Weekly Questions and Answers, 12/08/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #632  Does the current political and moral climate signify a "final stretch"?
Q #633  Why do we create multiple outer selves that seem to punish us?

Q #634  Should I feel OK about expressing my feelings about the Course in conversations?.
Q #635  How do I "do nothing" and not interfere?
Q #636  How many planes of consciousness are there?.

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #632: I am a part of the population who supported Kerry in this last election. The religious right seemed to have a big say in the re-election of President Bush. There appears to be a fear by many that we are losing our old-fashioned values, such as marriage, church, and God. Even in this dream we are living in, there are consequences for believing you hold the absolute truth and all others are wrong. Do you believe this could be the final stretch where fundamental Christianity in the U.S. finally takes its logic to cataclysmic results, and they will be forced to look deeper inside for the truth, as we are all trying to do, recognizing the ego's lies?

A: It is almost a truism that it is easier to see the egos in others than in ourselves, and what all too often follows is a sense of superiority for the greater understanding our recognition of others’ foolish egos would seem to imply. But all this does is play into the ego’s plan in our minds to keep the separation alive and real out there in the world. For it is the ego’s goal that we see others’ egos clearly so that we forget to look at our own, perhaps minimizing it or even denying its hold still on our own minds.

Now this is not to deny the facts as you present them, in the world’s terms. But possibly implicit in your question is the hope that others will use the probable effects of the seemingly disastrous choices we are making collectively as a nation as an eventual call to awaken. Perhaps that could be so, but still that would never be my concern in the present moment, when I have aligned myself with the only real Leader worth casting my vote for. For the choices the world seems to offer, no matter how different they appear to be, if I believe they really will make a difference, only mean that I continue to cast my lot with the ego. For there can be no hope in the world and to believe the outcome of any political election can make a difference in any real sense is to forget where the only real choice lies -- in the mind.

The polarization or split between voters in the United States so frequently described in the media these days and alluded to in your question is only an external projection of the split within our own mind. And nothing needs to be done about the seemingly unbridgeable gap between voters in their values and beliefs about what is important in the world. But as students of A Course in Miracles, we do want to take an internal inventory of every value we continue to hold (T.24.in.2), and question whether that value reinforces our belief in differences and separation, no matter how noble or seemingly inclusive the value may seem, if others are judged in any way for not sharing that value.

So if there is one lesson that can be taken from the recent elections, it is that we can hold it up to our mind’s eye as a mirror into the state of our own minds. For every reaction we have to something on the outside is in fact pointing to an area of hidden guilt within our own mind. And it is to those internal spots of seeming darkness that we can most fruitfully direct our attention, shining the shared light of forgiveness with the Holy Spirit, which allows us to recognize that we are truly the same as all our brothers and sisters, no matter what values we share or do not share.

Q #633: Why do we keep creating multiple outer selves that seem to punish us?

A: Because we’re insane but we don’t yet really accept that we are!

Your question suggests that you understand at some level that we create or, to be more accurate, miscreate the world and everyone in it, but that you can’t make any sense out of just why we would do this, considering what our experience in the world and in our relationships seems to be. And A Course in Miracles’ answer to your question is perhaps the major insight it offers that is not found in other spiritual teachings -- its explanation of the purpose of the world.

To understand that explanation, we need to be clear first of all that the miscreative "power" rests in the mind joined with the ego, outside of time and space, and not in the self in the world that we believe we are. For that self, along with the world and all the other "outer selves," is a projection of the ego mind, made for a very specific purpose that the ego wants to keep from our awareness.

We also need to be clear that the cause of everything we experience exists only in the mind and not in the world, contrary to what our experience seems to tell us. In fact, the world is an effect and not a cause. And more specifically, all the pain, guilt and fear, in whatever form we experience it -- physical, emotional, psychological -- is an effect of our choice for separation in the mind -- the cause (T.28.II.7,11,12). If we really perceived that cause-effect connection in the mind, we’d soon choose against the thought of separation and the ego’s days would be numbered. But the truth is we love the ego and its seeming gifts of individuality and specialness -- different words for the idea of separation -- and are willing to pay almost any price to keep those "gifts."

And that price is a grand self-deception. We want to see the cause of all our pain, guilt and fear as outside ourselves rather than as a result of our own choice in the mind, so that we don’t have to take responsibility for how we feel (T.26.X.4;5; T.27.I.1,2,3,4). And we avoid taking responsibility, not because of the guilt that the ego tells us this would force us to confront, but because our "ignorance" protects our concept of ourselves as separate, special individuals. To use this defense, however, we need a world and other bodies -- external to a separate limited and weak self that we can believe we are -- on which to pin the blame for how we feel. And so all of our relationships in the world ultimately have the purpose of shifting our focus away from the mind -- essentially making us mindless -- and to the external world, so that we never uncover the true cause-effect relationship in the mind. And we still have our individuality and specialness, but any pain or guilt or fear associated with that is not our own fault. In other words, we need others "to punish us" so we can hold them responsible for our pain and never have to look inside to the real cause of the pain. It’s insane, because essentially we are choosing to remain in pain and deny ourselves access to the only remedy for the pain. And we do not allow ourselves to remember what we are doing.

But the hopeful news is that, once we can begin to realize, however dimly, what we in fact are doing to ourselves, we have made a choice for a different way. And that different way will involve now using each of our "victim" experiences as an opportunity to recognize that we have simply sided with the ego once again and made a choice for separation, and then have tried to deny responsibility for that choice and its consequences. The resistance to this acknowledgment is great, but as we practice looking honestly at what we are doing without judging ourselves, the defense will become increasingly transparent. We are making a choice to be unhappy that has nothing to do with anyone else, but we have become experts at finding someone else to hold responsible for how we feel so that we don’t have to look any deeper. Over time, we will begin to see that, although we still may become angry and upset with others, it becomes more difficult to justify our feelings as we have in the past. And as this recognition grows, the investment in the anger and upset will recede. And we will see that all those other "outer selves" are really the same as we are, doing exactly what we have been doing, perhaps not in the same form but with the same content, calling desperately for love as they push it away.

Q #634: When I have a conversation with family or friends, it may become a real discussion in which we give our opinion about a particular subject. Since I am a student of A Course in Miracles, I feel insecure about giving my opinion, especially when mine is different from others. I realize that the separation is there. I am aware that I don't need to convince my friend. Should I keep my mouth shut?

A: This situation could be a wonderful opportunity for you to practice what you have learned. As a Course student, you never want to forget to be normal, and normal people express opinions. So you can approach your conversations as a kind of laboratory in which you are going to learn how to disagree with someone without perceiving yourself as separate, without judging, and without the need to be right. This will happen if you show your ego the exit door, and choose Jesus or the Holy Spirit as your lab director instead. You would then look forward to these occasions, and there would be less and less tension or conflict because you would have chosen the right teacher and the right purpose. "The Holy Spirit is the perfect Teacher. . . . 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.10:1; 11:1).

Q #635: You wrote this reply to a previous question: "As the Course reminds us clearly and repeatedly, our function is forgiveness. It is practiced by recognizing all the unloving thoughts and judgments we may have, asking for them to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. We then do what the Course invites us to do: ‘Step gently aside, and let healing be done for you. Keep but one thought in mind and do not lose sight of it, however tempted you may be to judge any situation, and to determine your response by judging it. Focus your mind only on this: I am not alone, and I would not intrude the past upon my Guest. I have invited Him, and He is here. I need do nothing except not to interfere’" (Question #418).

For me the above paragraph completely summarizes the entire message of A Course in Miracles. My question/problem/dilemma is: How do we "do nothing" and "not interfere"? To say, as Ken does, that we should concentrate upon "getting ourselves out of the way" is meaningless without some idea as to how. I suspect that if the above instruction from Jesus could be mastered, salvation would rapidly result. There would be, quite simply, nothing left to do! I just do not know how, in "practical" terms, to go about "doing nothing" and "not interfering."

A: Our own individual identity is so tied up in acting and doing with our body that we are likely to misinterpret what Jesus is asking of us here. He is not at all concerned with what our body may or may not do, since that is only ever an effect of thoughts in the mind. But he is very concerned with our mind (T.4.IV.2:9), for this is where all power to choose rests.

And so the answer to getting ourselves out of the way is actually contained in the lines you have quoted above: "It is practiced by recognizing all the unloving thoughts and judgments we may have, asking for them to be transformed by the Holy Spirit." This is our part -- to recognize our ego thoughts, which always involve our own interpretation of situations, based on our perception of our personal needs and whether they are being met. This would encompass nearly every thought we have during our day! And so that is where the challenge lies -- in recognizing those thoughts and then having the humility to acknowledge that we may be mistaken about what we need. For all of our thoughts of personal need are specific expressions of our decision to continue to make the past -- the thought of separation -- alive in our minds so that we believe that we are alone and lacking.

Now obviously, so long as we identify ourselves with our bodies, we will have needs, and we’re not being asked to deny them. But when we hold a thought that justifies anger, attack or upset when our needs are not met, or feelings of triumph and satisfaction when we get what we want, we are making an interpretation that actively interferes with the expression of the truth within us of Who we really are. So this is the kind of "doing" that Jesus is asking us to set aside within our minds, so that we can be open, unblocked channels for his love. When we have released all of our investment in the ego’s interpretations of who we are and what we need, salvation will be ours. And only our own resistance to letting go will delay its arrival.

Q #636: How many planes or levels of consciousness are there? All of us are familiar with the physical, since that's where we are focused, and many of us are also familiar with the astral plane, since it seems to be 'right next door', and it appears that we just bounce back and forth between these two states. But what is the significance -- within the illusion, of course -- of the mental and causal planes (and even other planes of existence way beyond these) spoken about by so many metaphysicians? Is there a hierarchy -- again, within the illusion - - of consciousness? Is finding our way back to God like climbing Mount Everest, where we have to establish several base camps in each plane of consciousness that we sometimes have to return to before we can reach our final destination?

A: However many planes or levels of consciousness there may be is not the concern of A Course in Miracles: "The structure of ‘individual consciousness’ is essentially irrelevant because it is a concept representing the ‘original error’ [separation] or the ‘original sin’ (C.in.1:4). The Course tells us our problem is that we believe the thought of separation that introduced consciousness (all levels and planes) in the first place (See:T.3.IV.2) is real. The goal of the Holy Spirit’s curriculum, as set forth in the Course, is to heal the mind of this thought. This healing is accomplished through the process of forgiveness, whereby the ego’s perception is replaced by the Holy Spirit’s. These principles are the foundation of the Course’s teaching and provide us with the steps we are to take if we choose it as our path back to God.

In studying the Course it is helpful to remember that whenever it refers to the body or the world it includes every aspect of each (including astral bodies, energy fields, consciousness, and planes of all types). They are all equally part of the illusion of separation, and are therefore not real. Jesus asks us some very unsettling questions in this regard: "What if you recognized this world is an hallucination?" (T.20.VIII.7:3) and "Is it harder to dispel the belief of the insane in a larger hallucination as opposed to a smaller one? (M.8.5:2) This greatly simplifies things for us. However, we have great resistance to learning this important message of the Course, due to our attachment to identifying with the body. One way to make the separation and the world real is to establish a hierarchy of values, by which we measure the worth of all parts of the illusion.(See:T.23.II.2:1,2,3) The mind that is addressed in the Course is outside of time and space, beyond all levels of consciousness, mental planes, or astral bodies. It is the mind choosing to identify with the Holy Spirit, Who represents the memory of God, that will enable us eventually to disidentify with every part of the hallucination.

In this process it is not necessary to unravel, nor travel the winding "circuitous routes" of the ego’s complexities: It is not necessary to follow fear through all the circuitous routes by which it burrows underground and hides in darkness, to emerge in forms quite different from what it is. Yet it is necessary to examine each one as long as you would retain the principle that governs all of them. When you are willing to regard them, not as separate, but as different manifestations of the same idea, and one you do not want, they go together" (T.15.X.5:1,2,3). This passage contains not only the principles that respond to your question, but important information regarding the process of undoing the thought that put consciousness on the map, so to speak. The thought of separation has taken a multitude of forms. We are asked to become aware of how we use these many forms to disguise this single thought, so we can learn that they are all the same. We use them all to prove the world and the body are real. The Holy Spirit uses them to teach us they are nothing and will never give us what we truly want. Learning to identify more and more with the Holy Spirit in our minds instead of with the body is what leads us home. The only camp we need to set up is in our minds. That is where we find the light that will dispel the darkness of consciousness and the separation that gave it birth