If I defend myself I am attacked.
This is the longest lesson in the book and is very important.
1. Who would defend himself unless he thought he were attacked, that the attack were real, and that his own defense could save himself? ²And herein lies the folly of defense; it gives illusions full reality, and then attempts to handle them as real. ³It adds illusions to illusions, thus making correction doubly difficult. ⁴And it is this you do when you attempt to plan the future, activate the past, or organize the present as you wish.
How did we get so confused? It started with the idea to do the impossible, to separate from God and achieve specialness and the belief this was actually achieved and now we are guilty for our sin. This is not true because it is not possible to defy the Will of God except in our imagination. But thinking we have done so, we then set up a plan to relieve ourselves of this guilt by projecting it onto the body.
Jesus asks who would defend himself unless he thought he was attacked and the attack was real. But that’s just it, we are not bodies and the attack has never happened. Remember that we are only viewing something that occurred billions of years ago and then was undone in the same instant it was thought. We are not in these bodies that seem so vulnerable to us, we are merely observing the long over story of the particular story we are reviewing. How silly are our defenses.
Our plan to avoid guilt by projecting onto these bodies and then trying to solve it there is making our salvation doubly difficult. The ego plan of looking to the bodies for a solution keeps us from looking within to the mind where the problem actually exists and where we can correct the problem. The solution being that there is no problem, seeing guilt everywhere we look certainly doesn’t help our journey Home. We have set up a perfect ego trap to keep the stories going.
And what does Jesus mean when he says this: ⁴And it is this you do when you attempt to plan the future, activate the past, or organize the present as you wish.
How could we possibly avoid planning and organizing? I have two calls today and they could not happen without a plan and without me putting them on my calendar. The clue is in the last three words, as you wish. When I make plans and organize my day, I do so with the Holy Spirit, not on my own. My mind stays open to His guidance, at least for the most part, and to avoid going off on my own (with the ego) I remind myself often to ask what He would have me do and with whom.
2. You operate from the belief you must protect yourself from what is happening because it must contain what threatens you. ²A sense of threat is an acknowledgment of an inherent weakness; a belief that there is danger which has power to call on you to make appropriate defense. ³The world is based on this insane belief. ⁴And all its structures, all its thoughts and doubts, its penalties and heavy armaments, its legal definitions and its codes, its ethics and its leaders and its gods, all serve but to preserve its sense of threat. ⁵For no one walks the world in armature but must have terror striking at his heart.
Does all this seem too extreme? Let us remember why we made the world. We made it as a place to hide from God’s imagined wrath for something we imagined we did. It is, literally, a projection of our fear and guilt. As long as we believe it is real, we will feel the need to protect ourselves. Should we stop behaving in this way? Should we ignore the law, stop using strong passwords, stop locking our doors?
I don’t think this is what he means because it is not practical and changing behavior does not address the error which is in our mind. Instead, let us remember our purpose here, which is to acknowledge the unreality of the situation and to make a decision to release the thoughts that are causing the world. Let us learn to see the world as Jesus sees it. If we had no fearful thoughts of attack and defense in our mind, we could not be harmed. Our work is in healing the mind of these thoughts not trying to manipulate the world.
3. Defense is frightening. ²It stems from fear, increasing fear as each defense is made. ³You think it offers safety. ⁴Yet it speaks of fear made real and terror justified. ⁵Is it not strange you do not pause to ask, as you elaborate your plans and make your armor thicker and your locks more tight, what you defend, and how, and against what?
Jesus talks frequently in the Course about defenses. He tells us that is only in our defenselessness that our safety lies because every time we defend ourselves we are more convinced that we are vulnerable. So defense only makes us feel we need defense, it reinforces our fears and keeps us focused on the effects (the body) rather than on the cause which is our mind.
4. Let us consider first what you defend. ²It must be something that is very weak and easily assaulted. ³It must be something made easy prey, unable to protect itself and needing your defense. ⁴What but the body has such frailty that constant care and watchful, deep concern are needful to protect its little life? ⁵What but the body falters and must fail to serve the Son of God as worthy host?
Why are we so determined to protect this body considering how weak and vulnerable it is? We are the Sons of God, why do we keep the idea of the body alive in our minds? It is just as we talked about it already. It is the repository for guilt; it is where we hide from God. But there is no need to hide from God because we have not sinned.
The body is also the home of our idea of specialness and we are reluctant to give up separation and specialness. Somehow, after all this time and in spite of all the pain and suffering, we still think there is some value in being less than God the Son. But we are coming to our senses. That is why we are doing these lessons. We are ready to awaken from this crazy dream.
5. Yet it is not the body that can fear, nor be a thing of fear. ²It has no needs but those which you assign to it. ³It needs no complicated structures of defense, no health-inducing medicine, no care and no concern at all. ⁴Defend its life, or give it gifts to make it beautiful or walls to make it safe, and you but say your home is open to the thief of time, corruptible and crumbling, so unsafe it must be guarded with your very life.
If we believe that we are this body, or even in this body, we will feel the need to defend it. If we still believe in guilt, we will see a need to maintain it. The solution is to use the ideas we have about the body as clues as to what yet needs to be healed in the mind. In the meantime, we do whatever we need to do to keep the body alive and functioning and comfortable all the while recognizing that this is not the solution just something that is done in the world while there is a world. The solution is to release the world.
6. Is not this picture fearful? ²Can you be at peace with such a concept of your home? ³Yet what endowed the body with the right to serve you thus except your own belief? ⁴It is your mind which gave the body all the functions that you see in it, and set its value far beyond a little pile of dust and water. ⁵Who would make defense of something that he recognized as this?
We but do this to ourselves as Jesus tells us in the Text. The ‘this’ he speaks of is anything that robs us of our peace, any belief that keeps us tied to the world. The body is part of the world and all we believe about it is something to release. We can do this. We don’t have to keep the body on a pedestal proclaiming its value as we spend so much time, energy, and money to keep it there. The psychological cost is even greater as we choose to be afraid of it and for it. We don’t need to do that either, we choose to do so. We can feed the body, clothe it, take it to the doctor, whatever is needed without giving it value it does not have.
7. The body is in need of no defense. ²This cannot be too often emphasized. ³It will be strong and healthy if the mind does not abuse it by assigning it to roles it cannot fill, to purposes beyond its scope, and to exalted aims which it cannot accomplish. ⁴Such attempts, ridiculous yet deeply cherished, are the sources for the many mad attacks you make upon it. ⁵For it seems to fail your hopes, your needs, your values and your dreams.
Instead of focusing our minds on defending the body, let us focus on healing the mind. That the body suffers is not the effect on how we treat it but how we think. The body is just a manifestation of the mind as is everything else. Let it show us what needs to be healed in the mind and it will have served its purpose well. The body if used by the ego-mind will show us guilt and fear. If used by the Holy Spirit, it will be used for the purpose of saving the world.
8. The “self” that needs protection is not real. ²The body, valueless and hardly worth the least defense, need merely be perceived as quite apart from you, and it becomes a healthy, serviceable instrument through which the mind can operate until its usefulness is over. ³Who would want to keep it when its usefulness is done?
The body is just a classroom where I learn that I am not a body. I misuse it when I think it is me. Then it becomes something to defend and protect and in this, I will fail because inevitably it will die. To the ego-mind this makes perfect sense. The body represents our sins and our guilt. It is the place we play out these beliefs. Of course, the ego thinks that it should suffer and die for its sins. But none of this is true. We did not sin and we do not have bodies.
But as long as we think we do we can use the bodies to undo our belief in them. In meditation, we have the opportunity to return to our formless state if only for a few minutes. While going through our day we meet other bodies and we have a choice as to how we will engage, in fear and guilt or in love. The choice we make either reinforces the ego or reminds us of who we are.
9. Defend the body and you have attacked your mind. ²For you have seen in it the faults, the weaknesses, the limits and the lacks from which you think the body must be saved. ³You will not see the mind as separate from bodily conditions. ⁴And you will impose upon the body all the pain that comes from the conception of the mind as limited and fragile, and apart from other minds and separate from its Source.
10. These are the thoughts in need of healing, and the body will respond with health when they have been corrected and replaced with truth. ²This is the body’s only real defense. ³Yet is this where you look for its defense? ⁴You offer it protection of a kind from which it gains no benefit at all, but merely adds to your distress of mind. ⁵You do not heal, but merely take away the hope of healing, for you fail to see where hope must lie if it be meaningful.
The faults, the limits, the lacks, the bodily conditions are all really in the mind, not the body. But in our defense of the body, we convince ourselves that the body is important, more than important, we convince ourselves that we are the body. We try to correct all these problems by doing things on or with the body seeing it as what we need to protect or correct. We become more and more attached to the body and more identified with it and nothing ever really changes until we change our mind.
11. A healed mind does not plan. ²It carries out the plans that it receives through listening to wisdom that is not its own. ³It waits until it has been taught what should be done, and then proceeds to do it. ⁴It does not depend upon itself for anything except its adequacy to fulfill the plans assigned to it. ⁵It is secure in certainty that obstacles can not impede its progress to accomplishment of any goal that serves the greater plan established for the good of everyone.
This is one of my favorite passages in the Course. I don’t decide with the ego-mind what to do or where to go. I ask the Holy Spirit. When I make my plan for the day, I begin by asking what it is I should plan and even then I hold it all very loosely so that the Holy Spirit can correct my course if I start going off on my own or misunderstand what my part is for the day.
Trying to accomplish any goal on my own is exhausting and probably futile. Just following directions is easy and productive. If during the day, I feel uncertain or find myself moving from task to task without completing anything, I know what happened. I went off on my own. I just laugh at myself and return to the Holy Spirit for new directions.
12. A healed mind is relieved of the belief that it must plan, although it cannot know the outcome which is best, the means by which it is achieved, nor how to recognize the problem that the plan is made to solve. ²It must misuse the body in its plans until it recognizes this is so. ³But when it has accepted this as true, then is it healed, and lets the body go.
13. Enslavement of the body to the plans the unhealed mind sets up to save itself must make the body sick. ²It is not free to be the means of helping in a plan which far exceeds its own protection, and which needs its service for a little while. ³In this capacity is health assured. ⁴For everything the mind employs for this will function flawlessly, and with the strength that has been given it and cannot fail.
My mind is not completely healed so sometimes I do make plans on my own. Sometimes I am in denial of this, so much so, that I don’t realize I am doing it until something happens to reveal my distress. I do know that while I must experience the story of Myron, doing so is not my goal. Rather, my goal is to use this story to deepen my awakening and to help others to awaken as well.
I don’t always know what that entails at any moment, but there is in me a Guide that does know and I have learned to listen to It. When I slip down a rabbit hole of ego thinking, I suffer for it. Sometimes I suffer physically through sickness such as headaches. When I get a headache I look to my thoughts because I know that I must be conflicted.
Sometimes I injure myself and again it is my mind that is the cause. Often it is because my mind is wandering and not paying attention to the present moment. I see these effects and recognize the cause and can then make corrections. It also shows me that problems with the body are always an effect of a problem in the mind whether I can pinpoint it or not. The body can be a very useful tool when used by the Holy Spirit. If I allow this use by the Holy Spirit, I am not enslaved to the body but am using it for a higher purpose.
14. It is, perhaps, not easy to perceive that self-initiated plans are but defenses, with the purpose all of them were made to realize. ²They are the means by which a frightened mind would undertake its own protection, at the cost of truth. ³This is not difficult to realize in some forms which these self-deceptions take, where the denial of reality is very obvious. ⁴Yet planning is not often recognized as a defense.
15. The mind engaged in planning for itself is occupied in setting up control of future happenings. ²It does not think that it will be provided for, unless it makes its own provisions. ³Time becomes a future emphasis, to be controlled by learning and experience obtained from past events and previous beliefs. ⁴It overlooks the present, for it rests on the idea the past has taught enough to let the mind direct its future course.
16. The mind that plans is thus refusing to allow for change. ²What it has learned before becomes the basis for its future goals. ³Its past experience directs its choice of what will happen. ⁴And it does not see that here and now is everything it needs to guarantee a future quite unlike the past, without a continuity of any old ideas and sick beliefs. ⁵Anticipation plays no part at all, for present confidence directs the way.
I was trying to think of self-initiated plans that prove this point and was having trouble thinking of something. Then I realized that each of my three marriages was perfect examples. Each one was my own idea and done for a particular purpose. This is not to say that I didn’t love my husbands. I did, very much. But the relationship always had a hidden agenda, sometimes agendas I wasn’t allowing myself to be aware of on a conscious level.
Some of the agendas were quite typical in all special relationships. I wanted to feel special, to feel loved, to feel cared for, to feel safe. I didn’t find this in my relationships, or should I say that these goals were never sustainable. My husbands always had their own agendas, their own needs and often they conflicted.
My goals were not the problem, simply that I decided on my own, that is, with the ego-mind, how I could achieve them. What I finally learned after three divorces and the study and practice of the Course, is that all these goals are easily achievable when given to the Holy Spirit. As I let Him guide me and heal me, I learned to love myself and to love others.
In doing so I began to realize that love is always available to me because I am love. I learned that I am special in the same way that we all are special and that I am not interested in any foolish notions of a different kind of specialness. In turning to God over and over again, I found my safety and I discovered that God cares for me deeply.
17. Defenses are the plans you undertake to make against the truth. ²Their aim is to select what you approve, and disregard what you consider incompatible with your beliefs of your reality. ³Yet what remains is meaningless indeed. ⁴For it is your reality that is the “threat” which your defenses would attack, obscure, and take apart and crucify.
What is the truth we are so determined to defend against? The truth is that we are not our bodies or our personalities. We are not in a world of our own making. We are not separate from God or from each other. What we are now is what we were created to be and nothing that we are experiencing affects our Self. We are determined to defend against our memory of God and of Self. Why do we defend against all of that? Because we think we are guilty and that this world is our only defense against the guilt. Without a world on which to project that awful guilt, we believe we would be destroyed by it.
18. What could you not accept, if you but knew that everything that happens, all events, past, present and to come, are gently planned by One Whose only purpose is your good? ²Perhaps you have misunderstood His plan, for He would never offer pain to you. ³But your defenses did not let you see His loving blessing shine in every step you ever took. ⁴While you made plans for death, He led you gently to eternal life.
This is another wonderful passage that I treasure and use to remind myself of the truth. The ego-mind looks only at the guilt without questioning it and assumes punishment is due. But what if the ego is wrong? What if God treasures us and loves us without condition? What if God completely disregards anything that He did not create and anything that is not His Will? What if God wants only what is our good and would never offer us pain? What if we did not see this because we were so busy building defenses against God that we couldn’t see His Loving Hand in our life?
19. Your present trust in Him is the defense that promises a future undisturbed, without a trace of sorrow, and with joy that constantly increases, as this life becomes a holy instant, set in time, but heeding only immortality. ²Let no defenses but your present trust direct the future, and this life becomes a meaningful encounter with the truth that only your defenses would conceal.
20. Without defenses, you become a light which Heaven gratefully acknowledges to be its own. ²And it will lead you on in ways appointed for your happiness according to the ancient plan, begun when time was born. ³Your followers will join their light with yours, and it will be increased until the world is lighted up with joy. ⁴And gladly will our brothers lay aside their cumbersome defenses, which availed them nothing and could only terrify.
As I said, my mind is not completely healed, but there has been enough healing to cause a significant shift. My present trust in Him does promise a future undisturbed and I believe this because of how much my life has changed so far. Instead of consistently looking outward for the cause of distress and trying to correct the outward picture, I have learned to always look inward. I then accept healing so that there is a true change.
I never pray for the world to change or my body to change; I pray for my mind to change. Because of this, my life has become a meaningful encounter with the truth and when this is not so, I see the cause immediately and accept correction. I am very happy and peaceful almost all the time now. I know there is a plan for my life and I am open to living that. Actually, I delight in living it. I am the light of the world and I don’t cringe at saying so. I am a teacher of God almost all the time and I don’t feel arrogant to say that either. I am just fulfilling the purpose for which I came. It is a wonderful way to live and I look forward to living this way perfectly.
21. We will anticipate that time today with present confidence, for this is part of what was planned for us. ²We will be sure that everything we need is given us for our accomplishment of this today. ³We make no plans for how it will be done, but realize that our defenselessness is all that is required for the truth to dawn upon our minds with certainty.
22. For fifteen minutes twice today we rest from senseless planning, and from every thought that blocks the truth from entering our minds. ²Today we will receive instead of plan, that we may give instead of organize. ³And we are given truly, as we say:
⁴If I defend myself I am attacked. ⁵But in defenselessness I will be strong, and I will learn what my defenses hide.
Another way to think of defenselessness is surrender. I surrender all my plans and I surrender all defenses. I am open and receptive.
23. Nothing but that. ²If there are plans to make, you will be told of them. ³They may not be the plans you thought were needed, nor indeed the answers to the problems which you thought confronted you. ⁴But they are answers to another kind of question, which remains unanswered yet in need of answering until the Answer comes to you at last.
Surrender. Let yourself be led. Let the mind rest in God and allow healing. Be in awe that healing is occurring even as you sit in stillness for a few minutes. The Answer is for you and so there is no reason you should doubt it will come. Sometimes it comes as the realization there is something specific for you to do today. Sometimes the answer comes in inspired thoughts but sometimes it comes simply as a healed mind.
24. All your defenses have been aimed at not receiving what you will receive today. ²And in the light and joy of simple trust, you will but wonder why you ever thought that you must be defended from release. ³Heaven asks nothing. ⁴It is hell that makes extravagant demands for sacrifice. ⁵You give up nothing in these times today when, undefended, you present yourself to your Creator as you really are.
25. He has remembered you. ²Today we will remember Him. ³For this is Eastertime in your salvation. ⁴And you rise again from what was seeming death and hopelessness. ⁵Now is the light of hope reborn in you, for now you come without defense, to learn the part for you within the plan of God. ⁶What little plans or magical beliefs can still have value, when you have received your function from the Voice for God Himself?
Sometimes we have a very specific role to play, but always salvation is the same for each of us. We are not special except that we are all special. There is no cost to remembering who we are. Here we are, God. Here we are. I remember the first time I felt a full surrender to God. I was standing in my laundry room and in an unplanned moment of spontaneous love and trust, I flung my arms out and stood undefended as I proclaimed myself His. I said, “Here I am, God!” I felt a surge of joy that I can still recall.
26. Try not to shape this day as you believe would benefit you most. ²For you can not conceive of all the happiness that comes to you without your planning. ³Learn today. ⁴And all the world will take this giant stride, and celebrate your Eastertime with you. ⁵Throughout the day, as foolish little things appear to raise defensiveness in you and tempt you to engage in weaving plans, remind yourself this is a special day for learning, and acknowledge it with this:
⁶This is my Eastertime. ⁷And I would keep it holy. ⁸I will not defend myself, because the Son of God needs no defense against the truth of his reality.