A Course in Miracles Lesson 79

Let me recognize the problem so it can be solved.

Few sentences in A Course in Miracles as neatly sum up the problem the course is given to solve as these from the first paragraph of Lesson 79:

The problem of separation, which is really the only problem, has already been solved. Yet the solution is not recognized because the problem is not recognized (W-pI.79.1:4-5).

If you do not recognize the problem, then you cannot solve it. Even if it is already solved, you won’t know this. We have to see clearly what the problem is: there is no substitute in healing for this simple fact.

How does this show up in our lives? It shows up largely in the belief that we have many problems, each requiring their own individual solution. And so we hunker down with each apparent problem, diligently “solving” it, only to have a whole other batch of problems arise to take its place.

We consent to this hopeless situation because its underlying function is to keep us unhappy. Tending to many problems means we never look at the one problem – separation – which is the only problem we actually have.

The temptation to regard problems as many is the temptation to keep the problem of separation unsolved. The world seems to present you with a vast number of problems, each requiring a different answer. This perception places you in a position in which your problem solving must be inadequate and failure is inevitable (W-pI.79.4:1-3).

Thus, we never experience the peace and happiness that go with being entirely problem-free (W-pI.79.3:5).

The endless tangle and complexity of the world’s problems are a distraction. They can’t be solved. They are designed to keep our attention on the world and away from the mind where the power to create and heal is actually exercised. It doesn’t matter whether they are ignored or embraced, denied or studied, fixed or left undone.

So long as they keep our attention away from separation, they have served the ego’s purpose.

If you could recognize that your only problem is separation, no matter what form it takes, you could accept the answer because you would see its relevance. Perceiving the underlying constancy in all the problems that seem to confront you, you would understand that you have the means to solve them all. And you would use the means because you recognize the problem (W-pI.79.6:2-4).

A Course in Miracles teaches us that all the world’s problems – the big ones, the little ones, the easy ones and the impossible ones – are all the same. And their sameness is what allows our mind to shift from the specificity of form to the generalizability of love. We can’t find salvation in the world; we have to look where salvation is. And when we do, we will recognize both it because we recognize its function.

The key to success with this lesson is humility. We have to be radically open-minded. It’s easy to say that our only problem is separation. We want to go past the level of words. We want to go past the level of form altogether, and reach the abstraction of what we are in truth.

We want to see separation as we believe it exists – where it exists, how it exists, in all its rotten glory – and, on the basis of that clear seeing, understand the solution as well and allow them to merge.

All that is necessary is to entertain some doubt about the reality of your version of what your problems are. You are trying to recognize that you have been given the answer by recognizing the problem, so that the problem and the answer can be brought together and you can be at peace (W-pI.79.8:3-4).

This is equivalent to bringing light to darkness. Light is the answer to the problem of darkness. Correction can only be accomplished where correction is possible – and this can only be at the level of the error. “Change does not mean anything at the symptom level, where it cannot work” (T-2.VI.3:7).

Problems appear to be many; they appear to be complex; they appear to be real. Our work now is to question these appearances, and open our minds to the possibility that we have but one problem: separation, and seeing it as and where it is will allow the solution to present itself as well.

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  1. Sean, I wonder if you have experienced the same feeling of schizophrenia during your learning experience with ACIM:
    The more I progress in the course (lesson 79 today), the more often I start experiencing small fragments of the “peace of god”. Those moments are very noticeable. It’s a very different form of happiness than happiness from emotional “highs” (elation) or fulfillment of material things. It is a deeply calm, formless happiness with no object, an underlying “calm vitality” (if that makes sense!), and a deep desire to extend this joy to others. I am taking this as a sign of progress, however in parallel I feel the attacks of my ego are also getting more intense, vicious and out of control, to the point at times of knocking me down in bed, with all sorts of doom thoughts, including attack thoughts against the course “this thing doesn’t work (…) you spend way too much time studying it (…) you look like you joined a cult (…)”. In those moments the feeling of separation is at its peak, and although I try to apply the fear formula, to consciously release grievances, and ask the HS for help, at times it overpowers me and I can’t swim back to calmer waters. The end result is honestly a deep feeling of schizophrenia between the two states: in the peaceful moments I wonder how I could be so “low”, and on those terribly low days I wonder how I could feel so peaceful and light the day before. These “lows” have a different quality than before I started studying ACIM: there is now an added guilt for “failing” to apply the course principles, and “indulging” in ego attacks, which only reinforced the feeling of inadequacy, failure, and separation. If I’m honest, at times I even worry I might be getting insane (in the sense of psychosis or other forms of psychological disorders), or that my ego might be bigger than the average Joe and so harder (or impossible) to dismantle (a very egotistic and ridiculous thought, I know!). I wonder if you’ve experienced this kind of situation and if the sail gets smoother as we progress further in the course. If you have any good quotes from the book (I’m at chapter 12 now) that might shed some light, I’m more than grateful. Thank you Sean for your time and experience sharing. I always deeply appreciate it.

    1. Hi Audrey,

      Short answer: Yes. I do experience that.

      Slightly longer answer:

      Ego does not go quietly into the good night. It is very good at perceiving threats to its existence, and it fights back. And, depending on the level of threat it perceives, it’s fighting can be quite vicious.

      In a sense, as uncomfortable as this feels, it IS a sign of progress.

      One thing that helps me is to practice nonviolence with ego. I don’t want to fight it. I don’t want to try and fix it. I don’t want to hide from it.

      I want to be fully present to its insanity, its raving, its judgment. The whole bitter and debilitating package. I think of that story of the Buddha. Somebody hears that’s nonviolent and visits him and spits and beats him. Buddha just sits there. The visitor grows exhausted. And Buddha says: “my child. when you offer a gift of pain to the one and the one does not accept it, with whom does the pain and suffering reside?”

      You are Buddha. Ego is the confused visitor.

      Jesus’ “turn the other cheek” can also be a helpful narrative balm here.

      All that said, I ALSO think it is important to calibrate our practice. Using the Course to whip ourselves into a spiritual frenzy or make ourselves guilty for failing to be sufficiently disciplined and so forth is always contra-indicated.

      My life turned upside down around Lesson 79 and 80. At a very deep level, I was undone. It’s a long story I won’t recount here but it had to do with my conception of God. I lost a lifetime of theology in about thirty seconds, and began a long – it may take lifetimes, who knows – correction process.

      So I think it is helpful to both allow the process to occur – which it is going to do anyway – but also to be gentle and kind with ourselves, and go slowly sometimes, and smell the flower and listen to the rain and bake bread and visit friends et cetera.

      I am not particularly good at that! At breathing and resting and going slowly. But the healing we undertake is vast – God has one Child, not many – and I am humbled by it. I am grateful always to be present to it, in whatever ways I can be from moment to moment.

      Your passion and commitment to truth are going to frustrate ego – and it is going to fight for its life – so the practice becomes how to respond to that. For me, nonviolent resistance is the clearest and most helpful approach, one the Holy Spirit seems most willing to collaborate on.

      Thanks as always for being here, Audrey.


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