On Sunday, March 7, 2004 Rev. Tony Ponticello addressed the congregation at the Community Miracles Center’s Sunday Service in San Francisco, California. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of that lecture.
We’ve just gotten through the first review in the Workbook and the first review presents us with little, capsule summaries of the first fifty lessons. Every time I do this review I’m struck with the metaphysical profundity of these summaries and I start thinking about the metaphysical basis of the thought system presented in A Course In Miracles. That’s what I want to talk about today – metaphysics. What are the metaphysical ideas in the Course and why they seem important to me? Metaphysics, that’s a tricky word. We all use it. I don’t know if we ever think about what it means.
I was at a party a couple of weeks ago. It’s always a little risky for me to go to a party with a lot of people that I don’t know. People inevitably ask you what you do. I never like that question. What do I tell them? Usually I just say “Well, I’m a minister.” Now, when you say you’re a minister, that conjures up all kinds of notions in peoples’ heads and then they start relating to you differently. Then they will ask, “In what faith?” And I say “Well – it’s a metaphysical faith.” Sometimes that’s understood and sometimes it’s not. I wonder even when they understand it, what do they think “metaphysical” means? Then you have to end up getting into a long dissertation about it and I just wish they wouldn’t ask the question. Can’t I just be anonymous?
But A Course In Miracles is a very metaphysical discipline. In the review of Workbook Lesson No. 15 we read this. “My thoughts are images that I have made. Whatever I see reflects my thoughts. It is my thoughts that tell me where I am and what I am. The fact that I see a world in which there is suffering and loss and death shows me that I am seeing only the representation of my insane thoughts.” (W-pI.53.5.1-4)
That’s a pretty profound, straight-forward, metaphysical statement on what A Course In Miracles is about. The reason why we live in a world where there appears to be things like: illness, lack, suffering and death – even death itself – is because we all have insane thoughts that we’re here to heal. The world is showing us graphic representations of these insane thoughts so that we can bring them to mind, do our job and heal them. Usually, at first glance, this seems to be an enormous task and one that must be very difficult. But what I have learned over the years is the difficulty is in not accepting the task. The real difficulty is living in a world where I seem to be at the effect of illness, lack, suffering and death. That’s difficult! It’s difficult because it’s scary. It’s difficult because it’s frequently painful. It’s difficult for a lot of reasons. It’s difficult because, for me, it’s impossible to rest in that kind of world. In that world I seem to have a limited amount of time to live. I’m on a treadmill to get as much done and have as many experiences as possible before my time is up. That kind of thinking seeps into our minds. We allow it to be there and it becomes very difficult for us to rest in such a world. But I find that I can rest with the metaphysical world of A Course In Miracles. When I realized that the world is just a graphic representation of my thoughts then I don’t have to relate to the world in the same, limited time way. I can really rest in that. The world is my teaching device. I have all the time I need.
A Course In Miracles says, “I responsible for what I see. I choose the feelings I experience, and I decide upon the goal I would achieve. And everything that seems to happen to me I ask for, and receive as I have asked.” (T-21.II.2.3-5) Everything that happens to us, we ask for. We’re receiving it as we have asked for it. We are never the effect of a separate, outside world. We are not the way we are because of how the outside world shaped us. I am not my parents’ child. I am not the way I am because of how I was raised by my family or because of the environment that I found myself in as a child. I’m not even the way I am because of this new environment, here in San Francisco, that I live in. This environment is not making me what I am. In truth, it’s exactly the opposite. I am making the environment the way it is! Again, while at first glance that seems difficult, I find that it’s much more comforting when I really let it in. I can rest with that because now, if something is going on that really seems to bother me, I know that I am the cause of it. I can shift and change and be a true part of the healing from it. It’s very hard to be a part of the healing of an outside world that is so vast compared to our tiny bit in it. However, when I realize that the outside world is a projection of my own mind, then I can be at cause and feel that I can have an effect on it and I can rest with that metaphysical truth.
Now, what is metaphysics? Well, as I am apt to do, I looked it up in the dictionary today. I have several dictionaries and I looked it up in my favorite dictionary which is the one my mother bought for me when I graduated from high school. It’s the Webster’s New World Collegiate Dictionary. It was bought in 1970 and it has the pictures of the every US president on the first few pages – those dictionaries. The “current” president was Richard Nixon. He got a bigger picture. Nixon’s there smiling. I always love to see him there. Anyway, my dictionary said “Metaphysics: The branch of philosophy which deals with first principles and seeks to explain the nature of being and the origin and structure of the world.” So, metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that deals with causation – what came first, first principles. Then, from causation, metaphysics tries to explain all of existence, all of being, all of reality (small “r”). That’s what metaphysics is. We’re involved with A Course In Miracles, a metaphysical religion – a religion that’s trying to get at the primary, first cause of things. ACIM is beginning to move us towards the idea that we are the cause of the world we see, and that we are not a product of the outside world. Quite the opposite, the outside world is a product of our own thinking.
Since the dictionary defined metaphysics as a branch of philosophy, I thought it might be useful to look up the word “philosophy” as well. Again, my Webster’s New World Dictionary said “Philosophy: A study of the processes governing thought. Conduct. Investigation of the principles that regulate the universe and underlie all reality.” So we’re studying something that regulates the universe. What is it that regulates the world? What is underneath all of physical reality? We’re studying a very big, profound thing. We’re trying to get to the basic cause of life as we see it and actually – I find that very comforting. I find that something that I truly can rest with. If I’m going to spend time in this place, in this world, then I had best be spending time doing some important work. I don’t want to be just twittering away my existence. I want to be doing something that is profound and important. Studying, getting in touch with and bringing clarity to the very nature of reality is a good task. It’s a good task for me and I can feel good knowing that is what my life is focused on.
Let’s look at the word “metaphysics” itself. I’ve spoken of this before. It’s been a while, but I think it’s important to remember where it came from. It actually came from Aristotle a long, long time ago in the 4th century BC. Aristotle was a philosopher and he used to write treatises. In them he would state a certain point and then after he wrote what he called the “tá metá tá physicà” that meant “the work after the physics” and these were the ideas that underlied the premises which he just stated. First he’d state his postulate and then he’d give the “metaphysics” of it, what was underneath it – what were the causative thoughts underneath it. The word “metaphysics” itself didn’t become popular until, later in Aristotle’s career, he actually wrote a treatise named “Metaphysics” itself. In that dissertation, which is sometimes called “The Doctrine of Causation”, he was writing about why particulars arise from the universal and this became his doctrine on metaphysics in the fourth century BC ... so we’ve got four centuries “Before Christ.” We’re in the 21st century now, so that’s 25 centuries ago, give or take a century. Sometimes how we count centuries confuses me, but let’s say for 2,500 years we’ve had metaphysics with us so there’s nothing new about “New Thought.” It’s been around a long time.
We’re studying something that deals with what comes first. What are the first things? What are the first causes? A Course In Miracles always tells us that it’s the thought that comes first. The thought comes before the world. In the review of Workbook Lesson No. 17 it says, “I see no neutral things. – What I see witnesses to what I think. If I did not think I would not exist, because life is thought.” (W-pI.54.2.1-3) I always like that line because it reinforces what the French philosopher Descartes said, doesn’t it? “I think, therefore I am.”
The Course continues and says, “Let me look on the world I see as the representation of my own state of mind. I know that my state of mind can change. And so I also know the world I see can change as well.” (W-pI.54.2.4-6) So we must learn to look on the world we see as a representation of our own state of mind and since we know we can change our state of mind, we know we can change the world we see. I grew up in the sixties. We all wanted to change the world, but we never were given any real instructions on how to do it. And now, I guess I still want to change the world. With A Course In Miracles I’ve been given some truly valuable tools that will make this actually happens. I don’t change the world by going outside and working with it externally. I change the world by changing the way I look at it, by changing the way I think about it. When I change the way I think about it, the world – indeed – has to change because the world is just an effect of the way I think about it.
In another passage the Course says, “The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. ... It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive. Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result and not a cause.” (T-21.in.1.2.2,5-8) These ideas, these profound metaphysical ideas about causation, what comes first, are all throughout A Course In Miracles. We’re here, now, to truly heal the world the way we’ve always wanted to, and now we’re being given the real tools that we need in order to do just that! We now know that it’s our minds that we have to work with. We have to access our inner wisdom. We have to observe how we’re thinking. We have to identify the egoic thoughts of separation. We have to offer them up to the Holy Spirit and ask for his new thoughts – new thoughts that speak to us of oneness and infinite life. If we do that, we begin to relate differently to the world. I have found a lot of rest in this new perception. There was no rest in the other perception. We tried to change the world but the problem was elusive. It just kept slipping away. One problem would get fixed and another problem would crop up. There was no end to it, but the end’s in sight in my mind now. The end will come when I heal the thoughts in my mind and share that healing with those I can work with. I can look at them, and I can see them healing.
Our country right now is engaged in this wonderful debate about same-sex marriage. I talked about it the last time I spoke and it’s still going on. (Vol.17 No.12/Feb.04) I guess it’s going to be with us for a while because it looks like same sex marriage is going to be a campaign issue. What is this about? On the surface it’s about gay rights for some people, and for some other people it’s about the moral degradation of our society. That’s what it seems to look like. Yet, what is morality? That’s a good question. Morality is usually some kind of code of behavior and what I’ve always loved about A Course In Miracles is that it’s actually a fairly amoral discipline. It gives us no code of behavior. Of all the religions and the spiritual disciplines, here’s one that doesn’t tell you what to do – ever! I would like to tell that to the people at those parties. “I’m the minister in an amoral religion” but I don’t know how it would play.
What else is going on in the world? Last summer the U.S. Supreme Court repealed all the sodomy laws in the nation. This is part of a movement that’s going on where we’re attempting to get rid of victimless crime laws. Victimless crimes – things that we call “crime” but nobody’s actually hurt by any of these things. Our society is examining this issue. When people think about the sodomy laws being repealed they think that this is a great move for gay rights which actually it is. However, don’t forget that with many of these sodomy laws, it didn’t matter what gender you were. A married husband and wife, could have still gotten accused of a felony for sexual acts they were doing in the privacy of their own bedroom. Anal sex was illegal in many states. Oral sex was still illegal, regardless of your gender, in many states. These were definitely victimless crimes. Finally the Supreme Court in its wisdom – let’s hear it for them, remember it’s a fairly conservative court – in its wisdom the Court decided to repeal victimless sodomy laws. What’s underneath that? What’s the metaphysics of this Supreme Court’s decision?
On the surface, to many of us here in San Francisco, it seems that this was a good, simple thing that happen. However, I believe that underneath it is something deeper. I think this reflects the fact that we – as the one mind Holy Child of God – we are beginning to wake up and realize that we don’t have to single out neutral behaviors and call them crimes or sins. We’re not at the effect of these things. There are obviously no victims here. We’re not the victims of these behaviors. “I am not the victim of the world I see.” (W-pI.31) In my healed perception, that’s what’s behind it all. I think many fundamentalists, fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalists from other faiths, still believe that what two people do in the privacy of their own bedroom is going to affect them. They believe they, and others, are victims of these acts. The fundamentalists strongly believe that particular consenting sexual behaviors are going to affect society in ways that are negative therefore they want to regulate sexual behavior. Thank God there are other factions of society that are beginning to realize, “No, we’re not at the effect of any of those behaviors and none of us are victims of the sexual acts performed by consenting adults in private.” We’re all here creating our own reality and what two, three or twenty people do in the privacy of their own homes is really not our business. Things are moving along; consciousness is evolving. That’s the metaphysics of this Supreme Court decision and I think we can look at this and see that we’re healing. We’re healing thoughts in our minds and that’s the universal that’s causing the particular to manifest.
I was watching the Academy Awards last Sunday night. They were great. I love the Academy Awards. I thought they were very classy this year. Some people said they were “boring” but I thought they were actually classy. I was upset that I didn’t record them, so this is a request. If anybody has a videotape of the Academy Awards I’d really like to see it again. I’d like to see the video taped introduction that Billy Crystal did where they digitally put his image into current movie characters. It was so funny! Anyway, at a certain point, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams were standing up on stage in tuxedos and Robin Williams said “Oh look. We’re a San Francisco married couple.” Just the fact this got said at the Academy Awards was significant. Realize that almost a billion people watch the Academy Awards. A billion people got some message that there’s something going on in San Francisco that’s challenging our values and beliefs, that’s moving us away from gender and body identification. That’s what I see. That’s the metaphysics underneath the same-sex marriage issue. We’re beginning to realize that gender doesn’t matter, the plumbing of our bodies doesn’t matter. We’re not our bodies. We’re entities; we’re spirits. Gender really doesn’t matter. We’re moving away from body identification. We’ve moved so far away that the idea of same genders getting married is now acceptable to millions of people. Now whether it will be acceptable to the society as a whole still remains to be seen, but we’re definitely “begging the question.” We’re asking the question and that’s great. That’s the metaphysics behind this. That’s what’s behind these headlines. There’s a move away from body identification and a move away from thinking we are the victims of what people do in the privacy of their own homes. We’re moving away from those ideas. I think it shows that we are healing. I can rest in that metaphysical truth.
A Course In Miracles says “The idea for today contains the only way out of fear that will ever succeed. Nothing else will work; everything else is meaningless. But this way cannot fail. Every thought you have makes up some segment of the world you see. It is with your thoughts, then, that we must work, if your perception of the world is to be changed.” (W-pI.23.1) A Course In Miracles is behaviorally amoral, because it knows that trying to control behavior is useless. Nothing happens. The only real way to change is to work with our thoughts. How can we think more in line with Spirit? How can we think more in line with the truth that we’re eternal – that we’re ageless and all-powerful? We need to think along those lines and then the world will just change automatically because we will have begun to accept who and what we really are. I believe we are seeing this change happen. We’re working with the metaphysical causation of the world. We’re understanding that every thought we have makes the world that we see and we’re learning to work with our thoughts.
I spoke here two weeks ago and right afterwards we had an Abundance Workshop. I have done these workshops before, but I hadn’t done one in about six years. It was great! It was the largest one we’ve ever done. There were 18 people there. It was an abundant Abundance Workshop. Essentially, it’s a very metaphysical workshop. It’s a technique to work with your thoughts, to think more abundantly so that more abundance can be in your life and in the world as a whole. Abundance can mean many, many things. We’re not just talking about material abundance. My issue is really time. I want to experience an abundance of time. I want to get over these lack issues that I have with time. It’s been very interesting. We did the workshop; it was great. I think everybody got a good hit off it, and the very next day we got a call from somebody who lives a couple of hours north of San Francisco. Somebody who’s donated to us before, but I haven’t heard from him in a while. He had just purchased a new car and he wanted to gift us his old car which was a 1997 Saturn. This is newer and nicer than the car that we’ve had a 1991 Toyota. I couldn’t help but think, “I just did the Abundance Workshop yesterday and today we got a new car!” I wasn’t working on getting a new car, but I was thinking abundantly! About a week later we got a check, a donation, in the mail for $8,000. For us, $8,000 is a substantial donation. It came in the middle of my first week of doing the Abundance process. We’ve also had a situation going on with Hewlett-Packard where they owed us money because we returned some expensive equipment to them – $13,522. We’ve been trying for months to get that $13,522 back. Everything that could possibly go wrong with getting the money back has gone wrong, even though they admit openly they owe us the money. They just never gave it to us for a variety of unrelated reasons that I won’t get into now. Reverend Larry worked on this diligently, calling numerous people who kept changing jobs and phone numbers. Just a couple of days ago we finally got the check for $13,522 in the mail. Here’s the abundance for me. I never really doubted that we’d get the money. The abundance is finally to be able to let go of that project! It was sucking up a huge amount of time and mental energy and my issue really is time. I’ve also had a number of little breakthroughs. I’m catching things up and doing work. A new issue of Miracles Monthly is here, I’ve been catching up emails. I’ve been posting on our A Course In Miracles On-Line Discussion group. Seems like some of my time issues are getting better.
The question is, “Is this happening because we did the Abundance Workshop, or would these things have happened anyway?” Would the man up north have given us the car the next day, that next Monday, even if we hadn’t done an Abundance Workshop on Sunday? Well, there’s no answer to that question? I can’t answer that questions, and the ego-mind would love for us to get hooked into these questions and their “unanswerability.” There’s a passage in A Course In Miracles that really helps me here. “The ego's characteristic busyness with nonessentials is for precisely that purpose. Preoccupations with problems set up to be incapable of solution are favorite ego devices for impeding learning progress.” (T-4.V.6.5-6) There’s no way to answer the question. That’s why the ego loves it so much. Do you have abundance because or …? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? There’s never going to be an answer to those. That’s why the ego loves them. The better question for me to ask myself is, “Since I know this Abundance process works so well, why don’t I do it all the time?” I don’t do it all the time. I drop it. I convince myself I don’t have time to do it so I flip right back into my time lack beliefs. That’s a better question for me. Here’s metaphysics I can rest in. What’s underneath why I don’t do it? That’s the question I would rather ask.
A Course In Miracles says “The habit of engaging with God and His creations is easily made if you actively refuse to let your mind slip away. The problem is not one of concentration; it is the belief that no one, including yourself, is worth consistent effort. Side with me consistently against this deception, and do not permit this shabby belief to pull you back.” (T-4.IV.7.1-3) We don’t think we’re worth the effort. I don’t think I'm worth the consistent effort, and I need to be vigilant against that. I have ideas about time lack in my mind and, you know what, I need to get metaphysical about that. They aren’t in my mind because of some outer thing that happened that caused me to believe that. They’re just in my mind capriciously. Whimsically. They’re a whimsical idea that I hooked into and spun around and now it’s become an entity that seems to live and breathe on its own. I don’t have to analyze it. I just have to identify it and step away from it. Doing an abundance process is something that helps me identify it and step away from it. I don’t have to get busy with the non-essential question of why I think there’s a lack of time. I only have to see that I believe that there is and then gently move to seeing the abundance of time everywhere that I can.
In A Course In Miracles we read “I would look upon the witnesses that show me the thinking of the world has been changed. I would behold the proof that what has been done through me has enabled love to replace fear, laughter to replace tears, and abundance to replace loss.” (W-pI.54.5.3-4) We look for the witnesses that show us that the thinking of the world has changed and that abundance is here now and actually has always been in the world, except we were choosing to look elsewhere. That’s a metaphysical thought that I can really rest in. I find myself resting more and more in the metaphysics of the Course and thoroughly enjoying the peace and the joy that it brings to me.
Thank you very much. ♥
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
This article appeared in the March 2004 (Vol. 18 No. 1) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.