Sunday, January 27, 2013
My Illusions Are the Way I Look at the World
During my Course in Miracles (ACIM) study group this week, we discussed the difference between being and existence. Both “existence as well as being rest on communication. Existence, however, is specific in how, what and with whom communication is judged to be worth undertaking.” [Txt 4. VII. 4. 1-2] As I thought about it, that comment really damned me because my illusions are the way I look at the world. Generally, when I see people, I see what I’m predisposed to see, not the “real” people themselves.
I was reminded of comments by Robert Perry in his book, The Path of Light – Stepping into Peace with A Course in Miracles. He discusses the mechanics of perception in a section of the same name [Circle Publishers, 2004, pp. 97ff.] “The Course says, ‘Perception selects, and makes the world you see.’ [Txt 21. V. 1. 1] If I look for acts of kindness, I’ll live in a different world than the person who focuses on acts of callousness, and each of us will live in a different world than the guy who has a shoe fetish. What we focus on makes our world.” [p. 98] “Seeing with true perception means that we look on the same old people and situations as before, but see a whole new meaning in them. It means seeing a different reality, one that has been right in front of u all along, but which we failed to notice.... For instance, when someone yells at you, the sights and sounds of this event come streaming in through your senses, impressing themselves on your mind. Yet this is not all that seems to come streaming in. The meaning of the situation also appears to come in from the outside. You probably experienced being yelled at as a bad thing, and this ‘badness’ appears to exist in the situation itself. It seems to thrust itself onto your mind, coming in alongside the sights and sounds, and making you feel bad…. The Course makes an obvious point: ‘It is surely the mind that judges what the eyes behold. It is the mind that interprets the eyes’ messages and gives them ‘meaning.’ And this meaning does not exist in the world outside at all. [M.8.4.1]” [p. 97]
How does this happen? How does my mind assign meaning to people, events or situations? “This, as you might guess, is where things go wrong. This is where ‘errors’ in perception enter.” [p. 98]
We have each developed categories into which we dump the people we meet, know, or interact with. Perry refers to these categories we have all developed as file folders. I have a file folder or category labeled Bible Belt Christians, fat people, Asian people, rich people, poor people, old people, arrogant people, illiterate people, and so forth.
You know, too, that you have similar categories as well.
For example, when I see people and, quickly in my observation or in our conversation, peg them as a “Bible Belt Christian, I mentally open up my “Bible Belt” file folder and unceremoniously dump them in. In doing that I am attributing all the characteristics I have placed in that folder to those people, even if I don’t know them. My file folder, assembled throughout my life, “tells” me: They have all been taught that to be saved is to affirm a simple intellectual assent to the belief that the words of the Bible (usually the King James Bible only) are the words of God. Those words are therefore correct and true for all people all the time. In fact, when pressed, they would state that their salvation and guarantee for a place in Heaven is their literal belief in the Bible, not their faith in Jesus Christ who has transformed them. By believing in the Bible this way, they can hate with their perfect, self-righteous hatred. They can fear anything – people, places, movies, books, history, science or philosophy– that is construed to be at odds with selected passages of scripture. The fact that hate is not a Jesus value does not bother them. The fact that an obscure, out-of-context quote from Leviticus has been given the same spiritual weight as a parable from Jesus’ mouth does not bother them. If it’s in the Bible, it’s true.
When I see people that are “old,” I dump them into my “old” folder. Old people are totally absorbed with themselves. They have confused steering, braking and accelerating with the act of driving. They are oblivious to things like what’s going on around them: The speed limit, The difference between a Yield sign and a Stop sign, That the left lane is for passing and the right lane is for slower traffic. Old people don’t stop their bad driving on the highway. Just try to negotiate around their grocery carts in a crowded store – seemingly always parked right in the middle of the aisle or right in front of a door as they chat with a familiar face.
These are categories or file folders I have created – partly because of my shared illusions and partly because of my own selective memory of prior experiences. I know that you, too, have your file folders. Regardless, it is my way of maintaining my sense of separateness. I am different/better/poorer/richer/healthier than you. I am me. You are you. Period. It is my ego.
Because I have these folders that are consistent with “my story,” I never truly see these people. I see my perceptions (AKA categories) of them. Pieces of these people that turn out not quite fitting the preconceived ideas in my folders are conveniently forgotten.
In short, I see what I want to see. If I don’t like what I see or if what I see is making me nervous, anxious, depressed, angry, or sad, then all I need to do is change what it is I want to see. Simple, but very difficult.
All perception of mine – all those file folders – are my creations, and they are all wrong and in error. They are not representative of the real world. They only represent my ego’s view of things. Only the Holy Spirit can help me change those perceptions. All I need to do is really ask for help and work like the devil to train my mind to look at life through the eyes of the Holy Spirit (vision) and not through the eyes of my ego (sight).
Although these messages are mostly for me, thanks for listening. As always – feel free to forward this message to your friends, family, and those accompanying you on your spiritual journey.
#4 January, 2013