For spiritual awakening through A Course in Miracles, that is, consistently choosing right-minded thinking over wrong-minded thinking, we must both study the textbook and practice the lessons in the workbook. Only the experience of the peace promised in the textbook will keep us motivated to keep the awakening process ongoing. In the introduction to the workbook, Jesus explains: “The workbook is divided into two main sections, the first dealing with the undoing of the way you see now, and the second with the acquisition of true perception.” (W-in.3:1). While part I of the workbook focuses on having us realize that we really do not want the ego’s specialness, part II instructs us in how to ‘hear’ the guidance of Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) ever more clearly and more consistently choose unconditional love throughout the day.
Unfortunately, many students take this to mean that by the time they reach part II in the workbook, they ought not to be bothered too much by recurring ego thoughts any more. Lesson titles such as “Let every voice but God’s be still in me” (W-pII.254) and “This day I choose to spend in perfect peace” (W-pII.255) seem to assume that the student, having reached this point in the workbook, should be able to apply the instructions successfully. However, almost all ACIM students experience disappointment or frustration when they notice that most of the time during the day, they are hardly free of ego thoughts at all. Kenneth Wapnick cautions us against the understandable but hardly helpful defenses that often seem to follow, namely denying the ego thoughts or fighting them. In his commentary on lesson 254, Ken writes: “Crucial to his process [of forgiveness] is learning not to deny our ego thoughts, nor to try not to have them. Rather, we simply ask for help when they occur. […] This is not a course in denial or in pretending we have no ego thoughts.”
The problem is always in the mind, and the block is always some aspect of guilt, in this case guilt over apparently still having ego thoughts. It simply does not help to pretend you no longer have any ego thoughts, or that they should be stubbornly repressed. Rather, Jesus invites us to look at why we apparently still choose ego thoughts. It is helpful to remember that ego thoughts do not come to us unbidden: they are a deliberate choice. As long as I have ego thoughts, some part of my mind obviously still believes they will bring me something I desire. We must therefore honestly look at our motivation to keep harboring ego thoughts, before we can truly choose against the ego and to “choose to spend the day in perfect peace”. So why do we still choose ego thoughts in spite of our intellectual conviction we don’t want them any more? Why do we deliberately choose not to be at peace?
The answer is plain once you consider the metaphysical nondualistic foundation of A Course in Miracles. Everything outside non-duality is illusory. This includes everything in space and time; everything composed of matter, and everything that seems to be fragmented and autonomous. The ultimate result of choosing against the ego would be that my individual self will disappear. This is what terrifies me. Yes, I want the peace of God; but I want it as an individual. I want eternal peace, but I also want to remain autonomous. And I certainly do not want to be reminded of my decision to try autonomy (i.e., the separation, labeled sin by the ego), since this reminds me of a mountain of guilt [over the separation] I could never surmount (or so I believe). So I constantly find fault in externals and other people. I want to be upset and in pain, so I can prove I am an individual, but I am not to be held responsible for that. I’m innocent; others are evil. And so I gladly choose not to be at peace, as this is a great defense against accepting responsibility for the separation. Without such ego fuel, I would sooner or later have to admit that lasting inner peace is only possible in oneness, without individuality, without autonomy. Will I accept that? Never! Or so my ego shrieks.
The way out of this is, first, to realize that all upsets and pains are not thrust upon us; they are a deliberate choice to keep the separation ongoing. It is only once we strengthen our acceptance of the truth that what God Wills for His Son (namely, eternal peace in Oneness or nonduality), is in fact our own will, since we are the Son of God. So Jesus presents to us the ultimate decision: would you rather be like a tiny frightened mouse, roaring at the universe in senseless squeaks, proclaiming its omnipotence (T-22.V.4:3); or would you rather be at one with God, forever safe and at peace? While intellectually we would find this an easy question with an obvious answer, our subconscious ego survival drives are sufficiently powerful to cause great resistance in studying and practicing A Course in Miracles. This is why the experience of inner peace induced by diligently doing the workbook lessons, in spite of fear and resistance, is so extremely important. Our greatest need, therefore, is the skill to be able to objectively look at what’s going on, so we can make a better choice.
An untrained mind can accomplish nothing (W-pI.In.1). By training the mind through the textbook and workbook, the next time I notice I am not at peace, I can remind myself that the upset does not come from externals. Distress is a deliberate choice to keep the ‘threat’ of oneness away. A trained mind can realize that “I could see peace instead of this.” (W-pI.34). This is not denying you have ego thoughts, or trying to repress them. This is dismissing the ego as silly. You’re merely being honest, recognizing your power to make another choice. The next time you notice you are not at peace, quickly switch on the observer in your mind and say: “I must have decided wrongly, because I am not at peace. I made the decision myself, but I can also decide otherwise. I want to decide otherwise, because I want to be at peace. I do not feel guilty, because the Holy Spirit will undo all the consequences of my wrong decision if I will let Him. I choose to let Him, by allowing Him to decide for God for me.” (T-30.XII.6:9). If you truly let Him, feel the peace flow through your system and know that this course really works. How could it not, if you align your will with God’s Will for His Son?
Also see my seven “guidelines for living in an illusory world” in “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles“. This guidebook, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com: