The End of Victimhood and A Course in Miracles

In a deep way – a psychological way – we believe we are victims of the world we see, the ones who populate it, and the God who made it all. We are wracked by fear and guilt and thus driven by hate. I know how unpleasant that sounds, but A Course in Miracles will not make any sense – and cannot really be helpful – until we accept this.

Even when we are happy – because it is sweet to listen to leaves falling in Autumn or because we just baked a lovely pie or because our grandkids are over and the sound of their laughter is just this side of Heaven – we are in our hearts truly miserable.

This unhappiness – which is fear-based – is the profound fact of our lives in the world and it is sustained by our desire – our insistence, really – that it not be healed or undone. We want to be unhappy.  And that means we are invested in death because whoever hears only the ego hears only the promise of death. Dress it up however you like – we are talking about being followers not of Christ but of a rotting and horrifying corpse.

No one but must regard the body as himself, without which he would die, and yet within which is his death equally inevitable. It is not given to the ego’s disciples to realize that they have dedicated themselves to death (T-19.IV.B.i.16:5, 17:1).

This idea was very stressful to me for a long time, because I believed in an ideal of spiritual wellness and spiritually healthy people did not walk around confessing to hatred and anguish, guilt and fear. They did not believe in death; death was an illusion because the body wasn’t real. You know the ACIM drill.

I could talk the walk just fine but I was not actually walking it. And it is the walk that heals us.

Thus, we reach a point in our ACIM practice where we see that it is not working. We may be a bit more balanced, a bit more patient, a bit less judgmental but we are not really experiencing the unalterable joy of knowing God as our Creator and our identity as Creation Itself. And that – that joy, that peace – is what we really want. Before that gift, a so-called better life on the world’s terms is not a gift but a curse. 

This is an ACIM crossroads of sorts. A lot of students remain here. They are moderately happy. Life is better than it was before the they studied A Course in Miracles. And it’s understandable! When you scrape yourself off the floor, life on your knees looks pretty good. Settling makes a certain kind of sense.

But we are called to something brighter and finer than the ego’s compromises. And sooner or later we are going to get around to trying to find it. First we blame the course. Then we blame our fellow students. Then we blame the teachers teaching us the course.

And then we get around to looking at ourselves.

In the ACIM text, Jesus gently observes that when we pronounce A Course in Miracles confusing and impossible to apply, we would do well to consider the possibility that we have not yet done all that it asks (T-11.VIII.5:2). The Holy Spirit can only take us so far as we are willing to go.

The Holy Spirit offers you release from every problem that you think you have . . . You who believe it is safe to give but some mistakes to be corrected while you keep the others to yourself, remember this: Justice is total (T-26.II.2:1, 5:1).

Our unwillingness to be broken – to cherish some aspects of brokenness – precludes healing. Thus, what we keep to ourselves remains unhealed. And healing is not partial – it is total or it does not occur at all.

It is when we accept this – the unconditional nature of love – that healing begins in earnest. We begin to see down into the depths of us – we reach those places where language will not go, the material that does not yield to form but is instead the seething mass from which forms of hate and lovelessness arise. This is truly horrifying! This is the ego’s last gasp and best argument. And yet only by looking at it, can we be liberated from it. And indeed, it is when we are willing to look at it that we learn at last that A) we are not alone and B) what we are looking at is not such a big deal.

We begin to learn that we are not separated from God, and that the only problem we have is our willingness to believe in problems.

You made the problem God has answered. Ask yourself, therefore, but one simple question:

Do I want the problem or do I want the answer?

Decide for the answer and you will have it, for you will see it as it is, and it is yours already (T-11.VIII.4:4-7).

Dwelling in the ego’s gruesome bedrock is not necessary. We aren’t asked to wallow in guilt or to set up camp in that ontological horror show. We are simply asked to give some attention with the Holy Spirit to what happens when we turn within and consider the fear, guilt and hate that is encountered there.  

So long as you are confident that Holy Spirit is looking with you, keep looking. Go deeper. When you start to feel shaky, stop. It’s okay.

That is the work: the refusal to be a victim of what is external but, as importantly, to refuse to be a victim of what is internal. We escape from both together (W-pI.31.2:5). We are going to peer into every last corner in which the ego hides and works its dark magic. The Holy Spirit is our lantern. And I promise you: no shadow can stand against it.

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  1. No thing lasts, I kind of know this, but I pretend, if I quit pretending I would be forced to look at my true situation, at how everyone I “love” will at some time betray me if they don’t die on me first. But yet again the Course says this is how I set it up, then pretend God did it, well the Course is non-dual so I guess he or me did. The “goodness of God” is reveled, and it is never an experience, it can’t be remembered or forgotten. Our buddy TS said if you want experience, define the experience and go after it and come back when your serious. My opinion, your on to something here, its never popular to point to the truth.
    Thanks for this,

    1. Thanks, Fred. I think often of Tara Singh teaching about the importance of coming to a state of no-compromise. He wrote in A Gift for All Mankind

      don’t condemn yourself. Just be the witness and observe how resistant you are to looking at yourself. How do you kill time? Where does your energy go? “Know thyself” is the beginning of wisdom .Put your idealism away. Get to know your motivations, your inconsistencies. And don’t cover them up. Justifications are never valid. Find out whether you really want a religious life that is a state of being, and not a dogma (65).

      And he said of Lesson 5, which I mentioned earlier in this thread, that

      [l]oss, attachment, resentment, and fear – aren’t these all of our own making? it is not complicated or difficult; it is extremely simple. We are upset by our thoughts that do not mean anything. We are upset because we live by thought, and the peace of God is of no importance to us. We are determined not to see (149).

      It is hard to do that – to accept that we want conflict instead of the Peace of God, and then to witness the consequences. But it seems we reach a stage where nothing else will do . . .

  2. Hi Sean:

    I dont get this. How are we driven by hate. Could you give me some examples. pls

    peace and love

    1. Hi Mary,

      Yeah, this is a tricky – even an offensive – idea.

      The ego does not mean us well. The self that is encased in these bodies and interacting with other bodies in this world is a projection of the ego. And like the ego, it is murderous and cruel. Period. There is no middle ground on this issue. The ego doesn’t mean us (and others) well some of the time. It is always broken, always maladaptive.

      Most of us do not experience ourselves that way – how could we? The pain of it would be unbearable. So we compromised. Maybe I’m a little selfish sometimes – I take the last cookie, for example – and maybe I’m a little impatient (just ask my students) and from time to time I lose my temper but only when a) I’m tired and my blood sugar is low and b) other people are being idiots.

      Like that, you know? We’re okay admitting we aren’t perfect but we’re working on getting better. But we’re not going to look really closely at the horror show.

      The problem is, the ego loves improvement – it’s perfectly happy for us to fritter away salvation on seeming little problems so long as we don’t go all the way to the bottom.

      The big stuff we project – we put it out in the world. Suicide bombers are confused and angry and violent but I’m not. Billion dollar corporate raiders bankrupting companies and ruining lives are greedy but I’m not. Whatever is too much to accept is projected outward.

      That way, we don’t have to accept responsibility for it.

      If you take a look at lesson 5, you see that it is very careful to point out that the forms of what disturb and trouble us are all the same. It doesn’t matter if it’s a stubbed toe, a whiny toddler, or nuclear way. *It’s all the same problem.*

      Thus, if we look at the world we are going to see a lot of very scary and very worrisome stuff – we are going to see murderers, and rapists, and children so weakened by hunger they can’t bat flies away. All of that is our projection as much as birthday cakes and cute puppies and beautiful sunsets.

      What is going on inside of us that we can create planes flying into buildings and killing thousands of people in a fiery blast? Or men storming elementary schools and executing children? Or nuclear power plant disasters?

      It’s not peace and love. It’s a really horrifying fear and guilt. Really horrifying.

      What saves us, in a sense, is that those problems – the terrorist bombings and the cute kitten pictures and the stomach ache – are all the same problem. They appear as different symptoms, some bigger or more important or harder to solve than the other, but their cause is always the same: our supposed separation from God.

      Thus, if we can get clear that our headache is just a proxy for the separation from God, we are going to heal that separation.

      I believe it is helpful to be clear that the ego is vicious and cruel and does not mean us well. That’s why I believe we have to look at the depth of the hate and murder inside (by seeing it outside and accepting it as a reflection of our internal condition). Why does that matter? Because it strengthens our resolve. It reminds us of how serious this awakening project is. It helps us avoid getting too casual in our practice.

      We want to be honest about the ego’s real motivations (death), and how it operates, and what are its apparent effects. The course neatly sums this up in the section called “The Laws of Chaos.”

      The ego’s first law of chaos is that the truth is different for everyone (T-23.II.2:1).

      The ego’s second law of chaos is that everyone must sin and therefore deserves attack and death (T-23.II.4:1).

      The ego’s third law of chaos is that God is fearful and thus any respite must come from the unreliable and conflicted self (T-23.II.7:2-4).

      The ego’s fourth law of chaos is that you have what you have taken so that your gain is somebody else’s loss and vice-versa (T-23.II.9:3-4).

      And the ego’s fifth and final law of chaos is that there is a substitute for love (T-23.II.12:4).

      So long as we are heeding the ego even the tiniest bit, those are the rules we live by – and they are not a recipe for joy or peace! When we heed those rules, we are sending the ego’s messengers out into the world and asking them to tell us what they see. What do they bring back but

      ” . . . word of bones and skin and flesh. They have been taught to seek for the corruptible, and to return with gorges filled with things decayed and rotted . . . For they are frantic with the pain of fear (T-19.IV.A.i.13:2-3, 5).

      It really is that bad.

      I am not saying we have to dwell on what is broken. We aren’t called to be martyrs. I am not saying we should spend our days in sackcloth and ashes, studying the history of concentration camps and the methods of famous serial killers. Not at all.

      But our practice of forgiveness is greatly enhanced when we are clear about the depth of our need for it. The ego is vicious and cruel; it would kill us in our sleep if it thought it could do that and survive.

      So long as we perceive horror – death and decay, suffering and angst, anything that changes and anything that can be threatened – we can rest assured that we are still sending the ego’s messengers out in the world as our emissaries.

      I know this is a stressful idea for people. I don’t raise it because I think that we’re all a bunch of jerks. On the contrary, I think most students of the course are sincerely trying to end their separation from God and align their behavior with Christ-centered thinking. We shouldn’t feel guilty because people suffer and die. Rather, we should feel grateful that we are able to see the ego’s handiwork for what it is – an attempt to dissuade us from accepting its source in our mind where it can be healed. Once we see it out there and know it’s really inside, the game is up.

      Keep in mind I am not suggesting that any of the problems out in the world are actually real – they’re not. The world itself is neutral. But the mind that assigns meaning and gets invested – that is deeply split between the ego and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will only heal and the ego will only hurt and there is absolutely no middle ground there.

      You asked for examples: you already have them. We all have our private horrors. Parents fear the death of their children. Or we secretly believe in demons. We can’t tear ourselves away from news of war. Whatever. It’s there because in one form or another we believe it’s there. Why should it be so bad? Because that’s what the ego is – bad bad bad.

      The only solution is to see that – really see it – and then, having seen it, resolve at the deepest levels to turn to the Holy Spirit whose plan for salvation is so gentle and sure and efficient that one day – sooner than we think – the ego will drift away like a cloud of dust, like a handful salt dropped in the sea.

      Thanks, Mary. I hope that moves in the direction of a not-unhelpful answer.


          1. sorry to keep going but reread lesson 5, the wording is so hard to grasp sometimes, i understand that separation leads to desperation, but the not real thing, if a child is harmed that is not real because i am placing judgment on it (ego). is that right

          2. Hi Mary,

            Yes, this stuff is complicated. One of the things that has worked for me is to study the idea but then step away and simply practice it. I forget that it is not my job to prove the world is not real! I forget that it’s okay that my perceptions are ego-driven – I don’t have to change that. In fact, I can’t. As Jesus says early in the text, going from wrong (ego)-minded thinking to righ (Holy Spirit)-minded thinking takes a miracle.

            So this idea that the world is not real – it seems incredible and none of us really believe it. After all, if I drop a rock on my foot, it hurts, right? I can drive ten minutes from the school where I teach and see all kinds of sadness and misery – homelessness, abandoned kids, violence.

            I don’t have to fix that – or change that – and I don’t have to struggle with it intellectually. I simply have to be willing to be wrong about it. That is, if I can take the approach in my ACIM practice that the ego is full of hate and trust that Jesus or the Holy Spirit will assist me in undoing that hate (and the guilt and fear) then that will be sufficient.

            Our willingness to accept Jesus and the Holy Spirit as our teachers in place of the ego is all that we have to have. It’s all that is called for.

            So yes. I study the course and I try to learn its ideas but then as I go about my day I simply try to stay close to Jesus – in prayer, in thought. I try to think as God would think. That sort of thing. I’m not especially good at it but I don’t have to be! That’s not my job. My job is simply to surrender to the teacher who knows better than I do.

            When we are willing to see things differently – from the splinter in our thumb to the harmed child – then we will see them differently. We will be gently guided to a new vision of the world.

            I think often of these lines from the text:

            How wrong are you who fail to hear the call that echoes past each seeming call to death, that sings behind each murderous attack and pleads that love restore the dying world. You do not understand Who calls to you beyond each form of hate; each call to war. Yet you will recognize Him as you give Him answer in the language that He calls. He will appear when you have answered Him, and you will know in Him that God is Love (T-31.I.10:3-6).

            It’s hard but we have to learn to be patient and gentle with ourselves in the face of horror and anguish: beyond it lies the Peace of God, the gift that was given to us in Creation. We need only be willing to accept it again – to choose again the teacher who will teach us that we are wrong about ourselves, wrong about our brothers and sisters and wrong about the world.

            In other words, take note of the ego’s horror show but then let your faith rest in the Grace of God that lies just beyond, awaiting you.


  3. I like that, Sean…when you scrape yourself off the floor, life on your knees looks pretty good ! (:

    I think I’m on my knees (:


      1. Yep, now from being on my knees, I’m going to lie down on my back and gaze at the sky. Face up is much better than face down (;


  4. This is extremely helpful. I recently completed a year with the Workbook, working it daily with specific attention to a special relationship in my life. At the end of the year, while I’d experienced many miracles, I found myself thinking, “Why don’t I have more peace with this one person? I am doing the work!” And, I was. But, yet, I wasn’t. I was trying to forgive without understanding what my ego was really up to. When I plumbed my hate for this person (Asking myself “Why might I?” instead of “Do I?”), I could be really honest. And, from that place, could forgive ME in a meaningful way. This other person is just living their life on the path, too. Suddenly, peace seemed possible. So happy that I found your corner of the internet!

    1. Thank you for sharing this, Melissa.

      Its interesting. I’m doing the lessons again with a small group this year, and I’ve been reflecting on that aspect of the course. I think I have – and others, too – an expectation that finishing them ought to have some specific effect or result. And sometimes it works that way but for me, the lessons and the whole process of being an ACIM student is more in the nature of a beginning again or a deepening rebirth or settling into awareness itself (to borrow a more nondualistic frame). The Holy Spirit’s voice clarifies in me over and over – one step forward, two steps back and sometimes a lot of standing still or dancing in place – and the effect is to intensify my honesty with respect to hurt and hate. I very much identify with how you put that.

      What gets really trippy – and/or tricky – is when the realization sets in that the other is us, and we are them, and that the whole frame of relationship – and all its blessings and challenges – is itself illusory . . .

      Thank you again for sharing!


  5. I needed to hear this, this very morning after my twin sister and I gunned each other down in conversation last night. I haven’t begun ACIM yet but I’m more than ready now. My Higher Self or the Holy Spirit showed me a program that the Ego was running surreptitiously in my subconscious. That of victimhood. That I had donned the hat of “Soft Con-Artist. Lately my sis had come to rescue me financially and she was tired of it so it was a real gift from her to me. She held up a mirror and I saw the program ego was running. Truly, it was a gruesome fight between us but I thanked her for showing me ego’s cunning plan for me. Then this morning I find your blog post! Yay!

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing, Syd.

      In the simplest terms? Ego is fear. It’s the idea that we have to control everything, run everything, attack or be attacked, et cetera. Whatever it takes to survive, be strong, protect ourselves, et cetera.

      Ego is a way of thinking that makes the world a battleground and every person we meet thereon either an enemy or an ally. Enemies need to be defeated and allies can never fully be trusted.

      It’s a grim ride, listening to ego!

      In many ways, the work ACIM asks us to do involves learning to recognize ego, deciding that we’d like another option, and then discovering that we’ve already been given another option – the Holy Spirit.

      And then learning how to listen to the Holy Spirit 🙂 Which, while not exactly easy, is actually joyful and fun.

      Good luck with your new journey in ACIM! Keep me posted on how it goes 🙂


  6. Thank you, Sean. I had an interesting conversation this morning with my husband, who is not a Course student, about victimhood. He is reading a The Grapes of Wrath currently, so I think he is seeing through a victim/perpetrator lense. He said that the tent cities of the the homeless are growing. I suggested that many of those people happily choose that lifestyle. He grumbled that he didn’t think that was true. I said, “Regardless, I choose not to see victims and perpetrators.” That triggered him. He replyed, “Well isn’t that convenient! That way you don’t have to feel anything! I am trying to have some empathy for these people.” I’d wished, at this point, that I could explain my point of view better, but the words didn’t come, so I said, “Please don’t be angry at me for seeing the world differently than you.” He said, “You’re right.” and left for his AA meeting.

    So, a little later, I googled, “ACIM and no such thing as victimization” and found this. What I realize, of course, is that I need to look at my own unwillingness to fully accept the Atonement. I compromise because I feel alone in my beliefs. And, that is what I have chosen. I need to ask Holy Spirit to guide me past this impasse.

    Thank you, again.
    Victoria Talbot

    1. You’re welcome, Victoria. Thank you for reading and sharing.

      As you point out, it is hard for all of us to avoid the victim/victimizer framework. It is the ego’s favorite weapon in its war for our attention. And yes, the remedy seems to be to ask the Holy Spirit to help us accept the Atonement – which is a question of willingness and trust. Thank you for reminding me of this – I am always in need of that reminder!!

      I know this wasn’t hte point of your comment but I want to point out how beautiful and loving the exchange you shared was. You and your husband discussing such a deep and important issue, struggling to find common ground, but agreeing not to hold it against one another. We are truly blessed with companions like that!

      Thank you again, Victoria.


      1. Thank you! We have worked very hard to get to this level of mutual respect. It’s very nice of you to acknowledge that.!

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