The crux of meaningful choice

In A Course in Miracles, Jesus teaches us that although we seem to have to make a thousand choices each day between the myriad of forms in the dualistic dream world, in content each choice boils down to a choice between the ego or God. In content, it is always the choice between fear or Love; between illusion or truth: “It is still up to you to choose to join with truth or with illusion. But remember that to choose one is to let the other go. Which one you choose you will endow with beauty and reality, because the choice depends on which you value more. […] For you can never choose except between God and the ego.” (T-17.III.9:1-2,7).

A major frustration with all students of A Course in Miracles is that although they consciously tell themselves they want to relinquish the ego and verily choose God, day in day out they notice that they almost invariably keep choosing the ego, even though they realize the pain this brings. In short, many feel they are a slave to the ego. But in the Course, Jesus offers us a major psychological eye-opener in this regard: “Under the ego’s dark foundation is the memory of God, and it is of this that you are really afraid. For this memory would instantly restore you to your proper place [as Christ], and it is this place that you have sought to leave. […] You believe that, by removing the dark cloud that obscures it, your love for your Father would impel you to answer His Call and leap into Heaven. […] For still deeper than the ego’s foundation, and much stronger than it will ever be, is your intense and burning love of God, and His for you. This is what you really want to hide.” (T-13.III.2.1-9).

So yes, we do want the Love of God, but at the same time we are also unconsciously afraid of this, since that would mean giving up our precious special individuality, fueled by the not-so-gentle ego whispering that God will severely punish us for our cardinal sin of separation. So, A Course in Miracles teaches us we have a conflicted mind. This conflict is always rooted in doubt about what we are: “There is no conflict that does not entail the simple, single question, ‘What am I?'” (W-pI.139.1:6). However, to Jesus, the answer is plain and clear: “Only refusal to accept yourself could make the question seem to be sincere. […] Uncertainty about what you must be is self-deception on a scale so vast, its magnitude can hardly be conceived. […] It is for this denial that you need Atonement.” (W-pI.139.2:2;3:1;5:2).

So the choice between God or the ego — between Love or fear, between Heaven and hell — only seems difficult because we stubbornly keep wanting to be an illusory separated special individual, instead of accepting our true reality as Christ, the One Son of God. And yet, since time and space are inherently illusory as well, Jesus tells us that this seemingly difficult choice is not a choice at all, once we clearly see what we are choosing between: “Heaven is chosen consciously. The choice cannot be made until alternatives are accurately seen and understood. All that is veiled in shadows must be raised to understanding, to be judged again, this time with Heaven’s help. And all mistakes in judgment that the mind had made before are open to correction, as the truth dismisses them as causeless. Now […] their nothingness is recognized.” (W-pI.138.9:1-4;6).

Jesus is in effect telling us: ‘The only reason you do not choose Heaven as yet, is because you are not really honestly comparing the alternatives and seeing the ego for what it is.’ That’s why we read passages such as: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false.” (T-16.IV.6:1-2). And in chapter 11: “No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected. […]  The “dynamics” of the ego will be our lesson for a while, for we must look first at this to look beyond it since you have made it real. […] How else can one dispel illusions except by looking at them directly without protecting them?”  (T-11.V.1:1;1:5;2:2).

But how vigilant are you and I in looking at the ‘dynamics’ of our ego? Are we really looking with Jesus beside us from minute to minute? Hardly. Let’s say I go out for a bicycle ride, with the intention of making each encounter with everyone else a holy instant, and never to leave a brother without a silent blessing. In the first few minutes, I radiate the light of love all around me and I love and bless everyone I meet, if not in form, then at least in content. But after half an hour, I suddenly notice how quickly I forgot to keep that up. Quite rapidly I fell back to merely judging form, and finding something to dislike in almost everyone I meet, however insignificant it seems.

This is why teachers such as Kenneth Wapnick constantly urge students to train their vigilance in looking, looking, looking non-judgmentally at what’s going on in the mind. Jesus gently reminds us that “Each day, each hour and minute, even each second, you are deciding between the crucifixion and the resurrection; between the ego and the Holy Spirit.” (T-14.III.4:1). It is also why I never tire of quoting Jesus’ ultimate vigilance training tip in lesson 156: “”Who walks with me?’ This question should be asked a thousand times a day, till certainty has ended doubting and established peace. Today let doubting cease.” (W-pI.156.8:1-3). This is the only way to become fully aware of the importance of the only choice that we can and need make in life: for the ego or for God.

The ego is and remains one hundred percent condemnation, hate, attack and separation. The only reason you and I still keep Heaven at bay is because, in spite of all the pain the ego brings, there is still some lingering hope that as an individual, can be God in my own world and find some sort of happiness there. Coupled with the fear that the ego had us associate with Truth, the ego seems to have made us perennially mindless. That is, until we choose to look within, and realize there is no sin. The ego’s tale of sin, guilt and fear is all made up. In fact, time, space and individuality are all made up. That’s why Jesus says that the only meaningful choice we must make (between God and the ego) is actually no choice at all: “You make but one [choice]. And when that one is made, you will perceive it was no choice at all. For truth is true, and nothing else is true. There is no opposite to choose instead. There is no contradiction to the truth.” (W-pI.138.4:4-8).

So by honestly and vigilantly looking at what’s going on in the mind, we facilitate our own process of making the only meaningful choice we can make in our lives, as we read in workbook lesson 138: “Who can fail to make a choice between alternatives when only one is seen as valuable; the other seen as a wholly worthless thing, a but imagined source of guilt and pain? Who hesitates to make a choice like this? And shall we hesitate to choose today?” (W-pI.138.10:3-4). Or, as Jesus asks us in the closing paragraph of chapter 23, to which this blog site owes its name: “Who with the Love of God upholding him could find the choice of miracles or murder hard to make?” (T-23.IV.9:8). Happy practicing!


See also my “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:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2018 Course workshop at www.youtube.com.

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.

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To plan or not to plan

A Course in Miracles is a mind-training curriculum for learning how to attain lasting inner peace. Students notice that during their Course study, they are asked to completely transform one firmly held belief after another: “To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning” (T-24.in.2:1-2). This seems to apply in particular to the aspect of planning. In chapter 18 of the text, Jesus assures me that “I need do nothing” (T-18.VII), since the purpose of all this doing, doing, doing is merely to keep myself convinced of the reality of the body and the world. Workbook lesson 135 in particular stresses that “The mind engaged in planning for itself is occupied in setting up control of future happenings. It does not think that it will be provided for, unless it makes its own provisions. […] The mind that plans is thus refusing to allow for change. […] A healed mind does not plan.” (W-pI.135.15:1,16:1,11:1).

This principle, however, seems most impractical in this world, if not outright impossible. How am I to make it through the day if I don’t organize my life to some extent? Am I really to give up planning for my groceries, my laundry, my general well-being? Does Jesus say that I should cancel my insurance policies and medical coverage, since a healed mind does not need to plan? Moreover, on a larger temporal scale, should I stop planning for my work career, for my retirement, and for how I will spend my leisure time? This seems to be a recipe for total disaster; more likely to lead to immense anxiety than to the promised lasting inner peace. So what does Jesus actually mean?

As course scholar Kenneth Wapnick often pointed out, Jesus by no means tells us not to make plans. If we read workbook lesson 135 carefully, we can see that Jesus tells us not to make any plans on our own, but rather to consult with him (or the Holy Spirit) first. To continue with the quote from paragraph 11 in lesson 135: “A healed mind does not plan. It carries out the plans that it receives through listening to wisdom that is not its own. It waits until it has been taught what should be done, and then proceeds to do it. It does not depend on itself for anything except its adequacy to fulfill the plans assigned to it. […] A healed mind is relieved of the belief that it must plan [on its own].” (W-pI.135.11:1-12:1).

The bottom line, therefore, is not that we should stop planning, but that we should make plans with the right teacher. As all Course students know, there are only two: we always choose either the ego or the Holy Spirit as our guide. As we read in workbook lesson 156: “Who walks with me?’ This question should be asked a thousand times a day, till certainty has ended doubting and established peace.” (W-pI.156.8:1-2). Each time I decide with the ego as my guide, I am unconsciously asking for failure and misery (which does ‘prove’ the reality of the separation and individuality, but doesn’t bring happiness). It is only when I consult with the Holy Spirit (I like to call it true intuition) first, that things will work out best for all.

Since asking the Holy Spirit means stepping back, in the humble recognition that I do not know my best interests, this is usually not our favorite option, and so we rarely do it. Yet if we think about it, how could we ever plan and decide anything on our own, with absolute certainty of the outcome? “In order to judge anything rightly, one would have to be fully aware of an inconceivably wide range of things, past, present, and to come. One would have to recognize in advance all the effects of his judgments on everyone and everything involved in them in any way. And one would have to be certain there is no distortion in his perception, so that his judgment would be wholly fair to everyone on whom it rests, now and in the future. Who is in a position to do this? Who except in grandiose fantasies would claim this for himself?” (M-10.3:3-7).

We are all familiar with the experience of finding it difficult to choose between a rational option and a more intuitive (or “gut-feeling”) option. In retrospect, the intuitive option usually made the situation turn out best for everyone. And if it didn’t, one might well ask if the advice really came through intuition. After all, the ego loves to disguise itself as the voice of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, one of the most useful daily exercises is learning to discern between ego-advice and the counsel of the Holy Spirit. If there is the slightest strain, pressure, discomfort or anxiety involved in the decision, you can be pretty sure that the ego is in the driving seat. Luckily, you can always choose again.

A frequently occurring pitfall while planning with the Holy Spirit is that we think we ask from the place of true intuition, but we do this to solve something specific in the world. So, for example, we might ask Jesus which parking garage we ought to choose for our visit to a nearby city. The lesson in asking for specifics, though, is to learn to generalize such questions, because we slowly learn that forms (and therefore specifics) do not matter. In chapter 10 we read that “The Holy Spirit will answer every specific problem as long as you believe that problems are specific. His answer is both many and one, as long as you believe that the one is many.” In the Song of Prayer, Jesus adds: “[…] Forget the things you think you need. […] In prayer, you overlook your specific needs as you see them, and let them go into God’s Hands. There they become your gifts to Him, for they tell Him that you would have no gods before Him.” (S-1.I.4).

Despite this nondualistic truth, as with everything in the illusory dualistic world of time and space, the key thing in making plans is to remain a normal person. So you don’t cancel your medical insurance, and you do take care of regular income and retirement deposits. Remember, “Even the most advanced therapist has some earthly needs while he is here.” (P.3.III.3). The key, again, is to learn to ask yourself with which guide you make decisions: the ego, or the Holy Spirit? For those who still find this difficult (which includes almost all of us), it can be useful to revisit section 1 of chapter 30 (“Rules for Decision”) once and a while: “If I make no decisions by myself, this is the day that will be given me.” (T-30.I.4:2). And should you feel upset, a great instant response is: “Perhaps there is another way to look at this. What can I lose by asking?” (T-30.I.12:3). Happy asking!


See also my “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:

buy-now-amazon-button

See also my Feb. 2018 Course workshop at www.youtube.com.

Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.