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A COURSE IN MIRACLES Chapter 18 The Passing of the Dream

I. The Substitute Reality

1. To substitute is to accept instead. If you would but consider exactly what this entails, you would perceive at once how much at variance this is with the goal the Holy Spirit has given you and would accomplish for you. To substitute is to choose between, renouncing one aspect of the Sonship in favor of the other.  For this special purpose, one is judged more valuable, and the other is replaced by him. The relationship in which the substitution occurred is thus fragmented, and its purpose split accordingly. To fragment is to exclude, and substitution is the strongest defense the ego has for separation.

2. The Holy Spirit never uses substitutes. Where the ego perceives one person as a replacement for another, the Holy Spirit sees them joined and indivisible. He does not judge between them, knowing they are one. Being united, they are one because they are the same. Substitution is clearly a process in which they are perceived as different. One would unite; the other separate. Nothing can come between what God has joined and what the Holy Spirit sees as one. But everything seems to come between the fragmented relationships the ego sponsors to destroy.

3. The one emotion in which substitution is impossible is love. Fear involves substitution by definition, for it is love’s replacement.  Fear is both a fragmented and fragmenting emotion. It seems to take many forms, and each one seems to require a different form of acting out for satisfaction. While this appears to introduce quite variable behavior, a far more serious effect lies in the fragmented perception from which the behavior stems. No one is seen complete. The body is emphasized, with special emphasis on certain parts, and used as the standard for comparison of acceptance or rejection for acting out a special form of fear.

4. You who believe that God is fear made but one substitution. It has taken many forms, because it was this substitution of illusion for truth, of fragmentation for wholeness. It has become so splintered and subdivided and divided again, over and over, that it is now almost impossible to perceive it once was one, and still is what it was. That one error, which brought truth to illusion, Infinity to time, and life to death, was all you ever made. Your whole world rests upon it. Everything you see reflects it, and every special relationship that you have ever made is part of it.

5. You may be surprised to hear how very different is reality from what you see. You do not realize the magnitude of that one error. It was so vast and so completely incredible that from it a world of total unreality had to emerge.  What else could come of it? Its fragmented aspects are fearful as you look at them. But nothing you have seen begins to show you the enormity of the original error, which seemed to cast you out of Heaven, to shatter knowledge into meaningless bits of disunited perception, and to force you to make further substitutions.

6. That was the first projection of error outward. The world arose to hide it and became the screen on which it was projected and drawn between you and the truth. For truth extends inward, where the idea of loss is meaningless and only increase is conceivable. Do you really think it strange that a world in which everything is backwards and upside down arose from this projection of error?  It was inevitable. For truth brought to this could only remain within in quiet and take no part in all the mad projection by which this world was made. Call it not sin but madness, for such it was and so still remains. Invest it not with guilt, for guilt implies it was accomplished in reality. And above all, be not afraid of it.

7. When you seem to see some twisted form of the original error rising to frighten you, say only, “God is not fear, but love” and it will disappear. The truth will save you. It has not left you, to go out into the mad world and so depart from you. Inward is sanity, insanity is outside you. You but believe it is the other way; that truth is outside, and error and guilt within. Your little, senseless substitutions, touched with insanity and swirling lightly off on a mad course like feathers dancing insanely in the wind, have no substance. They fuse and merge and separate, in shifting and totally meaningless patterns that need not be judged at all. To judge them individually is pointless. Their tiny differences in form are no real differences at all. None of them matters. That they have in common and nothing else. Yet what else is necessary to make them all the same?

8. Let them all go, dancing in the wind, dipping and turning till they disappear from sight, far, far outside of you. And turn you to the stately calm within, where in holy stillness dwells the living God you never left, and Who never left you. The Holy Spirit takes you gently by the hand, and retraces with you your mad journey outside yourself, leading you gently back to the truth and safety within. He brings all your insane projections and the wild substitutions that you have placed outside you to the truth. Thus He reverses the course of insanity and restores you to reason.

9. In your relationship with your brother, where He has taken charge of everything at your request, He has set the course inward to the truth you share. So in the mad world outside you nothing can be shared but only substituted and sharing and substituting have nothing in common in reality. Within yourself you love your brother with a perfect love. Here is holy ground, in which no substitution can enter, and where only the truth in your brother can abide. Here you are joined in God, as much together as you are with Him. The original error has not entered here, nor ever will. Here is the radiant truth, to which the Holy Spirit has committed your relationship. Let Him bring it here, where you would have it be. Give Him but a little faith in your brother, to help Him show you that no substitute you made for Heaven can keep you from it.

10. In you there is no separation, and no substitute can keep you from your brother. Your reality was God’s creation and has no substitute. You are so firmly joined in truth that only God is there. And He would never accept something else instead of you. He loves you both, equally and as one. And as He loves you, so you are. You are not joined together in illusions, but in the Thought so holy and so perfect that illusions cannot remain to darken the holy place in which you stand together. God is with you, my brother. Let us join in Him in peace and gratitude and accept His gift as our most holy and perfect reality, which we share in Him.

11. Heaven is restored to all the Sonship through your relationship, for in it lies the Sonship, whole and beautiful, safe in your love. Heaven has entered quietly, for all illusions have been gently brought unto the truth in you, and love has shined upon you, blessing your relationship with truth. God and His whole creation have entered it together. How lovely and how holy is your relationship, with the truth shining upon it! Heaven beholds it and rejoices that you have let it come to you. And God Himself is glad that your relationship is as it was created. The universe within you stands with you, together with your brother. And Heaven looks with love on what is joined in it, along with its Creator.

12. Whom God has called should hear no substitutes. Their call is but an echo of the original error that shattered heaven. And what became of peace in those who heard? Return with me to Heaven, walking together with your brother out of this world and through another, to the loveliness and joy the other holds within it. Would you still further weaken and break apart what is already broken and hopeless?  Is it here that you would look for happiness? Or would you not prefer to heal what has been broken, and join in making whole what has been ravaged by separation and disease?

13. You have been called, together with your brother, to the most holy function this world contains. It is the only one that has no limits and reaches out to every broken fragment of the Sonship with healing and uniting comfort. This is offered you, in your holy relationship. Accept it here, and you will give as you have accepted. The peace of God is given you with the glowing purpose in which you join with your brother. The holy light that brought you and him together must extend, as you accepted it. [1]

During my devotional practice this morning, the big boom of separation came to my mind and formed an image that stayed with me throughout the meditative reading.  When any part of Creation asks for and insists upon specialness, it is the one thing that God cannot give.  Think about what specialness does in the family when one child seems to be the pet, the favorite, the one in which the parents give their most affection and resources.  Seldom if ever does this bring peace and harmony. Seldom if ever does the child grow up to be anything but self-centered and selfish.  In the bible story of Joseph and his coat of many colors, we are led to believe that the brothers are wicked for their jealousy and spite toward the spoiled little braggart, but their contempt and ill will toward their brother was the natural outcome of the special affection and favoritism in which Jacob held toward his youngest son.  As wonderful as it may feel to be popular, be favored, called out from amongst others and distinguished for our individual gifts, birth order, or beauty – our desire for and seeming need for specialness is the ego’s false belief that happiness can be found outside the mutuality and oneness of Sonship.  To ask for specialness is to ask for fantasy, for illusion, for that which can never be real. 

Instead of wholeness we make incomplete. We decide that one person, place, or thing is more valuable than all the rest.  We chase after things that are rare, unique, distinctive.  We idolize the beauty or the special set of skills that our idols seem to give us.  We make up stories about others in our heads, assigning all kinds of traits to them, putting all kinds of demands and obligations upon them in our idolatry.  We smash our idols and trade them in for others when they betray and disappoint us, grow old and useless, fail to flatter and coddle us, but idols fail for they are not holy, they are images, they are not real. 

For those of us who have answered the call of God in our life, we stop seeking specialness in each other, we seek holiness.  We join with Christ in healing what is broken.  As we go within and reunite with our holiness, we bring together all the scattered remnants of God’s Kingdom, our fellow prodigals that have fallen for the lie that specialness holds.  For when we seek specialness, we want happiness, but we get sorrow; we seek freedom and liberty, but we get captivity and bondage; we believe that specialness will take us to higher heights, but the seeming highs of specialness cannot be maintained, though the price is high – it always brings low.

In your personal devotions today give yourself as much time as you need to contemplate the beautiful message that Jesus brings to us in today’s text.  He tells us to go within for within us is Holy Spirit, our true Self, the Witness of the oneness that never left the reality of God’s Kingdom, the Witness of the Sonship, the Witness of a Creation which will never find happiness in the substitute kingdom.

Explore this truth in your relationships, in the relationships of those you know and love, in the relationships of those you read about or hear about.  Special relationships will give you only a passing substitute for the true happiness of God.  No matter how much you profess to find happiness in your marriage, family, friends, career, or any fleshy passion or pursuit, the happiness which one or all of these specialties provide is precarious, uncertain, fluctuating, and doomed to end.  As we read this section carefully with minds undeceived by the perceptual world, we will find that humanity and the world for which it was designed is in itself an attempt to make a substitute reality from that which has separated itself from God. 

We can be whole again.  We can be real again.  We can escape the realm of death and disease that would pose for as good as it gets and go Home.  We have been called – you and me.  To every broken fragment of the Sonship, we are to offer healing and unification.  We find our function in the special relationships we bring to holiness.  As appealing as it may be to dump the ones we have and start fresh with someone new, we are to practice holiness where we are and with whom we are with.  We start with ourselves; we start with each other.  There are no substitutes.  As we choose to see one another and relate to one another with holiness, we become holy.  We cannot witness the peace of God or the happiness for which He wills in any aspect of specialness.  Nor can we find purpose or meaning in the past with its false glory and the stories we make up about it.  We begin to heal and extend the light of holiness when we accept holiness now, in this present moment, where we are and with whom we are with.  


[1] A Course in Miracles. Chapter 18 The passing of the dream. I The substitute reality. Foundation for Inner Peace, Second Edition (1992).

For daily 2021 Workbook lessons visit www.i-choose-love.com courtesy of Linda R.

Audio credit: www.eckiefriar.com  

Filed under: ACIM, Teaching and Learning

About the Author

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Coming up on sixty, my love for God, home and hearth, my husband and family fueled my decision to devote the rest of my life only to pursuits which brought love, joy, peace, and purpose. I am a writer, seeker, student, and teacher with experience professional and otherwise from waitressing to teaching the English language in China, Taiwan, and Singapore. I hold a BA in Psychology from Bloomsburg University, which took nearly 30 years to attain while I squeezed courses in between raising my children, journaling, relationships, work, and an assortment of escapades, some of which I would rather forget! An ongoing passion for reading, writing, adventure, food, and fun, eventually led me to the love of my life, James, whom I met in 1996 and married in 1997. Our life together has been an exciting journey of work and travel, spiritual awakening, and domestic bliss ever since. Although we have experienced the tragic loss of family members and friends through death and estrangement, we have managed to turn our special relationship into a holy one by the grace of God and an acute and growing awareness of “there must be a better way!” In 2006, I published my first novel, Luella’s Calling, and am currently working on my second, Grover Good and the Stone Chateau. From 2013 through 2018, I worked as a Prevention Education Specialist for Transitions, a local domestic violence sexual abuse victim’s service agency. My work there, fueled by a lifelong enthusiasm for teaching, led me to obtain an MS in Education from Scranton University. In 2018, I resigned to accompany James on his work travels while focusing on my calling to study and teach A Course in Miracles. To that end, I dedicate the rest of my days to writing, sharing, and teaching the message of salvation found within the Course pages. Thank you for your interest in this blog. As I do not respond to comments on the posts, if you care to contact me, please email me at eckief@yahoo.com.

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