I don’t think it can be said enough that our thoughts are cause and the world we see and perceive is their effect. Repetition can breed acceptance – or at least the willingness to accept. Even after we have intellectually grasped that A Course in Miracles is reversing the traditional notion of cause and effect – external influences cause internal affects – we are still likely to struggle to bring it into application. This is the real goal of the Course – a radical transformation of how our minds work. For most of us, it doesn’t happen because we want it to. It happens with practice. That’s what it means to bring an idea into application – to hold it in mind and work it in the world.
In yesterday’s lesson we explored the vengeance inherent in what we see and we concluded that this is not the world that we want to see. Thus, the stage is set for Lesson 23 which is a deeply practical – if radical to the point of appearing impossible – way of changing the world that we see. Our default state obligates us to try and change the world. We are actors and the world is the stage. We hack out the terms and conditions of our existence, desperately trying to strike some balance between the world’s cruelty and our desire for comfort and peace. It won’t work, of course, but most of us never stop trying. That’s the whole point. As long we believe there is something that we can do, then why turn to God? Why reach out to Jesus except as a ritualistic formality?
But the secret is that the world – as vengeance, as cruelty, as injustice, as scarcity – is undone by our thinking. Change the thought and you’ve change the world. Literally. Our thoughts, says Jesus, are “attack thoughts” – that is, they are composed of the very stuff that we fear and hate in the world. That’s why the world is the way it is. But if we can let these thoughts go, then the world will be naturally transformed.
Our focus belongs on our thinking, not on what we are perceiving. This rule never changes. It is the only way to peace.
Thus, I think one of the most important pieces of this lesson is the obligation to dismiss a given thought. We are pulling up attack thoughts one at a time.
As each one crosses your mind say: I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts about _____. Hold each attack thought in mind as you say this, and then dismiss that thought and go on to the next (W-pI.23.6:3-5).
The hinge on which the lessons turns is in this phrase: “then dismiss the thought and go on. . . ”
We are not just watching a parade of nasty thoughts and ideas. We are not indulging the ego its grim slideshow. Rather, we are very specifically looking at a thought and letting it go. Be clear about this: we are not asking Jesus to dismiss it, we are not asking God to do it. We are doing it. We are saying “no more.”
We are in charge of our thoughts.
That’s the essence of this lesson – and very much at the heart of what makes A Course in Miracles tick. It is our job to think differently – to make a conscious choice to use our creative minds differently. We can do this best by actively dismissing those thoughts that fuel a world of vengeance. This lesson will eventually become a necessary habit, a way of refusing to allow the ego any inroads into our being.
We are not victims of the world. We are creative agents of a wholly loving God who have chosen passivity, who have deceived ourselves about our true power and strength. This lesson provides a handy way of undoing that deception and taking up again our loving and creative potential.