ACIM Text Reading for July 5
Chapter 21 ~ Reason and Perception
IV. Faith, Belief and Vision
All special relationships have sin as their goal. For they are bargains with reality, toward which the seeming union is adjusted. Forget not this; to bargain is to set a limit, and any brother with whom you have a limited relationship, you hate. You may attempt to keep the bargain in the name of “fairness,” sometimes demanding payment of yourself, perhaps more often of the other. Thus in the “fairness” you attempt to ease the guilt that comes from the accepted purpose of the relationship. And that is why the Holy Spirit must change its purpose to make it useful to Him and harmless to you.
If you accept this change, you have accepted the idea of making room for truth. The source of sin is gone. You may imagine that you still experience its effects, but it is not your purpose and you no longer want it. No one allows a purpose to be replaced while he desires it, for nothing is so cherished and protected as is a goal the mind accepts. This it will follow, grimly or happily, but always with faith and with the persistence that faith inevitably brings. The power of faith is never recognized if it is placed in sin. But it is always recognized if it is placed in love.
Why is it strange to you that faith can move mountains? This is indeed a little feat for such a power. For faith can keep the Son of God in chains as long as he believes he is in chains. And when he is released from them it will be simply because he no longer believes in them, withdrawing faith that they can hold him, and placing it in his freedom instead. It is impossible to place equal faith in opposite directions. What faith you give to sin you take away from holiness. And what you offer holiness has been removed from sin.
Faith and belief and vision are the means by which the goal of holiness is reached. Through them the Holy Spirit leads you to the real world, and away from all illusions where your faith was laid. This is His direction; the only one He ever sees. And when you wander, He reminds you there is but one. His faith and His belief and vision are all for you. And when you have accepted them completely instead of yours, you will have need of them no longer. For faith and vision and belief are meaningful only before the state of certainty is reached. In Heaven they are unknown. Yet Heaven is reached through them.
It is impossible that the Son of God lack faith, but he can choose where he would have it be. Faithlessness is not a lack of faith, but faith in nothing. Faith given to illusions does not lack power, for by it does the Son of God believe that he is powerless. Thus is he faithless to himself, but strong in faith in his illusions about himself. For faith, perception and belief you made, as means for losing certainty and finding sin. This mad direction was your choice, and by your faith in what you chose, you made what you desired.
The Holy Spirit has a use for all the means for sin by which you sought to find it. But as He uses them they lead away from sin, because His purpose lies in the opposite direction. He sees the means you use, but not the purpose for which you made them. He would not take them from you, for He sees their value as a means for what He wills for you. You made perception that you might choose among your brothers, and seek for sin with them. The Holy Spirit sees perception as a means to teach you that the vision of a holy relationship is all you want to see. Then will you give your faith to holiness, desiring and believing in it because of your desire.
Faith and belief become attached to vision, as all the means that once served sin are redirected now toward holiness. For what you think is sin is limitation, and whom you try to limit to the body you hate because you fear. In your refusal to forgive him, you would condemn him to the body because the means for sin are dear to you. And so the body has your faith and your belief. But holiness would set your brother free, removing hatred by removing fear, not as a symptom, but at its source.
Those who would free their brothers from the body can have no fear. They have renounced the means for sin by choosing to let all limitations be removed. As they desire to look upon their brothers in holiness, the power of belief and faith goes far beyond the body, supporting vision, not obstructing it. But first they chose to recognize how much their faith had limited their understanding of the world, desiring to place its power elsewhere should another point of view be given them. The miracles that follow this decision are also born of faith. For all who choose to look away from sin are given vision, and are led to holiness.
Those who believe in sin must think the Holy Spirit asks for sacrifice, for this is how they think their purpose is accomplished. Brother, the Holy Spirit knows that sacrifice brings nothing. He makes no bargains. And if you seek to limit Him, you will hate Him because you are afraid. The gift that He has given you is more than anything that stands this side of Heaven. The instant for its recognition is at hand. Join your awareness to what has been already joined. The faith you give your brother can accomplish this. For He Who loves the world is seeing it for you, without one spot of sin upon it, and in the innocence that makes the sight of it as beautiful as Heaven.
Your faith in sacrifice has given it great power in your sight; except you do not realize you cannot see because of it. For sacrifice must be exacted of a body, and by another body. The mind could neither ask it nor receive it of itself. And no more could the body. The intention is in the mind, which tries to use the body to carry out the means for sin in which the mind believes. Thus is the joining of mind and body an inescapable belief of those who value sin. And so is sacrifice invariably a means for limitation, and thus for hate.
Think you the Holy Spirit is concerned with this? He gives not what it is His purpose to lead you from. You think He would deprive you for your good. But “good” and “deprivation” are opposites, and cannot meaningfully join in any way. It is like saying that the moon and sun are one because they come with night and day, and so they must be joined. Yet sight of one is but the sign the other has disappeared from sight. Nor is it possible that what gives light be one with what depends on darkness to be seen. Neither demands the sacrifice of the other. Yet on the absence of the other does each depend.
The body was made to be a sacrifice to sin, and in the darkness so it still is seen. Yet in the light of vision it is looked upon quite differently. You can have faith in it to serve the Holy Spirit’s goal, and give it power to serve as means to help the blind to see. But in their seeing they look past it, as do you. The faith and the belief you gave it belongs beyond. You gave perception and belief and faith from mind to body. Let them now be given back to what produced them, and can use them still to save itself from what it made.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for July 5
Salvation of the world depends on me.
Here is the statement that will one day take all arrogance away from every mind. Here is the thought of true humility, which holds no function as your own but that which has been given you. It offers your acceptance of a part assigned to you, without insisting on another role. It does not judge your proper role. It but acknowledges the Will of God is done on earth as well as Heaven. It unites all wills on earth in Heaven’s plan to save the world, restoring it to Heaven’s peace.
Let us not fight our function. We did not establish it. It is not our idea. The means are given us by which it will be perfectly accomplished. All that we are asked to do is to accept our part in genuine humility, and not deny with self-deceiving arrogance that we are worthy. What is given us to do, we have the strength to do. Our minds are suited perfectly to take the part assigned to us by One Who knows us well.
Today’s idea may seem quite sobering, until you see its meaning. All it says is that your Father still remembers you, and offers you the perfect trust He holds in you who are His Son. It does not ask that you be different in any way from what you are. What could humility request but this? And what could arrogance deny but this? Today we will not shrink from our assignment on the specious grounds that modesty is outraged. It is pride that would deny the Call for God Himself.
All false humility we lay aside today, that we may listen to God’s Voice reveal to us what He would have us do. We do not doubt our adequacy for the function He will offer us. We will be certain only that He knows our strengths, our wisdom and our holiness. And if He deems us worthy, so we are. It is but arrogance that judges otherwise.
There is one way, and only one, to be released from the imprisonment your plan to prove the false is true has brought to you. Accept the plan you did not make instead. Judge not your value to it. If God’s Voice assures you that salvation needs your part, and that the whole depends on you, be sure that it is so. The arrogant must cling to words, afraid to go beyond them to experience which might affront their stance. Yet are the humble free to hear the Voice which tells them what they are, and what to do.
Arrogance makes an image of yourself that is not real. It is this image which quails and retreats in terror, as the Voice for God assures you that you have the strength, the wisdom and the holiness to go beyond all images. You are not weak, as is the image of yourself. You are not ignorant and helpless. Sin can not tarnish the truth in you, and misery can come not near the holy home of God.
All this the Voice for God relates to you. And as He speaks, the image trembles and seeks to attack the threat it does not know, sensing its basis crumble. Let it go. Salvation of the world depends on you, and not upon this little pile of dust. What can it tell the holy Son of God? Why need he be concerned with it at all?
And so we find our peace. We will accept the function God has given us, for all illusions rest upon the weird belief that we can make another for ourselves. Our self-made roles are shifting, and they seem to change from mourner to ecstatic bliss of love and loving. We can laugh or weep, and greet the day with welcome or with tears. Our very being seems to change as we experience a thousand shifts in mood, and our emotions raise us high indeed, or dash us to the ground in hopelessness.
Is this the Son of God? Could He create such instability and call it Son? He Who is changeless shares His attributes with His creation. All the images His Son appears to make have no effect on what he is. They blow across his mind like wind-swept leaves that form a patterning an instant, break apart to group again, and scamper off. Or like mirages seen above a desert, rising from the dust.
These unsubstantial images will go, and leave your mind unclouded and serene, when you accept the function given you. The images you make give rise to but conflicting goals, impermanent and vague, uncertain and ambiguous. Who could be constant in his efforts, or direct his energies and concentrated drive toward goals like these? The functions which the world esteems are so uncertain that they change ten times an hour at their most secure. What hope of gain can rest on goals like this?
In lovely contrast, certain as the sun’s return each morning to dispel the night, your truly given function stands out clear and wholly unambiguous. There is no doubt of its validity. It comes from One Who knows no error, and His Voice is certain of Its messages. They will not change, nor be in conflict. All of them point to one goal, and one you can attain. Your plan may be impossible, but God’s can never fail because He is its Source.
Do as God’s Voice directs. And if It asks a thing of you which seems impossible, remember Who it is that asks, and who would make denial. Then consider this; which is more likely to be right? The Voice that speaks for the Creator of all things, Who knows all things exactly as they are, or a distorted image of yourself, confused, bewildered, inconsistent and unsure of everything? Let not its voice direct you. Hear instead a certain Voice, which tells you of a function given you by your Creator Who remembers you, and urges that you now remember Him.
His gentle Voice is calling from the known to the unknowing. He would comfort you, although He knows no sorrow. He would make a restitution, though He is complete; a gift to you, although He knows that you have everything already. He has Thoughts which answer every need His Son perceives, although He sees them not. For Love must give, and what is given in His Name takes on the form most useful in a world of form.
These are the forms which never can deceive, because they come from Formlessness Itself. Forgiveness is an earthly form of love, which as it is in Heaven has no form. Yet what is needed here is given here as it is needed. In this form you can fulfill your function even here, although what love will mean to you when formlessness has been restored to you is greater still. Salvation of the world depends on you who can forgive. Such is your function here.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #15: I want to change my mind about death. I just had several loved ones “gently lay their bodies aside” yet it is grief that I am drawn to. Grief is not love, therefore it does not exist. Right? I must have made it? Can you articulate for me, based on various Course passages, a general response that would incorporate the Course’s theories so that I may apply them to this experience of grief in the world of illusion. What about repression and denial of this experience?
A: The Course never asks us to repress or deny what we are experiencing, whether it be grief or anger or pain or fear or any other ego-based reaction. But before we can change our mind about our feelings, we need first to understand what purpose they serve and why we have chosen to experience them. The feeling of grief reinforces the ego’s assertion that loss and death are real and that we can be and are deprived of love. Our experience cries out that Jesus is wrong, that we have been hurt and abandoned and left on our own. We are not being asked to deny that this is our experience. But that does not make it true.
In a graphic description of the world, Jesus says, “The world you see is the delusional system of those made mad by guilt…all the laws that seem to govern it are the laws of death. Children are born into it through pain and in pain. Their growth is attended by suffering, and they learn of sorrow and separation and death. Their minds seem to be trapped in their brain, and its powers to decline if their bodies are hurt. They seem to love, yet they desert and are deserted. They appear to lose what they love, perhaps the most insane belief of all. And their bodies wither and gasp and are laid in the ground, and are no more. Not one of them but has thought that God is cruel” (T.13.in.2:2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11). And this is what we all believe. Would it not be better if we are wrong?
Jesus reminds us that his life, ending in apparent death, had the purpose of “teaching that communication remains unbroken even if the body is destroyed, provided that you see not the body as the necessary means of communication” (T.15.XI.7:2). But we still see the body as necessary for communication and believe that real communication ends with the death of the body, because we still want to see ourselves as a body. The body affirms our independent existence and its seeming experiences of loss and pain do not seem to reflect simply a choice in our minds. The ego does not want us to remember that the source of all our grief is the belief that we ourselves abandoned love and exiled ourselves from Heaven. Thanks to the ego defense of projection, it feels instead as if these are things that happen to us against our own will, that we are not responsible for how we feel. So we must begin by acknowledging that these are our feelings, but then we must also have a willingness to question whether our interpretation of the world and the events of our lives is correct.
The shift away from our pain and grief is a gradual process because we are afraid of the limitlessness of love, in which our individual lives, our personal selves with our unique personalities, have no meaning. And so Jesus gently reminds us both of the eventual outcome and the process: “Loss is not loss when properly perceived. Pain is impossible. There is no grief with any cause at all. And suffering of any kind is nothing but a dream. This is the truth, at first to be but said and then repeated many times; and next to be accepted as but partly true, with many reservations. Then to be considered seriously more and more, and finally accepted as the truth” (W.pII,284.1:1,2,3,4,5,6, italics added).
These words are not simply to be used as a “holy mantra” proclaiming what is true in order to drown out our ego’s interpretation and the accompanying feelings of loss and grief. Implicit in the process of changing our mind is the necessary but at times very unsettling task of looking at what we still want to believe and recognizing both its purpose — to keep separation and guilt alive — and its cost to us — suffering and pain. It is from a growing recognition of what we inflict on ourselves when we accept the ego as our teacher that the motivation develops to ask for help from a different Teacher. With that help, we can begin to see the losses of our lives in a different light, realizing that we do have a choice about what we experience and that we are not the victims of circumstances beyond our control.
Q #16: When I tell myself in meditation that I’m not a body and I’m free I feel peace of mind. But once I open my eyes, there it is — my body. This doesn’t upset me as much as it confuses me. When I look at myself I feel I’m beautiful, but I worry that I might be just feeding the ego again rather than appreciating what I have. It’s a puzzle. Any thoughts on this?
A: Although the Course tells us in many places that we are not a body (e.g., Lesson 199 and the following review lessons), it also recognizes that we have a strong investment in seeing ourselves as a body. Jesus observes, “Look at yourself and you will see a body….without a light it seems that it is gone. Yet you are reassured that it is there because you still can feel it with your hands and hear it move. Here is an image that you want to be yourself. It is the means to make your wish come true.” (T.24.VII.9:1,3,4,5,6 italics added).
We may have brief experiences where we seem to transcend our bodily identification, as you describe, but we are not likely to maintain this for any length of time because we really don’t want to. Our “wish come true” is seeing ourselves as a separate, special, individual self and our body affirms that identity. The Course tells us that although we are the ones who have chosen and made this limited self as our identity (in fantasy but not in reality), we have not wanted to accept responsibility for that decision. And that is because buried deep in our unconscious is the (made- up) belief that we gained this separate self by attacking the Oneness of God and our true Identity as spirit, a horrendous sin of destruction and murder according to our ego. So once we seem to be bodies born to other bodies, our separate existence does not seem at all to be of our own making. Our parents made us. And we may even believe, much to our ego’s delight, that somehow God has been involved in this special “creation” of our individual self, as many religions teach.
So the Course’s goal, knowing how strongly identified we are with our body and how fearful we are of letting go of the protection we believe it affords us, is not to have us relinquish our bodily identification (that happens only at the very end). The Course is instructing us in how to give our body a purpose different from the ego’s original purpose of sin, guilt and fear. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the body becomes a vehicle for learning our lessons of forgiveness, in the context of our relationships with our brothers and sisters, also seen as bodies. And we will continue to see ourselves and everyone else as a body until the forgiveness process is complete and we no longer have any guilt in our mind that we need our body as a defense against.
And as to seeing yourself as beautiful, there is nothing wrong with that, so long as you realize that when the Course speaks of how beautiful we are (e.g., W.pII.313.2:2), it is not speaking of our physical body or our personality. It is referring to the reflected beauty of the Christ in all of us, a beauty which we all share equally as spirit.