What It Says: An Expanded Summary of ACIM’s Thought System

1. Our home is reality, Heaven, the Kingdom of God; a spiritual realm of pure oneness and boundless joy which can never be damaged.

Reality is a transcendental domain of limitless, formless, unified spirit, without time, space, bodies or change. It is the ultimate perfection, a realm of boundless love, infinite bliss and eternal peace, void of any trace of sacrifice, suffering or death. In this realm we are God’s Son, a radiant extension of His Love. And we in turn forever extend that Love, shining it out into infinity, perpetually increasing His endless Kingdom. This is our home, for here we belong and are forever at peace. This is reality, the only reality. It is without opposite and so it can never be attacked, changed or damaged.

2. We tried to attack reality, to separate from it, thus making a separate identity—the ego—and the world of space and time.

Out of our desire to be special and to be the Creator, rather than the created, we decided to reject our Creator and desert His Kingdom. We decided to tear ourselves away from the fabric of one-ness and become separate, independent beings; self-sufficient islands detached from the All. Based on this concept of separate identity, called the ego, our minds projected an entire universe of separation and change, space and time, in which we were each one tiny mind, living a brief, uncertain life in a fragile body. This world became our proof that separation was an objective reality.

3. But the separation occurred only in our minds; in reality it never happened.

Yet we have no power to change reality, for reality cannot change. Thus, the separation did not really happen; it happened only in our minds. It was a strictly psychological event. We did not really separate; we merely dissociated. In the midst of Heaven our minds went insane, spiraling inward into their own private fantasy worlds. We fell asleep and began dreaming of an identity we did not have in a world that could never be. Thus, our personal “identity,” the physical world, and all things limited, lacking, partial and painful are illusions, empty of any real substance. Throughout all time we have remained at home in God, exactly as we always were: pure, perfect, innocent and at one with all that is.

4. Yet we believed we had really done it. We thought we had thrown our happiness away forever.

We believed we had actually separated. As a result we thought we had cut ourselves off from God’s Love and were now bereft of His goodness, companionship, wholeness and safety. We thought we had sinned against God, had made ourselves unspeakably guilty and deserving of eternal punishment. We thought we had made God’s Son into a devil. Loneliness, guilt and fear became the cornerstones of our existence. Thus, our attack on God was really an attack on ourselves, on our own state of mind. It was the sole cause of all our suffering.

5. We then projected the cause of our suffering onto the world, producing the illusion that it had robbed us of our happiness. The world seemed guilty of our loss.

Since the world was our dream, it did whatever we wanted, mirroring whatever internal choices we made. We had chosen separateness; so the world held itself apart from us, denying us its gifts. We had “sinned” and were guilty; so it took on the role of jailer, dishing out continual punishment for our sins. Yet we denied our role as cause of all this, pushing it down into unconsciousness. And then we projected this role outward onto the world, making the world appear to be our cause, and we its effect. Now our suffering, our self-attack, seemed to come from the world outside of us. It ringed us about with enemies bent on our destruction, with thieves that robbed us of peace and safety. It held our happiness in its hands, yet it stubbornly refused to give us our rightful due, even when we paid for it. Now we saw clearly that we did not throw away our birthright; the world stole it from us, through a long history of unjust treatment. It was the past that wounded and deprived us, and so toward this past we harbor intense resentment. And we feel fear toward a future which we expect will do more of the same.

6. Our solution: change the world, get back what it stole from us.

Since the external world is the problem, it seems clear that happiness lies in changing it; in stopping its attacks, getting it to smile on us and give us what we deserve. Thus, we devote our lives to controlling its shifting circumstances and changing winds. Our real purpose for doing this, however, is to win restitution for the past. We believe that in the past the world stole our innocence, love and safety. Our goal is to convict the world of this crime. If we can blame the world convincingly enough, show sufficient proof of our injuries, and prove how worthy we are and how much we gave, the world will be forced to concede that it treated us unfairly, and will have to pay us back. It will finally admit that we were the innocent ones. It will acknowledge just how special and deserving we really are. And, for our trouble, it will pay us a lifetime supply of idols: status, money, security and possessions. To help us in this quest, we hire certain special people. By lavishing special gifts on them we pay them to play lawyer and argue our case for us, to play witness and testify to how unjustly we were treated, and to play defendant and give to us the love the past withheld. Through them we try to restage the past, only this time change the outcome. If, with their help, we can win this battle with the world, we can reclaim the precious birthright which we so sadly lost. Or so we think.

7. Our “solution” is an attack and so repeats the original problem.

Yet our supposed solution—this campaign to blame the world and take from it what we want—is an attack. As such, it never works. It just repeats the original attack on God and His Kingdom, which is the cause of our suffering. Thus it brings more suffering, more self-attack. With each attack on the world we increase our hidden reservoir of sleeping guilt, which in turn increases our fear of punishment. This fear then induces us to recoil into separateness away from imagined danger, and provokes us to attack in “justified” self-defense. And since separateness and attack are what began the whole thing, the cycle simply starts over, repeating again and again and again. Thus the ego’s “solution” to the past merely repeats the past. And that is the point, for the ego’s one goal is to preserve separation, and all the guilt and fear it entails. There seems to be no way out.

8. We have lost touch with reality and so need the Holy Spirit’s help to be restored to sanity.

In the light of true reality we would see that our problems are nothing, only figments of our imagination. Yet we have lost touch with reality. We are insane. Left to our own devices, we would just repeat the problem over and over, always hoping for a different outcome. For this reason, God created an extension of Himself, the Holy Spirit, and sent Him into our dreaming minds to heal their nightmares. He is the bridge of return, the great correction principle, for He perceives our illusions yet He still knows reality. Therefore, He can lead us to seeing our illusions in the light of reality, which reveals them to be nothing. He can guide our minds to sanity. Jesus is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. He is both our model, the pattern that we follow, and an inner teacher, an extension of the Holy Spirit in our minds.

9. His message is that we never sinned, never changed ourselves. We need only change our minds.

The message of the Holy Spirit is that the separation never occurred. We never did the horrible crime we think we did. We never desecrated Heaven nor defiled our own Identity. It only happened in our dreams. Therefore, Heaven is still our home and the Love of God is still our sacred right. To claim this right we need not change the world, purify or perfect our souls, please or appease God, make virtuous sacrifices, nor pay for our sins. We don’t need to do anything, only undo, only clear away the blocks to knowing what is already true. We need merely change our minds, for the problem is only in our minds. Complete salvation is held out to us this instant and every instant, just for the accepting. Since we never left, we can “return” any time we like.

10.To change our perception we must bring our illusions to His truth.

Changing our minds means changing how we perceive the world. We do this by first realizing that what we see in the world is not reality, but our interpretation, stemming from hidden beliefs. We then bring these dark beliefs fully into the light, exposing them to the light of our awareness and the light of the Holy Spirit. In this light we will realize that our beliefs, not the world, have caused our pain. And we will also realize that our beliefs are not true, that they are meaningless illusions and that we don’t know what is true. These insights will make our choice a natural one: we will let go of illusions and invite the truth. And in a holy instant His light will come and shine away our darkness, placing in our minds new beliefs and new perceptions. We will experience the miracle, the healing of our thought patterns. This whole process is merely one of bringing our dark illusions to His blazing truth, where the outcome is inevitable: Illusions will vanish and only truth remain.

11. His solution: forgive the world for what it did not do.

Forgiveness is the letting go of illusions, for all illusions are illusions of past sins. True forgiveness does not mean allowing someone who sinned against us to forego his rightful punishment. It is a transformation of our own perception, in which we realize that no sin was committed, no injury occurred and therefore no punishment is warranted. It is the affirmation that the separation never occurred; that we, being changeless, are invulnerable, and that the so-called “sinner” is in reality as pure and holy as God created him. Forgiveness is the direct opposite of the conventional search for happiness through blaming the world and trying to bend it to our wishes. Forgiveness recognizes that the road to happiness lies not in convicting the world of its guilt, but in letting go of our perception of its guilt. With this letting go, we leave the tyranny of past resentment and enter into the freedom of the present.

12. Extending forgiveness to others reveals to us that we too are forgiven. This becomes our one function.

Our forgiveness heals the minds of others, which, like our own, are laboring under the terrible burden of guilt. Yet forgiving others heals our own minds as well. For, in our eyes, what we give to others is proof of what we are and what we deserve. When we gave attack, that proved to our minds that we were guilty and deserved to receive punishment. But now we have let that go and instead see miracles go forth from us. This proves to us that the Cause of healing is still within us, that holiness still abides in us undefiled, after we all we think we have done; and that we deserve to receive not pain, but love and gratitude. Thus, by saving others we save ourselves. This becomes our one function: to bring healing to all minds through our forgiveness, and so to experience forgiveness ourselves.

13. Forgiveness also undoes the blocks that separate us from others, allowing us to experience the fact that we are one.

Our anger and blame made it seem that others were different from us, that we were the good guys and they were evil. Their interests appeared to be separate from ours, in competition with ours. They seemed to be forever seeking happiness at our expense. As a result, we recoiled from them in fear, rather than joined with them in love. Forgiveness undoes all this. It peels away the monstrous mask which we had superimposed onto our brothers and reveals them to be beautiful and innocent. It shows us that they are the same as us, with the same needs, the same desires, the same worth and the same interests. It awakens our love for them and desire to unite with them. And as our minds go out and join with theirs, we experience the fact that we are not isolated egos; that despite it all we still are part of the universal oneness.

14. With forgiveness as our tool and the Holy Spirit as our Guide, we journey toward the goal of true perception.

We journey under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, following His plan in all that we do. He provides us with a special function, a special form of giving to the world, and supplies everything we need for that function. He also gives us particular relationships, called holy relationships, in which, through forgiveness, both partners can mutually experience their oneness, and then extend that sense of oneness to the world. As we advance in our ability to forgive, we increasingly enter into true perception. True perception is a new kind of vision, which we discover as new eyes open within us. This vision disregards all that our physical eyes see. It overlooks bodies, personalities and all the evidence of sin and guilt in the world. It sees in everyone the same non-visual light, the pure light of holiness. As we abide in this kindly light, our peace and joy become more and more constant and imperturbable. The physical world is no longer a prison house for us. Its “laws” cease to control us; we see them constantly superseded and transcended. The world which once seemed so cruel and fearful will look radiantly beautiful, filled with holiness and hope; the most glorious sight this side of Heaven.

16. When we and the entire world have attained true perception, God Himself will take the final step and lift us home.

True perception is the Holy Spirit’s goal for us. It is a state of mind that presents no blocks to the heavenly state, making awakening to Heaven possible. A day will come when the entire world, with our help, has perfectly reached this place. Fear, anger, sickness and death will no longer exist. Nothing but unrestrained joy and laughter will reign on earth. All hands will be joined in joyous expectancy of the eternal. For we will have finally learned that nothing but eternity has ever been. Then the world we made—including bodies, change, time and space—will simply vanish, without a trace. And God Himself will reach down and take the final step, awakening all minds as one from their seemingly age-long sleep. We will open our eyes in Heaven and realize that we never left, and slept for but a moment. And we will be home, where God would have us be.