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Week Intensive part 1 - Introduction to the Ego Belief System

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.

David: Salvation is a term that people can have a lot of issues with because much of the ego’s teaching over the last two or three thousand years has been You have to pay a price for it, or You have to earn it and so on and so forth; and the Course is really getting away from that. You could think of salvation as Atonement, or correction of error, or a term that a lot of people can relate to is healing. The purpose of life is healing. If you’re not having a total sense of bliss and happiness, and you’re not having that high flat line we’re talking about, then to say Hey, I’m worth more than this (these periods and everything). There seems to be a problem, and there needs to be a solution (a healing, a reparation) needs to take place. It’s nice to be reminded again in the Course that it’s not a behavioral change that’s being asked, and that if you change your mind, a change of behavior will come. You will have a different attitude, and your behavior will flow from that change. So, we’re just going to focus a lot on tracing it back and looking at the mind because that’s where the healing takes place. Even with reparation or healing, a lot of times people will ask How do you define the problem? The ego has defined the problem in terms of the screen. In other words, when you mention the word sickness, a lot of times the things that come to mind are AIDS, cancer, flu, colds, severed limbs, heart attacks, high cholesterol level, stiffness and tightness. A whole barrage of images can come to mind when you mention the term sickness. Jesus says right away Here’s my definition of sickness—not right-mindedness! Back to that ego again! So, not right mindedness is sickness, and how does Jesus define health? Does he define it in terms of muscle tone? Does he define it in terms of cardiovascular fitness or pulse rate?

Friend: I think he defines it as, “Health is the result of relinquishing all attempts to use the body lovelessly.” (T-8.VIII.9)

David: Yes, that’s one of the definitions, and here’s that word use again. That would get back to purpose. The function or the utility of something is the purpose you have for it; and again, that’s at the mind level. So, he doesn’t define it in terms of any of those things. A healthy body to Jesus…

Friend: … makes no sense.

David: … doesn’t make sense. It’s just as funny as a sick body. Now that takes a while. Immediately that can seem a little disorienting, because it could be like I don’t want to get into denial here or I don’t want to lose my grounding, or whatever; but, if we’re talking about everything in terms of black-and-white thinking or all or nothing, or of right-mindedness and wrong-mindedness; in those terms it makes sense that the sickness would be the wrong-mindedness, and the health would be right-mindedness.

Friend: And nothing else.

David: Right; and nothing else. Again, it’s simplified, but haven’t we all thought at some point If there is such a thing as truth, why would it be so complex? Why wouldn’t it be accessible, available and simple? Is it going to have to be this synthetic thing that requires you to have a college degree in order to get it –enormous education and all these variables—just the right thing to get it? Do you have to have just the right combination? Why not something that’s really simple?

So, to talk about the ego as the false belief—the belief in separation, we could say that it’s a fragmenting belief. What a fragmenting belief does is it fragments, it multiplies, it just seems to multiply and multiply. So, now we have the belief in separation.

Then we can talk about the belief in time. Heaven is eternity; there is no time in eternity. Heaven doesn’t have increments, degrees, and intervals. Heaven is oneness; there aren’t any gradations, intervals, or degrees in Heaven. So, we have time; we have space; we have seeming different realms. You could talk about the cosmos; you could talk about the intergalactic realms, the solar system realms, the planetary realms. You could talk about atmospheric realms just around the earth; and then when you come down you could talk about global, national, regional, community, neighborhood, realms within the home, we’ve got realms within the home! We’ve got bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms and basements. Let’s take it closer down; we have realms within one room. Then we bring it down to interpersonal skills. We hear all this stuff like How are your interpersonal skills? Then we bring it down to the little person here, and, by golly there even seem to be realms in the person! You could say there are mental realms, emotional realms, thoughts, beliefs, and desires. Oh, wait a minute! We haven’t talked about the body! There seem to be systems in the body. You’ve studied nursing. There’s the respiratory system, the cardio-vascular system, and the nervous system. They all seem to interact. What’s smaller than that? Well, we have little organs here. Then there are systems within the organs; and then we get down to the cellular and molecular levels and then down to the atomic levels, and then we can talk about the sub-atomic levels, and the particles that the quantum physicists are studying. There just seem to be all kinds of realms and levels and fragments. The good thing about is, and what the Course is teaching us is that all of those realms and levels are perceived to be down here on the screen. They are talked about in terms of the screen. They are all perceptual levels; they all involve this perception or degrees and gradations. What we want to do is . . . we want to see that what produced the world down here (the screen) is ego belief. In other words, there’s the original belief in separation from God and then all of the belief system that seemed to spring from the ego (all of the beliefs that seemed to come from it) are all part of the ego belief system. So not only the ego but all of the beliefs that sprang from the ego are part of that film in our projector. So, we really have to take a good close look at the film. That’s really what we’re going to be doing, just examining the film. Now that can seem obscure or vague, so I’ll just rattle off some of what Jesus gives in the Course that seems to be some of the specific beliefs that are involved in the ego’s belief system. This is from Lesson 76. He says, “You really think that you would starve unless you have stacks of green paper strips and piles of metal discs.” (W-76.3) There’s obviously a pretty strong belief in money. He calls it green paper strips and piles of metal discs. “You really think a small round pellet or some fluid pushed into your veins through a sharpened needle will ward of disease and death.” Yep, that’s what the whole idea behind getting your immunization shots—to ward off disease. Why would anyone ever get a flu shot or any kind of shot unless it was for the purpose of warding off disease? That’s a belief! He says, “You really think you are alone unless another body is with you.” Companionship! That seems to be the case at times. There’s a belief! Oh, if I just had someone here, someone to share my life with (some body). “It is insanity that thinks these things.” Well, insanity is the ego. He’s just saying these are all ego beliefs. “You call them laws, and put them under different names in a long catalogue of ritual that have no use and serve no purpose. You think you must obey the ‘laws’ of medicine, of economics, and of health. Protect the body and you will be saved.” (W-76.4)

Then on the next page he continues: “We will begin the longer practice period today with a short review of the different kind of ‘laws’ we have believed we must obey. These would include, for example, the ‘laws’ of nutrition…” This one I know we spent a lot of time on. A lot of the people were working on their Fit-for-Life diet.

Friend: Food plan, not diet, but food plan. They would correct themselves whenever anyone said diet.

David: Fit-for-life Food Plan, and of course there’s all kinds of beliefs that have to be beneath this food plan to make it work. Otherwise, what’s all the point of putting all this effort and energy into a food plan unless you are doing it sensibly, according to the laws of nutrition (sophisticated, cholesterol, calories, fat content, sodium content, food combining, proteins, amino acids)?

Friend: Also eating in terms of order, like which to ingest first, proteins or fruit or whatever ….

Friend: How it’s digested ….

David: … and time of day. I’ve heard of eating one big meal at the beginning of the day. Then there’s eating based on your body type; diets that are based on body type. Jesus doesn’t get into all of that. He doesn’t even get into cholesterol in here. He just lumps them all together in one word laws of nutrition, of immunization, of medication, and of the body’s protection in innumerable ways. You could get into insurance plans and all of the schemes that seem to be very practical in this world, like Do you have a good insurance plan or health maintenance organization with all the changes that seem to be going on in Washington? No, it’s all lumped together. “Think further; you believe in the ‘laws’ of friendship ...” Uh oh, here we are back to motherhood; that’s the next one!

Friend: It keeps poking its way through. That’s the other thing is you can’t just be a mother; you have to be good mother.

David: The next one is good relationships, what it means to be a good mother, good father, good son, good employee, good employer, good neighbor, good citizen, all these things, all the ego’s system. The last thing he throws in is that you believe in the laws of reciprocity. That seems to fit in with the laws of friendship as well as those laws of good relationships. So you can see where this is leading. He even says: “Perhaps you even think that there are laws which set forth what is God’s and what is yours. Many ‘religions’ have been based on this. They would not save, but damn in Heaven’s name.” (W-76.8) These are the dos and don’ts. You do these things you go to hell. You do these things you go to Heaven. You might say they are fear based. You better not do these things. We call these things sins. Don’t do them. Again, if you really look at them, they’re at the behavioral level. If you do certain behaviors, you have sinned. Certain behavior like, for example, killing someone is not so good. That would definitely be in the sin category. Thou shalt not kill. That’s in the Ten Commandments. Do not covet thy neighbor’s wife. Covet is starting to get back more into desire again because it’s more of a want; but Thou shalt not steal (robbery); that’s definitely defined in terms of the behavioral component, yet a lot of times when you get into friendships and relationships people talk about stealing emotionally. I hear: You always take. You take so much from me emotionally. You drain me emotionally. You don’t give anything back. Well, there’s more stealing; but instead of stealing someone’s green paper strips or their comb or their toothpaste or their shoes or something, it’s like somehow there’s a belief in these private minds again and that there’s only so much of this love stuff to go around.

Friend: You stole my heart away.

David: You stole my heart. I hear that a lot in country songs.

Friend: I just wanted to say, it’s not to make fun of the way people eat or to have any judgment about it whatsoever because initially when we got into this there was some fear and some concern about Do I have to give this up? And we said, “No, no keep eating the way you’re eating. Do what you want to do. It’s okay. But, it would be helpful if you would take a look at it, if you just had a little willingness to look at that too.”

David: … at the beliefs.

Friend: Don’t just put nutrition off to the side to saying I’ve got this thing handled so I don’t need to look at this. Throw it in there with all the rest of the beliefs and look at that too. There’s no judgment about what you do behavior-wise.

David: That would be making it personal.

Friend: To eat whatever you want, whenever you want. It doesn’t mean anything to God. God doesn’t care, but it’s just being willing to look at the beliefs surrounding it; because if there’s any attachment to it, then there’s going to be pain with it. If I see myself as being on a specific diet or a specific way of eating, and I go to somebody’s house and they happen to be serving something that’s not included in that, then there may be a sense of upset or a sense of frustration. Oh, gee, what do I do now? Should I do this? Do I eat it and feel bad or do I say something or ask for something else to eat? If it’s upsetting to me then there must be some attachment to it, and that has to be looked at too.

David: It’s really redefining the problem. In other words, you could say that anorexia and bulimia seem to be problems involving eating. They are classified as eating disorders. Basically they are not eating disorders; there’s a judgment problem going on here. Gambling disorders seem to involve money and spending. Sometimes, for people who spend a lot, they have Gamblers Anonymous. Whether its gamblers or whether its people who go wild with credit cards, it seems to be a financial problem, but it’s a judgment problem. Alcoholism? No, judgment problem. Sexual addiction? No, judgment problem. All the things that they seem to have the support groups for, even the specialized ones for specialized disorders like Spinabifita support group. No, judgment problem. AIDS--HIV support group? No, judgment problem. The problems are not specific. The problems seem to be involving money; they seem to be involving co-dependency. No, judgment problem. Emotions Anonymous for emotional disorders? No, judgment problem. We get back to our thing of the levels of the mind, and this is what we do when we trace it back: All these things that I’ve just been mentioning are perceived to be out here on the outer ring. They all seem to be perception. They all seem to involve specific things like bodies, diseases, viruses, eating too much, and drinking too much alcohol. All of these seem to be out here in the outer ring, but what we’re learning here is that the inner ring produced the outer rings. So, in other words, there is a defilement of the altar; there’s a wish to believe in the ego. The mind is actually believing that it can separate from God; that’s a defilement of the altar. So then you have the belief in separation, and you have all these other beliefs. The thoughts spring from the beliefs. In other words, here’s the thinking, but the beliefs determine the parameters of thinking. Here’s a specific example that Jesus uses: He says that you may believe that you cannot control the direction of your thinking or you may believe that your thoughts have no effects. You can believe that about thoughts! People do. I can’t change my thinking. I tried to meditate. My thoughts run rampant in there. It’s like being in a clothes dryer, tossed around like that. Change my thinking?

Friend: I have no control over that.

David: I have enough difficulty trying to change my behavior. Change my thinking? You’ve got to be kidding. Have you ever tried to meditate? Have you been able to change the direction of your thoughts? So, there’s a belief. It’s like a parameter placed on thoughts. Here’s another thing you may believe. You may believe (Jesus says) that fear is not your responsibility. Many times when people pray to Jesus, they say, “Jesus, take my fear away.” Well, Jesus has an answer for them in the Course. He says that fear is your responsibility and that he cannot take your fear away. To take your fear away would be to interfere with your thoughts and the consequences of your thought. He says, “If I intervened between your thoughts and their results, I would be tampering with a basic law of cause and effect; the most fundamental law there is.” (T-2.VII.1) This would be in direct opposition to the purpose of this course. It is much more helpful to remind you that you do not guard your thoughts carefully enough.” He can remind you that you are much too tolerant of mind wandering, but (he says) the one thing I cannot do is come between your thought and the consequences of your thought, and to take your fear away… That’s what the request is: Come into my mind . . .

Friend: But isn’t that always the request whether you’re having conflict or whatever? Usually if you travel back far enough, the thought is fear-based. There are fears of rejection or that people won’t understand you, or whatever. So I guess I’m always praying for him to take that away. So, if he doesn’t take that away, then it’s up to me to be vigilant for my thoughts. So, if I really see where things are at, then it should dissolve.

David: Well, in a sense, you could say that even coming to this week intensive is a symbol of your desire to have the fear be removed. Again, if you come to me, I’m going to keep pointing you back to self responsibility. I’m not going to say Here I am, the Messiah, the Guru! I will magically take away all fear from everyone. I’m just not going to teach that. I’m going to say, Together let’s look at this thought system. Then as soon as you can bring the ego into awareness you can see Hey, this thing offers me no good. I’m going to withdraw my investment in it because I see that it offers me no good. If I still think that it offers me something of value, why am I going to want to get rid of it? That’s the whole point of unveiling the ego, because as long as it seems to offer some value or some safety, then I’m going to be afraid of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is going to be seen as trying to come and get me. If I’m identified with the ego and here comes this light in my mind that’s going to dispel the ego, and I think I am the ego; yikes! There’s going to be a fear of the Holy Spirit. That’s where the real fear comes in. When we talk about trust it’s the same thing. Trust what? A lot of times we say I don’t trust my brother, or I don’t trust a co-worker or a family member, or something like that. I don’t trust them. But, really, what the Course says is that if there’s a trust issue, it’s a trust issue that goes back to God or to the Holy Spirit. The mind tries to project it out and personify it. Oh, I know that so and so is trustworthy. Certain people that I know are trustworthy; it’s these other people who are not trustworthy. I know which ones are trustworthy and which ones aren’t because of their behavior. I’ve got computer files stored on each of them. These are the people who have let me down and they’ve let others down too, and I’ve got the witnesses to prove it! I know that they are untrustworthy. Really, what the Course is saying is: Little child, you’re asleep and you’re dreaming. Your perception is very twisted and confused. You’re not sure about trusting your brothers because you don’t trust the Holy Spirit. You’ve made up a false identity, and you’ve become very comfortable with this false identity. You’ve become identified with a little body, and you think that’s your life now. You’ve forgotten your spiritual identity in heaven, and you think that the little body is your life. You’re afraid of the Holy Spirit because it seems like the Holy Spirit is threatening your little stash; your little perceptual identity that you’ve made up. Now that’s an important thing because it seems like the fear is about stuff happening on the screen. Oh, I don’t want to get cancer. I don’t want to have my house robbed. I don’t want to get yelled at. I don’t want . . . all those things that seem to happen; but really the fear is, as Jesus says, of redemption, or the fear is of the Holy Spirit. That’s a helpful one to throw out on the table right away because in the end you start to think about it I’m afraid of the Holy Spirit? Why should I be afraid of this loving light in my mind that keeps on reminding me how wonderful I am, how perfect I am, how whole, and how innocent!

Friend: The separation never occurred at all.

David: Yeah, it seems kind of bonkers to think You mean I’m really afraid of the Holy Spirit? He’s trying to help me and I’m making the Holy Spirit out to be the enemy and he’s really the savior? He’s really the healer? It’s really good to start to take a look at that.

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