A Course in Miracles Lesson 15

My thoughts are images that I have made.

Few lessons in A Course in Miracles are as confusing or troubling as Lesson 15. For one thing, it’s a flat-out strange idea for most people – we only think we think the thoughts we think and we only take them seriously because they show up as images to a body. Therefore, we conflate spiritual vision with the body’s considerably weaker seeing. It’s conceptually confusing. What are we supposed to do?

And of course the second reason this lesson throws people are the “light episodes” themselves.

Ah, the ACIM light episodes . . . the bright white frame that surrounds familiar objects, proof that we’re finally advancing up the spiritual ladder. We’re leaving behind the less-advanced students, getting closer to God who loves us a tiny bit more than the others . . . Or we’re freaking out because we’re not seeing the lights. What’s wrong with us?

Set the light episodes aside. They’re a sideshow – and an optional sideshow at that – to the more important work of the lesson. We are learning how to work with our mind here. We are training it to perform miracles, to align it with God and to embrace right-mindedness so gracefully and gratefully that error of any kind simply fades away like smoke in a breeze.

To do that, we need to come to terms with the gap between “seeing” – which is what our bodies do – and real vision, which is the natural function of our minds as miracle workers.

This lesson encourages us to look closely at the apparently dense material objects that surround us and recognize them as images. It is reminiscent of the work we did in Lesson 7 and Lesson 4 (and earlier lessons). We believe the physical world that is revealed to our senses is the real world. Yet this is merely conjectured form into which content – love or the call of love – is poured.

Two key ideas then are presented in this (and related) lessons.

First, we have to begin to see beyond form to content. A good model for this is how the course reframes traditional interpretations of the crucifixion. In Special Principles of Miracle Workers he notes that when he asked God to forgive the soldiers responsible for his execution he wasn’t talking about the execution itself but rather the wrong-mindedness symbolized by it. The suggestion is that the particular form that the error takes does not matter, but the underlying thought process giving rise to it does. We have to begin to get in the habit of looking – of seeing – beyond the forms, or images, that our thoughts construct.

The second idea in this lesson has to do with cause-and-effect. We tend to believe that we are victims of the world – outside influences act on us, driving our behavior. It seems logical enough, right? But A Course in Miracles asks us to consider that the exact opposite is what’s true – that we look inside, decide what kind of world we want to see, and then project it outward. Nothing happens that we haven’t specifically asked for. We are not passive victims but powerful actors playing at passivity.

Hence, those images that we see – the world we experience – is really just a proxy for the internal struggle between salvation and separation. And it can’t be “fixed” or “healed” out there because that’s just images on images on images – it has to be handled on the inside.

Lesson 15 – which includes the important caveat that its fundamental idea is likely to sail right over our heads (which is okay for now) – is a big step in helping us to develop this new perspective on love and healing. In terms of thought reversal – seeing past form and reversing cause-and-effect – it’s a lot to handle in just one day of application.

This is one of the lessons where lingering may not be a bad idea.

One other thought. This lesson includes a critical subtext: take your thoughts seriously. They matter. They are powerful. Your power of thought has literally made the world you see and hear and touch. It implicitly testifies to our extraordinary capacity for Love and for healing calls for Love which we are only just beginning to appreciate. If this lesson feels significant – and it should – consider that it’s merely a prelude to the gentle insights and inner peace to come.

Now about the lights. Human experience is such that we make the spiritual far more mystical or even magical than it needs to be. We feel awe in the presence of channeled texts. We believe that psychics of this or that stripe can provide us with otherwise inaccessible information. Please understand that I am not knocking channeled texts or ascended masters.  I’m cool with psychics. I own Tarot cards. I think crystals are pretty. But I’ve been lifted by non-channeled texts, too. Psychotherapists have been more helpful than psychics. And so-called ordinary stones and plants have been dear allies in learning. As I continually grow closer to the healing contemplated by the course, so-called psychic experiences – communing with the dead, knowing the future, being healed without allopathic intervention, et cetera. – begin to feel more natural, more . . . just the way things are.

All God’s gifts – literary, psychic, healing, teaching – are given to all of us in equal measure. It is a function of the separation that we believe otherwise – and perceive otherwise. Needing light episodes is just another way of glorifying the body’s experience in the world – no different than sex or imported Belgian chocolate or walking your dog at 4 a.m. so you can stargaze. They don’t really matter. If you’re not having them, consider the possibility that you don’t need them – that you have already accepted the truth of Lesson 15, that you are already committed to trading sight for vision.

Above all, don’t allow them to become hallmarks of good or advanced students. Like all our experiences in this world, they are just another illusion. Do the lessons, study the text, practice forgiveness. What’s given is already yours; you will remember it for all of us in time.

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  1. Beautiful,t so much I’d like to repeat back here. But one I actually woke up this mornnig with wondering again about , a physical correlary, a “dreaming leak”, that can amaze me, similar to your “images, upon image, upon images”. We have a no-thing eye/i that is seeing (can’t fint that little humunculus or single neuron or separate the brain from Everything else it is in order to be a brain). And an image is only available against a backdrop, eventually the nothingness of space. So what’s so important about specificity (of images) in that contemplation!

    An aside, I was surprised I remembered this lesson about the seeming thought “itself” was an image. Since I experience them with eyes closed, I thought I was “seeing” them and that was an image I was belieiving in. It seems I distorted it, that really the sense of seeing external objects is the basis/stress for assuming I’m thinking. So even with closed eyes, it’s thinking based on that I did/will see thoughts as images that is still fueling the assumption that is thinking. Another nice contemplation! (plus how I misremember stuff is pretty interesting!).

    Thanks for hearing out some of my processing.

    Happy Segue Sean

    1. It’s a fair point about images . . . it’s true they are only available against a backdrop. Can we reframe that and say they are only visible in relationship? The window is only visible because of the wall which is only visible because of the floor which is only visible because . . .

      In that way of “looking,” the separate images begin to gently merge, the one image being merely a point in the whole (and if we draw near, the single image is itself comprised of smaller images). This “wholeness” is mirrored, albeit in reverse, in this scene from Ferris Bueller.

      Cameron is gazing at a detail in George Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” The deeper we go into the image, the more it is revealed as a composite of points unremarkable unto themselves. The “pattern” and the “meaning” are merely an appearance to a certain observer (which, as you know, is itself merely a constructed image).

      There is also a correlation here with Cameron’s emotional intensity gathering as he goes beyond the image (the beloved child in Seurat’s image, the opposite of his self-identity, his “lived reality”) into the abstraction of what lies beyond – the pain, the loneliness . . .

      It is points – it is Camerons – all the way down.

  2. Impactful, thank you. That was able to associate then for me the time I was surprised at mind’s hypnosis by the defined problem of whether “is it the profile of faces or a candle stick?”. I think I was at presentation of how any form is similarly in relationship to emptiness before that happens between forms. That was cool, but I was surpried too to just recognize, it’s just a couple of lines on a blank screen! I love how the kids start as art critics (arms folded, dour faces) before being drawn in instead of staying at the outlines.

  3. Is there a similarity between Lesson 15 and this concept?

    The founder of General Semantics, Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950), stated in 1931 that “the map is not the territory“. This means, that the awareness of the thing and the symbols we use to perceive it – the map – are not the same as the actual thing itself – the territory.

    1. Hi Greta,

      This idea of Korzybski’s has been helpful to me over the years in thinking about separation, especially in the sense of “how do I apply this?” Thanks for raising it.

      I think the argument would go: Thought is the map; the territory is God, Love, Reality, Heaven, et cetera. And we confuse the map – our thoughts ABOUT God – for God Himself. And then get lost and confused accordingly . . .

      On that view, separation IS confusing map with territory.

      In general, I agree with that (keeping in mind that I don’t think Korzybski ever said that either the map or the territory were illusions – just that they were not the same thing and were often confused and the confusion could have really harmful effects).

      Korzybski also suggested that the map (thought) is an object WITHIN the territory (God), which is NOT strictly what A Course in Miracles teaches, though that may be splitting things a little too finely :). The question is, is the idea helpful? And I think it is. So . . .

      What do you think?

      ~ Sean

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