We do have the belief that our thoughts have no effect, right? There are thoughts that do, in our eyes, have a very positive effect, and ones that have a negative effect. But then there is the big middle ground of ones that, in our view, have no effect.
The truth is the opposite: the effect they have is everything we see, and everything we feel. Thoughts, Jesus says, are either true or false. True ones create in their own likeness—they have a true effect. False ones make in their likeness—make falsehoods, make the world we see.
This first paragraph tells us that “neutral” is about causing results. To say “I have no neutral thoughts” is to say that all of my thoughts carry results. They all make a difference.
He is saying that the phrase “idle thoughts” is an oxymoron. Think about that. To speak of a thought that produces no result is to fall into a contradiction in terms. Note this passage from the Text: “There are no idle thoughts. All thinking produces form at some level” (T-2.VI.9:13-14).
“Idle” here means “not doing anything, not having an effect.” Think about a car engine that is idling. The engine is turning over, but it is not moving the car anywhere. That is how we see our mind much of the time. Its engine is turning over, but it’s not in gear, and so it’s not actually taking us anywhere. What this lesson asks us to consider is that our thoughts are taking us either forward to Heaven or backward to hell all the time. There is only one road with two directions, and our thoughts are moving us in one of those directions in every single instant.
There is a great quote from the Urtext: “The unwatched mind is responsible for the whole content of the unconscious”…and responsible for the whole content of our world.
Where is the dividing line? It seems between our real thoughts and our ordinary thoughts. Our real thoughts extend the truth. Our ordinary thoughts multiply illusions—multiply zeroes. However, I think there is a third category, not mentioned here, and that is our ordinary thoughts that reflect our real thoughts and therefore move us in their direction.
This is an important paragraph. It says that our thoughts are not just having an effect, but the effect is in terms of love/peace or fear/war. In other words, our thoughts are producing emotions, either positive ones or negative ones.
Again, we want to believe this is not so, that we can entertain certain thoughts without them having any emotional result whatsoever. In our eyes, they are neutral, meaning “Not aligned with, supporting, or favoring either side in a war, dispute, or contest. Belonging to neither kind; not one thing or the other.” In other words, they are not of fear or of love.
More specifically, we want to see our “fear thoughts as unimportant, trivial and not worth bothering about” (3:3). Why? Because we want the freedom to think them. Whenever we want the freedom to do something destructive, we tend to imagine that it’s harmless and ignore its destructive effects.
How can all our fear thoughts be “equally destructive” (3:3)? Surely, Jesus recognizes that some thoughts have a greater impact than others. His point here, though, I believe, is that all fear thoughts boot our minds out of the peace of God, and we are either in that peace or not.
This whole paragraph is about not making exceptions with this lesson. And we’ll be tempted to make them for the very reason we just saw: “There is such a temptation to dismiss fear thoughts as unimportant” (3:3). Therefore, we need to “actively seek” (4:1) to not overlook the “little” thoughts, just because there is a huge tendency to do so. This paragraph basically says that being indiscriminate is going to be harder in this lesson, so just watch out for that and do your best.
Purpose: a beginning step in learning that every thought has effects and that, in particular, each one produces either fear and war or love and peace.
Exercise: 4 or 5 times (3 if there’s strain); for 1 minute each (reduce if there’s discomfort)
- Close your eyes and repeat the idea.
- Then search your mind for any thoughts present. Try to make no distinctions among them. Try especially not to overlook any “little” thought. As each thought crosses your mind, hold it in mind and say, “This thought about ______ is not a neutral thought.”
Response to temptation: whenever you are aware of an upsetting thought
Apply the idea to it using this specific form: “This thought about ______ is not a neutral thought, because I have no neutral thoughts.” The point is to make you realize that, by entertaining this thought, you are actively causing yourself fear.