Category Archives: Out of the Maze

Self Unharmed

Why does karma exist? It is the old law of cause and effect, an immutable law of the universe from which a loving God does not exclude us. This law is largely the reason that God is seen as cruel. We make mistakes, and suffer the (bad) consequences, and then we blame God for not saving us from ourselves! Yet how else could the universe operate? If we are ever to lift ourselves out of madness, we must learn what works and what doesn’t. Only by learning this well can we ever hope to be co-creators with God. If He were to alter magically the illusions in which we have encased ourselves, we would never find our way out of the mists.

It is true, according to the Course, that what we do is illusion. It is a game a child might play, a playing of pretend that will one day, when we have left our madness far behind, be the instigator of real effects. At this point we will have learned fully the “causes” that bring destruction upon us.

We must be firmly convinced that it is ourselves who are living in madness, not God. And even in this world God’s higher laws prevail. The principal higher law is activated by forgiveness, a forgiveness in which we acknowledge that our illusions of whatever nature, of whatever violence, have harmed no one. What has caused nothing can hardly need forgiveness, but as long as we think it does, we need the exercise of forgiveness. Attack is not a real cause, and therefore only illusory effects can result. One is always either expressing love, or calling for love, for Love is our identity, an identity in which we forgive our brother for what he has not done to us. As long as he thinks he has harmed us, though, we must show him that the perceived attack is of no consequence. The blood is but bottled catsup on a stage in which pain only seems real. Our Real Self has continued unabated and unharmed throughout the whole tumult.

Love or a Call for Love

What a depressing idea is the ego! This false idea believes that guilt can never be escaped, that sin will forever hold us bound. We find misery on the one side, misery of the ego; we join, on the other side, the Holy Spirit. Which will we choose? The Course’s particular understanding of the world must be addressed in this context.

Traditional Christian belief holds that sin is real, but that through the grace of God we can be led to forgive any evil, however black. But this part of belief has always been a particular stumbling block, because the effects of sin (pain, suffering) are first made real (by belief) and then a superhuman effort must be made to forgive.
The Course’s cosmology is different. Believing that this world is an illusory one based on madness, it does not make something real before one is asked to forgive. One forgives because everything that happens is either an expression of love or a call for love. One does not dwell on the mistake (“sin”), but quickly overlooks it, thereby not making it “real” in one’s consciousness.

A call for love begs answering, and if one in madness has done wrong, both the realization that one actually needs love, and the realization that one is mad, inspire the other to rush to her side with help and love.

Illusions

The Course says that we (not God) made the world that we see. It is an illusory world, but it does not appear illusory to us. We have “micreated,” but still what we have made cannot have power over us. It is as if to say that a god (Baal), fashioned of gold by the Israelites, has more power over their minds than does the Holy One at that very moment of fashioning tablets on the mountaintop with Moses. It simply isn’t so. We are one with God, and we never leave Him.

This understanding requires the knowledge that All is One. The Thought that is God extends Himself to create all living things. Only if God is mad could a part turn on the whole to destroy it. We have many times tried to turn on the whole and destroy, but to no effect. But God allowed this to happen only in illusion, assuring us that we have not in truth hurt either anybody–ourselves or others. Thus Return becomes possible at any time, although, practically, it may take millions of years for all of us to return.

A million years sounds daunting, but when we realize that we can have the “happy dreams that the Holy Spirit brings,” we know that we are not bereft in a hostile world. God needs many hands and feet to do His bidding in His world; he needs us to spread salvation upon the earth.

Let us do our part today, not by proselytizing, but by example.

Choose Heaven

We can choose Heaven at any time, but we must choose it with our brother. This idea is central to the Course: this particular pathway requires that we not walk alone. Moreover, the Course clearly says that we are not victims of the world, nor are we strangers within it. All of our fellow travelers are brothers on a common pathway. And we will choose together or not at all. If we choose not at all, we can never “make” Heaven in illusions; we can only stay in the hell and misery of this world.

The Course asserts that the time of our choosing of Heaven is in our hands. Until we use our power of choice to choose otherwise, we are left in this world, seemingly (to us) as victims, but, thankfully, this state of affairs need not remain with us.

Live Moment by Moment

We ought to resist the temptation to make grandiose resolutions of how we will act in the future. This is the ego trying to get in the act. The walk with the Holy Spirit is a moment-by-moment experience, even though we usually perceive those moments as blocks of time rather than discrete moments. As we open our hearts and minds once more to the Holy Spirit, we will observe our power flowing back in. But now is the time for us to tread softly, because we are still in a weakened state because of our attention to the ego.

Let the past go. Do not dwell on the words or actions that were a part of any attack. And do not wallow in guilt brought on by self-pity. All such actions are insanity that we would leave behind.

Walk forth in the sunlight, and know that Jesus is ready to take our hand at the very moment that we reach out.

Forgiveness

One always attacks one’s self first. And when we add to this truth the fact that our brother and ourselves are really one, we are doubly attacked. As we progress on the way of A Course in Miracles, attacks of whatever nature will become increasingly untenable to us. What might earlier have merited only a passing tinge of guilt will now cause emotional turmoil that may seem all out of proportion to the error. This is because we have become increasingly dependent upon the Holy Spirit for our direction, and he withdraws from us in attack and its ensuing aftermath of guilt. And never forget that the blame, once withdrawn from our brother, is harbored within. What is our way out of the maze?

We must remember that real power cannot oppose. In our opposition to our brother, we have weakened ourselves, and we feel rudderless as a result. The only way that we can become strong again is to ask forgiveness of self and of our brother. Once this action has been taken, let the past go. The Holy Spirit always grants forgiveness, and we should not masochistically hold the misdeed to our breasts.

Call for Love

We do not have to “decide” whether or not this or that “sin” is “worthy” of forgiveness; we know all reprehensible deeds are done from a mind slant of insanity, and done as well in a world of illusions, so our forgiveness rests on solid foundation. Not only has our brother acted out of insanity, but he has also done nothing real, nothing that will have any effect except in the world of illusions, and, without effects, it is easily forgotten even as it is forgiven. He has called for love, in whatever misguided way he might do so. Because we are One, and his need is our own, we rush to his side with that love. And so we are both saved from the illusions of our presence in a mad world made by us to keep God out. We open our consciousness to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and we are on the pathway Home.

Dream Better Dreams

The Course states, “The state of sinlessness is merely this: The whole desire to attack is gone, and so there is no reason to perceive the Son of God as other than He is. The need for guilt is gone because it has no purpose, and is meaningless without the goal of sin.” (T-25.V.1:1-2)

What does this mean? When we perceive another as deserving attack, we are making real his errors. We believe that he does not “deserve” forgiveness because of the reprehensible nature of his crimes (against us). But the truth is that we are One with him, and if he does not deserve forgiveness, neither do we. Also: We feel guilty for retaliating, because our real Self knows that we have attacked one who, in reality, is the Son (or Daughter) of God. We therefore feel that we have done him an injustice, and we feel guilty about it. The truth is that we have done our brother an injustice, because in his depths he is pure; it is only in his illusions that he makes mad actions that hurt others, including ourselves. If we can see the truth of our brother’s real Self, we will not attack because we will perceive that he is lost in insanity.

We may feel threatened by the recognized mental illnesses in our midst, and we may get angry at the illness, but we normally do not blame the individual to any great extent, because we recognize that he is not in his real mind. The Course says that we are living a dream—and that the world we see because of our perceived dream is not real. Many of us are living a dream of attack that we do not recognize as unreal because we do not realize how much happier, under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, we could really be.

Trials Are Lessons Presented Once Again

But what if we have expressed the small willingness (T-11.II.4:3) required to go God’s way, and still bad things happen? The Course asserts that trials are lessons presented once again, that where we made a faulty choice before, now we can now make a better one. (T-31.VIII.3:1) In this world, we are retracing our faulty steps one by one, choosing this time the Holy Spirit as our Guide. We know that we have chosen wrongly in the past, and much of this faulty thinking has brought pain to us and others. Rarely (if ever) do people experience a radical about-face that rights all wrongs, allowing us to live wholly in the “real world,” where the dreams we experience are always happy. Until we retrace our steps, bits and pieces of our insanity will still seem to make sense to us, and to the extent that we buy into these old ego patterns, to that extent will we know pain.

So let us abandon an old dream of attack as often and as frequently as our strength will allow. We do not have to do so alone; the Holy Spirit will prompt the right action, if we but remain calm enough to listen to the inner Voice. In times of heated words, we are never listening to the Holy Spirit, and that is why the guilt comes about later on. Then we are bade to try again, and again, and again, and, indeed, in my experience as one forgives not only the other but also one’s self, the pathways gets lighter and happier as one walks along.

I Am Responsible for What I See

Some of the most beautiful as well as insightful words of A Course in Miracles are the following affirmation of personal power:

“I am responsible for what I see.
I choose the feeling I experience, and I decide
upon the goal I would achieve.
And everything that seems to happen to me
I ask for, and receive as I have asked.” (T-21.II.2:3-5)

Surely, on the surface of it, we would not choose the many bad things that do happen. So, if these words are true, there must be another something going on.

I believe that there is. Until we join our will to God’s, we are destined to miscreate. Until we heed the Holy Spirit, we can only miscreate. The Course asserts that always we get advice on how to live, and that there are only two choices from which this advice comes: the insane ego or the blessing that is the Holy Spirit. Listening to insanity can only bring miscreation.

Awaken the Christ in Each Other

We must always try to remember that we awaken the Christ in each other. Just so long as we persist in holding grievances against our brother, that is how long our deliverance will be delayed. These grievances are a “shadow” that obscures the face of Christ and the memory of God. (T-26.IX.2:2) Remember that the passage of time is not a problem, for whether we have the shadow removed now, or a hundred or a thousand years from now, for Heaven itself there is no time. It is only our own suffering that we collapse into nothingness when time is foreshortened.

Love one’s brother, however deep may be the rancor. He is our way back. Jesus says, “The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love” (T-26.IX.6:1)

Forgiveness

There is another reason to forgive quickly and to forgive for all time. It is the experience of suffering (frequently mental suffering) that comes from inner turmoil when relationships are going poorly. Why does suffering sometimes come in the immediate future, following a distasteful altercation, even suffering that later may lead to God? This is one of those thorny issues, but Jesus has an answer for us. He sees time and space as a continuum of illusion, all of one piece.

So the delay in time for the good is caused by the separation that we would yet see between our brother and ourselves. Jesus sees this separation as “little space that lies between you, unforgiven still.” (T-26.VIII.8:3) And he concludes, “Be not content with future happiness.” (T-26.VIII.9:1) In a word, if our forgiveness of our brother is complete now, our rewards of happiness now will be met. The Holy Spirit, being outside time and space, gives consequence and cause as one. But, we are told, “The working out of all correction takes no time at all. Yet the acceptance of the working out can seem to take forever.” (T-26.VIII.6:1-2)

We are pulled back to realize that it is the little “space” between ourselves and our brother, disguised as time, that is the culprit here. And that little space has been primed by attack.

Reassurances of God’s Love

There is a reassurance in the Course that saves us from the impasse of failing to forgive others and thus not meriting forgiveness one’s self: “. . .if you choose to see a world without an enemy, in which you are not helpless, the means to see it will be given you.” (T-21.VII.9:4) This new insight requires a reevaluation of all the negativity coming from others. We must instead recognize that our brothers and sisters are really calling for love. Our power (i.e., being “not helpless”) comes in large measure from this realization. Refuse to accept the dagger in the words of others. Know that, unless we help them, it is as though they held the dagger against their very throats. And for us, in initiating attack, Jesus make the analogy that a sword is being held over our own heads. (W-p1.192.9:4)

When we are still mired in attack vs. innocence, not sure of where we stand, we often look ahead to an uncertain future, and try to make plans that we think will protect us from the uncertainties to come. We are trying to avoid confronting the pitfalls of our habitual reactions to the world: attack when we are attacked. Jesus says that not often do we recognize that planning is a defense; we believe, instead, that “sin” causes effects from which we must save ourselves. And this “sin” is often seen as the negative behavior that others take out on us.

The Course has an answer; it teaches us to look to the “now” for release. Miracles work only in the “now.” The Course further teaches us that all such maneuvering is meaningless once we have made a “change of purpose for the good.” (T-26.VIII.7:9) This change can be that we refuse to return attack for attack, and instead see it as the “plaintive cry for help” that it really is. (T-27.VI.6:6) In another passage, the Course calls this almost universal reaction, “distress that rests on error.” (T-30.VI.2:7) If we can just recognize the truth of these words, many an interpersonal problem will evaporate in the light of the real truth.

Attack, Continued

Not until I started writing about the Course did I realize how significant attack has been in my life. I was writing over time, and it was only in retrospect, once I had written a good bit and was reading back over it, that I realized that I commented often on “attack” passages in the Course. I am one of those, prior to the Course, who would feel justified in lashing back if I had been first attacked. Jesus characterized this attitude as a “face of innocence” of the self. (T-31.V.2:6) I had difficulty forgiving because I thought that my attacker didn’t “deserve” it. After all, she had attacked me, and I wasn’t guilty! I didn’t deserve this! The Course says, “. . .every day a hundred little things make small assaults upon its [the concept of the self’s] innocence, provoking it to irritation, and at last to open insult and abuse.” (T-31.V.3:4) The latter was when I lost my temper! Yes, these were words with which I could identify as being part of my past, a big part.

But what an egocentric mess! Highly neurotic, my words (“I didn’t deserve this!) actually said little or nothing about true reality. None of us deserve this! And yet we hear the attacks because we need to hear them in order to progress. What this dynamic was saying was that as surely as I did not forgive another for his attack, just that often was I saying that I too did not deserve forgiveness.

Giving Up Attack Thoughts

For many years, the most important passages for me to read in all of A Course in Miracles have been the ones that discuss attack and the reasons why this choice is never justified. It is a hard lesson for me to learn, as I have been mired deep into egotistical thinking and also have made simultaneously an attempt to be “good.” Ultimately, though, the lessons that Jesus teaches in the Course prick the conscience and allow all of us to realize when we are being too egotistical and perhaps not as spiritual as we might want to consider ourselves. Only within the last half dozen years of my almost 20 years of studying the Course [Note: This reflection was written in 2002] have I found the truth of the words of Jesus self-evident. My perceptions have changed, and my world as I have perceived it has altered to a happier place. How did this miracle happen? Let’s follow the development of the passages that decry attack and false innocence to see what I have been led to find out.

One of the most obvious statements about the dynamic of attack vs. innocence in all of the Course is the reassurance, “Being wholly without attack, it [love] could not be afraid.” (T-19.IV.A.10:7; the antecedent, “love,” is added) I started using this sentence as a refrain when I realized that my anxiety was not necessary and could be erased with the right frame of mind. Indeed, eventually, many of my anxieties smoothed out as increasingly I attempted to put the words of the Course into practice; I stopped attacking in my mind and in my actions. The results have been, to me, is the clearest possible personal evidence that attacking others (or the wish to do so) is the real cause of fear in any form. The Course also states this idea specifically, “When I let all my grievances go I will know I am perfectly safe.” (W-p1.68.6:9)

“Safe” suggests a peaceful sense of well-being, and what are grievances but attack?

Death of the Ego

We have said that this world is one of illusion. God had to offer a correction to our madness that would protect the whole from self-destruction. So we can play our war games in illusion, and they do not affect the Spirit at all. The idea of a great fight between good and evil is a product of an ego-oriented mind that merely wants to see light. That mind is still far from Home.

In the Course, Jesus presents a worldview that bypasses all the complicated theories about ultimate Reality that we have made up and have yet ultimately found to be unsatisfactory. The Course presents a unified worldview, to be believed in its entirety or not at all. Still it is a happy fiction, which Jesus identifies salvation to be. (C-3.2:1) We have come so far into madness that we have very nearly lost our way. The Course highlights the death of our ego as the way to get us out. That is all. But that is enough.

Get the Madness Out

How do we let illusions recede? The world that the ego shows us is illusion indeed. The Course counsels that one need not even oppose the ego (which is to oppose illusions), suggesting that the illusions will go of their own accord when nothing opposes them. We welcome reality because it is true, because it opposes nothing and simply is. Would not we feel glad tidings if such could be our state of mind always?

We do get into trouble by fighting against reality and against God. It is He that we would fortify ourselves against. Doesn’t reason tell us that this looks like a losing battle? God is real, and He created our real selves, and would not have us hide forever in meaningless insanity.

This blessing—that God will find us—is the blessing hidden in the “unreality” we have made for ourselves. Ultimately, we cannot stay in a fog of uncertainty. Eventually we seek better answers, and God has “hidden” Reality in the depths of our hearts and minds, where we will surely find it if we but look. Eventually the sights and sounds of a chaotic world become too much for us, and we are thrown back to our inner depths, where God is. He waits only for this, and this alone is what he needs to turn us from madness. Yet we may look outward at a projected dream for many years. It is frequently only in turmoil that we are led to turn inward to our best resources, those resources found only in God.

Do not fight against the world, when events turn against us, and all seems lost. This is the turning point! This is what God has waited in great patience for us to find. He waits with great patience because He loves deeply, and He knows His creatures. Cause and effect will ultimately make untenable the world of madness. And He waits for that realization of another way, a better way, to dawn upon us. We do not have to seek blindly. Madness cannot keep this better way out of our saner mind. And we can “get the madness out” by simply choosing to look on our chaos and recognize, quietly, “This is not truth.” Sanity thus comes to the quiet mind. We need actively oppose nothing chaotic, for it will disappear when we withdraw our belief from it.

Resolving Conflict

Are we ever really in conflict? The Course would say not. The true Self is above such pettiness. When conflict rules, we have let our egoistic images of ourselves collide with simply a different egoistic image, also of ourselves.

This conflict happens all the time to those of us still on this side of the bridge, and this includes most of us—we who are still not consistently living in the “real world.” We do not, however, have to continue in conflict. We can refer all questions to our Counselor, the Holy Spirit.

I have found that the gesture of turning the conflict over to the Holy Spirit may be answered immediately, or we may be so involved with turmoil that a quieter mind, one that could hear guidance, has not yet come to us. If the latter is our situation, we need to suspend our thoughts, refusing to mull over the unresolved issue, and quiet our minds.

Whatever method one uses can be right—meditation (the Course makes use of some of this quietness, though the word “meditation” is never used in the FIP edition); prayer; or simple distraction from the conflict to thoughts of something else. One must be aware, however, that distraction can allow the conflict to light upon something else later on. Whatever method one uses, we must trust not in one’s self, but in the Holy Spirit, the Bearer of better thought, to give a way out of the impasse. One helpful thought when battling conflict is to remember that one always battles illusions, for Reality does not battle at all. This recognition may in itself may be enough to calm the heat of passion.

In my own case, I used to have a neurotic tendency to find something, anything, about which to worry. It is as if the “worry” part of me were comfortable only if I had something to fret over. So it is that the ego thrives on conflict, justifying its continuance by conflict. There is a well-worn groove that most of us reserve for worry. When all is said and done, we may find that we were simply in the grip of a bad habit. But by so retaining this bad habit, the Course would say that we make the conditions that we dread, because we choose our own reality. There is a solemn warning in realizing our power to choose our futures that should not be minimized.

Picture instead a resolution, as yet unknown, to be worked out by the Holy Spirit. Abide with this thought awhile, and see if a calmer mind will not welcome, in a moment of revelry perhaps, the answer previously sought so frantically. Once we set aside the conflict-ridden emotional state, the Holy Spirit is free to act.

Forgiveness

We may reasonably substitute the word “pardon” for “forgiveness,” if the word “forgiveness” seems difficult to wrap one’s mind around. The Course uses both terms. In a similar fashion, Jesus asks that we substitute “mistake” or “error” for “sin,” thereby removing sin’s mad attraction for us. The word “forgiveness” may raise similar problems within our minds, conflict that the word “pardon” does not raise.

It is possible that the same sort of dynamic as is played out with the word “sin” is also present with “forgiveness.” We may scream, “He does not deserve forgiveness!” and in so believing, we deny it for ourselves. But we may feel more kindly toward “pardon,” which acknowledges that a wrong, however illusory, has happened. But we choose to wipe the slate clean, to allow our brother to start anew. St. Francis of Assisi said, “It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.” St. Francis’ words present the same relationship between forgiving others and forgiving ourselves.

Remember that the wrongs we perceive, whatever we call the process of overlooking them, are always illusory. As we always fight illusions, so do we pardon (or forgive) illusions as well. God’s Reality is very different from the chaotic world that we behold when we are filled with fear.

Finding Heaven

We know that we have chosen Heaven when we feel peace. And we can make this choice at any instant. When we invite the Holy Spirit to join us, we are once again attuned with God.

A Course in Miracles says that we are all One. Indeed, this is the definition of Heaven: “. . .not a place nor a condition. It is merely an awareness of perfect oneness, and the knowledge that there is nothing else; nothing outside this oneness, and nothing else within.” (T-18.VI.1:5-6) If this be true, we are all part of each other and of God. We cannot attack a separate being, because no separate being exists. The most that we, or an illusion of Self, can attack is an illusion of another. And then conflict ensues, creating fear for ourselves. This is one of the dynamics of the ego, and sometimes it seems that the more we study such meaninglessness, the more powerful it becomes. That is because the very process of studying the ego affirms its importance and makes it real to ourselves.

We can make much, but what results is still only illusion, and can never be truly experienced as real, though we can imagine it to be real.

To live an illusion is madness, a madness that the remembrance of God can shine away. In quiet and in peace can we be led to accept God instead, and we thereby leave conflict, and the fear that it brings, far behind. In forgiveness of ourselves and others do we find that quiet and peace.

There is no other way.

God Offers Comfort

The third law of chaos affirms that God must accept His Son’s belief about what he has become, and hate him for it. This illusion seems to be humility, saying, in effect, that we are miserable sinners in need of grace. But this is actually arrogance that would seek to circumvent the Creator. Now do we dare not turn to God for comfort, because He has become our enemy. Salvation, under this law, seems actually impossible. The ego cannot help in escape from this interpretation, but the Course was made that we might choose another way.

The fourth law of chaos is that you have what you have taken from another. By his loss, we win. This illusion says that there is a finite amount of treasure in the world, and if we gain treasure, we have it because we have taken it from our brother. In its most extreme form, this law says that we must destroy our brother to save ourselves. But Jesus affirms that we can only take away from ourselves. Instead of an “enemy” having our treasure, from whom we must wrest it, we are in firm control, and it is we who would deny ourselves. The enemy does not hold our inheritance away from us—it is we who have rejected it for the dubious “values” of the ego. There is a portion of this law that believes that we act unkindly because our brother has been unkind to us—forcing us into justified attack. But all of this illusion!

Finally, the last law of chaos is that there is a substitute for genuine love. This substitute is given us by the ego when we take back from our brother what we feel is rightfully ours. This is the ego’s secret gift. This secret gift has apparently been torn from us by our brother, and must be reclaimed if we are to have the ego’s notion of salvation. Our brother, by tearing this gift from us, has kept salvation from us. This is why enmity, one to another, can be seen as salvation.

When studied carefully and dispassionately, we can see clearly that these laws of chaos do not make sense. The illusions upon which they are based can be seen as illusions, and thus identifying the “laws” that illusions have, we are in a better position to seek further for the true laws—God’s laws—creating reality. Because these laws do not make sense, we are free to discard them for something better. Therein lies our true salvation. We have used our intellect to help us out, and while intellect is never enough (love and forgiveness, emotions of the heart, are required fundamentally), it is a start. And the lack of a satisfying worldview has kept many a skeptic in his darkness. I can imagine nagging Jesus for just such an elucidation of ultimate Truth that Course provides for us. “. . .seek, and ye shall find,” ((Luke 11:9 – KJV)and the world was finally ready in 1975 (the year A Course in Miracles was published) for this new way.

The Course declares that we think we do not believe in these laws. When articulated bluntly, their insanity becomes evident. But do we believe in these laws on an unconscious level? It is only their plain statement that allows us to reject them. Normally the actual intent is well-hidden. If, when raised to the light of day, we do reject the laws of chaos, then Jesus has done us a great service. It becomes clear that these laws govern chaos (illusion), never reality. A crucial three sentences explain: “There is no life outside of Heaven. Where God created life, there life must be. In any state apart from Heaven life is illusion.” (T-23.II.19:1-3)

Find God in Quietness

There is a stark contrast between fear and love that we need to understand. Seen in its simplicity, the dynamic between fear and love encourages us to find God in quietness when turmoil threatens to overcome us. The most likely reason for the turmoil is something held against our brother, some patch of unforgiveness that would threaten our equanimity and then, because we fear retribution, causes us to feel fear. All this need not be. That is the joyous answer that Jesus gives us in the Course. To lead us gently down the intellectual way that tells us “why” all this senselessness need not be, Jesus bids us look at the “laws of chaos.” When we look at these five “laws” dispassionately, we see that they cannot make sense. Let us turn now to these laws of chaos and see if we can recognize ourselves and our world in their tenets. (T-23.II)

Is the truth different for everyone? The first law of chaos would say that it is. Our illusory values are then always seen in contrast to the values of others, which are deemed inferior. This attitude is, at base, a separating tactic. One ought never to find “good” reasons to separate one’s self from another. Yet in this law, what one values is seen as superior to what another values, and this illusion is “proved” by attacking the values of another. We believe under this law that there is a hierarchy of illusions, making some easier to forgive than others; but this is not so. Jesus points out that a hierarchy of illusions is similar to believing that some miracles are easier to perform than others—and the principles of miracles affirms that this is not so. This idea may yet be a sticking point as we walk on the road to salvation; as before, let us go as far along this road that we can, knowing that farther down the road, we will know and understand more than we do now.

Jesus’ second law of chaos is that each one must sin, and therefore deserves attack and death. This illusion overlooks the possibility of correction, seeing only punishment at the hands of an angry God. It pits God and His creatures at war, and this war includes not only self and God, but also self and everyone else. This law would affirm that there are some errors that are beyond simple correction without punishment, and the Course affirms that all errors (or “sin”) are correctable without any punishment at all. We are always free to choose punishment, but this is not God’s will for us.

Chaos is the opposite the quietness in which we find God. Turn aside from chaos in whatever form it appears, and all will appear miraculously changed.

Returning to God

When this pathway back to God is begun, the way at first seems hard, because the ego is still strong within us, and it sniffs defeat in the air and would be violent to retain control of one’s mind and heart. Consistently listening to the Holy Spirit, prayerfully considering the promptings of intuition, will quickly smooth the way so that one knows, deep in the heart, that a withered ego is one’s only salvation. Then is one’s real Self actually strong, no longer a will ‘o wisp in the breeze, batted about by every foreign opinion thrust upon it. And we see that it was always the ego that suffered defeat at the hands of its “enemies.” Always being undone, for that is God’s way, the ego is abandoned by our real Self as well. And then the way is paved for great and faster growth as the creatures of God we truly are. A Course in Miracles tells us that the mind is very powerful. It also says that the reason that we don’t believe this is because we are afraid of its power: “You prefer to believe that your thoughts cannot exert real influence because you are actually afraid of them.” (T-2.VI.9:10)

Surely we are afraid when we look around and see a ravaged world. Did we do this? Yes, the Course counsels, but only in illusion and only in madness.

The Course says that faith, belief, and vision, shared with us by the Holy Spirit, are our way out. As the goal of salvation replaces the goal of sin, our steps in the mist become clearer. Faith inevitably gives us the power of persistence, but we don’t recognize the tremendous power that is unleashed until we place our faith not in sin, but in love. It is then that the power becomes the reliable lifesaver that it is meant to be.

I was once described in a letter of recommendation as having an “indomitable will to succeed.” I took this as a compliment in the almost 20 years ago in which it was written. In this, I see a glimpse of the personal power that I (and everyone else) have. I now know that this “indomitable will” of that era was far too informed by the ego. It was a competitive bent that later would alienate some of my co-workers. What had worked well in our educational system worked less well in a work environment where cooperation was necessary to accomplish shared goals.

Now I know that this drive to succeed is laudatory only when it is not threatening to others.

When we turn to God, we know that our own will is weak without Him. Let His will inform our own, and we will soon be on the pathway back to God. We need to bend our “indomitable wills” to God’s way.

Want He, and we, want us to do.

Specialness Is of the Ego

It is quite likely that the basis for neurosis is specialness. Many of us see in others, perhaps more than ourselves, oscillations of personality that appear to twist and turn in the wind. Alternating between sweetness and hostility, these others can make our lives miserable if they have any power over us. If manifesting in a friend, these conflicting behaviors are puzzling in the least, personally damaging, even though illusory, in the most. Yet is the specialness, the neurosis of these others, all “out there”? The truth is that we all think we are special to one degree or another.

It is just to the degree that we ascribe to specialness that we are vulnerable to the ego’s assaults, whether as assaults emanating from another or from our own inner demons. It is then that we appear vulnerable to the world’s onslaughts. We are engaged in a dance, one to another, interlocking our complexes to fit, however unpleasant the dance may become. Sometimes we see our pride pricked at the point of greatest vulnerability; this is the ego’s greatest trial, a time of great opportunity if we can only see it thus. We are being shown what needs to be remedied in ourselves, how the ego needs to be undone. If we listen, we will find a great gift in the ashes of our former “triumphs.” We will let the ego wither away at this point of neurosis.

And so it goes with all points of neurosis. As they are shown to us, we must let them slip away. Jesus is able to heal a neurotic if she is cooperating with him. One way to cooperate is to take the intellectual framework of the Course and marry that to our relationship to our brother, our love, if you will. Then the mental and emotional meld as one, and we are on our way to full recovery as Sons and Daughters of God.

We Do Not Have to Learn through Pain

What has the ego-tainted world really exemplified? Only one truth: that the Son (and Daughter) of God is at war with God. If we understood God more, we would know that this is a condition too ridiculous to be believed. The Course says, “The Son of God at war with his Creator is a condition as ridiculous as nature roaring at the wind in anger, proclaiming it is part of itself no more.” (T-23.I.4:7) In our creation, God shared His Mind with us. That is why there can never be a conflict between His Will and our real will. It is only in an illusory world that we believe that to follow God’s will is to lose our freedom. Actually the reverse is the truth: to follow the ego’s madness is to head into chaos that always, in the end, leads to pain. A harmonious universe is impossible under these conditions. Pain begets more pain, assuring that at some point we will turn and say, “Enough!”

The awful pathway is, of course, so unnecessary. Jesus says that we do not have to learn through pain. We can recognize a better way, and in our moments of greater sanity, walk that pathway a few steps closer to Awakening.

Madness

As we have seen, the Course presents this world as a place of madness, full of violence and cruelty, projected from our own deluded minds. This world is therefore illusion, but we do not need to blame God for what we see, for this world is Heaven’s opposite (T-16.V.3:6) Even the food chain is based on a raw violence, and Jesus would say that we do God a disservice when we blindly dismiss the cruelty as “Nature’s ways.” The Course presents the world as an attack on God, meant to keep Him out and to keep the separation going. By projecting blame onto God, the ego does a good job at ensuring that we will continue to turn to it as our savior rather than to God. That this is patent magic, madness in the extreme, may not dawn on us until the pain of what we project becomes overwhelming. And even then we may blame God for our predicament.

The ego’s thought system is perfectly logical from within the thought system, as are most delusions. It is only the premises that are wrong, sending its world crashing down like a house of cards. From within our mind, it makes perfect sense. Madness is not illogical, though those in psychosis appear to the rational mind to be out of touch with reality. An all-embracing madness is just what has happened on a grand scale in our world, ruled by everyone’s ego. I once had a professor remark that everyone in mental hospitals thought that it was “we”—the ones outside of the hospital—who are “crazy.” He said, “What if they are right?”

Unknowingly, my professor presaged the Course a number of years before it was written. The Course does not say that our diagnosed mentally ill are actually sane, and we usually recognize that they are not. What may be happening, though, is that they are imperfectly seeing reality from another lens. This “other lens” may allow them to be particularly open to revelation. Certainly writers have drawn parallels between the schizophrenic mind and the mystic one. Both are swimming in the waters of their depths, the subconscious mind, but the schizophrenic may be drowning in it. The mystic, on the other hand, swims easily. This analogy is drawn from the writings of Joseph Campbell, an individual who has brought the myths of the ages home to all of us through writings that speak to our time. The Course would extend the definition of insanity to most of us in the world, most who are only partially, most who have only glimpses of true reality.

May we walk into the sunshine with Jesus, listening as we read the Course to what we need to do to emerge from the insanity of an illusory world.

We can do this.

Letting Go of the Ego

The Course says at one pivotal point, “This is a crucial period in this course, for here the separation of you and the ego must be made complete.” (T-22.II.6:1)

It is easier to let conflict die if one realizes that it is an emotion always of the ego. At base, the ego is fighting against God, flailing about in desperation because the world it has created in illusion is not good enough for it. And never could it be. Built on chaos, only chaos can ensue. But the ego cannot find its way out, because the only way for us to make our way to peace is to disown this hated part of ourselves, this insatiable ego–never satisfied, never content.

This is when the real “I” must come into play. We cannot fight the ego and win, because it grows stronger in strife. But we can quietly withdraw strength from the ego by failing to reinforce it in every situation that cries out “me first.” We can, over time, with care, see the ego just wither away. Jesus promises that though this feels like a death (because we are so closely identified with the goals of success, wealth, and materialism), we will actually find peace for the first time. We will know calm in the midst of any earthly storm in which we find ourselves.

The ego is not ourselves–that is the simple truth that in our ignorance we find so hard to accept. The quiet Self at the center of our being waits patiently for us to tire of our childish games, and tire we will once we see that never do they bring us what in our deepest heart of hearts we really want. In that deep place God dwells, and He would not be overthrown by a will ‘o wisp of insanity. The ego is pitted in a struggle that it can never win. The Course says, “Do you not realize a war against yourself would be a war on God? Is victory conceivable? And if it were, is this a victory that you would want?” (T-23.I.2:1-3)

If you have read this far, you are not so hostile to God that you blame Him for all the evil and suffering in your world and on the earth in general. We have only ourselves to blame for creating a drama that doesn’t work because the mind that created it is in a merciless war against itself. We must lay down our arms, and realize in the depths of our Being that there must be another way to look at our world, another way to live.

Projection Makes Perception

Never tell someone who has lived through a full-blown psychosis that projection does not make perception. He knows it does. The whispered voices (so real at the time), the images “out there” that appear but are not really there–all these become his own, and more.

I once had a friend who saw his mother enter a room wearing a black dress. My friend knew at the time that his mother was not “really” wearing a black dress, but the day was filled with the surprises of psychosis, and he went with the flow. Much later, with perceptions part of the mass hallucination once again, my friend confirmed with his mother that the image had been false.

Because my friend dislodged himself from the mass hallucination, he is better prepared to see that he is, normally, hallucinating on a grand scale, along with everyone else currently in his “sane” mind. Of course, students of A Course in Miracles know it is not really sanity that we all experience, but madness, in seeing a chaotic world. (T-25.VII.3:2) The Course says, “If you behold disaster and catastrophe, you tried to crucify him [the Son of God, your real Self]. If you see holiness and hope, you joined the Will of God to set him free.” (T-21.in.2:3-4)

Think about this a moment. When you are at peace with the world, experiencing a “holy instant” of love and hope, is there really anything that can upset you? However fierce the perception appears, you know that the world and all beings in it are in God’s hands. How wonderful it would be to extend this thought to all our waking moments!

God’s in His Heaven

There is an old saying that when one points a finger at another, there are three fingers pointing back at us. Make a fist, point the index finger, and immediately this saying can be seen as obviously true. The Course’s version of this old ego dynamic is “It is as certain you will fear what you attack as it is sure that you will love what you perceive as sinless.” (T-23.intro.2:4) Somehow we believe the old karmic truth, that if we attack, we will be attacked in return. But the glorious opposite is also true: See innocence and sinlessness, and these too will become our own.

Because all seeing is projection, in the view of the Course, we can understand that all projection makes perception. What we are seeing is a dream projected outward, and the world becomes cruel or kind based on our inner life. Even the worst of “sin” can be seen as unreal (being a dream), and as the Course counsels, we can say, “My brother, choose again.” (T-31.VIII.3:2)

All of us have had moments, perhaps fleeting, when God seemed in His Heaven, and all was right with our little world. These moments of peace can be expanded more and more to all our hours, waking and sleeping. All of our dreams can become benign. This happens when the truth that we are dreaming our world sinks in, helping us to see that what we wish is based either on turmoil or calm, the peace of God within. There is, therefore, really nothing to “forgive,” but we do need the exercise of forgiveness for ourselves (not God).

It is only as we forgive that we come to see that there is nothing to forgive. No one blames a loved one who acts in psychosis to perpetuate harm; we know that he is sick. Likewise are we insane, all together, even when not diagnosed as mentally ill. We all are trying to bring greater and greater areas of sanity to our deluded minds.

Golden Rule

A principal tenet in the Course is the assertion that what we would give to others is actually also given to ourselves. This dynamic can be understood on more than one level.

In the most all-encompassing way, we are the other, because we are one in God. We are all brothers and sisters under the skin. So when we feel this kinship in our especially loving moments, we are seeing the truth. In a second way of viewing, we see the playing out of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We see why this rule is important, the underlying truth that supports it. Because of projection, we will believe that what we think of others or do to others is being done to ourselves. Jesus sees this whole world as illusory and in the great projection that made it, we see our real desires played out in our everyday dramas. Thus, what we do unto others we do unto ourselves. There is no greater truth, no more persuasive argument to treat our fellow human beings with kindness and love. What we sow, we reap. As Jesus says (in the negative), “Seek to deny and you will feel denied. Seek to deprive, and you have been deprived.” (T-25.IX.8:2-3)

If we do not believe another worthy of forgiveness, we will not believe ourselves worthy either. Having refused forgiveness for ourselves, we will never offer it freely. So we have set up a vicious circle for ourselves. The only way out of this vicious circle is reject conflict and ask for help and guidance from a Power greater than ourselves. This Power—the Holy Spirit—will make it easy on ourselves. We can effortlessly to forgive when we come to believe that the deed that we feel unworthy of forgiveness, has been illusory. Our real Selves have not been touched nor harmed in any way. Out real life has continued unabated.

Only a loving God could come up with such a solution. We would have already destroyed ourselves if our deeds had real consequences. We live in an illusion that allows all choice, but at the same time that saves us from ourselves. And through these means we learn, finally, what is truly real and of value, worthy of further extension in Reality.

Save a Thousand Years

A difficult concept in the Course is the idea that we made the world; God created us, but we made (not “created”) the world. The metaphysical explanation is that we are projecting an illusion, and no one doubts very strongly that she “projects” nocturnal dreams. Seen in this light, it is a small step forward to consider that we do the same in our waking hours. Only the form of the dream changes. Even granted that we accept this, though, most of us, on some level, still think that we can derive knowledge of how to act in life from this projected dream. If it is the ego’s projected dream, such a conclusion is patently false. If it is the Holy Spirit’s dream, then we have a better basis on which to learn. The Course says that following the Holy Spirit is the “way out of hell” (M-29.3:11) for us.

Most of us, however, still do spend much time under the influence of our egos. This attitude, though, ensures that we are looking at projections from within. To take the projections of the ego as truth is to make an idol, to make a god, of something we made. Is this really very different from melting down our gold and fashioning a sculpture of Baal, while our better way is being written for us on the mountaintop? If we look to our idol–this world– to tell us how to act and what to do next, we are looking to a man-made god to save us. Most of us would admit that nothing in this world has ever “saved” us for long.

When we are under the influence of the ego, we are under the influence of an insane idea. It may coalesce our personalities, but we have given away all our real power. We should not give away our power under any circumstances. It is only the power of our real minds, informed by the Holy Spirit, which can offer us any hope. This is the promise held out by A Course in Miracles. It is only one pathway, but its pathway has the power to get us out of all bad dreams. It is one way, among thousands in this world, by which we can awaken. And Jesus promises that this way will save time for us. (T-2.II.3:8) We are promised, each of us, to save a thousand years (as the world calculates time). (W-pI.97.3:2) And that represents many years for the millions of people still trapped by ego-tainted nightmares of pain.

–from Out of the Maze, by Celia.

The Power of Belief, Part 2

If the world still seems just too awful, there is a solution, though it may sound a bit theoretical. The Course recommends that we not deny our sight, but affirm the truth: that what we are seeing is unreal. As others have said, it is all maya (illusion, though the Course does not use the term maya) and therefore can have no real effects, however painful the effects might seem to be. This means that our “real” Self has not been harmed in any way. In the awful circumstances that we view, there is a spiritual lesson that we are meant to learn. As we contemplate the meaning underlying the events, and forgive the events, we will be freed to see the blessing in our circumstances. And there is always a blessing, however deplorable the situation may be.

We need to take heed that we do not believe that the evil we see deserves retribution, for retaliation will bring the “evil” to us. Retaliation proves that the circumstance, in our opinion, is real and merits a “just” response to even the score. Actually by concentrating on the presumed evil, we are giving it more force, more power to hurt us. Basically, the force field itself will be stronger because we are fighting it. What ought we to do? Go within and gently release the sense of frustration and anger. We need to trust the Holy Spirit to open our hearts to forgive any and all deeds, however reprehensible they might be. Since these deeds are illusion, they are in reality nothing at all; they are a mirage that en masse we have created to speed our way Home.

We may have chosen unwisely, though, when we concentrate on the suffering and therefore make it more real to ourselves. If so, it behooves the wiser part of ourselves to choose again. Lessons from pain and suffering are, at best, temporary and meant to be a catalyst for change to a better way. It is the drawing of Love, felt through the Holy Spirit, that will finally take us Home. With projections made of this Love, our perceptions will be cleansed, and a new world of light and life will meet us where we finally come to live. This “new world” is the “real world,” (T-11.VII.2:6) and it will yet be ours as a world formed by the happy dreams the Holy Spirit gives.

–from Out of the Maze, by Celia.

The Power of Belief, Part 1

Note: For a while, I will post excerpts from my online book, Out of the Maze, the first section that describes Jesus’ attempts in A Course in Miracles to dislodge our ego.

These postings are based on A Course in Miracles, and the references are from the edition of ACIM published by the Foundation for Inner Peace.

The Power of Belief, Part 1

It is clear to me that the very belief itself creates the perceived conditions that would sustain the belief. A Course in Miracles says, “What you desire, you will see. And if its reality is false, you will uphold it by not realizing all the adjustments you have introduced to make it so.” (T-21.II.9:5-6)

The Course repeats frequently that projection makes perception. (T-13.V.3:5; T-21.in..1:1) Jesus assures that we see what we believe will bring us joy and happiness. The fact that we often do not find joy and happiness, and instead find pain and suffering, should lead us to question our premises. What are we doing wrong? Or what have we done wrong in the past? I don’t mean a strict interpretation of karma, but the Course makes clear that cause and effect are real. As Jesus says in the Course, the law of cause and effect is at work in our world as well as in Heaven. (T-2.VII.h) If we do not like what we see, it is up to us to change it by changing our thoughts and actions, those things that “cause” the “result” of unhappiness.

When we do make changes, even though in this world chaos rules, we learn that there must be a better way. How to find it? The Course counsels turning to our communication link with the Father, which is the Holy Spirit. (T-1.II.5:3) Under His tutelage, we will stop looking for attack, giving evil when we perceive that we have received it. We will learn to forgive, because even though we learn that this world is illusory, we realize that forgiveness works—it brings the happiness we seek! Slowly (perhaps) but surely we will cleanse our minds and hearts, and with this cleansing will come new vision to see a new, sparkling, real world. We will project from a heart that wishes to see good in all things, and wishing will make it so in our new perception.