The Course has many, many useful ways of expressing this issue. Here is one example:
Margot in her book refers to the voice of our 'inner critic' which is often mistaken by many for the voice of the Holy Spirit, when it is really the voice of judgment and thus of the ego. We might also remember how any religious overtones in our upbringing have a tendency to condition us to mistaking our 'conscience' for the Holy Spirit. Conscience in this context is entirely a concept of the ego, and the very instrument that keeps the cycle of Samsara, the cycle of sin, guilt and fear, alive.The two voices speak for different interpretations of the same thing simultaneously; or almost simultaneously, for the ego always speaks first. Alternate interpretations were unnecessary until the first one was made.The ego speaks in judgment, and the Holy Spirit reverses its decision, much as a higher court has the power to reverse a lower court's decisions in this world. The ego's decisions are always wrong, because they are based on the error they were made to uphold. (ACIM:T-5.VI.3:5-4:2)
In her description, Margot uses a wonderful concept, namely that in sorting out these thoughts, you can detect how some of these ego-based reasonings have you move 'away from yourself.' Even by having every appearance of being ever so reasonable, including an appeal to 'common sense,' and we might think again about the Samaritan woman: her forefathers since Jacob had drunk from the well, so why was there anything wrong with drinking from the well now? So the ego-appeal lies in 'it was always done this way,' and 'if it's good enough for my dear father, it's good enough for me.' As always these are all ego thoughts, ripples on the surface of the water that prevent you from looking into the deep. Relying on them means you are not listening to the Voice of the Holy Spirit, but getting distracted by superficial appeals to circumstantial logic, instead of ever getting in touch with your True Self.
Thus the un-learning process of the Course helps us to move past all this 'conditioning' and back to the authenticity of who we are in truth - in the words of the Course: "For I am still as God created me (ACIM-W-218)" - when the ego always incites us to act from anything else but our authentic Self, whereby we continue permanently enslaved and beholden to the ego and its advice, almost by definition since our ego choices are bound to create more problems than they solve. In short the ego continues to serve up the water that makes us thirst again, while the still, small Voice that points us to Jesus, who offers that water that will not make us thirst again. Eventually we will recognize that we are in the position of the Samaritan woman, and join her in her choice.
You cannot understand the conflict until you fully understand the basic fact that the ego cannot know anything. The Holy Spirit does not speak first, but He always answers. Everyone has called upon Him for help at one time or another and in one way or another, and has been answered. Since the Holy Spirit answers truly He answers for all time, which means that everyone has the answer now. (ACIM-T-6.IV.3)
Copyright, © 2012 Rogier F. van Vlissingen. All rights reserved.