It is now clear that the current dominant worldview, that of materialistic science, does not have the range or depth to sustain the human need for meaning.
E.M. Forster said it in the epigraph to his novel Howards End: “Only connect.” It was the connection between the mind and the emotions--or, if you prefer, the heart--that he meant. A religion that cannot do this, or one that permits one side to hypertrophy while the other side withers, is, in my view, not a healthy religion at all. And it will bring forth fruit that is like itself.
In that case, why bother with Christianity in particular? Because Christianity is our background, our heritage. Yet it would be unwise, I think, to reject the spiritual insights that we have gotten from other traditions. They tell us too much for us to turn them away. Thus it would be useful if this new theology were able to make use of insights from all the world’s religions.
In this book, sources of inspiration will include the Bible; Hinduism and Buddhism; esoteric and mystical strands of thought, including the Kabbalah; individual visionaries such as William Blake and C.G. Jung; insights from Kant, William James, Heidegger, Gurdjieff, and Karl Jaspers; and even popular writers such as Philip K. Dick. I will also make use of the twentieth century text A Course in Miracles, possibly the greatest reformulation of Christianity in recent times.
Chapter 6. A Suppositional Moment
To return to the question of Christian theology, there is only one system of Christian theology that has ever made sense to me--that did not seem to create contradictions that it attempted to paper over, thus creating more contradictions. This is the theology of A Course in Miracles.
The Course, as it is called, is a stone that the builders rejected. I have almost never seen it discussed in the intellectual press, nor have I ever seen it treated in mainstream theological circles. If anything, it has been consigned to the purgatory known as the study of new religious movements.
Despite this official indifference, the Course has sold over 3 million copies in twenty-six languages since its publication in 1975. It has won widespread admiration in the human-potential movement. Willis Harman, the late president of California’s Institute of Noetic Sciences, wrote, “The set of books comprising A Course in Miracles comprise perhaps the most important writing in the English language since the translation of the Bible.”
The theology of the Course, as we will see, differs radically that of mainstream Christianity. But it has the same core spirit. The Course’s theology begins with God the Father. God is infinite love and light: “God is the light in which I see,” says one lesson in the Workbook. As infinite love, the nature of God is to extend himself. In so doing, God has created the Son, who is a primordial unity, although the Sonship is also expressed in the plural form: “God has only one Son. If all His creations are His Sons, everyone must be an integral part of the whole Sonship. The Sonship in its Oneness transcends the sum of its parts” (T, 33; emphasis in the original). In short, the Son is each of us, individually and collectively.
Because only what God creates is real, our only reality as Sons of God is light and love and happiness. This cannot be reversed. Thus there is no danger, no pain, no sorrow. This is heaven. We have never left it. “Heaven is now. There is no other time. Heaven is here. There is no other place” (M, 61).
And yet the opposite seems to be the case. Heaven often seems remote, as do infinite light and love and power. What happened?
The Course also speaks of the Fall, although it usually calls it the separation. The separation never happened, because God did not will it, and, because his Son shares all his characteristics, the Son does not will it either. Nonetheless, “into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh.”
This “tiny, mad idea” is the idea of separation--the idea that the Son could be isolated from God. In a sense this idea is suppositional only: it is as if the Son wondered, in a brief moment, “What if I could exist apart from God?” The Course calls this “the detour into fear.”
If you were to take a minute to imagine the worst things that could happen to you--death, degradation, pain, torture, the loss of loved ones--you could make them all seem quite real in your mind. (It is probably not a good idea to try this for very long.) While you were imagining it, it would feel as if it were real. You would, for a moment, suffer almost as if you were going through these terrible things.
Such a suppositional moment, as it were, is the interval that constitutes the world as we know it, throughout all of time and space. It is an imaginary reality; it could not have any actual substance, because God has not willed it. God loves his Son, and contrary to certain theologies, will never make his Son suffer. But his Son can imagine he is suffering. And because the Son has all the power of God himself, he can make this imaginary world seem powerfully real. He can even forget his own reality. “In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects.” This is the world we see. It was made by the ego. The ego is the “tiny, mad idea.”