Understanding the ego in the Course is directly based on the teachings of Freud. There would not have been A Course in Miracles only for these teachings. Freud very systematically and logically described exactly how the ego functions.
Freud uses the word ego in a different way to that of the Course, for Freud the ego is only one part of the psyche, which consists of the id ( the unconscious) the super ego ( the conscious) and the ego, which is the part of the mind that integrates all this. The way the Course uses the word “ego” would be roughly equivalent to the total Freudian psyche. You have to make that transition to work with the Course.
Freud did not recognize that the entire psyche was a defense against our true Self, our true Reality. Freud was so afraid of his own spirituality he had to construct a thought system that was virtually impregnable to the threat of Spirit.
Particularly noteworthy were Freud’s contributions in the area of the defense mechanisms, helping us to understand how we defend ourselves against all the guilt and fear that we have.
When we open a book on Freud we find two things, the first is repression; or denial; the Course never uses the word repression, but it uses denial. What we do with this guilt, this sense of sin, and with all the terror that we feel, is to make believe that it is not there.
We suppress it down, we deny its existence to ourselves, for example if we sweep the floor and are too lazy to lift it, we sweep it under the carpet, then make believe that it is not there. And if we keep doing this it is going to make the carpet very lumpy, and it will start to erupt out at some stage. This stuff is going to explode eventually, the same with our sin-guilt-and fear.
This is what is known as projection. There is probably no more critical concept to understand in ACIM than projection. If you do not understand projection you will not understand a single word in the Course, either in terms of how the ego functions or how the Holy Spirit will undo what the ego has done.
Projection very simply means that you take something from inside you, and say it is really not here; it is outside me in someone else. The word itself literally means to throw out, or hurl away from or toward something else, and this is what we all do in projection. We take the guilt, or sinfulness that we believe is inside of us, and we say; it is really not in me, it is in you, I am not the guilty person, you are the guilty one.
I am not the who is responsible for how miserable and unhappy I am; you are;. From the stand point of the ego, it does not matter who the “you” is. Anyone will do. This is how the ego tells us how to get rid of our guilt.
About the best description of this process of projection is found in the Old Testament, in chapter 16 of the book of Leviticus, where the children of Isarel are told what they should do on the day of Atonement.
They are told to gather together, and in the centre of the camp is Aaron who, as the High Priest, is the meditator between the people and God. Next to Aaron is a goat, and Aaron places his hand on the goat and symbolically transfers all the sins the people have accumulated over the years onto this poor goat.
They then kick the goat out of the camp. That is a perfect and graphic account of just what projection is and, of course, that is where we get the word scapegoat from. Thus, we take our sins and say they are not in us; they are in you. And then we put as much distance between ourselves and our sins. Nobody wants to be near his sinfulness and so we take it from inside of us and place it in someone else, and then we banish that person from our life.
There is two basic ways to do that. One is to physically separate ourselves from another person; the other is to do it psychologically. The psychological separation is really the most devastating and also the most subtle.
The way that we separate ourselves from someone else, once we put our sins on them, is to attack them or get angry at them. Any expression of our anger whether it is in the form of a mild twinge of annoyance or intense rage ( both are the exact same) is always to justify the projection of our guilt, no matter what our anger’s cause seems to be. This need to project our guilt is the root cause of all anger, (no exceptions).
The minute you experience a personal response of anger, judgement, or criticism, it is always, and I mean always because you have seen in that other person something that you have denied in yourself; you are attacking it in that other person and you want that other person as far away from you as possible. What you really want is, to get your sin as far away as possible.
When we go to the ego and ask “help me get rid of my guilt” the ego says, the way to get rid of it is you first repress it, and then project it on to other people. What the ego does not tell us is that projected guilt is an attack, and it is the best way to keep the guilt. The ego is nobody’s fool; it wants to keep us guilty.
A Course in Miracles speaks of “the attraction of guilt” (T-19.IV-A.10-17). The ego is very attracted to feeling guilty, and its reason is obvious once you remember what the ego is. As long as we believe that original sin occurred, that sin of separation is real, then we are saying that the ego is real. What teaches us that sin is real is guilt. Any feeling of guilt is always a statement that says, “I have sinned”. And the ultimate meaning of sin that I have separated from God. Therefore as long as I believe that my sin is real, I am guilty. Whether I see the guilt in me or another person I am saying that sin is real and that the ego is real. The ego therefore has a vested interest in keeping us guilty.
Any time the ego is confronted with guiltlessness it will attack it, because the greatest sin against the ego’s thought system is to be guiltless. If you are guiltless you are sinless, if you are sinless there is no ego. There is a line in the txt that says; “To the ego, the guiltless are guilty”.(T-13.II.4;2), because to be guiltless is to sin against the ego’s commandment; ”Thou shalt be guilty.” If you are guiltless, you are then guilty of being guiltless. That, for example, is why the world killed Jesus. He was teaching us that we are guiltless, and therefore it had to kill him because he was blaspheming against the ego.
The ego’s fundamental purpose is to always keep us guilty. But it cannot tell us that, because if it does, that means the end of the ego. So what the ego does is tell us to follow what is says, and we will be free of the guilt, deny its presence in us, and see it in someone else. But what it does not tell us is that attack is the best way to stay guilty. There is no way you could attack someone, whether by thought or deed, without feeling guilty.
The ego now has set up a cycle of guilt and attack, the more guilty we feel, the greater the need to deny it in ourselves and attack someone else for it. But the more we attack others, the greater our guilt will be. This will keep the whole cycle going around and around, it is this cycle of guilt and attack that makes the world go around, it is not Love.
Love is of God. And in this world love has no place. We must change this individually as well as collectively, and the tool to do this is Forgiveness.