A Course in Miracles Lesson 86

Only God’s plan for salvation will work.

Holding grievances is an attack on God’s plan for salvation.

To the extent we actually have problems, one of them might be that we insist on looking for salvation where it cannot be found, and thus go on in anguish and suffering when peace and happiness are literally at hand.

What does this mean in practice? It means that we look for salvation in the other – a better partner say. A new spiritual teacher. A job with more money or less responsibility. A body that looks like this rather than that. Running instead of yoga, yoga instead of watching sitcoms. We buy into the body and the world as causes and we start looking for the right one. And then we are lost. 

Because there is no “right one” in the world. Salvation is an inside job and it never fails. But we have to remember to look for it. We have to insist on “no more idle seeking” (W-pI.86.2:6).

What we are in truth – which is to say, in Creation – is not separate from God. That is why God’s plan for salvation is in our mind – because our mind is an extension of God’s mind, and “ideas leave not their source” (T-26.VII.4:7).

Yet has God given answer to the world of sickness, which applies to all its forms. God’s answer is eternal, though it works in time, where it is needed. Yet because it is of God, the laws of time do not affect its workings. It is in this world, but not a part of it. For it is real, and dwells where all reality must be (T-26.VII.4:2-6).

That is a lovely description of salvation: and remember, it describes the contents of our mind, because it is the mind we share with God.

Today’s review distinguishes between what we are in truth – the light of the world, blessed Creations of a wholly perfect and loving Creator – and what ego is. Ego has its own agenda, its own plan. Its plan revolves in part around grievances. It’s a grievance collector.

Grievances are attacks on the Holy Instant, on the present, because they cherish the past. Not only are they focused on the past, but they are a perception of the past that insists on seeing only a brother or sister’s errors. Grievances are deeply invested in the self as contained by – forever bound to – a body, struggling and stumbling through a world of pain and confusion, forever in conflict with other bodies.

It is not possible to clear a space for the calm light of grace when we are torn by fear and hatred like this. 

Lesson 86 reminds us of that we are called to a form of forgiveness that transcends the limitations of the body and the world. It aims to make the stakes clear. We cannot remember peace and experience joy if we are not vigilant against ego’s habit of getting us to focus on its agenda instead of God’s. And the way it does this is by utilizing grievances. To grieve is to overlook the radiant present in which harm is not possible at all. 

Salvation – as our Creator extends it, and as we know it in our shared mind – is present the moment we choose it. Time and space end in that choice. We are not earning anything, or making anything, or traveling to far lands to reclaim something. We aren’t actually on a journey. Salvation is simple because it’s here now. The miracle always returns us to this moment, allowing us to choose again in favor of Love. 

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  1. The amount of spiritual-seeking-suffering has been suprising to learn of for me. Coming out of the addiction/recovery path, I had so much on my plate that way. The non duality sharers also out of recovery that I ended up learning from after, had seen how identical the search for enlightnemnet addiction was for sufferers who ended up coming to THEM. I sit now helping Paul Hedderman in his Zoom meetings, and see this now. He moved the message out of AA because there he had become a “prophet not heard by his own town”. In creating a website outside of AA, he found non substance abuse addicts coming to hear the relief from identity addiciton. “To the extent we actually have problems” is seen to be a prior obfuscation (while it works). And there can be a dismay still waiting, that the spirituality approached to escape those problems is the original mother problem. It’s like our spiritual/philosophical problem is the “bottom of the well”, churning the surface desirablilities/escape-from-them/problems-unseparate-from-both. When we find that what’s called spirituality and the “top” of human answers/hopes, is the actual bottom, dismay has to be admitted But then the bottom becomes an opening to non-stratified presence. To See the looker for salvation as enough of a Seeing, and not stay in the bottom of the well circling and saying in the dark “there must be more than that”, is the crossing that eye of the needle. The relief on the “other side” of it, has been an amazing priveledge to witness (just like AA’s model of seeing others get sober). And similarly, it remains sobering to see those that quest-ion within the married addictions of time and character identification. That being what salvation is from, the words salvation, enlightenment, awakening all are aprehended from within those addictions. It’s been really interesting to see the hell of conventional addictions, that the world has seen as people needing to be saved from, showing the light of how Mind succeeds where character-idenified (and their world) can only see failure. And to meet up with those that are saving Christianity via ACIM, and those saving ACIM from the same assumption that The Way had come into the world, has been remarkable. Thank you for helping me make clear that there’s a radiant presence, and sharing/shining your graceful calm light in its space.

    1. Spirituality as the mother problem . . . I was helped a lot by ACIM’s emphasis on seeing the external world and its many problems as all the same . . . this baffled me then I saw it clearly and it led to a deep nihilism that I still have not adequately written about. But that’s just the same problem of wrong looking, that is, not looking in the looker.

      Have you ever ever read David Bohm’s little essay “The Observer and the Observed?” It turned my head many years ago and remains a touchstone. I think it was Bohm who sort of shook up my intense Christian focus (still my favorite language for this stuff) and got me thinking about oneness/awakening/nonduality as more of a mechanical problem, a cognitive error, a habit of looking in the wrong place kind of error. “IN the looker” is the one place the looker never looks . . .

      Anyway, I am interested in what happens when we finally look at the looker and see looking; the Christian framework is a little different than the advaitan one, which tends to be the default for how this gets talked about these days. But maybe that’s more of a technical language problem? Probably. I do like surfing the wordiness.

      Hope all is well Mike! Great as always to learn from you.


  2. Sean; thanks so much for your spot on brilliant writing on the subject of ACIM. I saved your page and forgot about it. It helped a lot today. You have the gift for the course….

      1. So many today have fallen into the ego trap of the urtext, or endeavor academy
        I truly look forward to corresponding with you and watching more of your videos. You are a great treasure to jesus.

  3. I reviewed this lesson today:

    “Only God’s plan for salvation will work”.

    I was exhausted from being up on my feet all day today with only one very little break. l also only had a few hours sleep, so when l commenced the lesson review, l thought l would fall asleep before l even began the longer review part of it.

    l was so surprised when His voice came through loud and clear. lt almost startled me. lt was very encouraging. The Holy Spirit had a message message to this effect: ‘We acknowledge and appreciate all your efforts, persistence and resilience. Keep up your efforts. We support you and we will strengthen you. You have remained awake today while at work and that is a big step forward. You will be rewarded for all your efforts. Be the light that you are. We walk together in truth, light and love’

    That’s the gist of it.


  4. I honestly wish there was a way to receive the HS’s guidance when we are “torn by fear and hatred”. Isn’t it in those moments that we most need it? When a newborn is crying, the caretaker doesn’t say “Hey, I will come to soothe you when you stop crying. Right now you are too clouded by intense emotions to receive my care”. When I’m in a state of severe anxiety, it adds up another layer of anxiety to know that “in that state, I cannot receive guidance”. It encourages guilt (if only I was able to control my anxiety, I would receive guidance) or despondency (I can’t get guidance right now, because I am too clouded by fear/anxiety). It feels very conditional to me to obtain help and guidance *only* when I am a star pupil, “equanimous AF”, with all grievances in check. Sorry for my question Sean, I’m sure it’s my limited perspective and own negative projections on the course. I’m going through an intense “ACIM fatigue” these past few days, and I’m very close to giving up the course, mostly because there is a too huge gap between the course promises and the “reality” I observe. It’s hard to keep faith in those conditions. Part of me is aware that the biggest lessons and potential for growth are behind those strong resistances. I guess I’m hoping to find nuggets of wisdom and hope on your blog (as I always did)! Thank you.

    1. It is okay to take a break from the Course and the lessons. The Holy Spirit does not take attendance 🙂 The first time I did the lessons, it took a couple months past a year, and the second time I did them it was well past a year. Healing is a journey on which time is at best a secondary feature. There really is no hurry.

      But beyond that, I think that it is helpful to check our expectations for healing, and also to be rigorously honest about the Course and how it fits for us. I think it’s healthy to want to throw it across the room and to actually from time to time throw it, and I also think it’s okay to say this is not for me or this is not for me at this time. I agree that from time to time the language feels conditional or sets a standard that feels impossible to meet; this is a reflection not so much of Love as the imperfect way in which the material is transmitted. It reflects a LOT of Helen Schucman’s (and, to a lesser extent, Bill Thetford’s and Ken Wapnick’s) education, bias, tone and so forth.

      So some degree of discernment and forgiveness is helpful, especially when the going gets rough, and we realize we on this path – are really taking, so to speak, this Course.

      I ran into ACIM twice in my life before it landed in a practical way, a sustainableway. Both times prior I was curious but I couldn’t sustain the inquiry, let alone the study and practice that it requires. And that was okay! It was MORE than okay.

      I am not projecting that this is true of you, Audrey, or anyone else reading this. I am just pointing out that there are (as I know you know) many viable paths up the mountain, and the Course is not the best or the only path. But sometimes it can be the most helpful, even as it includes a lot of ups and downs, two steps back, skinned knees, et cetera.

      I had a related conversation yesterday, and I want to share part of it here, because I think it’s perhaps germane:

      . . .

      It is probably not precisely the answer you are looking for, but I actually think it is a good sign that those feelings of resistance, anxiety and discourageent are amping up. It is a sign that ego is aware of the work that you are doing, perceives it (accurately!) as a threat, and is doubling down on its survival efforts. Ego does not go without a fight, often a big one.

      This (the negative emotions) is sometimes also paradoxically a reflection of our growing sense of peace, which reflects our deepening trust in the Holy Spirit, which the Holy Spirit uses to show us a path towards even more healing, even more peace and happiness, by “increasing” the anxiety or stress. It’s not really increasing, even though it seems to be. It’s just the Holy Spirit pointing out yet more material for us to bring to the healing light of God.

      It is my experience that salvation in A Course in Miracles – which is simply becoming happy in a natural, sustainable way – takes time and effort. It takes attention. And it takes a willingness to go deeply into the ego thought system in order to uproot and be rid of it entirely. Even when we reach the end of the lessons, the Course is clear: the work goes on. This is not easy; we need the Holy Spirit, and we need each other.

      I would not be too discouraged, in other words. On the contrary, I would feel encouraged. And I would consider seeing if you can start to tell the difference between ego and the Holy Spirit. Can you hear their voices? Can you tell which one is speaking and directing and guiding you?

      The answer is not always what we think! The ego is good at performing, playing parts, and convincing us it’s got our best interests at heart.

      The Holy Spirit is quiet, never argues, doesn’t hold grudges, doesn’t judge, and when we listen and do what it says, happiness is the sure result, where happiness is just that quiet sense of everything is okay, and will be okay, and we need do nothing but remember it.

      It sounds like you are right in the heart of it. Thank you for sharing, and if it makes sense, keep doing the work. The peace and happiness for which you long is inevitable, because it IS you. It is the natural effect of having been created happy and peaceful by God.

      You are closer than you think to remembering it.

      . . .

      Thank you as always Audrey. Walk away for a few days and see what happens. Be kind to yourself, and gentle. This is hard work; it’s okay to step back sometimes and breathe, re-evaluate, et cetera. We are always home.


  5. Hello Sean, thank you for your words. They really help. ” It is a sign that ego is aware of the work that you are doing, perceives it (accurately!) as a threat, and is doubling down on its survival efforts. Ego does not go without a fight, often a big one.” this feels very accurate.
    The elements of your yesterday’s discussion felt directly in connection with my concerns. Thank you for sharing it with me.
    Actually, to answer your question, I think I am only at the beginning of *starting* to recognize the two voices. But as I am still unsure at times (or uneager!), the experience feels very schizophrenic. A few days ago I had a fruitful meditation experience, and I would like to share the below thoughts that came to me. I’m always careful not to indulge immediately in the feeling that this is “HS guidance”, because I know at times the ego can snigger in and try to take the form of guidance. So I usually write down what comes, allow a few days of distance, come back to it, read again several times until I have a deep consistent inner feeling that this “feels right. this is useful”. Allow me to share here, if that’s OK, as a collaborative work, as I think this point in the course (recognizing the ego from the HS’s voice) is crucial. These are only my observations, and I’m eager to hear what others may experience:

    The voice of HS – qualities:

    – Calm and quiet.
    – Impactful with fewer words.
    – Doesn’t repeat things.
    – Uses images and analogies.
    – Is never angry or impatient.
    – Is non-complacent but in a deeply fair, objective way.
    – Calmly confrontational.
    – Able to praise and see the good.
    – Takes time to speak.
    – Continues to give guidance beyond meditation through written flow.
    – Provides me with a deep feeling of calm certainty, and erases confusion.
    – No timeline or sense of urgency.
    – Very coherent, consistent guidance that builds upon one another each day.
    – Makes me focused on a deep feeling of peace and joy, detached from material reality.
    – Gives me calm energy, joy, objectless hope, and peace.
    – Makes me want to open up and expand joyfully toward others.
    – Deeply loving and supportive.
    – Makes me foresee a brighter present and future, full of joy and peace.
    – Helps me see there is indeed “a way out”.

    The ego’s voice:

    – Agitated.
    – Sends lots of contradictory, opposing thoughts and ideas.
    – Repeats things, obsessionally, like a parrot.
    – Doesn’t use subtle images, very “first-degree”.
    – Gets angry, manipulates with fear, guilt, or doubt.
    – Swings between self-blame and self-indulgence.
    – Harshly confrontational.
    – Unable to see any good or progress.
    – Speaks first and abundantly.
    – Tries to take sophisticated appearances, such as the form of HS guidance.
    – Tries to use the course against me.
    – Makes me feel even more panicked; indecisive and confused.
    – A terrible sense of urgency that wants to push me into immediate, impulsive actions.
    – Totally incoherent, erratic, contradictory guidance that changes every minute.
    – Makes me focus on a sense of lack or sense of grandiosity, obsessed with material reality.
    – Gives me severe anxiety attacks & depression
    – Profoundly unloving; hateful and unsupportive.
    – Makes me foresee a terribly negative fate: bankruptcy, homelessness, sickness…
    – Forces me into thinking there is no way out.

    This “grid” has helped me at times when I was unsure who was at the commands.

    I guess my biggest difficulty with the course is on those days when I am not fully able to keep my grievances at bay. The temptation to go “fucked for fucked” is big on those days “I wasn’t able to let go of grievances (…) and so I’m doomed and better give up”. I feel your advice of leaving some breathing space is useful. Perhaps I’m just trying too hard! It helps a lot to read that it’s OK to wander, stumble, (even fall!) then stand up again and resume where we have left.
    I’ve decided to take a few days’ break, travel to see some friends, and then see what happens when I come back to ACIM next Tuesday. The world is not going to fall apart because of this! Maybe I need the distance to assimilate things.

    Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer and share your thoughts Sean!
    Really grateful to have found your blog and have this space here to share, like a mini sanctuary, because studying ACIM can be a very lonesome experience at times.

    1. Thank you, Audrey.

      I love this list, and think this is actually a good exercise, as it sort of trains the mind to notice the voices to which it is listening.

      Of course there is a next level here, which is the who or what is listening? To whom or what is ego/holy spirit speaking?

      Can we make contact with THAT?

      That is one of the fruitful exercises that seems to emerge from getting comfortable recognizing the Holy Spirit and the ego.

      I don’t know where you’re at in the reading of the Text, but the other intersting aspect of all this is the holy instant, which can really become a very powerful teaching tool, especially when it stops feeling supernatural/mystical and begins to just BE reality.

      Chapter 15 can lead to some very interesting insights and experiments, which – because they are less yoked to the lessons – have a free-form quality that takes advantage of the so-called “self-study” aspect of the material.

      Enjoy your travel and time away. Love holds everything 🙏🙏

      ~ Sean

  6. Sorry Sean, me again 🙂
    I forgot to share a really insightful short video from David Hoffmeister, which I found “by chance” yesterday, with the catchy title “Why did my life get much worse after (starting to) study ACIM?”
    I thought this complemented really well what you said:


    I hope this can help anyone facing similar difficulties as me! The humorous approach feels like a soothing balm too!

  7. I am reading about the holy instant. I’m not there yet in the book, I’m at chapter 13. Thank you for pointing at this, and for all your answers Sean, deeply appreciated. It did me good to have a few days’ break from the course, and I am not gently getting back at it. Hopefully with a refreshed mind.

  8. interesting Freudian slip!! I meant “I am now gently getting back at it” and not “I am not gently getting back at it”…part of my mind is still uneager it seems: 🙂

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