That which we do not want we project outward. We do not disturb our peace – the jealous neighbor does, the griping spouse does. This is a critical element of understanding A Course in Miracles, to realizing its promise of true peace. That which we perceive outside of us and judge as negative or evil or bad or wrong – choose your adjective – is actually inside of us. We have projected it. What can we do? Is there an alternative to projection?
The simplest solution would be not to project. But that is easier said than done. By the time we realize that we’ve projected our greed or our hatred or whatever it’s already “out there.” We’ve already done it. Projection is very quick and it tends to happen without our active recognition. In this way, it seems to be beyond our power to heal or solve.
The course does not really ask us to stop projecting. Rather, it invites us to forgive that which has been projected. In this way, we use one of the ego’s favorite tricks for its preservation against itself. We don’t have to fight our projections – we don’t have to feel bad that we’ve projected. We don’t have to crawl around on cut glass, debasing ourselves and fearing God’s judgment. We simply have to forgive.
Forgiveness in A Course in Miracles does not include judgment, thus separating it from the world’s traditional understanding of what it means to forgive. In the traditional view, we judge something as bad or wrong or evil and then we overlook its badness. It’s like saying to someone, “you’re a real jerk for stealing my lunch money but I forgive you.” In ACIM terms, that’s not forgiveness – it’s just another form of judgment.
We have to see our projections – the mean kid who pockets our milk money, the greedy CEO who ignores the plight of his or her workers, the lying politician – without judging them. And it’s hard! Suspending our capacity to judge is not easy because it is deeply linked to our desire to survive and protect ourselves. It is baked into us. Getting outside of it takes a lot of work – maybe lifetimes of work. And we almost certainly need to invoke the assistance of powers greater than ourselves to do it.
One of my more persistent and challenging projections has to do with money: I resent people who have it and see them as greedy. In order to have so much money – stock portfolios, second homes, private schools for the kids and all of that – they have to really hate humanity. They can’t have a decent bone in their body. On some level, that’s a persistent belief of mine and everybody I meet – in person, in the press or just in some mental fantasy – who occupies a higher tax bracket than me is evil. Period.
It doesn’t matter that this is demonstrably not true. I have dozens of friends and colleagues who earn more money than I do and who are kind and gentle and attentive. I learn from them and am grateful for their companionship. But somehow, I can’t always see it that way. It is as if they are always tinted with the little hostility I project: unloving, indifferent, money-grubbing.
We have to remind ourselves when we’re upset that projection is involved. We have to stop and try to see projection where it is: why am I angry? Why am I hurt? And we can get a little insight into it. We can ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit – symbols of our right mind, of coherent thought – to look at the situation with us.
How do I deal with this? Well, I ask for help. I ask to be able to see this issue as it is – not as the ego would have me see it. “If it’s not too much trouble, Jesus, could you let me see so-and-so in truth and not through this lens of evil rich person that I’ve concocted?” And for a moment or two I am able to see them as a brother or sister. A little space opens up.
It’s not that the judgment goes away – sometimes it does briefly but not always – but that I am able to see it and the object of it without one shading the other. Does that make sense? It’s kind of looking out a window streaked with rain – everything outside is blurred – but I don’t get confused that it’s blurred in actuality. I don’t angry – how can my chickens be so blurry! How can the apple trees be so blurry! I want them crisp and definitive! I just know that I’m seeing through a blurry window.
I think that can work in our interior life as well. We’re aware of the lens and we’re aware that what we’re seeing is not actually affected by the lens. It takes some practice to do this. We have to remind ourselves when we’re upset that projection is involved. We have to stop for a moment and try to see the projection where it is: why am I angry? Why am I hurt? And we can get a little insight into it. And we can ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit – symbols of our right mind, of coherent thought – to look at the situation with us.
In a sense, the ego’s use of projection causes pain and conflict while the Holy Spirit’s heals conflict and restores peace and joy and sanity.
Our job is to see these two competing processes at work (the lessons are an important tool in this seeing) so that we can consistently choose for the Holy Spirit. The more we do, the more natural that loving projection, or extension, becomes. And the more natural it becomes, the more light shines in our minds and the more light that creeps in . . . then start to experience our minds as whole. We realize they never left God. And then we realize that if our minds never split from God then the separation never happened. That is the Atonement in a nutshell. That is salvation. And we arrive there together, by refusing the ego’s view of projection which pits us against one another, and accepting the Holy Spirit’s, which binds us in Truth and Love.
Each of us is the light of the world, and by joining our minds in this light we proclaim the Kingdom of God together and as one (T-6.II.13:5)
When we see what we’ve projected and we don’t judge it or hide it or deny it, then we lessen its hold on us. It loses some of its power. And the next time we project, it might not be so intense and overwhelming. We can get good at this, in the sense of developing a real intuition for when projection is happening and sort of muting its effects.
A Course in Miracles is very practical. It can seem otherwise given its abstraction and poetic language and all of that but in truth it is always deeply practical. It teaches us how to interact with our mind in a way that releases it from patterns of fear and guilt, opening the windows (lifting the veil) that allow the light of truth to shine in. It’s okay that we’re not there yet – that we’re stumbling around trying to make sense of things. That’s how it goes. But having made the commitment – having said yes – we are at last setting forth on the branch of the road that leads only to Heaven.