In the Dialogues of A Course of Love, Jesus says, “Matter is simply another word for content.” This can be a challenging pill to swallow for students of A Course in Miracles, a text which (in part) aims to bring peace of mind by clarifying our confusion between what is real and what is not. We recover our access to peace by withdrawing our identification with particular forms and surrendering our identity to the changeless, formless, and eternal reality that we share. The forms themselves are impermanent, and thus the linking of our identity to a particular form inevitably leads to difficulty.
This teaching often leads to the mindset that form itself is problematic, an undesirable error in creation. It’s in our way, an impediment to pure knowing, an obstacle to our experience of the truth. In such a mindset, our relationship to the world in which we live becomes confounding. No matter how we may try to insist otherwise, in our holiest moments, when our thinking quiets, we witness the world’s astounding beauty. There is something about the very tenor and structure of the world that speaks to the heart of our existence. So how can it be that there is something inherently wrong or “less than” with a material existence?
One of the challenges of attempting to disentangle our misplaced perceptions of the forms we behold is that it can lead to a sort of dualism. Matter is here, and spirit is there. We fabricate a clean divide between two worlds, and thus we cleave ourselves in two. But there is no peace in being divided. There is no peace in waiting for a new life somewhere else. There is no peace in thinking everything we lay eyes upon is one form or another of material temptation. This is not unity at all.
At the outset of A Course of Love Jesus also says, “Content is all you have of God. There is no form to see, yet in the content is the form revealed. This is true seeing. For content is all and form is nothing.”
This is a powerful line to me. It relies on a context that emerges from the entire work, with roots established even earlier in A Course in Miracles, which state that content is eternal and unchanging, and form, as an ever-changing illusion, is nothing at all. So how do we rationalize this with the idea that “matter is simply another word for content?” If forms are nothing and content is all, how can matter be content? It would seem these statements are in direct conflict.
The answer I think is in this idea that “in the content is the form revealed.” Forms come and go, but the substance of which they are made, the very wholeness of creation, is eternal. Earlier in my life I read most of the books Walter Russell wrote and I think that experience was conducive to my understanding what is being spoken of here. In his book The Universal One, Walter wrote:
“Matter is light.
God and matter are One.
Spirit and matter are the same substance.
That substance is light.
There are not two substances in the universe.
There cannot be two substances in the universe.
The substance of the universal Mind is a living substance.
Light is life.
There is but One Life in the universe.
The whole of the universe is but One living, breathing, pulsing Being…”
After this steady drumbeat of declarations, only a few of which I have copied here, he goes on to say that, “The One substance is absolutely frictionless, temperatureless, non-compressible, non-expandable, non-reflectant, non-resistant and non-refractive; but, potentially, it contains the appearance of all these qualities through the dynamic action of those opposing forces within it which cause it to be a thinking substance in motion. These qualities belong to motion and appear only through motion-in-opposition.”
The way Walter uses the word substance is a little challenging, as with our divided minds we don’t tend to envision matter itself as unchanging, or spirit as being a substance, but I suggest that this marriage of the two seemingly distinct realms is exactly what Walter is saying is real. At its most fundamental level, matter is without quality or attribute, and is eternal. It isn’t just dumb dirt, either. It is both pure knowing and the essence of materiality itself. Call it a substance, call it light, call it nothing at all. But don’t call it something that stands apart from what we experience in this very moment of our lives.
What we call a form, however, arises as this fundamental substance is conditioned, through cyclical, repeating movements, which only ever bloom and fade. When we perceive particular forms and lose sight of the whole, this is when we are misperceiving the very nature of creation. We break it down into the here and the there, the good and the bad, that which we would keep and that which we would lose. This is misperception. But the matter itself—the most basic substance of which any form is composed—this thinking, knowing substance, this Light, cannot be changed or harmed, created or destroyed.
To return to A Course of Love, the nature of any form is revealed by its content. When the content is wholeness and that is what we choose to behold, we see the way in which any particular form is but a localized movement of that which is inherently indivisible. The forms give transient expression to what always is and ever will be. The forms can become expression of the content.
This is expressed beautifully in a book called the Divine Iliad by Walter Russell, which his wife Lao quoted in writing a preface for the Universal One. It is hard for me to envision a more palpable form of prayer than this remembrance:
“Again I say that all things extend to all things, from all things, and through all things. For, to thee I again say, all things are Light, and Light separates not; nor has it bounds; nor is it here and not there.
Man may weave the pattern of his Self in Light of Me, and of his image in divided Lights of Me, e’en as the sun sets up its bow of many hues from undivided Light of Me, but man cannot be apart from Me, as the spectrum cannot be apart from Light of Me.
And as the rainbow is a light within the light, inseparable, so is Man’s Self within Me, inseparable; and so is his image My image.
Verily I say, every wave encompasseth every other wave unto the One; and the many are within the One, e’en down to the least of waves of Me.
And I say further that every thing is repeated within every other thing, unto the One.
And furthermore I say, that every element which man thinketh of as of itself alone is within every other element e’en to the atom’s veriest unit.
When queries man thee in this wise: ‘Sayest though that in this iron there is gold and all things else?’ thou may’st answer: ‘Within the sphere, and encompassing it, is the cube, and every other form that is; and within the cube, and encompassing it, is the sphere, and every other form that is.”
Our words make it hard to see what can only ever be whole and indivisible. Our apparent separateness hides our fundamental unity and if we try to cut it too fine with words we end up with nothing. But I think in our hearts we can sense these things. We can sense that we partake of a life without beginning or end, that we are each other’s own, and that each life is extended to every other life. And when we get an inkling of this, I think it is our universal nature to find we are deeply at peace.