ACIM Text Reading for January 13
Chapter 2 ~ The Separation and the Atonement
II. The Atonement as Defence
You can do anything I ask. I have asked you to perform miracles, and have made it clear that miracles are natural, corrective, healing and universal. There is nothing they cannot do, but they cannot be performed in the spirit of doubt or fear. When you are afraid of anything, you are acknowledging its power to hurt you. Remember that where your heart is, there is your treasure also. You believe in what you value. If you are afraid, you will inevitably value wrongly, and by endowing all thoughts with equal power will inevitably destroy peace. That is why the Bible speaks of ‘the peace of God which passeth understanding’. This peace is totally incapable of being shaken by errors of any kind. It denies the ability of anything not of God to affect you. This is the proper use of denial. It is not used to hide anything, but to correct error. It brings all error into the light, and since error and darkness are the same, it corrects error automatically.
True denial is a powerful protective device. You can and should deny any belief that error can hurt you. This kind of denial is not a concealment but a correction. Your right mind depends on it. Denial of error is a strong defence of truth, but denial of truth results in miscreation, the projections of the ego. In the service of the right mind the denial of error frees the mind, and re-establishes the freedom of the will. When the will is really free it cannot miscreate, because it recognises only truth.
You can defend truth as well as error. The means are easier to understand after the value of the goal is firmly established. It is a question of what it is for. Everyone defends his treasure, and will do so automatically. The real questions are, what do you treasure, and how much do you treasure it? Once you have learned to consider these questions and to bring them into all your actions, you will have little difficulty in clarifying the means. The means are available whenever you ask. You can, however, save time if you do not protract this step unduly. The correct focus will shorten it immeasurably.
The Atonement is the only defence that cannot be used destructively because it is not a device you made. The Atonement principle was in effect long before the Atonement began. The principle was love and the Atonement was an act of love. Acts were not necessary before the separation, because belief in space and time did not exist. It was only after the separation that the Atonement and the conditions necessary for its fulfilment were planned. Then a defence so splendid was needed that it could not be misused, although it could be refused. Refusal could not, however, turn it into a weapon of attack, which is the inherent characteristic of other defences. The Atonement thus becomes the only defence that is not a two-edged sword. It can only heal.
The Atonement was built into the space-time belief to set a limit on the need for the belief itself, and ultimately to make learning complete. The Atonement is the final lesson. Learning itself, like the classrooms in which it occurs, is temporary. The ability to learn has no value when change is no longer necessary. The eternally creative have nothing to learn. You can learn to improve your perceptions and can become a better and better learner. This will bring you into closer and closer accord with the Sonship; but the Sonship itself is a perfect creation and perfection is not a matter of degree. Only while there is a belief in differences is learning meaningful.
Evolution is a process in which you seem to proceed from one degree to the next. You correct your previous missteps by stepping forward. This process is actually incomprehensible in temporal terms, because you return as you go forward. The Atonement is the device by which you can free yourself from the past as you go ahead. It undoes your past errors, thus making it unnecessary for you to keep retracing your steps without advancing to your return. In this sense the Atonement saves time, but like the miracle it serves, does not abolish it. As long as there is need for Atonement, there is need for time. But the Atonement as a completed plan has a unique relationship to time. Until the Atonement is complete its various phases will proceed in time, but the whole Atonement stands at time’s end. At that point the bridge of return has been built.
The Atonement is a total commitment. You may still think this is associated with loss, a mistake all the separated Sons of God make in one way or another. It is hard to believe a defence that cannot attack is the best defence. This is what is meant by ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’. They will literally take it over because of their strength. A two-way defence is inherently weak precisely because it has two edges, and can be turned against you very unexpectedly. This possibility cannot be controlled except by miracles. The miracle turns the defence of Atonement to your real protection, and as you become more and more secure you assume your natural talent of protecting others, knowing yourself as both a brother and a Son.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for January 13
A meaningless world engenders fear.
Today’s idea is really another form of the preceding one, except that it is more specific as to the emotion aroused. Actually, a meaningless world is impossible. Nothing without meaning exists. However, it does not follow that you will not think you perceive something that has no meaning. On the contrary, you will be particularly likely to think you do perceive it.
Recognition of meaninglessness arouses intense anxiety in all the separated ones. It represents a situation in which God and the ego “challenge” each other as to whose meaning is to be written in the empty space that meaninglessness provides. The ego rushes in frantically to establish its own ideas there, fearful that the void may otherwise be used to demonstrate its own impotence and unreality. And on this alone it is correct.
It is essential, therefore, that you learn to recognize the meaningless, and accept it without fear. If you are fearful, it is certain that you will endow the world with attributes that it does not possess, and crowd it with images that do not exist. To the ego illusions are safety devices, as they must also be to you who equate yourself with the ego.
The exercises for today, which should be done about three or four times for not more than a minute or so at most each time, are to be practiced in a somewhat different way from the preceding ones. With eyes closed, repeat today’s idea to yourself. Then open your eyes, and look about you slowly, saying:
I am looking at a meaningless world.
Repeat this statement to yourself as you look about. Then close your eyes, and conclude with:
A meaningless world engenders fear because I think I am in competition with God.
You may find it difficult to avoid resistance, in one form or another, to this concluding statement. Whatever form such resistance may take, remind yourself that you are really afraid of such a thought because of the “vengeance” of the “enemy.” You are not expected to believe the statement at this point, and will probably dismiss it as preposterous. Note carefully, however, any signs of overt or covert fear which it may arouse.
This is our first attempt at stating an explicit cause and effect relationship of a kind which you are very inexperienced in recognizing. Do not dwell on the concluding statement, and try not even to think of it except during the practice periods. That will suffice at present.
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Q #921: It is often said that the function of the Holy Spirit is to act as a cap on our capacity to miscreate, and in fact the Course says: “you cannot depart entirely from your Creator, Who set the limits on your ability to miscreate” (T.2.III.3:3). First and foremost is the implication that the ability to miscreate at all is an endowment from the Creator, against which some kind of insurance is necessary. No matter how I think about it, it suggests an Achilles heel in the perfection of Creation, which is an oxymoron.
Second, exactly how does this limit manifest itself? I used to think it meant that even the most blatantly ego-driven person would stop short of total destruction or total self-destruction. But this obviously is not true: one need only look at Hitler to see this.
But if there is no self-restraint, there is always restraint by the Sonship. Perhaps this is what is meant. Perhaps we should not look within any particular individual or timeframe for evidence of the Holy Spirit at work. The words of Gandhi seem helpful: “When I despair, I remember that all throughout history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS.”
Corollary to my earlier question: I am pretty much commenting on my own question about miscreation. When reading it over it is easy to see the trap I have fallen into. Hitler is not miscreating. It is the miscreating mind that is dreaming up an illusion in which these phenomena are necessary. Any cap or limit on the ability to miscreate does not consist of reigning in nonexistent madmen. The illusion which contains such madness can (and does) become insane without limit, the product of an insane mind. The cap or limit lies in the ultimate effect, power, and meaning of such miscreation — all nothing.
A: You’ve gone a long way toward answering your own musings. To that, a few further thoughts can be added. It cannot be overemphasized that the dualistic language of the Course is always metaphorical, as has been repeated many times throughout these answers (e.g., Questions #42, #72, #85 and #156). So when A Course in Miracles speaks of God placing a limit on our ability to miscreate, it’s a metaphor. God does nothing, He simply is (W.pI.169.5:1,4) . But it is the nature of the split mind that it must contain the memory of its oneness — identified as the Holy Spirit in the Course — because we can forget but we can never destroy our link with our Source. So the illusory ability to miscreate has nothing to do with God and is not something that He in any sense has even allowed, since in reality He is not aware of the illusion. For if He could be, the illusion would be real. But the correction for that illusory ability, also an illusion — the memory of oneness — is inherent in every seemingly fragmented mind, no matter what ego-driven insanity it may be projecting. And so that is one aspect of the limit on our miscreating — there is a part of each mind, outside of time and space, that knows otherwise.
In addition, a limit on our ability to miscreate follows inevitably from the fact that everything of the ego is finite, that is, with an end, since it was made to be the opposite of Heaven, which is eternal and infinite. It’s not that God has imposed any limit on us. It is simply inherent in the ego thought system, limited as it is by its very nature. Were the ego capable of miscreating infinitely or eternally — and the ego would like us to believe that it is — then God would have been replaced. And so the ego, as a thought of limitation, must be limited. We can play — relationship after relationship, lifetime after lifetime — in the illusion, but the number of possible relationships and lifetimes, finite as it is, will at some point be exhausted.
The Course offers the miracle as a means for shortening or limiting that finite amount of time (T.1.I.47; T.1.II.6) , by helping us to see that, despite all the different forms the ego offers, their content is always the same — sin, guilt and fear. And although the ego would like us to believe there is a hierarchy of illusions, Jesus is leading us to recognize that, at the level of content, a Hitler and a Gandhi are the same, for they reflect the same split mind, with both a wrong-minded and a right-minded component, and the power to choose between them. And we all share that same split mind, simply expressing its conflict as well as its healing in different, ultimately meaningless forms.
In the end, it is our intolerance for the pain and guilt of the ego thought system that will lead us each eventually to limit the miscreative capacity of the mind and turn to the miracle for relief. As Jesus says a few sentences after the lines you quote above, “Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit” (T.2.III.3:5). And it is our memory of oneness that helps us undo our belief in the reality of the separation and its effects, as we learn not to take them so seriously, no longer needing to defend against the guilt, but rather seeing through it.
By the way, an alternative perspective to the Gandhi quote about evil in the world, suggesting instead the ultimate hopelessness of the world, might be the following: “When I am hopeful, I remember that all throughout history the way of lies and hate has always re-emerged. There have been benevolent philosopher kings and saints for a time who seem to have made a difference, but in the end, they always fall — think of it, ALWAYS.” Jesus is encouraging us to look for real, meaningful change within our minds, not within the world (T.21.in.1:7) !
Q #1130: I am confused by the following sentences in the text of A Course in Miracles : “You can temporize and you are capable of enormous procrastination, but you cannot depart entirely from your Creator, Who set the limits on your ability to miscreate. An imprisoned will engenders a situation which, in the extreme, becomes altogether intolerable” (T.2.III.3:3,4). Who has our wills imprisoned? God?
A: We ourselves have imprisoned our wills by denying Who we really are. Our will is one with God’s, which means we want only what God wills ( see T.8.IV.7:1,2; T.11.III.3; T.14.III.14 ) . In our present limited state, we cannot know precisely what that means, other than to say that our true function as God’s Son is creating with Him in Heaven — extending love without limit (W.pI.192.1) . Because we have denied Who we really are, we are not free to fulfill our true function, which can only lead to intolerable pain. We believe our wills are separate from God’s; for example, we believe He can ask us to do something we do not want to do. The same is true of Jesus — what he wants for us goes against what we will for ourselves, we sometimes think. We love specialness and don’t want to give it up; yet Jesus tells us that our investment in specialness prevents us from knowing the truth (T.24.II.4,5) . We are in a constant state of conflict and frustration as a result. As long as we believe we have our own separate identities, all we can do is mis create, deluding ourselves into thinking we are engaged in something valuable and commendable.
In the passages you cite, Jesus is teaching us that we can continue on in our false identities as separate from him and from God, but that choice will never make the separation and our individual selves reality. The truth of our oneness of will remains forever alive in our minds — buried, but not extinguished — and at some point, however long it takes, the deep, internal pain and frustration of knowing we are wrong about everything, especially about our very selves, will cause us to cry out for “a better way,” as Jesus states in the following sentences in the paragraph you cited (T.2.III.3:5,6,7) .
Asking his help is the first step out of our self-imposed imprisonment. Thus he teaches us: “By the belief that your will is separate from mine, you are exempting yourself from the Will of God which is yourself. . . . There is no separation of God and His creation. You will realize this when you understand that there is no separation between your will and mine. Let the Love of God shine upon you by your acceptance of me. My reality is yours and His. By joining your mind with mine you are signifying your awareness that the Will of God is One (T.8.V.2.3,8,9,10,11,12) .
Q617i. Can you explain the following sentence (W.pI.13.1:4) “However, it does not follow that you will not think you perceive something that has no meaning.” There are 3 negatives in this sentence which I do not understand.
A: The sentence means: you do perceive things that have no meaning. In the early lessons of the workbook Jesus is teaching us to distinguish between what has meaning (what exists) and what is meaningless (what does not exist). By choosing to believe the separation is real, we dream a dream in which we perceive the world and the body as real, and give them all the meaning that they have for us (W.pI.2). Nothing outside of Heaven has meaning because it does not truly exist. Since we cannot obliterate the part of the mind that remembers this, the choice against this memory causes intense conflict in the mind, which is experienced as fear and anxiety, as this lesson explains. The choice to give meaning to the meaningless puts us in competition with God as paragraph three describes. Fear that the meaning we ascribe to all things, including (and especially) ourselves, will be challenged, causes us to expend tremendous energy defending ourselves and our beliefs. This is the effect of our choosing to believe the world is real, thus perceiving things that have no meaning/existence.