Seeing it differently in A Course In Miracles
by Tom Baker
Date: Sunday, January 23, 2011
Human consciousness is overly focused on the past. Even when we look to the future, we project the past onto the future, expecting some version of what happened then to happen in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. It is with this focus on the past, to the point of obsession, that the Workbook begins. We do not know the meaning or purpose of our present experience, nor do we really understand our feelings about what we experience, because we are as Lesson 8 states "so preoccupied with past thoughts."
In order to release the past (the ultimate purpose of forgiveness) we must first release our minds from the control of our ego and into the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In Lesson 9 we practice the awareness of not seeing things as they are in the present and in Lesson 10 we practice releasing ourselves from our personal beliefs using "My thoughts" do not mean anything rather than "These thoughts" do not mean anything. This is a significant departure from our own personal universe of meaning, based on our past, our fears, our guilt and our desire to be special.
With lessons 11 through 14 we practice becoming aware of how the world we see is a projection of our past dominated thoughts. Lesson 11, My meaningless thoughts are showing me a meaningless world, is especially important in that the key to forgiveness lies in this idea. In a very ordinary way, the lesson has us practice being wrong about the world we believe we see. If we are truly to forgive someone we must first be willing to be mistaken about who they are and what they did. Meaningless is more the idea that what we see is only a tiny part of the picture, a picture with ourselves and our past at the center, and limited by linear time. Reality, in the Course, has the characteristics of wholeness and eternity. Our experience of eternity, in this world, is the present. Lessons 12 and 13 make the point that the world is fearful to us because we interpret it in the light of our past thoughts, but that it is equally fearful to assert that the world is meaningless because then, deep in our subconscious, we think we come into conflict with God, our beliefs about the world competing with God's beliefs about it. This is evidently where our fear of the will of God and the punishing retribution of God has its beginnings. Lesson 14 asserts that God did not create the world we see and so it is not real. It is important to remember here that "real" in the Course means whole and eternal. Since we do not see the world in terms of the wholeness of the universe or from an eternal perspective it is not real. This does not mean that I simply made you up and you are part of a dream I am having. It means that you are real but I am seeing you in an illusory way, as you are seeing me.
Lessons 15 through 19 explains the nature of our seeing or interpretation of the world. In Lesson 15 we practice seeing what we usually do not question as images we have made. While this may seem odd at first, if we think in terms of our self image and how we view our body and our life through that filter, the exercise makes more sense. Also, when we note how the image of others changes as we have more experience with them, the idea that we are "imaging" or "imagining" the world, ourselves, and others makes rather striking sense. When I forgive you I am basically releasing you from an image of you I have made. Lessons 16 and 17 stress the idea that our thoughts are not neutral but "that every thought you have brings either peace or war; either love or fear." We tend to dismiss fear thoughts as unimportant or trivial and so put up with them. In this lesson we are to recognize that all fear thoughts are destructive, "but equally unreal." All fear thoughts, small or large, are destructive to our peace of mind and heart and hugely affect how we see. Lesson 18 and 19 make the point that all human beings are caught up in this fear-projection loop and so we are not only scaring ourselves silly, but scaring each other as well.
Lessons 20 and 21 establish seeing differently as the foundation for forgiveness and now stresses the need for structured practice. We are reminded that we want salvation, happiness, and peace but cannot have them with an undisciplined mind that cannot tell the difference "between joy and sorrow, pleasure and pain, love and fear." Our practice of the lessons will teach us to tell them apart.
In a sense, the practice of the Course begins in earnest with Lesson 23 which states that I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts. When we think attack thoughts we see ourselves and others as victims of a vengeful world.
But giving up attack thoughts is a hard thing to do because we perceive so much safety in these thoughts, so in lesson 24 we practice the awareness of not knowing our own best interests. This is similar to the earlier lessons in which we assert the meaningless of the world. Here we are asked to practice the rather daunting idea that, ultimately, we do not perceive our own best interests. We attack and defend (which the Course sees as the same thing) because we think we know what is best for ourselves and often for others. This lesson has us make that "knowing" tentative and does so through a rational approach, having us examine the goals for several situations and discover that our goals either do not relate to the situation and are often contradictory. We often discover this when we are faced with personal failure or come to terms with compulsions and addictions and "let go and let God." Here we practice outside of the pressure of dire circumstances. Lesson 25 reinforces that we do not understand ultimate purpose, which, as we will learn later, is outside our own personal "ego" interests and Lesson 26 expands on Lesson 23 by pointing out the effect of our attack thoughts as making ourselves feel vulnerable.
Lessons 27, Above all else I want to see and Lesson 28, Above all else I want to see things differently asks us to commit ourselves above all else to withdrawing our preconceived notions about things and open ourselves to true seeing which is to see God in everything (Lesson 29) and to know that God is in my mind (Lesson 30) which means that my mind is part of God's and I am very holy (Lesson 35) and that my holiness can transform my seeing (Lesson 36), bless the world (Lesson 37) and give us true vision in every situation: There is nothing my holiness cannot do (Lesson 38).
© Copyright Tom Baker 2011