ACIM Text Reading for May 31
Chapter 17 ~ Forgiveness and the Holy Relationship
IV. The Two Pictures
God established His relationship with you to make you happy, and nothing you do that does not share His purpose can be real. The purpose God ascribed to anything is its only function. Because of His reason for creating His relationship with you, the function of relationships became forever “to make happy.” And nothing else. To fulfill this function you relate to your creations as God to His. For nothing God created is apart from happiness, and nothing God created but would extend happiness as its Creator did. Whatever does not fulfill this function cannot be real.
In this world it is impossible to create. Yet it is possible to make happy. I have said repeatedly that the Holy Spirit would not deprive you of your special relationships, but would transform them. And all that is meant by that is that He will restore to them the function given them by God. The function you have given them is clearly not to make happy. But the holy relationship shares God’s purpose, rather than aiming to make a substitute for it. Every special relationship you have made is a substitute for God’s Will, and glorifies yours instead of His because of the illusion that they are different.
You have made very real relationships even in this world. Yet you do not recognize them because you have raised their substitutes to such predominance that, when truth calls to you, as it does constantly, you answer with a substitute. Every special relationship you have made has, as its fundamental purpose, the aim of occupying your mind so completely that you will not hear the call of truth.
In a sense, the special relationship was the ego’s answer to the creation of the Holy Spirit, who was God’s answer to the separation. For although the ego did not understand what had been created, it was aware of threat. The whole defense system the ego evolved to protect the separation from the Holy Spirit was in response to the gift with which God blessed it, and by His blessing enabled it to be healed. This blessing holds within itself the truth about everything. And the truth is that the Holy Spirit is in close relationship with you, because in Him is your relationship with God restored to you. The relationship with Him has never been broken, because the Holy Spirit has not been separate from anyone since the separation. And through Him have all your holy relationships been carefully preserved, to serve God’s purpose for you.
The ego is alert to threat, and the part of your mind into which the ego was accepted is very anxious to preserve its reason, as it sees it. It does not realize that it is totally insane. And you must realize just what this means if you would be restored to sanity. The insane protect their thought systems, but they do so insanely. And all their defenses are as insane as what they are supposed to protect. The separation has nothing in it, no part, no “reason,” and no attribute that is not insane. And its “protection” is part of it, as insane as the whole. The special relationship, which is its chief defense, must therefore be insane.
You have but little difficulty now in realizing that the thought system the special relationship protects is but a system of delusions. You recognize, at least in general terms, that the ego is insane. Yet the special relationship still seems to you somehow to be “different.” Yet we have looked at it far closer than we have at many other aspects of the ego’s thought system that you have been willing to let go. While this one remains, you will not let the others go. For this one is not different. Retain this one, and you have retained the whole.
It is essential to realize that all defenses do what they would defend. The underlying basis for their effectiveness is that they offer what they defend. What they defend is placed in them for safe-keeping, and as they operate they bring it to you. Every defense operates by giving gifts, and the gift is always a miniature of the thought system the defense protects, set in a golden frame. The frame is very elaborate, all set with jewels, and deeply carved and polished. Its purpose is to be of value in itself, and to divert your attention from what it encloses. But the frame without the picture you cannot have. Defenses operate to make you think you can.
The special relationship has the most imposing and deceptive frame of all the defenses the ego uses. Its thought system is offered here, surrounded by a frame so heavy and so elaborate that the picture is almost obliterated by its imposing structure. Into the frame are woven all sorts of fanciful and fragmented illusions of love, set with dreams of sacrifice and self-aggrandizement, and interlaced with gilded threads of self-destruction. The glitter of blood shines like rubies, and the tears are faceted like diamonds and gleam in the dim light in which the offering is made.
Look at the picture. Do not let the frame distract you. This gift is given you for your damnation, and if you take it you will believe that you are damned. You cannot have the frame without the picture. What you value is the frame, for there you see no conflict. Yet the frame is only the wrapping for the gift of conflict. The frame is not the gift. Be not deceived by the most superficial aspects of this thought system, for these aspects enclose the whole, complete in every aspect. Death lies in this glittering gift. Let not your gaze dwell on the hypnotic gleaming of the frame. Look at the picture, and realize that death is offered you.
That is why the holy instant is so important in the defense of truth. The truth itself needs no defense, but you do need defense against your acceptance of the gift of death. When you who are truth accept an idea so dangerous to truth, you threaten truth with destruction. And your defense must now be undertaken, to keep truth whole. The power of Heaven, the love of God, the tears of Christ, and the joy of His eternal Spirit are marshalled to defend you from your own attack. For you attack Them, being part of Them, and They must save you, for They love Themselves.
The holy instant is a miniature of Heaven, sent you from Heaven. It is a picture, too, set in a frame. Yet if you accept this gift you will not see the frame at all, because the gift can only be accepted through your willingness to focus all your attention on the picture. The holy instant is a miniature of eternity. It is a picture of timelessness, set in a frame of time. If you focus on the picture, you will realize that it was only the frame that made you think it was a picture. Without the frame, the picture is seen as what it represents. For as the whole thought system of the ego lies in its gifts, so the whole of Heaven lies in this instant, borrowed from eternity and set in time for you.
Two gifts are offered you. Each is complete, and cannot be partially accepted. Each is a picture of all that you can have, seen very differently. You cannot compare their value by comparing a picture to a frame. It must be the pictures only that you compare, or the comparison is wholly without meaning. Remember that it is the picture that is the gift. And only on this basis are you really free to choose. Look at the pictures. Both of them. One is a tiny picture, hard to see at all beneath the heavy shadows of its enormous and disproportionate enclosure. The other is lightly framed and hung in light, lovely to look upon for what it is.
You who have tried so hard, and are still trying, to fit the better picture into the wrong frame and so combine what cannot be combined, accept this and be glad: These pictures are each framed perfectly for what they represent. One is framed to be out of focus and not seen. The other is framed for perfect clarity. The picture of darkness and of death grows less convincing as you search it out amid its wrappings. As each senseless stone that seems to shine from the frame in darkness is exposed to light, it becomes dull and lifeless, and ceases to distract you from the picture. And finally you look upon the picture itself, seeing at last that, unprotected by the frame, it has no meaning.
The other picture is lightly framed, for time cannot contain eternity. There is no distraction here. The picture of Heaven and eternity grows more convincing as you look at it. And now, by real comparison, a transformation of both pictures can at last occur. And each is given its rightful place when both are seen in relation to each other. The dark picture, brought to light, is not perceived as fearful, but the fact that it is just a picture is brought home at last. And what you see there you will recognize as what it is; a picture of what you thought was real, and nothing more. For beyond this picture you will see nothing.
The picture of light, in clear-cut and unmistakable contrast, is transformed into what lies beyond the picture. As you look on this, you realize that it is not a picture, but a reality. This is no figured representation of a thought system, but the Thought itself. What it represents is there. The frame fades gently and God rises to your remembrance, offering you the whole of creation in exchange for your little picture, wholly without value and entirely deprived of meaning.
As God ascends into His rightful place and you to yours, you will experience again the meaning of relationship and know it to be true. Let us ascend in peace together to the Father, by giving Him ascendance in our minds. We will gain everything by giving Him the power and the glory, and keeping no illusions of where they are. They are in us, through His ascendance. What He has given is His. It shines in every part of Him, as in the whole. The whole reality of your relationship with Him lies in our relationship to one another. The holy instant shines alike on all relationships, for in it they are one. For here is only healing, already complete and perfect. For here is God, and where He is only the perfect and complete can be.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for May 31
All things are echoes of the Voice for God.
No one can judge on partial evidence. That is not judgment. It is merely an opinion based on ignorance and doubt. Its seeming certainty is but a cloak for the uncertainty it would conceal. It needs irrational defense because it is irrational. And its defense seems strong, convincing, and without a doubt because of all the doubting underneath.
You do not seem to doubt the world you see. You do not really question what is shown you through the body’s eyes. Nor do you ask why you believe it, even though you learned a long while since your senses do deceive. That you believe them to the last detail which they report is even stranger, when you pause to recollect how frequently they have been faulty witnesses indeed! Why would you trust them so implicitly? Why but because of underlying doubt, which you would hide with show of certainty?
How can you judge? Your judgment rests upon the witness that your senses offer you. Yet witness never falser was than this. But how else do you judge the world you see? You place pathetic faith in what your eyes and ears report. You think your fingers touch reality, and close upon the truth. This is awareness that you understand, and think more real than what is witnessed to by the eternal Voice for God Himself.
Can this be judgment? You have often been urged to refrain from judging, not because it is a right to be withheld from you. You cannot judge. You merely can believe the ego’s judgments, all of which are false. It guides your senses carefully, to prove how weak you are; how helpless and afraid, how apprehensive of just punishment, how black with sin, how wretched in your guilt.
This thing it speaks of, and would yet defend, it tells you is yourself. And you believe that this is so with stubborn certainty. Yet underneath remains the hidden doubt that what it shows you as reality with such conviction it does not believe. It is itself alone that it condemns. It is within itself it sees the guilt. It is its own despair it sees in you.
Hear not its voice. The witnesses it sends to prove to you its evil is your own are false, and speak with certainty of what they do not know. Your faith in them is blind because you would not share the doubts their lord can not completely vanquish. You believe to doubt his vassals is to doubt yourself.
Yet you must learn to doubt their evidence will clear the way to recognize yourself, and let the Voice for God alone be Judge of what is worthy of your own belief. He will not tell you that your brother should be judged by what your eyes behold in him, nor what his body’s mouth says to your ears, nor what your fingers’ touch reports of him. He passes by such idle witnesses, which merely bear false witness to God’s Son. He recognizes only what God loves, and in the holy light of what He sees do all the ego’s dreams of what you are vanish before the splendor He beholds.
Let Him be Judge of what you are, for He has certainty in which there is no doubt, because it rests on Certainty so great that doubt is meaningless before Its face. Christ cannot doubt Himself. The Voice for God can only honor Him, rejoicing in His perfect, everlasting sinlessness. Whom He has judged can only laugh at guilt, unwilling now to play with toys of sin; unheeding of the body’s witnesses before the rapture of Christ’s holy face.
And thus He judges you. Accept His Word for what you are, for He bears witness to your beautiful creation, and the Mind Whose Thought created your reality. What can the body mean to Him Who knows the glory of the Father and the Son? What whispers of the ego can He hear? What could convince Him that your sins are real? Let Him be Judge as well of everything that seems to happen to you in this world. His lessons will enable you to bridge the gap between illusions and the truth.
He will remove all faith that you have placed in pain, disaster, suffering and loss. He gives you vision which can look beyond these grim appearances, and can behold the gentle face of Christ in all of them. You will no longer doubt that only good can come to you who are beloved of God, for He will judge all happenings, and teach the single lesson that they all contain.
He will select the elements in them which represent the truth, and disregard those aspects which reflect but idle dreams. And He will reinterpret all you see, and all occurrences, each circumstance, and every happening that seems to touch on you in any way from His one frame of reference, wholly unified and sure. And you will see the love beyond the hate, the constancy in change, the pure in sin, and only Heaven’s blessing on the world.
Such is your resurrection, for your life is not a part of anything you see. It stands beyond the body and the world, past every witness for unholiness, within the Holy, holy as Itself. In everyone and everything His Voice would speak to you of nothing but your Self and your Creator, Who is One with Him. So will you see the holy face of Christ in everything, and hear in everything no sound except the echo of God’s Voice.
We practice wordlessly today, except at the beginning of the time we spend with God. We introduce these times with but a single, slow repeating of the thought with which the day begins. And then we watch our thoughts, appealing silently to Him Who sees the elements of truth in them. Let Him evaluate each thought that comes to mind, remove the elements of dreams, and give them back again as clean ideas that do not contradict the Will of God.
Give Him your thoughts, and He will give them back as miracles which joyously proclaim the wholeness and the happiness God wills His Son, as proof of His eternal Love. And as each thought is thus transformed, it takes on healing power from the Mind which saw the truth in it, and failed to be deceived by what was falsely added. All the threads of fantasy are gone. And what remains is unified into a perfect Thought that offers its perfection everywhere.
Spend fifteen minutes thus when you awake, and gladly give another fifteen more before you go to sleep. Your ministry begins as all your thoughts are purified. So are you taught to teach the Son of God the holy lesson of his sanctity. No one can fail to listen, when you hear the Voice for God give honor to God’s Son. And everyone will share the thoughts with you which He has retranslated in your mind.
Such is your Eastertide. And so you lay the gift of snow-white lilies on the world, replacing witnesses to sin and death. Through your transfiguration is the world redeemed, and joyfully released from guilt. Now do we lift our resurrected minds in gladness and in gratitude to Him Who has restored our sanity to us.
And we will hourly remember Him Who is salvation and deliverance. As we give thanks, the world unites with us and happily accepts our holy thoughts, which Heaven has corrected and made pure. Now has our ministry begun at last, to carry round the world the joyous news that truth has no illusions, and the peace of God, through us, belongs to everyone.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #562: In chapter 17 of A Course in Miracles, Section IV, The Two Pictures, the text explains how defenses works. It says: “It is essential to realize that all defenses do what they would defend. The underlying basis for their effectiveness is that they offer what they defend. What they defend is placed in them for safe-keeping, and as they operate they bring it to you. Every defense operates by giving gifts, and the gift is always a miniature of the thought system the defense protects, set in a golden frame. The frame is very elaborate, all set with jewels, and deeply carved and polished. Its purpose is to be of value in itself, and to divert your attention from what it encloses. But the frame without the picture you cannot have. Defenses operate to make you think you can.” Would you kindly elaborate on this. If my defense is, for example, eating out of fear, how does this relate?
A: We choose defenses in an attempt to handle our fear and make ourselves feel better and safer. And yet, the defense is only there because of the underlying fear that we are attempting to manage. So the defense, no matter what form it takes, becomes a constant reminder — conscious or unconscious — of the underlying fear. This is inherent in the dualistic thought system of the ego, which always operates on the assumption of polar opposites, such as safe and unsafe. We never question the underlying premise that we can be threatened, but instead accept danger as true and then seek to protect ourselves from it (W.pI.135.1,2,3).
In the specific case of eating out of fear, food becomes equated in our mind with comforting ourselves, or filling the gaping hole that makes us feel empty and vulnerable. But giving food this purpose only reinforces our belief in discomfort and emptiness and vulnerability. Food offers us something flavorful and satisfying (the frame), which seems to make us feel better, perhaps distracting us from the gnawing feeling inside, at least temporarily. But the purpose we have given it to rescue us establishes it as a symbol of the very thing we are trying to avoid or escape – – the underlying guilt and fear. And so, as a symbol of what is underneath, it becomes a reminder of what we have intended it to save us from, offering us the very same “gifts,” only obscured.
However, once we recognize the purpose we have given food to comfort us in our fear, as with all the special gifts of the ego, we can now invite the great Comforter to join us and give food a different purpose. The correction the Holy Spirit offers would not be to stop eating but rather to use food instead as a means to remind us of the fear underneath that we have attempted to keep hidden and at bay by eating. We can bring the fear into our awareness with the Holy Spirit and question the source of that fear. For the fear is nothing more than a projection of our own guilt, represented by a gaping hole within our very being, accompanied by a devastating feeling of emptiness, because we believe we have destroyed the only thing that can truly make us feel complete and full and safe — love. With the Symbol of Love beside us, we can begin to question the premise of our emptiness, rather than continuing to try to fill it — thereby making it real — with all of our “substitutes for love” (W.pI.117.1:3), such as food.
Q #1321: What does Jesus mean when he says in A Course in Miracles that we “have made very real relationships even in this world” (T.17.IV.3:1)? He goes on to say that we do not recognize them. What “real relationships” is he referring to?
A: The “very real relationships” are holy relationships: instances in which you forgave someone or did not judge; instances in which you did not see your interests as separate from another’s. It could have been an interaction with a waiter in a restaurant who was having a bad day, but you did not judge him; or perhaps a child ran into you in the supermarket, but you did not get angry; or you may have had only compassion for someone who was unkind. You may not even have realized at the time that you transcended your ego; and in that sense you did not recognize these “real relationships.” In the manual, Jesus discusses this idea in the context of levels of teaching or teaching-learning situations (M.3).