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Excerpt from "The End of Guilt"

The Origin of Guilt

by Edwin Navarro

To understand where guilt comes from, we have to go back to the beginning. We need to look closely at that first moment when the idea of separation occurred, the moment we began to believe in this idea, the moment we began to fear and feel guilty. In that first moment, the separation idea itself looked back at God and created the illusion of fear and guilt in order to counter God’s incredible Love.

This illusion took on a life of its own and layer upon layer of fear and guilt and attack and pain were built up to pull us further and further from knowledge of the True God. There was no other way to maintain the separation, and out of this grew the ego, the great maintainer. The ego will do whatever is possible to reinforce in us the belief that we must fear God and must feel guilty about the separation.

If the ego is the symbol of the separation, it is also the symbol of guilt. Guilt is more than merely not of God. It is the symbol of attack on God… This is the belief from which all guilt really stems (T-5.V.2).

We might call this guilt the original guilt. The ego has created so many other layers of guilt and fear on top of this original guilt that we seldom feel it directly anymore. But whether we feel it directly or not, every instance of guilt that we experience is merely a reflection of that original guilt. For if mind is all there is, everything we experience in this world is a projection of our minds, and every event that causes us fear or guilt is a projection as well. And underneath all these projections, it is ultimately our separation from God we feel guilty about.

No matter what our current attitude is about God, this original guilt is fundamental. If we believe that God doesn’t exist and the material world we inhabit is simply the result of physical laws and processes, this is just another illusion, another layer of misdirection, given to us by the ego. If we believe in a ‘God’ that is in any way other than Pure Love, a ‘God’ who wants to judge us or punish us in any way, this is just one more illusion the ego presents us. As we state in the beginning of the philosophy, there is only one Mind in a state of Pure Love, and that is the only reality.

So as we discover those places in our lives where we feel guilty, and as we forgive each of those instances of guilt, we will be peeling back the layers of illusion the ego has created and we will be getting closer to seeing that original guilt. This will bring us right to the threshold of experiencing God again. But in order to get there, we must first see how the ego uses guilt in our everyday lives, discover where guilt exists within us, and find the path to releasing our guilt.

The Ego and Guilt

We will now look at how the ego builds up the layers of guilt and fear to prevent us from seeing the original guilt. We’ll explore some of the methods the ego uses to induce guilt in us, and look at how we then project that guilt outward onto others to try to lift the burden on ourselves.

The continuing decision to remain separated is the only possible reason for continuing guilt feelings (T-5.V.8).

Remember the ego has only one purpose – to maintain the idea of separation. Everything the ego does is done to further this purpose, and guilt is its most powerful tool. Whether it’s trying to keep us focused on our own guilt or it’s showing us all the guilt in the external world, it uses guilt to keep us separated. This is the key to understanding the workings of the ego.

If you identify with the ego, you must perceive yourself as guilty. Whenever you respond to your ego you will experience guilt, and you will fear punishment (T-5.V.3).

We worry that some punishment, no matter how uncertain and vague, is lurking out there in the future. In relationships we worry someone might not want to be friends with us anymore if we’re guilty of something. In religion, there seem to be negative consequences waiting for us if we make the wrong choice. The ego wants us to worry and to see these punishments, knowing that as long as we do, we will continue our guilt and continue to believe in the separation.

This is all based on that original guilt we felt when we rejected the True God and chose the idea of separation. In order to maintain our lives in their current state, we have to perpetuate this guilt, and in fact, the Course talks extensively about the attraction of guilt. When we’re first presented with the idea that we would somehow be attracted to guilt, it seems absurd, but on more careful examination it makes perfect sense as long as we want to keep this illusion going.

Guilt is the only need the ego has, and as long as you identify with it, guilt will remain attractive to you (T-15.VII.10).

Guilt keeps us tied to this world, this illusion we call home. If you feel guilty about something you did, you will feel cut off from others, separated. If you see someone in the world who you believe is guilty, you will feel separate from that person. In either case, you are choosing the ego’s view of the world, and in either case you are actively rejecting God.

If this guilt continues for any length of time, it is because you are attracted to it and are maintaining it, not because it is forced on you. The Course says, “[You] need do nothing except not to interfere” (T-16.I.3). When you are feeling guilty, you are interfering by actively keeping the guilt going because you are attracted to it more than you are attracted to your desire to remember God.

If you want to be free of the idea of separation, free of the ego, you must begin to free yourself from guilt. The first step is what you are doing now, seeing the process by which we all choose guilt. The next step it to personalize it, and look within yourself at how you are attracted to guilt and how you project guilt onto others. One place to discover this is through your anger.

All anger is nothing more than an attempt to make someone feel guilty… (T-15.VII.10).

This passage is crystal clear – anger is only justified if your goal is to induce guilt on another. In some schools of modern psychology, and even in some religions, anger can be seen as a healthy emotion if it doesn’t get out of control. There are some schools of thought that tell us it is better to express our anger than to hold it in, and through that release we can achieve an emotional catharsis.

The Course says that’s all bunk. If you feel anger toward anyone or any situation, whether you express it or not, your goal is to make someone or something guilty. There’s no other explanation. You must learn to recognize why you are feeling angry. It has nothing to do with what is going on outside of you, but is instead a primary means to project your feelings of guilt outward.

The End of Guilt is available in ebook and print at all major booksellers.


Edwin Navarro is the author of It’s All Mind: The Simplified Philosophy of A Course in Miracles and Roland’s Quest: A Modern-Day Spiritual Journey.

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