II. The Ego and False Autonomy 6-11
6. Only those who have a real and lasting sense of abundance can be truly charitable. This is obvious when you consider what is involved. To the ego, to give anything implies that you will have to do without it. When you associate giving with sacrifice, you give only because you believe that you are somehow getting something better and can therefore do without the thing you give. “Giving to get” is an inescapable law of the ego, which always evaluates itself in relation to other egos. It is therefore continually preoccupied with the belief in scarcity that gave rise to it. Its whole perception of other egos as real is only an attempt to convince itself that it is real. “Self-esteem” in ego terms means nothing more than that the ego has deluded itself into accepting its reality and is therefore temporarily less predatory. This “self-esteem” is always vulnerable to stress, a term which refers to any perceived threat to the ego’s existence.
7. The ego literally lives by comparisons. Equality is beyond its grasp, and charity becomes impossible. The ego never gives out of abundance because it was made as a substitute for it. That is why the concept of “getting” arose in the ego’s thought system. Appetites are “getting” mechanisms, representing the ego’s need to confirm itself. This is as true of body appetites as it is of the so-called “higher ego needs.” Body appetites are not physical in origin. The ego regards the body as its home and tries to satisfy itself through the body. But the idea that this is possible is a decision of the mind, which has become completely confused about what is really possible.
8. The ego believes it is completely on its own, which is merely another way of describing how it thinks it originated. This is such a fearful state that it can only turn to other egos and try to unite with them in a feeble attempt at identification or attack them in an equally feeble show of strength. It is not free, however, to open the premise to question, because the premise is its foundation. The ego is the mind’s belief that it is completely on its own. The ego’s ceaseless attempts to gain the spirit’s acknowledgment and thus establish its own existence are useless. Spirit in its knowledge is unaware of the ego. It does not attack it; it merely cannot conceive of it at all. While the ego is equally unaware of spirit, it does perceive itself as being rejected by something greater than itself. This is why self-esteem in ego terms must be delusional. The creations of God do not create myths, although creative effort can be turned to mythology. It can do so, however only under one condition; what it makes is then no longer creative. Myths are entirely perceptual, and so ambiguous in form and characteristically good-and-evil in nature that the most benevolent of them is not without fearful connotations.
9. Myths and magic are closely associated, since myths are usually related to ego origins, and magic to the powers the ego ascribes to itself. Mythological systems generally include some account of “the creation,” and associate this with its particular form of magic. The so-called “battle for survival” is only the ego’s struggle to preserve itself, and its interpretation of its own beginning. This beginning is usually associated with physical birth because it is hard to maintain that the ego existed before that point in time. The more “religiously” ego-oriented may believe that the soul existed before and will continue to exist after a temporary lapse into ego life. Some even believe that the soul will be punished for this lapse. However, salvation does not apply to spirit, which is not in danger and does not need to be salvaged.
10. Salvation is nothing more than “right-mindedness,” which is not the One-mindedness of the Holy Spirit, but which must be achieved before One-mindedness is restored. Right-mindedness leads to the next step automatically because right perception is uniformly without attack, and therefore wrong-mindedness is obliterated. The ego cannot survive without judgment and is laid aside accordingly. The mind then has only one direction in which it can move. Its direction is always automatic, because it cannot but be dictated by the thought system to which it adheres.
11. It cannot be emphasized too often that correcting perception is merely a temporary expedient. It is necessary only because misperception is a block to knowledge, while accurate perception is a stepping-stone towards it. The whole value of right perception lies in the inevitable realization that all perception is unnecessary. This removes the block entirely. You may ask how this is possible as long as you appear to be living in this world. That is a reasonable question. You must be careful, however, that you really understand it. Spirit is immortal, and immortality is a constant state. It is as true now as it ever was or ever will be because it implies no change at all. It is not a continuum, nor is it understood by being compared to an opposite. Knowledge never involves comparisons. That is its main difference from everything else the mind can grasp.
In today’s text reading, Jesus goes on to explain charity in terms of the ego and the real charity of the Spirit. Spiritual charity comes from a real and lasting sense of abundance. There is nothing but the never-ending supply of love, life, laughter, mercy, goodwill, and wholeness. However, we all know that in this world there are limitations, scarcities, and shortages. Ego gives with a backlash of some kind! Seeking appreciation, recognition, or reciprocation, ego perverts charity into martyrdom, sacrifice, a simmering, silent grudge or outspoken judgment. Whether on the giving or the receiving end of such weak forms of charity – it is never a completely joyful exchange. Giving is stressful in the world, it requires time, money, effort. Few of us are born with silver spoons in our mouths, and so having enough resources to have extra implies that one worked harder than other people, was wiser with their finances, that the giver is better in some way than the receiver. While this may seem to raise the self-esteem of the giver, Jesus points out that this only indicates a temporary lapse in the predatory nature of ego. Even the weakened forms of charity that ego offers, threatens the ego’s existence and so giving, which is a natural and joyful attribute of Spirit, is perceived as very stressful to the ego. Giving of any kind wears the ego out. It fatigues rather than enlivens.
In paragraph seven Jesus tells us that the ego thrives on comparisons. “They are privileged; I am not.” “They may be better looking than me, but I have more money.” “Must be nice to be born wealthy, I have to work for every penny I make.” “My car may be old and rusty, but I can still get to work on time unlike so-and-so who always arrives late and has to park her Tesla five blocks away.” Equality is nothing that the ego can grasp though it does seem to blather on about it quite a bit. True charity is impossible to the ego – because it is always thinking of how much it can get and keep for itself rather than reciprocate. We learn in the ego world that no matter how many favors we do for other people, no matter how “good” we are to them in our own eyes, no matter how we sacrifice for them – we are only ever as good as our last favor.
There is no point complaining about this or building cases against others for Jesus explains that ego’s and the human forms that represent them were made as a substitute for abundance. Think of this for a few moments and let this thought sink in. We chose physicality over Spirit. We chose to identify with scarcity, limitations, incompleteness, and separateness. The concept of “getting,” “taking,” keeping for oneself can only follow. Jesus tells us that all appetites of the flesh are actually ego’s attempts to satisfy itself through bodily means. To think that the ego can ever be satisfied is a mistake, for it is impossible to meet its appetites – it must constantly be replenished. I often assure people who sit next to me in a meeting, not to be afraid of my noisy stomach that rumbles and growls like a wild beast when I skip a meal or go past my usual lunch time! Its bark is worse than its bite, I tell them. While this is a light-hearted way to get past blushing for the belly rumbles, Jesus tells us that to put our ego in charge and follow its appetites has left our minds in a state of confusion and denied us our true potential.
Our ego believes that it got here on its own steam, that it is all by itself in a frightening universe with dangers from within and dangers from without. Forming alliances with other egos is its only means to find identity and feel as if it belongs to something besides itself. Forming alliances with those as alike to it as possible also forms a means of defense against egos who are different. Amassing weapons, plotting and scheming, getting one over on others – are the ego’s way to survive by the seat of its little drawers in the shadowland of separateness. The ego is the mind’s belief that it is completely on its own. Ego attempts to reach God are met with bitter disappointment for Spirit cannot recognize flesh. No matter what we do to impress God of our worth to Him, no matter how much we toot our tinny horns to get God’s attention, no matter the songs we sing to Him, the time we spend in church or in the bible, unless we come to Him without fear and the flesh, He cannot hear us, know us, or recognize Himself in our calls to Him. Self-flagellation and suffering are ridiculous attempts to prove anything to God. God does not hate our flesh, God does not enjoy our pain and suffering, God is Spirit and has no way of perceiving that which is not like Him.
Jesus very pointedly tells us that ego is equally unaware of Spirit, but it is aware of something bigger and better than itself that has rejected it. It is this feeling of rejection that causes the ego to seek esteem, but no matter how much it seeks esteem, it will never really have it. The ego then makes up myths about God – it makes gods very much like itself, ones who are jealous, who pick favorites, who sets one part of creation against the other. Myths are much like beliefs in that they are not real, and nothing can make them real. No matter what stories we make up about God, the rites and rituals we perform to please Him, the sacrifices He demands from us to keep us on His good side – we can never make them true. Ego gods are myths just like the ego is. Ego gods are ambiguous, Jesus tells us. They are both good and evil in nature. Even the nicest egos and the best myths always have an element of fear, dread, and are inclined to misuse any power attributed to it.
Myths are usually related to ego origins, to “the creation,” and magic to the powers the ego credits to itself. The ongoing battle for survival is the ego’s attempts to keep itself going and a way in which to give itself meaning. While egos usually associate its beginning with physical birth because it is hard for it to maintain a separate existence before its point in time, the more religious ego will believe that it has a soul that existed before and will continue to exist after its ego life. Some egos hold a strong sense of impending punishment for the souls lapse into ego and human form and seek “salvation,” in order to escape it. However, Jesus says that salvation does not apply to spirit – our eternal spirits are in no danger for what is created by God is always stable and has not changed and therefor never needs to be salvaged.
No matter what we may have been taught about what salvation is, Jesus makes it very clear that salvation is merely right-mindedness. Our minds must be saved, be made right, be set free from the wrong-minded ego myths and magic that has replaced our fearless love for God. Before we can be restored to the Oneness of God’s Kingdom, our minds must be set free of falsely identifying with all that is unworthy of God. When we are in our right minds, we no longer fear, we no longer judge, we no longer condemn or blame or attack. The ego cannot survive in this realm and the mind has only one direction in which to move. The mind freed of the tyrant can no longer be dictated by the ego’s belief system. We recognize our worth to God, we recognize our mutuality, we recognize that which Creation has been yearning for since time began.
In the last paragraph, Jesus emphasizes that misperception is a block to knowledge and accurate perception leads us toward knowledge. The value of right perception is to help us realize that all perception is unnecessary beyond the ego and the flesh. When we realize this knowledge becomes apparent. Until we realize this, we will still believe in myths and magic. We will still believe that God should care about our human forms and human circumstances. We will see what happens in the perceptual world and believe that God is punishing, or God is blessing. But Jesus reminds us: Spirit is immortal. Immortality is a constant state. It never changes. Spirit is not temperamental; but always the same. Spirit is not a continuum; Spirit has no time line; Spirit does not go into battle, throw temper tantrums, or engage in mouth battles. Spirit does not take sides or have favorites. Spirit has no competition and has no opposite. Spirit only recognizes us in spirit and in truth, our fleshly concerns are not real to Spirit. Knowledge can never be compared to anything because it is everything. This is enough for our minds to grasp for the time being. Jesus promises to step into our perceptual world for us and take care of our human concerns if we want Him to, but our Spirits? Forever secure, forever unchanged, forever God’s Son.
A Course in Miracles. Chapter 4 Illusions of the ego II The ego and false autonomy. 6-11. Foundation for Inner Peace, Second Edition (1992).
For daily 2021 Workbook lessons visit www.i-choose-love.com courtesy of Linda R.
Audio credit: www.eckiefriar.com