When our sense of worth is not securely anchored in God, but instead is misplaced in the body, we will appoint the body as our central idol, giving it authority over our mind. From this fundamental mistake we will make all decisions based on our need to defend the body from harm, together with our desire to seek pleasure and completion through it.
Yet as we make our decisions apart from Holy Spirit, we end up experiencing guilt and fear of punishment. This unforgiven fear of retaliation colors almost all our decisions. Then, upon being projected outward, it results in every conceivable form of attack we encounter. Seeing this, we can safely conclude that all body identification results in some form of self-attack.
Let’s look at the four major ways in which the ego keeps us fiercely identified with and protective of the belief we are the body:
1. Special relating – Special relationships revolve around the body
We’ve already discussed how the ego’s special relationship dynamic is designed to reinforce our mistaken body identification. And in The End of Death, Vol. One, we talked about the ego’s purpose for sickness as a defense against God and our Holy Self. The intention for this particular essay is to shed light on how the ego uses both women and men in its pursuit of sex and desirability to amplify the erroneous belief that our identity and our worth lies in the body.
Because the body is our accepted identity here in the dream, the beliefs that bolster our body identity are the most coveted and protected by the ego. Generally speaking, when we talk about heterosexual sex, for men the habituated desire to fantasize about, pursue and have sex with women is the core idol that sustains their body identity. To be affected by impotency or not to have regular sex with a woman or women literally equates to losing their purpose and identity. For many men, they believe they will lose their value and status as a “man,” without sex.
Statistics reveal that approximately thirty million men in the USA alone are affected by erectile dysfunction (impotence)* which often plays havoc with their sexual performance. I would guess that most still identify as the body and having fallen for the ego’s hunger for lusty performance, and mistaking it for love, they often resort to using phenomena (magic) such as ”male enhancement” pills (Viagra) and testosterone, in the hopes to reignite and improve their sexual performance. But in this seeming issue there is a profound and unconscious split which is rarely if ever recognized.
Let’s recall that the body is an image in thought held in our mind (not brain). The false body- identified mind seeks personal pleasure, purpose and identity through the body (apart from God), which leads to increased guilt and self-attack.
“It is impossible to seek for pleasure through the body and not find pain. It is essential that this relationship be understood, for it is one the ego sees as proof of sin. It is not really punitive at all. It is but the inevitable result of equating yourself with the body, which is the invitation to pain. For it invites fear to enter and become your purpose. The attraction of guilt [must] enter with it, and whatever fear directs the body to do is therefore painful. It will share the pain of all illusions, and the illusion of pleasure will be the same as pain.” … “Under fear’s orders the body will pursue guilt, serving its master whose attraction to guilt maintains the whole illusion of its existence. This, then, is the attraction of pain.” T-19.IV.B.12,13:2-3
When we read in the Urtext what Jesus tells us is the fundamental purpose for sex, i.e. procreation, we’ll see that for most, the pursuit of orgasm as the mating urge, is not used exclusively for procreation. It is more often revered as the pursuit of personal pleasure, namely lust and sexual fantasies.
“The only VALID use of sex is procreation. It is NOT truly pleasurable in itself. “Lead us not into Temptation” means “Do not let us deceive ourselves into believing that we can relate in peace to God or our brothers with ANYTHING external.” Urtext, T-1.B.4 0f.
All sexual fantasies objectify the body, thereby blinding us to the real, honest and vulnerable emotional intimacy required for a truly authentic and Loving relationship. Unfortunately, sex as lust has been sold to the masses as a much sought after recreational pastime. Jesus speaks of sexual fantasies:
“Note that sexual fantasies are ALWAYS destructive (or depleting), in that they perceive another in an inappropriate creative role. Both people are perceived essentially as “objects” fulfilling THEIR OWN pleasure drives. This dehumanized view is the source of the DEPLETING use of sex.” A Course in Miracles Urtext, Chapter One
The deeply denied and unconscious split for many millions of men is this:
The ego harnesses the sexual drive (which is a distorted miracle impulse) and erroneously thinks it knows what it’s for – personal pleasure. However, it hides its real objective beneath its personal pleasure-seeking, which is to accumulate the unconscious guilt necessary to kill the body (conflict, disease, aging, etc.). Hence, the pursuit of sexual pleasure without genuine heart to heart relating is a death wish. The hunt for lust is the hunt for death. Note: For more on this subject refer to the chapter, “Sex and Transorgasmic Union.”
In the case of impotence, and the desire for male enhancement medications, most men don’t realize the terrible conflict that rages deep within their unconscious mind, and just how much they have abandoned themselves to this irreconcilable split. This is another example of the ego’s inner war through confusing their purpose, relationships and identity with the illusory body and its meaningless pursuit of sexual performance.
At the core of every person’s being is the divine call to return our awareness to the changeless Love we are, which can only be experienced when we relate to our self and others, beyond the body. This is the Love which dwells at the heart of the Holy Relationship. This is where we take off our masks of body identity, comparisons and performance, and show up in our authenticity and humility, asking Holy Spirit to reveal the majesty of our shared Holy Self, the one that our mistaken body identification tried to erase.
Men and women, regardless of sexual preference, suffer from the ego’s treacherous confusion of lust with Love.
Women Abandoning Themselves
Alternately, for a great number of women, the compulsion to be sexually desirable is the core idol that fuels body identification. For these women their perceived identity and value are directly in proportion to how desirable they are. The ego’s sexual “bait and hunt” cycle is the basis for the entire commercial industry that fuels a woman’s need to be ever improving her appearance, to stay competitive and to maintain her looks.
As for the many individuals who are not heterosexual, a similar dynamic is often played out. Those who identify with more masculine tendencies (the pursuer) take on the sexual hunting dynamic while those with more feminine tendencies (the pursued) are more likely to feel pressure to maintain their physical attractiveness, and therefore their desirability.
The need to be sexually desirable is the ego’s underlying dependence on gaining external approval and acceptance through misidentifying and showcasing the body. Even adolescent girls who seek affection and genuine closeness are being tempted to abandon themselves to sexual pressure as a tradeoff for pseudo intimacy.
We unknowingly abandon our Holy Self, employing the body on behalf of the ego to attract attention to the body. Both men and women often experience betrayal when the body is mistakenly idolized as our identity.
As we employ the body on behalf of the ego to attract attention to the body, we unknowingly abandon our Holy Self. Every belief and action invested in keeping the body as our central idol is an act of Self betrayal regardless of gender.
“Some hate the body, and try to hurt and humiliate it. Others love the body, and try to glorify and exalt it. But while the body stands at the center of your concept of yourself, you are attacking God’s plan for salvation, and holding your grievances against Him and His creation, that you may not hear the Voice of truth and welcome It as Friend. Your chosen savior (body) takes His place instead. It is your friend; He is your enemy.” W-72.7:2-6
The body is a flimsy, ever changing shell, while our authentic Holy Self is the real and changeless “Beloved.” Special relationships idolize the body for what it can offer, thus they overlook the true essence within each partner. In these relationships, especially where lust instead of Love is favored, the ego cannot resist going from body to body to pursue and maintain its false identification and cycle of self betrayal and guilt.
The crazy thing is that we may invest enormous effort toward physical improvement in the hopes of becoming more sexually alluring, but for a great number of women, if they were to be radically honest, there is also a growing resentment at men and the media for sexually objectifying their bodies. This is yet another example of how the split-mind works.
The ego mind allows only what it wants us to see and identify with to support and sustain its view that we are the body and not the infinitely Loving and powerful Holy Self. The schism between the desire to be sexually attractive and the accompanying resentment of being targeted by sexually objectifying behavior is a tremendously common blind spot for a large number of women.
Women who feed into female, sexual objectification unfortunately learn to “objectify” themselves. They become their own worst critic and it’s all based on the ego’s body confusion. To objectify means to dehumanize, depersonalize or externalize themselves. When women consent to being treated as sexual objects, they often view their own bodies from the objectifying onlooker’s (men, media) perspective. Then they become preoccupied with their physical appearance and sexual value to others. This feeds into the habit of the ego’s “self-objectification” which leads to shame and anxiety, and a turning away from their real, inherent value as the Holy Self.
Jesus speaks of the ego’s unchallenged and largely unconscious and destructive use of the body:
“Look upon all the trinkets made to hang upon the body, or to cover it or for its use. See all the useless things made for its eyes to see. Think on the many offerings made for its pleasure, and remember all these were made to make seem lovely what you hate. Would you employ this hated thing to draw your brother to you, and to attract his body’s eyes? T-20.II.1:1-4
“Save it for show, as bait to catch another fish, to house your specialness in better style, or weave a frame of loveliness around your hate, and you condemn it to decay and death.” T-24.VII.4:5
As a woman myself, I was torn in my attitudes toward sex and desirability. In the past I had believed that physical attractiveness was a valuable asset. There were times when I was smitten by the media hype which taught that the way to keep a man interested was to look sexy. Looking “hot” gave me a better chance to keep my partner engaged and monogamous in relationship.
I could not deny that over time a terrible and eventually unbearable inner conflict arose. It involved two, completely contradictory beliefs. One was my desire to be sexually attractive. And the other was a rapidly growing resentment toward my partner who wanted sex and kept telling me how physically “attractive” I was.
I could not help but see that his compulsive desire for sex had nothing whatsoever to do with us joining in union through deep, unconditional, abiding Love. Real Love makes no demands. It is unconditional. Yet here was this man who said he needed sex. Who needs sex? It must be the ego! A glimpse of what Jesus was trying to teach in the Course flashed in my mind, about inappropriate sexual desire being a misdirected and distorted miracle impulse. I saw that the mating impulse (sexual lust) is a self-seeking, pleasure drive and that if left unhealed, breeds resentment, conflict and eventually separation.
There was a period of heightened confusion for me. I (ego) valued desirability and definitely got a superficial ego boost when my partner acknowledged the body’s looks. But there was always this looming yet deliberately distant contradiction running in the background of my mind. Later on, when my inner conflict was at an all time high, I decided to be brave enough to give it a voice.
And this is what it said: “Deep down you want to know Love, a real and changeless Love that cannot be threatened. Except you cannot hope to experience this Love while you use the body as a decoy, as a lure for lust, and one that obscures the true emotional intimacy of true, heartfelt union unencumbered by the body. Lust and Love are opposites. They cannot coexist.”
Something inside me just knew that using the body as sexual bait or eye candy was disrespectful for both me and my partner. There was a visceral sense of the underlying objective behind the need to be sexually desirable. It was a shallow, body identified desire, and not deep, abiding Love. Through the intensifying conflict of my inner split, this previously unconscious and deep-seated contradiction became less and less attractive. There was an outright hypocrisy about it.
What a split! Needing to look sexually desirable and at the same time, feeling resentful of being objectified by men and the media. How many women have endured this hypocritical inner conflict?
Further, this largely unresolved conflict drives many women to fall victim to their own nightmare, a body image war. They tyrannize themselves, going to great lengths in various forms of Self abandonment, in an attempt to stay relevant through their bodies. Some examples of this deep-seated Self betrayal and abandonment many women are engaging in include liposuction, lip injections, botox, implants, diet pills, surgery, tummy tucks, gym memberships, and all the while berating themselves because they think they are their body and that its condition defines their value in the world. These superficial and meaningless standards also breed inevitable jealousy, envy, hatred and self-deprecating comparisons, which furthermore make any true joining a virtual impossibility.
Sexual desirability does not equal true Lovability. It has nothing to do with Love and therefore bears no relation to our degree of worth or acceptance. All value, worth, Love, approval, validation, support, encouragement and empathy must first come from our own self value. And this means not gauging our value on worthless sources like the body’s appearance and sexual prowess.
Generally, men’s inability to cease fantasizing and objectifying women’s bodies feeds into the insecurity in women. And women have certain expectations of men that also feed into men’s insecurities.
The entire issue around sexuality is a quagmire of ego strongholds in society’s consciousness. Until we see them all as one and the same, i.e. the ego’s heavy defenses to maintain body identification and therefore, to block our experience of true union beyond body identification, we will continue to play into them and ensure that body identification is the world’s god. Unfortunately, this cherished belief that we are the body always leads to the same certain outcome – physical death.
Once we have seen how the ego uses special relationships, sickness, sex and desirability as ways to bind us to the false belief we are the body, we can then choose to heal. We invite Holy Spirit to enter into our relationships to transform them, along with divinely repurposing the body. This includes asking Holy Spirit to heal all false education and conditioning around sex. We ask Him to help us mindfully repurpose how we view ourselves and our partner, along with what we are using sex for. It really boils down to whether we’re ready to surrender the belief that we are the body, and whether we are truly ready to accept the one, shared Holy Self as our true Identity.
“You cannot wake yourself. Yet you can let yourself be wakened. You can overlook your brother’s dreams. So perfectly can you forgive him his illusions he becomes your savior from your dreams. And as you see him shining in the space of light where God abides within the darkness, you will see that God Himself is where his body is. Before this light the body disappears, as heavy shadows must give way to light. The darkness cannot choose that it remain. The coming of the light means it is gone. In glory will you see your brother then, and understand what really fills the gap so long perceived as keeping you apart. There, in its place, God’s witness has set forth the gentle way of kindness to God’s Son. Whom you forgive is given power to forgive you your illusions. By your gift of freedom is it given unto you. “Make way for love, which you did not create, but which you can extend. On earth this means forgive your brother, that the darkness may be lifted from your mind.” T-29.III.3:2-4:2
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