Commentary on Lesson 22: What I see is a form of vengeance.

by Robert Perry

This lesson continues the theme, begun in yesterday’s lesson, of attack thoughts.

Paragraph 1

This lesson is addressing our perception of an attacking world, a world out to get us. It is giving a novel explanation as to why we see a world that threatens us with so many dangers.

The reason is not that the world is objectively that way, for, remember, the world is objectively meaningless. The reason we see an attacking world is that we projected our anger onto it. This projection of our own anger means that now we see our anger in the world. The world looks angry. We see our own anger staring back at us.

Only now this anger has become vengeance. Why is that? That, I think, is the difficult part to understand. The reason is that we see the world wanting to get vengeance on us for putting our anger on it. We see the world wanting to get us back for what we did to it (project our anger onto it). So now we see a world that is poised to attack in return. Our only choice seems to be to launch a counterattack in our own self-defense. Doing this, however, means that we are once again projecting our anger upon the world, which leads to again seeing our anger staring back at us in the form of vengeance, which leads us to defend ourselves through further attack, and on and on it goes. Our minds become filled with thoughts of attack and counterattack.

So this lesson drops in our laps some very big things to consider: Can we consider that the attack we see in the world comes from our own attack thoughts? And can we consider that somewhere inside we understand that-we understand that it started with us, and that the attack we see coming back at us is (perceived) vengeance for what we know we did first?

Paragraph 2

We may not realize that we feel locked into a world peopled by attack and counterattack. We need to get in touch with that, to realize how habitually on guard we feel, how poised for threat, how alert for danger. Everyone feels like that. No matter what we are tempted to tell ourselves, we ourselves are no exception.

If we can get in touch with this sense, then this second paragraph can be the relief it was intended to be. Ask yourself the two questions in this paragraph very directly and personally. Wouldn’t it in fact be “joyous news” to find that all the attack you see exists only in our imagination?

Paragraph 3

Based on the above, we can now understand the final two of the four lines we practice.

What I see is not real (theme of paragraph 2).

What I see is a form of vengeance (theme of paragraph 1).

But what about the first two lines we practice? What do they mean? Unfortunately, I can see nothing in the lesson that gives us direct context for understanding these two lines. So I am going to have to take my best guess. It seems to me that these two lines follow from both of the final lines. Let me explain.

To say, “I see only the perishable. I see nothing that will last,” follows directly from the line, “What I see is not real.” If something is in fact not real, it is not going to last. Its days are numbered. Conversely, if it is destined to pass away, to become unreal, how real could it have been in the first place?

We can express the relationship, then, between the four lines this way:

Original lines Explanation
I see only the perishable.
I see nothing that will last
I see a world that has no permanence.
What I see is not real. It has no permanence because permanence is an attribute of reality, and the world I see is not real. It is only a picture in my imagination.
What I see is a form of vengeance. It has no reality because it is merely a picture painted by my attack thoughts. They cause me to imagine a world poised to get revenge on me for my attack on it.

In other words,

These forms won’t last
Because they aren’t real
Because they were produced by the projection of my anger.

Note that the first idea, representing the first two lines, is an objective attribute of the world-physically, nothing we see will last. It really is impermanent. Therefore, if that impermanence is actually a result of my process of projection, that implies that the physical world itself is a result of my projection. I don’t just project my meanings onto what is out there, my projection actually produces what is out there. The Course clearly teaches that. It definitely frames it as a collective projection-we project it together, it’s not just me alone. But the forms I see truly are nothing more than a mental projection.

All of this is meant to set us up to ask the final question with real sincerity: “Is this the world I really want to see?” I think that question is meant to do the majority of the work in this lesson. So try to mean it when you ask it. If the world you see really is an impermanent, unreal fantasy of revenge on you for your attack on it, is that the world you want?

The point of this question, if properly set up and sincerely asked, is to undermine our attachment to the attack thoughts that make our perception of the world.


Exercise: 5 times (at least), for 1 minute (at least)

  • Look about you. As your eyes move slowly from one thing to another say, “I see only the perishable. I see nothing that will last. What I see is not real. What I see is a form of vengeance.”
  • Conclude by asking yourself, “Is this the world I really want to see?”

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