In A Course in Miracles, Jesus teaches us that although we seem 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, I 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 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!
— Jan-Willem van Aalst