Does the Course imply that we have three selves?

Question: Would it be fair to say that A Course in Miracles implies that we have three selves (only one of which is real): a) our true/Christ Self, b) the ego, and c) the part of us that is being asked to chose between a) over b)—the executive if you will? When I use the word "I" in this question, for instance, it strikes me that it could be c) talking.

Answer: My short answer is that the Course only depicts a) and b) in your scenario: our true Self and our false self, the ego. And as you mention, only our true Self is real. Though many Course students speak of a third entity that decides between the two (Ken Wapnick calls it the "decision maker"), I've never found any reference in the Course to this third entity. The "I" who asked your question is a real Son of God, a part of the true Self we all share, who has fallen asleep and now falsely believes he is an ego with a particular body and personality, yet retains the memory of his true Identity.

To capture the Course's view of things, I like to use the analogy of amnesia and mistaken identity (an analogy the Course itself uses). Let's say you have a person named Joe who has forgotten who he is and now thinks he is Napoleon. He is still Joe and has always been Joe, but a part of his mind has detached its awareness from his true identity and convinced him that he is actually Napoleon. Yet deep within him, the memory that he is really Joe is still there. So, his loved ones are constantly reminding him of his true identity as Joe, in the hope that he will let go of his delusion that he is Napoleon and remember who he really is.

Let's think about this scenario for a moment. When Joe's loved ones remind him of his identity as Joe, whom are they addressing? They aren't addressing Napoleon, of course—Napoleon is just a figment of Joe's imagination. Are they, then, addressing a third entity that must decide between Napoleon and Joe? No, of course not. They are addressing Joe—the real Joe, who has deluded himself into thinking he's someone else but still remains who he is. And if their entreaties work, it is Joe himself who makes the decision to remember who he is.

According to the Course, all of us are caught up in a version of this same basic situation of amnesia and mistaken identity. In its view, you are the Christ, a member of the Sonship who has forgotten who he is and now thinks he is an individual ego with a particular body and personality (perhaps it is even named Joe). You are still the Christ, but part of your mind has detached its awareness from your true identity and convinced you that you are this particular person—the Course calls the ego "a part of your belief about yourself" (T-4.VI.1:6). Yet deep within you, the memory that you are really the Christ is still there. So, the Course is constantly reminding you of your true identity as the Christ, in the assurance that you will eventually let go of your ego delusion and remember who you really are.

Whom is the Course addressing as it does this? Not the ego, for "the ego is not you" (W-pI.25.2:2). Nor is the Course speaking to a third entity that must decide between ego and Christ. Instead, the Course is addressing you—a real Son of God who has deluded yourself into thinking you're an ego, but still remain the Christ God created. This real Son of God is whom the Course has in mind when it uses the term "you"; it tells us point blank countless times that "you are the Son of God" (W-pI.95.2:5). Now, there is one technical caveat I need to add to this: The Course depicts "Christ" as never sleeping, so strictly speaking, it is addressing not the fully awake Christ all of us are, but aspects of our true Self who mistakenly believe we have fallen asleep and become egos. (Paradoxically, the Course tells us that we have fallen asleep, but the sleep is not real.) But paradoxes aside, the point is that it is the real you who makes the decision to remember who you are.

This may sound like a technical issue with little practical import, but it actually has major ramifications for how we see ourselves and other people. A big problem with the "third entity" theory, besides the fact that the Course doesn't refer to it, is that it tends to put distance between us and our true Self, making it seem remote from life on earth. Viewing ourselves and others as merely illusory decision makers (or, in some versions of the theory, illusory projections of a single decision maker) makes it difficult to truly value ourselves, and hardly gives us an incentive to extend love as the Course wants us to do. Why bother extending to an illusion? But recognizing that, underneath the masks of our bodies and egos, each of us is a real Son of God enables us to recognize that we are beings of infinite value, and gives us all the incentive in the world to extend love. Those people we see around us are, in truth, not illusions but beloved brothers. Like the loved ones reminding the deluded amnesiac of who he really is, all of us are called to remind each other of who we really are—to help each other decide to give up the painful delusion that we're egos and awaken to the recognition that we are all the Christ, and always have been.

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.