Class #

Class #87

Study Guide and Commentary
ACIM® Text, Chapter 11
Section V:10 –19

We are continuing our discussion of Section V, "The 'Dynamics' of the Ego," resuming at paragraph 10. Last time, we saw that the ego's primary goal is autonomy, and to achieve that goal it uses various forms of attack. We began to examine some of the methods used by the ego in pursuing its goal. The first method was that the ego tries to conceal from you the fact that you are afraid of it. It uses fear to keep us separate from one another and from God It attempts to disguise our fear of the ego as many other things (see the list in 9:1), most of which can be summarized as being distant, disconnected or separated. From the ego's point of view, it's all right for us to become aware of the symptom of feeling separated, as long as we do not recognize that we are separated because we are afraid.

Paragraph 10

10.            1Your recognition that whatever seems to separate you from God is only fear, regardless of the form it takes and quite apart from how the ego wants you to experience it, is therefore the basic ego threat. 2Its dream of autonomy is shaken to its foundation by this awareness. 3For though you may countenance a false idea of independence, you will not accept the cost of fear if you recognize it. 4Yet this is the cost, and the ego cannot minimize it. 5[For] If you overlook love you are overlooking yourself, and you must fear unreality because you have denied yourself. 6By believing that you have successfully attacked truth, you are believing that attack has power. 7Very simply, then, you have become afraid of yourself. 8And no one wants to find [wills to learn] what he believes would destroy him.

• Study Question •

1.     According to this paragraph, what is it that we are really afraid of? The paragraph mentions several things.

The ego has a clever but circular strategy. Its goal is autonomy: total independence from God. When you believe you have become separated from God, however, it fills your heart with fear. The ego then co-opts the fear and uses your fear of God to keep you separated. It fosters the fear because the fear serves its purpose of separation.

To keep you in fear, the ego does not want you to recognize any separating qualities,  such as those mentioned in 9:1, as fear in disguise. If you realize that nothing is keeping you apart from God but your own fear, you will let go of those things along with the fear. Therefore, learning to see all these things as "only fear" is what threatens the ego (10:1–2); it is also what strengthens your spirit.

Sentence 1 is a conclusion based on the preceding paragraph, as shown by the word therefore. If we realized that the ego is keeping us apart from one another and from God merely by making us afraid of God and our brothers, we would not listen to the ego any longer. The particular way that fear manifests in our lives is irrelevant; whatever the form, it is still only fear (10:1). We may experience fear as despair of even reaching God. We may experience fear as a total lack of concern about God. So long as it keeps us away from God the ego does not care how the fear manifests.

We seem to welcome the ego's offer of independence from God, although it is a false offer. By itself, independence has a certain attraction. What we fail to recognize—what the ego so artfully conceals from us—is the cost of such independence: fear. Stark terror. If we did recognize the connection between our dreams of separation and our experiences of fear, we would drop our quest for independence like a hot potato (10:3). "Yet this is the cost, and the ego cannot minimize it" (10:4). That is, fear is the cost of the wish for independence.

There seem to be two stages of recognition required here. First, we must recognize that all the various separating feelings are nothing more than fear. Second, we must realize that the only foundation for the fear is our belief that we are separated from God, which is impossible; therefore, the fear is groundless. In practice, this means that when we experience some form of upsetting or separating feeling—for instance, we judge ourselves as being callous towards another person's distress—we quickly tell ourselves, "Oh! I'm feeling separate, so I must be afraid of God again, and there is no reason for that." Knowing the cause of our feeling, which is a form of fear, to be our imaginary separation from God, we can act to counter that false belief. We can affirm our union with God, for instance, "God is but Love, and therefore so am I" ( Or we can experience that union by engaging in prayer.

When we join with the ego's wish to be separate, we are turning away from love. Since we are love, this means we are turning away from our very selves. The Course has spoken of this denial of our Self before. Here, however, we see the added dimension of the fear generated by this denial. It says we "fear unreality" (10:5). Earlier, the Course said it was reality that we were afraid of: "What seems to be the fear of God is really the fear of your own reality" (T-9.I.2:2). But in that same section, we were also told that we fear the absence of reality: "You cannot make the unreal because the absence of reality is fearful, and fear cannot be created" (T‑9.I.13:4). I think that is the idea being set forth here in chapter 10: We are afraid of the absence of reality, of being annihilated. We are afraid of being made unreal by the awesome power of our own minds, which have (so we think) "successfully attacked truth" (10:6). We fear our real Self because it appears to have the power to destroy us or make us unreal (10:6–7).

Paragraph 11

11.            1If the ego's goal of autonomy could be accomplished God's purpose could be defeated, and this is impossible. 2Only by learning what fear is can you finally learn to distinguish the possible from the impossible and the false from the true. 3According to the ego's teaching, its goal can be accomplished and God's purpose can not. 4According to the Holy Spirit's teaching, only God's purpose can be accomplished, and it is accomplished already [only God's Purpose is accomplishment and it is already accomplished].

• Study Question •

2.     How does recognizing where fear comes from teach you that the ego's goal can never really be achieved (as sentence 2 says)? For help on this, think of how you need to feel about a goal in order to accomplish it.

It's always refreshing to me to read that the ego's goal cannot be achieved. In the end, we have nothing to worry about! God isn't going to lose. In my fundamentalist Christian days I used to have a hard time understanding how it could be that the devil was going to get most of the human race, and only a small remnant would make it to Heaven. It didn't make sense. The Course sees things differently. There is no devil other than our projection of the ego, and the ego's goals cannot be reached. Independence from God is impossible (11:1). His Will cannot be contravened.

From where we stand, however, a lot of the ego's goals seem not only possible but already realized. We seem to be separate from one another and from God, and we perceive very little around us that indicates total union with God! The Course contends that none of the things we perceive—things that appear to validate and confirm the reality of our separation—are true. The only way we can develop the ability to "distinguish the possible from the impossible and the false from the true" is by coming to recognize fear in its many forms and to understand the origins of that fear, namely, our false belief in separation (11:2). We must be willing to recognize the fear behind all the ego's games, and to allow the Holy Spirit to remind us that fear of God is groundless. We must be willing to look at the ego's madness in order to see through it and beyond it to the truth.

In sentences 3 and 4 we clearly see how the ego's teaching and God's are utterly opposed to one another. Our problems all arise because we believe what the ego teaches, namely that separation from God is possible. Our safety and happiness lie in learning what the Holy Spirit teaches, namely that our union with God is His Will, that it "is accomplishment" (i.e., with God, to will something and to accomplish it are the same thing), and "is accomplished already" (11:4).

Paragraph 12

12.            1God is as dependent on you as you are on Him, because His Autonomy encompasses yours, and is therefore incomplete without it. 2You can only establish your autonomy by identifying with Him, and fulfilling your function as it exists in truth. 3The ego believes that to accomplish its goal is happiness. 4But it is given you to know that God's function is yours, and happiness cannot be found apart from your joint Will. 5Recognize only that the ego's goal, which you have pursued so [quite] diligently, has merely brought you fear, and it becomes difficult to maintain that fear is happiness. 6Upheld by fear, this is what the ego would have you believe. 7Yet God's Son is not insane, and cannot believe it. 8Let him but recognize it and he will not accept it. 9For only the insane would choose fear in place of love, and only the insane could believe that love can be gained by attack. 10But the sane realize [know] that only attack could produce fear, from which the Love of God completely protects them.

• Study Question •

3.     Autonomy means freedom of will, or personal independence. Paragraph 12 says that in union with God, both God and we have autonomy. What, then are we free or independent from?

Jesus once again brings up the subject of our function, and says that we can only find happiness by fulfilling it (12:2). The ego is telling us that we will find happiness by becoming completely independent of God, serving our own independent purpose. The Holy Spirit is telling us that we will find happiness by becoming completely dependent on God—that is, by totally accepting that we are one with Him and that we must cooperate with His Will.

As the Anglican Book of Common Prayer says, God's "service is perfect freedom." When we recognize that God is all there is, and that we are part of God, we realize that nothing exists to oppose our joint will. That is true autonomy, and the only true autonomy there is (12:1–2). Independence from God is not autonomy; it is slavery. We become slaves to fear.

The Ego Teaches that Independence of God is Happiness

"The ego believes that to accomplish its goal is happiness" (12.3). Watch for the ways in which you are seeking happiness in independence, happiness that is yours alone, and not something you can share with everyone. Any such goal is an ego goal. The ego really believes this is possible. But it is impossible because God's purpose cannot be defeated. The only way we can find real happiness is by unifying our will with God's (12:4), which will result in our extending love to every part of God's creation.

If you are willing to look, you will see that the ego's goal brings you fear and not happiness. Once you recognize this, you will refuse to accept the ego's goal any longer (12:5). We think we are pursuing happiness but we are really pursing fear! That realization is what can turn us around and send us in another direction. The ego is attempting to teach us a lesson we do not wish to learn and cannot learn. Fear is not happiness! Only an insane person could believe that, and although the Course often says we hold insane beliefs, it believes utterly in the fundamental sanity of our right mind (12:7; see also T-6.IV.5:4 and T-6.IV.11:10). Confronted clearly with the truth, our mind will always make the correct choice (12:8–10). That is why it is so essential to push through the ego's deceptions and to uncover the truth.

Paragraph 13

13.            1The ego analyzes; the Holy Spirit accepts. 2The appreciation of wholeness comes only through acceptance, for to analyze means to break down or to separate out. 3The attempt to understand totality by breaking it down [breaking it up] is clearly the characteristically contradictory approach of the ego to everything. 4[Never forget that] The ego believes that power, understanding and truth lie in separation, and to establish this belief it must attack. 5Unaware that the belief cannot be established, and obsessed with the conviction that separation is salvation, the ego attacks everything it perceives by breaking it into small, disconnected parts, without meaningful relationships and therefore without meaning. 6The ego will always substitute chaos for meaning, for if separation is salvation, harmony is threat.

• Study Question •

4.     Consider what methods you typically use when you desire to understand a situation. Do you primarily analyze things, breaking them down into separate parts? Or do you typically accept and appreciate things?

The Ego Analyzes, or Separates to Understand

A person under the direction of the Holy Spirit does not spend a lot of time analyzing people and situations. There is no need. Acceptance is all that is required. The Holy Spirit is open arms (13:1).

When you are spending a lot of time trying to figure out someone else's motives, or trying to break the situation down into small, disconnected parts, you are taking the ego's approach. Such an approach is actually a form of attack (13:4–5). It is a refusal to see the wholeness that is always there.

In any situation, we can choose to heal or to attack, to unite or to separate, to bring peace or to foster conflict. The ego will always direct us toward separation and chaos because it believes that "separation is salvation" (13:6), and "power, understanding and truth lie in separation" (13:4). The Holy Spirit will guide us toward unity. He will anoint our eyes to see the wholeness inherent in everyone and to appreciate that wholeness.

Analysis is inherently separating (13:2). This approach is fundamentally flawed because it misses the wholeness, rather like the saying, "He can't see the forest for the trees." Focusing on the distinct and separate parts, we miss the totality. A chemist who analyzes a substance breaks it down into its component parts: Analyze water and you find hydrogen and oxygen. But once you have broken it down into its components, water isn't water any more. Breaking things down into component parts is the basic methodology of the ego. Rather than aiding our understanding, analysis often hinders it. It leads to chaos instead of to meaning (13:6).

Paragraph 14

14.            1The ego's interpretations of the laws of perception are, and would have to be, the exact opposite of the Holy Spirit's. 2The ego focuses on error and overlooks truth. 3It makes real every mistake it perceives, and with characteristically circular reasoning concludes that because of the mistake consistent truth must be meaningless. 4The next step, then, is obvious. 5If consistent truth is meaningless, inconsistency must be true [if truth has meaning]. 6Holding error clearly in mind, and protecting what it has made real, the ego proceeds to the next step in its thought system: [that] Error is real and truth is error.

• Study Question •

5.     Paragraph 14 sketches four steps in making error real. List these four steps and give your understanding of what they mean.

I've noticed that, when anyone tries to analyze some situation, it usually consists of finding fault or locating blame. Paragraph 14 makes just that point as it continues to list the ego's methods.

"The Ego Focuses on Error and Overlooks the Truth" (14:2)

When it comes to perception, to the way we see things, the ego sees mistakes and makes them real (14:3). It is the ultimate cynic. This is "the exact opposite of the Holy Spirit's" interpretation of things (14:1), since He focuses on truth and overlooks our errors! That is what it means to see the wholeness instead of analyzing the separate parts: We affirm the truth of God in one another, and do not misinterpret our mistakes as having any real meaning about who we are. When someone is mean to us, we realize that they are a holy child of God just like we are, and that they are attacking because they are afraid, just like we are. We do not mislabel them as attackers. We do not mistake their ego for their reality. We affirm the truth and overlook the illusion.

When your focus is on a person's mistakes instead of on their love and their true being in God, you are following the ego's voice. When you see someone as a mass of contradictions and utterly unreliable because they change from one minute to the next, you are seeing with the ego. You are overlooking the consistent truth about them. You end up with the ego's conclusion that there is no truth in the person, that they are nothing but a mass of inconsistency (14:5).

The Holy Spirit sees our mistakes as nothing but temporary illusions, just ripples on the ocean of our being, or like heat waves in the desert that make the solid reality behind them appear to waver and change, although nothing really changes at all. To the Holy Spirit, mistakes do not mean anything.

(For a discussion of the steps by which the ego makes error real (14:3–6), see the answer to question 5.)

Paragraphs 15 & 16

15.            1The ego makes no attempt to understand this, and it is clearly not understandable, but the ego does make every attempt to demonstrate it, and this it does constantly. 2Analyzing to attack meaning the ego succeeds [does succeed] in overlooking it, and is left with a series of fragmented perceptions which it unifies on behalf of itself. 3This, then, becomes the universe it perceives. 4And it is this universe which, in turn, becomes its demonstration of its own reality.

16.            1Do not underestimate the appeal of the ego's demonstrations to those who would listen. 2Selective perception chooses its witnesses carefully, and its witnesses are consistent. 3The case for insanity is strong to the insane. 4For reasoning ends at its beginning, and no thought system transcends its source. 5Yet reasoning without meaning cannot demonstrate anything, and those who are convinced by it must be deluded. 6Can the ego teach truly when it overlooks truth? 7Can it perceive what it has denied? 8Its witnesses do attest to its denial, but hardly to what it has denied. 9The ego looks straight at the Father and does not see Him, for it has denied His Son.

• Study Question •

6.     What is the universe perceived by the ego, in everyday terms?

The Ego Projects Conflict to Demonstrate Its Reality

Although the notion that "truth is error" makes no sense and is clearly self-contradictory, that does not bother the ego. Instead, the ego is constantly trying to demonstrate its own reality, and to prove that its perception—that error is real and truth is error—is also real (15:1). It does this by projecting the conflict, which exists in our mind, into the world.

The ego carefully selects what is allowed into your awareness, and it focuses on the mistakes and makes them real. It takes this carefully selected set of observations and imposes a false unity on them, forming a view of the world based on its biased and warped observations (15:2). That view of the world is projected out and "becomes the universe it perceives" (15:3). Then, the ego turns around and uses this false "world" as proof of its own reality (15:4).

In simple terms, by selective perception (16.2) the ego makes up a mental picture of the world that is false. It projects that picture outside, which is how the world was made. It then pretends the world exists independently of the mind, and tells you that the world demonstrates or proves that the ego is right.

We might think that we would easily see through the ego's blatant deception, but we don't. Don't underestimate the ego's appeal! We buy into it because we want to (16:1). We are identified with our ego, and therefore we are easily fooled into believing it. "The case for insanity is strong to the insane" (16:3). If you have ever tried to talk with a person who is seriously mentally disturbed, you will have a better understanding of this. Perhaps you have known or heard an interview with a "conspiracy nut," someone who sees conspiracies everywhere. If so, you will have noticed how they select from the evidence, hear what they want to hear, and twist their interpretation of things to fit their pet theories. That is exactly how the ego operates—how your ego operates.

The ego is insane to begin with, and we leave reason at the door when we enter its thought system (16:4). The ego purports to support its case with reasoning, but the reasoning means nothing because it is based on misperceptions and lies. The only reason we accept the ego's conclusions about the world is because we are predisposed to believe them. The reason we cannot see God when He is staring us in the face is that we want to deny Him (16:9).

The world means only what the ego wants it to mean. That is the deeper meaning behind the early Workbook lesson, "I have given everything I see…all the meaning that it has for me" (W-pI.2). In paragraph 18 of this section the same idea is stated like this: "Everything you perceive is a witness to the thought system you want to be true" (18.3).

This is why you will never find any scientific evidence of God. "The world was made as an attack on God" (W-pII.3.2:1). "Thus the world was meant to be a place where God could enter not, and where His Son could be apart from Him" (W-pII.3:2:4). You won't find God in the world because the world was made to be a place without God.

The world can teach us something, but not what the ego wants it to teach. It can teach us how consistently our minds have denied God! (16.8).

* * * * *

Let's summarize, then, the goal and methods of the ego shown in this section. Its goal is complete autonomy or a separate, independent existence. Its methods are:

• the ego attacks on behalf of separation

• the ego minimizes your fear of it

• the ego teaches that independence of God is happiness

• the ego analyzes, or separates to understand

• the ego focuses on error and overlooks the truth

• the ego projects conflict to demonstrate its reality

The way to change all this in order to remember God is to reverse all of these ego methods. When attack thoughts arise question them, and recognize the goal of separation behind them. Look honestly with the Holy Spirit at your fear of the ego, and realize that the ego always engenders more fear. Know that your happiness is found in dependence on God, not in your independence from Him. Accept your brothers, rather than analyzing their motives. Overlook error, and focus on the truth. When you see the world in a way that seems to prove the ego is right, realize that you are seeing the projection of your own ego's thoughts that you have chosen to listen to.

Paragraph 17

17.            1Would you remember the Father? 2Accept His Son and you will remember Him. 3Nothing can demonstrate that His Son is unworthy, for nothing can prove that a lie is true. 4What you see of His Son through the eyes of the ego is a demonstration that His Son does not exist, yet where the Son is the Father must be. 5Accept what God does not deny, and it [He] will demonstrate its truth. 6The witnesses for God stand in His Light and behold what He created. 7Their silence is the sign that they have beheld God's Son, and in the Presence of Christ they need demonstrate nothing, for Christ speaks to them of Himself and of His Father. 8They are silent because Christ speaks to them, and it is His words they [that they] speak.

• Study Question •

7.     When 17:4 speaks about "what you see of His Son through the eyes of the ego," what does it mean? That is, what do we see of God's Son through the eyes of the ego? What does this refer to in our everyday experience?

So, Jesus says, if you want to remember God, start accepting His Son in all the people around you (17:1–2). If the world seen through the ego's eyes demonstrates that God's Son does not exist (because everyone is guilty in the ego's eyes) (17:3–4), the way to reverse that is to start seeing Christ in everyone. Or, in a word, forgiveness.

If you begin to accept what God says is true of all of us—that we are His innocent, holy Son—"it will demonstrate its truth" (17:5) or better, as the Urtext has it, He will demonstrate its truth. In faith, and in silence, accept the innocence of everyone, and God will show you that it is true.

 The latter part of paragraph 17 is, frankly, a bit confusing. It says that God's witnesses are silent, yet it mentions that they speak Christ's words (17:7–8). The idea seems to be that they function as passive channels, allowing Christ to speak through them. They are silent, but Christ speaks through them.

The impression I get is that when I am confronted with a brother or sister, I should avoid painting them with my interpretation. I should avoid trying to analyze their character and commenting on it. I should, instead, mentally step back, and allow Christ to speak to me through them, whether they are conscious of His presence or not. If I am willing, and if I actively look for the presence of Christ in my sister or brother, He will be there, and will "speak to [me] of Himself and of His Father" (17:7).

When you listen to the ego, you will see what it wants you to see and only that. When you listen to the Holy Spirit, you will see the world differently, and what you see will demonstrate God to you. It all comes back to the basic choice: which thought system do you want to be true? The thought system of God, or of the ego?

Paragraph 10

18.            1Every brother you meet becomes a witness for Christ or for the ego, depending on what you perceive in him. 2Everyone convinces you of what you want to perceive, and of the reality of the kingdom you have chosen for your vigilance. 3Everything you perceive is a witness to the thought system you want to be true. 4Every brother has the power to release you, if you choose to be free [if you will to be free]. 5You cannot accept false witness of him unless you have evoked false witnesses against him. 6If he speaks not of Christ to you, you spoke not of Christ to him. 7You hear but your own voice, and if Christ speaks through you, you will hear Him [in your brother].

• Study Question •

8.     If everyone can be seen as "a witness for Christ" (18:1), how could you perceive someone in that way if they passionately and vocally express hatred toward you?

Every brother you meet becomes a witness for Christ or for the ego, depending on what you perceive in him. Everyone convinces you of what you want to perceive, and of the reality of the kingdom you have chosen for your vigilance. (18.1–2)

The voice you choose to hear determines the world you see. The choice is yours.

I think this is one of the hardest things for people to really grasp. Nearly everyone believes that what they perceive is the truth. We think, "If I see someone as a snake in the grass it's because he is a snake in the grass." It never dawns on us that we are seeing only what we want to see, and that somehow, choices we are making or that we have made determine how we see other people. We see witnesses for the ego because the ego's kingdom is what we have chosen to watch for, and because the ego's kingdom is what we want to see!


Try applying this teaching to some situation in your life in which you perceive someone else in an unfavorable light. You see this person as unworthy, weak, sinful, hopeless, or unlovable. Notice that seeing another person in that way tends to substantiate the ego and make it real because you are seeing that person as an ego. Then, remind yourself that you always perceive what you want to perceive, so you must be perceiving in that moment as if you want to believe in the reality of the ego! (18:3).

Then, remind yourself that you do not really want to believe in the reality of the ego in this other person, because if his or her ego is real, so is your own. Choose again, and decide that you want to look for evidence of the reality of Christ in this person. Remind yourself that if Christ is in him or her, then Christ is also in you; how you see him can imprison you in the ego or set you free in Christ (18:4).

That is the basic choice the Course is asking us to make.

If he speaks not of Christ to you, you spoke not of Christ to him. You hear but your own voice, and if Christ speaks through you, you will hear Him. (18.6–7)

When the world seems to be giving you a message of despair and disillusionment, suffering and death, victims and victimizers, it is because that is the message you have been giving the world! It is because those are the thoughts you are thinking. "You hear but your own voice"(18:7). It is because you have chosen to perceive the world that way out of your fear of God, and out of your misguided allegiance to the ego's goal of autonomy.

It isn't the world that needs to change. It's you. Or rather, your image of yourself. You have been choosing the ego, and it brings you nothing but fear. Recognize the cost of your choice—and choose again.

Answer Key

1.     We are afraid of ourselves, that is, of the truth of what we are; we are also afraid of destroying ourselves, and thus fear unreality.

2.     The ego's goal is independence from God. That goal is the source of our fear. We can never accomplish it because we fear it. In reality, we do not want it.

3.     Both God and we are free and independent from anything outside of God, anything that would limit God's freedom or boundlessness, or anything that would exert some kind of control over Him. There is nothing outside of God; there is no power that can oppose Him. Thus, in God we are totally autonomous.

4.     No written answer is expected.

5.     Four steps in making error real:

                                 i.     The ego focuses on error to the exclusion of truth (14:2).

                                ii.     It concludes that consistent or mistake-free truth is meaningless (14:3).

                              iii.     It then concludes that inconsistency must be the truth (14:4–5).

                              iv.     Finally, it concludes that "error is real and truth is error" (14:6).

By concentrating on errors and making a big deal out of them, the ego makes it look as though everything (or everyone) is riddled with errors. It looks as though no one is perfectly true or perfectly good. Everyone is inconsistent (and that is pretty much the conclusion we have all come to, isn't it? "Nobody's perfect!"). Thus, inconsistency is the truth. If that is true, then error must be what is real, and to believe that truth actually exists is a mistake. Thus, the ego is the ultimate cynic, which my Oxford dictionary defines as "a person who has little faith in human sincerity and goodness."

6.     The physical universe.

7.     We see the Son as a series of small, disconnected parts, separate bodies, and walking errors. We see imperfect beings, attackers, sick bodies, and other forms that seem to demonstrate that the separation and the ego are real. We see one another's behavior, which seems to demonstrate that the Son is unworthy or sinful.

8.     A person who hates you can be perceived as a witness for Christ if you look past his hatred to the Christ in him, and see his hatred as a form of fear, which can then be seen as that person's call for the Christ in himself.