I am not alone in experiencing the effects of my thoughts.
This is one of those ACIM lessons that you just knew was coming. Just as our vision links us, so do our thoughts. Again, we are asked to take note of our fundamental unity as thoughts in the mind of God. Not me and you but only one.
Two things stand out for me in this lesson. First, Jesus points out for us that resistance is likely to take two forms: first, the fact that minds are joined and that we are influencing one another all the time can entail a sense of responsibility that might not be desired. And second, we might object to a so-called “invasion of privacy.”
The responsibility piece is important. As I noted yesterday, the course is very careful to emphasize our union with one another. There is a shared obligation in our identity that we cannot avoid and still know peace. This is not a foreign idea to Christianity, as witnessed in Luke’s gospel.
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?
And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
We shall love our neighbor as we love ourselves – that’s the key to life. And although A Course in Miracles tweaks this considerably – largely by suggesting that it’s not our behavior towards our neighbors but our thoughts that matters most – we are still called to a love that is not self-directed. The effects of this love are felt everywhere, without exception. This is a great responsibility. There’s no doubt about that.
But considering it as a sort of two-way street can be helpful. Often, when I contemplate this idea, I start putting pressure on myself to be super loving in my thoughts. But that ignores the truth of the lesson: yes, my thoughts matter. But so do yours. When I remember that, I realize that my ego likes to subtly inject itself into the equation – it’s my thoughts that count. It’s my thoughts that shape your world. This isn’t what Jesus is talking about.
In fact it is our shared thoughts – and, to take it a step further – it is the thoughts that we share with God. These thoughts, as the Course has already pointed out to us, are not readily observable. They are beneath – shadowed by – what we currently consider our real thoughts.
This lesson is an invitation to continue to deepen our meditations, to make contact with our thoughts in a way that divests the self we believe we are in favor of the identity that we share – one and all – with God.
The other issues that pops up in this lesson – more complicated for me anyway – is the idea that there are no private thoughts (W-p1.19.2:3). It calls to mind this point from The Escape from Darkness:
When you have become willing to hide nothing, you will not only be willing to enter into communion but will also understand peace and love (T-1.IV. 1:5).
In a sense, we have no private thoughts because – as there is only mind – there is no body or thing or intelligence from which to hide a thought. But in a very practical way, we are also being asked to allow whatever is in our minds to be brought up into the light. Recall Lesson 14, which invited us to hold all our fearful thoughts in mind in order to learn that God did not create them and so they are not real. We have a tendency to hide our “personal repertory of horrors” (W-pI.14.6:1), to push it deep down to where we hope it will have no effect. To the extent we can’t keep it buried in the recesses of our minds, then we project it outwards. I’m not violent – terrorists are violent. I’m not misusing the teachings of Jesus to advance my interests – wealthy preachers with their megachurches are.
But we cannot be at peace so long as we insist on hiding these thoughts. This much is clear even after just nineteen lessons. Jesus wants us to raise all of what we think we are – good, bad, ugly, terrifying – into the light where we can look at it calmly with him and allow it to be undone.
Thus, this lesson is both metaphysically true – we are being led to an awareness that we are one in truth and that no separated selves exist in reality – but we are also being given some deeply practical tools to help lead us to this reality. Having no private thoughts – excluding nothing from our practice of forgiveness – is the surest way to learn that only the thoughts we think with God are of any consequence (W-p1.4.2:3-4). The way to awakening seems dark indeed, but we have within us the capacity to light the way. This is the miracle – the right mind that sees its miscreations and knows them as false. If we are willing only to try it, we will learn that it is so.