There is an idea – little more than a paragraph really – in this section that I want to try and understand. I have always appreciated the respect we ought to pay the ego in recognition of its motives and ferocity. But lately, I experience the ego in a way I never have before. It is tangible without being frightening. I can put my finger on it almost. And this makes it feel ripe for undoing. There is something there to which these ideas might apply, if I can only bring them to bear.
The paragraph I am looking at is this one:
The separated mind cannot maintain the separation except by dissociating. Having done this, it denies all truly natural impulses, not because the ego is a separate thing, but because you want to believe that you are. The ego is a device for maintaining this belief, but it is still only your decision to use this device that enables it to endure (T-4.VI.4:2-4).
Dissociation (in psychological terms, which is how both Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford understood it – see the urtext for more details in this regard) is a split in the mind by which a thought (or thoughts) breaks away from the whole mind and functions as a separate unit, exactly as if it were the mind of another person.
The separation only exists because one part of our minds – in ACIM terms the ego (which is not precisely the Freudian ego – more like the whole Freudian soup of id, ego and super ego) – believes and acts as if it is separate. The ego believes it is alone. It functions as a separate unit. It has no knowledge – though it has some inkling – of Spirit.
It is interesting to approach this practically – not in a book, not on a website – but in our lives, our own minds. Can we really experience the ego this way – merely as a walled-off garden (a dead garden, sure) in which nothing blooms? Perhaps more to the point, can we make contact – reconnect, remember, literally – the self which dissociated?
It is important to hold in mind that what is dissociated is forgotten but it is not gone. It is still there. When the effort to dissociate ends, association will be natural and easy. Can we do it now? Can we at least begin?
In a way, this paragraph asks us to ask the perennial religious question: who am I? But the ego is quick to rush in with its answers. I believe it was Alexander Pope who wrote that “fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Can we ask the question of identity and sit with it. Let the ego chatter rise and fall, rise and fall until we discern – somewhere, like a single note, faint but true – the voice of Jesus or the Holy Spirit?
I accept now the ego’s presence. I have experienced it – seen it, so to speak. And it is not all of me. Why this feels so sure – as opposed to merely information derived from other sources I can’t really say – but it does. There is a part of my mind which hears Jesus and the ego is not present to it. Perhaps that is it. Yet the ego’s silence in those moments is temporary. Can we be free of it forever?
This section suggests that to do so is well within our power. The lessons – even the early ones – clearly aim at empowering us to make a different choice, always to make a different choice. The ego’s presence and function derive entirely from our ability – we made it. It does what we asked it to do. It maintains the separation. It endorses dissociation. It can’t do anything else – why would it? We can’t turn to it for anything except the same old sadness, the same old loss, the same old guilt and fear.
I love this line – the one about our mission – that we are simply asked to live as if we are not egos (T-4.VI.6:2-3). We are being asked to “act as if.” We are being asked to withdraw our support for this “device.” It’s a process. As we do, Jesus assures us (note how personal this section is – the frequent promise of his support and presence and guidance) we will experience Spirit or soul and learn to associate joy with it. Concomitantly, we will associate misery with the ego. It’s plain old conditioning, isn’t it? Sooner or later we’re going to be with the soul all the time because it just feels better.
The clarity of late – and the sense of flow – has been very mellow and gentle lately. I notice that I see others much better – their kindnesses, their calls for love. My gratitude is immense – not only for the clarity – but for the presence of so many brothers and sisters who are here to help. We are in this together, until we remember that we aren’t really we’s but one big (egoless) I. It is happening even as I write. I hope you are feeling it too. Thank you!