ACIM Text Reading for January 29
Chapter 4 ~ The Illusions of the Ego
I. Right Teaching and Right Learning
A good teacher clarifies his own ideas and strengthens them by teaching them. Teacher and pupil are alike in the learning process. They are in the same order of learning, and unless they share their lessons conviction will be lacking. A good teacher must believe in the ideas he teaches, but he must meet another condition; he must believe in the student to whom he offers the ideas.
Many stand guard over their ideas because they want to protect their thought systems as they are, and learning means change. Change is always fearful to the separated, because they cannot conceive of it as a move towards healing the separation. They always perceive it as a move toward further separation, because the separation was their first experience of change. You believe that if you allow no change to enter into your ego you will find peace. This profound confusion is possible only if you maintain that the same thought system can stand on two foundations. Nothing can reach spirit from the ego, and nothing can reach the ego from spirit. Spirit can neither strengthen the ego nor reduce the conflict within it. The ego is a contradiction. Your self and God’s Self are in opposition. They are opposed in source, in direction and in outcome. They are fundamentally irreconcilable, because spirit cannot perceive and the ego cannot know. They are therefore not in communication and can never be in communication. Nevertheless, the ego can learn, even though its maker can be misguided. He cannot, however, make the totally lifeless out of the life-given.
Spirit need not be taught, but the ego must be. Learning is ultimately perceived as frightening because it leads to the relinquishment, not the destruction, of the ego to the light of spirit. This is the change the ego must fear, because it does not share my charity. My lesson was like yours, and because I learned it I can teach it. I will never attack your ego, but I am trying to teach you how its thought system arose. When I remind you of your true creation, your ego cannot but respond with fear.
Teaching and learning are your greatest strengths now, because they enable you to change your mind and help others to change theirs. Refusing to change your mind will not prove that the separation has not occurred. The dreamer who doubts the reality of his dream while he is still dreaming is not really healing his split mind. You dream of a separated ego and believe in a world that rests upon it. This is very real to you. You cannot undo it by not changing your mind about it. If you are willing to renounce the role of guardian of your thought system and open it to me, I will correct it very gently and lead you back to God.
Every good teacher hopes to give his students so much of his own learning that they will one day no longer need him. This is the one true goal of the teacher. It is impossible to convince the ego of this, because it goes against all of its own laws. But remember that laws are set up to protect the continuity of the system in which the lawmaker believes. It is natural for the ego to try to protect itself once you have made it, but it is not natural for you to want to obey its laws unless you believe them. The ego cannot make this choice because of the nature of its origin. You can, because of the nature of yours.
Egos can clash in any situation, but spirit cannot clash at all. If you perceive a teacher as merely ‘a larger ego’ you will be afraid, because to enlarge an ego would be to increase anxiety about separation. I will teach with you and live with you if you will think with me, but my goal will always be to absolve you finally from the need for a teacher. This is the opposite of the ego-oriented teacher’s goal. He is concerned with the effect of his ego on other egos, and therefore interprets their interaction as a means of ego preservation. I would not be able to devote myself to teaching if I believed this, and you will not be a devoted teacher as long as you believe it. I am constantly being perceived as a teacher either to be exalted or rejected, but I do not accept either perception for myself.
Your worth is not established by teaching or learning. Your worth is established by God. As long as you dispute this everything you do will be fearful, particularly any situation that lends itself to the belief in superiority and inferiority. Teachers must be patient and repeat their lessons until they are learned. I am willing to do this, because I have no right to set your learning limits for you. Again, – nothing you do or think or wish or make is necessary to establish your worth. This point is not debatable except in delusions. Your ego is never at stake because God did not create it. Your spirit is never at stake because He did. Any confusion on this point is delusional, and no form of devotion is possible as long as this delusion lasts.
The ego tries to exploit all situations into forms of praise for itself in order to overcome its doubts. It will remain doubtful as long as you believe in its existence. You who made it cannot trust it, because in your right mind you realise it is not real. The only sane solution is not to try to change reality, which is indeed a fearful attempt, but to accept it as it is. You are part of reality, which stands unchanged beyond the reach of your ego but within easy reach of spirit. When you are afraid, be still and know that God is real, and you are His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. Do not let your ego dispute this, because the ego cannot know what is as far beyond its reach as you are.
God is not the author of fear. You are. You have chosen to create unlike Him, and have therefore made fear for yourself. You are not at peace because you are not fulfilling your function. God gave you a very lofty function that you are not meeting. Your ego has chosen to be afraid instead of meeting it. When you awaken you will not be able to understand this, because it is literally incredible. Do not believe the incredible now. Any attempt to increase its believable-ness is merely to postpone the inevitable. The word ‘inevitable’ is fearful to the ego, but joyous to the spirit. God is inevitable, and you cannot avoid Him any more than He can avoid you.
The ego is afraid of the spirit’s joy, because once you have experienced it you will withdraw all protection from the ego, and become totally without investment in fear. Your investment is great now because fear is a witness to the separation, and your ego rejoices when you witness to it. Leave it behind! Do not listen to it and do not preserve it. Listen only to God, Who is as incapable of deception as is the spirit He created. Release yourself and release others. Do not present a false and unworthy picture of yourself to others, and do not accept such a picture of them yourself.
The ego has built a shabby and un-sheltering home for you, because it cannot build otherwise. Do not try to make this impoverished house stand. Its weakness is your strength. Only God could make a home that is worthy of His creations, who have chosen to leave it empty by their own dispossession. Yet His home will stand forever, and is ready for you when you choose to enter it. Of this you can be wholly certain. God is as incapable of creating the perishable as the ego is of making the eternal.
Of your ego you can do nothing to save yourself or others, but of your spirit you can do everything for the salvation of both. Humility is a lesson for the ego, not for the spirit. Spirit is beyond humility, because it recognises its radiance and gladly sheds its light everywhere. The meek shall inherit the earth because their egos are humble, and this gives them truer perception. The Kingdom of Heaven is the spirit’s right, whose beauty and dignity are far beyond doubt, beyond perception, and stand forever as the mark of the Love of God for His creations, who are wholly worthy of Him and only of Him. Nothing else is sufficiently worthy to be a gift for a creation of God Himself.
I will substitute for your ego if you wish, but never for your spirit. A father can safely leave a child with an elder brother who has shown himself responsible, but this involves no confusion about the child’s origin. The brother can protect the child’s body and his ego, but he does not confuse himself with the father because he does this. I can be entrusted with your body and your ego only because this enables you not to be concerned with them, and lets me teach you their unimportance. I could not understand their importance to you if I had not once been tempted to believe in them myself. Let us undertake to learn this lesson together so we can be free of them together. I need devoted teachers who share my aim of healing the mind. Spirit is far beyond the need of your protection or mine. Remember this:
In this world you need not have tribulation because I have overcome the world. That is why you should be of good cheer.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for January 29
God is in everything I see.
The idea for today explains why you can see all purpose in everything. It explains why nothing is separate, by itself or in itself. And it explains why nothing you see means anything. In fact, it explains every idea we have used thus far, and all subsequent ones as well. Today’s idea is the whole basis for vision.
You will probably find this idea very difficult to grasp at this point. You may find it silly, irreverent, senseless, funny and even objectionable. Certainly God is not in a table, for example, as you see it. Yet we emphasized yesterday that a table shares the purpose of the universe. And what shares the purpose of the universe shares the purpose of its Creator.
Try then, today, to begin to learn how to look on all things with love, appreciation and open-mindedness. You do not see them now. Would you know what is in them? Nothing is as it appears to you. Its holy purpose stands beyond your little range. When vision has shown you the holiness that lights up the world, you will understand today’s idea perfectly. And you will not understand how you could ever have found it difficult.
Our six two-minute practice periods for today should follow a now familiar pattern: Begin with repeating the idea to yourself, and then apply it to randomly chosen subjects about you, naming each one specifically. Try to avoid the tendency toward self-directed selection, which may be particularly tempting in connection with today’s idea because of its wholly alien nature. Remember that any order you impose is equally alien to reality.
Your list of subjects should therefore be as free of self-selection as possible. For example, a suitable list might include:
God is in this coat hanger.
God is in this magazine.
God is in this finger.
God is in this lamp.
God is in that body.
God is in that door.
God is in that waste basket.
In addition to the assigned practice periods, repeat the idea for today at least once an hour, looking slowly about you as you say the words unhurriedly to yourself. At least once or twice, you should experience a sense of restfulness as you do this.
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ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #710: Can the following be said to be true: that it is God we desire or a substitute for Him; that everything we desire (in persons, places, things, events, situations, activities) falls into either one of these two categories; one is true; the other an illusion; one leads to liberty; the other to suffering. Also, that all our doubts and fears all boil down to being those about God, ultimately.
A: Yes, it is true. The unique contribution of A Course in Miracles, however, is that it does not advocate avoiding or renouncing the substitutes for God — much less calling them sinful — even when we become aware that that is what we are involved in. Thus, there are two levels of discourse in the Course. On Level One we find statements of absolute truth, such as your first statement. On Level Two we find statements and discussion about living in this world (though illusory) in such as way that we would gradually accept its illusory nature, as well as the illusory nature of our identities as separate individuals. “The body was not made by love. Yet love does not condemn it and can use it lovingly, respecting what the Son of God has made and using it to save him from illusions” (T.18.VI.4:8).
Thus, on this second level, the Course addresses the decision-making mind outside time and space that chooses between the wrong-minded and right-minded use of the world and our bodily identities. When we accept the Holy Spirit’s purpose (forgiveness) for our lives, we gently grow into the ideal of always being peaceful no matter what is going on in our personal worlds or the world at large. That is the meaning of liberty in the Course — being freed of the ego’s tyrannical domination of our thinking, which is the source of all suffering and fear. All of our fears and doubts about our lives in the world are shadows of what is really going on in our minds, as the world is but “the outside picture of an inward condition” (T.21.in.1:5; T.25.VIII.12:3). The process of attaining liberty, therefore, is the transition from wrong-mindedness to right- mindedness, and finally to the restoration of the One-mindedness that is our natural state.
The section in the text called “Beyond All Idols” (T.30.III) is a lovely reflection on this theme.
Q #625: Could you please define or describe for me in detail what it is that you mean when you use the word “God”. My purpose for asking this question is that for many people the word “God” means many different things. When you see the symbol “God,” you sometimes think of a man with white hair or an energy source, or your higher self. At this point, I am very familiar with the illusion I have been creating. Considering the fact that many of us are so very bored here in this illusion, I would say we have pretty much mastered the state of fear. It’s everywhere. I thought perhaps if I might get an idea of “God” and focus my attention on that, I would begin to live in that world.
A: Although words are used to identify God as our Creator, Source, and Father, A Course in Miracles does not define or describe God. One of the important things it teaches us about God is that we cannot use words or ideas to describe Him: “words are symbols, and nothing that is true need be explained” (T.7.I.6:4). Furthermore, words and ideas are of the body, which belongs to the world that “was made as an attack on God, …[and] to be a place where God could enter not, and where His Son could be apart from Him” (W.pII.3.2:1,4). None of the images, ideas or words we associate with God has any real meaning. It is not ideas about God, but the experience of His Love that will lead us home.
The best we can do to explain the unexplainable, is to quote the following passage: “Truth [God] can only be experienced. It [God] cannot be described and it [God] cannot be explained. I [Jesus] can make you aware of the conditions of truth, but the experience is of God. Together we can meet its conditions, but truth [the memory of God, and our Identity as His Son] will dawn upon you of itself (T.8.VI.9:8,9,10,11). Although God cannot be explained and love cannot be taught (T.in.1:6) the good news is that we do not have to understand God, and love extends naturally when fear has been removed. As the above passage indicates, our goal is but to join with Jesus (who represents the part of our minds that remembers God) to meet the conditions of truth. The truth is that we are not the bodies we have identified with, but are minds with the power to choose. The choice we make is between accepting that we are as God created us (T.23.I.7), or rejecting the truth, thus identifying with the ego (the thought of separation) and the body. Since clearly we have made a choice to identify with the body, we must begin our “journey” where we think we are, and retrace our steps back to our minds to make a different choice. We do that by becoming aware of the blocks that we have put in place to keep God away; i.e., all the judgments that keep us separate from others. Once we have taken responsibility for these judgments, we have the opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to transform them through forgiveness, which is “… but a willingness that truth be true” (T.26.VII.10:3). This willingness to let our mistaken beliefs be transformed is all that is required. That is what we need to focus on if we truly want the memory of God’s Love to replace fear.
Q #1252: If God is not aware of our illusion of separation, how did He know to send the Holy Spirit to help us? One thought that comes to me is that the Holy Spirit is a construct of, (or is?) our Christ Mind and so was in our mind, and remains so, even when we imagine that we are separate. Therefore, are Jesus, and the Christ Mind, and the Holy Spirit and the “Son of God” all the same? Is the idea of Trinity really a twosome (God and his Creation meaning all of the above terms?) I would be so grateful for your input.
A: We have already answered your first question, and refer you to Questions #459 and #616 for our response. The Holy Spirit, as presented in A Course in Miracles is not considered a construct of our Christ Mind. He symbolizes for us the memory of our true Self that resides in the sane part of our post-separation mind — an illusory split mind, of course, as the separation never truly happened. You might say that the Holy Spirit is in the Mind of God, not the Christ Mind, insofar as Jesus tells us that when the separation is completely undone, the Holy Spirit will no longer take form — as the Voice for God — but will return to the eternal formlessness of God (C.6.5:8) . Another discussion of this with additional references may be found in Question #1159.
Questions #625 and #626 pertain to your queries about the nature of God and Jesus. What always helps when trying to piece together a theology is to remember that we are dealing with symbols. Reality is pure oneness, which is incomprehensible to us as long as we experience ourselves as individuals consciously thinking about issues. This is the main point of Jesus’ discussion in the first section of Chapter 25 (T.25.I.5,6,7). He uses language and concepts that we can understand, but his purpose is to lead us beyond that level to the experience of God’s Love, which transcends all form and symbol. Jesus, as we describe in #626 above, reflects or symbolizes God’s Love in a form we can relate to, and in this sense he is not the Christ Mind. He is the Son of God, the same as we are in our separated state. In emphasizing our equality with him on this level, he corrects the biblical view that he alone is God’s Son, and we the adopted sons of God. The term Son of God is also used in the Course to refer to Christ, our true Self, the Second Person of the Trinity. Thus, the term is used for our true Self, Christ, as part of the Oneness of God’s Being, and it is also used for the post-separation self, or the decision maker that can choose to awaken from the dream of separation from God.