ACIM Text Reading for February 15
Chapter 4 ~ The Illusions of the Ego
II. The Ego and False Autonomy
It is reasonable to ask how the mind could ever have made the ego. In fact, it is the best question you could ask. There is, however, no point in giving an answer in terms of the past because the past does not matter, and history would not exist if the same errors were not being repeated in the present. Abstract thought applies to knowledge because knowledge is completely impersonal, and examples are irrelevant to its understanding. Perception, however, is always specific, and therefore quite concrete.
Everyone makes an ego or a self for himself, which is subject to enormous variation because of its instability. He also makes an ego for everyone else he perceives, which is equally variable. Their interaction is a process that alters both, because they were not made by or with the Unalterable. It is important to realise that this alteration can and does occur as readily when the interaction takes place in the mind as when it involves physical interaction. Thinking about another ego is as effective in changing relative perception as is physical interaction. There could be no better example that the ego is only an idea and not a fact.
Your own state of mind is a good example of how the ego was made. When you threw knowledge away it is as if you never had it. This is so apparent that one need only recognise it to see that it does happen. If this occurs in the present, why is it surprising that it occurred in the past? Surprise is a reasonable response to the unfamiliar, though hardly to something that occurs with such persistence. But do not forget that the mind need not work that way, even though it does work that way now.
Think of the love of animals for their offspring, and the need they feel to protect them. That is because they regard them as part of themselves. No one dismisses something he considers part of himself. You react to your ego much as God does to His creations,â€”with love, protection and charity. Your reactions to the self you made are not surprising. In fact, they resemble in many ways how you will one day react to your real creations, which are as timeless as you are. The question is not how you respond to the ego, but what you believe you are. Belief is an ego function, and as long as your origin is open to belief you are regarding it from an ego viewpoint. When teaching is no longer necessary you will merely know God. Belief that there is another way of perceiving is the loftiest idea of which ego thinking is capable. That is because it contains a hint of recognition that the ego is not the Self.
Undermining the ego’s thought system must be perceived as painful, even though this is anything but true. Babies scream in rage if you take away a knife or scissors, although they may well harm themselves if you do not. In this sense you are still a baby. You have no sense of real self-preservation, and are likely to decide that you need precisely what would hurt you most. Yet whether or not you recognise it now, you have agreed to co-operate in the effort to become both harmless and helpful, attributes that go together. Your attitudes even toward this are necessarily conflicted, because all attitudes are ego-based. This will not last. Be patient a while and remember that the outcome is as certain as God.
Only those who have a real and lasting sense of abundance can be truly charitable. This is obvious when you consider what is involved. To the ego, to give anything implies that you will have to do without it. When you associate giving with sacrifice, you give only because you believe that you are somehow getting something better, and can therefore do without the thing you give. ‘Giving to get’ is an inescapable law of the ego, which always evaluates itself in relation to other egos. It is therefore continually preoccupied with the belief in scarcity that gave rise to it. Its whole perception of other egos as real is only an attempt to convince itself that it is real. ‘Self-esteem’ in ego terms means nothing more than that the ego has deluded itself into accepting its reality, and is therefore temporarily less predatory. This ‘self-esteem’ is always vulnerable to stress, a term which refers to any perceived threat to the ego’s existence.
The ego literally lives by comparisons. Equality is beyond its grasp, and charity becomes impossible. The ego never gives out of abundance, because it was made as a substitute for it. That is why the concept of ‘getting’ arose in the ego’s thought system. Appetites are ‘getting’ mechanisms, representing the ego’s need to confirm itself. This is as true of body appetites as it is of the so-called ‘higher ego needs’. Body appetites are not physical in origin. The ego regards the body as its home, and tries to satisfy itself through the body. But the idea that this is possible is a decision of the mind, which has become completely confused about what is really possible.
The ego believes it is completely on its own, which is merely another way of describing how it thinks it originated. This is such a fearful state that it can only turn to other egos and try to unite with them in a feeble attempt at identification, or attack them in an equally feeble show of strength. It is not free, however, to open the premise to question, because the premise is its foundation. The ego is the mind’s belief that it is completely on its own. The ego’s ceaseless attempts to gain the spirit’s acknowledgement and thus establish its own existence are useless. Spirit in its knowledge is unaware of the ego. It does not attack it; it merely cannot conceive of it at all. While the ego is equally unaware of spirit, it does perceive itself as being rejected by something greater than itself. This is why self-esteem in ego terms must be delusional. The creations of God do not create myths, although creative effort can be turned to mythology. It can do so, however, only under one condition; what it makes is then no longer creative. Myths are entirely perceptual, and so ambiguous in form and characteristically good-and-evil in nature that the most benevolent of them is not without fearful connotations.
Myths and magic are closely associated, since myths are usually related to ego origins, and magic to the powers the ego ascribes to itself. Mythological systems generally include some account of ‘the creation’, and associate this with its particular form of magic. The so-called ‘battle for survival’ is only the ego’s struggle to preserve itself, and its interpretation of its own beginning. This beginning is usually associated with physical birth, because it is hard to maintain that the ego existed before that point in time. The more ‘religiously’ ego-oriented may believe that the soul existed before, and will continue to exist after a temporary lapse into ego life. Some even believe that the soul will be punished for this lapse. However, salvation does not apply to spirit, which is not in danger and does not need to be salvaged.
Salvation is nothing more than ‘right-mindedness’, which is not the One-mindedness of the Holy Spirit, but which must be achieved before One-mindedness is restored. Right-mindedness leads to the next step automatically, because right perception is uniformly without attack, and therefore wrong-mindedness is obliterated. The ego cannot survive without judgement, and is laid aside accordingly. The mind then has only one direction in which it can move. Its direction is always automatic, because it cannot but be dictated by the thought system to which it adheres.
It cannot be emphasised too often that correcting perception is merely a temporary expedient. It is necessary only because misperception is a block to knowledge, while accurate perception is a stepping-stone towards it. The whole value of right perception lies in the inevitable realisation that all perception is unnecessary. This removes the block entirely. You may ask how this is possible as long as you appear to be living in this world. That is a reasonable question. You must be careful, however, that you really understand it. Who is the ‘you’ who are living in this world? Spirit is immortal, and immortality is a constant state. It is as true now as it ever was or ever will be, because it implies no change at all. It is not a continuum, nor is it understood by being compared to an opposite. Knowledge never involves comparisons. That is its main difference from everything else the mind can grasp.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for February 15
I am not the victim of the world I see.
Today’s idea is the introduction to your declaration of release. Again, the idea should be applied to both the world you see without and the world you see within. In applying the idea, we will use a form of practice which will be used more and more, with changes as indicated. Generally speaking, the form includes two aspects, one in which you apply the idea on a more sustained basis, and the other consisting of frequent applications of the idea throughout the day.
Two longer periods of practice with the idea for today are needed, one in the morning and one at night. Three to five minutes for each of these are recommended. During that time, look about you slowly while repeating the idea two or three times. Then close your eyes, and apply the same idea to your inner world. You will escape from both together, for the inner is the cause of the outer.
As you survey your inner world, merely let whatever thoughts cross your mind come into your awareness, each to be considered for a moment, and then replaced by the next. Try not to establish any kind of hierarchy among them. Watch them come and go as dispassionately as possible. Do not dwell on any one in particular, but try to let the stream move on evenly and calmly, without any special investment on your part. As you sit and quietly watch your thoughts, repeat today’s idea to yourself as often as you care to, but with no sense of hurry.
In addition, repeat the idea for today as often as possible during the day. Remind yourself that you are making a declaration of independence in the name of your own freedom. And in your freedom lies the freedom of the world.
The idea for today is also a particularly useful one to use as a response to any form of temptation that may arise. It is a declaration that you will not yield to it, and put yourself in bondage.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #318: In C.1.3:2 it says that the term “soul” is only used in direct biblical quotations. Yet I’ve found that Jesus does use the term several times throughout A Course in Miracles without directly quoting the Bible. “The more ‘religiously’ ego-oriented may believe that the soul existed before, and will continue to exist after a temporary laps into ego life” (T.4.II.9:5).
A: You are right in pointing out that the references to the term “soul” in the Course are not direct quotations. All but one of the references, however, do refer to well known Biblical statements regarding the soul, such as “losing your soul” (T.12.VI.1). In the Clarification of Terms it is used to contrast the Course’s use of the term “spirit.” In this section it is not referring to any specific Biblical passage, but reflects traditional religious views of the soul, including Christian belief which is based on the Bible’s teaching. Hopefully, finding these imperfections is not an impediment to learning the message of the Course and practicing its teachings. That would certainly not profit the man or the soul.
Q #319: In “Jesus: the Manifestation of the Holy Spirit” excerpt, on page 6, you state “The goal however is ultimately to realize the hand we hold is our Own.” And, later, “Eventually we would realize that when we reach out for help, we are really reaching out to ourselves.” Could you please elaborate on these statements?
A: A Course in Miracles teaches that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are symbols which represent the part of our minds which holds the memory of God and reflects His love. When it speaks of taking Jesus’ hand, or asking for help, it is making use of these symbols because we, who have dissociated ourselves from our minds and are mistakenly identified with the body, need them. This is best described when the Course tells us: “You cannot even think of God without a body, or in some form you think you recognize” (T.18.VIII.1:7).
Since we believe we are bodies living in a world of form, the Course uses form to make its message personal and relevant to us. It meets us on the level of form because that is where we think we are. It is also more direct, i.e., in passages that clearly describe the nature of the mind and our true identity (See: T.18.VI.8). There is nothing outside the mind, and therefore, no hand to take (neither ours nor Jesus’), and nothing but the mind itself to choose the truth or the ego’s lie of separation.
Both of the statements you mention are based on this level of the Course’s teaching. Key words in the statements are “ultimately” and “eventually.” They point to the time when we will have learned that our true identity is the mind. Only then will we realize that the power of choice is ours, and all of our asking has been a reminder to ourselves that we can return to the mind to choose our oneness with God rather than separation. Until then, we need to use any symbol that is helpful to us, such as holding Jesus’ hand and asking the Holy Spirit’s help, to let go of the fear of the power of our minds.