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18.1 Many of you believe God’s creation included the fall from paradise as described in the biblical story of Adam and Eve and in the creation stories of many cultures and religions. When you accept this, even in non-literal terms, as the story of the separation, you accept separation itself. This story is, rather than a story of an actual event, a story that describes the problem. It is but the story of perception’s birth. And your perception of the fall makes of the fall a curse. This interpretation would be inconsistent, however, with a benevolent God and a benevolent universe. This interpretation accepts that separation can occur. It cannot. Belief in the fall is belief in the impossible.
18.2 Imagine that you are part of a chain of bodies holding hands and encircling the globe. I am among those whose hand you hold. All are linked, even if each one is not holding the hand of every other one. If one link in the chain were to be removed, the chain would no longer form a circle but would fall, each end suspended in space. The chain would now be a line seeming to go from here to there, instead of enclosing and encompassing everything. The separation assumes that you can break the chain. This would be as impossible as it would be for me to let go of your hand.
18.3 Now imagine further that this chain is keeping the Earth in its orbit. It is obvious that the Earth falling out of orbit would cause dire consequences of a universal nature. It is simply less obvious that you are part of what has established and keeps a universal order, part of a whole that would be a completely different whole without your presence, just as the universe would be a completely different universe without the presence of the Earth.
18.4 Yet this is, in effect, what you think you have done. You think that you have changed the nature of the universe and made it possible for life to exist separately and alone with no relationship, no connection, no unity with the whole. This you have not done. You have not fallen from unity. You have not fallen from God.
18.5 This chain I have described helps you to imagine the place I hold for you, as you held mine when I entered the world in physical form. Even if it is just an illustration, it illustrates that none of us leave wholeness or each other.
18.6 While you have been taught that you are not your body, it is impossible for you to deny the body here. Yet you can change the function you have ascribed to it, and so its way of functioning. If you do not see it as the result of a fall, as a curse, as a punishment from God, or as your home, a dwelling place that keeps you separate, then you can begin to see it as what it is, a learning device given you by a loving creator. Before the idea of separation, there was no need for learning. But a loving creator creates not that which can have a need go unfulfilled. As soon as the need for learning arose, the perfect means to fulfill that need was established. You have simply failed to see it as such.
18.7 This is the error birthed by perception, before which there was no possibility of misinterpretation, because there was no external world to be perceived. A learning device, when not perceived as such, holds not much hope of fulfilling the function it was created to fulfill. But when perception changes and a thing is seen as what it is, then it cannot fail to accomplish what it was created to accomplish.
18.8 An external world is but a projection that cannot take you away from the internal world where you exist in wholeness, a link in the chain of creation. Imagine again this chain and your Self among those who comprise it, and imagine the life that you experience now taking place much like that you would see projected on a movie screen. You have not left your place as you view this movie and experience its sights and sounds, joys and sorrows. And yet you are also part of the projection, and this is where your awareness now abides, seemingly trapped upon the screen, viewing everything from the two eyes of the one projected there. Again, this is but what this Course’s exercises have attempted to help you see: a world you can observe and learn in and from, for as long as you would choose to learn what the idea of separation would teach you. Making a new choice, a choice to learn from unity, is what this Course prepares you for.
18.9 Learning from unity requires an integrated mind and heart, or wholeheartedness. A half-hearted approach to this learning will not work, nor will the attention of a split mind. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough that you learn what you choose to learn. For proof of this all you need do is look at the world that was created from your wish to learn what the idea of separation would teach you. When you resided in unity, you could not imagine what this world would be like any more than you can now imagine what a united world will be like. You did not understand, from unity’s standpoint, what it was that you were asking for, or the extent of involvement this learning would require. In order to learn what the idea of separation would teach you, you needed to believe that you existed in a separated state. Thus, “forgetting” that you actually reside in unity was a requirement of this condition you wished to experience. This condition was thus made available.
18.10 While this explanation makes perfect sense, you find it quite unbelievable on the basis of your perception of yourself and the limited range of power you believe your decision making to have. The only way to make the unbelievable believable is to alter what you experience. The state in which you now exist was not only unbelievable but also inconceivable to you in your natural state. Experience was required in order to alter your belief system and is required now as well.
18.11 The experience of unity will alter your belief system and that of others, for what you learn in unity is shared. Because you are currently learning from separation, however, each must experience unity individually before their belief system can be changed, even when what is learned is shared at another level.
18.12 Perception of levels is a function of time, and thus it seems that great amounts of time are needed before change of a lasting nature can occur. This is why miracles save time, for they integrate all levels, temporarily collapsing time. Time is actually a measurement of learning, or the “time” it takes for learning to pass from one level to another through experience, for here learning is experienced in time.
18.13 In order for your experience base to change from that of learning in separation to that of learning in unity, learning from what unity can teach you must be birthed as an idea. To hear or learn of another’s idea is not to give birth to it. You thus must each experience the birth of the idea of learning from unity in order for it to come from within and leave not its source. An idea of mine can only become an idea of yours through your relationship with it. You need only to experience this idea in your own way, from the desire to know from which all ideas are born, in order to give it life.
18.14 Once an idea is born, it exists in relationship to its creator. All that remains now is a choice of participation. In unity, all that you desired was participated in fully by a mind and heart combined in wholeheartedness. You knew your Self to be the creator, and loved all that you created. You did not desire and fear something at the same time, and your desires did not change from moment to moment. What you desired you experienced fully with your whole being, making it one with you. That you keep yourself from desiring anything fully here is what makes this existence so chaotic and erratic. A mind and heart in conflict is what keeps you from desiring anything fully, and thus from creating.
18.15 Thus the integration of mind and heart must be our goal in order for you to create the state in which unity can be experienced. Obviously, this is up to you. As you chose to create a state of separation, you must choose to create a state of unity.
18.16 It can come as no surprise to you that your mind has ruled your heart. What this Course has thus far attempted to do is to briefly change your orientation from mind to heart. This is a first step in what will seem now like an attempt to balance two separate things, but is really an attempt to unite what you have only perceived as separate. If the heart is the center of your Self, where then is the mind? The center is but the Source in which all exist as one mind. To say this to you before we loosened some of your perceptions about the supremacy of the mind, however, would have been folly. The one mind is not as you have perceived your mind. The one mind is but a mind in which love rules, and mind and heart are one. We will proceed by calling this wholeheartedness rather than mind or heart.
18.17 A wandering mind is seen as quite the norm, and thoughts that dart about in a chaotic fashion are as acceptable and seemingly as inevitable to you as breathing. A split mind is seen as not much less normal although it is recognized that a split mind makes decision making difficult. You were already told that the only exercise for your mind that would be included in this Course of Love is that you dedicate all thought to union. This now must be seen in two dimensions rather than one. In addition to dedicating thought to unity with the whole, you must dedicate yourself to unifying thought itself.
18.18 You do not realize what a wholehearted choice in regards to experiencing separation did. Wholeheartedness is but a full expression of your power. A full expression of your power is creation. What has been created cannot be uncreated. What has been created can, however, be transformed. Transformation occurs in time. Thus transformation and miracles need to work hand-in-hand.
18.19 The transformation from a state of separation to a state of unity is a miracle indeed, for this transformation requires recognition of a state that you cannot recognize in separation. While this is a paradox, it is not impossible for the simple reason that you never left the state of unity that you do not recognize. Your lack of recognition can thus be overcome by remembering the truth of what you are.
18.20 Unifying thought is more than a matter of focus or single-mindedness, although these are both steps in the right direction. Unifying thought is also a matter of integrating the thought or language of your heart with that which you more naturally perceive as thought, the words and images that “go through” your mind.
18.21 We talked briefly here of emotions, doing so only to differentiate your feelings of love from your feelings of lack of love or fear. What we have as yet talked even less of, however, is what emotion covers up, and the stillness that lies beneath. I have referred to the true language of the heart as communion, or union of the highest level, and of remembrance of who you are being the means by which communion can return to you. So what we speak of now is integrating remembrance and thought.
18.22 While we spoke of what you think of as emotion being reactions of the body to stimulus, we did not speak of this stimulus itself. Before we do so, we must clarify further the function of the body as a learning device. Your body seems to experience both pleasure and pain, yet as a learning device, it is neutral. It does not experience, but only conveys that which can be experienced to you. You then relay a reaction back to it. This circular relationship between you and the body is the perfect relationship for the purpose of learning, since both the experience and the reaction to the experience can then be learned from, and because the learner can choose both. It is not, however, the perfect relationship when you have misperceived the body as your home rather than as a learning device. Because you have misperceived the body as your home, there is, in a sense, no “you” to which the body can send its signals. And so the body seems to be in charge and to be both the experiencer and the interpreter of experience. In addition, this misperception has allowed the body’s function to go unrecognized. You thus have not recognized the truth of what causes pain nor that you can reject the experience of it. The same is true of pleasure.
18.23 Determination of pleasure and pain is made with the judgment of the separated self who not only believes it is the body, but that it is at the body’s mercy. Yet the body has no mercy to offer the separated self. It is only a learning device. But you have not recognized this and have failed to learn that all you experience as painful is the result of feelings of lack of love, and that all you have experienced as pleasurable are feelings of love. This would seem to contradict what was said earlier about the pain experienced from love and your willingness to cling to it despite the pain you are experiencing. Yet the pain comes not from your feelings of love, but feelings of love lost.
18.24 Having no one to receive and reject feelings of pain and replace them with feelings of love causes all your distress. Think not that you react to pain of any kind with the love from your real Self that would dispel it. The Self you have taken out of the learning loop is the Self of love.
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