Lessons 29 and 30 are very important. They represent the culmination of a long progression. In the earliest lessons we focused on seeing the meaninglessness of both external forms and the thoughts that we project onto those forms. But we were told even then that there was something else we could see in those forms: "If you could accept the world as meaningless and let the truth be written upon it for you, it would make you indescribably happy" (W-pI.12.5:3). Since Lesson 20, this more positive focus has slowly been coming in. Since then we have been focusing in four key lessons on the desire for vision, which we have been told is the goal of the Course, and which amounts to seeing the real truth "written upon" the world. Finally, in yesterday's lesson (28), we practiced wanting to see real purpose, "the purpose of the universe," written on the familiar meaningless objects out there. Now, at last, with Lesson 29, we are told exactly what vision sees in things. It sees God.
All of this gives us a background for understanding what is meant here by seeing God in things. What we are seeing is God's holy purpose that has been assigned to all things and is therefore the real purpose of all things. Lesson 29 is quite clear about this. In paragraph 2 it takes yesterday's idea of seeing in a table the purpose of the universe and equates that with seeing "the purpose of its Creator" (2:5). What we are seeing in these objects, then, is God's purpose.
This is confirmed in paragraph 3, which says that vision will show us "the holiness that lights up the world" (3:6). This holiness has just been called the "holy purpose" that things really have (3:5). So again what we are seeing is holy purpose.
This is also backed up by Lesson 30, "God is in everything I see because God is in my mind." In this sense, then, the "God" we are seeing is something the mind can "project" onto the world's familiar forms. This fits if what we are talking about is God's purpose that the mind can "write on" physical forms (and which the Holy Spirit has already "written on" those forms).
This also fits with the Text's notion that seeing the real world means seeing the loving thoughts that contributed to the making of the world. This includes seeing "a blade of grass [as] a sign of God's perfection" (T-17.II.6:3), which sounds very like to these two lessons, in two ways. First, we are seeing something of God in an ordinary object. Second, we are seeing God in that object because some kind of loving thought (or purpose) has been applied to it.
We can see what I am talking about mirrored exactly in this quote from the Text (I have put the words "purpose" and "meaning" in bold]:
What is immortal cannot be attacked; what is but temporal [the things of the world] has no effect. Only the purpose that you see in it [the temporal form] has meaning, and if that is true, its [the form] safety rests secure. If not, it has no purpose, and is means for nothing. Whatever [temporal form] is perceived as means for truth shares in its [truth's] holiness, and rests in light as safely as itself [truth itself]. Nor will that light go out when it [the form] is gone. Its holy purpose gave it immortality, setting another light in Heaven, where your creations recognize a gift from you, a sign that you have not forgotten them.
The test of everything on earth is simply this; "What is it for?" [What is its purpose?] The answer makes it what it is for you. It has no meaning of itself, yet you can give reality to it, according to the purpose that you serve. (T-24.VII.5:4-6:3)
So the things of this world have "no meaning" in themselves, but we can see real meaning in them if we see them as means for a "holy purpose." That's what it means to see God in things.
The Course does have another angle for seeing God in things, which I think is worth noting here. That is the notion of seeing the true nature of the mind that resides in each living thing. Each living thing has a mind that thinks it is inside that body, and the true nature of that mind is divine, since that mind is a Son of God. Further, the Course's concept of living things extends to what we consider things that are inanimate, such as streams, wind, waves, and rocks. This is why "the smallest grain of sand" can be "recognized as being part of the completed picture of God's Son" (T-28.IV.9:4).
But that notion of seeing divinity actually residing in (or thinking it resides in) physical objects is not the focus in these lessons. I think we should therefore honor their specific focus and try to wrap our heads around the notion that something can be seen as filled with God simply because it "shares the purpose" of God.
To help with that, here's an analogy: Imagine that if you could turn a certain lock and open a certain door, you would instantly cause everyone in the world to realize total forgiveness. The whole world would instantly transform into a paradise, Heaven on earth. Now let's say you saw this small, rusty, worthless old key on the ground, the kind that opens ordinary small padlocks. Besides being rusted, it's got dirt and even flecks of old paint on it. As you picked it up and prepared to open the door with it, what would you see in it? Would you see it according to what it is in and of itself-dirty, rusty and utterly worthless? Or would you see it according to the incredibly significant and wonderful purpose it could fulfill? I suspect you would see it as fairly glowing with holy meaning. And indeed, isn't this exactly what Christianity did with the cross? If you can do it with a cross, you can do it with anything.
This, says these lessons, is how we can see everything-as serving an incredibly significant and wonderful purpose. And if we see it as being for that, if we see that as being its purpose, then that purpose will determine its meaning in our eyes. If we see all things as having a divine purpose, we will see them all as having a divine meaning. Let's bear all this in mind as we practice these two lessons.
God is in everything I see.
The first two sentences, about purpose and nothing being separate, refer to yesterday's lesson. Then the third sentence, of course, takes us back to the very first lesson. By taking us all the way back to the beginning, he's trying to give us the sense that this lesson really does explain all previous lessons. But then he says it explains all subsequent ones as well, because it is the "whole basis for vision," which is the very goal of the lessons. We therefore need to see this idea that vision sees God in everything as being absolutely central to the Course.
My commentary has covered this paragraph. But I'll add here that, in our current New Age spiritual climate, we no longer find the idea of seeing God in everything as "silly" or "senseless." This is not 1969 anymore. Rather, the idea probably sounds quite natural and even banal to us. However, what we need to do is carefully fill the idea with the Course's meaning, rather than with what we have picked up from popular spiritual culture.
Covered by previous commentary.
After Lesson 19 we only get occasional reminders for indiscriminate application. But we get one here because he thinks we will find "self-directed selection" "particular tempting" here. Now, as I said, the idea is no longer "wholly alien" to us. But we still might discriminate. New Age sensibilities, for instance, might lead us to confine our application of the idea to "natural" things. We might decide that God is in the plant rather than the plastic. We should remember that because God's purpose has been assigned to everything, God is even in "the sounds I hear" (W-pII.264.1:2), and, as we'll see tomorrow, even in our thoughts.
Notice that, as usual, we start near ("this") and then go far ("that").
This, by the way, is our first combination of formal, sit-down practice periods and brief, frequent reminders. He says "at least once an hour" for the frequent reminders, but you might want to try doing them on the hour, and then in between whenever you remember. Having that "on the hour" anchor will probably mean you practice more often. If you decide you'll practice somewhere inside each hour, you will very likely forget for hours at a time.
What this lesson means to me is that the physical properties of what I see are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is that they have been assigned God's purpose. Thus, I am really not surrounded by physical things. I am surrounded by God's purpose. I am surrounded by God.
Purpose: "to begin to learn how to look on all things with love, appreciation and open-mindedness" (3:1). To see the holy purpose that resides in everything.
Longer: 6 times, for 2 minutes
- Repeat the idea.
- Then apply it to randomly-chosen objects in your visual field, naming each one. Say, "God is in this [magazine, finger]" or "God is in that [body, door]." Realize that you are not claiming that God is somehow physically in that object, but that God has assigned His purpose to it, a purpose which is part of Him. Remember your training in this practice. Start near to you and then extend further out. Keep looking at each object until you are done repeating the sentence. And make sure you avoid "self-directed selection" (4:2), something that might be more challenging with this idea.
Frequent reminders: at least once an hour
Repeat the idea slowly while looking slowly about you.