"Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Herein Lies the peace of God."
Course in Miracles
The Root of All Evil
III. The Ego and False Autonomy
24 You have asked lately how the mind could ever have made the ego. This is a perfectly reasonable question; in fact, the best question you could ask. There is, however, no point in giving an historical answer because the past does not matter in human terms, and history would not exist if the same errors were not being repeated in the present. Abstract thought applies to knowledge because knowledge is completely impersonal and examples are irrelevant to its understanding. Perception, however, is always specific and therefore quite concrete.
25 Each man makes one ego for himself, although it is subject to enormous variation because of its instability, and one for everyone he perceives, which is equally variable. Their interaction is a process which literally alters both, because they were not made either
with the unalterable. It is particularly important to realize that this alteration can and does occur as readily when the interaction takes place
in the mind as when it involves physical presence.
Thinking about another ego is as effective in changing relative perception as is physical interaction. There could be no better example of the fact that the ego is an idea, though not a reality-based thought.
26 Your own present state is a good example of how the mind made the ego. You
do have knowledge at times, but when you throw it away, it is as if you never had it. This willfulness is so apparent that one need only perceive it to see that it
does happen. If it can occur that way in the present, why is it surprising that it occurred that way in the past? Psychology rests on the principle of the continuity of behavior. Surprise is a reasonable response to the unfamiliar but hardly to something that has occurred with such persistence. I am using your present state [as an example] of how the mind
can work, provided you fully recognize that it
need not work that way. Why are you surprised that something happened in the dim past when it is so clearly happening right now?
27 You forget the love that animals have for their own offspring and the need they feel to protect them. This is because they regard them as part of themselves. No one disowns something he regards as a very real part of himself. Man reacts to his ego much as God does to His Souls: with love, protection, and great charity. The reaction of man to the self he made is not at all surprising. In fact it duplicates in many ways how he will one day react to his
real creations, which are as timeless as he is. The question is not
how man responds to his ego, but what he believes he
28 Belief is an ego function, and as long as your origin is open to belief at all, you
are regarding it from an ego viewpoint. [That is why the Bible quotes me as saying “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” Belief does apply to me, because I am the teacher of the ego.] When teaching is no longer necessary, you will merely
know God. Belief that there
is another way is the loftiest idea of which ego thinking is capable. That is because it contains a hint of recognition that the ego is
not the self. Undermining the ego's thought system
must be perceived as painful, even though this is anything but true. Babies scream in rage if you take away a knife or a scissors, even though they may well harm themselves if you do not. The speed-up has placed you in the same position.
29 You are
not prepared, and in this sense you
are babies. You have no sense of real self-preservation and are very likely to decide that you need precisely what would hurt you most. Whether you know it now or not, however, you
have willed to cooperate in a concerted and very commendable effort to become both harm
less and help
ful, two attributes which
must go together. Your attitudes, even toward this, are necessarily conflicted because
all attitudes are ego-based. This will not last. Be patient awhile and remember that the outcome is as certain as God.
30 Only those who have a real and lasting sense of abundance
can be truly charitable. This is quite obvious when you consider the concepts involved. To the ego, to give anything implies that you will do without it. When you associate giving with sacrifice, then, you give only because you believe that you are somehow getting something better so that you can do without the thing you give. "Giving to get" is an inescapable law of the ego, which
always evaluates itself in relation to other egos and is therefore continually preoccupied with the scarcity principle which gave rise to it. This is the meaning of Freud's "reality principle" since Freud thought of the ego as very weak and deprived, capable of functioning
only as a thing in need.
31 The "reality principle" of the ego is not real at all. The ego is forced to perceive the "reality" of other egos because it cannot establish the reality of
itself. In fact, its whole perception of other egos
as real is only an attempt to convince itself that
it is real. "Self esteem" in ego terms means nothing more than that the ego has deluded itself into accepting its reality and is therefore temporarily less predatory. This "self esteem" is
always vulnerable to stress, a term which actually refers to a condition in which the delusion of the ego's reality is threatened. This produces either ego deflation or ego inflation, resulting in either withdrawal or attack.
32 The ego literally lives by comparisons. This means that equality is beyond its grasp and charity becomes impossible. The ego
never gives out of abundance because it was made as a
substitute for it. That is why the concept of "getting" arose in the ego's thought system. All appetites are "getting" mechanisms, representing the ego's need to confirm itself. This is as true of bodily appetites as it is of the so-called "higher" ego needs. Bodily appetites are
not physical in origin. The ego regards the body as its home and
does try to satisfy itself through the body, but the
idea that this is possible is a decision of the ego, which is completely confused about what is
really possible. This accounts for its erratic nature.
33 The ego believes it is completely on its own, which is merely another way of describing how it originated. This is such a fearful state that it can only turn to other egos and try to unite with them in a feeble attempt at identification or attack them in an equally feeble show of strength. It is
not free, however, to consider the validity of the premise itself because this premise is its
foundation. The ego
is the belief of the mind that it is completely on its own. Its ceaseless attempts to gain the Soul's acknowledgment and thus to establish its own existence are utterly useless.
34 The Soul in its knowledge is unaware of the ego. It does not attack it; it merely cannot conceive of it at all. While the ego is equally unaware of the Soul, it
does perceive itself as rejected by "something" which is greater than itself. This is why self-esteem in ego terms
must be a delusion. The creations of God do not create myths, although the creative efforts of man
can turn to mythology. It can do so, however, only under one condition; what man then makes is no longer creative. Myths are entirely perceptions and are so ambiguous in form and so characteristically good and evil in nature that the most benevolent of them is not without fearful components, if only by innuendo.
35 Myths and magic are closely associated in that myths are usually related to the ego origins and magic to the powers which the ego ascribes to itself. Every mythological system includes some account of "the creation" and associates this with its particular perception of magic. The "battle for survival" is nothing more than the ego's struggle to preserve itself and its interpretation of its own beginning. This beginning is always associated with physical birth because no one maintains that the ego existed before that point in time. The religiously ego-oriented believe that the Soul existed before and will continue to exist afterwards, after a temporary lapse in ego life. Some actually believe that the Soul will be punished for this lapse, even though in reality it could not possibly know anything about it.
36 The term "salvation" does
not apply to the Soul, which is not in danger and does not need to be salvaged. Salvation is nothing more than "right-mindedness," which is not the One-Mindedness of the Soul, but which must be accomplished before the One-Mindedness can be restored. Right-mindedness dictates the next step automatically because right perception is uniformly without attack so that wrong-mindedness is obliterated. The ego cannot survive without judgment and is laid aside accordingly. The mind then has only
one direction in which it can move. The direction which the mind will take is always automatic because it cannot
but be dictated by the thought system to which the mind adheres.
37 Every thought system has internal consistency, and this provides the basis for the continuity of behavior. However, this is a matter of reliability and not validity. "Reliable behavior" is a meaningful perception as far as ego thinking goes. However, "valid behavior" is an expression which is inherently contradictory because validity is an
end and behavior is a
means. These cannot be combined logically because when an end has been attained the means for its attainment are no longer meaningful.
38 A hypothesis is either false or true, to be accepted or rejected accordingly. If it is shown to be true, it becomes a fact, after which no one attempts to evaluate it unless its status
as fact is questioned.
Every idea to which the ego has accorded the status of fact is questionable because facts are in the realm of knowledge.
39 Confusing realms of discourse is a thinking error which philosophers have recognized for centuries. Psychologists are generally quite deficient in this respect, as are many theologians. Data from one realm of discourse do not mean anything in another because they can be understood only
within the thought system of which they are a part. That is why psychologists are concentrating increasingly on the ego in an attempt to unify their clearly unrelated data. It need hardly be said that an attempt to relate the unrelated
40 The more recent ecological emphases are but another ingenious way of trying to impose order on chaos. We have already credited the ego with considerable ingenuity, though not with creativeness. It should, however, be remembered that inventiveness is really wasted effort, even in its most ingenious forms. We do not have to explain
anything. This is why we need not trouble ourselves with inventiveness. The highly specific nature of invention is not worthy of the abstract creativity of God's creations.
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A Course in Miracles
A theoretical foundation such as the text is necessary as a background to make these exercises meaningful. Yet it is the exercises which will make the goal possible. An untrained mind can accomplish nothing. It is the purpose of these exercises to train the mind to think along the lines which the course sets forth.
The exercises are very simple. They do not require more than a few minutes, and it does not matter where or when you do them. They need no preparation. They are numbered, running from 1 to 365. The training period is one year. Do not undertake more than one exercise a day.
The purpose of these exercises is to train the mind to a different perception of everything in the world. The workbook is divided into two sections, the first dealing with the undoing of what you see now and the second with the restoration of sight. It is recommended that each exercise be repeated several times a day, preferably in a different place each time and, if possible, in every situation in which you spend any long period of time. The purpose is to train the mind to generalize the lessons, so that you will understand that each of them is as applicable to one situation as it is to another.
Unless specified to the contrary, the exercise should be practiced with the eyes open, since the aim is to learn how to see. The only rule that should be followed throughout is to practice the exercises with great specificity. Each one applies to every situation in which you find yourself and to everything you see in it. Each day's exercises are planned around one central idea, the exercises themselves consisting of applying that idea to as many specifics as possible. Be sure that you do not decide that there are some things you see to which the idea for the day is inapplicable. The aim of the exercises will always be to increase the application of the idea to everything. This will not require effort. Only be sure that you make no exceptions in applying the idea.
Some of the ideas you will find hard to believe, and others will seem quite startling. It does not matter. You are merely asked to apply them to what you see. You are not asked to judge them, nor even to believe them. You are asked only to use them. It is their use which will give them meaning to you, and show you they are true. Remember only this—you need not believe them, you need not accept them, and you need not welcome them. Some of them you may actively resist. None of this will matter nor decrease their efficacy. But allow yourself to make no exceptions in applying the ideas the exercises contain. Whatever your reactions to the ideas may be, use them. Nothing more than this is required.
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A Course in Miracles
I am blessed as a Son of God.
1 Today we will begin to assert some of the happy things to which you are entitled, being what you are. No long practice periods are required today, but very frequent short ones are necessary. Once every ten minutes would be highly desirable, and you are urged to attempt this schedule and to adhere to it whenever possible. If you forget, try again. If there are long interruptions, try again. Whenever you remember, try again.
2 You need not close your eyes for the exercise periods, although you will probably find it more helpful if you do. However, you may be in a number of situations during the day when closing your eyes would not be appropriate. Do not miss a practice period because of this. You can practice quite well under almost any circumstance, if you really want to.
3 Today's exercises take little time and no effort. Repeat today's idea, and then add several of the attributes which you associate with being a Son of God, applying them to yourself. One practice period might, for example, consist of the following:
I am blessed as a Son of God.
I am happy, peaceful, loving, and contented.
5 Another might be something as follows:
I am blessed as a Son of God.
I am calm, quiet, assured, and confident.
7 If only a brief period is available, merely telling yourself that you are blessed as a Son of God will do.
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I am blessed as a Son of God.
These next eleven Lessons shift to a discussion of the happy things to which we are entitled. We are entitled to happy things because of what we are, but it is not about
definition of happiness. Our definition of happiness is about having our needs met as we perceive them. It is about maintaining our identity as a separate self, using others to serve our needs. If they don’t do that well, we blame them for our lack of happiness. How can we know what will bring us happiness when we don't know our own best interests? We don't know what anything is for and in fact, we don’t even know who we are.
The happiness Jesus speaks about comes from releasing our wants, expectations, self-interest, unworthiness, and self-attack. It comes from healing our guilt and taking responsibility for our projections. It comes from letting go of our identification with this personal self with its judgments and grievances. It is about awakening from the dream where happiness constantly eludes us, and even when we think we have it, we don’t believe it will last. Jesus says that we are entitled to happiness because of what we are. Happiness is in our right minds, but currently, our minds are split between the wrong mind and the right mind. In our wrong mind is our connection to guilt and self-attack. In our right mind is the memory of the Christ Self we are.
We are learning the difference between real freedom and joy. When we turn to the Holy Spirit as our Teacher, we experience freedom and joy, but when we turn to the ego, we experience imprisonment, suffering, and pain. Until we learn the difference, we continue to seek happiness as we define it. We don't yet know what it is and how and where to find it because we are searching outside of ourselves. Yet this Lesson says that the blessedness of our being is already in us, in the right mind. This Lesson is mainly concerned with reminding ourselves of who we are in truth---blessed, calm, quiet, assured, confident, serene, capable, unshakeable, joyful, radiant, full of love, and light. He urges us to add any words we like, which affirm our true nature.
The mind training is necessary to help us differentiate between freedom and imprisonment. Currently, we can’t tell the difference. Jesus is blunt with us when he says,
"You no more recognize what is painful than you know what is joyful, and are, in fact, very apt to confuse the two. The Holy Spirit's main function is to teach you to tell them apart. What is joyful to you is painful to the ego, and as long as you are in doubt about what you are, you will be confused about joy and pain."
(T.7.X.3.4-6) (ACIM OE T.7.XI.101) However, it is important that we not feel guilty about seeking pleasure as we define it. While we still believe that our identity is a body and we are lacking, we will seek pleasure in the world. Yet Jesus increasingly helps us to see that there is no satisfaction in the world, and our only true happiness is found in recognizing what we are. Our joy comes from the content of love, peace, and joy in the mind, rather than anything in the world of form.
All our unhappiness is a consequence of our separation from God and every problem we have is the result. In fact, separation from God and our choice for the ego are our only problems. Separation is the cause of all our pain and misery. The Atonement principle is the assurance that we have not, and cannot, separate from God. We are still one with God. God is always with us. That is why we can know He goes with us wherever we go, meaning His presence is always with us. We are never on our own. If we truly accepted this, we could never be anxious, upset, worried, or afraid. When fears and feelings of anxiety and unworthiness come up, we know we have sided with the ego. It is an opportunity to bring our wrong-minded thoughts forward and place them on the inner altar, giving them over to the Holy Spirit.
If I am willing to look at my problems and take responsibility for them by seeing that they originate in my own mind, I can bring my mistaken thoughts to the truth, remembering it is only my own thoughts that keep me in misery. Nothing outside of me has the power to make me upset. If someone does seem to upset me, it is because I believe I am unworthy of love. I have given the power to someone outside of me to define me as a guilty self I already believe I am. I will not know myself as the divine being I am until I heal my beliefs in my own unworthiness. When I perceive someone attacking me, and those attacks find a place to land in me, I have some forgiveness work to do with my own self-attacking thoughts. In my right mind is the truth of who I am. The truth is that I have never separated from love because God goes with me wherever I go. I can only be upset if I think I am alone in the world. I must acknowledge that I am wrong about what I am thinking before my misperceptions can be healed. If I continue to justify that I am right in what I am perceiving, no healing is possible. There is no power outside of our own minds that will bring the healing. Beseeching God to take away our fears will never work. We are the ones who have to give them up because we are the ones who made them.
We spend a lot of our time trying to fix problems in the world. Clearly, we all have situations that need to be addressed, but the important thing is to look at what we are thinking about these situations. When we are willing to forgive our mistaken thoughts, the things we need to attend to in the world will be addressed with ease. The Source of all my joy and ease goes with me. Thus, nothing can destroy my peace of mind unless I allow it to do so. Under our insane thoughts is the reality that the separation is not real. We don't believe this right now, but consider the possibility that maybe Jesus is right and we are wrong. Our pain and suffering need not be.
"When you are anxious, realize that anxiety comes from the capriciousness of the ego, and
know this need not be
(T.4.IV.4.1) (ACIM OE T.4.V.60) Maybe we can remember to laugh at the idea that a Son of God, Who is still One with Him, can suffer. Can we accept that only our thoughts bring suffering? We have a teacher who reminds us that those thoughts are not the truth.
We do our Lesson practice now every ten minutes. How often we remember the Lesson will help us to look at our dedication to the increased practice requirements. We can do the practice with eyes open or closed. We need to affirm the truth often during the day because we really don't believe it yet. It is a Lesson of appreciation, of celebration, and of affirmation. And it is important to remember that Jesus does not want us to feel guilty when we forget to do the Lesson. He does not want our forgetting to be a sin. He only urges us to remember on behalf of our own happiness. As we express the truth today, we attract more of what we affirm.
Jesus says that we don't do this work, not because it is hard, but because we don't believe we are worth the effort. When we forget today, he encourages us to try again and keep up the effort because we are worth it. He is always gentle and encouraging. There is no shame in forgetting. It is just an opportunity to look at our level of resistance and readiness to do this work. We are worth the effort!
This is a Course in mind training and does require mental discipline. Initially, it feels hard, but what is harder than living as an ego in this world? There is so much pain and suffering. We experience so much loss, competition, problems, and difficulties. We keep trying and trying to find real happiness to no avail until death claims us. While the Course does take dedication, we are worth the effort. It is no different than learning any other skill. It does take a lot of practice at first and may feel like a lot of work initially until it becomes a regular part of our thought system. Jesus recognizes that we may go through
(W.40.1.5) in our practice. He knows we lack discipline. That is why the practice is necessary.
Why do we resist? The ego is in constant opposition to our happiness. Jesus says,
". . . the ego does not love you."
(T.9.VII.3.5) (ACIM OE T.9.VI.40) Do you notice that even during the best and most pleasurable times in our lives there is an edge of sadness, uneasiness, and fear?
Jesus talks about how to use time well on behalf of our own happiness. The purpose of time is only for our healing. That is its intended purpose. It is for extending blessing and forgiveness
. ". . . there is no better use for time."
(W.127.7.2) Seek salvation in every encounter by not leaving
"anyone without giving salvation to him and receiving it yourself."
(T.8.III.4.7) (ACIM OE T.8.IV.19)
Of course, the ego has an entirely different purpose for time. Its purpose is for the accumulation of guilt. Guilt proves that we are separate from God and that the ego is real. Our death is the ultimate proof that the ego and body are real, and thus, we really have accomplished the impossible in separating from God. From the perspective of the ego thought system, our function in time is destruction, with time replacing eternity.
This is a wonderful Lesson. We can either do it with our eyes open or closed. Repeat the idea for the day and add several of the attributes you associate with being a Son of God, applying them to yourself.
I am blessed as a Son of God. I am happy, peaceful, loving and contented
I am blessed as a Son of God. I am calm, quiet, assured and confident,
(W.40.6.7-8) (or other words such as radiant, full of love, serene, capable, unshakeable, etc.)
We can even do this in situations that don't seem feasible. Let's dedicate this day to affirming the truth about ourselves. Make this a blessed day.
Love and blessings, Sarah
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