A Course in Miracles Lesson 22

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.

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11 Comments

  1. I don’t fully understand this lesson, it I understand it a little better after reading this. Thank you.

    1. I’m glad you found the post helpful, Dorie. The lessons aren’t easy! Thank you for reading 🙂

      ~ Sean

  2. My beautiful cat entered the excericise (came into the room half way through). She was the “winter scene” I then read as your description, right after the first practice. It didn’t interrupt me, but as she sauntered up so placidly with all the joy she has become to me, there was an accusation that I was committing vengeance on her (how dare I describe her as a vengeful form)! I’m committed to letting go of specialness, so I’m glad life sauntered in that way, I don’t want to project that “good” either anymore, and limit “her”.to that. (that’s where the lesson becomes sensible to me; since “she” is so much more, then the cramped limitation I box of her would have to be looking back at me with accusation)

    1. This is a big deal – what do we do when our cats and horses, our kids and cousins, our cakes and breads – appear? I mean, really!

      But the course anticipates us! All of what we love and cherish isn’t going to be lost but will rather become – like the rest of the world – transformed. All that we perceive becomes a shining gem in the void, each facet gleaming brighter than the last. A blade of grass as meaningful as a poem of Emily Dickinson’s, and no body more precious or worthy than another. It’s not Heaven – that’s the absence of distinction altogether – but the so-called “Happy Dream” is sweet indeed!

      I suspect when we are in love – when the cat saunters by, when the horse whinnies, when the kid says “seriously, Dad? Another ACIM video?” – that we are slipping into a natural serious impersonal Joy and Peace briefly consenting to formal inspection. Beyond that, words do not . . .

      And yeah, in course terms, projecting the good is just another form of hate . . . but allowing what is to show itself as it is in whatever dance of light is chooses is . . . divine . . .

  3. … 🙂 … (seriously!)

    I called our downstairs neighbor this morning and I could hear his 5 year old son answer. More than that he couldn’t do, he couldn’t read the name that called or I guess inform his dad that he had even picked up. A million thanks for him and you, blades of grass and your/their expression through words here, and thanks friend for another ACIM video!

  4. Wow, wow, wow, this stopped me in my tracks and I had such insight to this lesson; “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.”
    Beautifully put — I live in the world of absorbing every bit of beauty, like your blue jay, and I will really have to give pause and thought. It’s not that I shoudn’t enjoy the beauty, it who’s “dropping it in” to distract me from going deeper into my own mind. My mind is blown, it will be a good day of reflection on this lesson! Thank you again Sean for your insights, I am grateful. Julia

    1. I’m glad it was helpful, Julia. It has been one of the harder lessons for me, to be honest – I love beauty and letting go of it has been a real challenge. Yet oddly, what we are really letting go of is the ego’s interpretation of it; the Holy Spirit has another interpretation – one that interprets beauty as hints of the release and glory to come.

      When the light comes and you have said “God’s Will is mine,” you wil see such beauty that you will know it is not of you. Out of your joy you will create beauty in His Name, for your joy could no more be contained than His. The bleak little world will vanish into nothingness, and your heart will be so filled with joy that it will leap into Heaven, and into the Presence of God. I cannot tell you what this will be like, for your heart is not ready (T-11.III.3:3-6).

      One of my favorite passages, a reminder of why this work matters.

      Thanks for sharing, Julia 🙏

      Love,
      Sean

      1. Thank you Sean. This really helped a lot… “Yet oddly, what we are really letting go of is the ego’s interpretation of it; the Holy Spirit has another interpretation – one that interprets beauty as hints of the release and glory to come.”

        The lessons are slowly starting to click, some times. New to the Course but not totally new to the ideas of non-duality. Some of the Course wording seems a little “harsh” (and I know that is just my ego objecting) but your words are helping to make it more understandable. It is cool that I’m getting more insight through my dreams already.
        ~Tania

        1. I’m glad it’s helpful, Tania.

          I agree that the Course can feel harsh – it’s truly a patriarchal text, leaning hard on aspects of the western tradition that have wrought a lot of pain and suffering. My resistance to that was profoud, and from time to time I still recoil.

          I think it is interesting to try to reflect on that in our practice. What about the harshness works? What about it doesn’t work? Why am I here in this space when so much of spiritual practice moves me away from overtly patriarchal/hierarchal expressions of Christianity?

          Obviously the answer has to do with healing – our own local healing which connects up to a broader cultural healing.

          For me, crucifixion is the ultimate symbol of that harshness, while resurrection is the ultimate symbol of specialness. And the Course has allowed me – painstakingly, slowly, and not without a LOT of backtracking and sidestepping – to reimagine those images/stories/ideas – to reclaim them and then, subtly, to release them.

          The Course is, ultimately, nondual but it seems that part of its overtly Christianized/western language is designed to allow us to come to terms – personally and collectively – with a way of seeing that actively rejects the fundamental and radical equality that inheres in nondual practice.

          Another way to say this is, it’s therapy for minds deformed and alienated by centuries of fear and hate 🙂

          Keep in touch!

          Love,
          Sean

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