This line, "You think you are the home of evil, darkness and sin," (W.93.1.1) feels very dark, and may not be something we consciously think. I don't have in my awareness that anyone would want to recoil from me like a poisonous snake. (W.93.1.2) I don't recognize the deep level of guilt in me, yet Jesus says we achieved our individual self through the death of God. We built our self-concept at a perceived cost to Him because we can't exist if He does. It is one or the other, but we don't recognize this. We prefer to see the sin and guilt, which we believe is in us, in others instead. We see our guilt in those we describe as evil, sinful, and deserving death. That is how we conceal and cover up the guilt in us. We can't afford to see it because Jesus says if we did, we "would be struck with horror so intense that you would rush to death by your own hand." (W.93.1.3) To continue to live after seeing this in ourselves would be impossible, he says. This is the picture we defend against because we don't want to see the sin in our own minds. This is what we would see in ourselves if our defenses were shattered. The sin is a belief that we have destroyed God so we could exist as separate from Him.
We now have made a separate self we cherish. This separate self is described in the Psychotherapy Pamphlet as "This self he sees as being acted on, reacting to external forces as they demand, and helpless midst the power of the world." (P.1.3.6)
We can certainly relate to that sense of powerlessness in this world of war, disease, and many forces beyond our control, whether on a world stage or in our personal lives. How do we deal with all of this in the world, since we are certainly not happy in this powerless state? We seek out ways to be more in control, defend against what we see as attacks, and find allies. We work to build up the confidence needed to allow for stability and power to win our war with the world. We try to achieve a measure of self-esteem. We try to gather as much power as we can to build up our ability to handle what the world throws at us. On this journey with the Course, we can take on a spiritual ego or self-image of denial of what is really going on in the mind. What we must recognize on this journey is the importance of undoing the ego, rather than trying to make a better ego.
We inflate the self we think we are in order to hide our insecurity and fear and cover up the little self. The real culprit is our belief in sin and guilt. Jesus tells us all moods that are less than joyous come from guilt. We tend, instead, to attribute these moods to all kinds of other things going on in our lives. Jesus keeps reminding us, only our guilt is the cause of our angst, and only our grievances are the source of our problems. Therefore, the only way through this dilemma is to go within and bring our dark thoughts to the light. We watch the mind and become willing to investigate what is really behind our distress.
"When your mood tells you that you have chosen wrongly, and this is so whenever you are not joyous, then know this need not be. In every case you have thought wrongly about some brother God created, and are perceiving images your ego makes in a darkened glass."
(T.4.IV.2.2-3)(ACIM OE T.4.V.57) "When you feel guilty, remember that the ego has indeed violated the laws of God, but you have not. Leave the 'sins' of the ego to me. That is what Atonement is for. But until you change your mind about those whom your ego has hurt, the Atonement cannot release you. While you feel guilty, your ego is in command, because only the ego can experience guilt. This need not be." (T.4.IV.5.1-6)(ACIM OE T.4.V.61)
In other words, when we are less than loving to anyone in any situation, we feel guilty. Basically, we made up a self-concept and then we made up a world that supports our self-concept and seems to validate the truth of it, which gives us the illusion we have created ourselves. This self-concept, however, bears no likeness to our Self. In fact, it is a replacement for this Self. "A concept of the self is made by you. It bears no likeness to yourself at all. It is an idol, made to take the place of your reality as Son of God." (T.31.V.2.1-3)(ACIM OE T.31.V.44)
The self-concept, which we made up along with all the thoughts associated with it, is "based on nothing." (W.93.2.1) What I think I am and everything I believe about myself is simply not the truth. This is quite a statement if we really think about it. Everything we say about ourselves must therefore be untrue. Based on nothing, we hold onto our thoughts and beliefs because they define the image we have made of ourselves, and we do value who we think we are. That is why Jesus is so gentle with us as we go through the undoing process. Our investment in this illusory self is very strong. As we go through the process of questioning everything about ourselves, a great deal of fear and resistance is brought forth. First of all, we really don't want to look at the darkness we think may be in us, and secondly we are even more afraid of the deep love we have for God behind the darkness.
A movie that illustrates this beautifully is called, "The Upside of Anger," which shows how our thoughts create our experience. Our own minds have created the picture of our so-called reality and it is all false perception, yet we believe in what we have made. In another recent movie with Kirk Douglas called "Illusion," we see another example of how a young man, abandoned by his father, made up his own story of his worthlessness, holding the belief he does not deserve happiness. This is how we have built the self-image we hold. We give meaning to our experiences and take from them an interpretation of who we are. In both instances, we see the guilt outside our own minds and projected onto others, because we really don't want to see it in ourselves. Even if we see ourselves as guilty, there is still someone else whom we see as responsible for our condition.
To uproot our self-image, we really need to look honestly at our own darkness. Jesus is encouraging us in this process by reminding us, we are not guilty. The only thing we have done is make mistakes. (W.93.2.2) In other words, while he says he knows we think we are the home of evil and darkness, it is not the truth. He knows we have "sought salvation in strange ways; have been deceived, deceiving and afraid of foolish fantasies and savage dreams; and have bowed down to idols made of dust." (W.93.2.2) He knows us in our foolishness, but he also knows the truth about us! In order to accept how secure, lofty, sinless, glorious and totally perfect our true Self is, he says we must question what we think about ourselves, but we can't question what we think from our own reference point. We need to look at our darkness from his perspective, which is to look without judgment at ourselves from above the battleground. (T.23.IV)(ACIM OE T.23.V)
We do not share the perception Jesus has of us that we are pure and holy, and light and joy and peace abide in us. We do not respond with joy, when we are "assured that all the evil that you think you did was never done, that all your sins are nothing." (W.93.4.1) Why? Because we value our special self and resist the message that our "thoughts are not according to God's Will." (W.93.3.2) Only when we look at our fear and realize how much misery and suffering it has brought to our lives do we become more willing to question our beliefs and recognize how much we have misperceived ourselves, others and the world.
This self we think we are is the image and the character in the dream, which has no foundation. This image "cannot withstand the Will of God," (W.93.4.2) but it brings up tremendous fear because the image is what we think we are. Jesus says, "anything it [this image] seems to do and think means nothing." (W.93.5.3) "It is neither bad nor good." (W.93.5.4) The end of this identity seems to us to be death, but Jesus assures us, "it is life." (W.93.4.3) "You think you are destroyed, but you are saved." (W.93.4.4)
Jesus tells us, whatever we think we have done has no effect. We simply cannot and have not made ourselves unworthy because we have not done "battle with the Son of God." (W.93.5.6) We have not changed ourselves. Nothing real has happened. We have not sinned, nor have we changed who we are, since we have no power to "contradict the Will of God." (W.93.5.9) This is a statement of the Atonement principle, which says we absolutely do not have the power to change who we are. We can obliterate our awareness of the truth, but our "sinlessness is guaranteed by God!" (W.93.6.1) This is fact! This "must be repeated, until it is accepted," (W.93.6.2) which means we must bring our misperceptions of who we are, our dark and hateful thoughts and our judgments, to the truth. It means, if we hold a thought that is not true, we need to become willing to recognize, with conviction, this is so. The only true thing is we are sinless. It reminds me of miracle Principle 14, which says miracles arise from conviction. To me this means we can stand in truth and not invest in what does not exist. Our hateful, angry, distressing thoughts have no substance and no reality. They are truly all meaningless. They have no impact on the truth. We can dismiss them as the lies of the ego about us and simply refuse to listen.
We are using our time now to learn the Lessons this Course is bringing to our attention. We need to do these Lessons on behalf of our own release because we have over-learned the ego's program. In order to learn the truth about ourselves, we need to see how we project our guilt onto others. We need to bring our projections to the Holy Spirit, and bring the belief that we are the home of evil, darkness and sin to the light. We have developed defenses to protect our self-image, but now we are asked to question what we believe. I did not make myself. Any thought of what "I" made of myself must be brought to doubt and to the light of the Holy Spirit. Light and joy and peace abide in my mind because I am part of God.
Will these affirmations change our mind about who we are? No, they are not enough. We must do the work of excavating the ego. Real change will only come when we do the work of releasing the false self, and then the truth can emerge. We clearly need to work to release the blocks to our awareness of the truth and go through the darkness to the light. There is no way around these facts. For me, it has been important to be reminded of the truth, through this Course, because it has allowed me to look at the darkness in my mind while recognizing it is not who I am. Thus, I have been able to get more honest with myself, in the realization that I truly am the Christ Self and not what I have made of myself.
My dark thoughts separate me from the truth of my reality. If I really see this, I become more willing to expose these thoughts. When I was identifying myself totally with the ego, trying to keep my image intact, raising my self-esteem, focusing on my best interests as I defined them, I wasn't even aware there were any other options or a Self beyond this image. I didn't know there was a choice to be made. Being aware of this choice we can make is the source of our power. It does take courage and great honesty to look at our dark thoughts and take responsibility for them. Affirming in my mind the truth of who I am gives me that courage to look at the dark thoughts. Jesus keeps reminding us there is a Self apart from the ego with which we have identified. While affirmations won't change our ego identity, because the ego won't be shouted down, they are helpful in reminding us of the truth of who we really are.
When we are told of our perfection, our ego minds argue and resist the idea. We raise arguments to disprove our perfection and innocence. The deeper reason for this is because this idea threatens our existence as we see it or as we have made it. If we really accepted the truth about ourselves, it would terrify us because it would turn our world upside down and uproot our frame of reference. It is frightening to think we have been so totally mistaken about ourselves that we don't even know who we are. Our identity in the world has been formed by taking in perceptions of what others think of us. The voices of our parents, teachers, friends and others have all contributed to making up the image we have adopted. It is terrifying to realize "I do not know the thing I am and therefore do not know what I am doing, where I am or how to look upon the world or on myself." (T.31.V.17.7)(ACIM OE T.31.V.60)
Today, let us focus on opening to the immensity of "the unity of your one Self. Try to appreciate Its Holiness and the love from which It was created." (W.93.9.3-4) We are asked "not to interfere," (W.93.9.5) by hiding this magnificent Self behind the idol of ourselves we made. "Humility will never ask that you remain content with littleness. But it does require that you be not content with less than greatness that comes not of you." (T.18.IV.3.1-2)(ACIM OE T.18.V.34)
When we project our guilt onto our brothers, we affirm they took our peace away and thus they are the guilty ones. We hold the belief that we are innocent and everyone else is guilty, though deep down we know we are guilty. On a deeper level, outside of our awareness, we are making a bargain with God so others will get punished by Him instead of us. It is a false innocence we are attempting to buy for ourselves at the expense of others. It is easy to do when we look at the atrocities committed in the world. Jesus is helping us to see there is no need to pretend we are faultless by seeing others guilty. The fact is, he says, we are already innocent. Why not just look at our own darkness instead of projecting it, and take responsibility for it, so we can truly know our real innocence, and not the one we bought at our brothers' expense. Now we can loosen our hold on how right we are in our perceptions. When we admit we have been wrong, it is the beginning of real learning.
What does it tell me if I find I am not using the first five minutes of every hour to remind myself of the truth? Why would I not be willing? Clearly Jesus expects us not to trust the truth of this teaching and, in fact, to actively resist it. Our resistance shows up in other priorities in our day that seem more important to us than focusing on the Lesson, or we simply forget the Lesson throughout our day. The self I identify with in the world believes that what I am doing in this world of form is real and essential, but more important, it preserves and protects my uniqueness and specialness with which I identify. This is our fear of the truth. I can now choose to give all of my thoughts, fears, and concerns, as well as any resistance I am experiencing, to the Holy Spirit and recognize their nothingness. I can recognize there is no need for guilt. We are also asked to respond to any disturbances today by quickly dispelling them with this thought. Apply these ideas every time you are upset or disturbed about anything today.
Jesus is reminding us that extending love and joining with our brothers are the ways we learn who we are, heal our minds and hear the Voice for God. On the other hand, every time we attack anyone we are hiding our light, peace and joy, and our attacks then come back to hurt us. That is why we are being given all of these thoughts, so we can incorporate them into a way of being in the world, where we are given many opportunities to apply the thoughts daily. We are all worth this effort, which is given us to reprogram the software of the ego thought system to another way of thinking and being.
It is also important to apply the Lesson, when
"a situation arises that seems to be disturbing," (W.93.11.1) and when we are
"tempted to become angry with someone." (W.93.11.2) In these cases, we tell them silently,
"Light and joy and peace abide in you. Your sinlessness is guaranteed by God." (W.93.11.3-4)