What would happen if we didn’t use the word “illusion” (or any other Advaidist idea) but instead said simply that some aspects of the All That Is are Eternal and some are change-able, plastic, and malleable (the root meaning of the Sanskrit maya), and that what changes does so in the presence of awareness (Quantum mechanics) and in alignment with the form of awareness we call Love energy (New Thought mechanics)? Isn’t that an accurate statement?
There is no value placed on one over the other in this statement. I can’t change Love, Beauty, or Truth, but I can change furnishings, my thoughts, all the vegetation and people and structures around me, and my body. How easily and how fully I change them is a function of my skill, which is, in part, a function of my mental focus, which is in large part a function of where I place Love energy.”
If we can accept any part of that premise, then we are saying that whatever forms (things and people that are changing) are in my experience must be a product of my current mental focus. My mental focus is what changes them—either through action derived from that focus or through their natural alignment with the Love energy filtered through that focus.
Therefore the forms I am experiencing are in alignment with the Love energy filtering through my own mental focus and that of others who experience those forms—whether anyone has acted physically to bring them into their current form or not.
ACIM is suggesting, albeit using Judeo-Christian terms, that our mental focus has been split by our training and we have forms around us that don’t really serve us because of that split. Specifically, because of the split, we focus much of our Love energy on change-able forms. We say, for instance, that “I love that particular chair” thinking we can have the qualities of that chair in our life forever. We say, for instance, that “I can only love someone who…. (fill in the blank)” thinking we can have just that person with just those qualities in our life forever.
ACIM goes on to suggest that the split means that we have 2 different directions of mental focus: 1 in the direction of isolation, separation, and absence of love; and 1 in the direction of immersion in and extension of Love and the universal eternal qualities. So, for a while, we experience people and chairs and other forms with those qualities. But, because forms are change-able, they wear out and give out and we’re left without them—which causes us more distress and reinforces the focus on deterioration and separation, which does not serve us. All the while, the other aspect of the split, the focus on eternal universals, continues but has less and less of our attention, less and less of our Love energy flowing through that particular filter or focus, with the result that those changing forms, including bodies and our sense of self, deteriorate and decay, rather than go on eternally.
So, using terms that people who grew up in a Judeo-Christian culture can relate to (whether they feel comfortable with them or not) ACIM suggests that it’s possible to change our thinking so that there is less and less split… so that our mental focus, and the Love energy that goes with it, is not on what is change-able, but on what is eternal, not on separation but on the communion of Oneness. The lessons are designed to take us through a process to heal the split in our mental focus by showing us, over and over, where it is and how it doesn’t serve us, and by giving us opportunities to think and act in ways that encourage a single mental focus—on what is eternal.
Then, it suggests, the forms in our life (which it calls “the world”) begin to align in a new way. Our mental focus, now single and aligned with Oneness, starts to shape the malleable, change-able forms around us in ways so we can experience more of the eternal universals. Through our words and actions, and through the natural tendency of the change-able to align with Love energy, we start to feel more energy flowing through the forms, because flowing energy is eternal. We start to experience more of the eternal qualities in the forms—Beauty, Harmony, Balance, Joy, etc.—because our mental focus is on those qualities rather than on the limited forms themselves. Our bodies and relationships are more healthy, more balanced, more joy-filled; the people and objects around us are more harmonious, more intelligent, more comfortable, more beautiful; the information we receive is more supportive of a life of balance and beauty, etc. We are invigorated and our sense of self is expanding and developing rather than deteriorating
My own experience with this material is as a resource and reference over the years. Its language has always been a block for me and many others around me, but its fundamental assertions—that we have a mental focus that’s been split, that all our distress is a function of that split, that it’s possible, through a process called “forgiveness” to begin to heal that split and so relieve the distress, and that as we do so “the world” around us becomes more imbued with the eternal qualities—hold true for me and show up in every tradition I have studied and practiced over the past 40 years.
As a result of it all, I experience less and less the “many paths” of the spiritual journey, but rather “many metaphors” for the same process: shifting our mental focus from maintaining a split between “the world” and “spirit” to experiencing Oneness, and the power and peace and beauty of that Oneness, is what they’re all about.
For what it’s worth, I avoided teaching ACIM for decades, and did so recently only because there was a great hunger among members of the Unity community I was ministering. Working with them on this material as I have for the last several years has been a wonderful addition to my (far more generic) spiritual practice. Every time I encounter new variations on the split mental framework, I get to find new metaphors for comprehending it and new language for healing it. What fun!