Do you have to love God to know what love is? When you love purely, you know God whether you realize it or not. What does it mean to love purely? It means to love for love’s sake. To simply love. To have no false idols.
A Course of Love C:4.1
For millennia the world has been talking about love. The lyrics of thousands of popular songs seem to be all about love. Millions of Christians quote Jesus in saying, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Yet where is all this love in a world that seems to be going from bad to worse?
It’s all got to do with a fundamental misunderstanding of the word ‘love’. Love is not something we can do or make ourselves feel; Love is who we are. The moment we try to love anybody, we cannot other than fail. Yet when we experience the love that we are, we feel it as absolute bliss!
At stake are both the concepts ‘God’ and ‘love’. “God is love,” wrote St John in his first letter in the New Testament. How glibly these words have been repeated millions of times without any understanding of their implications! How could Love possibly demand punishment and murder?!
With the best of intentions, the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Islam and Christianity) have consistently perceived ‘God’ to be some kind of judgemental, jealous and vengeful male being outside ourselves as a projection of their own patriarchal societies. To call such a God ‘love’ is at the core of our misunderstanding of the word ‘love’ and the very reason for the apparent lack of demonstration of love in the world. How could it be otherwise if the ‘love’ of ‘God’ includes judgement, revenge and jealousy, thereby encouraging us to be equally confused?
Jesus came to tell us that the patriarchal Abrahamic God that requires sacrifices does not exist. So deeply ingrained was and still is this perception of God, however, that, with the help of St Paul, the Christian Church made of Jesus the very sacrifice that Jesus said God does not need! And so love remained obscured for another two millennia.
“Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God,” wrote St John.”Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is Love” (1 John 4:7-8). Throughout the history of all religions there have been religious people who understood these words, often called ‘mystics’, but frequently they were not tolerated in the church. Of late there have been a number of writings, such as A Course in Miracles, A Course of Love, Conversations with God, Letters from Christ and The Jeshua Channelings, that all claim to have been inspired directly by Jesus or God, and that all explain the ‘mystic’ interpretation of both Jesus and St John’s words. So did the Gospel of Thomas, which many modern theologians regard as the original gospel, but which was left out of the Bible.
To ‘know’ God is not to have some intellectual idea or belief about God as religions would have us believe; it is to experience ourselves as one with, and therefore part of God. Because God is love, such deep experiential knowledge of God is also the experience of love. When we experience love in this way, we cannot other than act out of love. To the extent that we know God, we are love in action, and abundance is the natural result. To the extent that we do not act in love, we do not know God, which means we do not know ourselves.
What, then, prevents us from knowing God and being love in action?
In some mysterious way that Genesis 1 and 2 attempt to portray symbolically, we came to experience ourselves as separated from God. From our human experience we know that separation from someone we love engenders guilt and fear. So it was (is) with our apparent separation from God.
However, because in reality we cannot be separated from God, it is merely an illusion. This illusion of our separated selves is called the ego, and the ego is directly associated with guilt and fear.
The solution to this untenable situation is the undoing of the ego and, because the ego is fear-based, of fear. This is not as easy as it may sound.
When we are born, we are one with God. From this oneness we act spontaneously. Is it not this very authentic spontaneity of children that attract us so? And yet from the day we were born, we were indoctrinated with all kinds of beliefs about how we should be. Some of it was deliberate; most of it probably not. The end result was that we ended up with a self-image: an idea of who we think we are or should be. This includes beliefs such as that we are inherently sinful, there is not enough for everybody, and money and sex are evil. Most of these beliefs we are not even aware of.
Without exception, these indoctrinated beliefs are based on guilt and fear. Religion is based on fear. We are told that, if we are good, we will be rewarded; if we are bad, we will be punished; if we do not believe, we will go to hell; if we do not work hard, we will suffer, and so on.
Jesus – both in the Biblical and non-Biblical gospels, as well as the inspired writings mentioned earlier – told us something very different. He told us that we need only be like the lilies of the field and the birds of the air. He told us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We did not believe him, because it contradicted our own deep-seated beliefs. And so we made up our own story about him.
Love can only come to full expression if we are authentic, as little children are. Any belief about how we think we are or should be cannot other than prevent us from authenticity, and therefore from love. Any belief about how we should be cannot other than lead to pretense – and to ‘evil’. Because by defining what we should do as ‘good’, we cannot other than defining what does not fit our beliefs as ‘evil’. And because, when we fail to live up to our beliefs, as is inevitable when they contradict our authentic nature, we cannot other than experience ourselves as ‘evil’.
To re-experience love, therefore, we have no option but to become authentic again. And to become authentic, we have to let go of judgement, which is forgiveness. That is why Jesus had so much to say about judgement and forgiveness.
And so the only way to love is to let go of the obstacles to love. The only obstacle to love is the ego: our collective dysfunctional beliefs, which are based on guilt and fear.
We can only let go what we are aware of. It is often very difficult to get in touch with our deep-seated beliefs and, even if we do, it is not always easy to let them go. Because these beliefs are always associated with fear, however, and fear can be felt, a very effective way of undoing our dysfunctional beliefs is getting in touch with our feelings and emotions.
Yet even this is not as easy as it may sound, for the simple reason that we have been taught from early childhood to deny what we feel. The result is often that we are deeply afraid of our feelings. And so it requires a non-judgemental and accepting emotional climate to enable us to get in touch with our feelings and emotions again. This is what happens on our emotional healing events.