If you are doing the Workbook this year, you are now coming up on Lessons 29 and 30, which are both about seeing God in everything. 29 is “God is in everything I see” and 30 is “God is in everything I see because God is in my mind.” I think Course students find these lessons puzzling. How can the world both be an illusion, so that “nothing I see means anything” (Lesson 1), and God be in everything I see?
It would be nice if we could just write off these two God lessons and see them as an isolated quirk. But they bill themselves as central. 29 says that its idea explains all previous and all subsequent lessons, and is “the whole basis for vision” (29.1:5). Then 30 says its idea “is the sprinboard for vision” (30.1:1). Let’s not forget that vision is the goal of the lessons and of the Course.
So rather than dodge the meaning of these lessons, let’s try to really get in touch with it. One thing that will help us is seeing these two lessons in their context in the Workbook. They actually stand at the end 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 amounts to seeing the real truth “written upon” the world. Finally, in Lesson 28, we practiced wanting to see real purpose, “the purpose of the universe,” written on the meaningless objects out there.
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 the previous day’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 (the word “projection” is even used here, though qualified by quote marks). This fits if what we are talking about is God’s purpose that the mind can then “write on” physical forms (and which the Holy Spirit has Himself 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. Seeing the real world is described in one place as 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. So we seem to have the same basic idea here.
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 body, whether human, animal, or plant. 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 things we consider things 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, so that 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 see holy meaning in a cross, you can see it in anything.
This, says these lessons, is how we can see literally everything. Just imagine seeing every single thing, every meaningless object and even the space between them, even every sound, in exactly the same way you saw the key in my previous analogy. Now, everywhere you look and listen, all you can see are holy keys ready to open the doorway to God. That is how God is in everything you see.