ACIM Text Reading for April 1
Chapter 8 ~ The Journey Back
VIII. The Body as Means or End
Attitudes toward the body are attitudes toward attack. The ego’s definitions of anything are childish, and are always based on what it believes the thing is for. This is because it is incapable of true generalisations, and equates with what it sees with the function it ascribes to it. It does not equate it with what it is. To the ego the body is to attack with. Equating you with the body, it teaches that you are to attack with. The body, then, is not the source of its own health. The body’s condition lies solely in your interpretation of its function. Functions are part of being since they arise from it, but the relationship is not reciprocal. The whole does define the part, but the part does not define the whole. Yet to know in part is to know entirely because of the fundamental difference between knowledge and perception. In perception the whole is built up of parts that can separate and reassemble in different constellations. But knowledge never changes, so its constellation is permanent. The idea of part-whole relationships has meaning only at the level of perception, where change is possible. Otherwise, there is no difference between the part and whole.
The body exists in a world that seems to contain two voices fighting for its possession. In this perceived constellation the body is seen as capable of shifting its allegiance from one to the other, making the concepts of both health and sickness meaningful. The ego makes a fundamental confusion between means and end as it always does. Regarding the body as an end, the ego has no real use for it because it is not an end. You must have noticed an outstanding characteristic of every end that the ego has accepted as its own. When you have achieved it, it has not satisfied you. That is why the ego is forced to shift ceaselessly from one goal to another, so that you will continue to hope it can yet offer you something.
It has been particularly difficult to overcome the ego’s belief in the body as an end, because it is synonymous with the belief in attack as an end. The ego has a profound investment in sickness. If you are sick, how can you object to the ego’s firm belief that you are not invulnerable? This is an appealing argument from the ego’s point of view, because it obscures the obvious attack that underlies the sickness. If you recognised this and also decided against attack, you could not give this false witness to the ego’s stand.
It is hard to perceive sickness as a false witness, because you do not realise that it is entirely out of keeping with what you want. This witness, then, appears to be innocent and trustworthy because you have not seriously cross-examined him. If you had, you would not consider sickness such a strong witness on behalf of the ego’s views. A more honest statement would be that those who want the ego are predisposed to defend it. Therefore, their choice of witnesses should be suspect from the beginning. The ego does not call upon witnesses who would disagree with its case, nor does the Holy Spirit. I have said that judgement is the function of the Holy Spirit, and one He is perfectly equipped to fulfil. The ego as a judge gives anything but an impartial judgement. When the ego calls on a witness, it has already made the witness an ally.
It is still true that the body has no function of itself, because it is not an end. The ego, however, establishes it as an end because, as such, its true function is obscured. This is the purpose of everything the ego does. Its sole aim is to lose sight of the function of everything. A sick body does not make any sense. It could not make sense because sickness is not what the body is for. Sickness is meaningful only if the two basic premises on which the ego’s interpretation of the body rests are true; that the body is for attack, and that you are a body. Without these premises sickness is inconceivable.
Sickness is a way of demonstrating that you can be hurt. It is a witness to your frailty, your vulnerability, and your extreme need to depend on external guidance. The ego uses this as its best argument for your need for itsguidance. It dictates endless prescriptions for avoiding catastrophic outcomes. The Holy Spirit, perfectly aware of the same situation, does not bother to analyse it at all. If data are meaningless there is no point in analysing them. The function of truth is to collect information that is true. Any way you handle error results in nothing. The more complicated the results become the harder it may be to recognise their nothingness, but it is not necessary to examine all possible outcomes to which premises give rise in order to judge them truly.
A learning device is not a teacher. It cannot tell you how you feel. You do not know how you feel because you have accepted the ego’s confusion, and you therefore believe that a learning device can tell you how you feel. Sickness is merely another example of your insistence on asking guidance of a teacher who does not know the answer. The ego is incapable of knowing how you feel. When I said that the ego does not know anything, I said the one thing about the ego that is wholly true. But there is a corollary; if only knowledge has being and the ego has no knowledge, then the ego has no being.
You might well ask how the voice of something that does not exist can be so insistent. Have you thought about the distorting power of something you want, even if it is not real? There are many instances of how what you want distorts perception. No one can doubt the ego’s skill in building up false cases. Nor can anyone doubt your willingness to listen until you choose not to accept anything except truth. When you lay the ego aside, it will be gone. The Holy Spirit’s Voice is as loud as your willingness to listen. It cannot be louder without violating your freedom of choice, which the Holy Spirit seeks to restore, never to undermine.
The Holy Spirit teaches you to use your body only to reach your brothers, so He can teach His message through you. This will heal them and therefore heal you. Everything used in accordance with its function as the Holy Spirit sees it cannot be sick. Everything used otherwise is. Do not allow the body to be a mirror of a split mind. Do not let it be an image of your own perception of littleness. Do not let it reflect your decision to attack. Health is seen as the natural state of everything when interpretation is left to the Holy Spirit, Who perceives no attack on anything. Health is the result of relinquishing all attempts to use the body lovelessly. Health is the beginning of the proper perspective on life under the guidance of the one Teacher Who knows what life is, being the Voice for Life Itself.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for April 1
Only God’s plan for salvation will work.
You may not realize that the ego has set up a plan for salvation in opposition to God’s. It is this plan in which you believe. Since it is the opposite of God’s, you also believe that to accept God’s plan in place of the ego’s is to be damned. This sounds preposterous, of course. Yet after we have considered just what the ego’s plan is, perhaps you will realize that, however preposterous it may be, you do believe in it.
The ego’s plan for salvation centers around holding grievances. It maintains that, if someone else spoke or acted differently, if some external circumstance or event were changed, you would be saved. Thus, the source of salvation is constantly perceived as outside yourself. Each grievance you hold is a declaration, and an assertion in which you believe, that says, “If this were different, I would be saved.” The change of mind necessary for salvation is thus demanded of everyone and everything except yourself.
The role assigned to your own mind in this plan, then, is simply to determine what, other than itself, must change if you are to be saved. According to this insane plan, any perceived source of salvation is acceptable provided that it will not work. This ensures that the fruitless search will continue, for the illusion persists that, although this hope has always failed, there is still grounds for hope in other places and in other things. Another person will yet serve better; another situation will yet offer success.
Such is the ego’s plan for your salvation. Surely you can see how it is in strict accord with the ego’s basic doctrine, “Seek but do not find.” For what could more surely guarantee that you will not find salvation than to channelize all your efforts in searching for it where it is not?
God’s plan for salvation works simply because, by following His direction, you seek for salvation where it is. But if you are to succeed, as God promises you will, you must be willing to seek there only. Otherwise, your purpose is divided and you will attempt to follow two plans for salvation that are diametrically opposed in all ways. The result can only bring confusion, misery and a deep sense of failure and despair.
How can you escape all this? Very simply. The idea for today is the answer. Only God’s plan for salvation will work. There can be no real conflict about this, because there is no possible alternative to God’s plan that will save you. His is the only plan that is certain in its outcome. His is the only plan that must succeed.
Let us practice recognizing this certainty today. And let us rejoice that there is an answer to what seems to be a conflict with no resolution possible. All things are possible to God. Salvation must be yours because of His plan, which cannot fail.
Begin the two longer practice periods for today by thinking about today’s idea, and realizing that it contains two parts, each making equal contribution to the whole. God’s plan for your salvation will work, and other plans will not. Do not allow yourself to become depressed or angry at the second part; it is inherent in the first. And in the first is your full release from all your own insane attempts and mad proposals to free yourself. They have led to depression and anger; but God’s plan will succeed. It will lead to release and joy.
Remembering this, let us devote the remainder of the extended practice periods to asking God to reveal His plan to us. Ask Him very specifically:
What would You have me do?
Where would You have me go?
What would You have me say, and to whom?
Give Him full charge of the rest of the practice period, and let Him tell you what needs to be done by you in His plan for your salvation. He will answer in proportion to your willingness to hear His Voice. Refuse not to hear. The very fact that you are doing the exercises proves that you have some willingness to listen. This is enough to establish your claim to God’s answer.
In the shorter practice periods, tell yourself often that God’s plan for salvation, and only His, will work. Be alert to all temptation to hold grievances today, and respond to them with this form of today’s idea:
Holding grievances is the opposite of God’s plan
for salvation. And only His plan will work.
Try to remember today’s idea some six or seven times an hour. There could be no better way to spend a half minute or less than to remember the Source of your salvation, and to see It where It is.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #212: I have a question about judgment. Let’s say I walk by a home which has dogs behind a fence and the dogs bark at me and I recognize they believe I am a threat; yet I do not feel resentful, but wish they knew I mean them no harm. Am I still judging them? Is there a difference between a “mechanical judgement” and a judgment based on emotion? Is a “mechanical judgment” the same as resentment, even if I feel no malice? How should I view such distinctions about judgment?
A: The kind of judgment that A Course in Miracles focuses on, almost exclusively, is the judgment in which we condemn ourselves or another person in some way, or the judgment that presumes that we know everything and therefore can reach valid conclusions about everything. If you find yourself insisting that you are right about something, or feeling superior or inferior, better or worse than someone else — any comparative judgment along those lines — then you have gotten involved with the kind of judgment that needs to be addressed through the process of forgiveness, because your perception is grounded in separation. If you do not feel resentment, if you have no investment in the dogs’ accepting your invitation to join with you, and you are feeling only kindness and compassion towards them, then you have not judged. Simply sizing up the situation, i.e., that the dogs are threatened by you even though you mean them no harm, is not the kind of judgment that Jesus wants us to be vigilant about.
We all are engaged in judging all the time: for example, judging what outfit is best in terms of the weather forecast; which route to take in order to arrive at our destination on time; which doctor to go to, etc. We cannot avoid judging, and Jesus never tells us not to judge. His emphasis is always on changing our teacher from the ego to him or the Holy Spirit, which would then put us in a position where judgment through us rather than by us can occur (M.10.2:7). This would mean that we would be free of all attack thoughts and thoughts of separation, and we would not be perceiving our interests as separate from everyone else’s.
Q #213: I am having difficulty with someone. I know that the hatred I feel for her is a projection of the guilt and self-hatred in my mind, and I know that we are both a part of a larger whole. I know that this situation is allowing me to see the hatred in my mind. I have asked Jesus for help to see her differently, but nothing happens. I then ask for help with my resistance to seeing her differently and sometimes I have a shift, but the hatred comes back later. It feels like a solid rock in my heart. I can feel my resistance to letting it go. I know this process takes time and I am continuing to work with it, but meanwhile I am having trouble containing my hatred and hostility toward her on the level of form. Help!
A: You have a good intellectual understanding of at least part of the process, but there is another step or two you need to consider. You keep asking for help to change your perception of this other person, but that is not the real problem. The change you want help with is in your perception of yourself. For the hatred that you continue to displace outside yourself onto this other person is really directed at yourself. But until you allow yourself to acknowledge and accept this, you will continue to try to direct the hatred outside yourself and will be unwilling to see the other person differently.
Once you have acknowledged where the real problem lies — with the guilt within your own mind — the other person will have served the Holy Spirit’s purpose of leading you back within yourself and will no longer be your concern. You hate yourself for what you accuse yourself of doing. You believe that you have attacked and destroyed love out of total self-interest, leaving yourself abandoned, hopeless, and bereft of love. And it is with this self-hatred that you really need help.
Turning to that presence of love within — Jesus or the Holy Spirit, using symbols of A Course in Miracles’ — will have to begin to undo your self-accusation. For how could you have destroyed love if it is still there within you? And so, through joining with that love, you will begin to question the justification for your self-hatred over destroying love. That is the shift in perception with which you need the help, for you can’t make it on your own. And as the self-hatred within your own mind begins to dissolve, you will no longer need to project it. And then you will see those outside of you as simply caught in their own attempts to project their own self-hatred outside themselves. But rather than reacting from your own guilt, if you have released it, you can only respond with compassion and kindness. If you fail to look within, you will not be addressing the source of the resistance to releasing your judgment and condemnation. The key is, whatever you first see within yourself is what you will then see outside yourself, and so your focus for change only needs to be within.