Separation is not a mistake

“The Garden of Eden, or the pre-separation condition, was a state of mind in which nothing was needed. When Adam listened to the “lies of the serpent,” all he heard was untruth. You do not have to continue to believe what is not true unless you choose to do so. All that can literally disappear in the twinkling of an eye because it is merely a misperception.” (T-2.I.3)

The ego did not initiate separation. Ego is nothing; it has no power to do anything. Ego is simply an activity of the mind reflective of the idea that separation exists. The decision to believe the thoughts generated by that activity is what creates “the detour into fear”—the belief that separation actually has occurred.

In truth separation has not occurred. Differentiated forms which are experienced by the mind are appearances in the mind, which itself is an extension of God’s Mind, a segment of God’s Infinite Being individuated from the Whole so that a subject (“I”) can know objects (the world of form). This is the mechanism of creation, the means by which That which is infinite can know the finite. It is a process undertaken within God Itself, and has nothing to do with ego or the separate self as cause.

 

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“A healed mind does not plan”

“A healed mind does not plan. It carries out the plans it receives through listening to wisdom that is not its own. It waits until it has been taught what should be done, and then proceeds to do it. It does not depend upon itself for anything except its adequacy to fulfill the plans assigned to it. It is secure in certainty that obstacles can not impede its progress to accomplishment of any goal that serves the greater plan established for the good of everyone.” (W-135.11)

When I immersed myself in the Course years ago, I was visited by an inclination to teach its message at a medium security prison for men in a neighboring town. Never before had I even considered doing anything related to prison work. But every time I had followed other inclinations in my life, they led me to great things. So I didn’t hesitate to follow this one, too.

I researched the opportunities for volunteering at the prison, and to my great surprise and delight discovered a program that was based on the Course and its teachings of forgiveness. I made some inquiries, and found out that the path to becoming a participating volunteer was quite long—about six months given all the hoops that had to be jumped through. On top of that the leader of the program had no interest in sharing any part of her leadership with another volunteer. I was welcomed to join as a participant, but nothing more.

I felt deterred. The urge that kept prompting me included I lead such a program—and soon—and not go through a protracted period to end up as just a participant. But the urge remained strong, and no other paths in a similar direction had opened themselves to me at the time, so I moved forward despite the obstacles that appeared.

Somehow what took six months for others happened almost immediately for me, and I soon found myself inside the prison as a volunteer for a tangential program that  welcomed new leaders.

My path crossed with that of the leader for the Course based program, and when she invited me to participate in her next twelve-week series, I said yes, despite her intention to lead the program by herself well into the foreseeable future. I entertained the idea of abandoning this path, but felt a discernible sense of loss when I did. This sense of loss, like a sort of bereavement feeling for me, had always been the indication for me to stay the course. When the next series began, I joined as a participant along with the incarcerated men.

Four sessions into the series the leader took me aside and said I had an excellent understanding of the program’s principles, and that she was considering retiring, and would I be willing to take over the leadership?

Thus began an intense period of teaching and learning I couldn’t have gotten anywhere else in such a short period of time. Both the men and I gained insights into ourselves and each other that led us to experience the profound unity underlying appearances. It was a time of seeing the truth of everything that the Course teaches, including that I needn’t plan anything myself, that I need simply wait and listen for what to do, and then do it, even when it seems like insurmountable obstacles are in the way.

When I’d been leader for a while and the prompt came to stop,  I stopped. Stopping left an empty space, though, and one day while driving near the prison I wondered if maybe I should go back. I looked across the busy intersection to the prison on the far side, and as I did so saw a hawk rise up from the prison parking lot, gather itself, and fly directly towards me. It didn’t waver as it headed straight for my car with me in it, and when it got close enough , it swooped overhead, and flew off and away. Message received. My time of volunteering at the prison was over for now.

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One Self, Infinite Expressions

Just as a prism refracts light, and separates it out into an infinite variety of colors, so does Mind refract God, and separate out limitless expressions of Infinite Being. And just as refracted colors are never apart from the light from which they receive their illumined quality, the self is never apart from Infinite Being from which it receives its beingness.

This doesn’t make sense to the separate self, which perceives only in terms of separation and limitation. But when the mind relaxes, a different kind of knowing happens. This knowing isn’t experienced by the separate self, but by Self, which is prior to the thought of separation.

This knowing is often experienced in moments when the mind relaxes enough that thoughts of separation slip away: in the shower, where body and mind are soothed by warm water and the routine act of cleansing; in the car on an unhurried drive to a welcomed location, where the destination is set and the mind and body need respond only to the needs of the moment as they arise; or in meditation, or those twilight moments just before falling sleep. The separate self can’t know these moments of knowing; it is the obstacle to this knowing. It can know only in a vague way that such an experience has happened, but never that it is happening.

“I do want to share my mind with you because we are of one Mind, and that Mind is ours.” (T-7.V.10:9)

“You are one Self, and it is given you to feel this Self within you, and to cast all your illusions out of the one Mind that is this Self, the holy truth in you.” (W-95.13:5)

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Consciousness and the brain

“You also believe the body’s brain can think. If you but understood the nature of thought, you could but laugh at this insane idea.” (W-92.2)

One of the most vexing—if not the most vexing—problems in science is known as “the hard problem of consciousness”. Science can find no explanation as to how matter gives rise to consciousness, and while it’s obvious that consciousness is experienced, consciousness itself can’t be proved to exist in the physical world of which the brain is a part. This is because the world of form is experienced in consciousness, and not the other way around. In science, consciousness remains elusive as a by-product of form because consciousness is that in which form is experienced.

The conventional view states that consciousness is a product of the brain’s functioning. But relinquish that idea and it becomes possible to observe that the only “place” thoughts can be said to be experienced is not in the brain, but in consciousness. In fact anything known of the brain is known only in consciousness.

The thoroughness with which we’re inculcated to identify consciousness as a function of the brain is so total that the mind struggles with the reversal of this ingrained paradigm. But when the reverse of this paradigm is truly grasped, the truth of what we are can be fully comprehended, and the brain and body seen for what they are: the means by which Spirit can be embodied in form within a world of form.

 

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Sinlessness

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)

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Free Will

The separate self feels as though it is free to think and do as it pleases. But all its thoughts and actions arise from the ego thoughts in which it believes, and ego thoughts are not original; they are the thoughts of conditioned thinking. Although the separate self feels as though it has free will, it is actually under the tyranny of the ego.

Real thoughts are those that come from Self. Such thoughts represent our true will, which is free. The separate self cannot think such thoughts. In fact, the separate self cannot think at all—it can only think it thinks. That is part of the illusion.

There does exist one choice for the separate self, which is to accept the voice of Self instead of the tyrannical voice of the ego.

Even this choice is illusory, valid only within the illusion. The separate self is not separate from its source. The idea that there is a choice is the means by which within the dream of separation the mind can find its way back to what it never left.

“You have chosen to be in a state in opposition in which opposites are possible. As a result, there are choices you must make. In the holy state the will is free, so that its creative power is unlimited and choice is meaningless. Freedom to choose is the same power as freedom to create, but its application is different. Choosing depends on a split mind. The Holy Spirit is one way of choosing. God did not leave his children comfortless, even though they chose to leave Him. The voice they put in their minds was not the Voice for His Will, for which the Holy Spirit speaks.” (T-5.II.6)

“The ego cannot teach you anything as long as your will is free, because you will not listen to it. It is not your will to be imprisoned because your will is free. That is why the ego is the denial of free will. It is never God Who coerces you, because He shares His Will with you. His Voices teaches only in accordance with His Will, but that is not the Holy Spirit’s lesson because that is what you are. The lesson is that your will and God’s cannot be out of accord because they are one. This is the undoing of everything the ego tries to teach.” (T-8.II.3:1-8)

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“What am I?”

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.

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“Anger is never justified”

 

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)

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How did the impossible occur?

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.

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“Yet sickness is not of the body, but of the mind”

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?

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