The Course and Mother Nature

by Robert Perry

What do we as Course students do with nature? For those of us who have been real nature lovers, perhaps even ecologists, maybe members of the Sierra Club or Greenpeace, the Course can be pretty disturbing. For not too long after you crack the book, you find out that our beautiful garden planet,our blue gem floating in the cosmic sea, is an illusion, along with the rest of the twinkling lights in that sea, as well as the sea itself. According to the Course, it is all a dream. And it's not a very nice dream. Better put, it's a nightmare, a moving picture of our mind's attack on God's Love.

As it sinks in that this means that the lilies of the field, the baby seals, the Himalayas, the California Redwoods and, yes, even the rocky spires of Sedona, are all dream images, our minds can start going tilt. This raises, of course, some very important questions, such as, "What impact should the Course's view have on our attitudes toward nature?" and "What should be our new attitude toward nature?" Many of us have spent years wrestling with these questions.

Let's look at some of the common attitudes that are carried about nature and the earth: The earth is our home. The earth is our mother; it produced us as a species, it gave us life as individuals and it supplies and maintains that life. As children in this home, we should take good care of the earth; the measuring stick for our actions is how positively or negatively they affect the planet. Physical life and physical survival are the ultimate resource to be preserved. Since the earth is our source, we should follow its ways; we should pattern ourselves after the wisdom of nature. Nature is what God made and so it reveals His ways. Nature, as opposed to human civilization, is what is natural. Nature, as opposed to humankind, is innocent. Nature is beautiful and is to be enjoyed and appreciated. Or, conversely, nature is a resource to be exploited in order to supply our needs; in order to give us a good life on this earth which is our home.

I am sure the list could go on. But my question again is, what do we do with this list in light of the Course's teaching? The following article is the product of my many years of pondering this question. There are in essence two parts to it. First, we will look at the negative things the Course says or implies about nature. Second, we will look at the positive side. As always, I cannot claim that I speak accurately for the Course. But where what I have said is perhaps controversial, I have tried to support it with passages from the Course.

An honest look at nature

How you view nature depends a great deal on what your standard of measurement is. If you measure what we call nature against conditions on the surface of the moon or Saturn, or, say, conditions on the seventh level of hell, nature comes out looking pretty good. There is an amazing abundance of life. There is greenery almost everywhere. Life is pushing up out of every crack. Animals and insects are crawling or flying wherever the eye can see. The masses and masses of living things are generally provided with the food, air and water they need for survival. On the whole, the various individuals and systems are enfolded in an ordered, harmonious, almost orchestrated whole, in which every part ends up unwittingly cooperating with every other part toward the continuance and evolution of the whole. On every level, there is great beauty and a phenomenal intricacy of intelligent design. Things could certainly be a lot worse. And, of course, they are in places like the moon, Saturn and hell.

Yet, on the other hand, things could also be a lot better. Which brings us to the question, what if we choose a different measuring stick? What if we measure nature not against how bad things could get, but against how good things could get? This is precisely what the Course does. It says that what is truly natural is Heaven. Anything less than Heaven is unnatural. Let us, then, look at nature in light of Heaven.

What is Heaven like? Heaven, according to the Course, is completely beyond words, but there are some words that come closer than others. Perhaps the most descriptive word is "unlimited." Heaven is characterized by unlimited love, unlimited joy, unlimited peace, unlimited perfection. It has no boundaries, for boundaries are limits. It has no forms, because forms are limits. There are no separate individuals, because an individual is a limited being. There is only one limitless expanse of awareness in a state of formless ecstasy: God. All of us and all living things are simply parts or aspects of this single Being. And there is only one limitless, changeless moment, which is eternity.

In comparison with this, nature comes up sorely wanting. For everything in nature is limited. In fact, nature itself is nothing more than a big collection of different patterns of limitation. True, many of its forms are beautiful, but can the beauty of little, limited forms compare to the beauty of the formless,the infinite? True, there is happiness in nature, but how can the tiny, fleeting happiness of this world come close to the happiness of God? Yes, nature does contain life, but all of those lives are limited. They are tiny individuals, mere specks, whose lives flash by in a microscopic tick of the cosmic clock.

And nature is more than just limited. It is war. To stay alive, every individual living thing must make war on its environment. It must eat other living things just to survive. It must live off of death. But it can only do so for so long before it too must die, to become food in turn for some hyena, vulture, worm, bacteria or human, itself doomed to die. Death, in fact, is the central "reality" of this world. Life must end in death, and while it lives its very life is derived from the death of other things.

And so, while we are sitting back appreciating the beauty of nature, more than anything else we are looking at a war in progress, a universal melee in which every tree, bush, bug, fish, lizard, bird and mammal is just trying to stay alive by eating whatever it can. We are watching a desperate game of survival, in which staying alive is the goal which propels the whole system forward; in which a thing's very physical shape, the entire organization of its body, inside and outside, is formed to make it skilled at eating and at not getting eaten, at staying alive long enough to reproduce and keep the game going.

The Course is intensely aware of this more realistic view of nature, as opposed to the romantic and idyllic image that many of us carry. It realizes that nature may be beautiful to sit back and contemplate, but that it can be pretty rotten to actually live in. For instance,

…all the laws that seem to govern [this world] are the laws of death. Children are born into it through pain and in pain. Their growth is attended by suffering, and they learn of sorrow and separation and death. Their minds seem to be trapped in their brain, and its powers to decline if their bodies are hurt. They seem to love, yet they desert and are deserted. They appear to lose what they love, perhaps the most insane belief of all. And their bodies wither and gasp and are laid in the ground, and are no more. Not one of them but has thought that God is cruel (T-13.In.2:4-11).

Death is the central dream from which all illusions stem. Is it not madness to think of life as being born, aging, losing vitality, and dying in the end?…It is the one fixed, unchangeable belief of the world that all things in it are born only to die. This is regarded as "the way of nature," not to be raised to question, but to be accepted as the "natural" law of life. The cyclical, the changing and unsure; the undependable and the unsteady, waxing and waning in a certain way upon a certain path,—all this is taken as the Will of God. And no one asks if a benign Creator could will this (Manual, p. 63; M-27.1:1-2,4-7).

From the above passage, we can draw two conclusions. First, nature is unnatural. Life, limitless and without opposite, is what is natural. And nature is characterized by limited life, surrounded, punctuated and sustained by death. Second, God did not create nature, or the physical universe in which it resides. This the Course says over and over and over again. If God created nature, He would be cruel. In creating the universe and its "natural" systems, He would have created limitation, impermanence, pain, war and, most of all, death. Why would He do that, if He could create the unlimited? Why would He make this world, unless He had a serious mean streak?

This, of course, is not an original point. The hard nature of life in this world is perhaps the single biggest reason for lack of religious faith. Theologians—going all the way back to Job—have grappled with trying to reconcile God with the evils of this world, under the heading of "The Problem of Evil." Darwin's theory of the survival of the fittest damaged religious faith perhaps as much by revealing that the world that God supposedly made worked by the law of tooth and claw, as by revealing that man evolved from the apes. All in all, reflective people have been rejecting God for centuries based on the pain, evil and injustice inherent in life on earth.

But God didn't make life on earth. So says the Course. If He didn't, then who did? According to the Course, we did. Nature, the earth and the physical universe are all one big collective dream. Let us take the two words of this phrase, "collective dream," and look at them one at a time.

A dream

We will begin with the word "dream." The fact that the world is a dream implies many things. First and foremost, of course, it implies that the world is not real. It is an illusion, a mirage.

Another thing it implies is that the world is not even a place. It is just a bunch of images in our minds. Think about your nighttime dreams. Upon awakening, you realize that the place you dreamt about was not a real place, but was simply a collection of images inside of your mind. Thus, you were not inside of the dream. It was inside of you. All of its images were simply furniture in your mind. And so it is with the dream of this world. You are not inside of it. It is inside of you.

Another implication of the word "dream" is that all of the images, events and plot lines in the dream are dream symbols. They were produced by thoughts, feelings and attitudes within the mind and therefore reflect or symbolize those thoughts, feelings and attitudes. Thus, we all know that what we dream at night is produced by things in our unconscious. So, for instance, if we have a nightmare, we figure there must be some strong fears churning around in our unconscious.

How, then, do we interpret the dream of the world? If the images, events and plot lines of the "natural" world are symbols, what unconscious beliefs do they symbolize? What beliefs must we be holding? First, we must believe inseparation, for all of nature's dream symbols are separate. Second, we must believe in limitation, for the same reason. Third, we must believe in lack. Look at the dream symbol of our bodies. They are constantly needing to be filled with food. Their lack is so fundamental that they never are truly filled, for even when we fill them, they will be lacking again in a few hours. They must be dream symbols of a belief in lack. Fourth, we must believe in vulnerability, for all of the world's dream symbols are easily damaged and need constant protection. Fifth, we must believe in attack, for everything must attack just to survive, to fill its bodily needs. Sixth, we must believe in guilt. Guilt says that we deserve punishment and death, and the world we dream of never ceases to punish us from the time we are born until the time it finally kills us. This is why the Course says,

The world you see is the delusional system of those made mad by guilt. Look carefully at this world, and you will realize that this is so. For this world is the symbol of punishment, and all the laws that seem to govern it are the laws of death (T-13.In.2:2-4).

All in all,we must believe that life can be opposed and defeated by an opposite, that "there are forces to be overcome to be alive at all" (Psychotherapy, p.10). We must believe that life can be carved up into separate pieces, can be made limited, lacking and empty, can be attacked, injured and drained, and can finally be killed. We must believe in death.

We must not only believe this, we must be intent on proving it to ourselves. This, says the Course, is the dark motive behind producing this dream. If our beliefs in separation, limitation, lack, etc., remain nothing more than beliefs in our minds, they are very precarious. For we all know that beliefs can be wrong and can change. Yet if we produce a dream that symbolizes them and then forget it is a dream, then the situation changes entirely. For by forgetting it is a dream, it now seems to be reality, independent of our minds. And thus, the separation, limitation, lack and death that characterize the dream are no longer just beliefs. They seem to be part of the very fabric of reality. The dream of the world, therefore, is a device for "proving" the reality of our mistaken beliefs.

A collective dream

Now let us turn to the word "collective." One of the reasons it is so difficult to realize that this world is a dream is that, unlike nighttime dreams, it is so incredibly immense, intricate, consistent, logical and persistent. This, I believe, is a result of the fact that this is not a superficial nor an individual dream. It is being dreamt out of an exceedingly deep part of our minds which is continuous with the minds of all living things. The dream, therefore, is coming from a much deeper level of mind than our nighttime dreams, a level of mind that is closer to the infinite intelligence of our Christ Self.

What this all adds up to is that the dream of the physical universe is being dreamt by a vast sea of intelligence. This sea is composed of deeper layers of all of the trillions of minds that are lost in the sleep of illusion. All of the laws of this world, the laws of physics, chemistry, biology, etc., are simply collective agreements among the members of this sea of mind. If you have been amazed at the vividness and detail of your nighttime dreams, amazed at the complexity of what your unconscious can spontaneously produce, imagine the dream that a far deeper and vaster realm of mind could produce. Actually, you don't have to imagine it. All you need to do is look around you.

Therefore, the images in our waking lives are not one bit more real than the images in our nighttime dreams. They are just more stable, intricate and consistent because they are being dreamt out of a much deeper and broader level of mind. It is still a dream, pure and simple. It is a set of images held within the mind, images which will disappear as soon as the mind stops dreaming them.

The earth is not our home

Now we can get back to that list of attitudes about nature that we began this article with. Even though some of those attitudes were in conflict with other ones, they all shared one basic belief. They all assumed that the earth is our home; that it produced us, that it maintains us, that this is where we live and this is where we die. Think about the word "home" and what it implies. Your home is where you belong, where you fit. If something is your home, then who you are is defined in light of what it is. If the earth is our home, then we must be the kind of things that fit within that home: tiny, vulnerable physical creatures who must devour other creatures to survive before we ourselves are inevitably devoured. Is this all that we are? Is this the best that a limitless Creator could do?

Luckily, the earth is not our home. It is not our mother. God is our Mother. God is our home. God is what produced us, God is what sustains us, God is where we live, and in God we will never die. Even though we seem to live in the earth, we are actually in God right now, merely dreaming of earth. As the Course says, "You are at home in God, dreaming of exile…" (T-10.I.2:1). "…God created you as part of Him. That is both where you are and what you are" (T-6.II.6:2-3). In other words, the earth is not home. God is home. We are not parts of earth. We are part of God.

What could the dream of earth be, then, but an attempt to make a substitute home, a replacement for our real home? Earth is a moving picture of our attempt to explain ourselves, our origin, our life, our needs and our destiny without God. Isn't it funny that you can search the skies with a telescope and search the earth with a microscope and never see God? He is nowhere to be seen. That basic fact is not a design oversight. It is a clue as to the design's guiding purpose. The physical universe is a dream designed to prove to us that we are not part of God, that He is not our home.

The good side of nature

Having said all of that, there are some positive things that I believe the Course says about nature. From the preceding, it is easy to get the impression that the earth is a purely dark dream, and so there is nothing real or lovable about plants, animals, mountains and streams. Yet, I think going that far is a real misreading of the Course. What, for instance, do we do with the following passage "Think not you made the world. Illusions, yes! But what is true in earth and Heaven is beyond your naming" (Workbook, p. 337;W-pI.184.8:1-3)?

From what I can see, there are two reasons to love and appreciate nature. These two reasons correspond to the two ways in which the Course talks about what it calls the real world. As best as I can make out, seeing the real world means 1) perceiving the timeless light behind each form in this world, and 2) perceiving the loving thoughts that were part of the making of this world. We will take these one at a time.

1. Behind every form is part of God

From the Course's standpoint, every human body has part of the Sonship associated with it. What this means is that for every human body, there is a mind asleep in Heaven, a part of the Christ Mind, dreaming that it lives inside that body. There is a mind that thinks it more or less is that body, that it is born with its birth and dies with its death. As Course students, our job is to separate the dreamer from the dream; to look past the body to the dreaming mind. For this mind, being part of God, is eternal, something that we can love without reservation.

Now the Course also strongly implies that this is true of animals, too, by its repeated use of the phrase "all living things." This phrase implies that for every animal body there is a mind asleep in Heaven that thinks it lives in that body. And so animals deserve the same unconditional love and holy respect that humans deserve.

Yet what about plants? What about inanimate objects like rocks or furniture? I believe that the Course is unequivocally clear that these too are bodies for dreaming minds in Heaven. For instance, let us look at the following passage:

I thank You, Father, knowing You will come to close each little gap that lies between the broken pieces of Your Son….How holy is the smallest grain of sand, when it is recognized as being part of the completed picture of God's Son! (T-28.IV.9:1,4)

This sure seems to say that a grain of sand is one of the "broken pieces" of the Sonship. How can this be? Perhaps it is just metaphor, just poetic license. Yet, as if our thoughts were being read, the very next sentences answer this question directly, removing all doubt:

The forms the broken pieces seem to take mean nothing. For the whole is in each one. And every aspect of the Son of God is just the same as every other part (T-28.IV.9:5-7).

In other words, if you think that a grain of sand cannot, like you, be a piece of God's Son, then, remember: "The forms the broken pieces seem to take mean nothing." Clearly the Course is saying that no matter what the form—be it a human body, an animal body, a plant or a grain of sand—behind every one is a "part," a "piece," an "aspect" of the Mind of God's Son.

Workbook lessons 28 and 29 make this same point about a table. This can be so hard to believe that, to make sure of it, I would like us to look at the table statements one-by-one:

  1. We are told that when looked upon with Christ's vision, a table has"infinite value" (Workbook, p. 43: W-pI.28.5:2). Only what God creates has infinite value. The table must have been created by God.
  2. We are told that a table is not "separate, by itself or in itself"(Workbook, p. 45; W-pI.29.2:2). This means that the reality of a table is not a physical form, for all forms are separate. Thus, there is something beyond its physical form, something formless, that is the table's reality.
  3. We are told that a table shares its real purpose with the purpose of "all the universe" (Workbook, p. 43; W-pI.28.5:3). This means a table is part of the universe. In the Course, "universe" does not mean physical universe. It refers to the universe that God created: the Sonship. In other words, a table is part of the Sonship.
  4. Along these same lines we are told that a table shares the purpose of the universe and so "shares the purpose of its Creator" (Workbook, p. 45;W-pI.29.2:5). Again the table is part of the universe that God created. The table was created by God; not the form of the table, of course, but the reality behind the form.

In summary, what we think of as a table—its physical form—is not what it is. Beyond the form there is a formless something that God created and in which He dwells. In other words, somewhere in Heaven, there is a mind, at one with our own and equal to our own, that is dreaming it is that table. This mind (which I am sure in its current state is far more unconscious than our own) thinks it was born when that table was made. It groans in dull pain when the table is damaged and vaguely fears the table's destruction. And so, the form of the table may be illusion, but the mind that thinks it is that table is actually part of God. Our form (our bodies), the table's form and all the forms of nature are dreams that we made up. But behind each one is a reality created by God.

This, I believe, is what Workbook lesson 29 means when it says, "God is in everything I see." In fact, it goes on to say that this fact is "the whole basis for vision" (Workbook, p. 45; W-pI.29.1:5). In other words, Christ's vision, by which we are saved, consists in seeing God in every form.

What would nature look like, then, through Christ's vision? Based on the above, I would assume that Christ's vision would allow us to automatically overlook all of the forms of nature. We would realize that it did not matter what the form seemed to be, that behind them all lay radiant sparks of God. And so, whether we saw a squirrel, a bird, a snake, a beetle, a bush, a tree, a stream or a rock, we would know that they are all the same, all pieces of God's one Son; that the "forms the broken pieces seem to take mean nothing." We would see the whole outer appearance of nature as a faint mist, barely obscuring the glowing galaxies of splintered Sonship that lay behind the mist, barely concealing the infinite beauty, purity and worth of each of the billions of glittering fragments. We would be able to love each thing, big or small, animate or apparently inanimate, wholly without reservation. And we would see all of these myriad aspects of God groaning under the burden of limitation. We would also see all of them searching ceaselessly for home; for the happiness, security and perfect peace which they think can be found in eating, mating and survival, but which can only be found in God.

I believe that the fact that all of nature is alive with separated Sonship can serve as the basis for an enlightened ecology. This ecology would only secondarily be about preserving, protecting and cleaning up forms. It would primarily be about loving relationship with our other brothers. We would take the same principles that the Course applies to human relationship and use them in our relationship with "all living things." This means, first and foremost, seeing past the outer form to the inner light of Christ within each thing. But, once we have done that, it also means expressing that vision of love in the form of concrete behavior. And, if part of the Sonship thinks it lives inside a plant body, you do not express love to it by carelessly damaging and destroying that plant body, just as you do not express love to another human by running his body over with a car. And so, much of conventional ecology is appropriate, I believe, but only if the preserving, protecting and cleaning up of forms is seen, not as an end in itself, but as a means for expressing love to the minds within those forms. All of this is very similar, of course, to the insight that guided the early years of the spiritual community of Findhorn in Scotland. And I think that that insight is basically a sound one.

2. The Holy Spirit had a hand in the making of the world

This topic requires careful handling, for the Course is very clear that the world is our dream, that it was our idea in the first place and that we designed it. Yet, I think it is equally clear that the Holy Spirit did get His two cents in. In other words, He did influence to a degree the design of the physical universe.

The first hint we get of this is early in the Text, where we are told that "The Atonement was built into the space-time belief…" (T-2.II.5:1).Since the space-time belief is the source of the physical universe, the fact that the Holy Spirit built the Atonement into that belief is very significant.It means that the physical universe must be the outpicturing of both our space-time belief and the Atonement that was built into that belief.

Where this really becomes clear is in the Course's descriptions of the real world. Whereas the world is all the forms we have made, the real world isthe sum total of all the loving thoughts that went into the making of those forms. "The loving thoughts his mind perceives in this world are the world's only reality" (T-11.VII.2:2). "The real world is all that the Holy Spirit has saved for you out of what you have made…" (T-11.VII.4:9). "In the real world…Only loving thoughts are recognized…"(T-11.VIII.10:1-2). "…only the loving thoughts of God's Son are the world's reality…" (T-12.IV.7:1).

I think it is clear from the tone of the Course that the majority of the thoughts that made this world were not loving. And this is reflected in the patterns of attack, destruction and death that are universal in this world. Yet the Course is clearly saying that there were also loving thoughts behind the making of this world. And these, too, must be reflected somehow in the forms of nature.

How does nature reflect or symbolize the loving thoughts that went into its making? This is an easy question, for the Course throughout implies that healthy, vibrant forms are symbols of healed or loving thought. For instance, the Course consistently assumes that a healthy human body is a dream symbol ofa healthy mind. Along the same lines, it frequently implies that a healthy, abundant, vibrant nature is also a dream symbol of healed thinking. It tells us, for instance, that the mind healing that comes from doing a Workbook lesson may heal a bird's broken wing or cause a dry stream to flow again (Workbook, p.194; W-pI.109.6-7). And at least three times (in "The Little Garden" and "For They Have Come" in the Text, and in "What is a Miracle?" in the Workbook), theCourse suggests that barren, desert conditions are symbols of the ego and that life springing up is a symbol of healed thinking.

From all of this we can assume that the Course sees those elements of nature that reflect health, beauty, life, abundance, harmony, order, cooperation, as products of the loving thoughts that went into the world. Those aspects of nature are dream symbols of love. Therefore, the Course is not at all against seeing beauty in nature, for the beautiful forms can lead us to the beautiful thoughts behind them. And seeing those thoughts is seeing the real world.

The idea that sane, loving thoughts produced the beauty in nature is made very clear in the section entitled "The Forgiven World." There we are told:

The Great Transformer of perception will undertake with you the careful searching of the mind that made this world, and uncover to you the seeming reasons for your making it. In the light of the real reason that He brings, as you follow Him, He will show you that there is no reason here at all (T-17.II.5:2-3).

In other words, the Holy Spirit will uncover your motives behind making this world and show you that it was your insanity that made it. Yet, there is an important qualifier added on to this:

Not even what the Son of God made in insanity could be without a hidden spark of beauty that gentleness could release (T-17.II.5:5).

This says that even within the insanity that made the world, there was a little bit of sanity; there were some loving thoughts. Even though these loving thoughts are the minority influence in the making of the world, they still are there. And they are visibly expressed in the forms of nature. The Course makes this perfectly clear in the next paragraph:

All this beauty [the hidden spark of beauty that went into the making of the world] will rise to bless your sight as you look upon the world with forgiving eyes….The smallest leaf becomes a thing of wonder, and a blade of grass a sign of God's perfection (T-17.II.6:1,3).

In other words, the leaf and the blade of grass are "signs" or symbols of the thoughts that made them. And since some loving thoughts went into their making, there are aspects of the leaf and blade of grass that are symbolic of love (even "of God's perfection"). To generalize this, there are elements of nature that testify to the loving, sane thinking that was part of the dreaming of this world. In fact, through the eyes of forgiveness (as this section affirms), we can see symbols of love everywhere, even in what we would normally consider ordinary things, like leaves and blades of grass. Forgiveness can reveal beauty in nature that we never suspected was there.

And, of course, it is impossible to think loving thoughts that the Holy Spirit has not inspired. If love is present, then He is there within that love. Therefore, the real world—the sum total of the loving thoughts behind thisworld—can be said to be inspired by the Holy Spirit: "for the real world is the gift of the Holy Spirit…" (T-12.VI.3:6). This is why, in the section entitled "Perception and Choice," the Holy Spirit is called the Maker of the real world several times. Look, for instance, at the following passage:

There is another Maker of the world, the simultaneous Corrector of the mad belief that anything could be established and maintained without some link that kept it still within the laws of God; not as the law itself upholds the universe as God created it, but in some form adapted to the need the Son of God believes he has (T-25.III.4:1).

My interpretation of this is that once we started to dream up the world of hate, limitation and death, the Holy Spirit simultaneously injected into our dreaming process His correction of that world (in other words, He built the Atonement into the space-time belief). This correction became a part of the world itself (entitling Him to be called "another Maker of the world"), a minority voice of love, beauty, order and harmony in a world dominated by hate, ugliness, chaos and death. In other words, laws were woven into the dream of the physical universe that reflected the loving laws of God's universe (the Sonship). And thus a link was established that kept the world "still within the laws of God."

Therefore, the world has two pillars. Its undergirding mental foundation is mainly ego, but mixed into the cement of that foundation is a sort of dissolving agent, a correction for the ego—the Holy Spirit. And both of these pillars are pictured in the forms of nature and acted out in its dramas.

Adding into this our discussion of loving thoughts, we can say that the Holy Spirit was able to enter our dreaming process because of the permission given Him by our loving thoughts. He worked through these loving thoughts to counterbalance the hateful thoughts that dominated the dreaming process, to make sure that in this cruel, hard world there would be frequent reminders—dream symbols—of home. He left us with His calling cards everywhere: the beauty of flowers, the grace of animals, the glory of sunsets, the majesty of galaxies.

These beautiful forms can be helpful in our spiritual growth. We do not see the real world with our eyes, for it is a world of thought that we see with our minds. Seeing it means mentally sensing the loving, healing thought that is present in this world. Yet we can get in touch with that thought by contemplating the forms that it produced. For those forms have the ability to transport our minds to the love behind them. The symbol can carry us to that which is symbolized.

So as we go out into nature and look on the beauty of a stream, tree or mountain, at the intricate loveliness revealed by the microscope or the grandeur revealed by the telescope, we can say to ourselves, "What a wonderful dream symbol of home."

Summary

The Course's picture of nature, as I understand it, is fascinating. The Course looks on nature soberly, dispassionately, with no romantic mist in its eyes. It sees that nature is a picture of limited life, opposed and dominated by death. And since reality or Heaven is unlimited life, without any opposite, nature must be an illusion. It must be not a creation of God, but a dream of our own, a dream floating within a vast, restless sea of sleeping minds in Heaven. This dream is the outpicturing of our belief that we are separate, limited, lacking, vulnerable, attacking and guilty; our belief that the unlimited life of Heaven can be scaled down, broken into pieces, injured and finally killed. It is a picture of our belief that we can write God out of our lives, that we can make a place that does not include Him and actually call it home.

Yet within this dark dream there are sparks of light. Behind every limited form of nature is one of the beautiful minds that has dreamt this whole thing up. This mind is asleep to what it really is, deluded and confused. Yet it remains as innocent and as beautiful as the first moment of its creation, for there is only one moment in Heaven.

And even within the sea of dark thoughts that dreamed up this world, there was injected loving thoughts, Spirit-inspired thoughts. These loving thoughts are reflected in the beautiful forms and patterns of nature. And a mind truly in tune with those thoughts will see beauty in nature far beyond what can normally be seen.

Nature is not our home. It is not a fitting residence for a Son of God. It is a war in progress. But there is room to love and appreciate it. It is our task to love and take care of our other brothers, the trillions of broken pieces of God's Son that lie behind the myriad forms of nature. And it is our task to see nature's beautiful forms as dream symbols of the transcendent beauty that our physical eyes will never see.

4 Comments

  1. Stewart
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    Reading this article this morning was synchronistic with a texting conversation I was having with my girlfriend. For a few weeks now I have been looking for a house to buy, and yesterday I found several within my price range that had many things going for them. My imagination was allowed to work a bit and create pictures of me and my possibly-future-wife happily living in one of them. I'm a carpenter and cabinetmaker and aspiring furnituremaker and would love to have a vegetable garden again. The houses had to have enough clear sunny space for a garden and either have a shop or room for one to be built. Her needs for the house itself are modest and match mine pretty much. It has to inspire us somehow, with a style that maybe could be called "solidly cute". So having seen all of that, or at least the potential of it, in these houses, there was developing yesterday a sense that things were coming together and that maybe, just maybe, after 47 years of being single and basically homeless, I could have a normal life. Then I woke up. This morning I realized that no, I am still a stranger here, and that no matter how excited I got about a house and a future wife and a normal life, there was always going to be a voice inside me that says "This is not it". So when I told my girlfriend this morning about that feeling, she told me it was breaking her heart. I told her it broke my heart for her heart to be broken, but that unless I established the proper foundation, all of these wonderful possibilities would evaporate, just like everthing else in my life that I had pursued with this same sense of excitement and possibility and hope, which had come to nothing. Behind all that expectation was always fear. I felt the fear of it not happening or of it's eventual demise, and knew I was somehow coming from the wrong place. I was coming from the belief that having those things would make me happy, and I've learned from experience that that belief is a set-up for dissapointment and despair. So I said I needed to establish first what the house would be for. I figured that's what my body's health depends on- what I use it for- so it makes sense that my house (not just the physical house, but the whole situation around it- financing, how smoothly the whole buying process goes, my whole experience of it over time, etc.) would be subject to that "law". And so what I saw was that I hadn't gotten clear yet on what the house was to be used for (in the largest sense). And as I was realizing this I also happened to be starting to read this article. (Sorry, I knew you were beginning to wonder if I'd ever get back to that).
    So having been reminded by the article that this earthly "home" was made by us out of our desire to demonstrate the separation really occurred, but that the Holy Spirit managed to build into that design a pathway back to our real home, I was given a context in which to ask this question of myself "What will I be using this house (the physical house I'm about to buy) for?". From that place, I was able to see that my motivations have been alligned with some of the basic assumptions that Robert lists about nature, from which many of us have come, thinking that we were taking the most honorable or realistic or useful or compassionate view of this world, (in deciding how best to protect it from, or use it for, humans). So now I am asking myself, for example, how much is my desire to have a vegetable garden coming from a belief in, and therefore supporting the illusion of, this view of ourselves as having to fight with tooth and claw to sustain ourselves? Well, although the turnips I will grow may not rise up and take a knife to my neck…the bugs may not want me to have my fair share of the greens, and the neighbors might rather that I be planting grass in the front yard, and the trees can be hogs when it comes to sunlight, and how many hours am I actually working- at a job where my boss could care less that I eat organically, or express myself creatively- for the satisfaction of eating each tomato?
    So, basically I have to ask, am I preparing myself for a fight? The excitement I was feeling was not about there being no fight, it was that the fight was starting to look win-able. I saw some homes with with enough trees killed to give the ground some sun. I saw other homes with front yard gardens and no neighbors wringing their hands. The prices were low enough that I wouldn't have to mortgage the rest of my life for a few cucumbers. The battle could be won! But maybe, with a garden for example, there is a way to express that no fight is even necessary. Maybe that is what Findhorn is about, and I should look into that. Maybe that is what permaculture is trying to express, that no fight is necessary, eventually, after you get yourself alligned with the "natural" forces. And maybe native cultures really did live in harmony with nature, and didn't experience nature as outside of themselves, but simply an extension of themselves, so it didn't occur to them that they had to "take" anything from something or someone "else". But I don't think that's the ultimate expression of heaven on earth is it? We are still eating each other, even if the whole process goes smoothly and we are very compassionate and appreciative in the way we do it.
    I've always been rather unmoved by this life's promises, but I couldn't remember the alternative, so I've been going along with the program, with just enough involvement to maintain appearances. And now I feel I am about to jump into this whole mess with both feet, but despite the excitement of possibly winning at the game, there is no peace, and now I am finding myself unwilling to take another step until I feel that peace.
    I also like to make furniture, and would love to have a shop, so the reference to a table in the article was great for me. And the discussion of the real world and that there is an aspect of God behind all forms, even the "inanimate" ones, was encouraging. I've always had an ambivalence about making furniture, similar to what I feel about being here in general. Maybe I was seeing that insofar as the table was there to hold something up, there is a reinforcement of the "reality" of gravity, whose job it is to pull us down. I didn't want to be a cause for more groaning, as my life in general was. So to be reminded by this article that there is a mind that is real behind even a table I might make, I am given another way of seeing my function in regard to making stuff here. Perhaps I can see the point of my furniture making to be letting each piece be the most transparent placeholder for the thoughts of love that went into creating it. Something like that. This of course would require that I was holding, or allowing, thoughts of love when I built it. So my challenge is as much to get my self out of the way of the expression of that love as it is to tune up my woodworking skills so that they are reponsive to that expression of love.
    Obviously this is an ongoing process for me— to shift my perception of this whole house buying and and committed relationship thing, from that of trying to win a war to seeing that there is nothing outside myself to fight. This discussion of nature was a great way for me to see how the Holy Spirit has worked His way into the very foundations of this mess, and this inpires me to let him do the same for my foundations.
    Thanks Robert. I've always appreciated your insights about the Course.
    —Stewart

  2. administrator
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I absolutely love this article. This article was a major influence on the clarity of my own thinking about what the Course says, and my original reading of and subsequent reflection on this article could very possibly have been the turning point where I became convinced that the Course is true and committed to it as a spiritual path.
    —Eric

  3. Rachel
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much! Also, it says somewhere doesn’t it, that what we look upon with love becomes real to us. Our creations contain the love with which we created them, even our miscreations, like guns etc, come about from an initial spark of love, the deep-rooted motivation being to protect and defend against something we believe is attacking our sacred selves. I think maybe everything we create comes originally from a desire to reach god. Even the bad stuff.
    I really enjoyed reading that and it has removed some stumbling blocks in my learning. Thanks.
    Rachel

  4. Benjamin Joseph
    Posted April 23, 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    Robert, brother, I thank you for this contribution.
    I thank you sooooo deeply and so sincerely, I richly appreciate what you have done here.
    This article was essential for me, and for my life path. I sense an incredible barrier has been moved within me, and that now I see and understand this discussion in such a way that there is deep peace in my heart and pure logic and understanding in my mind. words escape me in describing the service that you have rendered me in writing this article, I thank you from the root of my joy, Robert thank you :-)

    To see all life as our brothers, is so amazing, and echoes the wisdom of the native americans, and there beautifull injunction: ahomatakweeasen, Blessing to all my relations.

    As I read through the article, I could here commonalities and insights that were springing from many spiritual traditions such as Buddhism, and native American. Yet, as I always feel, the course ties it all together in a view that I can grasp the total context and total meaning. You have helped me come to peace with a great many things in this article, thank you again Robert :-)

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