74 The body is the central figure in the dreaming of the world. There is no dream without it, nor does it exist without the dream in which it acts as if it were a person, to be seen and be believed. It takes the central place in every dream, which tells the story of how it was made by other bodies, born into the world outside the body, lives a little while and dies, to be united in the dust with other bodies dying like itself. In the brief time allotted it to live, it seeks for other bodies as its friends and enemies. Its safety is its main concern. Its comfort is its guiding rule. It tries to look for pleasure and avoid the things that would be hurtful. Above all, it tries to teach itself its pains and joys are different and can be told apart.
75 The dreaming of the world takes many forms, because the body seeks in many ways to prove it is autonomous and real. It puts things on itself which it has bought with little metal discs or paper strips the world proclaims as valuable and good. It works to get them, doing senseless things, and tosses them away for senseless things it does not need and does not even want. It hires other bodies, that they may protect it, and collect more senseless things that it can call its own. It looks about for special bodies which can share its dream.
Sometimes it dreams it is a conqueror of bodies weaker than itself. But in some phases of the dream, it is the slave of bodies that would hurt and torture it.
76 The body’s serial adventures from the time of birth to dying is the theme of every dream the world has ever had. The “hero” of this dream will never change nor will its purpose. Though the dream itself takes many forms and seems to show a great variety of places and events wherein its “hero” finds itself, the dream has but one purpose, taught in many ways. This single lesson does it try to teach again, and still again, and yet once more that it is cause and not effect. And you are its effect and cannot be its cause.
77 Thus are you not the dreamer but the dream. And so you wander idly in and out of places and events which it contrives. That this is all the body does is true, for it is but a figure in a dream. But who reacts to figures in a dream unless he sees them as if they were real? The instant that he sees them as they are, they have no more effects on him because he understands he gave them their effects by causing them and making them seem real.
78 How willing are you to escape effects of all the dreams the world has ever had? Is it your wish to let no dream appear to be the cause of what it is you do? Then let us merely look upon the dream’s beginning, for the part you see is but the second part, whose cause lies in the first. No one asleep and dreaming in the world remembers his attack upon himself. No one believes there really was a time when he knew nothing of a body and could never have conceived this world as real. He would have seen at once that these ideas are one illusion, too ridiculous for anything but to be laughed away. How serious they now appear to be! And no one can remember when they would have met with laughter and with disbelief.
79 We can remember this if we but look directly at their cause. And we will see the grounds for laughter, not a cause for fear. Let us return the dream he gave away unto the dreamer who perceives the dream as separate from himself and done to him. Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny mad idea at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh. In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea and possible of both accomplishment and real effects. Together, we can laugh them both away and understand that time cannot intrude upon eternity. It is a joke to think that time can come to circumvent eternity, which means there is no time.
80 A timelessness in which is time made real; a part of God which can attack itself; a separate brother as an enemy; a mind within a body, all are forms of circularity whose ending starts at its beginning, ending at its cause. The world you see depicts exactly what you thought you did. Except that now you think that what you did is being done to you. The guilt for what you thought is being placed outside yourself and on a guilty world which dreams your dreams and thinks your thoughts instead of you. It brings its vengeance, not your own. It keeps you narrowly confined within a body, which it punishes because of all the sinful things the body does within its dream. You have no power to make the body stop its evil deeds because you did not make it and cannot control its actions or its purpose or its fate.
81 The world but demonstrates an ancient truth you will believe that others do to you exactly what you think you did to them. But once deluded into blaming them, you will not see the cause of what they do because you want the guilt to rest on them. How childish is this petulant device to keep your innocence by pushing guilt outside yourself but never letting go! It is not easy to perceive the jest when all around you do your eyes behold its heavy consequences, but without their trifling cause. Without the cause do its effects seem serious and sad indeed. Yet they but follow. And it is their cause which follows nothing and is but a jest.
82 In gentle laughter does the Holy Spirit perceive the cause and looks not to effects. How else could He correct your error, who have overlooked the cause entirely? He bids you bring each terrible effect to Him that you may look together on its foolish cause and laugh with Him a while. You judge effects, but He has judged their cause. And by His judgment are effects removed. Perhaps you come in tears, but hear Him say, “My brother, Holy Son of God, behold your idle dream in which this could occur,” and you will leave the holy instant with your laughter and your brother’s joined with His.
83 The secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself. No matter what the form of the attack, this still is true. Whoever takes the role of enemy and of attacker, still is this the truth. Whatever seems to be the cause of any pain and suffering you feel, this is still true. For you would not react at all to figures in a dream you knew that you were dreaming. Let them be as hateful and as vicious as they may, they could have no effect on you unless you failed to recognize it is your dream. This single lesson learned will set you free from suffering, whatever form it takes.
84 The Holy Spirit will repeat this one inclusive lesson of deliverance until it has been learned, regardless of the form of suffering that brings you pain. Whatever hurt you bring to Him He will make answer with this very simple truth. For this one answer takes away the cause of every form of sorrow and of pain. The form affects His answer not at all, for He would teach you but the single cause of all of them, no matter what their form. And you will understand that miracles reflect the simple statement,
85 I have done this thing, and it is this I would undo.
86 Bring, then, all forms of suffering to Him Who knows that every one is like the rest. He sees no differences where none exist, and He will teach you how each one is caused. None has a different cause from all the rest, and all of them are easily undone by but a single lesson truly learned. Salvation is a secret you have kept but from yourself. The universe proclaims it so. Yet to its witnesses you pay no heed at all. For they attest the thing you do not want to know. They seem to keep it secret from you. Yet you need but learn you choose but not to listen, not to see. How differently will you perceive the world when this is recognized! When you forgive the world your guilt, you will be free of it. Its innocence does not demand your guilt, nor does your guiltlessness rest on its sins.
87 This is the obvious-a secret kept from no one but yourself. And it is this that has maintained you separate from the world and kept your brother separate from you. Now need you but to learn that both of you are innocent or guilty. The one thing that is impossible is that you be unlike each other; that they both be true. This is the only secret yet to learn. And it will be no secret you are healed.
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The story of ACIM: Original edition.