Lesson 328
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No Decision Changes the Illusion
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A COURSE IN MIRACLES
CH 31 THE SIMPLICITY OF SALVATION 
IV. THE REAL ALTERNATIVE

40 There is a choice which you have power to make when you have seen the real alternatives. Until that point is reached, you have no choice, and you can but decide how you would choose the better to deceive yourself again. This course attempts to teach no more than that the power of decision cannot lie in choosing different forms of what is still the same illusion and the same mistake. All choices in the world depend on this---you choose between your brother and yourself, and you will gain as much as he will lose, and what you lose is what is given him. How utterly opposed to truth is this, when the lesson's purpose is to teach that what your brother loses you have lost and what he gains is what is given you.
    
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A COURSE IN MIRACLES
WORKBOOK for STUDENTS
What is Creation
WHAT IS CREATION?

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   Creation is the sum of all God's Thoughts,
   in number infinite, and everywhere
   without all limit. Only Love creates,
   and only like Itself. There was no time
   when all that It created was not there.
   Nor will there be a time when anything
   that It created suffers any change.
   Forever and forever are God's Thoughts
   exactly as They were and as They are,
   unchanged through time and after time is done.
 
   God's Thoughts are given all the power that
   Their own Creator has. For He would add
   to Love by Its extension. Thus His Son
   shares in creation, and must therefore share
   in power to create. What God has willed
   to be forever one will still be one
   when time is over; and will not be changed
   throughout the course of time, remaining as
   it was before the thought of time began.
 
   Creation is the opposite of all
   illusions, for Creation is the truth.
   Creation is the holy Son of God,
   for in Creation is His Will complete
   in every aspect, making every part
   container of the whole. Its oneness is
   forever guaranteed inviolate;
   forever held within His holy Will
   beyond all possibility of harm,
   of separation, imperfection and
   of any spot upon its sinlessness.
 
   We are creation; we the Sons of God.
   We seem to be discrete and unaware
   of our eternal unity with Him.
   Yet back of all our doubts, past all our fears,
   there still is certainty. For Love remains
   with all Its Thoughts, Its sureness being Theirs.
   God's memory is in our holy minds,
   which know their oneness, and their unity
   with their Creator. Let our function be
   only to let this memory return,
   only to let God's Will be done on earth,
   only to be restored to sanity,
   and to be but as God created us.
 
   Our Father calls to us. We hear His Voice,
   and we forgive creation in the Name
   of its Creator, Holiness Itself,
   Whose holiness His own creation shares;
   Whose holiness is still a part of us.
 
    ~ Original Hand Script  
 
  
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A COURSE IN MIRACLES
DAILY LESSONS
SonShip Workbook
L e s s o n 328
I choose the second place to gain the first.


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   What seems to be the second place is first,
   for all things we perceive are upside down
   until we listen to the Voice of God.
   It seems that we will gain autonomy
   but by our striving to be separate,
   and that our independence from the rest
   of God's creation is the way in which
   salvation is attained. Yet all we find
   is sickness, suffering, and loss and death.
   This is not what our Father wills for us,
   nor is there any second to His Will.
   To join with His is but to find our own.
   And since our will is His, it is to Him
   that we must go to recognize our will.
 
   There is no will but Yours. And I am glad
    that nothing I imagine contradicts
    what You would have me be. It is Your Will
    that I be holy, safe, eternally
    at peace. And happily I share that Will
    which You, my Father, gave as part of me.
 
     ~ Original Handscript of ACIM February 20, 1971     
          
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ACIM Edmonton - Sarah's Reflections 
ACIM Edmonton, CA
LESSON 328
I choose the second place to gain the first.

Sarah's Commentary:

This Lesson is about the recognition that the ego always wants to be first in everything, including being above God by demanding its autonomy and its separation. I remember when my grandchildren were little, often the reason for tears was that one didn't get to sit in the front seat, someone got a bigger piece of cake, or someone felt that they were left in second place, one way or the another. The ego is competitive and wants first place in everything, all the time.
 
I was listening to a lecture on Buddhism a while ago. One of the precepts of the teaching was that one should step back in any activity and let a brother go first. For example, we were at a celebration of Buddha's birthday at one time and everyone waited, not wanting to be the first to get a piece of birthday cake. It is all about letting the brother go first, but the Course teaching is never about behavior. There are no behavioral injunctions. It is all about what is in the mind. It is to recognize that by supporting a brother to be first means only gain for us, rather than loss. His gain is our gain. We go together. "I would but teach you what is yours, so that together we can replace the shabby littleness that binds the host of God to guilt and weakness with the glad awareness of the glory that is in him." (T.15.III.9.4) (ACIM OE T.15.IV.31)
 
In the world, second place seems to put us in a losing position. What about me, we ask? If I don't look after myself, I will lose. This is the principle of one or the other. If I gain, someone must lose. Jesus says we are deceived if we believe to gain at a brother's expense is a gain at all. He teaches, God is the Cause and we are the Effect, but this is not a second place to God because there is only Oneness. Thus, there is no second place. In that sense, second place is first. To take second place is to put God in first place and decide for the truth of what we are as One. When we choose with the Holy Spirit, we gain the first place, which is all there is.
 
Our choice for our autonomy and independence has put us in competition with God. We believe we have won our autonomy from God because now we believe we have our own separate will. Identifying with our own will and our own way seemingly kicks God out of His throne. Now there is no God in our experience. He had to be destroyed to put ourselves in the number one position. This thought is part of what we experience in the dream. Since we feel we gained at God's expense, we now try to gain at everyone else's expense, so we can be independent of everyone else and in competition with everyone. It is a world of trying to get what we can to fill our sense of lack that comes with identification with the ego. It is a place of separation, neediness, and lack, reflected in our special relationships, whether of special love or special hate, where we experience bargaining, competition, and strife with each other. Our agenda is always about having our needs met.
 
We think we like our independent position. We like to make our own decisions, although the fact is, there is no such thing as making decisions alone, as we make them either with the ego or the Holy Spirit. Surrendering our decision process to the Holy Spirit seems challenging when we believe we lose something through surrender. How this shows up in our experience is when we challenge those in authority and try to gain through power struggles and manipulative strategies; but what have we really gained? All that is being reflected in our competitive strategies is our original struggle with God.
 
Jesus says there is a tremendous cost to us in ". . . sickness, suffering, and loss and death," (W.328.1.3) but until we see this is the cost we are paying for our choice for the ego, we will continue to try to have our way. Yes, we have gained our kingdom, but Jesus says it is a sorry kingdom of nothing but suffering, limitation, powerlessness, loss, sickness, and ultimately death. He tells us, "The devil deceives by lies, and builds kingdoms in which everything is in direct opposition to God." (T.3.VII.2.6) (ACIM OE T.3.IX.73) When we see what the results are for us in suffering, we call out for help and recognize there must be a better way. When we accept that God is the Cause and we are the Effect, then we reclaim first place, which is our Christ Self. In Oneness, there is only Love.
 
In choosing the second place, we join with God's Will, and "To join with His is but to find our own." (W.328.1.5) This puts us in a position where we are no longer in competition with His Will and recognize that we will only gain our freedom and our happiness by recognizing how wrong we have been about everything. This is the beginning of the willingness to be taught. Our own will that we seem to exert daily does not even exist. In fact, this self we think we are is just a character in the dream. Indeed, Jesus says, "This is not what our Father wills for us, nor is there any second will to His." (W.328.1.4) It is only the illusion of a separate will that we believe in and identify with. The character is just a projection of the mind.
 
In our decision to release our will, we will know, "It is Your Will that I be wholly safe, eternally at peace." (W.328.2.3) This is a process where we turn more and more to the Guide within. It requires that we recognize we can't know and we can't judge on our own. The mind that thinks it knows what it needs and wants and how to get it will not surrender because to surrender seems like loss. It feels like we are giving up what we value. It may feel like some kind of submission to us, especially to us overly-independent types who have always prided ourselves on our self-reliance, but the only thing we give up is our fear. The only thing we "sacrifice" is illusion, which brings us nothing but suffering.
 
Anything I try to do my way or anytime I think I know what is in my best interests, it always brings more fear. As Jesus says, we really believe that maintaining ". . . our independence from the rest of God's creation is the way in which salvation is obtained." (W.328.1.2) We choose to be right rather than to be happy. We believe that we know best what will make us happy. Yet he again reminds us that the only way we will ever experience happiness is to recognize, "To join with His [Will] is but to find our own." (W.328.1.5) His Will is our own will.
 
As we confront issues and problems in our lives, it is important to keep asking, "God, what is your Will for me in this situation?" "What would you have me do or say?" "Where would you have me go?" We happily choose to follow. We commit to our brothers and join with them, recognizing our same nature.
 
A friend was telling me this morning that he has been whining and complaining a lot about his life and his status in the world. He believed he was not gaining sufficiently the things he determined were for his salvation in the world---a relationship, more money, a home of his own, and a job he loves. Yet, in a moment of realization, when he stopped defining his own happiness, he saw that none of these things he thought he wanted ever brought him deep peace and joy. He was defining his own best interests instead of asking what would best serve him. We get so focused on defining the way things should be for our safety, security, and happiness that we fail to see the perfection in the way they are.
 
Anytime we want anything, we suffer. When we want things to be different than they are, we are expressing our inner sense of lack and loss. Recognizing what does not matter, and nothing does, is the key to happiness. When we hold grievances, we are demanding that life be different than it is. We even have grievances about the weather, when it is not warm enough, cool enough, nor humid enough. It is all about our agendas for how things must be for us to be happy. There is nothing that must happen for us to open to God's Will in our lives and His Will is only for our happiness. There is no book that must be written. There is no building that must be built. There is no place we must visit. There is nobody in our lives that must do anything for us. There is nothing that must be different than it is, and there are no demands or expectations we need to hold of anyone. There is only surrender to God's Will by turning to Him for guidance. My experience is that when I truly let go of my perceived needs and expectations, the miracle can shine forth. Now anything can happen and it becomes an amazing gift when we get out of our own way.
 
Eventually, we are all brought to our knees one way or another. If this does not happen dramatically, then it happens in small doses of ever-increasing sense of malaise. "What is it all for?" we ask. Not until then do we seem to have some willingness to find another way. The Bible also talks about this in Mathew when the disciples leave everything to follow Jesus. Jesus tells them, the first will be last and the last, first. In other words, he is saying that to follow him and join with him may look like last place, but in fact, it is to gain the first place. "Not my will but Thine" are the words of humility. Yet the irony is that His Will is our own true will. Our own false will, that wants to exalt itself above God's, is an alien will.
 
We enter the kingdom as little children. We acknowledge we don't know. We ask in everything, but who are we listening to? How do we hear the prompts of the Holy Spirit? How do we know which are which? It takes great discernment and a willingness to question our motivations. Clearly, we have become confused about where our guidance is coming from. Ask in everything and keep acknowledging that you don't know and be willing to surrender. Finally, take time in deep listening, confident that He hears and answers all your prayers, remembering that when you pray for things of the ego, you are actually asking for nothing. Today, we are asked to realize that by choosing second place, which is to choose to follow God's Will, we are actually gaining the first place. This is when we join with the power of His Will, which is our own true will. Why would we continue to fly with the wings of the sparrow when the wings of the eagle are constantly available to us?
 
" T hose who choose freedom will experience only its results. Their power is of God, and they will give it only to what God has given, to share with them. Nothing but this can touch them, for they see only this, sharing their power according to the Will of God. And thus their freedom is established and maintained. It is upheld through all temptation to imprison and to be imprisoned. It is of them who learned of freedom that you should ask what freedom is. Ask not the sparrow how the eagle soars, for those with little wings have not accepted for themselves the power to share with you. " (T.20.IV.4.1-7) (ACIM OE T.20.31)
 
"When this power has once been experienced, it is impossible to trust one's own petty strength again. Who would attempt to fly with the tiny wings of a sparrow when the mighty power of an eagle has been given him? And who would place his faith in the shabby offerings of the ego when the gifts of God are laid before him? What is it that induces them to make the shift?" (M.4.I.2.1-4) (ACIM OE M.4.4)

Love and blessings, Sarah  
   
ACIM Original Edition
IV. The Real Alternative

33 There is a tendency to think the world can offer consolation and escape from problems which its purpose is to keep. Why should this be? Because it is a place where choice among illusions seems to be the only choice. And you are in control of outcomes of your choosing. Thus you think within the narrow band from birth to death a little time is given you to use for you alone, a time when everyone conflicts with you, but you can choose which road will lead you out of conflict and away from difficulties which concern you not. Yet they are your concern. How then can you escape from them by leaving them behind? What must go with you, you will take with you whatever road you choose to walk along.
 
34 Real choice is no illusion. But the world has none to offer. All its roads but lead to disappointment, nothingness, and death. There is no choice in its alternatives. Seek not escape from problems here. The world was made that problems could not be escaped. Be not deceived by all the different names its roads are given. They have but one end. And each is but the means to gain that end, for it is here that all its roads will lead, however differently they seem to start, however differently they seem to go. Their end is certain, for there is no choice among them. All of them will lead to death. On some you travel gaily for a while before the bleakness enters. And on some the thorns are felt at once. The choice is not what will the ending be but when it comes.
 
35 There is no choice where every end is sure. Perhaps you would prefer to try them all before you really learn they are but one. The roads this world can offer seem to be quite large in number, but the time must come when everyone begins to see how like they are to one another. Men have died on seeing this because they saw no way except the pathways offered by the world. And learning they led nowhere, lost their hope. And yet this was the time they could have learned their greatest lesson. All must reach this point and go beyond it. It is true indeed there is no choice at all within the world. But this is not the lesson in itself. The lesson has a purpose, and in this you come to understand what it is for.
 
36 Why would you seek to try another road, another person, or another place when you have learned the way the lesson starts but do not yet perceive what it is for? Its purpose is the answer to the search that all must undertake who still believe there is another answer to be found. Learn now, without despair, there is no hope of answer in the world. But do not judge the lesson which is but begun with this. Seek not another signpost in the world which seems to point to still another road. No longer look for hope where there is none. Make fast your learning now, and understand you but waste time unless you go beyond what you have learned to what is yet to learn. For from this lowest point will learning lead to heights of happiness in which you see the purpose of the lesson shining clear, and perfectly within your learning grasp.
 
37 Who would be willing to be turned away from all the roadways of the world unless he understood their real futility? Is it not needful that he should begin with this, to seek another way instead? For while he sees a choice where there is none, what power of decision can he use? The great release of power must begin with learning where it really has a use. And what decision has power if it be applied in situations without choice?
 
38 The learning that the world can offer but one choice, no matter what its form may be, is the beginning of acceptance that there is a real alternative instead. To fight against this step is to defeat your purpose here. You did not come to learn to find a road the world does not contain. The search for different pathways in the world is but the search for different forms of truth. And this would keep the truth from being reached.
 
39 Think not that happiness is ever found by following a road away from it. This makes no sense and cannot be the way. To you who seem to find this course to be too difficult to learn, let me repeat that to achieve a goal you must proceed in its direction, not away from it. And every road that leads the other way will not advance the purpose to be found. If this be difficult to understand, then is this course impossible to learn. But only then. For otherwise, it is a simple teaching in the obvious.
 
40 There is a choice which you have power to make when you have seen the real alternatives. Until that point is reached, you have no choice, and you can but decide how you would choose the better to deceive yourself again. This course attempts to teach no more than that the power of decision cannot lie in choosing different forms of what is still the same illusion and the same mistake. All choices in the world depend on this---you choose between your brother and yourself, and you will gain as much as he will lose, and what you lose is what is given him. How utterly opposed to truth is this, when the lesson's purpose is to teach that what your brother loses you have lost and what he gains is what is given you.
 
41 He has not left His Thoughts! But you forgot His Presence and remembered not His Love. No pathway in the world can lead to Him, nor any worldly goal is one with His. What road in all the world will lead within, when every road was made to separate the journey from the purpose it must have unless it be but futile wandering? All roads that lead away from what you are will lead you to confusion and despair. Yet has He never left His Thoughts to die, without their Source forever in themselves. He has not left His Thoughts! He could no more depart from them than they could keep Him out. In unity with Him do they abide, and in their Oneness both are kept complete.
 
42 There is no road that leads away from Him. A journey from yourself does not exist. How foolish and insane it is to think that there could be a road with such an aim! Where could it go? And how could you be made to travel on it, walking there without your own reality at one with you? Forgive yourself your madness and forget all senseless journeys and all goal-less aims. They have no meaning. You can not escape from what you are. For God is merciful and did not let His Son abandon Him. For what He is, be thankful, for in that is your escape from madness and from death. Nowhere but where He is can you be found. There is no path that does not lead to Him.
 
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