[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
Our class yesterday was on God’s Will. Since the class, I have been trying to think how to convey my main message more simply and effectively. What I came up with was the above diagram (you’ll have to click on “God’s Will”). Let me walk you through it.
First, look at the top half of it–the “Traditional” view. In this view, my will and God’s are at odds with each other. God’s Will says, “Obey My laws! (or else).” If we follow His Will, we achieve righteousness.
But then we have our own will. It says, “I must satisfy my own needs.” Its outcome is pleasure (physical or emotional).
We want to follow our own will, of course, but then God wants us to follow His Will. This means that we and God are in conflict. And being in conflict with God is not a peaceful experience. I expect we all know what an anxious, fearful, and guilty state this is. That sense of our will being in conflict with God’s Will is not a happy one.
Now look at the bottom diagram, the “ACIM” version. It is the same situation looked at very differently. The difference is that both God’s Will and our will have been dramatically reconceptualized.
Now, rather than God’s Will being for us to obey Him and serve His agenda, His Will is that of an unconditionally loving parent. He simply loves us and wants our happiness. This is true no matter what we do. So His Will doesn’t turn against us if we don’t obey it. It just turns into a helping force, seeking to bring us back to our own real happiness.
As I said, the Course has also reconceptualized our will. We assume we know our will—we know what we want. Yet experience has taught us repeatedly that this is not always the case. For we can want something intensely and throw enormous effort into the pursuit of it, but then when we finally get it, we find we don’t want it. In such a case, we have clearly misunderstood what our true will is. We thought we wanted a certain thing, but we wanted only our fantasy of it. We didn’t want the actual thing itself.
The Course takes this idea and runs with it. It says that our conventional desires for things of this world—things of the body and of the ego—are not what we really want, for whenever we actually get them, they don’t truly satisfy us. Our will for these things, therefore, constitutes a false will.
Our real will, says the Course, is so different from our conventional desires that it is actually the same as God’s Will. Our real desires—the desires that, if fulfilled, make us actually happy—want exactly what God wants. Not roughly what God wants, exactly what God wants.
So look at the bottom half of the diagram and try to see it as your situation. The actual situation is that you and God are completely joined in will. You want exactly the same things. Everything God wants, you want. And everything you want, God wants. Your wills are always pulling in the same direction, so perfectly that it’s not accurate to speak of two wills; there is only one. God’s Will says, “You shall love and be happy.” And your will says, “I will love and be happy.” That joint Will reaches out for real, eternal satisfaction, and that’s what it lays hold of.
This means that you and God are in perfect harmony. As Workbook Lesson 331 has us say to God, “There is no conflict, for my will is Yours.” Look at that left side of the bottom and try to feel a sense of completely harmony with God.
True, you are filled with all sorts of desires that are not of God (see right). But those are not your real will. You can tell by the fact that they just don’t deliver very much. You feel all your intense desire for the things of the world before you get them. Once you get them, they just don’t deliver. They hold out a fantasy satisfaction, not a real satisfaction.
Now try to imagine that when you receive guidance that may challenge your preferences, you are not just hearing God’s Will; you are hearing your own forgotten will being relayed to you. This guidance actually represents your own true desires, reaching out, not for fantasy satisfaction, but for eternal satisfaction. That is why Lesson 125 says, “It is your voice to which you listen as He speaks to you.”
And when the Workbook tells you to practice every hour on the hour, and several times in between, and in response to even the most minor upset, that too is your forgotten will being relayed to you. In other words, “It is your voice” that is asking you to practice.
And when the Course asks you to overlook your separate needs and focus on extending love to your brothers, that too is not an alien will asking you to sacrifice your best interests on behalf of truth. No, that is your own forgotten will reaching your awareness. It would like to bubble up from the inside, and it can and does when you let it. But because of the barriers you have set up, your will is now reaching you from the outside, through this book. But it’s still your will. Jesus spoke to Bill about his “natural impulse to help.” And that impulse to help is your natural impulse, too.
So the real situation is that you and God are joined in wanting the exact same things. But you have identified with a will that is not yours and does not give you satisfaction. This “alien will” (a term used 7 times in the Course) has made your true will appear to be outside you, and has made a caricature of God’s Will, making it appear to be a despotic will, the opposite of what it is.
I hope that makes my main point clearer. The challenge now is to reverse in our minds what is alien and what is natural. The challenge is to see the will to love unconditionally as our natural impulse. And to see all those conventional desires to satisfy the body and the ego as unnatural, as alien desires that we have identified with against our nature. And then God’s Will can be accepted as our Friend, and indeed as our own natural desire.