The teaching in this lesson is quite profound, if you really understand what it is saying. Let me try to present its argument, for that it is what it is making—an argument for why you must, logically speaking, let go of your belief in death.
To begin with, we need to admit that we do believe in the power of death, and this (as paragraph 1 points out) goes way beyond believing in physical death. Death is not just the end of bodily functioning. Rather, it is a general principle. It is the idea that "all good things must come to an end." It is the belief that the death force will win out over the life force, in little ways and in big ways. All our sadness, fear, and anxiety, all our negative emotions, rest on this principle. They all say "this good thing will (or has) come to an end."
Think about when you feel afraid. Isn't that based on the belief that something is coming that will in some way, to some degree, put an end to some good thing? Based on this, you can well imagine that you are seeing death at work in different forms all over the place, all the time.
Now we can move to the next part of this lesson's argument (paragraphs 2-5). We don't just grant the idea of death some power, we grant it lots of power. We see the Grim Reaper around every corner. We see microscopic reapers running around in our bodies, causing little endings. We see little dwarf reapers stalking our daily affairs. And we see giant, fifty-foot reapers stomping through the international scene.
Paragraph 3 is particularly powerful in this respect. It begins, "All things but death are seen to be unsure, too quickly lost however hard to gain, uncertain in their outcome, apt to fail the hopes they once engendered, and to leave the taste of dust and ashes in their wake, in place of aspirations and of dreams. But death is counted on."
Seeing this kind of power in death means two things. First, we see in death the power of God: "Here is the opposite of God proclaimed as lord of all creation, stronger than God's Will for life" (4:3). Are we willing to admit this—that we see death as being, for all practical purposes, stronger than God?
Second, giving death this kind of power, seeing death as God, means worshipping death. It makes us devoted worshippers in the church of death. Notice all the language related to this in the lesson. Here are a few examples:
All such thoughts are but reflections of the worshipping of death as savior and as giver of release. (1:3)
The frail, the helpless and the sick bow down before its image, thinking it alone is real, inevitable, worthy of their trust. (2:3)
Would you bow down to idols such as this? (4:1)
And this it writes again and still again, while all the while its worshippers agree, and kneeling down with foreheads to the ground, they whisper fearfully that it is so. (5:4)
Can we admit that we are actually worshipping death? That we are in some real sense bowing down before it, as if it were God? According to this lesson, we are. When we feel sad, we are worshipping death as lord of all creation. When we feel afraid, we are bowing down before its image and whispering, "O Lord Death, whatever you say is true."
Even if we can admit such a thing, however, we are probably quick to say, "Yes, but this is not the whole story. I do believe in the power of a loving God. I do believe that life will have the final say. I do see a future brighter than the past."
This may all be true, and it makes our position sound quite reasonable. We believe in death where that looks like the reasonable response, and we believe in life where that looks warranted. Rather than dogmatic, we are flexible and pragmatic. Our current position, then, in which we believe in both life and death, is just a realistic acknowledgment of the way things are.
Yet this is the crux of the lesson, so we need to stop and look very carefully at this point. The fact is that death and life are complete opposites. They are mutually exclusive. They thus cannot both be true:
Either all things die, or else they live and cannot die. No compromise is possible. For here again we see an obvious position, which we must accept if we be sane; what contradicts one thought entirely can not be true, unless its opposite is proven false. (6:3-5)
Only one or the other—life or death—can be the ruling principle of reality. Therefore, to believe in death in some cases, we must be willing to go all the way, to believe in the power of death in all cases, without exception.
And what does it mean to go all the way here? It means that death has killed God and become God in His stead. That, in fact, is the message that death is always delivering to us. When it supposedly kills a person, it is sending the message, "To kill God's Son, I had to overcome his Father's Will that he live. And I did that. I overcame God's Will so completely that I killed God." That is the meaning of that stark image in paragraph 5:
His epitaph, which death itself has written, gives no name to him, for he has passed to dust. It says but this: "Here lies a witness God is dead." And this it writes again and still again, while all the while its worshippers agree, and kneeling down with foreheads to the ground, they whisper fearfully that it is so. (5:2-4)
Can you see that that is the secret message you are seeing all over your life? In every little ending, every small crushing of your hopes, you see this epitaph. How else could you explain God's Will for life being defeated?
But this is the very point of our release. For if we really look at this idea—that death has killed God—it becomes instantly unbelievable:
The idea of the death of God is so preposterous that even the insane have difficulty in believing it. For it implies that God was once alive and somehow perished; killed, apparently, by those who did not want Him to survive. (7:1-2)
Is this really a credible point of view? Can we really imagine God being alive and then somehow being overpowered and killed? This explains this key line from paragraph 8: "If they [death's worshippers] saw that it is only this which they believe, they would be instantly released" (8:3). Why would they be released? Because, looking at their core belief at last in the light, they would see that it is simply "preposterous." "I've been believing that? That's just stupid."
To see where this leave us, let's recap a bit: In order to believe in death, we need to go all the way with it, to see it as total, as going so far as to even kill God. But we can't go that far. That's ridiculous. And so we can't believe in death at all. We have to embrace its opposite. We have to embrace life as the ruling principle of reality, as the only principle that has any power whatsoever. For the sake of sheer logical consistency, that is our only choice.
Our lesson today is devoted, then, to at last being consistent, to getting off the fence by realizing we have to believe totally in life or death, and we simply can't believe totally in death. We can't go that far. So we have to go to the other side. We have to believe in life and renounce death: "There is no death, and we renounce it now in every form" (8:5).
And if we do that, we don't just release ourselves. We release the other worshippers of death as well. The power of our belief will undermine the preposterous foundation of their belief.
Purpose: to take a stand against every form of death; to realize that, unless God is dead, death itself must be unreal. To look past the outward appearance of death (which is all around us), and see the true life which shines in all things. Thus we release all those who worship the idea of death.
Morning/evening quiet time: at least 5 minutes; ideally, 30 or more
Begin with the prayer at the end of the lesson (this is the Workbook's first prayer). Make it your prayer for the day. It asks that God bless your eyes, to give them power to see beyond the illusion of death that confronts you everywhere, and to see the eternal life that shines in all things. Through this sight, you abandon the religion of worshipping death, and you rescue others from this same dangerous cult.
After the prayer, do whatever you feel guided to do with the practice period. Since the prayer focuses on seeing with Christ's vision, you may want to try to sink down in your mind and join with the Christ in you, so that His eyes become your eyes.
Hourly remembrance: 1 or 2 minutes as the hour strikes (reduce if circumstances do not permit)
Repeat the idea. You may also want to pray the prayer again; I highly recommend that. Then thank God for His gifts in the previous hour, and let His Voice tell you what He wants you to do in the next hour.
Response to temptation: whenever you are tempted to believe in a form of death
Forms of death include anything where life—in the broadest sense of the word—appears to be losing the battle. This would include sadness, fear, anxiety, doubt, anger, envy; in short, any negative emotion (see 1:2), as well as sickness and physical death. In the face of these, immediately repeat the idea for the day. Realize it means that life and death cannot both be real, since they contradict each other. And since life is of God and God can't be killed, unlimited life is the only reality there can be. We are not imprisoned by the power of death. We are free in God's unlimited life.