[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
Question: Is everything literally a projection from me? For example, if I witness a car accident from a distance, I either created that accident or choose to see it? My local ACIM group teacher says that we must constantly forgive ourselves for what we see, putting one hundred percent responsibility for what we see on us as being our own projection. So, as another example, I do hospice work and see dying people a lot, some in great pain and misery. I create all this via projection? My intent is to be there to soothe and love them, to mentally heal them via seeing the Christ in them, their true identity. Yet, I get lost sometimes in the concept that everything I see is somehow “my fault” because I projected it. So I in some way brought about Heath Ledger’s recent death because I am aware of it from the TV news? It gets really confusing to me.
Answer: This is an important question, simply because so many Course students believe that they are responsible for everything that they see happen in the world. I think we can treat the answer on three levels, going from what the Course is least about to what it’s most about.
First level: Did you cause that car accident to happen? To answer this, you first need to realize that you aren’t the only one dreaming that you are here. There are billions of Sons of God appearing in human form, and then trillions more appearing in countless other forms (referred to in the Course by the phrase “all living things”). Given that, why are you personally responsible for everything that happens? Isn’t that a bit grandiose? What about the rest of us?
According to the Course, this is a shared dream. We are all dreaming this up together. The Course is clear that we made the world together:
Even the mad idea of separation had to be shared before it could form the basis of the world I see. (W-pI.54.3:3)
This [the fact that the world is not really there] is seen and understood as each one takes his part in its undoing, as he did in making it. (T-25.VI.6:4); italics mine)
We not only made the world together, but we make its ongoing events together, as this line from the Urtext notes: “External conditions are produced by the thoughts of many, not all of whom are pure in heart as yet.” This implies a process whereby thoughts arising in countless hearts produce the events of this world—painful events because those hearts are still so impure. The next line then says, “Why should you be at their mercy?” According to the context, you place yourself at their mercy by allowing your peace to be dependent on the external conditions they have dreamed into place. Notice the “they” here. External events are not laid at your feet, but at the feet of the “many,” which really refers to the collective—all the dreaming minds that believe they are here. We can imagine some kind of unconscious voting process, whereby the events that receive a majority vote from that collective are the ones that happen (or appear to happen).
Second level: Even though you may or may not have cast your vote for a particular event to occur, if it comes into your awareness, then you at least chose for that event to be part of your dream. The Text makes this clear: ” everything that seems to happen to me I ask for, and receive as I have asked” (T-21.II.2:5). So, if in your dream you witness a car accident, you shouldn’t believe that you caused it. And you may or may not have even cast your vote for it to happen. But you did ask for the experience of you witnessing it. As an analogy, you didn’t make the toaster you buy at the store, but you did choose for it to come into your house.
This idea is definitely taught in the Course, but after years of looking, I have only been able to find four brief references to it. In other words, it is not an important idea in the Course. Therefore, I don’t think it should be a key feature of our practical application. If we are constantly saying, “This event is not victimizing me because I am the one who chose for it to happen to me,” then I think we are out of sync with the Course’s own emphasis.
Third level: In the Course, what we are mainly responsible for is how we see a particular event. That is where the full weight of the Course’s twelve hundred pages comes down on. It’s all about taking responsibility for the meaning we see in an event, and then choosing to see it differently.
This represents a very different focus from those first two levels. If my focus is that I must have created that event, or even that I chose it to come into my experience, then my thoughts will naturally turn to the causative mechanism in me that brought about that event. I will think, “There is something wrong inside me that caused this event and I need to address that. I need to change that thing in me, so that I no longer manifest such events.” In this view, we naturally try to go back to the point where we caused this event and change whatever caused it.
If our focus, however, is on the third level, then our whole response will be different. The question now is not “What in me caused this, and when?” but rather “Am I seeing this amiss right now?” If we are, we then practice a thought from the Course in order to see it differently. This is where the Course’s focus is. This is why there is not one practice in the Course aimed at helping us trace back to the thing in us that caused a particular event. This is why, instead, there are hundreds of practices aimed at seeing a particular event differently.
So my advice would be: Don’t worry about what in you may have contributed to this event happening, or may have invited it into your experience. Don’t give it a second thought. Instead, devote your energies to using Course practices to see this event differently.