Weekly Questions and Answers, 10/13/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #593: Why do I feel like a failure when I try to apply the Course?
Q #594  Should I stop being concerned wiith my body?.

Q #595  Is it wrong to only want to be around like-mided, spiritually-oriented people?
Q #596  How can I take responsibility for what happens to me in the world?
Q #597: How did the resurrection establish the Atonement?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #593: I have a question regarding the process of A Course in Miracles. I have episodic rhythm disturbances of my heart. Not something real serious but enough that I have a cardiologist and am taking all kinds of pills. These episodes come and go every few days but over time seem to be getting worse. Whenever I get these arrhythmias I immediately get angry and frustrated because it is happening again despite my best efforts on the level of form to prevent them. However, I have felt at times, buried beneath the anger, a secret glee that I am suffering. As soon as this thought arises I can feel myself cringe and want to look away. I continue to try just to step back with Jesus holding my hand and look at my feelings and reactions and ask for help. I know Jesus can't take away my fear of dying or suffering but I pray for Him to help me with the conditions that have led to that fear. During those moments when I am most afraid I tend to drop Jesus' hand and run back to my old ego security blankets. Do you have suggestions to help students not to run away from Love, maybe even certain sections from the Course that might be helpful? Why do I feel like a failure at times when I try to apply the Course?

A: First of all, please remember to be gentle with yourself. Failure is an ego term -- it’s not in the Holy Spirit’s or Jesus’ vocabulary. So you know how much stock you can put in that judgment! You feel like a failure only when you’ve accepted the ego as your teacher. And that’s the only problem. And so the solution is to turn to a different Teacher. Jesus gently reminds us that we are simply unable to "distinguish between advance and retreat. Some of your greatest advances you have judged as failures, and some of your deepest retreats you have evaluated as success" (T.18.V.1:5,6).

Perhaps it would be helpful to realize that Jesus is not asking you to choose between him and your ego -- he knows you’re still too fearful to let go of the familiar supports. He only asks that when you become afraid of his love and go running to your "old ego security blankets" that you remember that he is still with you, smiling lovingly like an older brother who only wants to reassure you that the bogeyman you’re afraid of is just in your mind and isn’t real.

That you have allowed yourself to recognize the secret glee that you feel in your suffering is proof that your ego is no longer in complete charge. That you are afraid to stay very long with that recognition is not surprising, for it can lead us to question the ego’s purpose behind all those unfortunate and painful things that seem to happen to us, beyond our control. And as we begin to do that, our ego’s days are numbered. So please don’t be hard on yourself for your reluctance to stay with those thoughts. Simply trust that you will be able to, with greater ease, as you are ready. And the readiness comes from being kind to yourself and not from any effortful striving on your part.

Q #594: I realize that content is more important than form, yet in this dream of form, I have to have some form in which I appear; thus since duality is meaningless -- sickness/health, abundance/poverty, happiness/unhappiness, etc. -- is it wrong to desire one over the other while I'm on the road to awakening? While five years ago I was at the bottom of the barrel grovelling around with emotional sickness and also serious financial lack, the last thing I had time for was spiritual contemplation, but in the last three years I've found myself in a relationship where I didn't have to work, and consequently found A Course in Miracles and could spend five or six hours a day devoted to learning it. So choosing abundance and health has helped to speed me up the Atonement ladder. But now I'm wondering if I should stop consciously desiring these conditions and just focus on content of mind and not even concern myself with my body, my lifestyle, etc., and just know that as I heal my mind more and more, everything for my highest good will manifest anyway. Are we supposed to get to the point where not one thought we have is about anything concerning who we think we are in this body?

A: At the very top of the ladder, you know you are not a body, and you know the body is nothing; therefore, as nothing, the body would have no appeal to you at all. As you make your way up to that level, though, you never want to deny the physical and psychological needs you experience as real. On these intervening levels, duality is not experienced as meaningless, though intellectually you believe that it is. Therefore it is important to be honest about that, accept where you are in that respect, and not fight it. It would not be spiritually helpful to simply stop yourself from wanting your life in the world to be a certain way. That would lead you into sacrifice, which Jesus helps us realize is never loving. The concealed guilt in your mind is the problem, not your body or your lifestyle. That guilt would not go away just because you give up the desire to have a healthy body and financial security. It would not be reinforced either by your continuing to desire them, as long as you are willing to learn that they cannot give you the peace of God. You might also think of the abundance and health that came into your life as a reflection of a decision you made not to attack yourself any further. That would help you get in touch with the content in your mind and you would be less inclined then to regard health and abundance as something meaningful in themselves. As you make your way towards the top of the ladder, you would experience peace as who you are as God’s creation, and that that inner state has nothing to do with external conditions. But in the meantime it’s okay to still desire them. Judging yourself for desiring a healthy body and financial security is the only mistake you can make; and you can avoid that ego temptation by learning to smile at yourself and not making your Atonement path into something so serious. Gentleness and kindness towards yourself is always the best approach to take.

Q #595: As I get more and more into A Course in Miracles I find so many things meaning less and less: like being popular, being noticed for some achievement, being appreciated, or just being in other people’s company. I truly enjoy being by myself, studying the Course, working on healing my relationships in my mind rather than actually being with these people physically, with whom I need to work on forgiveness. Is this wrong and is it also wrong to want to be around certain people in the flesh, with whom I have more of a spiritual mind set, while at the same time knowing that I am one with everyone whether I connect with them on the physical level or not? I sometimes feel guilty, since I'm wanting to exclude certain people and situations from my physical space, and then I try to feel innocent again when I know that I'm one with everyone and everything in my mind space.

A: The key word in your question is exclude, and the key principle in solving your dilemma is the distinction between form and content. The defining characteristic of authentic love as Jesus presents it in the Course is that it is "all-inclusive." This is in sharp contrast to the special love of the ego that singles out certain people or groups as deserving of our love and forgiveness, as opposed to others who are not. But Jesus is always talking about the content in our minds, our attitude. He is not talking about form: what our bodies do, our behavior. You cannot be with everyone all the time; but you can be clear within your mind whether or not you are withholding love from specific people or groups, or are judging that spiritual people are better than those who are completely focused on things of the world. If you are judging some as better than others, then you no longer believe that the Sonship is one and are furthering the ego’s cause of making separation reality. You would also be caught in the trap of believing there is a hierarchy of illusions: that there is a meaningful difference between spiritually advanced people and non- spiritual people. A person on the top rungs of the ladder is just as illusory as a person on the lower rungs, because the ladder itself is illusory.

From another perspective, we all have preferences and limitations. That is normal within the dream of separation. It is not wrong or unspiritual to have preferences. Preferring to spend time with certain people is no different from having food preferences, music preferences, decorating preferences, and so on. As long as these preferences do not become a big deal, that is! If you have not made your preference into a big deal, you would not feel guilty. The key factor is what is going on in your mind: whether you are judging against certain people because they do not meet your criterion of "spiritual." If you are kind in your mind toward everyone, you would never experience conflict about whom you are spending time with.

Other students of the Course have had similar experiences -- see Questions #433 and #480.

There are many comforting passages in which Jesus reassures us that he is always available to us, awaiting only our invitation (e.g., T.19.IV.A.16:3,4,5,6; T.31.VIII.7,8,9,10,11; M.23). We leave you with passages from chapter 12 of the text and the epilogue from the manual for teachers:

Remember what was said about the frightening perceptions of little children, which terrify them because they do not understand them. If they ask for enlightenment and accept it, their fears vanish. But if they hide their nightmares they will keep them. It is easy to help an uncertain child, for he recognizes that he does not understand what his perceptions mean. Yet you believe that you do understand yours. Little child, you are hiding your head under the cover of the heavy blankets you have laid upon yourself. You are hiding your nightmares in the darkness of your own false certainty, and refusing to open your eyes and look at them.

Let us not save nightmares, for they are not fitting offerings for Christ, and so they are not fit gifts for you. Take off the covers and look at what you are afraid of. Only the anticipation will frighten you, for the reality of nothingness cannot be frightening. Let us not delay this, for your dream of hatred will not leave you without help, and Help is here. Learn to be quiet in the midst of turmoil, for quietness is the end of strife and this is the journey to peace. Look straight at every image that rises to delay you, for the goal is inevitable because it is eternal. The goal of love is but your right, and it belongs to you despite your dreams...

A little while and you will see me, for I am not hidden because you are hiding. I will awaken you as surely as I awakened myself, for I awoke for you. In my resurrection is your release. Our mission is to escape from crucifixion, not from redemption. Trust in my help, for I did not walk alone, and I will walk with you as our Father walked with me. Do you not know that I walked with Him in peace? And does not that mean that peace goes with us on the journey?...You do not walk alone. God's angels hover near and all about. His Love surrounds you, and of this be sure; that I will never leave you comfortless (T.12.II.4,5,7; W.ep.6:6,7,8).

Q #596: I experience myself as a victim of unconscious decisions made in the mind, because I definitely do not choose bad things consciously. If I have no contact with this unconscious decision-making mind, how I can take responsibility for what happens to me in the world? If I experience myself as body in the world, not as a mind, how can I look at something in my mind with Jesus?

A: It is difficult to accept that there is another part of us that we are not aware of that is the source of what we feel and what we do in the world. Yet Freud taught that many, many years ago, and that is what Jesus explains to us in many different ways in his course. In fact, one can say that that is one of the most important aspects of A Course in Miracles as a mind-training program. The lessons in the workbook, especially in the first part, are designed to help us begin to get in touch with this part of our minds. Lesson 5, for example, says we are never upset for the reason we think (W.pI.5). That means that something other than what we are consciously aware of is going on within us. And early in the text as well, Jesus tells us that if we are not feeling peaceful, we must have "decided wrongly" (T.5.VII.6:7) -- he is talking about a decision deep within our minds to reject truth.

In his teaching, Jesus makes it clear to us that the reason this part of our minds is unconscious is that we have intentionally split it off from our awareness so that we would not have to deal with all the guilt and fear we think is there, which would surely lead to our destruction, we believe. The ego told us that we would be much better off being mind-less, and so we followed that advice and then convinced ourselves that we are just bodies, not minds. But we are really minds choosing to believe we are not minds! The purpose of the Course, therefore, is first to help us realize what has happened, and then to help us regain the power of our minds to choose, so that eventually we would correct our choice to believe the ego rather than the Holy Spirit. We would then be at peace all the time.

What we need to do to achieve this goal is to regard everything in our lives as somehow reflecting the decisions we are making in our minds, for as Jesus tells us, the world "is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition" (T.21.in.5). Our lives, then, take on a whole new meaning as we shift our focus from external circumstances to the internal state they reflect. As we view our lives this way more and more (as classrooms), we would gradually be allowing ourselves to get back in touch with our minds. We need Jesus’ or the Holy Spirit’s help with this, though, because of the fear we have of looking within (T.21.IV). Fortunately, the healing process is not complicated, since there are only two choices we can ever make: to continue to believe that separation is reality or to undo that belief and accept once again the truth of our oneness as God’s Son. Every single thing we do or feel in the world reflects one of those choices.

The second part of Question #157 has additional commentary on the nature of the decision- making mind.

Q #597: A Course in Miracles states that "the crucifixion did not establish the Atonement; the resurrection did." I understand that the Atonement is the realization that nothing happened, that there was no split and that we are still part of God and always have been part of God. It is easy to see that the resurrection showed that the body was meaningless and could be "displayed" any time. Also the fact that God would give his only begotten son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world is such a ridiculous statement that it staggers the mind to believe that any intelligent person, for 2000 years, could believe this of a loving God.

What I do not understand is how the resurrection established the Atonement. Did not Jesus show many people that the body was nothing with all of his miracles particularly in raising Lazarus?

A: As you point out, traditional Christianity teaches that Jesus’ death on the cross atoned for our sins and reopened the gates of Heaven. God then raised him from the dead as proof that Jesus was the Son of God, and that his sacrifice bridged the gap that occurred between God and His children when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden of Eden. The Gospel account tells of the resurrection of the body and establishes that fact as a fundamental belief for many Christian sects. In the Course Jesus reinterprets both the crucifixion and the resurrection. He teaches that not only is the body nothing, but death is nothing as well. If the death of the body is nothing, the crucifixion could not accomplish anything. It is, as Jesus tells us in the text, only a teaching device (T.6.I.2).

The phrase you quote must be understood in terms of the principles of the Course’s teaching of the Atonement, and the content, not the form, of the historical resurrection. In this light the essential message of each is "nothing happened!" They both teach: "there is no death" (W.pI.163), "there is no sin"(T.26.VII.10:5), "attack has no effect" (T.12.V.2:2). In this sense Jesus’ resurrection, along with ours, is awakening to the awareness of our true Identity as God’s innocent Son, which the Course teaches is the Atonement. In the statement you cite, Jesus gives us the message intended in his resurrection. It is the message of the Atonement, beautifully expressed with Easter symbols in the Holy Week section of the text: "This week begins with palms and ends with lilies, the white and holy sign the Son of God is innocent. Let no dark sign of crucifixion intervene between the journey and its purpose; between the acceptance of the truth and its expression. This week we celebrate life, not death. And we honor the perfect purity of the Son of God, and not his sins" (T.20.I.2:1,2,3,4).

It is important to remember that Christianity teaches the resurrection of Jesus’ body, while in the Course Jesus tells us it is the condition of the mind when it accepts the Atonement: "Very simply, the resurrection is the overcoming or surmounting of death. It is a reawakening or a rebirth; a change of mind about the meaning of the world. It is the acceptance of the Holy Spirit's interpretation of the world's purpose; the acceptance of the Atonement for oneself" (M.28.1:1,2,3).