by: Stephen Calder
The history of mankind to date having been one of almost continuous conflict, it should come as no surprise that the third millennium has started pretty much as the second ended. War and rumors of war dominate the daily news, raising fears that the species is again about to threaten itself with mass destruction, perhaps self-annihilation.
Attempts to manipulate the political process in order to avert such a disaster are becoming more inventive. Here in Byron Bay, 700 women stripped naked and lay down in a field, spelling out the words NO WAR with their bodies, and naturally received the gawking media attention they were hoping for. The message was clear, but whether it will be considered by those who matter was not.
Letters to the media, whether they advocate “standing up to terrorism” by invading Iraq, or disarmament to evade the threat of a planetary holocaust, display one common emotion-fear. This is also no surprise, given that fear is the basis of all conflict. The big question, for those who are determined to live in peace, is “What can I do as an individual in order to have peace?”
A moment’s reflection should be enough to show that action in the world to solve the endless conflicts and human problems that exist-even stripping for peace-can have limited efficacy at best, and that nothing anyone can do in the world will guarantee a total and lasting solution. The best I can hope to do is enroll enough people to make a noticeable difference to one or another of the myriad problems we seem to face. Even if the Middle East crisis can be resolved, there is an endless list of causes of suffering, hardship and pain that must still be tackled, and no way in this world of bringing about an end, once and for all, to human suffering. Yes, OK
An impossible situation. The despair and helplessness felt by so many in the face of the apparent determination of the politicians to embark on yet another round of death and destruction is now leading some of them to look for a solution beyond this world-a solution that depends not on human efforts but on surrender to the divine within.
Is this possible? Only if you are prepared to undergo a radical shift in your thought system and take the next step in the evolution of man, in the process becoming something other than human, abandoning the self-constructed identity that led you into fear, and awakening to a realization that the totality of all the love in the universe is available to you, is within you, and in fact is you as you were intended to be.
That statement by itself will avail you nothing unless you sincerely desire the radical shift, and in fact may provoke a reaction along the lines of “That’s all very well, but if Bush goes to war with Iran, my son/brother/husband may die. And if the war escalates, much worse may happen. There may be attacks on my country, perhaps even my city. How can I have peace when that threat is over my head?”
Well of course you can’t. But the radical step just mentioned includes a realization that this world is an artifact of your mind, a collective construct that continually tempts you into fear. Seen from this viewpoint, above the battleground, the battle itself is illusory-a distraction that keeps you in fear now while seeming to offer hope of fulfillment in the future. The world, looked at this way, is full of promises that are never delivered, keeping you optimistic about the future in spite of your bitter experience. A fool’s paradise.
Perhaps you can see the contradiction inherent in believing the world is real. On the one hand, it seems to be a fearful place, and you desperately want, or think you want, an end to fear. On the other, the glittering promises the world offers of happiness through material possessions, or power, or loving relationships, or whatever it is in the world that you think will fulfill you, are blindingly seductive, allowing you to forget that every goal you have realized up to now has left you wanting more. Even if this is not your experience, and you consider yourself fulfilled by what the world offers, you are still nagged by the thought that you will some day have to leave it all behind, and this doubt about what happens then is the serpent in the paradise you think you’re in.
The answer to the question “How can I have peace in a fearful world?” will always point away from the battleground to what is eternal; while your objection to the ideas expressed here will always point back to the world. Because you have no intention of surrendering, your objection will be along the lines of “Spiritual enlightenment will not help me if a bomb is about to drop.” You will insist on an answer to that question when in fact peace is only available to those willing to abandon the fear that the question implies.
For fear is always connected in some way to the body. If that is not clear to you, consider what it is you are most afraid of. If it is not some form of physical pain, it is the emotional distress that would be caused by loss, for example of a loved one or a prized possession. Why is the loved one or the possession valued? It satisfies some bodily need. The experience of enlightenment, or awakening, is the recognition that you are not a body, and that in fact the material world, as experienced by the senses, is illusory. The evidence of the senses is compelling, but for those who have awakened to the unreality of the physical, not compelling enough.
“I am not a body, I am free” is the joyful news from the Master in A Course in Miracles. The realization is available at any time. It may come spontaneously, but it may also come as a result of your decision and determination to be free. If you can recognize that determination and want to know what the next step is, the Course itself is a certain method of discovering the peace within, the only peace there is, the peace that passes understanding, the peace that depends on nothing in this world and is unaffected by the apparent trouble of this world. Peace be to you my brother, and joy and love forever. This, your natural inheritance, awaits you.