ACIM Text Reading for January 23
Chapter 3 ~ The Innocent Perception
III. Perception versus Knowledge
We have been emphasizing perception, and have said very little about knowledge as yet. This is because perception must be straightened out before you can know anything. To know is to be certain. Uncertainty means that you do not know. Knowledge is power because it is certain and certainty is strength. Perception is temporary. As an attribute of the belief in space and time, it is subject either to fear or to love. Misperceptions produce fear and true perceptions foster love, but neither brings certainty because all perception varies. That is why it is not knowledge. True perception is the basis for knowledge, but knowing is the affirmation of truth and beyond all perceptions.
All your difficulties stem from the fact that you do not recognize yourself, your brother or God. To recognize means to “know again,” implying that you knew before. You can see in many ways because perception involves interpretation, and this means that it is not whole or consistent. The miracle, being a way of perceiving, is not knowledge. It is the right answer to a question, but you do not question when you know. Questioning illusions is the first step in undoing them. The miracle, or the right answer, corrects them. Since perceptions change, their dependence on time is obvious. How you perceive at any given time determines what you do, and actions must occur in time. Knowledge is timeless, because certainty is not questionable. You know when you have ceased to ask questions.
The questioning mind perceives itself in time, and therefore looks for future answers. The closed mind believes the future and the present will be the same. This establishes a seemingly stable state that is usually an attempt to counteract an underlying fear that the future will be worse than the present. This fear inhibits the tendency to question at all.
True vision is the natural perception of spiritual sight, but it is still a correction rather than a fact. Spiritual sight is symbolic, and therefore not a device for knowing. It is, however, a means of right perception, which brings it into the proper domain of the miracle. A “vision of God” would be a miracle rather than a revelation. The fact that perception is involved at all removes the experience from the realm of knowledge. That is why visions, however holy, do not last.
The Bible tells you to “Know thyself,” or to be certain. Certainty is always of God. When you love someone you perceive him as he is, and this makes it possible for you to know him. Until you first perceive him as he is you cannot know him. While you ask questions about him you are clearly implying that you do not know God. Certainty does not require action. When you say you are acting on the basis of knowledge, you are really confusing knowledge with perception. Knowledge provides the strength for creative thinking, but not for right doing. Perception, miracles and doing are closely related. Knowledge is the result of revelation and induces only thought. Even in its most spiritualized form perception involves the body. Knowledge comes from the altar within and is timeless because it is certain. To perceive the truth is not the same as to know it.
Right perception is necessary before God can communicate directly to His altars, which He established in His Sons. There He can communicate His certainty, and His knowledge will bring peace without question. God is not a stranger to His Sons, and His Sons are not strangers to each other. Knowledge preceded both perception and time, and will ultimately replace them. That is the real meaning of “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end,” and “Before Abraham was I am.” Perception can and must be stabilized, but knowledge is stable. “Fear God and keep His commandments” becomes “Know God and accept His certainty.”
If you attack error in another, you will hurt yourself. You cannot know your brother when you attack him. Attack is always made upon a stranger. You are making him a stranger by misperceiving him, and so you cannot know him. It is because you have made him a stranger that you are afraid of him. Perceive him correctly so that you can know him. There are no strangers in God’s creation. To create as He created you can create only what you know, and therefore accept as yours. God knows His children with perfect certainty. He created them by knowing them. He recognizes them perfectly. When they do not recognize each other, they do not recognize Him.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for January 23
I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts.
The idea for today contains the only way out of fear that will ever succeed. Nothing else will work; everything else is meaningless. But this way cannot fail. Every thought you have makes up some segment of the world you see. It is with your thoughts, then, that we must work, if your perception of the world is to be changed.
If the cause of the world you see is attack thoughts, you must learn that it is these thoughts which you do not want. There is no point in lamenting the world. There is no point in trying to change the world. It is incapable of change because it is merely an effect. But there is indeed a point in changing your thoughts about the world. Here you are changing the cause. The effect will change automatically.
The world you see is a vengeful world, and everything in it is a symbol of vengeance. Each of your perceptions of “external reality” is a pictorial representation of your own attack thoughts. One can well ask if this can be called seeing. Is not fantasy a better word for such a process, and hallucination a more appropriate term for the result?
You see the world that you have made, but you do not see yourself as the image maker. You cannot be saved from the world, but you can escape from its cause. This is what salvation means, for where is the world you see when its cause is gone? Vision already holds a replacement for everything you think you see now. Loveliness can light your images, and so transform them that you will love them, even though they were made of hate. For you will not be making them alone.
The idea for today introduces the thought that you are not trapped in the world you see, because its cause can be changed. This change requires, first, that the cause be identified and then let go, so that it can be replaced. The first two steps in this process require your cooperation. The final one does not. Your images have already been replaced. By taking the first two steps, you will see that this is so.
Besides using it throughout the day as the need arises, five practice periods are required in applying today’s idea. As you look about you, repeat the idea slowly to yourself first, and then close your eyes and devote about a minute to searching your mind for as many attack thoughts as occur to you. As each one crosses your mind say:
I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts about ______.
Hold each attack thought in mind as you say this, and then dismiss that thought and go on to the next.
In the practice periods, be sure to include both your thoughts of attacking and of being attacked. Their effects are exactly the same because they are exactly the same. You do not recognize this as yet, and you are asked at this time only to treat them as the same in today’s practice periods. We are still at the stage of identifying the cause of the world you see. When you finally learn that thoughts of attack and of being attacked are not different, you will be ready to let the cause go.
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ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #558 : I am looking at quieting my mind and observing all my suffering from a new point of view. A Course in Miracles says my only function is forgiving It speaks to me of choosing that which is of value. It says I must look first at what I made in order to see what is and isn’t of value. My question is how do I look straight into all my ego-generated drama and hold on to that which is of value. I know that if my only function is forgiving, then that which is of value comes from that premise. But I get very caught up in the drama and find it hard to discern the valuable from the valueless. I am also looking at letting go of judgment, which I am beginning to see as valueless. I could use help in finding coping skills and daily meditations to help me through this change.
A: Yes, the Course is inviting us to take a look at our lives and all our suffering and pain from a completely different perspective. All of our categories and criteria up until now for sorting out what is valuable and helpful in our lives suddenly lose their validity, as the basic premise for deciding shifts from meeting our needs to letting go of our judgments, which is what the Course means by forgiveness. Two broad, all-encompassing generalizations follow from this new premise for deciding — nothing of the ego is of any value in itself, but everything of the ego provides us with the opportunities we need to practice forgiveness.
This also means that our focus shifts from the seemingly endless process of evaluating the ceaseless flow of external events in terms of their potential impact on our physical, emotional, mental, and psychological well-being, to a continuous monitoring of our own inner thoughts to ascertain whether or not they are helpful for recognizing our genuine well-being (sinlessness), which has already been guaranteed by God (W.pI.93.6,7).
So in practical terms, what does this mean? First of all, it means that you need not change anything external in terms of your routines and practices and daily activities, other than perhaps beginning the Workbook lessons, if you have not already. For the Workbook exercises provide the very specific instructions and meditations you are asking for to help bring about the shift from the outer to the inner focus — that is their purpose (W.in). But all the other things in your life — your relationships, your job, your struggles, all the ego drama — now become the classrooms in which you learn to practice forgiveness. This is their value, for these are the situations you have set up in your life onto which you have deliberately but erroneously projected responsibility for determining how you feel about yourself and whether or not you are happy.
Whenever you find yourself making judgments about anything in your life, it is because you have made it a screen for your own guilt over the thought of separation, so that it can now be seen outside you. The first step in the forgiveness process then is to withdraw that projection from outside and acknowledge the guilt’s source in your own mind. And then, with the help of Jesus or the Holy Spirit, you can release the guilt into the light of true forgiveness, which sees none of it as true.
Having described all this, it may be helpful to acknowledge that the resistance to this simple process is tremendous. So don’t be surprised if much of the time your thinking seems oblivious to this correction, mindlessly proceeding along its well-worn path of projecting responsibility for how you feel onto everyone but yourself. Gradually over time, with gentleness and patience, the awareness of how you want to sabotage the process and yourself will become more apparent. And the choice you have in each situation between the ego and the Holy Spirit will become increasingly obvious, as your willingness grows through the practice of forgiveness and the experience of its joyful effects.