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Reading A Course in Miracles: Beyond Perception

This section continues a theme to which the previous section – error and the ego – alluded. The most profound question that we ask ourselves – the question that drives us to church, to gurus, to therapy – is who are we? But we are coming at it wrong when we ask it of ourselves. Understanding our identity rests largely on surrendering who and what we believe we are right now.

Understanding this means understanding the difference between “making” and “creating.” When we make, says Jesus, we are doing so from a sense of lack or scarcity. What we make from that space cannot be generalized – its function is narrow and specific. We have made a great deal of our true selves, says Jesus, and all of it has done little but seed confusion.

Creation, on the other hand, is akin to knowledge. It does not require perception – that is, judgment. It merely knows Truth and extends it.

We are created by God – but that creation is hidden to us by what we have made of it. What we have made is patently obvious – it is the face we see in the mirror, the family history to which we so often refer (I’m this way because of my father, because of that sad family experience, etc.), the body that we feed and ignore and lament, and the surrounding world which we people with everything from murderers to lovers. As we learn in Lesson 22, what we see – what we have made – is “a form of vengeance” (W-pI.22).

What are we then? Start by considering that we – as we understand ourselves – can’t really answer that. The brain’s big job is perception and organization and those are instruments of separation. We are actually beyond perception. Consider these somewhat strange lines from the text.

You have no image to be perceived. The word “image” is always perception-related, and is not part of knowledge. Images are symbolic and stand for something else (T-3.V.4:5-7).

What we are – as we were created by God – is not physical. It’s not perceptible by human means. It’s not symbolic. Those are radical ideas – if we really look at them, and really take them into consideration, it’s likely to be upsetting. Not only are we not what we have long believed we are – we don’t even have the means to figure it out.

Small wonder that this section ends by musing on forgiveness and prayer. Forgiveness – a major theme of A Course in Miracles – is defined here as “the healing of the perception of separation” (T-3.V.9:1). When we forgive, we are perceiving correctly. Correct perception is the condition precedent to knowledge. The only meaningful prayer, then, is for forgiveness.

To my reading, this is characteristic generally of the ACIM text. We get hit hard with big metaphysical stuff – i.e., the we that we are is without image and beyond perception – but we also get some down-to-earth practical advice. Pray for the ability to perceive correctly. Focus on that and you’ll be okay.

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