The question, “Who am I?”, is one that people have asked since time began. Am I just this body? Am I a spiritual being in physical form or a physical being with a spiritual side? Am I two selves, one a “lower” self and the other a “higher” self? You may be familiar with the tale that ends with the question, “Was the philosopher dreaming that he was a butterfly, or was the butterfly dreaming that he was a man?” In Who Dies? (p.29), Stephen Levine says, “If you made a list of everything you own, everything you think of as you, everything you prefer, that list would be the distance between you and the living truth….”
A Course in Miracles has a very clear picture of what it sees as the living truth of who we are. It is one that sustains me when I am tempted to see myself as afraid, unlovable and unloving, judgemental, depressed, powerless, afraid, selfish, or any of a myriad of other attributes and feelings with which I identify. It brings me back to the truth of who I am whenever I get caught up in believing that I am what I have made of myself; for instance, my self-concept, behaviour, words, roles, status, and place in the world, what others think of me, all of those things that turn up on my list.
Part of A Course in Miracles is devoted to daily lessons, and Lesson 97 answers the question, “Who am I?,” in a very few pithy title words: “I am spirit.” That’s it, pure and simple! The lesson goes on to elaborate: “Today’s idea identifies you with your one Self… It simply states the truth.” Even though we may think there is a split identity between a body and a mind or between a spiritual self and a material self, in truth there is none, no real conflict between a “lower” and a “higher” self, no butterfly and no philosopher. There is only one true and real self, and that is spirit. Lesson 95 tells us, “I am one Self, united with my Creator, at one with every aspect of creation, and limitless in power and in peace”(W-pI.95.11:2).
Is this how you see yourself? Some of the time? All the time? It’s not usually how I see myself, although, with the very concrete and practical help of A Course in Miracles, I am learning to see and accept this as myself more and more.
The Course also says, “I am as God created me.” We are told this first in Lesson 93, but the author really wants us to get this very important concept, so it is repeated time and time again–69 times, at my last count.
In its impeccable logic, the Course teaches that since God is eternal, infinite, and changeless spirit, God can only create more of the same, something like itself; and since “I am as God created me,” eternal, infinite, and changeless spirit is what I am as well. The Course is unwavering in its judgment of us as “forever innocent, forever loving and forever loved, as limitless as your Creator, and completely changeless and forever pure” (W-pII.10.5:1). It actually says that this is God’s Final Judgment of us–a very different from the traditional Christian concept of the Last Judgment! Lesson 190 reinforces this idea with this comment: “Your Self is radiant in [God’s] holy joy, unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable, forever and forever” (W-pI.190.6:5).
The God of the Course is spirit, and this spirit is Love, and only Love; so what we are–each and every one of us–is also love. That is our true nature, despite all appearances to the contrary! We therefore spend all our time either extending and giving love or looking for love–calling for it–through our thoughts, words, and actions. When we are extending love, expressing our true nature by being messengers of God’s eternal, unconditional love, we experience love, as well as peace, joy, happiness, kindness, all of which are God’s will for us. We are in touch with our innocence and our holiness and see that in others. When we see others and ourselves in this way, we find it easy to forgive, to overlook appearances, or look beyond them to the one Self in which we are united.
When we are not extending love, we experience fear, conflict, pain, and suffering in all its different forms. We feel angry and often act out of that anger, seeing others as our enemies and as separate from us, and then we feel guilty and unholy. Somewhere deep within us is the memory of who we really are, and when we are not expressing that, we feel a lot of pain.
It’s as simple as that, and every decision and choice we make is either to express or go against our true nature. The only real purpose of this body that we inhabit is to extend the love that we are and bring the light of love to the world. Extending love is the way in which we recognize and accept our true Self and “let It come into Its own” (W-pI.93.9:6).
The main goal of A Course in Miracles is to help us recognize, accept, and express that true Self. As a complete and immensely practical spiritual path, it offers not only powerful transformative teachings, but shows us how to walk the “path of light” (W-pI.rV.In.5:4), one step at a time, thereby closing the distance between the way we see ourselves and the living truth of who we are and why we are here. As we walk the path, we begin to experience all the blessings of love, inner peace, joy, and oneness with God that are the goal of the spiritual journey.
First published in Tone magazine, October 2005.