[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
There is perhaps no area of life that is more meaningful than our relationships. If you look at what drives human stories—both real and fictional—at the core of it is relationships. A line from the movie Moulin Rouge says it all: “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”
This is all-pervasive. It goes beyond the spiritual quest for liberation, or the religious quest for God. It is simply a ubiquitous part of the human experience.
For the moment, I’d like to imagine a scenario that contains what we all want on the level of relationships. I don’t mean with just one relationship, for no life contains just one relationship. To fulfill our desires, I think you have to imagine ourselves as part of a network of satisfying relationships, part of a loving community.
Imagine, then, being part of a community of people that you truly love. You see each and every one of them as valuable, as important, as worthy of your respect, as genuinely good, and as truly beautiful in the most important sense of the word. Each, in your eyes, is a real three-dimensional person, with strengths and with depth, not a cardboard cut-out who is just fodder for jokes. As a result, you care deeply about each one, and you honestly enjoy each one.
Imagine that they all feel the exact same way about you; that, indeed, they see in you more than you see. As a result, you have the security of knowing, at a level before conscious thought, that you are a valued and cherished part of this community. You know you can count on the community’s love. You know it would be there for you if you were ever in need. And you know that, should you leave, there would be a hole that no one could quite fill.
Because of this mutual love and respect, there is something deep that lies between you, something that goes way beyond whatever enjoyment you can share in the moment. It also goes way beyond whatever turbulence might occur in the moment. As a result, mistakes are quickly forgotten. However, promises are not. They hold perfectly steady in spite of years of changing winds and shifting sands, as an expression of what you mean to each other. Indeed, this something that lies between you, which is so palpable it need not be named, feels bigger than anything that could possibly happen. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it feels eternal.
As a result, the community is pervaded by giving. What you all spend your time at is doing for each other—noticing needs, figuring out how to meet them, and taking joy in actually meeting them. When you aren’t doing that, you are preparing for that, or telling stories about how you saw someone else doing that. Expressions of love are what nourishes this community on a day-to-day basis. They are the food at the community table.
Finally, the community is pervaded by a sense of purpose. People are accomplishing things together. It might be raising children, or creating a loving home, or serving some need among the community’s members, or beautifying the community, or increasing everyone’s understanding, or contributing to a better world. Whatever the purpose is, it gives that sense of deep connection between you an outlet, a way to express itself in beneficial form and therefore grow in fullness.
I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. Don’t all these elements that I’ve described represent extremely deep needs in our nature? Aren’t these the things we long for? Without them, we are empty and grasping. With them, we are fulfilled and in joy.
What does all this have to do with A Course in Miracles? The Course’s promise is that all of this is actually true now, on a level below what our eyes can see. On that level, people are beautiful and worthy of love; we do love and are loved; there is something eternal that lies between us; giving does flow back and forth between us; and it does overflow in the form of fulfilling a beneficial purpose together.
All of this is already true, the Course says, on the level of what is truly real. The Course’s vision of reality is less like an impersonal void and more like a loving community. Indeed, the community I have sketched is what the Course calls the Sonship. That is the primordial community, and we are all still grieving over our belief that that perfect community now lies “broken and hopeless” (T-18.I.12:5), shattered by the separation. Yet of course, the Course assures us that it was never truly broken. “The Kingdom,” it says, “is perfectly united and perfectly protected, and the ego will not prevail against it” (T-4.III.1:812).
The remarkable teaching of the Course, then, is that this community is real, despite it being mostly invisible to our eyes, and that we can live in it now. We just have to really want that to be our experience. We have to want to see the good in people, the beauty in people. We have to want to honor the connection that lies between us. We have to want to give and receive expressions of love, to make those our priority. We have to really believe that the greatest thing we’ll ever learn is to love and be loved in return.
The Course in general, you could say, is about this. But the Course can also get quite specific about it. In a discussion in “The Obstacles to Peace” (T-19.IV(A).10-16), the Course basically says that we can experience ourselves as being in the community I described now, if we simply look for the love that is already there in the world. Though the community itself is beyond the physical level, evidence of it does show up in the physical, and our eyes can see that evidence, if we care to look.
This discussion asks us to let the love in us send out messengers to look for expressions of love in the world. If we do that, it says, those messengers will return to us with a veritable feast, a table filled with acts of charity and expressions of forgiveness. And this feast will then be the basis for an experience of genuine community, of true communion. Read the Course’s description of that feast, and see if it doesn’t remind you of the community I just described. (Bear in mind that the food for this feast consists of all the expressions of love that your senses gathered from the world.)
Love, too, would set a feast before you, on a table covered with a spotless cloth, set in a quiet garden where no sound but singing and a softly joyous whispering is ever heard. This is a feast that honors your holy relationship, and at which everyone is welcomed as an honored guest. And in a holy instant grace is said by everyone together, as they join in gentleness before the table of communion. And I will join you there, as long ago I promised and promise still. For in your new relationship am I made welcome. And where I am made welcome, there I am. (T-19.IV(A).16)
This feast of love can be our experience now. We can live in true communion now. It really is a matter of choice. Yes, the choice needs to be exercised throughout each day, and, yes, it takes time to learn how to do that. But the good news is that the choice is within our hands to make.