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A COURSE IN MIRACLES Chapter 4: Illusions of the Ego

Section I. Right Teaching and Right Learning 1-7

  1. A good teacher clarifies his own ideas and strengthens them by teaching them.  Teacher and pupil are alike in the learning process.  They are in the same order of learning, and unless they share their lessons conviction will be lacking.  A good teacher must believe in the ideas he teaches, but he must meet another condition: he must believe in the students to whom he offers the ideas.
  2. Many stand guard over their ideas because they want to protect their thought systems as they are, and learning means change.  Change is always fearful to the separated because they cannot conceive of it as a move towards healing the separation.  They always perceive it as a move toward further separation because the separation was their first experience of change.  You believe that if you allow no change to enter into your ego you will find peace.  This profound confusion is possible only if you maintain that the same thought system can stand on two foundations.  Nothing can reach spirit from the ego, and nothing can reach the ego from spirit.  Spirit can neither strengthen the ego nor reduce the conflict within it.  The ego is a contradiction.  Your self and God’s Self are in opposition.  They are opposed in source, in direction, and in outcome.  They are fundamentally irreconcilable, because spirit cannot perceive, and the ego cannot know.  They are therefore not in communication and can never be in communication.  Nevertheless, the ego can learn, even though its maker can be misguided.  He cannot, however, make the totally lifeless out of the life-given.
  3. Spirit need not be taught, but the ego must.  Learning is ultimately perceived as frightening because it leads to the relinquishment, not the destruction, of the ego to the light of spirit.  This is the change the ego must fear because it does not share my charity.  My lesson was like yours, and because I learned it, I can teach it.  I will never attack your ego, but I am trying to teach you how its thought system arose.  When I remind you of your true creation, your ego cannot but respond with fear.
  4. Teaching and learning are your greatest strengths now because they enable you to change your mind and help others to change theirs.  Refusing to change your mind will not prove that the separation has not occurred.  The dreamer who doubts the reality of his dream while he is still dreaming is not really healing his split mind.  You dream of a separated ego and believe in a world that rests upon it.  This is very real to you.  You cannot undo it by not changing your mind about it.  If you are willing to renounce the role of guardian of your thought system and open it to me, I will correct it very gently and lead you back to God.
  5. Every good teacher hopes to give his students so much of his own learning that they will one day no longer need him.  This is the one true goal of a teacher.  It is impossible to convince the ego of this because it goes against all of its own laws.  But remember that laws are set up to protect the continuity of the system in which the lawmaker believes.  It is natural for the ego to try to protect itself once you have made it, but it is not natural for you to want to obey its laws unless you believe them.  The ego cannot make this choice because of the nature of its origin.  You can, because of the nature of yours. 
  6. Egos can clash in any situation, but spirit cannot clash at all.  If you perceive a teacher as merely “a larger ego,” you will be afraid, because to enlarge an ego would be to increase anxiety about separation.  I will teach with you and live with you if you will think with me, but my goal will always be to absolve you finally from the need for a teacher.  This is the opposite of the ego-oriented teacher’s goal.  He is concerned with the effect of his ego on other egos, and therefore interprets their interactions as a means of ego preservation.  I would not be able to devote myself to teaching if I believed this, and you will not be a devoted teacher as long as you believe it.  I am constantly being perceived as a teacher either to be exalted or rejected, but I do not accept either perception for myself.
  7. Your worth is not established by teaching or learning.  Your worth is established by God.  As long as you dispute this everything you do will be fearful, particularly any situation that lends itself to the belief in superiority and inferiority.  Teachers must be patient and repeat their lessons until they are learned.  I am willing to do this, because I have no right to set your learning limits for you.  Again – nothing you do or think or wish or make is necessary to establish your worth.  This point is not debatable except in delusions.  Your ego is never at stake because God did not create it.  Your spirit is never at stake because He did.  Any confusion on this point is delusional, and no form of devotion is possible as long as this delusion lasts.[1]

In this world, teachers must accumulate a knowledge base, get a degree, and prove ourselves as capable of imparting facts, teaching concepts, method, and application.  However, Jesus tells us that teacher and students are alike in the learning process – to teach we must learn, to learn we must teach.  A good teacher not only believes that what he teaches is worth learning, he must also believe that his students are worth teaching.   Students, to learn – must believe that their teacher has something worth teaching, and that their teacher is capable of teaching them. 

When we guard the ideas we have and feel as if we already know everything we need to know about any given subject, we are incapable of learning.  Many of us guard our doctrines, our belief in our bibles and other holy books, our belief in our holy leaders.  To allow ourselves to question, to be honest about our doubts and fears, to test for accuracy, veracity, and practical application is viewed as an abominable lack of faith or heresy. As long as good manners, misguided faith, loyalty to tradition, and/or fear of punishment forbids us to question our belief systems, to change our relationship with God and our perception of the world, we may not progress, we may not find truth, but we will keep our belief system going and we will call this peace.

But Jesus calls this profound confusion.  Ego belief systems are based upon a fearful God concept, an avenging and punishing God, turned upon His Creation, declaring war in retaliation for their mistakes.  Sacrifices of blood, fat, meat, and bones appease Him but only for a while.  Instead of correcting, ego’s God punishes.  Ego’s God has favorites.  Out of all the little figures He made from dirt, He picks some whom He likes the best.  People who believe in such a God are always at war with those who have a similar God with a different name and different pet people.  They are always vying for whose God is the strongest, biggest, most holy, and most righteous.  They think it is perfectly okay to butcher, torture, lecture, scream at, or disregard others who do not believe the same way they do.  Ego belief systems pose as peace because they seem to end all questioning, all searching, all seeking, but they do not hold up to the truth, for they are based upon lies, upon half-truths, upon the made up version of reality.

Spirit has no belief system, for it needs none.  Spirit knows God as love, mercy, and forgiveness.  Spirit is not afraid of the lies, the darkness, the shadowland that poses for reality in the false kingdom, because Spirit does not communicate with ego.  Spirit knows God, not as a punisher, an avenger, a maker of torment, but only in Spirit, in love and in truth.  Spirit does not fear because there is nothing to fear.  Jesus calls us to know the difference, to choose Spirit, to dismiss the belief systems of the ego. 

The ego has learned to imitate the truth.  It may pretend to be spiritual, it may pretend to love, it may pretend to be kind, to understand, to promote gentleness and forgiveness.  It cannot however change the all-inclusiveness of love, kindness, gentleness, and forgiveness.  It can imitate Spirit, but it cannot be Spirit, it cannot limit Spirit, it cannot kill Spirit. 

Our minds are split between Spirit and ego – put Spirit in charge and ego disintegrates and disappears.  There is no war on ego, it is simply replaced with truth.  Spirit is light and in it there is no darkness.  When Spirit is welcomed to shine its light upon all the false belief systems we have cherished and hold dear, we can no longer believe in them.  Without belief, they cannot stand. Like all lies and half-truths, the truth dispels them. 

Jesus tells us that true teachers welcome progress, growth, questions, and thirsty minds.  Not so with the ego – the ego would prefer that we be entrapped in systems that keep us coming back to it, never questioning, never growing, not progressing – keep coming back week after week, indoctrinating our young, taking our tithes and offerings, regurgitating the same old fears, the same old divisions, the same old pretenses of Spirit, but with no real life.  It will always be the same old content with perhaps modernized forms and trendier methods.  An us-against-them belief system calls for war not peace.  The bitterness that such belief systems promote against others with an even slightly different viewpoint indicates fear, hatred, and division.

When Jesus reminds us of our true Creation in Spirit, the ego can only respond with fear.  When the true story of Creation is no longer hidden, buried, or denied but is brought into the light of an awakened mind, the ego’s days are numbered! 

Jesus was here; he knows what the ego belief systems are, and he did not buy into it.  He teaches us how to resist it.  Without attacking our ego, Jesus teaches us how its thought systems came to be and reminds us of the truth.  When we accept Jesus as the guardian of our minds the ego has to go!  Right teaching and right learning give us the strength to change our minds and help others to do the same.  As guardian of our thought system, Jesus is kind; He is gentle; He is the Good Teacher.  He does not terrorize; He does not punish – He corrects by relying on God’s evaluation of us, the irresistibility of truth, and leading us back to God. 

Egos clash but Spirit does not and cannot clash.  Egos will insist that their way is the only way; Spirit allows truth to lead the way, to prove itself, to be questioned and found reliable and sound.  The religious ego will not want to lose you, it will be jealous of your spiritual insights and the miracles Jesus calls for you to give.  It will always be comparing and fretting over numbers, feeling inferior or superior, but never calm, peaceful, or accepting.  When we put Jesus in charge of our spiritual path, Jesus teaches to set us free.  Jesus has no ego that worries about how we might outshine Him someday.  He tells us to go forth, to share our talents, to give what we have received.  He does not see us as spiritual rivals, as servants, or as His eternal pupils slavishly hanging on His every word.  He does not encourage dependency; he encourages growth, progress, and achievement.    It is important to note at the end of paragraph six, that as Teacher, Jesus does not accept exaltation or rejection.  We appreciate our wiser, older Brother for teaching us, but just as we do not reject Him, neither do we worship Him, exalt His name, or lift it any higher than our own.  Jesus teaches us the oneness of God’s Kingdom. We stand with Christ as God’s Son.  God is as devoted to us as to Christ. 

Our worth has already been established by God because God created us, and we belong to Him.  There is no disputing this, brothers.  There is no need for us to ever compare ourselves with others who seem to be doing more for God than we are.  There is no need for us to feel any sense of inferiority or superiority toward others because Jesus has no such feelings toward us.  Just as Jesus is patient and repeats our lessons as many times as we need to learn, so must we look upon our ourselves and our brothers.  The salvation of the world depends upon our knowing and understanding at a deep level, that there are no saved and unsaved.  There is nothing we can do or think or wish or make to establish our worth to God. This point is not debatable.  My ego is not at stake – God did not make my ego.  My spirit is not at stake, because God did create my spirit.  There should be no confusion on this point. Today in your devotional practice, read the words of this text carefully and with utmost sincerity, ask God to illuminate this truth to you.  Invite Jesus to be the guardian of your mind, to set you free from the ego’s belief system and show you Who and What you really are to God.  Do not take my word for it.  Do not take the Course’s word for it.  With truth comes devotion, without it there is none. 


[1] A Course in Miracles. Chapter 4 The Illusions of the Ego I. Right teaching and right learning 1-7. Foundation for Inner Peace, Second Edition (1992).

2021 daily Workbook lessons available at www.i-choose-love.com courtesy of Linda R.

Audio credit: www.eckiefriar.com

Filed under: ACIM

About the Author

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Coming up on sixty, my love for God, home and hearth, my husband and family fueled my decision to devote the rest of my life only to pursuits which brought love, joy, peace, and purpose. I am a writer, seeker, student, and teacher with experience professional and otherwise from waitressing to teaching the English language in China, Taiwan, and Singapore. I hold a BA in Psychology from Bloomsburg University, which took nearly 30 years to attain while I squeezed courses in between raising my children, journaling, relationships, work, and an assortment of escapades, some of which I would rather forget! An ongoing passion for reading, writing, adventure, food, and fun, eventually led me to the love of my life, James, whom I met in 1996 and married in 1997. Our life together has been an exciting journey of work and travel, spiritual awakening, and domestic bliss ever since. Although we have experienced the tragic loss of family members and friends through death and estrangement, we have managed to turn our special relationship into a holy one by the grace of God and an acute and growing awareness of “there must be a better way!” In 2006, I published my first novel, Luella’s Calling, and am currently working on my second, Grover Good and the Stone Chateau. From 2013 through 2018, I worked as a Prevention Education Specialist for Transitions, a local domestic violence sexual abuse victim’s service agency. My work there, fueled by a lifelong enthusiasm for teaching, led me to obtain an MS in Education from Scranton University. In 2018, I resigned to accompany James on his work travels while focusing on my calling to study and teach A Course in Miracles. To that end, I dedicate the rest of my days to writing, sharing, and teaching the message of salvation found within the Course pages. Thank you for your interest in this blog. As I do not respond to comments on the posts, if you care to contact me, please email me at eckief@yahoo.com.

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