For a great many Course students it has become a fundamental principle of the Course that God does not know we are here, and does not even know we think we are here. Many quote the idea as a good thing, while many others wrestle with an idea they find to be very disturbing. If God did not create the world (which the Course says plainly), and does not even know about our experience of being here, the implication is that we are all alone here. We can forget about the divine cavalry showing up to rescue us. We can forget about God even hearing our prayers, let alone answering them.
I heard this idea for so many years, and from so many Course students, I began to wonder where exactly in the Course this was said. Over time I noticed that it never was said directly. So I drew conclusions based on inference. I decided that God knows that we are dreaming, but does not know the details of our dream. In fact, I had heard this very idea years earlier from Kenneth Wapnick who, I believe, is the source of the notion that God does not know we are here. Ken used to teach (I don’t know if he still does) that God is like a parent who knows a child is having a nightmare yet doesn’t know what the nightmare is about. I still think this is roughly accurate, though it does not quite go far enough, as I will reveal later.
Yet I have found over time that making inferences from our general knowledge of the Course is just not good enough. We have to find specific passages in the Course that speak to an issue and see what exactly they say. Anything else is only guesswork. For the author’s thought takes such surprising twists and turns that guessing what he would have said is a risky enterprise indeed.
So I finally did a little research into this issue in the Course and found a very consistent line of thought, one which, sure enough, I would have never guessed on my own. Apparently, Jesus was quite clear and consistent in his thinking on this topic. That consistent line of thought is what I would like to present in this article.
God knows that we broke communication with Him and are therefore experiencing a lack of joy.
Unless you take your part in the creation, [God’s] joy is not complete because yours is incomplete. And this He does know. He knows it in His Own Being and its experience of His Son’s experience. The constant going out of His Love is blocked when His channels are closed, and He is lonely when the minds He created do not communicate fully with Him (T-4.VII.6:4-7).
I have heard it said that this paragraph is metaphor, yet it comes about as close to a technical philosophical statement as the Course ever does. There are no flowery images here, but instead some very philosophic-sounding terms and ideas about God’s knowledge, His Being, blocked channels and experiencing the Son’s experience.
This paragraph says something that is both important and surprising. It says that God knows our joy is incomplete. How? This is the surprising part: His Being is having an experience of our experience. Therefore, He knows what we are experiencing. “Knowledge” is a technical term in the Course. It denotes a situation in which subject and object are one, so that my knowing of something is not a picture or representation of what I am trying to know; my knowing and the thing I am knowing are one and the same. And that is exactly how this passage reads. God’s Being is having an experience of our incomplete joy, and this experience is not a picture of our incomplete joy; it is our incomplete joy. That is why the Course says, “His joy is not complete because yours is incomplete.” If He is directly experiencing our state of mind, then our incomplete joy becomes His.
The final sentence of the paragraph describes the separation in two different ways: We closed off to His Love and we broke off communication with Him. We and God are like a married couple who are still in the same bed but have simply ceased to communicate. The separation was therefore not an actual physical parting, but a communication breakdown. This idea will gain importance as we proceed.
Let’s now look at another paragraph which is closely related:
You did not believe in your own perfection. Would God teach you that you had made a split mind, when He knows your mind only as whole? What God does know is that His communication channels are not open to Him, so that He cannot impart His joy and know that His children are wholly joyous. Giving His joy is an ongoing process, not in time but in eternity. God’s extending outward, though not His completeness, is blocked when the Sonship does not communicate with Him as one. So He thought, “My children sleep and must be awakened” (T-6.V.1:3-8).
Just in case we thought that first paragraph was some kind of mistake, the Course repeats many of the same thoughts in this one. Here is a table of the similarities:
Paragraph 1 (T-4.VII.6)
Paragraph 2 (T-6.V.1)
“And this He does know.” “What God does know”
“His channels are closed” “His communication channels are not open”
“your joy is incomplete. And this He does know.” “so that He cannot…know that His children are wholly joyous.”
“The constant going out of His Love” “Giving His joy is an ongoing process”
“His Love is blocked…when the minds He created do not communicate fully with Him” “God’s extending outward…is blocked when the Sonship does not communicate with Him”
Both paragraphs state clearly that God “does know” something. They then go on to list many of the same things as what He knows. He knows that His children are not wholly joyous because they have broken communication with Him, because they have closed themselves off to the constant going out of His Love and joy. And He knows that this blocks His extension outward.
What He does not know, according to this paragraph, is that we actually split our minds. And why does He not know this? Because we didn’t. God knows that our minds are still whole. If we could truly split our minds, then we would have overpowered God’s Will. All we really did was erect an imaginary partition in our minds between our true knowledge and our illusions. This partition did not actually corrupt our nature, it just broke off communication. That is exactly what the Course says just a few lines before the above paragraph: “The separation was not a loss of perfection, but a failure in communication” (T-6.IV.12:5).
God does not understand our communication problem, but He did establish a two-way communication link: the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is God’s attempt to free you of what He does not understand. And because of the Source of the attempt, it will succeed. The Holy Spirit asks you to respond as God does, for He would teach you what you do not understand. God would respond to every need, whatever form it takes. And so He keeps this channel open to receive His communication to you, and yours to Him. God does not understand your problem in communication, for He does not share it with you. It is only you who believe that it is understandable. The Holy Spirit knows that it is not understandable, and yet He understands it because you made it (T-15.VIII.5).
We already saw that we broke off communication with God and that God knows we did so. However, though God is aware of our communication problem, the above passage tells us that He doesn’t understand it. Still, He reaches out to this strange problem and attempts to free us of it. To solve our communication problem, He must communicate with us. And so He established a channel through which communication can still take place—the Holy Spirit. This is why the Holy Spirit is called the “communication link.”
In short, we broke off communication with God, but God established a channel through which some communication could still take place. Note that this is a two-way communication link. It receives “His communication to you, and yours to Him.” Like a telephone line, He passes on communication going both ways. We will return to this theme later.
God cannot communicate directly with our separated mind, only indirectly through the Holy Spirit.
The guiltless and the guilty are totally incapable of understanding one another. Each perceives the other as like himself, making both unable to communicate, because each sees the other unlike the way he sees himself. God can communicate only to the Holy Spirit in your mind, because only He shares the knowledge of what you are with God. And only the Holy Spirit can answer God for you, for only He knows what God is. Everything else that you have placed within your mind cannot exist, for what is not in communication with the Mind of God has never been. Communication with God is life. Nothing without it is at all (T-14.IV.10:).
Why can’t God just communicate directly to our mind in its current state? This paragraph gives an answer. It says that for communication to take place, the sender’s message must see the receiver as the receiver sees himself. It then applies this principle to our communication with God. We assume that God is just like us, so we address Him as a guilty, attacking separate entity. Most traditional prayers are good examples of this. God, on the other hand, knows that we are just like Him so He addresses us as a guiltless, formless spirit. Upon receiving these communications, it is inevitable that each side will essentially respond with, “You must have the wrong guy. I don’t know who you are talking to.”
This is another picture of the communication failure between God and ourselves. The remedy, once again, is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit receives God’s communication to us because He sees us in the same way God’s communication does—as guiltless. And the Holy Spirit sends our communications to God for us, because only He can address them to the real God, the guiltless God. Once again, the Holy Spirit is a two-way communication channel. But what does this two-way communication mean in more concrete terms?
The Holy Spirit translates God’s formless Call to awaken into specific forms we can understand.
The Course is pretty clear on one side of this two-way communication. God issues to us a single Call to awaken. This single call is then translated by the Holy Spirit into specific forms that we can understand. He translates the law of creation into the law of perception. He translates formless love into forgiveness. He translates extension in Heaven into healing on earth. He translates God’s Word into specific words that we can understand (such as the words of the Course). He translates the truth of timeless oneness into teaching that “takes note of time and place as if they were discrete” (T-25.I.7:1).
This idea of a unified answer that can yet adapt itself to multiple needs and thereby become countless little answers, is perfectly captured in this passage from The Song of Prayer:
The form of the answer, if given by God, will suit your need as you see it. This is merely an echo of the reply of His Voice. The real sound is always a song of thanksgiving and of love. You cannot, then, ask for the echo. It is the song that is the gift. Along with it come the overtones, the harmonics, the echoes, but these are secondary….God answers only for eternity. But still all little answers are contained in this (S-1.I.2:7-3:3, 4:7-8).
The Holy Spirit translates everything we experience here into a formless call for help that God can understand.
So what about the other side of the two-way communication—from us to God? The Course says less about this, but I don’t think the issue needs to remain a mystery. If the Holy Spirit translates God’s formless Call into specific forms that we can understand, we might expect that our communication to God works exactly in the reverse. We might infer that He takes our many specific calls to God and translates them into a single, formless call. In fact, what reaches God would have to be something stripped of all specific form, since “God knows not form” (T-30.III.4:5).
There is some support in the Course for this idea. The Manual for Teachers says this:
What you ask for you receive. But this refers to the prayer of the heart, not to the words you use in praying. Sometimes the words and the prayer are contradictory; sometimes they agree. It does not matter. God does not understand words… (M-21.1:3-7).
The implication of this passage is that God answers your prayer, but this does not mean your words. Instead, He hears and answers “the prayer of the heart,” which (the next paragraph tells us) does not ask for concrete things but for “some kind of experience” (2:5). Thus, God hears neither our words nor our requests for concrete things, but our heart as it reaches out for experience. This, however, raises a question: If we desire egoic experiences, is that the prayer that God hears and answers? This is addressed a few sections later:
Never forget that the Holy Spirit does not depend on your words. He understands the requests of your heart, and answers them. Does this mean that, while attack remains attractive to you, He will respond with evil? Hardly! For God has given Him the power to translate your prayers of the heart into His language. He understands that an attack is a call for help. And He responds with help accordingly. God would be cruel if He let your words replace His Own (M-29.6:1-8).
Here it says that the Holy Spirit takes our desires, regardless of their nature, and translates them into His language. Therefore, even our desire for attack becomes translated into a call for help. We find this same idea in the Text:
Yet to the One Who sends forth miracles to bless the world, a tiny stab of pain, a little worldly pleasure, and the throes of death itself are but a single sound; a call for healing, and a plaintive cry for help within a world of misery (T-27.VI.6:6).
Here we see that the Holy Spirit is taking not just our intentional prayers to God, but literally everything we feel—our pain, our pleasure and even our death—stripping away all the differences and particulars, and reducing it all to its pure essence: a call for help.
I think we can safely assume that this is what God hears. All that we experience here, all of our desires and thoughts, our pain and yearning, our particular situations and circumstances, all of it becomes boiled down to its irreducible essence. The entire human condition becomes translated into a single, pure call for help; or as the Course puts it elsewhere, a call for love. And that is what God hears, a call that says we feel incomplete here and desire His help so that we can know again His Love. We could even say that God not only hears this call, He knows it. For the above ideas bring us full circle to the passage we began with. There we said that God is directly aware of our essential state of mind here, which is a lack of joy. Just now we said that God is directly aware of the essence of our experience here, which is a call for love. And since our call for love stems from our lack of love, both of these ideas add up to the same thing: God is aware of the pure essence of our separated state of mind—our lack of love, our lack of joy. He is aware of His children’s state of feeling incomplete.
Now let’s string our different conclusions together so that we can see the whole picture:
- God knows that we broke communication with Him and are therefore experiencing a lack of joy.
- God does not understand our communication problem, but He did establish a two-way communication link: the Holy Spirit.
- God cannot communicate directly with our separated mind, only indirectly through the Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit translates God’s formless Call to awaken into specific forms we can understand.
- The Holy Spirit translates everything we experience here into a formless call for help that God can understand.
In the beginning of this article I mentioned that the Course displays a very consistent train of thought on the subject of what God knows about the separation. Now we can see what this train of thought is. It all revolves around communication. We, God’s communication channels, broke off communication with Him. He knew this and so re-established partial communication so that we could eventually be restored to total communication. This partial communication takes place through the Holy Spirit, “the remaining communication link between God and His separated Sons” (C-6.3:1).
This re-establishment of partial communication is crucial. If God did not know about the communication breakdown and did not establish an interim communication link, then communication would have broken down entirely. At that point, in some sense, we really would be all alone, cut off. We would be out in the cold, with no way to come back in. For the remaining communication from God is what talks us in from our aloof isolation. Without it the separation would continue forever, and, being eternal, would have become truly real.
Therefore, we have reason to be comforted by the ideas in this article. Who wants to be cut off from God? Imagine that you are apart from the one you love. Now imagine two different scenarios. In one, communication has been cut off completely. In the other, you have access to your love, you can talk on the phone or exchange letters. Some communication can flow back and forth. Who would not prefer the second scenario? God set up a communication link for this very reason: so that He can still communicate with us and we can still communicate with Him. Some communication can flow back and forth. He does hear our call to Him—a call that arises from everything we experience here—and He does answer us. The Course says that this is a promise: “For God has promised He will hear my call, and answer me Himself” (W-pII.327.1:2).
To return, then, to our beginning question: Does God know that we are here? Strictly speaking, no, because we are not here. We are at home in His Mind, merely dreaming that we are here. Does He know that we are dreaming? Absolutely. His knowledge, in fact, goes beyond sitting beside us and seeing that we are having a nightmare. Instead, He experiences the essence of our dream. He feels the incomplete joy that is the substance of our nightmare—and it becomes His incomplete joy. He hears the call for love that is the core of our nightmare. Does He know that we are dreaming we are here on earth? He does not know the particulars, for particulars of any kind are foreign to His Mind. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to know the particulars. But God knows what is essential, for He knows the essence. He is aware that we experience ourselves cut off from His joy, closed off to His Love. “And this He does know. He knows it in His Own Being and its experience of His Son’s experience.”