Section 8. What is the Real World?
The real world is a symbol, like the rest of what perception offers. Yet it stands for what is opposite to what you made. Your world is seen through eyes of fear, and brings the witnesses of terror to your mind. The real world cannot be perceived except through eyes forgiveness blesses, so they see a world where terror is impossible, and witnesses to fear can not be found.
The real world holds a counterpart for each unhappy thought reflected in your world; a sure correction for the sights of fear and sounds of battle which your world contains. The real world shows a world seen differently, through quiet eyes and with a mind at peace. Nothing but rest is there. There are no cries of pain and sorrow heard, for nothing there remains outside forgiveness. And the sights are gentle. Only happy sights and sounds can reach the mind that has forgiven itself.
What need has such a mind for thoughts of death, attack and murder? What can it perceive surrounding it but safety, love and joy? What is there it would choose to be condemned, and what is there that it would judge against? The world it sees arises from a mind at peace within itself. No danger lurks in anything it sees, for it is kind, and only kindness does it look upon.
The real world is the symbol that the dream of sin and guilt is over, and God’s Son no longer sleeps. His waking eyes perceive the sure reflection of his Father’s Love; the certain promise that he is redeemed. The real world signifies the end of time, for its perception makes time purposeless.
The Holy Spirit has no need of time when it has served His purpose. Now He waits but that one instant more for God to take His final step, and time has disappeared, taking perception with it as it goes, and leaving but the truth to be itself. That instant is our goal, for it contains the memory of God. And as we look upon a world forgiven, it is He Who calls to us and comes to take us home, reminding us of our Identity which our forgiveness has restored to us.
It is clear from the first paragraph that the real world isn’t real either. We have in our minds the thoughts which create the effect of the illusional world we are now experiencing. As we forgive we begin to slowly withdraw our projections of guilt, fear, and rage, and we see this illusion differently. The world seen without the effects of wrong-minded thinking is what the Course is referring to as the real world. It is our illusion without fear.
There is a story in A Thousand Names for Joy that I hold in my mind as an example of living in the real world. Byron Katie was being held at gunpoint and the man threatening her stated his intention of killing her. Katie’s thoughts were something like this. She was shocked that he was taking his thoughts so seriously. She understands when he says he has to do it; she remembers once believing that she had things to do. She thanks him for doing the best he can and she notices that she is fascinated.
Katie says, “Is this how she dies? Is this how the story ends? And as joy continues to fill me, I find it miraculous that the story is still going on. You can never know the ending, even as it ends. … I love that I don’t miss one moment, one breath, of this amazing life. I wait. And wait. And in the end, he doesn’t pull the trigger. He doesn’t do that to himself.”
This story is what I think of when the thought of living awake comes into my mind. This is what I think about when I think of the real world; still watching the world we made but not being fooled by it. Not identifying with it. Without believing that I am the body there would be no desire to be alive, no desire to be dead, no desire for anything to be other than it is. Without identifying with the world it becomes just the story it is. Would I be distraught when a good book ends? When the credits run at the end of my favorite movie?
I used to think that I could experience the real world only when everyone else did. I was confused. I thought that the real world appeared when everyone was happy and kind and knew who they were. Now I realize that how I experience the world has nothing to do with what anyone else is doing or thinking. It has nothing to do with what seems to be happening in the illusion. There is nothing in the illusion for me to fix. All correction is done in my mind.
How I see the world and experience the world is dependent only on what is in my mind. If I am still harboring guilt and fear I will see a world that displays the effects of these beliefs. When I have fully forgiven the world I will see the effects of a forgiven world regardless of what seems to be happening. Of course, as more and more of us awaken to the truth, the world will begin to take on the appearance of a happy dream because it is a projection of the mind and a healed mind can only project a healed world.