What is the Course’s perspective on the idea of change?

Short answer: In the Course's view, changelessness is a fundamental attribute of reality; we are the eternal creations of a loving Father, abiding in a changeless Heaven. We introduced the illusion of change when we chose the illusion of separation; in so doing, we seemingly changed ourselves into mortal bodies at the mercy of a punishing Father, living in a chaotic, ever-changing world. The ego wants the illusion of change to become changeless, or eternal. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, works within the illusion of change to change our minds, and thus restore our awareness of our changeless reality.


In the Course's view, changelessness is a fundamental attribute of reality; we are the eternal creations of a loving Father, abiding in a changeless Heaven.

Change is such a basic part of our daily lives that it seems to be an essential characteristic of reality itself. Our bodies change constantly from moment to moment. Our minds are a maelstrom of shifting thoughts and feelings, as anyone who has tried to still the mind through meditation can testify. The external world we live in is in constant flux, never remaining the same even for an instant. Our conventional view of reality's mutable nature is summed up succinctly in the common expression "The only constant is change."

Yet the Course stands our conventional view of reality on its ear. According to the Course, "Reality is changeless" (T-30.VIII.1:2). As eternal creations of a loving Father, our true nature is immutable. Beyond our changing bodies and shifting minds, the Mind of our true Self rests in a boundless ocean of deep, eternal peace. Beyond the world we see with the body's eyes, our Heavenly home shines with a perfect, constant radiance. It is remarkable just how changeless we are in the Course's view. At one point it tells us that because our nature is changeless, we

must remain unchangeable, with transitory states by definition false. And that includes all shifts in feeling, alterations in conditions of the body and the mind; in all awareness and in all response. (W-pI.152.5:1-2)

Because we are normally so immersed in change, it is difficult to imagine what a changeless state really feels like; so difficult, in fact, that the Course's detractors sometimes complain that such a state would be immensely boring. Yet the Course claims emphatically that such a state would be anything but boring. (See, for instance, W-pI.107.2-3, which describes the joy that will be ours when we awaken to the eternal truth.) Moreover, reality as the Course depicts it is not changeless in the sense of being totally flat and static. There is, paradoxically, a dynamic activity within the changeless Kingdom of Heaven: the activity of creation, the loving extension and increase of the Kingdom by God and His Sons.

How can it be that the Kingdom of Heaven, the eternal reality that God created, is both changeless and increasing? The closest the Course comes to explaining this is in the Text, where Jesus says that the eternal being of God's creations "does not change by increase, because it was forever created to increase" (T-7.I.7:10). In other words, increase doesn't truly change reality, because increase is part of the nature of reality as God created it; therefore, the only way reality can remain changeless — the only way it can remain true to its nature as God created it — is to increase.

This explanation, however, doesn't resolve all of the philosophical problems associated with the paradox of increase in a changeless Heaven, and I don't think the Course intends it to do so. Indeed, there is no explanation that could do so; elsewhere, the Course states clearly that truth "cannot be described and it cannot be explained" (T-8.VI.9:8-9). The Course's descriptions of ultimate reality are not intended to give us intellectually airtight explanations of the unexplainable, but to facilitate the direct experience of truth that alone will bring genuine understanding. For our purposes, it is enough to know that the Course sees the true nature of God and His Sons as changeless, and that this changelessness is somehow not compromised by the dynamic activity of creation in Heaven.

We introduced the illusion of change when we chose the illusion of separation; in so doing, we seemingly changed ourselves into mortal bodies at the mercy of a punishing Father, living in a chaotic, ever-changing world.

It is impossible to change reality, but it is possible to believe that we can. The Course tells us that this is exactly what we do believe: "You believe that what God created can be changed by your own mind" (T-2.I.1:9). This belief that we can somehow usurp God's role as Creator and Definer of reality is at the heart of our sense of separate self: the ego. Our entire seeming separation from God came about as a result of our belief that we could change reality, and that it was desirable to do so. Thus was the illusion of change born.

Because the illusory world we live in is rooted in the ego's attempt to change reality, all of the world's properties are the diametric opposite of reality. Therefore, precisely because one of the properties of reality is changelessness, the ego's world is one of constant change. Our true, eternal Self has been replaced with a fragile, transient body encasing an ephemeral, unstable mind. The eternally loving Father Who created our true Self has been replaced with a volatile, vengeful Father bent on punishing us for the sin of separating from Him. And our eternal Heavenly home has been replaced by the tumultuous world we see all around us, in which nothing can be counted on except pain, and lasting peace can never be found:

Here the deathless come to die, the all-encompassing to suffer loss, the timeless to be made the slaves of time. Here does the changeless change; the peace of God, forever given to all living things, give way to chaos. (T-29.VIII.6:4-5)

Through this great reversal, the eternal reality that God created is completely blocked from our awareness. In God's Heaven, there is nothing but perfect constancy and Love that can never change. But in the ego's world, as the common expression quoted above declares, the only constant is change.

The ego wants the illusion of change to become changeless, or eternal.

A world in which the only constant is change is exactly the kind of world the ego wants. Once the ego has succeeded in blocking awareness of our changelessness from our minds, its goal is to make change itself changeless. Why? The reason becomes clear if we recognize that 1) the ego itself is the idea of change (since it is the belief that we can change our reality), and 2) the ego's fundamental goal is survival. Therefore, the ego's plan is to make change a permanent reality, and in so doing make itself a permanent reality. If it can make the illusion of change last forever, then it will make that illusion real, and thus accomplish its goal of permanently "extending itself in place of eternity" (T-13.IV.8:1).

Thus the ego's agenda is a curious mix of change and changelessness. On the one hand, it constantly works to convince us that our reality has truly been altered, and that the constant shifts and fluctuations we experience in our world are real. But on the other hand, it tries to protect its thought system — the thought system of change — from change at all costs. At the same time that it eagerly sponsors our belief in this ever-changing world, it tells us, "If you allow no change to enter into your ego you will find peace" (T-4.I.2:4). Ironically, our investment in the ego leads us both to embrace change because it is a pillar of the ego's thought system, and to fear change because it threatens the stability of that very thought system.

The threat that change poses to the stability of the ego's thought system — specifically, the change brought about by true learning — is the ultimate reason we have so much resistance to the teachings of the Course. On one level, the Course says, we fear change because the primordial change that started it all — the original separation from God — was so painful that we want nothing more to do with change (see T-4.I.2:2-3). But on a deeper level, our fear of change and subsequent resistance to the Course's teachings is a reflection of the ego's fear that we will recognize the insanity of its thought system and thus withdraw our investment in it. "This is the change the ego must fear" (T-4.I.3:3), because this change directly threatens the ego's agenda of making change eternal, and thus directly threatens the ego itself.

So, when we find ourselves "forgetting" to read the Course or do our Workbook lesson, it may well be a reflection of the ego's frantic effort to preserve itself from the very real threat that the Course presents to its existence. The ego delights in the chaotically fluctuating world that keeps its thought system changeless and inviolable, but it dreads the change of mind that would undo it once and for all. This change of mind — the change from belief in illusions to recognition of the truth — is facilitated by the Holy Spirit, which leads me to my next point.

The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, works within the illusion of change to change our minds, and thus restore our awareness of our changeless reality.

It is a basic principle of the Course that the Holy Spirit takes whatever the ego has made as a means of separation, and transforms it into a means of salvation. And this is exactly what He does with the ego's illusion of change. As I alluded to above, the Holy Spirit's goal is to help us change our minds; specifically, to teach us how to withdraw our belief in the ego's transient illusions, and place it instead in the changeless truth beyond those illusions.

The entire Course is a course in how to change our minds. The emphasis the Course places on this is underscored by the fact that it contains 56 references combined to the phrases "change your mind," "change his mind," and "change of mind," as well as numerous other references to the basic concept of mind change. According to the Course, listening to the Holy Spirit's teaching and changing our minds accordingly is the way to salvation, because the mind is "the most powerful device that was ever given [the Son of God] for change" (T-7.V.7:6). This is quite a stark contrast to our conventional view of the mind. We normally don't consider our minds to be very powerful, especially in comparison to things like physical forces. But in truth, our minds are far more powerful than we imagine — so powerful, in fact, that they made the physical forces that seem to overpower us — and thus changing our minds is what the process of awakening is all about.

Yet the whole idea of changing our minds presents us with a logical dilemma: If our minds are inherently changeless (as the Course teaches), then how can they really be changed? The answer to this dilemma is that while in truth our minds can't really be changed, we do believe that we changed them when we seemed to separate ourselves from God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit must now step in and teach us to change that belief. This is what the Course means when it speaks of changing our minds: Not changing the mind itself, which is impossible, but rather changing our belief that the mind can be and has been changed. It is this change of belief that paradoxically restores our awareness of our unchanging nature. As the Course puts it:

You must learn to change your mind about your mind. Only by this can you learn that it is changeless. (T-7.V.7:8-9)

How do we enable this learning to take place? The paragraph immediately following the lines I just quoted gives us an answer that may sound surprising at first, but is very much in keeping with the Course's overall approach: We enable this learning to take place by extending healing to our brothers. This is simply one more example of the basic principle of the Course that what we give to others, we recognize and reinforce in ourselves. Because of this principle, changing our minds about our brothers and giving the gift of our transformed perception to them is the primary way in which our own healing is brought about. When we choose to listen to the Holy Spirit and recognize the changeless mind in our brothers, this extension of healing enables us to recognize the changeless mind in ourselves.

In practical terms, recognizing the changeless mind in our brothers means forgiving our brothers. It means looking past their illusory sicknesses, attacks, bodies, egos, etc., and seeing instead the changeless reality behind those appearances. It is this vision, the Holy Spirit's vision, that allows each brother upon whom it rests to "undo the change his ego thinks it has made in him" (T-7.V.8:8). And because external appearances are simply a projection of what is in the mind, changing our brothers' minds through forgiveness can lead to miraculous changes in external appearances as well (such as the healing of sickness), changes which reinforce the healing of their minds:

The miracle is means to demonstrate that all appearances can change because they are appearances, and cannot have the changelessness reality entails. (T-30.VIII.2:1)

The whole healing process, then, is as follows: We choose to listen to the Holy Spirit, Who gives us a new vision of our brothers, a healing vision that changes our minds about them. He extends this vision, the healing miracle of forgiveness, through us to them. This extension gets them in touch with their true minds, which (often) leads to a miraculous transformation of their painful external circumstances as well. This convinces them both of the reality of their changeless minds and the unreality of changing appearances. This healing of our brothers, in turn, convinces us that what is true of them is true of ourselves as well, which reinforces and completes our own healing. Thus, through forgiving our brothers, we ultimately restore everyone's awareness of the changeless reality in which all of us are joined as one.

Conclusion

We are all familiar with the old saying "Variety is the spice of life." Many people see change as a necessary source of excitement and fascination, and believe that human beings would be hopelessly bored without the endless variation that characterizes life on earth. Yet if we take an honest look at our world and our lives, I think we have to admit that, all in all, the world's endless cycles of shift and change haven't really brought us much happiness. As the Course says, "The world you see…has disappointed you since time began" (T-13.VII.3:1). Indeed, this is one thing all of the world's changes have in common, an undeniable result of the ego's perverse form of "changelessness": None of the world's changes has made us truly happy.

This inescapable fact brings to my mind another old saying: "The more things change, the more they remain the same." All of the changes in the world the ego rules, however different and interesting and exciting and promising they appear to be at first, lead inevitably to the same thing: disappointment, suffering, and death. Indeed, change is death, and this is what the ego wants to make eternal, in place of the eternal Life God has given us.

What a relief, then, to be told by the Course that all the while we seem to be trapped in the world's endless cycle of change, suffering, and death, "the Thought God holds of [us] is like a star, unchangeable in an eternal sky" (T-30.III.8:4). The truth is that we are all radiant, changeless stars in the eternal sky of God Himself, and no change that we think we have made can alter this eternal Fact. "The star shines still; the sky has never changed" (T-30.III.11:9). The changeless peace of God is everlasting, and what illusion of change could possibly be as satisfying as this?

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