ACIM Text Reading for July 16
Chapter 22 ~ Salvation and the Holy Relationship
VI. Weakness and Defensiveness
How does one overcome illusions? Surely not by force or anger, nor by opposing them in any way. Merely by letting reason tell you that they contradict reality. They go against what must be true. The opposition comes from them, and not reality. Reality opposes nothing. What merely is needs no defense, and offers none. Only illusions need defense because of weakness. And how can it be difficult to walk the way of truth when only weakness interferes? You are the strong one in this seeming conflict. And you need no defense. Everything that needs defense you do not want, for anything that needs defense will weaken you.
Consider what the ego wants defenses for. Always to justify what goes against the truth, flies in the face of reason and makes no sense. Can this be justified? What can this be except an invitation to insanity, to save you from the truth? And what would you be saved from but what you fear? Belief in sin needs great defense, and at enormous cost. All that the Holy Spirit offers must be defended against and sacrificed. For sin is carved into a block out of your peace, and laid between you and its return.
Yet how can peace be so fragmented? It is still whole, and nothing has been taken from it. See how the means and the material of evil dreams are nothing. In truth you and your brother stand together, with nothing in between. God holds your hands, and what can separate whom He has joined as one with Him? It is your Father Whom you would defend against. Yet it remains impossible to keep love out. God rests with you in quiet, undefended and wholly undefending, for in this quiet state alone is strength and power. Here can no weakness enter, for here is no attack and therefore no illusions. Love rests in certainty. Only uncertainty can be defensive. And all uncertainty is doubt about yourself.
How weak is fear; how little and how meaningless. How insignificant before the quiet strength of those whom love has joined! This is your “enemy,”–a frightened mouse that would attack the universe. How likely is it that it will succeed? Can it be difficult to disregard its feeble squeaks that tell of its omnipotence, and would drown out the hymn of praise to its Creator that every heart throughout the universe forever sings as one? Which is the stronger? Is it this tiny mouse or everything that God created? You are not joined together by this mouse, but by the Will of God. And can a mouse betray whom God has joined?
If you but recognized how little stands between you and your awareness of your union! Be not deceived by the illusions it presents of size and thickness, weight, solidity and firmness of foundation. Yes, to the body’s eyes it looks like an enormous solid body, immovable as is a mountain. Yet within you is a Force that no illusions can resist. This body only seems to be immovable; this Force is irresistible in truth. What, then, must happen when they come together? Can the illusion of immovability be long defended from what is quietly passed through and gone beyond?
Forget not, when you feel the need arise to be defensive about anything, you have identified yourself with an illusion. And therefore feel that you are weak because you are alone. This is the cost of all illusions. Not one but rests on the belief that you are separate. Not one that does not seem to stand, heavy and solid and immovable, between you and your brother. And not one that truth cannot pass over lightly, and so easily that you must be convinced, in spite of what you thought it was, that it is nothing. If you forgive each other, this must happen. For it is your unwillingness to overlook what seems to stand between you that makes it look impenetrable, and defends the illusion of its immovability.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for July 16
It can be but my gratitude I earn.
Here is the second step we take to free your mind from the belief in outside force pitted against your own. You make attempts at kindness and forgiveness. Yet you turn them to attack again, unless you find external gratitude and lavish thanks. Your gifts must be received with honor, lest they be withdrawn. And so you think God’s gifts are loans at best; at worst, deceptions which would cheat you of defenses, to ensure that when He strikes He will not fail to kill.
How easily are God and guilt confused by those who know not what their thoughts can do. Deny your strength, and weakness must become salvation to you. See yourself as bound, and bars become your home. Nor will you leave the prison house, or claim your strength, until guilt and salvation are not seen as one, and freedom and salvation are perceived as joined, with strength beside them, to be sought and claimed, and found and fully recognized.
The world must thank you when you offer it release from your illusions. Yet your thanks belong to you as well, for its release can only mirror yours. Your gratitude is all your gifts require, that they be a lasting offering of a thankful heart, released from hell forever. Is it this you would undo by taking back your gifts, because they were not honored? It is you who honor them and give them fitting thanks, for it is you who have received the gifts.
It does not matter if another thinks your gifts unworthy. In his mind there is a part that joins with yours in thanking you. It does not matter if your gifts seem lost and ineffectual. They are received where they are given. In your gratitude are they accepted universally, and thankfully acknowledged by the Heart of God Himself. And would you take them back, when He has gratefully accepted them?
God blesses every gift you give to Him, and every gift is given Him, because it can be given only to yourself. And what belongs to God must be His Own. Yet you will never realize His gifts are sure, eternal, changeless, limitless, forever giving out, extending love and adding to your never-ending joy while you forgive but to attack again.
Withdraw the gifts you give, and you will think that what is given you has been withdrawn. But learn to let forgiveness take away the sins you think you see outside yourself, and you can never think the gifts of God are lent but for a little while, before He snatches them away again in death. For death will have no meaning for you then.
And with the end of this belief is fear forever over. Thank your Self for this, for He is grateful only unto God, and He gives thanks for you unto Himself. To everyone who lives will Christ yet come, for everyone must live and move in Him. His Being in His Father is secure, because Their Will is One. Their gratitude to all They have created has no end, for gratitude remains a part of love.
Thanks be to you, the holy Son of God. For as you were created, you contain all things within your Self. And you are still as God created you. Nor can you dim the light of your perfection. In your heart the Heart of God is laid. He holds you dear, because you are Himself. All gratitude belongs to you, because of what you are.
Give thanks as you receive it. Be you free of all ingratitude to anyone who makes your Self complete. And from this Self is no one left outside. Give thanks for all the countless channels which extend this Self. All that you do is given unto Him. All that you think can only be His Thoughts, sharing with Him the holy Thoughts of God. Earn now the gratitude you have denied yourself when you forgot the function God has given you. But never think that He has ever ceased to offer thanks to you.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #174-a: How does A Course in Miracles deal with severe woundedness? For many years, I have struggled with the inequality of parents and children, focused on abuse I received on all levels, resulting in impoverished development even though I am very bright. I have two questions:
#174-b: How can I forgive evil? What happened to me is evil, sourced in escape of responsibility and outright violation — emotionally, spiritually, mentally, personally.
#174-c: What am I? What does it mean to be a spiritual creature (my body is light) while living in a world made of hate, conflict, and power?
A: The world is a desperate, cruel place, filled with the effects of evil thoughts. People can be unconscionably vicious and brutal to each other, abusing those over whom they have power, much as they have been abused by those who have had power over them. It is a vicious cycle from which no escape seems possible. Yet escape is possible, if we are willing to look beneath the surface of our ready judgments of good and evil and our facile distinctions between the guilty and the innocent.
Now there may be a way of understanding what motivated your parents to treat you as they did, but that does not mean there is any justification for it. Yet you also are recognizing that holding on to the judgment and the pain only keeps you trapped in mental anguish that paralyzes you and prevents you from experiencing the joy and peace that we are assured is our God-given inheritance (W.pI.104).
The Course recognizes that “frightened people can be vicious” (T.3.I.4:2). This awareness holds the key to releasing ourselves and everyone else from the grips of evil. It is fear that motivates all of us to act out our evil thoughts, and not inherent evil. No one in the world is immune from having thoughts of evil — that is the nature of the ego thought system that we all share. Some of us may have become better than others at curbing our overt behavior. But rage bordering on the murderous simmers within each of our minds until we learn how to uncover the guilt that fuels the rage and allow it to be healed in the light of the Holy Spirit’s forgiveness. The ego is complete and total darkness — there is no light within its tightly sealed boundaries — and we all grope for our way, stumbling without hope while we remain identified with its evil purposes.
We are all one in sharing the wrong-minded ego, although we may differ in how we give it expression in our lives. But until we acknowledge its presence within us, we will be caught in dysfunctional attempts to defend against the guilt and self-hatred that are the inevitable companions of our belief in the darkness within. We will seek to project that guilt outside ourselves and on to others. And so we will lash out, wanting to hold others responsible for the pain that comes from feeling separated from love. Some find socially appropriate but still ego-motivated ways to channel this overwhelming experience of pain and guilt. Others direct it out with little or no concern for its effects on others. And so these become the rapists, the murderers, the child abusers. And it becomes easy to see the sin and guilt within them, as a testament to our own “innocence.” Yet what drives them is no different from what drives all of us who have not uncovered these unconscious dynamics in order to begin to heal them. And so the first step in our own healing — after acknowledging our judgments against the murderer, the rapist, the abuser — is to recognize the common “humanity” that we all share — a desperate, pain-filled identity that places self-interest and self-preservation above everything else. We all do it, but our cover may just be better.
If we can begin to get in touch with the fact that our own pain is the same as everyone else’s pain, and it is only that pain which leads all of us to act in insane ways, we have opened the door to a more merciful and compassionate view of both ourselves and everyone else. For we will have begun to see that whatever cruelty any of us acts out is only a defense against the guilt and pain within — the same guilt and pain that we all experience.
This is not to say that our own experiences of abuse should be denied. But there is a step beyond acknowledging the pain that we have felt at others’ hands that we will take when we are ready to move beyond the pain. The problem in the present is not the events of the past themselves but the interpretation we are continuing to give them. And the Course provides us a different way of looking at those past events, helping us to understand what at a deeper level motivated the abusive actions, and how we share that same deeper motivation in our own life as we have been living it with the ego’s guidance. Only then can we recognize the choice we have in the present to be released from the pain of our own self-judgments.
We are all looking for a way out of our pain, but we blindly think and act in ways that continue to inflict pain upon ourselves — judgments and attacks against others that only reinforce the belief in separation that is the foundation of the ego thought system. When we begin to recognize the content of fear behind the ego’s cruelty — either someone else’s or own — the judgments we have been holding onto can begin to dissolve. We will have begun to shift from the self-interest of the ego to the shared interest of the Holy Spirit, Who recognizes that we are all joined in the same need for release from the guilt and pain of the ego thought system. That recognition of shared interests is a reflection of the love that we all yearn for and the Oneness that we all share as the holy and innocent Son of God, an Identity that transcends the shared ego and its manifestations, from which the illusion of evil has arisen.
Q #175: The following three questions all address the issue of death and so will be answered together:
i: I would like to know more about “death solves nothing.”
ii: It is common for us to say when a person dies that he or she is finally “at peace.” Does death of the ego not release us from it’s fear based thinking and grant us peace?
iii: Would you kindly explain what A Course in Miracles teaches regarding finding peace after death?
A: Since everyone in this world suffers the excruciating pain of believing they are separated from their true Home and their Creator, there are times throughout one’s life that the thought of escape from this pain would seem to be a blessing. In this instance, death represents escape from our pain. And yet, A Course in Miracles teaches us that we are not our bodies: “The body is the symbol of what you think you are. It is clearly a separation device, and therefore does not exist (T.6.V.A.2:2,3). Therefore we need not escape from our bodies, whether they be physical, psychological, emotional, astral, etc. What we do need to escape from, however, is the thought of separation, and this is accomplished through the process of forgiveness. If the mind has not been totally healed of the thought of separation once the body “dies,” the unforgiveness that it holds will be played out in other times and other forms until forgiveness is perfected.
“When your body and your ego and your dreams are gone, you will know that you will last forever. Perhaps you think this is accomplished through death, but nothing is accomplished through death, because death is nothing” (T.6.V.A.1:1,2).
At other times, we are may believe this world to be a spiritual testing ground, and death symbolizes an end to our testing, and our ticket back Home. Or we may believe that once we die, our egos are automatically transcended, and we will be at peace. Beliefs such as this tempt one to want death to come sooner rather than later. “There is a risk of thinking death is peace, because the world equates the body with the Self which God created” (T.27.VII.10:2). It is important to keep in mind that the “death of the ego” does not come from the body’s death, but rather from the process of forgiveness, which only occurs within the mind. And, our bodies may die with or without completing this process.
You can see in any of this instances how we are tempted to attribute pain to our body rather than to our mind. Once we have learned where the real problem lies, the Holy Spirit can begin to use our body to teach us our true identity as a mind: “The Holy Spirit, as always, takes what you have made [the body] and translates it into a learning device….He reinterprets what the ego uses as an argument for separation into a demonstration against it (T.6.V.A.2:4,5).
So death (which is nothing) of the body (also nothing) solves nothing (the thought of separation, another nothing). Nothing plus nothing equals nothing!