Earlier this week I wrote about the “problem” of evil. Here I want to go deeper into it, but from the perspective of having enemies.
Many ACIM students, when asked to make a list of their enemies, demur. “All men are my brothers.” “I’m a lover, not a hater.” They obey a voice inside which says students of A Course in Miracles can’t have enemies. They don’t do war.
But if not having enemies matters at all to you, it is because, at a level you have not yet investigated, much less accepted, you do have enemies. You do do war.
There is – thank Christ there is – another way.
That way is, when someone asks you to make a list of your enemies, ask if they want it alphabetized by name or harm done to you.
Honesty allows us to come to the actual question, which isn’t do we have enemies. We all have enemies. The question is, why do we need to deny it?
Maybe we are protecting our status as spiritual people. Maybe we want to be nonviolent like Gandhi or radical like Dorothy Day. Maybe we are denying our disappointment that we aren’t as spiritually or psychologically-grounded as once-upon-a-time we dreamed we’d be.
Maybe. But I think there’s something else. Denial is a brutally efficient cover story, a lie so convincing that even the teller forgets what’s true.
We’re in denial about having enemies for the same reason we’re always in denial: because otherwise we’d have no choice but to see that we are doing this – all of this – to ourselves (T-27.VIII.10:1).
It is a decision to have enemies. It is a decision resulting from an error about what we are and what reality is. The error is our conviction that we are bodies in a world.
We think we are bodies and, because bodies suffer and die, we believe we are going to suffer and die. The game is Survivor, the rule is kill or be killed, and we set up elaborate defenses, including the best defense of all: a good offense.
We think that is reality but we’re wrong. In reality this error is not a crisis. Since we are not bodies and there is no world any decision made on that basis has no effect.
But in the apparent experience itself?
Yes. At that level – in that thought system – it is a crisis. It is the crisis of separation, the conviction that everything has separate interests and separate goals, which can only produce chaos, competition and conflict. The game is Survivor, the rule is kill or be killed, et cetera.
The game exists because we believe in it. Because we believe in it, it’s what we see and, because it’s what we see, it’s what is there to be interacted with. Until you learn that it’s an illusion, you won’t know a thing about reality.
In other words, so long as we insist on miscreation, we can neither know nor extend creation.
A Course in Miracles teaches that defenses do what they are made to defend against (T-17.IV.7:1). We construct a world in which enemies make sense, and then pretend to be disappointed when war starts. If we light a firecracker, there’s going to be a bang. What do we gain by pretending otherwise?
I can’t answer that question for you, but I can tell you what the answer was for me. The answer was: freedom from responsibility. If you are the cause of the problem, then I am absolved of any need to solve it. You are the guilty party; I am just a victim – of you, of life, of God, of circumstance et cetera. That framework allows me to indulge the separation-based fantasy of my innocence at your expense. Rather than collaborate with the Holy Spirit to undo each and every block to love, I let ego build – this is the right analogy – yet another wall.
Choosing fear over peace, separation over unity, is a terrible way to think. It hurts us, it hurts others, it brings forth a merciless and unjust world. Who cherishes it is . . . confused.
And yet, the Course offers that person – e.g., me, e.g., you – a way out.
Forgive yourself your madness, and forget all senseless journeys and all goal-less aims. They have no meaning. You cannot escape from what you are (T-31.IV.11:1-3).
The illusion is that we can escape. It appears as the belief that there is some kind of self-improvement or self-actualization or socio-political program or holy relationship out there that will fix everything – me, you, the coral reefs, the Amazon, Amazon. Everything. I’ll start an ACIM commune, I’ll teach yoga, study centering prayer, I’ll manifest abundance, find a new therapist, get a divorce . . .
There are so many ways to avoid looking at the underlying error! We can spend lifetimes – we have spent lifetimes – playing with them. But eventually, says the Course, their shared futility becomes obvious.
You did not come to learn to find a road the world does not contain. The search for different pathways in the world is but the search for different forms of truth. And this would keep the truth from being reached (T-31.IV.6:3-5).
Why do we not want to reach truth?
Because we’re scared. And we know that the fear is not really outside but in the mind. It’s not somebody else, it’s us. We do not want to look at that. We really like saying “you did it.” Or “they did it.” But don’t judge against yourself for this judgment and projection. Instead, empathize with yourself. It’s hard to open one’s heart in hell.
When we look within we should see stuff we resent, stuff that scares us, stuff that we hate. Seven deadly sins, four horsemen of the apocalypse, Facebook. Serial killers, arms dealers, red dye number five. The more we look, the worse it should get.
I’m not saying that you would nuke a country full of innocent people. I’m saying that you believe you can be happy in a world in which some people would do that. And the reason you believe you can be happy in that world is because – wait for it – you would nuke a country full of innocents. Your only real objection is the lack of plausible deniability.
You want to push the button but blame somebody else. Me, too.
I know, I know – that’s not fair. You and I are in therapy, we quit drinking, we tithe, we study and practice A Course in Miracles, we grow our own food, we vote and we march, et cetera et cetera
I agree that we’re getting better, and that there is a way in which our getting better matters. But weapons of mass destruction and assymetric warfare and misinformation are still out there. And they’re out there because we still have enemies.
And we still have enemies because way down deep – past religion, past psychotherapy, past physics and astronomy – we don’t believe the problem is us. We’re not doing this; somebody else is doing this.
They’re the problem, not us.
Go slowly with me here. I confuse easily 🙂
At some point, you realize that you are a bottomless pit of evil, that there is no end to the awfulness in you. In my experience, you have this insight in the exact same way that you have the insight – because it is fundamentally the same insight – that the many pathways of the world are without exception utterly useless.
Nothing is going to change. You aren’t going to change, the world isn’t going to change. It’s hopeless.
And your response to this appearance of hopelessness is an existential angst so terrifying not even death will be a release.
Men have died on seeing this, because they saw no way except the pathways offered by the world. And learning they led nowhere, lost their hope (T-31.IV.3:4-5).
This is a bleak space but paradoxically it’s also a liberating one. Therefore we should not fear but rather seek it out. It’s bleak because this is how ego sees the world and ego is dark. But it’s liberating because we are not ego and are under no obligation – moral, spiritual or otherwise – to believe its lies.
From the twenty-fourth miracle principle:
You are a miracle, capable of creating in the likeness of your Creator. Everything else is your own nightmare, and does not exist. Only the creations of light are real (T-1.I.24:2-4).
In other words, you don’t have to buy the life and worldview peddled by ego because there is no ego, only your willingness to pretend there is. You’re lying to yourself, you’re playing a game with phantoms. You’re a child daydreaming. You’re a child having a nightmare.
I’m not saying that you’re the problem. Children are never the problem. I’m saying there is no problem and any time you want to believe that, and live in the world that freedom and innocence brings forth (which is a gift of your Father in Heaven), you can.
Suffering is an illusion readily translated into peace and joy by the Holy Spirit.
Ego is like a so-called friend who always brings you down. Subtle insults and digs, never sees the best in you or anyone, doesn’t do optimism, thinks love is for the lucky or the foolish, et cetera. We all know this person (for a very good reason, by the way, projection is no joke) and we all know that you don’t argue with them, you don’t go to war with them. You just walk away from them.
If you refuse to be in conflict, then there is no conflict. The gift we offer the so-called toxic other is the gift of not putting up with their bullshit, which is to say that we choose to only see Christ in them. It doesn’t matter if they understand this or not. It doesn’t matter if we understand it. It doesn’t matter how or even whether they respond. We do it anyway. If our expression of Love requires satisfaction to be valid then guess what? It’s not Love, it’s hate.
It turns out that loving this way is literally possible, and that doing so makes us happy in a clear, calm and quiet way that is sweeter and more sustainable than most of can imagine. This happiness naturally extends itself to others, becoming lighter and lighter as it goes. It is a gift that we receive by giving away and nothing – literally nothing – else becomes us. It is the spark of light that ends the darkness out of which nightmares are made and in which they seem so real.
The question of the world is “what am I” (T-6.IV.2:7) and the ego has an answer. You’ve been listening to it and believing it’s the truth for your whole life. We all have. It teaches you to fear your brothers and sisters, to kill them before they kill you, and that killing them isn’t your fault but theirs or God’s or somebody’s. You didn’t make the cosmos. You’re just a regular Joe trying to survive.
The Holy Spirit has a better answer to the question of “what am I.” The Holy Spirit’s answer is, you are Love Itself.
Child of God you were created to create the good, the beautiful and the holy. Do not forget this (T-1.VII.2:1-2).
This is what Jesus heard, this is what he believed and this is what he did not forget, even unto a cross. We are called to remember and extend perfect innocence as well, under far less strenuous conditions than Jesus faced.
. . . teach your own perfect immunity; which is the truth in you, and realize that it cannot be assailed. Do not try to protect it yourself, or you are believing that it is assailable (T-6.I.6:4-5).
When we remember what we are in truth, then the last veil drops. And this – this – is what we are so desperate to avoid seeing. We are Love, and we are scared to be Love, because we think Love is weak because that is what ego taught us. Its proof is, was and will always be the body. Love doesn’t stop bullets. Love doesn’t cure cancer. Love doesn’t shut down concentration camps. It doesn’t even bake bread. Have you heard of the twentieth century?
This argument against Love can seem very persuasive. But in the end it fails. Illusions can’t prove or disprove illusion. Only truth proves anything. That is why we say that only truth is true (T-14.II.3:3). Truth is the new reference frame the Holy Spirit teaches us (T-14.II.6:1). When we are true to our own truth, then we will remember God, because what we are in truth and what God is are not separate (T-14.II.8:7). There is nothing else to remember (T-14.III.19:5).
This is why the ACIM Workbook invites us to let go of everything, even our most cherished ideas about God, Love, Truth and Beauty.
Be still, and lay aside all thoughts of what you are and what God is; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself. Empty your mind of everything it thinks is either true or false, or good or bad, of every thought it judges worthy, and all the ideas of which it is ashamed. Hold onto nothing. Do not bring with you one thought the past has taught, nor one belief you ever learned before from anything. Forget this world, forget this course, and come with wholly empty hands unto your God (W-pI.189.7:1-6).
When we remember what we are in truth, then the world is instantly transformed from a site of conflict to a site of healing. We understand everything is a reflection of an inner state (T-21.in.1:5), and that all change is therefore internal. That is why the Course teaches us that to have peace we must teach peace to learn peace (T-6.V.B.7:5). To teach peace is to refuse to learn from the ego, and instead to learn only from the Holy Spirit.
We have to accept this; we have to become responsible for it. We have to stop denying the healing power of Love that is us. You and I are not bodies and there is no world. Nothing real can be threatened and nothing unreal exists (T-in.2:2-3). This is the peace of God (T-in.2:4).
Right now, we are like children making faces in a mirror and getting angry at the jerk in the mirror who won’t stop making faces at us. It’s time to stop playing childish games. It’s time to become the spiritual adult all God’s children need. Their need is our need, and nobody else can meet it.
The kid thinks you’re an enemy he has to defeat. You think the kid is a problem you have have to solve. There is another way. Right now, the Holy Spirit is teaching it to you. Learn or don’t learn, it’s up you, but can we at least accept that the power of decision is ours?