Weekly Questions and Answers, 09/08/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #568:  Why does the concept of the separation and the dream seem so illogical?
Q #569; 
If I accuse someone of attack, why does that imply I also must have attacked?

Q #570:  Is it loving to stay with an alcoholic spouse ?
Q #571:  Why did Jesus not see a "beautiful" world ?
Q #572:  If prayer does not "fix" this world, why does prayer seem to heal sickness?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #568:The answer to #390 says that "A Course in Miracles teaches that once you seem to have a thought of separation, you are outside the Mind of God . . . Consciousness . . . all predicated on the reality of a self . . . are outside the Mind of God. They are illusory . . . so they can not be contained within His reality -- nor ours, as His undifferentiated Son . . ." I have (at least) two questions:

1) I, as the undifferentiated Son, cannot even seem to have a thought of separation. So, who is this "I" that seems to have the thought of separation (even though he may not even have such a thought)? To whom does it seem that he does? It seems to mean that the dreamer and the dream arise as one, together, where the dreamer is part of the dream itself, that the dreamer himself is an illusion -- that is, that since the dreamer is an illusion, does not exist, that the fact that he dreams or even seems to dream is an illusion; that is, that the illusion itself does not exist, is an illusion. That is, to say that both the dreamer and the dream which includes the dreamer is a contradictory statement and thus has no meaning; that is, it itself is an illusion.

2) If one claims that something is an illusion, then that something cannot be in the Mind of God. Thus, the ego, et al, is an illusion, does not exist and is not in the Mind of God. Thus, it is true that the ego is an illusion. But the fact that it is an illusion is itself not an illusion, since then the ego would exist. Thus the illusion is real -- the ego does not exist. Thus, although the ego is not in the Mind of God, it must be that the illusion, being true, and thus real, must be in the Mind of God, since all that is true, and therefore real, is in the Mind of God.

A: Our answer to your questions is founded on the guidelines Jesus presents in the Introduction to the clarification of terms at the end of the manual: "This is not a course in philosophical speculation, nor is it concerned with precise terminology. It is concerned only with Atonement, or the correction of perception. The means of Atonement is forgiveness. . . . The ego will demand many answers that this course does not give. It does not recognize as questions the mere form of a question to which an answer is impossible" (C.in.1:1,2,3; 4:1,2). The message of the Course cannot be grasped through the use of logical reasoning alone, and it cannot be made to fit into categories that assume the reality of time and space. The source and content of the Course transcend discursive reason entirely. While logical reasoning may be a useful and necessary beginning, it cannot divulge the content of the words in the Course, which Jesus says "are but symbols of symbols" (M.21.1:9). It is necessary somewhere along the way to recognize the uselessness of all human structures for achieving the goals of the Course. Many mystics, paradoxically, have written about experience that is ultimately ineffable. There is no conceptual/linguistic system that can adequately express what is beyond all subject-object dichotomy: the immediacy of pure oneness; "a oneness joined as one" (T.25.I.7:1). "Oneness is simply the idea God is. And in His Being, He encompasses all things. No mind holds anything but Him. We say ‘God is,’ and then we cease to speak, for in that knowledge words are meaningless" (W.pI.169.5:1,2,3,4). While these statements are of profound metaphysical interest, the reader has not connected with their content if they do not resonate with an internal state, however dim that may be. Recall that the Course came in response to the request of two people to find a way of relating to people that got beyond hostility and divisiveness. It did not come as theological, metaphysical treatise, although its discourse is on a sophisticated intellectual level. The unmistakable implication of much of what is said in the Course, however, is that discursive reasoning is a defense against the truth, and therefore can be an interference. This, even though the Course is replete with compelling "arguments," and one might justifiably object that this answer has done the same. We are to use its words and logic, in a spirit of humility, to get beyond words and logic. Similarly, Jesus says of time: "It should be emphasized, however, that ultimately no compromise is possible between everything and nothing. Time is essentially a device by which all compromise in this respect can be given up. It only seems to be abolished by degrees, because time itself involves intervals that do not exist" (T.2.VII.5:10,11,12). As all students are aware, the exercises in part I of the workbook rely heavily on clock time -- but only as part of Jesus’ program of thought-reversal, not because time is real. This training leads to the restoration of our minds to the state of complete abstraction, "the natural condition of the mind" (W.pI.161.2:1).

And, finally, Jesus reigns us in, protecting us from harming ourselves even further by reminding us, "You are still convinced that your understanding is a powerful contribution to the truth, and makes it what it is. Yet we have emphasized that you need understand nothing" (T.18.IV.7:5,6).

Q #569: In Kenneth's commentary on the Text of A Course in Miracles (Chapter 12), he states the following: "I interpret your attack on me as unjustified, which secretly means I know it is justified because I attacked you first, in my mind." Would you please clarify this dynamic?

A: Any interpretation our mind joined with the ego gives to external circumstances inevitably implies a belief in its opposite as well, because the ego thought system is a dualistic system predicated on the belief in opposition. Whatever we experience consciously is only half of the oppositional "whole" that the ego has split apart through projection to make differences and attack real. And so we do not recognize that the two halves are really the same (T.6.II.1,2,3; T.27.II.12,13,14).

Because of the dynamic of projection, I can only see attack in you if I have first seen it within myself. In fact, metaphysically, you exist solely as the projection of my attack thoughts so that I do not have to accept responsibility for them myself. My anger at you for your "unjustified" attack is merely the defense against the unconscious guilt over my self-accusation that I am the attacker, deserving of punishment and attack in return. The paradoxical nature of the ego thought system is such that whatever I protest most vociferously about against you is always a projection of what I secretly believe about myself -- that is always the case, with no exceptions (T.6.in.1). And that is one of the uncompromising teachings of the Course that makes it so difficult for students to accept, if not in principle, certainly in practice.

In reality, from the Holy Spirit’s perspective, neither ego interpretation -- about you or about myself -- is true. The Holy Spirit does not take sides but rather first helps us to recognize that both halves are the same -- my brother and I are one. And then He dismisses both interpretations as false because they are based on the faulty premise that separation, differences, and attack are real (T.5.VI.10; T22.VI.12,13; T.27.II.15,16). In other words, the oppositional "whole" of the attacking ego is an illusion, so no matter how it is sliced, nothing real or true can follow from it.

Q #570: I've been married for eight years and during this time my wife has been drinking on and off and sometimes using pills at night. I believe she is an alcoholic. Recently we had a baby girl. I'm thinking of leaving so my child will not be subject to this behavior and I would have left already if it wasn't for our new baby girl. We have been going to counseling but it seems we just keep going over the same old issues. Since reading A Course in Miracles I'm not sure what is the right thing to do. I'm not sure when the Holy Spirit speaks to me or what would be the most loving thing to do. Can you help me with this?

A: Our lives present us with many dilemmas for which it seems critical that we make the right decision so that we don’t make mistakes with serious consequences and can minimize the pain and suffering for ourselves and others. And from the world’s perspective, this concern for choosing the right alternative seems eminently reasonable. But the Course turns the "logic" of the world upside down and invites us to take a very different approach to our problems (T.27.VII.1,2).

The problem is not the external relationship and its conflicts. The problem is that we have defined for ourselves the parameters of the conflict and the possible solutions for which we seek guidance. And our approach to the situation, by focusing on the external relationship, ends up excluding ourselves from the only meaningful solution (W.pI.79). I can only experience conflict with others when I am identified with my ego, and that identification is the problem with which I need help. In other words, the Holy Spirit’s only purpose is to help me heal the unforgivenesses in my own mind that are being projected onto the external situation. Once I have accepted that help, which has nothing to do with the other person or persons, then I will simply know the most loving and peaceful action to take to address the external situation. But so long as I keep my focus on the relationship with others and am not willing to look at my inner conflict, I am asserting my unwillingness to be open to the real solution.

So, in practical terms, what does this mean in terms of the specific relationship with your wife that you describe? You would want to begin by looking at all the judgments you may be holding onto about your wife, the ways in which you see her as somehow responsible for your unhappiness, the investment you have in wanting her to be different from how she is before you can accept her. This is an internal inventory of your thoughts and feelings and it has nothing to do with any decision about separating or staying together. The goal is simply to acknowledge the judgments you are projecting onto her and then to ask yourself whether you would accuse yourself of these same things (W.pI.134.9). Not that the specific actions will necessarily be the same, but you want to get to the underlying meaning or content. Are you accusing her of being irresponsible, unavailable, unwilling, thinking only about herself, etc., and could that ever be said about you? The truth is, we could never be upset at someone else’s actions or inactions if we didn’t first believe those things about ourselves. And that is where the healing is really needed, to get in touch with and then let go of the guilt in our own mind so that we don’t need to project it onto anyone else.

Now this is not to deny or excuse or justify any of your wife’s shortcomings. But you want to release yourself from the self-condemnation so that you can release her from any condemnation as well. Through this process of forgiveness, you would then come to recognize the fear underneath your wife’s defenses, and the call for love in both of you (T.12.I.3,4,5,6,7). From this place of acceptance and peace, you would recognize the most loving next step for all of you. And whether you and your wife separate or remain together, you would be able to act without guilt or attack.

Several earlier questions, #11, #43, and #77, on hearing the Voice of the Holy Spirit, may also be helpful to review.

Q #571: A Course in Miracles teaches that the world I see is the world that I have projected with my mind. It also says that once all illusions have been brought to the Holy Spirit for forgiveness, I will see a beautiful world, not unlike Heaven. Jesus reached this state, but the world he was seeing was still one in which he was nailed to a cross and murdered, hardly representative of the "real" world referred to the Course.

A: When the Course speaks of the real world it is referring to the content of the mind, rather than the physical world seen with the body’s eyes. As you point out, Jesus saw the actions of those who crucified him and saw himself on the cross, but he knew these things did not mean anything because he did not identify with the body. While the ego tells us the crucifixion is the height of victimization, Jesus calls it a "useless journey" (T.6.I.2:60). That is the view from the real world; it does not mean wearing rose colored glasses, changing what the body is doing or feeling, or being surrounded by physical beauty. Knowing who he is as God’s innocent Son, Jesus sees only wholeness and does not see himself as a victim. He is defenseless because he knows he cannot be harmed, and he is therefore free to see things as they really are. Thus, not mistaking illusion for truth is what constitutes the real world. Since what is illusion has no effects, the events of the illusory world are seen as meaningless. For students of the Course this is accomplished through the Atonement process, in which every relationship is transformed through forgiveness. The real world escapes us as long as we cling to our identity with the body, and choose to believe that the world holds something (anything) that we want. "The real world can actually be perceived. All that is necessary is a willingness to perceive nothing else" (T.11.VII.2:6,7).

When a choice is finally made to accept only the true perception of the Holy Spirit, which is a choice not to believe the ego’s lies about who we are, the seeming pain and terror of the world as the body sees it will disappear from awareness. Thus is the goal of learning accomplished; love replaces fear completely and the real world is attained. It is this awareness of love’s presence that is not unlike Heaven, and precedes it in our experience: "Perceiving only the real world will lead you to the real Heaven, because it will make you capable of understanding it" (T.11.VII.3:9).

Other related Questions: #17, #28, #34, #80, #97, and #296.

Q #572: I have been studying A Course in Miracles for several years, but I am still perplexed by some things. Recently there was a news program describing the benefits of prayer on healing the body. It was one of the "so called double blind" studies where neither the participants nor the controllers knew which patients were being prayed for. But the study proved that the group being prayed for improved dramatically over the patients not being prayed for. What I don't understand is, what is going on here? If God does not work in this world and the Holy Spirit or Jesus does not heal the body in this world, how can this be happening to such a degree that people believe that they are healed by prayer. I understand the ladder of prayer in the "Song of Prayer" pamphlet, and it appears that this is asking out of need, the lowest level of prayer. Is this just another ego trick or am I missing something here?

A: Without getting into the irrelevant issue of whether or not the specific study reported was "good science," drawing sound conclusions from empirically sound research design and procedures, we’ll assume the validity of the findings for the sake of discussion. From the Course’s perspective, the improvement of bodily symptoms is always the result of the mind’s own decision to bring about physical change in its projected bodily form (M.5.II.2). God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus have nothing to do with physical recovery. And no other mind brings about the change -- it is only ever the result of the willingness of the patient’s own mind. Whether or not, as part of the research design, information about who is praying for whom is conveyed to the patients is irrelevant, since minds are joined and it is only at this level that any kind of communication takes place. And as to whether these findings are an ego trick or the result of right-minded release of guilt through an experience of joining really depends on the mind of each individual patient -- either avenue to the release of bodily symptoms is possible.

For more on the relationship between prayer and healing, you may wish to refer to Question #385.