"Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.
Herein Lies the peace of God."
Course in Miracles
The Root of All Evil
PAUSED FOR WEEKEND
III. The Ego and False Autonomy
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.
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
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.
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.
Your own present state is a good example of how the mind made the ego. You
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
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
work, provided you fully recognize that it
not work that way. Why are you surprised that something happened in the dim past when it is so clearly happening right now?
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
creations, which are as timeless as he is. The question is not
man responds to his ego, but what he believes he
Belief is an ego function, and as long as your origin is open to belief at all, you
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
God. Belief that there
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
the self. Undermining the ego's thought system
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.
prepared, and in this sense you
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
willed to cooperate in a concerted and very commendable effort to become both harm
two attributes which
go together. Your attitudes, even toward this, are necessarily conflicted because
attitudes are ego-based. This will not last. Be patient awhile and remember that the outcome is as certain as God.
Only those who have a real and lasting sense of abundance
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
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
as a thing in need.
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
. In fact, its whole perception of other egos
real is only an attempt to convince itself that
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
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.
The ego literally lives by comparisons. This means that equality is beyond its grasp and charity becomes impossible. The ego
gives out of abundance because it was made as a
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
physical in origin. The ego regards the body as its home and
try to satisfy itself through the body, but the
that this is possible is a decision of the ego, which is completely confused about what is
possible. This accounts for its erratic nature.
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
free, however, to consider the validity of the premise itself because this premise is its
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.
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
perceive itself as rejected by "something" which is greater than itself. This is why self-esteem in ego terms
be a delusion. The creations of God do not create myths, although the creative efforts of man
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.
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.
The term "salvation" does
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
direction in which it can move. The direction which the mind will take is always automatic because it cannot
be dictated by the thought system to which the mind adheres.
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
and behavior is a
. These cannot be combined logically because when an end has been attained the means for its attainment are no longer meaningful.
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
fact is questioned.
idea to which the ego has accorded the status of fact is questionable because facts are in the realm of knowledge.
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
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
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
. 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
God is my strength.
Vision is His gift.
The idea for today combines two very powerful thoughts, both of major importance. It also sets forth a cause and effect relationship which explains why you cannot fail in your efforts to achieve the goal of the course. You will see because it is the Will of God. It is His strength, not your own, that gives you power. And it is His gift to you, rather than your own, which offers vision to you.
God is indeed your strength. And what He gives is truly given. This means that you can receive it any time and anywhere, wherever you are and in whatever circumstances you find yourself. Your passage through time and space is not random. You cannot but be in the right place at the right time. Such is the strength of God. Such are His gifts.
We will have two three- to five-minute longer exercise periods today, one as soon as possible after you wake and another as close as possible to the time you go to sleep. It is better, however, to wait until you can sit quietly by yourself at a time when you feel ready than it is to be concerned with the time as such.
Begin the practice period by repeating the idea for today slowly with eyes open, looking about you. Then close your eyes and repeat the idea again, quite slowly. After this, try to think of nothing except thoughts which occur to you in relation to today's idea. You might think, for example:
Vision must be possible. God gives truly; or,
God's gifts to me must be mine because He gave them to me.
Whatever thought that is clearly related to the idea itself is suitable. You may, in fact, be astonished at the amount of course-related understanding some of your own thoughts contain. Let them come without censoring unless you realize your mind is merely wandering and you have let obviously irrelevant thoughts intrude. You may also reach a point where no thoughts at all seem to come to mind. If such interferences occur, open your eyes and repeat the thought once more while looking slowly about; close your eyes, repeat the idea once more, and then continue to look for related thoughts in your mind.
Remember, though, that active searching is not appropriate for today's exercises. Try merely to step back and let the thoughts come. If you find this difficult, it is better to spend the practice period alternating between slow repetitions of the idea with eyes open, then closed, then open, and so on, than it is to strain in order to find suitable thoughts.
There is no limit on the number of short practice periods which would be most beneficial. The idea for the day is a beginning step in bringing thoughts together and teaching you that what you are studying is a unified thought system in which nothing is lacking that is needed, and nothing is included that is contradictory or irrelevant.
The more often you repeat the idea during the day, the more often you will be reminding yourself that the goal of the course is important to you, and that you have not forgotten it.
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God is my strength. Vision is His gift.
As we do these Lessons, we are now using our time for its intended purpose, which is to wake up from this dream. Jesus tells us that nothing is random in our journey in the world. Our passage through time and space is not chaotic nor accidental. We have chosen this life, and whatever happens is in our script by our own choosing. It has been chosen with the ego to support our individuality, our specialness, and uniqueness. We have established, through this choice for the ego thought system, that we are victims of a world that seems to cause us pain, suffering, challenges, and difficulties of all sorts. When we make the decision to wake up from this dream of pain and suffering, all aspects of our lives can become a classroom for awakening to our true Identity.
We are not at the mercy of outside forces that cause us difficulties. We are only at the mercy of our own mistaken perceptions, based on our interpretations. Someone says or does something we think is directed at us and we get upset.
"This is shown by the fact that you react to your interpretations as if they were correct."
(T.12.I.2.3) (ACIM OE T.11.I.2) Yet we are given an opportunity to learn that none of it is personal.
"It is always an interpretation that gives rise to negative emotions, regardless of their seeming justification by what
(M.17.4.2) When our interpretations are turned over to the Holy Spirit, He will reinterpret everything for us as love, or a call for love, because that is all there is.
"For truth is true, and nothing else is true. "
(W.138.4.6) He reminds us that the only truth is who we are as the One Son. Everything in our lives is just a means to learn to forgive everything that is not true.
"You cannot but be in the right place at the right time. Such is the strength of God. Such are His gifts."
(W.42.2.4-6) Everything can be used for our awakening when we are willing to use every situation as a classroom for learning to undo what we are not. Everything can be used as a lesson in forgiveness. Yesterday, I experienced a seemingly minor event where Don accused me of something I had not done. It was a minor accusation and "no big deal" from an outsider's perspective, but I turned it into a "big deal" as it elicited in me all kinds of other grievances. This seemingly "minor" irritation showed me the extent of the rage in me. Looking from above the battleground helped me to see the drama and to watch the character of Sarah in the dream, believing she was being unfairly treated. The ego calls for retaliation, but I am not the ego. It constantly beckons us to justify anger and punishment. Now we have a decision to make---Heaven or hell? Which will it be? We are always given an opportunity to be at these choice points. When the decision is made for forgiveness, it is a choice for Heaven, and when the decision is made for retaliation, it is a choice for hell and to identify with the false self. The power of choice is always available to us. When we choose with the strength of God in us, vision is ours.
Jesus tells us we will not refuse His gift of vision forever.
"God is indeed your strength, and what He gives is truly given. This means that you can receive it any time and anywhere, wherever you are, and in whatever circumstance you find yourself."
(W.42.2.1-2) At some point, we will agree to cooperate with Him, but when we are ready to make this choose is up to us. This is where our will comes into play. The circumstances we find ourselves in don't matter. What has been given is already there. There is nothing to seek. It is only a journey of undoing our wrong-minded interpretations. That is why Jesus says we need do nothing. There is nothing we can do but accept what we already are. It is to accept the Atonement.
"Release is given you the instant you desire it. "
(T.18.VII.4.3) (ACIM OE T.18.VIII.66) We have not changed ourselves. We are simply unaware of the reality of our Being, which is complete, perfect, and holy. We can't go against His Will because there is nothing we have done to change ourselves. Our power comes from His strength, not our own. Our vision comes from His gift, and His gift has no conditions. It can be received by us wherever we are, in whatever place, and whatever time. The gift is freely given by God. The goal of the Course is for us to accept His vision. It is His gift to us and comes from His strength. Vision allows us to see past the illusion to the truth.
It seems that striving and worrying are thus totally needless. We simply can't mess up! Even our mistakes can be used for our benefit. When we bring our issues to the Holy Spirit for healing, He responds with His gifts, which extend to all. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we willingly release ourselves from any hell we have made for ourselves.
"You are prepared. Now you need but to remember you need do nothing. It would be far more profitable now merely to concentrate on this than to consider what you should do."
(T.18.VII.5.4-6) (ACIM OE T.18.VIII.67) Through demonstration, we communicate that this release from the ego’s dominance in our lives is available to others as well. We become an example of the choice available to everyone. This is what true leadership is about.
Yes, we can delay, yet
"Nothing is ever lost but time, which in the end is meaningless."
(T.26.V.2) (ACIM OE T.26.VI.31) It is a matter of readiness and is up to each of us when we will say "yes" to God. It is when we recognize on our own that we can't resolve anything. It is to recognize that we have been wrong about everything
. "What happiness have you sought here that did not bring you pain?"
(T.30.V.9.7) (ACIM OE T.30.VI.65) Until the pain becomes unbearable, we will still keep trying to do life our way. Yet whatever we try to do, we simply can't change the truth about ourselves. That is what the Atonement principle is all about. While we can refuse the truth for a while, we can't change the very fact we did not separate from God and are still His holy Son.
Why the resistance? We continue to want to do it our way. We still fear the power of our minds to choose love. We have run away from who we are in truth, and have chosen our separate, individual selves. We continue to rely on our little efforts when we can be carried by His strength. Yet the outcome of this struggle is inevitable. Jesus tells us our tolerance for pain has a limit.
"Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit. Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there
be a better way. As this recognition becomes more firmly established, it becomes a turning point. This ultimately reawakens spiritual vision."
(T.2.III.3.5-8) (ACIM OE T.2.II.48) All of us are at this turning point. We are undertaking to do this Course because we have made the decision to use time to awaken from this dream. Now we have come to a branch in the road, and we can go forward or nowhere at all.
We can't give ourselves vision. Our job is to clear away the dense clouds and reach the quiet place within. Vision is a gift. It is a gift available to us anytime we choose.
"Those who are certain of the outcome can afford to wait, and wait without anxiety."
(M.4.VIII.1) We are called to be gentle but firm with ourselves in doing the Lessons. If we truly want vision, we have to do the work in mind training. An undisciplined mind cannot accomplish anything. As we undertake this practice, we open up to who we really are as we were created. No matter how much we think we have changed ourselves, it is an impossible feat. We can't be something we are not. We truly are holy because that is how we were created. We hide from that reality by judging how things should be, finding fault, wishing things were different, trying to find happiness in the world, and pretending we know what is good for us. When that does not work, we play the victim. "How could this happen to me?" We hold God responsible for our condition, asking why He has abandoned us. In truth, we have abandoned Him, but we don't want to take responsibility for this, so we deny our power.
"There are two teachers only, who point in different ways. And you will go along the way your chosen teacher leads. There are but two directions you can take, while time remains and choice is meaningful. For never will another road be made except the way to Heaven. You but choose whether to go toward Heaven, or away to nowhere. There is nothing else to choose."
(T.26.V.1.7-12) (ACIM OE T.26.VI.30) This makes our choice really simple. Every time we choose the ego, we are wasting time. When we choose God's strength in us, we choose His vision, and thus we gladden ourselves. The power to choose is in our decision-making mind.
This Course can take us all the way home. There is nothing we need for our awakening. These Lessons, together with our understanding of the text, provide a complete thought system. Jesus says the idea today is
". . . teaching you that you are studying a unified thought system in which nothing is lacking that is needed, and nothing is included that is contradictory or irrelevant."
(W.42.7.2) This is an important point. Once you have decided on the Course as your path, mixing it up with other paths will only confuse you. Recognize it is a unified thought system with nothing lacking. The Course offers us everything we need to go home. One way we resist waking up from this dream is to distract ourselves with all kinds of spiritual pursuits. It can become just another ego distraction.
Our motivation to achieve vision is determined by how much investment we give to each Lesson.
"The more often you repeat the idea during the day, the more often you will be reminding yourself that the goal of the course is important to you, and that you have not forgotten it."
(W.42.8.1) This can be said about most, if not all, of the Lessons. We need to remind ourselves of the truth, so the Voice of truth becomes the Voice we listen to more and more consistently. The chatter of the ego is what we have come to identify with in this world, and it does not have our best interests in mind. The ego is not who we are. It does not define us.
We do not fight it because to fight it is like fighting darkness. It is to fight a puff of nothingness that we have given power to. With God as your strength,
". . . you cannot fail in your efforts to achieve the goal of the course. You will see because it is the Will of God."
(W.42.1.2-3) If it were by our will, or by our strength or determination, that we had to overcome the ego and achieve vision, we would certainly not have the power to do so. The ego would never undo itself. We need to rely on the Holy Spirit within. He is the light that shines away the darkness. Our part is simply to look at the darkness without judgment. It sounds simple, but it requires great vigilance. It requires that we take responsibility for our projections and get honest with ourselves and courageous in looking at the ego.
Today in our morning and evening practice, repeat the idea slowly with your eyes open, looking about you, then close your eyes and repeat the idea again even slower than before. Allow related thoughts to come to mind. Do not strain or actively try to think them up
. "Try merely to step back and let the thoughts come."
(W.42.6.2) Also, remind yourself to do this frequently throughout the day, the more the better.
Love and blessings, Sarah
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