A Course in Miracles

Chapter 4 - The Root of All Evil

Right Teaching and Right Learning

The Bible says that you should go with a brother twice as far as he asks. It certainly does not suggest that you set him back on his journey. Devotion to a brother cannot set you back, either. It can lead only to mutual progress.

The result of genuine devotion is inspiration, a word which, properly understood, is the opposite of fatigue. To be fatigued is to be dis-spirited, but to be inspired is to be in the spirit. To be egocentric is to be dispirited, but to be self-centered in the right sense is to be inspired, or in the Soul. The truly inspired are enlightened and cannot abide in darkness.

You can speak from the Soul or from the ego, precisely as you choose. If you speak from the Soul, you have chosen

“to be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

These words are inspired because they come from knowledge. If you speak from the ego, you are disclaiming knowledge instead of affirming it, and are thus dispiriting yourself.

Repetitive Foolish Journeys

Do not embark on foolish journeys, because they are indeed in vain. The ego may desire them, but the Soul cannot embark on them because it is forever unwilling to depart from its (thought system) Foundation.

The journey to the cross should be the last foolish journey for every mind. Do not dwell upon it, but dismiss it as accomplished. If you can accept it as your own last foolish journey, you are also free to join my Resurrection.

Human living has indeed been needlessly wasted in a repetition compulsion. It

  • re-enacts the separation,
  • the loss of power,
  • the foolish journey of the ego in an attempt at reparation, and finally,
  • the crucifixion of the body, or death.

Repetition compulsions can be endless unless they are given up by an act of will. Do not make the pathetic human error of “clinging to the old rugged cross.” The only message of the crucifixion was that we can overcome the cross. Unless you do so, you are free to crucify yourself as often as you choose, but this is not the Gospel I intended to offer you. We have another journey to undertake, and if you will read these lessons carefully, they will help to prepare you to undertake it.

We have spoken of many different human symptoms, and at this level there is almost endless variation. There is, however, only one cause of all them. The authority problem is

“the root of all evil.” 1 Timothy 6:10

Money is but one of its many reflections, and is a reasonably representative example of the kind of thinking which stems from it. The idea of buying and selling implies precisely the kind of exchange that the Soul cannot understand at all, because its Supply is always abundant, and all its demands are fully met.

Every symptom which the ego has made involves a contradiction in terms. This is because the mind is split between the ego and the Soul, so that whatever the ego makes is incomplete and contradictory. This untenable position is the result of the authority problem which, because it accepts the one inconceivable thought as its premise, can only produce ideas which are inconceivable. The term “profess” is used quite frequently in the Bible. To profess is to identify with an idea, and offer the idea to others to be their own. The idea does not lessen; it becomes stronger.

A good teacher clarifies his own ideas, and strengthens them by teaching them. Teacher and pupil are alike in the learning process. They are in the same order of learning, and unless they share their lessons, they will lack conviction. A good teacher must believe in the ideas which he professes, but he must meet another condition; he must also believe in the students to whom he offers his ideas.

Many stand guard over their ideas because they want to protect their thought systems as they are, and learning means change. Change is always fearful to the separated ones, because they cannot conceive of it as a change towards healing the separation. They always perceive it as a change towards further separation, because the separation was their first experience of change.

You believe that, if you allow no change to enter into your ego, your Soul will find peace. This profound confusion is possible only if one maintains that the same thought system can stand on two foundations. Nothing can reach the Soul from the ego, and nothing from the Soul can strengthen the ego or reduce the conflict within it. The ego is a contradiction. Man’s self and God’s Self are in opposition. They are opposed in creation, in will, and in outcome. They are fundamentally irreconcilable because the Soul cannot perceive and the ego cannot know. They are therefore not in communication, and can never be in communication. Nevertheless, the ego can learn because its maker can be misguided, but cannot make the totally lifeless out of the life-given. The Soul need not be taught, but the ego must.

The ultimate reason why learning is perceived as frightening is because learning does lead to the relinquishment (not destruction) of the ego to the Light of the Soul. This is the change the ego must fear because it does not share my charity.

My lesson was like yours, and because I learned it I can teach it. I never attack your egos, but I do try to teach you how their thought system arose. When I remind you of your true creation, your egos cannot but respond with fear.

Teaching and learning are your greatest strengths now because you must change your mind and help others change theirs. It is pointless to refuse to tolerate change because you believe you can demonstrate that, by doing so, the separation has not occurred. The dreamer who doubts the reality of his dream while he is still dreaming is not really healing the level-split. You have dreamed of a separated ego, and you have believed in a world which rests upon it. This is very real to you. You cannot undo this by doing nothing and not changing.

If you are willing to renounce the role of guardian of your thought system and open it to me, I will correct it very gently and lead you home. Every good teacher hopes to give his students so much of his own thinking that they will one day no longer need him. This is the one real goal of the parent, teacher and therapist. This goal will not be achieved by those who believe that they will lose their child or pupil or patient if they succeed. It is impossible to convince the ego of this because it goes against all of its own laws. But remember that laws are set up to protect the continuity of the system in which the law-maker believes.

It is natural enough for the ego to try to protect itself, once you have made it, but it is not natural for you to want to obey its laws unless you believe in them. The ego cannot make this choice because of the nature of its origin. You can because of the nature of yours. Egos can clash in any situation, but Souls cannot clash at all. If you perceive a teacher as merely a “larger ego,” you will be afraid, because to enlarge an ego is to increase separation anxiety.

I will teach with you and live with you if you will think with me, but my goal will always be to absolve you finally from the need for a teacher.

This is the opposite of the ego-oriented teacher’s goal. He is concerned with the effect of his ego on other egos, and therefore interprets their interaction as a means of ego preservation. I would not be able to devote myself to teaching if I believed this, and you will not be a devoted teacher as long as you maintain it. I am constantly being perceived as a teacher either to be exalted or rejected, but I do not accept either perception for myself.

Your worth is not established by your teaching or your learning. Your worth was established by God. As long as you dispute this everything you do will be fearful, particularly any situation which lends itself to the “superiority-inferiority” fallacy. Teachers must be patient, and repeat their lessons until they are learned. I am willing to do this because I have no right to set your learning limits for you.

Once again,–nothing you do or think or wish or make is necessary to establish your worth.

This point is not debatable except in delusions. Your ego is never at stake because God did not create it. Your Soul is never at stake because He did. Any confusion on this point is a delusion, and no form of devotion is possible as long as this delusion lasts.

The ego tries to exploit all situations into forms of praise for itself in order to overcome its doubts. It will be doubtful forever, or rather, as long as you believe in it. You who made it cannot trust it, because you know it is not real. The only sane solution is not to try to change reality, which is indeed a fearful attempt, but to see it as it is. You are part of reality, which stands unchanged beyond the reach of your ego, but within easy reach of your Soul.

When you are afraid...

be still and know that God is real and you are His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. Psalm 46:10

Do not let your ego dispute this, because the ego cannot know what is as far beyond its reach as you are.

God is not the author of fear. You are. You have chosen, therefore, to create unlike Him, and you have made fear for yourselves. You are not at peace because you are not fulfilling your function. God gave you a very lofty responsibility which you are not meeting. You know this, and you are afraid. In fact, your egos have chosen to be afraid instead of meeting it. When you awaken, you will not be able to understand this because it is literally incredible. Do not believe the incredible now. Any attempt to increase its believableness is merely to postpone the inevitable.

The word “inevitable” is fearful to the ego, but joyous to the Soul. God is inevitable, and you cannot avoid Him any more that He can avoid you. The ego is afraid of the Soul’s joy because, once you have experienced it, you will withdraw all protection from the ego, and become totally without the investment in fear. Your investment is great now because fear is a witness to the separation, and your ego rejoices when you witness to it. Leave it behind! Do not listen to it, and do not preserve it. Listen only to God, Who is as incapable of deception as are the Souls He created.

Release yourselves and release others. Do not present a false and unworthy picture of yourself to others, and do not accept such a picture of them yourselves. The ego has built a shabby and unsheltering home for you because it cannot build otherwise. Do not try to make this impoverished house stand. It's weakness is your strength. Only God could make a home that is worthy of His creations, who have chosen to leave it empty by their own dispossession.

Yet His home will stand forever, and is ready for you when you choose to enter it. Of this you can be wholly certain. God is as incapable of creating the perishable as the ego is of making the eternal.

Of your egos you can do nothing to save yourselves or others, but of your Souls you can do everything for the salvation of both. Humility is a lesson for the ego, not for the Soul. The Soul is beyond humility because it recognizes its radiance, and gladly sheds its light everywhere.

"The meek shall inherit the earth" Matthew 5:5 because their egos are humble and this gives them better perception.

The Kingdom of Heaven is the right of the Soul, whose beauty and dignity are far beyond doubt, beyond perception, and stand forever as the mark of the Love of God for His creations, who are wholly worthy of Him, and only of Him. Nothing else is sufficiently worthy to be a gift for a creation of God Himself.

I will substitute for your ego if you wish, but never for your Soul. A father can safely leave a child with an elder brother who has shown himself responsible, but this involves no confusion about the child’s origin. The brother can protect the child’s body and his ego, which are very closely related, but he does not confuse himself with the father because he does this, although the child may. I can be entrusted with your body and your ego simply because this enables you not to be concerned with them, and lets me teach you their unimportance. I could not understand their importance to you if I had not once been tempted to believe in them myself.

Let us undertake to learn this lesson together, so we can be free of them together. I need devoted teachers who share my aim of healing the mind. The Soul is far beyond the need of your protection or mine. Remember this:

“In this world you need not have tribulation because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

That is why you should be of good cheer.

 

 

 

A Course in Miracles

Chapter 4 - The Root of All Evil

The Ego and False Autonomy

You have asked lately how the mind could ever have made the ego. This is a perfectly reasonable question; in fact, the best question you could ask. There is, however, no point in giving an historical answer because the past does not matter in human terms, and history would not exist if the same errors were not being repeated in the present.

Abstract thought applies to knowledge because knowledge is completely impersonal, and examples are irrelevant to its understanding. Perception, however, is always specific, and therefore quite concrete.

Each man makes one ego for himself, although it is subject to enormous variation because of its instability, and one for everyone he perceives, which is equally variable. Their interaction is a process which literally alters both, because they were not made either by or with the unalterable. It is particularly important to realize that this alteration can and does occur as readily when the interaction takes place in the mind as when it involves physical presence. Thinking about another ego is as effective in changing relative perception as is physical interaction. There could be no better example of the fact that the ego is an idea, though not a reality-based thought.

Your own present state is a good example of how the mind made the ego. You do have knowledge at times, but when you throw it away it is as if you never had it. This willfulness is so apparent that one need only perceive it to see that it does happen. If it can occur that way in the present, why is it surprising that it occurred that way in the past? Psychology rests on the principle of the continuity of behavior. Surprise is a reasonable response to the unfamiliar, but hardly to something that has occurred with such persistence. I am using your present state of how the mind can work, provided you fully recognize that it need not work that way. Why are you surprised that something happened in the dim past when it is so clearly happening right now?

You forget the love that animals have for their own offspring, and the need they feel to protect them. This is because they regard them as part of themselves. No one disowns something he regards as a very real part of himself. Man reacts to his ego much as God does to His Souls;– with love, protection and great charity. The reaction of man to the self he made is not at all surprising. In fact it duplicates, in many ways, how he will one day react to his real creations, which are as timeless as he is. The question is not how man responds to his ego, but what he believes he is.

Belief is an ego function, and as long as your origin is open to belief at all, you are regarding it from an ego viewpoint. When teaching is no longer necessary, you will merely know God. Belief that there is another way is the loftiest idea of which ego thinking is capable. That is because it contains a hint of recognition that the ego is not the self. Undermining the ego’s thought system must be perceived as painful, even though this is anything but true. Babies scream in rage if you take away a knife or a scissors, even though they may well harm themselves if you do not. The speed-up has placed you in the same position.

You are not prepared, and in this sense you are babies. You have no sense of real self-preservation, and are very likely to decide that you need precisely what would hurt you most. Whether you know it now or not, however, you have willed to cooperate in a concerted and very commendable effort to become both harmless and helpful, two attributes which must go together. Your attitudes, even toward this, are necessarily conflicted, because all attitudes are ego-based. This will not last. Be patient awhile, and remember that the outcome is as certain as God.

Only those who have a real and lasting sense of abundance can be truly charitable. This is quite obvious when you consider the concepts involved. To the ego, to give anything implies that you will do without it. When you associate giving with sacrifice, then, you give only because you believe that you are somehow getting something better, so that you can do without the thing you give.

“Giving to get” is an inescapable law of the ego, which always evaluates itself in relation to other egos, and is therefore continually preoccupied with the scarcity principle which gave rise to it. This is the meaning of Freud’s “reality principle,” since Freud thought of the ego as very weak and deprived, capable of functioning only as a thing in need.

The “reality principle” of the ego is not real at all. The ego is forced to perceive the “reality” of other egos because it cannot establish the reality of itself. In fact, its whole perception of other egos as real is only an attempt to convince itself that it is real.

“Self esteem,” in ego terms, means nothing more than that the ego has deluded itself into accepting its reality, and is therefore temporarily less predatory. This “self esteem” is always vulnerable to stress, a term which actually refers to a condition in which the delusion of the ego’s reality is threatened. This produces either ego deflation or ego inflation, resulting in either withdrawal or attack.

The ego literally lives by comparisons. This means that equality is beyond its grasp, and charity becomes impossible. The ego never gives out of abundance, because it was made as a substitute for it. That is why the concept of “getting” arose in the ego’s thought system. All appetites are “getting” mechanisms, representing the ego’s need to confirm itself. This is as true of bodily appetites as it is of the so-called “higher” ego needs.

Bodily appetites are not physical in origin. The ego regards the body as its home and does try to satisfy itself through the body, but the idea that this is possible is a decision of the ego, which is completely confused about what is really possible. This accounts for its erratic nature.

The ego believes it is completely on its own, which is merely another way of describing how it originated. This is such a fearful state that it can only turn to other egos and try to unite with them in a feeble attempt at identification, or attack them in an equally feeble show of strength. It is not free, however, to consider the validity of the premise itself because this premise is its (thought system's) foundation. The ego is the belief of the mind that it is completely on its own. Its ceaseless attempts to gain the Soul’s acknowledgement, and thus to establish its own existence, are utterly useless.

The Soul in its knowledge is unaware of the ego. It does not attack it; it merely cannot conceive of it at all. While the ego is equally unaware of the Soul, it does perceive itself as rejected by “something” which is greater than itself. This is why self esteem in ego terms must be a delusion. The creations of God do not create myths, although the creative efforts of man can turn to mythology. It can do so, however, only under one condition: what man then makes is no longer creative.

Myths are entirely perceptions, and are so ambiguous in form and so characteristically good and evil in nature that the most benevolent of them is not without fearful components, if only by innuendo. Myths and magic are closely associated in that myths are usually related to the ego origins, and magic to the powers which the ego ascribes to itself.

Every mythological system includes some account of “the creation,” and associates this with its particular perception of magic. The “battle for survival” is nothing more than the ego’s struggle to preserve itself and its interpretation of its own beginning. This beginning is always associated with physical birth, because no one maintains that the ego existed before that point in time. The religiously ego-oriented believe that the Soul existed before and will continue to exist afterwards, after a temporary lapse in ego life. Some actually believe that the Soul will be punished for this lapse, even though in reality, it could not possibly know anything about it.

The term “salvation” does not apply to the Soul, which is not in danger, and does not need to be salvaged. Salvation is nothing more than “right-mindedness,” which is not the One-Mindedness of the Soul, but which must be accomplished before the One-Mindedness can be restored. Right-mindedness dictates the next step automatically because right perception is uniformly without attack, so that wrong-mindedness is obliterated. The ego cannot survive without judgment, and is laid aside accordingly. The mind then has only one direction in which it can move. The direction which the mind will take is always automatic, because it cannot but be dictated by the thought system to which the mind adheres.

Every thought system has internal consistency, and this provides the basis for the continuity of behavior. However, this is a matter of reliability, and not validity. “Reliable behavior” is a meaningful perception, as far as ego thinking goes. However, “valid behavior” is an expression which is inherently contradictory, because validity is an end and behavior is a means. These cannot be combined logically because, when an end has been attained, the means for its attainment are no longer meaningful.

A hypothesis is either false or true, to be accepted or rejected accordingly. If it is shown to be true it becomes a fact, after which no one attempts to evaluate it unless its status as fact is questioned. Every idea to which the ego has accorded the status of fact is questionable, because facts are in the realm of knowledge.

Confusing realms of discourse is a thinking error which philosophers have recognized for centuries. Psychologists are generally quite deficient in this respect, as are many theologians. Data from one realm of discourse do not mean anything in another because they can be understood only within the thought system of which they are a part. That is why psychologists are concentrating increasingly on the ego, in an attempt to unify their clearly unrelated data. It need hardly be said that an attempt to relate the unrelated cannot succeed.

The more recent ecological emphases are but another ingenious way of trying to impose order on chaos. We have already credited the ego with considerable ingenuity, though not with creativeness. It should, however, be remembered that inventiveness is really wasted effort, even in its most ingenious forms. We do not have to explain anything. This is why we need not trouble ourselves with inventiveness. The highly specific nature of invention is not worthy of the abstract creativity of God’s creations.

 

 
 

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