What I see is a form of vengeance.
This lesson introduces the critical idea that what we see is a “form of vengenance.” Accepting this – which means becoming responsible for our thinking – represents a major undoing of what blocks love. We encounter this idea in numerous forms throughout the workbook and text. Here it appears to that might reaffirm our commitment to seeing differently.
Lesson 22 is a preview of a more dramatic statement that appears in part II of the workbook.
The world was made as an attack on God. It symbolizes fear. And what is fear but love’s absence? (W-pII.3.2:1-3)
That is powerful language – “an attack on God.” Most of us resist it. But it is a core concept in the reformation of our thought process that A Course in Miracles offers as healing.
We project because we cannot bear what we see inside. We believe we are separated from God. We feel guilt at having turned from him and fear his retribution. Rather than look at that guilt and fear we either a) deny it or – when it resists denial – b) project it. The world is the projection of our guilt and fear. It is our attempt to obscure the fact of the separation. It is the feeble “making” by which we try and usurp God’s creative abilities.
The world is – finally and fully – a vicious place. It is an attack. And – as its makers who know full well its capacity for attack – we fear it and seek always to “defend” against it. This is indeed as the lesson observes a “vicious circle,” from which there is no escape.
If you project anger and hate, then you will perceive anger and hate. Projection is a form of attack that always doubles back on us. Lesson Twenty-Two describes how a typical course student experiences this bind.
Having projected his anger onto the world, he sees vengeance about to strike at him. His own attack is thus perceived as self-defense. This becomes an increasingly vicious circle until he is willing to change how he sees (W-pI.22.1:2-4).
Peace of mind is what occurs when we stop projecting and thus stop perceiving external attacks that require defense.
How does this cycle occur in practice – in the world in which we live?
Say that you are frustrated with a political party. Its members are not motivated by the common good but by partisan ideals. They don’t want to solve problems so much as destroy their opposition. They are driven by fear, not love.
A Course in Miracles – following a psychological tradition grounded in Freud – teaches that we have projected onto this political party our habit of being partisan rather than cooperative, our inclination to destroy rather than compromise, and our willingness to be led by fear instead of love.
Having projected it onto the other, we then perceive it as an attack. They are out to get us and so we have to oppose them, resist them, defeat them once and forever.
This is the vicious cycle. We project our hate and fear and then, denying it is in fact our hate and fear, we go to war with it.
There is, suggests the course (for this is always what ACIM suggests), another way.
It is from this savage fantasy that you want to escape. Is it not joyous news to learn that it is not real? Is it not a happy discovery to find that you can escape? (W-pI.22.2:1-3).
Tara Singh would sometimes point out in his writing that when A Course in Miracles asks us a question, it is worth pausing and seriously considering it. Really go into it and find the answer.
The penultimate question posed by this lesson is whether the world you want to see – which is finite, perishable, unreal and mean – is the world you actually want to see. Are you not interested in finding a way to see it differently?
The lesson suggests the answer is obvious (W-pI.22.9:1), and it probably is, but still: it’s worth asking and actually answering. Doing so is a way of committing yourself to the practice of learning to see differently, in order to become responsible for your own mind and how it functions.
You made what you would destroy; everything that you hate and would attack and kill. All that you fear does not exist (W-pI.22.2:4-5).
Here we realize that there is a better way, and that discovering it and partaking of its joy and peace, obligate us to become responsible for our practice. Let this be the lesson in which you pledge to take seriously your healing, and to bring to it the full force of your desire for love and peace.
One last thought. I still remember the first time I did this lesson. I was into it; it was flowing. I looked over the snow, the barns, the manure pile, the bare trees. Yeah, that’s perishable, that’s not real, that’s vengeance. Then, suddenly, a blue jay settled right before me on a fence post and it was so clear and bright and beautiful that the lesson just sailed right out of my mind. And when it came back – oh right, I’m supposed to be practicing A Course in Miracles – I didn’t want to include the blue jay. How can such beauty be vengeful?
The answer is that the scraps of beauty the world allows are just bread crumbs dropped by the ego in an effort to buy our allegiance a little while longer. If I buy into the lovely winter scene, then the separation is real because the world is real. So I can’t make exceptions.
Exclude nothing that your eyes fall upon, no matter how beautiful or alluring. Let nothing distract you from learning that the world is not real.
I note this to show that perfection is not part of the process. There are always going to be blue jays or best friends or chocolate cakes that draw our attention. We can’t let these symbols of love – for they are that – stand in our way. See them, take note of them – forgive them – and continue on your way.