ACIM Text Reading for January 28
Chapter 4 ~ The Illusions of the Ego
I. Right Teaching and Right Learning
A good teacher clarifies his own ideas and strengthens them by teaching them. Teacher and pupil are alike in the learning process. They are in the same order of learning, and unless they share their lessons conviction will be lacking. A good teacher must believe in the ideas he teaches, but he must meet another condition; he must believe in the student to whom he offers the ideas.
Many stand guard over their ideas because they want to protect their thought systems as they are, and learning means change. Change is always fearful to the separated, because they cannot conceive of it as a move towards healing the separation. They always perceive it as a move toward further separation, because the separation was their first experience of change. You believe that if you allow no change to enter into your ego you will find peace. This profound confusion is possible only if you maintain that the same thought system can stand on two foundations. Nothing can reach spirit from the ego, and nothing can reach the ego from spirit. Spirit can neither strengthen the ego nor reduce the conflict within it. The ego is a contradiction. Your self and God’s Self are in opposition. They are opposed in source, in direction and in outcome. They are fundamentally irreconcilable, because spirit cannot perceive and the ego cannot know. They are therefore not in communication and can never be in communication. Nevertheless, the ego can learn, even though its maker can be misguided. He cannot, however, make the totally lifeless out of the life-given.
Spirit need not be taught, but the ego must be. Learning is ultimately perceived as frightening because it leads to the relinquishment, not the destruction, of the ego to the light of spirit. This is the change the ego must fear, because it does not share my charity. My lesson was like yours, and because I learned it I can teach it. I will never attack your ego, but I am trying to teach you how its thought system arose. When I remind you of your true creation, your ego cannot but respond with fear.
Teaching and learning are your greatest strengths now, because they enable you to change your mind and help others to change theirs. Refusing to change your mind will not prove that the separation has not occurred. The dreamer who doubts the reality of his dream while he is still dreaming is not really healing his split mind. You dream of a separated ego and believe in a world that rests upon it. This is very real to you. You cannot undo it by not changing your mind about it. If you are willing to renounce the role of guardian of your thought system and open it to me, I will correct it very gently and lead you back to God.
Every good teacher hopes to give his students so much of his own learning that they will one day no longer need him. This is the one true goal of the teacher. It is impossible to convince the ego of this, because it goes against all of its own laws. But remember that laws are set up to protect the continuity of the system in which the lawmaker believes. It is natural for the ego to try to protect itself once you have made it, but it is not natural for you to want to obey its laws unless you believe them. The ego cannot make this choice because of the nature of its origin. You can, because of the nature of yours.
Egos can clash in any situation, but spirit cannot clash at all. If you perceive a teacher as merely ‘a larger ego’ you will be afraid, because to enlarge an ego would be to increase anxiety about separation. I will teach with you and live with you if you will think with me, but my goal will always be to absolve you finally from the need for a teacher. This is the opposite of the ego-oriented teacher’s goal. He is concerned with the effect of his ego on other egos, and therefore interprets their interaction as a means of ego preservation. I would not be able to devote myself to teaching if I believed this, and you will not be a devoted teacher as long as you believe it. I am constantly being perceived as a teacher either to be exalted or rejected, but I do not accept either perception for myself.
Your worth is not established by teaching or learning. Your worth is established by God. As long as you dispute this everything you do will be fearful, particularly any situation that lends itself to the belief in superiority and inferiority. Teachers must be patient and repeat their lessons until they are learned. I am willing to do this, because I have no right to set your learning limits for you. Again, – nothing you do or think or wish or make is necessary to establish your worth. This point is not debatable except in delusions. Your ego is never at stake because God did not create it. Your spirit is never at stake because He did. Any confusion on this point is delusional, and no form of devotion is possible as long as this delusion lasts.
The ego tries to exploit all situations into forms of praise for itself in order to overcome its doubts. It will remain doubtful as long as you believe in its existence. You who made it cannot trust it, because in your right mind you realise it is not real. The only sane solution is not to try to change reality, which is indeed a fearful attempt, but to accept it as it is. You are part of reality, which stands unchanged beyond the reach of your ego but within easy reach of spirit. When you are afraid, be still and know that God is real, and you are His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. Do not let your ego dispute this, because the ego cannot know what is as far beyond its reach as you are.
God is not the author of fear. You are. You have chosen to create unlike Him, and have therefore made fear for yourself. You are not at peace because you are not fulfilling your function. God gave you a very lofty function that you are not meeting. Your ego has chosen to be afraid instead of meeting it. When you awaken you will not be able to understand this, because it is literally incredible. Do not believe the incredible now. Any attempt to increase its believable-ness is merely to postpone the inevitable. The word ‘inevitable’ is fearful to the ego, but joyous to the spirit. God is inevitable, and you cannot avoid Him any more than He can avoid you.
The ego is afraid of the spirit’s joy, because once you have experienced it you will withdraw all protection from the ego, and become totally without investment in fear. Your investment is great now because fear is a witness to the separation, and your ego rejoices when you witness to it. Leave it behind! Do not listen to it and do not preserve it. Listen only to God, Who is as incapable of deception as is the spirit He created. Release yourself and release others. Do not present a false and unworthy picture of yourself to others, and do not accept such a picture of them yourself.
The ego has built a shabby and un-sheltering home for you, because it cannot build otherwise. Do not try to make this impoverished house stand. Its weakness is your strength. Only God could make a home that is worthy of His creations, who have chosen to leave it empty by their own dispossession. Yet His home will stand forever, and is ready for you when you choose to enter it. Of this you can be wholly certain. God is as incapable of creating the perishable as the ego is of making the eternal.
Of your ego you can do nothing to save yourself or others, but of your spirit you can do everything for the salvation of both. Humility is a lesson for the ego, not for the spirit. Spirit is beyond humility, because it recognises its radiance and gladly sheds its light everywhere. The meek shall inherit the earth because their egos are humble, and this gives them truer perception. The Kingdom of Heaven is the spirit’s right, whose beauty and dignity are far beyond doubt, beyond perception, and stand forever as the mark of the Love of God for His creations, who are wholly worthy of Him and only of Him. Nothing else is sufficiently worthy to be a gift for a creation of God Himself.
I will substitute for your ego if you wish, but never for your spirit. A father can safely leave a child with an elder brother who has shown himself responsible, but this involves no confusion about the child’s origin. The brother can protect the child’s body and his ego, but he does not confuse himself with the father because he does this. I can be entrusted with your body and your ego only because this enables you not to be concerned with them, and lets me teach you their unimportance. I could not understand their importance to you if I had not once been tempted to believe in them myself. Let us undertake to learn this lesson together so we can be free of them together. I need devoted teachers who share my aim of healing the mind. Spirit is far beyond the need of your protection or mine. Remember this:
ACIM Workbook Lesson for January 28
Above all else I want to see things differently.
1. Today we are really giving specific application to the idea for yesterday. In these practice periods, you will be making a series of definite commitments. The question of whether you will keep them in the future is not our concern here. If you are willing at least to make them now, you have started on the way to keeping them. And we are still at the beginning.
2. You may wonder why it is important to say, for example, “Above all else I want to see this table differently.” In itself it is not important at all. Yet what is by itself? And what does “in itself” mean? You see a lot of separate things about you, which really means you are not seeing at all. You either see or not. When you have seen one thing differently, you will see all things differently. The light you will see in any one of them is the same light you will see in them all.
3. When you say, “Above all else I want to see this table differently,” you are making a commitment to withdraw your preconceived ideas about the table, and open your mind to what it is, and what it is for. You are not defining it in past terms. You are asking what it is, rather than telling it what it is. You are not binding its meaning to your tiny experience of tables, nor are you limiting its purpose to your little personal thoughts.
4. You will not question what you have already defined. And the purpose of these exercises is to ask questions and receive the answers. In saying, “Above all else I want to see this table differently,” you are committing yourself to seeing. It is not an exclusive commitment. It is a commitment that applies to the table just as much as to anything else, neither more nor less.
5. You could, in fact, gain vision from just that table, if you would withdraw all your own ideas from it, and look upon it with a completely open mind. It has something to show you; something beautiful and clean and of infinite value, full of happiness and hope. Hidden under all your ideas about it is its real purpose, the purpose it shares with all the universe.
6. In using the table as a subject for applying the idea for today, you are therefore really asking to see the purpose of the universe. You will be making this same request of each subject that you use in the practice periods. And you are making a commitment to each of them to let its purpose be revealed to you, instead of placing your own judgment upon it.
7. We will have six two-minute practice periods today, in which the idea for the day is stated first, and then applied to whatever you see about you. Not only should the subjects be chosen randomly, but each one should be accorded equal sincerity as today’s idea is applied to it, in an attempt to acknowledge the equal value of them all in their contribution to your seeing.
8. As usual, the applications should include the name of the subject your eyes happen to light on, and you should rest your eyes on it while saying:
Above all else I want to see this _________ differently.
Each application should be made quite slowly, and as thoughtfully as possible. There is no hurry.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q) Are babies born innocent?
A) The only true state of innocence is in Heaven, the real home of God’s Son. With very, very few exceptions — the Teachers of teachers referred to in the manual for teachers (M-26.2) — only those who retain guilt in their minds “come here” and are born. Workbook Lesson 182 provides a poignant portrait of all inhabitants of this world:
We speak today for everyone who walks this world, for he is not at home. He goes uncertainly about in endless search, seeking in darkness what he cannot find; not recognizing what it is he seeks. A thousand homes he makes, yet none contents his restless mind. He does not understand he builds in vain. The home he seeks can not be made by him. There is no substitute for Heaven. All he ever made was hell (W-pI.182.3).
And yet it is this very belief that there is a substitute for Heaven that constitutes sin, and the resultant and inevitable guilt continually propels the separated Son to review mentally the thought of separation and its effects that have already gone by. Thus all who come here share this guilt over their lost innocence. Moreover, their egos’ purpose for their manifestation in the world is the reinforcement of this guilt. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit’s purpose once people believe they are here, is the unlearning of this guilt through the practice of forgiveness that undoes the belief in victimization. This eventually restores to all the separated ones their awareness of the innocence that is rightly and eternally theirs as God’s one Son, the Christ He created as One with Him.
In this context, one can understand that the popular view that babies are born innocent and are corrupted by society — Rousseau’s “noble savage” thesis — falls very nicely within the ego’s strategic plan to convince us that the world is real and has victimizing effects on us. The ego thought system upholds the idea that we are not the dreamer of the dream that is the world, but that rather the dream is dreaming us. Therefore, it is the world that is responsible for the loss of my innocence. It was not that I gave it away by my thoughts, but rather that it was taken from me, the innocent victim of a world I did not make or choose. This fundamental ego principle is the subject of the following passage from “The Hero of the Dream”:
The body’s serial adventures, from the time of birth to dying are the theme of every dream the world has ever had. The “hero” of this dream will never change, nor will its purpose. Though the dream itself takes many forms, and seems to show a great variety of places and events wherein its “hero” finds itself, the dream has but one purpose, taught in many ways. This single lesson does it try to teach again, and still again, and yet once more; that it is cause and not effect, And you are its effect, and cannot be its cause. Thus are you not the dreamer, but the dream. And so you wander idly in and out of places and events that it contrives. That this is all the body does is true, for it is but a figure in a dream (T-27.VIII.3:1-4:3; italics ours).
Since ultimately our lives are our dreams — the outpicturing of the thoughts in our minds — only we can be responsible for the loss of innocence that is the central theme of everyone’s dream. No one is born innocent; only Christ is innocent, and He was never born. But through the process of forgiveness and accepting the correction for our mistaken thoughts, we can remember that we never truly sinned. In truth, therefore, we are innocent of any belief that we separated ourselves from Innocence Itself.