A Course in Miracles/Text/Chapter 23
I. Introduction 
Do you not see the opposite of frailty and weakness is sinlessness? Innocence is strength, and nothing else is strong. The sinless cannot fear, for sin of any kind is weakness. The show of strength attack would use to cover frailty conceals it not, for how can the unreal be hidden? No one is strong who has an enemy, and no one can attack unless he thinks he has. Belief in enemies is therefore the belief in weakness, and what is weak is not the Will of God. Being opposed to it, it is God's "enemy." And God is feared as an opposing will.
How strange indeed becomes this war against yourself! You will believe that everything you use for sin can hurt you and become your enemy. And you will fight against it, and try to weaken it because of this; and you will think that you succeeded, and attack again. It is as certain you will fear what you attack as it is sure that you will love what you perceive as sinless. He walks in peace who travels sinlessly along the way love shows him. For love walks with him there, protecting him from fear. And he will see only the sinless, who can not attack.
Walk you in glory, with your head held high, and fear no evil. The innocent are safe because they share their innocence. Nothing they see is harmful, for their awareness of the truth releases everything from the illusion of harmfulness. And what seemed harmful now stands shining in their innocence, released from sin and fear and happily returned to love. They share the strength of love because they looked on innocence. And every error disappeared because they saw it not. Who looks for glory finds it where it is. Where could it be but in the innocent?
Let not the little interferers pull you to littleness. There can be no attraction of guilt in innocence. Think what a happy world you walk, with truth beside you! Do not give up this world of freedom for a little sigh of seeming sin, nor for a tiny stirring of guilt's attraction. Would you, for all these meaningless distractions, lay Heaven aside? Your destiny and purpose are far beyond them, in the clean place where littleness does not exist. Your purpose is at variance with littleness of any kind. And so it is at variance with sin.
Let us not let littleness lead God's Son into temptation. His glory is beyond it, measureless and timeless as eternity. Do not let time intrude upon your sight of him. Leave him not frightened and alone in his temptation, but help him rise above it and perceive the light of which he is a part. Your innocence will light the way to his, and so is yours protected and kept in your awareness. For who can know his glory, and perceive the little and the weak about him? Who can walk trembling in a fearful world, and realize that Heaven's glory shines on him?
Nothing around you but is part of you. Look on it lovingly, and see the light of Heaven in it. So will you come to understand all that is given you. In kind forgiveness will the world sparkle and shine, and everything you once thought sinful now will be reinterpreted as part of Heaven. How beautiful it is to walk, clean and redeemed and happy, through a world in bitter need of the redemption that your innocence bestows upon it! What can you value more than this? For here is your salvation and your freedom. And it must be complete if you would recognize it.
II. The Irreconcilable Beliefs 
The memory of God comes to the quiet mind. It cannot come where there is conflict, for a mind at war against itself remembers not eternal gentleness. The means of war are not the means of peace, and what the warlike would remember is not love. War is impossible unless belief in victory is cherished. Conflict within you must imply that you believe the ego has the power to be victorious. Why else would you identify with it? Surely you realize the ego is at war with God. Certain it is it has no enemy. Yet just as certain is its fixed belief it has an enemy that it must overcome and will succeed.
Do you not realize a war against yourself would be a war on God? Is victory conceivable? And if it were, is this a victory that you would want? The death of God, if it were possible, would be your death. Is this a victory? The ego always marches to defeat, because it thinks that triumph over you is possible. And God thinks otherwise. This is no war; only the mad belief the Will of God can be attacked and overthrown. You may identify with this belief, but never will it be more than madness. And fear will reign in madness, and will seem to have replaced love there. This is the conflict's purpose. And to those who think that it is possible, the means seem real.
Be certain that it is impossible God and the ego, or yourself and it, will ever meet. You seem to meet, and make your strange alliances on grounds that have no meaning. For your beliefs converge upon the body, the ego's chosen home, which you believe is yours. You meet at a mistake; an error in your self-appraisal. The ego joins with an illusion of yourself you share with it. And yet illusions cannot join. They are the same, and they are nothing. Their joining lies in nothingness; two are as meaningless as one or as a thousand. The ego joins with nothing, being nothing. The victory it seeks is meaningless as is itself.
Brother, the war against yourself is almost over. The journey's end is at the place of peace. Would you not now accept the peace offered you here? This "enemy" you fought as an intruder on your peace is here transformed, before your sight, into the giver of your peace. Your "enemy" was God Himself, to Whom all conflict, triumph and attack of any kind are all unknown. He loves you perfectly, completely and eternally. The Son of God at war with his Creator is a condition as ridiculous as nature roaring at the wind in anger, proclaiming it is part of itself no more. Could nature possibly establish this, and make it true? Nor is it up to you to say what shall be part of you and what is kept apart.
The war against yourself was undertaken to teach the Son of God that he is not himself, and not his Father's Son. For this, the memory of his Father must be forgotten. It is forgotten in the body's life, and if you think you are a body, you will believe you have forgotten it. Yet truth can never be forgotten by itself, and you have not forgotten what you are. Only a strange illusion of yourself, a wish to triumph over what you are, remembers not.
The war against yourself is but the battle of two illusions, struggling to make them different from each other, in the belief the one that conquers will be true. There is no conflict between them and the truth. Nor are they different from each other. Both are not true. And so it matters not what form they take. What made them is insane, and they remain part of what made them. Madness holds out no menace to reality, and has no influence upon it. Illusions cannot triumph over truth, nor can they threaten it in any way. And the reality that they deny is not a part of them.
What you remember is a part of you. For you must be as God created you. Truth does not fight against illusions, nor do illusions fight against the truth. Illusions battle only with themselves. Being fragmented, they fragment. But truth is indivisible, and far beyond their little reach. You will remember what you know when you have learned you cannot be in conflict. One illusion about yourself can battle with another, yet the war of two illusions is a state where nothing happens. There is no victor and there is no victory. And truth stands radiant, apart from conflict, untouched and quiet in the peace of God.
Conflict must be between two forces. It cannot exist between one power and nothingness. There is nothing you could attack that is not part of you. And by attacking it you make two illusions of yourself, in conflict with each other. And this occurs whenever you look on anything that God created with anything but love. Conflict is fearful, for it is the birth of fear. Yet what is born of nothing cannot win reality through battle. Why would you fill your world with conflicts with yourself? Let all this madness be undone for you, and turn in peace to the remembrance of God, still shining in your quiet mind.
See how the conflict of illusions disappears when it is brought to truth! For it seems real only as long as it is seen as war between conflicting truths; the conqueror to be the truer, the more real, and the vanquisher of the illusion that was less real, made an illusion by defeat. Thus, conflict is the choice between illusions, one to be crowned as real, the other vanquished and despised. Here will the Father never be remembered. Yet no illusion can invade His home and drive Him out of what He loves forever. And what He loves must be forever quiet and at peace because it is His home.
You who are beloved of Him are no illusion, being as true and holy as Himself. The stillness of your certainty of Him and of yourself is home to both of You, Who dwell as One and not apart. Open the door of His most holy home, and let forgiveness sweep away all trace of the belief in sin that keeps God homeless and His Son with Him. You are not a stranger in the house of God. Welcome your brother to the home where God has set him in serenity and peace, and dwells with him. Illusions have no place where love abides, protecting you from everything that is not true. You dwell in peace as limitless as its Creator, and everything is given those who would remember Him. Over His home the Holy Spirit watches, sure that its peace can never be disturbed.
How can the resting place of God turn on itself, and seek to overcome the One Who dwells there? And think what happens when the house of God perceives itself divided. The altar disappears, the light grows dim, the temple of the Holy One becomes a house of sin. And nothing is remembered except illusions. Illusions can conflict, because their forms are different. And they do battle only to establish which form is true.
Illusion meets illusion; truth, itself. The meeting of illusions leads to war. Peace, looking on itself, extends itself. War is the condition in which fear is born, and grows and seeks to dominate. Peace is the state where love abides, and seeks to share itself. Conflict and peace are opposites. Where one abides the other cannot be; where either goes the other disappears. So is the memory of God obscured in minds that have become illusions' battleground. Yet far beyond this senseless war it shines, ready to be remembered when you side with peace.
III. The Laws of Chaos 
The "laws" of chaos can be brought to light, though never understood. Chaotic laws are hardly meaningful, and therefore out of reason's sphere. Yet they appear to be an obstacle to reason and to truth. Let us, then, look upon them calmly, that we may look beyond them, understanding what they are, not what they would maintain. It is essential it be understood what they are for, because it is their purpose to make meaningless, and to attack the truth. Here are the laws that rule the world you made. And yet they govern nothing, and need not be broken; merely looked upon and gone beyond.
The first chaotic law is that the truth is different for everyone. Like all these principles, this one maintains that each is separate and has a different set of thoughts that set him off from others. This principle evolves from the belief there is a hierarchy of illusions; some are more valuable and therefore true. Each one establishes this for himself, and makes it true by his attack on what another values. And this is justified because the values differ, and those who hold them seem to be unlike, and therefore enemies.
Think how this seems to interfere with the first principle of miracles. For this establishes degrees of truth among illusions, making it seem that some of them are harder to overcome than others. If it were realized that they are all the same and equally untrue, it would be easy, then, to understand that miracles apply to all of them. Errors of any kind can be corrected because they are untrue. When brought to truth instead of to each other, they merely disappear. No part of nothing can be more resistant to the truth than can another.
The second law of chaos, dear indeed to every worshipper of sin, is that each one must sin, and therefore deserves attack and death. This principle, closely related to the first, is the demand that errors call for punishment and not correction. For the destruction of the one who makes the error places him beyond correction and beyond forgiveness. What he has done is thus interpreted as an irrevocable sentence upon himself, which God Himself is powerless to overcome. Sin cannot be remitted, being the belief the Son of God can make mistakes for which his own destruction becomes inevitable.
Think what this seems to do to the relationship between the Father and the Son. Now it appears that They can never be One again. For One must always be condemned, and by the Other. Now are They different, and enemies. And Their relationship is one of opposition, just as the separate aspects of the Son meet only to conflict but not to join. One becomes weak, the other strong by his defeat. And fear of God and of each other now appears as sensible, made real by what the Son of God has done both to himself and his Creator.
The arrogance on which the laws of chaos stand could not be more apparent than emerges here. Here is a principle that would define what the Creator of reality must be; what He must think and what He must believe; and how He must respond, believing it. It is not seen as even necessary that He be asked about the truth of what has been established for His belief. His Son can tell Him this, and He has but the choice whether to take his word for it or be mistaken. This leads directly to the third preposterous belief that seems to make chaos eternal. For if God cannot be mistaken, He must accept His Son's belief in what he is, and hate him for it.
See how the fear of God is reinforced by this third principle. Now it becomes impossible to turn to Him for help in misery. For now He has become the "enemy" Who caused it, to Whom appeal is useless. Nor can salvation lie within the Son, whose every aspect seems to be at war with Him, and justified in its attack. And now is conflict made inevitable, beyond the help of God. For now salvation must remain impossible, because the Savior has become the enemy.
There can be no release and no escape. Atonement thus becomes a myth, and vengeance, not forgiveness, is the Will of God. From where all this begins, there is no sight of help that can succeed. Only destruction can be the outcome. And God Himself seems to be siding with it, to overcome His Son. Think not the ego will enable you to find escape from what it wants. That is the function of this course, which does not value what the ego cherishes.
The ego values only what it takes. This leads to the fourth law of chaos, which, if the others are accepted, must be true. This seeming law is the belief you have what you have taken. By this, another's loss becomes your gain, and thus it fails to recognize that you can never take away save from yourself. Yet all the other laws must lead to this. For enemies do not give willingly to one another, nor would they seek to share the things they value. And what your enemies would keep from you must be worth having, because they keep it hidden from your sight.
All of the mechanisms of madness are seen emerging here: the "enemy" made strong by keeping hidden the valuable inheritance that should be yours; your justified position and attack for what has been withheld; and the inevitable loss the enemy must suffer to save yourself. Thus do the guilty ones protest their "innocence." Were they not forced into this foul attack by the unscrupulous behavior of the enemy, they would respond with only kindness. But in a savage world the kind cannot survive, so they must take or else be taken from.
And now there is a vague unanswered question, not yet "explained." What is this precious thing, this priceless pearl, this hidden secret treasure, to be wrested in righteous wrath from this most treacherous and cunning enemy? It must be what you want but never found. And now you "understand" the reason why you found it not. For it was taken from you by this enemy, and hidden where you would not think to look. He hid it in his body, making it the cover for his guilt, the hiding place for what belongs to you. Now must his body be destroyed and sacrificed, that you may have that which belongs to you. His treachery demands his death, that you may live. And you attack only in self-defense.
But what is it you want that needs his death? Can you be sure your murderous attack is justified unless you know what it is for? And here a final principle of chaos comes to the "rescue." It holds there is a substitute for love. This is the magic that will cure all of your pain; the missing factor in your madness that makes it "sane." This is the reason why you must attack. Here is what makes your vengeance justified. Behold, unveiled, the ego's secret gift, torn from your brother's body, hidden there in malice and in hatred for the one to whom the gift belongs. He would deprive you of the secret ingredient that would give meaning to your life. The substitute for love, born of your enmity to your brother, must be salvation. It has no substitute, and there is only one. And all your relationships have but the purpose of seizing it and making it your own.
Never is your possession made complete. And never will your brother cease his attack on you for what you stole. Nor will God end His vengeance upon both, for in His madness He must have this substitute for love, and kill you both. You who believe you walk in sanity with feet on solid ground, and through a world where meaning can be found, consider this: These are the laws on which your "sanity" appears to rest. These are the principles which make the ground beneath your feet seem solid. And it is here you look for meaning. These are the laws you made for your salvation. They hold in place the substitute for Heaven which you prefer. This is their purpose; they were made for this. There is no point in asking what they mean. That is apparent. The means of madness must be insane. Are you as certain that you realize the goal is madness?
No one wants madness, nor does anyone cling to his madness if he sees that this is what it is. What protects madness is the belief that it is true. It is the function of insanity to take the place of truth. It must be seen as truth to be believed. And if it is the truth, then must its opposite, which was the truth before, be madness now. Such a reversal, completely turned around, with madness sanity, illusions true, attack a kindness, hatred love, and murder benediction, is the goal the laws of chaos serve. These are the means by which the laws of God appear to be reversed. Here do the laws of sin appear to hold love captive, and let sin go free.
These do not seem to be the goals of chaos, for by the great reversal they appear to be the laws of order. How could it not be so? Chaos is lawlessness, and has no laws. To be believed, its seeming laws must be perceived as real. Their goal of madness must be seen as sanity. And fear, with ashen lips and sightless eyes, blinded and terrible to look upon, is lifted to the throne of love, its dying conqueror, its substitute, the savior from salvation. How lovely do the laws of fear make death appear. Give thanks unto the hero on love's throne, who saved the Son of God for fear and death!
And yet, how can it be that laws like these can be believed? There is a strange device that makes it possible. Nor is it unfamiliar; we have seen how it appears to function many times before. In truth it does not function, yet in dreams, where only shadows play the major roles, it seems most powerful. No law of chaos could compel belief but for the emphasis on form and disregard of content. No one who thinks that one of these laws is true sees what it says. Some forms it takes seem to have meaning, and that is all.
How can some forms of murder not mean death? Can an attack in any form be love? What form of condemnation is a blessing? Who makes his savior powerless and finds salvation? Let not the form of the attack on him deceive you. You cannot seek to harm him and be saved. Who can find safety from attack by turning on himself? How can it matter what the form this madness takes? It is a judgment that defeats itself, condemning what it says it wants to save. Be not deceived when madness takes a form you think is lovely. What is intent on your destruction is not your friend.
You would maintain, and think it true, that you do not believe these senseless laws, nor act upon them. And when you look at what they say, they cannot be believed. Brother, you do believe them. For how else could you perceive the form they take, with content such as this? Can any form of this be tenable? Yet you believe them for the form they take, and do not recognize the content. It never changes. Can you paint rosy lips upon a skeleton, dress it in loveliness, pet it and pamper it, and make it live? And can you be content with an illusion that you are living?
There is no life outside of Heaven. Where God created life, there life must be. In any state apart from Heaven life is illusion. At best it seems like life; at worst, like death. Yet both are judgments on what is not life, equal in their inaccuracy and lack of meaning. Life not in Heaven is impossible, and what is not in Heaven is not anywhere. Outside of Heaven, only the conflict of illusion stands; senseless, impossible and beyond all reason, and yet perceived as an eternal barrier to Heaven. Illusions are but forms. Their content is never true.
The laws of chaos govern all illusions. Their forms conflict, making it seem quite possible to value some above the others. Yet each one rests as surely on the belief the laws of chaos are the laws of order as do the others. Each one upholds these laws completely, offering a certain witness that these laws are true. The seeming gentler forms of the attack are no less certain in their witnessing, or their results. Certain it is illusions will bring fear because of the beliefs that they imply, not for their form. And lack of faith in love, in any form, attests to chaos as reality.
From the belief in sin, the faith in chaos must follow. It is because it follows that it seems to be a logical conclusion; a valid step in ordered thought. The steps to chaos do follow neatly from their starting point. Each is a different form in the progression of truth's reversal, leading still deeper into terror and away from truth. Think not one step is smaller than another, nor that return from one is easier. The whole descent from Heaven lies in each one. And where your thinking starts, there must it end.
Brother, take not one step in the descent to hell. For having taken one, you will not recognize the rest for what they are. And they will follow. Attack in any form has placed your foot upon the twisted stairway that leads from Heaven. Yet any instant it is possible to have all this undone. How can you know whether you chose the stairs to Heaven or the way to hell? Quite easily. How do you feel? Is peace in your awareness? Are you certain which way you go? And are you sure the goal of Heaven can be reached? If not, you walk alone. Ask, then, your Friend to join with you, and give you certainty of where you go.
IV. Salvation without Compromise 
Is it not true you do not recognize some of the forms attack can take? If it is true attack in any form will hurt you, and will do so just as much as in another form that you do recognize, then it must follow that you do not always recognize the source of pain. Attack in any form is equally destructive. Its purpose does not change. Its sole intent is murder, and what form of murder serves to cover the massive guilt and frantic fear of punishment the murderer must feel? He may deny he is a murderer and justify his savagery with smiles as he attacks. Yet he will suffer, and will look on his intent in nightmares where the smiles are gone, and where the purpose rises to meet his horrified awareness and pursue him still. For no one thinks of murder and escapes the guilt the thought entails. If the intent is death, what matter the form it takes?
Is death in any form, however lovely and charitable it may seem to be, a blessing and a sign the Voice for God speaks through you to your brother? The wrapping does not make the gift you give. An empty box, however beautiful and gently given, still contains nothing. And neither the receiver nor the giver is long deceived. Withhold forgiveness from your brother and you attack him. You give him nothing, and receive of him but what you gave.
Salvation is no compromise of any kind. To compromise is to accept but part of what you want; to take a little and give up the rest. Salvation gives up nothing. It is complete for everyone. Let the idea of compromise but enter, and the awareness of salvation's purpose is lost because it is not recognized. It is denied where compromise has been accepted, for compromise is the belief salvation is impossible. It would maintain you can attack a little, love a little, and know the difference. Thus it would teach a little of the same can still be different, and yet the same remain intact, as one. Does this make sense? Can it be understood?
This course is easy just because it makes no compromise. Yet it seems difficult to those who still believe that compromise is possible. They do not see that, if it is, salvation is attack. Yet it is certain the belief that salvation is impossible cannot uphold a quiet, calm assurance it has come. Forgiveness cannot be withheld a little. Nor is it possible to attack for this and love for that and understand forgiveness. Would you not want to recognize assault upon your peace in any form, if only thus does it become impossible that you lose sight of it? It can be kept shining before your vision, forever clear and never out of sight, if you defend it not.
Those who believe that peace can be defended, and that attack is justified on its behalf, cannot perceive it lies within them. How could they know? Could they accept forgiveness side by side with the belief that murder takes some forms by which their peace is saved? Would they be willing to accept the fact their savage purpose is directed against themselves? No one unites with enemies, nor is at one with them in purpose. And no one compromises with an enemy but hates him still, for what he kept from him.
Mistake not truce for peace, nor compromise for the escape from conflict. To be released from conflict means that it is over. The door is open; you have left the battleground. You have not lingered there in cowering hope that it will not return because the guns are stilled an instant, and the fear that haunts the place of death is not apparent. There is no safety in a battleground. You can look down on it in safety from above and not be touched. But from within it you can find no safety. Not one tree left still standing will shelter you. Not one illusion of protection stands against the faith in murder. Here stands the body, torn between the natural desire to communicate and the unnatural intent to murder and to die. Think you the form that murder takes can offer safety? Can guilt be absent from a battlefield?
V. Above the Battleground 
Do not remain in conflict, for there is no war without attack. The fear of God is fear of life, and not of death. Yet He remains the only place of safety. In Him is no attack, and no illusion in any form stalks Heaven. Heaven is wholly true. No difference enters, and what is all the same cannot conflict. You are not asked to fight against your wish to murder. But you are asked to realize the form it takes conceals the same intent. And it is this you fear, and not the form. What is not love is murder. What is not loving must be an attack. Every illusion is an assault on truth, and every one does violence to the idea of love because it seems to be of equal truth.
What can be equal to the truth, yet different? Murder and love are incompatible. Yet if they both are true, then must they be the same, and indistinguishable from one another. So will they be to those who see God's Son a body. For it is not the body that is like the Son's Creator. And what is lifeless cannot be the Son of Life. How can a body be extended to hold the universe? Can it create, and be what it creates? And can it offer its creations all that it is and never suffer loss?
God does not share His function with a body. He gave the function to create unto His Son because it is His Own. It is not sinful to believe the function of the Son is murder, but it is insanity. What is the same can have no different function. Creation is the means for God's extension, and what is His must be His Son's as well. Either the Father and the Son are murderers, or neither is. Life makes not death, creating like itself.
The lovely light of your relationship is like the Love of God. It cannot yet assume the holy function God gave His Son, for your forgiveness of your brother is not complete as yet, and so it cannot be extended to all creation. Each form of murder and attack that still attracts you and that you do not recognize for what it is, limits the healing and the miracles you have the power to extend to all. Yet does the Holy Spirit understand how to increase your little gifts and make them mighty. Also He understands how your relationship is raised above the battleground, in it no more. This is your part; to realize that murder in any form is not your will. The overlooking of the battleground is now your purpose.
Be lifted up, and from a higher place look down upon it. From there will your perspective be quite different. Here in the midst of it, it does seem real. Here you have chosen to be part of it. Here murder is your choice. Yet from above, the choice is miracles instead of murder. And the perspective coming from this choice shows you the battle is not real, and easily escaped. Bodies may battle, but the clash of forms is meaningless. And it is over when you realize it never was begun. How can a battle be perceived as nothingness when you engage in it? How can the truth of miracles be recognized if murder is your choice?
When the temptation to attack rises to make your mind darkened and murderous, remember you can see the battle from above. Even in forms you do not recognize, the signs you know. There is a stab of pain, a twinge of guilt, and above all, a loss of peace. This you know well. When they occur leave not your place on high, but quickly choose a miracle instead of murder. And God Himself and all the lights of Heaven will gently lean to you, and hold you up. For you have chosen to remain where He would have you, and no illusion can attack the peace of God together with His Son.
See no one from the battleground, for there you look on him from nowhere. You have no reference point from where to look, where meaning can be given what you see. For only bodies could attack and murder, and if this is your purpose, then you must be one with them. Only a purpose unifies, and those who share a purpose have a mind as one. The body has no purpose of itself, and must be solitary. From below, it cannot be surmounted. From above, the limits it exerts on those in battle still are gone, and not perceived. The body stands between the Father and the Heaven He created for His Son because it has no purpose.
Think what is given those who share their Father's purpose, and who know that it is theirs. They want for nothing. Sorrow of any kind is inconceivable. Only the light they love is in awareness, and only love shines upon them forever. It is their past, their present and their future; always the same, eternally complete and wholly shared. They know it is impossible their happiness could ever suffer change of any kind. Perhaps you think the battleground can offer something you can win. Can it be anything that offers you a perfect calmness, and a sense of love so deep and quiet that no touch of doubt can ever mar your certainty? And that will last forever?
Those with the strength of God in their awareness could never think of battle. What could they gain but loss of their perfection? For everything fought for on the battleground is of the body; something it seems to offer or to own. No one who knows that he has everything could seek for limitation, nor could he value the body's offerings. The senselessness of conquest is quite apparent from the quiet sphere above the battleground. What can conflict with everything? And what is there that offers less, yet could be wanted more? Who with the Love of God upholding him could find the choice of miracles or murder hard to make?