by Greg Mackie
In our Complete and Annotated Edition of A Course in Miracles, we've restored many references to specific things in the world. One reference I find especially fascinating is to Cervantes' Don Quixote. In this material, Jesus presents a penetrating analysis of the title character that overturns the romantic and heroic picture we often have of him.
Indeed, this heroic picture is in part a product of something that was released about a month after the Course dictation began: the Broadway musical Man of La Mancha. This musical features the popular song "The Impossible Dream," which presents Don Quixote as someone whose break from reality is noble and good. Sure, he may be crazy, but he's fighting the good fight, "willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause."
With this picture in mind, it's a bit startling to read Jesus' comments on Don Quixote:
Destroying the devil is a meaningless undertaking. Cervantes wrote an excellent symbolic account of this procedure, though he did not understand his own symbolism. The real point of his writing was that his hero was a man who perceived himself as unworthy because he identified with his ego and perceived its weakness. He then set about to alter this misperception, not by correcting his misidentification, but by behaving egotistically. (T-4.I.5:2-5)
What a different picture! Rather than heroic, Don Quixote is a pathetic figure. He feels unworthy because he's identified with the illusory devil within, his "lean and foolish" ego (T-4.I.7:2). But instead of reaching for the real solution of identifying with his glorious spiritual reality, he tries to inflate his ego by fighting the illusory devil without, by trying to live the "impossible dream" of escaping reality (see M-18.1:7). Instead of identifying with his real grandeur, he settles for the grandiosity of futilely tilting at windmills.
This "excellent symbolic account" makes me reflect on my own life. I too identify with my ego and thus feel unworthy. In what ways do I respond to this by inflating my ego, by reaching for grandiosity, by fighting inner and outer demons, by futilely tilting at windmills? What can I do to abandon this "foolish journey" (T-4.I.7:2), this vain quest to achieve the impossible? What can I do to leave this lean and foolish ego behind and identify with the spirit that "is forever unwilling to depart from its foundation"?
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