Does the Course recommend telling others "You made that"?

Question: What is the Circle's take on the idea that there is "no one out there"—that we have created all the situations that present themselves to us? I find this very annoying, as I find I can't even state that I feel a group is not working because of scapegoating or whatever, without people jumping on me and saying I made that. I don't like the idea of being led to the slaughter by those who decide what A Course in Miracles says, and the rest of us have to agree or else we are being "negative" or choose to create disharmony or see things that aren't there. This really concerns me, particularly about the integrity of ACIM, if this stuff is considered okay.

Answer: Sadly, this kind of thing is all too common in Course circles, and it does go against the Course's teaching. Let me address the two main questions here—whether the Course says there's no one out there, and whether it approves of the "You made that!" approach to disagreements—one at a time.

First, the Course never says that there's no one out there. On the contrary, it invariably portrays other people as real brothers: "We look on everyone as brother" (W-pII.14.3:4). True, their bodies and their egos are not real, but they are. This is actually the import of one of the best-known lines in the Course: "Think not you made the world. Illusions, yes! But what is true in earth and Heaven is beyond your naming" (W-pI.184.8:1-3). The "illusions" we did make here are the bodies of our brothers, the "reality" of which we reinforce in our minds and theirs through giving their bodies names. "What is true in earth and Heaven"—what we did not make—is the true Identity of our brothers, their reality. This is absolutely not our projection. The importance of the idea that our brothers are real can hardly be overstated. Indeed, the heart of the Course's path is one of extending love and forgiveness to those real brothers, so we can save them and thus enable them to save us.

Now, it is true that the Course says we invite all our life situations into our lives: "Everything that seems to happen to me I ask for, and receive as I have asked" (T-21.II.2:5). Yet it doesn't take much thought to realize that the Course is not promoting a kind of pure solipsism, in which I am the only person who exists and literally everyone and everything else is generated by me. Think, for example, of two strangers encountering each other on the street—I'll call them Joe and Sue. If it's true that we bring all of our life situations to us, then Joe must have unconsciously invited Sue into his life. But if Sue is also real (not Joe's projection) and she's doing the same thing, then it must be that Sue also unconsciously invited Joe into her life. Therefore, the encounter as a whole is not a matter of one or the other projecting the whole thing: It is brought about by an unconscious agreement between the two.

The Course material mentions this idea of unconscious agreement (without necessarily using that exact term) in a number of places. It says that two must agree for any decision to be made or for anything to happen (see T-30.I.16-17). In the Urtext, Jesus tells us, "External conditions are produced by the thoughts of many, not all of whom are pure in heart as yet." Speaking of the horrors we see in the world, Workbook Lesson 14 says, "Some of them are shared illusions, and others are part of your personal hell" (W-pI.14.6:3). Indeed, the Course tells us that the entire physical world is produced by a collective agreement: "Even the mad idea of separation had to be shared before it could form the basis of the world I see" (W-pI.54.3:3).

Surprisingly, even sickness is the result not just of one person's projection, but of unconscious agreement between two minds:

No mind is sick until another mind agrees that they are separate. And thus it is their joint decision to be sick. If you withhold agreement and accept the part you play in making sickness real, the other mind cannot project its guilt [onto the body, which produces sickness] without your aid in letting it perceive itself as separate and apart from you. Thus is the body not perceived as sick by both your minds from separate points of view. Uniting with a brother's mind prevents the cause of sickness and perceived effects. Healing is the effect of minds that join, as sickness comes from minds that separate. (T-28.III.2:1-6)

There is an all-too-common tendency among Course students to tell a sick person "you made that," but this passage presents a very different picture. It is saying that when you see someone who's sick, you're actually making that sickness with her. Your job, then, is not to give her a lecture about how she made her sickness, but to take responsibility for your part in making it: your agreement with her that the two of you are separate. Your job is to join with her real mind; if you do that, you withdraw your agreement to be separate from her, and without that agreement, her sickness is healed.

My larger point here is that no situation is simply one person's projection—it is the responsibility of everyone involved in the situation. True, each person is responsible for how he or she perceives the situation, and our perception of a situation is often wrong to a greater or lesser degree. But it can also be quite correct in many respects. If someone comes up to me with clenched fists and a scowl and says through gritted teeth, "Don't ever do that again or else!" it's not just my projection if I say to myself, "Looks like this person is angry with me." And if I were to communicate that to him and he responded by saying "you made that," he would be abdicating his responsibility for his part in making that situation.

With that in mind, let's look at the situation the second question addresses: the accusation that when you disagree with someone and say so, it's all your projection, because there's no one out there. Of course, as I've mentioned, it's possible that you're misperceiving the situation to a greater or lesser degree—we all do that. But the rationale for the accusation is absurd on several levels. First, the accuser claims that it's all your projection and there's no one out there, but if this is true then the accuser himself must be an illusion made by you. Obviously, however, he believes he is real, which invalidates his argument entirely. Second, if he does believe he is real and there's no one out there, then it must be that you are his projection. Why, then, is he arguing with you at all? Shouldn't he just withdraw his projection of you? Finally, his confrontation of your disagreement is itself a disagreement, which is hypocritical: It's not okay when you disagree, but it's perfectly okay for him to disagree with your disagreement.

Indeed, the whole thing represents a blatant double standard. He is criticizing you for treating him as a real person whom you have a right to disagree with, yet in the process he is treating you as a real person who stands to benefit from his disagreement. And this double standard gives him power over you: It gives him a voice (he can disagree with you) while keeping you silent (you cannot disagree with him).

So, my answer to the second question is no, the Course definitely does not approve of this approach. It doesn't actually teach that there's no one out there, so this idea isn't really useful for anything. And it certainly doesn't want us jumping on each other with accusations of "You made that!" or "You're coming from your ego!" or "It's all your projection!" This is an abdication of our own responsibility for what we have contributed to the situation. And anyone who has ever had one of these barbs directed at her knows how unloving they are. Is this any way to treat our brothers?

What would the Course have us do, then, in situations where there is disagreement? In broad terms two things come to my mind: 1) With the Holy Spirit's help, see the other people in the situation as real brothers, holy Sons of God who deserve your love, forgiveness, and helpfulness, whatever they say, and 2) Ask the Holy Spirit how to respond to them on a form level. More specifically, if disagreement becomes a source of tension and upset, I suggest doing one or more of the countless practices the Course offers to help us forgive our brothers, let go of grievances, etc.

In particular, there is a wonderful practice in the Text that we at the Circle like to call "ACIM conflict resolution." (We once devoted an entire workshop to this practice.) This is a practice designed to be applied to the holy relationship, but it can be applied to any relationship. It is essentially a practice in which you undo conflict by choosing to enter a holy instant. Jesus says, "When you feel the holiness of your relationship is threatened by anything [like rancorous disagreement or scapegoating or disharmony of any kind], stop instantly and offer the Holy Spirit your willingness, in spite of fear, to let Him exchange this instant for the holy one that you would rather have" (T-18.V.6:1). Then you ask for a holy instant with these beautiful words:

I desire this holy instant for myself,
that I may share it with my brother, whom I love.
It is not possible that I can have it without him,
or he without me.
Yet it is wholly possible for us to share it now.
And so I choose this instant as the one
to offer to the Holy Spirit,
that His blessing may descend on us,
and keep us both in peace. (T-18.V.7:3-6)

Wouldn't it be wonderful if, instead of Course groups dealing with disagreement by having arguments about who's making what, everyone involved sat down together and did this practice? The beauty of it is that it sets aside the specific details of the situation entirely and returns our focus to what's really important: our love for one another and our desire to truly join in peace. Once this is remembered, we may well resume discussion of our disagreement: such things often do need to be resolved. But we will do so from a much more elevated state of mind, because we will have remembered what's really important here—the relationship—in light of which the disagreement suddenly seems like a minor detail.

The end result of this approach on a down-to-earth level is the replacement of accusations rooted in logical absurdities and double standards with a truly healthy and grownup way of working with disagreements. We bring them up in a loving way, discuss them openly and intelligently in a spirit of mutual caring and respect, take responsibility for our own part in the situation, do practices like the one above when conflicts arise, and affirm that whatever decisions are finally reached, each and every person involved is a holy brother deserving of love. This is a way of relating with one another that speaks highly of the integrity of A Course in Miracles.

Browse the FAQ archive. FAQ Topic: . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.