On virtually no other subject have I heard so much gobbledygook when it comes to A Course in Miracles (or any other metaphysical or spiritual study for that matter). This confusion exists because we remain confused about the value of material things. It certainly seems that wealth, accomplishment and pleasure "make us happy" -- Pavlov's "Ding the bell, get the cheese!" What we fail to see is the actual process of what is happening. Our natural state is uncaused Supreme Happiness - that is what we ARE. Through the thought of separation we have made ourselves seem to be lacking and miserable. When we enjoy accomplishment, acquisition or pleasure, this misery is temporarily forgotten and for a short period of time we experience some degree of our natural state mixed with excitement, an adrenalin rush. It is like we have been sticking ourselves with a pin and when we stop, we say "That feels good!" The mistake we make is to associate the cause of the happiness with the external situation -- person, place or thing. When we then habitually return to our contracted state of misery and lack, we believe that we need more achievement, possessions or pleasure in order to get more happiness. What we fail to see is that all we need do is let go of the root idea which is causing the misery in the first place and experience eternal happiness without loss or sorrow. Another mistake is that we tend to confuse the adrenalin rush with happiness. As long as we continue to associate happiness with attainment, acquisition, and achievement or anything perceived as external we are doomed to a cyclical process of temporary gratification and adrenalin high alternating with loss and sadness. And, the more we go around in this gerbil cage, the more ultimately depressed we become as we realize that nothing in this world brings lasting joy. In our human state we are all, to some degree, either manic/depressive or chronically depressed.
On the topic of prosperity and material abundance the Course waxes exceedingly eloquent . . . by its silence. Nowhere in the Text, Workbook, Manual for Teachers, Psychotherapy booklet or The Song of Prayer are either of these concepts mentioned. These are meaningless concepts within a meaningless world; the author of the Course is unconcerned about them and strongly suggests we follow suit. In fact he calls "vanity" the "real concern with anything at all."(1) In all of the Course material the word "abundance" is used 15 times, but if it is associated with anything at all, it is with "miracles." The word "supply" is used 11 times and most often associated with "strength." Neither of these words is directly associated with person, place or thing.
Now this does not mean that A Course in Miracles is ignorant of or unempathetic toward our perceived "needs" while we seem to be "in this world." In fact, it assures us many times that these needs will be met "without your effort"(2). It tells us that we can be "careless of everything except the only purpose you would fulfill."(3) This is but a restatement of what Jesus told the disciples when he implored them "Seek ye first the Kingdom...and all things will be added unto you"(4)
It does, however, suggest that we leave the selection of the things we need to the Holy Spirit. In Workbook lesson 24(5) the Course asks us to see "I do not perceive my own best interests." and points out in the Text,
"As Mediator between the two worlds, He [the Holy Spirit] knows what you have need of and what will not hurt you. Ownership is a dangerous concept if it is left to you....
"Only the Holy Spirit knows what you need. For He will give you all things that do not block the way to light. And what else could you need? ....
"Leave, then, your needs to Him. He will supply them with no emphasis at all upon them."(6)
This would certainly seem to negate such activities as specific material goal setting and "creative visualization" as anything other than more blocks to the awareness of love's presence. One of the endearing things about A Course in Miracles is that it clearly debunks the belief in God as Santa Claus. So much so that it says,
"The first step in the reversal or undoing process is the undoing of the getting concept."(7)
"The FIRST step"! "Undoing the GETTING concept"! This is some statement! And then,
"The first illusion, which must be displaced before another thought system can take hold, is that it is a sacrifice to give up the things of this world. What could this be but an illusion, since this world itself is nothing more than that?"(8)
"The FIRST illusion"! The Course is talking about the beginning steps, the very first baby steps toward salvation. Does this sound like any support for concern with prosperity or material abundance?
"It is not easy to realize that prayers for things, for status, for human love, for external 'gifts' of any kind, are always made to set up jailers and to hide from guilt. These things are used for goals that substitute for God, and therefore distort the purpose of prayer. The desire for them is the prayer."(9)
"Goals that substitute for God" -- idols!
"What is an idol? Do you think you know? For idols are unrecognized as such, and never seen for what they really are. .... Be it a body or a thing, a place, a situation or a circumstance, an object owned or wanted, or a right demanded or achieved, it is the same.
"Let not their form deceive you. Idols are but substitutes for your reality. .... No one believes in idols who has not enslaved himself to littleness and loss."(10)
One principle that is rarely looked at or truly understood in the world of "metafizzles" is that one always "creates" (or "makes" to use ACIM terminology) whatever he thinks he is. This is a fundamental law of mind and what the Course calls "a basic thought" -- "Ideas leave not their source."(11) Another way of saying this is that the child always contains the seed of the father; ideas merely replicate themselves. "You cannot make a silk purse from a sow's ear." So that any "positive" affirmation or visualization used as a remedy for the perception of lack still has at its root the idea of lack and can, therefore, only make for the further perception of lack. There is no remedy for neediness except the recognition and realization of Reality in which there is nothing to need.
"Truth is always abundant. Those who perceive and acknowledge that they have everything have no needs of any kind."(12)
While the Course is mute about material abundance and prosperity, it certainly does not suggest the sort of ritual external renunciation which has become a part of many Eastern traditions. While the Course is leading us ultimately to a total renunciation of this world, it is a renunciation in the mind not in the behavior. The behavioral change must follow the internal change of mind not the other way,
"I have said that you cannot change your mind by changing your behavior...."(13)
This sort of misunderstanding results in what Ram Dass calls the "horny celibate" syndrome. It is the desire that is the block, not the thing itself.
"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."(14)
Material abundance, the worldly idea of prosperity, is a fiction, a nothingness. Worse than that, it is a source of more fear and more loss. The more we possess, the more we need to try to protect it from what we know is inevitably loss. The concern with materiality is the vanity of vanities. Jesus told us almost 2000 years ago, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."(15) and through A Course in Miracles he is saying the same thing today.
There is no amount of finite, material "stuff" which can content the Son of God. The insatiability of our carnal desires is a tribute to the infinite nature of what we are. A friend in southern California who was once a major player in the international banking field told me that at one time (not long ago) he "felt broke if I had less than $200,000 to $300,000 in the bank." He now facilitates a weekly ACIM study group. Material abundance is a contradiction in terms of the first magnitude. Finiteness, no matter how large, is poverty itself. Material abundance is an oxymoron like organized religion, military intelligence and human freedom. The desire for material "stuff" and comfort is but an idol we place before the face of God. Only the infinite Love, Joy and Peace of God can ever fulfill the longing which drives us to seek after false "abundance." The only real abundance is the consciousness which knows no lack regardless of the appearance in the external circumstances.
Return to Essays©1993 daan dehn(9/16/93)
REFERENCES - (to return to text, click Back button on your browser)
2. T404/434, see also T257/276 and W79/79
3. op. cit.
4. Matt 6:33 and Luke 12:31
9. SOP 6
11. T515/554, 517/556, W236/242, 237/243, 287/294, 311,318
14. 1 Timothy 6:10
15. Matt 6:24 and Luke 16:13