The ego can be considered as a sort of defensive idea, a belief that wants to be the only belief – knows it is not – and so if frantically engaged in trying to stop us from using our right minds to ask reasonable questions and receive answers. As we will learn in lessons 79 and 80, once we know what the problem is – once we can figure out what we are trying to accomplish – then the answer, and the means to implement it, will be obvious. The ego cannot allow this because it will die.
We should not fear the ego’s death, even though we do. It’s ferocity and tenacity and all-around ingenuity make it seem bigger than it is. Our identification with it is nearly total. But it’s just an idea. It can be discarded. It will die surely, but what we are cannot be killed off. We are simply cleansing our mind of a particularly nagging thought. No more, no less.
It is important to understand that the ego is always confused. It may not feel that way yet, but it’s true. The ego knows nothing but that it is engaged in a knife fight for its life. Its main ally in this “battle” is confusion. It struggles mightily with what else is happening in our mind – thoughts of God, of Love, of kindness. It tries to reinterpret these as bodily impulses. What it can’t reassign to the body it projects, represses, denies. It is always on its heels, always playing defense.
Yet a time comes in the Course when the ego simply ceases to matter as much. That’s all. It’s not an intellectual moment. It’s not like getting a diploma from Jesus. You wake up one day and the ego’s chatter simply doesn’t carry the weight it once did. You know there’s more to the mind than what you’re experiencing. You know the world is not what you’re perceiving. You know that you’re a perfect Creation of God. Maybe you don’t know these things perfectly. Maybe you don’t know them all the time. But you are no longer hostage to the ego. The light is shining through.
I am reading this section the same day I am practicing Lesson 30 – God is in everything I see because God is in my mind. It’s a trippy lesson, as I’ve written elsewhere. There is, for me, a sense in practicing it that I am merely a vessel – that this body, with its eyes, its aches, its hungers, its stories – is merely another part of the grand illusion that sprang from the seeming separation from God. Things are lighter, somehow. The books on my shelf, the fish in my fish tank, the kids reading at the dining room table . . . it’s all passing somehow, or gone even. It is as if I am perceiving a shadow of something that came and went a long time ago. It’s hard to put into words.
The ego raises its voice from time to time – will the dog come back when I call? What if she doesn’t? What’s the medical news going to be later this week? Am I ready for class tomorrow? And I don’t answer. It’s not a big deal. The complaints rise and burn off, like mist on a pond as the sun rises. It is not like death to the ego – it is more like a falling back, a merging or a blending. What ego? How can a mind be parsed into sections, one against another? It’s just not a problem. There is not conflict once you are okay with allowing there to be no conflict.
I write often about not underestimating the ego. The Course frequently uses vivid language to emphasize this very point (T-19.IV.A.i.12:3-7). The stakes are high and the enemy is strong! And yet . . .
There are days – perhaps the result of practice or perhaps we are simply ready now to recall the gift that was given to us before time began – when the enemy fades. When you realize there is nothing to fight, no battle to win, no self to protect. Those days are nice days, buttressing us against the challenges to come and reminding us of the permanent joy that is ours for the asking.
As the ego loses its grip, questions that we have long avoided come to mind. At last we are able to ask of everything: what is it for? This is the second time the text has reminded us of the importance of this question. In The Atonement as Defense, Jesus reminds us that salvation is more easily accomplished – and the means to achieve it more readily discerned – once we have unequivocally made salvation our goal (T-2.II.3:2-3). In essence, we are simply deciding to wake up. We are deciding to seek out another voice other than the ego. It is the decision that is the ego’s real death knell. Once we begin the journey to our right minds, all sorts of aid and blessings and guidance come our way. The means are instantly available once we have settled clearly on our goal.
We might say, then, that the ego is really the absence of any meaningful goal, or a meaningful goal sincerely and truly held in mind. The ego likes lists, likes weight loss plans, and strategic investment strategies, and talk therapy and all of that. The one goal it cannot abide is salvation – waking up. This, then, is our focus as miracle workers. This is what it means to accept the atonement for ourselves. It is to accept salvation as our only goal. Thus is the ego undone. Thus is our joyousness assured.