ACIM Manual for Teachers Reading for September 29
4. WHAT ARE THE CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD’S TEACHERS?
The surface traits of God’s teachers are not at all alike. They do not look alike to the body’s eyes, they come from vastly different backgrounds, their experiences of the world vary greatly, and their superficial “personalities” are quite distinct. Nor, at the beginning stages of their functioning as teachers of God, have they as yet acquired the deeper characteristics that will establish them as what they are. God gives special gifts to His teachers, because they have a special role in His plan for Atonement. Their specialness is, of course, only temporary; set in time as a means of leading out of time. These special gifts, born in the holy relationship toward which the teaching-learning situation is geared, become characteristic of all teachers of God who have advanced in their own learning. In this respect they are all alike.
All differences among the Sons of God are temporary. Nevertheless, in time it can be said that the advanced teachers of God have the following characteristics:
ACIM Workbook Lesson for September 29
How can illusions satisfy God’s Son?
Father, the truth belongs to me. My home is set in Heaven by Your Will and mine. Can dreams content me? Can illusions bring me happiness? What but Your memory can satisfy Your Son? I will accept no less than You have given me. I am surrounded by Your Love, forever still, forever gentle and forever safe. God’s Son must be as You created him.
Today we pass illusions by. And if we hear temptation call to us to stay and linger in a dream, we turn aside and ask ourselves if we, the Sons of God, could be content with dreams, when Heaven can be chosen just as easily as hell, and love will happily replace all fear.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #637: Can you address a couple of issues I’m having difficulty grasping about the Course?
i. A Course in Miracles claims that anger is simply a manifestation of the ego, based on fear. Yet scripture often talks about God’s anger — e.g., the Great Flood, Sodom and Gomorra, the Israelites’ idolatry in the desert. If God has no ego, how could He show anger? Or was it really something else? If it wasn’t anger, what was it?
ii. I am beginning to realize that the Course deals only with thoughts, not behavior. Yet the age-old behavioral questions still remain. If we treat the traditional concept of “sin” as merely an illusion of the ego self, how does one determine right from wrong? If sin is not real then I can do anything I want without fear of punishment or disciplinary action. If the justice system was governed by the Course, does that mean that there would be no punishment because the “attack” was only an illusion of the ego acting through the body? Does the Course mean to imply that society’s response to criminal acts should be to forgive the offender rather than punish or otherwise “discipline” them? How are we as a society supposed to function without agreed-upon rules of conduct and the means to enforce them?
A: 1) Your confusion about God is not surprising — many students new to the Course, coming from traditional Jewish or Christian backgrounds, share in it. But it can be easily addressed, although you’ll have to decide for yourself on which side of the issue you’d like to settle. Quite simply, the God of the bible is not the God of A Course in Miracles. The Course does describe and offer a correction for a “God” who gets angry, condemns and punishes, and demands sacrifice to appease His anger (e.g., T.3.I.1,2,3,4; T.9.V.3; T.23.II.4,5,6,7,8; W.pI.170; M.17.5,6,7). But according to the Course, this is the ego’s made-up God, a major character in its elaborate myth, which asserts that the separation from God is real and actually happened, that it involved an attack on God, and that He is angry about that attack and is seeking retribution. None of this, according to the Course, is true, since the separation never happened in reality and God would no longer be God — perfect Love — if anger could be a part of Him. But this, the Course tells us, is what our ego wants us to believe, to assure its own survival. For the ego thrives on conflict — it literally is a thought of conflict — and it requires an enemy to maintain its own existence as something separate and apart.
The real God of the Course is perfect Love and perfect Oneness, incapable of anger or condemnation, and completely unaffected by the Sonship’s illusory thought of separation and attack. From these distinctions it follows that the God of the bible can not be the same as the Course’s true God, but rather bears a striking resemblance to the ego’s made-up, angry, wrathful God. And there are many other differences between the bible’s God and the Course’s God. In the bible, God creates the physical world and everything that inhabits that world, including man and woman. He condemns and punishes Adam and Eve for their sin of disobedience against Him, and eventually sends His only Son to be sacrificed so that the otherwise irreversible effects of that sin that we all inherit can be atoned for. As you study the Course, it will become increasingly apparent that this God and the God of the Course share nothing in common. Jesus in the Course makes it clear that God did not create the world or bodies (e.g., T.4.I.11:6,7), has never been affected by our belief in separation and sin (e.g., T.30.III.10), and so could never demand sacrifice (e.g., T.3.I.4; T.11.VI.5). Furthermore, the Jesus of the Course is not God, but rather an aspect of the Sonship, equal to all his brothers and sisters, who has remembered the truth of Who he and all of us are as the one perfect Christ (T.1.II.3; C.5.2,3,4,5). Although each student should follow whatever path or paths he feels guided to, these differences in the nature of God are at the base of our position that the Course and traditional Christianity are mutually exclusive spiritual teachings that cannot be reconciled. Question #439, as well as the audiotape set, The Bible from the Perspective of A Course in Miracles, also address the issue of the relationship between the Course and biblical teachings.
2) Out of context, it may seem that to say sin is not real means it does not matter what we do. And at an ultimate metaphysical level, this is true. But the problem is, all of us who believe we are here in the world must also believe in sin and its laws of pain and punishment, and so to think that we can behave in any way we want with no consequences to ourselves would be foolish at best and tragic at worst (T.5.VI.1:3,4). The Course is never making any statements about what is or is not acceptable behavior, and for most minds, not ready to accept the complete responsibility for our own experience that the Course teaches we must eventually learn to accept (T.21.II.2), rules governing external behavior are a practical necessity. There is nothing in the Course that says these should be ignored or eliminated. And it is possible to provide consequences for behavioral transgressions with the intent of restraining harmful and destructive behavior, but without the intention of punishing (you may wish to review Questions #371, #484, and #584 for further discussion of the issues around setting limits and making decisions within the illusion). However, behaving “appropriately” will not in itself lead to salvation. Change must occur at the level of mind, from which “appropriate” behavior will then follow.
The Course, while not concerned with right and wrong behavior, does distinguish between right- and wrong-minded thinking or perception (T.3.IV.4), asserting that thought is the level at which the distinction needs to be made, since behavior is only ever an effect or result of the thoughts in the mind. Jesus makes this point several times early in the Course:
“You cannot behave appropriately unless you perceive correctly” (T.1.III.6:5).
“I have said that you cannot change your mind by changing your behavior, but I have also said, and many times, that you can change your mind” (T.4.IV.2:1). .
“I have enjoined you to behave as I behaved, but we must respond to the same Mind to do this. This Mind is the Holy Spirit, Whose Will is for God always. He teaches you how to keep me as the model for your thought, and to behave like me as a result”(T.5.II.12:1,2,3).
“We have learned that behavior is not the level for either teaching or learning, since you can act in accordance with what you do not believe” (T.7.V.2:4).
And later in the text, “Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world” (T.21.in.1:7).
In perhaps the clearest discussion of this point in the Course, Jesus says:
“You would not excuse insane behavior on your part by saying you could not help it. Why should you condone insane thinking? There is a confusion here that you would do well to look at clearly. You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can exercise choice. What you do comes from what you think. … It is pointless to believe that controlling the outcome of misthought can result in healing. …You must change your mind, not your behavior, and this is a matter of willingness. You do not need guidance except at the mind level. Correction belongs only at the level where change is possible. Change does not mean anything at the symptom [behavioral] level, where it cannot work (T.2.VI.2:2,3,4,5,6,7;3:1,4,5,6,7).
Wrong-minded, or ego-based, thinking is always predicated on the belief in separate interests, which must produce pain and guilt for the wrong-minded thinker, who is identifying with the ego. For in his own mind he is making sin — the separation — real, and the ego thought system has been set up in such a way that pain and guilt inevitably follow. So it would be self-destructive and self- defeating to believe that we can act any way we want with impunity. If we fully understood and appreciated the Course’s teachings on the cause of our own pain and suffering, we would never consider using any of the Course’s principles as justification for attacking anyone.
The recognition that sin is not real is not simply an intellectual understanding. We will know that we truly have accepted sin’s unreality when we are no longer identified with the physical self and personality we now we believe we are. Until then, since the world is literally a projection of our own guilty self, any seeming attack on the world outside ourselves must be an attack on ourselves, with all the painful consequences (e.g., W.pI.196). So whatever you may have been thinking of doing, don’t do it!