The fear to look within is a significant theme in the Course, and one that it's important for us to understand. How deeply we look inside ourselves really determines how we see ourselves.
On the surface, most of us feel we are more or less always right. We may not identify with that statement, but we certainly can look around and see that it's true of others. How often do you get people to say, "You know, you've got a point—I was completely in the wrong"? Another way to see how right we all think we are is that we tend to change very slowly and very little. Yet if we were frequently saying, "I was wrong here," then change would flow easily through our lives. Continual and dramatic change would be the rule, not the exception. So, most of us are going around constantly justifying and rationalizing our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
That is a product of the fear to look within. We see ourselves as so right, so justified, because we are doing our utmost to look away from what we really think we are. We believe that if we were truly honest, if we put a halt on all the excuses, if we looked inside ourselves without flinching, we would be horrified at what we saw.
What exactly are we thinking we would see? According to this lesson, we think we would see "another will" (1:5). That sounds quite tame, until you think about it. "Will" is about what we want. And what we want seems to define who we are. Imagine two different people. One cares nothing about her own fame, status, or money. Instead, she yearns only to see everyone happy, the people she knows and the great mass of humanity beyond. The other person has an overpowering attraction to kidnapping, torturing, and murdering small children. Don't their respective wants, their wills, determine who they are in our eyes?
According to the Course, we are terrified that if we were to truly look within, what we saw would be much more like the second person than the first. We are convinced we will see a will that is tainted with evil, hopelessly twisted, incurable.
And for that reason, we don't really look within. When we try, in meditation, our inner eyes are so chronically fixed away from the center of our being that we normally cannot manage to redirect our gaze and actually look on what is there.
If we could, the Course promises that we would see the opposite of what we fear. "Within me is eternal innocence" (1:1). "Within me is the Holiness of God" (1:7). This is not because my wayward will put that innocence there; it is because God's Will did. No matter what I do with the will I made—even if I actually do torture and kill—I can't change God's Will that I be innocent. And if He wills that I'm innocent, then I am. After all, He is God.
However, if I really looked within, I would see one more thing: I would see my true will. I would see what I really want. And this true will, being created by God, is every bit as pure as God's Own Will. In fact, it is exactly the same as His Will. Imagine looking within and finding that your most natural, spontaneous desires were not the self-centered and body-centered desires you think of as natural, but the holy Will of God. Imagine finding that the desires that are innate to you, a fundamental part of your equipment, are as pure as God is.
How do we have the guts to look within, risking seeing the murderous will, so we can see past it to the holy will? I don't think it's a matter of guts or courage. I think it's a matter of calming our fears. We need to tell ourselves that we can trust God when He tells us that within us is an innocence so deep that it's actually holiness, a holiness so pure that it's actually the Holiness of God. We need to ask ourselves the kinds of questions that Lesson 228 gives us to ask:
My Father knows my holiness. Shall I deny His knowledge, and believe in what His knowledge makes impossible? Shall I accept as true what He proclaims as false? Or shall I take His Word for what I am, since He is my Creator, and the One Who knows the true condition of His Son? (W-pII.228.1)
If we can lose enough of our fear to actually look within and see our holiness, we will never be able to see ourselves the same way again. Once you've seen the truth, there's no going back.
The following exercise may help you apply the essence of today's lesson.
First, get in touch with the part of you that feels you're more or less always right, that you're always justified, always doing your best, that the problem always lies in external forces putting too much pressure on you.
Then go the next level down. Try to get in touch with how much you mistrust your own will, how you wish it would naturally and consistently reach for the highest, the most loving, but how instead it often drags you down into the mud.
Now try to get in touch with how defiled you believe this wayward will of yours has made you. It has defined you in your eyes as a petty, self-centered, superficial, and ultimately, self-destructive person. A medieval mystic spoke of the "foul, stinking lump" of self. Try to get in touch with that kind of self-loathing within you.
Then realize that all of the above is the voice of your ego, telling you who you are when it doesn't even know. Accept that God's Voice tells you otherwise. He tells you that you are His holy Son, forever and forever. Place your trust in His Voice, recognizing that He knows who you are even if you don't. Let His view of you sink in. Let it draw you down to that deep place in your mind where God's holiness dwells, and where His holiness is yours.
Spend the rest of the time in quiet meditation, sinking gently towards that place of holiness, where you can look on yourself with love, not with fear.