In this fourth and final part of the ACIM and Christianity series, we’ll continue with where part 3 left off, wrapping up its central theme: why Jesus emphasizes that our spiritual practice needs to focus on changing our mind, and therefore thoughts about the world, rather than changing the world itself.
INNER PEACE IS THE COURSE’S PRACTICAL OBJECTIVE & IT IS ACHIEVED BY CHANGING OUR MIND
The Course is clear and emphatic that changing our mind is to change how we perceive, and this is its sole emphasis- and (not-coincidentally) its definition of the miracle. Ultimately this is because changing how we think is what will lead to inner peace. Peace, remember, is the Course’s only practical objective. And attaining a state of inner peace is, in turn, the only way that we will be able to eventually wake up from the dream of the world of separation and return to our true reality in God.
Forget not that the motivation for this course is the attainment and the keeping of the state of peace. ²Given this state the mind is quiet, and the condition in which God is remembered is attained. (ACIM, T-24.in.1:1-2)
CHANGING THE WORLD WILL NOT CHANGE OUR MIND
It’s not that making behavioral changes or changing the world then is evil, bad, good, or right according to ACIM. It’s just that changing the world will not help you achieve the Course’s spiritual objective: it cannot lead to inner peace or help us wake up from the dream of separation. This is because the world is not the problem- it is not the true cause of our lack of peace. Jesus’ point is that no number of good deeds can grant us peace of mind because no number of good deeds can undo our egoic belief in sin and guilt. And it is our egoic belief in sin and guilt that represents our desire to suffer, and thus be without peace.
WORLD-BASED PROBLEMS ARE NOT THE SPIRITUAL PROBLEM THE COURSE IS ADDRESSING
The spiritual problem is not the bad things you’ve done as an individual, or your failure to do good things, so the spiritual solution isn’t doing more good things as an individual. The problem is not the broken world, so the solution isn’t to fix the world. The “real” problem is our belief in sin and guilt (real is in inverted commas because ultimately, the problem that is sin and guilt is ultimately not real either). It is only this that blocks us from peace and seems to keep us separate from God, which results in a secondary problem. The belief that we are someone we are not: an individual in a world of separation, rather than the mind that has chosen to be separate.
IT IS OUR WRONG MIND’S BELIEF IN SIN & GUILT WHICH GAVE RISE TO THE WORLD THAT WE NEED TO FIX- NOT THE WORLD
As such, the world is merely a projection of this problem- our false belief in sin and guilt. The world stems from, and remains within, our unconscious wrong-minded thought system in our split mind. To change the world is thus to do nothing according to ACIM, because the world of form is nothing. To change an illusion for better or worse does not change the fundamental fact that it remains an illusion that originates from our desire to avoid God, love, and peace.
It is our split mind then, which gave rise to the world of form, that we need to “do” something about (so to speak). Namely, what we need to “do” is undo our choice for the ego, and our belief in its wrong-minded thought system that says conflict is safety, and peace and love are the enemy and lie.
IDENTIFYING & SOLVING PROBLEMS EXTERNALLY & BLAMING THEM FOR OUR LACK OF PEACE IS WHAT OUR EGO LOVES TO DO
These are really important points to keep in mind. Partly because it’s so easy for us to get caught up in trying to change and fix problems, situations, or people outside of us, and delude ourselves into thinking we’re doing something spiritual to boot. Generally speaking, trying to change and improve externals is also something we are actually already very good at doing- it’s essentially the ego’s MO. Our individual psyches are geared to perpetually identify problems outside of us- of which there are always an endless parade of.
We blame others and/or ourselves for them (same difference, same mistake), focus on fixing them, ourselves, or getting others to fix our problems. We might also just throw our problems in the too-hard basket and avoid them altogether. That works just as well for the ego’s purposes too, provided we can still point to the problem being outside of us. Nevertheless, the Course makes clear that this is just another devious ego trick that is purposely used to distract us from acknowledging and addressing the one and true source of all problems, which is actually hidden within us. Changing externals is much easier than changing your mind because its an endeavor the ego eagerly blesses. However, changing your mind is something it actively resists.
RECOGNIZING THE ONLY PROBLEM IS WITHIN OUR MIND, UNDERSTANDING IT, TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT, & CHOOSING TO HEAL IT, IS WHAT JESUS WANTS TO HELP US DO
We all have a staunch, wrong-minded investment in not looking at, and recognizing, that our true and only problem exists within our mind- not in someone else, your body, not in the world full stop. And for that reason, what we don’t really know how to do, is how to look within to recognize the real problem, assume sole responsibility for it, and heal it. This is precisely why the Course is dedicated to helping us learn how to do exactly that.
The Course makes clear that the problem is never outside of us but within us, in our unconscious split mind’s allegiance to the ego. As such, we don’t need help trying to fix the world- we need help with trying to fix our ego-dedicated mind. After all, the only reason the world is an imperfect basket case of non-stop problems to begin with, is because it’s a projection of our imperfect, insane, wrong-minded thought system.
WE ALL HAVE SPLIT MIND AMNESIA- ITS HARD TO REMEMBER WHAT THE PROBLEM IS & YOU CAN’T SEE IT
Most of us don’t even know we have a split mind- it’s the world’s best kept secret and one it was literally designed to conceal. Even as Course students who are clearly being explicitly taught that we have a mind (the mind outside time and space- not our brain) and what is wrong with it, it’s incredibly easy for us to constantly forget this crucial fact time and time again. There’s good reason for that; it is after all unconscious because we have completely dissociated from it. This is why changing our mind is so hard . It’s also why Jesus is so adamant about the fact that the Course’s goal is to change our own mind about the world as the path to salvation. This is the opposite to attempting to change the world as the path to salvation, which is what the ego would always prefer we do.
PRACTICING ACIM DOES NOT MEAN YOU SHOULD AVOID MAKING CHANGES IN YOUR LIFE OR IN THE WORLD
The emphasis in that statement is changing externals “as a path to salvation.” This is crucial. None of this is meant to imply that you shouldn’t try to make changes in your life, have goals, or have a positive impact on the world or on others. It doesn’t mean you should ignore your life, your individual needs, preferences, assumed roles, and responsibilities. The Course is not trying to encourage us to have a fatalistic approach to our lives in the world.
PRACTICING ACIM MEANS CHANGING HOW YOU THINK WHILE WE LIVE OUR LIVES IN THE WORLD
By all means, make all the appropriate and helpful changes you need to in your life. You aren’t being asked to stop doing that. Just don’t be fooled into believing that any changes made on the level of form will heal your split mind. To achieve the Course’s aim of attaining inner peace, healing our mind, and waking up to our true reality in God, the proper focus of our spiritual work needs to be on changing how we interpret or view the world, others, ourselves, and all our experiences here. Learning to perceive truly involves undoing our belief in the ego thought system, which is reflected in how we think. This heals our mind of its insane belief in separation, sin, guilt and fear.
CHANGING HOW YOU THINK MEANS DISCARDING THE EGO’S INTERPRETATIONS & FEAR, & ACCEPTING THE HOLY SPIRIT’S PERSPECTIVE & PEACE
While we pursue this spiritual goal, we’ll still need to make plenty of decisions that will inform the “what” of our lives. Jesus just asks us to pick him or the Holy Spirit as the “who” of our lives on the level of the mind. That is, which inner teacher, or who, we choose to view our lives with- the ego or the Holy Spirit. This then colors the “how” of our lives- how we do the “what” of our lives- whether with love and peace or fear and pain.
FORGIVENESS IS WHAT WILL HELP YOU ATTAIN INNER PEACE & UNDO THE SPIRITUAL PROBLEM OF GUILT
On the level of the mind, which is the level of cause from which the world was projected as an effect, our only problem is our belief in the ego’s wrong-minded thought system. The only solution is the Holy Spirit’s right-minded correction for the ego- forgiveness- which helps us begin to gently accept that the separation never actually occurred, and that we really are the innocent Son of God. From this point of view, making changes in the world isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing- because the world and everything that happens within it is simply an effect of, or shadowy visual representation of what we already believe in our wrong mind. It is designed to faithfully reflect our pre-standing, hidden, and false belief in separation, attack, sin, guilt, fear, hatred, suffering, and death.
CHANGE YOUR THOUGHTS, TO CHANGE YOUR MIND, TO CHANGE THE CAUSE OF YOUR DISTRESS
If the cause of the world you see is attack thoughts, you must learn that it is these thoughts which you do not want. ²There is no point in lamenting the world. ³There is no point in trying to change the world. ⁴It is incapable of change because it is merely an effect. ⁵But there is indeed a point in changing your thoughts about the world. ⁶Here you are changing the cause. ⁷The effect will change automatically. (ACIM, W-23.2:1-7)
This is why the Course stresses that nothing here can truly give us, or deprive us, of the peace and joy we’re all deeply longing for. That can only be found by dissolving the blocks (our wrong-minded beliefs) to remembering who we really are (the innocent Son of God), which alone can assure us that we are still one with God.
JESUS IS INTERESTED IN WHAT YOU “DO” WITH YOUR THOUGHTS, WHICH INDICATES WHAT YOU’RE “DOING” ON THE LEVEL OF THE MIND
From the Course’s perspective then, what we do as bodies in the world is not of concern: it’s what we “do,” or rather choose– on the level of the mind- that is the only thing that matters. That is, whether we listen to and believe, and thus strengthen, the ego’s fearful thought system of separation and sin that results in inner pain and misery. Or whether we choose to listen to, believe, and strengthen the Holy Spirit’s forgiving thought system of unity and innocence that results in the inner experience of peace and joy.
In light of the Course’s teachings then, attempting to change anything external (the world or other people) would never be our primary motivation as the means of attaining to salvation or true happiness. This is because Jesus would have us first understand and accept that anything and anyone external to us is never the true problem or true cause of our unhappiness. The world is an illusion. Being nothing but an effect of the true problem, neither can it contain the true solution.
THE SOURCE OF YOUR UPSET OR HAPPINESS IS ALWAYS INTERNAL
Nothing external to our mind and thoughts is ever the real source of our upset or happiness. It is always the fact that part of our split mind believes in, and is devoted to the ego thought system, that is always the problem. As such, our work is to first and foremost focus on fixing our belief in the separation (which includes attack, sin, guilt, and fear) in recognition that this is the true source of our lack of peace, love and joy, and the “true” cause behind all problems.
PRACTICING FORGIVENESS CLEANSES OUR ACTIONS OF OUR WRONG-MINDED DRIVE TO REINFORCE GUILT
As students of ACIM, our priority would be addressing the source of all problems in our mind by practicing forgiveness– the specific means the Course outlines for healing our mind. This would ensure that any external changes we implement or strive for, would then be free of our wrong-minded motivation to project and reinforce guilt, and in turn maintain the separation.
Put another way, whatever we do as individuals will naturally be derived from the love within our right mind that we are able to access as a result of our conscious commitment to our principal function of forgiveness. In this way, our actions here can become expressions of the love within our right minds and we become increasingly grounded in an unconditional, inner sense of peace. Not due to what we do in the world, but because peace is the inevitable result of regaining access to the love within us, which is accomplished through our primary focus on healing our mind via forgiveness.
DON’T FALL INTO THE TRAP OF SPIRITUALISING FORM (EXTERNAL FACTORS, BEHAVIOR, OR CHANGES)
It’s important to note that being right-minded means that we do not spiritualise external actions, behaviors, or changes we achieve or fail to achieve in the world. It is only the ego that would encourage us to see form- certain actions, places, people, or behaviors- as “holy” or meaningful in and of themselves, in contrast to those that are deemed inherently “unholy.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT PURPOSE- IS IT HOLY/RIGHT-MINDED OR UNHOLY/WRONG-MINDED?
Rather, a right-minded shift in perspective allows us to recognize the inherent neutrality of the illusion, of anything in form. And that the extent of the value of anything in the world really comes down to the purpose for which we choose to use it: whether we’re using them for the Holy Spirit’s right-minded purpose of forgiveness and awakening, or the ego’s wrong-minded purpose of preserving our guilt and keeping us asleep.
Holiness and unholiness are simply ideas that we either accept or reject in the mind. What we accept is what we then see symbolized in the world because we first believed in it. As a result, we become more aware that it is our inner peace and the healing of (aka changing) our mind that is our true goal and the true gift we seek, because it is the path back to the true holiness, we never lost within that we now wish to recall.
ARE YOU SEEING THINGS CORRECTLY? = ARE YOU RIGHT-MINDED? (IE DO YOU ACCEPT YOU ARE SINLESS & DESERVE LOVE?)
Whether we’re trying to make a positive change in the world or not then, the bottom line from the Course’s perspective would always be whether we are seeing things correctly (aka as the Holy Spirit would/ from our right-mind). Not whether we are acting “correctly” in the world as a body. The idea is that you don’t have to prove your worth or earn salvation by doing certain things or living a certain way. However, you do have to erase the wrong-minded belief that you are unworthy, that you are sinful and guilty and deserve to suffer.
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. ²Right-mindedness leads to the next step automatically, because right perception is uniformly without attack, and therefore wrong-mindedness is obliterated. ³The ego cannot survive without judgment, and is laid aside accordingly. (ACIM, T-4.II.10:1-3)
TO FIND OUT WHO YOU ARE THINKING WITH, FOCUS ON THE INTERNAL OUTCOME OF YOUR THINKING- NOT THE EXTERNAL OUTCOME OF YOUR ACTIONS
In tandem with this, our spiritual focus wouldn’t be on what we do per say, but nor would it be on the external outcome of our actions. Our focus would be on who we’re seeing things with- the ego or the Holy Spirit. How we feel, what we believe, the meaning we give to what we see, and the purpose we serve on the level of the mind is what becomes our focus. And we know we are perceiving things truly- from the Holy Spirit’s right-minded lens- when the underlying conclusion we’d reach about anything would always be the same as the Holy Spirit’s judgement of all things: that we are all God’s Son, who is innocent, whole, and one with Him in truth.
Everyone has a special part to play in the Atonement, but the message given to each one is always the same; God’s Son is guiltless. (ACIM, T-14.V.2:1-2)
GENERALIZE THE TRUTH: WE ARE ALL THE ONE SON OF GOD & REMAIN AS HE CREATED US
Crucially, this view would eventually be generalized to all situations and people without exception, via our firm understanding that we are all the same innocent, and beloved Son of God in truth. The inner experiential outcome would also be the same regardless of what we do in the world: peace.
This right-minded recognition usually starts off as a more intellectual understanding. However, changing our mind in this way becomes increasingly accompanied by an experience of inner peace that is not dependent on anything external- whether things are going well for us in the world, or if things are falling apart. This peace of mind and inner sense of joy that is not based on external factors would be a direct result of our practice of forgiveness- of our acceptance and growing awareness that we are indeed still as God created us, and one with His perfect love, joy and strength, despite appearances.
OUR JOB IS TO MEET THE CONDITION OF HEAVEN- PEACE- TO REMEMBER WE ARE STILL THERE
Knowledge is not the motivation for learning this course. ²Peace is. ³This is the prerequisite for knowledge only because those who are in conflict are not peaceful, and peace is the condition of knowledge because it is the condition of the Kingdom. ⁴Knowledge can be restored only when you meet its conditions. (ACIM, T-8.I.1:1-5)