This section contains a very clear outline of what the origins of our guilt and fear. The ego believes that you ripped yourself away from God – effectively taking part of God away from God and setting up shop on your own. We feel guilt for having done this and – because it is a hallmark of the guilty – we expect and fear retribution. We screwed God and God is pissed. What kind of life is possible after that? No wonder we are not happy. No wonder our moments of peace are too little, too late and too transitory.
The egoic self is the product of the separation. It is the part of the mind that believes in the separation. Its existence is dependent on that belief and so it maintains it at all costs. It is deeply logical but totally insane. We cannot really be separated from God. Yet we can believe it is possible, and thus all sorts of problems seem to arise, each worse than the last, and none capable of resolving the fundamental conflict.
In my early years with the Course, this was a confusing notion to me. I believed that I was the way I was because of – take your pick – the church in which I was raised, the family culture in which I was raised, what my parents did and did not do, being raised in the country and not a city, because I went to this college instead of that one, and followed this guru instead of that one, and did this kind of therapy instead of that kind, and employed this kind of self-abuse and then this kind of recovery and then followed this new age trend and then that meditation practice . . . on and on and on.
Yet at some point, none of these “reasons” for my guilt and fear – the existence of which I could no longer deny – made much sense. They were symptoms of the problem, not the cause. A Course in Miracles was really the first thought system that laid out, in terms that were logical and coherent, how my guilt and fear came to be and why they persisted. Remember that the separation is a thought, not an action, and that the world is one of ideas only.
I resisted this for a long time – or insisted that it was merely a metaphor. There wasn’t really a time long ago when I indulged in the crazy notion that I could break away from God. And yet as I have continued to study the text and apply the lessons, this idea has become increasingly palatable. In part, I no longer try to get a fix on it in egoic terms. Sean Reagan didn’t break with God. I did. And when I did, you did. That’s why you are so important to me. That’s why the Course places so much emphasis on our brothers and sisters. We aren’t separate beings finding our home individually, even though it certainly seems that way. We are one. We contain each other’s wholeness.
In early versions of the text this chapter was called “The Two Decisions.” I try to be agnostic on the subject of the editing of A Course in Miracles – it is not as important an issue as it seems and investing in it is mostly a delay tactic – but I do appreciate that earlier title. It neatly encapsulates what is going on here. We decide to believe in the ego but we can as easily decide to believe in the Holy Spirit. Those are the two choices that are available to us – whether we call them that, or call them Heaven and Earth, or Jesus and Lucifer (that angel with whom we ought to have some empathy, projecting himself from Heaven, and then frantically maintaining the divide).
I sometimes think that all the Course really wants to do is clear the emotional and spiritual detritus so that we can see clearly the choice before us: salvation or separation. Both are in our mind. Both can be chosen. One brings us all the peace and love and harmony we desire and then some and the other keeps us fragmented and unhappy. It shouldn’t be hard! And yet it is. So the Course gently and patiently – but insistently, if we are being attentive – undoes the blocks. One day follows another and we find ourselves choosing love with more ease and regularity. We recognize the ego for the sly destructive power that it is. We listen harder for the voice of the Holy Spirit. We turn to Jesus for help. And we perceive God more and more clearly as what we are right now, in this moment.
Our lives are predicated on these two decisions. We are making one or the other all the time. The sooner we see this – and exercise our power of choice – the better.