A Course in Miracles Lesson 135

If I defend myself I am attacked.

Perhaps nowhere does A Course in Miracles make so clear the power of mind to choose peace over conflict, happiness over sorrow and healing over sickness than it does in this lesson. Any one lesson can awaken us from the dream of separation; this is the clarity of A Course in Miracles for those for whom it is the way.

I receive this lesson as a gift, not a burden. It is a joy, not an obligation. And it is very very hard to understand and practice.

It seems reasonable that when we are attacked we should defend ourself. Yet Lesson 135 upends this logic, reversing the world’s idea of cause and effect: it is only when we defend ourselves that we are attack. Defense precedes attack. How can this be?

Ideas of attack and defense arise in a mind that has chosen to identify itself with a body that is vulnerable in a world that is vicious, cruel and unpredictable. This is an error; we are not bodies (W-pI.199.8:7-8). Therefore, every defense we make reinforce the original mistaken belief, effectively attacking the mind that has forgotten what it is in truth.

Defend the body and you have attacked your mind. For you have seen in it the faults, weaknesses, the limits and the lacks from which you think the body must be saved. You will not see the mind as separate from bodily conditions. And you will impose upon the body all the pain that comes from the conception of the mind as limited and fragile, and apart from other minds and separate from its Source (W-pI.135.9:1-4).

The body is an instrument (W-pI.135.8:2) the mind uses to communicate with other minds (T-6.V.A.5:5), all in service of God’s Plan for Salvation, which is simply remembrance of the peace and justice inherent in oneness (W-pI.135.18:1). In and of itself it is neutral; only the mind establishes its value and its function.

Thus, the question becomes: to whom does the mind turn for guidance?

The suggestion is that when we allow our minds to be still and we stop insisting on their assocation with bodies, that we will remember their abstract nature, and see clearly the futility of minds *being embodied. Communicating through bodies, for a time? Yes. But actually being bodies, subject to the entropy and eventual death of bodies? No.

Lesson 135 challenges us to bring these ideas into application by looking at our habit of planning. “A healed mind does not plan” (W-pI.135.11:1), but you and I plan a *lot. Can we look at this? Can we consider another way?

Plans are always a form of defense, and thus an attack on our integrity as creations of God, who is Love. They represent the ego’s insistence that we are vulnerable and in charge of our own protection. We must build walls, store provisions, forge alliances, declare enemies and forever be on the lookout.

The course suggests that when we plan, we are essentially admitting that we are weak, alone and unsafe. To admit this is to deny God as our creator and to assert that God’s creation can be dangerous and chaotic.

Can you be at peace with such a concept of your home? Yet what endowed the body with the right to serve you thus except your own belief? It is your mind which the body all the functions that you see in it, and set its value far beyond a little pile of dust and water (W-pI.135.6:2-4).

As always, we are doing this to ourself (T-27.VIII.10:1).

If we can see the connection between the mind’s decision to identify as a body and our fearfulness, then we can ask for help in choosing a new identity. This is really another way of saying, we are asking for help in discerning between what is true and what is false.

Defenses are the plans you undertake to make against the truth. Their aim is to select what you approve, and disregard what you consider imcompatible with your beliefs of your reality. Yet what remains is meaningless indeed (W-pI.135.17:1-3).

It is meaningless because reality exists apart from our judgment of it. Our ideas about reality are not reality. Our interpretation of those ideas are not reality either. Therefore, our plans – which are defenses against an unknown future, using the past as a guide – can only hurt us by obscuring, dissembling and crucifying our reality which is incapable of threat (W-pI.135.17:4).

Thus, the invitation is to rest without plans and allow the Plan of God – which is Truth, Reality and Love – to be revealed to us. Indeed, the revelation is of more than just a divine plan – it is our identity as Christ, which is God’s Creation, creating like its Creator.

Without defenses, you become a light which Heaven gratefully acknowledges to be its own. And it will lead you on in ways appointed for yur happiness according to the ancient plan, begun when time was born (W-pI.135.20:1-2).

Let us let go – for five minutes, an hour, a day, a life even – of our plans for our happiness, benefit and abundance. Let us empty ourselves of all our goals and agendas and come empty-handed unto our God who has not forgotten us (W-pI.135.25:1). Let us remember God together today, joining our little lights, so that we might make plain our identity in love.

←Lesson 134
Lesson 136→


  1. … ah, as a planner I can appreciate this lesson. I both want to shy away from it and delve into it with gusto. When I have a good outline of what should be done, then life seems to just run along smoothly, so planning seems like a prudent idea. When I plan too many details, I lock myself into too much routine and miss out on guidance because I have made too much definition in my plan — and then when it doesn’t go as I planned, I am confused and frustrated. Somewhere in the middle is the ability to plan for my basics (roof over my head, job, where to live) and then let myself be guided. Still, the questions abound on the line between taking care of myself and locking myself into a belief that “something may happen, so I had better plan.” Certainly this lesson will be brought to mind over and over again. Food prices are going up! I’d better stock up … but do I … or is that my fear. A friend had to live in a not-so-nice assisted living home — do I need long-term care insurance — or is that my fear I will not live out my years being cared for by my family. This lesson is good food for thought when I have these fears come up for sure!

    1. Yeah . . . I want to plan my planlessness 🙂

      There is a line in the urtext – I can’t find it right away – that says something to the effect of “planning ahead in the world makes sense but the divine plan is in better hands.” I think of it that way, sometimes. Just trying to be a good father, husband, brother, friend but letting the chips fall when and where they will. God knows better than I do 🙂

      That link to fear is so important – seeing the way that plans are basically a defense against fear (which is always just confusion about what we are in truth). Sometimes that’s enough – just seeing the fear and realizing it’s okay to be gentle with myself, patient and kind.

      And then sometimes I’m just nuts 🙂

      Thanks for reading and sharing, Julia. Whatever else happens to us all, the company is good 🙏🙏


  2. Hi Sean!

    Thanks for another great clarifying read. Please forgive me for this comment ahead of time; it’s probably going to be a bit long and might move all over the place. Sometimes I write to clarify or discover my own point. And while I do have a question for you, I thought I’d share this ACIM thinking process of mine just in case others are having the same sorts of issues. I hope you don’t feel obligated to touch on all my points, or even most of them. Or even comment at all. I would totally understand. Your time is valuable too.

    I’ve finished reading the Preface, Text, am re-reading and annotating large chunks of the Text, and am now working my way through the Manual for Teachers (which feels weird; like maybe I should wait to read this until I finish the lessons). And as far as the daily lessons go, I’m here at 135. Sometimes I take a day or so off, or life gets in the way. Or sometimes I work through a single lesson over a couple of days. This is just by way of saying that finishing all the lessons is going to take me more than a year and a half probably.

    But this lesson was particularly powerful for me and, the funny thing is, I didn’t expect it to be. Much like Lessons 133 and 134, I found it powerful because I had to stop before I began. Stop and think. Because I was irritated, which was strange. Irritation isn’t my usual emotion here. I usually come to these joyfully, and early in the morning before I do anything else.

    I don’t always succeed in fulfilling the “mission brief” to the letter for each lesson, but I do try. Like the ones that require 2 or 3, 15-minute sessions and a Shout Out Thought every half-hour, etc.? Those really get to me sometimes and make me feel like I’m not devoted enough. But who has TIME for all that?! And then I laugh at myself because I think: “You don’t have time for God or Salvation? Then why should they make time for you?” And of course, I laugh again, because I know that’s just my ego playing silly little games: because things don’t work in a transactional way like that. I’m far enough along in ACIM to recognize we get there when we get there. And how we get there can be very diverse too.

    I guess this lesson, and 133/134, irritated me because it got blocked in my head; got lodged in my ego’s understanding of Sin. And it was difficult to move past that. Traditionally, forgiveness has so much to do with Sin, and yet we’re told by ACIM that Sin actually doesn’t exist. Like, what? I get what ACIM is trying to do, I think, but it is SO RADICAL. Heretical, even. There are many who would set this book on fire just for even saying that. And there are plenty of places on Earth where you could be killed for even inferring that Sin is not real. And I know you are aware of that; that you realize I’m not being hyperbolic. But I just wonder how many American ACIM readers really understand that.

    I was never a big church-goer type. I grew up in Appalachia, in the Baptist tradition, but my mom was an agnostic. So we weren’t forced to go to church. But you can’t get away from American “Christianity” – and boy, I’ve tried. And I’m talking about the hellfire-and-brimstone stuff. The real spiritual guilt-rot that we like to peddle over here as salvation (one of the reasons I switched to Wicca, and then Buddhism, in my 20s). That type of “Christianity” gets into everything and starts spreading like some sort of corroding black mold. Our society, our culture, our laws, everything. And it especially gets into the psyche, whether you want it to or not. It lingers. And while I understand that there are good denominations out there, that not all Christians are the black-mold types, etc., the bad ones are really bad. And this idea of Sin is so incredibly pervasive that it just won’t go away. Even for individuals like me, who don’t come from an Evangelical tradition.

    This book is basically heretical to almost every single “Christian” I know. Literally. I’ve tried to share it with so many friends and family and it’s just a no-go from the start. Most of them look at me like I’m nuts when I tell them about the channeled-Jesus-narrative part – as if God stopped speaking 2000 years ago, wrapped it all up in King James, and has had nothing else to say since. I don’t understand why the idea that God is still speaking is so radical for folks, but it sure is. But even when I get them past that, it’s the Sin part they can’t deal with.

    That’s the main deal breaker and they stop listening. Won’t read any of this. In one case, one family member even backed away from me and wouldn’t touch the book, as I held it out so she could inspect it. Like: “What – no Sin? Are you sure that wasn’t written by the Devil or something? Of course Old Smokey would tell you that Sin is an illusion. That’s wrong!”

    So how do you deal with that? It’s a little easier for me because Buddhism paved the way for me to understand that Sin is really just a control mechanism, and far less of a spiritual tenet. But even in my head that’s a metaphysical war. Because wherever you go, you find it. Sin, Karma, Divine Justice, you name it: It’s there, all across the globe. Almost every spiritual tradition has something like it. And then along comes this book, ACIM, telling us that Sin’s just an illusion. A torture device we created. Not real.

    I mean, that’s a hard pill to swallow for just about anyone coming from an Abrahamic tradition. So where do I go with that? Just not worry about it and see what happens? I’m kind of okay with that; though I have to let a lot go, quickly.

    I’m not totally sure yet, and at this point, I’ve just started focusing on finishing the lessons and finishing the course. But I’ve stopped giving any thought to spreading-the-light or teaching others. And if I do mention ACIM to friends, those who already believe in God, I just avoid the Sin discussion altogether.

    As always: thanks again for your posts. I go to them almost every single day, usually at the end of the day. You’ve really helped me understand ACIM and opened up many possibilities for understanding the text. That perspective is so important and I cherish it.

    May peace and holy light surround you always,

    1. Hi Vincent.

      Thank you for sharing this. I think working out a way forward publicly is often very helpful; certainly that has been my preferred mode of study 🙂 We are in this together. It’s never an error to communicate.

      In terms of the material – the timing of our reading, what comes first, what should wait – it is my experience that it is not possible to make a mistake. Even if the experience is rocky, the Holy Spirit can use that to teach us. And, of course, the healing is not always about us. Sometimes “my” rocky experience is given so a brother or sister can learn something on their side of the fence. All soil is fruitful, given the right gardener.

      I do not think many Course students realize the truly radical nature of the ACIM material. I am not sure I always realize it. Certainly it is tempting to forget it. But the radicality guides and nurtures me like nothing else ever has. This is not just a question of personal transformation – which is no joke – but also a collective transformation, through relationship, of all life. The potential for healing is vast.

      Much like I suspect the historical Jesus did with those who gathered to listen to him long ago, the Course invites us into a collaborative relationship with God-as-Love, an uprooting of belief systems which do not serve that relationship and, critically, an enactment of Love in every context in which we find ourselves.

      Our function is to love in a loveless place (T-14.IV.4:10), and to be translated in a way that makes that not just a cool idea but a lived reality. We are asleep, and our dreams range from terrifying to dull to a kind of ersatz joy, but we can awaken, and our awakening is shared salvation. It’s a party more than a therapy session, and a therapy session more than a church service.

      I notice two interesting ideas in your comments about sin, both of which you have already resolved with “Just not worry about it and see what happens.” Don’t worry, be happy, et cetera. Give attention, serve the relationships (all of which are aspects of the One Relationship), and allow it – life, the gestalt, et cetera – to evolve.

      The two things are first, the radical nature of the Course means that it’s not for everybody (like Gandhi’s nonviolence, say, or celibacy or asceticism). Those who need it find it. It’s great medicine for those of us for whom the illness manifests as “separation from God,” but for other folks some other form of the so-called universal curriculum will be more helpful.

      I don’t talk much about the Course with folks anymore. If people ask about my spiritual life or practice, I don’t lie, but I’m not evangelical about it. I’m not averse to speaking my truth, but I try to be sensitive to where and when the invitation to speak it is being offered. The real work is realizing I am doing this to myself (T-27.VIII.10:1), and loving in a loveless place. This is accomplished less by activity, and more by by “coming empty-handed unto God,” (W-pI.189.7:5), which paradoxically means forgetting the Course altogether. It’s just more dream stuff.

      Since we frame the so-called problem of separation as spiritual or religious, the Course appears in that language. But as you know, the problem of separation is more a psychological problem – almost more of a mechanical problm. It’s more a confused application of the body and a confused conflation of mind and brain than anything else. The Course corrects perception, and corrected perception allows us to perceive reality, or Creation, as it IS.

      Thanks for sharing, Vincent, and bringing the light. I appreciate it very much.


  3. Hi Sean!

    Sometimes, the answer comes to us from unexpected places. I was pondering my questions of Sin this morning, along with my worries about ever explaining ACIM to anyone else; the perfect rightness of it, and its joy and clarity. ACIM is like a song you hear, just when you need it.

    And then tonight, I bumped into a poem by Rumi I had never read. And the answer seemed very clear.

    A tongue has one customer, the ear.
    A sugarcane flute has such effect

    because it was able to make sugar
    in the reedbed. The sound it makes

    is for everyone. Days full of wanting,
    let them go by without worrying

    that they do. Stay where you are
    inside such a pure, hollow note.

    Every thirst gets satisfied except
    that of these fish, the mystics,

    who swim a vast ocean of grace
    still somehow longing for it!

    No one lives in that without
    being nourished every day.

    But if someone doesn’t want to hear
    the song of the reed flute,

    it’s best to cut conversation
    short, say good-bye, and leave.

    Not everyone is ready for the song of ACIM. You do what you can, and of listeners aren’t receptive, that’s okay. You can just cut the conversation short. No big deal.

    I’ve been doing that kind of thing instinctively. But it was nice to get this little wink from the Universe in the form of a Rumi poem. It didn’t really answer my Sin question, but now I’m less bothered by not ways succeeding at being a good ACIM witness.

    Blessings to you,

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