Weekly Questions and Answers, 01/05/2005

This week's questions/topics:

Q #650  What are some of the best references to the "decision maker"?
Q #651  How does the Course address the anger I feel about a past relationship ?

Q #652  Should I analyze ego thoughts, or should I just surrender them?.
Q #653  How can the thought-system of the Course ever enter a mind guided by the ego?

Chronological List of All Questions.
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Q #650: I would like to encourage my study group to address the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles. I thought one way to introduce it would be to find the references for the "observer" or the "decision maker" in the text. Could you give me perhaps five places in the text to study that would allow my group members to begin the process of watching their minds?

A: In a sense, the whole Course is about learning to recognize our ego, stepping back from it and observing it, and growing in understanding of what the consequences are of choosing it, so that we can make a different choice, for and with the Holy Spirit or Jesus (T.11.V.1,2). And it is only the mind that chooses to deny and hide or to look and release. Jesus in the Course is always addressing our minds as the decision maker, encouraging us to choose differently -- against the ego. Nevertheless, there are some sections and passages that perhaps make this important aspect of the Course’s teaching even clearer, and here are a few of them:

Very early in the Course, in the section "This Need Not Be" (T.4.IV.1-8), Jesus tells us that our state of mind -- our attitudes, our feelings, and our behavior -- reflect a choice we are making. And we can recognize that we are choosing the ego whenever we are not joyous, when we are sad, depressed, anxious, guilty. And yet, Jesus reassures us, for each ego feeling, this need not be, if we are vigilant in watching our mind "for the temptations of the ego" (T.4.IV.6:1). For our mind joined with Jesus’ mind can shine the ego away. The prayer in the closing paragraph of chapter 5 makes this same point very clearly again (T.5.VII.6).

In "Looking Within" (T.12.VII.5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15), Jesus further elaborates on the nature of the choice we are always making within our own minds that determines how we see the world and seem to be affected by it. He also addresses the fear that looking within arouses within us because of the guilt we believe is there.

Later in the text, in "The Responsibility for Sight" (T.21.II), Jesus again emphasizes the power of our minds in determining what we see and experience. Although at a deeper metaphysical level, Jesus is telling us that our own thoughts are literally the cause of everything we see, at a more practical, day-to-day level, we can understand this section as helping us to see that it is our choice how to see or interpret events in our world that determines our reactions to the events, and not the events themselves (T.21.in.1).

In "The Dreamer of the Dream" (T.27.VII), Jesus first describes how we see ourselves as innocent victims of the world. He then shows us that we can escape our suffering simply by looking upon the problem as it is - a choice we have made in our own mind for sin and guilt -- and not as we have set it up, so that it appears that we are not a mind but a body at the mercy of a world outside itself. Towards the end of the section, Jesus asserts, "You are the dreamer of the world of dreams. No other cause it has, nor ever will" (T.27.VII.13:1,2). He is encouraging us to understand that our perceptions of victimization are a deliberate attempt to see ourselves as a body rather than a mind, so that the decision in our mind behind our experiences remains forever obscure and therefore beyond examination or change. The subsequent section, "The Hero of the Dream" (T.27.VIII), further elaborates on this self-imposed, self-deceiving ruse, while disclosing that "the secret of salvation is but this: that you are doing this unto yourself" (T.27.VIII.10:1). This invitation to look honestly at what we are really up to with our ego requires often painful self-observation of our own internalized guilt, which we wish to see in everyone and everything but ourselves.

"Dream Roles" (T.29.IV) continues with the helpful metaphor of the dream, asking us to look at how our anger at others always reflects our judgment that they have failed to fulfill the role we have assigned them in our dreams -- meeting our own needs. And yet, at a deeper level, they have fulfilled the role we have given them, for they are now clearly the "cause" of our pain and unhappiness, rather than any choice we have made within our own mind for sin and guilt. The ego’s existence is thereby safeguarded. Again, the honest self-examination that recognizing these motivations within ourselves requires can be very painful, especially as we first begin to uncover them.

Near the end of the text, "The Savior’s Vision" (T.31.VII) asks us to look at the concepts we have made of both ourselves and of our brothers, including our belief that we are bodies that can hurt and be hurt and die. As we become willing to see that we and our brothers are the same and not different, we will no longer be invested in seeing ourselves as good and others as bad, attempting to purchase our own innocence at the cost of everyone else’s guilt. And the buried concept of a sinful and evil self that we hold of ourselves can then be exchanged for a self concept of gentleness and forgiveness, as we give the guilty self concept, which we have made on our own, to One Who is not deceived by the ego’s lies.

Q #651: One of the most prominent ways my ego defends itself against the Love of God is through obsessing about past relationships. As I've continued to study A Course in Miracles and viewed this situation as my specific forgiveness classroom, the viciousness of the ego thought system has increasingly come to light. While jogging yesterday, I had a visceral image of attacking and killing my ex-girlfriend, feeling that "she betrayed me" by moving on to another relationship and, therefore, will never give me what I want -- my innocence, which I believe she stole from me. I recognize that the thoughts about this relationship are a reflection of the ontological moment when I thought I killed God for what he would not give me. That being said, the intensity of the thought system still terrifies me.

I’ve looked at Question #377, which provides an outline of how I should practice forgiveness in the relationship. Would you comment on the dynamics of this special relationship and my fear of looking at it in terms of the metaphysics of the Course, and thereby how this relates to my relationship with God? Do you have any readings that specifically address the dynamics of special relationships you think would be helpful?

A: It no doubt can be unsettling, but nevertheless very helpful, to get in touch with the thought of murder at the foundation of every special relationship (T.23.IV.1:10,11). The thought is not so apparent in the earlier stages of the special love relationship when we believe we are getting what we want. But when our needs change, or our partners no longer seem to be interested in meeting our needs in order to have their own needs met in return, our "true" feelings can surface from the darker recesses of our mind. They have always been there, covered over with a facade of special "love" and "concern" and "care," as we want to hold on to the relationship, using the specialness in order to keep a lid on our own feelings of guilt and unworthiness (T.16.IV.3,4).

What a burden of responsibility we place on our special love partners, to keep the vicious hounds of guilt at bay! Eventually, they have to fail us in some way, and then we get what our ego really wants -- our relationship partner becomes a victimizer whom we can now hold responsible for our pain and fear (T.16.V.1). You’ve conveniently assigned your current ex-girlfriend that role for the present moment. As long as we continue under the direction of the ego, there will always be others to give the part of cruel betrayer, deserving only of death! The hope is that, once we begin to recognize the ego-reinforcing pattern of our relationships and the painful consequences to ourselves, we will be open to accepting a different Director for our relationships, Who will assign a different role to both ourselves and our partners, other than victim and victimizer (T.27.I).

It is not necessary to get in touch specifically with that thought of murderous assault on God for not giving us what we want, choosing then to seize it from Him and destroying Him in the process, which is the foundation of the ego’s thought system. Our brothers and sisters are more than satisfactory stand-ins for experiencing the same underlying content, which is all that matters. The rest is merely differences in symbols and our concern is only with the underlying source of those symbols -- the belief in sin and guilt. Our special relationships with each other were made to reflect the same dynamic as that original special relationship, but in a seemingly more manageable form. For the outcome, according to the ego’s story line, of our seeming attack on God is not His final demise but rather His return from the dead, hell-bent on retribution for our sinful choice against Him. The terror associated with that is overwhelming. And so the world and all of our relationships here are the defense against that terror. The defense includes holding others responsible for our pain and loss and fear, rather than looking within our own minds to uncover the choice we believe we made against love.

When we understand the underlying content that the special relationship is intended to defend against, it is not at all surprising that the resistance to looking honestly will be great. And that is why we do not want to look by ourselves alone but to remember to invite Jesus to be a part of the looking process with us. In fact, we really want to be able to look through his eyes or we will scare ourselves unnecessarily. If we attempt the undoing process on our own, we will believe there actually is something terrible -- the ego and its thoughts of attack and murder -- to be undone. Jesus knows better, not confusing illusion with truth, and that is why the looking process with him is so gentle. But we do first want to look at what we believe about ourselves so that, with Jesus, we can make a different choice about who we really are (T.11.V.1,2,3,4).

Some sections in the Course on special relationships, especially relevant to the issues you raise, include "The Illusion and the Reality of Love" (T.16.IV), "The Choice for Completion" (T.16.V), "Shadows of the Past" (T.17.III), "The Christ in You" (T.24.V), and "The Picture of Crucifixion" (T.27.I). These are not the easiest sections in the Course to read and personally reflect on so, again, be sure to invite Jesus to be a part of your reviewing process.

Webmaster note: See questions 71, 108213471

Q #652: From my study, I have come to learn that we must look within, at our thoughts. I have also come to learn that what we see as external is really a projection of what was first internal, and that our brothers can be seen as mirrors of ourselves. Is it necessary that we analyze the thoughts or do we just surrender them? For example, if I am envious of another, do I just look at the thought and "hand it over," or do I question it? e.g., Why am I envious? What is this a projection of? What does envy really mean? Have I given this to 'someone' else because I feel unworthy? etc.?

A: A Course in Miracles does not ask that we analyze our thoughts (See:T.15.X.5), but that we look at them carefully and question them. They show us the specific ways we are defending the ego’s choice for separation, and are choosing purposefully to make the world and the body real in our awareness. Looking at them honestly, therefore, provides us with very important information about the beliefs we hold about ourselves, others, and most importantly, God. Since one of the ego’s most effective dynamics is denial, being willing to look at its thought system is an important part of its undoing. That is why we are asked in the text to: "Bring …all [our] dark and secret thoughts to [the Holy Spirit], and look upon them with Him. He holds the light, and you the darkness. They cannot coexist when both of You together look on them" (T.14.VII.6:8,9,10). Looking with the Holy Spirit means looking beyond the thought to the purpose it serves. Hiding behind each thought is a decision to identify with the ego. Our thoughts show us everything the Course tells us about the ego’s strategy: its dynamics, its goals, its "laws," and its painful effects.

The questions you pose to yourself in the example of being envious are precisely what we are asked to do: "To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning. No belief is neutral" (T.24.in.2:1,2,3). Again, the important thing is to look and question with the Holy Spirit, which means looking with willingness to have the thoughts and judgments healed, rather than to prove that you are a miserable sinner. As the early workbook lessons tell us, our thoughts do not mean anything in themselves (W.pI.10). It is the importance we give to them by judging them as sinful and keeping them hidden which gives them power over us. In reality they have none. As you look closely at your judgments and feelings, such as envy, you will see the hidden beliefs you hold about yourself as unworthy of God’s Love. Every judgment projected on to others has its source in the deeply felt unworthiness that follows this mistaken judgment of ourselves. As we look, the revelations can be surprising and often painful, but until we are willing to look at every obstacle we have interposed between ourselves and God’s Love so they can be healed, we will not see the truth about ourselves nor our brothers. It is important to remember that Jesus invites us to proceed gently in this process: "We are ready to look more closely at the ego's thought system because together we have the lamp that will dispel it, and since you realize you do not want it, you must be ready. Let us be very calm in doing this, for we are merely looking honestly for truth" (T.11.V.1:3,4, italics ours).

Q #653: I live in the ego world and I know there is an internal light within that connects me to God. Yet in this ego world I always choose to listen to the ego from which there is no escape using the ways of the ego world. How did I ever find the light and how did A Course in Miracles come into my consciousness if my thoughts are always edited by the ego?

A: The Course could not have come into your life if you had not chosen against the ego. There is no other explanation. The part of your mind that is aware that you have chosen the ego is the decision-making part, which, as you know, can also choose to listen to the Voice in your right mind that reminds you that this world is not your home. It is unlikely that you have never had a truly loving thought, wouldn’t you agree? Jesus assures us that we are not totally insane, which means we always have access to the sane part of our minds. The problem is that, because of the dynamics of denial and projection, we have no direct awareness of what is going on in our minds, and therefore we have to reason backwards, as it were. For example, "I must have decided wrongly, because I am not at peace" (T.5.VII.6:7). We are not aware of deciding wrongly, but Jesus is saying that that is the only reason we are not at peace, and, as that series of important statements continues, he teaches that we can "decide otherwise," and that feeling guilty because of the wrong decision is not justified.

Thus, the fact that the Course is in your life means that, in one instant at least, you "decided otherwise." You must have been willing to listen to the Voice of Love in your mind, however surrounded by shadows that willingness may have been (T.18.IV.2). The internal light is always there, as you state, for there is a limit on our ability to miscreate (T.2.III.3:3), which means the ego can never entirely drown out that Voice of Love in our minds. The clarity will come as you trust the process more and more. The key is to remember that you always have a choice. That is Jesus’ plea in the closing pages of the text, and his gentle encouragement to Helen Schucman: "‘Choose once again’ is still your only hope. Darkness cannot conceal the gifts of God unless you want it so" (The Gifts of God, p. 117). So you must have decided that you want the light, or the Course would not be helping you.