ACIM Text Reading for March 3
Chapter 5 ~ Healing and Wholeness
V. The Ego’s Use of Guilt
Perhaps some of our concepts will become clearer and more personally meaningful if the ego’s use of guilt is clarified. The ego has a purpose, just as the Holy Spirit has. The ego’s purpose is fear, because only the fearful can be egotistic. The ego’s logic is as impeccable as that of the Holy Spirit, because your mind has the means at its disposal to side with Heaven or earth, as it elects. But again, remember that both are in you.
In Heaven there is no guilt, because the Kingdom is attained through the Atonement, which releases you to create. The word ‘create’ is appropriate here because, once what you have made is undone by the Holy Spirit, the blessed residue is restored and therefore continues in creation. What is truly blessed is incapable of giving rise to guilt, and must give rise to joy. This makes it invulnerable to the ego because its peace is unassailable. It is invulnerable to disruption because it is whole. Guilt is alwaysdisruptive. Anything that engenders fear is divisive because it obeys the law of division. If the ego is the symbol of the separation, it is also the symbol of guilt. Guilt is more than merely not of God. It is the symbol of attack on God. This is a totally meaningless concept except to the ego, but do not underestimate the power of the ego’s belief in it. This is the belief from which all guilt really stems.
The ego is the part of the mind that believes in division. How could part of God detach itself without believing it is attacking Him? We spoke before of the authority problem as based on the concept of usurping God’s power. The ego believes that this is what you did because it believes that it is you. If you identify with the ego, you must perceive yourself as guilty. Whenever you respond to your ego you will experience guilt, and you will fear punishment. The ego is quite literally a fearful thought. However ridiculous the idea of attacking God may be to the sane mind, never forget that the ego is not sane. It represents a delusional system, and speaks for it. Listening to the ego’s voice means that you believe it is possible to attack God, and that a part of Him has been torn away by you. Fear of retaliation from without follows, because the severity of the guilt is so acute that it must be projected.
Whatever you accept into your mind has reality for you. It is your acceptance of it that makes it real. If you enthrone the ego in your mind, your allowing it to enter makes it your reality. This is because the mind is capable of creating reality or making illusions. I said before that you must learn to think with God. To think with Him is to think like Him. This engenders joy, not guilt, because it is natural. Guilt is a sure sign that your thinking is unnatural. Unnatural thinking will always be attended with guilt, because it is the belief in sin. The ego does not perceive sin as a lack of love, but as a positive act of assault. This is necessary to the ego’s survival because, as soon as you regard sin as a lack, you will automatically attempt to remedy the situation. And you will succeed. The ego regards this as doom, but you must learn to regard it as freedom.
The guiltless mind cannot suffer. Being sane, the mind heals the body because it has been healed. The sane mind cannot conceive of illness because it cannot conceive of attacking anyone or anything. I said before that illness is a form of magic. It might be better to say that it is a form of magical solution. The ego believes that by punishing itself it will mitigate the punishment of God. Yet even in this it is arrogant. It attributes to God a punishing intent, and then takes this intent as its own prerogative. It tries to usurp all the functions of God as it perceives them, because it recognises that only total allegiance can be trusted.
The ego cannot oppose the laws of God any more than you can, but it can interpret them according to what it wants, just as you can. That is why the question, ‘What do you want?’ must be answered. You are answering it every minute and every second, and each moment of decision is a judgement that is anything but ineffectual. Its effects will follow automatically until the decision is changed. Remember, though, that the alternatives themselves are unalterable. The Holy Spirit, like the ego, is a decision. Together they constitute all the alternatives the mind can accept and obey. The Holy Spirit and the ego are the only choices open to you. God created one, and so you cannot eradicate it. You made the other, and so you can. Only what God creates is irreversible and unchangeable. What you made can always be changed because, when you do not think like God, you are not really thinking at all. Delusional ideas are not real thoughts, although you can believe in them. But you are wrong. The function of thought comes from God and is in God. As part of His Thought, you cannot think apart from Him.
Irrational thought is disordered thought. God Himself orders your thought because your thought was created by Him. Guilt feelings are always a sign that you do not know this. They also show that you believe you can think apart from God, and want to. Every disordered thought is attended by guilt at its inception, and maintained by guilt in its continuance. Guilt is inescapable by those who believe they order their own thoughts, and must therefore obey their dictates. This makes them feel responsible for their errors without recognising that, by accepting this responsibility, they are reacting irresponsibly. If the sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself, and I assure you that it is, then the responsibility for what is atoned for cannot be yours. The dilemma cannot be resolved except by accepting the solution of undoing. You would be responsible for the effects of all your wrong thinking if it could not be undone. The purpose of the Atonement is to save the past in purified form only. If you accept the remedy for disordered thought, a remedy whose efficacy is beyond doubt, how can its symptoms remain?
The continuing decision to remain separated is the only possible reason for continuing guilt feelings. We have said this before, but did not emphasise the destructive results of the decision. Any decision of the mind will affect both behaviour and experience. What you want you expect. This is not delusional. Your mind does make your future, and it will turn it back to full creation at any minute if it accepts the Atonement first. It will also return to full creation the instant it has done so. Having given up its disordered thought, the proper ordering of thought becomes quite apparent.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for March 3
God is my strength. Vision is His gift.
The idea for today combines two very powerful thoughts, both of major importance. It also sets forth a cause and effect relationship that explains why you cannot fail in your efforts to achieve the goal of the course. You will see because it is the Will of God. It is His strength, not your own, that gives you power. And it is His gift, rather than your own, that offers vision to you.
God is indeed your strength, and what He gives is truly given. This means that you can receive it any time and anywhere, wherever you are, and in whatever circumstance you find yourself. Your passage through time and space is not at random. You cannot but be in the right place at the right time. Such is the strength of God. Such are His gifts.
We will have two three-to-five-minute practice periods today, one as soon as possible after you wake, and another as close as possible to the time you go to sleep. It is better, however, to wait until you can sit quietly by yourself, at a time when you feel ready, than it is to be concerned with the time as such.
Begin these practice periods by repeating the idea for today slowly, with your eyes open, looking about you. Then close your eyes and repeat the idea again, even slower than before. After this, try to think of nothing except thoughts that occur to you in relation to the idea for the day. You might think, for example:
Vision must be possible. God gives truly,
God’s gifts to me must be mine, because He gave them to me.
Any thought that is clearly related to the idea for today is suitable. You may, in fact, be astonished at the amount of course-related understanding some of your thoughts contain. Let them come without censoring unless you find your mind is merely wandering, and you have let obviously irrelevant thoughts intrude. You may also reach a point where no thoughts at all seem to come to mind. If such interferences occur, open your eyes and repeat the thought once more while looking slowly about; close your eyes, repeat the idea once more, and then continue to look for related thoughts in your mind.
Remember, however, that active searching for relevant thoughts is not appropriate for today’s exercises. Try merely to step back and let the thoughts come. If you find this difficult, it is better to spend the practice period alternating between slow repetitions of the idea with eyes open, then with eyes closed, than it is to strain to find suitable thoughts.
There is no limit on the number of short practice periods that would be beneficial today. The idea for the day is a beginning step in bringing thoughts together, and teaching you that you are studying a unified thought system in which nothing is lacking that is needed, and nothing is included that is contradictory or irrelevant.
The more often you repeat the idea during the day, the more often you will be reminding yourself that the goal of the course is important to you, and that you have not forgotten it.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #854: I come from a completely non-religious background and was never “involved” with God in any way, form or fashion until I “met” A Course in Miracles (for which I am so grateful). I am “stuck” on Lesson 41 “God goes with me wherever I go.” I’ve been doing this lesson daily for about a week now because the concept fascinates me so, but despite the diligent practicing as set forth, I have not “reached” God in any sense, although the Course tells me that it is quite possible to do so. It also says: “The way will open, if you believe that it is possible.”(8:4) I want to believe, but how does one do that?
A: Another of way of stating the content of this lesson is: “the separation never happened, and we remain with God.” We cannot truly be anywhere else, and that is why God is with us. However, there is a very important message in the first line in the fifth paragraph: “We understand that you do not believe all this” (W.pI.41.5:1). With this single statement, Jesus explains the “stuckness” almost everyone experiences in the practice of the workbook. The first goal of the lesson, therefore, is to help us realize that we do not believe what it says. We learn by contrast just how much we do believe the ego and do not believe the Holy Spirit, which is one of the important goals of the workbook. A necessary part of the learning process is arriving at precisely the dilemma you describe: the message of the Course inspires us, yet despite diligent practice nothing seems to happen, but we are assured it can be accomplished. The usefulness of this situation is learning to appreciate the intensity of resistance and the full scope of attachment to the ego’s belief system. Without this clear recognition, real progress is impossible because the ego’s best game is denial. Its life depends on the belief that the body is our true identity, which in turn rests on the denial of the mind’s existence, not to mention its power to choose. Jesus tells us early in the text: “Few appreciate the real power of the mind, and no one remains fully aware of it all the time. However, if you hope to spare yourself from fear [guilt, separation] there are some things you must realize, and realize fully. The mind is very powerful, and never loses its creative force” (T.2.VI.9:3,4,5).
Finding it difficult to experience God with you is a way to get in touch with the choice in the mind to believe in the reality of the separation, and to identify with the ego thought system. This choice has made the world and the body real in our experience, thereby making God unreal. The mind cannot hold the thought of separation and the thought of God at the same time. Thus, identity with the ego/body and the guilt that accompanies this choice keep the memory of God from awareness. In fact, it is an attack on God: “ If the ego is the symbol of the separation, it is also the symbol of guilt. Guilt is more than merely not of God. It is the symbol of attack on God” (T.5.V.2:8,9,10). When guilt is gone, God is there.
Guilt is relinquished through the process of forgiveness, which begins with the willingness to look at the ego in our lives in light of the principle of projection of guilt. This important principle of the Course tells us that everything we experience in the world is the result of the mind’s projection of guilt for choosing to be separate, and to identify with the body. This means that nothing outside of our mind is responsible for how we feel. Learning to look at every relationship in this way takes patient practice, because it is not the way we have taught ourselves to interpret our relationships or our experiences in the world. Doing so teaches us that others are not to blame for our condition, they are guiltless. Seeing others as guiltless is how we learn that we, too, are guiltless, which opens the way for us to remember that we are God’s Son and He goes with us: “Unless you are guiltless you cannot know God, Whose Will is that you know Him… He cannot be known without His Son, whose guiltlessness is the condition for knowing Him” (T.14.IV.7:1,4).
The instructions for practicing the workbook lessons do not ask that we believe the lessons, nor that we practice them perfectly. It asks only that we do them (W.in.8,9). It is important to honestly recognize that we do not believe them, and then forgive ourselves for being afraid of the Course’s truth. If we truly knew that God was with us, we would not need the workbook, nor the Course for that matter. The fact that you have become aware that this truth is not your experience means that you have achieved one of the important goals of the workbook lessons: to appreciate the contrast between what you have learned from the ego, and what the Holy Spirit is teaching you in the Course. You then realize how much you need the Holy Spirit’s help to unlearn the ego and learn His lessons instead. Practicing each day’s lesson as sincerely as you can is sufficient to make steady progress, for that is all you are asked to do. In this is the way made open, because it reflects and strengthens the part of the mind that does believe .
Q #400: I have difficulty understanding “looking without judgment.” In one of the answers, you said “to observe your vacillations without judgment, without imposing the categories of desirable and undesirable…(Question #216).” Could you please elaborate on this “without categorizing of desirable and undesirable?” Thank you!
A: The problem with all of our judgments is not that they are bad in themselves, but that our belief in them makes the error of separation real all over again in our minds. When we identify some experiences as good or desirable and others as bad or undesirable, we have fallen into the ego’s trap of opposites, or opposition, which necessarily is an invitation to conflict. While we have a split mind, we are almost certainly going to vacillate between right-minded thinking/ experiences and wrong-minded thinking/experiences. In reality — that is, the oneness of Heaven — neither is real or true. In the context of the earlier question you refer to, to impose categories of desirable and undesirable on them is to give them a reality they do not have. The Holy Spirit’s only judgment is that wrong-mindedness is false and right-mindedness, although still an illusion, is a reflection of what is true.
Now it is true, from our perspective within the split mind, that the Holy Spirit is attempting to lead us toward a recognition that wrong-minded thinking brings us pain and right-minded thinking brings us joy, for in our confused state of mind we believe just the opposite (T.7.X). And only a fool, once we understand our confusion, would deny that one of these states is preferable to or more desirable than the other. But if we begin to judge the ego state as undesirable in the sense that we want to resist it, and condemn ourselves for experiencing it, then we have played right into the ego’s hands, for now there is something real that we need to direct our efforts against.
That is why Jesus emphasizes over and over again in A Course in Miracles, that all we need to do is look with him at what our egos have made without trying to change it (e.g., T.4.III.7,8; T.11.V.1,2), while recognizing its cost. If we try to change it, then we say the ego itself is the problem, when the only problem is our belief in it. And we can’t undo that belief on our own, for that is the belief — that we are on our own. And so we want to look at our ego with Jesus or the Holy Spirit beside us, and share their vision of the unreality of the ego, not judge it as undesirable and attempt to change it or fix it in some way that will make it more acceptable to us — and our ego!
So the goal is not to be judgment-free, for that comes only at the very end of the forgiveness process, but rather to learn more and more not to judge ourselves for having our ego judgments. A helpful tape that elaborates on this learning process is The Meaning of Judgment by Kenneth Wapnick.