How Does the Course Regard the Birth of a Child into this World?

Question: Since birth into this world represents birth into a world of illusion and separation, the implication seems to be that we shouldn't have children. Is this what the Course is suggesting?

Short answer: I don't think so. The Course never explicitly says that we shouldn't have children. Not having children would make sense if birth into this world represented a fall from perfect unity with God into the belief in illusion and separation. But the Course strongly implies that we believe in illusion and separation before we are born into this world, and so this birth is simply a transition from one form of illusion and separation to another. Therefore, being born into this world is basically neutral; but while we are here, we can choose to make the most of our experience by seeing the world as a teaching device for restoring our awareness of perfect unity with God.


The Course never explicitly says that we shouldn't have children.

If the Course really considered having children to be a bad idea, one would think that it would tell us this directly. But it never does. In fact, it contains very few references of any kind to people having children (though it does contain a number of references to children, often using childhood as a metaphor for our current level of spiritual maturity). On the rare occasion that the Course does refer to people having children (for instance, T-7.I.1:7-8), it says nothing about whether having children is a good or a bad thing. In my mind, this fact alone is strong evidence that the Course is not against having children.

Not having children would make sense if birth into this world represented a fall from perfect unity with God into the belief in illusion and separation.

In some philosophies and spiritual systems, it is believed that before a child is born, he or she exists in a blissful state of primordial unity with the Source. According to this view, the unborn entity basks in an oceanic, totally egoless Oneness, absolutely free from the illusion of separation. In this scenario, when this entity is born into our world, he or she "falls" from this state of primordial unity into the illusion of separation. The state of egoless Oneness is replaced by the experience of a separate, ego-bound existence. There are even some philosophies that suggest that the birth of a child into the world should be mourned rather than celebrated, because birth represents a fall from blissful unity into painful separation.

If this scenario, or something like it, is really true, then one could certainly see in it a good rationale for not bringing children into the world. If it is true that we exist in a state of perfect unity with God before birth, and only experience the belief in illusion and separation (the ego) after we are born into this world, then it would make sense not to have children. Why deprive the children of God of their blissful unity and subject them to the pain of separation by dragging them into this world? However, I think the Course sees the situation quite differently, which leads me to my next point.

But the Course strongly implies that we believe in illusion and separation before we are born into this world, and so this birth is simply a transition from one form of illusion and separation to another.

There are several passages in the Course that carry the implication I've stated in this point. Here are two of them:

No one who comes here but must still have hope, some lingering illusion, or some dream that there is something outside of himself that will bring happiness and peace to him. (T-29.VII.2:1)

The world believes in idols. No one comes unless he worshipped them, and still attempts to seek for one that yet might offer him a gift reality does not contain. (T-29.VIII.8:4-5)

According to the Course, seeking outside ourselves for happiness and seeking after "idols" (which amounts to the same thing) are expressions of the belief in illusion and separation. These things are ego goals. Therefore, both of these passages strongly imply that we already believed in illusion and separation (in other words, we already had an ego) before we were born into this world. Our purpose for coming here was to continue a search for illusions and idols that began some time before our birth. If this is so, then birth into this world isn't a fall from primordial unity into a belief in illusion and separation; rather, it is a transition from one form of illusion and separation (the state we were in before our birth) to another (our present life in this world).

If our pre-birth state was, like our present life, characterized by the egoic belief in illusion and separation, what did this pre-birth state look like? The Course doesn't really say anything about this, and I don't think it's really all that important to know. Personally, I suspect that we must have had a "body" of some sort, since the belief in separation is a thought that seems to require some kind of separate form to live in, and the Course tells us that "all thinking produces form at some level" (T-2.VI.9:14). One possibility, if one believes in reincarnation, is that the pre-birth state was a series of previous earthly bodies. Another possibility is that we had some sort of ethereal body that existed in another illusory realm. Who knows? Various religions and spiritual systems have offered many different theories about the nature of the pre-birth state, and I really have no idea which of them, if any, is true. The point I want to make here is simply that in the Course's view, there is at least a strong implication that we believed in illusion and separation before we were born into our current earthly life. We had an ego before we came here.

(As an aside, I want to mention that I think the same situation exists on the other side of the human life cycle: death. I think that just as we had an ego and some sort of "body" before birth, so we continue to have an ego and some sort of "body" after death—unless, of course, we fully awaken to God in this lifetime. For more on this topic, see my previous Q & A, What happens to the ego after the death of the body? Does the ego have less "reality" after bodily death?)

Therefore, being born into this world is basically neutral; but while we are here, we can choose to make the most of our experience by seeing the world as a teaching device for restoring our awareness of perfect unity with God.

I don't think that the Course sees having children as bad or good, because birth into this world, in and of itself, doesn't really have an effect on our belief in illusion and separation one way or the other. What does have an effect on that belief, however, is how we choose to see the world while we're here. We can choose to see this world as a means of reinforcing our belief in illusion and separation, or we can choose to see it as the Holy Spirit does, "as a teaching device for bringing [us] home" (T-5.III.11:1). We can choose to continue the futile search for illusions and idols that brought us to this world, or we can choose to search for something much more satisfying. Though we came to search for hell, our real heart's desire is for Heaven. And if we choose to spend our time on earth in search of this, we cannot fail:

Be glad that search you must. Be glad as well to learn you search for Heaven, and must find the goal you really want. No one can fail to want this goal and reach it in the end. (W-pI.131.4:1-3)

In the end, we will not only find Heaven, but we will also realize that we never left Heaven. We never really fell from our perfect unity with God. It is this awareness of eternal, blissful Oneness with our Source that following the path of the Course will ultimately restore to us.

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