Michael Stanford recently wrote and asked for clarification on the idea that “the mind was sick that thought the body could be sick” (T-28.II.11:7). He said his mind counters that with, “Well, the mind must also be sick that thought the body could be well,” or “The mind is already sick for seeing the body as real in the first place. How is a sick body different or make my mind more sick?”
My answer is that we can think of the mind’s sickness as being on two levels. First, yes, the mind is sick that projects a body in the first place. That mind believes it is separate from God, and separate from all others, and this belief in separation appears in the dream as the body. The body is literally a dream symbol of the belief in separation.
But then there is another level of sickness. Now the mind projects onto the body the blame for its separated condition. On some level, the mind dimly remembers its holy state in Heaven and now blames the body for being separate, little, frail, imprisoned, shallow, selfish, animal, vicious, and predatory. In short, the mind hates the body, and this hatred projects onto the body like a blast of heat and damages it. A related image that I like is from Psychotherapy: “Illness can be but guilt’s shadow, grotesque and ugly since it mimics deformity. If a deformity is seen as real, what could its shadow be except deformed?” (P-2.IV.2:6-7).
Further, this damage to the body is meant to prove something. As the Course says in different places, sickness is a witness (see T-8.VIII.6:1-2). It is there as a device of psychological persuasion. It is meant to persuade you that basically the body is in charge. It can do to you what it wants. It’s the boss. You are at its mercy. If it wants you to suffer, you suffer. If it wants you to be weak, you’re weak. If it wants you to die, you die. If it wants to sit on you and make you unable to do anything but lie there, that’s what happens. So a sick body witnesses to the idea that gave rise to the sickness in the first place, that the body is the master (see W-pI.136.8).
The Course clearly teaches that this second projection of sickness onto the body—which comes from blaming it, hating it, and using it to prove the “reality” of sin and separation—can be removed before the first projection of sickness—which causes the body in the first place—is removed. In other words, while you are still projecting a body, you can project a body that has no impediments to its functioning. It simply does what the mind tells it to do. It doesn’t get in the way. It’s not in charge. It is the servant and not the master. As Lesson 199 puts it, “In conflict-free and unequivocal response to mind with but the thought of freedom as its goal, the body serves, and serves its purpose well. Without the power to enslave, it is a worthy servant of the freedom which the mind within the Holy Spirit seeks” (W-pI.199.6:5-6).
The Course sees great value in this. I can think of at least two kinds of value. First, the body is now a different kind of witness. Now it doesn’t witness to the idea that it’s in charge. It witnesses to the idea that the mind is in charge, for now the body does whatever the mind wants. Further, now it pictures the health the mind has accepted. Before, what the mind pictured was guilt’s shadow. Now it shows forth the reflection of heavenly light and life. It sends a different kind of message, and as the Course says, “It is this testimony that can speak with power greater than a thousand tongues” (T-27.II.5:8).
Second, now the body can be used “to bring the Word of God to those who have it not” (M-12.5:4). Now it can labor in service of God’s plan for the salvation of the world. Contrary to much popular belief, behavior is extremely important in the Course. It is the primary vehicle for giving miracles. “My eyes, my tongue, my hands, my feet today, have but one purpose: to be given Christ, to use to bless the world with miracles” (Lesson 353). Well, if your body is too caught up with its own problems, how can you devote it to giving miracles?
And when you devote it only to giving miracles, to communicating love, then you finally undo that first projection; you stop projecting a body at all:
As you let the Holy Spirit teach you how to use the body only for purposes of communication, and renounce its use for separation and attack which the ego sees in it, you will learn you have no need of a body at all. (T-15.IX.7:2)