ACIM Text Reading for May 20
THE FORGIVENESS OF ILLUSIONS
To empathise does not mean to join in suffering, for that is what you must refuse to understand. That is the ego’s interpretation of empathy, and is always used to form a special relationship in which the suffering is shared. The capacity to empathise is very useful to the Holy Spirit, provided you let Him use it in His way. His way is very different. He does not understand suffering, and would have you teach it is not understandable. When He relates through you, He does not relate through your ego to another ego. He does not join in pain, understanding that healing pain is not accomplished by delusional attempts to enter into it, and lighten it by sharing the delusion.
The clearest proof that empathy as the ego uses it is destructive lies in the fact that it is applied only to certain types of problems and in certain people. These it selects out, and joins with. And it never joins except to strengthen itself. Having identified with what it thinks it understands, the ego sees itself and would increase itself by sharing what is like itself. Make no mistake about this manoeuvre; the ego always empathises to weaken, and to weaken is always to attack. You do not know what empathising means. Yet of this you may be sure; if you will merely sit quietly by and let the Holy Spirit relate through you, you will empathise with strength, and will gain in strength and not in weakness.
Your part is only to remember this; you do not want anything you value to come of a relationship. You choose neither to hurt it nor to heal it in your own way. You do not know what healing is. All you have learned of empathy is from the past. And there is nothing from the past that you would share, for there is nothing from the past that you would keep. Do not use empathy to make the past real, and so perpetuate it. Step gently aside, and let healing be done for you. Keep but one thought in mind and do not lose sight of it, however tempted you may be to judge any situation, and to determine your response by judging it. Focus your mind only on this:
True empathy is of Him Who knows what it is. You will learn His interpretation of it if you let Him use your capacity for strength, and not for weakness. He will not desert you, but be sure that you desert not Him. Humility is strength in this sense only; that to recognise and accept the fact that you do not know is to recognise and accept the fact that He does know. You are not sure that He will do His part, because you have never yet done yours completely. You cannot know how to respond to what you do not understand. Be tempted not in this, and yield not to the ego’s triumphant use of empathy for its glory.
The triumph of weakness is not what you would offer to a brother. And yet you recognise no triumph but this. This is not knowledge, and the form of empathy which would bring this about is so distorted that it would imprison what it would release. The unredeemed cannot redeem, yet they have a Redeemer. Attempt to teach Him not. You are the learner; He the Teacher. Do not confuse your role with His, for this will never bring peace to anyone. Offer your empathy to Him for it is His perception and Hisstrength that you would share. And let Him offer you His strength and His perception, to be shared through you.
The meaning of love is lost in any relationship that looks to weakness, and hopes to find love there. The power of love, which is its meaning, lies in the strength of God that hovers over it and blesses it silently by enveloping it in healing wings. Let this be, and do not try to substitute your ‘miracle’ for this. I have said that if a brother asks a foolish thing of you to do it. But be certain that this does not mean to do a foolish thing that would hurt either him or you, for what would hurt one will hurt the other. Foolish requests are foolish merely because they conflict, since they always contain some element of specialness. Only the Holy Spirit recognises foolish needs as well as real ones. And He will teach you how to meet both without losing either.
You will attempt to do this only in secrecy. And you will think that by meeting the needs of one you do not jeopardise another, because you keep them separate and secret from each other. That is not the way, for it leads not to life and truth. No needs will long be left unmet if you leave them all to Him Whose function is to meet them. That is His function, and not yours. He will not meet them secretly, for He would share everything you give through Him. That is why He gives it. What you give through Him is for the whole Sonship, not for part of it. Leave Him His function, for He will fulfil it if you but ask Him to enter your relationships, and bless them for you.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for May 20
Sickness is a defense against the truth.
1. No one can heal unless he understands what purpose sickness seems to serve. For then he understands as well its purpose has no meaning. Being causeless and without a meaningful intent of any kind, it cannot be at all. When this is seen, healing is automatic. It dispels this meaningless illusion by the same approach that carries all of them to truth, and merely leaves them there to disappear.
2. Sickness is not an accident. Like all defenses, it is an insane device for self-deception. And like all the rest, its purpose is to hide reality, attack it, change it, render it inept, distort it, twist it, or reduce it to a little pile of unassembled parts. The aim of all defenses is to keep the truth from being whole. The parts are seen as if each one were whole within itself.
3. Defenses are not unintentional, nor are they made without awareness. They are secret, magic wands you wave when truth appears to threaten what you would believe. They seem to be unconscious but because of the rapidity with which you choose to use them. In that second, even less, in which the choice is made, you recognize exactly what you would attempt to do, and then proceed to think that it is done.
4. Who but yourself evaluates a threat, decides escape is necessary, and sets up a series of defenses to reduce the threat that has been judged as real? All this cannot be done unconsciously. But afterwards, your plan requires that you must forget you made it, so it seems to be external to your own intent; a happening beyond your state of mind, an outcome with a real effect on you, instead of one effected by yourself.
5. It is this quick forgetting of the part you play in making your “reality” that makes defenses seem to be beyond your own control. But what you have forgot can be remembered, given willingness to reconsider the decision which is doubly shielded by oblivion. Your not remembering is but the sign that this decision still remains in force, as far as your desires are concerned. Mistake not this for fact. Defenses must make facts unrecognizable. They aim at doing this, and it is this they do.
6. Every defense takes fragments of the whole, assembles them without regard to all their true relationships, and thus constructs illusions of a whole that is not there. It is this process that imposes threat, and not whatever outcome may result. When parts are wrested from the whole and seen as separate and wholes within themselves, they become symbols standing for attack upon the whole; successful in effect, and never to be seen as whole again. And yet you have forgotten that they stand but for your own decision of what should be real, to take the place of what is real.
7. Sickness is a decision. It is not a thing that happens to you, quite unsought, which makes you weak and brings you suffering. It is a choice you make, a plan you lay, when for an instant truth arises in your own deluded mind, and all your world appears to totter and prepare to fall. Now are you sick, that truth may go away and threaten your establishments no more.
8. How do you think that sickness can succeed in shielding you from truth? Because it proves the body is not separate from you, and so you must be separate from the truth. You suffer pain because the body does, and in this pain are you made one with it. Thus is your “true” identity preserved, and the strange, haunting thought that you might be something beyond this little pile of dust silenced and stilled. For see, this dust can make you suffer, twist your limbs and stop your heart, commanding you to die and cease to be.
9. Thus is the body stronger than the truth, which asks you live, but cannot overcome your choice to die. And so the body is more powerful than everlasting life, Heaven more frail than hell, and God’s design for the salvation of His Son opposed by a decision stronger than His Will. His Son is dust, the Father incomplete, and chaos sits in triumph on His throne.
10. Such is your planning for your own defense. And you believe that Heaven quails before such mad attacks as these, with God made blind by your illusions, truth turned into lies, and all the universe made slave to laws which your defenses would impose on it. Yet who believes illusions but the one who made them up? Who else can see them and react to them as if they were the truth?
11. God knows not of your plans to change His Will. The universe remains unheeding of the laws by which you thought to govern it. And Heaven has not bowed to hell, nor life to death. You can but choose to think you die, or suffer sickness or distort the truth in any way. What is created is apart from all of this. Defenses are plans to defeat what cannot be attacked. What is unalterable cannot change. And what is wholly sinless cannot sin.
12. Such is the simple truth. It does not make appeal to might nor triumph. It does not command obedience, nor seek to prove how pitiful and futile your attempts to plan defenses that would alter it. Truth merely wants to give you happiness, for such its purpose is. Perhaps it sighs a little when you throw away its gifts, and yet it knows, with perfect certainty, that what God wills for you must be received.
13. It is this fact that demonstrates that time is an illusion. For time lets you think what God has given you is not the truth right now, as it must be. The Thoughts of God are quite apart from time. For time is but another meaningless defense you made against the truth. Yet what He wills is here, and you remain as He created you.
14. Truth has a power far beyond defense, for no illusions can remain where truth has been allowed to enter. And it comes to any mind that would lay down its arms, and cease to play with folly. It is found at any time; today, if you will choose to practice giving welcome to the truth.
15. This is our aim today. And we will give a quarter of an hour twice to ask the truth to come to us and set us free. And truth will come, for it has never been apart from us. It merely waits for just this invitation which we give today. We introduce it with a healing prayer, to help us rise above defensiveness, and let truth be as it has always been:
Sickness is a defense against the truth. I will accept the truth of what I am, and let my mind be wholly healed today.
16. Healing will flash across your open mind, as peace and truth arise to take the place of war and vain imaginings. There will be no dark corners sickness can conceal, and keep defended from the light of truth. There will be no dim figures from your dreams, nor their obscure and meaningless pursuits with double purposes insanely sought, remaining in your mind. It will be healed of all the sickly wishes that it tried to authorize the body to obey.
17. Now is the body healed, because the source of sickness has been opened to relief. And you will recognize you practiced well by this: The body should not feel at all. If you have been successful, there will be no sense of feeling ill or feeling well, of pain or pleasure. No response at all is in the mind to what the body does. Its usefulness remains and nothing more.
18. Perhaps you do not realize that this removes the limits you had placed upon the body by the purposes you gave to it. As these are laid aside, the strength the body has will always be enough to serve all truly useful purposes. The body’s health is fully guaranteed, because it is not limited by time, by weather or fatigue, by food and drink, or any laws you made it serve before. You need do nothing now to make it well, for sickness has become impossible.
19. Yet this protection needs to be preserved by careful watching. If you let your mind harbor attack thoughts, yield to judgment or make plans against uncertainties to come, you have again misplaced yourself, and made a bodily identity which will attack the body, for the mind is sick.
20. Give instant remedy, should this occur, by not allowing your defensiveness to hurt you longer. Do not be confused about what must be healed, but tell yourself:
I have forgotten what I really am, for I mistook my body for myself. Sickness is a defense against the truth. But I am not a body. And my mind cannot attack. So I can not be sick.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q) What is the “holy instant,” and what is its role in the Atonement?
A) In a sense, understanding the holy instant parallels understanding the question of meditation we discussed above. The holy instant is not a period of meditation wherein the student has a “good experience,” and feels the presence of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. On the contrary, the holy instant is the Course’s term for the instant — outside time and space — when we choose the Holy Spirit as our teacher instead of the ego. It is the correction of forgiveness for the ego’s “unholy instant” of judgment and attack, the experience of undoing our guilt through Jesus’ help. It is this purpose which makes the instant holy, and establishes it as an integral part of the overall Atonement plan for correcting our misperceptions and misthoughts.
Moreover, the holy instant can be understood as the steps we take throughout our lives that gradually lead us closer and closer to the real world, in a sense the ultimate holy instant. Each time we are tempted to listen to the ego’s tale of specialness and the need for attack, we are reminded by Jesus that we can choose a miracle instead — “Let miracles replace all grievances” (workbook, pp.137-38; W-pI.78) — and have him help us make the shift in perception that constitutes the essence of forgiveness, the heart of the holy instant. In other words, the holy instants are the “little steps” of forgiveness the Course refers to that are the means for helping us undo our illusions so that we may reach our goal of truth. As we read in the Course:
Against the ego’s insane notion of salvation the Holy Spirit gently lays the holy instant …. The holy instant is the opposite of the ego’s fixed belief in salvation through vengeance for the past…. In the holy instant the power of the Holy Spirit will prevail, because you joined Him …. Release your brothers from the slavery of their illusions by forgiving them for the illusions you perceive in them. Thus will you learn that you have been forgiven, for it is you who offered them illusions. In the holy instant this is done for you in time, to bring you the true condition of Heaven (T-16.VII.6:1,3; 7:3; 9:5-7).