A Course in Miracles Text Made Simple

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Chapter 31: The Final Vision

Section V. Self-Concept versus Self

Read A Course in Miracles, Chapter 31, Section V. (pages 656-660)

To the ego, what is the purpose of the world?

Jesus answers this when he tells us, “The building of a concept of the self is what the learning of the world is for. This is its purpose; that you come without a self, and make one as you go along. And by the time you reach ‘maturity’ you have perfected it, to meet the world on equal terms, at one with its demands.” (1:5-7 italics added)

This concept of a ‘self’ that we build is not what we are but serves the purpose of the ego thought system we have willingly joined with. It is like a child playing a game in a sandbox. The child pretends his identity is limited to one of the toys and makes up a story where the toy (body) he identifies as his ‘self’ interacts with the other toys (bodies) in the sand box.

What is ‘the face of innocence’?

The face of innocence is part of the mask or body/personality identity the self concept wears that is presented to the world. Jesus describes this face: “This is the face that smiles and charms and even seems to love. It searches for companions and it looks, at times with pity, on the suffering, and sometimes offers solace. It believes that it is good within an evil world.” (2:7-9)

Let us remember that this ‘face of innocence’ is simply part of the made up thought system that has the purpose of reinforcing the idea of a separate self for which it unconsciously feels guilty. This guilt is intolerable, so in this pretend sandbox world, the guilt now gets projected out onto the other toys (bodies) it sees in the sandbox. The other toys now become other ‘selves,’ which are inherently guilty.

Jesus describes how this little sandbox game in this world works: “This aspect [face of innocence] can grow angry, for the world is wicked and unable to provide the love and shelter innocence deserves. And so this face is often wet with tears at the injustices the world accords to those who would be generous and good. This aspect never makes the first attack. But every day a hundred little things make small assaults upon its innocence, provoking it to irritation, and at last to open insult and abuse.” (3:1-4)

It is very helpful to us to understand how the thought system works in this children’s game we are playing. It is helpful to see the thoughts for what they are when they show up in our minds. We can recognize these thoughts and, instead of taking them seriously, we can see them as just part of the sharp-edged children’s toys we have been ‘toying’ with. We can learn to lay down these toys [ideas based on separation] because we see that they are fleeting and do not bring us the lasting happiness we really want.

Why do we feel a need to wear this ‘face of innocence’?

If we want to hold on to this ‘children’s game’ of being a separate ‘self,’ we need to wear this face. Jesus tells us, “No one who makes a picture of himself omits this face, for he has need of it. The other side [of the face] he does not want to see. Yet it is here the learning of the world has set its sights, for it is here the world’s ‘reality’ is set, to see to it the idol lasts.(4:2-4 italics added)

What is the lesson that lies beneath the face of innocence?

In order to keep up the charade of having an individual ‘self,’ Jesus gives us the key to how this childish game is maintained: “The lesson teaches this: ‘I am the thing you made of me, and as you look on me, you stand condemned because of what I am.’ On this conception of the self the world smiles with approval, for it guarantees the pathways of the world are safely kept, and those who walk on them will not escape.” (5:3-4)

“Here is the central lesson that ensures your brother is condemned eternally. For what you are has now become his sin. For this is no forgiveness possible. No longer does it matter what he does, for your accusing finger points to him, unwavering and deadly in its aim. [This accusing finger] points to you as well, but this is kept still deeper in the mists below the face of innocence. And in these shrouded vaults are all his sins and yours preserved and kept in darkness, where they cannot be perceived as errors, which the light would surely show.” (6:1-6)

It is helpful to see the core elements of the ego’s thought system that are hidden within its folds. It is helpful to recognize the projection of guilt when it is showing up in our minds. Once we see that the guilt is not really out there in another person but is just an ego impulse to look for and find fault outside us, we are more inclined to let it go or forgive it instead of continuing to play this projection game of searching for guilt and finding fault with those around us. We see that this is how the ego keeps us in hell instead of finding the happiness and freedom the Holy Spirit brings to our mind.

Why is it so important to play the perfect victim in this sandbox story?

Jesus explains the central motive behind the world’s consistent stories of victimhood. The ego’s defense says that if you identify with being the perfect victim, “You can be neither blamed for what you are, nor can you change the things it makes you do. Your brother then is symbol of your sins to you who are but silently, and yet with ceaseless urgency, condemning still your brother for the hated thing you are.” (6:7-8) This line of thinking ensures that our brother will be eternally guilty and the ego can continue on in safety. When we are buying into this insane thinking, we do not realize that it is keeping us in prison.

What do we do with these concepts that maintain the world?

The Holy Spirit wants us to recognize that these concepts are false and that we can let them go. He tells us, “Concepts are learned. They are not natural. Apart from learning they do not exist. They are not given, so they must be made. Not one of them is true, and many come from feverish imaginations, hot with hatred and distortions born of fear. …[These concepts] are ideas of idols, painted with the brushes of the world, which cannot make a single picture representing truth.” (7:1-5, 10)

We free ourselves when we learn that these concepts are meaningless. “Now must the Holy Spirit find a way to help you see this concept of the self must be undone, if any peace of mind is to be given you. Nor can it be unlearned except by lessons aimed to teach that you are something else. For otherwise, you would be asked to make exchange of what you now believe for total loss of self, and greater terror would arise in you.” (8:3-5)

How does the Holy Spirit deal with our fear of loss?

The Holy Spirit works with us where we are and gently builds a bridge that carries us to the truth. In paragraph 12 we see how the ways we look at the world could be changed from thinking that we are the victim of the world: “There are alternatives about the thing that you must be. You might, for instance, be the thing you chose to have your brother be. …There is some understanding that you chose for both of you, and what he represents has meaning that was given it by you. It also shows some glimmering of sight into perception’s law, that what you see reflects the state of the perceiver’s mind.” (12:1-2, 4-5)

It is helpful to take these steps in releasing the concepts of the world, but we must go beyond realizing that we are the decision maker of our experience. If we stay in this place we will just blame ourselves for what we think our brother is. We must go beyond all concepts if we are to find peace. To this the Holy Spirit brings us to the next step: “Seek not your Self in symbols. There can be no concept that can stand for what you are. (15:1-2)

What is the final stage of our letting go of the learning of the world?

In the final stage we understand that when we no longer want the images of separation, they will no longer be there to see. Jesus tells us, “There will come a time when images have all gone by, and you will see you know not what you are. It is to this unsealed and open mind that truth returns, unhindered and unbound. Where concepts of the self have been laid by is truth revealed exactly as it is. When every concept has been raised to doubt and question, and been recognized as made on no assumptions that would stand the light, then is the truth left free to enter in its sanctuary, clean and free of guilt.” (17:2-5)

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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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