A Course in Miracles Text Reading for February 12
Chapter 3 ~ The Innocent Perception
VII. Creating versus the Self-Image
Every system of thought must have a starting point. It begins with either a making or a creating, a difference we have already discussed. Their resemblance lies in their power as foundations. Their difference lies in what rests upon them. Both are cornerstones for systems of belief by which one lives. It is a mistake to believe that a thought system based on lies is weak. Nothing made by a child of God is without power. It is essential to realise this, because otherwise you will be unable to escape from the prison you have made.
You cannot resolve the authority problem by depreciating the power of your mind. To do so is to deceive yourself, and this will hurt you because you really understand the strength of the mind. You also realise that you cannot weaken it, any more than you can weaken God. The ‘devil’ is a frightening concept because he seems to be extremely powerful and extremely active. He is perceived as a force in combat with God, battling Him for possession of His creations. The devil deceives by lies, and builds kingdoms in which everything is in direct opposition to God. Yet he attracts men rather than repels them, and they are willing to ‘sell’ him their souls in return for gifts of no real worth. This makes absolutely no sense.
We have discussed the fall or separation before, but its meaning must be clearly understood. The separation is a system of thought real enough in time, though not in eternity. All beliefs are real to the believer. The fruit of only one tree was ‘forbidden’ in the symbolic garden. But God could not have forbidden it, or it could not have been eaten. If God knows His children, and I assure you that He does, would He have put them in a position where their own destruction was possible? The ‘forbidden tree’ was named the ‘tree of knowledge’. Yet God created knowledge and gave it freely to His creations. The symbolism here has been given many interpretations, but you may be sure that any interpretation that sees either God or His creations as capable of destroying Their Own purpose is in error.
Eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge is a symbolic expression for usurping the ability for self-creating. This is the only sense in which God and His creations are not co-creators. The belief that they are is implicit in the ‘self-concept’, or the tendency of the self to make an image of itself. Images are perceived, not known. Knowledge cannot deceive, but perception can. You can perceive yourself as self-creating, but you cannot do more than believe it. You cannot make it true. And, as I said before, when you finally perceive correctly you can only be glad that you cannot. Until then, however, the belief that you can is the foundation stone in your thought system, and all your defences are used to attack ideas that might bring it to light. You still believe you are an image of your own making. Your mind is split with the Holy Spirit on this point, and there is no resolution while you believe the one thing that is literally inconceivable. That is why you cannot create and are filled with fear about what you make.
The mind can make the belief in separation very real and very fearful, and this belief is the ‘devil’. It is powerful, active, destructive and clearly in opposition to God, because it literally denies His Fatherhood. Look at your life and see what the devil has made. But realise that this making will surely dissolve in the light of truth, because its foundation is a lie. Your creation by God is the only Foundation that cannot be shaken, because the light is in it. Your starting point is truth, and you must return to your Beginning. Much has been seen since then, but nothing has really happened. Your Self s still in peace, even though your mind is in conflict. You have not yet gone back far enough, and that is why you become so fearful. As you approach the Beginning, you feel the fear of the destruction of your thought system upon you as if it were the fear of death. There is no death, but there is a belief in death.
The branch that bears no fruit will be cut off and will wither away. Be glad! The light will shine from the true Foundation of life, and your own thought system will stand corrected. It cannot stand otherwise. You who fear salvation are choosing death. Life and death, light and darkness, knowledge and perception, are irreconcilable. To believe that they can be reconciled is to believe that God and His Son can not. Only the oneness of knowledge is free of conflict. Your kingdom is not of this world because it was given you from beyond this world. Only in this world is the idea of an authority problem meaningful. The world is not left by death but by truth, and truth can be known by all those for whom the Kingdom was created, and for whom it waits.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for February 12
Above all else I want to see things differently.
Today we are really giving specific application to the idea for yesterday. In these practice periods, you will be making a series of definite commitments. The question of whether you will keep them in the future is not our concern here. If you are willing at least to make them now, you have started on the way to keeping them. And we are still at the beginning.
You may wonder why it is important to say, for example, “Above all else I want to see this table differently.” In itself it is not important at all. Yet what is by itself? And what does “in itself” mean? You see a lot of separate things about you, which really means you are not seeing at all. You either see or not. When you have seen one thing differently, you will see all things differently. The light you will see in any one of them is the same light you will see in them all.
When you say, “Above all else I want to see this table differently,” you are making a commitment to withdraw your preconceived ideas about the table, and open your mind to what it is, and what it is for. You are not defining it in past terms. You are asking what it is, rather than telling it what it is. You are not binding its meaning to your tiny experience of tables, nor are you limiting its purpose to your little personal thoughts.
You will not question what you have already defined. And the purpose of these exercises is to ask questions and receive the answers. In saying, “Above all else I want to see this table differently,” you are committing yourself to seeing. It is not an exclusive commitment. It is a commitment that applies to the table just as much as to anything else, neither more nor less.
You could, in fact, gain vision from just that table, if you would withdraw all your own ideas from it, and look upon it with a completely open mind. It has something to show you; something beautiful and clean and of infinite value, full of happiness and hope. Hidden under all your ideas about it is its real purpose, the purpose it shares with all the universe.
In using the table as a subject for applying the idea for today, you are therefore really asking to see the purpose of the universe. You will be making this same request of each subject that you use in the practice periods. And you are making a commitment to each of them to let its purpose be revealed to you, instead of placing your own judgment upon it.
We will have six two-minute practice periods today, in which the idea for the day is stated first, and then applied to whatever you see about you. Not only should the subjects be chosen randomly, but each one should be accorded equal sincerity as today’s idea is applied to it, in an attempt to acknowledge the equal value of them all in their contribution to your seeing.
As usual, the applications should include the name of the subject your eyes happen to light on, and you should rest your eyes on it while saying
Above all else I want to see this ______ differently.
Each application should be made quite slowly, and as thoughtfully as possible. There is no hurry.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #45: My question refers to the process of helping others. In studying the Course, I realize that the world’s salvation and my own is my only function. However, is there an accredited program or some kind of certification based on the Course that could be pursued, in a field such as psychotherapy or counseling.
A: To address the second part of your question first, sorry, but there can be no formal training based on the Course to prepare someone for the role of therapist or counselor because the Course has nothing to say about specific forms or roles. This does not mean that there may not be those who offer such a curriculum, but it is not really in line with the intentions of the Course as a spiritual teaching. You could be trained, for example, in psychoanalysis or behavioral therapy or Rogerian counseling, each of which employs a very different theoretical model and different techniques and practices from the other approaches, and still utilize the principles of the Course in your work with patients. This is because the Course is intended to help you change how you perceive situations and relationships within your own mind and has nothing to say about how you behave or act with others. And so any form of therapeutic practice, even if it may have initially been made to maintain separation, can be used for a truly healing outcome when it is placed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The pamphlet, Psychotherapy: Purpose, Process and Practice, does provide a helpful application of Course principles in a therapeutic context, but a careful reading of it makes it very clear that Jesus is only talking about what is going on within the mind of the therapist and is never making recommendations for how the therapist should act with the patient or client. The insights a therapist develops from the Course about the nature of reality and the purpose of the world and the self — first from the ego’s perspective of the reality of sin and guilt, and then from the perspective of the Holy Spirit’s healed perception — may or may not be things that would be appropriate to discuss with a patient. But it would always be the content of forgiveness and not any specific words or concepts that the therapist would want to share with the patient. And the content is shared in any instant when the therapist has released all the judgments he may be holding in his own mind against the patient, which are nothing more than the projections of judgments he is holding against himself. The pamphlet describes this process: “The therapist sees in the patient all that he has not forgiven in himself, and is thus given another chance to look at it, open it to reevaluation and forgive it. When this occurs, he sees his sins as gone into a past that is no longer here….The patient is his screen for the projections of his sins, enabling him to let them go” (P.2.VI.6:3,4,6,7).
And to turn to your opening comments with just a few clarifications. When you speak of helping others, and observe that the Course speaks of the world’s salvation and our own as our only function, you want to be sure that you understand what the world’s salvation means. The workbook says that “salvation of the world depends on me” (W.pI.186.h). But the world’s salvation does not refer to doing anything in the world or to having an effect on anything external, including others, in the world. The salvation of the world depends on my withdrawing the projections of guilt that I have placed upon the world, and then releasing those judgments from myself as well – – the same process that we have just read from the Psychotherapy pamphlet. In the end, having no further purpose, the external world will disappear, just as the guilt we have projected on to it vanishes in the light of forgiveness. In other words, “there is no world” to save (W.pI.132.6:2).
And so, in the meantime, before our mind is completely healed, we would not want any actions we take in the world to come from our own perception of what help others need — we do not know. All of our perceptions are based on a belief in the reality of separation, scarcity, lack and loss, so our own interventions will only serve to reinforce that belief in ourselves and others. We cannot possibly know or understand what real help is, in a separated state of mind. But when we release our own judgments, grievances and guilt, then the part of our mind — the Holy Spirit — that does know is free to express Itself through us. And the help will then always be a reminder that sin and guilt and separation are not real, expressed in a form that can be accepted in another without increasing fear (T.2.IV.5). But we will have not made the decision on our own about how that is best done. As Jesus not so subtly observes, “Your function here is only to decide against deciding what you want, in recognition that you do not know. How, then, can you decide what you should do? Leave all decisions to the One Who speaks for God, and for your function as He knows it” (T.14.IV.5:2,3,4).
A: Feelings is not used very often in the Course, since it’s focus is on thoughts. But in order to access our thoughts, it is very important that we be in touch with our feelings. If we are not aware of how we feel, then we are that much farther removed from our thoughts. So one of the first practical steps a student of the Course may take is that of becoming more and more aware of how they feel. This can often times be a painful process, since more often than not, our painful feelings are denied. Once we allow these feelings to arise within us, we are tempted to shove them back down again because they are unpleasant. For some of us, we may only deny particular feelings, such as anger, grief, or jealousy, etc. Society teaches us what we “should” and “should not” feel, and then the Course comes along, and as spiritual seekers, we impose additional “shoulds” and “should nots.” It is no wonder no one knows how they feel!
Once we are in touch we how we feel, we can then begin the process of discovering what thought caused the feeling. We do not have to don our Sherlock Holmes hats and search and search for these thoughts, as over-intellectualizing the process simply becomes another obstacle. Search your mind as best you can, but more importantly, give Jesus or the Holy Spirit your willingness to know what the thought is. And in most instances, even those having to do with anger, you will find that your thoughts have to do with loss of some kind. Once you are aware of the thought you then have the choice to change the thought, or not. But at least you have found the true source of your pain. It is not anything outside of you, but rather the thoughts you hold within.
As Jesus tells us in the text:
This is the only thing that you need do for vision, happiness, release from pain and the complete escape from sin, all to be given you. Say only this, but mean it with no reservations, for here the power of salvation lies:
I am responsible for what I see.
I choose the [thoughts and] feelings I experience, and I decide upon the goal I would achieve.
And everything that seems to happen to me I ask for, and receive as I have asked.
Deceive yourself no longer that you are helpless in the face of what is done to you. Acknowledge but that you have been mistaken, and all effects of your mistakes will disappear (T.21.II.2:1,2,3,4,5,6,7).
Q #47: Seven months ago, I thought I made a decision in a peaceful and loving way. I had advice and support in my decision. Now, I have recently been given information that has made me question the action. At the time, I felt this was the most loving and kind thing. I find this very disturbing and have revisited the tapes on “Rules for Decision.” I think I’ve never given up the guilt or the blame for taking the action. I know the Course is a process; I’ve been a student for 12 years, but when this happened I questioned that I’ve made any progress. I know that the Course is not about doing things in this world. Am I dealing with 2 different situations or am I still in the original one problem?
A: If you felt you did the most loving and kind thing, then you should stay with that. You know, we have limited ourselves so much, and have erected so many layers of defenses by choosing to think we are bodies, that we simply are not in touch with what is going on beneath the surface of our conscious awareness. We cannot see the larger picture at all; therefore, we do not know where we are on our Atonement path. So it is not helpful to question our progress. That is where having Jesus as our teacher is so helpful. By following his directions in his Course, we are led deeper and deeper into our minds, and we slowly begin to get in touch with the underlying motivations for our actions and thought patterns.
So the experience you had is not at all uncommon. We all can look back at decisions we’ve made that seem to have been the right ones, but now, because we have uncovered more of what we had kept hidden about ourselves in our minds, we realize that we had overlooked something or had simply deceived ourselves. That is to be expected as we go along, but feeling guilty over it is not helpful. Feeling guilty will only reinforce the problem and keep the solution concealed.
The “proper” response is to feel grateful that you have learned something more about how your ego operates, so that you now can be more vigilant for those kinds of ploys. It is a humbling experience, but if you accept that your purpose is to journey — with Jesus’ love guiding you — into the darkness in your mind, you will not be so surprised to discover these instances of self-deception. Ultimately, you will recognize that the whole thing is a defense against the light and the love that is there, and that is our true reality.