The Fear to Look Within
The following transcription is taken from a dialogue between David Hoffmeister and several participants in a small gathering. The section of the text that is referred to is taken from Chapter 21, “Reason and Perception”, Section 4, “Fear to Look Within.”
David Hoffmeister: A common theme that’s coming up whether it’s taking the form of fatigue or lethargy or resistance to reading the book or coming to gatherings… resistance is just an expression of fear and that’s why this section “The Fear to Look Within” can be helpful. That’s what we really need to look at.
“Remember that the ego is not alone. Its rule is tempered, and its unknown ‘enemy,’ Whom it cannot even see, it fears.” T-21.IV.2
The ego cannot bear to look on the light. It senses that there is something greater than it, but it cannot bear to look on it.
“What if you looked within and saw no sin? This ‘fearful’ question is one the ego never asks. And you who ask it now are threatening the ego’s whole defensive system too seriously for it to bother to pretend it is your friend.” T-21.IV.3
Those few sentences really start to give us some insight that the mind is starting to question, “What if I am innocent? What if I am sinless and guiltless?”. The ego is terrified of just the questioning. It wants to get back to questioning the trivial things of the world: “What if I could do this better? What if I could do this or that? Can I get a better illusion?” That is the kind of questioning the ego can stand.
“Your liberation still is only partial; still limited and incomplete, yet born within you. Not wholly mad, you have been willing to look on much of your insanity and recognize its madness. Your faith is moving inward, past insanity and on to reason. And what your reason tells you now the ego would not hear. The Holy Spirit’s purpose was accepted by the part of your mind the ego knows not of. No more did you. And yet this part, with which you now identify, is not afraid to look upon itself. It knows no sin. How, otherwise, could it have been willing to see the Holy Spirit’s purpose as its own.” T-21.IV.4
These paragraphs are reminding me of a quote that I was reading the other day about a diagram of a spiral. The quote was, “You have not yet gone back far enough.” It is quite a big step just to begin to question everything, but the pain and the resistance comes from “you have not yet gone back far enough.” The only release that will be a true release will be when you get to the beginning. As you are questioning things, you are winding down, down, and further down. Resistance will seem to come up time and time again because the mind still believes in the ego. It is still invested in the ego and it still believes that, as long as it hasn’t gone to the beginning of the ego thought system—and as it winds down, down, down—death awaits it. It thinks that God will strike it blind or that there will be some punishment involved. That is where the resistance comes in. It is a fear to look upon what is beneath the fear.
Participant 1: That thought comes to me and it seems to be something that I can point to as a fear. And it relates to what we talked about yesterday, where you were saying, “I felt pain in the past, and so you can bet it is going to happen in the future.” There has to be that connection that I am making in the mind to say, “I know how that pain felt,” and if it felt unbearable then just looking at the pain of my real fear of God is going to blow me away. I sense that that is down in there, and that this is where the resistance seems to come. Even when we talk about it, there is a question that comes to my mind which is “How do I approach this? How do I get close to that fear in the mind, the fear of God?” It seems so obscure most of the time. So, to me, this just seems like, you know when you say something is sentimentally nice… Sounds great… That is still the feeling I get when I read this.
David: Well, let’s look at the fear. Early on in Course groups and as I’ve gone around, when I’ve gotten into emotions and so on, I can’t tell you how vehement sometimes the responses have been when I say that fear is not a real emotion. They say, “What do you mean?!”
Participant 1: I like that, I don’t object to that. I would like to experience that…
David: But you don’t believe it.
Participant 1: I’m sure I don’t.
David: That’s the thing. You are saying that there’s this association as if, “Wow, that really did feel bad and it can only be worse or just a glimmer of the pain that I will feel in the future.” You can see the investment or the belief in the reality of the emotion.
Participant 1: So, that belief obviously has to be questioned. I don’t know how to get underneath that belief to really question it.
David: As we get into this discussion, I would say that a section that really addresses that in the Course specifically is the “Obstacles to Peace.” It talks in there about the attraction to pain and the attraction to guilt and fear. It really talks about it in terms of the mind making an interpretation. In other words, pain is just a witness, as we discussed the other day, and the ego interprets it as proof of sin. That’s why it hurts so bad. Because the ego is in there saying, “Aha, aha, aha! Sin must be real.” The ego uses pain as a justification or an interpretation that sin is real. But it’s a misperception. Pain is only a misperception. Pain doesn’t prove anything unless you want it to.
Participant 2: Pain doesn’t prove anything… You decide what it means, you even decide to attach the word “pain” to it, to give it that definition. It seems to me like once the mind attaches the definition of pain to something then it is a closed case.
Participant 1: So, what I am trying to prove is that I am sinful.
David: Through the ego lens, yes that’s it. And if we take that section and we go into it a little closer, again it’s that pleasure/pain thing. The ego calls some pain pleasure. It literally defines some pain as pleasure. You can imagine having a glob of pain and pulling some off and believing you have something different. The pain and the pleasure are just different names for the same thing.
Participant 2: They are all to prove that what I am is littleness; this little body.
David: Another thing is that the body just follows orders. Obviously the mind has assigned that meaning or that feeling to it [pain]. It says, “You are going to feel this.” But what it really comes back to is, what is the purpose? As far as trying to deal with the pain itself, as long as you are aligned with the purpose of the ego, then you will feel these unreal feelings, one of which is pain. You see how crucial it is to begin to unveil the purposes of the ego. Pride, pleasure, and attack. The only way out of pain and to see that the experience is unreal, to see that it has no reality, is to examine the purpose of the ego and to see very clearly that you do not want to share a purpose with that. As long as you share a purpose with the ego, you are aligned with the ego and you will seem to experience pain, fear, guilt, depression, and all kinds of upset. It’s not a meaningful thing to say, “Take this pain away from me,” when you have chosen it. You must look at the conditions and ego’s purposes and then not share those purposes. That is the escape. You were asking how to escape from the fear. It is done by not sharing any purpose that the ego has for anything.
Participant 1: That seems too drastic for me. Even as you are saying it I am thinking, Okay, I’ll give up attack, I’ll give up pain, but I’ll give up pleasure last.
David: Maybe it will seem to go that way. But I will guarantee you that you will seem to give it up joyfully. The joy that you experience when you are in the purpose of shining your light and as you extend that will seem to grow and grow. Perhaps it will seem that way [to give up pleasure last], but it will pale in comparison to the joy that you’ll feel.
Participant 1: See, that sounds okay to me. But to say, “Give it up first!” I don’t want to.
Participant 2: Just desire the experience that would have it pale.
Participant 1: Okay [laughter]
David: [laughing] That sounds manageable!
“Your faith is moving inward, past insanity and on to reason. And what your reason tells you now the ego would not hear. The Holy Spirit’s purpose was accepted by the part of your mind the ego knows not of. No more did you. And yet this part, with which you now identify, is not afraid to look upon itself. It knows no sin. How, otherwise, could it have been willing to see the Holy Spirit’s purpose as its own?” T-21.IV.4
That’s the thing… that, as long as one is identified with the ego, one will seem to be afraid to look upon itself. The belief is that there is so much blackness, so much filth, and so much dirt in the mind that it can’t possibly look upon it.
Participant 1: These gatherings… The whole purpose of them is to look within. It can’t be the ego’s purpose. The ego can’t be happy about that.
David: The purpose of these gatherings is to look. It’s not just about light, love, and joy. We’ve had gatherings where we’ve gone into things and at the end, there hasn’t been the experience of feeling the release, or the joy. So, you keep questioning. That’s what you do. There’s not a bonk on the head or lashes with a wet noodle if you didn’t get it, you just keep questioning.
Jesus mentions in the early part of the Course that initially it will seem to take a lot of conscious effort to be lined up with Him. It seems to take a miracle; initially, it takes a lot of conscious effort.
Participant 1: And even then it’s questionable.
Participant 2: … as to your capability. Certainly that thought enters in frequently: “Can I do this?”
David: Doesn’t it make sense that after you have had a real momentum builder, after the mind has become trained, it does become effortless.
Participant 1: Absolutely, that makes perfect sense to me. Effort doesn’t seem to be consistent with the Holy Spirit. The two words just don’t go together.
David: As you become clear, that is how you will keep your mind protected. You’ll see past illusions, you won’t buy the bait. You will give your joy away and extend it because that’s what it means to be clear.