Section II. The Ego and False Autonomy 1-5
- It is reasonable to ask how the mind could ever have made the ego. In fact, it is the best question you could ask. There is, however, no point in giving an answer in terms of the past because the past does not matter, and history would not exist if the same errors were not being repeated in the present. Abstract thought applies to knowledge because knowledge is completely impersonal, and examples are irrelevant to its understanding. Perception, however, is always specific, and therefore quite concrete.
- Everyone makes an ego or a self for himself, which is subject to enormous variation because of its instability. He also makes an ego for everyone else he perceives, which is equally variable. Their interaction is a process that alters both because they were not made by or with the Unalterable. It is important to realize that this alteration can and does occur as readily when the interaction takes place in the mind as when it involves physical proximity. Thinking about another ego is as effective in changing relative perception as is physical interaction. There could be no better example that the ego is only an idea and not a fact.
- Your own state of mind is a good example of how the ego was made. When you threw knowledge away it is as if you never had it. This is so apparent that one need only recognize it to see that it does happen. If this occurs in the present, why is it surprising that it occurred in the past? Surprise is a reasonable response to the unfamiliar, though hardly to something that occurs with such persistence. But do not forget that the mind need not work that way, even though it does work that way now.
- Think of the love of animals for their offspring, and the need they feel to protect them. That is because they regard them as part of themselves. No one dismisses something he considers part of himself. You react to your ego much as God does to His creation, – with love, protection, and charity. Your reactions to the self you made are not surprising. In fact, they resemble in many ways how you will one day react to your real creations, which are as timeless as you are. The question is not how you respond to the ego, but what you believe you are. Belief is an ego function, and as long as your origin is open to belief you are regarding it from an ego viewpoint. When teaching is no longer necessary you will merely know God. Belief that there is another way of perceiving is the loftiest idea of which ego thinking is capable. That is because it contains a hint of recognition that the ego is not the Self.
- Undermining the ego’s thought system must be perceived as painful, even though this is anything but true. Babies scream in rage if you take away a knife or scissors, although they may well harm themselves if you do not. In this sense you are still a baby. You have no sense of real self-preservation and are likely to decide that you need precisely what would hurt you the most. Yet whether or not you recognize it now, you have agreed to cooperate in the effort to become both harmless and helpful, attributes that must go together. Your attitudes even toward this are necessarily conflicted because all attitudes are ego-based. This will not last. Be patient a while and remember that the outcome is as certain as God.
In our devotional practice today, Jesus tells us that the best question we can ask is how our mind made the ego. Instead of taking us back to the beginning, Jesus explains that what happens in our own lives and in our own time serves as the best example, simply because there would have been no reason for history to repeat itself if the same mistakes were not being repeated into the present.
We must do our best to understand what Jesus tells us about the difference between knowing and seeing. This is information that informs us of what we really are – abstract, whole, complete, all knowing, Spirit like God – and what we think we are – perception, ego, separated, in parts, flesh and blood, human. Knowledge is not personal, it is abstract thought – knowledge has no parts, it is whole. A little bit of knowledge is not possible, it is not true knowledge – to have knowledge is to know everything.
Perception is always specific, it is not abstract, it has form, it is concrete, Jesus says. Perception is not knowledge because it is not complete. I can perceive all day and all night and into next week, but I will never have the complete picture – I will just gather facts and with these separate little bits of information I will do my best to piece together a picture, but it will never be whole, it will never be perfect, it will be put together in parts with some pieces missing.
In paragraph two, Jesus tells us that all of us make an ego to stand in place of our real Self, which is spirit, which is God’s Son, which is complete. These ego selves come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, and temperaments. The ego selves make egos for everyone else perceived in the perceptual arena and they all come in different shapes, sizes, colors, and temperaments. All other egos are perceived differently and mostly at odds with one’s own ego self. Because these selves are made by that which is not true, stable, or knowledgeable, they are continually interacting in ways which change their perception. Whether in the mind or in the physical presence of other egos, each exchange between egos changes their perception of both egos. Jesus tells us that there is no better way to show that the ego – which is always changing its mind, changing sides, changing tactics, agendas, opinions, and perceptions, is not a fact, it is not true, it is only an idea.
We can all use our own state of mind for a personal example of how the ego was made. Throwing knowledge away – is as if we never had it. Knowing better does not mean we always do the right thing. It happens all the time. Mates who love and care for each other deeply may still have drunken flings. People with good names and thriving businesses often get greedy and embezzle money. Those with beautiful homes may keep them in disrepair. Those blessed with children will lose out on the joys of parenthood by constantly griping and complaining. We have all twisted our heads to have a better look at something disgusting. We get hooked to that which causes us nightmares. We have all been tempted to take things that do not belong to us, to take secret delight in the misfortunes of others, to spend more money than we earn, to eat more than our fair share! It should be no surprise to us, Jesus says, that we threw knowledge away in the face of temptation- we do it every single day. While it is a mistake for our minds to go in the opposite direction than knowledge, we do not have to make mistakes, we do not have to cherish our mistakes, we do, however, have to correct them.
However, we react to our mistaken egos as our own creations. We love them, defend them, and nurture them. We think of our egos as our selves. Just as God loves His Creation, we love our false selves. We think of our human form as our self. We think of the other forms we see in the perceptual realm as other separate and distinct ego selves. We feel now toward our mortal body as we will feel toward our everlasting creations in immortality, Jesus tells us.
It is only natural that we love what we made, even if it is mortal and therefore not real in the eternal sense of the word. The question then is not how we respond to our egos, the question is what we believe we are. Belief itself is not a function of Spirit, for Spirit knows. Belief is not knowing; it is having an opinion. It is open to dispute. When you ask another person if they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, whether they respond with a yes or a no, has no bearing at all to the reality of Christ. You can believe in something all you want, but it does not make it true, it does not make it right, it does not change reality one iota. Conversely, you can disbelieve in Jesus and it does not take anything away from Him.
It is important for us to understand this distinction because belief is not something of the Spirit. Spirit knows. Egos believe. The best we can do from the world of perception is come to the realization that there must be another way that is past the perceptual world of ego, of humanity, of flesh and blood. To come to that realization is to have developed an inkling that the ego is not the true Self.
When the perceptual kingdom, the world, the ego’s thought system, is exposed for what it is, it is perfectly reasonable to flounder, to be bitter, to go on rants, and long to be taken up in the Rapture. We have put ourselves in a precarious position in the world of perception! We are the ones who see things that others do not and fail to see what they do. We do not fit in anymore. We have agreed to stand with Christ. Whether we were aware of it or not, we have agreed to be helpful and harmless – two attributes that combined outrage our ego for this harmless helpfulness dissolves its false perceptions. For when I can see you as part of me, as no longer separate or different or in any way higher or lesser than me, I can only be helpful, I can only mean you no harm! I cannot tell you that I am saved, and you are not – for if I am saved, so are you. We are the same in the eyes of Christ. I do not judge you by your beliefs, your behaviors, your words, or your expressions – I know you as Christ knows you. I recognize you as brother. This is the only truly helpful thing we can offer anyone because it is perfectly harmless. It is the great equalizer. It is salvation because it is right-mindedness. It is correcting and not punishing, it is just because it is fair, it is the released unclasping the bonds of those still in captivity. The only way to know God is by understanding His love and devotion to us, because fear would drive us away.
This is all we will cover in today’s text review. In your holy devotion, ask the Lord to illuminate this passage. Lay your eyes and ears and mouth on the altar of truth and ask for the vision of Christ. There is no fear in the vision of Christ. There is no heartache and heartbreak. There is no conflict and confusion. There are no threats or curses or coercion. There is only His unchanging love and unfailing mercy.
A Course in Miracles. Chapter 4: The illusions of the ego II: The ego and false autonomy. 1-5. Foundation for Inner Peace, Second Edition (1992).
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