We Are Nothing But Love

The Illusion of Beings in Need

According to A Course in Miracles, God is love and only love, and since we are the same essence as God, we, too, are only love. Anything we experience that is not love – pain, evil, ugliness, judgment, hatred – is an illusion. Only love is real and true; everything else, we imagine.

Such a theology can be twisted to blame those of us whose illusions are filled with misery. From a New Age perspective, we might say that we are not enlightened enough. We need to deepen our practice, pray, purify ourselves. In a similar way, Jesus’s teachings have been twisted to condemn the poor and unfortunate for their suffering because clearly they must have sinned, or they don’t believe strongly enough, or somehow they incurred God’s wrath.

Such a theology allows us to tell ourselves that those who suffer deserve what they get. Then we don’t feel so guilty when we turn away from people in need.

A mug filled with coffee that reads What Good Shall I Do This Day? - a way of expressing love and upsetting the illusion of suffering in the world

I doubt, however, that this is the way the Course is meant to be interpreted. Greg Mackie, in his article, “If God is Love, Why Do We Suffer?,” clarifies that even though the Course teaches that suffering is ultimately an illusion, it recognizes that we do indeed experience suffering. That’s why it calls on us to relieve the suffering of those around us.

“Look about the world, and see the suffering there,” reads the Course. “Is not your heart willing to bring your weary brothers rest?” (W-pI.191.10:7-8).

Awakening to God

Indeed, Mackie writes, by loving and helping the poor, vulnerable, weak, and suffering, “we awaken to God.” [1] We evolve and grow and become more like the love that God, apparently, is. Eventually, through this loving service and support, we wake up and realize we are God. No separation exists between us and the divine.

That’s the point don Miguel Ruiz makes in his book, The Mastery of Love. In it he tells a story of how Brahma, the one, essential creator God, ended up splitting into the billions and billions of forms that make up the reality we see and experience.

In the beginning was Brahma. For eons and eons, He was all alone, and He grew bored. So, He created a goddess, Maya.

The name “Maya” is a Sanskrit word which means “illusion” or “magic.” [2] In Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, Maya is the force that allows us to experience physical reality. For non-dualistic thinkers, such as people who follow the Course or some of the Eastern traditions, it makes sense that Maya, or Illusion, brought about the physical world, this world that exists only in our fantasies.

So Brahma created Maya, Illusion, and he told her that he felt bored.

“Great,” she said, “Let’s play a game. I’ll tell you what to do.”

First she instructed Brahma make the cosmos, the world, and the plants, animals, and people, which he did. Then she had him separate himself into billions and billions of little pieces, which he did. Finally, she put one piece of Brahma into everything that had been created.

“Now,” she said, “I will make you forget who you are. Your task will be to find yourself.” [3]

Remembering Our True Nature

In this way, Maya invented the dream that we are separate from God. Now God is trying to remember who He is. When enough of us – the parts of God – remember our true nature, the game will end.

A Course in Miracles posits something similar. Apparently, a thought or inkling or presence decided to separate itself from God. Now we believe that separateness is our essential reality. We must awaken and recognize our god-nature.

According to the Course, this god-nature is pure, unchanging, all-encompassing love. If we love one person, but not another, or love in this moment only to turn around and hate in the next, it is not love. Either we are love for all things at all times, or we do not understand what love is. [4]

Our Mixed Emotions

Of course, our experiences – illusory or not – teach us that love is complex. Along with love comes anger, disdain, despair, affection, annoyance, and all manner of emotions. We feel these for ourselves, for strangers, and for our intimate relations.

If the teachings of the Course are true, however, the feelings we think are part and parcel of love, are not even there, because nothing really exists except pure love.

Mystics have said similar things. In his poem, “I Swear,” Rumi wrote about “[a] house of love with no limits.” [5] St. Teresa of Avila wrote about her ecstatic and loving union with God. [6]

Yet they are talking about a relationship we have with the divine. They aren’t talking about relationships we have with friends, family, and material entities. If we lived in a universe in which all the distinctions we create between friend, family, and foe really were illusory, our constant state would be one of unity and bliss.

Learning to Be Love

Perhaps that is what Rumi was trying to say when, in the same poem, he wrote, “I swear, since seeing Your face,/ the whole world is fraud and fantasy.” If so, how do we wake up from the dream? If we could somehow do that, would we stop feeling hurt, offended, and resentful?

As we have seen, the Course teaches that the existence of such emotions proves we haven’t figured out how to truly love. Instead, we are experiencing a pretense of love, an illusion of love. I suppose our mixed emotions have more to do with pride, possession, and control than love.

Unfortunately, to give up our pride, our grasping, our control scares us. The priest Jacopone da Todi wrote that the soul flees from the love of God, afraid of yielding its heart to God. Da Todi says that in this state of oneness, “I cease to be me and can no longer find myself.” [7]

Are we brave enough to wake up from our dream? Do we dare learn to love with a love as powerful as God’s? Could love truly be our essence? If so, how do we make sense of the misery inside and around us?

Why Is There Suffering?

As far as the Course teaches, Mackie explains, evil and suffering never come from God. We might not understand why they happen, or we might embrace one of the many reasons for suffering that people have come up with: because Satan caused it, because Brahma is asleep, because we’re being punished, because God is weak, because we have free will, because we are too limited to understand the mystery of God’s plan, because we live in a cruel and brutal world in which no deity exists. Yet are these explanations not incomplete and ultimately unsatisfying?

Mackie claims that God does not inflict suffering upon us. Perhaps we manifest evil for some private reason of our own, but such a theology does not convince Mackie. In his essay, he debunks a number of the common explanations for evil, finally coming to rest in the enormity of God’s love. Indeed, when we experience that love, we suddenly understand suffering in a new way.

If we have “a genuine experience of a loving God,” Mackie writes, we will realize that evil simply cannot exist. “The ultimate answer to the problem of suffering is the experience of God in Heaven.” [8]

If we do not have such an experience, however, this makes no sense. Nor does it explain why or how suffering exists. But if we do experience God’s love, if we understand deep within our souls that divine love is also our own love and divine experience our experience, we will have an answer. God is; love is. When we are so bathed in that love we can experience nothing else, the illusion simply disappears.

Teresa of Avila was pierced through her heart by an angel brandishing a flaming poker. Buddha sat for seven days beneath the Bodhi tree. Ramakrishna experienced the agony and the bliss of union with the Divine Mother. Must we, too, have such powerful mystical experiences before we can truly love?

The Universe in a Heart

I am reminded of a session I had years ago with my spiritual director. As she was speaking, an image suddenly appeared before me. I saw the universe nestled within her heart, as small and fragile as a baby’s fist. In that instant, I understood that dimension and space are illusions. In actuality, we can walk to the other side of the universe in one step.

Except that, at the same time, we cannot. If we could leave our bodies through some sort of astral projection or death, I suppose we’d be free to roam the universe at will. In the meantime, we live in our bodies. Thus, we live with their limitations, illusion or not.

In the same way, to understand that the world is an illusion does not mean we live a universe free from evil, misery, or suffering. We may be love, but we are also human. Brahma might be hiding within us, and we might even awaken to the game, yet the game goes on. Somehow, we must make sense of both realities.

Human Limitation

The monk, Bede Griffiths, wonders about this talk of oneness, this melting away of “differences and distinctions.” Does it mean that we are gods? Truly?

He does not think so. He reminds us that we try to use our human language to describe a mystical reality. That is why we need metaphor and poetry, so we can sense the gentle touch of truth. Speaking of the reality of our existence, he writes, “I can say that it is like a communion of persons in love, in which each understands the other and is one with the other.” We exist within one another, we “‘may become perfectly one.’ This is as far as human words can go.” [9]

It is as far as human comprehension can go. Perhaps even farther. What does it feel like to “become perfectly one”?

Awakening to Love

We embodied humans do not have an answer to that question, not really. In song, story, and myth, we touch on the idea. We speak of a loving god, of an awesome oneness, and we hope and pray that the power of love can save us from ourselves. If the mystics and saints are right and we are love, and nothing exists except love, then our task is to act from that place of love.

We humans experience suffering. Many thinkers have pondered and argued about why. Perhaps the reason for our suffering is less important than the love that spurs us to alleviate the suffering of others. The more of us who seek to wake to our god-nature and be that kind of love in the world, the sooner the illusion will fade. Then we will create Heaven on Earth, Brahma will remember Himself, and all will become love once again.

In faith and fondness,


  1. Mackie, Greg, “If God Is Love, Why Do We Suffer?,” Circle of Atonement,  http://www.circleofa.org/library/course-meets-world/god-love-suffer/, accessed 2/8/18.
  2. See, for example, http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Maya or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maya_(religion).
  3. Adapted from Ruiz, don Miguel, The Mastery of Love, San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing, 1999.
  4. “Lesson 127,” A Course in Miracles, http://acim.org/Lessons/lesson.html?lesson=127, accessed 2/6/18.
  5. Rumi, “I Swear,” http://www.khamush.com/love_poems.html, accessed 2/9/18.
  6. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teresa_of_%C3%81vila and https://www.thoughtco.com/an-angel-pierces-saint-teresa-of-avilas-heart-124010.
  7. da Todi, Jacopone, “How the Soul Through the Senses Finds God in All Creatures,” The Essential Mystics: The Soul’s Journey into Truth, ed. Andrew Harvey, Edison: NJ, Castle Books, 1996, 194-5.
  8. Mackie.
  9. Griffiths, Bede, Return to the Center,
  10. The Essential Mystics: The Soul’s Journey into Truth, ed. Andrew Harvey, Edison: NJ, Castle Books, 1996.

Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash

Copyright © 2018 Barbara E. Stevens