As a student of and mentor for other students of A Course in Miracles I have both experienced and seen how the ego’s (personal thought system’s) inherent guilt and fear distort its teaching. Some of the ego’s greatest distortions are around the Course’s teachings on metaphysics, or the relationship between mind and the universe of form. Guilt is provoked in particular around its discussion of the body and the manifestation of disorders (illness, injury, misalignments, etc.) in the body. What is stated in the Course as fact is viewed through the ego as condemnation or admonition.
Like most students of theCourseI used to feel guilty when I got sick. I felt that I was failing. But this did not stop me from doing what I needed to do to take care of the body and relieve myself of pain or discomfort. So I have been shocked to learn that many students of theCourseactually deny themselves relief from suffering, sometimes even refusing to seek treatment for life-threatening conditions. They do this because they interpret getting treatment for the body as “wrong” or “bad”. They feel that they “should” heal the body by employing the mind for this purpose. Some spend a lot of time, even years, seeking in their minds for the thoughts that they believe are manifested as disorder in the body. TheCoursenever prescribes any of these courses of action or inaction. All of this is done because the student believes the ego’s guilty interpretation of the ideas in theCourse.
So here I have culled quotes from theCoursewhich show what it really teaches. I have summarized each collection of quotes at the end of each answer. Hopefully this will help you undo and/or avoid some of the guilt that the ego inspires regarding disorders in the body.
For simplicity and clarity I use here quotes from The Plain Language A Course in Miracles [Text: The Message of A Course in Miracles (MACIM); Workbook: Practicing A Course in Miracles (PACIM); Manual for Teachers: The Way of A Course in Miracles (WACIM)]. If you prefer to read the quotes from the original the designation after each quote also matches the original. (For example, MACIM-1.1.1 refers to the Text, chapter 1, part 1, paragraph 1).
At the very end I share my own experience with the body and the Holy Spirit.
What is the purpose of the body?
God did not make the body, which is destructible and therefore not Eternal. (MACIM-6.5a.2)
The body is the personal mind’s idol. It is your belief in separation from God made into form and then projected outside your mind. This makes it seem like there is a wall of flesh around your mind, limiting it to a tiny spot of space and time, obligated to die, and given an instant to sigh and grieve and die in honor of separation. (MACIM-20.6.11)
The body is the symbol of the personal self, as the personal self is the symbol of your separation from God. Both are nothing more than your attempts to limit your Communication with God to make Oneness impossible. (MACIM-15.9.2)
The personal self uses the body to attack your mind because it realizes that you can end it and the body merely by recognizing that they are not real. It tries to persuade you that the body is more real than the mind and that the mind serves the personal self. (MACIM-6.4.5)
The personal mind regards the body as its home and all appetites and needs, whether they are physical or emotional, originate in the personal mind and are the means of “getting” something to confirm the personal self’s existence to itself. (MACIM-4.2.7)
Your perception of yourself as separate from God - a personal self in a body within a world - is a distortion of your mind; a fantasy. Your reactions and actions in the world that you perceive stem from your unawareness that it is a fantasy. This fantasy, which includes the fantasies that you have in the world and recognize as such, are attempts to satisfy the false needs that have arisen from your sense of separation from God. (MACIM-1.7.3)
The body does not contain you who are Life and it neither lives nor dies. (MACIM-6.5a.1)
The body can no more die than it can feel. Of itself it is neither corruptible, nor incorruptible. It does nothing and it is nothing. (MACIM-19.4c.1.3)
The body is simply a part of your experience in your perception of a world. It is almost impossible for you to deny that you experience a body and doing so you will also deny the power of your mind, which made it. (MACIM-2.4.3)
The belief that you are a body is a mistake that calls for correction. (PACIM-91.6)
The body was not made by Love but Love does not condemn it. It can use the body Lovingly, respecting what you have made and using it to save you from your illusions. (MACIM-18.6.4)
The body has no purpose of its own but only the purpose that you give to it. Whatever goal you assign to the body, the body will seem to be a means of attaining that goal. (MACIM-19.4b.1.2)
The body is neutral and it can be used by your mind to extend God’s Love or to perpetuate your sense of separation from God. (MACIM-1.5.1)
It is the purpose of the body itself to tempt you to forget your Identity in God. But the Holy Spirit has another use for the illusions that you have made, so It sees another purpose for them. (PACIM-64.2)
For a while you must extend God’s Love through a body because you are not yet aware enough of your Oneness with God to see beyond it. The only real use the body has is as a learning device through which you learn to remember that you are One with God. (MACIM-1.7.2)
Your mind can bring the body into alignment with it by recognizing that the body is not the learner and by looking past it to Spirit. (MACIM-2.5.6)
In the service of uniting your mind with the Holy Spirit the body becomes a beautiful lesson in communion until you are again aware of your Communion with God. This is how God makes you aware of your Unlimited Mind, Which you want to limit to a body. The Holy Spirit knows the only reality of anything in the world that you perceive is the service that it renders God on behalf of your Function of extending Oneness. (MACIM-8.7.3)
The personal self’s temple thus becomes the Holy Spirit’s temple and only in this way is the body a temple to God. The Holy Spirit abides in the body by directing the use to which it is put. (MACIM-8.7.9)
If you give the body to the Holy Spirit to use as a means of uniting your mind you will see the physical world is nothing. (MACIM-8.7.4)
God did not make the body. It was made by the split mind to be the personal mind’s symbol of separation from God. Your belief in it as you is the personal mind’s purpose for the body. Since you are mind and the personal mind is a thought system in your mind it perpetuates itself by teaching you that the body is more real than the mind. And that the mind’s purpose is to serve a body.
The ego teaches you to use the body to fulfill the sense of lack that you feel for separating from God. Doing this reaffirms the ego and the body as your identity.
But the body is neutral. It is really nothing but an empty idea with no meaning in itself. It is simply something that you are temporarily experiencing. You do not need to deny it. In fact, denying that you experience a body denigrates the power of your mind, because this experience is made by your belief. And this belief is not a sin; only a mistake that requires correction if you want peace. The Holy Spirit respects what you have made and, because it is neutral, can use it to teach you that you are formless Mind instead. Using the body for this purpose gives it the only real value that it has.
Where do disorders in the body come from?
All forms of illness are the result of your identifying with a personal self in a body. (MACIM-1.1.8)
Sickness is of your mind, not of the body. All forms of sickness signal that your mind is split and that you do not accept One Purpose. (MACIM-8.9.8)
The body’s suffering is a mask your mind wears to hide that it is really your mind that suffers. You identify with a body to deny that you are your own enemy, that you attack yourself, and that you want to die. (PACIM-76.5)
The guilt in your mind keeps your mind split as your guilt is projected onto the body. The body suffers and dies because it is attacked to keep your mind split so you don’t remember your Identity. (MACIM-18.6.3)
Sickness is anger that you take out on the body so that it will suffer pain. (MACIM-28.6.5)
You choose suffering because you believe that it gives you something of value. You think it is a small price to pay for something of greater worth. Sickness is a decision that you make; it is your choice for weakness, in your mistaken conviction that weakness is strength. (WACIM-5.1a.1)
Your guilt is the cause of all of your suffering. Illness is your attack on the body, which you identify with in the personal mind, in an attempt to lessen God’s punishment of you for separating from God. It is a form of magical solution for guilt. (MACIM-5.5.5)
Whenever you consent to suffer pain, to be deprived, unfairly treated, or in need of anything, you project responsibility for your attack on yourself onto another in the world that you perceive. You hold a picture of your crucifixion before their eyes so that they may see their sins are written in Heaven in your blood, damning them to hell. (MACIM-27.1.3)
The personal mind has a profound investment in the body’s sickness because if it is sick it proves that you are vulnerable and cannot be of God. (MACIM-8.8.3)
The personal mind uses the body’s sickness as an argument that you need its guidance and it dictates endless prescriptions for avoiding catastrophe. (MACIM-8.8.6)
Your identification with a body results in a mind that seems split between God (Truth) and not-God (personal mind). This is a disorder of your mind that manifests as disorder in the body. Projecting disorder onto the body hides from you the awareness that it is really your mind which is disordered.
Disorders show up in the body as manifestations of guilt and anger in your mind. Disorders also show up because in your identification with a personal mind you believe that they give you something of value. Your split mind seems to be an attack on God and results in guilt. To mitigate the punishment you expect from God you punish yourself in your identification with a body for your identification with a body. You believe both that this takes care of your guilt and that it takes God’s power away and makes you stronger than God. You also use sickness to project your guilt onto others and make them feel guilty.
The personal mind also uses sickness to “prove” to you that you are not of God and that you need it to guide you.
How is the body healed?
The body cannot heal because it cannot make itself sick. The body does not need healing because its health or sickness depends entirely on how your mind perceives it and the purpose for which your mind wants to use it. (MACIM-19.1.3)
The body is not the source of its own health, then, but its condition is the result of how you interpret its function. (MACIM-8.8.1)
When you can accept that only the mind is real you will no longer confuse yourself with a body and manifest sickness. (MACIM-2.4.2)
The thoughts that result from your identification with a body instead of with your Mind are the thoughts that need healing, and the body will respond with health when those thoughts have been corrected and replaced with the Truth. (PACIM-135.10)
Healing is accomplished the moment that you no longer see any value in pain. (WACIM-5.1a.1)
The basis for healing, then, is your accepting that sickness is a decision of your mind, which then uses a body for its purposes. This is true for healing in all forms. Decide that this is so, and you will heal. (WACIM-5.1b.2)
When the personal mind tempts you to sickness do not ask the Holy Spirit to heal the body, which is not the source of sickness. Ask instead that the Holy Spirit show you the correct perception of the body because sickness is caused by your distorted perception of the body’s purpose. Only perception can be sick or mistaken. (MACIM-8.9.1)
But all healing must come about because you recognize that your mind is not within a body and your mind’s healing and Innocence are apart from a body. (MACIM-28.2.2)
You only need to perceive the body as apart from you and it will be a healthy, useful instrument through which your Mind can operate until its use is done. You will have no use for it when it has finished serving your Mind. (PACIM-135.8)
When you join the Mind in Which all healing rests the body is healed because you came without it. (MACIM-19.1.2)
Health is the result of a united purpose. If the body is brought under the Purpose of your Mind it becomes whole because your Mind’s Purpose is One. (MACIM-8.7.13)
One Purpose, then, is the Holy Spirit’s way of healing you. Healing only has meaning at the level of your mind and re-establishing Meaning in the chaotic thought system that you made is the only way to heal your mind. (MACIM-8.9.9)
Healing always stands aside when it is perceived as a threat, but the instant that it is welcome, it is here. (WACIM-6.2)
While you believe that a body can get you what you want the body will appear to you to be a symbol that separation from God is real. (MACIM-4a.1.8)
While you believe that the body can give you pleasure you will also believe that it can bring you pain. (MACIM-4a.1.8)
Sickness is a decision that you make; it is your choice for weakness, in your mistaken conviction that weakness is strength. When this occurs, you see True Strength as a threat and health as a danger. (WACIM-5.1a.1)
The compromise that you try to make to keep both Truth and illusion as your goal is the belief that the body, not the mind, must be healed. This divided goal gives both the body and the mind equal reality to you. (MACIM-19.1.6)
You think Peace will replace the body and leave you homeless so you deny Peace a home within you. Giving up the body is the “sacrifice” that you think is too great for you to make and that you think is too much for the Holy Spirit to ask of you. (MACIM-4a.1b.2)
Healing represents God’s total opposition to the personal self in a direct form that you are forced to recognize. It stands for All that you want to hide from yourself to protect your personal ‘life’. Because, if you are healed, then you are responsible for your thoughts, and you believe that God will kill you to prove to you how weak and pitiful you are. You feel that if you choose death yourself, then your weakness becomes your strength. Through death, you give yourself what you think that God wants to give to you, so you think that you have entirely taken God’s Power for your own. (WACIM-5.1a.2)
If you ask the Holy Spirit for something that you want but that you fear then your attainment of it would not really be what you want. Sometimes you don’t achieve specific forms of healing even when you have changed your mind enough to call on the Holy Spirit. For example, you may ask for physical healing because you are afraid of physical pain and discomfort. But in your identification with a personal self, physical healing that comes from the Holy Spirit may be more threatening to you than the physical discomfort that you are experiencing. In this case you are not really asking for release from fear, which is true healing, but from release from the symptoms of fear that you have chosen. (MACIM-9.2.2)
Your recognition that you are mind and not a body can be used for either true healing or for magical thinking. (MACIM-7.5.3)
True healing recognizes that the Oneness that you teach yourself is everywhere; magical thinking wants you to see your mind as a healer with special gifts that can be offered to those who do not have this gift. As a magical healer you could think this gift comes from God but if you think that God’s Gifts are for you alone then you limit your awareness of God to a personal self and you do not know that God is Everywhere. (MACIM-7.5.4)
The body is healed by miracles because they show you that the mind made sickness and employed the body to be victim, or effect, of what it made. But this in only half of the lesson. The miracle is useless if you learn only that the body can be healed, for this is not the lesson it was sent to teach. The lesson is always that the mind was sick that thought that the body could be sick. Projecting the mind’s guilt onto the body caused nothing and had no real effects. (MACIM-28.2.11)
The body is only an idea in your mind. So the body never really needs to be healed. Disorders in the body indicate that your mind needs to be healed.
Since identifying with a body is the disorder of your mind that manifests in the body then the body will manifest its neutral state of health when you no longer identify with it. So you do not need to ask the Holy Spirit to heal the body. What you want to ask for instead is the Holy Spirit’s help in recognizing that the body is not you. The Holy Spirit does this by using the body’s life in the world for the purpose of returning your mind to its correct identification with Mind. This heals your mind and therefore the body.
But while you still want to identify with a body you will feel that giving it up is too great a sacrifice to make. The guilt and fear this causes you will continue to manifest in the body. You will fear the awareness that the body’s healing is a choice you make because you will associate this awareness with acknowledging your guilt. You will think this awareness will bring God’s punishment down on you. And you will associate sickness and death with strength because you will think that by making yourself sick and die you are taking God’s power away. From this point of view health will seem like weakness to you.
The awareness that the mind can heal the body can be used by either the personal mind or the Holy Spirit. The personal mind is happy to use this awareness to make itself a special “healer”. And it uses this awareness to perpetuate the idea that the mind’s purpose is to serve the body. These may sometimes result in healing a specific form of disorder but it will not truly heal your mind. The body will therefore continue to manifest the disorder of the mind that comes from believing that the body is real.
How should I respond to disorders in the body?
You never have to consider the form of sickness that appears to you. If you do, you are forgetting that all forms have the same purpose, so they are not different. (WACIM-5.1c.3)
The Holy Spirit recognizes sickness is an error and It does not bother to analyze its form because it is meaningless. (MACIM-8.8.6)
You can give the personal self and the body to the Holy Spirit so that you can be free of concern for them and the Holy Spirit can teach you of their unreality. The Holy Spirit understands your temptation to believe in them as real and in order to heal your mind It needs you to teach yourself through the Holy Spirit that they are not. (MACIM-4.1.13)
As you let the Holy Spirit teach you how to use the body only as a means for communication and as you renounce the personal mind’s use of the body as a means for separation and attack you will learn that you have no need of a body at all. In the Holy Instant there are no bodies and you experience only your attraction to God. Your attraction to God is Limitless and you join with God wholly in an Instant because you place no limits on your Oneness with God. (MACIM-15.9.7)
The body is not guilty or innocent. Since it is nothing, the body cannot be invested with attributes of your Christ Mind or of the personal mind. Either view of the body is an error because both give attributes of the mind where they cannot be. For you to remember Truth you must undo both views of the body. (MACIM-20.7.4)
Certainly, it does not appear as though sickness is a decision of your mind, and you probably don’t believe that you want to be sick. Maybe you can accept this idea in theory, but you rarely, and inconsistently, apply it to all specific forms of sickness, in your perception of yourself and of others. But this is not the level at which you call for healing. You must overlook the personal mind and the body, and see only Christ, Which corrects all mistakes, and heals all of your perception. Healing is the result of your recognizing that it is your mind that needs healing. This recognition must be applied to your entire mind; in this recognition, all of your illusions will be undone. (WACIM-22.4)
Any way in which you handle sickness is meaningless because it is nothing. (MACIM-8.8.6)
Magical thinking teaches you that the body makes its own illness; using physical remedies to heal it reinforces this mistake. But it is not evil to use them. Sometimes your belief in the illness is too strong for you to let in the awareness that healing is the result of correcting your perception of separation from God. When this is the case it is better for you to temporarily believe in the physical remedies. When you are sick you are already in a fearful state and if you confuse God’s Love with fear then the experience of the miracle will only increase your fear. (MACIM-2.4.3)
So the ‘physician’ is always your mind, and the outcome is what you decide that it will be. You may see others as attending to the body, but they are only giving form to your choice. You choose to perceive them to give tangible form to your desire, and this is all that they do. You don’t actually need them, because you could rise up without their aid and say, ‘I have no use for this’. Any form of sickness will be cured at once if you mean these words. (WACIM-5.1b.2)
Your belief in physical remedies is magical thinking but you should not use the mind to heal the body if you are afraid to do so. Fear and egocentricity go together and fear makes you vulnerable to perceiving physical healing as coming from the power of the personal mind rather than from the recognition that you are One with God. When you are afraid it is actually better for you to accept physical remedies for healing the body because you will not make the mistake of thinking they come from your personal power. As long as you are afraid you should not attempt to accept the experience of the miracle for physical healing. (MACIM-2.5.1)
One of the most difficult temptations for you to overcome is to doubt a healing because of the appearance of continuing symptoms. This is a mistake in the form of a lack of trust in the Holy Spirit, and it is an attack on yourself. Usually, it seems to you to be the opposite; it does not appear reasonable to you that continued concern is an attack, because it appears as ‘love’. But Love without trust is impossible, and doubt and trust cannot coexist. (WACIM-7.4)
All forms of disorder in the body are manifestations of the disorder in your mind. So the specific form of a disorder is never relevant. Disorders simply signify that you still identify with a body. This is an error of the mind that calls for correction, not analysis of the disorder.
You can give the care of the body over to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. It will not reinforce the error in your mind but help you to remember that you are Mind. This is accomplished through the practice of the Holy Instant. In the Holy Instant you set aside concern about the body and its life in the world and commune with God instead.
To let go of the body means to not give it any meaning (good/bad, right/wrong, etc.). The goal is not to change your view of the body to Truth-like. Healing does not occur at the level of the mind where you are concerned with the body. Healing occurs when you transcend thoughts about the body and turn your mind inward to Truth in your mind instead. Your identification with the body must be completely undone for your mind to be completely healed.
It does not matter how you choose to handle body disorders because neither the disorder nor the treatment are real. Even though physical remedies do not actually heal the body they are not “evil”. You should use them until your mind is healed and the body is healed as a result. Otherwise you will only reinforce fear in your mind.
Until your healed mind manifests a healed body your choice for healing will be given tangible form through practitioners of whichever healing art in which you believe. Until then you will be afraid of God and your attempts to heal the body with the mind will reinforce the personal mind. You are likely then to confuse the source of healing with the personal mind.
If you ask the Holy Spirit for true healing (mind) you can trust that it has occurred. If you doubt that healing has occurred because you still perceive physical symptoms then you lack trust in the Holy Spirit. This indicates that your mind still needs healing.
My experience with the Holy Spirit:
As I shared in the introduction, like many students I initially read the Course through guilt and fear. I would feel guilty when I got sick or injured. I would take medicine or get treatment, but this only made me feel guiltier. Because of the guilt I felt I did not retain those passages that said that until I no longer had any fear of God I should use the remedies the world offers. I did not remember that it said that my choice for healing would manifest in the world through “attendants” to the body. And I never noticed that it said whatever I do to heal the body is meaningless (so no need for guilt).
I thought I was making progress when I decided that I would look for the specific thoughts that led to specific disorders. I thought I was taking responsibility. But the Course does not say to do this. It teaches that specifics are irrelevant. My overall identification with a personal self is the disorder of my mind that needs to be healed. So of course my approach at “taking responsibility” only led to increased guilt in my mind. It kept me focused on the problem rather than on the solution.
I was trying to deal with guilt on my own because I was too afraid to call on the Holy Spirit. I unconsciously expected to be shown how guilty I was. I expected to be condemned. But eventually, through other experiences with the Holy Spirit, my trust in It developed to where I knew It would show me the way out of guilt, not condemn me. When I was sick or hurt and called on It I was not condemned. I was told to take care of myself. I was guided in what to do. And I was taught to look at disorder in the body the same way I looked at conflict in my mind: As a reminder to turn inward to Truth.
I realized that I had been making body disorders “special”. But they have no more meaning than the verbal attacks of the personal thought system in my mind. Or than disorder that shows up in other ways, like my car breaking down. The personal experience is really all one disordered experience. No part of it is different from any other part of it. That’s why I have to let go of the whole thing, not just pieces of it.
I’ve learned to let go of the personal experience not by denying it or fighting against it but by turning away from it, inward to Truth. As my awareness of Truth has grown peace has come to the forefront of my experience. The personal life goes on, in the background of my awareness. I used to look to it for wholeness; now it manifests my wholeness. If thoughts about the personal life come forward and threaten my peace I see that as a reminder to bring my mind back to peace. This is true for all of it, even physical symptoms. I have learned that I can be at peace no matter what is happening in the personal self’s life, even in its body. Peace is a state of mind.
I used to make the mistake of trying to fix the personal thought system. But since peace has come despite the personal thought system I’ve learned that true peace is not personal. The personal self will never be at peace. Its life will never be perfect. The body will manifest disorder as long as I still want it in any way. But since I have peace, none of this matters. What more could I want? I can attend to the inherently disordered personal self or I can attend to the peace in my mind. Whichever I choose grows in my awareness.