Study Guide and Commentary
ACIM® Text, Chapter 19, Section IV(B).i.9–18
The Obstacles to Peace
The Attraction of Pain
Sans serif text = Material from ACIM 3rd edition (FIP)
Italic sans serif text = words emphasized in all caps in Urtext
Bold sans serif text = alternate or omitted material from the Urtext
Typewriter text = editorial comments
strikethrough sans serif text = Not in Urtext, in FIP edition
Overview So Far
When a holy relationship begins, peace enters, uprooting the belief in sin and replacing it. That peace is now seeking to rise up in the relationship partners, fill every aspect of their lives, and spill out into the world. Peace is working from within them, trying to get out. To do so, it must flow over these obstacles. The first is the desire to get rid of peace, which is fueled by the attraction to sin and guilt.
The second obstacle is the belief that the body is valuable for what it offers. There is a symbiotic relationship between the first two obstacles. The attraction to guilt and the desire to get rid of peace hide the second obstacle, this addiction to the bodily identity, from our consciousness. At the same time, that bodily addiction is the foundation and generating source of the first obstacle. Our egos resist peace because they recognize that to have peace, we must relinquish our belief in the value of the body.
Overview of This Section
This sub-subsection takes us one step deeper in the layers of ego obstacles: Just as the result of sin is guilt, the result of guilt is pain—the pain of punishment for our apparent sin. Underneath the search for bodily pleasure, the ego is really seeking bodily pain, which reinforces our belief in sin and guilt, feeding our fear even more. This is “the attraction of pain.”
9. 1Your little part is but to give the Holy Spirit the whole idea of sacrifice. 2And to accept the peace He gives [gave] instead, without the limits that would hold its extension back, and so would limit your awareness of it. 3For what He gives must be extended if you would have its limitless power, and use it for the Son of God’s release. 4It is not this you would be rid of, and having it you cannot limit it. 5If peace is homeless, so are you and so am I. 6And He Who is our home is homeless with us. 7Is this your wish [will]? 8Would you forever be a wanderer in search of peace? 9Would you invest your hope of peace and happiness in what must fail?
• Study Question •
1. Based on the previous discussion (in this obstacle and the previous one) what does giving the idea of sacrifice to the Holy Spirit mean?
A. You give Him your belief that you purchase Heaven through the sacrifice of bodily pleasure.
B. You give Him your belief that Heaven is purchased for you by Jesus' sacrifice on your behalf.
C. You give Him your erroneous belief that all that must be sacrificed is pain.
D. You give Him the sacrifices that He asks for, in the trust that they will be of manageable size.
E. A and B
F. A and C
At this point, the Holy Spirit is asking us to give Him “the whole idea of sacrifice” (9:1). This raises several questions in my mind as I read:
(1) What does it mean by “the whole idea of sacrifice”?
(2) Why the emphasis on the word “idea”? And
(3) What does it mean to give this to the Holy Spirit? So let’s try to answer those questions.
Question #1: The phrase, “the whole idea of sacrifice,” must be a reference to the remarks about sacrifice that have been made earlier in Section IV. In 19.IV(B).2, the “sacrifice” we believe God is calling us to make is the seeking fulfillment through bodily pleasure. Before that, in 19.IV(A).17, Jesus refuted the idea that his body could be a sacrifice that atoned for our sins. The phrase here includes both of these.
Question #2: The word “idea” is emphasized because Jesus wants to include every shade of meaning of sacrifice, especially both the mistaken idea that God demanded a sacrifice of his body for sins, and the idea that we are called to sacrifice bodily pleasure to find inner peace.
Question #3: What does it mean, then, to give this idea to the Holy Spirit? Note that we are giving the Holy Spirit an idea, not anything material. I believe it simply means that we stop believing that Jesus sacrificed himself for us, or that we are called to sacrifice in any way. In essence, Jesus is asking us to stop thinking in terms of sacrifice. There is no sacrifice at all involved, on Jesus’ part, or on ours.
Let go of the whole idea of sacrifice and, instead, “accept the peace He gave” in its place. In the words of Michael Stillwater’s chorus, “I open my mind to peace.” Note again the subtle change of tense: not “the peace He gives” but “the peace He gave” (9:2). It isn’t a peace waiting to be given, but a gift you have already received. All it waits for is your acceptance.
The idea of sacrifice limits your acceptance of peace. How can you be fully at peace if you are anticipating some kind of loss? So, as long as you cling to the idea of sacrifice, you cannot be fully aware of the peace that has already been planted in your heart. You still think that extending peace to some people will cause you loss, so you hesitate to use the power of the peace you possess. If you don’t extend it, you don’t know you have it (9:3).
In the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, just prior to leaving them, Jesus asks his disciples to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God:
…the Son of Humanity already exists within you. Follow him, for those who seek him there will find him. Go forth, now, and proclaim the Good News concerning the Kingdom.1
But his disciples, after he leaves, say to one another:
How are we to go into the rest of the world proclaiming the Good News about the Son of Humanity’s Realm? If they did not spare him, how will they ever leave us alone?2
We can see here how the belief that Jesus “sacrificed” himself for us can keep us from extending peace to the world. If he had to suffer like that, what’s going to happen to me?
Peace is not what you want to get “rid of,” nor can you really limit its extension (at least not forever) (9:4). To get rid of peace is like evicting it from our minds and making it homeless—a ridiculous notion, of course, but it’s what we try to do. And in that attempt we are trying to put a core part of our own being out on the streets. We are trying to make ourselves homeless (again, ridiculous idea), and if we could actually do so, we would be making Jesus and God homeless as well, because They are one with us (9:5–6). It’s an impossiblity, which is why he says we ”cannot limit it” (peace), and why the attempt “must fail” (9:9).
Look at it objectively. Is this really your will—to be without peace, to destroy the peace of Heaven? Do you really want to wander forever “in search of peace” (9:7–8)? Of course not! So then, stop putting your hope for peace in your body, stop thinking you have to sacrifice something, and accept the peace God has given.
10. 1Faith in the eternal is always justified, for the eternal is forever kind, infinite in its patience and wholly loving. 2It will accept you wholly, and give you peace. 3Yet it can unite only with what already is at peace in you, immortal as itself. 4The body can bring you neither peace nor turmoil; neither joy nor pain [not pain nor joy]. 5It is a means, and not an end. 6It has no purpose of itself, but only what is given to it [ it to do]. 7The body will seem to be whatever is the means for reaching the goal that you assign to it. 8Only the mind can set a purpose, and only the mind can see the means for its accomplishment, and justify its use. 9Peace and guilt are both conditions of the mind, to be attained. 10And these conditions are the home of the emotion that calls [called] them forth, and therefore is compatible with them [it].
• Study Question •
2. The eternal can join only with that part of you that is at peace like itself. Based on this, what can the eternal not join with?
A. The mind.
B. The body.
C. The emotions.
You will recall that the Course spoke of “the eternal” in the previous sub-section, 19.IV(B). To review what was said there:
Peace is extended from you only to the eternal, and it reaches out from the eternal in you (T-19.IV(B).4:1).
We said then that “the eternal” refers to our spirit, our true Self, which, as a creation of God, is eternal, as are all of God’s creations. It is the eternal in us that reaches out to the eternal in others. But later in that section, what “reaches out” from us is characterized in several different ways: truth; love; the union of the Father and the Son; the Holy Spirit. All of these are aspects of what the Course means by “the eternal.” It appears to refer to all that is real, all that is of God and in God.
Faith in this, Jesus says, “is always justified (10:1). This is by contrast with the body, which, despite our faith in it, has never paid off and must eventually fail (9:9). The eternal is kind, patient, and loving—infinitely, endlessly so (10:1). This is where we must turn, where we are meant to turn, the only place worthy of us:
No one created by God can find joy in anything except the eternal; not because he is deprived of anything else, but because nothing else is worthy of him. What God and His Sons create is eternal, and in this and this only is their joy (T-8.VI.3:2-3).
Our faith in one another must be faith in the eternal in one another. We are to have no faith in what the ego makes, and only in what God created. As we turn to the eternal in ourselves and in one another, we experience total acceptance and total peace (10:2). The eternal, I think, is simply another name for God. The Hebrew name of God, Yhwh , which the KJV translates as LORD, is translated by the French Bible (Louis Segond) as L’Éternel, the Eternal. So I’ll capitalize the word where I think it refers to that larger whole that we think of as God.
The Eternal calls to the eternal in us. That which is of God in us is all that can respond to and unite with the Eternal. Love calls to love: "Accept your Father's gift. It is a call from Love to Love, that It be but Itself" (W-pI.pII.7.5:1-2). Our love calls, and Love hears only that.
This, as I said, is contrasted with the body, which cannot bring “peace nor turmoil; not pain nor joy” (10:4). Of itself it can do nothing; it is a means (used by the mind), not an end (10:5).3 Its only purpose is the one given to it by our mind (10:6–8). We assign a goal to it, and the body becomes the means for reaching that goal (10:7). Are we seeking to achieve peace, or are we seeking to find guilt? Either one can be the goal our minds are seeking, and the body adapts to the chosen purpose (10:9). Peace arises from love, and is compatible with it; guilt arises from fear, and is compatible with it. Love and fear are the two emotions that call forth the conditions of the mind that we seek (10:9–10). The body is simply the neutral means, or tool, used by the mind to seek a goal dictated by the emotion that is driving it.
11. 1But think you which it is [fear or love] that is compatible with you. 2Here is your choice, and it is free. 3But all that lies in it will come with it, and what you think you are can never be apart from it. 4The body is the great seeming betrayer of faith. 5In it lies disillusionment and the seeds of faithlessness, but only if you ask [asked] of it what it cannot give. 6Can your [this] mistake be reasonable grounds for depression and disillusionment, and for retaliative attack on what you think has failed you? 7Use not your error as the justification for your faithlessness. 8You have not sinned, but you have been mistaken in what is faithful. 9And the correction of your mistake will give you grounds for faith.
• Study Question •
3. Sentence 6 says, "Can your mistake be reasonable grounds for...retaliative attack on what you think has failed you?" What does this mean?
A. When you are unhappy you attack your holy relationship partner, whom you think has failed you.
B. When you are unhappy you attack God, Whom you think has failed you.
C. When you are unhappy you attack your body with sickness, pain and death, since you think it has failed you.
Which emotion is “compatible with you”, love or fear (11:1)?4 You can choose between the two emotions in complete freedom; nothing is coerced (11:2). But the choice has far-reaching consequences. The choice for love recognizes our eternal nature and brings peace; the choice for fear identifies us with the body and brings guilt, pain, and death. “...all that lies in it will come with it, and what you think you are can never be apart from it” (11:3). You choice between the emotions determines your self-image, your concept of your self. Listen to love and your concept of yourself is immortal, expansive, open, beneficent. Listen to fear and your concept of yourself is physical, contracted, closed, and condemning.
Our bodies, if we trust in them to save us and make us happy, end up seeming to betray our faith in them, leaving us deeply disillusioned, but that’s only because we are asking them to do something they cannot do, to give what they cannot give (11:4–5). It’s not the body’s fault, it’s ours. It’s like asking a four-year-old boy to cook dinner for us and then being angry when the food gets burned, undercooked, or worse. It’s beyond his capabilities. It would be terribly unjust to whip the boy for his "failure," but that's what we do to our bodies! It's our mind’s mistake when we become disillusioned with the body's inability to bring us lasting peace and happiness, but we take out our anger on the body, which is entirely unjust (11:6). We "retaliate" against the body by making it sick.
Sickness is anger taken out upon the body, so that it will suffer pain. (T-28.VI. 5:1)
None of this is a sin: “You have not sinned” (11:8). We’ve just made a mistake. We put our faith in the body, asking it to make us happy, and then believed it had not kept faith with us by doing what we asked of it. We put our faith in the wrong thing, and all we need to do is correct that mistake, putting our faith in the eternal instead of the temporal. That faith will pay off; the Eternal will “give you grounds for faith” (11:9).
12. 1It is impossible to seek for pleasure through the body and not find pain. 2It is essential that this relationship be understood, for it is one the ego sees as proof of sin. 3It is not really punitive at all. 4It is but the inevitable result of equating yourself with the body, which is the invitation to pain. 5For it invites fear to enter and become your purpose. 6The attraction of guilt must enter with it, and whatever fear directs the body to do is therefore painful. 7It will share the pain of all illusions, and the illusion of pleasure will be the same as pain.
• Study Question •
4. According to this paragraph, how are we tempted to interpret the pain that results from seeking physical pleasure?
A. As pleasurable.
B. As evidence that we are being punished for our sins.
C. As proof that we have sinned
D. As justification for faith in the body.
E. A and C.
F. B and C.
When we seek for pleasure through the body we will find pain, because pleasure-seeking equates us with the body, invites fear to become our goal, brings in the attraction of guilt to serve this goal, and so the body's pursuits are really governed by the attraction of guilt.
The teaching of this opening line (12:1) is probably distressing to most of us. Its meaning is crystal clear: “It is impossible to seek for pleasure through the body and not find pain” (12:1). But it is distressing because we don’t want to believe it. Then Jesus rubs salt in the wound: “It is essential that this relationship be understood” (12:2). In other words, we can’t just skip over this or ignore it; we have to understand it. We may ask, “Surely not all seeking for pleasure through the body brings pain?” But “impossible” makes it quite clear that he means all” of it.
How often, though, have you heard someone say, perhaps with humorous intention, “Why is it that everything I like is bad for me?” Phrases like, “Sinfully delicious,” “Decadent desserts,” and “guilty pleasures,” all point to a realization that our pleasure-seeking usually (the Course would say “always”) has an unpleasant cost. I certainly don’t want to give up all bodily pleasure cold turkey, like an ascetic monk. If the Course were being legalistic about this, I’d probably have to stop studying it! But it’s clear that some kind of adjustment in our attitudes toward, and use of, our bodies is being called for.
The common examples I gave above are just the things we are conscious of; the implication of the Course’s teaching is that our search for bodily pleasure always delivers pain in the end. I believe that the pain it is talking about is not necessarily the direct result of the bodily indulgence. I think the worst pain is indirect. This becomes clearer in the remainder of the paragraph.
First, there is the latter half of sentence 2, which says that understanding the relationship between seeking pleasure and finding pain is essential because “it is one the ego sees as proof of sin” (12:2). We can understand that, I think. He is talking here about the pain of guilt.There is a lot of guilt that comes to us because we have sought some illicit or unhealthy or unwise physical pleasure. Our egos pounce on these misadventures, pronounce them to be sin, and belabor us with guilt.
One thing we need to be clear about: The pain that results from pleasure-seeking “is not really punitive at all” (12:3). It’s not a punishment from God! “You have not sinned, but you have been mistaken” (11:8). When we seek pleasure through the body, we are equating ourselves with the body, and the “inevitable result” is pain (12:4). Ernest Holmes, the founder of Religious Science, said it well when he wrote, “There is no sin but a mistake, and no punishment but an inevitable consequence.”5
Why is pain the inevitable result of equating ourselves with the body? “For it invites fear to enter and become your purpose” (12:5). If we are bodies, we are vulnerable. We are fragile. We are in constant danger. We are going to die. Fear enters and it drives our lives, directing the body to do things that leads to even more pain (12:6). We are attracted to the perception of guilt in others, and unconsciously are moved to see guilt in ourselves. We are dedicated to illusions, and inevitably become disillusioned, enduring the pain of that disappointment (12:7). Even the things that we experience as pleasure fail to make us happy, lead to guilt, and fail to last.
In a nutshell, being a body sucks.
13. 1Is not this inevitable? 2Under fear’s orders the body will pursue guilt, serving its master whose attraction to guilt maintains the whole illusion of its existence. 3This, then, is the attraction of pain. 4Ruled by this perception the body becomes the servant of pain, seeking it dutifully and obeying the idea that pain is pleasure. 5It is this idea [pain is pleasure] that underlies all of the ego’s heavy investment in the body. 6And it is this insane relationship that it keeps hidden, and yet feeds upon. 7To you it teaches that the body’s pleasure is happiness. 8Yet to itself it whispers, “It is death.”
• Study Question •
5. What form does our pursuit of pain, guilt and fear take (based on this obstacle and the previous one)?
A. The pursuit of physical pleasure.
B. The way our eyes search for evidence of sin, guilt and bodies in the world.
C. Masochism, which though uncommon is still the focus of this passage.
D. Study of the Course, which seems at times like masochism.
E. A and B
The discussion about the relationship of pain and pleasure continues.
“Isn’t this relationship of pursuit of bodily pleasure to guilt, fear, pain and death inevitable?” (13:1) If we are identified with the body, we will experience fear. Fear will demand that we use the body to pursue guilt, because fear (a.k.a the ego) needs guilt to maintain the illusion of its existence (13:2). That leads us with equal inevitability to pain. “This, then, is the attraction of pain” (13:3). It’s not just guilt the ego is attracted to; beyond that, our egos are attracted to pain. Yikes! we are all masochists.
So, with this depraved mentality of the ego driving it, our body “becomes the servant of pain, seeking it dutifully and obeying the idea that pain is pleasure” (13:4). The ego, it seems, actually likes pain, and because the body is such a great source of pain, the ego is heavily invested in it (13:5). In our conscious minds, of course, we don’t like pain. The ego is insane, but we’re not. Therefore, while feeding on the guilt and pain, the ego has to hide its motivation from our conscious awareness (13:6). So our egos teach us that the pursuit of pleasure is the pursuit of happiness, while secretly whispering to itself, “It is [the pursuit of] death” (13:7–8). Death is where it wants to lead us.6
Paragraph 13 presents an interesting process behind the body's seeking, which goes something like this: Fear orders the body to pursue guilt, which results in physical pain. Thus, we are really attracted to physical pain and it--pain--is why we are so invested in the body. We think we value the body for the pleasure it brings, but our egos secretly value the body for the pain it brings, ending in death.
14. 1Why should the body be anything to you? 2Certainly what it is made of is not precious. 3And just as certainly it has no feeling. 4It transmits to you the feelings that you want. 5Like any communication medium the body receives and sends the messages that it is given. 6It has no feeling for them. 7All of the feeling with which they are invested is given by the sender and the receiver. 8The ego and the Holy Spirit both recognize this, and both also recognize that here the sender and receiver are the same. 9The Holy Spirit tells you this with joy. 10The ego hides it, for it would keep you unaware of it. 11Who would send messages of hatred and attack if he but understood he sends them to himself? 12Who would accuse, make guilty and condemn himself?
• Study Question •
6. According to this paragraph, when you feel physical pain, what has happened?
A. You have attacked another, and through that have sent a message of pain to yourself, using the body to deliver that message.
B. The world has sent you a message, which you have mistakenly allowed to be transmitted to you by your body.
C. You have identified with an illusion, which is painful.
The chemicals in the human body, it has been said, are worth about one dollar, although if you tanned the skin you might be able to sell it for $3.50.7 So when the Course says “what it is made of is not precious” (14:2), it is quite correct. From that perspective, why should we care about it (14:1).
The next assertion is a bit harder to swallow: That the body delivers only the feelings that we want (14:3–4). Everything in our experience screams that the body creates certain feelings and feeds them to the mind. The Course is asserting that our mind selects the feelings and evokes them from the body, which functions as nothing more than a “communication medium,” receiving messages from our mind and sending back the messages it has been instructed to send (14:5).
The body itself “has no feeling” for the messages (14:6). That means, to me, that any feeling attached to the messages comes from our mind and not from the body. Remember here that all the five senses are a part of the body, so this applies to everything your eyes see, your ears hear, and your touch feels. You see something and you have an emotional reaction, a feeling. Does that come from outside through your body? Or does the emotional reaction come from your mind? Are you seeing something objectively, or are you seeing it and feeling what you feel because you asked for that feeling? It isn’t the body’s fault.
It’s important at this point to get that the Course is not negative about the body. It strives to make clear that the body is not the culprit, but the mind. The body is neutral. There is an extended passage in Chapter 23 that really drive this home, and I recommend reading it now: T-28.VI.1:1–4:2.
All of the feeling (emotion) in the messages comes from the sender and receiver. Both the ego and the Holy Spirit know that this is true, and that the mind is both sender and receiver (14:7–8). Note the italics in sentences 9 and 10: the Holy Spirit “tells” us this, but the ego “hides” it from us. The Holy Spirit wants us to know how perception really works. The mind sends out feelers, asking for a certain type of response: love, or fear. The body accommodates with sensations that match the request, and sends back the same message it received. But the ego wants to hide the fact that the feelings originate in the mind. The ego wants us to believe that the external, physical world causes the emotions we feel.
Why does the ego hide this? The final two sentences make it abundantly clear:
Who would send messages of hatred and attack if he but understood he sends them to himself? Who would accuse, make guilty and condemn himself? (14:11–12)
Clearly, if we grasped the truth of the situation, we would stop asking for messages of hatred and attack. We would stop accusing one another, making one another guilty, and condemning one another, because we would realize that we are doing it to ourselves.
15. 1The ego’s messages are always sent away from you, in the belief that for your message of attack and guilt will someone other than yourself suffer. 2And even if you suffer, yet someone else will suffer more. 3The great deceiver recognizes that this is not so, but as the “enemy” of peace, it urges you to send out all your messages of hate and free yourself. 4And to convince you this is possible, it bids the body search for pain in attack upon another, calling it pleasure and offering it to you as freedom from attack.
• Study Question •
7. This paragraph sketches a process whereby the ego tricks us into attacking our bodies with pain. According to this paragraph, what is the real, deep-down, underlying reason that you project your guilt onto someone else?
A. You want to get rid of your guilt, and do not realize that you cannot get rid of it in this way.
B. You want to collect guilt and punish your body with it.
C. You want to free yourself and escape attack.
D. A and C.
The ego tries to convince us that when we send out messages of guilt and judgment will cause the other person to suffer (15:1). Maybe we will suffer too, a little, but the other person will really suffer (15:2)! Our egos (“the great deceiver”) know darn well that this isn't so, that we will suffer more than anyone, but it urges us to project all our guilt and attack onto others, promising that projecting these things will free us from them (instead, it increases them), because it desires to shatter our peace and keep it from us (15:3).
The ego therefore instructs us to use our senses to perceive guilt in others. This is what is going to make us happy. This is what, supposedly, proves our own innocence, or at least our lesser guilt. But what we end up experiencing is the pain and guilt that arises from attacking someone else (15:4).
16. 1Hear not its madness, and believe not the impossible is true. 2Forget not that the ego has dedicated the body to the goal of sin, and places in it all its faith that this can be accomplished. 3Its sad disciples chant the body’s praise continually, in solemn celebration of the ego’s rule. 4Not one but must believe that yielding to the attraction of guilt is the escape from pain. 5Not one but must regard the body as himself, without which he would die, and yet within which is his death equally inevitable.
• Study Question •
8. Sentence 3 says, "Its sad disciples chant the body's praise continually, in solemn celebration of the ego's rule." Please give an example, from your life, from someone else's life or from our contemporary culture, of the ego's disciples chanting the body's continual praise.
“Hear not its madness. (16:1). The “its” refers to “the great deceiver” mentioned in 15:2, which, as is clear, is a description of the ego, the subject of 15:1. So this is an injunction to disregard the mad urgings of the ego to send out messages of hate and attack on each other. (Remember, to judge another or see them as guilty is a form of attack.) It asks us to not believe the ego when it claims that attacking others is pleasure, and a way to be free from attack ourselves.
Instead, we are asked to recall the ego’s purpose for our bodies: they are dedicated to the goal of sin. The ego is utterly convinced that its goal is possible. It believes that sin is possible, that we can do (or have done) something so awful, so permanent, that we will become separate from God, and it motivates us, deceptively, to use our bodies lovelessly, for attack (16:2). There are people whom the Course refers to, in 16:3, as the body’s “sad disciples.” They “chant the body’s praise continually,” not realizing that in doing so they act “in solemn celebration of the ego’s rule.” It seems that the Course is referring to the way we can become obsessed with some or many of the various aspects of the body and its care: food, clothing, sex, sporting ability, appearance, comfort, health, reversing the signs of aging, and so on. When these things become a central focus, we are, without realizing it, worshipping the ego. For the body is the ego’s symbol:
The body is the symbol of the ego, as the ego is the symbol of the separation (T-15.IX.2:3).
To worship the body is to worship the ego. I do not believe that any of the above things are wrong, in moderation. Of course we must pay attention to eating good food, having decent and attractive clothing, enjoying sex and sports, caring for our health and comfort, etc. But it is far too easy to go overboard in any and all of these areas. As Jesus admonished us 2000 years ago:
““So I tell you to stop worrying about what you will eat, drink, or wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothes?
“Look at the birds. They don’t plant, harvest, or gather the harvest into barns. Yet, your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?
“Can any of you add a single hour to your life by worrying?
“And why worry about clothes? Notice how the flowers grow in the field. They never work or spin yarn for clothes. But I say that not even Solomon in all his majesty was dressed like one of these flowers. That’s the way God clothes the grass in the field. Today it’s alive, and tomorrow it’s thrown into an incinerator. So how much more will he clothe you people who have so little faith?
“Don’t ever worry and say, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ Everyone is concerned about these things, and your heavenly Father certainly knows you need all of them. But first, be concerned about his kingdom and what has his approval. Then all these things will be provided for you.” (Matthew 6:25–33 God’s Word Translation)
The reason to “stop worrying about what you will eat, drink, or wear,” is that such over-concern with the body leads inevitably to a belief that heaping guilt on other people is the way to escape from pain (16:4). We may not see the connection at first but it is there. That kind of concern is a clear indicator that we regard our bodies as ourselves, that without the body we would die, and yet within it, death is “equally inevitable” (16:5).8
Identification with the body is party and parcel of a belief in separate egos, living in separate bodies, and competing with one another for everything—particularly for food, clothing, shelter, and so on. Bodily identification is the root of all war. It is the root of oppression, slavery, crime, racism, and greed. And when we are dedicated to our bodily identity, we are dedicated to death.
17. 1It is not given to the ego’s disciples to realize that they have dedicated themselves to death. 2Freedom is offered them but they have not accepted it, and what is offered must also be received, to be truly given. 3For the Holy Spirit, too, is a communication medium, receiving from the Father and offering His messages unto the Son. 4Like [to] the ego, the Holy Spirit is both the sender and the receiver. 5For what is sent through Him returns to Him, seeking itself along the way, and finding what it seeks. 6So does the ego find the death it seeks, returning it to you.
• Study Question •
9. Let's say that you make a solemn vow to treat your body as the temple of God, to feed it only the purest foods, to give it lots of energizing sunshine, to make it strong and beautiful, to give it an abundant amount of Chinese herbs, all in order to make it a worthy home for your mind. What have you really dedicated yourself to?
A. The Holy Spirit.
B. The happy dream.
D. Your true home.
We’re dedicated to death without realizing it (17:1). In this sentence and the preceding one, we are beginning to look ahead to the Third Obstacle, which is the attraction of death. Our attraction to death is, at first, hidden from our conscious minds. It is obscured by the first two obstacles. As I mentioned at the outset of this long section, each successive obstacle is hidden by the ones before it, and in turn acts as the source of those earlier obstacles. Here, what is beginning to show up is that our belief in the merit of finding guilt in one another, and our belief in the body as the source of pleasure and pain, are really expressions of the deeper ego dedication to death.
Yes, freedom from death has been offered to everyone, including us, but that freedom has to be received and accepted to be truly given (17:2). We have to let go of the body, of identification with the body. We have to come to know that we are eternal spirits, not transient bodies.
The complete cycle of the offer of freedom has three steps: it is offered to us; we receive it; it returns to the Sender. This is how all messages from the Holy Spirit work: the Spirit receives a message from the Father; He then offers the message to the Son; and finally, having been received by us, the message returns to Him (16:3–5). He is “both the sender and the receiver” (16:4). The message “sent through Him returns to Him” (16:5).
Accept your Father's gift. It is a call from Love to Love, that It be but Itself (W-pI.pII.7.5:1-2).
It connects with what is like itself in us; messages of love find the love in us, just as the ego’s messages find death and return it to us (16:6).
Our reception of the offer of freedom cannot happen until we dis-identify with our bodies and recognize the love within us as the truth of our being, so that we spontaneously offer the gift of freedom to those around us, no longer seeing attack or guilt in anyone, demonstrating that freedom for all to see, and seeing only love or a call for love wherever we look. What we give, we receive.
• Study Question •
10. Please write a paragraph about this section. This one will be a little different than usual. We will not try to summarize the sections or even particular themes in it. Instead, write about your thoughts, feelings and reactions to this section's idea that our conventional uses for the body (the seeking of pleasure, the directing of our eyes and the communication of attack to others) are really motivated by the ego's need to collect guilt, find pain and death, and reinforce fear.
8. Anything that would have to do with our preoccupation with food, clothing, sex, appearance, comfort, health, etc.
10. Each reader will have their own personal reaction to the Course’s teaching in this section.
1 Bourgeault, Cynthia. The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity, page 45.
2 Bourgeault, Cynthia. The Meaning of Mary Magdalene: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity, page 53.
3 See section 8.VIII, "The Body as Means or End”.
4 You may want to re-read the section that discusses these two emotions in detail, T-12.V.
5 “Science of Mind,” page 110.
6 “For the ego does want to kill you, and if you identify with it you must believe its goal is yours” (T-13.II.5:6).
7 See this web page: http://chemistry.about.com/b/2011/02/06/how-much-are-the-elements-in-yourbody-worth.htm Others have argued that if you take into account the complex compounds synthesized in the body, it might be worth as much as six million dollars. But the basic building blocks are definitely cheap.
8 Kenneth Wapnick, in his book about this core section of the Course, sums up the message of this final sentence like this: “...we unconsciously believe that without the body we would certainly die at God’s avenging hands. And yet within the body we must also die...And so we all find ourselves almost totally identified with, and invested in the body because that is what the ego has told us will keep us alive, and yet we all equally know that the body must inevitably die.” (Wapnick, The Journey Home, pages 158 & 159)