Laws of chaos

Question: Workbook Lesson 76 says that we have made up the "laws" we think we live by, and we are really under no laws but God's. What are the "laws" we think we live by, what are God's laws, and how do we come to recognize God's laws?

Short answer: The "laws" we think we live by are the ego's illusory laws of taking, which reinforce our belief that we are limited, lacking bodies at the mercy of an external world. The laws of God as He created them are Heaven's laws of giving, which affirm the truth that we are limitless Sons of God who both have everything and are everything. We come to recognize God's laws by repeatedly denying the reality of the "laws" we think we live by and affirming the reality of God's laws. We also come to recognize God's laws by consciously using God's laws as they function in this world: We give to others what we have received from God, and thus come to recognize what God has given us.


The "laws" we think we live by are the ego's illusory laws of taking, which reinforce our belief that we are limited, lacking bodies at the mercy of an external world.

All of us believe that we are bodies living in an external physical world. This is so obvious to us that we usually don't consider it a belief, but a fact—after all, our physical senses "prove" it to us every day. As bodies, we are constantly engaged in the fight for survival in this dog-eat-dog world, a never-ending war that requires us both to take things from the world to sustain our bodies and to protect our bodies from those forces in the world that are trying to take from us.

Fortunately, however, there seem to be some rules of engagement in this war, laws that bring some semblance of order to the chaos. What's more, we can learn what these laws are, and how to live in harmony with them. To do so, it seems to us, is just common sense. It enables us to become more skilled in the game of acquiring and protecting that ensures our survival, at least for a little while. And learning the "higher" human laws that govern our society and our religious life gives us some added benefits. This learning enables us to acquire the more intangible things that we believe are essential to human happiness, such as special love, respect, self-esteem, moral uprightness, and right relationship with God. It also has the effect of mitigating the war to some extent, replacing the raw laws of the jungle with what at least appears to be a kinder, more "civilized" way of living.

Lesson 76 gives us a good sampling of some of the laws that we believe we must live by in order to make it in this world. (Since I will be citing Lesson 76 frequently, I will give only paragraph and sentence numbers when referring to this lesson.) Among these laws are the following:

  • Physical laws, like the laws of bodily health and medicine (3:3; 4:3; 8:2), and the laws of physical supply and demand that we call the laws of economics (3:2; 4:3). We believe that obeying these laws will help us to acquire for ourselves the things our bodies need to make it in this world, and protect ourselves from the things that threaten them.
  • Social laws, such as the laws of fairness, self-sacrifice, and mutual give-and-take that we think are vital to happy and harmonious human relationships (8:3). We believe that obeying these laws will help us to acquire for ourselves friends and companions in our struggle to make it in this world, and protect ourselves from enemies who threaten us by plotting to unfairly take from us what is rightfully ours.
  • Religious laws, such as the "laws which set forth what is God's and what is yours" (8:4). We believe (or at least some of us believe) that obeying these laws will help us to acquire for ourselves the favor of God (Whom we see as the Creator of this world and the laws that govern it), and protect ourselves from His wrath. We hope that by gaining His approval, we can get Him to help us acquire the things we need to make it in this world, and protect us from the things that threaten us. And if we are really good at obeying His laws, perhaps He will even give us a juicy reward in the afterlife when our time in the world is done.

Throughout the Course, we find many other examples of worldly laws that we believe command our obedience. Among them are the basic laws of physics, such as the laws of time, space, magnitude, and mass (T-12.VII.3:3), and the basic laws of bodily survival, such as those that dictate that the body requires food, water, sleep, and protection from the elements (W-pI.136.18:3). Who would question that we need to live by these laws? These laws seem to be the very foundation of reality, and so we simply must live by them, or else we are bound to die by them. Right?

Wrong, says the Course. Even though these laws seem to be the very foundation of reality, the Course unequivocally dismisses them all as "foolish magical beliefs" (9:2). We may think that adhering to them is the very essence of sanity, but in the Course's view, "it is insanity that thinks these things" (4:1). Shocking as it may seem, the Course is saying that what we regard as the laws of reality are in fact the laws of illusion. As such, the laws themselves are pure illusion.

What is the essence of these illusory laws? In a nutshell, they are laws of taking. We can easily see this in the examples of physical, social, and religious laws presented above; all of them are laws that enable us to take things from others and avoid being taken from. Of course, it appears to us that these are laws of giving as well as taking, since they seem to govern a kind of give-and-take relationship between us and the world. However, the "giving" here is not really giving. It is simply a bargain in which the giver gives something in payment in order to get something better in exchange for what he gives; in other words, the ego's law of "giving to get" (T-4.II.6:5). Whatever giving that happens under the auspices of these laws is really just another means of taking. These laws, then, are the perfect expression of what T-23.II calls the fourth law of chaos: "You have what you have taken" (T-23.II.9:3). Indeed, in a war in which all participants are fighting for their own survival, how could you possibly have anything except by taking it?

These "laws" that we seem to live by are the ego's laws, and the ego's purpose for them is to reinforce our belief in the very situation that seems to make the laws necessary: that we are limited, lacking bodies at the mercy of an external world. Lesson 76 calls these laws "the strange and twisted laws you have set up to save you" (3:1). What they are designed to save us from is the recognition that the real cause of our suffering is not the external world's attack on us, but our attack on ourselves for our "sin" of separating from God. (This, I think, is the idea behind 5:2-7.) The mind's own self-punishment for its seeming sins is the real cause of our entire sense of limitation and lack. But the laws of taking that seem to govern the world "prove" to us that the cause of our limitation and lack is really the body, and the external world it lives in. These laws convince us that we really are frail, vulnerable, lacking bodies who must take from the world in order to survive. (The ultimate cause of our suffering, in this view, is God, Whom we believe created the body and the external world. For a chilling description of the entire human life cycle as an expression of the laws of sin, guilt, and death, see (T-13.In.2-3).

Why does the ego want us to believe all this? Because as long as we do, we will not recognize the power we have to end the entire illusion—our belief that we separated from God, our belief in sin, our suffering, the world, and the ego itself—simply by changing our minds. As long as we follow the "laws" of the ego instead of the laws of God, we will believe that we are the ego instead of the Son of God, and the ego's survival is thus assured.

The laws of God as He created them are Heaven's laws of giving, which affirm the truth that we are limitless Sons of God who both have everything and are everything.

The laws of God as they operate in Heaven stand in stark contrast to the "laws" we think we live by in this world. (Actually, God's laws operate in this world as well, in a form adapted to this world. I will discuss this in more detail below.) God's laws are not rules of engagement set up to bring some semblance of order to a war of bodies, but "laws of love" (T-13.VI.13:1), created to ensure the peaceful communion of the Sonship and the loving increase of the Kingdom.

The Course has much to say about Heaven's laws, but they can basically be boiled down to the law of creation, or extension. This law says that thoughts naturally extend outward from the mind that thinks them, creating extensions of that mind that are reflections of its basic nature. Since God is Love and His Thoughts reflect His nature, the law of creation ensures that His Kingdom is a continual outpouring of love: "Love creates itself, and nothing but itself" (T-25.III.1:6). This continual outpouring of love by both God and His Son, who creates as His Father does, is the way in which each member of the Kingdom both keeps the love that was given to him in his own creation, and increases the love that everyone has to share. For in the Kingdom, it is fully understood that the way to have and keep the gifts we have received is not to hoard them to ourselves, but to give them away. "To have, give all to all" (T-6.V(A).5:13).

We can easily see that the essence of God's laws is the exact opposite of the illusory "laws" we think we live by: The ego's laws are laws of taking, but God's laws are laws of giving. The ego's laws are laws of gain and loss, but "there is no loss under the laws of God" (9:3). The ego's laws are laws of payment and exchange, but the laws of God proclaim that "payment is neither given nor received" (9:4), and "exchange cannot be made" (9:5). The ego's laws are laws of both "giving to get" and taking, but "God's laws forever give and never take" (9:6). Through God's laws "is creation endlessly increased" (11:2). And just as the ego's laws reinforce our belief that we are limited, lacking bodies at the mercy of an external world, so the laws of God affirm the fact that we are eternal, limitless Sons of God who "both have everything and are everything" (T-4.III.9:5), forever extending love and joyfully increasing the Kingdom of Heaven.

We come to recognize God's laws by repeatedly denying the reality of the "laws" we think we live by, and affirming the reality of God's laws.

Speaking in general terms, we come to recognize God's laws by doing the Course. The Course's entire program is a program in how to let go of the "laws" of the ego and remember the laws of God. But more specifically, one means the Course gives us for recognizing God's laws is simply to repeatedly deny the reality of the "laws" we think we live by, and affirm the reality of God's laws instead. This is the practice of Lesson 76. It has us mentally review the "laws" we think we live by, dismiss them with the thought "I am under no laws but God's," and then keep repeating this thought while waiting receptively for the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the laws of God.

Of course, denying the "laws" of the ego doesn't mean denying the fact that we seem to live by them. As long as our minds are unhealed, we will believe in these laws to some extent, and as long as we believe in them, we will live by them within the illusory world. We are not to deny this; instead, we are to deny the ultimate reality of these laws. The more we do this kind of denial, the closer our minds come to truly renouncing their belief in these laws. And it is when that belief is fully renounced on a deep level (a very long-term goal, I think) that we will finally be free of the laws that seem to rule our world.

We also come to recognize God's laws by consciously using God's laws as they function in this world: We give to others what we have received from God, and thus come to recognize what God has given us.

To clarify this point, a discussion of how God's laws function in this world is necessary. The Course says that even though "the laws of God do not prevail in perfect form" (T-25.VI.5:1) in this world, they do prevail in adapted form, as I said above. Specifically, the Holy Spirit has taken God's Heavenly law of creation and translated it into the earthly law of perception (see T-7.II.2-4). Recall that in the Heavenly law of creation, the mind extends its thoughts outward and creates extensions that are reflections of what that mind is. In like manner, in the earthly law of perception, the mind projects its thoughts outward and makes a perceptual experience of what it thinks it is. Extension creates reality in Heaven, while "projection makes perception". Recall that in the Heavenly law of creation, the mind extends its thoughts outward and creates extensions that are reflections of what that mind is. In like manner, in the earthly law of perception, the mind projects its thoughts outward and makes a perceptual experience of what it thinks it is. Extension creates reality in Heaven, while "projection makes perception" (T-21.In.1:1) on earth.

Thus, we actually have no choice but to live by the laws of God, even here in this world; the law of perception that governs this world reflects "a fundamental law of the mind, and therefore one that always operates" (T-7.VIII.1:2). However, we do have a choice about how to use this law. If we choose the ego's interpretation of it, we will mistakenly believe that the law of perception enables us to rid our minds of undesirable thoughts by projecting them onto something outside ourselves. This distorted process is what produces the illusory "laws" we think we live by: As we saw above, the mind's self-attack (an undesirable thought) is projected onto the external world, making it seem that the external world and its "laws," not the mind, is the cause of our suffering. But the truth is that projecting thoughts out of our minds, be they desirable or undesirable thoughts, is not the way to get rid of them, but the way to keep them. The ego wants to hide this fact in order to deceive us, but the Holy Spirit wants to reveal this fact in order to free us. Therefore, if we choose the Holy Spirit's interpretation of the law of perception, we will correctly see it as the law of earthly extension, "the fundamental law of sharing, by which you give what you value in order to keep it in your mind" (T-7.VIII.1:6). By sharing the Holy Spirit's perception, we will come to recognize that the world is not governed by the "laws" the ego made, but by the earthly reflection of the law of God I mentioned above: "To have, give all to all."

How do we come to recognize this law? By applying it to our lives in a conscious way, and thus discovering for ourselves that it really works. We must give in order to have; specifically, we must give to others what we have received from God, in order to recognize that we have what God has given us. This act of giving is absolutely vital to the Course's process of salvation, as the following passage makes clear:

We will not recognize what we receive until we give it. You have heard this said a hundred ways, a hundred times, and yet belief is lacking still. (W-pI.154.12:1-2)

The Course is filled with practices intended to help us learn just what this passage is teaching us. One of the best is the practice given in Workbook Lesson 108, "To give and to receive are one in truth." This lesson offers us a very simple practice, in which we mentally extend the gifts of God to our brothers and experience those gifts returning to us, which demonstrates to us that we have them. The Course considers this particular practice to be especially powerful, "because it can be tried so easily and seen as true" (W-pI.108.6:1). I have done it myself many times, and can vouch for that. The Course goes on to say that once we have tried this practice and seen the laws of God at work in this particular instance, "the thought behind it can be generalized to other areas of doubt and double vision" (W-pI.108.6:2). In other words, through this simple practice of giving in order to recognize what we have received from God, we come to recognize the laws of God at work in every aspect of our lives. (I should mention that this law of giving works even when we give material things; while we do lose the particular material thing we give, the thought behind our giving returns to us in some form and is reinforced in our minds—see W-pI.187.2.)

This all makes perfect sense, does it not? If we want to turn away from the ego's illusory laws of taking and recognize God's laws of pure giving, what better way is there than to give? Through giving as God gives, we learn that His laws are reflected everywhere, even in this world where other "laws" seem to rule. Not only that, but giving as God gives ultimately teaches us who we really are. For if, as I said above, the law of perception allows us to project our thoughts outward and thus experience what we think we are, then using it to extend love allows us to experience the fact that what we really are is love. Through extending love and healing to all of our brothers, an extension that "reflects creation" (T-7.II.2:3), we ultimately come to recognize the eternal inheritance that God has given us: our true Identity as His beloved Son. We will finally know that we are under no laws but God's, forever creating and extending the Kingdom of Heaven, forever living in perfect harmony with our Father's eternal laws of love.

Browse the FAQ archive. FAQ Topic: . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.