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A COURSE IN MIRACLES Chapter 8 The Journey Back

VIII: The Body as a Means or End

  1. Attitudes toward the body are attitudes toward attack.  The ego’s definitions of anything are childish and are always based on what it believes the thing is for.  This is because it is incapable of true generalizations and equates what it sees with the function it ascribes to it.  It does not equate it with what it is.  To the ego the body is to attack with.  Equating you with the body, it teaches that you are to attack with.  The body, then, is not the source of its own health.  The body’s condition lies solely in your interpretation of its function.  Functions are part of being since they arise from it, but the relationship is not reciprocal.  The whole does define the part, but the part does not define the whole.  Yet to know in part is to know entirely because of the fundamental difference between knowledge and perception.  In perception the whole is built up of parts that can separate and reassemble in different constellations.  But knowledge never changes, so its constellation is permanent.  The idea of part-whole relationships has meaning only at the level of perception, where change is possible.  Otherwise, there is no difference between the part and the whole.
  2. The body exists in a world that seems to contain two voices fighting for its possession.  In this perceived constellation the body is seen as capable of shifting its allegiance from one to the other, making the concepts of health and sickness meaningful.  The ego makes a fundamental confusion between means and end as it always does.  Regarding the body as an end, the ego has no real use for it because it is not an end.  You must have noticed an outstanding characteristic of every end that the ego has accepted as its own.  When you have achieved it, it has not satisfied you.  This is why the ego is forced to shift ceaselessly from one goal to another, so that you will continue to hope it can yet offer you something.
  3. It has been particularly difficult to overcome the ego’s belief in the body as an end because it is synonymous with the belief in attack as an end.  The ego has a profound investment in sickness.  If you are sick, how can you object to the ego’s firm belief that you are not invulnerable?  This is an appealing argument from the ego’s point of view because it obscures the obvious attack that underlies the sickness.  If you recognized this and also decided against attack, you could not give this false witness to the ego’s stand.
  4. It is hard to perceive sickness as a false witness because you do not realize that it is entirely out of keeping with what you want.  This witness, then, appears to be innocent and trustworthy because you have not seriously cross-examined him.  If you had, you would not consider sickness such a strong witness on behalf of the ego’s views.  A more honest statement would be that those who want the ego are predisposed to defend it.  Therefore, their choice of witnesses should be suspect from the beginning.  The ego does not call upon witnesses who would disagree with its case, nor does the Holy Spirit.  I have said that judgment is the function of the Holy Spirit, and one He is perfectly equipped to fulfill.  The ego as a judge gives anything but an impartial judgment.  When the ego calls on a witness, it has already made the witness an ally.
  5. It is still true that the body has no function of itself because it is not an end.  The ego, however, establishes it as an end because, as such, its true function is obscured. This is the purpose of everything the ego does.  Its sole aim is to lose sight of the function of everything.  A sick body does not make any sense.  It could not make sense because sickness is not what the body is for.  Sickness is meaningful only if the two basic premises on which the ego’s interpretation of the body rests are true: that the body is for attack, and that you are a body.  Without these premises, sickness is inconceivable. 
  6. Sickness is a way of demonstrating that you can be hurt.  It is a witness to your frailty, your vulnerability, and your extreme need to depend on external guidance.  The ego uses this as its best argument for your need for its guidance.  It dictates endless prescriptions for avoiding catastrophic outcomes.  The Holy Spirit, perfectly aware of the same situation, does not bother to analyze it at all.  If data are meaningless there is no point in analyzing them.  The function of truth is to collect information that is true.  Any way you handle error results in nothing.  The more complicated the results become the harder it may be to recognize their nothingness, but it is not necessary to examine all possible outcomes to which premises give rise in order to judge them truly.
  7. A learning device is not a teacher.  It cannot tell you how you feel.  You do not know how you feel because you have accepted the ego’s confusion, and you therefore believe that a learning device can tell you how you feel.  Sickness is merely another example of your insistence on asking guidance from a teacher who does not know the answer.  The ego is incapable of knowing how you feel.  When I said that the ego does not know anything, I said the one thing about the ego that is wholly true.  But there is a corollary; if only knowledge has being and the ego has no knowledge, then the ego has no being. 
  8. You might well ask how the voice of something that does not exist can be so insistent.  Have you thought about the distorting power of something you want, even if it is not real?  There are many instances of how what you want distorts perception.  No one can doubt the ego’s skill in building up false cases.  Nor can anyone doubt your willingness to listen until you choose not to accept anything except truth.  When you lay the ego aside, it will be gone.  The Holy Spirit’s Voice is as loud as your willingness to listen.  It cannot be louder without violating your freedom of choice, which the Holy Spirit seeks to restore, never to undermine.
  9. The Holy Spirit teaches you to use your body only to reach your brothers, so He can teach His message through you.  This will heal them and therefore heal you.  Everything used in accordance with its function as the Holy Spirit sees it cannot be sick.  Everything used otherwise is.  Do not allow the body to be a mirror of a split mind.  Do not let it be an image of your own perception of littleness.  Do not let it reflect your decision to attack.  Health is seen as the natural state of everything when interpretation is left to the Holy Spirit, Who perceives no attack on anything.  Health is the result of relinquishing all attempts to use the body lovelessly.  Health is the beginning of the proper perspective on life under the guidance of the one Teacher Who knows what life is, being the Voice for Life Itself.[1]

As we read today’s text reading, ask Holy Spirit to help us understand this curriculum with joy, gladness, and a sincere desire to understand our proper attitude toward bodies.  Consider that the ego’s definitions of the body, as well as everything else, is an immature belief based upon what it thinks the body is for. 

For the ego does not equate the body with what it truly is.  To the ego the body was made for attack.  Attack may seem like a strong word.  We do not really call the comparisons, the lust and desires we have toward our own body and other bodies, the competitions, and condemnations that we are so ready to dish out, or even the slapstick mockery and ridicule we display toward bodies as forms of attack, but that is what Jesus calls this, and so we should carefully consider how He comes to that conclusion and accept it as truth. 

The body simply is not what we are. As symbols of the ego, the body is used for attack.  There is only so much to go around, and we vie with other bodies to put ourselves in the best position possible to get what we feel is our fair share, or perhaps more than our fair share!  We compare our bodies to other bodies, we lust after bodies, we enslave bodies to work, to entertain, to provide for our sustenance, our pleasure, our desire for competition, our desire to put others down to build ourselves up.  Call it anything you like, but our bodies are animalistic in nature:  stand between me and my food, my kids, my husband, my this or my that, and you are putting yourself in a dangerous position.

The most radical expectation of any spiritual walk is that we are required to go beyond the body, our animal natures, our egos.  Jesus tells us that the condition of our bodies lies solely in our attitude toward its function.  When we identify our bodies as self, our bodies are used for attack, we become depressed and diseased, we do not have a happy time with our bodies.  However, if our minds transcend the body using them as a means for extending love, peace, and joy our bodies will be invulnerable to attack because our minds are invulnerable to attack.  Extending the Mind of Christ, awakening the Sonship guarantees body health and well-being until it is time to reunite completely with God. 

Meditate upon paragraph one and ask Holy Spirit to reveal its meaning to you.  This is a beautiful description of how Being stands alone.  Function comes from Being; Being does not come from function.  Being stands alone as the Treasure of God.  Whether it is performing its function or not, whether it is used for joy and gladness or seeming attack, Being never loses its place in God’s Kingdom.  In the ego realm of perception this is seldom the case.  Being is seldom recognized as having any worth at all; and it is the separate functions that define our worth to one another.  Your husband is a good husband until he stops performing the duties your ego has assigned to him and then you are only too ready to toss him over and get a new one!  Your kid who drops out of college, lays about on the couch, and plays video games all day is a crying shame to the rest of the family.  A friend who blabs all your secrets and hides her own sins behind the stories about yours – is only too easy to drop and move on.  We can barely get our mind around the fact that Being is unchangeable, because in perceptual world, everybody changes, assumes different roles, one day an ally, next an enemy.  We like this and this and this about someone but truly despise that and that.  Split minds cannot perceive wholeness and truth but rather opposites and opposition.  It is only with our whole mind that we can understand that Being is the Treasure of God and that function is a by-product of Being. 

Getting beyond the perceptual world means going beyond the two voices which seem to be in constant conflict over claiming the body.  One day we will love Jesus, read our bibles, and profess love and undying devotion for all of humankind and the next we will be spewing forth curses, ranting against the government, and wonder how in the world we are expected to love people when they are so vile, ugly, and stupid!  When we fall for this perception, we will mistake the conflicts of the two voices of ego for a quarrel between God and ego – and become depressed over our mind’s shifting allegiances.  Opposites seem to have meaning in such conditions.  Health and sickness then make sense.  That battle that goes on in our mind is all ego.  There is no battle over the mind.  The mind belongs to God, and when we accept this as truth, our mind is saved from the ongoing conflict.  We rise above the ploys of the ego, we use the body for a means to help others, and we are no longer in a state of depletion, confusion, wondering why our lives are topsy-turvy, up and down, back and forth. 

Jesus tells us that the ego will keep us shifting from one goal to the next always thinking, always hoping that there is something we can achieve, something we can do which will mean something.  Another baby. A different job.  A new friend.  A new spouse.  A bigger house.  Another degree.  But there is nothing in the perceptual world that amounts to anything of meaning and we may spend lifetimes chasing after the ruses of the ego before we realize that there must be something more.   

The ego has a clever advantage in sickness for when we are sick, how can we say we are invulnerable in Christ?  How does the Mind of Christ hold any truth when our bodies are wracked by pain or crippled by disease?  Christ says that if we recognized how illness of any kind hides the attack that triggers it, we would not fall for this ploy, for it is a false witness to our thoughts of attack.   

As hard as it may be to perceive sickness as a false witness, it is only because we do not seriously examine the hard fact that it is entirely opposite to what we really want.  When we defend sickness, we defend the ego, we defend attack, we defend our identity with body.  When ego is the judge we are bodies, and we are here to vie with other bodies.  As judge, ego will only call on witnesses that agree with it.  We are sick because we are bodies, because we are vulnerable, because we have no power and glory except through attack.  This is the ego’s judgment, and it seems to be true. 

Sick bodies do not make any sense to Holy Spirit.  It does not make sense to our higher mind because our higher mind uses the bodies not as an end, but as a means to extend God’s Kingdom.  A sick body does not extend God’s love, peace, and joy.  Knowing that we are not bodies, and that the body is not for attack – sickness is not accepted by Holy Spirit because there is no God in it, there is not truth in it, there is no Sonship in it. 

Sickness demonstrates the vulnerability of God’s Son.  Sickness stands as the ego’s witness to the falsehood of God and His Kingdom, to Holy Spirit, and to His Will.  Sickness is the ego’s way of using external treatments from the perceptual world as our source of healing, comfort, and peace.  The ego’s way of healing the body consists of endless prescriptions, operations, appointments, insurances, and cures to avoid disaster and destruction.  The ego’s way collects information, performs blood tests, links genetic markers, and derives stool and urine samples.  The more complicated and costly the procedures, the more difficult it is to see the nothingness behind it.

Holy Spirit’s way of healing does not bother with any of this at all.  To Holy Spirit data is meaningless – collecting information that is true, Holy Spirit cannot be bothered with the meaningless and senseless.  There is simply no good reason to examine all possible causes and outcomes to which sickness surfaces for they all come from the same source:  mistaking the body as an end rather than the means. 

To guarantee the health of our bodies, we use them for the aim of God’s Kingdom.  The love, peace, and joy that we extend to others not only heals them but heals us.  Whatever we use to extend God’s Kingdom will be blessed. Health is the result of giving up all attempts to use the body in unloving ways.  Health is our promise because it is the beginning of the right perception of life under the guidance of Holy Spirit, Who knows what life is because He is the Voice for Life Itself. 


[1] A Course in Miracles. Chapter 8 The journey back. VIII The body as a means or an end. 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

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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