New Horizons

As of September, 2010, I have been proposing a direction for our study of the Course, which is to work together through Ken's workshop The Meaning of Judgment. We're using his transcript notes for this taken from the Foundation's website (see link in the tool bar at the top of the page) as a support for this work. Below you'll find the notes for each section we've been working on (with highlights of the specific sections studied) , followed in some cases by the summary notes taken from our Skype meeting discussing that section. I chose this particular workshop because it gets immediately into the real heart and practice of the Course while taking us through its basic principles at the same time. So, for those interested in finding out where the 'rubber hits the road', even though it might get a little confronting at times, then join us on this little adventure Homewards!

The Meaning of Judgment
Excerpts from the Workshop held at the
Academy & Retreat Center of the Foundation for A Course in Miracles

Kenneth Wapnick, Ph.D.


17. It is impossible for us to exist in this world without these kinds of judgments. Our world is indeed a world of perception. We all perceive ourselves in relationship to others and to things that are outside us, and Jesus is not saying we should deny that this is our experience. Near the beginning of the text he says that it is practically impossible to deny our physical experience in this world (T-2.IV.3:10). But he is asking us to look at it differently, as we will see. The point is that we cannot exist in this world as separated individuals-believing we each have a real body and a personality distinct from other people's bodies and personalities-and not judge. And we are all very good at denying how much we judge. A clear example of how students of the Course fall into this trap occurred when the Gulf War broke out. Some students would say to other students who expressed concern about what was happening in the Persian Gulf, "What war? There's no war out there. By saying there's a war out there, watching a news program and talking about it, you're giving it a reality it doesn't have." They were not aware that they were making an even worse judgment, because they were saying, "There is something terrible out there that I do not wish to see. And therefore I will spiritualize it and say that A Course in Miracles says that everything is unreal here, that no one is different, that war is impossible; therefore there is no war out there." From a metaphysical level, that of course is true; but no one here in the world, with very, very few exceptions, is on that level.

18. And so we are not asked to deny the judgments we make, which is why it is so important to speak about this intervening step between the ego's dream of judgment and the Holy Spirit's judgment: being willing to learn to be comfortable with all the judgments we make. And initially that means understanding that simply being in this world, waking up in the morning and believing that we have awakened here, is a judgment and an attack. We are saying, "I believe that I am at home here in my bed." The truth is that we are really at home in God, and we would not be dreaming that we are awakening at home in our bedroom if we did not want to leave God. If everything occurs within our minds and everything is a choice, as A Course in Miracles tells us over and over again, then simply believing that we are here in the world is an attack thought. It is an attack thought that says I prefer to be here rather than with God, my Creator and Source. And worse than that, I am saying I not only believe that I want to be here and that I can be here, but I believe that I actually am here, which means I am here at God's expense. I have usurped His place. I have killed Him off and placed myself on His throne.

19. Simply taking a breath conceals this vicious attack thought, this judgment that says I am separate from God; I am better than He is; and my individuality and my existence have been bought at His expense. Now this does not mean we should feel guilty because we take a breath every 15 or 20 seconds, or that we awaken in the morning and feel good. It does mean that we should not delude ourselves into thinking that all these experiences are holy or spiritual, that they are real and that, above all, they are free from judgment. We cannot do anything in this world without judgment, because that is what being in this world is about. So the answer is not that we should not judge. The answer is that we should learn how to be comfortable with all the judgments we do make, because only then can we move beyond them.

20. Let me add another ingredient, which has to do with the mechanism of denial. Once we believe we are really here, as I have been saying, we assume that we, and not God, are the creator and source of our own being. The guilt involved is enormous, because the ego tells us we cannot kill God and expect to get off scot-free. This is the birthplace of our guilt, followed by the terrifying fear that when God catches up with us, He will destroy us. So to protect ourselves from the horror of our guilt that comes from the awesomeness of the sin of seizing God's throne, we all make believe we have not done it. That is the mechanism of denial or repression. And an inexorable law of the ego mind is that once we deny something we must project it out.

21. So we first judge ourselves for attacking God, but then we say, "No, I am not the one who has done this terrible thing. Someone else has done it." We take our own guilt over believing that we have attacked God by separating ourselves from Him, and we project it out. We find someone else to blame for it; and then we are no longer aware of the origin of this dream of judgment in our own minds. We believe the dream is reality and that it exists on the outside, external to us. But the truth is that the dream of judgment has never left its source within our minds. We do not remember it, but we are still the ones who are dreaming this dream of judgment, sin, and attack -- of murdering God. And on His slain corpse we erect our own self.

22. The basic problem is that we first judge ourselves as sinful, and then we say this is so terrible we will never look at it again. Then we protect the thought by hiding it from ourselves. The thought is so horrible and so anxiety-inducing that we make a vow never to look at it again: the first level of protecting it. Then we take the thought, project it out and put it on someone else: the second level of protecting it. And so we never accept responsibility for the thought, because we no longer know about it anymore. We have pushed it into our unconscious. We tell ourselves, "I am not the one who has done this; someone else has done it. I am not the one who is sinful; someone else has sinned against me. I am not the one who made the mistake; I am not the one who made the wrong turn, or did this, that, or the other thing. Someone else did it." In other words, we protect the judgment. And as long as we protect the judgment it will never be healed. That is why this second form of judgment is so important. We have to learn to be aware -- not that we are in truth miserable sinners, wretched creatures of specialness who want to destroy everyone -- but we believe we are. There is a big difference. This is not the way God sees us. In fact, God does not see us at all. This is the way we see ourselves. But then once having seen ourselves this way, we then deny the thought and put it onto someone else, which means that we are protecting it. This is what we mean psychologically when we describe someone as being defensive. A defensive person puts up a wall when something said to him causes him to feel threatened. The person is really saying, "Don't come near me. This thought of sin and this judgment that I am making against myself is so raw that I cannot look at it, and I don't want you looking at it either." This is really what it means to be defensive. It is an attitude of protecting the thought that I am a terrible person. This is not how God or Jesus sees us, but it is how we see ourselves. But if we refuse to recognize what we believe about ourselves, we can never change our minds about that belief.

23. That is why we cannot simply go from the ego's dream of judgment to the Holy Spirit's judgment that everyone is calling for love or expressing love. It is essential that we first train ourselves -- and A Course in Miracles is that training program -- to look at the thought system of the ego. This is not a course in denial or in making believe that terrible things do not happen in the world, which express the terrible thoughts that go on in the mind of the Son. Over and over again Jesus uses very strong words such as murder and vicious to describe the ego thought system. He is not saying this is a wonderful world. How can it be a wonderful world if it was made to escape from God? How can it be a wonderful world if it serves to protect us so that we never actually look at the underlying dream of judgment, which is unreal but which we believe is real? How can this be a wonderful world if it stands in the way of healing?

24. In working with the Course, we want to develop an attitude of being able to look with open eyes at what the world is -- whether on an international level, an interpersonal level, or a personal level within our own minds. The goal of A Course in Miracles is to have us be able to look at these ego thoughts without judgment. When that judgment is gone, when we can really look at all the hate and specialness in us -- the need to be so important, all the demands we make to be treated as if we were important -- without judging ourselves or feeling guilty about these thoughts, without being afraid of any kind of punishment, then they will disappear. Because the basic ego thought is unreal. The basic thought that underlies the entirety of the ego thought system and that constitutes the basic premise underlying the entire physical universe is an unreal thought. It is a thought that says that we can really push God around and bring Him to His knees, establishing ourselves as God. And if we can look at that for what it is, without judgment, we will realize, as the text says at one point, "It is a joke to think that time can come to circumvent eternity, which means there is no time" (T-27.VIII.6:5). In other words, the "tiny, mad idea" that gave rise to this world is just that: tiny because it is insignificant, with no power and no effect, and mad because it is insane. The ego cannot pull off the impossible. It can lead us to believe that the impossible has happened, but it cannot make it happen. But if we do not look at it, then we do not know what it really is.

25. So the purpose of A Course in Miracles is to have us reach the point where we can truly look at the ego. And when we do, it will disappear as the Course says, back "into the nothingness from which it came . . ." (M-13.1:2). At that point, the Holy Spirit's judgment becomes a reality for us. Since we then have only the Love of Christ within us and experience only Jesus' love for us within our minds, when we look out on the world we see the way he sees. And we understand, as the text explains, that every attack is really an expression of fear (T-2.VI.7:1). And underneath the fear is the call for love that has been denied, which means that we now look out on the world and see everyone as either asking for love or expressing love. And so our response is always the same.

26. Whether you are asking me for love or expressing love to me, as your brother in Christ, I will extend love to you. I will no longer see any differences. The superficial differences will not matter to me. All that will matter is that you are either calling for love or expressing love. Then the love in me greets you -- my response is always the same. That is the judgment of the Holy Spirit. From there, the Course explains, God reaches down and lifts us back unto Himself as the whole dream disappears. Again, what allows these third and fourth steps -- the Holy Spirit's judgment and God's Final Judgment -- to occur is this second step of looking without judgment at our ego thought system, with all its ugliness, viciousness, and unkindness. But we look at it with a smile that says these thoughts have no effect on Who I am, no effect on my relationship with Jesus, and therefore no effect on my relationship with God.

Notes from the Second "Meaning of Judgment" Skype Get-Together

Everything here is judgment, everything starts with the condemnation we have laid on ourselves for believing we murdered God. We slowly become willing to look at our judging mind, and then, most importantly, turn to Jesus smiling next to us who will help us let go of the importance we have placed on the situation that we’ve judged. He helps us see that Love is still there for us, that there is nothing to be serious or concerned about. All is still very well in Heaven.

It’s okay if I’m not aware of accusing myself of being a “wretched, miserable sinner” (quote from Ken). It’s enough for me to be aware of any moment during the day when I judge or criticize myself, when I’m upset about myself for something ‘insignificant’, such as having spilt the coffee. Any self-judgment is the tip of the self-condemnation iceberg. And we turn to Jesus, as always, and ask for his help.

When we realize that we can’t let go of a situation that upsets us, which causes us to judge like crazy, we remember to take this to Jesus, telling him exactly that: “Jesus, I can’t let go of this right now, I’m so in the middle of an ego attack on this.”

The idea is to develop relationship with Jesus, with that remarkably kind, accepting and non-judgmental presence in our minds. We take anything we can to him, anything at all: our thoughts and feelings about the weather, a meal, the car, our partner, our boss, the lady on the bus, the politician on the TV, the economic situation, the coffee… We learn to spend more time coming closer to that loving, living Presence in our minds, and this helps us over time give less importance to the outside physical conditions of our lives. We eventually make the inside more real than the outside.

The trick is to become aware of all the judgment filling our minds, this is step one. But if we stop there, we will likely just remain with the ego – it just loves to discover and talk about itself, making itself so very important. This happens when we become aware of our judgments and reactions and begin to get upset, disappointed, chagrined, embarrassed, irritated, or guilty about them. This is how we “do the Course” but bring the ego along. Anything to make our behavior seem serious and having effects. The only solution is to take this and turn to a very happy and smiling Jesus next to us who will only ever say, “Okay, I hear you. So…? And that’s all you have to say? Well, I can’t really see the problem.” And you’ll be tempted to say, “You can’t see the problem?!” And then he just smiles even more.

We want there to be something serious and disgraceful and embarrassing in our thoughts. That makes them real. That makes me real. That’s why we don’t want to take the second step, turning to Jesus, and saying, ‘Help me laugh at all this!’ Eventually, at some point, we get tired enough of our thoughts and say to ourselves, ‘there must be another way’. That’s the moment when our minds open the door back to Jesus.

We talked about the idea of the ‘Hiroshima Hug’ and the ‘Cyanide Smile’, those times when we know we’re in a judgmental frame of mind but we give the appearance of being kind and considerate, as if nothing is going on. Those moments when we’re being particularly murderous and critical inside, but pretending the opposite on the outside. Pam gave us a wonderful example of this in her life – very funny! (Thanks!)

Then there’s the ‘Cesspool’ that Michele brought to our attention (during the last Get-Together too, I think). This is when we become aware that there’s really something not right, something very un-peaceful and particularly smelly in the air. No one else smells it, no one else is aware of my judgment, anger or irritation, but I know it’s there. It’s my cesspool, and it’s making me quite uncomfortable. Only I can do something about it. Thinking I have to do something about the outside isn’t going to help. I need to turn inside my mind and find that quiet, non-judgmental presence of Jesus again.

I heard Ken say yesterday (CD ‘Living ACIM’) that magic thoughts are simply part of a coping strategy for dealing with the separation in our minds (and the subsequent terrible guilt). It occurred to me that judgments, too, are just part of our coping strategy for dealing with being in this world (correction, for believing intensely we are in this world). Judging is an activity we unconsciously adopt in order to procure for ourselves a temporary sense that “the problem isn’t in me – it’s out there, and so I’m off the hook”, to get the attention off of me and onto something else. Personally it really helped me a lot in taking another step toward smiling Jesus, knowing that I wasn’t a terrible ACIM student because I still found judgment and differences in my mind. It is just a coping strategy. For some reason I could find more peace with that idea. We all do strange things when we feel threatened, and judging and condemning is simply one of them. This wasn’t part of our Skype meeting, but I wanted to mention it.

Another thing I didn’t find a minute to mention was a little dedication I had made to myself during this past week of working with the MOJ notes (which I found quite intense). I found myself looking unpeacefully at my inner darkness, and then this phrase came to me: “Today I shall not look darkly at my darkness.”