For many Course students there is a tension, perhaps unconscious, between the word "miracle" in the Course's title and the Course's metaphysical foundation. A miracle is an amazing happening in this world, while the Course's metaphysical foundation says that the world is unreal. The natural question is that, if it is unreal, what is so important about amazing happenings within it? Yet even though these two themes seem to be in tension, in truth they fit together perfectly. One implies the other. In this article I would like to define the miracle, and do so in such a way that we can see how it is the natural outcome of the Course's metaphysical foundation.
According to A Course in Miracles, in the beginning there was this pristine reality, perfect in every way, free of boundaries and limitation, and filled with eternal joy and peace. At the dawn of time, however, this reality seemed to be replaced by its opposite: the world as we know it, a realm characterized by conflict, sickness, and suffering, a place where frightened creatures claw for their needs in the brief time before they die.
This second realm, however, did not truly replace the first. It is nothing but an illusion in our minds. That original, pristine realm remains the only reality. As such, it has all the power. This is the key to the miracle. At any moment, the power of reality can come into this illusory realm and overturn things, replacing the prevailing picture of death with a picture of eternal life. This can happen instantly and without effort, because the life that comes in was the only reality all along. All that is required is that our minds release their hold on the illusion and, for a moment, let reality be itself.
A crucial question is: Does reality come in and overturn illusions only in our minds, or does it overturn them in the world, too? By "in the world" I refer both to physical appearances and to other people's minds. I think the Course is perfectly clear on this. According to statements made throughout its three volumes, the miracle plants a reflection of reality: 1) in our minds, 2) in the minds of others, and 3) in the physical world. It overturns illusions across the board because they are unreal. If there were some illusions that could stand firm in the face of the miracle, they would be proven real, since stability and permanence are the hallmarks of what is real. The Course is aiming at the wiping away of all illusions, the restoration of all that was lost, the salvation of all the Sons of God. It wants the whole thing to be overturned, not just my individual ego.
In my mind, the resurrection of Jesus is the best example of the total reversal inherent in the miracle. Jesus' crucifixion was a powerful symbol of the world of illusions. It was a gallery of the worst this world has to dish out: abandonment, betrayal, false accusation, unjust conviction, apparent failure of mission, public humiliation, ridicule, torture, and agonizing death via state execution. Death is not just another item on this list; it adds a note of finality to the entire list. As Helen's poem "Stranger on the Road" says, "The dead are dead. They do not rise again" (The Gifts of God, p. 103). What better symbol could there be for a world of darkness that has apparently shut out the light of God once and for all?
This is why the resurrection made such a powerful statement. If the crucifixion of Jesus can be totally reversed, then anything can be. If the resurrection really happened, it means that no matter how bad things are, peace can always replace war, joy can always replace tears, and life can always replace death.
Course students have differing opinions about whether or not there was a physical dimension to Jesus' resurrection. But guidance that Jesus gave to Helen (which was published in Ken Wapnick's Absence from Felicity, p. 383-384) made it clear that there was an empty tomb; his body did disappear. He told Helen, "My body disappeared because I had no illusions about it." It disappeared, in other words, because he fully and finally realized it was not real. In fact, this guidance basically equates the resurrection with this disappearance. It mentions the reappearance of his body but treats that as secondary, as occurring after the resurrection event itself. With this background, Jesus then summarizes the message of the resurrection:
Illusions are illusions. Truth is true.
Illusions vanish. Only truth remains. (Absence from Felicity, p. 384)
Look at those lines. They capture perfectly what I have been trying to say about the miracle—which makes sense given that the resurrection was the ultimate miracle. Those lines say that the miracle is the natural result of the Course's metaphysical foundation that reality is true and illusions are false. Because of that fact, the power of reality can rush in to replace illusions at any moment—any moment we allow it to. And that replacement can happen across the board, not only in our minds, but in the world as well.
Based on the above, I would like to offer this definition of the miracle. It is not meant to define the miracle in a technical way, but to capture its spirit, and show its connection to the Course's foundation.
Because reality (the oneness of spirit, the peace of eternity, the Love of God) is true and illusions (the sickness, discord, and death endemic to this world) are false, reality has all the power and illusions have none. Therefore, the power of reality can rush in at any moment and shine away illusions, instantly replacing their picture of death with a reflection of eternal life. This is the miracle. It is up to us to allow this replacement to occur, and once we let it happen in our minds, it can also extend to the minds of others and the world of form. All things painful and limiting can be reversed, and will be, because they are not real.
What interests me about this definition is that it could serve as a summary of the Course itself. As a summary, it combines those two themes I mentioned at the outset: the metaphysical foundation which says the world is not real, and the miracle, which promises total, across-the-board liberation within this world. Hopefully, we now can see that one entails the other. It is because our chains are illusory that the Course can offer complete release from them. And that is what the Course is about: total, miraculous liberation from all chains. That is why it is a course in miracles.