Choice is the Last Illusion

Imagine that it’s lunch time. On the table before you are twenty hot dogs. Each is the same – one hot dog in a roll without any condiments. They are identical. So you’re going to pick one, but it doesn’t matter which one you pick.

You can call it a choice but is it really?

Would you hold up the “chosen” hot dog and be proud of your choice?

Would you boast, publicly or privately, about your decision-making skills?

Would you anguish over your choice? Ask for advice? Call a friend?

Choice depends on judgment which in turn depends on distinctions. If everything is the same, then choice is meaningless. If everything is the same, then it’s not worth getting hung up on choice, choosing and chosen.

This is easy to see with hot dogs but less easy with, say, people. We choose our partners – the ones with whom we build homes, raise families, share our bodies, et cetera. And those choices are premised on distinctions which we have judged (analyzed, compared and contrasted to others, et cetera).

Distinctions arise as a condition of the body and the world and, from the perspective of the body and the world, they are non-negotiable. Don’t even try to end or transcend or befriend them.

All we can really do with distinctions is notice them. Just notice the distinctions that arise, and notice that – from the perspective of a body in a world – there is literally no way to escape them.

After all, the body itself is a distinction, and the thought that “the body itself is a distinction” is itself a distinction. It is – in a nontrivial way – distinctions all the way down.

For whom is this a problem? Because it does feel like a problem, right? If I tell you the one you love is an illusion, you might be okay with that in a certain intellectual context, but you are still going home to them. They are still “the one” – your comfort, your solace, your joy. So it seems like there’s a conflict here.

It is ego which sees differences and ego which creates contexts in which those differences are sharpened in some respects and softened in others. It is ego which tells a story which includes things like “falling in love,” “waking up,” “being one with everything,” “being born again in Jesus Christ” and “soulmates” and all that.

And those things might actually happen! They might occur. Because that’s what the story calls for. Ego loves enlightenment, A Course in Miracles and a good holy relationship. It loves them because they all involve differences and judgments, which collectively are ego’s so-called life breath.

So when it appears suddenly that all of that is the same – and there are no grounds for any meaningful choice between spiritual paths, sexual partners, or even bread recipes . . .

. . . then ego pushes back. Hard. Its existence is at stake.

What you are in truth – what we might, here in this little essay, call “Spirit” – does not acknowledge differences. Spirit knows that love does not see differences. Spirit knows that any definition of God we come up with has nothing to do with God. There’s nothing to choose between. What possible reality could choice have?

Ego really really really wants you to believe in choice and it really really really wants you to believe your choices matter. Thus, the illusion of choice is deeply embedded in your thought system – even A Course in Miracles doesn’t altogether get rid of it (e.g., T-31.VIII.9:6, T-2.VIII.3:7, W-pI.190.6:4).

But as the sameness of the world is revealed, the grounds for choice become thin and finally unusable. It’s all the same.

When that is clear and can no longer be meaningfully denied, then you are going to experience ego as a homicidal psychopath. You are going to want to destroy the world and its inhabitants right down to the last cute puppy and then salt the ruins.

You are going to see the viciousness of ego in an unadulterated horror show that will make all of history look like a cakewalk, a G-rated Disney flick.

This is what scares you. This is what you refuse to consider.

And so this is why you cling to the illusion of choice. Because when you don’t, ego fights back in ways that are literally terrifying.

Yet if you will give attention to this fear, this terrifying drama, this evil that appears to live in you, then the horror show will pass, and what remains will be still and quiet, calm and beautiful, a small gap across which God will flow, as easily as a flake of snow melts on your tongue.

To perceive this gap – and to be given unto the Love which undoes it – is simply to see clearly that choice is an illusion.


  1. Stage 5 in the development of trust, coming right up! Lol. Hi Sean. Good to hear from you. As always, this is helpful. It reminds me to โ€œcall it not sin, invest it not with guilt, and above all, be not afraid of it.โ€ Thanks.

    1. Thanks for reading Claudia . . . yeah, “be not afraid.” One of my favorite lines in the course actually, and a hymn that seems to show up every time I stumble back into a Catholic church ๐Ÿ™‚ We are not alone. Thank you for being here.


    1. Hey Sean! I’m glad it’s helpful, glad it’s resonant and glad that you’re here to see it for me!


  2. Thank you, Sean. Lately, I’ve been immersed in this recognition that there is no real hope or answer in this world. Its choices have no meaning, nothing real to offer. It’s somewhat uncomfortable and “isolating”, but I guess we all have to reach this place to be able to clearly see that there really is only one choice which ends all choosing. I recognize that I may have to stay in this place of recognition until my trust gains strength. I think I’ll rest in Lesson 200 for awhile so I can find His comfort there.

    1. For all the talk of light and joy and inner peace, it has been my experience that the course pushes us into some very dark places. Ego does not release its stranglehold on our thinking without a struggle. Much like therapy, it’s not for the faint of heart.

      Yet as you rightly point out, we are not actually locked into suffering. We are allowed to draw a breath, to choose a way station in which to rest, or a brother or sister with whom to share. Knowing that the end is sure – that there is no peace but God’s – is a welcome respite.

      Thank you for sharing the way with me ๐Ÿ™‚


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