Return to the Heart of God by Robert Perry, (West Sedona, AZ: Circle Publishers, 2007) 408 Pages
A Book Review by Ozodi Osuji
Whereas this piece is called review of Robert Perry’s book, Return to the heart of God, but since what Mr. Perry did was offer his understanding of A course in miracles, I will seize the opportunity to provide my understanding of both books.
Chapter one of Return to the heart of God is essentially an overview of A course in miracles; it introduced the concepts addressed by the book and in later chapters elaborated on them.
A course in miracles began with an introduction that said:
“Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.”
So, what do those seeming cryptic words mean? The course teaches that the world we see with our naked eyes is unreal; that it is a dream world and that what is done in it is like activities in our nightly dreams, not done. Since the world and what is done in it is a dream and, as such, is unreal it must be the result of the dreamers wishes.
(In terms of Western philosophical categories, A course in miracles is solipsistic and or idealistic monism in the mode of George Berkeley. In his Dialogues, in the 1700s, Berkeley had argued that the world represents ideas in our minds; Boswell reports that upon hearing this seeming outrage against perception, Dr. Samuel Johnson, the famous English wit stuck his foot on a rock, felt pain and said that that refuted Bishop Berkeley’s solipsism. Dr. Samuel Johnson, like his British contemporaries, such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith etc. was an empiricist influenced by Francis Bacon’s insistence that only what we can actually observe with our eyes and what is verified by many observers constitute real knowledge; that is, empiricism or as the French, such as Auguste Comte called it, Logical positivism is a path to knowledge.)
Before he goes to sleep and dream, the dreamer has wishes, in this case, the son of God wanted to feel special and separate from God; he could not fulfill that wish in the reality of heaven where God and his children are eternally unified. The state of heaven is eternal union. God’s will is that he and his creations are eternally unified; no force can disobey God’s will for there is no other force but God. The children of God can wish to disobey their father’s will and in their dreams see their wishes gratified for them but what is gratified in dreams has not altered reality. God’s will is: let there be union of all things.
Eternal union, reality, cannot be threatened; it is permanent and changeless; no force in the universe can fragment the unified world of God. That changeless state of union cannot be threatened by anything we do.
In so far that we seem to have separated from God we are merely sleeping and dreaming that we are separated from him; our dream, our physical world of space-time and matter does not change heaven’s reality; we do not threaten heaven and its God one bit.
God and his heaven are characterized by love. If you like, love is the glue that holds God and his infinite children together.
Our effort to separate from God, heaven is an attempt to separate from love. Love is eternal and cannot be separated from. God and his creation continue to live in their eternal loving environment despite our delusion that we can separate from it, that we can shatter it. Heaven cannot be shattered.
This chapter talked at some length about heaven and its God being a unified state, oneness and how nothing can destroy it.
Apparently, at some point, a point that has never occurred, a tiny mad idea to seem special and separate from God entered the minds of God’s creations, his sons; his sons though infinite in numbers are his one son.
The motivation for this wish to separate from God is that the sons of God resented the fact that God created them and wanted to create God and create their selves. As it were, they wanted to chase God out of his creatorship throne, usurp it and become the creator. We wanted to chase God out and become our father. A course in miracles calls this phenomenon the Authority question: who created you, God or you?
We have already been created by God and therefore could not fulfill the insane wish to create God and ourselves; what cannot be done in reality we dream about. Thus, as it were, we cast some magical spell on ourselves, Hinduism calls it Maya, went to sleep and seem to dream a world that is separated from God; a world where there is space, time and matter. We now see distances between us, and take time to reach other people and are housed in matter, bodies.
In this world of space, time and matter, we answer the authority question thus: we created ourselves. We do so by collectively helping each other to individually invent an ego separated self-concept for each of us and translating our self-concepts into self-images so that we can see the handiwork of our creation and feel proud of it. The ego is our idol and we worship it.
Space, time and matter give us sense of boundaries from each other and we are convinced that we are separated from each other and from the whole (God).
A course in miracles says that the seeming world of space, time and matter we seem to live in is an illusion; that it does not exist, not for a second. We merely seem to have fallen asleep and dream separation.
The moment we started the dream God realized that we are sleeping and could no longer communicate with him. To reach us in our seeming separated world God creates the Holy Spirit and as him entered the minds of his sleeping children’s mind.
Thus, the Christian concept of Holy Trinity: God the father, God the son (all of us) and God the Holy Spirit. All three persons are aspects of one God.
God the father extended his self to God the son and when God the son seems to have separated from God the father, he created a third self, God the Holy Spirit.
God the father is not in this world and is transcendental; God the son is also in heaven for he is where his father is but dreams in this world and has forgotten his place in heaven. God the Holy Spirit entered the temporal world to wake the son of God.
In Hinduism’s categories one self, Brahman is also Atman; Brahman remains awake and as Atman sleeps and dreams that he is separate from Brahman and identifies with the ego, Ahankara. One self is the dancer of this world but does so in seeming different selves. You might therefore say that what God the son does is done by God the father through him; that is, God the father is awake while seeming to sleep and dream through God the son, this world, and through God the Holy Spirit corrects what he did as God the son; in a word, one God, one self in different guises is responsible for everything. This is how Hinduism sees it. A course in miracles gives the impression that what God the son did, invent this world was not done by God the father. This is problematic but we are not engaged in philosophical debate here, so let us move on.
The Holy Spirit is not told to destroy the world the son of God made in madness but to reinvent it; he is to reinterpret it so that it becomes lovely.
God is perfect freedom; in his freedom he allows his children to sleep and dream that they are separated from him. Since some of our dreams are nightmarish, the Holy Spirit is charged with transforming them into happy dreams.
In the temporal world, in our minds are three parts: our unified mind (of Unified spirit self), the mind we share with God in heaven; we are not aware of this part of our minds while we sleep. We are now only aware of our separated minds, the ego minds. The ego minds is the left mind, the minds that adapt to the exigencies of this world. The Holy Spirit is placed in our right minds. A course in miracles sometimes calls the Holy Spirit the Christ mind; call it what you like, it is the part of our minds that in time remembers that we are part of God’s mind and since God is perfect love asks us to love ourselves and one another in an unconditionally positive manner.
The Holy Spirit sits quietly not telling us what to do but if we ask him he reinterprets our world for us. How? Without jumping ahead of ourselves, he shows us how to respond differently to the events of this world.
For example, if other people attack you and your ego defends itself by counter attacking them. The Holy Spirit tells you that you should realize that their attack on you was done in a dream setting hence has not really occurred; it asks you to not defend yourself, and for you to be defenseless, to overlook the attack, that is, to forgive it. In forgiving what the world did to seem to harm you and since the world does that in your biding you forgive yourself.
The Holy Spirit reinterprets the world so that a world that seems to do things to harm us becomes our friend. The person who attacked you, A course in miracles says is actually your friend; he is offering you another chance, another opportunity to choose differently. Where you had chosen separation he now offers you opportunity to choose forgiveness and in doing so reunify with him. In reunifying with him you are saved from the pains we feel in separated ego self. The brother who seemed to harm you is actually trying to save you. This view is not true our rational egos tell us.
A black friend tells me that white folks are discriminating against him, attack him and if they could would enslave him right now. Therefore, he must be angry at them and defend himself by struggling to be free. That is typical ego response to perceived attack. It is characterized by fear, anger, hate and conflict.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t deny the world of perception. It sees our mutual attacks but says that the ego response to it only leads to more attacks and defenses hence conflict. It says that the better response to attack is forgiveness. So the white man discriminates against you. You feel angry. That is ego response. Now respond from the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Forgive his attack, discrimination. In doing so you have loved him. In forgiving him you see his ego for what it is, weak for the ego is always weak. Only weakness can discriminate and attack. Christ, love is strength and strength only loves.
The person who attacked you and made you respond with anger has helped you recognize that you have anger issue. He asks you to go heal your anger issue. What heals anger?
Since anger results from perceived attack, from perception that the world is doing things to harm you, you can heal your anger by forgiving the world what you see it seem to do to harm you. What the world did to harm you was done in dreams and has no effect on you and has not harmed you.
Has racism harmed black people? Has it not taught black folks how to deal with their ego pride and learn to be humble?
Who is the better human being: the arrogant person or the humble person? What do you say? Simply stated A course in miracles says that the Holy Spirit offers us a different way of looking at what is happening to us in this world. We now have two options: to respond from the ego or from the Holy Spirit.
If we respond from the ego we have chosen a sense of vulnerability and feel angry; if we respond from the Holy Spirit we have chosen strength in God and respond with forgiveness, which is the meaning of love in time but not in eternity (in eternity where is no attack hence no need for forgiveness; forgiveness has no meaning in heaven but on earth it is a means for attaining salvation.
If you have lived in America and interacted with black Americans you would have noticed that some of them are the most mature human beings on planet earth. These people’s pride and vanity had been assaulted by racism but somehow they were not defeated; they did not give in to perpetual anger; they learned to still love all people, their white brothers included. Such black men are always a joy for me to behold. On the other hand are the angry black men who want to attack their attackers and since their attacker controls the police, courts and jails invariably are arrested, tried and imprisoned.
In forgiving the world its attacks on you and hence forgiving yourself, you return to love, for forgiveness is the meaning of love in a world of mutual attacks. Forgive those who harmed you and you have loved them; defend yourself and you have not loved them.
If I defend myself I acknowledge the attack on me as real and I am attacked (defense makes attack real for me); if I do not defend myself when I am attacked I say that I had not been attacked; that attack had no effect on me; that the world is a dream whose activities cannot remake me from a loving person to a hateful person. That is, I remain as God created me, a loving person. A loving person is an innocent person.
An innocent person is showered with the gifts of God: peace and joy and material abundance, too, for as long as we believe that we have material needs loving persons needs are somehow granted by loving other persons and by God;
God, aka the Holy Spirit always gives you what you need to have to do his work of loving yourself and loving all people hence teaching people to love each other as their father loves them.
The teachers of God, the disciples of the Holy Spirit, the apostles of Christ always teach one gospel: forgive all people, that is, love all people. They teach that God’s sons are eternally innocent though in time they seem to do evil things to one another, evil that have not been done. Overlook their seeming evil and love the Christ in them and in doing so know peace, the peace of God that the ego cannot understand (according to Saint Paul).
Forgiveness returns you to the awareness of love. Since God is love forgiveness returns you to love.
In eternity, heaven there is God and his son. God has one son. One God extends his oneself to his one son. God is a true giver and thus gives all of his self to his one son.
God’s son contains all of God. Where the son of God is God is, for the son is never apart from his father and the father is never apart from his son; they are not separate from each other.
In the gospel according to John, chapter 14, Jesus told Phillip: where you see the son of God you see God for God is in his son and his son is in him; they are never separate.
Thus, if you ask: show me God, I point to the nearest human being for you to see. As you treat each of these little ones (children, people) you treat God, Jesus said.
God is creative and gave his son the ability to create. God’s son creates his own sons. That way creation begins in God and reaches out to infinity. Where God ends and his son begin is nowhere. God and his sons are oneself with one mind.
In the dream, on earth we seem to have separated from God and from each other; the role of the Holy Spirit is to enable us to learn that separation is impossible, to help us give up the desire for separation and return to the awareness of union.
In union we feel peaceful, happy and joyful. The Holy Spirit’s mission is to help us return to union, return to God, return to love. We do so by forgiving each other our wrongs, wrongs we did in a dream state hence wrongs we have not really done. We, the children of God despite our apparent bad doings are always innocent for God created us innocent, guiltless, sinless and holy. No one can remake those God made holy sinful.
Chapter two of the book continued with the theme of separation. Reality is unified, is one. We wished to experience ourselves as special and separate from unified reality. We could not do so in reality and as it were got crazy and attacked reality, attacked God and our real selves.
Of course, we could not attack God and his son so we merely seemed to have done so. In sleep- dream we seem to have shattered oneness into infinite fragments and each of us identifies with a fragment.
Each of us houses his now seeming separated self and separated mind in body (brain). Each of us now sees himself in a universe of space, time and matter. In the dream of separation, the separated self seems real to the dreamers.
(A course in miracles assumes that mind is separate from body; indeed, it says that mind is all that exists and that body does not exist and to the extent that it seems to exist is an instrument for mind to seem to live in the world of separation. Contemporary neuroscience has the opposite view. Neuroscience seems to suggest that body produced mind, that mind is epiphenomenal, a product of the dance of neurons, neurotransmitters and ionized atoms of potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium and so forth in our brains. It is not the place here to talk about brain science. All we need to observe is that A course in miracles teachings is different from the teachings of biological psychology.)
When did this separation business take place? What separation? It has not taken place. We are still in unified reality and while in it, the eternal now, seem to be sleeping and dreaming that we are separated from it.
We employ the various things we invented in our world: matter, atoms, particles etc. to construct our bodies; our bodies are made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen with traces of other elements such as iron, calcium, sodium, potassium, zinc and so one; we construct separated self-concepts, aka egos, for ourselves and now believe that we indeed are separated from God and from one another.
(A course in miracles talks a lot about the self-concept but did not show how the human self-concept was constructed; George Kelly talked about how the human child takes his biological constitution and social experiences and uses those to construct his self-concept and self-image. Other psychologists talked about other factors that go into the construction of the self-concept. Karen Horney, for example, said that parental demands on the child determines whether he constructs normal or neurotic self-concept; neurotic self-concept being a rejection of the actual self and desire for an imaginary ideal self. Alfred Adler talked about how inherited inferior organs and or social deficits can make the child to feel inferior and he tries to compensate with pursuit of fictional superior, hence neurotic self. Behaviorist psychologists like B.F. Skinner believe that the self-concept is learned and if you want to have children develop healthy self-concepts, aka personalities you, in Carl Rogers’s terms, love them in an unconditionally positive manner; you reinforce self-acceptance not self-rejection in them through classical and operant conditioning. Helen Schuman did not study biological psychology and did not seem to understand the role of biology in the formation of the self-concept; she merely gave us what seems a spiritual aspect of the self-concept. In the here and now world we must understand biological and social factors in the etiology of the self-concept. Any psychotherapist who ignores the role of biology and society in the genesis of the self-concept is really not going to be able to help his patient to change his self-concept. Contemporary psychiatry mostly employs medications in trying to get psychotics to think in an ordered manner.)
The separated selves we made for ourselves is the ego self. The ego self is the false self the son of God made to substitute for his real self. His real self is unified spirit, one self, united self with God and his brothers. The separated self is the dream self.
The separated ego self seems real to us while we sleep, just as the dream selves we have at night when we sleep and dream seem real to us. But when we wake up from our dreams in the morning we realize that the dream selves and their dream world we had experienced never existed. Someone was lying on a bed sleeping and dreaming a different self.
By the same token, A course in miracles said that someone, the son of God, closed his spirit eyes and while still in spirit dreams what we call our day world.
Chapter three talked about how in fact separation has not occurred but seems to have occurred in our minds. The temporal world we see is not real and is in our minds. We think in images and make those images seem solid. At night we sleep and dream, that is, think, and project our thinking out to a seeming external world and live in that world.,
Because the son of God has not separated from his father separation had no effect. He had not done what he thought that he did, separate from his father.
Ideas cannot leave their source; we are ideas in the mind of God and cannot leave the mind of God. We remain in God while dreaming that we are separated from him.
We are not the replacement selves we made for ourselves to live on earth with; our true self is formless spirit self.
Thus, to the question: who are we, what is our true self, what is our real self, the answer is spirit. Spirit is one and yet infinite in numbers and they are all unified as one self.