Lesson 53: Review of Lessons 11-15

Lucifer by Gustave Doré from Canto XXXIV of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy (1861-68)
  • My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world.
  • I am upset because I see a meaningless world.
  • A meaningless world engenders fear.
  • God did not create a meaningless world.
  • My thoughts are images that I have made.

So… I’m a “yeah, right” reaction to the review today.

For instance…

Lesson 12: I am upset because I see a meaningless world. The review says:

I am grateful that this world is not real, and that I need not see it at all unless I choose to value it. And I do not choose to value what is totally insane and has no meaning.

I get it, but I’m not grateful the world isn’t real. At least not yet. I think all the time how grateful I am for my kids and husband. Lately I’ve even been grateful for my siblings. I’m grateful for the rain and the sound of rain. I’m grateful for the comfort of my home. There is just so much about the world I love, real or not.

And this…

Lesson 15: My thoughts are images that I have made. The review has this to say:

The fact that I see a world in which there is suffering and loss and death shows me that I am seeing only the representation of my insane thoughts, and am not allowing my real thoughts to cast their beneficent light on what I see.

But I also see a world of beauty and amazement. Is it all just special relationships that make me feel so good about the world? I have a cat who won’t be around much longer and I just feel so happy she decided to be a part of our lives for so long. I think of all of the animals I’ve ever had and I feel the same way. It’s just sort of amazing to think about the people and creatures that come into your life for a while. Not everything is suffering. (Of course I am kind of worried my dog ran upstairs just now to pee in the hallway because she doesn’t want to go out in the rain.)

From Wapnick:

The world makes us totally unhappy. [Totally?]

You can see how Jesus returns over and over to the core symphonic themes of these lessons: reality, illusion, and the power of our minds to choose between them. The point here is extremely important, because the problem is that we have forgotten that we have such power to choose.

Choice. Reality of illusion. Power to choose. I get that.

Many of its [ACIM] students tend to deny they see a world of suffering, loss, and death. Instead they proclaim the world is really wonderful – part of God’s or Jesus’ plan; moreover, the new millennium will bring healing everywhere it is needed, bathing us all in light. The problem with looking through such rose colored glasses is that if we do not recognize the insanity, pain, and suffering of the world, we will never recognize their source in our minds. The only way we can return to the insanity in our minds is by recognizing the insanity we perceive. If we stubbornly, arrogantly, and self-righteously insist that everything is wonderful – e.g., this is a wonderful world, replete with wonderful happenings; this is a wonderful course Jesus gave us – we will never realize that what we are seeing outside is a defense. Rather than see the hateful world we made, we cover it over and make it into something pretty. It is not a pretty world because it was made from a most unpretty thought! Once more, the only way we can get to our thoughts and change our minds about them is to see their effects, which, again, is the cruel and vicious world in which we live.

The new millennium. That’s so funny. Look at what joy the new millennium as brought us. So. OK. My animals are wonderful and parts of my life are amazing, but the world is a mess. It is. I perceive insanity. What I see outside is a defense. I get that.

I have the power to choose.

Chapter 2: The Separation and the Atonement

“Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven” by Gustave Doré

These notes are primarily from Wapnick’s take on Chapter 2 in Journey Through the Text. They are really just for my personal understanding so are very sketchy and condensed.

This is the only chapter that contains ACIMs overall thought-system. Wapnick summarizes the thought system as:

  • the state of Heaven
  • the development of the ego system
  • all the mistakes within that system, leading to the mis-creation of the mindless body
  • our mistakes in the magical attempts to heal the body
  • the recognition of our mistake and choosing the miracle
  • our return home.

Wapnick says it is also unique because it is the first, and possibly the most pointed, discussion of the power of the mind and the importance of not depreciating that power.

The extension of love, which is repeated throughout ACIM, is a process beyond our ability to understand. Dualistic terms are used to help us grasp the nature of Heaven, but we will never be able to fully understand Heaven. We cannot understand it because our “understanding” exists in time and space while creation occurs beyond time and space. Creation is, in fact, the only reality.

The chapter begins with “the tiny mad idea”. There is a sense of lack that makes us think that we are not the first cause. We are not the creator. It is therefore up to us to fill the lack because God will not. This is the genesis of the ego thought system. Wapnick says this sets into motion a string of defenses, beginning with the myth that can be summarized in three words: singuilt, and fear. “The separation occurred and was quite serious: sinful, deserving of guilt, and leading to the fear of standing on the brink of annihilation because God angrily seeks to punish us for our sin. We think that if we do not do something very quickly, God/Reality will destroy us. This is the crux of the ego’s myth.” It creates a world where it can hide from the mind.

The ego’s strategy is to exist in a world of mindlessness with no memory of where the body or the world came from. The problem-ridden body requires solutions. ACIM calls these solutions “magic” because they are an attempt to fix the problem where it is not. The solutions/magic don’t work because our anxiety, self-hatred, and guilt never disappear and our special relationships are never satisfying. The real solution rests in the mind, but we exist in a world of mindlessness so are not aware of the mind.The miracle is ACIM’s term for returning to the mind – recognizing that the problem is not in the world of bodies. Eventually, we decide there must be another way and we become open to seeing another way.

Oneness: The sonship includes everything that seems to have a form, not just homo sapiens or living organism, and this includes all the galaxies, too.

“The Tiny Mad Idea”. The arrogant son believes that God did not do a good enough job at creation. Something is missing and only the Son can supply the lack.

  • You believe that what God created can be changed by your own mind.
  • You believe that what is perfect can be rendered imperfect or lacking.
  • You believe that you can distort the creations of God, including yourself.
  • You believe that you can create yourself, and that the direction of your creation is up to you. (Authority problem – who is the author of my reality?)

Wapnick elaborates…

Inherent in the tiny, mad idea of being separate from God is the thought of scarcity: something is amiss in Heaven. The Son’s immediate response is: “I know what it is and what to do about it.” It is not difficult to recognize that same dynamic playing out in everyday life, where we actually believe we know the problems—our own or the world’s. Some are better at identifying them than others, but everyone has some idea of the nature of what is wrong, from heads of state to ordinary citizens. Even more absurd from the point of view of A Course in Miracles is that we think we know the solutions. All this grandiosity simply reflects the perceived authority conflict between God and the ego.

(Despite being an ACIM Teacher, perhaps this applies to Marianne Williamson’s desire to run for President? She has very strong convictions and genuinely believes she knows what the problem is and what to do about it. Her closing argument during the first debate was based on ACIM teachings (love will overcome fear), but her delivery was grandiose – SHE knows what Trump is doing and SHE knows the solution. She will harness love to defeat what it is he has done… An old-fashioned battle cry of good vs. evil which is at the crux of dualism, separation, and the stuff of the ego.)

Fear of the Atonement. Wapnick explains that Freud observed that when we are sound asleep, we do not want to wake up so incorporate all outside stimuli into our dreams: sounds, a full bladder, etc. Freud called it “dream of convenience”. The Fear of the Atonement is similar, except instead of not wanting to wake from physical sleep, we do not want to wake from the dream of separation. We want to bring the light of Atonement into our dream. This is often done by bringing God, the Holy Spirit, or Jesus into the world and asking them to solve our problems here. (Dear God, please ______________.) What we truly want is to awaken from the dream, not to have a happier one.

We value freedom of the body, but the only true freedom is freedom of the mind. Without freedom of the mind, there is only jailer and prisoner. (It is our decision-making minds that imprisoned us and the ego itself is the prison.) True freedom is freedom from this nightmare of guilt, pain, hatred, and death, and the key to choosing such freedom is realizing it is a choice. The function of the miracle is to help us understand our power to make the choice for true freedom.

Defenses. From Freud’s “defense mechanisms”.

The Ego’s Use of Defenses. Everything the ego does to ensure we do not choose the Atonement is a defense. The first line of defense is the unholy trinity of sin, guilt, and fear. The second line of defense is the body, which protects us from the guilt of our minds. (It is Freud who explained the dynamics of the defenses and put the term “projection” on the map.)

The Right Minded Use of Denial. The proper use of denial is to deny the power of the ego to change reality or take away the peace of God. Therefore, the proper use of denial is not to hide anything but to correct error. This brings all error into the light.

The Atonement doesn’t do anything, it undoes.

One of the operational definitions we can give for being in one’s right mind is to look at the wrong mind without judgment. This is how we practice true denial: looking at the ego and denying it’s truth. True denial is based on the power of the mind to choose again.

The World and the Body. Freud’s definition of pleasure was “tension reduction”. This is true of ACIM as well in that the ego’s pleasure comes from minimizing the painful tension born of the mind’s guilt. The focus on the body makes this possible.

Sickness/Not right-mindedness. (Wapnick apologizes on Helen’s behalf for the phrase “not right-mindedness. Her “hearing” wasn’t good in the beginning.) The mind’s guilt is the real sickness. It is the decision to choose guilt that is the problem. The remedy is the decision to be guiltless – to accept the Atonement.

Only the mind is capable of error. Wapnick says to imagine telling a government on the verge of war that there are no errors. The only error is in how minds look upon the world. “The cause of all symptoms—physical, psychological, or in the world at large—rests in the mind that believes it can separate from God, has separated from God, and is overwhelmed with guilt at the thought it has attacked Him by doing this.

Magic. Magic is the attempt to solve a problem where it does not exist. The body is neutral. It serves either the purposes of the Holy Spirit or the ego. It simply does what the mind tells it to do. Our upsets have nothing to do with the external, but only with the mind’s decision to choose the ego.

It is not necessary to protect the mind by denying the unmindful (the body). Practicing discipline in the face of an addiction can be a right-minded expression of shifting the problem from the addicted body to the mind addicted to guilt. Behavioral restraint alone, however, will not solve the problem of the mind’s faulty decision making. Solving the problem on the physical level can be a step toward allowing us to return to the real problem, but it cannot undo the decision to be guilty.

Denying our physical existence is an unworthy form of denial because it is not going to help us, either. Anything we do to keep ourselves alive is magic. Sitting down to eat, drink, sleep is a restatement of our belief in magic. ACIM does not want us to stop doing these things. If we need to take a pill for a headache or get surgery for an illness, that is magic (solving the problem where it does not exist). But we aren’t being asked to stop doing these things. Denying that the body is sick and needs help simply condemns us to further guilt. We need to be gentle and kind with ourselves and others and take care of our bodies.

The thing is, magic works. If we are lonely and call a friend, we feel connected. If we lack energy and go have lunch, we feel more energetic. But magic only offers temporary solutions. We inevitably get hungry and feel the pangs of loneliness again. But as long as we can acknowledge that we are in pain, we will eventually want to seek out a “better way”. A Course in Miracles is for those who have exhausted their search for relief in magic and are looking for that “better way”. The only way to choose the Holy Spirit, instead of the ego, is to recognize that the ego’s methods do not work.

The Power of the Mind. Cause and Effect. It is the cause we need to undo, not the effect. Do not seek to control the outcome of mis-thought (behavior), but our wrong choice (in the mind). This is a matter of our desire to correct our wrong decision and with this we need help. This is repeated in different ways throughout the text and workbook… You must change your mind, not your behavior …You do not need guidance except at the mind level… Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world.

The correction of fear is our responsibility. It does us no good to ask for things or relief from pain or fear because those are effects. We put our pain and fear there, so it is ours to correct. What Jesus and the Holy Spirit can do for us (remember – Jesus and the Holy Spirit are metaphors) is remind us to choose again.

Peace is an attribute in you. You cannot find it outside. Illness is some form of external searching. Health is inner peace. (I love that!)

Only our minds can produce fear. It produces fear whenever it is in conflict with what it wants – when wanting and doing are discordant. This can be correct only by accepting a unified goal. Our problems are never external, but the projection of an inner conflict. The conflict is an expression of fear.

Know first that this is fear.
Fear arises from lack of love.
The only remedy for lack of love is perfect love.
Perfect love is the Atonement.

Wapnick says this explanation is primitive compared to later explanations, but outlines the basics of forgiveness…

Recognize that the problem is internal rather than external. (The experience of conflict in the body is the result of a projection of the mind’s fear.) We then recognize that the fear comes from a decision to reject love, and its undoing comes from correcting our mistake by choosing love instead of fear. Once the right choice is made, the fear and conflict disappear, and all that remains is the love we both have and are. Thus the Atonement, or process of undoing, is made complete.

It is important to respect the power of the mind. If we are taking a pill every day for headaches, we can at least be honest with ourselves and acknowledge “I realize this problem is coming from my mind, but I am still too frightened. My mind is so powerful it can even deny its own power.” 

God is the cause and the Son is the effect. So, we need to undo God, not the Son???!! That’s confusing!! It’s only confusing because it is a cause and effect relationship that is completely different from what we introduce through mis-creation. The fundamental conflict in the world is between creation and mis-creation. Love is implicit in creation and fear in mis-creation. (Later in the text, mis-creation becomes “making”.)

Trying to master fear is useless. The only solution is to choose love. But as ACIM students, there is a very fine line we have to walk. Wapnick calls it the “Scylla and Charybdis” of the spiritual path. (Scylla and Charybdis were two sea monsters encountered by Odysseus. They were located close to one another and created an impassable situation for sailors. Odysseus had to choose which one he had to confront. They represent choosing between two evils.)

Wapnick elaborates…

On the one hand, it is important to be true to our experience and not deny our separated existence—“In this sense the separation has occurred”—for this is “a particularly unworthy form of denial.” Therapists, and Jesus is the foremost, would never encourage patients to deny their experiences, however unreal they might be. This is a certain way to keep them and ensure they can never be corrected and undone. On the other hand, there is a danger of indulging the ego and reveling in the experiences of separation and specialness. This, too, is a certain way to keep them and ensure they can never be corrected and undone.

Forgiveness. We don’t need to save the world or teach the Course, our only responsibility is to change our minds and accept the Atonement. Forgiveness is the recognition that what others did to us has not hurt us. Forgiveness is a return to the right-minded perception that the body (ours or another’s) does not need correction. It is the decision maker that needs correction.

The Atonement has a special relationship with time because it collapses time. It stands at time’s end but it does not abolish time. As long as there is a need for Atonement, there is a need for time. The Atonement is how we free ourselves from the past. When forgiveness is complete and Atonement is accepted by all the sonship, we enter into the last stage – the last judgment.

The Last Judgment. The End of the Process. This is the son’s final judgment of the ego, not God’s final judgment of human beings. Everyone will finally come to understand what is worthy and what is not. Our sole responsibility in the Atonement is to recognize that the separation never happened.

Readiness is the only prerequisite for the process. We do not have to be perfect to be helpful to others.

The following passages caught my attention while reading the Text:

  • Yet the Bible says that a deep sleep fell upon Adam, and nowhere is there reference to his waking up. The world has not yet experienced any comprehensive reawakening or rebirth. Such a rebirth is impossible as long as you continue to project or miscreate. It still remains within you, however, to extend as God extended His Spirit to you. In reality this is your only choice, because your free will was given you for your joy in creating the perfect.
  • Only after the deep sleep fell upon Adam could he experience nightmares. If a light is suddenly turned on while someone is dreaming a fearful dream, he may initially interpret the light itself as part of his dream and be afraid of it. However, when he awakens, the light is correctly perceived as the release from the dream, which is then no longer accorded reality. 
  • The body is merely part of your experience in the physical world. Its abilities can be and frequently are overevaluated. However, it is almost impossible to deny its existence in this world. Those who do so are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial. The term “unworthy” here implies only that it is not necessary to protect the mind by denying the unmindful. If one denies this unfortunate aspect of the mind’s power, one is also denying the power itself.
  • All forms of not-right-mindedness are the result of refusal to accept the Atonement for yourself. If you do accept it, you are in a position to recognize that those who need healing are simply those who have not realized that right-mindedness is healing.
  • It is pointless to believe that controlling the outcome of misthought can result in healing. When you are fearful, you have chosen wrongly. That is why you feel responsible for it. You must change your mind, not your behavior, and this is a matter of willingness. You do not need guidance except at the mind level. Correction belongs only at the level where change is possible. Change does not mean anything at the symptom level, where it cannot work.