ACIM Text Reading for July 4
Chapter 21 ~ Reason and Perception
II. The Responsibility for Sight
We have repeated how little is asked of you to learn this course. It is the same small willingness you need to have your whole relationship transformed to joy; the little gift you offer to the Holy Spirit for which he gives you everything; the very little on which salvation rests; the tiny change of mind by which the crucifixion is changed to resurrection. And being true, it is so simple that it cannot fail to be completely understood. Rejected yes, but not ambiguous. And if you choose against it now it will not be because it is obscure, but rather that this little cost seemed, in your judgment, to be too much to pay for peace.
This is the only thing that you need do for vision, happiness, release from pain and the complete escape from sin, all to be given you. Say only this, but mean it with no reservations, for here the power of salvation lies:
“I am responsible for what I see.
I choose the feelings I experience, and I decide upon the goal I would achieve.
And everything that seems to happen to me
I ask for, and receive as I have asked.”
Deceive yourself no longer that you are helpless in the face of what is done to you. Acknowledge but that you have been mistaken, and all effects of your mistakes will disappear.
It is impossible the Son of God be merely driven by events outside of him. It is impossible that happenings that come to him were not his choice. His power of decision is the determiner of every situation in which he seems to find himself by chance or accident. No accident nor chance is possible within the universe as God created it, outside of which is nothing. Suffer, and you decided sin was your goal. Be happy, and you gave the power of decision to him who must decide for God for you. This is the little gift you offer to the Holy Spirit, and even this He gives to you to give yourself. For by this gift is given you the power to release your savior, that he may give salvation unto you.
Begrudge not then this little offering. Withhold it, and you keep the world as now you see it. Give it away, and everything you see goes with it. Never was so much given for so little. In the holy instant is this exchange effected and maintained. Here is the world you do not want brought to the one you do. And here the one you do is given you because you want it. Yet for this, the power of your wanting must first be recognized. You must accept its strength, and not its weakness. You must perceive that what is strong enough to make a world can let it go, and can accept correction if it is willing to see that it was wrong.
The world you see is but the idle witness that you were right. This witness is insane. You trained it in its testimony, and as it gave it back to you, you listened and convinced yourself that what it saw was true. You did this to yourself. See only this, and you will also see how circular the reasoning on which your “seeing” rests. This was not given you. This was your gift to you and to your brother. Be willing, then, to have it taken from him and be replaced with truth. And as you look upon the change in him, it will be given you to see it in yourself.
Perhaps you do not see the need for you to give this little offering. Look closer, then, at what it is. And, very simply, see in it the whole exchange of separation for salvation. All that the ego is, is an idea that it is possible that things should happen to the Son of God without his will; and thus without the Will of his Creator, Whose Will cannot be separate from his own. This is the Son of God’s replacement for his will, a mad revolt against what must forever be. This is the statement that he has the power to make God powerless and so to take it for himself, and leave himself without what God has willed for him. This is the mad idea you have enshrined upon your altars, and which you worship. And everything that threatens this seems to attack your faith, for here is it invested. Think not that you are faithless, for your belief and trust in this is strong indeed.
The Holy Spirit can give you faith in holiness and vision to see it easily enough. But you have not left open and unoccupied the altar where the gifts belong. Where they should be, you have set up your idols to something else. This other “will,” which seems to tell you what must happen, you give reality. And what would show you otherwise must therefore seem unreal. All that is asked of you is to make room for truth. You are not asked to make or do what lies beyond your understanding. All you are asked to do is let it in; only to stop your interference with what will happen of itself; simply to recognize again the presence of what you thought you gave away.
Be willing, for an instant, to leave your altars free of what you placed upon them, and what is really there you cannot fail to see. The holy instant is not an instant of creation, but of recognition. For recognition comes of vision and suspended judgment. Then only it is possible to look within and see what must be there, plainly in sight, and wholly independent of inference and judgment. Undoing is not your task, but it is up to you to welcome it or not. Faith and desire go hand in hand, for everyone believes in what he wants.
We have already said that wishful thinking is how the ego deals with what it wants, to make it so. There is no better demonstration of the power of wanting, and therefore of faith, to make its goals seem real and possible. Faith in the unreal leads to adjustments of reality to make it fit the goal of madness. The goal of sin induces the perception of a fearful world to justify its purpose. What you desire, you will see. And if its reality is false, you will uphold it by not realizing all the adjustments you have introduced to make it so.
When vision is denied, confusion of cause and effect becomes inevitable. The purpose now becomes to keep obscure the cause of the effect, and make effect appear to be a cause. This seeming independence of effect enables it to be regarded as standing by itself, and capable of serving as a cause of the events and feelings its maker thinks it causes. Earlier, we spoke of your desire to create your own creator, and be father and not son to Him. This is the same desire. The Son is the effect, whose Cause he would deny. And so he seems to be the cause, producing real effects. Nothing can have effects without a cause, and to confuse the two is merely to fail to understand them both.
It is as needful that you recognize you made the world you see, as that you recognize that you did not create yourself. They are the same mistake. Nothing created not by your Creator has any influence over you. And if you think what you have made can tell you what you see and feel, and place your faith in its ability to do so, you are denying your Creator and believing that you made yourself. For if you think the world you made has power to make you what it wills, you are confusing Son and Father; effect and Source.
The Son’s creations are like his Father’s. Yet in creating them the Son does not delude himself that he is independent of his Source. His union with It is the source of his creating. Apart from this he has no power to create, and what he makes is meaningless. It changes nothing in creation, depends entirely upon the madness of its maker, and cannot serve to justify the madness. Your brother thinks he made the world with you. Thus he denies creation. With you, he thinks the world he made, made him. Thus he denies he made it.
Yet the truth is you were both created by a loving Father, Who created you together and as one. See what “proves” otherwise, and you deny your whole reality. But grant that everything that seems to stand between you, keeping you from each other and separate from your Father, you made in secret, and the instant of release has come to you. All its effects are gone, because its source has been uncovered. It is its seeming independence of its source that keeps you prisoner. This is the same mistake as thinking you are independent of the Source by Which you were created, and have never left.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for July 4
I want the peace of God.
To say these words is nothing. But to mean these words is everything. If you could but mean them for just an instant, there would be no further sorrow possible for you in any form; in any place or time. Heaven would be completely given back to full awareness, memory of God entirely restored, the resurrection of all creation fully recognized.
No one can mean these words and not be healed. He cannot play with dreams, nor think he is himself a dream. He cannot make a hell and think it real. He wants the peace of God, and it is given him. For that is all he wants, and that is all he will receive. Many have said these words. But few indeed have meant them. You have but to look upon the world you see around you to be sure how very few they are. The world would be completely changed, should any two agree these words express the only thing they want.
Two minds with one intent become so strong that what they will becomes the Will of God. For minds can only join in truth. In dreams, no two can share the same intent. To each, the hero of the dream is different; the outcome wanted not the same for both. Loser and gainer merely shift about in changing patterns, as the ratio of gain to loss and loss to gain takes on a different aspect or another form.
Yet compromise alone a dream can bring. Sometimes it takes the form of union, but only the form. The meaning must escape the dream, for compromising is the goal of dreaming. Minds cannot unite in dreams. They merely bargain. And what bargain can give them the peace of God? Illusions come to take His place. And what He means is lost to sleeping minds intent on compromise, each to his gain and to another’s loss.
To mean you want the peace of God is to renounce all dreams. For no one means these words who wants illusions, and who therefore seeks the means which bring illusions. He has looked on them, and found them wanting. Now he seeks to go beyond them, recognizing that another dream would offer nothing more than all the others. Dreams are one to him. And he has learned their only difference is one of form, for one will bring the same despair and misery as do the rest.
The mind which means that all it wants is peace must join with other minds, for that is how peace is obtained. And when the wish for peace is genuine, the means for finding it is given, in a form each mind that seeks for it in honesty can understand. Whatever form the lesson takes is planned for him in such a way that he can not mistake it, if his asking is sincere. But if he asks without sincerity, there is no form in which the lesson will meet with acceptance and be truly learned.
Let us today devote our practicing to recognizing that we really mean the words we say. We want the peace of God. This is no idle wish. These words do not request another dream be given us. They do not ask for compromise, nor try to make another bargain in the hope that there may yet be one that can succeed where all the rest have failed. To mean these words acknowledges illusions are in vain, requesting the eternal in the place of shifting dreams which seem to change in what they offer, but are one in nothingness.
Today devote your practice periods to careful searching of your mind, to find the dreams you cherish still. What do you ask for in your heart? Forget the words you use in making your requests. Consider but what you believe will comfort you, and bring you happiness. But be you not dismayed by lingering illusions, for their form is not what matters now. Let not some dreams be more acceptable, reserving shame and secrecy for others. They are one. And being one, one question should be asked of all of them, “Is this what I would have, in place of Heaven and the peace of God?”
This is the choice you make. Be not deceived that it is otherwise. No compromise is possible in this. You choose God’s peace, or you have asked for dreams. And dreams will come as you requested them. Yet will God’s peace come just as certainly, and to remain with you forever. It will not be gone with every twist and turning of the road, to reappear, unrecognized, in forms which shift and change with every step you take.
You want the peace of God. And so do all who seem to seek for dreams. For them as well as for yourself, you ask but this when you make this request with deep sincerity. For thus you reach to what they really want, and join your own intent with what they seek above all things, perhaps unknown to them, but sure to you. You have been weak at times, uncertain in your purpose, and unsure of what you wanted, where to look for it, and where to turn for help in the attempt. Help has been given you. And would you not avail yourself of it by sharing it?
No one who truly seeks the peace of God can fail to find it. For he merely asks that he deceive himself no longer by denying to himself what is God’s Will. Who can remain unsatisfied who asks for what he has already? Who could be unanswered who requests an answer which is his to give? The peace of God is yours.
For you was peace created, given you by its Creator, and established as His Own eternal gift. How can you fail, when you but ask for what He wills for you? And how could your request be limited to you alone? No gift of God can be unshared. It is this attribute that sets the gifts of God apart from every dream that ever seemed to take the place of truth.
No one can lose and everyone must gain whenever any gift of God has been requested and received by anyone. God gives but to unite. To take away is meaningless to Him. And when it is as meaningless to you, you can be sure you share one Will with Him, and He with you. And you will also know you share one Will with all your brothers, whose intent is yours.
It is this one intent we seek today, uniting our desires with the need of every heart, the call of every mind, the hope that lies beyond despair, the love attack would hide, the brotherhood that hate has sought to sever, but which still remains as God created it. With Help like this beside us, can we fail today as we request the peace of God be given us?
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #172: What is the end result from studying A Course in Miracles? Should I be able to make life go in the direction I want it? On page 448 of the Course it states:
I am responsible for what I see.
I choose the feelings I would experience, and I decide
upon the goal I would achieve.
And everything that seems to happen to me
I ask for, and receive as I have asked.
This is obviously not a new idea and many people have heard it but few if any have been able to realize it or make it work in their lives. Is there something these people as well as myself have been doing wrong?
A: Peace — and the release from all guilt — is the end result of studying the Course and applying its principles (M.28.3:4,5). Although an initial reading of many of the passages of the Course, including the one you quote, would appear to suggest that the Course’s purpose is to show us how to make our lives become what we want them to be, as you study the Course over time, it will become apparent that this is not its intention. In the above passage, the Course is speaking about the choice of feelings and experience only at the level of content, not form: will our experience be one of love or fear, peace or conflict, happiness or pain?
There are many passages that make this clear. Among the early workbook lessons are two that admonish us: “I do not perceive my own best interests” (W.pI.24) and “I do not know what anything is for” (W.pI.25). The Course is asking us to acknowledge that we are not in a position to make decisions about what will bring us happiness or joy or peace. That is up to our Guide, the Holy Spirit. “He does know all the facts; past, present and to come. He does know all the effects of His judgment on everyone and everything involved in any way” (M.10.4:8,9). And so, “Ask and He will answer. The responsibility is His, and He alone is fit to assume it. To do so is His function. To refer the questions to Him is yours. Would you want to be responsible for decisions about which you understand so little? Be glad you have a Teacher Who cannot make a mistake. His answers are always right. Would you say that of yours?” (M.29.2:7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14).
Even these line are open to misunderstanding and misinterpretation, for it is easy to conclude that they mean that the Holy Spirit will provide all that we need in our world to experience happiness here as we define it, which usually means having our needs met. But again, this is not the intent of the Course. Its focus is to bring about a change at the level of mind, so that we will become increasingly less affected by the things that happen or don’t happen around us and to us. A sentence in the text makes this clear: “Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world” (T.21.in.1:7). The kind of change that the Course is attempting to bring about within each of us is a shift from judgment to forgiveness. For, as the Course reminds us, “those who have been forgiven have everything” T.3.V.6:3), not in a material sense, but in the sense that we remember that lack and loss of the love that is our natural inheritance is impossible. And we will look out on the world and see only peace, no matter what battles seem to be raging.
Q #1254(i): (The following two questions were submitted by the same person.)
A Course in Miracles states that “ everything that seems to happen to me I ask for, and receive as I have asked ” (T.21.II.2:5). On one of your tapes you said that if I am stuck and feel miserable, it is because I want to be stuck and feel miserable. I am having such a struggle in this life with everything — job, family, where I live. It just does not seem possible that this is happening because I want to struggle and be unhappy. I feel like I do not want life to be so difficult, and that the way my life has gone and is going is totally out of my control. I know I don’t know what I’m doing or how to be free of all of this misery. When we become aware that we are getting what we ask for, which for some of us is an unhappy life, how do we change it? Or is it just your lot in life?
A: First, Jesus is not referring to external circumstances or events in the passage you quoted; he is talking only about our interpretation or how we experience what goes on in our lives. What that means is that seeing yourself as an innocent victim of outside forces is an interpretation. It comes as quite a shock to most students, when, in the very next sentence, he says that to feel that way is self-deception (T.21.II.2:6). It is true that we cannot control most things in the world: the weather, the speed of light, the job and housing markets, the decisions and actions of dictators, etc., but we definitely can control our responses to these forces as they affect our lives. That is the level of responsibility that Jesus is referring to and training us to focus on, because that is the beginning phase of recovering the power of our minds, which we gave away when we chose separation over union with God. This does not mean, though, that you should not take whatever steps you can to improve your situation in the world.
The main point is that the peace of God is within our minds as part of our very being and therefore is not dependent on anything outside us. Nothing can take it away or diminish it, as Jesus expresses in the lesson “My salvation comes from me”: “The seeming cost of accepting today’s idea is this: It means that nothing outside yourself can save you; nothing outside yourself can give you peace. But it also means that nothing outside yourself can hurt you, or disturb your peace or upset you in any way” (W.pI.70.2:1,2; see also W.pI.152). This is indeed hard for us to comprehend, but it is the heart of Jesus’ radical message. If peace is within us at all times and we don’t experience it, there can be but one reason: we ourselves chose against it because the ego’s offering was more appealing to us at the moment. We then deny we did that, and blame our lack of peace on something other than that decision. It is true, as you say, that it makes no sense to think we actually want to be miserable and to be constantly struggling, but all that means is that we are not in touch with our mind’s dynamics and are just deluding ourselves about why we are unhappy. Correcting this confusion is a main objective of the lessons in the workbook — for example, Lesson 5 states, “I am never upset for the reason I think” (W.pI.5).
Based on the strategy of the ego, what we want (in our wrong minds) is to keep our existence as individuals separate from God, but not the guilt over that; however, to achieve that goal, we cannot stay in our minds, because that’s where God can get us, the ego warns. Therefore, we must project ourselves into another state; and (to abbreviate a very long story) that’s why we experience ourselves only as bodies struggling to survive in a world that seems to throw one problem after another at us. Then the world is the problem, not the decision we are making in our minds, because we are no longer aware that we even have a mind. The ego’s strategy thus has succeeded — apparently. So in A Course in Miracles, Jesus exposes this whole plot and teaches us how to end our suffering through the practice of forgiveness.
Similar concerns have been expressed by other students, and you might find it helpful to read these discussions. See Questions #980, #1353, and #1359.
Q #322: One section in Chapter 21 of the text of A Course in Miracles which has particular meaning to me is “The Responsibility for Sight.” It illustrates the discomfort that comes from realizing that decisions which appear to be made by me are actually being made on another level, a level I am completely unaware of as the decision-maker. “I” and the decisions “I” appear to make are merely the effects in form of decisions for guilt or innocence made on another level. The statement, “It is as needful that you recognize you made the world you see, as that you recognize that you did not create yourself. They are the same mistake,” touches on this issue, and I would appreciate any comments or elaborations on its meaning.
A: In particular, these two sentences are telling us that we need to accept that we, as the split mind, are cause and not effect within the ego thought system, so that we can let go of the world as a defense against our true Identity and recognize that, in reality, within Heaven, we are Effect and not Cause. We see here, as clearly as anywhere, the insanity of the ego thought system. The separation has seemed to come about because we have resented being the created and not the Creator — Effect and not Cause, Son and not Father.
And so we seek to make a new, separate identity for ourselves on God’s slain corpse — clearly here we are into a delusional thought system that believes separation from our Source is possible and murder and death are real. Delusions are unstable (T.19.4.A.8:4) and need constant protection in order to be maintained, and so, in cahoots with the ego, we concoct a wild tale of vengeance and defense, and make a world to hide in, as well as a further false identity — a physical self with its own distinct personality — to hide behind. We forget completely that we are the mind that has dreamed this insane hallucination and instead believe that we are at its mercy — effect rather than cause. Hence, the insanity of it all, because we had set out to be our own cause and have convinced ourselves that we have pulled it off. But then we relinquish awareness of that “power” and accept instead a view of ourselves as effects of the world we made, in order to protect our individuality and to cover over the real source of the pain of separation — our own choice to see ourselves as apart from Love. We see the world as the cause of all of our pain so that we never get to the source in our own mind — of both the world and the pain — where we could make a different choice about ourselves and the guilt we believe is so real.
As the statement you cite points out, denying that we are the cause and not the effect of the world is nothing more than a cover over our desire to make a world of our own outside of Heaven and deny our true Identity as God’s creation, Christ — each is just a different aspect of the same mistake. But, as your question emphasizes, the shift in perspective back to the mind is not easily made, for our identities are well-entrenched in the world and we have sought to see ourselves as mindless effects or victims of that world. And so Jesus leads us out of our self-imposed prison by inviting us to take small, gentle steps along the path of forgiveness, where we learn to see our interests and our goals as shared with all our brothers rather than as separate. Those little steps will gradually undo the fear and the guilt in our minds so that we will be able first to recognize the “power” of our mind to dream of a world that seems powerful and real while we remain in the dream, and then to recognize that, since it is only a dream and we are the dreamer, we have been the cause of nothing real. And so we have remained forever the loving Effects of a Father Who has never changed His Mind about His Love for us.
For more on the decision-making power of the mind, you may wish to look at Question #226.