Lesson 23: ACIM in a Nutshell

We might reframe ACIM Daily Lesson 23 this way: if you want to know peace, then give up projection. Indeed, in a sense, this lesson encapsulates the whole function and thus our whole practice of A Course in Miracles.

There is no point in lamenting the world. There is no point in trying to change the world. It is incapable of change because it is merely an effect. But there is indeed a point in changing your thoughts about the world. Here you are changing the cause. The effect will change automatically.


This is one of the clearest statements regarding a fundamental course paradigm: give attention to your thinking rather than to the world. Or, to put it another way, the only problem we really have is that we think we have problems (T-26.II.3:3). Change the way you think, and the self and world you perceive will change as well.

Of course, if giving up projection were easy – or even intuitive – then we wouldn’t need A Course in Miracles. Or therapy or Buddhism. Or hugs. The course is given so that we might begin to work with our thoughts in order to change how we see the world and – through that evolving shift in perception – remember our identity in and as love.

Thus, lesson 23 is a firm step in the direction of reforming our understanding of what we are in truth. It is an invitation to shift our sense of identity from “victim of the world we see” to “the image-maker itself” (W-pI.23.4:1).

It is also a promise that as we do learn that we are making the world, and accept responsibility accordingly, that nothing will actually be lost when we let that world go. This addresses a significant fear for many of us – does awakening mean I won’t see my kids? Or listen to Leonard Cohen songs? Or dip french fries in mayo?

Vision already holds a replacement for everything you think you see now. Loveliness can light your images, and so transform them that you will love them, even though they were made of hate. For you will not be making them alone.


As I have pointed out many times, a point comes in our learning where we realize that we are trapped – the self is an illusion that cannot save itself, and the world offers no path that can save us either. So long as we believe in that self and that world, then the “trap” retains its stranglehold on us.

Lesson 23 – again, encapsulating a fundamental principle of A Course in Miracles – makes the case that this “trap” can be escaped by seeing that it is an illusion. It isn’t real. There is nothing to escape. But how do we see this? How do we, you know . . . actually make it happen?

This change requires, first, that the cause be identified and then let go, so that it can be replaced. The first two steps in this process (identification and letting go) require your cooperation. The final one (replacement) does not. Your images have already been replaced. By taking the first two steps, you will see that this is so (parenthetical emphasis mine).


Thus, we want to see in a clear and sustainable way how we project attack thoughts outward and thus create a world of scarcity and violence, one in which peace is a fleeting sensation and love never welcome.

We want to see that we are the author of our suffering and – because we not want to suffer – let go of the impulse to project.

That’s it – that’s our whole job.

Lesson 23 is basic. All we are doing is noticing our attack thoughts (so-and-so is always judging me, I should eat healthier, why don’t people stop driving fossil-fuel powered cars, my mother never loved me, why can’t the news be positive et cetera). And then – for each one – we remind ourselves that if we will let this thought go, then we will remember the peace that is already given.

Noticing is hard! It takes practice to see in a consistent way how our minds project and how projection is always an attack.

But the truth is, letting go is even harder. Ego is happy to be noticed; it doesn’t object to that. It will lose that battle in order to keep fighting. And where it really resists is letting go.

Giving up attack thoughts feels like losing our self and our world. It feels like a form of sacrifice. We identify with the world that is made of attack; we are familiar with a self driven by vengeance.

So Lesson 23 is like a first step in mind-training. It’s like being taught how to stretch properly before being taught how to run a marathon. We want to run already, want to cross the finish line already. And the course points out that this not realistic; if we will go slowly, pace ourselves, and train up, then we will surely recall the peace and joy that is our inheritance. Forcing and faking it are not helpful.

In other words, if we are noticing attack thoughts (which include “being attacked” thoughts), then that’s sufficient. The letting go comes with time.

We are still at the stage of identifying the cause of the world you see. When you finally learn that thoughts of attack and of being attacked are not different, you will be ready to let the cause go.


We learn in time that time is not real. We learn in bodies that we are not bodies. And we learn in the world that there is no world. Don’t wait on light shows and spiritual lottery tickets. In a gentle and quiet way, give attention to your living, ever reminding yourself that you are the author of your pain, and that a better way waits on your decision.


  1. Timely lesson and insights.

    Coincidentally, I put away my ACIM for a couple of days to absorb it as the ego continues to resist. I am honoring that this is a gentle war that will take time (or no time at all!). As it goes, it will go.

    I will return to the gentle war and absorb the lessons until I KNOW it to be all there is.

    I cherish your insights.

    1. Thank you Lourdes . . . I’m glad you’re here. And glad you’re listening the the Holy Spirit’s guidance. There are no mistakes!


  2. Sean, thanks for this helpful article. Every little bit helps as we walk together. I want to ask a favor. I’ve always experienced an inner “stumble”, a sense of “coming up short”, when I read the words “shift in perception”. I’ve read explanations from the Course and from others many times, but there always seems to be something missing. It seems like the usual explanations always stop just short of that something much deeper that needs to said. It’s almost as if hearing the phrase reminds me of something and the usual explanations doesn’t quite touch it. It seems to me that a “shift in perception” is pointing to a deeper shift that must precede the shift in perception. I’m not sure if this makes sense, but to me the usual explanations don’t touch it. If you feel inclined and led, could you find the words to more fully address the deeper meaning and implications of this inner process? Thank you.

    1. Hi Michael! Your question has prompted a deep sustained reflection over here! Please be patient with me while I surf the holy waves – I promise I will respond soon! Love, Sean

    2. Dear Michael,

      Thank you for asking this question, and for being patient while I reflected on it.

      Shifts in perception come into existence because we have become willing to question everything. Our minds are open, our hearts are open, our arms are open . . . We have seen to some degree the futility of the world and the body and we are ready for another way. We are hungry for it; we are looking for it.

      And – because we invent the world we see (e.g., W-pI.32.6:3) – the world responds with hints and intimations that, collectively, we call “shifts in perception.”

      So in that sense, the shift that underlies the shift in perception is simply the fundamental shift from unwillingness to willingness to avail ourselves of the healing offered by A Course in Miracles.

      But it also seems to me also that shifts in perception – while illusory in the sense that they are reflections in and of the world – are also miraculous in the ACIM sense because they are also shifts in self-identity. In mind, they are moves towards truth and away from fear.

      Thus, what we experience in the world as a “shift in perception” is – at the level of Creation – a profound shift away the false self and towards the God-lit Self of Creation.

      Another way to frame this is that a “shift in perception” means we are briefly not “seeing” like bodies but are partaking of Spirit’s “vision,” which shows us what we are in truth.

      As that Self – what we are in truth – leaves the shadows which ego makes to hide it and takes its rightful place in Creation, there may be a corresponding sense within us, here at the level of the body, of drawing near . . . to Truth itself. Or God. Or Love. The Alpha and the Omega. One Without Another.

      It can feel like an enormous valve inside of us ready to blow open.

      But it can also feel like an intuitive interior sense that something is righting itself and so the way forward is going to be a little clearer, a little steadier, a little easier to manage.

      So I wonder if when one senses some larger underlying movement around the more pedestrian shifts in perception, what they are actually sensing is the powerful approach of the True Self – that which was created by Love for Love in Love? As if any moment – any gentle shift – might reveal the tiny gap across which God flows to restore us to our home at last?

      What better way to close the little gap between illusions and reality than to allow the memory of God to flow across it, making it a bridge an instant will suffice to reach beyond? For God has closed it with Himself. His memory has not gone by and left a stranded Son forever on a shore where he can glimpse another shore that he can never reach. His Father wills that he be lifted up and gently carried over. He has built the bridge and it is He Who will transport His Son across it (T-28.I.15:3-7).

      This release – this salvation – underlies the tiny shifts in perception. To sense a momentous undercurrent is to remember that we cannot be excluded from the Will that is for us (T-28.I.15:9), and that Will is Love itself.

      Thank you again Michael for being so patient and thoughtful, and giving me a chance to think more deeply on this experience of studying and practicing A Course in Miracles.


      1. Thank you, Sean. Your words seem to be right-minded. I appreciate that. I’ll take them within and let their depth arise in my mind’s awareness.

  3. Thanks again sean. This post is timely’after many years of as i see now pointless struggles, All caused by one thing only,I didn’t believe I didn’t trust how could I when i kept looking at me and my faults.. I judged me that is my ego was in charge of my salvation,, Although I believed the course I didn’t havefaith in it to save me,.How blind I was, I had given my life to the ego. Now I see, thanks again sean don’t stop what you’re doing so many need you as I have sean

    1. The ego’s judgment is harsh and unfair, yes. And its “handling” of salvation is cruel to the point of torturous. And yet – as you point out – it takes so little to just brush its judgment aside and see clearly the love that is our true savior. Thank you Sean, for reading and sharing with me. We go together in this world as brothers; and nothing happens that does not serve our shared joy and peace.


  4. Thank you for this and all the wonderful gems on your site, Sean. I found it by googling “atonement” + “A Course in Miracles,” which I had bought years ago but never read (because I didn’t understand it). Though it’s still hard to understand, I am beginning to grasp it, and your discussions help greatly. (Tonight I was actually supposed to be doing work, lol, but maybe my true priorities led me here.) Anyway, it’s almost 23:30 in Kaiserslautern, Germany, where we are stationed, and I’m tired now, and I didn’t get that work done, but it was worth it. I’ll be returning often, I think, and reading the emails as well. : )

    1. Thanks, Eve. It’s funny how the course shows up in our lives and then sits around sometimes. I was aware of it for years before I could manage diving into it. I remember looking at the introduction once and thinking “this is sooo weird!” It feels like we put it off because we don’t get it or something like that, but honestly when we’re ready we’re ready. Energies other than our own are at work. I know ACIM isn’t for everybody, but it can be a very beautiful and powerful spiritual experience. I hope it is for you 🙂

  5. You can come across the Course and then somewhat forget it but keep coming back to it over the years. I found it over 30 years ago and read it through completely. I didn’t understand most of it, but somehow I knew it was very important and not of this world.

    I did keep coming back to it, still with a lack of understanding. But it is only now in my later seventies that I feel I’m beginning to understand its purpose. I think I might have done the lessons many years ago, but really without sufficient attention or success. I’m doing them again now with much greater understanding, and expect to repeat them several times if I live long enough.

    Your insights are a daily blessing, Sean. I am so grateful for them. Thank you.

    1. You will live forever in peace, Kay 🙏❤️🌅

      The course is strange, how it appears and disappears. I first saw it when I was eighteen, somebody knew the nature of my obsessions and pointed it out and I didn’t get back to it for more than twenty years! Yet all along God was with me, and all was well. I think when we are ready, there it is. And the best part is, it’s not always about us, we might be called to study the course for reasons entirely separate from our ideas about spirituality. We’re terrible judges of what matters. It’s a form of service, I think, our study and practice, a little gift we give to the tired and struggling world.

      I’m glad the writing here is helpful, Kay. And thank you for the Saint Patrick’s Day wishes ☘️☘️. The corned beef is already cooking 🙂 I hope you have a lovely day too, and please keep in touch, if time and inclination allow.


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