As the current world seems to spin ever further away from peace as people make different choices in regulating their own physical health in the face of the pandemic (some say plandemic) and the government regulations, perhaps the resulting polarisation is even worse than the restrictions themselves. People have serious fights about the behavioral choices others make, sometimes even within the same household. And as most students of A Course in Miracles are still intimately identified with the ego-part of their mind just like everyone else (they’re just more aware of the mind mechanisms), they are oftentimes no exception. Therefore, it may be helpful to check in with Jesus and remind ourselves what he has to say regarding our perception of errors in others and our urge to start arguing about this.
Let’s look at Chapter 9 in the Text, where Jesus invites us to look at such thinking ‘from above the battleground’ and realize just how quickly we slip into mindless ego mode: “To the ego it is kind and right to point out errors and “correct” them. This makes perfect sense to the ego, which is unaware of what errors are and what correction is. Errors are of the ego, and correction of errors lies in the relinquishment of the ego” (T9-III.2:1-3). Phew! That final sentence acutely takes all the wind out of the ego’s sails. The ego is itself the one and only true error: the stubborn belief that we could be better off on our own, apart from God, as a little god in our own little separated kingdom. How silly! As long as we cling to such feeble wishes, how could anything but error, fear and attack result in our lives?
So Jesus continues: “When you correct a brother, you are telling him that he is wrong. He may be making no sense at the time, and it is certain that, if he is speaking from the ego, he will not be making sense. But your task is still to tell him he is right. You do not tell him this verbally, if he is speaking foolishly. He needs correction at another level, because his error is at another level. He is still right, because he is a Son of God. His ego is always wrong, no matter what it says or does” (T9-III.2:4-10). From the perspective of right-minded thinking, this is perfectly true. This, however, does not mean that we never disagree with people on the level of form or behavior. It also does not mean that we should never correct someone’s error on the level of form – we still need courtrooms and prisons. But it makes all the difference in which teacher you do choose to do this with – the punitive teacher called the ego, or the forgiving teacher called the Holy Spirit?
To make this choice easier, Jesus reminds us as follows: “If you point out the errors of your brother’s ego you must be seeing through yours, because the Holy Spirit does not perceive his errors. This must be true, since there is no communication between the ego and the Holy Spirit. The ego makes no sense, and the Holy Spirit does not attempt to understand anything that arises from it. […] When you react at all to errors, you are not listening to the Holy Spirit. He has merely disregarded them [your brother’s behavioral errors], and if you attend to them you are not hearing Him. If you do not hear Him, you are listening to your ego and making as little sense as the brother whose errors you perceive. This cannot be correction. Yet it is more than merely a lack of correction for him. It is the giving up of correction in yourself” (T9.III.3:1-3;4:1-2). In other words, my need to correct someone’s errors lasts only as long as I still believe I am my ego, and that salvation lies in upholding that belief.
The one solution that works, therefore, is the choice to switch teachers, and see the inherent sameness in everyone, beyond the five senses. This is where true salvation lies. So as soon as my ego signals a red light in someone, I should – as quickly as I can – turn on the observer ‘above the battleground’ and see what I am doing, without condemning myself: “Ah, here I go again. I see it. I’m obviously still fearful of letting my ego go, because I don’t know who I would be without it. That’s quite understandable. However, I know that such thinking will not bring me lasting happiness. So I will happily switch teachers, forgive myself for my mistake, and ask for help in seeing this situation and this brother differently.” Just notice the inner feeling of peace that immediately envelops you in this practice! That’s why Kenneth Wapnick always liked to say that to look at the ego – non-judgmentally – is the choice for the Holy Spirit.
Jesus continues in the same vein: “When a brother behaves insanely, you can heal him only by perceiving the sanity in him [i.e., the spirit]. If you perceive his errors and accept them, you are accepting yours. If you want to give yours over to the Holy Spirit, you must do this with his. Unless this becomes the one way in which you handle all errors, you cannot understand how all errors are undone. … Your brother is as right as you are, and if you think he is wrong you are condemning yourself. […] It is not up to you to change your brother, but merely to accept him as he is” (T-19.III.5:1-4,6;6:4). This, of course, means accepting that the essence of myself and my brother is pure spirit. As spirit, God has but one Son, and we are all the same. We share the same Source, and we even share the same silly ego.
This illustrates the simplicity of salvation: once I make the better choice of choosing to see this in my brother, I am also absolving myself from the hidden guilt in my mind that I would normally never dare to look at. Jesus puts it this way: “[The Holy Spirit] will teach you how to see yourself without condemnation, by learning how to look on [everyone and] everything without it. Condemnation will then not be real to you, and all your errors will be forgiven. […] Accept as true only what your brother is, if you would know yourself. Perceive what he is not and you cannot know what you are, because you see him falsely. Remember always that your Identity is shared, and that Its sharing is Its reality” (T-9.III.8:10-11;IV.1:4-6).
So we could also reinterpret the current polarization between people as lessons in Love, which we could gratefully accept. Every argument about differing opinions and health choices should immediately ring a bell in every Course student about the importance to shift teachers: from the senses to spirit; from the ego to the Holy Spirit. The importance of looking at how we perceive our brothers cannot be overemphasized. Jesus mentions it a lot in the Text, in the Workbook and in the Manual (not to mention the pamphlets). Let’s close by reviewing some of his statements about this from the same chapter in the Text:
If you would know your prayers are answered, never doubt a Son of God. Do not question him and do not confound him, for your faith in him is your faith in yourself (T-9.II.4:1-2).
Salvation is of your brother. The Holy Spirit extends from your mind to his, and answers you. You cannot hear the Voice for God in yourself alone, because you are not alone (T9.II.6:2-5).
Would God have created a Voice for you alone? Could you hear His answer except as He answers all of God’s Sons? Hear of your brother what you would have me hear of you, for you would not want me to be deceived (T9-II.6:10-12).
If you would hear me, hear my brothers in whom God’s Voice speaks. The answer to all prayers lies in them. You will be answered as you hear the answer in everyone (II.7:5-7).
Believe in your brothers because I believe in you, and you will learn that my belief in you is justified (II.8:1).
Hear only God’s Answer in His Sons, and you are answered (II.8:7).
Make a commitment to remind yourself of these truths, the next time you are tempted to slip into mindlessness mode and start an argument about someone else’s choices or behavior. Again, this does not mean that you never correct anything any longer on the level of form, but it does mean that you do it, if at all, guided by the better teacher. And this will always result in the best outcome for all who are involved. Happy practicing!
— Jan-Willem van Aalst, January 2022