This issue originally published as A Course for Teachers
Whenever two or more minds meet, there is the inevitable fertile ground for hearing both the ego and the Inner Voice. The ego is robust, incessant, easily heard, but not so easily recognized for what it is: the calling of the split mind. One facet of ego clamor is the constant judging that sizes up the "other." The ego is the wellspring of running commentaries within ourselves about everyone and everything.
The last concern of the ego is the final or last judgment. On the contrary, the ego prefers perpetual judgment of others and life situations.
Criticism is the egos business of survival and its pleasure and satisfaction. The ego has no interest in right-mindedness or peace. It does not concern itself with peoples responses to it, as it is often successful in disguising itself as the justified critic of our overblown self-importance. In other words, it relishes the response to itself no matter what the form and at the same time replies with criticism of the source of the response. It has a large investment in abandonment, getting even and retaliation.
Recently, I participated in an end-of-the-year evaluative meeting. Although the evaluation was glowing on professional grounds and competence, there was a minor area needing improvement. I observed my ego voice from a detached place. I observed what it had to say.
It was fascinating to notice how ingenious the ego really is. The ego responded instantly. Rather than pat me on the back, my ego responded by latching onto the positive criticism as grounds for separation. Specifically, the ego did not hear the praise. Instead, it chose to raise the specter of self-doubt to the level of attack. The ego's voice quickly comes up with such lines as: What are they trying to say? They are trying to tell me that I do not do my job well. How do they know? It was amazing to witness the ego laying an automatic judgment claim squarely and swiftly into conscious awareness while ignoring the positives. Critical thinking need not be laced with ego and separation.Abandonment
A Course in Miracles states, "All who believe in separation have a basic fear of retaliation and abandonment. They believe in attack and rejection, so that is what they perceive and teach and learn." Each of us identify ourselves with the thought system that is germane to our being and created during the early years of our childhood. We were taught to judge.
Our culture is insidious in teaching separation. It is as if the mass media is the collective voice of societys ego. Television often displays the collective judgment of everything that we are or are not. We are too fat, too thin, drinking the wrong cola. We are not sexy enough, rich enough or not part of this or that generation. Television teaches us and reinforces the egos belief in separation from the acceptable, from being just what we are. We are constantly called to be part of an artificial pseudo-community defined by brand loyalty. We equate as individuals with a part of a consumer group that fits itself into particular jeans or drinks a certain beer or cola. Product identification becomes a substitute for belonging to a bona fide community.
Feeding the craving for signs of abandonment, resting comfortably within the parameters of western individualism and so-called freedom, the ego frolics. In Rediscovering Love, Willard Gaylin, MD, writes, "The adored and pampered individual would be more concerned with being loved than loving; with receiving rather than giving... The vocabulary of rights would replace that of duties and re-sponsibilities as the basic lan-guage of moral philosophy at a time that phi-losophy was becoming less interested in morality at all." The ego comes into firm control convincing us we are truly a lost and abandoned lot. No wonder the little things in life affect us so.Thought Systems
"Strongly aware of the ego in yourself, and responding primarily to the ego in others, you are being taught to react to both as if what you do believe is not true." This is exactly the phenomenon that I experienced during the evaluative meeting.
We could experience the Inner Voice's quiet calling for joining instead. We can recognize that judgment of others and ourselves is an error. We can see that judgment by others need not be responded to with us judging them. There is a big distinction between blame, judgment and critical assessment. While all three may come from the ego, it is blame and guilt that always do.
Blame is the ego's way of trying to make someone else feel guilty (usually with anger) while diminishing or denying our responsibility for what happened.
Judgment is the mistaken perception that faults need to be categorized and organized in order to pass sentence on another. Judgment is the ego's way of bettering oneself at the expense of the other.
Critical assessment is the inner voice's response to judgment, and the non-ego criticism of others. There is a lack of retaliatory personal judgment. We detach ourselves from responding only emotionally. We have no sense of lack in the self. We know who we are and that we are capable of change, improvement and personal and professional growth.
As teachers to one another, and as professionals dealing with people daily, we can learn to believe that only fundamental change is learning that lasts. That is, true learning takes place when the changes we make are lasting. These changes can come in the form of responding with critical assessment rather than blame or judgment. Which thought system we wish to employ is at the crux of attempting our last act of blame and judgment.Flip - Flops
We are in conflict when we intellectually recognize the ideology of not judging yet behave according to the precepts of ego separation through judgment. With practice we make strides toward enlightenment, although we vacillate between the two systems of thought. Knowing intellectually that the last judgment is release is much easier than actually making the last judgment itself.
"The way out of conflict between two opposing thought systems is clearly to choose one and relinquish the other. If you identify with your thought system, and you cannot escape this, and if you accept two thought systems which are in complete disagreement, peace of mind is impossible."
The key to flip-flop escape is our thoughts. We need do nothing except come to the recognition that we are capable of choosing natural expressions of love. We ignore the egos prompting to react to external events. We develop a natural, habitual creation of Miracles when in commune with others. When things do not go our way, we ask for Miracles, and they happen.
"Miracles represent freedom from fear. Atoning means undoing. The undoing of fear is an essential part of the Atonement value of miracles." Atonement occurs when we are at one with the others and events, having made the last judgment.Pleasure and the Ego
The nature of pleasure, according to Dr. Gaylin in Rediscovering Love, is those activities which "in one form or another, enhance and expand and elevate our sense of self." Pleasure does not take place outside the mind. It is the minds self-enhancement.
The ego, too, as we often notice, is involved with its own self-enhancement. Arguing, criticizing, judging are pleasure to the ego, giving it a feeling of accomplishment and power. Anger, hatred, jealousy; who can deny that these base raw emotions are the stuff that the ego cherishes?
Pleasure is more than the absence of pain. Yet to the ego, pain is pleasure, especially when that internal ego-satisfying pain is thrust outward, as judgment of others.
Quite easily we can fall prey to the egos masquerade. We can mistakenly identify the pleasure of the ego for the minds healthy self-elevation.
A judgment is an interpretation. It often occurs automatically from our subconscious. Judgment usually happens in accordance with our childhood pre-programming. It also occurs as attack through conscious awareness and choice. Judgment takes place by ego intervention. Often, significant others in our life set the criteria when to judge. Our tape is always ready to run. It may contain the instructions that blur the distinction between expansion of the self through pleasure, and familiar ego satisfaction confusing pain with pleasure.
A Course in Miracles suggests that studying the ego is actually a mistake. The study itself gives the ego a sense of importance as it recognizes the mind giving it recognition and attention. Rather than analyze the ego and offer it justification for power, we accept judgment as the senseless interpretation that it is. We set aside the chaotic and seek a union instead.
If we are having difficulty abandoning judgment, we simply ask for the Miracle to happen. We need but desire it in order for the Miracle to happen. We need do nothing. Would you rather be happy or would you rather be right? Would you rather accept the enhancing of the right-minded self or the errant ego confusion of pain for pleasure through blame and judgment? "Peace must come to those who choose to heal and not judge." Our decision to make the last judgment is a decision to suffer no more.The Impossibility?
Another consequence of judging is coming to conclusions. We are members of an analytical society that trains our mind to come to conclusions. We like having answers, even though they may be bogus. Most times, making decisions requires coming to terms, or making a conclusion based upon the facts at hand. These are positive conclusions necessary for living.
The ego makes conclusions as well. The more our minds are filled with the uncertainty and the fear that comes from living, the more the ego will make its own conclusions based on separation.
Is it possible for us to practice what we preach? Better still, is it possible for us to learn from our own teaching and teach from our learning? Can we realistically strive to make a last judgment?
The ego sees the world as threatening. It tells us that life is uncertain. Bad things are happening everywhere. When we hear or read about unfortunate events worldwide we may respond with sympathy or compassion. Yet, we may feel fortunate that it did not happen to us. As the song says, "There but for fortune go you or I." At a distance we observe the neighbor who suddenly dies of a heart attack, or the brutality of war in Bosnia. When sad or tragic events occur, we remove ourselves from the situation. Our sense of removal comes from the fear of life's uncertainty itself. With this uncertainty comes the difficulty in drawing conclusions. We simply do not know with absolute precision what will happen to us on the way to work, to school, or on the job. The ego, through fear, tries to convince us that judging is a safe reaction to people and events, and a correct response to uncertainty. It is a false security generated by judgment and emotion.
The recent scenario of OJ Simpson and his wife Nicole is a case in point and a lesson. Through mass media, the country was judging a superstar. The ego's voice came through during every newscast. The ego either condemned OJ Simpson for the alleged atrocity or, it supported him denying his involvement. The news reporters' ego had a field day with constant commentary. Was their critique of events critical assessment, blame or judgment? We cannot condone the actions of a domestic abuser. However, passing judgment does little. It neither brings back the dead nor does it prevent other abuse from happening. Rather than judge, we can forgive and become active in some way to expose domestic abuse as a lethal problem in America. We can volunteer our time and skills in an effort to reduce and help eliminate violence in our society.
Although we may never be able to eliminate uncertainty in our lives, we can learn to accept uncertainty without fear. We can see uncertainty as a block to our growth and well being. Tara Singh, in Commentaries on 'A Course in Miracles', writes, "Uncertainty introduces us to trust and faith in that which is bigger than personality. It, to me, is the only certainty."The Uncertainty of Death
The time and circumstances of our death are possibly the most feared uncertainties. A Course in Miracles argues that it is precisely this uncertainty that is at the root of our seemingly impossible task of placing the final judgment into practice.
The uncertainty can, however, bring us to trust that death is only the death of the body. We can develop a faith in love that is what we are. Love does not die. It is compassion, caring, forgiveness, action to correct mistakes and do what is right. Love is not judging, recognizing that we are more than just bodies. Love expands and grows. While loving, we find it difficult to judge. Love and fear cannot coexist. When we eliminate the fear of death, we are love.The Possibility
The most amazing aspect of the final judgment is that it is in itself complete forgiveness. When we make the final judgment and then fail to realize its finality, we can see the next judgment as the final judgment. It is far better to break the lure of habitual ego judgment and fail, then to do nothing and continue judging as a way of life.
A big part of what we are is what we intend to be. If we intend to no longer judge, then we become non-judging human beings. The possibility of acting on our intellectual acceptance of the final judgment is always there. The possibility of making this judgment the last judgment exists in each and every moment of our life.
During my end-of-the-year evaluative meeting, as I recognized my ego coming to its conclusions, I stated to myself that this would be my last judgment. Although it did not turn out that way, there have been fewer and fewer judgments, farther and farther apart. We practice the possibility which in essence, is teaching ourselves that which we need most to learn. We call to witness that which we believe. We apply through practice that which we accept intellectually. The final judgment's possibility then becomes more probable moment-to-moment.Meditation
Before they dare think of freedom they must be brave enough to love one another...and to trust one another. This requires faith in oneself...
© 1994 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski