For most of us, life seems to follow a simple trajectory. We were born some years ago, an event we don’t remember very well. We inhabit a body through which we interact with the world, a world of other bodies all living within the confines of this planet earth. At some time off in the future, at a time unknown to us, we are fairly sure we are going to die. What happened to us before we were born and what happens after we die are both a bit hazy. What purpose there is to all of this is hazy as well. Lost in this haziness, we ask, Where can we find answers to our purpose on this earth?
First let’s look at a common belief system in the Western world, the scientific view. Around the time of the Renaissance, science began to gain ground as the primary belief system for many in the world. At that time, natural science and natural philosophy were considered part of the same study. Since then, science has focused more and more on the ‘how’ and much less on the ‘why’.
Today there is a predominant belief in the world, even among individuals who say they are religious, that our behavior and our mental state are primarily influenced by our brains and our bodies. Through inherited traits and learning, these neural processes seem to determine our state of mind. If we are depressed or in fear or angry, it is a combination of who we are in a biological sense and our interaction with the world that causes these feelings and behaviors.
If you ask a scientist today how the universe works, you will get long, detailed answers describing the physics of particles and atoms, the chemistry of molecules, and the biology of life. If you ask why the world works this way, you may get a blank stare or a comment that such questions are not the purview of science. In fact, most scientists act and speak as if there is no God in the world they describe, even if personally they may still consider themselves religious.
Fundamentally then, in this scientific view of the world, there is no place for the big ‘why’ questions. The purpose of science is to discover the laws that exist and govern the physical world, not to think about why the laws are this way or why we are even in this world at all.
The Western Religious View
In the Western religions – Judaism, Christianity, Islam – there is a single God who lives in Heaven and somehow rules in a mostly loving way over our lives. This God created humans (or perhaps souls who occupy human bodies) and each human/soul is born into a body which lives in the earthly realm. We come into this human form with a fundamental conflict between our animalistic nature and our higher nature. God has provided us, through his prophets, rules we are to live by, and if we follow these rules religiously, we may have a more fulfilling life and make it to Heaven after we die.
But the purpose for all this seems rather odd. In all these religions, there are times when God is vengeful toward some of these humans who don’t follow His rules. He is supposed to be truly loving the rest of the time, so why would God go to all the trouble to place these humans in an often unpleasant situation, in order to see whether they will live up to the test? If one fails God, the punishments promised are draconian. Does God enjoy sending those failures off to Hell? Or is God not in charge and there really is a devil with whom God is in some great battle?
Whatever combination of these beliefs one tries to follow, one must always be in fear of slipping up and bringing down the wrath. Conversely if one somehow manages to do everything right and makes it back to Heaven after death, what was the point of the whole exercise? God created us in the first place, so why would he create flawed humans, in the hopes some might be able to overcome all the flaws and make it back Home? Why wouldn’t he just create them and keep them in Heaven?
When asked about these questions, the leaders of the religions will usually tell you to read a particular scripture for answers. Other times they will answer with something like, ‘God works in mysterious ways.’ or ‘We can never really know God’s purpose.’ What’s the point of religion if we are not supposed to understand? We’re left with the fundamental question – ‘Why did God put us here?’
The Course and God
A Course in Miracles teaches us about a very different kind of God. This God is Pure Love and is never vengeful or wrathful. This God is Pure Mind, so the Heaven referred to in the Course is not a place, but a state of Mind. This means we can experience Heaven simply through a change of mind. That change of mind may not be easy because we will resist it, but the process described in the Course for making that change is clear and simple.
What we learn in the Course is that our True Self is in a state of Pure Oneness within the Mind of God. This is our Natural State. All the experiences we have in this world of bodies interacting within a physical universe is an illusion, the illusion created by the idea of separation. We have chosen (and we continue to choose) this idea of separation and this choice has led to all the pain, guilt, and fear we experience in this world. It leads to all the thoughts we have that are not loving thoughts.
We call the part of the separated self that maintains this illusion the ego. We spend most of our time in this world listening to the ego’s view of the world, the non-loving thoughts we have about the others we share this world with and thoughts about ourselves. We seem to get angry when we don’t ‘want’ to. We feel guilt but don’t know why. We suffer loss, and even when we achieve success and gain, there is a nagging part of us that can’t fully embrace it. All of this is due to our choice for the ego.
There's No 'Here' Here
What we discover when we ask the question, ‘Why did God put us here?’ is that God does not accept that ‘here’ exists. God knows it is an illusion simply because God knows how we were created, and what God created cannot be separate from God, but is an integral part of the Oneness that is God’s Mind. We believe in the illusion; God does not.
The ego will do everything in its power to convince us that ‘here’ is real. This is the voice in our mind that tells us there is danger in the world, that we are less than perfect, flawed bodies who must protect ourselves from the evils around us. And we must hide the guilt and shame we feel at times from others, for we know they will judge us just as we judge them. This ‘here’ is the ego’s creation and we make this choice every time we accept one of our non-loving thoughts as real.
There is another part of the separated self, called the Holy Spirit in the Course, that knows we are experiencing an illusion and provides us with a connection back to God. When we choose the Holy Spirit’s view, we have the opportunity to see past this illusion and realize that all our non-loving thoughts are keeping us focused on this world.
The Holy Spirit knows that ‘here’ is not real, just a useless illusion we have accepted because we wanted to believe in the separation. The Holy Spirit will not judge us, but will simply respond to our willingness and intention to change how we see the world with love and kindness and acceptance. When we connect with the Holy Spirit within, we can discover the place that is ‘not-here’. This is the place within our minds of peace and safety and love.
Finding Meaning through Forgiveness
We will never find an answer to our question in this world because the ego is the one asking it. The ego is here to sow the seeds of doubt in our minds, and when we listen to it, we will believe in its confusion. Fortunately, the Course teaches us that through forgiveness, we can get free of the ego and all this confusion, and re-experience the love and peace that are our Natural State.
We’ve learned in ‘The Practice of Forgiveness’ about the three-step process to forgive. First we connect with the Holy Spirit within, our communication link back to God. Then we identify a non-loving thought within our mind. Finally we take that thought with all the emotions surrounding it and pass it off to the Holy Spirit as we forgive the illusory experience that led to the thought, along with anyone associated with the experience.
As we learn this process and apply the practice, eventually we will be able to forgive in real-time, instantly recognizing a non-loving thought and instantly forgiving it. This will lead in time to the state of continual forgiveness, a state where all non-loving thoughts are instantly forgiven. Once there, we can live in a state of peace within the seemingly chaotic world around us. We are on the path Home.
So what we discover through the Course is that God didn’t put us here at all. We put ourselves here, and more importantly, we continue to keep ourselves here through our choice to listen to the ego. Once we realize this and make a commitment to follow a path of love, kindness, and forgiveness, we can stop asking these ego-inspired ‘why’ questions. The practice of forgiveness is the meaning in our life. Forgiveness leads us ultimately to experiencing only love and peace in life, and once there we are comfortably on our way Home. There can be nothing more meaningful than finding our way back to the Loving Mind of God.