I think that for years I have been mistaken about the course. Mainly in terms of the orientation of my mind and the direction in which it was heading.
We start out in false perception, in ego, in body identification. As if we are down in hell at the bottom of a ladder. And then we think of heaven or light or truth or atonement as being higher up the ladder, and so we start the process of climbing out of hell.
Along the way we're told of particularly "high" things which become goals to strive for, like true perception, accepting atonement, the real world, christ vision. And we wonder how to achieve these things. We kind of come at it from a "I don't have it, how do I get it?" point of view.
But the thing is, this is all backwards. We're literally starting out in a backwards thought system, moving in the wrong direction, looking in the wrong direction, and trying to get our heads around what the truth is.
I think as we gradually learn more about the truth, God, soul, reality etc over time, we open up to it more. We do more forgiveness, we heal, we let go of old pain etc. Our identity starts to shift away from the body. We begin questioning the reality of the world etc.
Then at some point, perhaps a kind of tipping point, where for a while we've had our feet in both worlds - heaven and earth - we start to lean more towards reality. We start to side more with the truth than with the false. We develop more truth and find a surer footing that anchors us in reality.
The interesting thing then is that our whole orientation seems to do a 180 degree shift. We start looking from the top down instead of from the bottom up. And we feel more secure in the truth of God and more accepting of what's real as "where we are coming from".
I have found it extremely helpful and clarifying to spend time investigating the nature of God, heaven, creation, souls, sonship, mind, free will, causation, etc. Not the things of this world. This has really fleshed out some solid "facts" that I can depend upon.
I see the simple truth that God, who is truth, has extended himself to create me, and whatever is true of me ONLY comes from God. And that I in turn ONLY have what I inherited from God, and can only be and extend that which I have been given. This has now become a kind of "starting point" for me. A rock solid core of truth within my being. Not even I have any real say in what I am or what I can do.
Now I find myself basing my whole thought process on that truth. Regarding myself as not of this world. Recognizing that only the Kingdom is real. Feeling into and aligning myself with God's will and with my real function. Embedding myself in heaven and looking outward from there. This is orienting me from "the top down" to look at everything the course says from a new vantage point. And it's as if I am seeing things in a way I never saw before.
I'm finding is just an avalanche of clarification and insight about what it's getting at. I find for example that while many "bottom-uppers" believe their whole mission is to escape from hell and return home, really the whole course is aimed towards anchoring yourself in your true nature and expressing that, shining a light into the world to produce healing. As if what's at the top of the ladder reaches down to the bottom of the ladder, to either shine it away or raise it up.
There are in fact many parts of the course related to bringing heaven into the world. Shining God's light as a reflection of his being. The extension of miracles which we are literally told fall DOWN like drops of healing rain FROM heaven ONTO the earth.
The fact that christ works through our bodies, that the holy spirit uses the body for his purposes, and that we extend through the body to form holy relationships. Even forgiveness is a matter of allowing the light of heaven's truth to infuse the mind to correct it's perceptions. Where do we get any kind of truth from if not from outside of perception itself? Truth is of God!
It's not so much a "let's just get out of here" thing. It's more of a, let's remember who we really are anchored in heaven's reality and shine outward from that core truth into the world, to be the light of the world, a healing presence, a teacher/extender of God into the dream, and to help shine away the world. This isn't escape from hell, it's a DISPELLING OF DARKNESS by shining the light of heaven onto it. And this will seem "backwards" to those who believe their only goal is to get out of here asap.
I also think that all the discussions about true perception, christ vision, the face of christ, the real world, atonement etc, are all quite misleading. Mainly because it's very clear to me now that true perception is merely a SIDE EFFECT of a mind which is anchoring itself on the OTHER side of the separation. A mind which is identifying with the spirit being that is BEYOND the realm of perception entirely.
Even the perception of the real world is clearly infused with the light of heaven and is really just a stopping point just prior to entering heaven, on the way to TOTAL immersion in heaven. It just represents a state of being ALMOST entirely spirit identified. And giving yourself over entirely to the atonement merely means becoming FULLY dependent on the truth, having been previously only "mostly" dependent upon it. And truth is not of this world.
"Since perception rests on lack, those who perceive have not totally accepted the Atonement (but have partly accepted it) and given themselves over to truth. Perception is based on a separated state, so that anyone who perceives at all needs healing. Communion, not prayer, is the natural state of those who know."
This really tells us that the acceptance of atonement is at first a GRADUAL TRANSITION out of hell towards heaven, out of false perception towards truth, and it is only FULLY or FINALLY accepted at the end, where you are 100% willing to accept the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Until then, you are PARTLY atoned, just as Jesus says you are "not now wholy insane." Truth has corrected your mind to SOME extent.
Indeed the whole idea of forgiveness is riddled with confusion and misunderstanding. To forgive really means, that you recognize what is true - which IS HEAVEN, and to then "defend" that truth through the proper use of denial, to REJECT that anything not of God is real or has any power. It's a recognition that illusions are false, BECAUSE OF what is true. AND what is true is God - not of this world. Forgiveness thus is rooted in and depends on recognizing God's nature, which is itself BEYOND forgiveness.
The most obvious point is that, here we are in bodies starting out in false perception, blind to God and in denial of reality. The question then is how do we solve that. And obviously the only real way to solve that is in "leaving the desert". That means that in order to become more loving, more light, more truthful, more sane, you have to actually identify with something BEYOND the dream, with a real eternal truth that is entirely OUTSIDE of perception, so that your perception transforms to line up with it. The blueprint for right mindedness is the one mind.
You can't just work on perception in a closed box. True perception in fact has to be BASED UPON knowledge. And knowledge is the real truth. Believing that the real truth is true - a truth which is OUTSIDE of spacetime - causes perception to be transformed to line up with it. It's almost like, you have to reach outside of ALL perception first, get a hold of reality, then infuse that reality into your mind so that your perception becomes lighter. This was not at all evident in years of past study and in the common interpretations of the course.
We're also told about miracle working and the fact that miracles in fact come from God and fall down from heaven like healing rain, onto the earth. This is similar to how forgiveness works, in that the light that is higher and more true, shines into the mind and into the world, and bestows life where there was death.
Because "Miracles mean life and God is the giver of life" and "Miracles are a universal blessing from God through me to all my brothers". That means they're starting out IN HEAVEN and are expressing FROM God through our minds, transforming perception and healing the world. That's a TOP DOWN mechanic, which is why they cannot be received when fear (false perception) is too strong.
I've also found that until you can get a really solid metaphysical, logical grasp of the nature of God and creation, you can't really have anything clear and true enough to compare anything to. You really need a solid idea of the light, in order for it to clearly contradict the darkness. You need to know the truth of heaven and of your being and nature, in order to compare that to other things that happen in the world, to recognize WHY those things are false and unreal. You can't just compare illusions to true perception, you have to compare them to God, then perception will follow.
"Perception (even true perception) is a RESULT, not a cause".And so it sort of comes down to not just the question of what things are, but of the question of WHY they are that way. The understanding or logical reason that they are based on. Illusions are illusions BECAUSE of what the truth is. Sickness is unreal BECAUSE of the immortal nature of God. The world is a dream BEACUSE reality is not like it. Miracles can raise the dead BEACUSE of their expression of eternal life. If you don't have your mind anchored in heaven, you really don't have any solid ground to stand on at all.
For me, my whole orientation with the course is quite strongly transitioning to a totally top-down view at the moment. This reflects the changes in myself which are transitioning to a "going within in order to be able to express outward", or seeking the higher mind in order to shine FROM it into the world. Or aligning myself with a higher light, so that I can shine darkness way. I am finding out WHO I AM, so that I can REJECT what I am not.
"Yet when they find their own Reality is even here, then they step back and let It lead the way. What other choice is really theirs to make?"
"And so again we make the only choice that ever can be made; we choose between illusions and the truth, or pain and joy, or hell and Heaven."
Ultimately what we're really doing is we are rising up from the pits of hell and ascending into heaven. But the closer you get to heaven the more you feel like you are IN heaven, looking back downward towards hell. It's most like returning to HERE, having been AWAY. Or becoming more PRESENT, having been absent. Or becoming more authentic, having been artificial.
That orientation of "peering out from the truth" or "operating under the laws of God" or "being true to yourself first" or "having innocence in you first which you project out", is what MAKES the real world and true perception be what they are. They are reflections of the light that is IN you, which you have stepped into and are radiating. The love which you give in order to see love. "Love looks upon itself."
So it's really about you deciding to change which ROOM you are located in. Are you in hell, or in heaven. When you seek for a better way than suffering, to any degree at all, you are seeking to be in the room of heaven, where you are happy. And then you start to move between the rooms. You want to get yourself as much immersed in heaven as possible, so that almost all of you is very close to being in heaven just before you leave the world. That means you are practically a REFLECTION OF DIVINITY, while in the dream, allowing you to perform miracles and heal the world. To extend God's love and light and to keep illusions from tempting you.
It's all top-down. All the correction is top-down. All the extension of love and light and power is top-down. All of the being true to yourself is top-down. All of the health of the body is caused from the top-down. All dispelling of illusions and the sanity of the mind is brought about from the top-down. Death is conquered throught the top-down expression of eternal life. True perception and the forgiven world and the real world all come about through the top-down application and expression of your true nature. And eventually the goal is to be SO completely vigilant for the Kingdom, or to seek first the Kingdom of God, so that you put God FIRST in all things, and everything else just follows naturally from there.