I just wrote this brief article because the question of why we came arose in our teacher of pupils training. I thought if some of our trainees had questions about it, then many others will as well.
Why did we come here, according to A Course in Miracles? By “here,” I don’t mean the universe of time and space. I mean the life we are living now on this earth.
We came to die
There is a kind of standard view in spiritual circles that we came here specifically to learn lessons. This earth is a classroom, a really tough classroom, and we came because we needed the hard lessons it would assign to us.
The Course, however, seems to hold out a much darker view: We came here as an expression of the ego’s wish for us to die, a cosmic version of what Freud called the “death drive.” As depressing as this may sound, the quotes are definitely there in the Course:
And those who serve the lord of death have come to worship in a separated world, each with his tiny spear and rusted sword, to keep his ancient promises to die. (T-29.V.7:6)
You came to die, and what would you expect but to perceive the signs of death you seek? (T-29.VII.5:2)
These quotes reflect the Course’s overall view that we made this world as an attack on God, as a place where we could hide from God: “Thus the world was meant to be a place where God could enter not” (W-pII.3.2:4). If our purpose in making the world was to hide from Life and find death, then why wouldn’t we enter our present existence in this world as an expression of that same wish?
We came to learn and to give
This, however, is not the end of the story. I have just collected all the quotes I can find in the Course that say something like “you came here to…” and the result was much what I expected: There are more than twice as many quotes that depict us coming for a holy purpose as coming for an ego purpose. Here are the holy reasons that are said to be why we came:
• To learn to love: “you have come with but one purpose; that you learn you love your brother with a brother’s love” (T-31.II.10:5)
• To learn the meaning of love (W-pI.127.12:2)
• To choose again: “when they have come to make their choice again” (W-pI.98.4:3)
• To find the joy that is God’s Will for us (W-pI.100.8:1-3)
• To fulfill your ministry of freeing the world (W-pI.106.8:3)
• To bring the peace of God: “remember that you came to bring the peace of God into the world” (W-pI.109.6:2)
• To fulfill your mission of bringing happiness to more than just ourselves: “It is more than just our happiness alone we came to gain” (W-pI.139.9:1-4).
• “For the salvation of the world” (W-pII.319.Heading)
• “To have the last illusion be accepted by everyone everywhere” (P-3.III.1:7-8)
We can boil this down to the following: We came to choose again, to learn to love, to find joy, and to fulfill our part in saving the world. Normally, I tend to contrast the Course’s teaching with conventional spiritual wisdom, but in this case, the two are looking a great deal alike.
This next thing will make them look even more alike. Early in the dictation (in the equivalent of Chapter 3), Jesus directly addressed a question from Bill “about whether people return [to earth] voluntarily.” Here is the passage:
A firm commitment to darkness or nothingness is impossible. Nobody has ever lived who has not experienced some light and some of everything. This has made everybody really unable to deny truth totally, even if he deceives himself in this connection most of the time. That is why those who live largely in darkness and emptiness never find any lasting solace. (This really answers Bill’s question about whether people return voluntarily.) (original version of T-3.II.1:6-8)
At first, it’s not clear what the answer to Bill’s question is. You have to get a sense, really, of the whole passage, which we can summarize in three points:
1. Everyone has experienced some light and some of everything.
2. This experience makes everyone unable to deny truth totally.
3. This is why those who live in the opposite (darkness and emptiness) never find any lasting solace.
Do you see why those who live in darkness and emptiness can’t find lasting solace? It’s because they have tasted the other—light and reality—and thus know that darkness and emptiness are not all there is, and not all they want.
We can therefore boil it all down to this: Those who live in darkness and emptiness never find lasting solace, because they have all, without exception, tasted the opposite—light and reality—and thus know that darkness and emptiness are not all there is, and are not all they want.
This is the answer to “Do we return voluntarily?” The answer is: We return because we find no lasting comfort in darkness and emptiness, due to knowing there is something else. In short, we return out of that sense that there’s something more than what we’re mired in at present. We return in search of the “more” we have denied.
This not only sounds like those quotes I referenced above, it also ties in directly with Jesus’ early comments about the purpose of sex being to bring children into the world and so “to enable souls to embark on new chapters in their experience, and thus improve their records.” Souls, in other words, come into a body in order to “embark on new chapters in their experience, and thus improve their records.” They come to learn.
We can put all this together and say that we came here to choose again, and thus escape the death we sentenced ourselves to.
So now we have two entirely opposite explanations for why we came. We came to die, and we came to learn how to escape death. The two seem utterly irreconcilable. What do we do with that?
Interestingly, those opposite explanations for why we came mirror the Course’s opposite explanations for what brings about the events of our lives. The Course says the ego dreams the events of our lives as “the idle witness” that our belief in death was right (T-21.II.5:1). And it says the Holy Spirit plans the events of our lives as lessons for our learning: “Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again” (T-31.VIII.3:1).
It’s easy to see both pairs of opposite explanations as intimately linked. Our ego reasons for coming here match the ego’s reasons for dreaming the events of our lives. And our holy reasons for coming here match the Holy Spirit’s reasons for planning the events of our lives.
The implication is obvious: Part of our mind comes here at one with the ego’s purpose of using our life events to reinforce itself and carry its program to its logical conclusion of death. And part of our mind comes here at one with the Holy Spirit’s purpose of using the events of our lives to offer us lessons, so that we can escape the ego’s tomb and lead everyone else out with us.
We must, in other words, come here with a split mind, with one side of this mind wanting to perpetuate the ancient sickness, and the other side reaching out for the cure. Given the Course’s teaching on the split mind, what could be more natural? And given the quotes we have seen on both sides, what other option is there that does justice to the Course’s words?
What is the practical import of this? If you think you came here only to learn, there is more to the story. You also came out of a deep pull that just wants to perpetuate the darkness and ignorance in you, which is why learning is often so difficult. And if you think you came here to escape God, there is more to that story, too. You also came here to find God.