ACIM Text Reading for January 30
Chapter 4 ~ The Illusions of the Ego
II. The Ego and False Autonomy
It is reasonable to ask how the mind could ever have made the ego. In fact, it is the best question you could ask. There is, however, no point in giving an answer in terms of the past because the past does not matter, and history would not exist if the same errors were not being repeated in the present. Abstract thought applies to knowledge because knowledge is completely impersonal, and examples are irrelevant to its understanding. Perception, however, is always specific, and therefore quite concrete.
Everyone makes an ego or a self for himself, which is subject to enormous variation because of its instability. He also makes an ego for everyone else he perceives, which is equally variable. Their interaction is a process that alters both, because they were not made by or with the Unalterable. It is important to realise that this alteration can and does occur as readily when the interaction takes place in the mind as when it involves physical interaction. Thinking about another ego is as effective in changing relative perception as is physical interaction. There could be no better example that the ego is only an idea and not a fact.
Your own state of mind is a good example of how the ego was made. When you threw knowledge away it is as if you never had it. This is so apparent that one need only recognise it to see that it does happen. If this occurs in the present, why is it surprising that it occurred in the past? Surprise is a reasonable response to the unfamiliar, though hardly to something that occurs with such persistence. But do not forget that the mind need not work that way, even though it does work that way now.
Think of the love of animals for their offspring, and the need they feel to protect them. That is because they regard them as part of themselves. No one dismisses something he considers part of himself. You react to your ego much as God does to His creations,â€”with love, protection and charity. Your reactions to the self you made are not surprising. In fact, they resemble in many ways how you will one day react to your real creations, which are as timeless as you are. The question is not how you respond to the ego, but what you believe you are. Belief is an ego function, and as long as your origin is open to belief you are regarding it from an ego viewpoint. When teaching is no longer necessary you will merely know God. Belief that there is another way of perceiving is the loftiest idea of which ego thinking is capable. That is because it contains a hint of recognition that the ego is not the Self.
Undermining the ego’s thought system must be perceived as painful, even though this is anything but true. Babies scream in rage if you take away a knife or scissors, although they may well harm themselves if you do not. In this sense you are still a baby. You have no sense of real self-preservation, and are likely to decide that you need precisely what would hurt you most. Yet whether or not you recognise it now, you have agreed to co-operate in the effort to become both harmless and helpful, attributes that go together. Your attitudes even toward this are necessarily conflicted, because all attitudes are ego-based. This will not last. Be patient a while and remember that the outcome is as certain as God.
Only those who have a real and lasting sense of abundance can be truly charitable. This is obvious when you consider what is involved. To the ego, to give anything implies that you will have to do without it. When you associate giving with sacrifice, you give only because you believe that you are somehow getting something better, and can therefore do without the thing you give. ‘Giving to get’ is an inescapable law of the ego, which always evaluates itself in relation to other egos. It is therefore continually preoccupied with the belief in scarcity that gave rise to it. Its whole perception of other egos as real is only an attempt to convince itself that it is real. ‘Self-esteem’ in ego terms means nothing more than that the ego has deluded itself into accepting its reality, and is therefore temporarily less predatory. This ‘self-esteem’ is always vulnerable to stress, a term which refers to any perceived threat to the ego’s existence.
The ego literally lives by comparisons. Equality is beyond its grasp, and charity becomes impossible. The ego never gives out of abundance, because it was made as a substitute for it. That is why the concept of ‘getting’ arose in the ego’s thought system. Appetites are ‘getting’ mechanisms, representing the ego’s need to confirm itself. This is as true of body appetites as it is of the so-called ‘higher ego needs’. Body appetites are not physical in origin. The ego regards the body as its home, and tries to satisfy itself through the body. But the idea that this is possible is a decision of the mind, which has become completely confused about what is really possible.
The ego believes it is completely on its own, which is merely another way of describing how it thinks it originated. This is such a fearful state that it can only turn to other egos and try to unite with them in a feeble attempt at identification, or attack them in an equally feeble show of strength. It is not free, however, to open the premise to question, because the premise is its foundation. The ego is the mind’s belief that it is completely on its own. The ego’s ceaseless attempts to gain the spirit’s acknowledgement and thus establish its own existence are useless. Spirit in its knowledge is unaware of the ego. It does not attack it; it merely cannot conceive of it at all. While the ego is equally unaware of spirit, it does perceive itself as being rejected by something greater than itself. This is why self-esteem in ego terms must be delusional. The creations of God do not create myths, although creative effort can be turned to mythology. It can do so, however, only under one condition; what it makes is then no longer creative. Myths are entirely perceptual, and so ambiguous in form and characteristically good-and-evil in nature that the most benevolent of them is not without fearful connotations.
Myths and magic are closely associated, since myths are usually related to ego origins, and magic to the powers the ego ascribes to itself. Mythological systems generally include some account of ‘the creation’, and associate this with its particular form of magic. The so-called ‘battle for survival’ is only the ego’s struggle to preserve itself, and its interpretation of its own beginning. This beginning is usually associated with physical birth, because it is hard to maintain that the ego existed before that point in time. The more ‘religiously’ ego-oriented may believe that the soul existed before, and will continue to exist after a temporary lapse into ego life. Some even believe that the soul will be punished for this lapse. However, salvation does not apply to spirit, which is not in danger and does not need to be salvaged.
Salvation is nothing more than ‘right-mindedness’, which is not the One-mindedness of the Holy Spirit, but which must be achieved before One-mindedness is restored. Right-mindedness leads to the next step automatically, because right perception is uniformly without attack, and therefore wrong-mindedness is obliterated. The ego cannot survive without judgement, and is laid aside accordingly. The mind then has only one direction in which it can move. Its direction is always automatic, because it cannot but be dictated by the thought system to which it adheres.
It cannot be emphasised too often that correcting perception is merely a temporary expedient. It is necessary only because misperception is a block to knowledge, while accurate perception is a stepping-stone towards it. The whole value of right perception lies in the inevitable realisation that all perception is unnecessary. This removes the block entirely. You may ask how this is possible as long as you appear to be living in this world. That is a reasonable question. You must be careful, however, that you really understand it. Who is the ‘you’ who are living in this world? Spirit is immortal, and immortality is a constant state. It is as true now as it ever was or ever will be, because it implies no change at all. It is not a continuum, nor is it understood by being compared to an opposite. Knowledge never involves comparisons. That is its main difference from everything else the mind can grasp.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for January 30
God is in everything I see because God is in my mind.
The idea for today is the springboard for vision. From this idea will the world open up before you, and you will look upon it and see in it what you have never seen before. Nor will what you saw before be even faintly visible to you.
Today we are trying to use a new kind of “projection.” We are not attempting to get rid of what we do not like by seeing it outside. Instead, we are trying to see in the world what is in our minds, and what we want to recognize is there. Thus, we are trying to join with what we see, rather than keeping it apart from us. That is the fundamental difference between vision and the way you see.
Today’s idea should be applied as often as possible throughout the day. Whenever you have a moment or so, repeat it to yourself slowly, looking about you, and trying to realize that the idea applies to everything you do see now, or could see now if it were within the range of your sight.
Real vision is not limited to concepts such as “near” and “far.” To help you begin to get used to this idea, try to think of things beyond your present range as well as those you can actually see, as you apply today’s idea.
Real vision is not only unlimited by space and distance, but it does not depend on the body’s eyes at all. The mind is its only source. To aid in helping you to become more accustomed to this idea as well, devote several practice periods to applying today’s idea with your eyes closed, using whatever subjects come to mind, and looking within rather than without. Today’s idea applies equally to both.
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Q #318: In C.1.3:2 it says that the term “soul” is only used in direct biblical quotations. Yet I’ve found that Jesus does use the term several times throughout A Course in Miracles without directly quoting the Bible. “The more ‘religiously’ ego-oriented may believe that the soul existed before, and will continue to exist after a temporary laps into ego life” (T.4.II.9:5).
A: You are right in pointing out that the references to the term “soul” in the Course are not direct quotations. All but one of the references, however, do refer to well known Biblical statements regarding the soul, such as “losing your soul” (T.12.VI.1). In the Clarification of Terms it is used to contrast the Course’s use of the term “spirit.” In this section it is not referring to any specific Biblical passage, but reflects traditional religious views of the soul, including Christian belief which is based on the Bible’s teaching. Hopefully, finding these imperfections is not an impediment to learning the message of the Course and practicing its teachings. That would certainly not profit the man or the soul.
Q#617iii. In “Right Teaching and Right Learning” I would like clarification on the following: “a good teacher….must meet another condition; he must believe in the students to whom he offers the ideas.” On one level, I understand Jesus is telling us he believes in us. How does this relate to someone teaching the Course? Does it refer to a non-judgmental attitude?
A: The Course tells us that in all our relationships we are both teaching and learning/teacher and student. The passage you quote is not referring exclusively to a teacher actually teaching the Course to students. It applies to each encounter we have with others. One of the most important goals of the Course is to teach us that we are minds with the power to choose, and are therefore responsible for our choice. This is the lesson we are asked to learn for ourselves and apply to everyone, whether or not they are students of the Course. It is the foundation of the forgiveness process, whereby we recognize that every experience in the dream, as well as every judgment concerning others, is the result of a choice in the mind to listen either to the voice of the ego, or the Voice of the Holy Spirit. The ego tells us we are bodies, and are guilty sinners deserving of punishment for believing this. The Holy Spirit tells us we are God’s innocent Son. What we choose determines what we believe about ourselves and others. We then teach it by the mere fact of believing it: “Remember always that what you believe you will teach. Believe with me, and we will become equal as teachers” (T.6.I.6:10,11).
When we perceive others as anything less than wholly deserving of God’s Love and ours, it is because we have believed the ego’s lie about our identity, judged ourselves as sinful, and believe the same about everyone else. We believe in students [others] by recognizing that they are not victims imprisoned in bodies; they are minds with the power to choose, just as we are.
Q #591: I have been doing a lot of reading on the conditions for learning A Course in Miracles. What I am stuck on is: “A good teacher must believe in the ideas he teaches; but he must meet another condition; he must believe in the students to whom he offers the ideas” (T.4.I.1:4). To me this means that if I believe in this Course it then becomes an “idea” in my mind, and I teach this idea. I interpret the second part to mean: (1) Jesus believes in us and is teaching us; and (2) at the level of the world we are all teachers and students. If I (the Son of God) am doing the teaching, would the student be anyone I meet, knew (in the past), or will know (in the future), or those I just think about? And would this mean that we have given up all judgment of these students or everything? Or do we not know when we are teaching?
A: Jesus is saying that to be a good teacher, not only must you believe in what you are teaching, you must also know that your students are capable of learning, and that in a very real sense they are ultimately the same as you. If you believe in the Course, you teach more than ideas. Teaching ideas is a good starting point, but if the content behind the ideas is not at some point conveyed through you, then you are not really teaching it. This comes through in paragraph 6, when Jesus lovingly reassures us: “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” (T.4.I.6:3). In other words, he is inviting us to become like him so that eventually there would be no difference between him and us, and he asks that we do this with each other. So as you are teaching others the ideas in the Course, you are learning that, on the only level that counts, you are not different from those you are teaching: all separation is an illusion, which makes judgment meaningless. That is the content that would eventually be expressed through your words as your practice of forgiveness progresses. You do not have to be in a formal teacher-student setting to do this. We teach all the time because we are always “broadcasting” in some way or other the decision we have made in our minds to identify with the ego’s thought system of separation or the Holy Spirit’s thought system of forgiveness, and others are always “scanning” for a signal that will somehow tell them that they are wrong in their self-condemnation and the projection of that on to others through judgment.