The Mysteries of A Course in Miracles, Chapter 16

The Mysteries of the Dream

There is a major problem created by some of the wording of the teachings of A Course in Miracles which causes numerous apparent contradictions to appear in the text. A prime cause of this problem is that the Course teaches about the true reality it calls heaven contrasted with the dream world wherein we currently dwell.

The problem occurs because of the way the two worlds are described. Heaven is said to be the only true reality there is, and this visible world is seen as being not real as is a dream.

“The world you see does not exist, because the place where you perceive it is not real.” T-28.V.7

“The world as you perceive it cannot have been created by the Father,” T-11.VII.1

Therefore, when the Course speaks from the reality as seen from God’s view, it often speaks as if this world, we apparently live in, does not even exist.

But the purpose of the entire course is directed to the inhabitants of this dream world that is said to not exist, so something must be somewhere. Unfortunately, the Course is limited to the use of human language in referencing things in this world.

Dealing with the two worlds in the script often causes confusion, for sometimes the Course is speaking from the view of the true reality, and readers think it is talking about this world. Other times it talks about this world, and readers think it is talking about heavenly things.

For instance, in speaking from the heavenly view it says: “You dwell not here (on earth), but in eternity. You travel but in dreams, while safe at home.” T-13.VII.17

This and other verses telling us this world, the body, the past, etc. does not even exist is taken so literally by some students that it makes it difficult to have a conversation with them. If you casually mention anything about living in this world, they will correct you and remind you that you are not here. The problem is that you cannot have an intelligent conversation about any subject without referring to the world we see and how it works.

Some students take a very simplistic view of the power of illusion in this world, seeing it as no more real than a dream at night. The Course says otherwise:

“It is a mistake to believe that a thought system based on lies is weak. Nothing made by a child of God is without power. It is essential to realize this, because otherwise you will be unable to escape from the prison you have made.” T-3.VII.1

In other words, having a flippant attitude toward this illusion we are in and just declaring we are not here falls short of what is needed for liberation. The power we inherited from God made this world, and it takes that same power to undo it.

That said, in this chapter we will look at several problematic interpretations of the Course and try to get some clarification. We have already covered several of these, such as time, predestination, the separation, the one and the many, and others, but here we will focus on illusions about the illusion, or the dream and the awakening.

The first question we will consider is: “Where are we?”

As pointed out in the previous quote, the Course seems to indicate that we are not even here, but “home” in “eternity” or heaven. Verses like this add to the confusion:

“There is no need for help to enter Heaven for you have never left.” C-5.1

“Father, Your Son, who never left, returns to Heaven and his home.” W-pII.241.2

In addition, we are told that our separation from God and heaven never even happened:

In time this (the separation) happened very long ago. In reality it never happened at all.” M-2.2

Many students take these quotes to heart and will correct you if you say anything that deviates from their interpretation.

If you talk of heaven as if it were a place, they will tell you that heaven is not a place. If you talk about being someplace in this world, they will tell you that this world does not exist and you are not here. If you mention anything related to the body, they will accuse you of thinking you are a body and lecture that you are not in a body that isn’t even here.

What it boils down to is that you cannot have a normal conversation with some of these folk, for everything you can say about the world we live in is wrong minded as they see it.

The problem is that we are having an experience in this world, and one cannot say more than a few words without talking about something we see, hear or experience within it, causing ACIM critics to come forward and accuse you of wrong thinking.

Not only are some students violating the teachings of the Course with their zealous corrections bordering on attack, but they are also often more in error than the ones they seek to correct.

So, if we are not here in the world because here does not exist, where are we according to ACIM? Since we are told that “Heaven is not a place nor a condition” T-18.VI.1 then we must not be there either. It appears we are all nowhere if we take things literally.

On the other hand, as Descartes said, “I think therefore, I am;” therefore, we indeed exist and must exist somewhere.

A lot of this problematic dialogue comes from the imperfection of language itself, as many words can be used with several meanings. For instance, the word “place” often refers to a physical location, but other times it does not. Sometimes it refers to a non-physical state. When it says that heaven is not a place, it is saying that it has no physical location that we can visit in a spaceship, but then other times it does use the word as referring to a state of existence.

It is interesting that in the same paragraph where heaven is said to not be a place it says: “The Kingdom of Heaven is the dwelling place of the Son of God.” T-18.VI.1

There are numerous passages using “place” in relation to heaven. Here is one more: “And They come quickly to the living temple, where a home for Them has been set up. There is no place in Heaven holier.” T-26.IX.6

So, from one view presented in ACIM, there is no such thing as a place anywhere, neither in heaven or on earth. There is no place in heaven because there are no physical dimensions there, and there is no place in this world because it is an illusion like a dream and does not really exist.

What does not seem to be realized by some students is that in the correct context the word can be correctly used in reference to things in heaven and the earth.

For example, our dreams we have at night are not real relative to our normal waking state. One could be technically correct in saying that the place you dreamed of does not exist. Yet in describing the dream, you may say you drove your car from one place to another. If one gave this description, it would be silly for the listener to say “you were not in any place!” That is disagreeing just to be disagreeable.

So, if we use ACIM language, how can we accurately describe where we are? This seems like a silly question to the man on the street who would say that he knows exactly where he is. Instead, this is a serious question for many Course students trying to understand the sometimes confusing and seemingly contradictory language.

To clarify, we need to ask whether we are in heaven instead of in this world.

This passage sheds some light: “Now try to reach the Son of God in you. This is the Self that never sinned, nor made an image to replace reality. This is the Self that never left Its home in God to walk the world uncertainly.” W-pI.94.3

So, we in this dream world can look within and “reach the Son of God” who never left his home.

This tells us there is a real part of ourselves that is still at home in heaven with God. But could it be that we are 100% in heaven and not here when we are having actual experience and perceiving here as being in this world? After all, when we dream at night our consciousness is mostly in the dream. Obviously, something is here in this place. Even when we dream we are having an experience in a non-physical place in the dream state, so why would we deny that anything is happening here?

The problem is in the Course language which only recognizes reality that is eternal and changeless. Thus, the earth and everything in it is not eternal, so it is not classified as real and sometimes seen as not even existing.

But there are two worlds where we experience life. The first is the eternal world which the Course calls heaven, and the second is the world of time and space where all things have a beginning and an end. All things with a beginning and an end are seen as not real because when they cease to exist and the focus is on the eternal present, it is as if nothing happened.

On the other hand, when living in time, lots seem to be happening, and from our perception we are living here now. After all, the Course says that “the thought (of this world) become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects.” T-27.VIII.6

So, the creation of this world and universe of form became “possible of both accomplishment and real effects” to the extent that part of the Sonship separated and produced these effects that we experience here.

The Course is quite confusing in saying on one hand that this world and separation does not exist, yet speaks of it consistently throughout its entire half million words. Why go to such effort to redeem us from something that never happened and does not exist? This makes absolutely no sense when taken literally.

Obviously, this world has an existence, and the separation was real enough to cause God to be “lonely without His Sons, and they are lonely without Him.” T-2.III.5

Some students will insist that this world never happened and we are not here, yet the Course says that the separation caused God to be lonely and to create the Holy Spirit to help bring the prodigal son home. In addition, Jesus has made a tremendous effort in creating A Course in Miracles as a guide to help us awaken and return home. Would he spend all that effort on nothing?

Why go to all that effort to create an extensive Course as a remedy for something that does not even have an existence?

Obviously, some are not understanding the true message of the Course, which is that a separation did happen causing God to think, “My children sleep and must be awakened.” T-6.V.1 and we are to “not delay my coming home” W-pII.242.1

Here the Course makes it clear that our existence here is more than a non-existent symbol:

“The Separation is NOT symbolic. It is an order of reality, or a system of thought that is PERFECTLY real in time, though not in Eternity. All beliefs are real to the believer.” UR T 3 I 6 “The separation is a system of thought real enough in time, though not in eternity” T-3.VII.3

This separated reality was created by mind. Since mind is eternal, it could also be:

“It may surprise you to learn that had the ego willed to do so, it COULD have made the eternal, because, as a product of the mind, it IS endowed with the power of its own creator.” UR T 4 F 13

The problem in understanding comes from the fact that the Course stresses that true reality only consists of that which is eternal, and since this separated world has a beginning and an end it is temporary. When it is over, all is like a dream that never happened in heaven.

But what is overlooked is time and space, as well as dreams, are real when we are in them, and we are definitely in a dream now or we wouldn’t be discussing the Course.

To equate this dream, which we made real, to a dream at night, is somewhat misleading as they are significantly different. Let us list a few differences.

For simplicity’s sake we’ll call our existence here Dream 1 and a dream at night Dream 2.

(1) Dream 1 is much more complex and elaborate with many consistent laws and forms lasting billions of years.

Dream 2 is fleeting, lasting only a few minutes and has few if any laws.

(2) When an entity in Dream 1 wakes up, the other entities and forms do not disappear as they do in Dream 2, but are still there trapped in the dream. The awake person can even communicate with the people in Dream 1 after awakening.

Example: Jesus woke up but we and the universe is still here and he can communicate with individuals as he did with Helen Schucman.

In addition, the Course tells us of other advanced beings who have awakened, yet can communicate with us:

“There are those who have reached God directly, retaining no trace of worldly limits and remembering their own Identity perfectly. These might be called the Teachers of teachers because, although they are no longer visible, their image can yet be called upon. And they will appear when and where it is helpful for them to do so. To those to whom such appearances would be frightening, they give their ideas. No one can call on them in vain.” M-26.2

(3) Waking up from Dream 2 is simple, as the slightest disturbance will do the trick.

Waking up from Dream 1 is very complex as it involves billions of individual lives. All the billions of lives in the dream have to wake up before the larger composite life, called The Son, fully awakens. A great disturbance, even a super nova, does not awaken the One Son.

(4) Cause and effect and laws are consistent in Dream 1, but are lacking in Dream 2.

(5) You may have some vision and audio in Dream 2, but the rest of the senses from Dream 1 are pretty much dormant.

(6) We learn and apply things in Dream 1, but this rarely if ever happens in Dream 2.

(7) We use reason and choice in Dream 1, but we basically just drift along without thinking in Dream 2.

We thus see that blithely stating that our life here is like a dream doesn’t really give the full picture. About the only way it is like a dream is that it has a beginning and an end. When anything ends, it is in the past, and when attention is taken off that past and focused on the Eternal Now, then it is like a dream which has passed.

What is similar in the two dream states is that we do have a real experience that has been created by the power of mind. In both cases the experience is caused by a creation of the mind.

According to ACIM, creation of our entire physical universe including our bodies are caused by a dream:

“Does not a world that seems quite real arise in dreams? Yet think what this world is. It is clearly not the world you saw before you slept. Rather it is a distortion of the world, planned solely around what you would have preferred.” T-18.II.1

“What if you recognized this world is an hallucination? What if you really understood you made it up?” T-20.VIII.2

This is in harmony with us not being our bodies.

The Course does not say the body wakes up. It is the Son who is asleep that needs to wake up:

“Sleep is not death. What He created can sleep, but cannot die. Immortality is His Will for His Son, and His Son’s will for himself.” T-11.I.9

The real us is a part that is one with the One Son of God. From the standpoint of eternity, this world is not real but it was an actual happening with “real effects.”

“In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects.” T-27.VIII.6

Another source of confusion is that the awakening of the Son occurs in two stages, but many students lump them together as if it were one event.

The first stage is where part of the Sons wake up, and the second and final stage is where they all wake up, realizing they belong to the life of the One Son.

Most assume that Jesus is awake and 100% in heaven, yet He says:

“Because my feet are on the ground and my hands are in Heaven, I can bring down the glories of Heaven to my brothers on earth.” UR T 1 B 40ab

It appears then that even Jesus does not yet dwell fully in heaven, for his “feet are on the ground.” In other words, he still has a presence in this earth or the dream world.

He gives additional light on this:

“I must understand uncertainty and pain, although I know they have no meaning. Yet a savior must remain with those he teaches, seeing what they see, but still retaining in his mind the way that led him out, and now will lead you out with him.”

So even Jesus must remain connected to this dream world “seeing what they see.” Obviously, this connection allowed him to see into the lives of Helen and Bill so he was aware of what was going on in their lives.

And why is this?

Because all the Sons of God must awaken for the separation to completely end. Even those who achieve awakening cannot be completely at peace or in heaven until all have been liberated:

“And as they rest, the face of Christ shines on them and they remember the laws of God, forgetting all the rest and yearning only to have His laws perfectly fulfilled in them and all their brothers. Think you when this has been achieved that you will rest without them? You could no more leave one of them outside than I could leave you, and forget part of myself.” T-20.IV.7

Let me repeat this crucial part: “You could no more leave one of them outside than I could leave you, and forget part of myself.”

Furthermore, “Souls cannot rest until everyone has found salvation.” UR T 1 B 24a. 24 “Ultimately, every member of the family of God must return.” UR T 1 B 34b “It is the duty of the released to release their brothers.” UR T 1 B 29a

The goal is to have all the Sons awaken so that the whole Sonship can be at peace. Until then, a few will awaken here and there, but even here one cannot awaken alone, just focusing on himself. It can only happen by sharing the Sonship with your brother.

“For you will not see the light, until you offer it to all your brothers. As they take it from your hands, so will you recognize it as your own.” W-pI.153.11

“Together is your joint inheritance remembered and accepted by you both. Alone it is denied to both of you.” T-31.II.11

The sharing and awakening process will go on for a long period until it is complete, for the full salvation will take a very lengthy period of time as is written:

“the separation occurred over millions of years, the Last Judgment will extend over a similarly long period, and perhaps an even longer one.” T-2.VIII.2

Scientists tell us that this universe, which is the result of the separation, is over 13 billion years old. Is it possible that the full awakening could take that long? Or perhaps the Course is referring to the beginning of human consciousness which was millions of years back instead of billions.

Whatever the case, any amount of time from the point of view of eternity is counted as a mere instant. When fully awakened, even a billion years in the past is seen as an instant, or as nothing.

One final problem confronting students concerning the awakening is this. In some places the Course speaks of God as having only one Son, and then in others speaks of Sons or many parts. This causes a division on what will be the final result of our awakening.

Some take the One Son concept literally to the extent that they believe that they will awaken to be the One Son with no parts. Others see it as awakening with a realization of being connected to the One Life while still a part of it, something like a cell in the body has a distinct life but is also a part of the whole.

Reaching the right view on this should be a no-brainer. While it is true that the Course does speak of God having “one Son” 14 times it speaks of having Sons (plural) 54 times. When looking at the text as a whole, it is obvious that the One Son is composed of many Sons creating a united one life. This we covered in some depth in chapter five.

One of the best references illustrating this is the Course using the parable of Jesus concerning the Prodigal Son. One son left his home and the other stayed behind. This corresponds to the separation as mentioned here by the Voice:

“The Atonement actually began long before the Crucifixion. Many Souls offered their efforts on behalf of the Separated Ones but they could not withstand the strength of the attack, and had to be brought back. Angels came, too, but their protection was not enough, because the Separated ones were not interested in peace.” UR T 2 B 43

So, you have two groups here – the “Separated Ones” who entered the dream and the “Many Souls” who stayed with God. Obviously, the life of the One Son is composed of many parts that are capable of division.

This different interpretation of oneness also causes confusion on what happens when we awaken from the dream. Those who lean toward the One-Son-only interpretation see the dream as only being had by one entity and not as a shared experience of many parts. They say that when we dream at night, we may dream of many different characters; but when we awaken, we find they are just figments of our imagination. Only the single dreamer is real, they say. They therefore believe that when they wake up from this greater dream, that all the people in this world will disappear and be no more. Only the single dreamer will remain.

This interpretation has many problems. First, as we pointed out earlier, there are numerous differences between a night dream and our dream world here. There are some rough correspondences, but exact matches do not work.

The question to ask such a believer is who is the true dreamer – me or you? If it is you, then I will disappear when you wake up, and if it is me, you will be the one going into oblivion.

Indeed, if there is only one having the dream and it corresponds to a dream at night, then all the billions of people on the planet are just figments of your imagination and would disappear upon awakening.

The problem is that this did not happen in reality. The first we know of who has awakened was Jesus with his resurrection. So, after his awakening, did all his loved ones, friends and people in his dream disappear as do people in our night dreams?

No. He visited his apostles and loved ones who were still here and not yet fully awake. In fact, the entire world was still here.

As we quoted earlier: “Yet a savior must remain with those he teaches, seeing what they see, but still retaining in his mind the way that led him out, and now will lead you out with him.”

So even though Jesus is awake, he still has an obligation to teach others what he knows.

“It is the function of God’s ministers to help their brothers choose as they have done. God has elected all, but few have come to realize His Will is but their own. And while you fail to teach what you have learned, salvation waits and darkness holds the world in grim imprisonment.” W-pI.153.11

These passages and numerous others make it clear that we do not dream alone:

“Like you, your brother thinks he is a dream. Share not in his illusion of himself, for your Identity depends on his reality. Think, rather, of him as a mind in which illusions still persist, …Your mind and his are joined in brotherhood.” T-28.IV.3

“The special ones are all asleep, surrounded by a world of loveliness they do not see.” T-24.III.7

As stated earlier, the awakening happens in two stages. First, individuals awaken and assist loved ones to follow. Then in the far future, all the Sons of God will awaken together.

This passage reflects the whole story:

“All that is given you is for release; the sight, the vision and the inner Guide all lead you out of hell with those you love beside you, and the universe with them.” T-31.VII.7

The one who awakens seeks to aid those he loves, producing an eventual chain reaction that eventually affects the whole universe.

It is this final awakening that corresponds more closely to the night dream. We altogether will share the life of the One Son, and when the many parts of the One Son fully awaken, the entire dream world will disappear. That is when the true disappearance of the universe will happen.

For us in time, the event is a long way away, but from the view of eternity only an instant will pass.

Copyright by J J Dewey

Read the Introduction HERE, Read Chapter One HERE. Chapter Two HERE, Chapter Three HERE, Chapter Four HERE, Chapter Five HERE Chapter Six HERE, Chapter Seven HERE, Chapter Eight HERE, Chapter Nine HERE, Chapter Ten HERE, Chapter Eleven HERE, Chapter Twelve HERE, Chapter Thirteen HERE, Chapter Fourteen HERE, Fifteen HERE, Sixteen HERE, Seventeen HERE,       Eighteen HERE, Nineteen HERE, Twenty HERE, Twenty-One HERE, Twenty-Two HERE, Twenty-Three HERE, Twenty-Four HERE, Twenty-Five HERE, Twenty-Six HERE, Twenty-Seven  HERE, Twenty-Eight  HERE, Twenty-Nine HERE, Thirty HERE

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