There’s a tendency among Course students to conclude that the individual self is responsible for the separation from God. This is a misunderstanding of the Course‘s central message.
The separate self did not split from its source. A separate self can’t separate. How can that which doesn’t yet exist create the condition in which it exists? For there to exist a separate self, it must already have been separated, and by something other than itself. The separate self is the effect, not the cause, the offshoot, not the origin.
This is the sinlessness of that which is experienced as the separate self. And the journey back to God involves allowing the feelings of guilt which arise in all their various forms to process themselves through the separate self so that the feeling of separation can resolve. This is not something the separate self does; it’s the natural surfacing of guilt in the mind over which the separate self has no control. The separate self’s only job, as it were, is to allow such feelings to arise so that they can be known and loved for what they are—calls for love—and released through the conduit of the self. This is the process of purification, and it has nothing to do with a separate self. The separate self is merely the instrument through which the process happens. Truly, it is not personal.
“In preparing for the holy instant, do not attempt to make yourself holy to be ready to receive it. That is but to confuse your role with God’s. Atonement cannot come to those who think that they must first atone, but only to those who offer it nothing more than a simple willingness to make way for it. Purification is of God alone, and therefore for you. Rather than seek to prepare yourself for Him, try to think thus:
I who am host to God am worthy of Him.
He Who established His dwelling place in me created it as He would have it be.
It is not needful that I make it ready for Him, but only that I do not interfere with His plan to restore to me my own awareness of my readiness, which is eternal.
I need add nothing to His plan.
But to receive it, I must be willing not to substitute my own in place of it.” (T-18.IV.5)
The world’s thinking states that the mind is a functioning of a brain contained inside a body, and that outside the body is a world. In this way of perceiving, the mind is the result of neural wirings and firings—there is no self; there is only the mechanical functioning of a biological organ, and that functioning became complex enough that it gave rise to consciousness. In this view consciousness is just a mechanical by-product of the neural functioning of the brain.
The Course states the opposite, that the world, including the body and the brain, is in the mind, and that mind is at home in Universal Being, or that which we call God.
When it is believed that the mind is a functioning of the brain, separation is perceived as real.
When it is believed that mind is at home in God, separation loses some of its reality.
When it is known that Mind is at home in God, the very idea of separation ceases to exist.
The Course statement that anger is never justified† is often interpreted as a criticism rather than a fact, leading to the idea that anger is wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth! Anger is not good or bad; it’s simply the result of believing blame thoughts. It is this fact to which the Course points.
Blame thoughts originate from the idea that something other than the self is responsible for a situation the self doesn’t like. Such thoughts are founded on the idea that there could be a separate self, and a world that acts upon that separate self. In Truth there is no separate self, and there is no world; separation is an idea of the mind.
Accepting that such thoughts are present is the means by which responsibility for those thoughts is accepted‡. Be careful though; don’t make the mistake of assuming that taking responsibility means taking responsibility for thinking such thoughts. Such thoughts are reflexive, the result of learning and conditioning. You are not your thoughts. Thoughts appear in the mind—which you are not—and not in Spirit—which you are. Taking responsibility for such thoughts simply means acknowledging that belief has been given to separation thoughts appearing in the mind.
When blame thoughts appear in the mind, rather than reacting from those thoughts, what if the decision is made to stay open to seeing things differently? It may be difficult at times—anger is a potent feeling in the body, and can cloud the ability to think and act clearly. Letting anger subside—whether it be through physical activity that helps release the energy of it, or through some other activity that helps ground and center the mind—is a helpful step toward opening oneself to seeing things differently. Being open to seeing things differently allows a deeper understanding to dawn, an understanding which can bring action that is justified, and which resolves conflict and heals separation rather than perpetuates it.
†”Anger is never justified. Attack has no foundation. It is here escape from fear begins, and will be made complete.” (T-30.VI.1)
‡”Anger always involves projection of separation, which must ultimately be accepted as one’s own responsibility, rather than being blamed on others.” (T-6.in.1:2)
ACIM makes it very clear that the impossible—the split from God—did not happen, that “we” are forever safe in God. This makes no sense to the ego, because it doesn’t experience itself as being in God. But the ego itself isn’t an actual entity; it has no existence. Ego is nothing more than the belief of a thought that separation has occurred.
If it’s only a thought, what believes this thought?
That which calls itself “I” believes the thought. And the activity that results from believing the thought to be true is called ego.
So if I’m still safe in God, why don’t I feel so?
Because of the belief in the thought of separation.
The mind is a limitation of God’s Mind. God is pure subjectivity, and pure subjectivity is without objects—it contains all possibilities, and knows no thing. In order to know a thing—an object—God must seem to limit Itself into a subject. That activity of seeming to limit Itself creates an apparent limitation. The apparent limitation believing itself to be separate is what is referred to by “the separation”. No separation has actually taken place; God has simply seemed to limit Itself that it might know objective experience.
That limiting gives rise to the mind, which is the means to experience duality, or objective experience. The “mistake” is believing the thought that separation has actually occurred, that the world could actually be outside the “I”, and that the “I” could be outside God.
From this mistaken belief arises the world now experienced.
Oftentimes when Course students learn about and adopt the teaching that sickness is in the mind, they become obsessively preoccupied with their thoughts in the hope of preventing any sickness from manifesting in the world of form. I know I myself went through a period where I tried to be vigilant about my thoughts, thinking I needed to root out anything which might have negative effects on my health. I quickly dropped it, though, as I realized my preoccupation was born of fear, the very thing from which the Course was helping me to find freedom, and that sickness does not represent failure of any kind. To believe that it does is to give birth to guilt.
So what’s a Course student to do about sickness, and about thoughts of sickness?
You need do nothing.
Unhook from the thoughts that health must be controlled by preventing the “wrong” thoughts. In and of themselves thoughts are not a problem. The problem lies in believing thoughts to be true. Believing thoughts to be true fuels them, which just keeps them going. By withholding belief, thoughts eventually die down on their own, just as a fire dies down when it runs out of fuel. This isn’t something that happens quickly; it can take time for a mind to wind itself down from certain thoughts. Especially from those which have received a lot of fuel over time.
And if you are sick, or get sick, know this: Sickness is of the mind, but You are not. You are beyond the mind, a part of God Itself. Sickness is nothing. It’s an effect that appears in the world of form, but effects don’t change Reality. Sickness is in the mind because the world is in the mind. But That of which the mind is a part is unchanged by what appears in the mind. Go behind appearances to the Truth within, and rest as what You truly are. Sickness may resolve, or it may not. It will cease to matter. And when it truly ceases to matter, the full power to shape experience comes available. The interesting thing is that the desire to change experience from sickness may go unexercised because it presents no barrier to God and Love. And when the full awareness of Love is present, what need is there to change anything?