ACIM Text Reading for September 29
Chapter 31 ~ The Final Vision
V. Self Concept versus Self
The learning of the world is built upon a concept of the self adjusted to the world’s reality. It fits it well. For this an image is that suits a world of shadows and illusions. Here it walks at home, where what it sees is one with it. The building of a concept of the self is what the learning of the world is for. This is its purpose; that you come without a self, and make one as you go along. And by the time you reach “maturity” you have perfected it, to meet the world on equal terms, at one with its demands.
A concept of the self is made by you. It bears no likeness to yourself at all. It is an idol, made to take the place of your reality as Son of God. The concept of the self the world would teach is not the thing that it appears to be. For it is made to serve two purposes, but one of which the mind can recognize. The first presents the face of innocence, the aspect acted on. It is this face that smiles and charms and even seems to love. It searches for companions and it looks, at times with pity, on the suffering, and sometimes offers solace. It believes that it is good within an evil world.
This aspect can grow angry, for the world is wicked and unable to provide the love and shelter innocence deserves. And so this face is often wet with tears at the injustices the world accords to those who would be generous and good. This aspect never makes the first attack. But every day a hundred little things make small assaults upon its innocence, provoking it to irritation, and at last to open insult and abuse.
The face of innocence the concept of the self so proudly wears can tolerate attack in self-defense, for is it not a well-known fact the world deals harshly with defenseless innocence? No one who makes a picture of himself omits this face, for he has need of it. The other side he does not want to see. Yet it is here the learning of the world has set its sights, for it is here the world’s “reality” is set, to see to it the idol lasts.
Beneath the face of innocence there is a lesson that the concept of the self was made to teach. It is a lesson in a terrible displacement, and a fear so devastating that the face that smiles above it must forever look away, lest it perceive the treachery it hides. The lesson teaches this: “I am the thing you made of me, and as you look on me, you stand condemned because of what I am.” On this conception of the self the world smiles with approval, for it guarantees the pathways of the world are safely kept, and those who walk on them will not escape.
Here is the central lesson that ensures your brother is condemned eternally. For what you are has now become his sin. For this is no forgiveness possible. No longer does it matter what he does, for your accusing finger points to him, unwavering and deadly in its aim. It points to you as well, but this is kept still deeper in the mists below the face of innocence. And in these shrouded vaults are all his sins and yours preserved and kept in darkness, where they cannot be perceived as errors, which the light would surely show. You can be neither blamed for what you are, nor can you change the things it makes you do. Your brother then is symbol of your sins to you who are but silently, and yet with ceaseless urgency, condemning still your brother for the hated thing you are.
Concepts are learned. They are not natural. Apart from learning they do not exist. They are not given, so they must be made. Not one of them is true, and many come from feverish imaginations, hot with hatred and distortions born of fear. What is a concept but a thought to which its maker gives a meaning of his own? Concepts maintain the world. But they can not be used to demonstrate the world is real. For all of them are made within the world, born in its shadow, growing in its ways and finally “maturing” in its thought. They are ideas of idols, painted with the brushes of the world, which cannot make a single picture representing truth.
A concept of the self is meaningless, for no one here can see what it is for, and therefore cannot picture what it is. Yet is all learning that the world directs begun and ended with the single aim of teaching you this concept of yourself, that you will choose to follow this world’s laws, and never seek to go beyond its roads nor realize the way you see yourself. Now must the Holy Spirit find a way to help you see this concept of the self must be undone, if any peace of mind is to be given you. Nor can it be unlearned except by lessons aimed to teach that you are something else. For otherwise, you would be asked to make exchange of what you now believe for total loss of self, and greater terror would arise in you.
Thus are the Holy Spirit’s lesson plans arranged in easy steps, that though there be some lack of ease at times and some distress, there is no shattering of what was learned, but just a re-translation of what seems to be the evidence on its behalf. Let us consider, then, what proof there is that you are what your brother made of you. For even though you do not yet perceive that this is what you think, you surely learned by now that you behave as if it were. Does he react for you? And does he know exactly what would happen? Can he see your future and ordain, before it comes, what you should do in every circumstance? He must have made the world as well as you to have such prescience in the things to come.
That you are what your brother made of you seems most unlikely. Even if he did, who gave the face of innocence to you? Is this your contribution? Who is, then, the “you” who made it? And who is deceived by all your goodness, and attacks it so? Let us forget the concept’s foolishness, and merely think of this; there are two parts to what you think yourself to be. If one were generated by your brother, who was there to make the other? And from whom must something be kept hidden? If the world be evil, there is still no need to hide what you are made of. Who is there to see? And what but is attacked could need defense?
Perhaps the reason why this concept must be kept in darkness is that, in the light, the one who would not think it true is you. And what would happen to the world you see, if all its underpinnings were removed? Your concept of the world depends upon this concept of the self. And both would go, if either one were ever raised to doubt. The Holy Spirit does not seek to throw you into panic. So He merely asks if just a little question might be raised.
There are alternatives about the thing that you must be. You might, for instance, be the thing you chose to have your brother be. This shifts the concept of the self from what is wholly passive, and at least makes way for active choice, and some acknowledgment that interaction must have entered in. There is some understanding that you chose for both of you, and what he represents has meaning that was given it by you. It also shows some glimmering of sight into perception’s law that what you see reflects the state of the perceiver’s mind. Yet who was it that did the choosing first? If you are what you chose your brother be, alternatives were there to choose among, and someone must have first decided on the one to choose, and let the other go.
Although this step has gains, it does not yet approach a basic question. Something must have gone before these concepts of the self. And something must have done the learning which gave rise to them. Nor can this be explained by either view. The main advantage of the shifting to the second from the first is that you somehow entered in the choice by your decision. But this gain is paid in almost equal loss, for now you stand accused of guilt for what your brother is. And you must share his guilt, because you chose it for him in the image of your own. While only he was treacherous before, now must you be condemned along with him.
The concept of the self has always been the great preoccupation of the world. And everyone believes that he must find the answer to the riddle of himself. Salvation can be seen as nothing more than the escape from concepts. It does not concern itself with content of the mind, but with the simple statement that it thinks. And what can think has choice, and can be shown that different thoughts have different consequence. So it can learn that everything it thinks reflects the deep confusion that it feels about how it was made and what it is. And vaguely does the concept of the self appear to answer what it does not know.
Seek not your Self in symbols. There can be no concept that can stand for what you are. What matters it which concept you accept while you perceive a self that interacts with evil, and reacts to wicked things? Your concept of yourself will still remain quite meaningless. And you will not perceive that you can interact but with yourself. To see a guilty world is but the sign your learning has been guided by the world, and you behold it as you see yourself. The concept of the self embraces all you look upon, and nothing is outside of this perception. If you can be hurt by anything, you see a picture of your secret wishes. Nothing more than this. And in your suffering of any kind you see your own concealed desire to kill.
You will make many concepts of the self as learning goes along. Each one will show the changes in your own relationships, as your perception of yourself is changed. There will be some confusion every time there is a shift, but be you thankful that the learning of the world is loosening its grasp upon your mind. And be you sure and happy in the confidence that it will go at last, and leave your mind at peace. The role of the accuser will appear in many places and in many forms. And each will seem to be accusing you. Yet have no fear it will not be undone.
The world can teach no images of you unless you want to learn them. There will come a time when images have all gone by, and you will see you know not what you are. It is to this unsealed and open mind that truth returns, unhindered and unbound. Where concepts of the self have been laid by is truth revealed exactly as it is. When every concept has been raised to doubt and question, and been recognized as made on no assumptions that would stand the light, then is the truth left free to enter in its sanctuary, clean and free of guilt. There is no statement that the world is more afraid to hear than this:
- “I do not know the thing I am, and therefore do not know what I am doing,
- where I am, or how to look upon the world or on myself.”
Yet in this learning is salvation born. And What you are will tell you of Itself.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for September 29
Section 6. What is the Christ?
Christ is God’s Son as He created Him. He is the Self we share, uniting us with one another, and with God as well. He is the Thought which still abides within the Mind that is His Source. He has not left His holy home, nor lost the innocence in which He was created. He abides unchanged forever in the Mind of God.
Christ is the link that keeps you one with God, and guarantees that separation is no more than an illusion of despair, for hope forever will abide in Him. Your mind is part of His, and His of yours. He is the part in which God’s Answer lies; where all decisions are already made, and dreams are over. He remains untouched by anything the body’s eyes perceive. For though in Him His Father placed the means for your salvation, yet does He remain the Self Who, like His Father, knows no sin.
Home of the Holy Spirit, and at home in God alone, does Christ remain at peace within the Heaven of your holy mind. This is the only part of you that has reality in truth. The rest is dreams. Yet will these dreams be given unto Christ, to fade before His glory and reveal your holy Self, the Christ, to you at last.
The Holy Spirit reaches from the Christ in you to all your dreams, and bids them come to Him, to be translated into truth. He will exchange them for the final dream which God appointed as the end of dreams. For when forgiveness rests upon the world and peace has come to every Son of God, what could there be to keep things separate, for what remains to see except Christ’s face?
And how long will this holy face be seen, when it is but the symbol that the time for learning now is over, and the goal of the Atonement has been reached at last? So therefore let us seek to find Christ’s face and look on nothing else. As we behold His glory, will we know we have no need of learning or perception or of time, or anything except the holy Self, the Christ Whom God created as His Son.
Christ’s is the vision I will use today.
Each day, each hour, every instant, I am choosing what I want to look upon, the sounds I want to hear, the witnesses to what I want to be the truth for me. Today I choose to look upon what Christ would have me see, to listen to God’s Voice, and seek the witnesses to what is true in God’s creation. In Christ’s sight, the world and God’s creation meet, and as they come together all perception disappears. His kindly sight redeems the world from death, for nothing that He looks on but must live, remembering the Father and the Son; Creator and creation unified.
Father, Christ’s vision is the way to You. What He beholds invites Your memory to be restored to me. And this I choose, to be what I would look upon today.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #186: In Chapter 31 of A Course in Miracles, Section V, “Self-Concept vs Self,” Jesus says, “The role of the accuser will appear in many places and in many forms. And each will seem to be accusing you” (T.31.V.16:5,6). Can you explain what is meant by this?
A: As earlier parts of this section make clear, each judgment we hold against another is really a deeply buried self-accusation. Perhaps most graphic is the following; “No longer does it matter what he does, for your accusing finger points to him, unwavering in its deadly aim. It points to you as well, but this is kept deeper in the mists below the face of innocence” (T.31.V.6:4,5).
The section then goes on (T.31.V.15,16) to discuss how we will assume various concepts or roles for our self-identity over time (e.g., child, sibling, student, lover, spouse, parent, employee, boss) — all the while believing that we are a victim in these various relationships, treated unfairly by a world of evil that exists outside ourselves. But all the accusations we hold against others as we assume the various roles of our lives (i.e., “the role of the accuser…in many places and in many forms”) really represent the hidden accusations of guilt and sin over the original separation thought and all its seeming ramifications that we hold against ourselves. And so as we accept and put into practice the Course’s teaching on projection, it will now seem that the finger we have pointed at others is, in each case, now pointing at ourselves. But the reality of our true Self is beyond all these roles and concepts And so Jesus reassures us, “Yet have no fear it [each role] will not be undone” (T.31.V.16:7). For none of the images of good or evil that we have made of both our brother and ourselves is real. And when we no longer want any of them, we will know Who we truly are (T.31.V.17).
Q #187: So what happens when one is finally able to let go of one’s ego? Does one, as an individual, cease to exist? I know I am attached to my individuality. I like my life, basically. I don’t want to disappear into….what? I like the world and think it is beautiful. I don’t want the world to disappear. What happens when our bodies die? What happens when we awake from the dream? Do we awake from the dream when our bodies die?
A: You can rest assured that so long as you want an individual self and the world to be your reality, they will be. Jesus makes this clear in a number of passages. Speaking of the world we see, he says, “…you invented it. You can give it up as easily as you made it up. You will see it or not see it, as you wish. While you want it you will see it; when you no longer want it, it will not be there for you to see” (W.pI.32.1:2,3,4,5). And later in the workbook, “There is no world apart from what you wish, and herein lies your ultimate release….It is not pride which tells you that you made the world you see, and that it changes as you change your mind” (W.pI.132.5:1,5). And earlier in the text, he assures us, “Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality” (T.16.VI.8:1).
So you are not at this point looking for release — that is fine. Jesus has no judgment about that. He may question your sanity (T.23.II.13:4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13). But he does not judge you for preferring the world to his love. Most of us do not recognize or believe that this is the choice we are making. And so one of the purposes of A Course in Miracles is to help us see that we are choosing the world and our individual self, and that choice represents a choice against love and peace. Genuine love and peace can only be found in unity, not in separation and differences.
If the world still holds great appeal for you, the Course will be less desirable as a spiritual path. It will teach you the value of letting go of your judgments and, as a result, of having less pain, guilt and anxiety in your relationships. But the metaphysics that is the Course’s foundation for forgiveness asserts the unreality of the separation, the individual self, and the world. Such a teaching runs counter to your expressed preference for the world and at some point you may experience conflict. But the truth is, none of us would find ourselves here in the world if it were not our preference and our choice, as the passages cited above make clear.
So what is most important is that you are honest with yourself and Jesus about what you want right now and how you feel. If, over time, you come to accept that the choice you are making has a cost to you, you can reconsider your decision at that point.
When you are ready to release completely your identification with the ego self and the world, which is its defense, nothing really will happen. You will simply experience a profound shift in perception. Death has nothing to do with this shift anymore than birth has. The death of the body does not change the decision being made in the mind to be separate — it may in fact reinforce that choice, if the death in any way feels like a punishment or a deprivation or an escape. And then we will simply choose another lifetime to continue our experience of individuality and specialness.
Everything is happening in the mind and when your mind lets go of the ego, you will simply awaken to the fact that you have only been dreaming a dream of separation, And so there is no separation, no separate self and no external world. The dream may appear to continue, but you will not take it seriously, knowing it is simply a fantasy or illusion that has no real meaning or effects. You will know you are limitless mind and not a limited bodily self. And the joy that comes from the realization that the mind is truly one will make whatever joy and beauty the world seemed to offer you before seem like a pale, lifeless shadow in comparison.
See also Question #68 for a discussion of the relationship between the mind and death of the body.