A Course in Miracles Lesson 17

I see no neutral things.

The world is outside of us. It acts on us. We respond to its actions. That’s life.

For most of us, that’s an eminently logical presumption. Stimulus precedes response – I drop a brick on my foot and my foot smarts. I don’t have to think about it.

Yet A Course in Miracles asks us to reconsider this and does so on the premise that the traditional perception of cause and effect is dead wrong. Salvation depends on reversing it, on realizing that we create a world of images each designed to invoke the emotional response that we’ve decided we want. Think about that too hard and it will make you dizzy.

You see no neutral things because you have no neutral thoughts. It is always the thought that comes first, despite the temptation to believe that it is the other way around (W-pI.17.1:2-3).

Lesson 17 is another step on the road to both appreciating this new belief system and enabling us to actually make positive use of it. Yesterday we explored the absence of neutrality in our thoughts – today we being to see how that lack of neutrality creates, or colors, every image that we perceive in the world. It is interesting to consider that our response to images that are painful are still images that we want. In time, this will become a turning point in our study, realizing that we do not really want to be healed, that we want the separation.

That’s too much to stomach at first blush so we take it slower. We take on the bed, the window, the tree. But as we accept this responsibility for creation, we will begin to face the real magnitude of it: the wars, the poverty, the cruelty, the fear.

This lesson gives us a little taste of that reality when it drops this line:

Regardless of what you may believe, you do not see anything that is really alive or really joyous. This is because you are unaware as yet of any thought that is really true, and therefore really happy (W-pI.17.3:2-3).

There are moments when Jesus is encouraging – reminding us that it’s okay that we’re likely to resist this or that lesson, telling us it’s fine to scale back a little if we’re feeling deeply resistant. Here, he’s kind of rattling our cage a bit. He’s asking us not to get too comfortable or too confident. I don’t know about you but I don’t like being told that I’ve never seen anything truly alive or joyous – what about my dog when he was a puppy discovering snow? What about when my children were born? What about the Leonids?

Shadows of the shadows of joy, says Jesus. He is patient in this lesson, but stern. There is work to do. We have a long way to go. Don’t waste time. Pay attention.

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