Weekly Questions and Answers, 10/06/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #588: I fear leaving this world...
Q #589  What would be a right-minded way of using psychic powers?.

Q #590  What must I do to turn the search for a job over to God?
Q #591  Why must a teacher "believe in the students to whom he offers the ideas'?
Q #592: Is there any harm in praying to the God of my Baptist upbringing?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #588: I have always prayed to God for guidance and help. Today I'm thinking, if God did not create this world, He would not help me in this world. How do I pray? Do I ask to die? I really don't want to leave what I created, even though it is not perfect in any way, shape, or form. I still love my creations and extensions (do I call people in my life extensions?). When I turn to right thinking, I become terrified. I am afraid of Heaven! How crazy is this?

A: Your thinking is no more, but just as, crazy as the thinking of all the rest of us who continue to want this world to be our reality and fear our true reality. A Course in Miracles, by the way, would refer to everything we have made with our egos as our miscreations (T.2.VII.3:8.9,10,11,12,13,14,15). And it is not the self we believe we are here in the world that is responsible for miscreating. This individual self is just one of the miscreations of our split mind, which has seemed to fall asleep and dream of a world separate from God. So it’s not the self we think we are in the world that needs help, despite our experiences to the contrary, but the mind that is identifying with this illusory self and continuing to deny its real power to create by extending love, which has nothing to do with anything we seem to experience here in the world. So seeking the death of this illusory self we think we are would resolve nothing, for the death of an illusion does nothing to change our mind, which is the source of the illusion.

You are right in concluding that God has nothing to do with this world since He was not involved in making it. But that does not mean we are not without a Source of Help -- the Holy Spirit -- Who represents God’s Love for us while we believe we are here. It’s just that the true help He offers us is not about changing anything about our illusory world and our personal circumstances, but rather is a help for reducing our fears about remembering who we really are. And that help is called forgiveness, which simply is a process of acknowledging that we don’t really know what is going on, since we don’t even know who we are! And so Jesus says that "the only meaningful prayer is for forgiveness" (T.3.V.6:3).

Practically, this means that whenever we find ourselves wanting to judge a person or a situation or a circumstance, our prayer would simply be to ask for help from the part of our mind -- the Holy Spirit or Jesus -- that knows what the real problem is -- that we have fallen asleep and are dreaming of a world that has nothing to do with who we really are. And each time we do that, our fear lessens a little more, the world seems just a little less serious for this is the happy dream, our sleep is not quite so deep, and we become just a little more willing to hear the Call to awaken (T.5.II.10:4,5; T.27.VII.14).

Q #589: Before A Course in Miracles, I thought that psychic powers or abilities were spiritual gifts from God and that the good people used them for good things and the bad people used them for evil. The discussion in the teachers manual gives me more understanding but I still have some questions. Can you explain what exactly are psychic powers and how they work in relationship to our split mind and the body? And if someone is aware of having psychic abilities, how is it best to use them? I have a few psychic abilities and the Course says these are strengths the Holy Spirit wants and needs. I think I understand the ego traps one could fall into but could you give me some suggestions or examples of how one could use psychic powers for a holy purpose?

A: If you remember that the Course says we are mind, existing outside of time and space, and that all minds are joined, or are seeming fragments of the one split mind, psychic powers lose some of their mystery. The only reason we think they are so special is because we mistakenly believe we are bodies, part of the ego’s clever plan to keep us mindless (T.20.VI.11:1,2,3). Time and space are illusory constructs of the split mind that have been projected into an illusory world of form to keep us unaware of our minds and focused on the world and our bodies instead (T.1.VI.3:4,5,6; T.26.VIII.1:3,4,5).

Most psychic abilities involve accessing information that seems to be at a distance from where we see ourselves in time and space. But since time is not truly linear and everything in the split mind actually exists simultaneously (T.26.V.3:3,4,5,6,7), everything that has happened, seems to be happening now, or could happen in the future, is potentially available to each seemingly separate fragment. It is only a decision of each individual mind, often based on fear, that keeps all the information in the split mind from being accessible.

The body and the brain have nothing to do with psychic powers, since they themselves are nothing but the projected images of the split mind. Information about bodies -- past, present and future, dead or alive, born or unborn -- is simply information about the images contained in the holographic mind, whether or not they appear to be projected into the world of form at any particular point in time and space (T.28.I.5:3,4,5,6,7,8,9). The mind is holographic in the sense that the whole is contained in each part. So then, reading past lives, talking to dead friends, relatives, and spirit guides, predicting the future (always a probabilistic venture since there are always options at the level of form from which the mind can choose), having awareness of what exists or is happening at locations at a distance or invisible to the eyes, are all easily understood once we recognize the holographic nature of the mind.

Other less common psychic powers, such as psychic healing and altering things physically within the dimensions of time and space, that seem to "defy physical laws," simply involve the ability of the mind to access and project changes in projected images in the hologram without seeming to follow the conventional "law of cause and effect" in the world, which is illusory anyway (T.28.I.6:1,2,3,4). For it is always a decision at the level of the mind and not anything in the world that leads to changes in the world, but most of us are not in touch with that ego-based choice in the mind. If we easily allowed ourselves to recognize the power that rests in the mind, the world would soon lose its value as a defense, for we cannot be victims of a world that our minds control (M.5.II.1,3). And the ego’s only but hidden purpose for the world and the body is to convince us that our pain does not come from a choice for separation in our mind but rather from a world over which we have no control, which victimizes us despite our best efforts as bodies to protect ourselves.

So all psychic powers are ego-based, but we keep most of them out of conscious awareness because of their potential for challenging our belief in the reality of the illusion. The ego warns us of the dangers of psychic powers because its goal is to keep us mindless. But even if we discover we have such abilities, the ego will gladly provide interpretations of their "special" value that can minimize our recognition of what they mean about the mind so that we use them instead to reinforce our belief in magic, differences and specialness, as if they are special gifts divinely "conferred" on the special ones, as you once believed.

A psychic power has been given to the Holy Spirit for His use when we do not decide ourselves how it should be used. Anything that can help us to expand our perspective beyond the limited time/space dimension we seem to be restricted to as bodies can be helpful, provided we use it as a means and not an end in itself (M.25.3:5), as the ego would have us do, for then it becomes an object of specialness. As Jesus observes in the section on psychic powers you refer to: "Communication is not limited to the small range of channels the world recognizes. ... The limits the world places on communication are the chief barriers to direct experience of the Holy Spirit, Whose Presence is always there and Whose Voice is available but for the hearing. These limits are placed out of fear, for without them the walls that surround all the separate places of the world would fall at the holy sound of His Voice. Who transcends these limits in any way is merely becoming more natural. He is doing nothing special, and there is no magic in his accomplishments" (M.25.2:2,5,6,7,8).

The only way to be confident that we have offered such abilities to the Holy Spirit -- as with any talents we may possess -- is first to be honest with ourselves about the ego-based reasons we personally would seek to display them. These could include accessing information to enable you to get what you want for yourself, impressing others with your spirituality, offering help to others for their problems as you perceive them, and so on. When you can identify your ego investments, you are in a position to release them and will also be more likely to recognize them when they may once again tempt you to seek after specialness.

Any examples of the right-minded use of psychic powers must necessarily focus on the purpose and not the specific situation, since it is only ever the purpose that makes anything holy. And so a word of caution -- if you think you know specifically the purpose of what you may find yourself doing or saying, there is a good chance that your ego has stepped in and is directing the process. And that is not a sin, but it is not likely to be truly helpful to yourself or to anyone else.

And so sharing insights about someone’s past lives could help them release a judgment they may be holding onto in the present against themselves or someone they know. Providing information from a deceased family member may allow someone to know that they are not being condemned for something they did or failed to do. Anything that facilitates the process of forgiveness -- and you may have no idea yourself what that might be and in most cases would not -- would reflect having offered a power to the Holy Spirit for His use. Similarly, anything that allows someone not to take this life and the world quite so seriously or to recognize shared rather than separate interests, would be serving the Holy Spirit’s purpose of helping us to awaken from the dream of separation and sin.

Q #590: After several months of being unsuccessful, I have surrendered my search for a job to God and have asked for peace instead. Yet I feel very attacked by the ego which constantly tells me I am not good enough to find a job and I feel afraid. I have also asked the Holy Spirit to help me see this situation differently. Is there something else I need to be doing? I understand that God needs me to overcome the fear in order for a miracle to take place. Is this true?

A: You’ve got it partly right, but let’s see if we can help you get a little clearer about the process. You do not say what you mean by surrendering your search for a job to God, but strictly speaking, the notion of surrender is not a concept of A Course in Miracles -- the word is never used anywhere in the Course for it implies a battle in which we in the end allow our own will to be subjugated to a higher authority’s will. The Course, in contrast, leads us to the recognition that our separate will is an illusion and our true will is the same as God’s Will (T.2.VI.6:4; W.pI.74) -- we just don’t believe it yet.

In Course terms, a more helpful way to think about what you are describing is that you have decided to resign as your own teacher (T.12.V.8:3), which also means you are willing to dismiss the ego as your guide, accepting guidance instead from the part of your mind -- the Holy Spirit -- that knows that finding a job is not the real problem. Now you may not yet believe that, and the fact that you still feel attacked by your ego about your self-worth means its dismissal is not yet complete. But this is after all a process, so that should come as no surprise.

As for what else you want to do, your part is simply to continue to be aware of whenever your ego tries to step back in again and take control -- for its voice can seem to drown out the Voice for peace. This means recognizing all the feelings of anxiety, apprehension, anger, and alarm, which may seem to be coming from failure to find a job, but are coming from failing to carry out the only job assignment we have in this world -- forgiveness. And that means that we are taking ourselves and our attack thoughts seriously, whatever form they may take, whomever they may be directed against, including ourselves. And that’s the real cause of our fear, for unconsciously we anticipate retaliation, from God, for those attack thoughts. So bringing them into conscious awareness allows us to look at them and their source -- the ego -- and, with the Holy Spirit’s help, dismiss them back into the nothingness that is their source.

And that is the miracle. Notice that it has nothing to do with getting a job. Obviously, in practical terms, we all need to have a means of support for ourselves so we can address our physical, bodily needs while we believe we are here. But the process of doing that need not be fraught with fear. The fear, again, is only ever an indication that we have turned away from the Holy Spirit and put our ego back in charge of the process. And as soon as we recognize what we have done, we can change our minds by changing our teachers once again.

Q #591: I have been doing a lot of reading on the conditions for learning A Course in Miracles. What I am stuck on is: "A good teacher must believe in the ideas he teaches; but he must meet another condition; he must believe in the students to whom he offers the ideas" (T.4.I.1:4). To me this means that if I believe in this Course it then becomes an "idea" in my mind, and I teach this idea. I interpret the second part to mean: (1) Jesus believes in us and is teaching us; and (2) at the level of the world we are all teachers and students. If I (the Son of God) am doing the teaching, would the student be anyone I meet, knew (in the past), or will know (in the future), or those I just think about? And would this mean that we have given up all judgment of these students or everything? Or do we not know when we are teaching?

A: Jesus is saying that to be a good teacher, not only must you believe in what you are teaching, you must also know that your students are capable of learning, and that in a very real sense they are ultimately the same as you. If you believe in the Course, you teach more than ideas. Teaching ideas is a good starting point, but if the content behind the ideas is not at some point conveyed through you, then you are not really teaching it. This comes through in paragraph 6, when Jesus lovingly reassures us: "I will teach with you and live with you if you will think with me, but my goal will always be to absolve you finally from the need for a teacher" (T.4.I.6:3). In other words, he is inviting us to become like him so that eventually there would be no difference between him and us, and he asks that we do this with each other. So as you are teaching others the ideas in the Course, you are learning that, on the only level that counts, you are not different from those you are teaching: all separation is an illusion, which makes judgment meaningless. That is the content that would eventually be expressed through your words as your practice of forgiveness progresses. You do not have to be in a formal teacher-student setting to do this. We teach all the time because we are always "broadcasting" in some way or other the decision we have made in our minds to identify with the ego’s thought system of separation or the Holy Spirit’s thought system of forgiveness, and others are always "scanning" for a signal that will somehow tell them that they are wrong in their self-condemnation and the projection of that on to others through judgment.

Q #592: I have been a student of A Course in Miracles since the age of sixteen, but I am still having trouble releasing myself from the fear of hell that my over-zealous Baptist relatives imposed upon me when I was younger. I was taught to "pray" before I would eat a meal, and I find myself doing this every so often when I am stressed out, as if I was "sucking up" to God. Sometimes I find it easier to revert back to the rituals and idol worship when it seems my awakening is unattainable. My wife was recently deployed to Iraq, and even though I can contain the fear early in the day, later I start to feel overwhelmed and powerless, often performing the Baptist rituals out of desperation. It seems as if I am trying to communicate with two very conflicting ideas of God. What is the most effective method of prayer?

A: You express an experience common to many students who were raised with strong religious beliefs. You also have a lot of company in practicing rituals and idol worship, since that is the sum and substance of life in a body once the separation is taken seriously: "The world believes in idols. No one comes unless he worshipped them, and still attempts to seek for one that yet might offer him a gift reality does not contain" (T.29.VIII.8:4,5). Identifying with the body necessarily entails a vast array of rituals and idol worship in the form of physical, emotional and psychological care. Though not religious in nature, they are no different from religious beliefs in that they are used as substitutes for God and to defend the ego thought system based on the belief in separation. The underlying belief in our pursuit of comfort in rituals and idols, whatever form they may take, is that something external to the mind has caused our pain, and therefore something external can bring healing. It does not matter whether it be a prayer to a made-up notion of God, a favorite food, or a day at the beach. Having sided with the ego’s belief that the separation is real, we seek escape from the terrible pain of our guilt by hiding in the body and the world. Because we have made them our "friends," we think they will shelter us from pain and bring us peace. We are mistaken; they won’t. But we are not completely convinced, because our strong attachment to our beliefs makes it difficult for us to reverse them. That is why the Course is a gentle learning process.

It is no more a sin to say a little prayer to a god that doesn’t exist, than it is to relax with enjoyable music: "You do but dream, and idols are the toys you dream you play with" (T.29.IX.4:4).

The important thing is to be aware of the fear, that causes the stress, that results in the ritualistic behavior. It can be very helpful to see this dynamic in operation and to acknowledge to Jesus or the Holy Spirit that you are afraid, concerned for your wife’s safety, and unsure of what to do to feel better. That would be an effective prayer. If then you sincerely invite him to be with you as you say your "Baptist" words, or do whatever you find comforting, they will not make you feel guilty. More importantly, the part of your mind that knows they are not the real answer, and are not what you truly believe, will be strengthened.

You may find it helpful to read "The Song of Prayer," which is one of the Course supplements. It offers a very beautiful and comprehensive view of prayer in accord with the teaching of the Course.