Questions & Answers
There is nothing I like more than a good question about the Course. And by “good question”, I mean a thought provoking one – a question that makes me reassess what I currently believe and perhaps come to see it in a new light. As a result, we have a very interactive study group of Course students here in Louisville where everyone is encouraged to share their insights and questions. It is also a very diverse group with people from widely varying religious backgrounds so we get a lot of very insightful questions and I’ve been making a note of them for the last 15 years. Here is another of my favorite ones:
Question: What exactly is the ego? How do I recognize it? And how do I deal with it?
Answer: There is a line in the Original Edition (Bill Thetford’s first edit of the typed manuscript that Helen Schucman took in dictation of the Voice) that for some reason was deleted from the FIP editions that is the clearest and simplest explanation of what ACIM means whenever it is speaking about the ego. And that line reads:
“The ego IS the belief of the mind that it is completely on its own.”*
So, the ego is nothing more that the subconscious belief that you are entirely separate and on your own. And that belief gives rise to a whole range of complex and automatic reactions to your environment based on that one, single premise. The belief that you are completely on your own, separate from everyone and everything you see (and, most importantly, separate from God), makes you react in self-defensive (self-protective) ways whenever you are presented with a choice. That complex of automatic and unexamined defensive reactions is the seemingly separate “entity” that the Course refers to as the ego.
This belief (and its resulting “network” of automatic responses) leads to choices based upon separateness which in turn lead to experiences of separation, forming a self-reinforcing feedback loop of even stronger belief and ever more extreme new experiences. And those experiences are always of exclusion, rejection and loss that “prove” the reality of that one original belief. And so we create a wall of defenses, mostly subconsciously. This is what the Course is talking about when it refers to the “wall” comprised of a “thousand shards of meannesss”** – the thousands of hurts from the past that make us want to defend ourselves as separate beings from separate “others” with separate interests. And it is this that the Course asks us to question. (See Lessons 1-7.)
And the Course says it will lead us to NEW experiences – experiences through which we will ultimately learn the happy news that we are NOT alone, separate OR unsafe.***
Ego (from Latin, first person pronoun) definition: me, myself, I – alone, separate and independent. And the thought that “I” could have different and separate interests from you (any “you”) makes me hold “you” off at a distance. Makes me think “I” can win at your expense. Tells me that openness and honesty (the truth) will cost me something, somehow. For a defined and separate “you” presents a myriad of threats to limited “me”.
And so: “PRESENT joining IS your dread.” CH.26.IX.70 Because, “All choices in the world depend on this; – You choose BETWEEN your brother and yourself, and you will gain as much as he will lose, and what you lose is what is given him. How utterly OPPOSED to truth is this, when what the lesson’s purpose is to teach that what your brother loses YOU have lost, and what he gains is what is given YOU.” CH.31.IV.40
And the gentle but constant examination of that premise of separate interests behind our every choice is the undoing of the ego. Doing the Course really is that simple. Truly.
* Carmen Cameron, who is a founding member of Course in Miracles Society, has been teaching classes in A Course in Miracles since 1994. She was a presenter at the 2009 Miracles Conference in San Francisco and is scheduled to present again at the 2011 Conference. Carmen’s website is: http://peaceful-path.blogspot.com/