Class #

Study Guide and Commentary

ACIM® Text, Chapter 7, Section XI

The State of Grace

blue text = Material from ACIM 3rd edition (FIP)
bold blue text = words emphasized in all caps in Urtext
red text = alternate or omitted material from the Urtext
light blue text = editorial comments
strikethrough blue text = Not in Urtext, in FIP edition

Overview of the Section

Jesus, in this section, continues with his theme of "pairs of things the ego is confused about." The last section covered our inability to tell pain from joy. In this section, he begins by contrasting what we think is easy with what we think is difficult, and then goes on to talk about how we don't know the truth when we see it. In Chapter 8, Section II, he will discuss another pair of things we confuse: imprisonment and freedom. The general theme seems to be the ego's upside-down manner of thought.

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1.  1 The Holy Spirit will always guide you truly, because your joy is His. 2 This is His Will for everyone because He speaks for the Kingdom of God, which is joy. 3 Following Him is therefore the easiest thing in the world, and the only thing that is easy, because it is not of the world. 4 It is therefore natural. 5 The world goes against your nature, being [because it is] out of accord with God's laws. 6 The world perceives orders of difficulty in everything. 7 This is because the ego perceives nothing as wholly desirable. 8 By demonstrating to yourself there is no order of difficulty in miracles, you will convince yourself that, in your natural state, there is no difficulty at all because it is a state of grace. [By demonstrating to yourselves that there is no order of difficulty in miracles, you will convince yourselves that in your natural state there is no difficulty, because it is a state of Grace.]

• Study Question •

1.     Let yourself absorb the message of this paragraph with joy: Following the Holy Spirit is the easiest thing in the world for you. Take a moment to offer a prayer of thanks that you have this way out of the struggle and pain offered by the world.

The alert reader will notice a parallel structure in the first sentence of this paragraph and the first sentence of Section X, Paragraph 3. Both present a fact about how the Holy Spirit guides or directs us. In Section X, it was "so as to avoid pain" (T-7.X.3:1). Here, He guides "truly, because your joy is His" (1:1). Both sentences say that the Holy Spirit guides in a way that brings us joy, because surely avoiding pain means finding its opposite (joy). The guidance of the Holy Spirit always aims at our happiness—not a superficial happiness based on circumstantial prosperity or pleasure, but a deep happiness that derives from a thorough satisfaction of our essential being. He guides us in accord with our true nature, knowing that aligning our lives with the deep current of God within us is the only thing that will bring us true and lasting joy. The Kingdom of God consists of joy (1:2), and He is the voice for that Kingdom.

When something you are doing is in total accord with your nature and calls only for what is naturally a part of you, doing that thing is easy. Climbing trees is easy for monkeys; it is an impossibility for pigs. Monkeys are made for tree climbing; tree climbing is in complete accord with monkey nature. They are happy when they can do it.

This is why Jesus says that following the Holy Spirit is easy; it agrees with what you are; "It…is natural" (1:4). To follow Him is the only thing that is easy for you (1:3); living according to the way of the world actually "goes against your nature" (1:5). Your nature is a unified whole without variations, degrees or differences; you have no conflict of desires because all of truth is wholly desirable. There is no difficulty in such a state; everything is even, and you are never in conflict. The world, however, perceives everything on a vast scale ranging from desirable to detestable. When you try to live according to that ego standard it goes against the grain, it grates against your nature and causes you pain. Your life fills with turmoil and indecision. Only living in spirit and following the Holy Spirit brings joy. It fits you like a glove; it is exactly what you were created for. You can only be happy when you know you are with God.

As we have seen before, the way this absolute truth of what you are shows up in this world is that you perform miracles. As miracles come through you, reaching out with total impartiality to heal the minds and bodies of those around you, you come to know the truth of your own being and its lack of difficulty. The miracle's lack of "order of difficulty" (1:8) shows that your nature is equally free of difficulty.

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2.  1 Grace is the natural state of every Son of God. 2 When he is not in a state of grace, he is out of his natural environment and does not function well. 3 Everything he does becomes a strain, because he was not created for the environment that he has made. 4 He therefore cannot adapt to it, nor can he adapt it to him. 5 There is no point in trying. 6 A Son of God is happy only when he knows he is with God. 7 That is the only environment in which he will not experience strain, because that is where he belongs. 8 It is also the only environment that is worthy of him, because his own worth is beyond anything he can make.

• Study Question •

2.     According to this paragraph, why do many of us experience strain and the sense of not belonging?

We made the environment of this world, but we were created to live in a very different environment: God, and the state of grace that is in Him. When we try to adapt to this world as though it were our true environment we don't function well. We don't fit the world, and we can't adjust the world to make it fit us (2:4), although that is what we spend most of our lives trying to do!

If I think about it, I have expended a lot of effort either trying to fit in with my environment, or trying to manipulate my environment to fit myself. It never works! Most of the effort we put into fixing up our homes, tending our yards, or even configuring our computers is directed at adjusting the world to fit our wants and needs.

Have you ever noticed how, after you get everything exactly the way you like it, it only lasts for about half a day at best? The lawn keeps growing; the weeds sprout up again; the clutter accumulates; the dust settles on your furniture; your clothes wrinkle or get soiled and eventually wear out; the food spoils; the dishes keep getting dirty. You can never stay on top of it. You can never make your worldly environment perfect. As the Course says, "There is no point in trying" (2:5).

Nor can we ever perfectly adapt ourselves to the world. I've lived in many different climates in my life, and none of them are perfect. Every area has its good points and its drawbacks. My body adapts to the heat or cold, the humidity or dryness, the sun or the rain, to some extent, but not completely. As a race, we are having a great deal of trouble adapting ourselves to the planetary ecology; at the moment, the ecology is losing, but before long unless something changes, the human race will be losing.

Nor can we ever seem to fit in perfectly in a social sense, with our fellow human beings. A huge fraction of our time goes to trying to figure out how we should behave and who we should be in regard to family, friends, and fellow workers. Maybe you, like me, have had times when you realized you were acting out two or three entirely different roles, with different mannerisms and ways of speech, according to what group of people you were with. With my friends at church I was quite proper and spiritual; with my friends at work, I partied and told off-color jokes with the best of them. The only thing I learned from all that is that it just isn't possible to adapt myself to fit in perfectly anywhere. There is no point in trying to adapt ourselves to the world.

This world simply is not our natural environment, which seems evident from the fact that we don't go well together with the world. It is a strain to live here, trying to make this our home, because it isn't our home; God is. Only when we know we are with Him can we be happy (2:6). Blaise Pascal[1] wrote, "There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man, which only God himself can fill…." Saint Augustine said, "Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they rest in Thee."

When we are in God we do not strain; we rest. This is where we belong (2:7). We "rest in God," as Lesson 109 says. He is our home. "The eternal God [is thy] refuge, and underneath [are] the everlasting arms" (Deut. 33:27). It may be hard to imagine that God is your home, or that you somehow reside in God, but that is your native environment. Even to try to accommodate your mind to this concept, you have to let go of your identification with the body. Whatever has its home in God, it isn't a body!

I often think we have little true conception of our true nature. What we are in truth is so vastly different from what we have taught ourselves about what we are that there is no reconciling them. When the truth of our nature dawns upon our minds, we will see how utterly wrong our self-concept of minds living in bodies has been.

This world is not a worthy home for beings like us (2:8). We have made this world, but we cannot make a home that is worthy of us. I think of what the author of the New Testament book of Hebrews said about the Old Testament saints: "…the world was not worthy of them" (Hebrews 11:38, NIV). That author makes that remark about a group of heroes and heroines of the faith, people who did great deeds or endured great suffering for their faith. Jesus, however, applies the idea to us all. Our worth is far beyond anything we have ever conceived of. Remember what we were told in T-4.I.7: God established our worth, and we do not need to do anything or learn anything in order to make us worthy. We are worthy; we come that way from the hand of God.

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3.  1 Consider the kingdom [which] you have made and judge its worth fairly. 2 Is it worthy to be a home for a child of God? 3 Does it protect his peace and shine love upon him? 4 Does it keep his heart untouched by fear, and allow him to give always, without any sense of loss? 5 Does it teach him that this giving is his joy, and that God Himself thanks him for his giving? 6 That is the only environment in which you can be happy. 7 You cannot make it, any more than you can make yourself [yourselves. But]. 8 It has been created for you, as you were created for it. 9 God watches over His children and denies them nothing. 10 Yet when they deny Him they do not know this, because they deny themselves everything. 11 You who could give the Love of God to everything you see and touch and remember, are literally denying Heaven to yourself [yourselves].

• Study Question •

3.     Do what this paragraph asks. Consider the questions asked about "the kingdom you have made" in 3:1­–6. In your mind, answer each question honestly. Assuming that God's Kingdom is unlike the kingdom we have made, what do these questions, and the rest of the paragraph, teach you about the Kingdom of God that you were created for?

There's no way you can honestly ask yourself the questions in the first five sentences and answer them in any way except, "No." The world does the opposite of what these questions ask. It attacks your peace. Hate glares at you from one side after another. The world is full of things that provoke fear: war, illnesses of all kinds, financial distress, relationship problems, crime, insanity, and death—and that's just the short list!

I watched a TV special recently about the way that lack of sleep interferes with good driving just like drunkenness does. They reported that something like sixty percent of the population tested out as seriously sleep-deprived, which means, if it's true, that sixty percent of the drivers on the road are driving like drunks. Which may explain some of the things I've seen! But that's downright scary.  My point is that this world is chock full of stuff like that.

I love the last couple of points made in those questions. First, does this world allow me "to give always, without any sense of loss" (3:4)? Far from it! It constantly tries to teach me the exact opposite. Second, does the world "teach [me] that giving is [my] joy" (3:5)? Again, far from it! The world teaches me that getting is my joy, and acquiring things is the way to happiness.

These things Jesus asks about reveal a great deal about what our nature is. If the world is unworthy of us because it fails to protect our peace, it shows that it is our nature to be peaceful. If the world does not love us, it shows that we are completely lovable. An environment that fits our nature is one that reinforces the truth about us, which is that "giving is [our] joy" (3:5). This is what the Course is trying to tell us when it insists that our function is to extend, or to offer miracles.

Have you ever noticed that when you express love to someone, truly and deeply, it feels good? That's because love is your nature. It fits you. When you do what you have been designed to do, you feel good. When the Course says, in sentence 6, "That is the only environment in which you can be happy," what is it talking about? What is "that"? It must be the thing that was just under discussion, the thing described by the questions, the thing that does not match the world we have made. The only place we can be happy is in a place that reinforces our giving nature and gives us thanks for it.

When I put it that way, it really makes me stop and think. The world punishes our giving nature and makes fun of it!

We cannot possibly make a place that makes us happy; only God can do that, and He already has (3:7–8). It is His Kingdom, and we are in it. In order to experience our happiness, however, we must unlearn the lesson we've taught ourselves about being in this world, and trying to make it our home. It isn't that God holds back the happiness (3:9); we are doing that to ourselves (3:10). We deny happiness to ourselves because we do not express our true nature. We do not do the thing that makes us happy, the thing that is our joy: We do not practice giving God's Love "to everything you see and touch and remember" (3:11).

I think that, if you or I were to list all the things we have seen or touched or even remembered within the last hour, we would have to admit that we did not give God's Love to most of them. Very likely, quite a few of the memories evoked anger rather than love. When was the last time you called up a grievance in your mind? Probably not very long ago. I know, for certain, that I judged and condemned a number of the things I saw within the last hour, and did not love them. You and I have it within our power to give God's Love to utterly everything! Imagine how you might feel if you did that. It would be, literally, Heaven.  We deny Heaven to ourselves by our failure to love everything without exception.

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4.  1 I call upon you [Ur: again] to remember that I have chosen you to teach the Kingdom to the Kingdom. 2 There are no exceptions to this lesson, because the lack of exceptions is the lesson. 3 Every Son who returns to the Kingdom with this lesson in his heart has healed the Sonship and given thanks to God. 4 Everyone who learns this lesson has become the perfect teacher, because he has learned it of the Holy Spirit [who wants to teach him everything He knows].

• Study Question •

4.     What are the characteristics of "the perfect teacher" (4:4) mentioned in this paragraph and in the last sentence of paragraph 3?

Each of us has been called to "teach the Kingdom to the Kingdom" (4:1)—that is, to teach every single individual, without exception, that he or she is included in the Kingdom of God, and so is every other individual, equally without exception. The whole point of the Course is that no one is excluded from God's Love: "…the lack of exceptions is the lesson" (4:2). Jesus wants us to remember this all the time, so that we impart this lesson to everyone we meet, or even to everyone we think of. I love the word-play in the second sentence. Everyone is called upon to teach the lesson; the lesson is that everyone is included in God's Kingdom; and everyone who teaches must teach the lesson to everyone.

The spiritual teacher Ram Dass quotes his guru, Maharaj-ji, as saying, "Never put anyone out of your heart." When my heart is so transformed that I never put anyone out of it, then I have returned to the Kingdom. When I never exclude anyone from the flow of God's Love coming through me and out to the world, I have "healed the Sonship" and restored its wholeness by recognizing that wholeness. Though this recognition, I give thanks to God, because by acknowledging God's creation I have acknowledged Him (4:3).

The Holy Spirit is teaching the lesson of no exclusion, and when anyone joins Him in teaching the same lesson, he or she becomes "the perfect teacher" (4:4). I believe that spiritual masters who reportedly can impart "shakti" to their followers may have the gift of teaching this lesson. Simply by being in the presence of such people, you feel uplifted. You feel your own estimation of your self and your self-worth to be elevated. This radiant being (the teacher) looks on you with deep respect, admiration and love, and you realize that the teacher is seeing you in a way you have often longed to see yourself. His or her seeing you in that way enables you to see yourself in that way, and thus they empower you or "give shakti" to you. The next paragraph goes on to describe how this works.

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5.  1 When a mind has only light, it knows only light. 2 Its own radiance shines all around it, and extends out into the darkness of other minds, transforming them into majesty. 3 The Majesty of God is there, for you to recognize and appreciate and know. 4 Recognizing [Perceiving] the Majesty of God as your brother is to accept your own inheritance. 5 God gives only equally. 6 If you recognize His gift in [to] anyone [else], you have acknowledged what He has given you. 7 Nothing is so easy to recognize [perceive] as truth. 8 This is the recognition [perception] that is immediate, clear and natural. 9 You have trained yourself not to recognize it [yourselves not to see it], and this has been very difficult for you.

• Study Question •

5.     Try to recall some moment in your life where you have been uplifted by the light in someone else's mind, and another instance in which you have uplifted another person in the same way.

The mind of the perfect teacher, or the mind that is in a state of grace and aware of nothing else, transmits the light that fills it to every mind around it. If your mind, or mine, is purged of the darkness that has clouded our awareness of the Self, that Self will shine out into other minds, chasing away the clouds of darkness in those minds (5:1–2).

When I was first reading the Course, this paragraph, for me, brought on one of those experiences that can't be completely described. The entire room I was in seemed to open up and let in the whole universe. I felt that the light being spoken of was shining in me, and from the mind of Jesus into my mind, just as the passage describes. As I read it I found myself reacting with an underlying thought that said, "Of course! How else could it be?"

At the same time, I was filled with a profound longing to live as such a person, radiating light to every mind around me, "transforming them into majesty" (5:2). I have had the privilege of meeting people whose minds, at least for the brief time they were with me, seemed filled only with light. Those experiences radically changed my life, and set the direction of my spiritual path. As the paragraph says, these people somehow recognized the majesty of God in me, and not simply in me but as me (5:3). The difference between seeing God's majesty in me or as me is this: If something is in me, I posess it, but it is still somehow separate from me. I might have the majesty of God in me, and also have another part of me that is mean and degenerate.  But if that something is "as me," that means I am that thing and that thing is me—we are identical and congruent. Every part of me is God's majesty, with no exceptions.

You are God's majesty, and that is all that you are. Your brother is the majesty of God, and the majesty of God is all that your brother is. Nothing else. "The lack of exceptions is the lesson" (4:2). The perfect teacher simply perceives and recognizes this majesty in everyone around him, or around her, and this is how that person comes to accept their own place in the Kingdom (5:5–6). If it is true for everyone it must be true for me; if I can see it everywhere, I know I must have it as well.

We may feel that seeing God's majesty in everyone is difficult, but "Nothing is so easy to recognize as truth" (5:7). This is the truth about everyone. Therefore, just as following the Holy Spirit is the easiest thing in the world, seeing God's majesty in everyone is very easy: "immediate, clear and natural" (5:8). It only seems to be difficult because I have trained myself not to recognize it (5:9). The difficult part, actually, is to not see it! I'm beginning to get a glimmer of what that means. There are times when I look at people and wonder, "What's not to love?" I find myself looking past all their external flaws and foibles and just…well, just loving them. I find my heart filled with an uncritical benevolence, a desire for this person's well being. In such moments, I know I am tuning in to what being a perfect teacher means.

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6.  1 Out of your natural environment you may well ask, "What is truth?" since truth is the environment by which and for which you were created. 2 You do not know yourself, because you do not know your Creator. 3 You do not know your creations because you do not know your brothers, who created them with you. 4 I have already said that only the whole Sonship is worthy to be co-creator with God, because only the whole Sonship can create like Him. 5 Whenever you heal a brother by recognizing his worth, you are acknowledging his power to create and yours. 6 He cannot have lost what you recognize, and you must have the glory you see in him. 7 He is a co-creator with God with you. 8 Deny his creative power, and you are denying yours and that of God Who created you.

• Study Question •

6.     If you examine this paragraph carefully you can answer this question: Why is denying the worth of a brother the same thing as denying your own creative power (6:8)? (Hint: Who creates with God? You individually, or you as part of the Sonship?)

The Course often makes the point that what we consider to be profound questions, such as "What is truth?", "Who am I?", or "What is the purpose of my life?" are really indications of profound confusion. They are questions we could never ask if we were still in our right mind, connected with God. The answers to such questions would be so obvious to us that the questions could never arise.

However, we are not living in our proper environment, or at least we are not aware of it. Our home is God; truth is our natural environment, but we have lost touch with it. When someone is out of touch with their environment, or out of touch with reality, we generally regard them as seriously ill mentally, which is how the Course regards us. We don't know God Who created us, and therefore we have no idea of what we are (6:2). We think that somehow, we made ourselves, or perhaps we consciously think we just "happened." It reminds me of baby ducks. A duckling, I have been told, will "impress" on its mother and will follow and imitate her. If the duckling, for some reason, encounters another animal first, it will think that animal is its mother and will try to imitate that animal. It does not know its "creator" and so does not know what it is. Like the "ugly duckling," the swan that thinks it is an ugly duck because it was raised by ducks, we have a poor image of ourselves because of our failure to recognize that God created us.

In forgetting Who created us we have also forgotten who was created by Him with us, that is, our brothers. We have not forgotten just our Father; we have forgotten our entire family. Only the Sonship as a whole is capable of creating with God; individuals apart from the Sonship cannot create, as we have seen previously (6:4, see T-5.IV.7:4). For this reason, if we deny a brother's place in the Sonship and fail to view him as a co-creator with us and with God (6:7), we have undercut our own place as co-creator with God. In fact, we have denied the very creative power of God Himself! (6:8). That creative power is a single, unified power, shared by God and by the whole Sonship. To deny it anywhere is to deny it everywhere. It is as impossible for any brother to be excluded from that creative power as it would be impossible to exclude one drop of the ocean from wetness.

I think Jesus talks here about denying or affirming one another's power to create with God because that is a way of expressing how exalted we are in his sight. To say we are sons or daughters of God may be wonderful, but it is something we are rather used to. To say that we are co-creators with God, though, catches our attention. It indicates just how lofty we are, how powerful, and how worthy in God's mind. You can almost feel God's hand on your shoulder as He says, "This is my beloved Son; he represents me."

To heal someone is to recognize the glory of God in them, a glory so potent that he or she can create just as God can (6:5). If you see it in another, it must be in you as well (6:6). This is how a mind that is filled with light heals, and this is how it knows itself as healed.

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7.  1 You cannot deny part of truth. 2 You do not know your creations because you do not know their creator. 3 You do not know yourself [yourselves] because you do not know yours [yours]. 4 Your creations cannot establish your reality, any more than you can establish God's. 5 But you can know both. 6 Being is known by sharing. 7 Because God shared His Being with you, you can know Him. 8 But you must also know all He created, to know what they have shared. 9 Without your Father you will not know your fatherhood. 10 The Kingdom of God includes all His Sons and their children, who are as like the Sons as they are like the Father. 11 Know, then, the Sons of God, and you will know all creation.

• Study Question •

7.     Consider two detailed questions about words in this paragraph; they will help your overall comprehension.

a.     Who is "their creator" mentioned in 7:2?

b.     What does "know both" in 7:5 refer to? (In the original the word "both" is not capitalized, as it is in some later versions.) Notice the dual occurrence of "do not know" in sentences 2 and 3.

You cannot deny any part of the truth (7:1) any more than you can deny any part of the Sonship (T-7.VII.1:2). In fact, I think that is what is meant here. You cannot exclude selected brothers or sisters from the Kingdom; you cannot shut them out of your heart. You cannot deny them their place at God's right hand, co-creators with you and Him.

By our refusal to recognize our brothers and sisters as our equals in God, we have cut ourselves off from the knowledge of our creations and the knowledge of our own Self (singular Self since we all share just One Self) (7:2–3). This occurs because we have become cut off from knowing our own Creator (God), and therefore do not know His creation, our own Self, which is the Sonship. The sequence seems to be:

1.     Refusal to know God as Creator leads to a failure to know His creation, the Self/Sonship (7:2).

2.     Failure to know the Self (a co-creator with God) leads to failure to know the Sonship's creations (7:3).

Our mere existence does not make God, and therefore, even though our creations do exist, they cannot in themselves make us aware of the Self that created them (7:4). However, it is possible to know both God as our Creator, and ourselves as the creator of our creations (7:5). How? "…by sharing" (7:6). We can know God because He shared His Being with us (7:7). To know ourselves, however, we must come to understand what it means to be a creation of God (7:8). The only way we can do that is to know all of creation; that is, to acknowledge everyone, without exception, as the Sons of God, or to recognize that we share our being with them (7:11). We, along with them, share God's characteristics as Father (7:10). To know creation, you must share yourself with it, and acknowledge that all creation shares everything with you.

The picture I get is that we must recognize the whole chain of creation. Deny any part of it and you become ignorant of the whole of it. It's a very simple teaching, really, and yet a very challenging one. Exclude no one. Put no one out of your heart. Deny no one their birthright as a child of God. Only in opening your heart wide enough to include every child of God can you ever come to know all of creation, including your own (7:11).

Answer Key

1.      No written answer is expected.

2.     We experience strain and a sense of not belonging because we are not adapted to the environment of this world; it is not our natural environment. Our natural environment is the state of grace, with God. We literally do not belong in this world, so the feeling of not belonging is entirely in accord with the truth.

3.     The Kingdom of God protects our peace and shines love upon us. It is worthy to be our home. It keeps our hearts untouched by fear, and allows us to give always, without any sense of loss. It teaches us that giving is our joy, and God Himself thanks us for it. It is the only environment in which we can be happy. We cannot make this environment; it was created for us, and we were created for it.

4.     No written answer is expected.

5.     The perfect teacher gives the Love of God to everything he sees and touches and remembers. He teaches the Kingdom to the Kingdom, and teaches without exceptions because the lack of exceptions is  the lesson he teaches.

6.     No written answer is expected.

7.     Because "only the whole Sonship is worthy to be co-creator with God" (6:4). When I acknowledge a brother's worth I affirm his part in the Sonship and thus his power to create. If I deny his part in the Sonship by denying his worth, I have fragmented the Sonship and thus have denied my own part in creation as well as my brother's.

8.     (a) The words "their creator" cannot refer to God because of the lower case "c." The sentence is speaking of "your creations" and therefore "their creator" must be you, as part of the Sonship.
(b) Sentence 4 speaks of your reality and God's reality; I believe the word "both" refers to both realities. There are two creators mentioned in sentences 2 and 3, you (or us) and God, and sentence 4 mentions the reality of those two creators: you and the Sonship as the creator of your creations, and God as the Creator of the Sonship. Sentences 4 and 5 could be amplified like this:

The existence of your creations does not establish your reality as their creator, any more than your mere existence establishes the reality of God as your Creator, but it is nevertheless possible for you to know both the reality of your Self as the creator of your creations, and of God as your Creator.

[1] The quote is attributed to Pascal, but I've read people who claim he never said it. It's a good line, whoever made it up.