ACIM Text Reading for February 11
Chapter 5 ~ Healing and Wholeness
VI. The Ego’s Use of Guilt
Perhaps some of our concepts will become clearer and more personally meaningful if the ego’s use of guilt is clarified. The ego has a purpose, just as the Holy Spirit has. The ego’s purpose is fear, because only the fearful can be egotistic. The ego’s logic is as impeccable as that of the Holy Spirit, because your mind has the means at its disposal to side with heaven or earth, as it elects. But again, remember that both are in you.
In Heaven there is no guilt, because the Kingdom is attained through the Atonement, which releases you to create. The word “create” is appropriate here because, once what you have made is undone by the Holy Spirit, the blessed residue is restored and therefore continues in creation. What is truly blessed is incapable of giving rise to guilt, and must give rise to joy. This makes it invulnerable to the ego because its peace is unassailable. It is invulnerable to disruption because it is whole. Guilt is always disruptive. Anything that engenders fear is divisive because it obeys the law of division. If the ego is the symbol of the separation, it is also the symbol of guilt. Guilt is more than merely not of God. It is the symbol of attack on God. This is a totally meaningless concept except to the ego, but do not underestimate the power of the ego’s belief in it. This is the belief from which all guilt really stems.
The ego is the part of the mind that believes in division. How could part of God detach itself without believing it is attacking Him? We spoke before of the authority problem as based on the concept of usurping God’s power. The ego believes that this is what you did because it believes that it is you. If you identify with the ego, you must perceive yourself as guilty. Whenever you respond to your ego you will experience guilt, and you will fear punishment. The ego is quite literally a fearful thought. However ridiculous the idea of attacking God may be to the sane mind, never forget that the ego is not sane. It represents a delusional system, and speaks for it. Listening to the ego’s voice means that you believe it is possible to attack God, and that a part of Him has been torn away by you. Fear of retaliation from without follows, because the severity of the guilt is so acute that it must be projected.
Whatever you accept into your mind has reality for you. It is your acceptance of it that makes it real. If you enthrone the ego in your mind, your allowing it to enter makes it your reality. This is because the mind is capable of creating reality or making illusions. I said before that you must learn to think with God. To think with Him is to think like Him. This engenders joy, not guilt, because it is natural. Guilt is a sure sign that your thinking is unnatural. Unnatural thinking will always be attended with guilt, because it is the belief in sin. The ego does not perceive sin as a lack of love, but as a positive act of assault. This is necessary to the ego’s survival because, as soon as you regard sin as a lack, you will automatically attempt to remedy the situation. And you will succeed. The ego regards this as doom, but you must learn to regard it as freedom.
The guiltless mind cannot suffer. Being sane, the mind heals the body because it has been healed. The sane mind cannot conceive of illness because it cannot conceive of attacking anyone or anything. I said before that illness is a form of magic. It might be better to say that it is a form of magical solution. The ego believes that by punishing itself it will mitigate the punishment of God. Yet even in this it is arrogant. It attributes to God a punishing intent, and then takes this intent as its own prerogative. It tries to usurp all the functions of God as it perceives them, because it recognizes that only total allegiance can be trusted.
The ego cannot oppose the laws of God any more than you can, but it can interpret them according to what it wants, just as you can. That is why the question, “What do you want?” must be answered. You are answering it every minute and every second, and each moment of decision is a judgment that is anything but ineffectual. Its effects will follow automatically until the decision is changed. Remember, though, that the alternatives themselves are unalterable. The Holy Spirit, like the ego, is a decision. Together they constitute all the alternatives the mind can accept and obey. The Holy Spirit and the ego are the only choices open to you. God created one, and so you cannot eradicate it. You made the other, and so you can. Only what God creates is irreversible and unchangeable. What you made can always be changed because, when you do not think like God, you are not really thinking at all. Delusional ideas are not real thoughts, although you can believe in them. But you are wrong. The function of thought comes from God and is in God. As part of His Thought, you cannot think apart from Him.
Irrational thought is disordered thought. God Himself orders your thought because your thought was created by Him. Guilt feelings are always a sign that you do not know this. They also show that you believe you can think apart from God, and want to. Every disordered thought is attended by guilt at its inception, and maintained by guilt in its continuance. Guilt is inescapable by those who believe they order their own thoughts, and must therefore obey their dictates. This makes them feel responsible for their errors without recognizing that, by accepting this responsibility, they are reacting irresponsibly. If the sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself, and I assure you that it is, then the responsibility for what is atoned for cannot be yours. The dilemma cannot be resolved except by accepting the solution of undoing. You would be responsible for the effects of all your wrong thinking if it could not be undone. The purpose of the Atonement is to save the past in purified form only. If you accept the remedy for disordered thought, a remedy whose efficacy is beyond doubt, how can its symptoms remain?
The continuing decision to remain separated is the only possible reason for continuing guilt feelings. We have said this before, but did not emphasize the destructive results of the decision. Any decision of the mind will affect both behavior and experience. What you want you expect. This is not delusional. Your mind does make your future, and it will turn it back to full creation at any minute if it accepts the Atonement first. It will also return to full creation the instant it has done so. Having given up its disordered thought, the proper ordering of thought becomes quite apparent.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for February 11
God is my strength. Vision is His gift.
The idea for today combines two very powerful thoughts, both of major importance. It also sets forth a cause and effect relationship that explains why you cannot fail in your efforts to achieve the goal of the course. You will see because it is the Will of God. It is His strength, not your own, that gives you power. And it is His gift, rather than your own, that offers vision to you.
God is indeed your strength, and what He gives is truly given. This means that you can receive it any time and anywhere, wherever you are, and in whatever circumstance you find yourself. Your passage through time and space is not at random. You cannot but be in the right place at the right time. Such is the strength of God. Such are His gifts.
We will have two three-to-five-minute practice periods today, one as soon as possible after you wake, and another as close as possible to the time you go to sleep. It is better, however, to wait until you can sit quietly by yourself, at a time when you feel ready, than it is to be concerned with the time as such.
Begin these practice periods by repeating the idea for today slowly, with your eyes open, looking about you. Then close your eyes and repeat the idea again, even slower than before. After this, try to think of nothing except thoughts that occur to you in relation to the idea for the day. You might think, for example:
Vision must be possible. God gives truly,
God’s gifts to me must be mine, because He gave them to me.
Any thought that is clearly related to the idea for today is suitable. You may, in fact, be astonished at the amount of course-related understanding some of your thoughts contain. Let them come without censoring unless you find your mind is merely wandering, and you have let obviously irrelevant thoughts intrude. You may also reach a point where no thoughts at all seem to come to mind. If such interferences occur, open your eyes and repeat the thought once more while looking slowly about; close your eyes, repeat the idea once more, and then continue to look for related thoughts in your mind.
Remember, however, that active searching for relevant thoughts is not appropriate for today’s exercises. Try merely to step back and let the thoughts come. If you find this difficult, it is better to spend the practice period alternating between slow repetitions of the idea with eyes open, then with eyes closed, than it is to strain to find suitable thoughts.
There is no limit on the number of short practice periods that would be beneficial today. The idea for the day is a beginning step in bringing thoughts together, and teaching you that you are studying a unified thought system in which nothing is lacking that is needed, and nothing is included that is contradictory or irrelevant.
The more often you repeat the idea during the day, the more often you will be reminding yourself that the goal of the course is important to you, and that you have not forgotten it.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #467: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is thought to be the core of western morality and one of the most important messages of Jesus. From the perspective of A Course in Miracles it is a really confusing message, considering we do not know what is our own best interests when identifying with ego. Is there some rule within the Course’s teaching that would reinterpret this golden rule?
A: There is only one place in the Course where Jesus mentions the Golden Rule, and that is in the first chapter: “The Golden Rule is the rule for appropriate behavior. You cannot behave appropriately unless you perceive correctly. Since you and your neighbor are equal members of one family, as you perceive both so you will do to both. You should look out from the perception of your own holiness to the holiness of others” (T.1.III.6.4,5,6,7).
As you say, when we identify with the ego, we cannot know our own or anyone else’s best interests. What is in our best interests is forgiveness and the undoing of the separation, which pertains only to the content in our minds, not behavior. Thus when we look on ourselves and others without judgment, and we see our interests as the same, not in opposition to everyone else’s, then we have chosen against the ego and are in our right minds. We then share the perception of the Holy Spirit Who sees us all as one Son, and for that instant, at least, our actions will be guided solely by love. Jesus wants so very much for us to recognize the unfortunate consequences of our having fallen for the ego’s teaching that our judgments and condemnations of others have no effect on us. The correction of that fallacy is at the core of his teaching, as explicitly found for example in these two lessons: “It can be but myself I crucify” (W.pI.197) and “When I am healed I am not healed alone” (W.pI.137).
Q #468: i. At work, there is someone I find very difficult and impossible to like in any way. However, all the other people in my department feel just as strongly about her, some even stronger. If she is my teacher/savior and reflects back to me where I am at in the process and what I still hold in my unconscious about myself, how does it fit into the A Course in Miracles’ philosophy that all the others in the department are having the same experience?
ii. In A Course in Miracles, Jesus speaks about how when we let go of our grievances against someone that the Holy Spirit extends this gift through us and the other person “will realize his error.” I have noticed as I have gone on that after I let go of a grievance against someone that they often seem renewed in their attitude toward me and I have been guided to feel that they receive a new interpretation toward me and a correction for the guilt that they have projected onto me. But if the person is not a psychological sophisticate, how can they have a deep understanding toward me?
A: i. It is not uncommon at all to have many people react negatively to the same person, as is readily apparent these days with public figures and celebrities. We all share the same ego thought system, which means we are all sending out the messengers of fear that Jesus talks about in the first obstacle to peace to find “bad” or obnoxious people onto whom we can project our unconscious guilt (T.19.IV.A.i). So it is not surprising that other people in your department react the same way to your co-worker; we are all engaged in the same ego dynamics all the time, since we are all split-off parts of the same ego mind.
But it is also true that we share the same right-minded thought system of forgiveness and the same decision-making capacity to choose between the two systems. So each of you could ask for help with your judgments and condemnation of this other person. You could try to identify the meaning behind the form of the behavior that you find objectionable and then ask yourself “Would I accuse myself of doing this?” (W.134.9:2). Then you would know what you find unforgivable in yourself, and you would have another opportunity to look at that non- judgmentally with Jesus. The instant you look within yourself without judgment, you would be able to look at your co-worker engaging in the same ego behavior and feel nothing but compassion. When you are free of fear and self-condemnation for an instant, you would perceive only the call for love behind the ego hatred and meanness. But right-minded perception does not mean, as you know, that you would not take appropriate action in that type of situation. If correction or discipline is called for, you would do it without repulsion, anger, fear, or judgment. This leads to the next question:
ii. Our grievances toward others are usually bargains we make with them to maintain the reality of sin, guilt, and fear — the life blood of the ego — so that we can continue with our lives as individuals while not accepting responsibility for that separation from our Source. In “The Secret Vows” in Chapter 28, Jesus talks about the agreement we make with one another to secure our identities as separate individuals. That section is mainly about sickness, but the dynamic would apply to grievances as well. There he tells us that we make a promise to another person, which we keep out of our consciousness, “to be hurt by him, and to attack him in return. . . . It [sickness] is the obvious effect of what was made in secret, in agreement with another’s secret wish to be apart from you, as you would be apart from him” (T.28.VI.4:7; 5:2).
As with all our defenses against love and oneness, we choose to keep guilt alive and then immediately hide that choice from ourselves and are left feeling hostility and repulsion towards the other person and perfectly justified in feeling that way. But on another level in our minds we are always upholding that bargain with the other person to be in a victim-victimizer relationship. Thus, if you were to change your mind and choose against that original ego decision to see the other person as the sinner, that person might make the same decision not to keep the bargain with you. That happens frequently. It has nothing to do with psychological sophistication, except perhaps in the language used. It is all happening on another level.
On the other hand, the other person may be too afraid of letting go of the defense and therefore would not change, even though you have let go of the grievance. But that should have nothing to do with your decision. If you truly let go of the grievance, you will see how terrified the other person is to be without his/her defenses, and then you would feel only genuine compassion and understanding of where he/she is coming from. When you perceive through the eyes of forgiveness in your right mind, you become the reminder to the other person that he or she can make the same choice that you have made. You would then allow that person as much time as is needed to accept the Atonement, knowing that the ego’s hatred and fear has no power whatsoever to change love, and therefore there has been no change in that person’s true Identity.