A Course in Miracles study group notes, May 10, 2013
I don’t know what anything is for.
From Lesson 25:
“You perceive the world and everything in it as meaningful in terms of ego goals. These goals have nothing to do with your own best interests, because the ego is not you. This false identification makes you incapable of understanding what anything is for.
It is crucial to your learning to be willing to give up the goals you have established for everything. The recognition that they are meaningless, rather than “good” or “bad,” is the only way to accomplish this.” (A Course in Miracles, W-25)
The statement (I don’t know what anything is for) invites us to question our beliefs, values and opinions. Through our beliefs, values and opinions we assign meaning to things. Events in themselves are neutral and have no meaning until we assign meaning to them.
“Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” (Shakespeare)
Think of instances in your life where you thought for sure that something was going to be great for you, but it ended up being not so great. Or maybe you thought you were in the middle of a disaster, only to realize later on that this “disaster” brought on much needed learning, more love for yourself or a deeper understanding of someone else’s situation.
Again from Lesson 25:
“For example, you do understand that a telephone is for the purpose of talking to someone who is not physically in your immediate vicinity. What you do not understand is what you want to reach him for. And it is this that makes your contact with him meaningful or not.” (A Course in Miracles, W-25)
This telephone example reminds us that we may think we know what the purpose of something is, but that the deeper meaning of it escapes us. Why? Because we misidentify with the ego, we automatically set ourselves up for misinterpreting what anything is for. The ego is basically a thought of separation: when we identify with the ego, we see ourselves as separate beings with separate interests, living in our own little private worlds we call bodies. All ego goals are concerned with private interests, but since in reality there is no separation between you and me, these goals are concerned with an illusion. In other words, all ego goals are fantasies. They appear real as long as we believe they can have an effect, because our belief makes them real for us.
Remember that an anorexic person thinks she’s fat, although it’s clear to the rest of the world that she is not. But because she believes she is fat, being fat is real for her. Most of our beliefs are real to us because we accepted them as such; not because they are true in reality. This is why this practice is so powerful: training your mind to let go of the meaning it has assigned to things, events and people is the only way to allow the true meaning to show itself.
Remember the story of the scholar, who was full of conceptual knowledge and opinions, and who came to a Zen master asking to be taught about Zen? The master refilled the scholar’s teacup, but did not stop pouring when the cup was full. Tea spilled out and ran over the table. “Stop! The cup is full!” said the scholar. “Exactly,” said the master. “You are like this cup; you are full of ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.”
By questioning our beliefs, values and opinions we start emptying our cups. Some beliefs are more easily questioned than others: I can easily question my belief that I shouldn’t pay higher taxes, but I can’t question my belief that we shouldn’t incarcerate criminals! The Course teaches us that there is no order in validity when it comes to beliefs because none of the beliefs is knowledge, and only knowledge is true. Knowledge can never come from the ego because they are direct opposites: knowledge is truth and ego is illusion. Illusion will never lead to truth, no matter how diligently the ego will plead its case.
Homework: To practice this idea, use the statement when you feel yourself getting worked up over something or someone, when you start to worry, feel guilty, or when you find yourself judging someone else or yourself. I don’t know what (this situation; this relationship; this event) is for. Breathe deeply and get still, and then ask the Holy Spirit (which is your true self) to show you how to perceive the situation correctly. You will never not get an answer — the only question is whether you will insist on your ego’s answer instead of hearing the spirit’s.
Also remember that the part of you that gets offended when you say that you don’t know what something is for is your ego. But since the ego is not you (it’s a parasite!) this is good news. Offending the parasite makes it weaker the more you practice because the real you gets stronger. So be ok with not knowing. It’s the only way to bring your old thought patterns into light. Only when you let go of meaning you assigned to things and events can there be an empty space where spirit can write its true meaning.
These are the portions from the text I read during our meeting. (The T in parentheses means Text, after the dash is the chapter number, and after the period is the (roman) number of the section within the chapter.)
“The confusion between your real creation and what you have made of yourself is so profound that it has become literally impossible for you to know anything. Knowledge is always stable, and it is quite evident that you are not. Nevertheless, you are perfectly stable as God created you. In this sense, when your behavior is unstable, you are disagreeing with God’s idea of your creation. You can do this if you choose, but you would hardly want to do it if you were in your right mind.” (T-3.V)
“The Bible tells you to become as little children. Little children recognize that they do not understand what they perceive, and so they ask what it means. Do not make the mistake of believing that you understand what you perceive, for its meaning is lost to you. Yet the Holy Spirit has saved its meaning for you, and if you will let Him interpret it, He will restore to you what you have thrown away. Yet while you think you know its meaning, you will see no need to ask it of Him.
“You do not know the meaning of anything you perceive. Not one thought you hold is wholly true. The recognition of this is your firm beginning. You are not misguided; you have accepted no guide at all. Instruction in perception is your great need, for you understand nothing. Recognize this but do not accept it, for understanding is your inheritance. Perceptions are learned, and you are not without a Teacher. Yet your willingness to learn of Him depends on your willingness to question everything you learned of yourself, for you who learned amiss should not be your own teacher.” (T-11.VIII)
“Let us be still an instant, and forget all things we ever learned, all thoughts we had, and every preconception that we hold of what things mean and what their purpose is. Let us remember not our own ideas of what the world is for. We do not know. Let every image held of everyone be loosened from our minds and swept away.
“Be innocent of judgment, unaware of any thoughts of evil or of good that ever crossed your mind of anyone. Now do you know him not. But you are free to learn of him, and learn of him anew. Now is he born again to you, and you are born again to him, without the past that sentenced him to die, and you with him. Now is he free to live as you are free, because an ancient learning passed away, and left a place for truth to be reborn.” (T-31.I)
“The world can teach no images of you unless you want to learn them. There will come a time when images have all gone by, and you will see you know not what you are. It is to this unsealed and open mind that truth returns, unhindered and unbound. Where concepts of the self have been laid by is truth revealed exactly as it is. When every concept has been raised to doubt and question, and been recognized as made on no assumptions that would stand the light, then is the truth left free to enter in its sanctuary, clean and free of guilt. There is no statement that the world is more afraid to hear than this:
I do not know the thing I am, and therefore do not
know what I am doing, where I am, or how to look
upon the world or on myself.
Yet in this learning is salvation born. And What you are will tell you of Itself.” (T-31.V)