Return to the Heart of God
An in-depth exploration of the profound teachings of A Course in Miracles, and a book that continues the journey begun in Path of Light.
At last, we can announce Robert Perry's long-awaited new book.
Return to the Heart of God is arguably Robert's most important and ambitious work to date. A work in which he explores, with all his customary virtuosity, and in fascinating detail, the extraordinary journey set out in the Course.
“Robert Perry beautifully illuminates the principles of A Course in Miracles. If you wish to understand its teachings more fully, this is a book for you. I highly recommend it.”
author of A Return to Love
Return to the Heart of God is a phenomenal source of wisdom...This book is a service to the planet. ”
Iyanla Vanzant founder of Inner Visions Institute for Spiritual Development, author of Living Through the Meantime: Learning to Break the Patterns of the Past and Begin the Healing Process
"Robert Perry beautifully illuminates the principles of A Course in Miracles. If you wish to understand its teachings more fully, this is a book for you. I highly recommend it."
—Marianne Williamson, author of A Return to Love
"Return to the Heart of God is a phenomenal source of wisdom. Robert Perry has done a masterful job of presenting the true essence, the heart and soul, of A Course in Miracles in a way that offers hope and healing. This book is a service to the planet. Whether you are a student of the Course or someone who has never read it, if wisdom is what you seek, you are guaranteed to find it in Return to the Heart of God."
—Iyanla Vanzant founder of Inner Visions Institute for Spiritual Development, author of Living Through the Meantime: Learning to Break the Patterns of the Past and Begin the Healing Process
"Return to the Heart of God is a profound meditation on A Course in Miracles, probably the greatest revealed Scripture of the twentieth century and, as I see it, an updating of Jesus' message in contemporary terms. Perry, who has studied and prayed over the Course for twenty-five years, leads us through many of the Course's key teachings with intelligence, deep understanding, and great compassion for the profound spiritual confusion that afflicts most of the world in the first decade of the twenty-first century. I recommend the book to all who truly desire to return to the heart of God."
—Jim Marion, author of Putting on the Mind of Christ
"Imagine taking all the brilliant and complex wisdom of A Course in Miracles and making it easy to read, understand, and even apply to your spouse—that's what Robert Perry offers us. In Return to the Heart of God, he is so clear, I found myself hungry to read as fast as I could and understand even more of A Course in Miracles. Next time you're in the desert of not understanding how to love, forgive, or experience a miracle, pick up this book and drink from the glass of pure water that Robert Perry provides."
—Tama J. Kieves,
A Course in Miracles teacher and coach, founder of Awakening Artistry, and bestselling author of This Time I Dance! Creating the Work You Love
"I think of Robert Perry not only as a teacher, but as a teacher of teachers as well. In reading his words in Return to the Heart of God, you too will breathe in the inner peace which is the goal A Course in Miracles leads us to. It has softened my heart and calmed my mind once again by making the sometimes seemingly complex concepts of the Course simple and easy to access for the beginning and the advanced student alike. And if you've thought the Course is too daunting for you to understand, this book will gently walk you beyond those thoughts."
—Jacob Glass, author of Invocations: Calling Forth the Light that Heals
"Robert Perry is a gifted scholar and teacher who has dedicated himself to making the teachings of A Course in Miracles not only accessible but, more importantly, practical and applicable to daily life. Both those who are new to the Course and those who have worked with it for years can benefit greatly from his insights and perspectives."
—Diane Berke, author of Love Always Ansers: Walking the Path of 'A Course in Miracles'
Table of Contents
Our home is reality, Heaven, the Kingdom of God, a spiritual realm of pure oneness and boundless joy which can never be threatened.
- 1.1. Since nothing real can be threatened, then the world is not real.
- 1.2. Reality is formless, spaceless, timeless oneness, beyond all limitation, opposition and distinctions.
- 1.3 God is a Being of limitless, changeless Love Who is incapable of anger or attack.
- 1.4 God extened Himself to create His Son, the Christ, Who is one with God and is the single Self of the Sonship.
- 1.5 Extension is the dynamic of reality, in which reality timelessly extends itself and eternally increases
- 1.6. Reality is maximal; it is the supreme joy.
- 1.7. Reality is home, the longing of our hearts, the object of all our desires.
We tried to attack reality, to separate from it, thus making a separate identity -the ego- and the world of space and time.
- 2.1. We tried to separate, motivated by a desire to elevate ourselves above our brothers and above God.
- 2.2. The ego is the belief behind the separation; it is our core self-concept which says we are separate, autonomous beings.
- 2.3. When we tried to separate, we seemed to shatter reality into countless separate fragments.
- 2.4. We made the world by selecting and organizing the fragments.
- 2.5. The world we made is the diametric opposite of Heaven in every way.
- 2.6. God did not make the world; we did.
- 2.7. The ego has one need: to stay in business, to confirm itself, to reinforce its reality, to protect itself from God's Love.
- 2.8. We made this world of separate places and different moments to confirm the ego by "proving" that separation is an objective reality.
But the separation occurred only in our minds; in reality it never happened.
- 3.1. The separation had no effect, for nothing can change the Will of God.
- 3.2 We did not actually separate; we merely withdrew our awareness from reality into a private mental state.
- 3.3. The world is not an objective reality; it is only a dream, a projection of our belief in separateness.
- 3.4. We are not who we think we are; we are the Sons of God with amnesia.
- 3.5. We are not here in this world or in these bodies. We are in Heaven dreaming that we are here.
- 3.6. The instant the separation seemed to occur, God created the Holy Spirit, Who awakened us that same instant. We are now only reviewing a journey that is over.
Yet we believed we had really done it. We thought we had sinned and had thereby thrown our happiness away forever.
- 4.1. We thought that we had separated ourselves from all that we loved and consequently experienced a state of lack.
- 4.2. We thought that we had sinned against God, that we had launched a real attack which caused real destruction.
- 4.3. The result of sin was a massive sense of guilt, which we denied and so pushed into the unconscious.
- 4.4. Guilt says that we deserve punishment. This belief is the source of all of our suffering.
- 4.5. We project our belief that we deserve punishment onto God and so perceive a punitive, fearful God.
- 4.6. Guilt, then, gives rise to fear, which really is the expectation of punishment. Fear is the dominant emotion of this world.
We then projected the cause of our suffering onto the world, producing the illusion that it had sinned against us and had robbed us of our happiness.
- 5.1. A law of mind is that mind causes its own experience.
- 5.2. Projection is the dynamic whereby causation is thrown outward: what our mind has caused now seems thrust upon us from without.
- 5.3. Projection is motivated by the desire to get rid of our guilt, but its deeper motivation is the desire to make us powerless to change our beliefs.
- 5.4. Projection produces a world that seems to have enormous power over us.
- 5.5. Through projection, our self-imposed pain appears to come from an attacking world.
- 5.6. Our guilt, projected outward, has produced a punishing world.
- 5.7. Our primary experience of this world is that it attacks us in manifold ways, that it has done us wrong, that it has taken our happiness from us.
Our solution: acquire happiness by rearranging our external world.
- 6.1. Our conscious self-image is "the face of innocence," that of a good self trying to make its way through an unjust world.
- 6.2. We respond to the world's attacks by defending ourselves.
- 6.3. We attempt to fill our needs with external things, situations, and events, based on the belief that we are inherently lacking.
- 6.4. A major need we seek to satisfy is the need to feel innocent.
- 6.5. Another major need is the need to feel special.
- 6.6. In our search for happiness, the body is both a means and an end.
- 6.7. The crowning gift we seek, which incorporates all of the other gifts, is special love.
- 6.8. All of our seeking attempts to get something from the world, for which we generally must pay something back.
Our search for happiness is actually an expression of resentment and a quest for vengeance on the past.
- 7.1. Underneath our conscious face of innocence is the victim level, a place in us where we are enraged over what we think the world has done to us.
- 7.2. The victim's primary perception is that other people are sinful.
- 7.3. In this place we believe that past injustices have given us the right to resentment, restitution, and revenge.
- 7.4. Our attempt to rearrange the world is based on anger, resentment, grievances.
- 7.5. In our giving and in our suffering we constantly send the message, "I suffered because of you. Therefore, you owe me." .
- 7.6. We seek vengeance through subtle attempts to re-enact the past and reverse past "injustices" against us.
Our "solution" is an attack and so, like the original problem, is an attack on ourselves.
- 8.1. Beneath the victim level is the ego proper, which is pure, unprovoked attack.
- 8.2. The victim level is an excuse to attack, produced by projecting our own attack outward.
- 8.3. The ego promises that attack will get us safety and happiness. This simply tricks us into accumulating guilt, to which it is attracted.
- 8.4. The ego promises that getting will fulfill us and defending will protect us. This tricks us into accumulating lack and vulnerability.
- 8.5. The ego promises us joy through bodily pleasure. This tricks us into making separation real.
- 8.6. The special relationship is the biggest false promise of all, the one that motivates us to pursue all of the ego's false promises.
- 8.7. Through our normal daily activities the ego is carrying out its ancient attack on God.
- 8.8. All that the ego does is really designed to attack us, kill us and send us to hell.
We have lost touch with reality and so need the Holy Spirit's help to be restored to sanity.
- 9.1.God created the Holy Spirit to bridge the gap in communication between Him and His children.
- 9.2.The Holy Spirit's function is to heal our minds by leading us into a thought system that reflects reality. This is how He guides us home.
- 9.3. The Holy Spirit bridges the distance between reality and illusion. By seeing our illusions in light of reality, He places them in true perspective.
- 9.4. All that we made for ego He takes and uses for our awakening.
- 9.5. We accept Him as our Teacher by resigning as our own teacher.
The Holy Spirit's message is that we never sinned, never changed ourselves. We need only change our minds.
- 10.1. The guilt and pain produced by the ego is stored in an unconscious level of mind which also contains our call for God's Love and help.
- 10.2. The Holy Spirit's answer to our guilt is that we did not do it, that we are still as God created us, because the separation never occurred.
- 10.3. The journey home is an illusion. We need not purify ourselves or make sacrifices. Instead, we can wake up at any time we choose.
- 10.4. The holy instant is a moment when this is realized, applied, a moment of doing nothing.
- 10.5. The miracle is a free deliverance from the imprisonment of the human condition. It is our right, because we never sinned.
Changing our minds means allowing the Holy Spirit to heal our perception.
- 11.1. To awaken in Heaven all we need is a change of perception.
- 11.2. Projection makes perception.
- 11.3. Step one: Identify the cause of your pain as your own perception, and bring this illusion to the light of truth.
- 11.4. Step two: Let go of your perception; have a little willingness for the Holy Spirit to remove it and replace it with truth.
- 11.5. Step three: The Holy Spirit will replace your perception with His; He will give your mind a miracle.
We heal our perception by forgiving the world for what it did not do.
- 12.1. Forgiveness is the answer to our separated condition.
- 12.2. Forgiveness is the Course's unique and original message, yet is also the heart of the Holy Spirit's message to humanity.
- 12.3. Conventional forgiveness, in which we forgive another for his sin against us, is not real forgiveness.
- 12.4. Real forgiveness is a shift in perception, in which we let go of the perception that a sin occurred.
- 12.5. The Course's thought system is one big rationale for the idea that sin is unreal and that forgiveness is justified.
Extending forgiveness to others reveals to us that we too are forgiven. This becomes our one function.
- 13.1. Forgiveness releases us from our fixation on our separate self and allows our love to flow out to the world.
- 13.2. We first allow forgiving perception into our minds and then extend this perception to others.
- 13.3. Extending forgiveness to others heals them in mind and body. This is the main sense of the word "miracle."
- 13.4. Extending forgiveness to others is a psychological device for convincing us of our own innocence.
- 13.5. Extension will become our only function. The Holy Spirit will give us a special form of this called our special function.
Forgiveness also undoes the blocks that separate us from others, allowing us to experience the fact that we are one.
- 14.1. Forgiveness wipes away that which maintains our sense of separateness from others.
- 14.2. Forgiveness looks past differences and reveals our underlying sameness.
- 14.3. Forgiveness lifts us into holy encounters, in which two people set aside what separates them and experience salvation together.
- 14.4. The holy relationship is a gradual reversal of the special relationship, in which two people slowly realize their sameness.
- 14.5. When two or more people join in a truly common goal, holiness enters the relationship at a deep level and makes it a holy relationship.
- 14.6. The relationship will go on a journey, as the holiness that entered it slowly rises and transforms the relationship.
- 14.7. As the relationship's holiness rises to the surface, it will then reach out beyond the two people. They will be given a joint special function.
- 14.8. The journey to God is not a lonely journey. Through joining with others we discover our own wholeness and clear the way for uniting with God.
With forgiveness as our practice, we journey toward the goal of true perception.
- 15.1. True perception is a different mode of perception which looks past bodies to the light of Christ in everyone and everything.
- 15.2. True perception looks on the real world, which is composed of the holiness in all minds and the loving thoughts in those minds.
- 15.3. Looking with true perception on the real world is the happiest experience we can have here. It is the goal of the spiritual journey.
- 15.4. The spiritual journey is the gradual making of a single choice, which slowly restores us to our right mind.
When we and the entire world have attained true perception, God Himself will take the final step and lift us home.
- 16.1. Eventually, we will collectively devote ourselves to applying forgiveness and returning home.
- 16.2. The Second Coming of Christ is when the world collectively awakens to the Christ, the Self we share.
- 16.3. The Last Judgment is a process by which we judge all past thoughts and retain only the pure.
- 16.4. When we are perfectly healed we are ready for God to take the final step. In that step we remember God and our true Identity.
Introduction by Robert Perry
In 1976 a unique book appeared on the contemporary spiritual scene. "Appeared" is an apt word in view of the unusual way it came into being. Its words, along with the idea to write it, came from an inner voice, which dictated the material to a reluctant "scribe." Its original thought system has the appearance not of depending on prior traditions and discoveries, but of appearing fully formed out of nowhere. Even the publishing of it came not from any plan to widely disseminate it, but from the serendipitous pressure of events. The "guilty secret" of two academic psychologists, it finally came out of their closet in photocopied form. Once out, it generated a wave of enthusiasm and demand that made publishing it the natural thing to do.
When this book finally landed on the public stage, its strange journey continued. Large numbers of people spontaneously embraced it. Groups formed to study it. Centers came into being to serve its students. Additional books came out based on it. Some became bestsellers, enabling its principles to reach millions of people. At this time, thirty years later, there are over a million and a half copies in print, with a dozen translations currently available and more in process. Over two thousand study groups meet worldwide. And thousands of people, perhaps tens of thousands, consider it their path to God. According to a book on its history, it has become "one of the most popular and perplexing phenomena of contemporary spirituality."
I first discovered A Course in Miracles in the fall of 1980. I learned about it from an article in Psychology Today mockingly titled "The Gospel According to Helen." From it, I learned that a psychologist at Columbia University named Helen Schucman had taken dictation from an inner voice, resulting in a three-volume book called A Course in Miracles. The article referred to the Course as a kind of Christian Vedanta, blending elements from Christianity with Eastern mysticism, as well as modern psychology.
I thought that this sounded right up my alley, given that I was into mysticism as well as channeled teachings. And when I finally got the Course, some months later, that thought was confirmed. It slowly earned a place as one of my many treasured spiritual teachings. Initially, I was taken in by the beauty of the language. Certain passages lifted and transported me. I eventually gathered these together for an audio tape produced by Miracle Distribution Center in 1985 entitled The Forgotten Song. I was also struck by the Course's practical efficacy. When I experienced an interpersonal conflict, I would turn to the Course to help me see things differently, something at which it was very good.
It was not long before I could also tell there was an intellectual system embedded in its words. A Course in Miracles wasn't a loose stream of inspirational ideas that meandered here and there. Rather, the ideas were connected in very definite ways, as definite as the parts of a machine, and both the ideas and connections between them remained consistent throughout. The more I read, the more I could sense a vast network of ideas looming behind the Course's poetic presentation. Having an innate love for systems of ideas, this really hooked me. At this point in my life, my ambition was to be a professional philosopher and I was actively engaged in building my own system. I couldn't resist trying to tease out the system that I sensed in the Course.
In 1985, I was asked to begin teaching at Miracle Distribution Center, and I spent months in preparation, poring through the Course, compiling notes, all in the hopes of grasping this system. However, I could never quite arrive at a final understanding. The same thing happened about a year later. I was asked to write an introductory booklet for Miracle Distribution Center, entitled An Introduction to 'A Course in Miracles.' I spent a year studying the Course further, testing out different ways of summarizing its teaching. A prominent teacher who read the end result asked why I was presenting the Course in a new way—why reinvent the wheel? My whole conviction, however, was that this wheel had not yet been invented.
This search for the Course's system developed into an urge that could not be satisfied. Each time I was called on to present an overview of the Course, I would try out a different way to present the overall system. Each time, I came away dissatisfied. In the meantime, I was writing up research papers in my attempt to crack this nut, as well as sharing new insights with the weekly classes I was conducting.
This was an intellectual issue for me, but also a very practical one. The practice of the Course primarily amounts to applying its teaching to specific persons, situations, and events. Thus, the more deeply one understands the teaching, the more powerful the practice becomes. This contributes to an understandable need to settle on a simple account of what the Course is saying. With this simple account in hand, we could quickly apply the Course to everything that crosses our path. However, when I went to access my understanding of the teaching, instead of some neat catchphrase what I found was a garage full of parts, some assembled, some lying by themselves. Further, these parts were spontaneously organizing and reorganizing themselves into ever-new shapes. This was not exactly the simple basis for practice that I was looking for.
The need I was feeling for that simple, concise account of the Course's teaching is the need that every Course student feels. The Course does not present itself in a systematic way. You never get the fundamentals explained to you in a clear, step-by-step fashion. The terms are never defined; they are simply used, leaving you to figure out their meaning based on context. Consequently, when you begin reading at page 1, you feel as if you have started halfway through the book. You can't help but suspect you have missed some foundational explanation that would make it all clear. You can easily feel that you are groping about in a half-lit room, a feeling which often persists for twelve hundred pages. You can tell that themes are repeating. What you probably don't realize is that there are hundreds of themes whizzing by that you aren't even noticing, and these too are repeating and interweaving at the periphery of your vision. Our reading of the Course is very much like a five-year-old listening to a Wagner opera—the child may notice some beautiful melodies, but will have no concept of all that is happening in that music, no idea of all the leitmotifs that are flowing by unnoticed.
The net effect is that the Course's teaching is extremely unwieldy. This leaves all of its students scrambling to get a handle on it. Most do so by trying to distill it down to a few key themes or capture its essence with some simple formula. The problem with these attempts, however, is that they single out a few themes while ignoring countless others. The Course is not formulaic, and this is clearly on purpose. It doesn't want us to just focus on a few strands. It wants us to grasp how its multiple strands interweave and fuse together. At one point it says, "We are now emphasizing the relationships among the first fifty of the ideas we have covered, and the cohesiveness of the thought system to which they are leading you."2 Seeing how fifty ideas come together into a cohesive whole is surely different than selecting one idea and throwing the rest away. Consequently, what I was seeking was a way of summarizing the Course that, though relatively simple, honored the real breadth and complexity of the Course's thought system.
Finally, in the mid-nineties, I felt that I hit on that way. The summary I came up with has several advantages. It doesn't cover all of the Course's themes, not by a long way, but what it does is organize everything around the Course's central teaching of forgiveness. Thus, everything in the summary, from start to finish, is designed to make the concept of forgiveness make sense. In doing so, the summary quite naturally follows the chronology of our own journey. It therefore begins in Heaven before the separation, then descends down into the separation, then travels the long trek upward as we learn the art of forgiveness, and finally ends back in Heaven, where we started. Each point along this journey is specifically designed to contribute to the logic of forgiveness. Thus, the first half of it describes the problem that forgiveness solves, in such a way as to reveal forgiveness as the logical solution, as the only key that really fits this lock. The second half then describes forgiveness itself: what it is and what its effects are. It shows forgiveness undoing, one by one, all of the awful symptoms of the separation, until the separation is itself undone, and we return to the Heart of God.
In order to make this summary truly effective, I did three things. First, I fleshed it out into sixteen points that captured its essence. These points, read serially, constitute a mini-summary of the Course. Second, I expanded those sixteen points into ninety-six key ideas. These key ideas were worded as complete statements, so that, if you read them all in order, you would have an expanded version of the sixteen-point summary. Third, I drew a diagram that was my attempt to illustrate the sixteen points as they trace our journey away from Heaven and then back to Heaven. All three of these are meant to enhance one's ability to grasp the Course's teaching as a whole, as a unified system.
One advantage of this summary was that, even though it was organized around the single theme of forgiveness, it still hit most of the bases that I considered important. It was a genuine attempt to reflect the real breadth of the Course, rather than a reduction of the Course down to a few favorite ideas. It therefore contained a number of themes that typically get left out of summaries of the Course, or go unmentioned by Course students altogether.
That summary, as you may have guessed, became the basis for this book. The sixteen points became sixteen chapters and the key ideas became sections within the chapters. Having at last a solid summary in hand, I poured myself into the writing of this book, which I intended to be my major statement about the Course. When I finished, in the late nineties, a high-profile literary agent became enthused about it and felt that he could sell it to a major publisher. At that point, I approached the Foundation for Inner Peace, who owned the copyright at that time, for permission to use the Course quotes that were in the book. However, over a year passed before they were able to get me a decision. I finally received the news that the Course's copyright had been transferred to Ken Wapnick, and he would be the one to decide about permission to quote in my book. This was not welcome news, for Ken is a fellow teacher of the Course, whose interpretation is significantly different from mine, a fact that was discussed in a number of footnotes in the book. A short while later I received a letter from him denying me permission to quote in the book, saying that it would compromise the integrity of the Course.
I was not alone in my copyright difficulties. At this time, many Course centers, churches, and Internet discussion groups received letters about their supposed violations of the copyright. The Course community erupted in controversy. At one point, there were four lawsuits underway. It was finally over in the spring of 2004, when a judge in New York dismissed the copyright on the First Edition of the Course. Now authors such as myself were free to use quotations from the Course however they wished.
To prepare this book for publication, I have significantly revised my earlier manuscript. While I have kept the basic structure intact, I have rewritten a number of sections. In some cases, this was simply because I thought of a more effective way to make my point. In other cases, it was because my grasp of the Course had grown in the intervening time. I wanted this book to reflect, at time of publication, my latest understanding of the Course's teaching.
As useful as I think this summary is, it is not the way to summarize the Course. No summary of the Course can really do it justice, simply because, unlike my string of sixteen points, the Course's thought system is not a linear string of concepts. Rather, it is much more like a web. An even more apt image would be a three-dimensional web. Imagine trying to describe an intricate, three-dimensional spider web by following just one thread at a time. This is why I believe that the best way to learn the Course is to carefully study the Course itself, because every section is filled with the interweaving of its ideas, thus giving the reader a constant sense of the web—like nature of the teaching. On the other hand, even when we study the Course itself, we bring to that study certain orienting concepts about the system as a whole, and these, for good or ill, shape everything we read. If they are accurate, these orienting concepts can illumine what we are reading, both revealing and clarifying truths that we would have otherwise failed to grasp. In that spirit, I offer this overview of the Course's teaching to you, not as a substitute for studying the Course, but as a way to enter into or enrich your own encounter with the endless treasure house that is A Course in Miracles.
. Miller, D. Patrick, The Complete Story of the Course, Fearless Books, Berkeley, 1997, p. 1.
Excerpt From 14.3
Forgiveness lifts us into holy encounters, in which two people set aside what separates them and experience salvation together.
Forgiveness can easily sound like a solitary affair, as if we are doing our forgiving from behind one-way glass. Yet as we saw in the last chapter, forgiveness is genuinely interactive. As others receive the gift of our forgiveness, they are healed (key idea 13.3), and as they return the gift to us through their gratitude, we are healed (key idea 13.4).
Forgiveness, then, has the power to lift us into a special kind of human encounter, which the Course terms a holy encounter. All encounters are potential holy encounters. According to the Course, the only reason we ever find ourselves with another human being is that the Holy Spirit has seen in us the potential to mutually transcend our differences and enter into a shared holy instant. We are together because He has brought us together, and He has done so for the sake of this potential. Normally, of course, the potential goes unactualized. We are preoccupied with our own set of concerns, and in this mindset we see the other person as a tool to use or an obstacle to get around. We are too lost in our private priorities to genuinely have an encounter at all.
Yet occasionally, something shifts us out of our myopia and we at last recognize the person in front of us. The Course provides a number of snapshots of such a moment: Two strangers smile at each other in an elevator. Two students decide to walk home together. An adult foregoes the temptation to scold a child who has bumped into him.i A therapist and patient are caught up in a moment of joining so holy that the patient's illness and the therapist's judgments are completely forgotten: "The room becomes a temple, and the street a stream of stars that brushes lightly past all sickly dreams."ii
The Course's favorite image of a holy encounter, however, is the event in which the Course itself was born. Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford had worked together for seven years, during which time their relationship was filled with conflict and embedded within ever-widening circles of interpersonal discord. Then, one day, Bill delivered a pre-planned speech to Helen in which he said, "There must be another way."iii He suggested that instead of attacking others and pointing out errors, that he and Helen try to be constructive and cooperative, and focus on the positive. Helen, the story goes, jumped up and said that he was right and that she would join him in this new approach. It was a very human moment, without a hint of anything spiritual, and yet it was literally the birthplace of the Course. Under its catalytic influence, Helen began having a series of symbolic inner visions, as well as psychic experiences, and several months later the Course began coming through her. The material she received was Bill's "better way" fleshed out into an entire system of psychology and metaphysics, along with detailed instruction in how to actually reach that cooperative state of being.
In all of the above encounters, the same essential thing is going on. One person allows into her mind a fresh perception of the other, and this sparks an encounter in which both individuals experience a new view of each other. The chalice of true perception is passed back and forth, and as they both drink from it, they are lifted together into a timeless moment. This moment may feel spiritual and it may not. Yet neither one will leave it the same person, and the change that enters in this moment may change countless lives beyond their own. That is certainly what happened with Helen and Bill. I meet people all the time whose lives have been permanently changed by the Course—the fruit of Helen and Bill's holy encounter.
The true perception that is exchanged in these encounters is a way of seeing the other person that overlooks all that would make us recoil from him or her. This true perception, then, is simply another way of talking about forgiveness. Forgiveness is the active ingredient in holy encounters. When we think of forgiveness, the picture in our mind should be that of a holy encounter. The Course wants us to practice forgiveness internally, of course. But it is really banking on this internal practice flowering into a holy encounter. For the full power of forgiveness lies not in the private experience of it, but in the giving and receiving of it. That is where forgiveness has maximal power to change us and change the world through us. And that is why the Course teaches that it is "holy encounters in which salvation can be found."iv
i. All three of these examples are drawn from M-3.2:2-5.
iii. Absence from Felicity, p. 93-94
Excerpt From 2.5
The world we made is the opposite of Heaven in every way.
So what kind of world have we made? There is a lovely song which says, "And I think to myself, what a wonderful world." Is it a wonderful world?
We already saw in key idea 1.2 that this world is literally the opposite of reality. Time is the opposite of eternity. Space is the opposite of infinity. Form is the opposite of boundlessness. Change is the opposite of changelessness. All in all, separation is the opposite of oneness, making this world fundamentally alien to what the Course calls reality.
But might not this be a good thing? After all, in this world we have bodies that can enjoy the forms and the changes. Without a body we could never taste a peach. Without distance we could never appreciate closeness. Without change we would have no variety. As the aforementioned song says, "I see trees of green, red roses too. I see them bloom for me and you." Without time and space there would be no green trees or red roses. How good would life be then?
Yet let's be honest here. The reason we are so appreciative of the green trees and red roses, so hungry for them, is that they are tiny islands of joy in a sea of suffering. The world is filled with suffering. This indisputable fact gave rise to the Buddha's First Noble Truth: Life is suffering. Let's step back and take an honest look at life on planet Earth.
When we survey the big picture here, what do we see? We see masses and masses of tiny bodies trying to survive and to protect themselves from the savage onslaught of other tiny bodies. Each one is outfitted by nature with an array of ingenious defenses—shells, scales, camouflage, quills. And each one is outfitted with its own weapons—teeth, claws, poison, and the best weapons of all: big brains and opposable thumbs. The fighting is so desperate because everybody survives by literally eating the other bodies (plant or animal), which means that each one is an item on someone else's menu. Each body keeps up the fight as long as it can, but in the end, everyone dies and everyone gets eaten, even if only by the worms or microbes—who of course are in the same deadly business as everyone else.
We try to eulogize this death. My two older kids used to love the Disney movie, The Lion King. At one point the Lion King is training his son in the beauty and wisdom of the natural balance. He says, "Everything you see exists together in a delicate balance." He urges his son to therefore "respect all creatures, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope." "But Dad," says the son, "don't we eat the antelope?" "Yes, Simba," he replies, "but let me explain. When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great circle of life."
Ah, the great circle of life. This thought is initially quite comforting. We may even feel tinges of spiritual reverence. But why exactly are we comforted? Apparently, if the lions only ate others, that would be unfair, and would make this a cruel world. But if it all gets balanced out, and the lions themselves get eaten in turn—indeed, if everything is both eater and eaten—then it is a wonderful world, a beautiful circle of life. True, I may eat you, but then you get to turn around and eat me, and thus we are both connected (apparently, by being in each other's stomachs) and the wondrous circle is complete. This brings us to a final, not-so-comforting conclusion: The circle of life is really the circle of lunch.
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Another Gift to the Heart from the Heart
Robert Perry is certainly one of, and probably the clearest writer on A Course in Miracles in the field today. This book is fabulous, a clean, clear, precise look at the philosophy of ACIM, which is perhaps the one new, yet authentic teaching to come out of the New Age of the 60's and 70's.
I've read broadly in the Perennial Philosophy field for a quarter of a century. I was raised a Christian fundamentalist, studied with the Tibetans, sat with Zen practitioners, and have thoroughly explored the teachings of the neo-Advaitans. There is no doubt in my mind that ACIM is a genuine Revealed Scripture, and I believe Robert Perry and his Circle of Atonement to be authentic voices of that scripture.
While I'm not sure that I agree with 100% of what Mr. Perry writes and thinks, I find far more commonality than I do difference. A diamond viewed from a slightly different vantage point is still a diamond.
To top off his scholarship, Perry is simply a fine writer. We certainly need more of that in the field of spirituality in general and the Course in particular. There is an awful lot of junk out there in regard to the Course. If you're drowning, come here for fresh air.
Peace to you.
Henry Dickens & Co
Member, Antiquarian Book Dealers Association of South Carolina
For months I have been reading the most beautiful book on the Course that I have ever read. It has been filling me with such delight and joy with its utter perfection in illuminating thoughts and ideas that I have in the past overlooked and maybe deliberately disregarded but which now, because of the beauty and richness of the way in which they are described, fill me with such joy that a part of me cannot contain itself and wants to share such richness with the world, with somebody who would understand and let themselves be moved by the thoughts and ideas contained in the words of this book as I have been moved by them because I was finally able to open myself to the rich beauty of their wisdom.
While there's this part of me that feels compelled to share my overflowing joy, at the same time I am in touch with another part that doesn't want to be bothered with writing my ideas and feelings. It's too hard. I'm too blocked. I can't express myself. I can't even think of and explain and relate examples of what moves me or why, even though I just finished reading section "16.2 The Second Coming of Christ is when the world collectively awakens to the Christ, the Self we share,"; starting on page 361, which triggered the feelings of joy, love and gratitude resulting in this email.
The book is Return to the Heart of God [The Practical Philosophy ofA Course in Miracles] by Robert Perry.
I have read many articles and books by Robert and have been deeply moved by many of them and inspired by the way he seems to get to the heart of the matter and explain it in such a clear, appealing way, but there is something about this particular book which really seems to "return me to the heart of God," making my heart sing with joy and filling me with the desire to shout it to the world.
With love, joyful appreciation and great gratitude,
I just wanted to write to you today to say WOW!!!! Last night I started reading your new book and have been reading it today as well. So far I have only read chapters 7 through to 12 but I am not exaggerating when I say they are totally life changing! I don't think I have ever read anything that has been as illuminating for me!! I *think* I totally get now about how we project our guilt and attacks outwards onto other people so that we can then feel victimised and use that as a justification for attacking—thus keeping the ego in business. I have never understood this like this before and I KNOW that this is potentially life altering information, and is the basis for true forgiveness!. I know I am going to have to have several read throughs of your book to digest all the information in it—not to mention the actual Course!
I was also really interested (and will re-read and try and absorb deeper and deeper) what you wrote on pages 144-149 about shadow figures and how we spend our lives recasting the same people and scenarios to try and play them out to completion. I have been seeing a therapist (who knows about the Course but I don't think she loves it) who talks a lot about the inner child doing the same thing. If I read this section again it might answer the questions I have about reconciling inner child work with the Course's teaching.
I also loved what you wrote on pages 165-166 and will go back to them again as I have a long standing addiction to certain foods.
Thank you SO MUCH Robert. I have not even finished your book yet, but I am excited because I feel like I am understanding MUCH more about the Course than I ever have before. Most specifically I think I realy get about how projection makes perception and how what I think others have done to me has really been me projecting it onto them so that I can feel justified in keeping the attack cycle going—and THIS is why I am not living in perfect peace, not because I can't afford to buy hardly any furniture and I haven't been able to lose weight.
Thanks again Robert—very much
I cannot tell you how appreciative and grateful I am for your wonderful Course practical philosophy book, Return to the Heart of God! It arrived in my earth life at just the right time. I have been struggling for a long time to have such a comprehensive and practical view of the Course principles.
I am writing to express my profound gratitude for your most recent book, Return to the Heart of God. For me, it is simply the most lucid, accessible, and inspiring account of the Course's thought system I have ever encountered. Not only does your intellect shine through, but also your passion.
Just finished reading Return to the Heart of God. I underlined and highlighted almost the whole book. It's a wonderful explanation of the Course's teachings. You have a wonderful way of explaining some of those areas in the Course where I, after twenty-five years of study, still have problems. Thank you so very much!
—Kathy and Tripp Smith
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