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Introduction to Thought, Emotion, and Perception
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.
Participant: I have a question. You’ve been talking about mind. What about the feelings, the emotions? My understanding is that what is buried in the subconscious is the feelings; the feelings are projected. How do you get the emotion and feeling out?
Speaker: There are only two emotions: love and fear. Now, Jesus does say that fear has many sprays in this world (like sprays of water coming from a hose) in the sense of anger, irritation, frustration, envy, jealousy. Gosh, you could go on and on and on because they’re all upsetting, basically. None of those feels good, and they’re all like a giant spray off of the ego. And love, a lot of times, can feel like peace and joy. Peace seems a little bit different than joy. Joy sometimes seems so exuberant; you can’t contain it. And Peace, sometimes, is just so restful. Once again it comes back to thoughts. That’s why we have to always talk about mind because it’s the thoughts that the mind identifies with that produce the emotions.
Participant: Say that again. It’s the thoughts…
Speaker: It’s the thoughts that the mind identifies with that produce the emotion. Remember we just talked about this. The Holy Spirit’s Thoughts are still in our minds. That light is the reminder that you have never left Heaven; you are still as God created you, that He loves you. Those are what the Course calls our real thoughts. They’re buried in the mind because all these stacks of illusion have been thrown over them. The mind is very afraid, so it’s thrown a stack in between the real thoughts. Over here is the Holy Spirit’s thought system and over there is the ego’s. Now every instant, the mind is choosing one or the other. If guilt is in the mind, if the mind aligns with the ego, if it believes that the ego is real, if it makes a decision for the ego, then what happens on the screen is reinforcement. The screen just brings back to the mind whatever it wants to see. If it believes it’s innocent and wholly guiltless, then you see the forgiven world. But, if you believe in guilt and you still are buying into guilt, then you see a world of duality. You see a world where you’re a victim, and that’s why when we talk about emotions, we always have to come back to mind and thoughts and cognition because it’s the thoughts which are being bought into. It’s not that the feelings cause the thoughts. It’s about which thought system the mind is buying into.
Participant: Decision, my conscious decision or my understanding is I won’t choose that anymore, but it’s still coming out all the time.
Speaker: That’s a good question.
Participant: And this is my question, you never talk about emotion. How do you change that?
Speaker: Ok, now we’ve got a question where you’re saying that you don’t think you’re consciously choosing the ego. You don’t feel like you’re going along and saying, Yeah, I’m going to choose the ego on this one. It doesn’t seem that way experientially. So, what I’m going to talk about is the conscious mind which is, you could say, I’m a person, Jeannie, and I’ve got a job, and I’m living in a world. It’s still kind of a tiny view. Jesus wouldn’t really be calling it conscious. He would be calling it a hallucination. But in this world, it seems to be conscious, what the world or psychology calls the conscious mind. That’s at the surface of the mind. That’s like at the top of the Empire State building where the flag is blowing. That’s the conscious part or what seems to be my everyday experience. Now what I’m saying is, once the separation seemed to occur, God placed the answer right there where the problem was. He placed it right in the mind where the ego was. He wouldn’t put the answer in the world when the problem is in the mind because then it wouldn’t do any good. He put the answer right next to the ego. That’s down in the basement. You’ve got ego and Holy Spirit. These are the two alternatives. Now, the mind is afraid, so it stacks all these layers. First floor, second floor, third floor, …. I don’t want to remember; get away from that light, sixth, seventh, eighth, …, forty-ninth, …, fifty-ninth. These are all the unconscious beliefs that are in the mind that sort of pop up to the surface which say, I’m a person living in the world. That’s why it seems as if the person, Jeannie, is not going through her day thinking, I am so angry at God that I’m going to choose the ego again, consciously doing that. But in the mind, whenever we’re upset, whether we think it’s because of our boss, a co-worker, the weather, the stock market, or whatever it is, the dog peed on our carpet, it doesn’t so much matter. That’s the screen; that’s really not what’s going on. It’s going on because of a decision that’s in my mind, and it comes up through the filter of all these beliefs as I’m going to choose to…
Participant #1: I know that. Is there a way where you can change that without junking up everything again?
Speaker: No, you have to look at all those floors.
Participant #1: What do you mean by looking? Letting it come to the surface and experiencing it? Is that what you call looking?
Participant #2: Sometimes, when the garbage comes up.
Participant #1: Yes, and you would have to go through the pain.
Speaker: There’s a belief there. In other words, there’s some thinking still in the mind that didn’t come from God, that was not created by God. You’ve heard of defense mechanisms, such as in psychology - denial, repression, projection, on and on and on. These are all ego defense mechanisms to keep from looking at the beliefs. Projection is a common one, obviously. If I could start blaming, blaming, a more common word for it, if I can blame things on everything around me, then I don’t need to look at my beliefs.
Participant #1: So talk about that, David. You say you have to look at the ego. What do you mean by that? My question is if we are to unlearn, does that mean to unlearn and go through the pain? Is that to look at the ego, to unlearn 1, 2, 3, 5, 10…12th floor, one by one?
Speaker: The good news is that at the beginning it seems like one by one, but the more you work with it, Jesus teaches that all these layers and levels are all form distinctions. You can have many beliefs about the world of form. Just look at all the different beliefs. Let’s just start with the basics, like time, space, bodies; you can have beliefs about men and women. Let’s just take men and women, sexual stereotyping; what little girls learn from mommy and daddy about what it means to be a little girl; what little boys learn. Those are all form beliefs that are tied into the form of little girl. What does it mean to be an American? What does it mean to be from France? What does it mean to be educated or intellectual? What does it mean to be a democrat and a republican? These are all form things. They all relate to the world of form. That’s the stack I was talking about. But, there is a short cut. There doesn’t have to be a long painful experience to go through these one by one. Jesus and the Holy Spirit are trying to teach the mind, the difference between form and content.
Participant #1: Form and what?
Speaker: Content…purpose; if the mind can get the Holy Spirit’s purpose, then you can start to see that these are all the same. An illusion is an illusion. It may differ. It may have a little bit of variation, for instance, time and space. If you had a philosopher in here and did a discourse on time and space, they would seem to be different things. Distance can be light years away. It seems to be one thing, and then space in terms of space in a home.
Participant #2: Space between objects.
Speaker: Yes, you don’t say that the door is two seconds away. You say that the door is 15 or 20 feet away. It’s usually in spatial terms. Jesus says that space and time are one illusion. It’s part of the projection, the whole thing, in the sense that it’s all connected. But you can see how space and time, male and female, republican and democrat; all these things are form distinctions that the mind has learned. But the mind believes in the concrete; it believes form is real. So, Jesus is saying, The Holy Spirit will try to teach you, starting with the specifics. That is where the lessons start. “Nothing I see means anything. This table does not mean anything. This chair…” He knows the mind believes in specifics, tables, chairs, pencils, wastebaskets, so he starts there because he knows where the mind is, but the whole point of the Course in Miracles, the shortcut if you will, is when you start to see that there is one purpose that can be given to everything in the world of form, and that’s the Holy Spirit’s purpose. I was giving the example the other day of a house that’s decorated with all these gleaming things, Chinese vases, we’ll say, and some of these vases are ancient vases from the Ming dynasty worth thousands and thousands of dollars. In my example, I have a little child, a little girl coming into the house, and oops, here comes the dog. The dog gets into the house, and she’s happily chasing the dog through the house, through the halls where we’ll say these Ming dynasty vases are. The parent comes down, sees the girl chasing the dog around the corner, and it knocks one of the vases over.
Now this is a pretty extreme example, but I use it because the Holy Spirit’s purpose in the mind is the healing of God’s Son. It’s always the attitude of love that counts, but you can see from the ego’s perspective - the ego believes in possessions; the ego believes that things in this world have value, not in seeing the Christ in the child. You can see where the reaction of the parent might be Aaaagh! and go after the little child, and really scream and holler, Why did you let the dog in? So this is an extreme example because this is a form/content thing where the ego sees the form as being important, and the Holy Spirit knows that the form is meaningless. Content of love or forgiveness is the big thing. Now look at all the chances we get to practice this every day! When you start to get wound into the world of form...
Participant #3: Especially when you’re working with children.
Speaker: When you’re working with children, and you have these things in your mind called your duties and your obligations and so forth, that you take on as part of your job role which is still made up, or you take on as part of your parent role, what it means to be a good mom. You may have some conditioning in there. Every mom may have an idea of what it means to be a good mom - to keep things clean, or it may be that to be a good mom and a wife is to keep the house immaculate. Well I’ll tell you, when the little girl or boy comes traipsing through the house with the mud, then there could be some upset because something is being violated in the mind. What I’m saying is it’s always being violated just in the mind. The ego will say, project, project the anger. The way to go through the stack or through the skyscraper is you start with Jesus on the specific level, and little by little you learn that the only thing important is forgiveness. The only thing important is love. We all have concrete perceptions of feelings, of different fears or different things that we experience in this world, different things that we want to avoid. We need to start, after we get a kind of metaphysical basis, we need to start with the concrete experiences. It would be nice if we could all just come in here and sit down and hold hands and affirm, We are the Holy Child of God, and then all of a sudden all of our problems would disappear. Basically, the path of the Course has all that good stuff in there; it is saying that you are a Holy Son of God, that you were created by a loving Father, and that you are Spirit, infinite in magnitude, and a lot of the things that we read all around. The Course is saying that the Christ presence is available to you always, right now, but you’ve kind of covered it over with these dark veils and with these distorted perceptions. That’s why sometimes it doesn’t seem like Jesus or the Holy Spirit or the higher Self or however you want to look at that, is available to us. Basically, the Course is saying that you’ve put barriers between your awareness of that love, but the love is always there.
So, in some ways, instead of more affirming the light, this is kind of holding in mind that we are the light, but also taking a look at the darkness and raising it up from the unconscious. Once you can see it, then you can say, Ah. It’s like looking at the fear and how you pierce through it. That’s what this Course is. It’s a course on really looking at the fear and false beliefs. It’s a course on really opening your mind and changing your perception of the world, and basically the only goal of the Course (and it states this over and over) is peace of mind. Peace of mind is the goal, and the means for coming to that peace of mind is what the Course calls miracles.
Now when you use the word miracle, a lot of times that can conjure up all kinds of images, like maybe the Red Sea parting or being healed of sickness, leprosy or blindness…. Or look at things that have happened in your own life where something is so synchronistic or something has just worked out beyond anything that you think you could control, and you think, Well that’s kind of like a miracle. In a sense, a miracle is like a divine intervention. It’s inspired by God, and what comes from that inspiration is a change of mind at the way that you’re looking at whatever you’re looking at. It’s a complete change of perception, and once again, when I use the word perception, I need to go into what perception is a little bit because it’s one of those psychological words that you hear sometimes. We’re going to come to a real meaning or experience of what perception is.
So, I’ll give you an example that I share a lot of times with perception. One time, I was invited to my sister’s wedding. I went to the wedding, and they invited people from all different age ranges, from children to people in their 20s and 30s. My sister and her boyfriend were in their 20s and then there were people in the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s. A wide range of people were there. I remember sitting in the living room, and I was sitting next to the television set. I’m kind of looking out into the living room. There were couches and chairs, and people were all sitting around watching the TV set. But, I can’t see the TV because I’m sitting right next to it. The video tape that was playing was Eddie Murphy’s “Raw” I don’t know how many of you have heard of Eddie Murphy. He’s a comedian who uses adult language some of the time. That’s what was on which I wasn’t seeing. I was just looking out over the crowd, kind of like an armchair psychologist. As Eddie Murphy was talking, I looked around, and it was like a Vincent Van Gogh panting with different colors because some of the faces were turning very red, and their lips were very tight. It was kind of like anger at what was being perceived, and then I saw other faces that were red, too, but the eyes were like shifting back and forth and their shoulders were shifting up too, as if to say I can’t believe what I am hearing. There were people watching this with embarrassment, red face again, but it was just like total embarrassment. And my brother-in-law was laughing so hard, just rolling out off the couch onto the ground about what was happening, and I’m just watching all of this going, Wow! I see laughter. I see anger. I see embarrassment. They’re all watching the same images. They’re all hearing the same sounds. That was my experiential sense of perception. In this state of mind in which we perceive fragmented everything, separate bodies, separate duality, the mind is literally reading meaning into what it sees, as opposed to the common sense idea that things happen - that movie made me laugh; that person makes me so angry every time I see him. Or when we were kids, Jody makes me so angry. It’s backwards that something seemingly happened, an event happened, that determined our state of mind. And this was kind of an experience of Oh, they’re all reading different meanings into the images that they’re seeing. That was a really neat dynamic to see because when I got to the Course, it was like the second lesson in the book, very fundamental, “I have given everything I see… all the meaning that it has for me.” Now that example helped bring it home for me. Ah! This is what this perception business is about.
Now the other thing is, the Course says, As you perceive so will you respond, and as you perceive so will you feel. I’ve also been interested in the emotions. Where do emotions come from, and what triggers them? In psychology, they always have the debate about when you see a big bear and your heart starts pounding, what comes first? Do the feelings of fear come first, or do the thoughts come, I’d better run! What’s going on in the mind? Different psychologists have different theories, and in the Course, it comes down to thoughts. In other words, in a deceived state of mind, instead of perceiving unity, instead of perceiving wholeness and completion, when you are perceiving duality and separation and fragmentation, there’s two different thought systems that are being held in this mind. Quite simply, you could say that one is a thought system of love; one is a thought system of fear, and the vision or what you see as you look out from this deceived mind, is very distorted. When the mind holds two diametrically opposite thought systems, the vision or the perception is very twisted and very distorted because, in a sense, the mind has forgotten its true Source which is only love. It’s kind of like there’s an alien thought system that’s in the mind. It isn’t natural to have this split, these two thought systems. The natural state of the mind, the Course says, is wholeness or completion, this beautiful abstract light that sometimes you’ve heard of maybe in near death experiences where there is this beautiful light and people have experiences of unconditional warmth and acceptance, where there is this sense of wholeness and completion.
As I got into the Course, the next question that arose was, How do I change my perception if I have a perceptual problem? And the first thing the Course says about this is that we just need to see that it is a perceptual problem. In the state of mind that most people would consider the everyday life in the world, it seems as if events happen to us that are completely beyond our anticipation; we don’t have a lot of hand in it. Events just seem to happen to us, and then the mind just has to react to these things. If we use the analogy of the movie screen, going to a movie theater, the Course is saying that what we perceive in the world, all these separate bodies and separate trees, separate cars, separate galaxies and stars, separate everything, that is like a screen. That is like the movie theater, going to a movie. That is what is happening on the screen. If I have given everything I see all the meaning that it has for me, and my perception is very distorted, then I need to learn to let go of reading my meaning onto everything that I see. I need to step aside, to trust that there is a Presence in my mind, the Holy Spirit, the higher Self, whatever you’re comfortable with, that will read an entirely different meaning onto this world. There will be a vision that is entirely different from the normal way of seeing. Now that’s what perception is.
Another way I could come at it would be forgiveness because how many hundreds of years have we heard, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and “forgive, just forgive”? Yet it seems like in our everyday experience that we forgive someone, and then we have another grievance. And we have to forgive over here, and then another one comes up. And this one may be really anchored, and we’re not so sure if we can forgive. We may have things that seem to happen to us in our past that literally seem so atrocious or so real that the whole idea of forgiveness seems like hocus pocus. It seems that I’ll never be able to forgive so and so for what they did to me. And once again, Jesus is saying through the Course, as you come with me you’ll learn what the meaning of forgiveness is, that once again, in the deceived state of mind, we can kind of approach it and get approximations, but the deeper we go and follow him in our minds, the more we’ll approach the meaning of true forgiveness which is a synonym for that high state of mind that we just described. When we reach that vision that he calls true perception or healing or the real world, as he calls it in the Course, then that’s where the state of true forgiveness comes from, where literally he could see the Christ in every brother that he met regardless of appearances.
What I’ll try to do is just give one more concept, and that’s
the idea of Forgiveness. Forgiveness, as Jesus describes it, is simply
reversing the thought system that’s in your mind. We just talked
about a fear-based thought system in the mind which some people may
call the ego. The main characteristic of the fear based thought system
is that you are tiny and you are powerless, and the things that happen
on the screen are very powerful and real; they do determine your state
of mind, and you’re sunk. The ego says, Look at your past. That’s
the way it’s always been in your past. Forget about the present.
You’re future is going to be just as bad as your past was. You’re
sunk. You’re a sinner. You’re guilty, and you’re always
going to be guilty. This is, in a sense, how linear time is, and that’s
the egos use of time. You’re guilty in the past. Forget about
the present. You’re guilty in the future. Reminds me of some of
my old psychology days – the idea that what happens outside you
determines who you are. You have no choice, or you’ve got these
intra-psychic forces. They determine who you are. You have no choice.
Then here comes the Course in Miracles, and Jesus is saying, The present
moment is your point of power. It’s like a gateway into eternity,
out of the linear time and into the eternal where your heavenly Father
is and where you really abide. And so Jesus has a whole different use
of time. It’s training the mind to start to think even about time
differently. You have the power, based on your decision, to determine
your state of mind. Now, the ego doesn’t go for that at all because
the ego believes that everything outside causes your state of mind.
So the Course is helping turn the thoughts around, letting go of these
backward thoughts that I’m a small victim of these external forces,
and slowly generalizing the principles to help us see that we have power,
and that our empowerment is literally our decision.
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