A Course in Miracles: The Ego’s Use of Guilt

This section contains an early and clear outline of the origins of our guilt and fear. Ego argues that you deliberately and permanently separated yourself from God – effectively taking part of God away from God – and then set up spiritual shop on your own. We feel guilt for having done this and we both expect and fear retribution. What else is worthy of the guilty? We screwed God and God is angry and vengeful. What kind of life is possible for those who believe they are separated from their source? How do you live when you believe God wants to kill you? No wonder we are not happy. No wonder our moments of peace are too little, too late and too transitory.

If the ego is the symbol of the separation, it is also the symbol of guilt. Guilt is more than merely not of God. It is the symbol of attack on God  . . . this is the belief from which all guilt really stems (T-5.V.2:8-9, 12).

The egoic self is the product of the separation. It is the part of the mind that believes in the separation (T-5.V.3:1). Its existence is dependent on that belief and so it maintains that belief all costs. Although its logic appears sound and persuasive, it is in fact totally insane. We cannot really be separated from God. Yet we can believe it is possible, and on the basis of that belief all sorts of problems seem to arise, each worse than the last, all exacerbating the underlying confusion.

Whatever you accept into your mind has reality for you. It is your acceptance of it that makes it real. If you enthrone the ego in your mind, your allowing it to enter makes it your reality. This is because the mind is capable of creating reality or making illusions (T-5.V.4:1-4).

This can be a difficult idea to wrap one’s brain around. For example, for a long time I believed that I was the way I was because of – take your pick – the church in which I was raised, the family culture in which I was raised, what my parents did and did not do, being raised in the country and not a city, because I went to this college instead of that one, followed this guru instead of that one, did this kind of therapy instead of that kind, and employed this kind of self-abuse and then this kind of recovery and then followed this New Age trend and then that meditation practice . . . on and on and on.

The past was always a rich garden of causes for my the guilt and fear from which I was constantly running.

At some point, it became clear that these so-called “reasons” for my guilt and fear – the existence of which I could no longer deny – were symptoms of a deeper problem, rather than the cause. A Course in Miracles was really the first thought system that laid out, in terms that were logical and coherent, and relatively easy to bring into application, how my experience of guilt and fear came to be and why they persisted.

Slowly I began to remember in a consistent way that the separation is a thought rather than an action a body takes in the world. I was entertaining a dysfunctional idea but there were alternatives. Remember, the mind can either create reality or make illusions (e.g., T-5.V.4:4).

What happens when we make space in our living for the creative power of mind?

I resisted answering this question for a long time. My resistance tended to take the form of insisting that the course was simply leaning too heavily on a metaphor. There wasn’t actually a time long ago when I indulged in the crazy notion that I could break away from God. Mind is merely conceptual; it doesn’t have any kind of effective reality.

Yet as I have continued to study the text and apply the lessons, this idea has become increasingly palatable. In part, I no longer try to get a fix on it in egoic terms. Sean Reagan didn’t break with God. I did. And when I did, you did. That’s why you are so important to me. That’s why A Course in Miracles places so much emphasis on healing with and through service to our brothers and sisters. We aren’t separate beings finding our home individually, even though it can seem that we are. Rather, we are one. We contain each other’s wholeness; we are each other’s wholeness.

In early versions of the course this chapter was title “The Two Decisions.” I am basically agnostic on the subject of the editing of A Course in Miracles – it is not as important an issue as it seems and investing in it is mostly a delay tactic – but I do appreciate that earlier title. It neatly encapsulates what is going on here. We decide to believe in the ego but we can as easily decide to believe in the Holy Spirit who teaches us that we are not separate from God because the very concept of separation from God is insane. Those are the two choices that are available to us – whether we call them choices, or Heaven and Earth, or Jesus and Lucifer (that angel for whom we ought to have some empathy, projecting himself from Heaven, and then frantically maintaining the divide – rings a bell, does it not?).

A Course in Miracles is less complex than folks sometimes make it. It simply aims to clear away emotional and spiritual detritus so that we can see clearly the choice before us: salvation or separation. Both are in our mind. Both can be chosen. One brings us all the peace and love and harmony we desire and the other keeps us fragmented and unhappy. It shouldn’t be hard! And yet it is. So the course gently and patiently – but insistently, if we are attentive – undoes the blocks. One day follows another and we find ourselves choosing love with more ease and regularity. We recognize the ego for the sly destructive power that it is. We listen harder for the voice of the Holy Spirit. We turn to Jesus for help. And we perceive God more and more clearly as what we are right now, in this moment.

Our shared happiness and unity are predicated on these two decisions. We are making one or the other all the time. The sooner we see this – and exercise our power of choice – the better.


  1. Thank you for clarifying this confusion within me. While I’m an early pupil of the ACIM ,what I noticed since my introduction to this work is the great upheaval of the two battling forces and let me tell you it’s never been this intense.
    By demystifying this concept I can accept it within my Consciousness

    1. I’m glad it was helpful, Bernadette. The course can be very powerful, especially in the early stages. I hope it continues to be fruitful for you.


  2. Thank you so much for this lucid description. While I am just starting out with ACIM, it resonates so deeply with me. I have been dealing with a great deal of guilt arising since I first picked up the text. Constantly feeling the need to confess, justify, explain away past actions or possible interpretations of present ones – the ego is insidious in its attempt to keep us in separation.

    Your attempts to identify the cause of your guilt and fear really struck me, as this is similar to my own experience: constantly trying to identify the reasons as to why I am so anxious, so unloving towards myself, so able to find a guilty slant on the most innocuous action. The closer I am to reaching a conclusion and resting in the peace of God, the more the ego amps up, preventing me from seeing the truth. In your post, it is clear that the ego is trying to turn my head away from the truth by adding detail and colour to the illusion, to keep me buying into it. Thank you so much. I look forward to reading your other posts.

    1. I’m glad it was helpful, Jenny. Your description of how ego works is right on. Its existence depends on our willingness to ignore Holy Spirit and accept only the judgment and framing of ego. And we are so used to listening to it and being persuaded by it! It is very challenging – especially early on – to feel that back-and-forth, almost like whiplash, as we begin to realize there is a better way. Thank you for sharing, and please feel free to keep in touch.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.