Strengthening the Mind's Immune System
Unpublished Workshop by
Dr. Kenneth Wapnick
(Scroll down to listen to the audio of this transcribed text)
What we’re going to talk about today is “Strengthening the Mind’s Immune System.” And I want to start by reading or quoting a line from the preamble to The Constitution to UNESCO. Many of you know one of the phrases, but I’ll just read you the whole line. UNESCO is United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, which was founded in 1945, and the line is actually right at the beginning of the preamble, and it says:
Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.
“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.” Actually, the whole preamble is very, very lovely. The Constitution, I think, is 70 or 80 pages, but the preamble is very nice, emphasizing in its own words—not the words the Course might use—the oneness of all people and the need not to see differences or to make the differences into something significant and use them as a justification for conflict and war. Again, it’s a very, very lovely preamble, and that opening statement is particularly nice.
One is not sure exactly what was meant by it. The spirit is certainly there and obviously would not be taken quite the way A Course in Miracles would take it or the way we’ll be talking about it. But it certainly is saying that there will never be an end to war. And remember, this was written right after the second world war, which people naively thought would be the last war, just as people naively thought that the first world war, after it ended in 1918—that that would be the last war. But this certainly recognizes that the causes of war are not found in international disagreements or boundary disagreements or anything like that. That they’re really found in the minds of people. And if the differences that we make so important among us are not undone in terms of our valuation of these differences, then there will always be war.
And I wanted to just start with that because when we talk about the immune system—and these days almost everybody does—certainly it’s been one of the staples in alternative medicine that one really has to strengthen one’s immune system. But even in traditional medicine, more and more people are talking about it—that the way to fight off disease is to build up one’s inner defenses. And I think that that’s certainly wise on the level of the body, but that in and of itself won’t do anything. Because what makes us sick is not disease, not germs. What causes wars, again, are not these external disputes. What causes war, what causes disease, what causes pain of all kinds, is guilt. And guilt resides in the minds of men. It does not reside in anything external. And if we don’t have a system of defense that undoes guilt, then there is literally no hope.
You may recall right at the beginning of the text in chapter 2, there’s a section on the Atonement as a defense, in which Jesus says that this is really the only defense which truly works, because this is the defense that undoes the cause of all our problems. As many of you know, the Atonement in the Course is the principle that the separation from God never happened. And when we accept the Atonement for ourselves, we acknowledge that there is no separation. And if there’s no separation, then there’s no guilt. Then there’s no projection and there’s no pain. So when we undo the ultimate cause, that’s what undoes all of our problems. On a practical level, and of course if these principles in the Course are not applied in our personal life, then they mean really nothing—on a practical level, what that undoing of the separation means, what acceptance of Atonement means, is to realize that all the differences that seem to separate us are superficial and are not significant at all. In fact, one of the statements in the preamble to The Constitution of UNESCO is to recognize the common or the solidarity that unites us. That even though we have all these differences, if we understand each other, then these differences as a cause of disagreement and conflict would disappear. It’s one of the core principles of psychotherapy that you can’t judge anyone once you understand them. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you approve of the behavior, but you would not judge them, you would not attack them, you would not label them as sinful or as bad people simply because they’re coping the best way that they can, like everyone else does, like we all do. And all of our ways of coping end up being very, very hurtful, either to ourselves and/or to others because when we cope with living in this world, we’re not undoing the thought that gave rise to our living in this world. We’re simply just coping with it. And that’s what defenses do; defenses help us to cope.
So when we talk about strengthening our body’s immune system to protect us against all the impurities that are in the water we drink and the air that we breathe and the food that we eat, etc. etc., what we are really doing is strengthening a defense. So we’re defending the body, which is already a defense. Because one of the things that we learn in A Course in Miracles is that the body is a defense. It’s the way the ego tells us we can be protected from the guilt that’s in our mind. Because guilt is the problem. And so when we strengthen our body’s immune system, just as when government’s strengthen their immune system, which is to build up more and more armaments or to develop more and more special relationships with other countries that could protect them, all they’re doing is reinforcing what is already a defense. So it’s a defense reinforcing a defense. And as one looks throughout the course of history and one looks throughout the course of our personal history, all we do is we just keep reinforcing and strengthening our defenses. So defenses strengthen defenses which strengthen defenses, and we end up keeping the underlying problem always very real, very powerful and very present, even if we’re not aware of it, because the source of the problem, the guilt, is continually generating itself. That’s what projection does. It continually projects itself out, where we see the problem as something outside. And once we see the problem as outside, it makes perfect sense to build a defense against the problem, until the defense itself becomes a problem which requires a defense. And again, that’s what the body is. When looked at from above the battleground, which is where the Holy Spirit is or Jesus is—that place in our mind—that place of sanity in our mind—when we go there and we look at the body, we understand again that the body is a defense. It’s a defense that keeps us away from our mind.
So a word that we can use as a synonym for the body is mindlessness. That’s what the body is; it’s the state of being without a mind, because the ego has convinced us that within the mind is this awesome, awesome thought of guilt that tells us we’ve sinned against God, have separated from Him, and that, to make things still worse, that God will punish us…so that the mind becomes a battleground. It’s no longer a mind, it’s no longer a home, it’s no longer a place where we’re safe. It becomes a place where we are in immediate danger of imminent destruction, because that’s what guilt tells us. Guilt tells us you deserve to be punished because of what you’ve done and who you are. And so we take that guilt in the mind and we defend against it by projecting it out and making a body, causing a veil to fall across our minds, like a curtain just drops. Just think of Churchill’s phrase “the iron curtain.” That’s the real iron curtain. It keeps us “protected” from the mind—from the guilt in the mind. And what that iron curtain succeeds in doing is causing us to forget that we have a mind. That’s why the body now becomes the home of the mindless. That’s the key thing of this veil of amnesia or this iron curtain. It keeps from us the memory or the awareness that we are a mind, because within that mind is really not so much the guilt, but the decision to make guilt the reality. And as long as we are shielded from that or “protected” from that, then we can’t change our mind. And if we can’t change our mind, then the original decision for separation and for guilt remains permanent and unchanged. And since it’s now permanent and unchanged, it continues to exist in our minds. And whatever continues to exist in our minds always projects itself out. That’s just one of the laws of the split mind; whatever is in it will project itself out. And once we made guilt real, that’s what projects out. But having forgotten that what I see outside, which is the guilt in everyone else—having forgotten that that has come from my own guilt, because of that iron curtain, I now have to defend myself, because what my guilt is saying—I am the sinner, I am the betrayer, I am the one who abandoned God, I am the murderer, I am the killer, I am the one who can’t be trusted. But having forgotten that I am all these things, I see them in you. So I now label you what I have secretly labeled myself. You’re not to be trusted. You’re the one who will betray me, who will lie to me, who will deceive me, who will steal from me, who will destroy me. And of course now, since that now has become my reality, in fact the reality of everyone who is in a body, we are now perfectly justified in our own estimation of erecting defenses. And so we have to build up these defenses against all these evil presences around us that seek to destroy us, whether we’re talking about other governments, other groups, other people or other seemingly living organisms like...germs. And so when people talk about strengthening one’s immune system, they’re talking about strengthening one’s body’s—the ability of one’s body to defend against these foreign invaders, these virulent forces that threaten our very life.
As long as we’re bodies, I am certainly not suggesting that you not do whatever it is that you feel will be helpful in warding off disease and strengthening your body. Just be aware that that’s not going to get you to Heaven. It might get you feeling better physically, which is not a bad thing as long as you think you’re here in a body, but it will not bring you the peace of God. It will not take you home. And in the end, it will fail anyway, because bodies in the end are made to fall apart, to deteriorate, to age, to become decrepit and to die. That’s just how it is. So in the end all of these defenses, no matter how much we build up the body’s immune system, it will fail. So all that may happen is that we buy ourselves a few more days, weeks, months, years, decades even. But for what? To suffer in what the Course calls at one point, this rotting prison. That’s what the book says. I didn’t say that. (laughter) I did not say that. I said the words, but they’re not my words. So the body is a rotting prison. Another terrible line is that the body and the world are places "where starved and thirsty creatures come to die" (W-pII.13.5:1). So since we’ll eventually starve and die, what point is it then, when you look at it from above the battleground, to save a few more years? Again, that should not be taken as a justification for not taking care of yourself. But it is a way of orienting our attention somewhere else.
What we want to strengthen is the mind’s immune system. And the Course’s term for accomplishing that, of course, is forgiveness or the miracle. Because what strengthening the mind means is we take steps to learn a thought system from a new teacher that will teach us we are better off choosing Atonement than separation. We’re better off choosing a miracle instead of a grievance. We’re better off choosing forgiveness instead of hatred and judgment. That’s how we strengthen the mind’s immune system.
Press Play arrow to listen.