27. What Is Death?
1. Death is the central dream from which all illusions stem. Is it not madness to think of life as being born, aging, losing vitality, and dying in the end? We have asked this question before, but now we need to consider it more carefully. It is the one fixed, unchangeable belief of the world that all things in it are born only to die. This is regarded as “the way of nature,” not to be raised to question, but to be accepted as the “natural” law of life. The cyclical, the changing and unsure, the undependable and the unsteady, waxing and waning in a certain way upon a certain path – all this is taken as the will of God. And no one asks if a benign Creator could will this.
2. In this perception of the universe as God created it, it would be impossible to think of Him as loving. For who has decreed that all things pass away, ending in dust and disappointment and despair, can but be feared. He holds your little life in his hand but by a thread, ready to break it off without regret or care, perhaps today. Or if he waits yet is the ending certain. Who loves such a God knows not of love, because he has denied that life is real. Death has become life’s symbol. His world is now a battleground, where contradiction reigns and opposites make endless war. Where there is death is peace impossible.
3. Death is the symbol of the fear of God. His Love is blotted out in the idea, which holds it up from awareness like a shield held up to obscure the sun. The grimness of the symbol is enough to show it cannot coexist with God. It holds an image of the Son of God in which he is “laid to rest” in devastation’s arms, where worms wait to greet him and to last a little while by his destruction. Yet the worms as well are doomed to be destroyed as certainly. And so do all things live because of death. Devouring is nature’s “law of life.” God is insane, and fear alone is real.
4. The curious belief that there is part of dying things that may go on apart from what will die, does not proclaim a loving God nor reestablish any grounds for trust. If death is real for anything, there is no life. Death denies life. But if there is reality in life, death is denied. No compromise in this is possible. There is either a God of fear or One of Love. The world attempts a thousand compromises and will attempt a thousand more. Not one can be acceptable to God’s teachers, because not one could be acceptable to God. He did not make death because he did not make fear. Both are equally meaningless to Him.
5. The “reality” of death is firmly rooted in the belief that God’s Son is a body. And if God created bodies, death would indeed be real. But God would not be loving. There is no point at which the contrast between the perception of the real world and that of the world of illusions becomes more sharply evident. Death is indeed the death of God, if He is love. And now His Own creation must stand in fear of Him. He is not Father, but destroyer. He is not Creator, but avenger. Terrible His thoughts and fearful His image. To look on His creations is to die.
6. “And the last to be overcome will be death.” Of course! Without the idea of death there is no world. All dreams will end with this one. This is salvation’s final goal, the end of all illusions. And in death are all illusions born. What can be born of death and still have life? But what is born of God and still can die? The inconsistencies, the compromises and the rituals the world fosters in its vain attempts to cling to death and yet to think love real are mindless magic, ineffectual and meaningless. God is, and in Him all created things must be eternal. Do you not see that otherwise He has an opposite, and fear would be as real as love?
7. Teacher of God, your one assignment could be stated thus: Accept no compromise in which death plays a part. Do not believe in cruelty, nor let attack conceal the truth from you. What seems to die has but been misperceived and carried to illusion. Now it becomes your task to let the illusion be carried to the truth. Be steadfast but in this; be not deceived by the “reality” of any changing form. Truth neither moves nor wavers nor sinks down to death and dissolution. And what is the end of death? Nothing but this; the realization that the Son of God is guiltless now and forever. Nothing but this. But do not let yourself forget it is not less than this.
In today’s devotional text we are to ask ourselves if a loving, all-powerful, beneficent Creator would create a world bloodied by disease, by decay, and death. This is the question that all of us must ask in order to get to the truth. This is the question we must ask to awaken from the dream of death, for we cannot know God if we believe that God is a God that wills death, that harbors spite and ill will toward His Creation, and changes His mind, His moods, and His methods of Being.
To fear God is not to love God. When we fear God, we do not trust Him. We believe that He seeks punishment rather than correction, that He takes pleasure in our sorrow and groveling and humiliation. We have good reason to fear any God that would create a human being out of dust, that would form a man and form a woman and breathe life into it and then play with it as a child would play with a toy – making all kinds of rules for them to break as to give it a good reason to punish and torment and inflict shame upon them. Such a mean-spirited “god” would naturally have favorites, would favor us and our kind over them and their kind. We could never bask in the love of such a creep because it would turn upon us in a fit of jealousy and rage the first mistake we make, the first time we asked a legitimate question, or expressed a reasonable doubt.
In this belief system death becomes the symbol of life and peace becomes impossible for such a god thrives upon enmity, calls for revenge, and runs on spite. We live in fear of God when our beliefs about Him are based on insane, hateful premises that glorify death, promote the idea of sacrifice and suffering, teach shame, guilt, and punishment. God has no need for martyrs – the blood of Jesus and the pain and humiliation he bore on the cross was not for God. God did not demand that he die for us; Jesus died for us. He came as one with us and of us, to remind us of God’s love for us, to remind us of who and what we really are as God’s Son.
Our human form has no place in God’s Kingdom, because forms of any kind are not possible in Spirit. To be a form is to be death, it is to deny life, it is to oppose God and to fear God. In paragraph four Jesus tells us there is no compromise in this for those who have answered the call of God in their lives. We cannot accept fear of any kind, and fear comes with death and death comes to all physical forms. Death and fear have no meaning to God and should have absolutely no meaning to us.
In paragraph five, Jesus makes it very clear that the belief that God’s Son is a body is to make death real in our beliefs and practices. To teach this course is to understand that we believe that God is love and that Love does not create bodies nor the realm in which bodies exist. The world that fosters decay and dying is the world where Love cannot be. A savage world is made only by savagery and vengeance; a place where flesh is born to decay and die is a hellish realm devised by insanity and unkindness.
When the idea of death becomes obsolete in our minds, this hellish realm is over! This is our salvation for we have reached our goal – the altered consciousness has been healed, Love has been restored to us, the Kingdom of God has been reestablished in our minds and hearts forever. For only in death are illusions born.
As I meditated upon this in today’s devotional, I realized that death can be equated with having no truth. When I tell a lie, I create an illusion – an alternative to the truth. There is no life in this illusion because it simply did not happen. It never was – I just made it up out of a desire to mislead you, to misinform you. Perhaps I wanted to impress you. Perhaps I didn’t want to get in trouble. Perhaps I do not trust you with the truth. Perhaps I wanted to test you and see if you would share my confidence with others. No matter what reason I lied to you, it was a lie. It was an illusion. If you believed it, you chose to believe in something that never was. You may have invested in my lie and lost some money, time, or effort. We could say you invested in death – for the lie you invested in was not life, it was not true.
When we practice the concepts we learn in this course, we no longer invest in the lie of death being a part of life. Death is the opposite to life, it is the lie about life. This course teaches that this “world” runs on an altered, or a misled consciousness. It is built upon opposition and opposites to the reality and truth of God. To teach this course, I must learn to deny the lies that maintain this world – and no longer cling to the mindless magic and inconsistent, meaningless rituals that foster the world’s cherishment to all that is not of God, of life, of love, of eternity. If we fail to see this, we will be inconsistent in our minds and add to the suffering and sickness of the world. We will join in with the fearful and forget that God can not be the author of this cruel story!
We accept no compromise in which death plays a part. If something dies it was a physical form and not its reality at all. When we live for God, we learn to put no trust or faith in cruelty. We commit to a non-defensive attitude toward all thoughts of attack. This means that even when others say and do mean things, we refuse to believe any less about them, we refuse to take it personal, we refuse to build a case against them or go about repeating their mistake to others in hopes of gaining numbers for our side in the matter. And when someone or something seems to die, we let it go in peace and trust in God for we know that their form was not their reality.
We are not to be deceived by the altered consciousness and all its changing forms, high emotion, and ongoing drama and trauma. We take all illusions to truth and the truth is unwavering, certain, and sure. We are not bodies; we are God’s Son guiltless now and forever in His Grace. This is what we teach and how we teach it. There is nothing more than this and nothing less. Only this – guiltless now and forever in God’s Love.
This does not mean that we do not make mistakes, say cross words, lose our tempers, and stomp about when we do not get our own way. This does not mean that we walk about with smiles plastered upon our face all the time and have a memorized phrase that we spout off to others to show them how much we love Jesus. When we accept our guiltlessness, we accept that just as our mistakes are not held against us, neither are the mistakes of others held against them. We accept that we are welcomed to God as beloved Sons and not as eager-to-placate, groveling servants. We accept that no matter how “right” or how “wrong” we may be in the flesh, what happens in the flesh stays in the past where it never was, because there is only love in the eyes of God for His Son.
As teachers of God, we cannot afford to be swayed by the belief system of this world. The world will give us thousands of reasons to build a fortress, to take up arms, to take sides, to favor some and despise others. This is a compromise with death; we cannot teach Life if we teach death.
Meditate today upon this passage. Read over it slowly and thoughtfully and ask Holy Spirit to illuminate the relationships, situations, and circumstances in your daily life in which you are making a compromise with death. Ask Holy Spirit to help you stand firm in your resolve to see past the illusion of bodies, forms, and changing situations. Giving up death is no sacrifice! It is a simple change of focus, in which we exchange a lie for the truth of God Who is and gives Life everlasting.
 A Course in Miracles. Manual for Teachers. 27. What is death? Foundation for Inner Peace, Second Edition (1992).
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