ACIM Text Reading for March 14
Chapter 8 ~ The Journey Back
VIII. The Body as Means or End
Attitudes toward the body are attitudes toward attack. To the ego the body is to attack with. Equating you with the body, it teaches that you are to attack with. The body, then, is not the source of its own health. The body’s condition lies solely in your interpretation of its function. Functions are part of being since they arise from it, but the relationship is not reciprocal. The whole does define the part, but the part does not define the whole. Yet to know in part is to know entirely because of the fundamental difference between knowledge and perception. In perception the whole is built up of parts that can separate and reassemble in different constellations. But knowledge never changes, so its constellation is permanent. The idea of part-whole relationships has meaning only at the level of perception, where change is possible. Otherwise, there is no difference between the part and whole.
The body exists in a world that seems to contain two voices fighting for its possession. In this perceived constellation the body is seen as capable of shifting its allegiance from one to the other, making the concepts of both health and sickness meaningful. The ego makes a fundamental confusion between means and end as it always does. Regarding the body as an end, the ego has no real use for it because it is not an end. You must have noticed an outstanding characteristic of every end that the ego has accepted as its own. When you have achieved it, it has not satisfied you. This is why the ego is forced to shift ceaselessly from one goal to another, so that you will continue to hope it can yet offer you something.
It has been particularly difficult to overcome the ego’s belief in the body as an end, because it is synonymous with the belief in attack as an end. The ego has a profound investment in sickness. If you are sick, how can you object to the ego’s firm belief that you are not invulnerable? This is an appealing argument from the ego’s point of view, because it obscures the obvious attack that underlies the sickness. If you recognized this and also decided against attack, you could not give this false witness to the ego’s stand.
It is hard to perceive sickness as a false witness, because you do not realize that it is entirely out of keeping with what you want. This witness, then, appears to be innocent and trustworthy because you have not seriously cross-examined him. If you had, you would not consider sickness such a strong witness on behalf of the ego’s views. A more honest statement would be that those who want the ego are predisposed to defend it. Therefore, their choice of witnesses should be suspect from the beginning. The ego does not call upon witnesses who would disagree with its case, nor does the Holy Spirit. I have said that judgment is the function of the Holy Spirit, and one He is perfectly equipped to fulfill. The ego as a judge gives anything but an impartial judgment. When the ego calls on a witness, it has already made the witness an ally.
It is still true that the body has no function of itself, because it is not an end. The ego, however, establishes it as an end because, as such, its true function is obscured. This is the purpose of everything the ego does. Its sole aim is to lose sight of the function of everything. A sick body does not make any sense. It could not make sense because sickness is not what the body is for. Sickness is meaningful only if the two basic premises on which the ego’s interpretation of the body rests are true; that the body is for attack, and that you are a body. Without these premises sickness is inconceivable.
Sickness is a way of demonstrating that you can be hurt. It is a witness to your frailty, your vulnerability, and your extreme need to depend on external guidance. The ego uses this as its best argument for your need for its guidance. It dictates endless prescriptions for avoiding catastrophic outcomes. The Holy Spirit, perfectly aware of the same situation, does not bother to analyze it at all. If data are meaningless there is no point in analyzing them. The function of truth is to collect information that is true. Any way you handle error results in nothing. The more complicated the results become the harder it may be to recognize their nothingness, but it is not necessary to examine all possible outcomes to which premises give rise in order to judge them truly.
A learning device is not a teacher. It cannot tell you how you feel. You do not know how you feel because you have accepted the ego’s confusion, and you therefore believe that a learning device can tell you how you feel. Sickness is merely another example of your insistence on asking guidance of a teacher who does not know the answer. The ego is incapable of knowing how you feel. When I said that the ego does not know anything, I said the one thing about the ego that is wholly true. But there is a corollary; if only knowledge has being and the ego has no knowledge, then the ego has no being.
You might well ask how the voice of something that does not exist can be so insistent. Have you thought about the distorting power of something you want, even if it is not real? There are many instances of how what you want distorts perception. No one can doubt the ego’s skill in building up false cases. Nor can anyone doubt your willingness to listen until you choose not to accept anything except truth. When you lay the ego aside, it will be gone. The Holy Spirit’s Voice is as loud as your willingness to listen. It cannot be louder without violating your freedom of choice, which the Holy Spirit seeks to restore, never to undermine.
The Holy Spirit teaches you to use your body only to reach your brothers, so He can teach His message through you. This will heal them and therefore heal you. Everything used in accordance with its function as the Holy Spirit sees it cannot be sick. Everything used otherwise is. Do not allow the body to be a mirror of a split mind. Do not let it be an image of your own perception of littleness. Do not let it reflect your decision to attack. Health is seen as the natural state of everything when interpretation is left to the Holy Spirit, Who perceives no attack on anything. Health is the result of relinquishing all attempts to use the body lovelessly. Health is the beginning of the proper perspective on life under the guidance of the one Teacher Who knows what life is, being the Voice for Life Itself.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for March 14
I will there be light.
Today we are considering the will you share with God. This is not the same as the ego’s idle wishes, out of which darkness and nothingness arise. The will you share with God has all the power of creation in it. The ego’s idle wishes are unshared, and therefore have no power at all. Its wishes are not idle in the sense that they can make a world of illusions in which your belief can be very strong. But they are idle indeed in terms of creation. They make nothing that is real.
Idle wishes and grievances are partners or co-makers in picturing the world you see. The wishes of the ego gave rise to it, and the ego’s need for grievances, which are necessary to maintain it, peoples it with figures that seem to attack you and call for “righteous” judgment. These figures become the middlemen the ego employs to traffic in grievances. They stand between your awareness and your brothers’ reality. Beholding them, you do not know your brothers or your Self.
Your will is lost to you in this strange bartering, in which guilt is traded back and forth, and grievances increase with each exchange. Can such a world have been created by the Will the Son of God shares with his Father? Did God create disaster for His Son? Creation is the Will of Both together. Would God create a world that kills Himself?
Today we will try once more to reach the world that is in accordance with your will. The light is in it because it does not oppose the Will of God. It is not Heaven, but the light of Heaven shines on it. Darkness has vanished. The ego’s idle wishes have been withdrawn. Yet the light that shines upon this world reflects your will, and so it must be in you that we will look for it.
Your picture of the world can only mirror what is within. The source of neither light nor darkness can be found without. Grievances darken your mind, and you look out on a darkened world. Forgiveness lifts the darkness, reasserts your will, and lets you look upon a world of light. We have repeatedly emphasized that the barrier of grievances is easily passed, and cannot stand between you and your salvation. The reason is very simple. Do you really want to be in hell? Do you really want to weep and suffer and die?
Forget the ego’s arguments which seek to prove all this is really Heaven. You know it is not so. You cannot want this for yourself. There is a point beyond which illusions cannot go. Suffering is not happiness, and it is happiness you really want. Such is your will in truth. And so salvation is your will as well. You want to succeed in what we are trying to do today. We undertake it with your blessing and your glad accord.
We will succeed today if you remember that you want salvation for yourself. You want to accept God’s plan because you share in it. You have no will that can really oppose it, and you do not want to do so. Salvation is for you. Above all else, you want the freedom to remember Who you really are. Today it is the ego that stands powerless before your will. Your will is free, and nothing can prevail against it.
Therefore, we undertake the exercises for today in happy confidence, certain that we will find what it is your will to find, and remember what it is your will to remember. No idle wishes can detain us, nor deceive us with an illusion of strength. Today let your will be done, and end forever the insane belief that it is hell in place of Heaven that you choose.
We will begin our longer practice periods with the recognition that God’s plan for salvation, and only His, is wholly in accord with your will. It is not the purpose of an alien power, thrust upon you unwillingly. It is the one purpose here on which you and your Father are in perfect accord. You will succeed today, the time appointed for the release of the Son of God from hell and from all idle wishes. His will is now restored to his awareness. He is willing this very day to look upon the light in him and be saved.
After reminding yourself of this, and determining to keep your will clearly in mind, tell yourself with gentle firmness and quiet certainty:
I will there be light. Let me behold the light that reflects
God’s Will and mine.
Then let your will assert itself, joined with the power of God and united with your Self. Put the rest of the practice period under Their guidance. Join with Them as They lead the way.
In the shorter practice periods, again make a declaration of what you really want. Say:
I will there be light. Darkness is not my will.
This should be repeated several times an hour. It is most important, however, to apply today’s idea in this form immediately you are tempted to hold a grievance of any kind. This will help you let your grievances go, instead of cherishing them and hiding them in darkness.
ACIM Q & A for Today
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.