I had a re-read of much of Chapter 21: Reason and perception, to try to better understand the workings of perception. Below are some takeaways. Feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken.
Typically, we look out upon a world which seems to be there independently, and however it looks to us, we take it to be how it is. If it seems like a horrible place, some kind of hell, we believe it actually IS that way. We don’t question it. We don’t for a moment think that there is something we are doing to make it LOOK that way.
But the Course is telling us that in fact, we are doing this all the time. It is telling us, there is a "forgiven world" right here in front of our faces, which has no guilt in it, no sin, which is shiny and sparkly and new, and even seems to have a reflection of heaven in it. But we’re not SEEING it, because our own minds have some kind of "gunk" in them which is making the world seem dim and dark and lonely and depressing.
In fact, it even tells us there is a reflection of Christ (the face of Christ) and God right here, that we can "See God" here, to a degree, if we have awareness of God in our mind. That we could look at flowers and tables and trees and such and see God twinkling back at us somehow. But that if we do not SEE that, due to some kind of "filtering" that is going on in our perception, the world becomes lackluster and dull and we don’t seem to see God at all.
There is a kind of perceptual trap, whereby if you believe that how the world looks, is how it IS, inherently, you will not realize that there is ANOTHER world hidden behind the one you’re seeing, that you COULD be seeing, if you were to change your mind. Since "projection makes perception", it produces CIRCULAR LOGIC in which a) you decide what you want to see, b) you project it, c) you see/perceive it, d) it tells YOU what is there, e) you believe what you perceive. Kind of a vicious cycle.
Not realizing that your mind has something to do with how things appear to you, you will just ASSUME that this world simply IS the way that you’ve always seen it to be. If it seems to really suck bad, if all your relationships seem strained by separation, if you feel lonely and cut off, if you are depressed and living in darkness, you may think that this is HOW THE WORLD IS, not realizing that you are actually MAKING IT look that way because of the content of your mind.
So in order to get out of that trap, you have to suspend belief for a moment, consider that what you are seeing is POSSIBLY not how the world actually is, that there is a world here you WANT to see - in which you’ll have to place some faith that it is here but simply hidden from view temporarily, and then take steps to change your mind so that you can finally SEE it. You almost have to IGNORE what you are perceiving now, stop accepting that you are stuck with the "results of past decisions", and that if you choose to believe differently, this shitty world will disappear and be replaced by a much lovelier version.
The course also basically says that when you are seeing the projected content of your own self-hate, sin etc, which makes the WHOLE WORLD look hateful and sinful to you, you are not SEEING correctly. Or rather, you are lacking VISION. Vision is the ability to see what is here, without distortion, without sin, without any dark content in your mind, so that you can see the forgiven world simply for how it IS.
Jesus says we need to become able to SEE, first, before we can RECOGNIZE what it is we are seeing as an illusory world. To see the "real world", relatively speaking, is to regain vision, ie to see without filtering it with your ego junk, such that you can simply look upon what’s there without adding or removing anything. This will show you clearly, correctly, what is THERE, without your contribution added to it, and in that clarity you will RECOGNIZE that even the real/forgiven world is an illusory world made as the opposite to heaven.
So right now, if you are having an experience that this world seems like a nightmare of hell, it’s not because it IS, it’s because you have a nightmare of hell happening in your MIND, which is making this world SEEM like it is hell. I’ve personally had experiences which at the time seemed like a horrible nightmare. Later, after much healing, the nightmare was over and the world did not seem so bad anymore.
The content of our mind massively influences what we see, because we will project that content out TO see, and WILL see it, overlaid on top of the "real world". It is imagined content, but it hugely influences our perception. False ego beliefs really have the "power", because we put faith in them, to greatly distort how the world registers with us, what we see it as, whether it seems harmless or harmful, and whether it feels like a happy place or a miserable place. It is not any of the things we project ONTO it. It is only what it is - a pretend planet that we dreamed, essentially neutral and meaningless.
"I have given the world all the meaning it has for me" is precisely talking about perception. You may not realize it, but your consciousness, your mind, your experience of "reality", can become significantly DISTORTED by any ego beliefs that you have, such that it will make you PERCEIVE things which are not even there at all. It causes you to hallucinate! To see imagined meaning or content where it does not exist. Your perception is capable of "shifting" from experiencing the "real word" as a nightmarish hell, to seemingly to be a reflection of heaven.
Have you ever had a day, where you are in a really bad mood... where you are perhaps having an emotional release of some heavy feelings. On that day, it seems to you as though everyone is in a bad mood! Everyone seems angry and intense and upset. Then you let yourself cry and you cathart this painful content. Suddenly, when you’re done, you feel better, but you also notice, what the heck happened to everyone else’s mood?
Suddenly other people don’t seem like they are unhappy at all? They don’t seem angry or stressed out or upset with you. You then find yourself wondering, were they really nightmarish figures who were against you and pissed off along with you or.... were you making that up this whole time? That all this time you thought they were also upset, they were actually happy?! That you just couldn’t see it and your mind was hallucinating that they were upset with you?
That’s because your ego beliefs that were in your conscious awareness were majorly distorting your perception of reality.
Jesus talks about how we get "stuck" in the circle of projecting then perceiving, whereby since we think that how the world looks is how it IS, that somehow IT decided to be the way it is, and that we didn’t MAKE IT BE that way at all, we simply accept it as if objectively real and then "make adjustments" to try to "live with it" or accomodate as though simply accepting it is really this way. We can spend a very long time living in a perceived "bad world" trying to cope with how it seems to be, making horizontal/linear adjustments instead of rising above it into "vertical perception", not even realizing that if we were to change our mind, our perception would shift UPWARDS, and we’d see a very different "higher vibrational" world that doesn’t call for any of those adjustments. ie, we don’t have to STAY in hell.
Another experience you might have is where you see the form of someone’s body, perhaps they have a broken arm or scars on their face from a fire. It will depend entirely on the content of your mind as to HOW you will perceive this, and what you will see IN it. If you believe in real sin and real sickness, and if that belief is heavy, when you see this person with theirs scars and a broken arm, you will not ONLY experience what’s there in form, their body in its condition, you will ALSO experience the content of your mind.
You might therefore be horrified, repulsed, upset, saddened, guilty, etc... seeing the disfigurement as something the person is stuck with for life, seeing sin in it like they must’ve done something wrong, holding it against them, fearing it like it will infect you if you get too close. The horror show in your mind has nothing to do with the person’s body or its form, it’s entirely to do with YOUR beliefs that you are seeing ON TOP OF what’s there. They still have a "broken body", but you are seeing "YOUR sickness" added to it.
If you then go away and do some forgiveness and undo these beliefs in real sin and real sickness, you may later be walking around and see that person again. And their body may well be in *exactly* the same condition, form-wise, because that’s something that they still believe in and they are still putting it there.
But instead of seeing it as attacking you, or repulsing you, or threatening, or being ugly, or judging them for it, or seeing it as irreversible, or hating them for it, you may instead see them with love and freedom and recognize, they are not bound by this, they are not this form, they are not this body, and you could offer them a miracle. *RECOGNIZING* what is there, versus failing to recognize what is there (seeing your own added shit), is the difference between true perception and false perception. Both of them perceive the form, but true perception does not ADD sin to it.
Someone close to me has paralysis. Her left arm can barely move and hardly any movement in any fingers. She had a stroke. When this first happened, each time that I saw this I was very upset. Or I should say... each time that I saw this form and ALSO some dark content in my own mind, I was very upset. I saw sickness as real. I believed in it. And this had apparently already been established in my belief system before this event happened. Instantly it would trigger off deep upset and guilt and grief whenever I saw it. However, it wasn’t the form or the tragedy or the paralysis that was actually upsetting, it was what I saw IN it.
Over time, I forgave this and more or less HAD to use this as a way to learn that sickness is not real, that I am not the cause of the sickness, that I am not guilty for otherse being sick, and that there is no TRUTH in that sickness. My personal perception of that person now, is that when I see this paralysis that she STILL HAS, and which has not changed whatsoever, I am not upset by it. I don’t see it as tragic or despairing. I don’t see guilt in it. I don’t see it as something having gone very wrong. I don’t see it as unfair or unchosen. It does not trigger me into deeply hurt feelings. All of that has been healed in me, and therefore in my perception. And yet, I still see - perceive - this person, and they stil have the symptoms of this stroke. They are still paralyzed. I simply do not see it with the ADDED content of my own personal beliefs in sin.
Quite possibly at some time, if I choose to really thoroughly excavate all trace of belief in sickness from my mind, maybe that will offer healing to her and undo that sickness. But if she is not ready to receive it, or if that would be frightening, it would not be appropriate to force it. This too is a lesson, that often the sick do not want to be healed against their will or readiness. My perception has changed of "what is there" and I now see it more squarely for what it IS... an illusion of sickness that doesn’t mean anything and has no power of its own. Of course this is still an area of experimental miracle-working so we’ll see what happens in future.
Regarding another’s sickness, since you are no longer believing in irreversible sin, you would not be holding their form "against them", or believing that they are stuck with it, or seeing them as victimized by it. You would not see it as "real sickness". It will strike you as an ILLUSION of sickness. Fake sickness. A simple choice to pretend to be hurt. You would not believe it has the power to stay on its own, and you could offer to heal it. It depends on the person as to whether they can accept and receive the healing, however. They have free will and their will is just as powerful as yours. Similarly Jesus cannot remove stuff from us that we are unwilling to give up because our will is as powerful as his.
One other thing I want to touch upon is the kind of experience you will have when in false perception vs true. In false perception, since you believe heavily that separation is real, and since you project what you will later perceive, you project separation. When you perceive it, you’re going to perceive that you are seeing something that has separations in it. The world is going to look to you as though it is separate from "you". It will seem like it has causal power, a will of its own, a mind of its own, and that it is not an effect, and therefore that because it is cause not effect, "you" surely did not cause IT.
You can see how this is a vicious cycle because if your mind has separation content in it, you will project that separation content onto the world, it will appear to be separate from you, and this will justify your belief that you DID NOT project it or cause it. This undermines the awareness that you projected in the first place, and somewhat "locks in" the idea that how the world appears to you is how IT IS inherently. That you are not contributing to how it appears at all. So false perception is its own trap, making it harder to tell that your mind alone determines what things look like to you.
The counter to this, is what happens in true perception.
There, your mind does not have a belief in separation. You don’t believe in real sin, or level confusions, nor do you see yourself as at the effect of anything outside of you. You recognize yourself as cause, and even see yourself projecting. Therefore, as you project, you are practically not projecting ANYTHING "onto" the world, or are not adding to it or removing anything from it, and so when you then PERCEIVE what’s there, you see it only for what it inherently IS. It shows YOU what is there, and you may even see God in it. This shows you the "real world", real in the sense that, in comparison to your unreal world of false perception and hallucinated hell, it is "real-er".
In true perception then, you will not be experiencing that the world is its own thing, that it has a will, or a mind or a power over you. You will not believe it has cause in it. You will recognize it as EFFECT only. And you will recognize that you are CAUSE only, not effect. Seeing God "in it" also will not mean that this world is "cause". God is cause, so seeing God "in" the world does NOT mean God IS the world or that the world is a cause! In this awareness, whatever the world ‘is’, MUST be coming entirely from you, and you see God IN it because God is IN your mind, not really out there. This means, you will also recognize, not simply what the world inherently IS (an illusion you made), but that EVERYTHING it is, is coming from YOU. You are dreaming it!
At this level, you are capable of manipulating it in any way you see fit simply by changing your mind, by adjusting your desire, or shifting your focus. "The word is only what you gave it" indicates that in false perception, there seemed to be you AND the world, and in true perception, there is only YOU. At this level, being aware that you are THE DREAMER of this world, reveals to you that it is 100% illusion, that the real world is an illusion, that even its forms are coming from your mind, and that therefore..... drumroll please..... THERE IS NO WORLD APART FROM WHAT YOU WISH. Meaning, there is literally no world there, just a bunch of wishes.
There is no world here because it is ONLY the content of our mind being projected. There is no world because even the real world, the "happy dream", is but a dream. When perception is perfected, it shows us there is NO SEPARATION between what is within and what is without. That planet out there, is inside our mind. It’s just an idea that has not left its source. "The real world is still an illusion". We made it up and are dreaming it, it’s not really there at all.
As dreaming ends, the entire content of this dream, this made-up world, this projected fantasy, will simply cease to be. It is not changed, it is simply unprotected. It does not live on, it simply vanishes. It is not converted into reality or heaven, ONLY THE TRUTH REMAINS and everything else NEVER REALLY EXISTED. Hence there is no world and Earth does not exist beyond our dreaming of it.