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Chapter 11: God or the Ego

Section V: The “Dynamics” of the Ego

Read ACIM Chapter 11, Section V (pages 202-207)

Does a delusion have any real power of its own?

One of the central teachings of the Course is that the entire ego thought system is a delusion. A delusion cannot be real and what is not real has no power and cannot have effects. The body and the entire physical universe is simply an effect of the ego’s delusional thought system. Learning and accepting the truth of this is the release from the hell we have made in our minds.

What is the ego’s intent?

In this section Jesus wants us to see clearly the ego’s intent. “The ego’s goal is quite explicitly ego autonomy. From the beginning, then, its purpose is to be separate, sufficient unto itself and independent of any power except its own. This is why it is the symbol of separation.” (4:4-6)

How do the ego’s illusions disappear?

Because we made the ego and believe in it, its effects do seem real. It does seem to have power. But we need to look at these effects with the Holy Spirit with an open mind. We must be willing to be taught that these “effects” are actually coming from our own mind and the world we see as ‘outside us’ is unreal. As long as we are unwilling to question our beliefs, we protect illusions by maintaining our belief in them. These illusions stand in the way of knowing our oneness with all Creation. Illusions disappear the moment we withdraw belief in them. “What is healing but the removal of all that stands in the way of knowledge? And how else can one dispel illusions except by looking at them directly, without protecting them?” (2:1-2)

Are we rebelling against God when we believe in separation?

Teenage rebellion against authority is an acting out of the ego’s rebellion against the Father. It is an attempt to establish independence and autonomy, to break free from the control of the parent. The ego views God as controlling because the ego itself is the idea of trying to control its separate identity. So we may think that rebellion is limited to teenagers when it is actually something we are all doing when we believe in the reality of a world of separation.

This world is an attempt to make independence from God real. We think this independence will bring us happiness because we think it gives us control and the ability to make a world to our liking. Yet we ignore or hide from the fact that to have this independence we must deny Love and therefore feel that we are without Love. Being a place where Love is denied, this world is a fearful place because it is an attempt to be the opposite of God’s universal Love. It is alien to our true Nature. Because the ego is delusionary, it cannot truly will anything. It is merely the ineffectual wish to be contrary to God. “The real conflict you experience, then, is between the ego’s idle wishes and the Will of God, which you share.” (5:5)

The ego places high value on independence because its ‘existence’ depends on it. Yet because the ego is the idea of separation, it is the idea of limitation. Can limitation truly be independence? God is limitless and eternal. When we accept our dependence on God, we accept His limitlessness and changelessness. We are free to be the Love we were created to be. We are free to be our natural Self.

Why is believing in this world of separation the same as aligning ourselves with fear?

When we align ourselves with the ego we are aligning ourselves with fear because we believe we have successfully attacked Love’s oneness and thus believe attack has power. This fear is kept largely unconscious by ego mechanisms of denial and projection because otherwise we would not maintain our allegiance to fear. To maintain our allegiance to fear, we must deny Love because fear is the absence of Love. We are thus denying our Self because our Self is Love. “Your recognition that whatever seems to separate you from God is only fear, regardless of the form it takes and quite apart from how the ego wants you to experience it, is therefore the basic ego threat. Its dream of autonomy is shaken to its foundation by this awareness.” (10:1-2)

When we identify with the ego we are believing we are a unique, separate, independent identity. Because we believe our identity is different from other “identities,” we believe that our identity is always subject to threat from others. Yet this threat is a mask for the real perceived threat to our separate identity. This threat is the recognition of our true Identity, our one Self. For the recognition of our true Identity can only come with the release of our attachment to individuality and thus the end of our separate, unique identity. Because we believe we are this separate identity, this end is interpreted as death. “Very simply, then, you have become afraid of yourself. And no one wants to find what he believes would destroy him.” (10:7-8)

The dictionary defines autonomy as self-governing or self-determining. God has determined that His Son is part of Him and there is nothing that can change His determination. Since we (God’s Son) were created to be one with God, our true self-determination is to be in God and one with Him. We could never truly establish a separate autonomy, independent from God. God’s Autonomy is inviolate because He is all that is real. “...His Autonomy encompasses yours, and is therefore incomplete without it. You can only establish your autonomy by identifying with Him, and fulfilling your function as it exists in truth.” (12:1-2) We establish our autonomy from the limitations of the ego by accepting the Will we share with God.

What is the core of the ego’s thought system?

In paragraphs 13-16 Jesus very carefully explains that the core of the ego thought system is the belief in separation. It uses separation in its interpretation of everything. “The ego believes that power, understanding and truth lie in separation, and to establish this belief it must attack. Unaware that the belief cannot be established, and obsessed with the conviction that separation is salvation, the ego attacks everything it perceives by breaking it into small, disconnected parts, without meaningful relationships and therefore without meaning.” (13:4-5)

Think about this world we perceive. Everything is seen as separated into disconnected units. We only see this world of disconnected units when we have joined with the ego’s thought system and believe separation is real. This belief is the exact opposite of the truth. Because separation could never be real, to maintain its thought system, the ego must focus on error and ignore the truth. Thus to the ego, error becomes real and truth becomes error.

In understanding the dynamics of the ego, it is very helpful to understand that the ego “...makes real every mistake it perceives, and ...concludes that because of the mistake, consistent truth must be meaningless. The next step, then, is obvious. If consistent truth is meaningless, inconsistency must be true. Holding error clearly in mind, and protecting what it has made real, the ego proceeds to the next step in its thought system: Error is real and truth is error.” (14:3-6)

Jesus’ explanation of how the ego works makes it easier for us to recognize when we are joining with the ego’s thought system. To awaken from the dream we must learn to watch for how the ego thought system shows up in our minds. When are we perceiving mistakes and holding error in our minds and making them real? When we think that error is real, we are also saying that truth is error.

An example of this is when we focus on a brother’s mistake and think that the mistake is real. The truth about him is that he is not a separate person. He is formless, perfect Love, just as God created him. The error is illusion stemming from the ego’s thought system. Making mistakes in a world of separation is not real. With the Holy Spirit’s help we learn that the whole world is mistaken perception. The world is not real and the only thing that is real is the totality of God’s universal Love.

Do we want to see the ego’s witnesses or do we want to remember our Father?

The appeal of the ego’s selective perception can be very strong as long as we want individuality, independence and specialness. We return to the Father through seeing the truth in His Son. “Would you remember the Father? Accept His Son and you will remember Him. Nothing can demonstrate that His Son is unworthy for nothing can prove that a lie is true.” (17:1-3) Remembering this helps us when we are tempted to condemn a brother for his insane behavior. When we perceive a brother as a body, we are using selective perception. We are choosing to see form and deny the formless perfect Love that he truly is. We judge our brother based on what the body appears to do while ignoring the Love that his true Self is eternally extending.

We see our brother as a body because we want to maintain the illusion that we are a body. We want this because the body seems to confirm our uniqueness and keep our thoughts private, giving us something we can call our own. “Everything you perceive is a witness to the thought system you want to be true.” (18:3)

But we can make another choice. If we choose to be free and not limited to a body, we will see our brother as not limited to a body. Then he will be a demonstration of our freedom. “Every brother has the power to release you, if you choose to be free.” (18:4) If we truly want to remember our Father, we will accept His Son as he truly is and not as the ego would make of him. In our identification with the ego, we have been vigilant for the ego’s witnesses. It is time to be vigilant for the Holy Spirit’s thought system, which always shows us the truth in our brother. Thus will we remember our Father.

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Reference Keys for
A Course in Miracles Quotes

How to Read References for Quotes from A Course in Miracles

Below are example references to specific sentences using the notation of the Second & Third Editions of A Course in Miracles published by the Foundation for Inner Peace:

T-26.IV.4:7 = Text, Chapt. 26, Section IV, paragraph 4, sentence 7.

W-pI.169.5:2 = Workbook, Part I, Lesson 169, paragraph 5, sentence 2.

M-13.3:2 = Manual for Teachers, Question 13, paragraph 3, sentence 2.

C-6.4:6 = Clarification of Terms, Term 6, paragraph 4, sentence 6

The above numbering system of the Second & Third Editions is © Copyright 1992, The Foundation for A Course in Miracles.

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