The Obstacles to Peace
(Chapter 19, Section IV, p. 406-424)
The Course tells us that there are basically four obstacles to finding our true peace of mind…
(with four correlating subheadings, delineated by an “i”):
A. The Desire to Get Rid of It (Peace)
i. The Attraction of Guilt
B. The Belief the Body Is Valuable for What It Offers (A place for our projected guilt, seen as the body’s pain or pleasure)
i. The Attraction of Pain
C. The Attraction of Death
i. The Incorruptible Body
D. The Fear of God
i. The Lifting of the Veil
The Titles Themselves
The first striking thing hits us as we begin to look at these titles above!
Jesus is telling us that the very qualities or feelings that we are attracted to… are not peace, not joy, and not love.
In our make-believe separated state, he literally says we are attracted to their opposites: we are really attracted to guilt, to pain, and to death. These unrecognized attractions to terrible stuff are three of our main obstacles to peace.
But, for many of us, is that experience in our awareness? Do we really believe that?
What if it’s possibly true though?… How often have we tried at peace, love, or joy, and seemed to miss the mark? Or even if we felt them temporarily, the other shoe eventually dropped. What if just below our seeming conscious desires for peace and love… something else is going on in our minds. What if we are really trying to push them away? What if we are not upset, or attracted, or whatever, for the reasons that we consciously think? (WB Lesson #5)
Then there’s the title of the fourth obstacle, “The Fear of God!” So it gets worse… even more insulting to our egos. Not only does Jesus tell us we are attracted to some real nasty things like pain and death, but then he says that what we are really fearful of isn’t the bad stuff, to which we are attracted, but God Himself. He says that we are not really seeking for God’s Love, but we have actually convinced ourselves we are afraid of It.
So once again is that possible? Is the Course correct, as the country western song laments… we are “lookin for love in all the wrong places”… because we are truly afraid to find it?
The Four Grand Self-Deceptions (Obstacles)
One way of looking at the order of the four obstacles and their development is to review our Wapnick Charts and the Course’s story of how we got here in the world (or at least believing that we’re here)…
- It sounds like Star Wars: In a time long long ago and in a galaxy far far away, we seemed to step outside of our true reality in Heaven and play around with the ‘tiny mad idea’ of being separate from Heaven’s Peace…in other words we toyed with “our desire to get rid of peace.” This started the ego’s make-believe ballgame of separation rolling… To insure believing we actually did separate and did leave our true state of peace, we then made up the feeling of guilt…thus our attraction to guilt, the feeling which ‘proves’ to ourselves we did a really bad thing and did separate from our Father in Heaven.
- This convicting and convincing guilt we made extremely painful, and that guilt was then reflected in all the seeming pains of our bodies: the belief that the body is valuable for what it offers… We made up a universe of time and space with many individual bodies onto which we projected our pain and guilt… “yes I feel pain (guilt), but it’s not my fault.” We believe our pain comes from what other bodies are doing to us (or even what our own body is doing), but we never admit the pain might be coming from the source of guilt in our mind… thus “the attraction of pain.” The body’s seeming pain keeps us distracted from pain’s real source, the guilt within which was made up to prove our separation from Peace.
- And then the most insulting attraction of all… what Jesus calls our “dedication to death.” The thought of death (the end of ourselves as spirit at one with our Heavenly Father) is now projected onto the death of our bodies with which we identify. It is the ultimate ‘proof’ that we left Heaven’s peace. There is no death in heaven, only eternal Life at one with Itself. However once again, from a body’s point of view, death does not seem to be our choice nor our fault. We tell ourselves that we were born into bodies that simply die…we didn’t choose to do that… it just happens, or worse we blame it all on God. We believe death is real, but of course we don’t want to believe we are attracted to it, much less responsible for making the idea of it up in the first place.
- Finally, the icing on the ego’s cake of separation… We convince ourselves that we are now afraid of God. On one level we tell ourselves that He is going to punish us (ultimately with death, then hell) for what we did, i.e. leave Heaven. However on a deeper level, the Course tells us that we are not actually afraid of God’s wrath, but that we’re really afraid He’s not upset at all… because nothing really happened. That means no individual us, no bodies, no nuttin… everything we think we are, believe in, and seem to react to. However, Jesus constantly says we couldn’t leave our true Identity in Heaven even if we wanted to pretend we did… Chapter 13 (p.242, par.1-2) clearly tells us:
“You are not really afraid of crucifixion (we think it’s God’s payment demanded of His Son). Your real terror is of redemption.”
The Atonement principle says separation didn’t and couldn’t happen. God’s experience of love and oneness in Heaven with His Son, which is our only true Identity, does not include or know any experience of a separated state.
These four obstacles and their order are basically the ego’s story of the unholy trinity: sin, guilt, and fear, that we told ourselves and believed:
1. sin (we threw peace away),
2. guilt (the pain we feel for doing just that, now projected onto the body and its ultimate death), and
3. fear (consciously of God’s punishment, but really of God’s Love)
So the process of forgiveness is to look at and uncover each of these stages (obstacles) and be willing to let each one go, not by ourselves, but with of ‘course’ the help of Jesus or the Holy Spirit by our side.
The Way Back
The question that Jesus recommends that we learn to ask about anything is…”what is it for?”
From the ego’s point of view the purpose of our obstacles to peace are just that… self-chosen obstacles that are kept out of our conscious awareness, so it looks like we are running after and chasing peace, when we really are not… the Course says our self-accepted ego mantra becomes “Seek but do not find.”
The Holy Spirit’s reverse purpose, for the obstacles we made up, is to…
1. look at and acknowledge them
2. see their insanity, and the pain (the cost) for believing in them to maintain a separated identity in something that we’re not, and
3. be willing to ask for His help in seeing beyond those obstacles to the “real world” (an experience that our innocence and our brothers’ innocence is still intact, despite what we think we see and hear…)
The Starting Place
Two of the major themes that Jesus develops throughout this entire section (and especially in the section’s intro and the ‘Lifting of the Veil’ at the end) are that the way we move through and beyond each and every obstacle is…
With the Holy Spirit’s help, to have a Holy Relationship with the Holy Spirit in our minds. This then is reflected in our relationships with all our brothers.
He tells us that the first step in connecting with the Holy Spirit’s help is always to ask ourselves… are we willing to look past our judgements of each other, with His Help, to see the true innocence within? This begins the “Lifting of the Veil” of our belief in sin, guilt, and fear, and is specifically spelled out in the Text on p.421, par.8, line 7:
“But first, lift up your eyes and look on your brother in innocence born of complete forgiveness of his illusions, and through the eyes of faith (the HS) that sees them not.”
With each obstacle to peace, we used our brother’s body, personality, and actions as a scapegoat for our own inner choice to get rid of peace, and then blame our guilt and pain on him. To recognize that, by asking for the Holy Spirit’s help, is the only way back in in letting go of each of these obstacles to peace, these “blocks to the awareness of Love’s presence,” that we ourselves put there and then denied. (see the Course’s Introduction on p.1 in the Text)
Another way Jesus describes as the way to start this process is in the Text, p.441, par.9. He tells us don’t even ask how too see my my brother or myself without a body… but am I willing to see past my judgements and have an experience of his and my guiltlessness.
Your question should not be, “How can I see my brother without the body?” Ask only, “Do I really wish too see him sinless?”… forget not that his sinlessness is (also) your escape from fear.
For further discussion of the “Obstacles to Peace,” see Ken Wapnick’s CD set or MP3 Download on “Lifting of the Veil”
or Ken’s “Journey through the Text,” Volume Three, p.78-92.