ACIM Text Reading for February 18
Chapter 4 ~ The Illusions of the Ego
V. The Ego-Body Illusion
All things work together for good. There are no exceptions except in the ego’s judgement. The ego exerts maximal vigilance about what it permits into awareness, and this is not the way a balanced mind holds together. The ego is thrown further off balance because it keeps its primary motivation from your awareness, and raises control rather than sanity to predominance. The ego has every reason to do this, according to the thought system which gave rise to it and which it serves. Sane judgement would inevitably judge against the ego, and must be obliterated by the ego in the interest of its self-preservation.
A major source of the ego’s off-balanced state is its lack of discrimination between the body and the Thoughts of God. Thoughts of God are unacceptable to the ego, because they clearly point to the non-existence of the ego itself. The ego therefore either distorts them or refuses to accept them. It cannot, however, make them cease to be. It therefore tries to conceal not only ‘unacceptable’ body impulses, but also the Thoughts of God, because both are threatening to it. Being concerned primarily with its own preservation in the face of threat, the ego perceives them as the same. By perceiving them as the same, the ego attempts to save itself from being swept away, as it would surely be in the presence of knowledge.
Any thought system that confuses God and the body must be insane. Yet this confusion is essential to the ego, which judges only in terms of threat or non-threat to itself. In one sense the ego’s fear of God is at least logical, since the idea of Him does dispel the ego. But fear of the body, with which the ego identifies so closely, makes no sense at all.
The body is the ego’s home by its own election. It is the only identification with which the ego feels safe, since the body’s vulnerability is its own best argument that you cannot be of God. This is the belief that the ego sponsors eagerly. Yet the ego hates the body, because it cannot accept it as good enough to be its home. Here is where the mind becomes actually dazed. Being told by the ego that it is really part of the body and that the body is its protector, the mind is also told that the body cannot protect it. Therefore, the mind asks, ‘Where can I go for protection?’ to which the ego replies, ‘Turn to me’. The mind, and not without cause, reminds the ego that it has itself insisted that it is identified with the body, so there is no point in turning to it for protection. The ego has no real answer to this because there is none, but it does have a typical solution. It obliterates the question from the mind’s awareness. Once out of awareness the question can and does produce uneasiness, but it cannot be answered because it cannot be asked.
This is the question that must be asked: ‘Where can I go for protection?’ ‘Seek and ye shall find’ does not mean that you should seek blindly and desperately for something you would not recognise. Meaningful seeking is consciously undertaken, consciously organised and consciously directed. The goal must be formulated clearly and kept in mind. Learning and wanting to learn are inseparable. You learn best when you believe what you are trying to learn is of value to you. However, not everything you may want to learn has lasting value. Indeed, many of the things you want to learn may be chosen because their value will not last.
The ego thinks it is an advantage not to commit itself to anything that is eternal, because the eternal must come from God. Eternalness is the one function the ego has tried to develop, but has systematically failed to achieve. The ego compromises with the issue of the eternal, just as it does with all issues touching on the real question in any way. By becoming involved with tangential issues, it hopes to hide the real question and keep it out of mind. The ego’s characteristic busyness with nonessentials is for precisely that purpose. Preoccupations with problems set up to be incapable of solution are favourite ego devices for impeding learning progress. In all these diversionary tactics, however, the one question that is never asked by those who pursue them is, ‘What for?’ This is the question that you must learn to ask in connection with everything. What is the purpose? Whatever it is, it will direct your efforts automatically. When you make a decision of purpose, then, you have made a decision about your future effort; a decision that will remain in effect unless you change your mind.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for February 18
I could see peace instead of this.
The idea for today begins to describe the conditions that prevail in the other way of seeing. Peace of mind is clearly an internal matter. It must begin with your own thoughts, and then extend outward. It is from your peace of mind that a peaceful perception of the world arises.
Three longer practice periods are required for today’s exercises. One in the morning and one in the evening are advised, with an additional one to be undertaken at any time in between that seems most conducive to readiness. All applications should be done with your eyes closed. It is your inner world to which the applications of today’s idea should be made.
Some five minutes of mind searching are required for each of the longer practice periods. Search your mind for fear thoughts, anxiety-provoking situations, “offending” personalities or events, or anything else about which you are harboring unloving thoughts. Note them all casually, repeating the idea for today slowly as you watch them arise in your mind, and let each one go, to be replaced by the next.
If you begin to experience difficulty in thinking of specific subjects, continue to repeat the idea to yourself in an unhurried manner, without applying it to anything in particular. Be sure, however, not to make any specific exclusions.
The shorter applications are to be frequent, and made whenever you feel your peace of mind is threatened in any way. The purpose is to protect yourself from temptation throughout the day. If a specific form of temptation arises in your awareness, the exercise should take this form:
I could see peace in this situation instead of what I now see in it.
If the inroads on your peace of mind take the form of more generalized adverse emotions, such as depression, anxiety or worry, use the idea in its original form. If you find you need more than one application of today’s idea to help you change your mind in any specific context, try to take several minutes and devote them to repeating the idea until you feel some sense of relief. It will help you if you tell yourself specifically:
I can replace my feelings of depression, anxiety or worry [or my thoughts about this situation, personality or event] with peace.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #1204: Even though I studied Lessons 28-29 some years ago, I realize I’m still confused about illusions and the universe. If nothing I see means anything, and this is all an illusion (which I am embracing with time), how can a table, or anything else I see with my eyes, share a purpose with the universe, which is also an illusion. And, how can any of this be shared with the purpose of God? Learning how to look on all things with love, appreciation and open-mindedness seems to make the illusion, and all things in it, a reality instead of a dream. Please explain the holy purpose talked about in the lesson. “Above all else I want to see things differently.”
A: The first 50 lessons of the workbook build on one another, contrasting the fundamental principles of the ego thought system with those of the Holy Spirit. All the metaphysical principles of the Course are contained in these lessons. They are the foundation for achieving the workbook’s goal of “… [training our minds] in a systematic way to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world” (W.in.4:1) . It is helpful to keep this in mind when reviewing the workbook. To see anything differently means to first see the meaning that has been given to it by the ego. For example: based on past experience, a table is seen as an object to place things on, although of itself the table has no meaning. In like manner, we think we know what everything in the universe is for. What we are not aware of, however, is the purposegiven to everything by the mind, depending on its decision to side with the ego’s goal — separation; or the Holy Spirit’s — healing the separation. Nothing means anything because nothing outside of Heaven exists in reality; however, everything shares the purpose the mind attributes to it. Its meaning supports belief in the ego thought system or the Holy Spirit’s, Who has a correction for every meaning given to anything by the ego. Thus, His plan for the illusory world shares the purpose of God, because it leads us back to Him. In the practice of the Course we are asked to recognize that we have given meaning to everything we perceive; justifying and defending this meaning (sometimes adamantly), and perhaps even refusing to question our interpretations. These are the blocks to allowing the Holy Spirit to transform the perception of illusion to the memory of reality so that we may awaken from the dream. All we are asked to do is have a little willingness to question our interpretation and ask for the Holy Spirit’s help: “The great Transformer of perception will undertake with you the careful searching of the mind that made this world, and uncover to you the seeming reasons for your making it” (T.17.II.5:2).
Accepting the Holy Spirit’s plan of forgiveness for everything does not make the illusion real; it makes it useful: “ Illusion makes illusion. Except one. Forgiveness is illusion that is answer to the rest” (W.pI.198.2:8, 9,10). The love and gratitude that is brought to everything is found in forgiveness. To see everything differently is to see it in its light, the core of which is to recognize that nothing outside of the mind has any effect on it. This shift in perception removes all blame from the universe of relationships, places, and situations for the feelings we experience. Forgiveness, therefore, serves as a bridge between the illusory dream and the reality of Heaven, giving everything in the illusion a holy purpose. The bridge is needed because of the belief that the dream is real, and it indeed seems to be. When every illusion has been forgiven, everything will be perceived through the eyes of the love that was always present in the mind, with no effort on our part.
A: Cayce’s work focused, for the most part, on helping individual people with their specific conditions. His readings, therefore, were not intended as a comprehensive philosophical or theological system, although there clearly are philosophical and theological aspects to the readings. He spoke of mind or thought as the builder, for example. In contrast, one of the purposes of A Course in Miracles is to provide us with a universal thought system that can be applied on the individual level of our everyday lives. In addition, reincarnation came up frequently in Cayce’s readings, whereas in the Course reincarnation is not central to its teachings.
Q #1206: What I’ve learned so far in studying A Course in Miracles is that there is no real love in this world, and that forgiveness cannot change anything in the world, only our perception of it. We then can look on devastation and know it is false; but we would still be “seeing” the devastation, correct? How does that work? In the crucifixion, for example, was Jesus, as the observer, watching it all happen, as the apostles later reported “seeing it,” while at the same time untouched by it? No fear? No pain?
A: Yes, you are correct about there being no real love in this world. The reason is that this world was made by our minds (and remains in our minds, since ideas leave not their source ) to cover the guilt we felt over having destroyed the Love of God. Of course the Love of God cannot be destroyed, but we believed we did it and now are dealing with the consequences of that belief. But we always retain in our minds the memory of our true Identity as one with God, and by choosing to have Jesus be our teacher and model, we can learn to be reflections of that love by undoing all the barriers we have built to hide it — barriers made of judgment, specialness, hatred, and the wish to be separate. But the love is in our minds, not the world.
In your second point you appear to be referring to one of the Course’s definitions of the miracle, which emphasizes its role as a correction: “It does not create, nor really change at all. It merely looks on devastation, and reminds the mind that what it sees is false” (W.pII.13.1:1,2). Jesus then speaks of forgiveness as “the home of miracles” (W.pII.13.3:1);therefore, it does not change anything in the world, only the perceptions in our minds. Remember, “There is no world! This is the central thought the course attempts to teach” (W.pI.132.6:2,3) ; so Jesus would not be teaching us how to change things in the world when he knows there is no world. But since we believe there is a world, he helps us see that it is but a projection of our own minds, and that we give it all the meaning it has, and that is what he wants us to focus on: the world “is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. . . . Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world” (T.21.in.1:5,7). We first accept the ego or Jesus as our teacher; then our perception or interpretation of what our eyes see reflects that choice: “Perception seems to teach you what you see. Yet it but witnesses to what you taught. It is the outward picture of a wish; an image that you wanted to be true” (T.24.VII.8:8,9,10; see also T.21.V.1:7; W.pII.304.1:3).
Your eyes could be looking at the twisted wreckage of cars and bodies on the highway, for example, but your perception/interpretation of this event would depend on whether you have chosen the ego or Jesus as your teacher. If you are perceiving with Jesus, your inner peace would not be affected by the outer events, which does not mean, however, that you might not stop and offer assistance if you could — we are talking only about the content in your mind, not behavior. The ego’s interpretation would always center on victims and victimizers, tragedy, loss, fear, anxiety — anything that would support the reality of separate bodies vulnerable to outside forces and conditions, making their peace and happiness dependent on these externals. (In this context, you might find it helpful to look at Questions # 1111 and #1187.)
Jesus was the perfect manifestation of love. As a totally healed mind — no ego with guilt to be projected — he could not fearfully or angrily experience himself as a crucified body or an unfairly treated victim, as he explains in “The Message of the Crucifixion” (T.6.I.5:3; 9:1,2). His mind could do only one thing: love. We are the ones who give form to that love, as our fear and needs allow. The problem we have in comprehending this is that we usually try to understand it from our reference point as bodies. But it can never be understood on that level because our perception of ourselves as bodies is itself a choice to separate ourselves from our minds and from the truth. So our concentration should be on the process of forgiveness, which will undo the many ways in which we interfere with love’s communication in our minds. A clear understanding of these “theories” will then emerge.
Several other questions on this Service provide a comprehensive discussion of the crucifixion and Jesus’ life from the point of view of A Course in Miracles : see, for example, Questions #401b, #505, #510, and #563.