Violence and turmoil seem to be all around us. A few of the current manifestations include attacks and counter-attacks in Palestine, Israel and Lebanon, the ongoing occupation and insurgency in Iraq, violent political struggles in India, Sri Lanka and elsewhere, and close to home, serial shootings and killing in Phoenix. Is it the unalterable plight of mankind on this Earth to be forever in a state of fear and conflict? Is it the case that the best we can hope for is to be the “winners” rather than the “losers” in a struggle of “all against all?”
It is easy to find justification for our aggressive actions against our neighbor, against people of other races, religions or nations, and even against nature and the environment. What we believe about them is always based upon selective perception. Is it possible that our perceptions mislead our actions? Do we have available to us choices that might change our experience of the world? Religion seeks to codify belief and prescribe behavior, but, it seems, the truth basis of each religion is inevitably lost and religion becomes the cause for further conflict.
A Course in Miracles “makes a fundamental distinction between the real and the unreal; between knowledge and perception.” It explains:
From knowledge and perception respectively, two distinct thought systems arise which are opposite in every respect. In the realm of knowledge no thoughts exist apart from God, because God and His Creation share one Will. The world of perception, however, is made by the belief in opposites and separate wills, in perpetual conflict with each other and with God. What perception sees and hears appears to be real because it permits into awareness only what conforms to the wishes of the perceiver. This leads to a world of illusions, a world which needs constant defense precisely because it is not real.
There may be something worth considering here. Simply reading the Preface sets the mind toward a course that seems more promising. Here are selected quotes from the section titled, “What It Says.” The entire section can be found at: http://18.104.22.168/about_acim_section/what_it_says.html.
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists.
Herein lies the peace of God.
When you have been caught in the world of perception you are caught in a dream. You cannot escape without help, because everything your senses show merely witnesses to the reality of the dream. …. It is the Holy Spirit’s goal to help us escape from the dream world by teaching us how to reverse our thinking and unlearn our mistakes. Forgiveness is the Holy Spirit’s great learning aid in bringing this thought reversal about.
“Projection makes perception” (Text, p. 445). We look inside first, decide the kind of world we want to see and then project that world outside, making it the truth as we see it. We make it true by our interpretations of what it is we are seeing. If we are using perception to justify our own mistakes—our anger, our impulses to attack, our lack of love in whatever form it may take—we will see a world of evil, destruction, malice, envy and despair.
As we learn to recognize our perceptual errors, we also learn to look past them or “forgive.” At the same time we are forgiving ourselves, looking past our distorted self-concepts to the Self That God created in us and as us.
Sin is defined as “lack of love” (Text, p. 11). Since love is all there is, sin in the sight of the Holy Spirit is a mistake to be corrected, rather than an evil to be punished.
The Self That God created needs nothing. It is forever complete, safe, loved, and loving. It seeks to share rather than to get; to extend rather than project. It has no needs and wants to join with others out of their mutual awareness of abundance.
The special relationships of the world are destructive, selfish, and childishly egocentric. Yet, if given to the Holy Spirit, these relationships can become the holiest things on earth—the miracles that point the way to the return to Heaven.Perception is a function of the body, and therefore represents a limit on awareness.
Perception sees through the body’s eyes and hears through the body’s ears. …If the mind accepts the Holy Spirit’s purpose for it instead, it becomes a useful way of communicating with others, invulnerable as long as it is needed, and to be gently laid by when its use is over.
The opposite of seeing through the body’s eyes is the vision of Christ, which reflects strength rather than weakness, unity rather than separation, and love rather than fear.
Christ’s vision is the Holy Spirit’s gift, God’s alternative to the illusion of separation and to the belief in the reality of sin, guilt, and death. It is the one correction for all errors of perception; the reconciliation of the seeming opposites on which this world is based. … What was regarded as injustices done to one by someone else, now becomes a call for help and for union.
Forgiveness is the means by which we will remember. Through forgiveness the thinking of the world is reversed. The forgiven world becomes the gate of Heaven, because by its mercy we can at last forgive ourselves. Holding no one prisoner to guilt, we become free. Acknowledging Christ in all our brothers, we recognize His Presence in ourselves. Forgetting all our misperceptions, and with nothing from the past to hold us back, we can remember God. Beyond this, learning cannot go. When we are ready, God Himself will take the final step in our return to Him.
One need not be “Christian” to follow such a path. Indeed, the basis for it can be found in any religion if one chooses to see it.
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