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Diminished capacity

I’ve spent many years reflecting on the Course’s teaching that we are Sons of God who are merely dreaming we are human beings. In the last few days, the topic has been very much on my mind, and I’m relating to it in a new way, not conceptually but personally.

What I’ve been thinking is very simple and revolves around instances in which we are temporarily mentally impaired. I’ve been thinking about two such instances in particular. One is where we are drugged or drunk. In those cases, it’s as if our mind has been reduced down. We are less aware. Our thought is more confused, less clear. We have difficulty being rational. We are not ourselves. It’s as if our minds have shrunk.

The other instance is dreaming. In most dreams, we are definitely less aware and less rational than in waking life. We have to navigate through the strange dreamworld in which we find ourselves, but we lack a full mental toolkit for doing so. We are not playing with a full deck. Our thought is confused. We can’t reason well. It’s all much more murky. There simply seems to be less of us present.

In both cases, it’s as if our normal mind has been scaled down in size, kind of like reducing our visual field down to a small circle directly in front of us. This doesn’t really reduce us; it’s just temporary. We are the same person, but our awareness has for the moment been quite noticeably lessened.

This gives us a great handle for how to think of the relationship between our waking state and our true nature. According to the Course, we are not human beings with a divine spark, human beings trying to grow toward God. We are divine beings in a vastly reduced state. Imagine an infinite being whose awareness was larger than the universe, and whose thought was far beyond the clearest and most rational thought we can currently comprehend. But then imagine that same being in a drugged state, so that its awareness had been increasingly reduced, until it was only a tiny fraction of its natural expansiveness. In the tiny circle of awareness that is left, this being’s clarity of thought is also vastly reduced, so that it is constantly confused, uncertain, and irrational.

Of course, the Course’s favorite metaphor is sleep and dreaming, which accomplishes the exact same thing. To say that we are asleep and dreaming is to say more than that we are seeing an illusory world. It also says that we are in a mentally reduced state. Awareness is lessened. Clarity of thought is impaired. Mental scope has shrunk to a small, foggy circle.

We naturally think of our waking state as being the norm. In our eyes, that state defines what we are. Sleep, therefore, is a diminishment of what we are, and spiritual awakening is an expansion of what we are. The truth, of course, is that the waking state is a diminishment of cosmic proportions. We are infinite beings walking around seriously drugged, in a stupor, asleep. We are foggy and confused all the time because our awareness has already been reduced down from its infinite state to a tiny circle. Then, when we get intoxicated or go to sleep at night, that already small circle gets a little bit smaller. But the big reduction is from our true state to the waking state. By comparison, the reduction from the waking state to the dream state is, I’m sure, immeasurably smaller.

What I’ve been doing lately is just practicing this idea, trying to see myself from its perspective. Normally, I see myself as this human, defined by my waking state and what I think and do in that state, and trying to grow to a higher state. Instead, I’m practicing seeing myself as an infinite being in a stupor, the stupor of the waking state. I’m already that limitless being, no less so than Jesus or Buddha. I’ve always been that being and always will be. I just happen to currently be in a vastly reduced state. It’s as if I’m drugged, I’m drunk, I’m asleep and dreaming. But I’m not the drugged state; I’m the infinite being in the drugged state.

It is a very different perspective, and when I focus on it I feel quite different. I feel big, I feel a greater sense of worth, I feel not at the mercy of what happens, and I feel not at the mercy of all the fallibility I exhibit in the stupor we call waking life. It reminds me of the legal concept of diminished capacity, in which a person is absolved of a crime because his mental capacity at the time was diminished.

I urge you to try this idea on for size. There are many Workbook lessons you might use as a way to focus on it. The one I’m using today is 191, “I am the holy Son of God Himself.” Another one is 252, “The Son of God is my Identity.” Repeat a line like these, but the main thing is that, while repeating it, think of yourself as an infinite being in a stupor.