ACIM Text Reading for July 20
Chapter 20 ~ The Vision of Holiness
VI. The Temple of the Holy Spirit
The meaning of the Son of God lies solely in his relationship with his Creator. If it were elsewhere it would rest on contingency, but there is nothing else. And this is wholly loving and forever. Yet has the Son of God invented an unholy relationship between him and his Father. His real relationship is one of perfect union and unbroken continuity. The one he made is partial, self-centred, broken into fragments and full of fear. The one created by his Father is wholly self-encompassing and self-extending. The one he made is wholly self-destructive and self-limiting.
Nothing can show the contrast better than the experience of both a holy and an unholy relationship. The first is based on love, and rests on it serene and undisturbed. The body does not intrude upon it. Any relationship in which the body enters is based not on love, but on idolatry. Love wishes to be known, completely understood and shared. It has no secrets; nothing that it would keep apart and hide. It walks in sunlight, open-eyed and calm, in smiling welcome and in sincerity so simple and so obvious it cannot be misunderstood.
But idols do not share. Idols accept, but never make return. They can be loved, but cannot love. They do not understand what they are offered, and any relationship in which they enter has lost its meaning. The love of them has made love meaningless. They live in secrecy, hating the sunlight and happy in the body’s darkness, where they can hide and keep their secrets hidden along with them. And they have no relationships, for no one else is welcome there. They smile on no one, and those who smile on them they do not see.
Love has no darkened temples where mysteries are kept obscure and hidden from the sun. It does not seek for power, but for relationships. The body is the ego’s chosen weapon for seeking power through relationships. And its relationships must be unholy, for what they are it does not even see. It wants them solely for the offerings on which its idols thrive. The rest it merely throws away, for all that it could offer is seen as valueless. Homeless, the ego seeks as many bodies as it can collect to place its idols in, and so establish them as temples to itself.
The Holy Spirit’s temple is not a body, but a relationship. The body is an isolated speck of darkness; a hidden secret room, a tiny spot of senseless mystery, a meaningless enclosure carefully protected, yet hiding nothing. Here the unholy relationship escapes reality, and seeks for crumbs to keep itself alive. Here it would drag its brothers, holding them here in its idolatry. Here it is ‘safe’, for here love cannot enter. The Holy Spirit does not build His temples where love can never be. Would He Who sees the face of Christ choose as His home the only place in all the universe where it can not be seen?
You cannot make the body the Holy Spirit’s temple, and it will never be the seat of love. It is the home of the idolater, and of love’s condemnation. For here is love made fearful and hope abandoned. Even the idols that are worshipped here are shrouded in mystery, and kept apart from those who worship them. This is the temple dedicated to no relationships and no return. Here is the ‘mystery’ of separation perceived in awe and held in reverence. What God would have not be is here kept ‘safe’ from Him. But what you do not realise is what you fear within your brother, and would not see in him, is what makes God seem fearful to you, and kept unknown.
Idolaters will always be afraid of love, for nothing so severely threatens them as love’s approach. Let love draw near them and overlook the body, as it will surely do, and they retreat in fear, feeling the seeming firm foundation of their temple begin to shake and loosen. Brother, you tremble with them. Yet what you fear is but the herald of escape. This place of darkness is not your home. Your temple is not threatened. You are an idolater no longer. The Holy Spirit’s purpose lies safe in your relationship, and not your body. You have escaped the body. Where you are the body cannot enter, for the Holy Spirit has set His temple there.
There is no order in relationships. They either are or not. An unholy relationship is no relationship. It is a state of isolation, which seems to be what it is not. No more than that. The instant that the mad idea of making your relationship with God unholy seemed to be possible, all your relationships were made meaningless. In that unholy instant time was born, and bodies made to house the mad idea and give it the illusion of reality. And so it seemed to have a home that held together for a little while in time, and vanished. For what could house this mad idea against reality but for an instant?
Idols must disappear, and leave no trace behind their going. The unholy instant of their seeming power is frail as is a snowflake, but without its loveliness. Is this the substitute you want for the eternal blessing of the holy instant and its unlimited beneficence? Is the malevolence of the unholy relationship, so seeming powerful and so bitterly misunderstood and so invested in a false attraction your preference to the holy instant, which offers you peace and understanding? Then lay aside the body and quietly transcend it, rising to welcome what you really want. And from His holy temple, look you not back on what you have awakened from. For no illusions can attract the mind that has transcended them, and left them far behind.
The holy relationship reflects the true relationship the Son of God has with his Father in reality. The Holy Spirit rests within it in the certainty it will endure forever. Its firm foundation is eternally upheld by truth, and love shines on it with the gentle smile and tender blessing it offers to its own. Here the unholy instant is exchanged in gladness for the holy one of safe return. Here is the way to true relationships held gently open, through which you and your brother walk together, leaving the body thankfully behind and resting in the Everlasting Arms. Love’s arms are open to receive you, and give you peace forever.
The body is the ego’s idol; the belief in sin made flesh and then projected outward. This produces what seems to be a wall of flesh around the mind, keeping it prisoner in a tiny spot of space and time, beholden unto death, and given but an instant in which to sigh and grieve and die in honour of its master. And this unholy instant seems to be life; an instant of despair, a tiny island of dry sand, bereft of water and set uncertainly upon oblivion. Here does the Son of God stop briefly by, to offer his devotion to death’s idols and then pass on. And here he is more dead than living. Yet it is also here he makes his choice again between idolatry and love. Here it is given him to choose to spend this instant paying tribute to the body, or let himself be given freedom from it. Here he can accept the holy instant, offered him to replace the unholy one he chose before. And here can he learn relationships are his salvation, and not his doom.
You who are learning this may still be fearful, but you are not immobilised. The holy instant is of greater value now to you than its unholy seeming counterpart, and you have learned you really want but one. This is no time for sadness. Perhaps confusion, but hardly discouragement. You have a real relationship, and it has meaning. It is as like your real relationship with God as equal things are like unto each other. Idolatry is past and meaningless. Perhaps you fear your brother a little yet; perhaps a shadow of the fear of God remains with you. Yet what is that to those who have been given one true relationship beyond the body? Can they be long held back from looking on the face of Christ? And can they long withhold the memory of their relationship with their Father from themselves, and keep remembrance of His Love apart from their awareness?
ACIM Workbook Lesson for July 20
I want the peace of God.
To say these words is nothing. But to mean these words is everything. If you could but mean them for just an instant, there would be no further sorrow possible for you in any form; in any place or time. Heaven would be completely given back to full awareness, memory of God entirely restored, the resurrection of all creation fully recognized.
No one can mean these words and not be healed. He cannot play with dreams, nor think he is himself a dream. He cannot make a hell and think it real. He wants the peace of God, and it is given him. For that is all he wants, and that is all he will receive. Many have said these words. But few indeed have meant them. You have but to look upon the world you see around you to be sure how very few they are. The world would be completely changed, should any two agree these words express the only thing they want.
Two minds with one intent become so strong that what they will becomes the Will of God. For minds can only join in truth. In dreams, no two can share the same intent. To each, the hero of the dream is different; the outcome wanted not the same for both. Loser and gainer merely shift about in changing patterns, as the ratio of gain to loss and loss to gain takes on a different aspect or another form.
Yet compromise alone a dream can bring. Sometimes it takes the form of union, but only the form. The meaning must escape the dream, for compromising is the goal of dreaming. Minds cannot unite in dreams. They merely bargain. And what bargain can give them the peace of God? Illusions come to take His place. And what He means is lost to sleeping minds intent on compromise, each to his gain and to another’s loss.
To mean you want the peace of God is to renounce all dreams. For no one means these words who wants illusions, and who therefore seeks the means which bring illusions. He has looked on them, and found them wanting. Now he seeks to go beyond them, recognizing that another dream would offer nothing more than all the others. Dreams are one to him. And he has learned their only difference is one of form, for one will bring the same despair and misery as do the rest.
The mind which means that all it wants is peace must join with other minds, for that is how peace is obtained. And when the wish for peace is genuine, the means for finding it is given, in a form each mind that seeks for it in honesty can understand. Whatever form the lesson takes is planned for him in such a way that he can not mistake it, if his asking is sincere. But if he asks without sincerity, there is no form in which the lesson will meet with acceptance and be truly learned.
Let us today devote our practicing to recognizing that we really mean the words we say. We want the peace of God. This is no idle wish. These words do not request another dream be given us. They do not ask for compromise, nor try to make another bargain in the hope that there may yet be one that can succeed where all the rest have failed. To mean these words acknowledges illusions are in vain, requesting the eternal in the place of shifting dreams which seem to change in what they offer, but are one in nothingness.
Today devote your practice periods to careful searching of your mind, to find the dreams you cherish still. What do you ask for in your heart? Forget the words you use in making your requests. Consider but what you believe will comfort you, and bring you happiness. But be you not dismayed by lingering illusions, for their form is not what matters now. Let not some dreams be more acceptable, reserving shame and secrecy for others. They are one. And being one, one question should be asked of all of them, “Is this what I would have, in place of Heaven and the peace of God?”
This is the choice you make. Be not deceived that it is otherwise. No compromise is possible in this. You choose God’s peace, or you have asked for dreams. And dreams will come as you requested them. Yet will God’s peace come just as certainly, and to remain with you forever. It will not be gone with every twist and turning of the road, to reappear, unrecognized, in forms which shift and change with every step you take.
You want the peace of God. And so do all who seem to seek for dreams. For them as well as for yourself, you ask but this when you make this request with deep sincerity. For thus you reach to what they really want, and join your own intent with what they seek above all things, perhaps unknown to them, but sure to you. You have been weak at times, uncertain in your purpose, and unsure of what you wanted, where to look for it, and where to turn for help in the attempt. Help has been given you. And would you not avail yourself of it by sharing it?
No one who truly seeks the peace of God can fail to find it. For he merely asks that he deceive himself no longer by denying to himself what is God’s Will. Who can remain unsatisfied who asks for what he has already? Who could be unanswered who requests an answer which is his to give? The peace of God is yours.
For you was peace created, given you by its Creator, and established as His Own eternal gift. How can you fail, when you but ask for what He wills for you? And how could your request be limited to you alone? No gift of God can be unshared. It is this attribute that sets the gifts of God apart from every dream that ever seemed to take the place of truth.
No one can lose and everyone must gain whenever any gift of God has been requested and received by anyone. God gives but to unite. To take away is meaningless to Him. And when it is as meaningless to you, you can be sure you share one Will with Him, and He with you. And you will also know you share one Will with all your brothers, whose intent is yours.
It is this one intent we seek today, uniting our desires with the need of every heart, the call of every mind, the hope that lies beyond despair, the love attack would hide, the brotherhood that hate has sought to sever, but which still remains as God created it. With Help like this beside us, can we fail today as we request the peace of God be given us?
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #15: I want to change my mind about death. I just had several loved ones “gently lay their bodies aside” yet it is grief that I am drawn to. Grief is not love, therefore it does not exist. Right? I must have made it? Can you articulate for me, based on various Course passages, a general response that would incorporate the Course’s theories so that I may apply them to this experience of grief in the world of illusion. What about repression and denial of this experience?
A: The Course never asks us to repress or deny what we are experiencing, whether it be grief or anger or pain or fear or any other ego-based reaction. But before we can change our mind about our feelings, we need first to understand what purpose they serve and why we have chosen to experience them. The feeling of grief reinforces the ego’s assertion that loss and death are real and that we can be and are deprived of love. Our experience cries out that Jesus is wrong, that we have been hurt and abandoned and left on our own. We are not being asked to deny that this is our experience. But that does not make it true.
In a graphic description of the world, Jesus says, “The world you see is the delusional system of those made mad by guilt…all the laws that seem to govern it are the laws of death. Children are born into it through pain and in pain. Their growth is attended by suffering, and they learn of sorrow and separation and death. Their minds seem to be trapped in their brain, and its powers to decline if their bodies are hurt. They seem to love, yet they desert and are deserted. They appear to lose what they love, perhaps the most insane belief of all. And their bodies wither and gasp and are laid in the ground, and are no more. Not one of them but has thought that God is cruel” (T.13.in.2:2,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11). And this is what we all believe. Would it not be better if we are wrong?
Jesus reminds us that his life, ending in apparent death, had the purpose of “teaching that communication remains unbroken even if the body is destroyed, provided that you see not the body as the necessary means of communication” (T.15.XI.7:2). But we still see the body as necessary for communication and believe that real communication ends with the death of the body, because we still want to see ourselves as a body. The body affirms our independent existence and its seeming experiences of loss and pain do not seem to reflect simply a choice in our minds. The ego does not want us to remember that the source of all our grief is the belief that we ourselves abandoned love and exiled ourselves from Heaven. Thanks to the ego defense of projection, it feels instead as if these are things that happen to us against our own will, that we are not responsible for how we feel. So we must begin by acknowledging that these are our feelings, but then we must also have a willingness to question whether our interpretation of the world and the events of our lives is correct.
The shift away from our pain and grief is a gradual process because we are afraid of the limitlessness of love, in which our individual lives, our personal selves with our unique personalities, have no meaning. And so Jesus gently reminds us both of the eventual outcome and the process: “Loss is not loss when properly perceived. Pain is impossible. There is no grief with any cause at all. And suffering of any kind is nothing but a dream. This is the truth, at first to be but said and then repeated many times; and next to be accepted as but partly true, with many reservations. Then to be considered seriously more and more, and finally accepted as the truth” (W.pII,284.1:1,2,3,4,5,6, italics added).
These words are not simply to be used as a “holy mantra” proclaiming what is true in order to drown out our ego’s interpretation and the accompanying feelings of loss and grief. Implicit in the process of changing our mind is the necessary but at times very unsettling task of looking at what we still want to believe and recognizing both its purpose — to keep separation and guilt alive — and its cost to us — suffering and pain. It is from a growing recognition of what we inflict on ourselves when we accept the ego as our teacher that the motivation develops to ask for help from a different Teacher. With that help, we can begin to see the losses of our lives in a different light, realizing that we do have a choice about what we experience and that we are not the victims of circumstances beyond our control.
Q #16: When I tell myself in meditation that I’m not a body and I’m free I feel peace of mind. But once I open my eyes, there it is — my body. This doesn’t upset me as much as it confuses me. When I look at myself I feel I’m beautiful, but I worry that I might be just feeding the ego again rather than appreciating what I have. It’s a puzzle. Any thoughts on this?
A: Although the Course tells us in many places that we are not a body (e.g., Lesson 199 and the following review lessons), it also recognizes that we have a strong investment in seeing ourselves as a body. Jesus observes, “Look at yourself and you will see a body….without a light it seems that it is gone. Yet you are reassured that it is there because you still can feel it with your hands and hear it move. Here is an image that you want to be yourself. It is the means to make your wish come true.” (T.24.VII.9:1,3,4,5,6 italics added).
We may have brief experiences where we seem to transcend our bodily identification, as you describe, but we are not likely to maintain this for any length of time because we really don’t want to. Our “wish come true” is seeing ourselves as a separate, special, individual self and our body affirms that identity. The Course tells us that although we are the ones who have chosen and made this limited self as our identity (in fantasy but not in reality), we have not wanted to accept responsibility for that decision. And that is because buried deep in our unconscious is the (made- up) belief that we gained this separate self by attacking the Oneness of God and our true Identity as spirit, a horrendous sin of destruction and murder according to our ego. So once we seem to be bodies born to other bodies, our separate existence does not seem at all to be of our own making. Our parents made us. And we may even believe, much to our ego’s delight, that somehow God has been involved in this special “creation” of our individual self, as many religions teach.
So the Course’s goal, knowing how strongly identified we are with our body and how fearful we are of letting go of the protection we believe it affords us, is not to have us relinquish our bodily identification (that happens only at the very end). The Course is instructing us in how to give our body a purpose different from the ego’s original purpose of sin, guilt and fear. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the body becomes a vehicle for learning our lessons of forgiveness, in the context of our relationships with our brothers and sisters, also seen as bodies. And we will continue to see ourselves and everyone else as a body until the forgiveness process is complete and we no longer have any guilt in our mind that we need our body as a defense against.
And as to seeing yourself as beautiful, there is nothing wrong with that, so long as you realize that when the Course speaks of how beautiful we are (e.g., W.pII.313.2:2), it is not speaking of our physical body or our personality. It is referring to the reflected beauty of the Christ in all of us, a beauty which we all share equally as spirit.