His god is a lie that does not exist
That hangs over no man’s land like a flare in the night
That casts the dream in the shadows of its evil
Willing us to kill, willing us to die.
I rush across no man’s land to meet his god
Who wishes me dead, there in his trench
The enemy who begs to be killed with a hug
And I pray to my god who wishes him dead
Let me do this
Let us go.
Students of the modern Gnostic version of Christianity taught by Jesus in A Course in Miracles learn that our minds are corrupted by irrational beliefs that place us in a hellish world where we project our guilt onto others to regain our lost innocence. It is within this no man’s land of condemnation and endless deadly conflict, that’s depicted in this poem, that the Christian message of forgiveness – “love thine enemy” – must be absorbed and put to use.
We can undo the deception in principle by reasoning, with ACIM, that we did not sin in Reality when we lost conscious connection with our Source. Reinforcing this message is the point of my forthcoming book. But in this world of separate bodies meant to absorb and inflict punishment, reason doesn’t stand much chance against the passions of fear and hatred.
Though it’s unreal, our no man’s land is a place “where the unreal has been made real.” It is within this hellish environment that overwhelms our sensibilities, our pitiful attempts at reasoning, with its ear-splitting clamor for deception and passion, that I have tried to imagine the only way to put a stop to it. Instead of savaging my “enemy” in his trench, I need only to give him a loving hug. “The hug” would then represent the precise moment when the deception is undone, and its illusory vision of hell is removed from my mind.
It will do this not by my killing the person but by killing what makes the person in my mind my “enemy.” My enemy begs to be “killed” with a hug because only then, with a gesture of Love, will innocence be restored to the image of him that exists within my mind. Only then can the innocent person that he really is be spared from the projection of my own imagined guilt, from my condemnation, and my savage attack.
What the poem tries to convey is an honest humility, if not total despair, in the presence of a simple request that asks the impossible, that I love my “enemy” at precisely the point when my external circumstances and the passions they invoke overwhelm my humanity. I acknowledge its impossibility because I have no pretensions, at this stage of my training, of being a role model for forgiveness under any such circumstances.
Should I ever encounter my enemy in his trench, for real, of this I am certain: giving him a hug instead of making him pay for his infuriating offenses, his inflammatory provocations, will have to be a pure act of Grace. It will occur because another Mind – the Child’s right mind – has gently moved my corrupted mind out of the way. And only then if I have truly asked for it. It will do this if it has finally trained my corrupted mind to reject the deception of guilt and to affirm the Truth of Innocence. Otherwise, my clear expectation is that I would kill the bastard.
Praying to the darkness – to “my god who wishes him dead.” – to allow the hug to happen. is an admission that my mind is not ruled by reason in this world. It’s ruled by madness or I would not be so desperate for help that it would occur to me to ask an executioner practiced in cruelty -- the god of war -- for help with an act of compassion.
But “The Hug” is not the hopeless capitulation that it may seem. My training continues. The Holy Spirit speaks for the Truth, and, in time, the deception will lose its force. “Where the Trouble Lies” notes that energy, the force that keeps the illusion of material reality in place, is dying out. The illusion is in a state of entropy, coming apart. Our bodies will find a better use, and our passions, too.
What put my “enemy” there was hating him in the first place, before he committed any offense. What put him there was fear and hatred in my own mind that needs to revert back to its natural state of Love – back to Reality. The restoration of Reality, with our Free Will doing its part, is inevitable. Reason will prevail. The innocent Child that we really are will prevail. I am sure of it. My “enemy” will get his hug.
There is yet another meaning to the poem that’s implied by its military setting: conflict between opposing armies whose combatants have surrendered their individual sovereignty, and thus free choice, to a group, presumably to their respective countries. The “barriers to an awareness of Love’s presence” ACIM speaks of are many, and this is one of them: signing onto groups – employers, professions, organized causes, faiths, etc. -- that then superimpose their imperatives for survival onto our freely-chosen personal morality.
The “Sophie’s Choice” that The Hug presents is between loyalty to the ethics of individual free choice or to the amoral dictates of our group masters. In praying to the god of war – to Caesar – for permission to hug my “enemy,” I am asking, in effect, for manumission: for release from subservience to his army so that I may exercise free will and reclaim my integrity, my spirituality. I seek freedom from the curse of humanity: serving two masters, doing what’s right while “following orders” – an impossibility. We don't often have the option of separating from organizations that feed us, that trap us in situations where our only choice is some form of death no matter what we decide. If there remains a tone of discouragement, of hopelessness to "The Hug," this would account for it.