ACIM Text Reading for July 30
Chapter 21 ~ Reason and Perception
VII. The Last Unanswered Question
Do you not see that all your misery comes from the strange belief that you are powerless? Being helpless is the cost of sin. Helplessness is sin’s condition; the one requirement that it demands to be believed. Only the helpless could believe in it. Enormity has no appeal save to the little. And only those who first believe that they are little could see attraction there. Treachery to the Son of God is the defence of those who do not identify with him. And you are for him or against him; either you love him or attack him, protect his unity or see him shattered and slain by your attack.
No one believes the Son of God is powerless. And those who see themselves as helpless must believe that they are not the Son of God. What can they be except his enemy? And what can they do but envy him his power, and by their envy make themselves afraid of it? These are the dark ones, silent and afraid, alone and not communicating, fearful the power of the Son of God will strike them dead, and raising up their helplessness against him. They join the army of the powerless, to wage their war of vengeance, bitterness and spite on him, to make him one with them. Because they do not know that they are one with him, they know not whom they hate. They are indeed a sorry army, each one as likely to attack his brother or turn upon himself as to remember that they thought they had a common cause.
Frantic and loud and strong the dark ones seem to be. Yet they know not their ‘enemy’, except they hate him. In hatred they have come together, but have not joined each other. For had they done so hatred would be impossible. The army of the powerless must be disbanded in the presence of strength. Those who are strong are never treacherous, because they have no need to dream of power and to act out their dream. How would an army act in dreams? Any way at all. It could be seen attacking anyone with anything. Dreams have no reason in them. A flower turns into a poisoned spear, a child becomes a giant and a mouse roars like a lion. And love is turned to hate as easily. This is no army, but a madhouse. What seems to be a planned attack is bedlam.
The army of the powerless is weak indeed. It has no weapons and it has no enemy. Yes, it can overrun the world and seek an enemy. But it can never find what is not there. Yes, it can dream it found an enemy, but this will shift even as it attacks, so that it runs at once to find another, and never comes to rest in victory. And as it runs it turns against itself, thinking it caught a glimpse of the great enemy who always eludes its murderous attack by turning into something else. How treacherous does this enemy appear, who changes so it is impossible even to recognise him.
Yet hate must have a target. There can be no faith in sin without an enemy. Who that believes in sin would dare believe he has no enemy? Could he admit that no one made him powerless? Reason would surely bid him seek no longer what is not there to find. Yet first he must be willing to perceive a world where it is not. It is not necessary that he understand how he can see it. Nor should he try. For if he focuses on what he cannot understand, he will but emphasise his helplessness, and let sin tell him that his enemy must be himself. But let him only ask himself these questions, which he must decide, to have it done for him:
You may already have answered the first three questions, but not yet the last. For this one still seems fearful, and unlike the others. Yet reason would assure you they are all the same. We said this year would emphasise the sameness of things that are the same. This final question, which is indeed the last you need decide, still seems to hold a threat the rest have lost for you. And this imagined difference attests to your belief that truth may be the enemy you yet may find. Here, then, would seem to be the last remaining hope of finding sin, and not accepting power.
Forget not that the choice of sin or truth, helplessness or power, is the choice of whether to attack or heal. For healing comes of power, and attack of helplessness. Whom you attack you cannot want to heal. And whom you would have healed must be the one you chose to be protected from attack. And what is this decision but the choice whether to see him through the body’s eyes, or let him be revealed to you through vision? How this decision leads to its effects is not your problem. But what you want to see must be your choice. This is a course in cause and not effect.
Consider carefully your answer to the last question you have left unanswered still. And let your reason tell you that it must be answered, and is answered in the other three. And then it will be clear to you that, as you look on the effects of sin in any form, all you need do is simply ask yourself,
This is your one decision; this the condition for what occurs. It is irrelevant to how it happens, but not to why. You have control of this. And if you choose to see a world without an enemy, in which you are not helpless, the means to see it will be given you.
Why is the final question so important? Reason will tell you why. It is the same as are the other three, except in time. The others are decisions that can be made, and then unmade and made again. But truth is constant, and implies a state where vacillations are impossible. You can desire a world you rule that rules you not, and change your mind. You can desire to exchange your helplessness for power, and lose this same desire as a little glint of sin attracts you. And you can want to see a sinless world, and let an ‘enemy’ tempt you to use the body’s eyes and change what you desire.
In content all the questions are the same. For each one asks if you are willing to exchange the world of sin for what the Holy Spirit sees, since it is this the world of sin denies. And therefore those who look on sin are seeing the denial of the real world. Yet the last question adds the wish for constancy in your desire to see the real world, so the desire becomes the only one you have. By answering the final question ‘yes’, you add sincerity to the decisions you have already made to all the rest. For only then have you renounced the option to change your mind again. When it is this you do not want, the rest are wholly answered.
Why do you think you are unsure the others have been answered? Could it be necessary they be asked so often, if they had? Until the last decision has been made, the answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. For you have answered ‘yes’ without perceiving that ‘yes’ must mean ‘not no’. No one decides against his happiness, but he may do so if he does not see he does it. And if he sees his happiness as ever changing, now this, now that, and now an elusive shadow attached to nothing, he does decide against it.
Elusive happiness, or happiness in changing form that shifts with time and place, is an illusion that has no meaning. Happiness must be constant, because it is attained by giving up the wish for the inconstant. Joy cannot be perceived except through constant vision. And constant vision can be given only those who wish for constancy. The power of the Son of God’s desire remains the proof that he is wrong who sees himself as helpless. Desire what you want, and you will look on it and think it real. No thought but has the power to release or kill. And none can leave the thinker’s mind, or leave him unaffected.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for July 30
Love is the way I walk in gratitude.
Gratitude is a lesson hard to learn for those who look upon the world amiss. The most that they can do is see themselves as better off than others. And they try to be content because another seems to suffer more than they. How pitiful and deprecating are such thoughts! For who has cause for thanks while others have less cause? And who could suffer less because he sees another suffer more? Your gratitude is due to Him alone Who made all cause of sorrow disappear throughout the world.
It is insane to offer thanks because of suffering. But it is equally insane to fail in gratitude to One Who offers you the certain means whereby all pain is healed, and suffering replaced with laughter and with happiness. Nor could the even partly sane refuse to take the steps which He directs, and follow in the way He sets before them, to escape a prison that they thought contained no door to the deliverance they now perceive.
Your brother is your “enemy” because you see in him the rival for your peace; a plunderer who takes his joy from you, and leaves you nothing but a black despair so bitter and relentless that there is no hope remaining. Now is vengeance all there is to wish for. Now can you but try to bring him down to lie in death with you, as useless as yourself; as little left within his grasping fingers as in yours.
You do not offer God your gratitude because your brother is more slave than you, nor could you sanely be enraged if he seems freer. Love makes no comparisons. And gratitude can only be sincere if it be joined to love. We offer thanks to God our Father that in us all things will find their freedom. It will never be that some are loosed while others still are bound. For who can bargain in the name of love?
Therefore give thanks, but in sincerity. And let your gratitude make room for all who will escape with you; the sick, the weak, the needy and afraid, and those who mourn a seeming loss or feel apparent pain, who suffer cold or hunger, or who walk the way of hatred and the path of death. All these go with you. Let us not compare ourselves with them, for thus we split them off from our awareness of the unity we share with them, as they must share with us.
We thank our Father for one thing alone; that we are separate from no living thing, and therefore one with Him. And we rejoice that no exceptions ever can be made which would reduce our wholeness, nor impair or change our function to complete the One Who is Himself completion. We give thanks for every living thing, for otherwise we offer thanks for nothing, and we fail to recognize the gifts of God to us.
Then let our brothers lean their tired heads against our shoulders as they rest a while. We offer thanks for them. For if we can direct them to the peace that we would find, the way is opening at last to us. An ancient door is swinging free again; a long forgotten Word re-echoes in our memory, and gathers clarity as we are willing once again to hear.
Walk, then, in gratitude the way of love. For hatred is forgotten when we lay comparisons aside. What more remains as obstacles to peace? The fear of God is now undone at last, and we forgive without comparing. Thus we cannot choose to overlook some things, and yet retain some other things still locked away as “sins.” When your forgiveness is complete you will have total gratitude, for you will see that everything has earned the right to love by being loving, even as your Self.
Today we learn to think of gratitude in place of anger, malice and revenge. We have been given everything. If we refuse to recognize it, we are not entitled therefore to our bitterness, and to a self-perception which regards us in a place of merciless pursuit, where we are badgered ceaselessly, and pushed about without a thought or care for us or for our future. Gratitude becomes the single thought we substitute for these insane perceptions. God has cared for us, and calls us Son. Can there be more than this?
Our gratitude will pave the way to Him, and shorten our learning time by more than you could ever dream of. Gratitude goes hand in hand with love, and where one is the other must be found. For gratitude is but an aspect of the Love which is the Source of all creation. God gives thanks to you, His Son, for being what you are; His Own completion and the Source of love, along with Him. Your gratitude to Him is one with His to you. For love can walk no road except the way of gratitude, and thus we go who walk the way to God.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #232: The ego thought system teaches us that being a mother or a father is something noble. In other words, having children is “good.” But as far as I understand, A Course in Miracles has something else to say about this. Is this just another illusion? Maybe something “wrong,” because it makes us believe in this world and reinforces our bonds to this reality?
A: Jesus does not say that there is something “wrong” in being a parent; nor does he say it is something noble. Any role in this world is part of the ego’s plan to make its world the only reality. So in that sense, parenting is part of the whole illusion that there is life outside Heaven. Any role in this world is a substitute for our true role as God’s one Son, Christ. Parenting in particular, though, may have more guilt associated with it — even though there really are no degrees of guilt — because of its connection with producing “life,” i.e., bringing babies into the world. Within the ego thought system, this is a way of competing with God, a way of saying that we are just as powerful as He is, and therefore that He no longer is needed. The ego now can produce life, and end it. Many religions bless this process by describing it as co-creation, i.e., human parents are the co- creators, with God, of life. In A Course in Miracles, however, life is the pure abstract oneness of Love in Heaven. All bodily life and parenting is therefore illusory. Given the Holy Spirit’s purpose, though, the role of parent can become a classroom in which a person can learn how to be a loving, kind, compassionate authority figure while carrying out the responsibilities of a parent appropriately and conscientiously. The lesson of shared interests can be very effectively learned, while the parent keeps the boundaries between parent and child clearly defined. (Questions #179 and #202 might be of interest to you.)
Q #233: In answering Question #79, you quoted a statement that I would like you to elaborate on and explain: “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.” Does this mean that I am responsible not only for my own thoughts and actions, but also for the things you do to me, and that I choose the manner in which you play them out? Is this included in the script I write — exactly, in detail, how you will treat me?
A: To make sense of this passage, we need to be clear that Jesus is speaking to the dreamer of the dream and not to the figure in the dream that we mistakenly identify as ourselves (T.27.VII;VIII). At the metaphysical level, we have assigned all the roles and actions to all the figures in our life – – our waking dreams — just as we have done in our sleeping dreams at night. But most of us are not in touch with this initial level of decision-making. These are all the possible ego scripts, written by the single, collective mind before the fragmentation into billions of separate, individual minds seemed to occur.
At the next level of seemingly fragmented, independent minds, we reach agreements with other minds about how we will play out our respective dream roles, that is, which scripts we will review. And, while we choose from the ego-based scripts, these are always some variation on the theme of victim and victimizer. We select the events of our life in conjunction with other minds, but again we have no conscious memory of making the choices, an essential repression for our victim defense to work (for a further discussion of this, see Question #37).
The above passage, however, can also be considered from a more immediate psychological level, which is relatively easy to become conscious of and so more practical to work with. We simply recognize our propensity to attribute ego motivations to others, based on our interpretations of our own ego needs. Your purpose may or may not be to manipulate me in any given situation, but I will ascribe ego intent to your actions and act as if my interpretation is valid. Jesus makes it very clear that this kind of analysis is hazardous to our own peace of mind (T.12.I.1,2). And he also gently reminds us of the unreliability of our observations of others: “Remember how many times you thought you knew all the ‘facts’ you needed for judgment, and how wrong you were! Is there anyone who has not had this experience? Would you know how many times you merely thought you were right, without ever realizing you were wrong?” (M.10.4:1,2,3).
Yet we continue making “an ego for everyone else” as a way of seeing the guilt of the ego thought system outside of ourselves rather than accepting responsibility for its existence within our own mind. So Jesus’ purpose is to lead us to recognize not only what a barrier our projections are to our own happiness but “the tremendous release and deep peace that comes from meeting yourself and your brothers totally without judgment” (T.3.VI.3:1).