"Creation's gentleness is all I see."
This lesson so clearly states how the world comes to be, apparently, attacking us.
"I have indeed misunderstood the world, because I laid my sins on it and saw them looking back at me. How fierce they seemed! And how deceived I was to think that what I feared was in the world, instead of in my mind alone" (1:1-3).
I feel guilt over some aspect of myself. I project that guilt outward and I "lay my sins on the world" and then "see them looking back at me." "Projection makes perception." There is more than one place where the Course says quite clearly that we never see anyone's sins but our own. The world I see is the outward reflection of an inward condition. The Song Of Prayer says:
"It is impossible to forgive another, for it is only your own sins you see in him. You want to see them there, and not in you. That is why the forgiveness of another is an illusion....Only in someone else can you forgive yourself, for you have called him guilty of your sins, and in him must your innocence now be found. Who but the sinful need to be forgiven? And do not ever think you can see sin in anyone except yourself" (S-2.I.4:2-8).
"Do not ever think you can see sin in anyone except yourself." Wow! What a powerful statement. "It is only your own sins you see in him." A lot of people, including myself, have some trouble with this concept. I really think our egos fight this, and use every possible way of refusing to accept it.
A common reaction to statements like this in the Course is, "No way! I never beat my wife. I never murdered or raped or betrayed the way he did." Where I think we go off is in looking at particular actions and saying, "They do that. I don't." and thinking we've proved that the sin we see isn't our own.
The action is not the sin. The guilt is. The principle is much broader than specific actions. The principle of attack is this: "It is the judgement of one mind by another as unworthy of love and deserving of punishment." (T-13.IN.1:2) The action for which we are judging isn't relevant; we are seeing another person as "unworthy of love and deserving of punishment" because we see ourselves that way first. We feel our own unworthiness, dislike the feeling, and project it on to others. We find particular actions to associate the unworthiness with that we don't perceive as being in ourselves (although sometimes they are in us, just suppressed or buried); that's exactly how we try to get rid of the guilt!
Projection and dissociation go on within our own psyche as well as externally. When I condemn myself for, say, overeating, and think I feel guilty because I overate, I am doing the same thing as when I condemn a brother for lying or whatever. I am putting the guilt outside of myself in one case; in the other case, I am putting the guilt onto a shadow part of myself which I then disown. "I don't know why I do that; I know better."
When I feel guilty, I am actually disowning a part of my own mind. There is some part of me that feels a need to overeat, or to be angry at my mother, or to sabotage my career, or to abuse my body with some drug. I do these things because I am guilty and think I need punishment. The original guilt comes not from any of these petty things, but from my deep belief that I have really succeeded in separating myself from God. I have actually succeeded at making myself other than a creation of God. I am my own creator. And since God is good, I must be evil. Deep down we think the evil is in us, that we are the evil. We can't stand that idea, and so we push away some part of our mind and our behavior and lay the guilt at its feet.
It is exactly the same mechanism at work when I see sin in a brother. But from the ego's perspective seeing guilt in someone else is much more attractive and does a better job of concealing the guilt it wants us to keep; it puts the guilt completely away from myself. In reality, my brother is a part of my mind just as much as the shadow self is a part of my mind. The whole world is in my mind; my mind is all there is.
"How deceived I was to think that what I feared was in the world, instead of in my mind alone" (1:3).
"He [one who identifies with the ego] always perceives this world as outside himself, for this is crucial to his adjustment. He does not realize that he makes this world, for there is no world outside of him" (T-12.III.6:7).
"Take off the covers and look at what you are afraid of" (T-12.II.5:2).
We need to look at what we are afraid of until we realize that all of it is in our own mind. When at last we recognize the truth of that, we will be in a place where we can do something about it. Until then, we are helpless victims.
We see sin in others because we think we have a need to see sin in others, to avoid seeing it in ourselves. We believe in the principle that some people are unworthy of love and deserving of punishment. Deep down we know that we are one of the condemned, but the ego tells us that if we can see the guilt out there in others, see them as worse than ourselves, we may escape judgment. So we project the guilt.
What this Workbook lesson is saying is that if we lift the blot of our own guilt off the world, we will see its "celestial gentleness" (1:4). If I can remember that my thoughts and God's thoughts are the same, I will see no sin in the world, because I am not seeing it in myself.
The world around us therefore offers us countless opportunities to forgive ourselves. "Only in someone else can you forgive yourself, for you have called him guilty of your sins, and in him must your innocence now be found" (S-2.I.4:6). When someone appears in our life as a sinner, we have a chance to forgive ourselves in him. We have a chance to let go, a bit more deeply, of the fixed perception that what this person did makes him guilty of sin. We have a chance to look past his harmful actions to see the underlying innocence. We lay aside our conditioned judgment and allow the Holy Spirit to show us something different.
It seems as if we are working with forgiving another person. In reality we are always forgiving ourselves. When we find the innocence in that other person, suddenly we know our own innocence more deeply. When we see what they did as a call for love, we can more easily see our own misbehavior as likewise a call for love. We discover a common innocence, a radical innocence. It is absolute innocence, totally unchanged since the instant God created us.
Copyright © 1996, The Circle of Atonement, Sedona,
All rights reserved.