The early lessons of A Course in Miracles go slowly, the one building on the other in ways that can feel so slight as to be almost negligible. We might long for the express lane to awakening, or a path that appears less obtuse. Yet both the pace and the logic of the progression of the ACIM daily lessons builds a strong foundation for healing at the level of mind.
The sixth lesson of A Course in Miracles is a good example of this: “I am upset because I see something that is not there.”
We are not consistently happy. Our sense of peace and joy is always compromised. If we are not hurt or angry or guilty in one moment, we may well be in the next, and so a sense of impermanence always threatens even our happiest moments. Lesson Six of A Course in Miracles is an invitation to deepen our understanding that both our distress and our fragile inner peace are illusory because they they are premised on a wrong idea.
If we can reach that wrong idea, and see its ineffectiveness, then we can replace it with a better idea, which is to say, we can begin to re-learn a joy and inner peace that are not conditional.
We think that we are angry because so-and-so stepped on our toe. Or because it rained on our picnic. We think we are depressed because our preferred candidate didn’t win election. We think we are scared because the world isn’t taking the climate crisis seriously.
That is, we notice our feelings and we identify their cause. Absent the cause, we wouldn’t feel the way we feel. And the causes are always outside our control. I can’t fix the rain, I can’t cast more than one more vote, I can’t keep the world from stepping on my toes.
Lesson six does not deny the law of cause-and-effect, nor the way that it appears in our lives, but it does suggest that we reconsider our certainty that the external world can actually function as a cause. We are asked to name “the form of the upset (anger, fear, worry, depression and so on) and the perceived source very specifically” (W-pI.6.1:2).
This specificity is what allows us to anchor the lesson in a personal way (these are my feelings), and also in a way that feels logical and rational (this is the world I live in). The lesson’s effectiveness – and the workbook’s overall effectiveness – is strengthened by this.
For example, we might say “I am angry at my boss because she doesn’t recognize how much overtime I give to my job.”
Or, “I am depressed about my marriage because my partner no longer expresses much interest in me.”
Or, “I am scared because I don’t have enough money to pay next month’s property tax bill.”
To the ego – that is, to the habitual thought patterns that characterize our thinking minds – these seem like reasonable statements. Who would disagree?
But to each them, without qualification or conditions, Lesson Six adds: “I see something that is not there” (W-pI.6.1:4-5).
That is, the actual cause of our upset is not the named external cause but rather the fact that we “see something that is not there.”
In other words, both the form of our upset and the apparent cause are illusions. We think they are real – they certainly seem real and feel real – yet they are not. We are getting worked up literally over nothing.
But not quite nothing! For so long as we accept fear and guilt and anger as a part of our reality – to be judged good or bad, reasonable or unreasonable, to be mitigated, resisted, et cetera – than those experiences will remain real for us.
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).
Thus, lesson six allows us to begin undoing what we have accepted into our mind. We look at the specific forms of our upset and distress as well as their perceived causes, but beyond that – as the lessons and our study and practice progress – we are undoing the very idea that what we are can be vulnerable at all.
. . . God created you as part of Him. That is both where you are and what you are. It is completely unalterable. It is total inclusion. You cannot change it now or ever. It is forever true. It is not a belief, but a Fact. Anything that God created is as true as He is. Its truth lies only in its perfect inclusion in Him Who alone is perfect. To deny this is to deny yourself and Him, since it is impossible to accept one without the other (T-6.II.6:2-11).
Accepting this as our actual identity feels like a big step and, as we currently think and live, is is, but keep in mind that we are not called on to make it either alone or all at once. Indeed, the Lessons of A Course in Miracles aim at gently but surely correcting our thought process so that accepting our oneness with God does not feel like a big or scary or dramatic step. Rather, it feels natural. It feels like saying “yes to what already is.
To that end, Lesson Six is a gentle nudge to look more closely at our thinking, and to consider that it may not be working very well. That’s really it. We are getting tied up in knots over something that’s not there. We are like children panicking over a nightmare, unable to discern that it was only a dream (e.g., T-6.V.2:1-5).
Giving our attention and energy to the order of the workbook lessons, we begin to perceive the light that wakens us and, in time, to perceive that the light is us. As we accept that our egoic thinking only perpetuates anxiety, depression, fear and guilt by virtue of a confused application of the law of cause-and-effect, we naturally make space for a healthier way of thinking, one that allows our natural happiness and love to extend themselves in perpetuity.