A Course in Miracles Text Reading for February 10
Chapter 3 ~ The Innocent Perception
V. Beyond Perception
I have said that the abilities you possess are only shadows of your real strength, and that perception, which is inherently judgemental, was introduced only after the separation. No one has been sure of anything since. I have also made it clear that the resurrection was the means for the return to knowledge, which was accomplished by the union of my will with the Father’s. We can now establish a distinction that will clarify some of our subsequent statements.
Since the separation, the words ‘create’ and ‘make’ have become confused. When you make something, you do so out of a specific sense of lack or need. Anything made for a specific purpose has no true generalisability. When you make something to fill a perceived lack, you are tacitly implying that you believe in separation. The ego has invented many ingenious thought systems for this purpose. None of them is creative. Inventiveness is wasted effort even in its most ingenious form. The highly specific nature of invention is not worthy of the abstract creativity of God’s creations.
Knowing, as we have already observed, does not lead to doing. The confusion between your real creation and what you have made of yourself is so profound that it has become literally impossible for you to know anything. Knowledge is always stable, and it is quite evident that you are not. Nevertheless, you are perfectly stable as God created you. In this sense, when your behaviour is unstable, you are disagreeing with God’s idea of your creation. You can do this if you choose, but you would hardly want to do it if you were in your right mind.
The fundamental question you continually ask yourself cannot properly be directed to yourself at all. You keep asking what it is you are. This implies that the answer is not only one you know, but is also one that is up to you to supply. Yet you cannot perceive yourself correctly. You have no image to be perceived. The word ‘image’ is always perception-related, and not a part of knowledge. Images are symbolic and stand for something else. The idea of ‘changing your image’ recognises the power of perception, but also implies that there is nothing stable to know.
Knowing is not open to interpretation. You may try to ‘interpret’ meaning, but this is always open to error because it refers to the perception of meaning. Such incongruities are the result of attempts to regard yourself as separated and unseparated at the same time. It is impossible to make so fundamental a confusion without increasing your overall confusion still further. Your mind may have become very ingenious, but as always happens when method and content are separated, it is utilised in a futile attempt to escape from an inescapable impasse. Ingenuity is totally divorced from knowledge, because knowledge does not require ingenuity. Ingenious thinking is not the truth that shall set you free, but you are free of the need to engage in it when you are willing to let it go.
Prayer is a way of asking for something. It is the medium of miracles. But the only meaningful prayer is for forgiveness, because those who have been forgiven have everything. Once forgiveness has been accepted, prayer in the usual sense becomes utterly meaningless. The prayer for forgiveness is nothing more than a request that you may be able to recognise what you already have. In electing perception instead of knowledge, you placed yourself in a position where you could resemble your Father only by perceiving miraculously. You have lost the knowledge that you yourself are a miracle of God. Creation is your Source and your only real function.
The statement ‘God created man in his own image and likeness’ needs reinterpretation. ‘Image’ can be understood as ‘thought’, and ‘likeness’ as ‘of a like quality’. God did create spirit in His Own Thought and of a quality like to His Own. There is nothing else. Perception, on the other hand, is impossible without a belief in ‘more’ and ‘less’.. At every level it involves selectivity. Perception is a continual process of accepting and rejecting, organising and reorganising, shifting and changing. Evaluation is an essential part of perception, because judgements are necessary in order to select.
What happens to perceptions if there are no judgements and nothing but perfect equality? Perception becomes impossible. Truth can only be known. All of it is equally true, and knowing any part of it is to know all of it. Only perception involves partial awareness. Knowledge transcends the laws governing perception, because partial knowledge is impossible. It is all one and has no separate parts. You who are really one with it need but know yourself and your knowledge is complete. To know God’s miracle is to know Him.
Forgiveness is the healing of the perception of separation. Correct perception of your brother is necessary, because minds have chosen to see themselves as separate. Spirit knows God completely. That is its miraculous power. The fact that each one has this power completely is a condition entirely alien to the world’s thinking. The world believes that if anyone has everything, there is nothing left. But God’s miracles are as total as His Thoughts because they are His Thoughts.
As long as perception lasts prayer has a place. Since perception rests on lack, those who perceive have not totally accepted the Atonement and given themselves over to truth. Perception is based on a separated state, so that anyone who perceives at all needs healing. Communion, not prayer, is the natural state of those who know. God and His miracle are inseparable. How beautiful indeed are the Thoughts of God who live in His Light! Your worth is beyond perception because it is beyond doubt. Do not perceive yourself in different lights. Know yourself in the One Light where the miracle that is you is perfectly clear.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for February 10
My attack thoughts are attacking my invulnerability.
It is surely obvious that if you can be attacked you are not invulnerable. You see attack as a real threat. That is because you believe that you can really attack. And what would have effects through you must also have effects on you. It is this law that will ultimately save you, but you are misusing it now. You must therefore learn how it can be used for your own best interests, rather than against them.
Because your attack thoughts will be projected, you will fear attack. And if you fear attack, you must believe that you are not invulnerable. Attack thoughts therefore make you vulnerable in your own mind, which is where the attack thoughts are. Attack thoughts and invulnerability cannot be accepted together. They contradict each other.
The idea for today introduces the thought that you always attack yourself first. If attack thoughts must entail the belief that you are vulnerable, their effect is to weaken you in your own eyes. Thus they have attacked your perception of yourself. And because you believe in them, you can no longer believe in yourself. A false image of yourself has come to take the place of what you are.
Practice with today’s idea will help you to understand that vulnerability or invulnerability is the result of your own thoughts. Nothing except your thoughts can attack you. Nothing except your thoughts can make you think you are vulnerable. And nothing except your thoughts can prove to you this is not so.
Six practice periods are required in applying today’s idea. A full two minutes should be attempted for each of them, although the time may be reduced to a minute if the discomfort is too great. Do not reduce it further.
The practice period should begin with repeating the idea for today, then closing your eyes and reviewing the unresolved questions whose outcomes are causing you concern. The concern may take the form of depression, worry, anger, a sense of imposition, fear, foreboding or preoccupation. Any problem as yet unsettled that tends to recur in your thoughts during the day is a suitable subject. You will not be able to use very many for any one practice period, because a longer time than usual should be spent with each one. Today’s idea should be applied as follows:
First, name the situation:
I am concerned about ______.
Then go over every possible outcome that has occurred to you in that connection and which has caused you concern, referring to each one quite specifically, saying:
I am afraid ______ will happen.
If you are doing the exercises properly, you should have some five or six distressing possibilities available for each situation you use, and quite possibly more. It is much more helpful to cover a few situations thoroughly than to touch on a larger number. As the list of anticipated outcomes for each situation continues, you will probably find some of them, especially those that occur to you toward the end, less acceptable to you. Try, however, to treat them all alike to whatever extent you can.
After you have named each outcome of which you are afraid, tell yourself:
That thought is an attack upon myself.
Conclude each practice period by repeating today’s idea to yourself once more.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #884: Is extending gratitude to the ideas which joined me in my physical, illusory play in the form of body cells and tissues, trees, animals, insects etc., bringing truth to illusions? Or does keeping in mind that the reality of everything is a loving idea, if seen from the Holy Spirit’s vantage point, allow the illusion to be brought to Truth? Is focusing on the ideas beyond the form the way to remember, that “God is in everything I see” (W.pI.29)?
A: Guilt for having chosen the separation and identity with the ego are the thoughts that made the body. These are certainly not thoughts for which to be grateful. The body is nothing to be grateful for, because of itself it is nothing (T19.IV.C.5:5) . In fact, there is nothing in the illusion of form that merits gratitude, precisely because it is illusion, not reality. Moreover, the world is the projection of the insane thought that the Son of God can be separate from his Source. Therefore, there is nothing inherently loving about it.
What’s more, in A Course in Miracles, Jesus tells us: we do not know what anything is for (W.pI.25) , we do not know who we are (T.9.I.2:5), what we really want (T.11.II.3:7), or what love is (T12.V.6:1) . In this state of confusion, how could we possibly know what to be grateful for? Hope lies in accepting what Jesus tells us: “ You do not know the meaning of anything you perceive. Not one thought you hold is wholly true. The recognition of this is your firm beginning” (T.11.VIII.3:1,2,3). The beginning is willingness to be taught to see everything differently by looking through the eyes of forgiveness.
The practice of forgiveness, whereby every judgment is recognized as the projection of a choice in the mind, is the only way to bring illusion to truth. The important focus in this process is being willing to remember that nothing external to the mind has any effect on it. This is the foundation of forgiveness and the perspective the Holy Spirit brings to every experience in the dream. We can then be grateful to everything and everyone by acknowledging that none of them is responsible for anything we feel. That is what is meant by the workbook lesson, “I am not the victim of the world I see” (W.pI.31) . This gratitude extends to oneself as well, in recognition of the mind’s power to choose the Holy Spirit or the ego as interpreter of every experience in the dream. We can be thankful that our happiness does not depend on anything outside our minds, and requires only that we choose it, by choosing the Holy Spirit.
The first step is learning that the “happiness” we seem to experience in the world is the ego’s specialness, not true happiness. This means looking honestly at all the things we think make us happy, and seeing them as tawdry substitutes for the real happiness we seek. As mentioned earlier, we don’t know what that is, but we can learn that it is not anything the world offers. This requires a little willingness to question every value that we hold (T.24.in.2:1) . Every value means “…all thoughts of what you are and what God is; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself. …everything [the mind] thinks is either true or false, or good or bad, of every thought it judges worthy, and all the ideas of which it is ashamed” (W.pI.189.7:1,2). To question these values we must first recognize them, and so our function is only to: “…seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against [Him] ” (T.16.IV.6:1). We need not strive to see God in everything. When every value is questioned and found wanting, nothing will be held up to block the memory of God’s Love in our minds, and then He will be in everything we see. This does not mean that He is present in the dream in any way. It means that when the memory of His Love is not blocked by the ego’s specialness, everything is perceived through the lens of love’s reflection.
Q #885: Why do I sometimes feel that the words spoken in A Course in Miracles are unkind? Is this a projection of the ego which is trying to steer me subtly away from the Course’s purpose? What is the Course’s purpose anyhow?
A: The goal of A Course in Miracles is to uncover what lies hidden within the ego thought system, so that it can be exposed to the light of truth to be healed. Exposure of the ugliness of the ego may seem unkind, just as patients cringe when the dentist probes to examine an aching tooth. The pain of the infected tooth is unbearable, but the helping hands of the dentist may be perceived as yet more painful. Careful examination of the Course’s graphic descriptions of the ego reveals Jesus’ kind and comforting diagnosis: we are not the gruesome ego in need of a root canal, we only think we are. He introduces descriptions of the ego’s insanity with phrases such as: “you think you are….” “you believe you are….,” “you see yourself…”. Never does he say these beliefs are true. In fact, the only purpose for exposing these thoughts is to teach us that they are not true, and that we believe them because we have chosen them to support belief in the reality of separation and sin. The sickness of separation must first be exposed in order for it to be healed. The goal of the Course is healing the mind of the thought of separation, which Jesus helps us do by teaching us that just as we chose the ego, we can choose against it by choosing the Holy Spirit.
Yes, focusing on the Course’s strong negative words in reference to the ego is a wonderful way for to halt progress in your study of the Course. The truth is, we have no problem believing that we are egos living and dying in bodies, with no hope of ever returning to our true state of oneness with God; the most unkind thing the Son of God could believe about himself. But we do have tremendous resistance to believing the message Jesus offers: we are God’s innocent Son (W.pI.95.12:2,3) , the separation never happened (T.6.II.10:7) , the world is an illusion (W.pI.155.2:1) , and “At no single instant does the body exist at all” (T.18.VII.3:1) . Jesus adds insult to injury by telling us that this world is hell (W.pI.182.3) , every attack is murder (T.23.III.1) , guilt is projected from the mind in the form of hate (T.18.VI.2) , and finally, “…a slight twinge of annoyance is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury” (W.pI.21.2:5) . To the part of the mind that identifies with the ego/body these words are indeed unkind; certainly not things we want to hear. In fact, the ego works very hard at keeping these thoughts from awareness, thereby defending the mind’s continued choice for separation. The devastating consequences of choosing separation are hidden behind the world’s seeming loveliness. In the text, Jesus uses the example of a framed picture to show us the ego’s use of denial and deception. The ugly picture of the ego’s specialness is “…surrounded by a frame so heavy and so elaborate that the picture is almost obliterated by its imposing structure” (T.17.IV.8:2) . The ego uses both the positive and negative experiences of the world in fabricating its frame of deception. The positive experiences are diversions meant to convince us that the world is not such a bad place. The pain and misery of negative experiences prove the world is real. We have so overlearned the ego’s message and adjusted to the heavy layers of denial, that Jesus spells things out using striking contrast between the ego’s darkness and the loving message of the Holy Spirit’s truth. Jesus urges us to “look at the picture ” (T.17.IV.9:1) , not the frame. Unless we see that choosing the ego is the source of all the world’s anguish, we will not move beyond the veil of illusion to awaken to the light of truth. That is the ultimate goal of the Course.