Years ago when I was in the depths of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, tossing and turning for months on end in the throes of full-body pain and non-refreshing sleep, I had ample opportunity to reflect on what actions or beliefs of my own might have delivered me into such a miserable state.
I was pretty sure that CFS was a real and not a psychosomatic disorder (and I still am), but that conclusion didn’t give me much to go on. Then as now, there was no clear, single cause for CFS. Then as now, there was no reliable treatment available from conventional or alternative medicine (and believe me, I I tried everything out there at the time).
So, much against my will, I was forced to turn within and search for any factors that might have somehow led me to such a widespread disruption of my immune system. I had to do something, because it was clear that no one else could do much for me.
I entered therapy and began the spiritual discipline known as A Course in Miracles. Before long it began to dawn on me that I was pretty angry about a number of things.
I was angry with my parents, angry with a woman or two, angry about not making enough money, angry with the other side of the political spectrum, angry with the sorry state of the world and… when it came right down to it, I was really angry about being powerless over all these people and things.
It seemed as if there must be some invisible, all-powerful agency that was in charge of everything that was pissing me off. That was a problem, because I was a former investigative reporter, proud of my rational skepticism, who was self-identified as an atheist (or at most an agnostic, on my warm & fuzzy days).
And that’s when it hit me: I was terrifically angry at a God I didn’t believe in.
I saw then, in a flash, how the typical idea of God must have arisen in the mind of humanity: Caveman is going about his daily business, clubbing small ground animals and gathering sweet berries to bring home to his cavewoman, and all of a sudden a sabre-toothed tiger jumps him and tears him up pretty badly. Fighting back with his club, he narrowly escapes with his life and limps home, bloodied and bruised, where he tells his mate, “Things were going so well there for a while! I seemed to be on top of things and all of a sudden this monster came from out of nowhere and tried to kill me! Where did it come from? Whose idea was that?”
And before you know it, the first caveman religion was born, with a whole set of rituals of praise and sacrifice to the invisible God or gods who mysteriously ran the show of life…anything to keep that tiger or mastodon or giant, fanged chipmunk away.
Anytime we believe that there is some external, mysterious force that has power over our lives for good or ill, we are in fact believing in some kind of god who runs the whole show. You might call that god “nature” or “fate” or even “random chance,” but it is still an external force that has more power than we do.
Fortunately, my spiritual discipline introduced me to an entirely new concept of God. One of the fundamentals of A Course in Miracles is that “God is but love, and therefore so am I.” It also posits that our normal, daily sense of self—usually called the ego—is a delusion, a false, fear-driven self that projects all its internal anxieties and delusions onto the world. Then it gets angry with that world, and whoever might have made it that way.
That, in a nutshell, was the dilemma I faced when I realized I was angry with a God I didn’t believe in. The world as I saw it was a mélange of all the things I had decided to be angry about. It couldn’t possibly be all my fault, so it must be the responsibility of some capricious and malevolent God. And if that was true, I was done for…because how was I going to fight back against the dark Creator of all?
The beginning of healing the mess I was in was a Course lesson that directs students to meditate on this idea: “I loose the world from all I thought it was.” This lesson, and others like it, forces students to recognize that they are, in fact, their own dark gods, responsible for the world as they see it.
Beyond that private perceptual realm, there is no singular, objective world experienced identically by everyone. We are all the gods of the worlds we see. Whether we decide to blame or praise our God for what we see, we are pretty much talking to ourselves.
The Course, like other esoteric paths, also suggests that there is a reality beyond our flawed and limited perceptions of a world of hurt. For lack of a better term, that reality is Love. Whenever we can “loose the world” from all the fears and judgments we have laid upon it—that is, whenever we can manage to forgive, even a little bit—we can begin to glimpse that profound reality. Then we can begin to know a God—that is, the active intelligence of Love—that’s unaffected by our belief or disbelief.
By learning to release many of my angers—and as a result, learning to take better care of myself both inside and out—I recovered completely from CFS within seven years. I would not go so far as to say that forgiveness can heal any particular illness, but I will venture to say that it couldn’t hurt.
Author: D. Patrick Miller
Editor: Travis May