Projection is the foundation of our grief and sorrow. It gives rise to illusions which confuse our ability to redress problems where they actually are.
One way to undo projection, and by extension its pernicious effects, is through service to our brothers and sisters.
It is understood by most students of A Course in Miracles that the external world – from the smallest of its flowers to its most cataclysmic wars to our most beloved and intimate companions – is an illusion.
The illusion arises through projection. When we project, we dissociate from our own ideas or attitudes and place them on external objects ranging from people to places to weather events. That way, we are not the source of discomfort or fear or guilt; the external object is. We see the rain that cancels our picnic as the cause of our sadness.
It is this cause-and-effect relationship that underlies our experience of the world as illusory. We are sad because we have projected responsibility for our happiness onto an external object which is neutral and incapable of causing anything, much less sorrow.
When you project, you disown, and therefore do not believe is yours. You are excluding yourself by the very judgment that you are different from the one on whom you project. Since you have also judged against what you project, you continue to attack it because you continue to keep it separated (T-6.II.2:1-3).
We can think of projection is a device that sustains our perception of separation from God. It is the means by which this fundamental dissociation is sustained. Thus, projection is an active and ongoing rejection of oneness. So long as it goes on, healing – and thus happiness and inner peace – are impossible.
The world has not yet experienced any comprehensive reawakening or rebirth. such a rebirth is impossible so long as you continue to project or miscreate (T-2.I.3:7-8).
It is imperative that we bring projection to its end, and it is also our responsibility to do this.
How shall we end projection?
For many years, I approached the question of projection from the experience of self as center. I would examine my experience of being Sean in the world and consider everything as a projection. This ACIM teacher is my projection. So is my wife. This student is a projection and that cashier and both my parents and the neighbor down the street whose dog is always after the chickens and . . .
I tried very hard to look closely at these and the situations that arose in conjunction with them: my feelings, judgments, desires, biases. What I was willing to see, what I didn’t want to see. What was I disowning? How could I retrieve it?
There is nothing wrong with that approach. In fact, there is a lot that is helpful. Our careful attention to the external world as a sort of unconscious extension of the self can be very healing.
In time, however, I began to experience this dynamic differently. Significantly, I saw that not only were you my projection, but that I was also your projection.
This insight destabilized the personal I which appeared to function as the center from which literally everything else radiated. Suddenly, the center as such was everywhere. And as a result, my personal projections and perceptions became less important. I began to see in a deep and sustained way that we are in this together, and so our healing is entangled.
This is the beginning of awakening.
A teacher of God is anyone who choose to be one. His qualifications consist solely in this; somehow, somewhere he has made a deliberate choice in which he did not see his interests as apart from someone else’s. Once he has done that, his road is established and his direction is sure. A light has entered the darkness (M-1.1:1-4).
Here is an interesting and helpful experiment: go through your day thinking not about your personal growth and spiritual evolution but rather everybody else’s. Think of yourself as simply another illusion in their dream of separation and then be the best illusion you can possibly be for them.
If you do this, you will notice that you are far less focused on your own stuff – your disappointments, fears, obstacles, goals. You become more interested in other people – what they’re thinking and feeling, what they’re trying to do, where they need help and where they simply need to be left alone.
You will find it becomes natural to understand what they want from you, and then to give that to them. If you have not yet seen the face of Christ, this can bring that experience much closer in a tangible and pragmatic way.
Few things are as satisfying as helping our brothers and sisters step a little closer to God. It is both an honor and a privilege to be a speck of light in another’s dream. Thus, our work becomes being there for them as wholly and fully as we can. We give ourselves without reservation.
This is effective because our brothers and sisters are our own self. The gift we extend to them is the gift that we extend to our own self. We are not losing anything in service; rather, we are gaining everything, even when the at of service appears illogical or irrational.
When a brother acts insanely, he is offering you an opportunity to bless him. His need is yours. You need the blessing you can offer him. There is no way for you to have it except by giving it (T-7.VII.2:1-4).
When I stand in front of a class, I think: they have put me here. They made me. And I try to be aware of that as I teach – as I move around the classroom, shepherding dialogue, grading papers, answering questions and prodding them to go deeper or farther with this or that reading or insight.
When I sit down at the dinner table, I do the same thing. And when I attend meetings with municipal leaders. And when I attend holiday gatherings with extended family. And when I talk on the phone with fellow ACIM students. And answer emails. And . . .
We are never not able to be of service to those who long for awakening, because their longing is our longing, and by responding to it, we respond to our own self. It is natural and simple and the way is always clear. The path opens up before us literally as we walk it.
Remember the beautiful words Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Thus does Jesus encourage to see that we do not live in a world of strangers but rather a world of brothers and sisters who are our collaborators in salvation. Everything we do can be holy; everything we do can testify to love.
In this way, we are redeemed by the power of service. It relieves us of self-interest and make our lives a record of giving to each other. We have to be here for one another in active and loving ways. We do not enter Heaven alone or by degrees: we go hand-in-hand, and our going is Heaven itself.