1. There is a tendency to think the world can offer consolation and escape from problems that its purpose is to keep. Why should this be? Because it is a place where choice among illusions seems to be the only choice. And you are in control of outcomes of your choosing. Thus you think, within the narrow band from birth to death, a little time is given you to use for you alone; a time when everyone conflicts with you, but you can choose which road will lead you out of conflict and away from difficulties that concern you not. Yet they are your concern. How, then, can you escape from them by leaving them behind? What must go with you, you will take with you whatever road you choose to walk along.
2. Real choice is no illusion. But the world has none to offer. All its roads but lead to disappointment, nothingness, and death. There is no choice in its alternatives. Seek not escape from problems here. The world was made that problems could not be escaped. Be not deceived by all the different names its roads are given. They have but one end. And each is but the means to gain that end, for it is here that all its roads will lead, however differently they seem to start; however differently they seem to go. Their end is certain, for there is no choice among them. All of them will lead to death. On some you travel gaily for a while before the bleakness enters. And on some the thorns are felt at once. The choice is not what will the ending be, but when it comes.
3. There is no choice where every end is sure. Perhaps you would prefer to try them all before you really learn they are but one. The roads this world can offer seem to be quite large in number, but the time must come when everyone begins to see how like they are to one another. Men have died on seeing this, because they saw no way except the pathways offered by the world. And learning they led nowhere, lost their hope. And yet this was the time they could have learned their greatest lesson. All must reach this point and go beyond it. It is true indeed there is no choice at all within the world. But this is not the lesson in itself. The lesson has a purpose, and in this you come to understand what it is for.
4. Why would you seek to try another road, another person or another place, when you have learned the way the lesson starts, but do not yet perceive what it is for? Its purpose is the answer to the search that all must undertake who still believe there is another answer to be found. Learn now, without despair, there is no hope of answer in the world. But do not judge the lesson that is but begun with this. Seek not another signpost in the world that seems to point to still another road. No longer look for hope where there is none. Make fast your learning now and understand you but waste time unless you go beyond what you have learned to what is yet to learn. For from this lowest point will learning lead to heights of happiness, in which you see the purpose of the lesson shining clear, and perfectly within your learning grasp.
5. Who would be willing to be turned away from all the roadways of the world unless he understood their real futility? Is it not needful that he should begin with this, to seek another way instead? For while he sees a choice where there is none, what power of decision can he use? The great release of power must begin with learning where it really has a use. And what decision has power if it be applied in situations without choice?
6. The learning that the world can offer but one choice, no matter what its form may be, is the beginning of acceptance that there is a real alternative instead. To fight against this step is to defeat your purpose here. You did not come to learn to find a road the world does not contain. The search for different pathways in the world is but the search for different forms of truth. And this would keep the truth from being reached.
7. Think not that happiness is ever found by following a road away from it. This makes no sense and cannot be the way. To you who seem to find this course to be too difficult to learn, let me repeat that to achieve a goal you must proceed in its direction, not away from it. And every road that leads the other way will not advance the purpose to be found. If this be difficult to understand, then is this course impossible to learn. But only then. For otherwise, it is a simple teaching in the obvious.
8. There is a choice that you have power to make when you have seen the real alternatives. Until that point is reached you have no choice, and you can but decide how you would choose the better to deceive yourself again. This course attempts to teach no more than that the power of decision cannot lie in choosing different forms of what is still the same illusion and the same mistake. All choices in the world depend on this; you choose between your brother and yourself, and you will gain as much as he will lose, and what you lose is what is given him. How utterly opposed to truth is this, when all the lesson’s purpose is to teach that what your brother loses you have lost, and what he gains is what is given you.
9. He has not left His Thoughts! But you forgot His Presence and remembered not His Love. No pathway in the world can lead to Him, nor any worldly goal be one with His. What road in all the world will lead within, when every road was made to separate the journey from the purpose it must have unless it be but futile wandering? All roads that lead away from what you are will lead you to confusion and despair. Yet has He never left His Thoughts to die, without their Source forever in themselves.
10. He has not left His Thoughts! He could no more depart from them than they could keep Him out. In unity with Him do they abide, and in their oneness Both are kept complete. There is no road that leads away from Him. A journey from yourself does not exist. How foolish and insane it is to think that there could be a road with such an aim! Where could it go? And how could you be made to travel on it, walking there without your own reality at one with you?
11. Forgive yourself your madness and forget all senseless journeys and all goal-less aims. They have no meaning. You cannot escape from what you are. For God is merciful and did not let His Son abandon Him. For what He is be thankful, for in that is your escape from madness and from death. Nowhere but where He is can you be found. There is no path that does not lead to Him. 
Let us rest assured that all paths lead us to God. The world has many paths – some seem benign and others malignant, some lead to riches and others poverty, some lead to a sense of happiness, fun, and belonging while others lead to sorrow, hardship, and isolation. When we work hard, make wise decisions about our money, maintain our health, do our best to get along with our neighbors, family, and have a considerable amount of good luck – things may seem to work out for us in the world. Our relationships stable, our bank accounts fat, our health and our wealth and our well-being, check, check, check, and then what? It is a dead end. No matter how honest you are in your business dealings, no matter how faithful you are to your spouse, no matter how decent and upright and regular you are at attending mass, singing in the choir, and paying your tithes – you are upholding a kingdom that will die, you are walking a path that leads to a dead end, a path whose promises always fail. No matter how well you present your humanity, no matter how hard you work, no matter how many temptations you do not fall for – you and yours will succumb.
Many people die in this state of bewilderment and dismay. They cannot bear the truth about the world’s lies. It is too hard for them. But Jesus says that death is not our escape. We must all come to the bottom of the world. Because only at the bottom of the world is the real Alternative to be found. The world and its “choices,” its array of religions, philosophies, passions, and lifestyles, all its devils and all its gods, its sinners and saints, its realm of good and evil, offers no real alternatives. This is what we come here to find – we are not to lose heart over this fact, let it not be sad nor take it to heart. Let us not bemoan how long it took us to learn – it is the purpose of the world for us to seek and to not find. To come to the bottom of the world then is our release, it is our salvation, it is our awakening. For only at the bottom of the world do we find our guarantee that all paths lead to God – eventually!
For what do we do when we find that all that we have pinned our hopes for in the world leads to disappointment, dismay, and death? We turn from the world to that which lies beyond. But first we must reach the end of the world.
Do not begrudge others for their contentment in the world. Do not scold them, preach at them, or give them lectures on how they should behave themselves. They are here to find the bottom of the world. Let them experience this for themselves – for this is vital to what we came here to learn. We have one guarantee from the world: It is bound to disappoint because it goes nowhere and cannot bring happiness. And we were created for happiness, happiness is what we are as Sons of God.
Jesus tells us quite plainly in this section that all roads that lead us away from what we are lead to confusion and despair. The world gives us legions of choices, each one predicated upon the practice of what I take from you is your loss and my gain; what I give to you is my loss and your gain, and so we maintain this artificiality between us, this cycle of giving and getting, gaining and losing, never expanding, but cycling round and round in attention-seeking, greed, mistrust and suspicion.
This is not Sonship for Sonship is oneness and the realization and practice of: I give to receive, and I receive to give. This is truth, there is nothing artificial about it. My happiness is predicated upon your happiness. There is no Heaven for me without you in it. There is no gain for me unless you are beside me, joined with me, one with me.
We are not here to change the world, to attack it and make it behave properly, to declare war on the rich and make them support the poor, or to attack the poor and make them serve the rich. The world is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. It is not kind. Red in tooth and claw, we are not here to saw off the world’s fangs and amputate its talons. We are not here to try to make it play nice. We are in the world to get past the world. To get to the real Alternative.
We find ourselves in God. And God is within us, as part of us, as one with us. There is no escape from what we are! Today forgive yourself for the lives you spent chasing after the world’s promise, seeking a road that does not exist in the world to bring you Home to who you are and ever will be. Encourage others to forgive themselves their madness. Proving ourselves apart from God is the same as proving ourselves apart from each other. Once we come to understand and accept this, we begin our practice of Sonship in earnest.
A Course in Miracles. Chapter 31 The final vision iv. the real alternative. Foundation for Inner Peace, Second Edition (1992).
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