I’m  beginning this essay with a humorous true story I heard on a podcast with Michael Levin (54 mins mark). Michael is a developmental and synthetic biologist and distinguished professor at Tufts University.  The story is as follows:

Michael Levin is describing a true story he read in a medical journal about a psychiatrist talking about a patient who comes into his office saying I’ve got some sort of dissociative disorder where there is a personality that is a real partier, and I like to work and he is destroying me. I can’t work anymore because sometimes he comes out and screws up. He acts like a fool at work and destroys everything. So the psychiatrist starts an integrative therapy. One day the patient walks in and he is the other guy, the alter. He says to the doctor: hey what is this I hear about integrative therapy— what are you guys doing? And the doctor says: well you know, we are going to integrate you. And the alter says: excuse me! You are going to integrate me! and who’s going to be left? The doctor says well, you’ll be cured and do well at work. The alter replies: wait a minute! wait a minute! Where am I going to be? The doctor replies: Gone I hope. The alter says: Your kidding, what happened to the Hippocratic oath! — you think I’m going to be gone! He is the boring one, I’ve got the fun life, make him gone! —- I presume the other guy pays the bill and everything.

The point Michael wanted to make was that this alter seemed to be making a coherent, logical argument, which brings into question: who are we  and how should we relate to each other? What are the fundamental assumptions upon which our “logical” arguments rest?

In a very real sense we are all suffering from DID or Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly called multiple personality disorder. The Course is helping us integrate what is now a massively dissociated mind. And, like the alter mentioned above, the ego sees the Course as a threat to its survival. It recognizes we have not and indeed cannot truly separate from our Self, of which it knows nothing. Therefore, it devises a plan to make sure we will not choose to “integrate” our illusory self or alters and let the ego go. In short, the ego teaches us to bring the truth: the separation never occurred, to its illusion: the separation has occurred. To bring truth to illusion for interpretation. Key allies in this endeavor are experiences of: individual bodies, sin, guilt, fear, pain, suffering, loss, death, essentially all negative illusory experiences validating the belief in separation.

The Course is a non-dualistic metaphysical system with a profound psychology. It’s unique contribution to spiritual and wisdom teachings is in revealing the  ego’s purpose for making the dream-world and why it is dominated by experiences of pain, suffering, loss and death.  Of one thing you were sure: Of all the many causes you perceived as bringing pain and suffering to you, your guilt was not among them (ACIM, T-27.VII.7:4) The Course uses the dream-world to teach us how to bring our illusions of separation to the truth of who we are, thus healing our mind.

Our story starts with the insane idea we, as one aspect of mind, want to be separate from God and have an independent existence. We make or become conscious of an alter self or ego and this is the first split or dissociation, going from a non-dualistic state of being to an illusory dualistic dream. Being a dualistic experience, consciousness is the domain of the ego. To be conscious is to be aware of something: there is a perceiver and that which is perceived. Both are attributes of the ego dualistic thought system. The study of consciousness is the study of  the ego, not reality. It is the study of a dream. Consciousness has levels and awareness can shift quite dramatically, but it cannot transcend the perceptual realm.(ACIM, C-1.7:4)  The perception of pure awareness or pure consciousness is not the same as the experience which can never be perceived. Consciousness is fundamental to the ego thought system, but not to reality. Therefore, it cannot transcend the ego’s purpose which is to make the dream-world, and thereby the belief in the separation, appear to be real.

Guilt is the psychological experience that arises from the belief we have attacked God and are no longer a part of Him. This is what the Course refers to as the secret dream of separation. The ego’s plan to get rid of this intolerable guilt in our mind, is to project the guilt onto an imaginary dream-world. This is called the world-dream. By identifying with the dream, we experience guilt in the dream and not where it is, in the dreamer’s mind, where it must be corrected. So we still experience the guilt but don’t know why. Guilt will continue to be experienced until this mistaken belief is corrected in our mind.

As mentioned above, guilt, arises from the belief we have separated from God, which the ego tells us is a sin against God. It refers to any experience where we perceive ourself to be at the effect of the world, which means any dualistic experience. However, we cannot be the effect of a world we are dreaming. You are the dreamer of the world of dreams. ²No other cause it has, nor ever will. ³Nothing more fearful than an idle dream has terrified God’s Son, and made him think that he has lost his innocence, denied his Father, and made war upon himself (ACIM, T-27.VII.13:1-3) In other words we are the cause of the vengeful perceptual world, not God. We hid this fearful idea from our awareness by projecting the responsibility onto God!

It is important and very helpful to understand that God, Holy Spirit and Jesus are not the same as in the Bible. Jesus in the Course is the historical Jesus, not the Biblical Jesus. The name of Jesus is the name of one who was a man but saw the face of Christ in all his brothers and remembered God.²So he became identified with Christ, a man no longer, but at one with God. ³The man was an illusion, for he seemed to be a separate being, walking by himself, within a body that appeared to hold his self from Self, as all illusions do. ⁴Yet who can save unless he sees illusions and then identifies them as what they are? ⁵Jesus remains a Savior because he saw the false without accepting it as true. ⁶And Christ needed his form that He might appear to men and save them from their own illusions. (ACIM, C-5.2:1-6)

Jesus is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. He communicates with us within a dualistic framework because that is where we believe we are and where correction is needed. He is in the part of our mind referred to as the right-mind. Being egoless, Jesus teaches us how to use the world as a classroom for correcting our misperceptions. For perceptions are learned with beliefs, and experience does teach. ⁶I am leading you to a new kind of experience that you will become less and less willing to deny (ACIM, T-11.VI.3:4-6)

The world you see is a vengeful world, and everything in it is a symbol of vengeance. Each of your perceptions of “external reality” is a pictorial representation of your own attack thoughts. ³One can well ask if this can be called seeing.⁴Is not fantasy a better word for such a process, and hallucination a more appropriate term for the result? (ACIM, W-23.3:1-4) Thus do we understand why we only perceive a vengeful world. Everyone perceiving the world, by definition, believes in the separation and has these guilt thoughts. So it is these mistaken thoughts that must be brought into our awareness, looked upon, forgiven and let go. —— “Wait a minute! wait a minute! the ego does protest! Aren’t you having fun?” ——If pain, suffering, loss and death are your idea of fun, so be it. — keep dreaming! But your “history” indicates you are a fearful victim of your own dream. And because of the dream’s purpose, will never be anything else.

To recap: the secret dream hides the belief in the separation (sin), and the world dream hides the guilt resulting from that belief by projecting our guilt onto someone or something in the world. We see our “secret sins and hidden hates” in “others,” thus reinforcing our guilt. Therefore, the Course refers to relationships in the world as “special” relationships: either special hate or special love. In special hate relationships, attack will be perceived as overt; in special love relationships, the attack is perceived as covert. From this ego perspective the underlying purpose for all of our relationships is to hide our guilt by projecting it onto “others.” However, before the projection there was, and still remains, our attack upon ourself.  There is another purpose for our relationships: In His function as Interpreter of what you made, the Holy Spirit uses special relationships, which you have chosen to support the ego, as learning experiences that point to truth. Under His teaching, every relationship becomes a lesson in love. (ACIM, T-15.V.4:6). This is called a Holy Relationship.

As the Course says we are not trapped in the world we see because its cause can be changed.  This change requires, first, that the cause be identified —- and then let go, —-so that it can be replaced. ³The first two steps in this process require your cooperation. ⁴The final one does not. ⁵Your images have already been replaced. ⁶By taking the first two steps, you will see that this is so. (ACIM, W-23.5:2-6) We must first look at these projected attack thoughts, recognizing they are not in others, they are our own repressed thoughts. They are illusions and were never true, we therefore forgive ourself and “others” for what has never happened. Thus have we identified the cause of the world and let it go. When this process is complete, our mind is healed. We then perceive the “real world” or right-mindedness.  It is not reality, which could never be perceived, it is the world forgiven for all the guilt we laid upon it. This is the purpose of the Course because it is all that can be taught.    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. (ACIM, T-4.II.10:1)

Aware we are the dreamer of the world, there is no belief in separation; no belief in sin, guilt and fear. We are free to choose to let the ego go and return our mind to a state of One Mindedness: to the home we never left. And then all things will be transformed together, and returned unblemished into the Mind of God. ⁷Being beyond learning, this state cannot be described. (ACIM, S-1.II.8:6-7) That is why the last step is not ours.

The Course emphasizes it is but one version of the universal curriculum, differing only in form. However, it would not be helpful to interpret one form of the universal curriculum in terms of another. In fact it would diminish the efficacy of both. That is exactly what the ego would love us to do: diminish the effectiveness of any thought system that would threatened the ego’s survival.  Consciousness, the level of perception, was the first split introduced into the mind after the separation, making the mind a perceiver rather than a creator. ²Consciousness is correctly identified as the domain of the ego. ³The ego is a wrong-minded attempt to perceive yourself as you wish to be, rather than as you are. (ACIM, T-3.IV.2:1-3)

If you are working with A Course in Miracles you should not judge another’s curriculum, but neither should you follow it. The Course’s definition of guilt, forgiveness, what the world is, who we are, the ego, consciousness and many other terms are very different than other disciplines. That doesn’t make them right in themselves, but it is critical for understanding what the Course is teaching. To obtain the Course’s goal and experience peace and happiness you must use the means. The Course’s aim is correction of perception and the means is forgiveness. As I already mentioned, the Course has its own definition of forgiveness.   A purpose is attained by means, and if you want a purpose you must be willing to want the means as well. ⁷How can one be sincere and say, “I want this above all else, and yet I do not want to learn the means to get it?” (ACIM, T-20.VII.2:6-7)The means are second to the goal. And when you hesitate, it is because the purpose frightens you, and not the means (ACIM, T-20.VII.3:4)

Illusions, brought to Truth, disappear in a Holy Instant!  Our success is guaranteed by God!