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A Course In Miracles, Lesson 17
plus Commentary by Allen Watson

Lesson 17.

I see no neutral things..

This idea is another step in the direction of identifying cause and effect as it really operates in the world. You see no neutral things because you have no neutral thoughts. It is always the thought that comes first, despite the temptation to believe that it is the other way around. This is not the way the world thinks, but you must learn that it is the way you think. If it were not so, perception would have no cause, and would itself be the cause of reality. In view of its highly variable nature, this is hardly likely.

In applying today's idea, say to yourself, with eyes open:
I see no neutral things because I have no neutral thoughts.

Then look about you, resting your glance on each thing you note long enough to say:
I do not see a neutral ________, because my thoughts about ________ are not neutral.

For example, you might say:
I do not see a neutral wall, because my thoughts about walls are not neutral. 
I do not see a neutral body, because my thoughts about bodies are not neutral.

As usual, it is essential to make no distinctions between what you believe to be animate or inanimate; pleasant or unpleasant. Regardless of what you may believe, you do not see anything that is really alive or really joyous. That is because you are unaware as yet of any thought that is really true, and therefore really happy.

Three or four specific practice periods are recommended, and no less than three are required for maximum benefit, even if you experience resistance. However, if you do, the length of the practice period may be reduced to less than the minute or so that is otherwise recommended.

The true meaning of cause and effect in this world, according to the Course, is that thoughts are the cause and the world is the effect. We tend to believe that events or actions in the world cause us to think in certain ways; the Course says the opposite. "It is always the thought that comes first, despite the temptation to believe that it is the other way around". We have no neutral thoughts and therefore we see no neutral things.

What is our usual tendency when we find ourselves having certain thoughts? We ask ourselves, "What made me feel this way? What made me depressed, or angry, or bored?" But the thought always comes first. It was not anything outside of your mind that caused you to think in a certain way. Rather, your mind caused the world you see.

The lesson becomes quite radical in its statements at times:
Regardless of what you may believe, you do not see anything that is really alive or really joyous. That is because you are unaware as yet of any thought that is really true, and therefore really happy.

I've been studying the Course now for ten years and I still have trouble fully accepting the idea that I don't see anything really alive. I know that the Course states that the body (which is what I see with my eyes) does not die because it has never lived, and so I know intellectually that the Course defines "alive" quite differently than we normally do. By "alive" it obviously must mean something nonphysical, because it writes off the physical body as not being alive at all. But I have to admit that I still need to practice with this lesson because my instinct is still to regard bodies as alive. I have to work at it to remember otherwise.

I recall speaking with my friend Lynne a little over a year before her body "died." She was a student of the Course. Her body had deteriorated rapidly during the preceding year, and after several surgeries was only a shell of what it had been. She remarked to me that she was really learning the truth of what she really was. I said, "I guess you have a little more understanding of what the Course means when it says, 'I am not a body.'"

"I damn well better not be!" she exclaimed, laughing.

These two ideas—that nothing I see with my eyes is really alive, and that nothing I see is neutral because my thoughts are not neutral—can be disconcerting. Even so, they have their plus side. The lesson is the same for us all, although for some, like Lynne, it seems to be accelerated. Yet our bodies will wither and decay just as hers did, only a little more slowly. It is a welcome relief to realize that the body's only meaning is given it by our mind. The mind and spirit are what are alive and real; they are the cause, and the body and its world are only the effects of thoughts.

This material is copyrighted by Circle of Atonement

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