ACIM Text Reading for April 2
Chapter 11 ~ God or the Ego
VI. The “Dynamics” of the Ego
No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected. There is no need to shrink from illusions, for they cannot be dangerous. We are ready to look more closely at the ego’s thought system because together we have the lamp that will dispel it, and since you realize you do not want it, you must be ready. The “dynamics” of the ego will be our lesson for a while, for we must look first at this to see beyond it, since you have made it real. We will undo this error quietly together, and then look beyond it to truth.
What is healing but the removal of all that stands in the way of knowledge? And how else can one dispel illusions except by looking at them directly, without protecting them? Be not afraid, therefore, for what you will be looking at is the source of fear, and you are beginning to learn that fear is not real. You are also learning that its effects can be dispelled merely by denying their reality. The next step is obviously to recognize that what has no effects does not exist. Laws do not operate in a vacuum, and what leads to nothing has not happened. If reality is recognized by its extension, what leads to nothing could not be real. Do not be afraid, then, to look upon fear, for it cannot be seen. Clarity undoes confusion by definition, and to look upon darkness through light must dispel it.
Let us begin this lesson in “ego dynamics” by understanding that the term itself does not mean anything. It contains the very contradiction in terms that makes it meaningless. “Dynamics” implies the power to do something, and the whole separation fallacy lies in the belief that the ego has the power to do anything. The ego is fearful to you because you believe this. Yet the truth is very simple:
All power is of God.
What is not of Him has no power to do anything.
When we look at the ego, then, we are not considering dynamics but delusions. You can surely regard a delusional system without fear, for it cannot have any effects if its source is not real. Fear becomes more obviously inappropriate if you recognize the ego’s goal, which is so clearly senseless that any effort on its behalf is necessarily expended on nothing. The ego’s goal is quite explicitly ego autonomy. From the beginning, then, its purpose is to be separate, sufficient unto itself and independent of any power except its own. This is why it is the symbol of separation.
Every idea has a purpose, and its purpose is always the natural outcome of what it is. Everything that stems from the ego is the natural outcome of its central belief, and the way to undo its results is merely to recognize that their source is not natural, being out of accord with your true nature. I said before that to will contrary to God is wishful thinking and not real willing. His Will is one because the extension of His Will cannot be unlike itself. The real conflict you experience, then, is between the ego’s idle wishes and the Will of God, which you share. Can this be a real conflict?
Yours is the independence of creation, not of autonomy. Your whole creative function lies in your complete dependence on God, Whose function He shares with you. By His willingness to share it, He became as dependent on you as you are on Him. Do not ascribe the ego’s arrogance to Him Who wills not to be independent of you. He has included you in His Autonomy. Can you believe that autonomy is meaningful apart from Him? The belief in ego autonomy is costing you the knowledge of your dependence on God, in which your freedom lies. The ego sees all dependency as threatening, and has twisted even your longing for God into a means of establishing itself. But do not be deceived by its interpretation of your conflict.
The ego always attacks on behalf of separation. Believing it has the power to do this it does nothing else, because its goal of autonomy is nothing else. The ego is totally confused about reality, but it does not lose sight of its goal. It is much more vigilant than you are, because it is perfectly certain of its purpose. You are confused because you do not recognize yours.
You must recognize that the last thing the ego wishes you to realize is that you are afraid of it. For if the ego could give rise to fear, it would diminish your independence and weaken your power. Yet its one claim to your allegiance is that it can give power to you. Without this belief you would not listen to it at all. How, then, can its existence continue if you realize that, by accepting it, you are belittling yourself and depriving yourself of power?
The ego can and does allow you to regard yourself as supercilious, unbelieving, “light-hearted,” distant, emotionally shallow, callous, uninvolved and even desperate, but not really afraid. Minimizing fear, but not its undoing, is the ego’s constant effort, and is indeed a skill at which it is very ingenious. How can it preach separation without upholding it through fear, and would you listen to it if you recognized this is what it is doing?
Your recognition that whatever seems to separate you from God is only fear, regardless of the form it takes and quite apart from how the ego wants you to experience it, is therefore the basic ego threat. Its dream of autonomy is shaken to its foundation by this awareness. For though you may countenance a false idea of independence, you will not accept the cost of fear if you recognize it. Yet this is the cost, and the ego cannot minimize it. If you overlook love you are overlooking yourself, and you must fear unreality because you have denied yourself. By believing that you have successfully attacked truth, you are believing that attack has power. Very simply, then, you have become afraid of yourself. And no one wants to find what he believes would destroy him.
If the ego’s goal of autonomy could be accomplished God’s purpose could be defeated, and this is impossible. Only by learning what fear is can you finally learn to distinguish the possible from the impossible and the false from the true. According to the ego’s teaching, its goal can be accomplished and God’s purpose can not. According to the Holy Spirit’s teaching, only God’s purpose can be accomplished, and it is accomplished already.
God is as dependent on you as you are on Him, because His Autonomy encompasses yours, and is therefore incomplete without it. You can only establish your autonomy by identifying with Him, and fulfilling your function as it exists in truth. The ego believes that to accomplish its goal is happiness. But it is given you to know that God’s function is yours, and happiness cannot be found apart from Your joint Will. Recognize only that the ego’s goal, which you have pursued so diligently, has merely brought you fear, and it becomes difficult to maintain that fear is happiness. Upheld by fear, this is what the ego would have you believe. Yet God’s Son is not insane, and cannot believe it. Let him but recognize it and he will not accept it. For only the insane would choose fear in place of love, and only the insane could believe that love can be gained by attack. But the sane realize that only attack could produce fear, from which the Love of God completely protects them.
The ego analyzes; the Holy Spirit accepts. The appreciation of wholeness comes only through acceptance, for to analyze means to break down or to separate out. The attempt to understand totality by breaking it down is clearly the characteristically contradictory approach of the ego to everything. The ego believes that power, understanding and truth lie in separation, and to establish this belief it must attack. Unaware that the belief cannot be established, and obsessed with the conviction that separation is salvation, the ego attacks everything it perceives by breaking it into small, disconnected parts, without meaningful relationships and therefore without meaning. The ego will always substitute chaos for meaning, for if separation is salvation, harmony is threat.
The ego’s interpretations of the laws of perception are, and would have to be, the exact opposite of the Holy Spirit’s. The ego focuses on error and overlooks truth. It makes real every mistake it perceives, and with characteristically circular reasoning concludes that because of the mistake consistent truth must be meaningless. The next step, then, is obvious. If consistent truth is meaningless, inconsistency must be true. Holding error clearly in mind, and protecting what it has made real, the ego proceeds to the next step in its thought system: Error is real and truth is error.
The ego makes no attempt to understand this, and it is clearly not understandable, but the ego does make every attempt to demonstrate it, and this it does constantly. Analyzing to attack meaning, the ego succeeds in overlooking it and is left with a series of fragmented perceptions which it unifies on behalf of itself. This, then, becomes the universe it perceives. And it is this universe which, in turn, becomes its demonstration of its own reality.
Do not underestimate the appeal of the ego’s demonstrations to those who would listen. Selective perception chooses its witnesses carefully, and its witnesses are consistent. The case for insanity is strong to the insane. For reasoning ends at its beginning, and no thought system transcends its source. Yet reasoning without meaning cannot demonstrate anything, and those who are convinced by it must be deluded. Can the ego teach truly when it overlooks truth? Can it perceive what it has denied? The ego looks straight at the Father and does not see Him, for it has denied His Son.
Would you remember the Father? Accept His Son and you will remember Him. Nothing can demonstrate that His Son is unworthy, for nothing can prove that a lie is true. What you see of His Son through the eyes of the ego is a demonstration that His Son does not exist, yet where the Son is the Father must be. Accept what God does not deny, and it will demonstrate its truth. The witnesses for God stand in His Light and behold what He created. Their silence is the sign that they have beheld God’s Son, and in the Presence of Christ they need demonstrate nothing, for Christ speaks to them of Himself and of His Father. They are silent because Christ speaks to them, and it is His words they speak.
Every brother you meet becomes a witness for Christ or for the ego, depending on what you perceive in him. Everyone convinces you of what you want to perceive, and of the reality of the kingdom you have chosen for your vigilance. Everything you perceive is a witness to the thought system you want to be true. Every brother has the power to release you, if you choose to be free. You cannot accept false witness of him unless you have evoked false witnesses against him. If he speaks not of Christ to you, you spoke not of Christ to him. You hear but your own voice, and if Christ speaks through you, you will hear Him.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for April 2
Miracles are seen in light, and light and strength are one.
The idea for today is an extension of the previous one. You do not think of light in terms of strength, and darkness in terms of weakness. That is because your idea of what seeing means is tied up with the body and its eyes and brain. Thus you believe that you can change what you see by putting little bits of glass before your eyes. This is among the many magical beliefs that come from the conviction you are a body, and the body’s eyes can see.
You also believe the body’s brain can think. If you but understood the nature of thought, you could but laugh at this insane idea. It is as if you thought you held the match that lights the sun and gives it all its warmth; or that you held the world within your hand, securely bound until you let it go. Yet this is no more foolish than to believe the body’s eyes can see; the brain can think.
It is God’s strength in you that is the light in which you see, as it is His Mind with which you think. His strength denies your weakness. It is your weakness that sees through the body’s eyes, peering about in darkness to behold the likeness of itself; the small, the weak, the sickly and the dying, those in need, the helpless and afraid, the sad, the poor, the starving and the joyless. These are seen through eyes that cannot see and cannot bless.
Strength overlooks these things by seeing past appearances. It keeps its steady gaze upon the light that lies beyond them. It unites with light, of which it is a part. It sees itself. It brings the light in which your Self appears. In darkness you perceive a self that is not there. Strength is the truth about you; weakness is an idol falsely worshipped and adored that strength may be dispelled, and darkness rule where God appointed that there should be light.
Strength comes from truth, and shines with light its Source has given it; weakness reflects the darkness of its maker. It is sick and looks on sickness, which is like itself. Truth is a savior and can only will for happiness and peace for everyone. It gives its strength to everyone who asks, in limitless supply. It sees that lack in anyone would be a lack in all. And so it gives its light that all may see and benefit as one. Its strength is shared, that it may bring to all the miracle in which they will unite in purpose and forgiveness and in love.
Weakness, which looks in darkness, cannot see a purpose in forgiveness and in love. It sees all others different from itself, and nothing in the world that it would share. It judges and condemns, but does not love. In darkness it remains to hide itself, and dreams that it is strong and conquering, a victor over limitations that but grow in darkness to enormous size.
It fears and it attacks and hates itself, and darkness covers everything it sees, leaving its dreams as fearful as itself. No miracles are here, but only hate. It separates itself from what it sees, while light and strength perceive themselves as one. The light of strength is not the light you see. It does not change and flicker and go out. It does not shift from night to day, and back to darkness till the morning comes again.
The light of strength is constant, sure as love, forever glad to give itself away, because it cannot give but to itself. No one can ask in vain to share its sight, and none who enters its abode can leave without a miracle before his eyes, and strength and light abiding in his heart.
The strength in you will offer you the light, and guide your seeing so you do not dwell on idle shadows that the body’s eyes provide for self-deception. Strength and light unite in you, and where they meet, your Self stands ready to embrace you as Its Own. Such is the meeting place we try today to find and rest in, for the peace of God is where your Self, His Son, is waiting now to meet Itself again, and be as One.
Let us give twenty minutes twice today to join this meeting. Let yourself be brought unto your Self. Its strength will be the light in which the gift of sight is given you. Leave, then, the dark a little while today, and we will practice seeing in the light, closing the body’s eyes and asking truth to show us how to find the meeting place of self and Self, where light and strength are one.
Morning and evening we will practice thus. After the morning meeting, we will use the day in preparation for the time at night when we will meet again in trust. Let us repeat as often as we can the idea for today, and recognize that we are being introduced to sight, and led away from darkness to the light where only miracles can be perceived.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #1292: Although, the Course does not specifically mention it, Ken Wapnick (in his tapes) makes it clear that Jesus is speaking to the separated portion of the mind (which is outside time and space) that is mentally reviewing the video tape we call our lives. He calls this the decision maker. Within the metaphysics of separation is there only one decision maker reviewing all our lives or is there a separate decision maker reviewing each life? Was the second split a split from a single ego mind into separate decision makers and then into the physical universe?
A: The second split is the mind itself splitting into two parts: the part that holds the ego thought system of separation (the wrong mind) and the part that holds the correction of that thought system (the right mind). This split symbolizes the Son’s decision to separate himself from anything that would remind him of his true origin in God, and hold on to only what will ensure his cherished existence as autonomous and independent. At this stage, there is still only one Son, meaning there is one decision maker. This choice then unleashes a series of strategic moves that result ultimately in the mind’s splitting into many minds, and finally into entities that are totally unaware of mind (i.e., bodies).
Insofar as we relate to ourselves and others as individuals with separate lives, it is helpful to think in terms of each of us having our own decision maker. However, as we learn to relate more to the idea that we are minds all sharing the same wrong-minded and right-minded content and the power to choose either, the idea of individual decision makers will gradually fade away by itself. Getting back to our identity as mind is part of our journey back to the state of oneness, so that whatever implies that separation is real will slowly dissolve the more we identify with mind.
It is essential to remember as you dwell on the metaphysical dimension of A Course in Miracles that Jesus is presenting these teachings in the context of a myth that uses language and a framework that are meaningful to us in our separated state. Thus, because we generally think about everything in terms of time and space, we always try to understand our process in quantitative terms — when, where, how many, etc. That is one reason the Course comes in the form it does; but it is not like that at all. Jesus is helping us get in touch with a process that is non- temporal and non-spatial, and ultimately one that is illusory through and through. So, as intriguing as the theory is, it is best not to expend a great deal of effort trying to figure it all out, as if one were studying a schematic for a major building project. Our questions will all evaporate once we begin to have the experience that our practice of forgiveness will inevitably yield.
There are other discussions on this Service about the nature of the decision maker, which also provide helpful references: Questions #663, #713, and #715.
Q #713: I checked the other two Q’s & A’s on the decision maker and hope I can still get some more feedback. It would seem that it would have to have some connection to the Holy Spirit in order to choose forgiveness for example, which is choosing “against” the ego. Would it be equivalent to awareness of both ego and the Holy Spirit? Is it neutral and if so is there any truly neutral thing? When attention is on this awareness and the impulse is to see my brother’s innocence why would this not be the Holy Spirit mediating in the dream with its answer of forgiveness? For example “who” is reading A Course in Miracles for help in remembering freedom is my natural condition? Is this the I of Self enquiry that Ramana Maharshi teaches one to ask “who am I” and continue to allow one’s attention to go deeper and deeper into that awareness knowing the answer is ultimately enlightenment? Is cracking this mystery the big One that gives us our ultimate release? Please help.!
A: First, the term decision maker does not appear in the Course except for one occurrence in the manual, where it is used in a different context (M.5.II.1:7). But it is clear throughout the Course that Jesus is talking about a capacity of the mind that is outside time and space to choose between the ego and the Holy Spirit — depicted in various ways: e.g., crucifixion and resurrection, murder and love, guilt and innocence, separation and Atonement. It can identify with either thought system, but it is never not identifying with one or the other. In that sense it is never neutral. It can be thought of thus as a third part of the mind, which is the point of Jesus’ asking us to consider: “Who is the ‘you’ who are living in this world?” (T.4.II.11:8). The “you” that is “reading A Course in Miracles for help in remembering freedom is my natural condition” is the decision maker that has chosen to identify with the content of its right mind in the form of being a student of the Course. The Holy Spirit can be thought of in this context as the memory in our minds of our true Self. The impulse to forgive, then, is a reflection of our choice to remember our true Identity by denying our denial of It. The Holy Spirit is a Mediator, but only in the symbolic sense of representing in our minds the Love we chose to reject but that remains unaffected by our choice and always inviting us to rejoin our oneness with It.
There are two important points to keep in mind in any discussion of this nature: First, we are talking about symbols—essentially a mythological characterization of a process that occurred (not in truth of course) before there ever was a human intellect or brain (the effects of our wish to be who we are not), and therefore our attempts to fit the concept into human intellectual categories, while helpful to some extent, can never be successful. Moreover, because the separation is unreal, we are describing something inherently illusory. Second, the core of the ego’s strategy is to suppress this awareness of ourselves as minds outside time and space and keep us convinced that we are limited physical entities instead. This is important because it means that our efforts to gain a precise understanding of this decision-making capacity will fall short to the extent to which we are still identified with the ego — we would be fighting against ourselves. The focus of our work with the Course, therefore, should be on undoing this identification. That is the Course’s path, in contrast to other paths. Understanding takes us part way on our journey, but it is not the goal of our work — there is no “mystery to be cracked” in this sense.
In view of what has been said thus far, it would seem that there are differences between the Self described by Ramana Maharshi and the Course’s notion of the decision maker, though there are some similarities insofar as the decision maker is also an “observer.” We all will wind up in the same place, we can rest assured, but the spiritual roadmaps are different, which does not make one superior to the other. The lessons in the first part of the workbook begin the process of restoring our awareness of ourselves as decision-making minds, but recovering that awareness is not enlightenment from the Course’s point of view. We need to reach that level of self-awareness so that we can recognize that we are always choosing, what we are choosing, and why we are choosing it. Stated briefly, the goal of this process is that we would see clearly that we are ultimately choosing insanity, why we are choosing it, and that there is an Alternative for us to choose. As our trust in Jesus develops, we would have little difficulty choosing against insanity: “Who with the Love of God upholding him would find the choice of miracles or murder hard to make?” (T.23.IV.9:8). When that choice is made once and for all — i.e., there is no returning to the ego — the decision-making capacity is no longer needed, and our mind is restored to its natural state of One-mindedness. This is the Self that is beyond individuality and perception — not understandable to us who are still identified with specifics.