Lesson 23

Lesson 23

I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts.

The idea for today contains the only way out of fear that will ever succeed. Nothing else will work; everything else is meaningless. But this way cannot fail. Every thought you have makes up some segment of the world you see. It is with your thoughts, then, that we must work, if your perception of the world is to be changed.

If the cause of the world you see is attack thoughts, you must learn that it is these thoughts which you do not want. There is no point in lamenting the world. There is no point in trying to change the world. It is incapable of change because it is merely an effect. But there is indeed a point in changing your thoughts about the world. Here you are changing the cause. The effect will change automatically.

The world you see is a vengeful world, and everything in it is a symbol of vengeance. Each of your perceptions of “external reality” is a pictorial representation of your own attack thoughts. One can well ask if this can be called seeing. Is not fantasy a better word for such a process, and hallucination a more appropriate term for the result?

You see the world that you have made, but you do not see yourself as the image maker. You cannot be saved from the world, but you can escape from its cause. This is what salvation means, for where is the world you see when its cause is gone? Vision already holds a replacement for everything you think you see now. Loveliness can light your images, and so transform them that you will love them, even though they were made of hate. For you will not be making them alone.

The idea for today introduces the thought that you are not trapped in the world you see, because its cause can be changed. This change requires, first, that the cause be identified and then let go, so that it can be replaced. The first two steps in this process require your cooperation. The final one does not. Your images have already been replaced. By taking the first two steps, you will see that this is so.

Besides using it throughout the day as the need arises, five practice periods are required in applying today’s idea. As you look about you, repeat the idea slowly to yourself first, and then close your eyes and devote about a minute to searching your mind for as many attack thoughts as occur to you. As each one crosses your mind say:

I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts about ______.

Hold each attack thought in mind as you say this, and then dismiss that thought and go on to the next.

In the practice periods, be sure to include both your thoughts of attacking and of being attacked. Their effects are exactly the same because they are exactly the same. You do not recognize this as yet, and you are asked at this time only to treat them as the same in today’s practice periods. We are still at the stage of identifying the cause of the world you see. When you finally learn that thoughts of attack and of being attacked are not different, you will be ready to let the cause go.


I can escape from the world I see by giving up attack thoughts.
This is one of the lessons I live by, one that I consider essential to my awakening. To say that I give up attack thoughts is the same as saying that I will hold no grievances and that I will make no one guilty, including myself. It is the return to innocence and the return to peace. I woke up at 3:00 this morning and when I tried to go back to sleep, the ego mind thought this would be a good time to review all fears in my mind, the old ones I thought were gone as well as the recent ones.

Just because a fear thought shows up doesn’t mean I still believe it, but if it causes me distress, I am not done with it. Sometimes I can just look at an old thought and ignore it and sometimes I can see that it is still relevant to me today and I can change my mind about that. Last night, the thoughts were coming so fast and so hard that I couldn’t use my usual process.

What I did instead was to look for the opposite and true thought and I started trying to place my focus there. That helped but did not end the barrage of thoughts. I finally used a guided meditation and doing that helped to break the cycle of thinking. I went back to sleep and when I woke up the whole thing felt ridiculous to me.

There are some ideas in this lesson that I am paying attention to.

“The idea for today contains the only way out of fear that will ever succeed.”

This is why I treasure this lesson. It is the only way out of fear. Nothing else will work. It is simple and straightforward. I only need to be aware of what is an attack thought. It would seem that this is easy to spot but I realize that sometimes we don’t recognize a thought as being an attack. Jesus mentions some of them in the book, In the World but Not of It. Judgments are attacks.

Examples of the ego’s judgments disguised as questions or observations:

He sure likes to eat! (implying he eats too much)

I don’t understand why she does that. (implying her behavior is abnormal or strange)

What is going on with that? (implying something is silly or stupid)

He’s being so nice today. (implying that is unusual)

I like these examples because it reminds me that there are many ways to attack without seeming to be doing that. It helps me to be honest in my vigilance.

“There is no point in trying to change the world. It is incapable of change because it is merely an effect.”

The world is an effect of our thoughts. As Jesus says, all thought produces form at some level. So thinking the change needs to occur in the world is like believing I need to fix my lipstick smudge by smoothing it out on the mirror. It won’t work. What can change the world is to change what caused it. This is why I am vigilant in my thinking. What am I thinking and what effect does this thinking cause. Change the cause and the effect automatically changes.

“The idea for today introduces the thought that you are not trapped in the world you see because its cause can be changed.“

We are never the victim of the world. We are the maker of the world and we can change what we made. Here is the way it is done.

Step 1. The cause must be identified. We must realize what it is that we believe that caused the effect we are seeing in the world.

Step 2. We must let that belief go. This can feel hard if we still think it has value. When we decide that we don’t know what is valuable but we do know that we want to be free of our hallucination, we gladly surrender to purification and we let that belief go, trusting it is the right thing to do to achieve our goal of freedom.

Step 3. Let it be replaced. This is the only step that is not our responsibility. I can help myself stay the course by focusing on the truth. What this does is it keeps me from falling back into the ego beliefs. But, “our images have already been replaced. By taking the first two steps, we will see that this is so.” What we seek is already within us, or put another way, Heaven is within.

Regina’s Tips

Regina’s Tips for this lesson are particularly helpful. I recommend reading them. I will just mention the very basic ideas.

Our first step in healing is to want healing. Honestly, the more we want healing, the more we will heal.

1.Rest, Accept and Trust. First the cause needs to be identified. Our first indication that we have cast attention on a thought is the emotion we are feeling. Rest and Accept is how we let go. Rest is the opposite of casting more attention. Accept is the opposite of repressing a false belief in the form of emotion. Through resting the mind and accepting the emotion as it is, we let it go. Trust is realizing that Rest-Accept is the only part of the healing process that requires our cooperation.

2.The “attack thoughts” slip by so fast that we do not really see them. It’s like our brain is on automatic pilot. (Instead of going through the whole example, I will just say that Regina is saying that we need to catch those thoughts and to do so we need to form new neural pathways.)

3.When we give too much attention to the world, we are not giving attention to our thoughts and they are rushing around splashing down the old neural pathways doing what we have already trained them to do. Since we are not alone in experiencing the effects of our thoughts, the world continues to turn in the same way that it always has. If we want to have a positive effect on the world, we must turn our attention inward and give healing attention to the image-maker, the process of casting attention that goes on within our minds.

Past Entries

This lesson is so important that I am taking my time and looking at it very closely. I am asking Jesus to look at it with me and give me clarity.

“The idea for today contains the only way out of fear that will ever succeed.” Could Jesus be any clearer? Paragraph one tells us that we can escape the world we see by giving up attack thoughts, that it is the way out and the only way out. It works, and nothing else will work. He also says it is the only way out of fear. So we know that attack thoughts result in fear. If I am serious about waking up then I must give up attack thoughts. It is the only way to do this.

As you have been doing these lessons the last few days, you may have become aware of attack thoughts in your mind. This goal to let go of all attack thoughts may feel out of your reach when you think how many there are. I know that I used to feel that way. But I have learned that it is not the endless task I thought it was. We begin by giving up individual thoughts, but eventually, we give up the idea of attack. This is why it is not going to take eons to succeed.

Why haven’t I simply given them all up since Jesus says that I must? While some of these thoughts are clearly attack thoughts, some are so subtle that I have managed to hide them from myself for a long time. Also, it seems I have not completely given up the idea that attack is a viable defense and that I need defense. As long as I value attack, attack thoughts will proliferate in my mind.

“Every thought you have makes up some segment of the world you see.” Jesus reminds us that it is our thoughts that make the world we see. He emphasizes this when he says that every thought, every thought makes up a segment of that world. So it is obvious why it is that we work, not with the world, but with the thoughts that made the world. I want to always be aware that the world I see came from a fantasy in my mind and what I see is an illusion. There is no world “out there.” It exists only in my mind.

As he says: “There is no point in trying to change the world.” The world as we perceive it is not real, it is just an effect of our thoughts. Seeking to change the world because we don’t like it would be akin to taking aspirins while we continue to hit ourselves over the head with a hammer. Do you want the world to change? Change your thoughts and the effect, that is the world, will change automatically.

I know this true, and I have accepted it as true for years. I will tell you that this can seem very hard sometimes. When my fear thoughts have manifested a fearful situation, I can get caught up in the projection and forget where it came from. I get so busy trying to control the situation, and so afraid of where it is going, that I think I don’t dare take my eyes off of it.

This is how the ego mind keeps itself going. A fear thought projected outward and believed makes more fear thoughts. As long as I am absorbed in the fearful situations, I am not interested in looking at my thoughts. It is like I am trying to put out a fire by pouring gasoline on it. I have to stop a moment and just breathe, ask for help, remember that the problem is not the situation in front of me, but the thoughts in my mind.

When I remember the cause of the problem I remember to ask the Holy Spirit to remove those thoughts. As I accept His help, the situation often resolves itself, and whether it does or not, my mind becomes peaceful. As the situation unfolds, I perceive it differently. Sometimes that changed perception is all that is needed.

In case we have missed the point so far, Jesus goes on to tell us that each of our perceptions of “external reality” is a pictorial representation of our own attack thoughts. Do you notice that he puts external reality in quotes? There is no external reality. There is only mind, and what we think of as external is an image we have made, projected, and are now viewing as if it were outside us.

Because we have mistakenly believed what is not true, and so are filled with fear and guilt, the thoughts in our mind have made an image of a vengeful world. “Seeing” this image, we feel as if we are being attacked at every point and we spend our life defending ourselves, and then justifying our attack by making someone or something else guilty. What an awful dream we are dreaming.

In waking up we are remembering that the world we see is just an effect of the attack thoughts in our mind, that it is merely an image we have made and projected. We are remembering that there is something else we could see, something indescribably beautiful, loving and peaceful just behind our ugly images. We are learning that we must let go of our fearful attack thoughts in order to see what is really there, and we are learning that we can do this and want to do this. We can do this because we will not be doing this alone.

“The idea for today introduces the thought that you are not trapped in the world you see, because its cause can be changed.” Jesus tells us that we cannot be saved from the world we see, but we can escape its cause. The part of the mind that firmly believes in the world will find this a bitter pill to swallow, because that part of the mind wants to fix the world.

It wants to fix the poverty it feels through praying for a better job and buying more things. It wants to fix the deep sense of loneliness it feels by praying for a partner, someone from whom it can take the love it feels is missing. It wants to pray that the sick body be healed. This part of the mind is not interested in changing its thoughts because it is in denial about being the image maker.

But real change can occur. The world we see will change when the mind that made it changes. “This change requires, first, that the cause be identified and then let go, so that it can be replaced.” Jesus gives us in this simple sentence, the three necessary steps to take us out of hell. Step one is that the cause be identified. I become vigilant for the attack thoughts in my mind. I see an attack thought for what it is.

An Example of Letting Go of Attack Thoughts

When I first wrote about this I was still working. I had the thought that this is taking too long and I am late for work. I felt anxious about that and yet I didn’t want to stop writing because what I was writing was teaching me. My thought was that I want to escape from the world I see, and I don’t want to be late for my appointment. My mind was in conflict and conflict is another word for war.

I was at war within my mind. I attacked myself with my attack thoughts. If I continued this line of thought I would attack my boss who represents both my source of income and my potential slip into poverty because he could fire me. This sets up more conflict in my mind as I both appreciate and resent him. I start to feel like he stands between me and poverty on the one hand, and me and my salvation on the other.

All of these are attack thoughts. And if I believe them, I attack my true self because I teach myself I am something I am not. Who would have thought that being anxious about the time could be an attack and lead to so many more attack thoughts? Now that I have identified these attack thoughts I can go on to step two.

Step two says that once the attack thought is identified, I must let it go. That is simple enough. Sometimes. With practice. ~smile~ As I continued to write, I had been going through a process of letting go. I first had to overcome my desire to remain focused on the problem. That is always the hardest part but gets easier as I do it more and more often.

I encouraged this process through remembering what I have read in the Course. I know that Jesus will arrange time for me if I let him, that is, if I don’t try to do it myself. I know from doing this before that the most amazing things happen in the world to accommodate me when I let go of the fear and allow it to happen. So I let go of my attack thoughts that morning.

The third step is done for me. “Vision already holds a replacement for everything you think you see now. Loveliness can light your images, and so transform them that you will love them, even though they were made of hate. For you will not be making them alone.” I cannot always imagine what this might look like.

Do the circumstances change? Do I see the perfection behind the circumstances? Do I suddenly love the circumstances? I personally have seen all three of these possibilities happen. I have seen time miraculously stretch to accommodate my need. I have seen time remain the same as I finished my writing and then discovered that I didn’t need to be at my appointment after all. I have had occasion to see that this opportunity to practice trust was the best gift of the day.

I have seen different outcomes, but here is what I think is important for me to realize. The ego wants to choose the outcome and so believe it is responsible for it. It wants to stay its own god. But I don’t want this. So I have no preference about the outcome. I give the situation to the Holy Spirit and I wait with patience and trust to see what the new image that the Holy Spirit and I made will look like.

This is how I accomplished the solution to the problem. I identified the attack thoughts, and I let them go. Then the Holy Spirit removed them from my mind. What I saw instead of a frantic morning and vengeful world, was a peaceful happy morning. I saw it because it was always there, waiting for me to notice it.

I must do the first two steps because the Holy Spirit does not force or coerce the Son of God. I must see the attack thought, which is that time is against me rather than for me, and then I must desire that this thought be corrected. The next step is not my part. I must allow the Holy Spirit to remove the thought from my mind. Three simple steps.

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