Weekly Questions and Answers, 11/03/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #608: Should I feel guilty if I don't want to be with other people?
Q #609  How does "Multiple Personality Disorder" fit in with the concept of the ego?.

Q #610  What is meant by "Ideas leave not their source"?.
Q #611  What are the implications of trying get what I want through vizualization?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #608: i. I don't love everyone I meet. I try, but then I feel like a liar inside because I know I am being phony. Then I think maybe I should try to love myself (I don't love me either right now). The kinds of things that make me feel better are things that do not include anyone else (drawing, for example). I have found since reading A Course in Miracles that I am less and less comfortable around people, especially judgmental people. I will say things I wouldn’t ordinarily say just so I fit in. And if I don’t say anything, they think something is wrong. It is so much easier being alone. This leads me to think I am not really loving myself and am catering to my ego, because if I were loving myself, then I would want to be around lots of people and I would love all my brothers. I make up lies now so I don't have to be around my family. I have forgiven them (tried) for the way they hurt me in the past, but I am still hurt, so I must be lying about forgiving them.

ii. I don't want to do anything or go anywhere since I have gained a lot of weight. I feel like perhaps God wants me to be like this and love people anyway, but I don't want to be around other people. I feel guilty for wishing I were thin again and for hating my body. Maybe my real lesson is to learn to be as comfortable with myself fat as I am when I am not fat. I feel like I am betraying God because I do not love myself the way I am now.

A: Many people feel the same kinds of things you have been feeling, both in terms of finding it harder to be with other people than to be alone, and in hating the way their bodies look. It is not uncommon at all, and, like you, these people make the same mistake of feeling guilty because they feel that way. If you think about how we got to be individuals in this world, it would make sense that we would find it hard to love others, and even ourselves, and that our bodies would be a huge source of conflict for us.

To state briefly what requires a lengthy presentation, Jesus explains in his course that in our minds we all carry with us the thought that we (as one Son) chose to reject and then leave the presence of Perfect Love in order to exist as separate, special individuals (an illusory thought, of course). Our existence in this world thus began with an act of selfishness and an abhorrence of oneness, not caring that our existence was acquired at another’s expense. We immediately judged what we did as hideously sinful and deserving of punishment. There followed a whole series of dynamics culminating in our experience of ourselves as vulnerable bodies amidst a multitude of other vulnerable bodies, all seeking to preserve -- by whatever means is necessary -- their specialness as individuals. We have no awareness of ourselves as decision-making minds desperately trying to protect ourselves from the overwhelming guilt and fear in our minds (which hides the love in our minds) by focusing exclusively on our lives as bodies in the world. As we all know, we are faced with one problem after another needing our attention, and that is the ego’s purpose for the body -- it wants to keep us from ever suspecting that we are something else, and that our bodies and their problems are a defense against the truth of who we are. It is not surprising therefore that our relationships with one another are fraught with tension and conflict, and that our bodies make us crazy because they never seem to be what we want them to be. That is why we are here! (See summary 5 "What Is the Body?" in the second part of the workbook -- W.pII.5.)

So the most loving and gentle thing you can do for yourself is to simply acknowledge all of this, and not be surprised or alarmed that your life and your body are the way they are. They are fulfilling the ego’s purpose of keeping you alone and separated, in conflict, and without peace -- and always looking to something external as the cause of it all. If your body’s appearance causes you to want to stay away from people, then that is the ego’s secret purpose behind your weight gain. Just know that you have chosen as your own the ego’s purpose of maintaining the separation. What’s new about that? Everyone who believes he or she is alive in this world does the same thing! The Course helps us realize, however, that there is another purpose in our minds that we can choose in place of the ego’s, and that is the Holy Spirit’s or Jesus’ purpose of forgiveness. We can ask for help to use our body and our relationships to serve the purpose of awakening from this dream of separation, and the key to that shift is letting go of judgment, especially judging yourself for your limitations and imperfect forgiveness. All you need do is bring those judgments of yourself to the kind presence of forgiveness in your mind, where they will disappear in the light and love that reflects Heaven’s perfect Oneness. And forgive yourself if you feel you are not ready for this.

Jesus tells us that the miracle "merely looks on devastation and reminds the mind that it is false" (W.pII.13.1:3). That is the gentle approach of the Course. We just bring what appears to be the devastation of our lives to the presence of love in our minds, and we will then learn how not to judge our life or take it so seriously, because it is the false, meaningless identity the ego made, not the invulnerable, limitless Identity that God created. There is no need to change it or fight against it. We do not have to force ourselves to love everyone, or to pretend that we do. Jesus just asks us to invite him in to look with us at our hateful thoughts and our wanting to exclude certain people from our lives: "Forgiveness . . . is still, and quietly does nothing. . . . It merely looks, and waits, and judges not" (W.pII.1.1,3). If we are looking with Jesus, we will not feel any guilt, and if we do feel guilt, then we should look at the guilt with him. Being in your right mind simply means looking at your wrong mind without guilt or judgment. The unloving, judgmental thoughts towards others are not the problem. Feeling guilty about them is the problem -- just as the "tiny, mad idea" that we could separate from God is not the problem, but taking it seriously and then feeling guilty about it is. Guilt gives the separation a reality, and it will always lead to projection and then attack. There is no way out of that vicious cycle unless you stop and ask for help to look at your guilt, and then accept Jesus at his word when he tells you that you are never justified in judging yourself that way. It is true that you will never be at peace if you are unloving, but that is not cause for self-hatred and guilt. You need only join Jesus in smiling gently at the silliness of it.

Finally, love is never about form -- quantity or numbers. The content in your mind should be your focus. You can spend time with one person or be by yourself, and at the same time know that you are excluding no one from your love; you are not loving one at the expense of another.

Q #609: I am interested in how multiple personality disorder (MPD) fits in to the concept of the ego. To my way of thinking, it would be an ego that is splintered in some way. Also, is it possible for a person to experience MPD as a result of traumas in past lifetimes?

A: The ego is the thought of splintering and dividing off. The mind of the Son when he seemed to fall asleep and dream a dream of separation was (and still is) one mind. But as part of the defense against the guilt and terror in the mind over having destroyed love and fearing retaliation for his sin, the Son’s mind seemed to splinter into billions of seemingly separate little fragmentary minds, in order to hide from God.

The following lines from "The Substitute Reality" (T.18.I) in A Course in Miracles present this idea: "Fear is both a fragmented and fragmenting emotion. ...You who believe that God is fear made but one substitution. It has taken many forms, because it was the substitution of illusion for truth; of fragmentation for wholeness. It has become so splintered and subdivided and divided again, over and over, that it is now almost impossible to perceive it once was one, and still is what it was. That one error, which brought truth to illusion, infinity to time, and life to death, was all you ever made. Your whole world rests upon it. Everything you see reflects it, and every special relationship that you have ever made is part of it" (T.18.I:3:3; 4). And so each of us could be considered one of the personalities in the Son’s multiple personality disorder that has resulted from the splintering of the initial thought of fragmentation or separation (this relationship has been discussed previously in Question #165).

If this process can produce what seem to be separate individual minds, as we each experience ourselves, each identified with a single body (or multiple bodies across different lifetimes), there is no reason that the process of splintering could not also produce multiple personalities split off from one individual mind that seem to share the same body. The Course makes it clear that the mind is not in the body (e.g., T.27.VIII.7:1; T.28.II.2:8; W.pI.167.6:1,2,3) -- the body is nothing more than a projection of the mind. So a fragmentary mind further fragmented into multiple personalities can project a single body with which the multiple fragments all identify.

It may seem as if events in the life of the body are the catalyst for the splitting process in MPD, but those events are really only specific symbols for the fear and guilt in the mind that seemed to result from the initial insane idea of separation. And so it is not really events within one lifetime or from past lifetimes that would cause the splintering, but rather the traumatic initial attack on love which they remind the mind of, which triggered the defense of further separating or splintering within the split mind. And all the splintering happened in that single instant of attack, at which time the separation was also healed. So now all of us are only choosing to bring into mind again what is already over (W.pI.158.3,4; M.2.2,3).

And healing, whether we speak of MPD within an individual mind or the mind of the Sonship as a whole, will be the same -- a reintegration back into the one mind of the seemingly separate fragments that have believed they exist in isolation with independent existences. As part of the process, the illusory nature of the seemingly separate fragments is recognized and they are released, no longer needed as a defense against the guilt and the terror in the mind. Those diagnosed with MPD will sometimes express sadness or fear over the impending loss of some of their personalities. This reflects the same fear that we all experience that the self we identify with and call by our given name will disappear when we truly forgive. But when we have reached that point in our forgiveness process, we will no longer be identified with this false, illusory self, and we will realize we are giving up nothing (T.16.VI.11:1,2,3,4)!

Q #610: Please explain "Ideas leave not their source." I'm having a hard time understanding it.

A: A Course in Miracles twice refers to this principle as one of the basic or central thoughts in its teachings (W.pI.156.1:3; W.pI.167.3:6,7), so it’s good to understand it. It’s a foundational thought in understanding both the Atonement principle and the process of forgiveness.

In the Glossary-Index for A Course in Miracles, Kenneth Wapnick restates this principle as "an idea cannot leave the mind that thought it." So at the level of Heaven, this means that we, as Ideas or Thoughts created, or thought, in God’s Mind (T.6.II.8:1,2), cannot separate from Him -- the separation cannot happen. We must remain as Ideas in the Mind that thought us -- we cannot leave our Source. Another way of thinking about this is that if God is All That Is and there can be nothing outside Him, then we can not be anywhere except where He has placed us, within His Mind. This is the basis for the Atonement principle, which asserts that the separation never happened (T.6.II.10:5,6,7,8; M.2:2).

Now the ego, which is the illusory thought of separation, would like us to think differently, and the body and the world are what it offers as proof that we are indeed separate from our Source. And certainly our experience is that there is a world external to us that operates on each of our separate bodies, independent of our own thoughts. But the Course, drawing again on this principle and applying it to the Son’s seemingly split mind, asserts otherwise. The thought of separation, and the guilt that the ego tells us must accompany it, cannot leave the ego mind that thought them. The ego’s plan to escape guilt by projecting it outside the split mind is a doomed venture, for our desire to see guilt outside of ourselves constitutes an attack, both on ourselves and on what or whom we want to see as outside ourselves, which only serves to reinforce and maintain the guilt in our own mind, and not escape from it.

To help us understand how something which seems so very real and separate from us can still be within our mind, Jesus uses the metaphor of the dream to describe our experience in the world (T.10.I.2,3; T.18.II). Certainly, when we are asleep at night, dreaming, we seem to be a body, and a world seems to exist separate from the self in the dream we think we are. But that is only because our mind has mistakenly identified ourselves with one specific figure in the dream, to which the rest of the dream world seems external. And yet, upon awakening, we recognize that the self we thought we were and the world in which that self moved and all the other figures in the dream were all contained within our dreaming mind -- the ideas of which we were dreaming never left their source in our mind. There was nothing outside our mind, external to us, despite what our experience while we slept and dreamed seemed to be. Our waking world, Jesus tells us, is no different (T.10.I.2). Although it appears to be outside, it has never left its source -- the guilt over separation within our split mind. And this is the basis for the Course’s process of forgiveness.

For if all the other figures in my life who seem to attack me in various ways and cause me pain are really nothing but projections of the guilt that has never left my own mind, then I am not really needing to forgive anyone but myself. And my brothers, who only seem to be outside of me, are simply giving me the opportunity to get back in touch with that buried guilt in my mind, which I have made them symbols of.

Now, even with an intellectual understanding of what the Course means and how this process works, our resistance to putting it into practice is going to be tremendous. That resistance, for example, would explain why you would have found yourself having such difficulty understanding what the phrase itself, "Ideas leave not their source," means. For it turns our whole world upside down and inside out, or perhaps more accurately, outside in!

The gentle steps that Jesus is leading us along do not require that we accept totally what he is teaching us here, but only that we have the humility to acknowledge that perhaps our interpretations of what seems to be happening to us are mistaken, and perhaps we will be happier acting from a recognition of shared interests with all our brothers, rather than from separate, competing interests. For, in the end, we will each come to realize that not only are we and our brothers the same, but we are one. And so, to quote another Course principle that depends on this one as well, "All that I give is given to myself" (W.pI.126).

Q #611: When I was fifteen, I started a "want" list because my mother told me that she had read some wild claim that if you just wrote down what you wanted and read it a few times you would get "it." I tried it and it worked on almost everything I put on paper and focused on. Over the next 30 years I added other "ways" of getting what I wanted to this secret my mother had told me about. I have been studying A Course in Miracles for 18 months now and I have much more clarity about the power of the mind to create and miscreate. But having studied and learned how to use the power of my mind to attract "things" to me for so many years without having all the truth, I have a couple of questions. Is the ego threatened when we learn about visualization or how to "create" whatever we want through a variety of practices? Or as long as we are miscreating things to keep us more identified with the world, does the ego care? And can you tell me where we visualize or make pictures in our head? Is it strictly a function of the brain or is the mind involved?

A: In one of the clearest statements of the process you refer to, the Course says in Workbook Lesson 325, "All things I think I see reflect ideas":

"This is salvation's keynote: What I see reflects a process in my mind, which starts with my idea of what I want. From there, the mind makes up an image of the thing the mind desires, judges valuable, and therefore seeks to find. These images are then projected outward, looked upon, esteemed as real and guarded as one's own" (W.pII.325.1:1,2,3).

Although beginning to recognize the power of the mind to choose and control its projections can be threatening to the ego, for it suggests that the world does not operate according to the "laws" we generally have believed and we are not simply its effect, or victim, the ego is always very clever at giving any of our experiences its own special interpretation.

In particular, so long as we continue to believe that it is this individual self that we identify as ourselves, living in time and space, who is mastering these techniques, the ego has little to worry about. We think we are making "pictures in our head" and that our brain is somehow involved, but that is all merely part of the ego’s delusion to keep us mindless, that is, unaware that our reality is truly mind and not body. But because of the ego programming that we have all very willingly accepted, we allow ourselves to be easily deceived about where such powers reside and how they are accessed, never realizing that our minds are literally miscreating the entire world, and not simply the specific parts of it that we believe we can master to meet our specific personal needs. The Course’s metaphor of the dreamer is helpful in understanding this. With our sleeping dreams at night, it is not difficult to recognize, when we awaken in the morning, that it is not the figure in the dream that has any effect on the events in the dream. It is our mind as the dreamer, and it is making up the entire dream world (T.18.II.5), and not simply certain aspects of that world. And similarly, with our waking dreams, it is the split mind of the Son, of which we are all a part, that is producing the entire illusory world.

As you mention, so long as our purpose with such techniques is to meet our perceived needs and remain identified with this self and the world, we remain hooked on the ego’s way of thinking. Only by an honest evaluation over time of whether our mind’s ability to project certain forms to meet our self-identified needs is really making us happy will we come to recognize that we are not. For the underlying premise behind the use of such techniques is always the belief that we have needs, which means something is missing or lacking in us, which unconsciously reaffirms the thought of separation in our mind and the accompanying guilt (T.1.VI.1,2).

Jesus’ purpose in having us recognize the power of our mind to make up a world is not so that we can make up a better world. Rather, he wants us first to accept responsibility for our experiences so that we do not continue to perceive ourselves as victims of a world outside us. We will then be more willing to turn to a different part of our mind to be in control of the process -- the Holy Spirit, Who helps us learn what we really want. With the choice of a different Guide through the illusion, Who teaches us our only need is forgiveness, we will begin to take the gentle steps from sleeping and dreaming to awakening to our true reality as spirit, in which there are no needs.