Our internal thoughts ultimately show up as external images, and this seems to grant them the status of reality. If, for instance, you are fearfully imagining that there might be a poisonous snake nearby, presumably your fear will rise considerably if you actually see a snake, even if that snake is only a hallucination. The mere fact of seeing it as an image outside of you seems to give it reality.
Here is the paragraph in the Course that I think has most direct bearing on today’s lesson:
This is salvation’s keynote: What I see reflects a process in my mind, which starts with my idea of what I want. From there, the mind makes up an image of the thing the mind desires, judges valuable, and therefore seeks to find. These images are then projected outward, looked upon, esteemed as real and guarded as one’s own. From insane wishes comes an insane world. From judgment comes a world condemned. And from forgiving thoughts a gentle world comes forth, with mercy for the holy Son of God, to offer him a kindly home where he can rest a while before he journeys on, and help his brothers walk ahead with him, and find the way to Heaven and to God. (W-pII.325.1)
In light of this, I see the image-making process as going something like this: I first form a thought of what I want. Then I make an internal image of that thought. Then I get that image into my physical environment. This involves dreaming it into existence, in cooperation with other living minds. And then I draw it into my immediate environment. Perhaps I draw it to myself with the power of my mind, so that it seems to magically show up in my dream, even though I was the one who secretly drew it there. Perhaps I actively acquire—many of the images we see around us, for instance, we purchased and put in our home. Then, once it’s in my field of vision, I focus on it, attend to it, to the exclusion of other things. And while I do, my body’s eyes make that physical form look solid and real, when really it is just an insubstantial shadow that has no actual reality at all. At the conclusion of the whole process, I say to myself, “Ah, that thought of what I desired really has shown up as a real, external thing, which I esteem as real and guard as my own.”
Given the lack of elaboration in this lesson of how Jesus is seeing our thoughts show up as images, this is my best guess as to what is going on.
These paragraphs instantly catch one’s attention and naturally cause speculation. Jesus is talking about “light episodes” in which one sees “little edges of light around the same familiar objects which you see now.” What is he really saying about these “light episodes”?
He says these are not true perception, but they are related to it. They “symbolize true perception” (3:5). They are “signs” (3:4) that it is coming, that it’s on its way. He also says that these “light episodes” will give us an initial understanding of today’s idea.
Here is what I believe is happening: Because thoughts show up as images, when the light of vision truly starts entering our thoughts, it will (may?) also show up as part of the images we see. We will start to see light around the objects we see now, but that light will be our thoughts of light showing up in image-form. This in turn will help us realize that images we see are not reality, but are the projection of thought.
What a lovely idea—that there would be enough light in my thoughts for that to show up as light around the objects I see! And this does happen to certain people. In fact, I heard Ken Wapnick say that the material in this lesson was addressed to a man Helen knew who was having “light episodes.”
Seeing these edges of light is not a goal in itself. Notice that there are no exercises that have you try to see edges of light. They are not vision; they merely symbolize vision. But they are a sign that it is coming, and they do give us insight into the image-making function of our thoughts and eyes.
Purpose: to introduce you to the process of image making, by which your inner thoughts appear as outer images.
Exercise: 3 times (4 if comfortable), for 1 minute (less if you feel uneasy)
- Repeat the idea to yourself.
- Then look about and apply it randomly to whatever you see, saying quite slowly, “This [name of object] is an image that I have made.” Start near (“this”) and then look far (“that”). Let your eyes rest on the object the whole time you are repeating this.
Response to temptation: optional—whenever you are upset
You may want to use this form: “This [name of situation] is an image that I have made.” This will remind you that the “upsetting” situation you are seeing is not objectively real, but is just your own thoughts appearing in image form.