Weekly Questions and Answers, 11/10/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #612  It is difficult for me to feel I love God. What is the solution?
Q #613  Is it wrong to have ideas, ambitions, etc?

Q #614  Are masculinity and spirituality mutually exclusive?.
Q #615  Is it normal to perceive strange bodily symtoms during meditation?
Q #616  If God does not know we are here, why did he give us the Holy Spirit as a way out?
Q #617i "It does not follow that you will not think you perceive something that has no meaning." What does this mean?
Q #617ii  What does it mean when you say "the relationship will fall away"?

Q #617iii Why must a teacher believe in the students?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #612: In the section "The God of Sickness" the first sentence states, "You have not attacked God and you do love him." Although I do believe in the teachings of A Course in Miracles, and this statement, I have difficulty in understanding, appreciating, accepting -- whatever word is appropriate -- that I love God. These are just words to me. Is the solution to love everyone I meet, see, or think of?

A: In the Course, Jesus is always addressing the mind, and in this case the right mind, which is the part of the mind that remembers God’s Love for His Son and the Son’s love for His Father. This passage refers to the true relationship between the Father and the Son that remains unchanged by the ego’s insane belief in the separation. It speaks of a love we have forgotten by choosing to believe we are separate from God. It is not saying that the individual who identifies with a body in the dream loves God. There is no love for God (or anyone) in this world: "The world was made as an attack on God. It symbolizes fear. And what is fear except love's absence? Thus the world was meant to be a place where God [Love] could enter not, and where His Son could be apart from Him" (W.pII.3.2:1, 2, 3,4). "Love" in the world is special love which is based on having our needs met by persons, objects, or events. (See: T.16.IV)

The answer to your question requires distinguishing between the two levels of teaching found in the Course. Level one reflects the truth of our oneness with God in the reality of Heaven. Passages such as the one you quote are level one statements; they reflect the changeless reality outside of time and space, and refer to our true Self. However, because Jesus knows we believe the separation has actually occurred, and we believe we are individuals in bodies, he also speaks to us on the level of our experience in the dream; level two. On this level our experience may be that we are "religious" or "spiritual" and therefore "love" God, or, as you mention, have no thought of loving God. Neither the "loving" nor the "not loving" is the love to which Jesus refers.

When the Course speaks of love it is always referring to level one; the love that belongs to the changeless reality of our true Identity as God’s one Son. We are not asked to learn this love, "for that is beyond what can be taught" (T.in.1:6). Therefore, trying to love everyone in the dream is not the solution, because not loving them is not the problem. The problem is believing the separation and its ensuing lovelessness are real, and the solution is healing the mind of this insane thought.

The way we get in touch with the part of our mind that remembers God’s Love for us, and ours for Him, is to recognize our fierce defense against this love, which shows itself in all the ways we separate ourselves from one another with our judgments. Whenever we become aware of any judgment, we have the opportunity to see that we have made a choice whereby we prefer to be separate in a body rather than one with God in His Love. Guilt over making this choice is then projected out to others in the form of attack: "If you did not feel guilty you could not attack [judge], for condemnation is the root of attack. It is the judgment of one mind by another as unworthy of love and deserving of punishment" (T.13.in.1:1, 2, italics ours). It is this thought underlying our relationships that needs to be transformed by the Holy Spirit through forgiveness. (See: Questions #59, #206, and #272.)

Q #613: I am new to A Course in Miracles, and have just begun reading/study. Is it wrong to have ambition, ideas for improvements, better ways to do things? In your job, at home etc.?

A: The Course teaches that nothing we do in the world is either right or wrong. The only "wrong" thing we do is making a choice in the mind to believe that the thought of separation is real. We then confirm this thought by believing that the world and the body are real. We are wrong about these beliefs. Though Jesus teaches us in A Course in Miracles that the separation never occurred (M.2.2:6, 7, 8) and the world does not exist (W.pI.132.6:2), he understands that we believe our experience in the illusory world is real. He tells us, therefore, not to deny our experience (T.2I.V.3:8, 9, 10, 11), but to allow the Holy Spirit to use it as a classroom whereby we can learn that we have been mistaken about who we are. We do this, not by changing our behavior in the world (form), but by changing the purpose (content) of everything in our lives, from the ego’s goal of separation and judgment to the Holy Spirit’s goal of healing our minds of the thought of separation. If we try not to have ambition, ideas, or any of the things with which we fill our lives, we are denying ourselves the very classroom the Holy Spirit needs in which to teach us. It is precisely these experiences of being "functioning" bodies in the world that are the learning tools for the forgiveness process. The goal is to have them transformed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us in the text: "The ego made the world as it perceives it, but the Holy Spirit, the reinterpreter of what the ego made, sees the world as a teaching device for bringing you home" (T.5.III.11:1).

Our first task is to recognize the ego’s purpose in our seemingly "normal" thoughts, daily activities, and most especially, our relationships. They are all designed to make our bodies and the world real, and to keep us rooted in the illusion of separation. It is very important in this process not to deny any part of our experience, and not to try to change it on the level of form. Doing so only makes it real, by convincing us that the form has real effects. No form can be the cause of any effect, because it is itself an effect, not a cause. It is the effect of a choice in the mind to believe the separation is real, as we stated earlier. This thought is what we are being taught to recognize, so it can be corrected. It is the one "problem" the Course speaks of (W.pI.79, 80).

Sensing that there is something wrong with our behavior, or with the ideas and values we hold, is very helpful. They are clues that part of the mind is aware that there is something wrong; only it is in our minds, not in the world. When we mistakenly believe that having a more comfortable financial situation, more status, better ways of doing things in the dream, will bring us true happiness, we want to remember that we are wrong, and ask the Holy Spirit to teach us what will truly make us happy. We may then pursue these ambitions, without expecting them to give or take away our peace and happiness, and most importantly, without judging ourselves as sinful for having them, since "The Holy Spirit can use all that you give to Him for your salvation" (T.25.VIII.1:1).

Q #614: I have been a student of A Course in Miracles for about 10 years. Does a man compromise his masculinity if he honors, or surrenders to the spirituality of the Universe? Can a man be a man in the world with Spirituality as his guide rather than the male ego? Recently, I have come to terms with what most people think of when they think of my personality....Mr. Nice Guy....too nice. I have to admit that growing up in a family with a dominating mom and a father who appeased her did not bring strong masculine traits to the forefront. Now, however, I am attempting to reclaim my masculinity with the hope that this does not mean I have to abandon the spiritual progress I have made during my study of the Course. I feel a man can be a man in the world and still honor love within and express it in a masculine way!

A: To answer your question, it may be helpful first to clarify that it is not part of the Course’s teaching and practice that we are to surrender to the Universe, to God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, or anyone else. In fact, the word surrender is never used in the Course, for it implies submission of one’s will to another’s, as if they are different and in conflict. The Course teaches that our will and God’s are one and that they are not in conflict (W.pI.74.1,2,3,4), although we have forgotten that and have made up an illusory will that seems to oppose God’s Will (T.7.IV.6:1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8). The ego would want us to believe that God requires surrender, for that means the ego is both real and alive. The Course process instead is one of releasing our own interpretations and judgments to the light of true forgiveness, where their meaninglessness can simply be recognized.

The Course would not have anything specific to say about whether you should attempt to reclaim your masculinity and become more assertive in your relationships with others, but there is no reason that those efforts would have to be incompatible with the Course’s teachings. It certainly is possible to learn to take a position on various issues and concerns in your life and set limits without attacking others. The Course in fact could be very helpful in supporting you in doing that in a nonjudgmental, accepting way with both yourself and others. The challenge would be not to apply your developing assertiveness in a rigid, rule-bound way, for then you would simply be trading one set of self-imposed restrictions for another. Instead, you would want to be able to identify any thoughts of fear or guilt, as well as any investment you may have associated with particular actions and outcomes that concern you. If you can bring those judgments to the Holy Spirit and release them, you will then be able to act with both confidence and kindness, for your ego will not be the source of your decisions.

The Course can also shed some light on why you have adopted the role of "Mr. Nice Guy" up until now in your life, which ultimately has nothing to do with dynamics in your family when you were growing up. It is simply one variation on what the Course calls the "face of innocence" (T.31.V.2), the ego’s attempt to present a non-threatening, guiltless face to the world in order to keep hidden what we each really believe about ourselves -- that we are the guilty murderer who destroyed love. Now that guilty secret is not really true either, but it is what we believe about ourselves, covered over by all our defenses. Until we can look directly at the self-accusation with the nonjudgmental, loving presence of Jesus or the Holy Spirit beside us and release it, it will operate at an unconscious level to sabotage all of our relationships, no matter how good and honest our intentions may seem to be. But as your mind is healed, you will find "the strength of gentleness" (M.4.IV.2) will be increasingly accessible to you in all your interactions with others.

Q #615: About three weeks ago I had a very unusual meditation. My heart started to race and beat very heavy. I was very scared. "I trust in you Holy Spirit, whatever is happening is okay", I prayed. I kept going and my body felt like it was expanding and contracting. Also, I became aware of my body as a fluid, not solid. This has happened four or five times since then. I feel very scared when it happens, but I think it is part of the process. Is this kind of thing normal?

A: Everything that our bodies seem to experience is a symbol of a thought in the mind, where the experience is actually occurring. And, as with all things that seem to happen to our bodies and in the world, what you are experiencing is neutral (T.26.VIII.3:7;T.28.II.10:6; W.pII.294) but your perception of it depends on which teacher you have chosen to interpret it for you. Because you have a split mind, it is possible, even likely, that you will vacillate between the two interpretations, shifting from fear to acceptance and back to fear again.

The ego’s interpretation begins from the premise that you are your body and anything that challenges its solidity and defined boundaries is to be feared, for it threatens you and the separate, individual self you believe you are (T.26.I.2,3). The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, begins from the premise that your reality is mind, not body, that the separation is an illusion and the body is not real, and anything that supports and reinforces that recognition is helpful (T.6.V.A.2,3). Quantum physics asserts that matter is not solid and that what we perceive as solid is nearly all empty space, but this kind of recognition, despite its widespread dissemination in our culture, is certainly not something that has been incorporated into our everyday consciousness yet.

The symbols that each of us experience in our lives are highly individualized, as is our learning curriculum (M.29.2:6). So whether, as you compare your meditation experiences with others, you find some who share specific experiences similar to yours is not really relevant. It is at the level of content that the experience can be universal, as all of us, in our own individual ways, are returning to the realization that perception lies and that the world and our seeming selves are not what they appear to be. So whether you continue to have your specific fluid meditation episodes is not so important as that you are willing to use them to learn that we truly have no solid grounds for making our judgments in the world (T.23.II.13:4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13) and only the gentle, accepting perspective of the Holy Spirit’s forgiveness makes any sense at all.

For some other Questions that address some of the various experiences encountered in meditation, you may wish to refer to #181 and #307.

Q #616: A Course in Miracles states that God has no inkling of our dreaming of separation from Him; yet it also makes it apparent in the Course that God gave us the Holy Spirit as a Bridge to lead us out of our insane beliefs. Why would God have a need to give us help from the Holy Spirit Whom He created for this specific purpose, if He didn't sense a need to help us and therefore know about this world and our agony in it, which would then make it real?

A: A frequently asked question, and a logical one! Once you discern how Jesus uses language in the Course and are able to distinguish between metaphorical meanings and literal meanings, the consistency of his content will become clear. It is also necessary to take into consideration the fact that the Course came, in part, to correct what it conceives of as the mistakes of traditional biblical religions, especially their portrayals of God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus. We have addressed these points previously in several other questions. Rather than repeat those replies, we direct you to them: #72, #116, #131, #328, #459, and #566.

Q #617: Three different questions from the same questioner:

i. Can you explain the following sentence (W.pI.13.1:4) "However, it does not follow that you will not think you perceive something that has no meaning." There are 3 negatives in this sentence which I do not understand.

A: The sentence means: you do perceive things that have no meaning. In the early lessons of the workbook Jesus is teaching us to distinguish between what has meaning (what exists) and what is meaningless (what does not exist). By choosing to believe the separation is real, we dream a dream in which we perceive the world and the body as real, and give them all the meaning that they have for us (W.pI.2). Nothing outside of Heaven has meaning because it does not truly exist. Since we cannot obliterate the part of the mind that remembers this, the choice against this memory causes intense conflict in the mind, which is experienced as fear and anxiety, as this lesson explains. The choice to give meaning to the meaningless puts us in competition with God as paragraph three describes. Fear that the meaning we ascribe to all things, including (and especially) ourselves, will be challenged, causes us to expend tremendous energy defending ourselves and our beliefs. This is the effect of our choosing to believe the world is real, thus perceiving things that have no meaning/existence.

ii. Regarding Question #377 concerning special relationships, what does it mean when you say "the relationship will fall away?"

A: In any relationship with people, objects, or events, healing occurs when the mind chooses to identify with the Holy Spirit’s Love instead of the ego’s thought of separation. Guilt and its projection are thus diminished, thereby transforming the relationship from serving the ego’s purpose of separation to the Holy Spirit’s purpose of healing. What then "will fall away" is the specialness. The relationship is initially marked by specialness needs due to the sense of lack that accompanies the choice to deny our true Identity by listening to the ego. This is true for all relationships. Through the healing process of forgiveness, relationships with persons become a classroom for learning that we have no separate interests. Relationships with other things "fall away" in the sense that they cease to be important. They are no longer sought after to fill the void left by the separation; having or experiencing them has neither a positive nor negative effect.

iii. In "Right Teaching and Right Learning" I would like clarification on the following: "a good teacher....must meet another condition; he must believe in the students to whom he offers the ideas." On one level, I understand Jesus is telling us he believes in us. How does this relate to someone teaching the Course? Does it refer to a non-judgmental attitude?

A: The Course tells us that in all our relationships we are both teaching and learning/teacher and student. The passage you quote is not referring exclusively to a teacher actually teaching the Course to students. It applies to each encounter we have with others. One of the most important goals of the Course is to teach us that we are minds with the power to choose, and are therefore responsible for our choice. This is the lesson we are asked to learn for ourselves and apply to everyone, whether or not they are students of the Course. It is the foundation of the forgiveness process, whereby we recognize that every experience in the dream, as well as every judgment concerning others, is the result of a choice in the mind to listen either to the voice of the ego, or the Voice of the Holy Spirit. The ego tells us we are bodies, and are guilty sinners deserving of punishment for believing this. The Holy Spirit tells us we are God’s innocent Son. What we choose determines what we believe about ourselves and others. We then teach it by the mere fact of believing it: "Remember always that what you believe you will teach. Believe with me, and we will become equal as teachers" (T.6.I.6:10,11).

When we perceive others as anything less than wholly deserving of God’s Love and ours, it is because we have believed the ego’s lie about our identity, judged ourselves as sinful, and believe the same about everyone else. We believe in students [others] by recognizing that they are not victims imprisoned in bodies; they are minds with the power to choose, just as we are.