"Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Herein Lies the peace of God."
A Course in Miracles
TEXT

CHAPTER 4
The Root of All Evil
PAUSED FOR WEEKEND

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 by or 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 is.

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 cannot succeed.

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
WORKBOOK

Part I
I. Introduction

1 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.

2 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.

3 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.

4 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.

5 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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Lesson 41
God goes with me wherever I go.

1 Today's idea will eventually overcome completely the sense of loneliness and abandonment which all the separated ones experience. Depression is an inevitable consequence of separation. So are anxiety, worry, a deep sense of helplessness, misery, suffering, and intense fear of loss. The separated ones have invented many "cures" for what they believe to be the "ills of the world." But the one thing they do not do is to question the reality of the problem. Yet its effects cannot be cured because the problem is not real.

2 The idea for today has the power to end all this foolishness forever. And foolishness it is, despite the serious and tragic forms it may take. Deep within you is everything that is perfect, ready to radiate through you and out into the whole world. It will cure all sorrow and pain and fear and loss because it will heal the mind that thought these things were real and suffered out of its allegiance to them.

3 You can never be deprived of your perfect holiness, because its Source goes with you wherever you go. You can never suffer, because the Source of all joy goes with you wherever you go. You can never be alone, because the Source of all life goes with you wherever you go. Nothing can destroy your peace of mind, because God goes with you wherever you go.

4 We understand that you do not believe all this. How could you, when the truth is hidden deep within under a heavy cloud of insane thoughts, dense and obscuring, yet representing all you see? Today we will make our first real attempt to get past this dark and heavy cloud and to go through it to the light beyond.

5 There will be only one long practice period today. In the morning, as soon as you get up if possible, sit quietly for some three to five minutes with your eyes closed. At the beginning of the practice period, repeat today's idea very slowly. Then make no effort to think of anything. Try instead to get a sense of turning inward, past all the idle thoughts of the world. Try to enter very deeply into your own mind, keeping it clear of any thoughts that might divert your attention.

6 From time to time, you may repeat today's idea if you find it helpful. But most of all, try to sink down and inward, away from the world and all the foolish thoughts of the world. You are trying to reach past all these things. You are trying to leave appearances and approach reality.

7 It is quite possible to reach God. In fact it is very easy because it is the most natural thing in the world. You might even say it is the only natural thing in the world. The way will open if you believe that it is possible. This exercise can bring very startling results even the first time it is attempted. And sooner or later, it is always successful. We will go into more detail in connection with this kind of practice as we go along. But it will never fail completely, and instant success is possible.

8 Throughout the day, use today's idea often, repeating it very slowly and preferably with eyes closed. Think of what you are saying; what the words mean. Concentrate on the holiness which they imply about you; on the unfailing companionship which is yours; on the complete protection that surrounds you.

9 You can indeed afford to laugh at fear thoughts, remembering that God goes with you wherever you go.

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Sarah's Reflections

Lesson 41
God goes with me wherever I go.

Yesterday's Lesson was a beautiful reminder that the truth is in our minds and there is nothing to seek and nowhere else to look for it. Jesus tells us that we can't go anywhere God does not go. He is with us, a part of us wherever we are and wherever we go because He is in our minds. Another way to say this is that we are in Him. All our problems, all worry, anxiety, sense of helplessness, the deepest misery, loneliness, abandonment, depression, intense fear of loss, and all difficulties we experience come from the belief in separation. With separation comes a belief that we have sinned and are thus guilty. We spend our lives trying to overcome these problems by things we do in the world, yet Jesus is showing us this will never work. There is nothing we can do to alleviate our problems, no matter how hard we try nor how determined we are. When we solve one problem, the next one shows up soon after and so on. Oh yes, the "cures" may alleviate symptoms, but they will never solve our perceived problems because the only real problem is our belief in separation. As a result, we hold self-attacking thoughts that are the cause of all the distress we experience. The only place we can address our problems is in our minds. Our minds are the cause and the world is the effect. We think it is the other way around.
 
The only "cure" is to see the problems we think we have are not real. The only cure is to reconnect to our Source. Problems of any kind are just the effects of our thoughts, and thoughts can be changed. In the world, we seem to have many "cures" that we apply to try to fix our problems or those we see around us. We spend a lot of time trying to "figure it all out," but Jesus tells us that none of our perceived problems have any reality. They are just effects of our thinking, which arose when we thought we had separated from God. There is nothing to figure out. Yes, symptoms can be alleviated, but the source of our problems continues in our minds until they are seen for what they are. The answer is to watch our minds and release our self-attacking thoughts so they can be forgiven. Only then will we know the peace and joy given us in our creation. When problems seem to arise, we are invited to turn to the Holy Spirit for His help to reinterpret our thoughts about them.
 
Of course, there is no question about the pain our perceived problems create in our experience and that of others. It is not about dismissing our distress as just illusionary since we may experience tragic consequences in the dream. Our teacher acknowledges that these problems take many serious and tragic forms, yet despite this acknowledgment, he refers to the whole drama as nothing but foolishness. He calls these situations sharp-edged children’s toys but he acknowledges that we do not see it this way. "We understand that you do not believe all of this," (W.41.5.1) but it does not matter if we do not believe it. We are in the beginning phases of our work with the Course, and we just commit to doing the practice asked of us and trust the process. This is a time for faith. It is about acknowledging deep within us that everything is perfect, but that perfection is hidden from us by our insane thoughts. These insane thoughts produce the world we see.
 
"Deep within you is everything that is perfect, ready to radiate through you and out into the world. It will cure all sorrow and pain and fear and loss because it will heal the mind that thought these things were real, and suffered out of its allegiance to them." (W.41.3.1-2) We carry the real cure for our disease deep within us. This cure heals not by overcoming the "illness," but by healing our belief in the reality of the illness. God is always with us. How could we ever, in any way, be separate from the Infinite? How could we ever be apart from All That Is? The very idea is insane and impossible.
 
Isn't it reassuring to know that the perfection of what we are has never changed? It can never leave us and is part of us wherever we go. It is the light we are. It is the source of all joy. It can't be destroyed, no matter how evil, flawed, or depressed we believe we are. Deep within, everything is perfect. It is the cure for all our perceived problems. There is no other cure we can invent. That is why he tells us, "You can indeed afford to laugh at fear thoughts, remembering that God goes with you wherever you go." (W.41.10.1) We have forgotten to laugh at the foolishness of our dramas. This gentle laugh reminds us of the truth of who we are. Only from outside of the dream, above the battleground, can we experience this drama as untrue. There is a light in us that resides in our right minds. It holds our radiance, and when we make space for it by releasing our blocks, a whole new world will emerge before us. We will see with Christ's vision. Holding onto our dramas simply keeps us in the story. Nothing can change until we let the story go.
 
We take our Self, God, our light, our joy, and our innocence wherever we go because it goes with us. Let this thought offer you assurance today that you are never alone. Take the longer practice period to go past the heavy dark clouds of your insane thoughts to reach this still, quiet place in you that is always there. This is the first meditation in the Course. Jesus is teaching us a form of Course-based meditation that starts by repeating the thought for the day, quieting the mind, turning deep within our minds, and sinking down and inward away from the thoughts of the world.
 
The Lesson really asks us to "Think about what you are saying; What the words mean," (W.41.9.2) Remember who walks with you. His is the "unfailing companionship that is yours." (W.41.9.3) His total commitment to us and His total protection of us is always there. Be comforted by the thought that you are never alone. We truly can rest today in the knowledge of His presence. Can you just let yourself take that into yourself and know that you don't have to wish for anything to be different? We won't find any answers "out there," no matter how hard we try. To look for them "out there" is to be in a state of continual frustration. There is no perfect job, perfect relationship, or anything that will fix us or fulfill us in a world of impermanence and change. There is no permanence on the level of form, but there is perfect protection for us in our faith in Him.
 
"Be quiet in your faith in Him Who loves you, and would lead you out of insanity. Madness may be your choice, but not your reality. Never forget the Love of God, Who has remembered you. For it is quite impossible that He could ever let His Son drop from the loving Mind wherein he was created, and where his abode was fixed in perfect peace forever." (T.14.III.15.5-8) (ACIM OE T.13.VIII.79)

Love and blessings, Sarah
 
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