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The World As A Mirror

To call the external world and the many selves within it illusory is true enough but still leaves aside the important question: what are we supposed to do about it?

There would seem to be a lot of possibilities. At one extreme we might say something like, if cheesecake is an illusion, why not gorge on it? At the other, we might see in illusions a terrifying absence of meaning that extends to our own lives.

Is that it? A spectrum that ranges from orgiastic indulgence to bottomless abyss?

A Course in Miracles offers us another way to work with illusions. We understand them to be collectively a projection – an internal condition that we cannot bear and so “project” it (often violently) outside of us.

This was one of Freud’s major insights, borrowed by Helen in the scribing process. The individual cannot accept certain aspects of their self – lust, greed, anger, hate and so forth – and so they “solve” the problem by placing those attributes on other people, places and things.

In a sense, we make the world a screen on which our own personal horror show plays in a grim loop, with the caveat that we forget it’s only a show and – most importantly – that we are its author.

Projection makes perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is nothing more than that, it is not less . . . It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition (T-21.in.1:1-3, 5).

When we accept responsibility for the external, it ceases to be a screen for our projections and becomes more in the nature of a mirror. If we want to know our interior state of mind, simply give attention to the world which arises from it.

When we do this in a sustained and nonjudgmental way – which I believe was the essence of Ken Wapnick’s oft-repeated suggestion that we not take our lives too seriously – a sort of shift occurs. Cause and effect are perceived rightly – that is, the world becomes an effect caused by our thinking. We are not effects caused by the world.

See [the world] as damned, and all you see is what you did to hurt the Son of God. If you behold disaster and catastrophe, you tried to crucify him. If you see holiness and hope, you joined the Will of God to set him free (T-21.in.2:2-4).

It is important to remember that there is “no choice that lies between these two decisions” (T-21.in.2:5). We are either crucifying the world or setting it free. If we are bent on the horror of crucifixion, then we are taking our marching orders from the ego (T-20.VIII.10:6). If we are engaged in releasing the world from damnation, then we are working with the Holy Spirit, whose only objective is peace (T-6.II.5:1-2).

Thus, we can easily discern which teacher we are listening to – the ego or the Holy Spirit – by taking note of our perceptions. Anything less than perfect peace means we are still (secretly or otherwise) heeding the ego. And thus we can make another choice because we know that the power to do so belongs to us because it was given to us in creation.

The world you see but shows you how much joy you have allowed yourself to see in you, and to accept as yours. And, if this is its meaning, then the power to give it joy must lie within you (T-21.in.2:7-8).

This is a new way of engaging the external world: seeing it as a mirror in which the clues to healing are revealed. It is unfamiliar because it is the opposite of why we made the world. So we have to practice and be vigilant, and we also have to be forgiving. Jesus will not kick us out of the classroom, so neither should we.

Nor should we make it overly complicated (a trap into which I fall over and over). The clues aren’t hidden – it’s not a spiritual version of Where’s Waldo? We are either experiencing peace or not – there is no middle ground. And the solution to the absence of peace is not a spiritual puzzle that can only be solved by theologians in tall towers. All we do when we feel lost or confused or hurt or scared is ask Jesus to be with us. I can be a wordy s.o.b., but my best prayer is often nothing more than a heartfelt “help, please.”

The form of choosing again does not matter. What matter is our recognition that we are capable of choosing, don’t like the effects of our current choice, and so want to make another. Jesus will never leave us bereft in that space, nor will the Holy Spirit fail to deliver.

We have repeated how little is asked of you to learn this course. It is the same willingness you need to have your whole relationship transformed to joy; the little gift you offer to the Holy Spirit for which He gives you everything; the very little on which salvation rests; the tiny change of mind by which the crucifixion is changed to resurrection. And being true, it is so simple that it cannot fail to be completely understood. Rejected yes, but not ambiguous (T-21.II.1:1-4).

Give attention, then, to the drama playing out before your very eyes – the story in which you seem to have been involuntarily tossed – and be willing to have your right mind, the Holy Spirit, teach you its real meaning. We are meant to be happy. We are meant to be whole. The means to learn this and make it so are right here now.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • karen beck January 3, 2014, 10:14 am

    no half-measures…
    I am on W Lesson #3….so the spectrum/abyss image is approriate for me today….I have a special “ACIM-pit-in-the-stomach feeling” that arises when I am missing the point of a lesson, am mired in a muck of temptation.

    100% surrender=100%responsibility?

    • Sean Reagan January 3, 2014, 11:04 am

      Hi Karen,

      If you mean that when we are in a state of total surrender we are accepting total responsibility for seeing rightly, that makes sense to me, and is an interesting way to put it.

      I am often reminded in my practice that a certain passivity is called for – which is paradoxical, because a certain intensity is also called for. It can feel like balancing on the edge of a knife, this state of vigilant attention that does nothing. But I really have to get – in a deep, experiential way – that there is nothing for me to do, other than to do nothing.

      Tara Singh put it this way: there is nothing to do and only you can do it.

      That experience of surrender – which I am mentally equating with willingness, openness, non-defensiveness, letting go rather than grasping, etc. – seems to be our invitation to the Holy Spirit, when it is not itself the Holy Spirit. So the greater the surrender – however it manifests in form (throwing up one’s hands, chucking the book against the wall, re-reading a difficult passage, whatever) – the greater the degree to which we are in the hands of (metaphorically speaking) the Holy Spirit.

      Also, today’s whole measure is often tomorrow’s half measure . . . 🙂

      ~ Sean

  • Bet Carbery January 13, 2014, 1:05 pm

    The body may be a projection and, therefore, so is illness but I have found illness, accidents, disease to be very useful in discovering the blocks within myself. In other words that which we suppress and will not look at reveals itself in physical illness. So illness is a messenger which we need to listen to whether we receive treatment or not. As Thorwald Dethlefsen says in his book ‘If illness forces somebody into a particular position that he or she would never willingly take up, this position reveals to us an inner attitude that is not being lived out – one that the person concerned is actually fighting against.’
    Every thought, whether conscious or unconscious, has an effect on the body and I have found that the body is an amazing signpost (even muscular tensions) to my blocks and profound revelations have occurred from reading the body correctly, the body being truthful, our conscious minds often evading our truth. When we truly receive the message, the symptom is superfluous. The word disease means lack of ease.
    In times of yore the messenger who brought bad news to the king was often killed and the message went unheeded.
    So we really do carry heavy responsibilities on our shoulders, get our teeth into something (make a decision), cannot see (understand) cannot swallow what someone tells us to do, are open or handed or tight fisted, light or heavy hearted, cannot stomach something, feel liverish, won’t bend the knee, etc, etc, etc. It amazing – you learn to read the body. Every part and organ of the physical body is symbolic of an attitude.
    There’s no need to beat ourselves up over this In fact it’s important to drop blame, judgement, etc, or we won’t tune in and receive the message but if we take heed, illness itself can lead to healing at all levels. We all get ill but rather than be dismayed or horrified I have been anxious but mainly interested knowing that another aspect of myself will be revealed if I just stay with it.
    Mind, emotions and body are all connected and interelated. That said if I was involved in a road accident I wouldn’t be trying to work out why I was bleeding and had broken bones I would want to be in accident and emergency at the local hospital although I would definitely give it a great deal of thought later when the crisis had passed.
    You don’t have to agree with this. It doesn’t matter. I can only say what has worked for me. I can also, with a little gentle diplomatic probing, work out why others are ill but my philosphy is be honest with myself and loving to others so mostly I keep my mouth shut.
    One of the best books is ‘The Healing Power of Illness’ by Thorwald Dethlefsen and Rudiger Dahlke but I think it is out of print now unfortunately.

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