The concept of pleasure evokes many images. Perhaps a relaxing tropical vacation with a full cache of good books and an empty to-do list. Or maybe something more adventurous like a scenic hiking trek or an exotic safari.
Having plenty of whatever you deem important such as liquid assets or rewarding relationships can also be pleasurable. As may many of life's attractions like food, drink, intimacy, and intellectual stimulation.
But of all the pleasure pictures we may contemplate, never once would we count illusion among them.
Yet consider this savvy verse from Voltaire's satirical poem La Pucelle d’Orléans (The Maid of Orleans):
Illusion is the first of all pleasures.
While Voltaire was not A Course in Miracles student, having predated the book by about two-hundred years, he certainly understood the clever deception of the ego.
Why, you might ask, is illusion a pleasure?
Because it provides an escape from the paralyzing pain of self-hood.
Individuality insists, even proves, that oneness does not exist. And if oneness is no longer real, then neither is heaven - since the two are synonymous. Inexorably leading to the belief that we had a hand in destroying it.
The intensity of buried guilt is so enormous that we seemingly have no choice but to project it. Thus, as we learn in Lesson 161, was a world of specifics made.
A world of illusion. The first of all pleasures.
All with the purpose of providing shelter from the storm of fear and guilt.
Yet, as we all know only too well, those dark, revulsive senses seep into all aspects of what we call "life". In fact, every grievance we hold is nothing but a thinly disguised cloak barely covering our guilt.
Thankfully there is another "first of all pleasures" that not only obviates those negative sentiments and deeply concealed sense of self-condemnation - but completely replaces them with true, infinite joy. And we experience that pleasure by returning awareness to our mind and choosing the inner-teacher of love.
Every grievance is instantly transformed into growth. All angst replaced by angelic peace.
In each moment, the choice is ours. The ego and its painful repercussions posing as pleasure. Or the mind of spirit, resulting in the most extraordinary joy.
Join me in Thursday's class where we'll explore the ego's version of pleasure (and pain) and how we can transform them into a peace that "surpasses all understanding". I look forward to seeing you then.