The mirror of the mind

In Workbook lesson 304 of A Course in Miracles there is a passage that is easily overlooked, but is nevertheless a bombshell for the mind if we realize its full implication. It is this: “Perception is a mirror, not a fact. And what I look on is my state of mind, reflected outward” (W-pII.304.1:3-4). Just think about that first sentence. From the moment we wake up until bedtime, we spend our time perceiving the world around us with our five senses. And every Course student knows that perception always comes with interpretation, or ‘giving a meaning to what you see, hear, taste, touch or feel’. In this passage, Jesus states that perception is a mirror; it mirrors what I have already made real in my mind. So everything I interpret about my perception of any situation, event, or encounter, tells me something about my (usually unconscious) state of mind. Many Course students are familiar with Jesus’ statement in Chapter 21 of the text: “It [the world] is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition” (

In the next Chapter in the Text, Jesus further clarifies this by stating that “...everyone sees only what he thinks he is.” (T22.I.5:2). And although we may consciously tell ourselves we are a good, honest, loveable person, deep down the iceberg of our mind, we are not at all happy with our self image, as Jesus assures us: “You think you are the home of evil, darkness and sin. You think that if anyone could see the truth about you he would be repelled, recoiling from you as if from a poisonous snake. You think if what is true about you were revealed to you, you would be struck with horror so intense that you would rush to death by your own hand, living on after seeing this being impossible” (WpI.93.1). Luckily, Jesus immediately comforts us by stating that “These are beliefs so firmly fixed that it is difficult to help you see that they are based on nothing” (W-pI.93.2:1). This brings to mind the equally comforting passage in Chapter 19: “The Son of God can be mistaken; he can deceive himself; he can even turn the power of his mind against himself. But he cannot sin. There is nothing he can do that would really change his reality in any way, nor make him really guilty” (T-19.II.3:1-3).

And so, to sum it up to this point: what our senses tell us mirrors the illusory self-image we have made real in the mind. That’s why almost everyone focuses so much on all the evil in the world: we think we see misery outside us, but this actually tells us how miserable we unconsciously feel about ourselves. At many places in his Course, Jesus underscores the key lesson that our physical eyes do not really see anything real; all our senses perceive only illusion, since everything in time and space is an illusion. The Son of God constructed this illusion in a feeble attempt to hide from God’s imagined wrath for the thought of desiring to separate from Him (which of course could never happen in reality). Since we made the world out of guilt and fear, all our perception is drenched in this line of thought. In Workbook lesson 23, Jesus explains: “The world you see is a vengeful world, and everything in it is a symbol of vengeance. Each of your perceptions of “external reality” is a pictorial representation of your own attack thoughts. One can well ask if this can be called seeing. Is not fantasy a better word for such a process, and hallucination a more appropriate term for the result? You see the world that you have made, but you do not see yourself as the image maker” (W-pI.23.3:1-4:1).

That final sentence, of course, is the key. We are convinced, at least unconsciously, that we are being tossed about as powerless victims in a threatening world. What a complete reversal of thought, then, to read that you and I have made up this world, and purposefully too; that is: to hide from the imagined wrath of of our Creator over our ‘tiny, mad idea’ of separation! How silly! It’s all make-belief. We’ve fallen asleep and we are still “…dreaming of exile, but perfectly capable of awakening to reality” (T-10.I.2:1), So while this ‘bombshell’ may appear at first as a daunting prospect, it is actually the best news that you and I could get, since it affirms that we are the all-powerful dreamer of the dream (T-27.VII), and that we have the power to change the dream and eventually wake up to reality. As good Course students, we know why we do not joyfully welcome this realization and wake up immediately: the fear of permanently losing our precious little individual ‘autonomous’ ego-self is still too great.

Choose, then, not to shrink from what you may see in this mirror. Illusions have no power to hurt you, unless you grant them that power, to uphold the silly illusion of individuality. It’s much better to choose to faithfully practice looking at the mirror in the mind, without judgment. Sure there’ll be a lot of seeming darkness, but together with Jesus or the Holy Spirit you and I can laugh it all away. Not to cover it up, but from the realization that all this heaviness has no foundation whatsoever, and really comes down to nothing. And we can do it at our own pace. Jesus does not require us to be enlightened today, or tomorrow, or even in this particular lifetime. He just invites us to look at the illusions we chose to construct, with his love besides us, above the battleground — and then forgive yourself for having taken so seriously this ‘tiny, mad idea’.

All the darkness in our mind comes from an ego we made up ourselves. We’ve come to think of it as monstrous, and ruling our mind. It is not so. When we patiently practice the looking at the mirror of the mind, as an observer, without judgment, we make room for Jesus’ love. It’s as simple as that. In Chapter 20 of the Text, Jesus states: “This course requires almost nothing of you. It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more” (T-20.VII.1:7-8). Except, of course, that our resistance is still enormous. So we need to practice our motivation daily, even hourly, to keep trying to ‘cross the bridge to the real world’, in which, as Ken Wapnick puts it in his Journey through the Workbook, “…the memory of God’s Love is restored to our awareness, and we remember we are one with Him who is our source”, referring to Chapter 16 in the Text: “The new perspective you will gain from crossing over will be the understanding of where Heaven is. From this side, it seems to be outside and across the bridge. Yet as you cross to join it, it will join with you and become one with you. And you will think, in glad astonishment, that for all this you gave up nothing! The joy of Heaven, which has no limit, is increased with each light that returns to take its rightful place within it. Wait no longer, for the Love of God and you. And may the holy instant speed you on the way, as it will surely do if you but let it come to you” (T-16.VI.11). Happy practicing!

Jan-Willem van Aalst, January 2023




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