ACIM Text Reading for May 1
Chapter 14 ~ Teaching for Truth
III. The Happy Learner
The Holy Spirit needs a happy learner, in whom his mission can be happily accomplished. You who are steadfastly devoted to misery must first recognize that you are miserable and not happy. The Holy Spirit cannot teach without this contrast, for you believe that misery is happiness. This has so confused you that you have undertaken to learn to do what you can never do, believing that unless you learn it you will not be happy. You do not realize that the foundation on which this most peculiar learning goal depends means absolutely nothing. Yet it may still make sense to you. Have faith in nothing and you will find the “treasure” that you seek. Yet you will add another burden to your already burdened mind. You will believe that nothing is of value, and will value it. A little piece of glass, a speck of dust, a body or a war are one to you. For if you value one thing made of nothing, you have believed that nothing can be precious, and that you can learn how to make the untrue true.
The Holy Spirit, seeing where you are but knowing you are elsewhere, begins his lesson in simplicity with the fundamental teaching that truth is true. This is the hardest lesson you will ever learn, and in the end the only one. Simplicity is very difficult for twisted minds. Consider all the distortions you have made of nothing; all the strange forms and feelings and actions and reactions that you have woven out of it. Nothing is so alien to you as the simple truth, and nothing are you less inclined to listen to. The contrast between what is true and what is not is perfectly apparent, yet you do not see it. The simple and the obvious are not apparent to those who would make palaces and royal robes of nothing, believing they are kings with golden crowns because of them.
All this the Holy Spirit sees, and teaches, simply, that all this is not true. To those unhappy learners who would teach themselves nothing, and delude themselves into believing that it is not nothing, the Holy Spirit says, with steadfast quietness:
- “The truth is true. Nothing else matters, nothing else is real, and everything beside it is not there. Let Me make the one distinction for you that you cannot make, but need to learn. Your faith in nothing is deceiving you. Offer your faith to Me, and I will place it gently in the holy place where it belongs. You will find no deception there, but only the simple truth. And you will love it because you will understand it.”
Like you, the Holy Spirit did not make truth. Like God, He knows it to be true. He brings the light of truth into the darkness, and lets it shine on you. And as it shines your brothers see it, and realizing that this light is not what you have made, they see in you more than you see. They will be happy learners of the lesson this light brings to them, because it teaches them release from nothing and from all the works of nothing. The heavy chains that seem to bind them to despair they do not see as nothing, until you bring the light to them. And then they see the chains have disappeared, and so they must have been nothing. And you will see it with them. Because you taught them gladness and release, they will become your teachers in release and gladness.
When you teach anyone that truth is true, you learn it with him. And so you learn that what seemed hardest was the easiest. Learn to be a happy learner. You will never learn how to make nothing everything. Yet see that this has been your goal, and recognize how foolish it has been. Be glad it is undone, for when you look at it in simple honesty, it is undone. I said before, “Be not content with nothing,” for you have believed that nothing could content you. It is not so.
If you would be a happy learner, you must give everything you have learned to the Holy Spirit, to be unlearned for you. And then begin to learn the joyous lessons that come quickly on the firm foundation that truth is true. For what is built there is true, and built on truth. The universe of learning will open up before you in all its gracious simplicity. With truth before you, you will not look back.
The happy learner meets the conditions of learning here, as he meets the conditions of knowledge in the Kingdom. All this lies in the Holy Spirit’s plan to free you from the past, and open up the way to freedom for you. For truth is true. What else could ever be, or ever was? This simple lesson holds the key to the dark door that you believe is locked forever. You made this door of nothing, and behind it is nothing. The key is only the light that shines away the shapes and forms and fears of nothing. Accept this key to freedom from the hands of Christ Who gives it to you, that you may join Him in the holy task of bringing light. For, like your brothers, you do not realize the light has come and freed you from the sleep of darkness.
Behold your brothers in their freedom, and learn of them how to be free of darkness. The light in you will waken them, and they will not leave you asleep. The vision of Christ is given the very instant that it is perceived. Where everything is clear, it is all holy. The quietness of its simplicity is so compelling that you will realize it is impossible to deny the simple truth. For there is nothing else. God is everywhere, and His Son is in Him with everything. Can he sing the dirge of sorrow when this is true?
ACIM Workbook Lesson for May 1
Forgiveness is the key to happiness.
Here is the answer to your search for peace. Here is the key to meaning in a world that seems to make no sense. Here is the way to safety in apparent dangers that appear to threaten you at every turn, and bring uncertainty to all your hopes of ever finding quietness and peace. Here are all questions answered; here the end of all uncertainty ensured at last.
The unforgiving mind is full of fear, and offers love no room to be itself; no place where it can spread its wings in peace and soar above the turmoil of the world. The unforgiving mind is sad, without the hope of respite and release from pain. It suffers and abides in misery, peering about in darkness, seeing not, yet certain of the danger lurking there.
The unforgiving mind is torn with doubt, confused about itself and all it sees; afraid and angry, weak and blustering, afraid to go ahead, afraid to stay, afraid to waken or to go to sleep, afraid of every sound, yet more afraid of stillness; terrified of darkness, yet more terrified at the approach of light. What can the unforgiving mind perceive but its damnation? What can it behold except the proof that all its sins are real?
The unforgiving mind sees no mistakes, but only sins. It looks upon the world with sightless eyes, and shrieks as it beholds its own projections rising to attack its miserable parody of life. It wants to live, yet wishes it were dead. It wants forgiveness, yet it sees no hope. It wants escape, yet can conceive of none because it sees the sinful everywhere.
The unforgiving mind is in despair, without the prospect of a future which can offer anything but more despair. Yet it regards its judgment of the world as irreversible, and does not see it has condemned itself to this despair. It thinks it cannot change, for what it sees bears witness that its judgment is correct. It does not ask, because it thinks it knows. It does not question, certain it is right.
Forgiveness is acquired. It is not inherent in the mind, which cannot sin. As sin is an idea you taught yourself, forgiveness must be learned by you as well, but from a Teacher other than yourself, Who represents the other Self in you. Through Him you learn how to forgive the self you think you made, and let it disappear. Thus you return your mind as one to Him Who is your Self, and Who can never sin.
Each unforgiving mind presents you with an opportunity to teach your own how to forgive itself. Each one awaits release from hell through you, and turns to you imploringly for Heaven here and now. It has no hope, but you become its hope. And as its hope, do you become your own. The unforgiving mind must learn through your forgiveness that it has been saved from hell. And as you teach salvation, you will learn. Yet all your teaching and your learning will be not of you, but of the Teacher Who was given you to show the way to you.
Today we practice learning to forgive. If you are willing, you can learn today to take the key to happiness, and use it on your own behalf. We will devote ten minutes in the morning, and at night another ten, to learning how to give forgiveness and receive forgiveness, too.
The unforgiving mind does not believe that giving and receiving are the same. Yet we will try to learn today that they are one through practicing forgiveness toward one whom you think of as an enemy, and one whom you consider as a friend. And as you learn to see them both as one, we will extend the lesson to yourself, and see that their escape included yours.
Begin the longer practice periods by thinking of someone you do not like, who seems to irritate you, or to cause regret in you if you should meet him; one you actively despise, or merely try to overlook. It does not matter what the form your anger takes. You probably have chosen him already. He will do.
Now close your eyes and see him in your mind, and look at him a while. Try to perceive some light in him somewhere; a little gleam which you had never noticed. Try to find some little spark of brightness shining through the ugly picture that you hold of him. Look at this picture till you see a light somewhere within it, and then try to let this light extend until it covers him, and makes the picture beautiful and good.
Look at this changed perception for a while, and turn your mind to one you call a friend. Try to transfer the light you learned to see around your former “enemy” to him. Perceive him now as more than friend to you, for in that light his holiness shows you your savior, saved and saving, healed and whole.
Then let him offer you the light you see in him, and let your “enemy” and friend unite in blessing you with what you gave. Now are you one with them, and they with you. Now have you been forgiven by yourself. Do not forget, throughout the day, the role forgiveness plays in bringing happiness to every unforgiving mind, with yours among them. Every hour tell yourself:
Forgiveness is the key to happiness. I will awaken from the
dream that I am mortal, fallible and full of sin, and know
I am the perfect Son of God.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #84: I have heard it said that in order to remove guilt from our ego mind we must invite the Holy Spirit into everything we do and thereby cleanse the activity from guilt. For example, if we overeat we need to invite the Holy Spirit in every time we eat so that there is no guilt from the activity. It is the guilt that is the overweight not the activity itself. Well what about people who beat their spouse or murder other people? Surely you aren’t saying that as long as they remove the guilt from these activities and invite the Holy Spirit into them that they will be absolved of the consequences of that activity? Then how is it that you learn to cease a detrimental activity? I know you cannot ask for help from the Holy Spirit to stop you from doing the activity because God doesn’t know eating too many cookies or flying a plane into the World Trade Center. He only knows that his Son is sleeping and He wants him to awaken. Just as an example, how do I stop myself from eating too much or the “wrong” foods?
A. First, it is important to understand what inviting the Holy Spirit in means. If we invite the Holy Spirit into our minds, we are asking to share His perception of everything, and to have His purpose be ours in all that we do. If we truly accept that, then we would not see our interests as separate from anyone else’s, we would never try to gain at another’s expense, nor would we see sin within ourselves, and so there would be no motivation to attack either ourselves or anyone else. Since our minds would be free of all conflict and guilt, we could not see ourselves as needing anything from others, nor could we see ourselves as victimized by others. There is no unconscious guilt that would get projected onto one’s own body or that of another.
Given this, it would hardly seem possible that someone sharing the Holy Spirit’s perception and purpose would do something violent with the express intent of inflicting pain and causing harm to another or oneself. If we identified with the Holy Spirit’s thought system and had no ego at all, it would be impossible to be cruel: “There is no cruelty in God and none in me,” as Lesson 170 tells us. In this sense, “cleansing an activity of guilt,” means cleansing our minds of guilt by choosing against the ego. Then whatever we do would be loving and kind.
It is also helpful to remember that we are all heavily invested in our identities as individuals, and that on an unconscious level, we have equated our existence with sin. It isn’t that easy for us, as a result, to exchange our ego identification for the Holy Spirit’s. So even though we may think we are inviting Him in, we have so many hidden reservations that we wind up listening largely to our ego, thinking it is the Holy Spirit. After years of experience, however, most of us develop a deeper sensitivity to the strength of our investment in the ego’s thought system, and know that if we truly, without reservation, wanted to let go of our ego, we would in an instant. But our fear is too great, and we therefore do it a little at a time, in holy instants. That means that we will be in our wrong minds most of the time, and then the healing process would be focused on looking at our wrong minds without judgment and without guilt. This is another way in which we invite the Holy Spirit in. We look at our ego without judging ourselves or others for having an ego, trusting that when we are less fearful, we will accept the correction.
In light of this, it is clear that the Course is not saying that we can do whatever we wish — cruel or not — as long as we don’t feel guilty about it. Yes, guilt is always the problem, because guilt makes the error real and always gets projected, which leads to an endless guilt-attack cycle. But that does not translate into a license to do anything one wishes to do, as long as there is no guilt. The guilt is never in the activity; the guilt is in the mind, stemming from the decision to believe, for example, that our interests are best served at another’s expense, which leads us to attack others, or in our belief that we deserve to be punished for our sin of separating from God, which leads to self-destructive behavior. The ultimate source of guilt is our belief that we have indeed attacked God by separating from Him, and therefore whenever we perceive separation as real, we are cultivating the breeding place of guilt. So that is where our attention needs to be directed, if we are to become guilt-free. This is a process that goes on in our minds.
On the other hand, if we already have done something to harm ourselves or another person, we can then remind ourselves — without rationalizing or justifying what we did — that feeling guilty over it is not helpful or healing: Only fearful people attack, and so I must have been identified with my ego when I attacked, or I would not have been fearful. Being afraid is not sinful, though, and therefore there is no need to feel guilty about what I did. It cost me dearly, because I am not peaceful; but it has had no effect on Jesus’ love for me. I know that I cannot attack myself or others and feel his love at the same time: “You cannot enter God’s Presence if you attack His Son” (T.11.IV.5:6); but I also know that he will not stop loving me because of what I did. I have paid a high price, but that still does not justify feeling guilty. It was a mistake, and one day my fear will be diminished enough that I will be able to accept the correction. That kind of honesty is what heals and keeps us moving in the right direction. Being aware of the price of our attack on ourselves and others would provide the motivation for change as well, although the tolerance for self-inflicted pain varies from individual to individual. We must reach the point, though, where being happy is more valued than being right, before we will ever take that next step.
To direct this to your specific issue: If you continually hurt yourself by overeating or by eating the wrong kinds of food, you can at least tell yourself that you know that what you are doing is coming from your ego, because it is hurtful not kind, but that is the best you can do at the moment, and so you are not going to make it worse by judging yourself for it. You can further remind yourself that you must be very fearful of Jesus’ love, and so you push it away in the form of this attack on yourself in order to prove that you are not worthy of his love. There would always be a grievance of some sort lurking in the background as well. (Our book and tape, Overeating, go into this topic in detail, if you haven’t yet run across them.)
The reason we repeat destructive behavior is that we want the outcome it provides. Strangely, as Jesus teaches us in the “Obstacles to Peace,” we are attracted to guilt, and so we will keep doing whatever will leave us feeling guilty (T.19.IV.A.i). That is why the Course focuses so heavily on looking within at the thought system of guilt that we have allowed to rule our minds and motivate our behavior. Sometimes, though, the most loving thing one can do is accept behavioral therapy for eating disorders, as a reflection of a decision to be more kind and less cruel to oneself. It is a good starting point. But we must eventually get to the root of problem, if the behavioral change is to last.