Excerpts from the Workshop held at the
Foundation for A Course in Miracles
Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.
How Do God's Teachers Deal with Magic Thoughts? (M-17)
This is an extremely important section and we will spend a good deal of time on it. A magic thought, as we have seen, is anything we do to solve a problem in such a way that it can never be solved. In other words, it is an attempt to solve an internal problem, which every problem is—the problem of guilt in the mind—by doing something outside the mind with the body. So everything we all do almost all the time is a form of magic thought.
This section addresses how I, as a teacher of God, should react to somebody else's magic thoughts. The first part explains how our temptation always is to make the magic thought real and to get angry at it. The second part addresses very graphically and powerfully why we get angry at others' magic thoughts. It is one of the most brilliant discussions in the Course, integrating the underlying metaphysics of what goes on in our minds—between ourselves and God—with what goes on, on a very practical level, in our daily experience here.
(1:1-3) This is a crucial question both for teacher and pupil. If this issue is mishandled, the teacher of God has hurt himself and has also attacked his pupil. This strengthens fear, and makes the magic seem quite real to both of them.
The issue will be mishandled if I, as a teacher of God—we are all teachers and students—see your magic thought and get upset about it. That means I am making it real, which is exactly what my ego did right at the beginning. This is the whole point of this section. The ego part of my mind looked at the tiny, mad idea and said, "This is pretty upsetting." In other words, it took it seriously.
So from the beginning, my mind has mishandled the thought of separation. If I had identified with the Holy Spirit, I would have simply smiled at it, realizing it was only a silly, magical thought that has had no effect at all, and it would have disappeared back into its own nothingness. But I mishandled it by making it real, by getting upset about it. From that point on, my ego and I were off and running. And that strengthens fear, because the magic thought is ultimately based on the belief that I have sinned against God, and God is angry. Therefore I should be afraid. If I make my magic thought real—which ultimately is always the thought of being separate from God—I must be afraid, because magic thoughts from the ego's point of view are equated with sin.
(1:4-8) How to deal with magic thus becomes a major lesson for the teacher of God to master. His first responsibility in this is not to attack it. If a magic thought arouses anger in any form, God's teacher can be sure that he is strengthening his own belief in sin and has condemned himself. He can be sure as well that he has asked for depression, pain, fear and disaster to come to him. Let him remember, then, it is not this that he would teach, because it is not this that he would learn.
Again, a magic thought is anything in this world that I believe is salvation. So if anything in the world upsets me, I have made the magic thought real. For example, I am a Course in Miracles student—devout, sincere, dedicated, holy, etc.—and you, who are in my Course in Miracles group, get a headache and take an aspirin, an obvious magic thought. I find myself getting upset and I say, "Well, aren't you a good Course in Miracles student! Don't you know sickness is a defense against the truth? Don't you know it's in your mind? Don't you know that the aspirin is not going to help you?" And I go on and on with all this "loving" attention. Well, I have become as sick as you, my poor fellow Course in Miracles student. In fact, I may be even sicker because I am probably making it much more real than you are. I have attacked your magic thought.
Yes, absolutely, taking an aspirin is a magic thought. But why should that upset me? As we will see shortly, it is upsetting me because it is reminding me of my own feeble attempts at magic to protect myself against my own thought of sin. That is the only reason that it could upset me. This is just another expression of the basic dynamic of projection. I cannot look at my own sense of sin, my own guilt over my own magic thoughts. Therefore I project it onto you and attack you for it.
But this is true with anything in the world. Someone who rapes and kills fifteen women believes that by raping and killing fifteen women he will feel better. That is magic. Adolph Hitler's murdering thirteen million people is a magic thought. He believed that ridding the world of thirteen million people, whom he saw as filled with impurities, would preserve his innocence and the innocence of the German people. Well, that is silly. Now if we look at his actions from the point of view of the world, they are serious, not silly. But if we raise ourselves above the battleground and look down on it, the thought is incredible. And that is a magic thought. But it is no different in content from the magic thought of someone taking an aspirin. They seem different because the world orders everything, and everything in the world is quantifiable. And from the point of view of the world, there is a hierarchy of illusions. Some illusions are worse than others. Very few people would feel that murdering thirteen million people is the same as taking an aspirin. But remember the statement I have quoted already: "What is not love is murder" (T-23.IV.1:10). Few people would believe that murdering thirteen million people is loving. However most people would not think that taking an aspirin is not loving; but, of course, it is not. It is making the guilt and fear real in the mind by not paying attention to it, and saying instead, "The problem is in my body and I'll take a pill and I'll feel better." That is denying the presence and the power of love in my mind. In that sense it is not loving. And what is not love must be murder (T-23.IV.1:10). Thus the forms are different, but the content is the same.
This means then, as a teacher of God, I will become extremely sensitive over a period of time to anything in the world that either mildly annoys me or sends me into a state of intense fury. I will recognize they are exactly the same. And it really makes no difference whether we are talking about the actions of a so-called sane person or of someone who may be classified as mentally ill. They are all the same. What we call mental illness is just an extreme form of fear. That's all. It is all part of the same thought system. There is no difference between the thought system of someone whom we keep within a mental hospital and people living outside mental institutions. It is just a question of degree. The thought system that the Course is describing within each of us is basically that of a paranoid schizophrenic. We are all that. We all believe that we are victims of the world. We all believe that reality is illusory and that illusion is reality. Isn't that a definition of psychosis? So it is only a matter of degree. In this world we distinguish between people who are clinically insane and people who are spiritually insane. But there is no difference. Anybody who has ever worked in a mental hospital has had the awareness at some point that the only difference between the "ins" and the "outs" is that the outs have the key. That is what establishes sanity. I am staff and I have the keys. It is only a question of degree; we all share the same insanity.
So these lines are saying that my only lesson as a student of the Course, if my desire is to be an advanced teacher of God growing in the process of forgiveness, is to learn to tell the difference between magic and a miracle. And so I want to be sensitive within myself to all my attack thoughts, all my concerns and upsets in relationship to all the forms of magic in the world, so I can learn to recognize when I have deceived myself. I want to recognize it as quickly as I can so I can turn to my Teacher within and say, "Please help. I've become angry or upset or annoyed by something. It must be because I have forgotten about You." That is the problem, because if I am identified with the Holy Spirit, I will see everything in the world as a classroom and as having no other value. If I exclude the Holy Spirit's Love, then I will see everything in this world as a form of magic that I believe in one way or another can solve my problems.
Let's skip to the third paragraph.
(3:1-2) It is easiest to let error be corrected where it is most apparent, and errors can be recognized by their results. A lesson truly taught can lead to nothing but release for teacher and pupil, who have shared in one intent.
Now the sharing in "one intent" does not necessarily mean that you are consciously aware of what I have chosen. Sometimes it happens that way; sometimes it does not. It does mean that in my mind I have joined with you so that we are now both joined. Whether you accept the joining or not is your decision. But in my mind I no longer see you as separate from me. And where the error must be corrected is where the error is, which is in the mind and not some place else.
(3:3-4) Attack can enter only if perception of separate goals has entered. And this must indeed have been the case if the result is anything but joy.
If I believe that my salvation can be bought at your expense, we have separate goals. That must be an attack because I am seeing neither you nor myself as Christ. Christ is total unity. If I am feeling anything except peace or joy—this is not referring to the world's joy—I must have chosen the wrong teacher.
(3:5) The single aim of the teacher turns the divided goal of the pupil into one direction, with the call for help becoming his one appeal.
This has nothing to do with what may or may not be going on for you, but only with what is happening within my own mind. I have chosen one goal for myself, and therefore I have chosen it for you as well. You may still have a divided goal: God and the ego. A part of you wants to be free from pain, but another part is holding on to it. But if I make the choice that all I want is freedom from pain—and that comes from identifying with the Holy Spirit's Love—since our minds are joined I have made the same choice for you as well.
Again, you may choose in this moment to accept it or not, but a part of your mind must have accepted it because minds are joined. The same barrier that you have placed between yourself and the Holy Spirit you have also placed between yourself and me. But just as the Holy Spirit's Love is always present in your mind, now my love is also present in your mind.
(3:6-7) This then is easily responded to with just one answer, and this answer will enter the teacher's mind unfailingly. From there it shines into his pupil's mind, making it one with his.
Minds are joined. And the one answer is forgiveness—the recognition that what is going on is simply a form of magic. And magic cannot heal.