We Are One Body, One Life, One Mind

comments 17
Course Ideas / Reflections

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.


  1. Thank you for your poignant reflections Michael on the beginning of the Jewish New Year cycle and days before a powerful full moon. I often struggle with the idea of living in the material while realizing it is unreal and impermanent. If one focuses on a theme, it can be found anywhere, anyplace and at anytime, we are no thing and nothing, particles, waves, and spirits housed in temporary bodies. At work today I was part of a deep and confusing discourse around god’s love in a world of evil-appearing chaos. It helped clarify my own discomfort with these concepts.

    It is all a gift, except when it is not 🙂

    love, Linda

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi Linda,

      It is a challenge indeed to hold these ideas and experiences in the proper weight, so that unity is not obscured by the clamoring of symbol and scenery. I agree with you about our ability to find the subject of our focus all around us, as though it was embedded into the very fabric of the world. I almost wrote about that very thing, for it seems the world will return to us evidence for so many different perspectives, depending on how we look. Sometimes I think it is helpful to examine our views around the idea of Love and this world in which we see so often Love’s absence, and sometimes it brings me back to the start, and the need for knowing things that can only be held in silence.

      Peace and Love

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Brilliant Michael! This perspective feels like a bit of uncharted territory for me – but as I reread it, it’s familiar territory. I am going to be a man of few words in this comment, as this is a posting that I shall reread over a few times, let it wash over me, so thank you for igniting a process that may very well be not only evocative but cleansing. Peace, Harlon

    Liked by 5 people

    • Hello Harlon!

      Glad you enjoyed it, my friend. I appreciate your willingness to let new ideas in and see how they taste. I find it so helpful to do this, to expand my view and to help me better understand all those around me. Hopefully the so-ignited process unfolds with healing and warmth. No matter how we can at these topics, I think it boils down to discover the model of self and world that result in our ability to abide in peace and understanding, together.


      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wonderful stuff, Michael, for which many thanks. As you know, I come at all this from Indo-Oriental teachings, yet the similarities with the words of your own which you present here so eloquently are striking. If I were to pick just a handful of books from which to learn, they would have to include Nisargadatta’s I am that and John Blofeld’s translation of The Zen Teaching of Huang-Po: On the Transmission of Mind. A few quotes from the latter, if you will, although bearing in mind that the term ‘enlightenment’ would, I think, be broadly synonymous with ‘God’ as quoted by Walter Russell and ACOL:

    “A perception, sudden as blinking, that subject and object are one, will lead to a deeply mysterious understanding; and by this understanding you will awaken to the Truth.”

    “The ignorant eschew phenomena but not thought; the wise eschew thought but not phenomena.”

    “When thoughts arise, then do all things arise. When thoughts vanish, then do all things vanish.”

    “Here it is, right now. Start thinking about it and you miss it.”

    “If you would only rid yourselves of the concepts of ‘ordinary’ and ‘Enlightened’, you would find that there is no other Buddha than the Buddha in your own Mind. The arising and the elimination of illusion are both illusory. Illusion is not something rooted in Reality; it exists because of your dualistic thinking. If you will only cease to indulge in opposed concepts such as ‘ordinary’ and ‘Enlightened’, illusion will cease of itself.”

    “If you know positively that all sentient beings are already one with Bodhi [Enlightenment, Supreme Wisdom], you will cease thinking of Bodhi as something to be attained.”

    ― Huang Po [died c.850]

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thank you for the lovely quotes in reply, Hariod. Russell’s terminology and style definitely have a more Western flavor to them, and also contain an effort to include in a quasi-scientific language a spectrum of the orderly properties/qualities all motion contains. It is an effort on his part to translate his vision of unity so that we have a language for recognizing unity within the diversity of effect that we see around us.

      Russell created a periodic table of the elements, for instance, organized into octaves, and suggested the entire system of elements was akin to the epic tale of stillness becoming a simulation of itself in motion–rising, peaking, then falling in a wave. Though every element is some dynamic mix of the two poles in nature of compression/generation and expansion/radiation the early octaves have a preponderance of attraction and generative forces and the later octaves a preponderance of expansion/radiant forces (hence the heaviest atoms are literally decaying). But he viewed the entire system of elements as one substance moving through the stages of life. His book the Universal One is really a beautiful work.

      It is remarkable to me and symptomatic of shortcomings of our collective focus, that figures such as Russell are virtually unknown, while certain talking heads occupy the thoughts of so many on a daily basis. I do think there are commonalities in the quotes you gave–also that there are meaningful distinctions we have yet to understand. Russell for instance, predicted the existence of a few chemical elements that were later discovered, using his octave framework, and also predicted novel materials and alloys, as well as means of energy production, that have yet to come to fruition. But I suspect such a practical marriage of unity and the infrastructure of life is entirely possible. It is the model Nature herself has followed so reliably!


      Liked by 2 people

  4. Michael , in hearing the silence of life the divine light shines over and thru and within each blade of grass , each setting sun , each flowers bloom , each poets verse ….all is one . .. The writing you share touches very deep , the ocean of beautiful tears where we all float moving as peace . ( I am not as intellectual as some of the others here but I feel their wisdom , which for me is like inhaling the sweet scent of a warm wind all the way from Hawaii to Michigan ) . Thank you for inspiring more love ….and peace
    love , megxxx

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi Meg,

      I think feeling the wisdom of those around us, and witnessing the presence of the One in each blade of grass and sunset is so vital to us. I do think we will one day be quite astounded at the extent to which our inability to think and live and love in unity has produced particular types of phenomena in our experience. We study the effects of these fundamental choices without the ability to see through them, back to the beginning, where other worlds reside and await but our remembering…

      With Love


  5. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature says

    I love this piece, Michael. It is such a beautiful description of the oneness of everything.
    I believe we are here for a reason, or we created all this for a reason, and part of that reason, I think is to experience matter fully, and to come to understand that it isn’t separate from ourselves or spirit or anything else. It is interesting being in body, and feeling that separateness and knowing intuitively that it isn’t true, and finally experiencing the oneness and unity. So, I don’t believe that matter is problematic. We can learn so much from it. I love the line, “No matter how we may try to insist otherwise, in our holiest moments, when our thinking quiets, we witness the world’s astounding beauty.”
    Several lines stood out for me, which I will copy here.
    “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.”

    “We fabricate a clean divide between two worlds, and thus we cleave ourselves in two.”

    “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.”

    “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.”

    “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.”

    “And I say further that every thing is repeated within every other thing, unto the One.”

    “And when we get an inkling of this, I think it is our universal nature to find we are deeply at peace.” Really, the whole last paragraph.

    As always, Michael, you have taken a complicated subject and put your own unique spin on it that is both understandable, and felt in the heart.

    Peace and Unity.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you, Mary. Glad you enjoyed it! I think with you that there are deeper reasons in all that is occurring. Perhaps another way to say it is that life will infuse whatever choices we make with a route back to deeper understanding. It’s as though everything that we do is greeted with a loving response, and though we may move in ignorance and chaos at times, Love does not really permit a rift to develop in the deeper unity of matter and spirit that hold us all.

      What I love about Russell’s view is that matter is simply the primitive material of which all forms are composed. It is the medium of creation, and though what is wrought with it is ever-changing and not perhaps always an accurate expression of the underlying Love that makes all things possible, the forms themselves can always be transformed. In several places A Course of Love speaks about this transformation.

      I guess all this sums up to this knowing that there are no dead ends in Creation! I think this is a powerful way of restating our need to move in the world with trust and faith, and to follow our hearts. But if there no dead ends, then there are no pending failures, no way in which what is true and real and good can ever be prevented from shining forth. So no need to judge or worry…! I think Russell’s amazing accomplishments stem from his ability to embody this sort of knowing. Truly remarkable…

      Much Love

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you for such an interesting and beautiful post, Michael!! I second Harlon, I will read it a few times to let it fully sink in; and I second Mary, you put your own beautiful spin on the Oneness subject.
    I had to look up Walter Russell’s writings and would love to delve deeper. Thank you for this introduction.
    Blessings and Gratitude,

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Kristina,

      I’m glad you enjoyed it as well and thank you for the kind words. Russell and his wife were both amazing people and he is definitely a person worth learning more about. I can’t remember his accomplishments super well, but I know he was an architect for new buildings in New York City, designed and built parks around the world, sculpted busts of US Presidents and leaders of industry, taught business lectures at IBM, sketched or painted famous figures, became a champion figure skater in the over forty division, bred champion horses, composed music and symphonies, etc. They called him the modern day Leonardo!

      One of my favorite stories is when he was designing a new park in Florida. His sculptor had to leave the project for some reason, or couldn’t keep his commitment, and Russell was sort of in trouble. So he got on the train with this massive, raw piece of stone in New York somewhere, and rode with it all the way to Florida, thinking of how to produce this sculpture. I think he literally spent considerable time in the rail car with the stone. And when he got there he completed the sculpture himself and it was very successful…! I don’t know all the details, but someone who knew him and his wife personally told me that story once.

      So inspiring!

      Peace and gratitude to you as well.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Michael! Wow…there is a whole lot here to digest and I have never heard of Walter Russell so I will add him to my list of must check out! There was so much I wanted to say and so much more that I need to read again. In your summation,
    “Our apparent separateness hides our fundamental unity and if we try to cut it too fine with words we end up with nothing,” struck me to my core, especially when you went on to say that we can sense these things in our hearts. Basically, this is my experience with this post…there were things that I could feel and understand on a heart level that I could not reiterate to you with words, and I think that is some kind of special heart writing and you are so wonderfully good at it! Thank you for always touching my soul. Much love to you, friend♡♡

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Lorrie! I’m glad you enjoyed this and hope you had a nice encounter with Walter Russell! Thank you for being here and resounding in that heart space that defies words. Thank you for the kind words. It’s fun to try and paint with words, though it requires people like yourself to fill in the numerous blanks. There are so many things we sense and brush against that never quite ripple all the way into words or logic at the precise instant. It takes time for it all to slow down so we can take it apart and try to recreate it with our language… 🙂

      Thanks for reading as always!
      Much love

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m happy to read that you absolutely “get” what I was saying…though I never doubted that you would! It’s like things we know, but have forgotten, can be strummed gently like a guitar and there is a resonance that seems so familiar…like we can hum the melody while it is happening and we say YES…but if we try to sing it after the moment we have this vague memory of how it went but every time we try to start we are not sure of the key! All in good time.
        Thanks for blessing me with knowing your soul ♡
        Have a wonderful week!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. LaVagabonde says

    You always make my mind spin in such a profound (and fun!) way. I’m really ignorant whan it comes to philosophical writings, but I love the Light idea. Every little thing is infused. 🌟Warmest wishes to you on this autumn morning.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Julie,

      Thank you for the kind words! I don’t think a great percentage of people are familiar with Walter Russell, which of course is interesting in and of itself. His way of organizing the elements into octaves has a beautiful ring of truth to it I’ve always thought. I think he definitely tapped into a reservoir of knowledge. One day we’ll catch up! But on the other hand, I do think in moments of grace we’re truly already there.



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