ACIM Text Reading for January 22
Chapter 3 ~ The Innocent Perception
II. Miracles as True Perception
I have stated that the basic concepts referred to in this course are not matters of degree. Certain fundamental concepts cannot be understood in terms of opposites. It is impossible to conceive of light and darkness or everything and nothing as joint possibilities. They are all true or all false. It is essential that you realize your thinking will be erratic until a firm commitment to one or the other is made. A firm commitment to darkness or nothingness, however, is impossible. No one has ever lived who has not experienced some light and some thing. No one, therefore, is able to deny truth totally, even if he thinks he can.
Innocence is not a partial attribute. It is not real until it is total. The partly innocent are apt to be quite foolish at times. It is not until their innocence becomes a viewpoint with universal application that it becomes wisdom. Innocent or true perception means that you never misperceive and always see truly. More simply, it means that you never see what does not exist, and always see what does.
When you lack confidence in what someone will do, you are attesting to your belief that he is not in his right mind. This is hardly a miracle-based frame of reference. It also has the disastrous effect of denying the power of the miracle. The miracle perceives everything as it is. If nothing but the truth exists, right-minded seeing cannot see anything but perfection. I have said that only what God creates or what you create with the same will has any real existence. This, then, is all the innocent can see. They do not suffer from distorted perception.
You are afraid of God’s Will because you have used your own mind, which He created in the likeness of His Own, to miscreate. The mind can miscreate only when it believes it is not free. An “imprisoned” mind is not free because it is possessed, or held back, by itself. It is therefore limited, and the will is not free to assert itself. To be one is to be of one mind or will. When the Will of the Sonship and the Father are one, their perfect accord is Heaven.
Nothing can prevail against a Son of God who commends his spirit into the Hands of his Father. By doing this the mind awakens from its sleep and remembers its Creator. All sense of separation disappears. The Son of God is part of the Holy Trinity, but the Trinity Itself is one. There is no confusion within Its Levels, because They are of one Mind and one Will. This single purpose creates perfect integration and establishes the peace of God. Yet this vision can be perceived only by the truly innocent. Because their hearts are pure, the innocent defend true perception instead of defending themselves against it. Understanding the lesson of the Atonement they are without the wish to attack, and therefore they see truly. This is what the Bible means when it says, “When He shall appear (or be perceived) we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
The way to correct distortions is to withdraw your faith in them and invest it only in what is true. You cannot make untruth true. If you are willing to accept what is true in everything you perceive, you let it be true for you. Truth overcomes all error, and those who live in error and emptiness can never find lasting solace. If you perceive truly you are cancelling out misperceptions in yourself and in others simultaneously. Because you see them as they are, you offer them your acceptance of their truth so they can accept it for themselves. This is the healing that the miracle induces.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for January 22
What I see is a form of vengeance.
Today’s idea accurately describes the way anyone who holds attack thoughts in his mind must see the world. Having projected his anger onto the world, he sees vengeance about to strike at him. His own attack is thus perceived as self defense. This becomes an increasingly vicious circle until he is willing to change how he sees. Otherwise, thoughts of attack and counter-attack will preoccupy him and people his entire world. What peace of mind is possible to him then?
It is from this savage fantasy that you want to escape. Is it not joyous news to hear that it is not real? Is it not a happy discovery to find that you can escape? You made what you would destroy; everything that you hate and would attack and kill. All that you fear does not exist.
Look at the world about you at least five times today, for at least a minute each time. As your eyes move slowly from one object to another, from one body to another, say to yourself:
I see only the perishable.
I see nothing that will last.
What I see is not real.
What I see is a form of vengeance.
At the end of each practice period, ask yourself:
Is this the world I really want to see?
The answer is surely obvious.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #913: I’ve been a student of A Course in Miracles for about 12 years. I know Course students often find that as they ask for the Holy Spirit’s help to look at the workings of the ego, things in there lives seem to get worse instead of better. What I am finding quite disturbing in my own process as a student, is the appearance, or perhaps the surfacing, of a great deal of anger. Sometimes in everyday situations, my thoughts become downright vicious and murderous. I would say that I have a pleasant personality, and am overall a likeable, friendly individual. My thought is that perhaps lots of repressed anger is surfacing as I am looking within more and more with the Holy Spirit’s help. I know I should ask the Holy Spirit to look at this issue with me too. But I’m almost scared to delve into what else might be lying below the surface of my otherwise soft-spoken, quiet personality. Is this a “normal” sort of development for a long-term Course student?
A: Yes, what you are describing is a very normal experience for Course students. As you know, the Course process is one of asking the Holy Spirit to look with us at the workings of the ego. In so doing, we are bringing to light that which we’ve always struggled very hard (albeit unconsciously) to keep in darkness. Often, as we become increasingly willing to take the Holy Spirit’s hand and bring to awareness that which we’d buried, we see more and more of how hateful and vicious the ego really is.
When the ego senses its game is up (realizing we’ve found a voice besides its own to listen to), it typically becomes louder and more dramatic. As the Course says, “The ego will attack your motives as soon as they become clearly out of accord with its perception of you. This is when it will shift abruptly from suspiciousness to viciousness, since its uncertainty is increased” (T.9.VII.4:6,7).
As we become more adept at shifting our inner teacher, fear often compels us to make a sharp turn back toward the ego’s familiar voice. But the Course reassures us that this tendency has no effect on our ultimate ability to complete the journey we’ve begun: “As the light comes nearer you will rush to darkness, shrinking from the truth, sometimes retreating to the lesser forms of fear, and sometimes to stark terror. But you will advance, because your goal is the advance from fear to truth” (T.18.III.2:1,2).
Whatever games the ego plays, the important thing is to just continue looking at it while holding the Holy Spirit’s hand. Of course, on the level of this world, it’s generally preferable (and more helpful to you and those around you) not to act out the ego’s insane attack thoughts. But you don’t want to pretend they’re not there. Doing so doesn’t make them go away, it just sends them back into the darkness of the unconscious. And a basic psychological principle is that which is repressed gets projected. So, to truly become less hateful and vicious, we have to admit that we are those things and gradually learn not to take the ego’s voice seriously. Again, that means watching the ego without judgment, no matter how intense or embarrassing its internal nastiness becomes.
Remember that the ego — everyone’s ego — is 100 percent hate. A more socially acceptable personality does not equate to having an ego that is better or more acceptable than another. Jesus tells us “The degree of the emotion you experience does not matter. …a slight twinge of annoyance is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury” (W.pI.21.2:4,5) . At first, that statement can sound grotesque and deeply disturbing. But ultimately, it is quite reassuring. From Jesus’ perspective, we are all the same.
Each of us can choose to listen to the 100 percent hateful voice of the ego, or to the 100 percent loving Voice of the Holy Spirit. Each of us, regardless of the personality traits we display in this lifetime, is both a Hitler and a Jesus. At those times when our thoughts or behavior are more Hitler-like, we have merely become afraid, dropped the Holy Spirit’s hand, and once again made the error of listening to the wrong voice. This is a mistake calling for correction not punishment. And happily, our ego’s cruel and insane ranting has no effect on reality.
For related discussions about anger and attack, see Questions #63 and #587.
Q #914: A Course in Miracles mentions a longitudinal and a horizontal plane. Would you please explain these terms?
A: The passage in A Course in Miracles to which you are referring states, “The miracle minimizes the need for time. In the longitudinal or horizontal plane the recognition of the equality of the members of the Sonship appears to involve almost endless time. However, the miracle entails a sudden shift from horizontal to vertical perception” (T.1.II.6:1,2,3).
That passage comes just after Jesus has told us “‘No man cometh unto the Father but by me’ does not mean that I am in any way separate or different from you except in time, and time does not really exist. The statement is more meaningful in terms of a vertical rather than a horizontal axis” (T.1.II.4:1,2).
Jesus uses the terms longitudinal and horizontal to refer to our experience of linear time within a world of form. He chooses these words because they imply something that spans a distance and follows a path from one point to another.
We believe that we were born into a world of form that existed before we did and that will continue to exist after we die. It’s a world in which events seem to follow one another and in which the past led to the present, which in turn will determine our future. Further, we seem to live as bodies, separate from each other with distance between us. So the “horizontal or vertical plane” is our seeming everyday reality — a linear, sequential, physical experience, characterized by differences and separation.
But the Course tells us that “Time is a trick, a sleight of hand, a vast illusion …” (W.158.4:1) and that “…space is as meaningless as time” (T.1.VI.3:5). Jesus helps us remember that we can listen to an internal teacher — the Holy Spirit — who comes from outside of this spatial, temporal dream world we think we are in. The moment we turn away from the ego and turn toward the Holy Spirit as our guide (the miracle), our mind becomes a reflection of the oneness and timelessness of Heaven. That instant is what Jesus means by “the sudden shift from horizontal to vertical perception.”
The word “vertical” means to rise upright. So the “vertical plane” symbolizes our rising above the world we think we are in (or, as Jesus says, “above the battleground”). This entails returning to the non-linear mind.
The idea that Jesus is no different from us except in time is hardly reassuring from our perspective in which the gulf between our consciousness and his seems insurmountable. To us it seems like we would need millions of years of learning to go from where we are to where he is. But in fact, all we need is an internal shift from the ego, which tells us to move backward or forward (but either way keeps us firmly planted in this world) to the Holy Spirit, Who will gently help us reach the light that lies beyond this illusory world.
A final note; any term Jesus uses in the Course to describe where we are, or the process of returning to our true home in Heaven, is only a symbol. In truth there is no horizontal or vertical plane, just as there is no world. But since virtually every symbol we have placed in this dream world serves to keep us asleep, Jesus uses symbols we can relate to that will help us to awaken.
For an in depth discussion of the concept of time from the Course’s perspective, see the book A Vast Illusion: Time According to A Course in Miracles by Kenneth Wapnick .
For related discussions about the mind, time, and space, please see Questions #228 and #666.