Episode 12, Lesson 4: These Thoughts Do Not Mean Anything

Welcome to Episode 12 of “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Activists.” I’m your host, Mike Rivage-Seul. Today we’ll examine together Part 1, Lesson 4 of The Course’s Workbook for Students. Its main idea reads as follows: “These thoughts do not mean anything. They are like the things I see in this room [on this street from this window, in this place].”

As Lesson 4 puts it, the purpose of today’s introspection is (1) to help students separate the meaningful from the meaningless, (2) to help them take a first step towards seeing that the meaningless is found outside us, while the meaningful is found within, and (3) to begin training students’ minds to separate similarities and dissimilarities.

Towards those ends, the lesson itself asks us to review “the thoughts that are crossing your mind for about a minute. Then apply the idea to them.” The lesson further instructs us to “identify each thought” that crosses our mind “by the central figure or event it contains, for example: This thought about _____ does not mean anything. It is like the things I see in this room [on this street, and so on].” In keeping with our reflections so far – about Plato’s Parable of the Cave – the lesson twice refers to our common thoughts in terms of “shadows.”

With that in mind and in the spirit of the social justice focus of this podcast, here are 25 ideas generally accepted without question in U.S. culture. According to today’s lesson, all of them are entirely meaningless. They’re illusions; they are completely untrue. Ask yourself if you still believe them.

  1. “America” is the greatest country on earth.
  2. Ours is a Christian nation and God is on our side.
  3. The Founding Fathers established a democracy.
  4. The U.S. Constitution is not subject to interpretation according to changing historical circumstances.
  5. All U.S. citizens are equal under the law.
  6. The U.S. Supreme Court is unbiased and fair.
  7. U.S. politicians serve “the people” and not their donors.
  8. The policeman is your friend.
  9. White people from Europe embody the highest achievements of human society.
  10. “America’s” wealth accumulation has nothing to do with land stolen from the indigenous or with 400 years of unpaid and underpaid labor from African slaves and their descendants.
  11. Capitalism-as-we-know-it represents the best possible economic system.
  12. Intellectual property is a thing.
  13. Life itself can be morally patented.
  14. Vital resources are scarce.
  15. Capitalism is not the reason for climate change.
  16. With 4.5% of the world’s population, the United States deserves to control the entire world.
  17. With 20% of the world’s population, China should be subject to the United States.
  18. Foreigners (from e.g., Haiti, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala) want to come to America because of its greatness and not because U.S. wars and climate destruction have devastated their countries.
  19. Borders are sacred.
  20. The notion of patriarchy is an invention of what Rush Limbaugh called “feminazis.”
  21. Women should obey celibate churchmen in matters like contraception and abortion since the celibate clergy know more about the way women’s bodies work than women themselves.
  22. The fact that up to 50% of fertilized ova end up spontaneously aborted is irrelevant to the abortion debate.
  23. Our country is under attack by terrorists and immigrants (i.e., by the poor of the world).
  24. To defend ourselves from such attacks, we need to spend $2 billion each day.
  25. Nuclear and space weapons can defend us from terrorism.

To repeat, according to A Course in Miracles, none of these ideas is true. Not one. Instead, they have been foisted upon us by the ones in the cave who carry statues before the shadow-producing fire – viz. by our parents, pedagogues, priests, politicians, publicists, propagandists, and philosophers. All of them are like us; none of them knows anything but shadows. As we’ll see, only the hated prophetic escapees from our culture’s cave, only those who have realized that all reality is one and that the earth belongs to everyone, know the truth.  

In fact, as noted in the introduction to the Student Workbook, truth lies 180 degrees away from the just-listed common convictions of our white supremacist, capitalist, imperialist patriarchy.

So, to complete today’s exercise, give some thought to the 25 convictions I’ve listed. I’m sure you can think of others. Then as instructed by today’s lesson say to yourself, “This thought about _____ does not mean anything. It is like the things I see in this room, [on this street and so on].

I’ll see you here tomorrow to review Lesson 5.

For previous episodes on “A Course in Miracles for Social Justice Warriors,” please see my podcast site. Also, please consider purchasing a copy of A Course in Miracles, so you might really give it a try and better follow these podcast episodes.

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Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 45 years. Three grown children. Six grandchildren.

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