I am determined to see differently.
Sometimes when I read A Course in Miracles a part of my reading faculty glosses over a phrase or idea, as if it’s not capable right now of understanding the words or bringing into application their meaning. Then – years later sometimes – the formerly-ignored sentences just leap off the page, demanding that I allow them into awareness. It’s as if I’m ready now to tackle them, even if I don’t feel ready.
That’s what happened today when I read these lines:
You want salvation. You want to be happy. You want peace. You do not have them right now, because your mind is totally undisciplined, and you cannot distinguish between joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, love and fear (W-pI.20.2:3-6).
They’re underlined in my book for but for the life of me I can’t remember reading them before. And my reaction to them this morning was visceral. What do you mean I can’t distinguish between pleasure and pain? That’s the very distinction that drives my entire existence in the physical world. I pursue pleasure and I steer away from pain. Did a certain son of God forget to read his Freud this morning?
Then I stop. It’s like Jesus, calmly watching my mental tirade, patiently and quietly says, Are you sure?
And the only honest answer – which thank God I am last capable of giving – is: no. I’m not sure.
Thus some learning is possible.
So what is going on here? Why does Jesus want me to learn that I can’t distinguish between joy and sorrow, between love and fear? It must be important or my ego wouldn’t be so resistant and self-righteous. I turn to the cycle of lessons (ten through fifteen) that consider meaninglessness, with a particular focus on the metaphor of “writing” our thoughts on the world. Perception can be of the thoughts we have written – always by the fearful and vicious ego – or of the real thoughts that God has written. Only one set of thoughts is real, though we can postpone seeing it that way for a very long time.
So long as we are allowing the ego to do the writing – and it is important not to underestimate the ego – then we are not going to experience or perceive real joy or peace or truth. I believe that. I’m okay with that – at least intellectually. But obviously, something in those lines quoted above, undermines that. It’s as if the ego is okay with my intellectual grasp of the concept but really really doesn’t want it to creep into my right mind.
So we can say this: recognizing that we aren’t yet capable of differentiating between joy and peace is very threatening to the ego. In light of that, these lines – which follow those quoted above – make a lot of sense.
You are now learning how to tell them apart. And great indeed will be your reward (W-pI.20.2:7-8).
These lines – and thus this lesson, this time around – are a lovely reminder that I live in the world of perception and remain very much under the influence of the loveless ego. It – meaning the ego – is perfectly happy to give me shreds of enlightenment – illusory feelings of progress, symbols of “love” that are really just detritus of the hateful world created in and by the separation. These are substitutes for the real work of salvation. The ego accepts substitutes – indeed, it promotes them – because it knows that when we get to the real work we’re going to find it easy going and that’s the ego’s death knell.
So a frequent and positive affirmation – I am determined to see! – is not out of place today. Clearly, it is a critical reminder of how far we must go and how determined we must be. But more than that, it does so in a hopeful way – in an affirmative way. We are striving to make contact with our true desire for awakening – not the forms of it that the ego proposes in its efforts to dissuade us from seeking God. When we do make that contact, Heaven is the sure result because – as we have learned in previous lessons – the law of cause and effect assures it.