Healing the Slaughterhouse

Many people point to the beauty and order of nature as evidence for God. Just today, in fact, I was reading a Time Magazine article about Albert Einstein’s spirituality—his belief in a “God who reveals himself in the harmony of all that exists.” What better evidence could there be of the Love and plenitude of God (or the Goddess) than the glorious circle of life?

A Course in Miracles, however, has a much darker view of nature, a view that I think is confirmed by a more careful and less romantic observation of what really happens in the natural world. In the Course’s view, the cycles of nature are evidence not of a loving God, but of the nightmare of separation from God—a nightmare made not by Him, but by a mistaken choice of His Sons. Nature is a chaotic war in which everything fights with everything else for survival. True, there is cooperation in nature, but such cooperation is generally an alliance against common enemies, so it is part of the war as well. Nature is a “slaughter house” (M-13.4:4) in which everything literally lives by killing and consuming something else. “Devouring is nature’s ‘law of life.'” (M-27.3:7). The circle of life, in my colleague Robert Perry’s phrase, is really a circle of lunch.

I watch a lot of nature shows, and have seen some particularly striking examples of how twisted nature can be. One is a species called slave-maker ants. A slave-maker ant queen will enter the colony of another ant species and find her way to the queen’s chamber, sometimes by faking her death and allowing herself to be dragged there by the other colony’s soldiers. Once there, she kills the other colony’s queen and rubs the vanquished queen’s scent on her. This literally enslaves the other colony to her, since they will follow whomever has their queen’s scent. Now, the other colony will dutifully serve her and her soldiers by tending her eggs, bringing food, and even raiding other colonies under her banner. Human slavery is hardly evidence of human love; how, then, could a world that contains ant slavery be evidence of God’s Love?

Just this week I saw another twisted example of nature at work, in the article referenced below. There is a protozoan parasite called Toxoplasma gondii, which lives in mice and rats. In order to finish out its life cycle, this parasite requires that its host be eaten by a cat, so it has come up with an ingenious way of ensuring that this happens. Normally, mice and rats flee at the smell of cat urine, but the parasite alters the area in the brain that regulates this response, so now its host is attracted to the smell of cat urine. The really twisted part of this is just how precisely this alteration is geared to serve the parasite’s self-interest. In the words of the article: “The exquisite precision leaves intact all other neurological mechanisms for learning to avoid danger, so the rodents learn to survive all hazards except being eaten by cats—the only form of death beneficial to the parasite.” A human being who did this to mice and rats would be regarded as a monster; how, then, could a God who created this be regarded as loving?

You may get the impression that I hate nature or that the Course is advocating hatred of nature, but that’s not the case at all. The reason the Course wants us to look without blinders upon the horrors of the physical world is to give us an incentive to seek something much more joyful: the vision of reality beyond the world, a reality it refers to metaphorically as the “face of Christ.” Once we see this, we will want to follow the Course’s path out of this world and back to the Heaven of God’s Love, because life as we know it will have lost its appeal. “Does one whose vision has already glimpsed the face of Christ look back with longing on a slaughter house?” (M-13.4:4).

Rather than leading to hatred of the world, this vision of the face of Christ opens a doorway to a truly loving perspective on it. Even as our physical eyes look upon the grim clash of physical forms, the eyes of Christ in us look lovingly upon the holy minds the Course tells us are behind all of those forms—even grains of sand (see T-28.IV.9:4). These holy minds are mistakenly dreaming that they are those forms, and since this is a dream of horrendous suffering, we now regard everything we see—even the slave-maker ants and brain-damaging parasites-with compassion. “Look about the world, and see the suffering there. Is not your heart willing to bring your weary brothers rest?” (W-pI.191.10:7-8). Our hearts do become willing, and we extend our compassionate love to all living things. We do this in many ways, including treating the forms we see with kindness (a rationale, in my view, for a Course-based environmentalism).

And as we extend our healing love to the entire world, something amazing happens: Everything is suffused with the reflected glory of Christ’s holy face. “The smallest leaf becomes a thing of wonder, and a blade of grass a sign of God’s perfection” (T-17.II.6:3). As we heal the slaughterhouse, we see the beauty of Christ reflected everywhere. Thus we hasten the day when the world will “cease to seem to be” (M-14.2:12), and all creatures great and small will return to the limitless Heaven that is the true Circle of Life, the true expression of God’s plenitude and Love.

Source of material commented on: Parasite hijacks brains with surgical precision
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
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