The meaning of Lesson 8 is very literally that no one really sees anything. According to Wapnick, all we “see” is a projection of what we have been thinking. The point of these lessons is to help us realize that we are not really thinking at all because our thoughts are rooted in the past, or the fear of the future. (Remember the unholy trinity: sin (past); guilt (present); fear (future)? I’m still struggling with this concept.) As long as thoughtless ideas preoccupy our mind, the truth is blocked. Recognizing our minds have been blank is the first step to opening the way to vision.
The purpose of today’s exercise is to train the mind to recognize when it is not thinking at all.
The mind cannot grasp the present, which is the only time there is. It is preoccupied with the past and, in fact, does not understand time. The only wholly true fact about the past is that it is not here.
I seem to be thinking about my brother, my scared dog, my son’s cat, my daughter, rain, colds, crazy hair, having to clean the house, my husband, plants that need watering, big bellies, and dust. But my mind is preoccupied with past thoughts.
ACIM says the only wholly true thought one can hold about the past is that it isn’t here. The mind is blank when it pictures the past or anticipates the future. Therefore, the purpose of this exercise is to begin to train our minds to recognize when they are not really thinking at all. Thoughtless ideas preoccupy the mind which blocks the truth. Recognizing it isn’t filled with real ideas is the first step to opening the way to vision.
Wapnick says that it is not simply that we see only the past (Lesson 7), but we see only the past because we think only according to the past. What we see outside comes from what we think inside, a major theme of the text: “projection makes perception”.
Wapnick says the statement, “the wholly true fact about the past is that it is not here” means that our existence is literally made up. This should terrify us. If it doesn’t, it is because we aren’t paying close attention to what it says. We literally do not exist. And not only is our existence an illusion, all existence is an illusion.
A little further explanation from Wapnick:
The ego’s present is not this “present,” what A Course in Miracles refers to as the “holy instant”. As this experience is not rooted in time, it is also not rooted in sin, guilt, and fear. It is rooted in the right-minded presence of the Holy Spirit, in which vision – not based on the past, and certainly not on specialness – becomes the means for love to guide us from within.
He goes on to say, “If you are a creature of the past and there is no past, then it must mean there is no you.” He says this should horrify us. Maybe I’ve intellectualized it too much over the years, but it seems reasonable that there is no me. At least in a sense. Of course, I’m understanding it from my own definition of “you” and I’m not exactly sure what Wapnick is referring to by “you”. It reminds me of Emerson’s Transparent Eyeball – I am nothing, I see all. We’ve all had glimpses of that experience, right? We don’t necessarily have the language to express it and so we are left speechless.
Wapnick keeps going: “Not only is our existence an illusion; indeed, all existence is an illusion, for it contrasts with the reality of being.” That doesn’t make much sense to me. How do you define being and how do you define existence? This gets tricky. Heidegger worked out very intricate differentiations of types of being (Dasein and Sein) and these don’t necessarily contradict existence. For Heidegger, the primal nature of being is Sein, while Dasein is revealed by projection into, and engagement with, a personal world. It is a never-ending process of involvement (kind of like Nietzsche’s never-ending process of becoming), as mediated through the projections of the self. It makes sense to claim that there is a difference between entities and the being of entities, but does it make sense to contrast existence and being? I don’t know. I don’t have a good grasp on any of this, yet, but I’m sensing Original Sin is sliding into Wapnick’s definitions here, too. (Or maybe he is very intentionally including it?)
To conclude, Wapnick says that by ending our practice with: “But my mind is preoccupied with past thoughts”, we are asked to practice in the central aspect of the process of forgiveness: bringing the specifics of our illusions to the non-specific truth of the Holy Spirit.