Healing the Dream of Sickness
Excerpts from the Workshop held at the
Foundation for A Course in Miracles
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
"The Process of Illness"
Let us turn now to the Psychotherapy pamphlet, the section called "The Process of Illness" (P-2.IV). The context of this pamphlet is, of course, psychotherapy and its practice. But one does not have to be a professional therapist to benefit from it, although that is for whom it was specifically written. It is a wonderful summary of the Course's principles of healing (which we have already seen and will see again), basically, that all sickness is some form of unforgiveness and therefore all therapy is really some form of forgiveness.
(1:1) As all therapy is psychotherapy, so all illness is mental illness.
When Jesus says "all therapy is psychotherapy," he means all therapy is of the mind because all illness is of the mind—"all illness is mental illness." Stated another way, all of our problems are shadows of our guilt—as we saw when we discussed the Song of Prayer passage earlier—and therefore, all therapy, all healing, is the undoing of guilt, which comes through forgiveness. Stated still another way, all sickness is some expression of the belief that my interests are separate from yours. A corollary to this idea is the concept of one or the other: I do not care about you; I care only that my needs are met. That is, of course, the core of any special relationship and it is based on the idea that we have separate interests. Another aspect of this corollary is the idea that I can escape from what my ego tells me is the source of my pain by dumping my guilt onto you, thereby making you sinful and me sinless. That is one or the other: you have the sin and I do not. My interests are separate from yours. I do not care about you at all; I only care that I get rid of my sin.
Another way of understanding sickness is that it is perceiving separate interests, which began with the original belief that my interests were separate from God's. I do not care about God and I do not care about Christ. I care only about me—my interests come first. I want my life, and if that means God has to be sacrificed and His Son crucified, well, that is just how it goes; but I will have my life. If we define sickness as the belief in separate interests, then we could define healing as the belief in shared interests, namely that we have shared goals. I cannot be sinless unless you are sinless, too. If I believe I am sinful then I will make you sinful, and if I believe you are sinful then I am reinforcing my own belief in sinfulness. But if I truly want to remember my innocence as Christ, as God's true Son, then that innocence has to be perceived in everyone, because God's Son is one.
Again, this first sentence means that all illness is guilt, which comes from our belief in separate interests. All therapy, all healing, is of the mind, because that is where the belief is. Healing corrects the belief in separate interests by substituting it with our recognition that our interests are shared. The text says that we go home together or not at all (T-19.IV-D.12:8), and the ark of peace is entered two by two (T-20.IV.6:5).
(1:2) It is a judgment on the Son of God [that is the illness], and judgment is a mental activity.
Jesus is talking about the mind, which, almost always, is not what psychologists are talking about. Even when Freud spoke about the psyche he always had a biological model in mind. He began as a neurologist and researcher, and wrote a classic monograph on aphasia before he began his psychological work. Near the end of his life he stated that sometime in the future, all of his research, investigations, and everything that he brought to the surface would be understood electrochemically. When psychologists talk about the mind, they are not talking about it the way A Course in Miracles does. They are talking about it as some aspect of the brain. Again, when Jesus talks about "mental activity," he means literally "of the mind," which is totally outside the body and the brain.
(1:3-5) Judgment is a decision, made again and again, against creation and its Creator. It is a decision to perceive the universe as you would have created it. It is a decision that truth can lie and must be lies.
These are all different ways of describing what went on in that original ontological moment when the "tiny, mad idea" appeared to arise in the mind of God's Son, and the Son had a choice between listening to the Holy Spirit's truth or the ego's lie. The Holy Spirit's interpretation of the "tiny, mad idea" was that the separation never happened—there is no "tiny mad idea." That is what A Course in Miracles refers to as the principle of the Atonement. The ego's lie is that the "tiny, mad idea" not only occurred but is real, sinful and justifies our guilt, which then makes us deserving of punishment. We chose the ego's lie to take the place of the Holy Spirit's truth.
Inherent in all of this is judgment, judgment, judgment. First we judged against God—that His Love was not enough for us. We then went off and made our own inner world, and later a physical world, where we believed we would find love, happiness, peace, and joy in our independent, individual existence. We then judged against ourselves because we felt so guilty over what we had done—we told God to get lost, that His Love was not what we wanted and It was not enough; and if that meant He had to be extinguished, so be it! Then, of course, we took the judgment we made on ourselves, we projected it out, and now we judge everyone else. That is what Jesus is speaking about here. The universe we now perceive as we have created it—which really is as we miscreated it—is the universe of separation, judgment, guilt, punishment, suffering, pain, and ultimately death. That is the universe of the wrong mind. Because it is the universe within our minds, it is the universe that arises when we project it out. Again, it is a world of suffering, sin, separation, specialness, and death.
(1:6-7) What, then, can illness be except an expression of sorrow and of guilt? And who could weep but for his innocence?
That is a wonderful line that I quote very often. All of our tears, sorrow, sadness, loneliness, and all of our aching inside has only one cause: our belief that we threw away the innocence of God's Son when we separated from God, and we will never ever get it back. All of our tears are for this innocence. And even if it could be returned, we feel we do not deserve it because we first decided to destroy it. That is what our guilt tells us. Jesus is saying that all illness, regardless of the form in which it is expressed and in which we experience it, is nothing more than a shadow: an "expression of sorrow and of guilt." Again, all the loneliness, sadness, and anxiety we all feel from time to time in our lives has as its only cause the decision that we made once, and continually reinforce, to push the Love of God away.
Very often the way we experience this here is that we push the Love of Jesus or the Holy Spirit away by telling Them that Their Love is not enough for us: I want the love of this special person; I want the comfort of this special substance; I want anything that the world can give me other than You. All that we do when we push Jesus away is reinforce the original guilt when we pushed God away and told Him to get lost because His Love was not enough. That is what we do over and over and over again.
Remember, there is no world out there except as a shadow or a projection of the inner world. In the inner world there is no time and space. The world of linear time and space did not arise until the projection of the error. In the mind, everything is timeless, not in the sense of eternity, but in the sense that there is no time. The thought of sin, guilt, and fear projected out gives rise to linearity, to past, present, and future.
Again, what you want to be able to understand is that everything you are feeling in your present life, in your present moment—memories of pain in the past, or things you are anticipating in the future—is not what you think. They are simply, as I explained earlier, ways of keeping your separation, and putting the blame or responsibility for it onto something or someone outside yourself.
(2:1) Once God's Son is seen as guilty…
All of this occurs before time and before the world. It occurs in the mind, but it is still going on. That is why it is so important to see that the ego thought system is beyond time. We just project it out into time and we think of it in terms of sequence, but it is always there and will always seek expression.
(2:1-2) Once God's Son is seen as guilty, illness becomes inevitable. It has been asked for and will be received.
It is impossible not to have some form of illness once guilt is made real in the mind. As long as we believe we are here in this world and that we are a body; as long as we believe we are the personality we have; as long as we believe this self is who we really are, we will be guilty. This self could have emerged only from the prior belief that we could be separate from God, that we have pulled off the impossible, for which our feelings of self-hatred and self-loathing are more than justified. To escape from those feelings of self-loathing, we then believe our only recourse is to project them out and find fault with everyone else. That is what Jesus means by "It has been asked for and will be received."
(2:3) And all who ask for illness have now condemned themselves to seek for remedies that cannot help, because their faith is in the illness and not in salvation.
Here Jesus is referring to magic. If you look on the bottom line of the WORLD OF SEPARATION – PERCEPTION box on your chart, you will see solutions/magic. Any attempt to solve a problem on the level of the world and the body the Course calls magic, because it will not be successful. Anything that attempts to solve the problem on the level of the mind the Course calls a miracle. That is why there is a line on the right-hand side of your chart going from the world back to the decision maker. That arc denotes the process of taking our attention away from the world—where the ego put it so we could blame everyone—and bringing it back to the mind that we sought to hide from.
Magic is an attempt to solve a problem where it does not exist: namely, in the body and the world; whereas the miracle solves the problem where it does exist, which is in the mind. We continually seek for remedies for our pain on levels that will never help, because they were designed not to help. Remember, the ego's fundamental strategy is to keep us from ever changing our minds about the ego. The ego thought system is a carefully contrived and thought-out strategy; it is absolutely brilliant. The ego's fear is that at some point we will wake up to what we have done, and recognize our mistaken choice and change our minds. And the instant we choose against the ego and for the Holy Spirit, the ego will disappear, because everything in the wrong mind and in the world literally has no meaning, no substance—it is not real. It has the appearance of reality only to the extent to which we believe in it.
In the text Jesus talks about faith, and he does not mean faith in the usual sense of the word. He is talking about putting faith in the ego or the Holy Spirit (T-17.VII). Putting our faith in the ego is what he describes as faithlessness, because we are putting our faith in nothing. But once we do so, we invest our belief in the ego and at that point the ego seems real—so real and monstrous, in fact, that we then have to project it out and make up a world that we think is real. But as King Lear says, "nothing will come of nothing." The world is nothing because it comes from nothing, but we believe it is everything—solid, real, and very painful because we believe in it. When we withdraw our belief, we withdraw our faith and the ego collapses like a balloon that has had all its air let out. The ego is afraid of that eventuality; therefore it concludes that the way to escape from the inevitability of our changing our minds is to make us mindless. That is why there is a world.
That is another way of understanding the purpose of the world. The purpose of the world is to have us forget that there is a mind. Again, to go back to what we discussed earlier, we forget that the mind is the cause and the world is only the effect. By making us mindless—which means that an opaque veil falls across our minds—the ego ensures we have no remembrance of the mind and will stay forever mindless because we have forgotten about the cause. All we know is: my body is sick and I need help; my psyche hurts and I need help; I feel lonely and isolated, and need another body to hold so that I feel comforted; my stomach feels empty and is making growling sounds, so I have to fill it with something from the outside; I have a bad headache, so I need to take a pill that will help unconstrict my arteries so that the pain will go away; and on and on and on. But none of these remedies will work because they do not undo the cause. They just fool around with the shadow, but the cause of the shadow remains exactly what it was.
That is what Jesus is talking about here. We put our faith in the illness because we do not want to be saved. A part of us that likes our individual identity, likes being unique, likes being a person, does not want to be saved. Salvation means, in the context of A Course in Miracles, that we are saved from our belief in the ego's thought system—a thought system of individuality, separation, specialness, etc.
What Jesus tries to do in this pamphlet, just as he does in the Course, is to have us recognize exactly what we are doing and why we do it; why we so stubbornly insist on being right and that we know and the Holy Spirit does not know, or that what the Holy Spirit knows is what we teach Him. The world has worshipped the Jesus we made up in our own image. This is the Jesus who confirms our thought system of separation, sin, salvation through suffering, death, bodies, etc.; but we are terrified of what the real Jesus teaches because we do not want to be saved the way he wants us to be saved. We want to be saved from our pain by having someone else pay the price for it.
(2:4) There can be nothing that a change of mind cannot effect, for all external things are only shadows of a decision already made.
Decisions are made only in the mind and that is why we speak about a decision maker. By "all external things" Jesus means everything here: the entire physical universe as well as our personal universe. "All external things" are only shadows of a decision that has already been made in the mind—a decision to be separate and, once again, to keep our separation intact by projecting the cause out and blaming everyone else for it.
(2:5-6) Change the decision, and how can its shadow be unchanged? Illness can be but guilt's shadow, grotesque and ugly since it mimics deformity.
The deformity Jesus is talking about is the deformed thought that says I am a Son of God, independent of my Creator and Source; this ego self—the home of evil, darkness, and sin—is who I am. That is the deformity. Once you have a deformed thought, how could its shadow be anything but deformed? Even when your body seems to work perfectly it is deformed. It is deformed because it is a grotesque parody and travesty of Who we really are, because our bodies keep us separate from every other body. Our bodies change, let alone fail and die, and this is what we proclaim to be the glorious Son of God. As if that is not bad enough, when you look at the body in the context of the Bible, it gets even worse, because God then becomes the Creator of this deformity. This, of course, makes God just as deformed as we are.
(2:7) If a deformity is seen as real, what could its shadow be except deformed?
All Jesus is saying here, in very strong language, is that the world and the body are the effect of the cause, which is our mind's decision to be separate and then to feel guilty. What we call illness is not the only form of deformity. The body itself is a deformity. The world is a deformity. Anything that seems to exist in this world, anything that changes, grows, withers, deteriorates, and dies is a deformity, because it is a shadow of the original deformed thought that says I exist outside Heaven and have an individual identity that keeps me separate and differentiates me from Him, and eventually keeps me separate from everyone else. How could this possibly be love? How could this possibly be real? This identity's purpose is to prove that love is the lie and reality is the illusion; or, in other words, that illusion is the reality and special love is the truth. Special love is always about separation, separate interests, and bargains. It is always exclusive, meaning it does not include the whole Sonship.
You can see that Jesus is transforming the idea and understanding of sickness from the limited view of the world and the body to the mind. He is saying that anything that happens here is a shadow. Therefore, what you want to do is get back to the source of the shadow. That is what has to be changed and undone.