exclaims,

‘Another Hero,’ who answers, ‘Nothing curtainer: One Hero defiled, but I do live and as surely as I live I am a maid.’

[ Shakespeare, William, Much Ado About nothing, Act V. scene IV ]

All is forgiven and they live happily … etc.

Shakespeare’s play illustrates how we all deceive ourselves by believing that what is happening in this world is real. Claudio’s behavior illustrates this passage from What is Forgiveness?

An unforgiving thought is one that makes a judgment that it will not raise to doubt, although it is not true. [w.pII.1.2.1]

Shakespeare’s play shows us how we all make such judgments, and further how we make “much ado about” our illusions – which are all nothing. It’s easy to see Claudio’s unforgiving thought. How about ours? Let’s find them, dismiss them and get on with our day with a clear and forgiving mind.

Also, according to an article which appeared in the web site SALON by Megan Feldman Bettencourt,* forgiveness is good for our mental and physical health. She discusses scientific studies carried out during the last 15-20 years. One strategy researchers used was to encourage study subjects to “re-frame” their perception of what someone else did to them in positive ways. That caused good things to happen, like feeling better physically and mentally. So with scientific studies which support Course ideas about forgiveness; we have added reason to accept the first sentence in question number I in Part II of The Workbook for Students.

Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred.

At the very end of Chapter 16 of the text is a new “Lord’s Prayer.” It starts with a petition for forgiveness; then a plea for help to accept of our true relationship with God, an understanding that our Holiness is God’s and a statement that we have no need of God’s forgiveness. It is a profound series of helpful thoughts for daily help. The final sentence asks that God’s gifts be solely those which enter the mind he gave us and loves. Here is the whole prayer.

Forgive us our illusions, Father, and help us to accept our true relationship with You, in which there are no illusions, and where none can ever enter. Our holiness is Yours. What can there be in us that needs forgiveness when Yours is perfect? The sleep of forgetfulness is only the unwillingness to remember Your forgiveness and Your Love. Let us not wander into temptation, for the temptation of the Son of God is not Your Will. And let us receive only what You have given, and accept but this into the minds which You created and which You love. Amen

Many times in the Text Jesus teaches the idea that we need to forgive ourselves for the “…tiny mad idea,” that we could choose to be separate from God. Forgiving ourselves for that will lead us to believe that the world of separation (which in the above prayer is the sleep of forgetfulness), is an illusion. Therefore; when we cease our illusory dream here our mind returns to Heaven where we have never left. Thus death is abolished.

Finally, this aphorism by F.M. Alexander, founder of the Alexander Technique puts it in a “nutshell.”

All the dammed fools in the world really think they are doing what they think they are doing.

In my next blog I will discuss ACIM’s teaching regarding death, along with a brief tour of non-course attitudes towards it.

*Based on her Book, Triumph of The Heart: Forgiveness in an Unforgiving world, Hudson St Press, Aug. 15

Please check out my web site www.god-jesus-course-in-miracles.com