Before the separation, you were simply in heaven having a great time. Immortal, invulnerable, happy, loving, full of life.
Then the separation happened and we produced a state exactly opposite to heaven - heaven's logical opposite. A physical world in which bodies gave us constant "false perception", deceived by everything, seemingly at the effect of everything and prone to attack.
"Earth, heaven's opposite in every way."
"For this world is the opposite of Heaven, being made to be its opposite, and everything here takes a direction exactly opposite of what is true."
"Outside of Heaven, only the conflict of illusion stands; senseless, impossible and beyond all reason, and yet perceived as an eternal barrier to Heaven. Illusions are but forms. Their content is never true."
"Heaven remains your one alternative to the strange world you made."
These are really the only two states. These are the two worlds, heaven and hell.
The question then becomes, how do you get out of the second world and go back to the first?
As the course says, you might find a sudden leap into heaven as frightening, if you retained your ego and interpreted it through it. In fact the ego interprets heaven as hell, beings its unwanted opposite.
So instead, we gradually transition towards heaven. But let's be clear that heaven IS your only alternative to the physical world. There is no other place to go. It's one or the other.
It's also a fact that the world you made is false, and heaven is true. In the denial of God and the rejection of heaven, you came to believe that a world of lies and illusions is true and real.
That puts you in a position where, to return to a full awareness and acceptance of heaven's truth, you're going to have to both invest belief and acceptance in heaven's truth, while shifting your whole focus away from the physical.
As the course describes, beginning to do this begins the process of "opening the spiritual eye" and "weakening the investment in physical sight".
"Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way. As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning point. This ultimately reawakens spiritual vision, simultaneously weakening the investment in physical sight. The alternating investment in the two levels of perception is usually experienced as conflict, which can become very acute."
Now, we need to keep in mind that you are either in a realm of perception or a realm of knowledge. We really only made false perception, built into the functioning of the body senses. And leapt straight from heaven to false perception, placing us in bodies.
"The ability to perceive made the body possible, because you must perceive something and with something."
"The body is a tiny fence around a little part of a glorious and complete idea."
Your goal, really, is to return to heaven. The goal of God. Any goal less than this is not enough. You are to return to your original state of reality and immortality. To identifying as Christ. To being as God created you and co-creating with Him in reality.
But trying to leap into heaven from a perspective of false perception, which is total confusion about what is true, would be too jarring. The contrast is too great, and we have gone deeply into the ego thought system.
Instead, there is a seeming path, the atonement plan, the personal curriculum, which lays out a more gradual transition. This is partly because the use of your free will choice is required in order for you to make any changes in your beliefs at all.
So it seems that, in time, we gradually then progress from abject hell, which is a heavy identification with a body, special relationships, attack thoughts, fear of death, sickness and suffering seeming real, etc, towards a more God-given inheritance of perfection and immortality.
This doesn't just mean you're going to run up against the "ceiling" or external walls of the perceptual realm, before experiencing ANY heaven. It means that you need to transition so that you are experiencing ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY heaven, just before you leave this world.
But how do you do that? How do you move "towards heaven", towards reality and truth and immortality, while still being within the realm of perceptual dreams? How do you become heaven-like or as close to your original nature as possible, while still being in a state which is fundamentally separate?
"Perception is a separated state. Those who perceive still need healing."
It's going to entail some kind of re-purposing of perception, some way to use it against itself. To use what we made, to undo what we made, from the inside out. We need a reinterpretation of the meaning of the world. Or a different vantage point or way of looking, that makes it seem like hell has been turned into something similar to heaven.
"Earth can reflect Heaven or hell; God or the ego. You need but leave the mirror clean and clear of all the images of hidden darkness you have drawn upon it."
What we find out now is that there are kind of two components to what we're experiencing. There's whatever "the world is" that we made, and then there's our interpretation of it. We seem to be able to change its meaning or how it looks to us.
What we're then told is that there is a "forgiven world" or a version of hell which, seen with some kind of light, or seen with loving eyes, doesn't look like hell anymore. It's still a dream world, still an illusion, still unreal, and still false, but seems to reflect heaven's innocence.
So where does this light come from, or this loving perspective? Well, a clue is that "Perception is a result, not a cause". And "projection makes perception". We look within first, at our idea of what truth is, and then we broadcast that out, and the end result is a kind of hallucinated image, which we call perception.
So the main deal is, the question of whether when you look within you see a belief in the reality of the world, that false things are true, that you yourself are something false and evil, or whether when you look within you see sinlessness, a lack of guilt and fear, innocence and holiness. Those spiritual attributes are not attributes of a dream figure, they are attributes of YOUR SOUL, which needs to come into your awareness while you're still dreaming.
How do you go about changing your inner landscape, so that it contains only attributes which seem to reflect the state of heaven, so that when you look out you see then projected?
Well if you remember, perception is always essentially false, and the realm of knowledge is always true. The illusory world is always illusory, and heaven is reality. So in order to transition your inner world so that it "matches" heaven or is heaven-like, you're going to have to reach out beyond the illusory world and start identifying with God's creation.
"The world you see must be denied" "Beyond this world is a world I want." "No one can fail who seeks to reach the truth."
So now you're in a position where, you're inside a dream, and trying to shift your attention to not only see but identify with, to recognize as true, and to accept, a reality which is entirely OUTSIDE of the dream.
"The miracle is taken first on faith, because to ask for it implies the mind has been made ready to conceive of what it cannot see and does not understand. Yet faith will bring its witnesses to show that what it rested on is really there. And thus the miracle will justify your faith in it, and show it rested on a world more real than what you saw before; a world redeemed from what you thought was there."
You're trying to learn what you ARE in the Kingdom, while still being inside of the classroom of hell. Your real identity is your soul which God created which has inherited its truth from Him.
In order for you to transition your inner identity to christ, you're going to have to start identifying with something that isn't even in the world.
The best analogy I've come up with is the comparison of two rooms. We made a room with no windows, inside heaven, kind of like a prison cell. It's a dark room which shuts out the light. The walls seem solid and impassable. There is no awareness of what is outside the walls. Your whole identity seems bound to a lump of matter, the same thing that the prison seems to be made of.
Then as you begin to reach out beyond the dream, beyond the prison, beyond believing the walls are true - the granite block of sin, the veil which hangs before the face of christ, the walls of the prison begin to become transparent. They lose their heaviness and solidity. Even your own body seems to start to disappear.
This happens only by extending your mind past the separating limits of the walls, reaching out (or in) to heaven's truth, and latching onto (identifying with) the ever-growing awareness of who you are outside the prison. Your real self, which God created, and which stands beyond the world of form.
As your mind starts to associate with being a christ-soul, and starts to believe in God's truth, and starts to accept that only heaven is real, and shifts all of its attention away from the tempting deceptions and lies of physical matter, it puts its faith and belief in reality and love and light. Things which are not even INSIDE the dream world.
"Love was never in the world of dreams."
While still inside the prison, which is fast becoming a glass room with a door, enabling you to see through the walls and beyond them to the light with "christ vision", you become able to see again.
You can see a light beyond the body and beyond the world, beyond the room, and your sense of "who and what I am" or "what is true of me" is shifting away from the body and onto spirit - a spirit which is well outside of the room entirely.
Eventually this room, which acts like a veil covering up the greater environment of heaven, becomes so transparent that it disappears, and finally you are able to see christ clearly. To recognize what you are. And to see the contents of heaven. You then move through or past the walls of the room, the room disappears, and you find yourself squarely and fully in the shoes God created for you to fill.
We may talk about true perception, atonement, forgiveness, salvation, right mindedness, miracle mindedness, sanity, the spiritual eye, and various other aspects of the awakening mind. But ultimately true perception is an act of OVERLOOKING the realm of perception, overlooking hell, overlooking the opposition to God, and fixating on the Kingdom.
Essentially, true perception is a re-purposing of perception, such that it actually UNDOES ITSELF. Similarly to how forgiveness is way of using illusions to point AWAY from illusions. True perception is a cancellation of perception. Just as false perception was an attempt to fixate perception on itself and make perceptions real. True perception points AWAY from the realm of perception entirely, and towards the light of God, beyond the dream.
"Forgiveness is illusion that is answer to the rest."
"Forgiveness sweeps all other dreams away, and though it is itself a dream, it breeds no others."
"Forgiveness is the end of dreams, because it is a dream of waking."
"Forgiveness is the only road that leads out of disaster, past all suffering, and finally away from death."
To dream of awakening, which is the happy dream, is to dream of what it is like to BE AWAKE. To be awake is to be IN HEAVEN. Therefore, forgiveness is a dream in which you imagine yourself to be NOT ASLEEP. To be similar to the way you actually are in reality, outside of dreaming. It is a dream based on the knowledge of heaven, in which, while still technically being in a dream-perception realm, you dream a dream so close to heaven that it's almost like being in heaven itself.
Just prior to leaving the prison, with sight firmly fixed on christ, who is in heaven and not in the world, you see the face of christ through the perceptual system (based on judgement/evaluation), and this "vision" is "the real world". It's you being able to see. "God is the light in which I see."
The real world is really heaven. It is the only reality and the only world truly deserving of being described as real. From within perception we see it through a perceptual filter, then we leave perception behind and KNOW its reality. "First you dream of peace, then awaken to it."
To see the real world, is to look out from within spacetime, within the perceptual realm, using perception, but using it in a special way which enalbles you to look OUTSIDE the perceptual realm. To peer into heaven beyond the separate bubble of spacetime. You don't actually become able to BE IN heaven at this point, outside the dream, but you stand within the dream, looking through its transparent walls like an window onto God.
As you do this, as you open up to reality while still dreaming, as you disbelieve in the solidity of the prison walls, as you form a bridge to the Kingdom, as you reunite gradually with God and with love, light seems to stream into your mind.
In fact an awareness of God gradually seems to return to your mind, and starts to be "seen in" the things you see. "God is in everything I see because God is in my mind." Eventually God is ALL that you see, which causes the "things you were seeing him in" to disappear.
So what we're really doing is, shifting our attention, away from hell, towards heaven. Shifting it away from God's absence, towards God. Away from body identification to spirit identification. Away from darkenss to light.
Away from fear to love. God, christ, soul, spirit, light, love, truth and everything real, is squarely NOT a part of the illusory prison world. It is "outside" of it, psychologically. So our job is to "position" oursleves in heaven, while still in the separated realm, and shine our light from heaven, into this world, erasing it.
This is why the closer your mind comes to aligning with God's will, with heaven's light, the more that light and love are able to stream into the dream through you.
The miraculousness of heaven begins to seep into the dream. The laws of spacetime begin to be overruled as you learn "I am under no laws but God's." You start becoming able to do things which "are not of this world." Your body returns to health as a symbol of eternal life. And you become empowered to overrule death.
To be the light of the world, is to extend heaven's light into the dream. To shine into the darkness, to illuminate it and shine away death. "Eternity will shine away the world." "The stars will disappear in light."
As your perception becomes "truer", it simply means that you are not mis-perceiving, so become able to "accurately" perceive what God created. This isn't the same as knowing what's there, but we can use perception to interpret what's there. "To perceive the truth is not the same as knowing it." - but you CAN perceive the truth, which is heaven.
As the walls of spacetime melt, as the granite block of sin turns to whisps of smoke easily dispelled, as the light of God shines into the world through forgiveness, and as the hell we made no longer has internal sin projected onto it, the world is seen as beautiful and forgiven. A beautiful illusion. Yet "A world forgiven cannot last" because it's still an illusion of a world. And it will disappear.
"Illusions recognized must disappear."
"The old one has left no trace upon it in its passing."
"Idols must disappear, and leave no trace behind their going."
"And you will be with him when time is over and no trace remains of dreams of spite in which you dance to death's thin melody."
"Heaven is all that remains."
"When your body and your ego and your dreams are gone, you will know that you will last forever."
This is pretty much the "model" of the course's levels and metaphysics that I've converged towards over time. Simply that there are only two states, realms or worlds. They are logical opposites. And while we're in the world opposite to heaven, we gradually transition our truth, reality and identity over to the other world, such that toward the end we are almost entirely heaven-identified and vigilant only for the Kingdom.
Our task is simply to ANCHOR ourselves into our soul, remember who we really are outside of the perceptual dream environment, tune into God, leave all perception of form behind, forget the world and embrace our true nature, inherited from God.
You are the spirit that God created. You are the reality that God established. You are the power that God extended. You are the will that God has expressed. You are the light which God radiated. You are the truth which God gave you. You are nothing and have nothing that does not come from God. And nothing in the world of illusions has ever changed that.
"So fearful is the dream, so seeming real, he could not waken to reality without the sweat of terror and a scream of mortal fear, unless a gentler dream preceded his awaking, and allowed his calmer mind to welcome, not to fear, the Voice that calls with love to waken him; a gentler dream, in which his suffering was healed and where his brother was his friend. God willed he waken gently and with joy, and gave him means to waken without fear."
"Dream softly of your sinless brother, who unites with you in holy innocence. And from this dream the Lord of Heaven will Himself awaken His beloved Son."