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As a follower of a spirituality outlined in A Course in Miracles, I have come to see my perception of the outer world as illusion (as it is in many religions). It is illusion because the world does not offer salvation. Indeed, it is usually from the world that we need to be saved. The current economic crisis reminds me of these spiritual lessons:

1) My success blinds and distracts me into thinking that I can handle everything myself, because I am getting recognition and have financial resources sufficient to meet my needs. I am content and feel that life is good, thanks to my own efforts. When these artificial props are kicked out from under me, I am given the opportunity to look for something more spiritually founded, more authentic, more sustaining.

2) The problem is never "them." I am not a victim. This is a bit hard for me in that I have seen the inevitability of the coming correction. Retiring on January 1, 2009, I was planning at that time to liquidate all stock and other risk-based investments and place them into safe tax-free bonds to help fund my retirement (modest though they be). My timing was off by only a few months, but now my resources have been halved and the basis for my retirement rather shaky. I do indeed believe that the crisis was caused by greed and lack of morality or regulation, but assigning the blame is not a worthwhile exercise. Nor is it necessary to dwell on articulating my own culpability. The spiritual lesson for me, at this point, is to look within and not to try to criminalize someone else. But it's hard. I do blame myself for not realizing the crunch would come before the end of the Bush administration, and I do blame others. Herein lie my spiritual lessons. They have been imposed upon me rather precipitously, but they are, nevertheless, a good thing.

3) The greatest illusion of all is the belief that there is something wrong, that things are not as they should be. A Course in Miracles claims no monopoly on truth, calling itself only one of thousands of paths to God. But it does claim to be a short cut. The basis of that short cut is that its learning process takes place in the world around us, not in fleeing the world, denying it, trying to convert or control or fix it, or hiding from it. As illusion, the world never makes sense, because it reflects our own dysfunction, fear, guilt, and insecurity. The solution is not to try to make the world work better, even the economic system (spiritually speaking). The goal is to see between all of my brothers and sisters and myself no separation, only commonality in our divine origin. So the greediest most shallow most irresponsible predatory lender or illicit purveyor of worthless derivitives is my brother. If I can see him innocent and free of the illusory values (and condemnation) of the world, if I can see that he is still as God created him, loved, and unchanged, then I can understand that same thing about myself, and know that I, too, never left God's embrace, hard as I may have tried. In this way, the Course calls all of my brothers my saviors, because as I see them, I see myself. This is NOT the way the world works. It IS the way forgiveness works. Forgiveness is the main tool the Course uses for our awakening.

4) My biggest lesson may be in trusting that I am and will be adequately cared for (through the grace of God), regardless of my financial circumstances. There is no correlation between one and the other. At a time of financial loss, I get to be reminded of this important lesson. I never have more than two choices: To move toward love and forgiveness and trust and joy, or to act in ways that take me away from them. I see the choice as getting closer to my true identity or getting more into my ego and into illustion. Times of upheaval such as we are experiencing now, are ideal opportunities for spiritual growth and learning, since they make the choice very clear to me. Now all I need to do is make it.

Robert Ferre