Excerpts from the Workshop held at the
Foundation for A Course in Miracles
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
Two Levels of Dreams
We are going to discuss a passage in the text and a parallel passage in "The Gifts of God" prose poem, a series of messages Helen took down in 1978, which constitute a wonderful summary of the whole gamut of the Course's teachings, with incisive discussion on these two levels of dreams. I will talk a little before we actually look at these passages. The dream begins with the idea that we could be separate from God. That is what the Course refers to as the tiny, mad idea that we remember not to laugh at, which means we take it seriously (T-27.VIII.6). That automatically leads us to labeling the tiny, mad idea, the thought of separation, as sinful. This is the beginning of the ego's dream, referred to in "The Gifts of God" as the first dream. In the text, it is referred to as the secret dream (see T-27.VII.11). It is the dream in the mind that is founded on the unholy trinity of sin, guilt, and fear. Sin says we have sinned against God; guilt says we feel overwhelmed by the enormity of our sin, so much so that we not only believe we have sinned, but we end up believing we are sin. That is the worst experience of all. It is not only that we have done something wrong, we are something wrong. Every fiber of our being reeks with this "wrongness," with this sinfulness, so much so that the only thing that can result from this is our punishment. Further, since it is our very self that is wrong and sinful, a self that we stole from God, having taken His life and appropriated it for ourselves, it is that self that will be defeated. It is the life we stole from God that God will now take back, and that instills a tremendous fear in us, let alone terror, the terror of our own annihilation—that we will be annihilated and disappear into oblivion.
That is the ego's dream of sin, guilt, and fear, which is awful. All of our worst nightmares here in this world, all of the worst horror movies, all of the worst things that go on in the world cannot hold a candle to the amount of self-hatred and terror that is contained in that original dream. It is so awful that there is no way we can tolerate it, no way we can remain in the presence of those thoughts, because what those thoughts are really saying is that to meet our own selfish, self-centered needs, we destroyed love. God did nothing wrong. We pretended He did something wrong. All that happened was that we believed God's Love was not enough for us and we wanted more, more than Everything, more than the All, more than total, all-encompassing Love. And so we went about getting it—or so we thought—thereby destroying Heaven's Love and crucifying God's Son by taking the Christ Self and saying this self of ours is Its substitute and now stands in Its place. The guilt over that, once again, is extraordinary, as is the fear of our inevitable punishment.
So the ego has turned this first dream in our mind into a battleground where we are pitted against God, and we do not stand a chance. That is when the idea of a second dream comes into existence. The second dream is the ego looking out for us, or so it tells us. It tells us that the way we can escape from this terror, from this instant annihilation, is to leave the battleground entirely and hide where God will never find us. So with that the Course's version of the Big Bang occurs and we find ourselves catapulted out of the mind, ending up in a physical universe. The original thought of separation, now crystallized as sin, guilt, and fear, fragments into billions and billions of pieces to reinforce the idea that we are separate individuals, and each of those little pieces of a thought now becomes encased in a form that we call a body—we will just stay with Homo sapiens, even though the form could be anything, and is everything and anything: animate or inanimate, large or small. As one passage in the text says, as infinitesimal as a grain of sand is, that grain of sand is still part of the Sonship (T-28.IV.9:4). We are not talking about form, only the content or the thought, but we will just focus on the particular group of forms called bodies, specifically belonging to the species Homo sapiens.
We find ourselves now in a body, in a world, and the ego causes a veil of amnesia to fall between the mind and the body, so we have no recollection of where we came from. All we are aware of is that we are now mindless, although we do not call it that because we do not even know there is a mind not to have. All we know is that we now are in a body ruled by a brain with a genome that governs how we are, how we live, how we look, our state of health, etc. This is what now determines who and what we are, along with all the environmental influences that play a part.
This then is the second dream, the world's dream. This is a dream that is not secret. It is a dream that we are fully aware of, except forgetting its origin, we are not aware that it is a dream—just as when we are asleep at night having a dream, we are not aware that we are dreaming, unless we are a lucid dreamer. It is only when we awaken that we think back on what we have just experienced and say it was all a dream; we never left our bed or house, and we are still where we were when we fell asleep. But while we sleep, we are not aware that it is a dream. Well, as Jesus explains to us over and over again, we are not aware that this entire universe, let alone our individual lives here, are all part of a dream. And the individual dreams that we think are so individual to us are really split-off parts of one colossal collective dream. Each fragment of that collective dream thinks it is its own dream. That is part of the arrogance of being in the world of separated form.
Now what is important to understand about the world's dream is its purpose. We are told over and over again in the Course that purpose is everything. In one place Jesus says the only question to ask of anything in this world is what it is for (T-17.VI.2:1-2). Understanding the purpose of something will give you its meaning. Well, the world's dream, our lives here as a species (organisms within the entire cosmos) and our individual lives are all purposive. The purpose is to conceal the secret dream, thereby ensuring that it remains secret. And since we are also taught in the Course that ideas leave not their source (see for example, T-26.VII.4:7; T-26.VII.13:2), the idea of the secret dream of sin, guilt, and fear has never left its source in the mind.
That means that the world's dream is not really the world's dream. In a sense, it is simply part of the secret dream that we believe has split off and now has its own existence. That is why Jesus tells us there is no world (W-pI.132.6:2); that is why he says the world is an illusion; that is why he says the world was over long ago (T-28.I.1:6); that is why he says there is no body. They are simply projections of what is in the mind, but what is projected from the mind does not leave the mind because ideas leave not their source. That is one of the most important principles in the Course. The ego says ideas leave their source, which is the ego's way of responding to the truth that ideas do not leave their source. The ego says the secret dream can leave its source and seem to have an independent existence outside the mind, i.e., in the world.
Once this veil of amnesia falls and we forget the origin of the world's dream, the secret dream, all we know is the world's dream. All we know are our own experiences here in a body. All we can ever study, analyze, and seek to understand is the world, the body or brain, and how this all works: how the cosmos works macrocosmically and how our individual lives work microcosmically. The greatest brains throughout history have all studied the different aspects of both the collective world and the individual world from all levels: theology, philosophy, psychology, chemistry, biology, astronomy, astrophysics, physics, and on and on. These are all different ways of trying to account for what we call life here, and they never realize that what they are studying is a projection of what is in the mind, because once we are in the world (in the dream) we become mindless.
Another way of understanding this distinction between mindlessness and mindfulness is that Jesus is trying to move us from the world's dream to the mind's dream; from the external dream to the internal dream. But as long as we think the external dream is real and is the only game in town, the only dream in town, that is where we will think the problem is, because we all experience pain, suffering, and unhappiness here on all levels, both individual as well as collective. Therefore, we will think that this course, or any spirituality, has as its purpose to make us happy here, to forgive us here, to save us here so that the world's unhappy dream will become a happy dream.
Thus, when we read the Course, we believe our bodies' eyes are actually reading with our brains interpreting what our eyes read, and we will then automatically think of what we read in terms of bodies. That is what is in back of that very important line that says, “You cannot even think of God without a body, or in some form you think you recognize" (T-18.VIII.1:7). Of course we think of God as a body, because we think we are a body, and projection makes perception (T-13.V.3:5; T-21.in.1:1).
What we think we are is what we will perceive. Well, the principle also works with the statement "You cannot even think of this course without a body, or in some form you think you recognize" for the same reason. We all actually think we are bodies reading, studying and applying this course. We think we read it with our eyes. We actually think we are reading something, and then we think we are thinking about what we have read. Then we think we are physically applying what we have read in terms of our relationships and situations. That is the height of the ego's arrogance, and you can see how well it works. All you have to do is think of yourself and everyone who does this with the Course. We actually believe Jesus is talking to us, the bodies we see every morning in the mirror; the person that we and other people relate to, which some people like and some people do not like. We think this is what all this is about. We think this is all about fixing the external dream, except it is all about the exact opposite.
The true happy dream begins when we recognize that the world's dream is simply a projection of the secret dream, and it is the secret dream that is the problem. Even more specifically than that, it is the dreamer of the secret dream that is the problem, and the dreamer of the dream is not the I that I think I am. The dreamer of the dream is what we refer to as the decision maker, a term that the Course never uses in this context, but that is what Jesus is talking about all the time. We have a choice between two dreams, between two teachers, between crucifixion and resurrection, between miracles and grievances. Throughout this course, Jesus is appealing to the decision-making part of our mind, also known as the dreamer.