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Defining Sickness as Ordering of Thought Part 2

Editor's note: This transcript has been lightly edited to bring clarification to certain points of the dialogue and for easier readability. For this reason, it does not match the corresponding audio mp3 word-for-word. However, the overall content and the expressed ideas remain unchanged.

Lesson 136: “Sickness is a defense against the truth.” “No one can heal unless he understands what purpose sickness seems to serve for then he understands as well its purpose has no meaning. Being causeless and without a meaningful intent of any kind it cannot be at all. When this is seen healing is automatic. It dispels this meaningless illusion by the same approach that carries all of them to truth and merely leaves them there to disappear.”

David: This is talking about it in terms of sickness as being bodily symptoms, but it includes if somebody even seemed to be upset or psychological things as well. Healing is automatic. “It dispels this meaningless illusion by the same approach that it carries all of them to truth.” Or you could go to the flip side and believe that someone is really healthy. The illusion of the health of the body can be carried to the truth just as much, and left there to disappear. So, it’s just getting to that point there’s no order of difficulties. “Sickness is not an accident. Like all defenses it is an insane device for self deception and like all the rest its purpose is to hide reality, attack it, change it, render it inept, distort it, twist it or reduce it to a little pile of unassembled parts.” And that’s what this whole world is, is just a pile of unassembled parts whether you’re talking at a cosmos level or the personality level, the microscopic level, community, family... You’re looking around a room and you’re looking at coats and ovens and rugs and chairs and clocks and microwaves and refrigerators. Again, unassembled parts; it doesn’t matter what you’re talking about. But, they’re all seen as if they have existence in and of themselves. The microwave is set off by space from that teapot and from that rug. That just shows how deep this sickness of mind is going because everything that’s just assumed to be every day reality has been just assembled into this pile of unassembled parts. “The aim of all defenses is to keep the truth from being whole. The parts are seen as if each one were whole within itself.”

Friend: So, looking at the world it’s like everything is proving that to me. As I look at the world and see all these unassembled parts every day and I’m not being attentive then that’s just further proof that it is a chaotic mess.

David: So, really we’re redefining what sickness is from being a few so called symptoms in the body or even dysfunctional communication in a family or this or that. But, just looking out on a wintry scene and seeing separate snowflakes and separate animals and separate trees and separate whatever… As long as the mind is seeing separate; separation everywhere, and believes that those things, trees and snowflakes and cars, roads and rivers have an existence in and of themselves, that is a sick perception. And as we go on the mind wants to hang on to that sick, twisted perception that it has and therefore sickness seems to serve the purpose of you see, I have nothing to do with this. This is being done to me completely without any intention of my own. So, the mind then doesn’t have a choice the way it sees it. It doesn’t play a part. It doesn’t have a choice in the matter.

Friend: So, using that example the only thing I’d have to do with it is the purpose that I give it. If I’m using the ego’s perception then it is a bunch of unassembled parts. If I’m using the Holy Spirits purpose then it’s… what?

David: They’re unified. The entire scene, the entire scenario becomes unified. It becomes almost like a backdrop that’s unimportant because the shining purpose is being held out front.

Friend: It becomes peripheral. That’s kind of like how we described it in the past which makes sense.

Friend: So it’s kind of like its unseen when it’s that peripheral?

David: It’s unnoticed because perception is selective and when you are zooming in and focusing on your intent or purpose then it’s unimportant. It’s irrelevant at that point.

Friend: So, like your example like when you focus on the heat or you focus on symptoms then that’s picking out one of the pieces and holding it up as separate and saying well, let’s look at this and try to see how it fits into the whole which it can’t if I’m holding it out as separate.

David: Right. And it takes two minds to agree that there’s a sickness. One mind that absolutely will not buy the bait of doing what you’re describing, then there’s healing. Whenever I hold in mind how impossible that is. So, as soon as there’s talk of symptoms, if brothers seem to be joining on oh, how are you feeling? Let’s take you over here for special treatment or special food or whatever it is. Then it’s like just reinforcing or trying to share what can’t be shared so that just keeps the seeming reality of it going. Instead of dispelling illusions, it’s an invitation to hold on to them and make them still have a grip or a reality.

Friend: So when I’m maybe coughing or something and somebody says something about oh, are you ok? Have you had the flu? Do you think you’re really coming down with something? Then it’s my job to get clear in my own mind about not joining with that and whatever words come out in response to that will reflect that.

David: Yes. When I first started going to Course groups I had a subtle thing happen to me. I would be going along and I had my purpose to go into things and it would be something that would come out left or right here or there like a compliment on something I was wearing or a compliment on my haircut or something. A lot of times it was about not feeling uncomfortable about not responding to that, maybe just smiling or going on with my purpose without missing a beat, instead of stopping what I was saying and directing my attention. Oh thank you for that, yes I got it at such and such a place or Ah, yes my parents gave me this for a Christmas gift which can be a way of fielding the compliment and directing the attention back down to form whether it’s a cute shirt or a cute haircut. It’s not to say that it would necessarily have to be that way in form. In other words, you may meet someone and it may be an opening comment. So, you don’t have to go around and be quiet and not respond necessarily. But, a lot of times those responses are very unnecessary.

Friend: For me, it’s my chance to be aware and grateful to that person to bring that to me to look at and say that I don’t want to get hooked into that.

David: Yes, it’s a good opportunity, again. Because if you’re attentive then everything can be used that way and again you wouldn’t necessarily do that with everyone. Maybe at a Course meeting that would be a very appropriate time to bring it up but if you’re chatting with your neighbor next door it wouldn’t make any sense at all to get into that. So, it’s about just being attentive but not necessarily wanting to draw undo attention to symptoms, clothing, hair, or anything in the world of form.

Friend: That’s the underlining thing because any attention brought to anything just breaks apart the whole.

David: And anything that’s judged or valued like wow, that haircut is better then you ever had before. That shirt is more attractive then any one you’ve ever worn. That ordering of thoughts, that judging is what’s making the error real. As long as there are better haircuts/worse haircuts; higher jobs/lower jobs; good looking style clothes/poorly dressed, you see how that makes the error real. It’s not nothing if it’s valued positively or negatively. That’s the underlining metaphysics why you don’t want to buy into those judgments. It just makes the error real. It makes the world real in the mind of the thinker.

“Defenses are not unintentional, nor are they made without awareness. They are secret magic wands you wave when truth appears to threaten what you would believe. They seem to be unconscious but because of the rapidity with which you choose to use them. In that second even less in which the choice is made you recognize exactly what you would attempt to do and then proceed to think that it is done.”

So, then we’re back to all those mind tricks and how quickly they’re done. It’s all part of that wanting to forget that I made this whole thing up, and I perceive exactly what I want to perceive in a situation. If the mind waves its magic wand, and forgets that it did that; now it’s on the screen. It’s this person and these events seem to be happening to this person quite unasked for. So and so treated me unfairly. She should have paid more attention to me. She shouldn’t have frowned or she shouldn’t have yelled at me. Once the mind forgets that it’s a mind and it’s on the screen and believes it’s a person then I caught the flu bug. I dropped a rock on my foot and that’s why it’s swollen. I’m cold because I didn’t bring a warm enough coat to wear. Something as simple as that is still saying there’s something outside of me on the screen that is bringing my discomfort about.
When we talk about those kinds of things we’re getting into more subtle realms. But the underlining belief is that it’s always something external that’s doing this to me apart from my own wish.

“Who but yourself evaluates a threat, decides escape is necessary and sets up a series of defenses to reduce the threat that has been judged as real. All this cannot be done unconsciously. But, afterwards your plan requires that you must forget you made it so it seems to be external to your own intent; a happening beyond your state of mind, an outcome with a real effect on you instead of one effected by yourself. It is this quick forgetting of the part you play in making your defenses reality that makes defenses seem to be beyond your own control. But what you have forgot can be remembered giving willingness to reconsider the decision which is doubly shielded by oblivion. Your not remembering is but the sign that this decision still remains in force as far as your desires are concerned. Mistake not this for fact. Defenses must make facts unrecognizable. They aim at doing this and it is this they do.” W-136.4

So, the next paragraph we’re going to get into is this the assembling the parts the way the mind wants to see them. In other words, the entire cosmos has been constructed by the deceived mind to be the way that it perceives it is. If we even get into the metaphorical level of fragments, no two fragments see the same cosmos because it’s that fragmented and made up. In the ultimate sense there aren’t even any two fragments but no two persons if we even use that metaphor see the world alike because there’s no objective world. The entire world is completely subjective and it depends on the meaning given to it, the way that you’ve constructed it which can have enormous variation. I like this kind of temperature. I like these kinds of foods. I like these kinds of climates/settings. Preferences all just get laid on.

“Every defense takes fragments of the whole, assembles them without regard to all their true relationships and thus constructs illusions of a whole that is not there.” W-136.6

Now true relationships could be seen as once the Holy Spirit’s purpose is held in mind there’s a divine order to everything that even seems to exist; that all realms of perception are seen to be just a result of what the mind wants. And that the mind is causative and that perception is always just an effect. That’s what all true relationships are, like he’s talking about; just the divine order which is quite profound if you think about it. Every single event that has ever seemed to occur in the perceptual world or in the entire cosmos is one gigantic event. It’s all in perfect divine order except to the deceived mind that breaks it apart and sees some things as favorable and some things as unfavorable. A flood or a drought to one may be favorable; to another unfavorable. Financial conditions to one may be favorable, to another unfavorable. But really it’s all in divine order. There’s nothing good or bad but thinking that makes it so. It’s quite a comforting thought that all things work together for good. There’s never been anything out of place. Everything is always exactly as it is. It totally flies against the thinking of the world that you have to improve world conditions, crime, and hunger. But, it’s all played out and it’s all in perfect order. So we’ll go back to that paragraph.

“Every defense takes fragments of the whole, assembles them without regard to all their true relationships, and thus constructs illusions of a whole that is not there. It is this process that imposes threat, and not whatever outcome may result.” W-136.6

So, in other words the outcome is the outcome. There can be only one outcome always and that is whatever’s on the screen, whatever’s playing in the movie. The script is written. That’s what the outcome is. But, the perception of the outcome, the categories in the mind that emphasizes certain aspects and call forth witnesses that’s where the threat comes in. The threat is where the misperception is. It has nothing to do with what’s perceived, per se.

“When parts are wrested from the whole and seen as separate and wholes within themselves they become symbols standing for attack upon the whole successful in effect and never to be seen as whole again and yet you have forgotten that they stand but for your own decision of what should be real to take the place of what is real.” W-136.6

So, again the body is like a symbolic concrete form of fear but so is a snowflake, so is a tree, so is a couch, so is a rug. In other words, when they’ve been wrested from the whole there’s an ordering that’s taking place that’s denying they’re unreal. Reality is purely abstract; once the mind believes that separation is possible; once perception is believed to be real then abstract reality is denied and now whatever the mind perceives as separate, as a whole in and of itself, is literally an attack upon reality. This is the very basis of everything that we get into with the ordering of thoughts. Are these couple paragraphs pretty clear?

Friend: It still seems a little abstract. I’m not sure I’m really bringing it down to a practical level.

David: I think that assumed in talking about practical level is specifics. Most people wouldn’t think of watching your mind and just holding on to this abstract intent and holding peace as your only goal as a very practical kind of thing. But, actually that is very practical.

Friend: For me, I have to go back to what the Course says is that you either believe all of it or none of it and I choose to believe that I’m in Heaven with God and I don’t even have to wonder whether I believe a snowflake is separate or whatever. That, for me doesn’t even come into mind. I prefer to believe that I’m in Heaven with God and chose to be here to be of help and that’s really what I go back to.

David: Yes, it gets to the subtleness of believing I’m a child of God. In one sense, it’s not about trying to skip over by saying that I’m a Son of God, but really looking at the specifics or really looking at when I’m upset and annoyed. These last couple paragraphs are literally giving us the metaphysics of what’s going on. How separate things are made up in the deceived mind. To me, the only value of this is that I want to be very vigilant and very clear that I don’t in a very subtle way still buy into the belief that I can attack God. If there are subtle things that are attacks on God that I don’t see as attacks on God, but they are; I need to know about them.

Friend: When I say a practical level, I guess what I mean is I can see this on the written page but when I’m upset I can’t always trace it back in this way. I can’t always go back and say ok, here’s what I did. The logic of this as we read it is lost to me when I’m upset. I can’t logically find these mistakes that I’ve made and it even says here that part of doing this is that we forget we’ve done it. So for me to go back and trace this when I’m feeling upset, takes a real understanding of it, because I’ve already deliberately forgotten what I did. That’s part of the step of getting to the point that something is upsetting to me. One of the initial steps that I have to make is that I forget why I did it.

Friend: And that I did it. That it was a deliberate decision, built into the ego system.

David: Yes, these unconscious beliefs; the roles that we talked about, the mother or the wife or the whatever. You can be in a situation and kind of click into auto pilot of kind of being in the role and there are a bunch of decisions obviously. Husband, wife, parent… whatever the role is. That’s pulled out of the whole as well and yet if I’m used to cruising along in auto-pilot defining myself as that role then it takes a real vigilance in awareness to go back and make those connections. It seems abstract at the beginning, but the more we go along and the more we train our minds to think this way... I remember a couple summers ago of watching fireworks go off. I remember afterwards, they were saying to me, “Wow, what did you think of the show David?” And I said, “Well, I was doing my mind watching during the show.” “Even with a fireworks show?” There were all these beautiful displays of things going off and all these different configurations and colors and sounds and heights and this and that, and I remember just telling them that honestly that’s what I was doing. I was actually holding on to my purpose and it wasn’t a strain. It wasn’t as if I was forcing myself to do this “tedious thing” during the fireworks display. But it was a part of the natural flow of everything of being there and holding on to that purpose with everything that I was seeing. It wasn’t like a separate thing and to me; some say, what’s the enjoyment? What’s the point? The enjoyment doesn’t come from the fireworks display and the music or the bands that we’re playing and the songs that they played that night. Whether I enjoyed the songs that they played from that era or the sights I was seeing or whatever or the bungee jumper that was splashing into the river there and all of these things that were going on.

Friend: Or even the persons that you were with.

David: It had everything to do with holding onto that intention and just feeling very much in the flow and it had nothing to do with any of that other stuff. But it has taken an effort to start to align my thinking that way. Because that’s certainly not the way I’ve experienced other Fourth of Julys. So, the next paragraph now we’re getting into what’s going on in the mind. Why would the mind choose sickness?

“Sickness is a decision. It is not a thing that happens to you quite unsought, which makes you weak and brings you suffering. It is a choice you make a plan you lay when for an instant truth arises in your own deluded mind and all your world appears to totter and prepare to fall. Now are you sick that truth may go away and threaten your establishments no more.” W-136.7

So, a lot of times people will say I’m getting sick. What do I do? I get sick, I ask the Holy Spirit please help me see this differently and nothing happens. But, sickness is of the mind. It’s not about trying to deal with sickness at the symptom level. We were talking with our friend the other day about the periodic migraine headaches, trying to address it at the symptom level is first saying that it has a reality. This really does happen every month. This is really what is happening and then looking for a specific mind change or a specific belief, kind of going on a witch hunt when really the whole world as it’s constructed backwards with things being causative outside is what has to be let go of. It’s the whole construct that the mind’s holding on to that that is sick. The mind that believes that it’s a self-concept of its own making that can order and construct reality the way that it wants it to be; that is the sickness. It has nothing to do with migraines symptoms or flu symptoms or cancer or rashes or all these different things.

Friend: So, what I hear you saying is, don’t wait until there’s bodily symptoms to pay attention to what’s going on in the mind. There’s no quick fix.

David: Yes, the whole message of the Course is, don’t wait. In other words, salvation is offered to you this instant, and be vigilant, watch your mind. Be as attentive as you can this very instant, and the Course doesn’t say if this or that arises, do this, do that. It’s all based on sorting out the two thought systems; the right mind and the wrong mind. And that’s where healing takes place. It draws attention away from symptom level whether it is financial problems or so called sickness/health issues or whatever.

Friend: In the same sense, I can’t wait until I’m upset or until I’m sick to try to make sense of this because right there there’s such an apparent resistance to making any sense out of this that it’s going to be really difficult. So I have to try to make sense of this as we’re discussing it or whenever I’m able.

Friend: When the resistance is not there or when it’s down instead of when it’s up.

David: “How do you think that sickness can succeed in shielding you from truth? Because it proves the body is not separate from you, and so you must be separate from the truth. You suffer pain because the body does, and in this pain are you made one with it. Thus is your “true” identity preserved, and the strange, haunting thought that you might be something beyond this little pile of dust silenced and still. For see this dust can make you suffer, twist your limbs and stop your heart commanding you to die and cease to be.” W-136.8
So, there we have the ultimate in the reversal of cause and effect that the deceived mind wants to be sick. It wants to experience and interpret sickness as being of the body so it can prove that it is separate from God, it is vulnerable, and it is guilty. And it’s a strong witness when you have a throbbing headache or a sharp back pain or a toothache or whatever at the symptom level. As long as pain is being experienced it’s seen as a strong witness. All this is trying to do is saying it’s a decision. You think it is serving you in some way and as soon as you can see how it does not serve it will be gone, instantaneously.

Friend: And the only way it’s serving me is helping me to keep my concept of the world in place. Right, that could be the only purpose that it serves?

David: Yes and this Course is teaching how insane, how ridiculous that is.

“Thus is the body stronger then the truth which asks you live, but cannot overcome your choice to die. And so the body is more powerful then everlasting life, Heaven more frail than hell, and God’s design for the salvation of his Son opposed by a decision stronger than His Will. His Son is dust, the Father incomplete, and chaos sits in triumph on his throne.” W-136.9

That’s quite graphically laid out. To trace it back and to see that for what it is. Feeling a little bit cold or feeling a little too hot, feeling a little bit of an itch, feeling a little bit… If you take that to psychological terms, anxiety or a nervous twitch, all of that is simply a decision, a defense that’s being made against Heaven. That keeps pointing out not to turn it in and not to say in a personal sense, oh my Gosh if I still have an itch or I still feel too hot or too cold… but to bring to my attention how vigilant I have to be and how total this mind watching has to be, to be free of this backwards thinking, to have the light shine on all these false thoughts in my mind.

Friend: Yet, it becomes more and more apparent that there is no room for mind wandering.

David: “Such is your planning for your own defense. And you believe that Heaven quails before such mad attacks as these with God made blind by your illusions, truth turned into lies, and all the universe made slave to laws which your defenses would impose on it. Yet, who beliefs illusions but the one who made them up? Who else can see them and react to them as if they were the truth? God knows not of your plans to change His Will. The universe remains unheeding of the laws by which you thought to govern it. And Heaven has not bowed to hell, nor life to death. You can but choose to think you die, or suffer sickness or distort the truth in any way. What is created is apart from all of this. Defenses are plans to defeat what cannot be attacked. What is unalterable cannot change and what is wholly sinless cannot sin.” W-136.10-11

So, we’re back to the subtleties. Whenever there’s concern for the body. Where will I get my food to eat or where will I stay tonight or how will I do all this work that I have to do. It could be hundreds and hundreds of thoughts in subtle ways but whenever there’s concern and it’s related into bodies then the mind is literally just defending the self-concept and what a relief to see that that’s not necessary. It flies in the face of everything in this world that you can just hold onto your purpose and that everything will click and flow in absolute perfect harmony. But that’s what the lessons are teaching us.

If we jump to the next page instead of reading the whole lesson we’ll carry this out to where it’s leading. That if this is absolutely followed, and the mind becomes so detached of judging anything, that it literally just lets go of all preferences and all judgment thoughts, then you get what is described as, “Healing will flash across your open mind as peace and truth arise to take the place of war and vain imaginings.” W-136.16

So, the mind that believes in war and vain imaginings is a darkened mind. That’s what’s sick, “Healing will flash…” Light will flash across an open mind.

“There will be no dark corners sickness can conceal, and keep defended from the light of truth. There will be no dim figures from your dreams, nor their obscure and meaningless pursuits with double purposes insanely sought, remaining in your mind. It will be healed of all the sickly wishes that it tried to authorize the body to obey.” W-136.16

Now, he’s jumping down to the next paragraph to a metaphor because he says, “Now is the body healed because the source of sickness has been open to relief.” W-136.17 Obviously that has to be a metaphor because he told us in many places that the body can’t be sick. There’s an assumption there of a concept that a body can be sick. So, in a sense he’s saying when the mind is healed the body will reflect that health. There won’t be any suffering involved in it. But, beyond that, when we get back to the realm of illusions of a whole and breaking things down, which is very deep; parts wrestled from the whole and seen as separate and wholes within themselves. That goes way beyond the metaphor of even a body being healed. “And you will recognize you practice well by this, the body should not feel at all. If you have been successful there will be no sense of feeling ill or feeling well of pain or pleasure. No response at all is in the mind to what the body does.”

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