ACIM Text Reading for February 10
Chapter 5 ~ Healing and Wholeness
V. The Ego’s Use of Guilt
Perhaps some of our concepts will become clearer and more personally meaningful if the ego’s use of guilt is clarified. The ego has a purpose, just as the Holy Spirit has. The ego’s purpose is fear, because only the fearful can be egotistic. The ego’s logic is as impeccable as that of the Holy Spirit, because your mind has the means at its disposal to side with Heaven or earth, as it elects. But again, remember that both are in you.
In Heaven there is no guilt, because the Kingdom is attained through the Atonement, which releases you to create. The word ‘create’ is appropriate here because, once what you have made is undone by the Holy Spirit, the blessed residue is restored and therefore continues in creation. What is truly blessed is incapable of giving rise to guilt, and must give rise to joy. This makes it invulnerable to the ego because its peace is unassailable. It is invulnerable to disruption because it is whole. Guilt is always disruptive. Anything that engenders fear is divisive because it obeys the law of division. If the ego is the symbol of the separation, it is also the symbol of guilt. Guilt is more than merely not of God. It is the symbol of attack on God. This is a totally meaningless concept except to the ego, but do not underestimate the power of the ego’s belief in it. This is the belief from which all guilt really stems.
The ego is the part of the mind that believes in division. How could part of God detach itself without believing it is attacking Him? We spoke before of the authority problem as based on the concept of usurping God’s power. The ego believes that this is what you did because it believes that it is you. If you identify with the ego, you must perceive yourself as guilty. Whenever you respond to your ego you will experience guilt, and you will fear punishment. The ego is quite literally a fearful thought. However ridiculous the idea of attacking God may be to the sane mind, never forget that the ego is not sane. It represents a delusional system, and speaks for it. Listening to the ego’s voice means that you believe it is possible to attack God, and that a part of Him has been torn away by you. Fear of retaliation from without follows, because the severity of the guilt is so acute that it must be projected.
Whatever you accept into your mind has reality for you. It is your acceptance of it that makes it real. If you enthrone the ego in your mind, your allowing it to enter makes it your reality. This is because the mind is capable of creating reality or making illusions. I said before that you must learn to think with God. To think with Him is to think like Him. This engenders joy, not guilt, because it is natural. Guilt is a sure sign that your thinking is unnatural. Unnatural thinking will always be attended with guilt, because it is the belief in sin. The ego does not perceive sin as a lack of love, but as a positive act of assault. This is necessary to the ego’s survival because, as soon as you regard sin as a lack, you will automatically attempt to remedy the situation. And you will succeed. The ego regards this as doom, but you must learn to regard it as freedom.
The guiltless mind cannot suffer. Being sane, the mind heals the body because it has been healed. The sane mind cannot conceive of illness because it cannot conceive of attacking anyone or anything. I said before that illness is a form of magic. It might be better to say that it is a form of magical solution. The ego believes that by punishing itself it will mitigate the punishment of God. Yet even in this it is arrogant. It attributes to God a punishing intent, and then takes this intent as its own prerogative. It tries to usurp all the functions of God as it perceives them, because it recognises that only total allegiance can be trusted.
The ego cannot oppose the laws of God any more than you can, but it can interpret them according to what it wants, just as you can. That is why the question, ‘What do you want?’ must be answered. You are answering it every minute and every second, and each moment of decision is a judgement that is anything but ineffectual. Its effects will follow automatically until the decision is changed. Remember, though, that the alternatives themselves are unalterable. The Holy Spirit, like the ego, is a decision. Together they constitute all the alternatives the mind can accept and obey. The Holy Spirit and the ego are the only choices open to you. God created one, and so you cannot eradicate it. You made the other, and so you can. Only what God creates is irreversible and unchangeable. What you made can always be changed because, when you do not think like God, you are not really thinking at all. Delusional ideas are not real thoughts, although you can believe in them. But you are wrong. The function of thought comes from God and is in God. As part of His Thought, you cannot think apart from Him.
Irrational thought is disordered thought. God Himself orders your thought because your thought was created by Him. Guilt feelings are always a sign that you do not know this. They also show that you believe you can think apart from God, and want to. Every disordered thought is attended by guilt at its inception, and maintained by guilt in its continuance. Guilt is inescapable by those who believe they order their own thoughts, and must therefore obey their dictates. This makes them feel responsible for their errors without recognising that, by accepting this responsibility, they are reacting irresponsibly. If the sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself, and I assure you that it is, then the responsibility for what is atoned for cannot be yours. The dilemma cannot be resolved except by accepting the solution of undoing. You would be responsible for the effects of all your wrong thinking if it could not be undone. The purpose of the Atonement is to save the past in purified form only. If you accept the remedy for disordered thought, a remedy whose efficacy is beyond doubt, how can its symptoms remain?
The continuing decision to remain separated is the only possible reason for continuing guilt feelings. We have said this before, but did not emphasise the destructive results of the decision. Any decision of the mind will affect both behaviour and experience. What you want you expect. This is not delusional. Your mind does make your future, and it will turn it back to full creation at any minute if it accepts the Atonement first. It will also return to full creation the instant it has done so. Having given up its disordered thought, the proper ordering of thought becomes quite apparent.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for February 10
God goes with me wherever I go.
Today’s idea will eventually overcome completely the sense of loneliness and abandonment all the separated ones experience. Depression is an inevitable consequence of separation. So are anxiety, worry, a deep sense of helplessness, misery, suffering and intense fear of loss.
The separated ones have invented many “cures” for what they believe to be “the ills of the world.” But the one thing they do not do is to question the reality of the problem. Yet its effects cannot be cured because the problem is not real. The idea for today has the power to end all this foolishness forever. And foolishness it is, despite the serious and tragic forms it may take.
Deep within you is everything that is perfect, ready to radiate through you and out into the world. It will cure all sorrow and pain and fear and loss because it will heal the mind that thought these things were real, and suffered out of its allegiance to them.
You can never be deprived of your perfect holiness because its Source goes with you wherever you go. You can never suffer because the Source of all joy goes with you wherever you go. You can never be alone because the Source of all life goes with you wherever you go. Nothing can destroy your peace of mind because God goes with you wherever you go.
We understand that you do not believe all this. How could you, when the truth is hidden deep within, under a heavy cloud of insane thoughts, dense and obscuring, yet representing all you see? Today we will make our first real attempt to get past this dark and heavy cloud, and to go through it to the light beyond.
There will be only one long practice period today. In the morning, as soon as you get up if possible, sit quietly for some three to five minutes, with your eyes closed. At the beginning of the practice period, repeat today’s idea very slowly. Then make no effort to think of anything. Try, instead, to get a sense of turning inward, past all the idle thoughts of the world. Try to enter very deeply into your own mind, keeping it clear of any thoughts that might divert your attention.
From time to time, you may repeat the idea if you find it helpful. But most of all, try to sink down and inward, away from the world and all the foolish thoughts of the world. You are trying to reach past all these things. You are trying to leave appearances and approach reality.
It is quite possible to reach God. In fact it is very easy, because it is the most natural thing in the world. You might even say it is the only natural thing in the world. The way will open, if you believe that it is possible. This exercise can bring very startling results even the first time it is attempted, and sooner or later it is always successful. We will go into more detail about this kind of practice as we go along. But it will never fail completely, and instant success is possible.
Throughout the day use today’s idea often, repeating it very slowly, preferably with eyes closed. Think of what you are saying; what the words mean. Concentrate on the holiness that they imply about you; on the unfailing companionship that is yours; on the complete protection that surrounds you.
You can indeed afford to laugh at fear thoughts, remembering that God goes with you wherever you go.
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ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #854: I come from a completely non-religious background and was never “involved” with God in any way, form or fashion until I “met” A Course in Miracles (for which I am so grateful). I am “stuck” on Lesson 41 “God goes with me wherever I go.” I’ve been doing this lesson daily for about a week now because the concept fascinates me so, but despite the diligent practicing as set forth, I have not “reached” God in any sense, although the Course tells me that it is quite possible to do so. It also says: “The way will open, if you believe that it is possible.”(8:4) I want to believe, but how does one do that?
A: Another of way of stating the content of this lesson is: “the separation never happened, and we remain with God.” We cannot truly be anywhere else, and that is why God is with us. However, there is a very important message in the first line in the fifth paragraph: “We understand that you do not believe all this” (W.pI.41.5:1). With this single statement, Jesus explains the “stuckness” almost everyone experiences in the practice of the workbook. The first goal of the lesson, therefore, is to help us realize that we do not believe what it says. We learn by contrast just how much we do believe the ego and do not believe the Holy Spirit, which is one of the important goals of the workbook. A necessary part of the learning process is arriving at precisely the dilemma you describe: the message of the Course inspires us, yet despite diligent practice nothing seems to happen, but we are assured it can be accomplished. The usefulness of this situation is learning to appreciate the intensity of resistance and the full scope of attachment to the ego’s belief system. Without this clear recognition, real progress is impossible because the ego’s best game is denial. Its life depends on the belief that the body is our true identity, which in turn rests on the denial of the mind’s existence, not to mention its power to choose. Jesus tells us early in the text: “Few appreciate the real power of the mind, and no one remains fully aware of it all the time. However, if you hope to spare yourself from fear [guilt, separation] there are some things you must realize, and realize fully. The mind is very powerful, and never loses its creative force” (T.2.VI.9:3,4,5).
Finding it difficult to experience God with you is a way to get in touch with the choice in the mind to believe in the reality of the separation, and to identify with the ego thought system. This choice has made the world and the body real in our experience, thereby making God unreal. The mind cannot hold the thought of separation and the thought of God at the same time. Thus, identity with the ego/body and the guilt that accompanies this choice keep the memory of God from awareness. In fact, it is an attack on God: “ If the ego is the symbol of the separation, it is also the symbol of guilt. Guilt is more than merely not of God. It is the symbol of attack on God” (T.5.V.2:8,9,10). When guilt is gone, God is there.
Guilt is relinquished through the process of forgiveness, which begins with the willingness to look at the ego in our lives in light of the principle of projection of guilt. This important principle of the Course tells us that everything we experience in the world is the result of the mind’s projection of guilt for choosing to be separate, and to identify with the body. This means that nothing outside of our mind is responsible for how we feel. Learning to look at every relationship in this way takes patient practice, because it is not the way we have taught ourselves to interpret our relationships or our experiences in the world. Doing so teaches us that others are not to blame for our condition, they are guiltless. Seeing others as guiltless is how we learn that we, too, are guiltless, which opens the way for us to remember that we are God’s Son and He goes with us: “Unless you are guiltless you cannot know God, Whose Will is that you know Him… He cannot be known without His Son, whose guiltlessness is the condition for knowing Him” (T.14.IV.7:1,4).
The instructions for practicing the workbook lessons do not ask that we believe the lessons, nor that we practice them perfectly. It asks only that we do them (W.in.8,9). It is important to honestly recognize that we do not believe them, and then forgive ourselves for being afraid of the Course’s truth. If we truly knew that God was with us, we would not need the workbook, nor the Course for that matter. The fact that you have become aware that this truth is not your experience means that you have achieved one of the important goals of the workbook lessons: to appreciate the contrast between what you have learned from the ego, and what the Holy Spirit is teaching you in the Course. You then realize how much you need the Holy Spirit’s help to unlearn the ego and learn His lessons instead. Practicing each day’s lesson as sincerely as you can is sufficient to make steady progress, for that is all you are asked to do. In this is the way made open, because it reflects and strengthens the part of the mind that does believe .
Q #520: My sister has been treated for cancer for the last two years. It has a hold over the whole family. This is her illusion of herself, but we have all joined in with her. I am very judgmental about how the rest of the family reacts: some don’t ever want to hear anything bad. I am dealing with my feelings of going to Jesus constantly and trying to understand that he is my teacher, and this is the classroom I have chosen. I don’t get any relief from my anxiety about her condition. I just say to myself that I need do nothing, for really there is nothing I can do. It is difficult to go on with my daily life, many miles away from the situation, without thinking of this situation constantly, even waking up in the earliest morning hours thinking about it. I feel that it is the ego saying to me, “So you think you are going to be peaceful now and relax and let others live their lives and not be bothered by it. How about this new situation!” How can it be that the ego seems more real than Jesus. Though I know it is not.
A: The process of having the ego become less real and Jesus more real usually extends over many, many years. A great deal of patience is required, a process he describes in the manual of A Course in Miracles in the section called “Development of Trust” (M.4.I). When we first start asking for help, we are not all that aware of what is involved, especially the depth of our fear of letting go of the ego totally, and having the love of Jesus be the only reality in our minds. It seems as if we truly want that more than anything, but there must be something in the way, otherwise the ego would just vanish. So as we go along, we begin to get in touch with the obstacles, and how we probably are secretly asking for a compromise: we want the love of Jesus, but we also want a happy, problem-free life here in the world, where things like cancer don’t happen or are cured quickly. That is why Jesus so often in the early workbook lessons directs us to search our minds for thoughts we have covered over or locked away beyond reach. We all say we want to develop a relationship with Jesus, but we have secretly set up our own terms for the relationship instead of coming to him with empty hands and altars cleared of all expectations and demands.
Jesus would want you to bring to him your judgments about your family and all of your anxiety and sense of helplessness about your sister, so that together you can look at it all quietly and calmly from a perspective above the world’s complexity and despair. You shift from the seeming reality of the ego to the love of Jesus simply by learning to look at the ego without judging it, being afraid of it, or trying to drown it out with right-minded thoughts. The ego becomes less real as you practice more and more being at peace within yourself (without denying your feelings) whatever the outcome of your sister’s situation. This is a very difficult lesson to learn, and no one finds it easy. But Jesus assures us that we cannot fail to learn it, and that his love is totally unaffected by whatever the ego throws up at us — its seeming power cannot even stop the fall of a button, he tells us (T.18.IX.6:4). Hear him say to you and your sister: “Have faith in only this one thing, and it will be sufficient: God wills you be in Heaven, and nothing can keep you from it, or it from you. Your wildest misperceptions, your weird imaginings, your blackest nightmares all mean nothing. They will not prevail against the peace God wills for you” (T.13.XI.7:1,2,3). What is so extraordinarily helpful about this passage, besides its comforting reassurance, is that Jesus is telling us that he knows about our thoughts, our discouragement, our craziness, and our resistance, but none of that matters to him. The lesson is that we learn to trust that all of our mad ego attacks are nothing but attempts to hide the love underneath that is our permanent identity. The more we approach the ego this way, the more we are telling Jesus that we know his love is more real than the ego.