Mind and Body

According to the Course, the world, the body -- physical reality as we perceive it -- was not created by God. The Course explains that both the world and the body are illusions and have no external reality; but they are projections of the ego mind.

However, the Course does not advocate us denying the existence of the body. We all believe in the body's reality; we sleep when we are tired and we eat when we are hungry. In the words of the Course:

"The body is merely part of your experience in the physical world... it is almost impossible to deny its existence in this world. Those who do so are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial. The term 'unworthy' here implies only that it is not necessary to protect the mind by denying the unmindful." (T-2.IV.3:8-12)

We live in a world which is obsessed with the image of the body and most of our daily concerns centre upon the perceived needs of the body. A Course in Miracles offers a radically different perspective. It does not suggest that we become ascetics, give up drinking alcohol or abstain from sex, eating meat or anything else (what a relief!)

Instead, the Course stresses that the demands of the body should not be our main focus. As Ken Wapnick says: "Do not feel guilty about having a body with physical and psychological needs, but do not make it into a big deal."

The body does not have a will of its own, but merely acts out the wishes of the mind and is a learning device for the mind. Therefore, the body is neither good nor evil but is simply neutral. When we listen to the Holy Spirit, the body becomes a means of communication. It is then used to extend God's love to others, rather than to promote attack and division. It has then become an instrument of peace.

A Course in Miracles stresses repeatedly that we should look at the cause -- the mind -- rather than at the effect -- the body. Apart from recommendations on how to do the daily lessons, the Course makes no comment on habits or rituals.

In this respect, the Course differs from many world religions, where adherence to carefully defined rituals is a pre-requisite for attaining salvation. Rules on manner of dress, way of speech, diet, regular church attendance and receiving the sacraments, etc. form part of this approach.

By contrast, the Course teaches us that what really matters is the attitude of the mind, not external actions. Rituals may be meaningless, while good deeds might be undertaken to prop up the ego's values. The Course asks us to consider: "What is it for?" Our function is to extend forgiveness to others and the body should be used for this purpose.