ACIM Text Reading for June 20
Chapter 19 ~ The Attainment of Peace
IX. The Third Obstacle: The Attraction of Death
To you and your brother, in whose special relationship the Holy Spirit entered, it is given to release and be released from the dedication to death. For it was offered you, and you accepted. Yet you must learn still more about this strange devotion, for it contains the third obstacle that peace must flow across. No one can die unless he chooses death. What seems to be the fear of death is really its attraction. Guilt, too, is feared and fearful. Yet it could have no hold at all except on those who are attracted to it and seek it out. And so it is with death. Made by the ego, its dark shadow falls across all living things, because the ego is the “enemy” of life.
And yet a shadow cannot kill. What is a shadow to the living? They but walk past and it is gone. But what of those whose dedication is not to live; the black-draped “sinners,” the ego’s mournful chorus, plodding so heavily away from life, dragging their chains and marching in the slow procession that honors their grim master, lord of death? Touch any one of them with the gentle hands of forgiveness, and watch the chains fall away, along with yours. See him throw aside the black robe he was wearing to his funeral, and hear him laugh at death. The sentence sin would lay upon him he can escape through your forgiveness. This is no arrogance. It is the Will of God. What is impossible to you who chose His Will as yours? What is death to you? Your dedication is not to death, nor to its master. When you accepted the Holy Spirit’s purpose in place of the ego’s you renounced death, exchanging it for life. We know that an idea leaves not its source. And death is the result of the thought we call the ego, as surely as life is the result of the Thought of God.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for June 20
There is no cruelty in God and none in me.
No one attacks without intent to hurt. This can have no exception. When you think that you attack in self-defense, you mean that to be cruel is protection; you are safe because of cruelty. You mean that you believe to hurt another brings you freedom. And you mean that to attack is to exchange the state in which you are for something better, safer, more secure from dangerous invasion and from fear.
How thoroughly insane is the idea that to defend from fear is to attack! For here is fear begot and fed with blood, to make it grow and swell and rage. And thus is fear protected, not escaped. Today we learn a lesson which can save you more delay and needless misery than you can possibly imagine. It is this:
You make what you defend against, and by your own
defense against it is it real and inescapable. Lay down
your arms, and only then do you perceive it false.
It seems to be the enemy without that you attack. Yet your defense sets up an enemy within; an alien thought at war with you, depriving you of peace, splitting your mind into two camps which seem wholly irreconcilable. For love now has an “enemy,” an opposite; and fear, the alien, now needs your defense against the threat of what you really are.
If you consider carefully the means by which your fancied self-defense proceeds on its imagined way, you will perceive the premises on which the idea stands. First, it is obvious ideas must leave their source, for it is you who make attack, and must have first conceived of it. Yet you attack outside yourself, and separate your mind from him who is to be attacked, with perfect faith the split you made is real.
Next, are the attributes of love bestowed upon its “enemy.” For fear becomes your safety and protector of your peace, to which you turn for solace and escape from doubts about your strength, and hope of rest in dreamless quiet. And as love is shorn of what belongs to it and it alone, love is endowed with attributes of fear. For love would ask you lay down all defense as merely foolish. And your arms indeed would crumble into dust. For such they are.
With love as enemy, must cruelty become a god. And gods demand that those who worship them obey their dictates, and refuse to question them. Harsh punishment is meted out relentlessly to those who ask if the demands are sensible or even sane. It is their enemies who are unreasonable and insane, while they are always merciful and just.
Today we look upon this cruel god dispassionately. And we note that though his lips are smeared with blood, and fire seems to flame from him, he is but made of stone. He can do nothing. We need not defy his power. He has none. And those who see in him their safety have no guardian, no strength to call upon in danger, and no mighty warrior to fight for them.
This moment can be terrible. But it can also be the time of your release from abject slavery. You make a choice, standing before this idol, seeing him exactly as he is. Will you restore to love what you have sought to wrest from it and lay before this mindless piece of stone? Or will you make another idol to replace it? For the god of cruelty takes many forms. Another can be found.
Yet do not think that fear is the escape from fear. Let us remember what the text has stressed about the obstacles to peace. The final one, the hardest to believe is nothing, and a seeming obstacle with the appearance of a solid block, impenetrable, fearful and beyond surmounting, is the fear of God Himself. Here is the basic premise which enthrones the thought of fear as god. For fear is loved by those who worship it, and love appears to be invested now with cruelty.
Where does the totally insane belief in gods of vengeance come from? Love has not confused its attributes with those of fear. Yet must the worshippers of fear perceive their own confusion in fear’s “enemy”; its cruelty as now a part of love. And what becomes more fearful than the Heart of Love Itself? The blood appears to be upon His Lips; the fire comes from Him. And He is terrible above all else, cruel beyond conception, striking down all who acknowledge Him to be their God.
The choice you make today is certain. For you look for the last time upon this bit of carven stone you made, and call it god no longer. You have reached this place before, but you have chosen that this cruel god remain with you in still another form. And so the fear of God returned with you. This time you leave it there. And you return to a new world, unburdened by its weight; beheld not in its sightless eyes, but in the vision that your choice restored to you.
Now do your eyes belong to Christ, and He looks through them. Now your voice belongs to God and echoes His. And now your heart remains at peace forever. You have chosen Him in place of idols, and your attributes, given by your Creator, are restored to you at last. The Call for God is heard and answered. Now has fear made way for love, as God Himself replaces cruelty.
Father, we are like You. No cruelty abides in us, for there is none in You. Your peace is ours. And we bless the world with what we have received from You alone. We choose again, and make our choice for all our brothers, knowing they are one with us. We bring them Your salvation as we have received it now. And we give thanks for them who render us complete. In them we see Your glory, and in them we find our peace. Holy are we because Your Holiness has set us free. And we give thanks. Amen.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #237: The prayer from the “Third Obstacle to Peace”:
i. “Take this from me and look upon it, judging it for me.
Let me not see it as a sign of sin and death, nor use it for destruction.
Teach me how not to make of it an obstacle to peace, but let You use it for me, to facilitate its coming”
asks us not to use our perceptions as obstacles to peace but as facilitators of peace. Correct?
ii. Does this mean even war? Is it possible that war, which we have chosen to hurt ourselves and others with, can become the means for our salvation?
A: i. Yes, you are correct. In fact, this prayer is a very clear statement about the process of forgiveness as taught in A Course in Miracles. As soon as we become aware of disquiet within, we recognize that we have judged wrongly and ask the Holy Spirit to judge the situation (or person) for us. It is in this way that our perceptions, which caused the disquiet and obstructed our peace, become facilitators of our peace.
ii: Your uncertainty is met with an unequivocal response of yes, this means even war. Any behavior in this world can become the means for our salvation: “…His use of what you made, to heal instead of harm” (T.25.VI.4.1). This is why the focus of A Course in Miracles is not on behavior, but rather on changing our thoughts. Or more specifically, on changing with whom we think. Trying to change our behavior (or that of another), is actually trying to usurp the function of Holy Spirit: “Correction is not your function. It belongs to One Who knows of fairness, not of guilt. If you assume correction’s role, you lose the function of forgiveness” (T.27.II.10:1,2,3). Once again, a very clear statement. Any ambiguity which arises in our practice of the Course must come from our fear of disidentifying with the ego, as Jesus could not state any more clearly the necessary steps for peace to be in our awareness. This being said, before “going to war,” one must be really clear that the ego is not involved.
Q #545: A Course in Miracles speaks about the “incorruptible body” (T.19.IV.C.i), saying that it is possible to “keep the body incorruptible and perfect as long as it is useful for your holy purpose.” Is the Course actually telling us that we can achieve a state (within the world of illusion) in which our body will remain in perfect physical condition as long as we remain here? Is this part of the condition we are able to achieve as we move closer to the real world, perhaps one of the characteristics of what the Course calls the “Happy Learner” in chapter 14, ii? If we had a completely disease free and healthy body, then we could be drawn toward reality motivated by a genuine desire to regain our awareness of our Father rather than being “driven” by physical pain and fear. Would you please comment on all this?
A: Sorry, but that’s not what Jesus means here. It could appear to happen that way in form in some individual cases, but you can never judge anything real by form. If you read the next few sentences after the line you cite, it is clear that Jesus is not describing what happens to the body itself: “The body no more dies than it can feel. It does nothing. Of itself it is neither corruptible nor incorruptible. It is nothing” (T.19.IV.C.5:2,3,4,5). He is simply saying that we will no longer see our bodies serving the purpose of corruption. The body will no longer be corrupted by the guilt of the ego thought system, for we will know that the ego’s guilt is not true. And even though the body may change in form, appearing to age and even become disabled or diseased, if there is no thought of sickness or death — guilt — in the mind, these changes in form will have no connotations of death and sickness to us — “The body can but serve your purpose. As you look on it, so will it seem to be” (T.19.IV.C.6:3,4).
What happened to Jesus’ body at the end of his earthly “life” illustrates this principle. His body did not represent any thought of death or disease or pain in his mind, since his mind was free of guilt. He did not use his body to reinforce a belief in sin and victimization in his mind (T.6.I.5) — and so it remained incorruptible in his perception, despite how its form may have seemed to change. He did not allow it to be corrupted in his thinking by making it a symbol of accusation against others.
We can also see the Course’s discussion here of the incorruptible body as a correction for the glorified, resurrected body that Christian doctrine teaches Jesus’ physical resurrection has assured all of his faithful followers. As he says of his own body earlier in this section: “Yet would I offer you my body, you whom I love, knowing its littleness? Or would I teach that bodies cannot keep us apart? Mine was of no greater value than yours…. To think you could be satisfied and happy with so little is to hurt yourself” (T.19.IV.A.17:5,6,7,12).
One final point of clarification: it is not physical pain or fear that drive us either toward or away from an awareness of our Father. The body, as nothing, feels nothing, as we noted above. All pain and fear are in the mind and it is here that they must be addressed and released. The body only returns to the mind the messages that the mind first wants and then sends out (T.19.IV.A.10,11,12,13,14,15).