See complete instructions in a separate document. A short summary:
- Read the commentary paragraph slowly and personally.
- Pray the prayer, perhaps several times.
- Morning and evening: Repeat the idea and then spend time in Open Mind Meditation.
- Hourly remembrance: Repeat the idea and then spend time in Open Mind Meditation.
- Frequent reminders: Repeat the idea and then spend a quiet moment in meditation.
- Response to temptation: Repeat the idea whenever upset, to restore peace.
- Read the “What Is” section slowly and thoughtfully once during the day.
Practice suggestion: I have found it helpful to reword the final line. Instead of “The miracle is thus a call to Him,” I say, “To heal is thus to speak His Name.”
It seems to me the Course is always equating things you don’t expect to be equated, like it does here: Sickness is another name for sin; healing is another name for God. And toward the end of the lesson, “To call Your Name is but to call his own” (1:6), that is, the Son’s own name, or my own name. The Course suggests that when we find God we will have found our Self, and when we find our Self, we will have found God; we and God share the same Name. It seems to be constantly saying that things we believe are quite different are in reality the same. Its advice for a new year is “Make this year different by making it all the same” (T-15.XI.10:11). The Course is constantly boiling everything down to just one problem, the separation, and one solution, the Atonement. And it tells us that complexity is of the ego; therefore, simplicity is of God.
How are sickness and sin the same thing? First, dispense with what this does not mean: that being sick is a sin. Anyone who has gone through the entire Workbook and studied the Text cannot possibly hold that mistaken understanding; that is most definitely not the meaning here. There is no such thing as sin; we only imagine there is. This lesson is most emphatically not saying that if you are sick it is because you are a sinful person, or that being sick makes you a sinner. Being sick is nothing to be guilty about! If you are sick, and anyone even suggests to you that “you must be doing something wrong because spiritual people don’t get sick,” stop listening to that person. The thoughts of our minds do indeed cause sickness. “All sickness is mental illness” (P-2.IV.8:1), according to the Psychotherapy supplement. But mistaken thoughts are not “sin”; they are simply mistaken.
When the lesson says that sickness is another name for sin, it means that the sickness of the body is a reflection or manifestation of the mind’s belief in the reality of sin. Sickness, says the Course, can be a kind of self-punishment, in which we attack ourselves because of our guilt, hoping thereby to avert the punishment of God we are expecting. “Sickness is anger taken out upon the body, so that it will suffer pain” (T-28.VI.5:1).
I believe that when the Course uses the word sickness it is usually referring to the thought of sickness and not to the physical symptoms. (“Sickness is of the mind, and has nothing to do with the body” [M-5.II.3:2].) A crippled limb, for instance, can be used by the ego to further thoughts of inadequacy, guilt, and separation, or it can be used by the Holy Spirit to break a person’s identification with the body and to turn them to God. It is the thought, and only the thought, which is important.
Sickness is “a defense against the truth” (W-pI.136.Heading). We have to remember that in the thought system of the Course everything, including sickness, is a choice we have made, and that choices must have some purpose behind them. The important thing is not the physical symptom. The important thing is the choice, and the purpose behind it.
When we choose to be sick, at some level we are choosing to identify ourselves as a body rather than a spirit or mind. The “truth” we are defending against is that we are a spirit or mind. We are defending against the realization that we are one with God and with everyone else, in God. “The strange, haunting thought that [we] might be something beyond this little pile of dust [is] silenced and stilled” (W-pI.136.8:4) when we are sick. Sickness makes the body seem very real, the only real thing. It seeks to let the illusion of the bodily identity take the place of the truth of our mind, our spiritual identity.
How is that like sin? According to the Workbook, sin “is the means by which the mind…seeks to let illusions take the place of truth” (W-pII.4.1:2). That is exactly what sickness does! When I see “sin” in myself or in a brother, it proves the “sinner” is evil, and therefore separate from God. When I see “sickness” in myself or in another, it proves the body is real and therefore separate from God.
Sin and sickness are the same in that both are means that the mind uses to try to prove that the separation is real. They are not the same in form, but they are identical in purpose. They are both the ego’s attempt to prove that I am what I am not. It is the thought of separation which the Course aims to heal, not the physical symptom of sickness, and not the specific behavior of a person. The Course is concerned with the cause and not the effect.
I do believe that if the mind is healed—if the person is healed on the level of thought (which is the level of cause)—it will often result in changes in the form of the person’s life. Behavior will often change when thoughts change; physical health will often improve when thoughts change. The change on the level of the body, however, is never the concern of the Course. The body is insignificant (M-5.II.3:12), which means it is without meaning. If the body is insignificant, it means that the body signifies nothing. If our thoughts align with God’s Thought, the body will serve the purpose of the Holy Spirit whatever its form. Even if the body dies. The Course is concerned only with healing the mind because the body does not matter.
“Healing is but another name for God.” To heal the mind, therefore, means to recognize the identity of my mind and God’s mind. To be healed is to recognize that I share God’s nature. When the Course talks of healing, it is not talking about getting over the flu! It is talking about letting go of my identification with this body that appears to be suffering chills and fever, recognizing that the body is not my Self, but that I am the eternal Son of God. It is speaking, as always, of a change of mind. When the identity of myself and my body is broken, I will know that what happens to the body does not affect who I really am; therefore, what happens to the body does not matter to me. It may get well and it may not; if I am no longer identified with it, I don’t care which it is.
Sin and sickness are the same thing in the sense that both are manifestations of our belief in separation and our resulting (but mistaken) guilt. They are both healed through the miracle of forgiveness. Healing is a return to wholeness, a return to our true Self, and since our Self is one with God, all healing is a return to God. To offer a miracle of forgiveness or healing is “thus a call to Him.”
Another way of putting this is that all healing leads to God in the end, even if we are not thinking of or believing in God as we experience it. If it is healing, it is of God. The Psychotherapy supplement says, “The patient need not think of truth as God in order to make progress in salvation” (P-1.5:1). If there is healing, and if there is forgiveness instead of condemnation, God is there, even if He is not named or acknowledged. Everyone who learns to forgive will remember God.
It does not matter where he is, what seems to be his problem, nor what he believes he has become. (1:2)
God answers when we call, even when we don’t realize we are calling Him. He answers even when we think we do not deserve an answer. I believe there are hundreds of times we have called on God, and He has answered, and we never made the connection. We failed to recognize Him even as we received His help. Our very pain and fear, the Course says, is a call for help. Do you imagine that if the Holy Spirit recognizes all calls for help as what they are, that He does not answer every one of them?
He is Your Son, and You will answer him. (1:3)
He answers us with His Name, which is a shorthand way of saying His Being or His Nature. We are answered by what God is, because what He is is what we as His Son are. God is without sin, and so are we; without sin we cannot be sick, because sickness comes from belief in sin. When I realize my total innocence I “cannot suffer pain” (1:5). God’s Name is what speaks to me of that innocence and tells me it must be so. How could God’s offspring be unholy?
Let me learn, then, to call on God (whether I use that word or not). Let me open my heart to innocence, gentleness, and mercy. Let me make healing my aim, for myself and for others. In every encounter today let me remember: I am here to heal; I am here to offer miracles; I am here to release from guilt.