This lesson sounds far more simple than it is. However, it does have an ultimately simple tapestry of thought that runs throughout it. It's when you really get that that the lesson takes on its full power.
It starts with the notion, so often repeated in the Course, that ideas leave not their source. A thought cannot leave the mind of its thinker, or it would no longer exist. It is thought into being by its thinker. Indeed, all the thought is is an instance of that mind thinking.
Now realize that we are a Thought in the Mind of God. Therefore, it follows that we cannot leave His Mind. We cannot be apart from Him. If we could really detach ourselves from His Mind, we would instantly cease to exist. Hence, as long as we are in existence, we are in direct contact with God. He is thinking us. He is right here beside us.
Now we need to add one more crucial part. God is not just transmitting being (or existence) to us. While He is right here thinking us into existence, giving us being, He is also giving us all His attributes.
And one of those attributes is holiness. Please, please do not automatically substitute "wholeness" for holiness. That, I believe, is a defense against the real meaning of the word. As you can see in this lesson, holiness is the opposite of sinfulness. Sinfulness says "I have done bad thing and therefore tarnished my soul." Holiness says, "My soul is as pure and saintly as God Himself." Holiness here means much of what it means in normal parlance; it is a synonym for saintliness.
The challenge of this lesson is to accept that, no matter what you do, you are holy, because God is right here thinking you into being, and along with giving you existence, He is giving you His holiness. Nothing you can do can change that. As a result, you could no more be sinful "than the sun could choose to be of ice; the sea elect to be apart from water" (3:3). Another angle is this: You could no more behave yourself into sinfulness than you could think yourself into nonexistence. Both your existence and your holiness are completely outside your power. They are, to use language from the insurance industry, acts of God.
What is the point of all the imagery in paragraphs 4 and 5? For someone who has truly realized that God walks with him in holiness, the Divinity that goes with him is evident to all living things. Everything feels that holiness, that presence of God. Therefore, all things greet him as royalty. Notice that almost all the images are classic responses to royalty. When kings enter, their servants fill the air with incense ("the scent of flowers"). People bow down ("the waves bow down"). Servants hold palm fronds over them to shade them ("the trees extend their arms to shield you from the heat"). A carpet is rolled out before them ("lay their leaves before you on the ground").
So why does nature respond to the holy person in this way? Because even the trees and the waves sense in this person the presence of holiness, the presence of God. And so their give him the honor and reverence due a king. This is not just poetry. This is literally what happens when "you step back" and "the light in you steps forward and encompasses the world" (6:1). It may be hard to imagine, but the presence of holiness is unmistakable. They say that when Buddha walked into the forest, animals stopped fighting for a zone of a mile around his body. Many years ago, I briefly had a master whose deck was often filled with wild animals that ought to have been attacking each other.
When holiness in us steps forward, it reveals sin (the idea that we are sinful) to be a mere "quaint absurdity," just a "foolish thought, a silly dream," "a senseless whim" (all from paragraph 4). Can we apply this to all those dark, guilty secrets we carry, all those terrible, heavy things that we have locked away, hoping they will never be found out?
We don't need to waste any more time in our approach to God on the foolish thought of sin. Paragraph 7, in fact, acts like we have made progress in this respect. "The approach to God is near" (7:7). Now we are in a kind of in-between land. One moment we realize that we walk with God in holiness, but the next moment we can doubt this, and fall back into the illusion that we walk alone in sinfulness. We can mistake our great Companion (God) for the senseless, ancient dream that now is past (sin).
Therefore (moving on to paragraph 8), we ought to ask ourselves a thousand times a day (or once every waking minute), "Who walks with me?" This means, "Does God walk with me in holiness or does sin walk with me as my only companion?" If we can ask this again and again and again and again, certainty will slowly come and end all our doubting. When we ask, we can listen for God's answer to our question, which is given in the final lines of the lesson:
I walk with God in perfect holiness.
I light the world, I light my mind and all
the minds which God created one with me.
Morning/evening quiet time: at least 5 minutes; ideally, 30 or more
Although we are not given specific instructions for particular practice periods, we are told how to practice generally today. Before we set our feet on the path, we walked around unconsciously believing that we walked alone, accompanied only by our sinfulness. We carried the weight of what we thought we had done like a heavy rock on our shoulders. Once we stepped onto the path, we opened our mind to the idea that God was walking with us, that His Being was inseparable from our being, and that therefore we carried holiness with us, not sinfulness. Now we are of two minds, at times believing we walk alone in sinfulness, at times believing we walk with God in holiness.
Our practice, then, consists in asking ourselves, "Who walks with me?" Meaning, is it God or sin? As we ask, we need to realize this is a genuine question; we are really not sure yet what the answer is. And then we need to answer with these words: "I walk with God in perfect holiness. I light the world, I light my mind and all the minds which God created one with me." As we say these words, we need to realize that they are not just our own words trying to answer our question. They are the words that God has given us; they are Him answering for us (8:4).
If we can truly embrace this answer, then our holiness will shine forth for all to see. As paragraph 4 says, even the waves, flowers, trees, and wind will respond to us as if we are visiting royalty (bowing down in front of us, laying a carpet before us, shielding our head from the heat, filling the air with sweet-smelling incense), for they will innately sense the heavenly King walking with us.
Hourly remembrance: 1 or 2 minutes as the hour strikes (reduce if circumstances do not permit)
- Ask the question, "Who walks with me [God or sin]?" And then answer with the lines, "I walk with God in perfect holiness. I light the world, I light my mind and all the minds which God created one with me."
- Then thank God for walking with you in the hour gone by. You might even think of events from that hour that were evidence of Him walking with you.
- And finally, ask Him for guidance for the coming hour: where He wants you to walk and what He wants you to do.
Suggestion: You may want to do this practice of asking the question ("Who walks with me?") and repeating the response ("I walk with God…") many times during each hour. The lesson mentions doing it a thousand times a day, or approximately once every waking minute. This remarkable frequency is perhaps a bit beyond our current level of discipline. We will experience powerful benefits even if we do it a few times each hour.