The other day I came across this very puzzling opening sentence of a paragraph in Chapter 12, Section III, The Investment in Reality in Jesus’ Course in Miracles.
Recognize what does not matter, and if your brothers ask you for something "outrageous," do it because it does not matter. T-12.111.4:1
I find this sentence puzzling because, certainly, my brothers often do ask for what, at the moment, seems outrageous, meaning “to exceed the bounds of what is reasonable, or expected.” So, according to this sentence, in the face of these unreasonable requests, I am supposed to be just a “patsy” and say “Yes” no matter what? I should just walk around being passive, a victim of their whims? My refusal would be somehow wrong? And if it does not matter, why do it in the first place?
(Dear Reader, I suggest that you bring to mind the most recent "outrageous" brother request).
I kept re-reading the paragraph and slowly began to catch a glimpse of Jesus’ teaching.
Refuse, and your opposition establishes that it does matter to you. 4:2
There it is. Understanding the sentence depends on the point of reference for the second “it,” it does not matter. It does not matter because your brother is in the wrong state of mind. And, the point is, if it does matter to you, then you, too, are in the wrong state of mind. This “it” refers to the false world projected by the split mind. This split mind, having no source in reality, projects a world of fear; this is the illusion, the dream, the world made up by an ego that is a substitute for the Kingdom of Heaven.
So, if I automatically refuse, it means that for a split-second I, too, have identified with “it,” and because I am not in my right mind, I am in lack. That is why Jesus begins this section with this paragraph, establishing a context for what is to follow.
I once asked you to sell all you have and give to the poor and follow me. This is what I meant: If you have no investment in anything in this world, you can teach the poor where their treasure is. The poor are merely those who have invested wrongly, and they are poor indeed! Because they are in need it is given you to help them, since you are among them. Consider how perfectly your lesson would be learned if you were unwilling to share their poverty. For poverty is lack, and there is but one lack since there is but one need. T-12.111.1
There. If my response to my brother’s request is an automatic outrage, then I have impoverished myself, and therefore, reinforced his poverty. Now, back to the third sentence of the paragraph I began with.
It is only you, therefore, who have made the request outrageous, and every request of a brother is for you. Why would you insist in denying him? For to do so is to deny yourself and impoverish both. 4:3-5
Now, for a moment I remember, and it’s always a matter of remembering and forgetting, that it is all going on in my mind, and it all depends on what state of mind I am in. If I am experiencing my split mind, I cannot join with my brother, and I see him as impoverished. If, however, I am in my whole mind, the state of mind of the peace of God, this is salvation for both of us, and I will automatically offer to him this gift of salvation.
Poverty is of the ego, and never of God. No “outrageous” requests can be made of one who recognizes what is valuable and wants to accept nothing else. 4:7,8
Let’s look at the complete sentence, again:
Recognize what does not matter, and if your brothers ask you for something “outrageous,” do it because it does not matter.
I realize that the once puzzling sentence comes together now when I understand that the entire sentence pivots on the first “it,” do IT because it does not matter. IT stands for, Herein lies the peace of God, and because of that recognition, I know that:
Nothing real can be threatened.
Nothing unreal exists. T-Intro.2:2-4
“Will ye first the Kingdom of Heaven,” and you have said, “I know what I am and I accept my own inheritance.” T-3.V1.11:8
I am reminded of something I overheard years ago in a mall when two women walked by and one said to the other, “Well, it’s a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” When I am in my right mind, “it” does not matter because I know the truth of what I am, the Holy Son of God. The thing to watch for is, even if I am in my right mind, how quickly, automatically, habitually, unconsciously I can be drawn into split mind. Vigilance is all. Recognition. Recognize what does not matter. This is doing IT.
IT is salvation, meaning to step back for a moment, ask for help, and experience the truth of what I am, and what my brother is, the holy Sons of God. It also helps me to remember that he is also asking for salvation.
He is asking for salvation, as you are. Salvation is for the mind, and it is attained through peace. This is the only thing that can be saved and the only way to save it. 4:6, 5:1,2
IT is the heart of A Course in Miracles, and IT is expressed in a variety of ways, as Atonement, Self, Identity, the Holy Instant, and Forgiveness.
Atonement remedies the strange idea
that it is possible to doubt yourself,
and be unsure of what you really are.
This is the depth of madness. Yet it is
the universal question of the world.
What does this mean except the world is mad?
Why share its madness in the sad belief
that what is universal here is true?
Nothing the world believes is true.
It is a place whose purpose is to be a home
where those who claim they do not know themselves
can come to question what it is they are.
And they will come again until the time
Atonement is accepted, and they learn
it is impossible to doubt yourself,
and not to be aware of what you are.
If you will recognize that all the attack you perceive is in your own mind and nowhere else, you will at last have placed its source, and where it begins it must end. For in this same place also lies salvation. The altar of God where Christ abideth is there. You have defiled the altar, but not the world. Yet Christ has placed the Atonement on the altar for you. Bring your perceptions of the world to this altar, for it is the altar to truth. There you will see your vision changed, and there you will learn to see truly. From this place, where God and his Son dwell in peace and where you are welcome, you will look out in peace and behold the world truly. Yet to find the place, you must relinquish your investment in the world as you project it, allowing the Holy Spirit to extend the real world to you from the altar of God. T-12.111.10
Once I shift into a state of Oneness, I experience my Self and offer IT to my brother, and in our joining is the experience of what is Real.
My holy brother, think of this awhile:
The world you see does nothing. It has no
effects at all. It merely represents
your thoughts. And it will change entirely
as you elect to change your mind, and choose
the joy of God as what you really want.
Your Self is radiant in this holy joy,
unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable,
forever and forever. And would you
deny a little corner of your mind
its own inheritance, and keep it as
a hospital for pain; a sickly place
where living things must come at last to die?
And so again we make the only choice
that ever can be made; we choose between
illusions and the truth, or pain and joy,
or hell and Heaven. Let our gratitude
unto our Teacher fill our hearts, as we
are free to choose our joy instead of pain,
our holiness in place of sin, the peace
of God instead of conflict, and the light
of Heaven for the darkness of the world.
And here IT is expressed as Identity.
Deny your own Identity, and you
will not escape the madness which induced
this weird, unnatural and ghostly thought
that mocks creation and that laughs at God.
Deny your own Identity, and you
assail the universe alone, without
a friend, a tiny particle of dust
against the legions of your enemies.
Deny your own Identity, and look
on evil, sin and death, and watch despair
snatch from your fingers every scrap of hope,
leaving you nothing but the wish to die.
Yet what is it except a game you play
in which Identity can be denied?
You are as God created you. All else
but this one thing is folly to believe.
In this one thought is everyone set free.
In this one truth are all illusions gone.
In this one fact is sinlessness proclaimed
to be forever part of everything,
the central core of its existence and
its guarantee of immortality.
You experience IT by an action of your mind, shifting from illusion to truth, experiencing the Holy Instant.
Then is each instant which was slave to time
transformed into a holy instant, when
the light that was kept hidden in God's Son
is freed to bless the world. Now is he free,
and all his glory shines upon a world
made free with him, to share his holiness.
Finally, and firstly and always, what is required is Forgiveness.
Be merciful today. The Son of God
deserves your mercy. It is he who asks
that you accept the way to freedom now.
Deny him not. His Father's Love for him
belongs to you. Your function here on earth
is only to forgive him, that you may
accept him back as your Identity.
He is as God created him. And you
are what he is. Forgive him now his sins,
and you will see that you are one with him.
Forgive, and you will see this differently.
These are words which give
you power over all events that seem
to have been given power over you.
You see them rightly when you hold these words
in full awareness, and do not forget
these words apply to everything you see
or any brother looks upon amiss.
Even though this is reasonable and clear in my mind, in the next moment, I will probably forget, and strike out again when I am given an opportunity by my brother to remember. In fact, while writing this essay for the past few days, I have often found myself outraged by brothers' requests, forgetting to see them as opportunities. But that’s all right. Even 3 out of 10 would not be a bad average, .300 is a solid average for a Big League baseball player. In perspective, Ted Williams, the Splendid Splinter, averaged .406 in 1941, and that record has lasted for 66 years.
So, here’s the pep talk.
Take it easy on yourself.
You have choice.
Step up to home plate.
Take your stance.
Ask for help.
Keep your eye on the ball.
Remember where you are already standing,