“No one can suffer loss unless it be his own decision. No one suffers pain except his choice elects this state for him. No one can grieve nor fear nor think him sick unless these are the outcomes that he wants. And no one dies without his own consent. ...” Workbook, page 281, Lesson 152.
The meaning of the above passage may seem, at first glance, to be rather obscure. Surely no one would choose to suffer pain or sickness or, worse still, death? However, what this passage is really saying is that, in choosing the ego instead of God, we have actually chosen suffering, sickness and death. If we had remained as we were when God created us—pure spirit—we would still be abiding with Him in perfect holiness. Actually, we are still as we were when created by God but the problem is we think we have separated from Him.
“As God created you, you must remain unchangeable, with transitory states by definition false. And that includes all shifts in feeling, alterations in conditions of the body and the mind...” Workbook, page 281. Yet everything in our world is changeable and transitory—including our feelings, body and mind. This is proof that the world of the ego is an illusion.
Speaking of our world, in Lesson 152, Jesus stresses: “...God made it not. Of this you can be sure. What can He know of the ephemeral, the sinful and the guilty, the afraid, the suffering and lonely, and the mind that lives within a body that must die? You but accuse Him of insanity, to think He made a world where such things seem to have reality. He is not mad. Yet only madness makes a world like this.”
We can change our mind about this world, which is one of goals of ACIM. We could choose to recognise that this world is an illusion, created by the split or “wrong” mind, following the dictates of an illusory ego. We could take responsibility for having created, by mental projection, an ephemeral world where eternal peace can never be found. Then, according to Lesson 152, we will return to our pre-separation state and live in eternity, in perfect holiness—free from the body, the “wrong mind” (egoic mind) and the world that was created by it; we will have finally overcome the ego. And overcoming the ego is what enlightenment is all about. But in order to overcome the ego, we have to complete our forgiveness lessons because if there are people or situations we still judge and cannot forgive, it means we are taking the world of the ego seriously and we do not believe it is just a mental projection. Furthermore, forgiveness is the perfect tool for healing our split minds. Through forgiveness we let go of illusions and overcome the unconscious guilt in our minds. This is very important as the mind will not be healed until it contains no trace of guilt. (The guilt stems from our belief in the separation from God.)
It may be that those who are perfectly happy in this world do not see the need to awaken from the dream. But Jesus paints a very bleak picture of the world, as can be seen by the following passage: “Real choice is not illusion. But the world has none to offer. All its roads but lead to disappointment, nothingness and death. There is no choice in its alternatives. Seek not escape from problems here. The world was made that problems could not be escaped. Be not deceived by all the different names its roads are given. They have but one end....On some you travel gaily for a while, before the bleakness enters. And on some the thorns are felt at once. The choice is not what will the ending be, but when it comes.” Text, page 653.
It is easy to be deceived by some of the things the world has to offer because there are many enjoyable things one can do on this planet. And there is no harm in enjoying them, provided one realises that they, too, are part of the illusion.
In Chapter 21 of the Text, Jesus explains quite clearly that we created the world by projection: “Projection makes perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that....” Then he advises us not to try to change the world but to change our perception of it: “Therefore, seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world.” Text, page 445. If we try to change the world this is as effective as moving the furniture around in one’s living room; the contents of the living room are still exactly as they were before. But if we realise that there isn’t really a living room at all, then it won’t matter to us where the furniture is placed in it. In other words, there is no need to concern oneself with form because what is important is content, i.e. what is going on in our minds.
The prominent Course teacher, Kenneth Wapnick clarifies this point in his booklet From Futility to Happiness. He explains that when we realise this world is just an illusion and we seek the help of Jesus to rise above it, we will have inner peace. “...No matter where we are in life, we will be peaceful. No matter what catastrophic thing has just happened to us or our families, we will be happy because we will know this is a dream. Jesus’ love will then flow through our minds, directing what our bodies say and do.”
It can't be easy to experience catastrophe with equanimity, but the important thing is that we have a choice; we don’t have to live forever in a world where catastrophe can strike us at any moment, unless we choose to continue to be deceived by the ego. We could, instead, ask the Holy Spirit to help us return to our right minds, and then follow His guidance.
Lesson 152 ends in this reassuring manner: “...God’s Voice will answer, for He speaks for you and for your Father. He will substitute the peace of God for all your frantic thoughts, the truth of God for self-deception, and God’s Son for your illusions of yourself.” Workbook, page 283
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