Weekly Questions and Answers, 02/23/2005

This week's questions/topics:

Q #678  Can you please explain the section about "Looking Within"?
Q #679  Is the journey back to our Father still certain?

Q #680  Would volunteer work be interfering with the Holy Spirit's plan ?
Q #681  I like to work as a hands-on healer, but is this wrong?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #678: Can you please explain paragraphs 3 to 8 in the section "Looking Within" in Chapter 12 of A Course in Miracles? (T.12.VII)

A: We are not able to comment on these paragraphs line by line because of space limitations, so we will highlight the main ideas. In paragraphs 3 and 4, Jesus builds on the first two paragraphs in the section, teaching us that the Holy Spirit is not a physical or tangible presence as a person, but that miracles witness to His Presence and to where and what He is. This is because miracles transcend "every law of time and space, of magnitude and mass" (T.12.VII.3:3), and therefore the source of miracles must be the mind, which is outside time and space, and specifically, the part of our mind that contains the correction for all the errors of separation. Prior to these two paragraphs, Jesus referred to the process of generalizing and learning thereby that "there is no order of difficulty in miracles" (T.12.VII.1:2,3). Miracles, thus, are not bound by any of the laws that operate in the world -- they cut across all of time and space, magnitude and mass. The Holy Spirit, as the source of miracles in our minds therefore transcends the world and its laws in every way.

Paragraph 5 is extremely important and is at the heart of what Jesus is teaching us throughout his course. It overturns completely what we usually think perception is all about; namely, that it begins with external stimuli affecting our senses. Quite to the contrary, Jesus instructs us, perception is a result of a choice our minds have made to manifest an internal thought system we have identify with: "You see what you expect, and you expect what you invite. Your perception is the result of your invitation coming to you as you sent for it.…Two ways of looking at the world are in your mind, and your perception will reflect the guidance you have chosen" (T.12.VII.5:1,2,6). This foreshadows the important principle: projection makes perception. We first look within, decide whether hate or love is real and then we project out what we have made real inside. Thus we expect to find hatred outside because we put it there; importantly, this does not mean that our decision is responsible for what other people do. This is solely about our internal experience. In that sense, we (as decision-making minds) invite either the ego or the Holy Spirit to direct our thinking. We will know which choice we have made by looking at what we are perceiving outside, because, again, what we perceive and make real outside is coming from what we first made real inside. The manifestation of forgiveness will be our growing perception that we all share the same interests, and so we will be less and less attracted to the one-or-the-other/kill-or-be-killed mentality: competition, comparisons, sacrifice, getting what we want at someone else’s expense. The manifestations of the rule of guilt in our minds will be perceptions of victimization, clashing interests and goals, insatiable needs, accompanied by feelings of anger, fear, triumph, etc. Note again that this is not about the objective forms in the world, but about our perception or interpretation of them. That is why Jesus says there are "two ways of looking" -- we can look at (perceive) the same form in two different ways, depending on the "guidance" we have chosen.

This is the basis for what next appears in paragraphs 6 through 8. In addition to reinforcing the principles of perception in paragraph 5, Jesus addresses the conflict in our mind’s seeking and its maladaptive solution to that conflict. The conflict arises from our decision to maintain our separation and our individuality (with all the guilt and self-hatred connected with that) and seek for love at the same time. But the two are mutually exclusive (love and specialness). So we attempt to be loving without sacrificing specialness, thus keeping the split, but suppressing it by appearing to have one goal, "the illusion of integrity" (T.12.VII.7:9): love. This internal split between the wrong mind (the thought system of hatred) and the right mind (the thought system of love), if not resolved in the mind, must get projected out, meaning that the good and bad will be seen outside, not within one’s own mind, where we always have the opportunity to accept the illusory nature of the wrong mind. The world, both personal and collective, will then be perceived as a battleground with ceaseless conflict between opposing forces. Thus, "good" people will seek to destroy those they think are evil, and feel justified, even divinely sanctioned in doing so. How many examples have there been throughout the centuries of condemnation and death conferred in the name of love? -- out of their love for God and Jesus, people have judged and killed others, the slaying of pagans and heretics by Christians being but one prominent expression. Martyrdom and sacrifice witness to the same projection: the pure and innocent suffer and die at the hands of the evil and wicked. The split within the mind is thus seen and dealt with outside the mind. Religions give voice to this in their teaching that suffering and death are both demanded and blessed by God. This is the love born of the mind that has chosen to keep separation real and seek for love at the same time. Separate, conflicting interests prevail.

When the conflict of wanting both specialness and love remains unresolved in the mind, our seeking after love will always be contaminated by our desire for specialness, which unfortunately means that more often than not we will think we are coming from love, when we are really driven by the selfishness of special love, as the examples above well affirm. That is the purpose of Jesus’ teaching: to help us recognize what we are doing so that we can heal the split in our minds, not continue to project it. Thus, in paragraph 8 he tells us, "when you want only love you will see nothing else" (T.12.VII.8:1). Nothing in the world may have changed, but when we have looked within our minds and have chosen against the ego, we will then perceive only love: shared interests, extensions of love or calls for love, without exception.

Again, if you want to know which teacher you have chosen, pay attention to how you perceive what appears to be outside you -- how you react to it. Perception is interpretation. Do you see evil and sin all around you calling out for the ego’s version of justice (punishment and vengeance)?-- or do you see frightened calls for love? Which you see will be determined by which teacher you chose inside.

Q #679: I have always enjoyed the whole idea that the journey, A Course in Miracles, the return to God, is not an if but a when. The journey is sure because once the idea of separation entered our minds, time "rolled out" and then the journey to return began with time "rolling up" along a path that takes us nowhere but back to our Father (ultimately, though the path is wide and offers room to wander). However, in the Epilogue (C.ep) I see for the first time in the Course an element of uncertainty; namely, "Our new beginning has the certainty the journey lacked till now." Further, the Epilogue hints strongly that we started this journey before and got lost…that it is an "ancient journey" leading to an "ancient door" that is held open by the "Holy of Holies." But for some reason, our path was not sure. I'm confused about this; can you please shed some light on this?

A: Take heart! It is still when not if. Jesus is speaking (singing, really) from where he is outside time and space, his vision encompassing the entire Atonement path. Symbolically, metaphorically, and with the use of biblical imagery, Jesus is telling Helen (and all of us) that in truth, nothing happened and we never truly separated from God: "Not one note in Heaven’s song was missed" (T.26.V.5:4), and so we have no cause to fear God; hatred has not triumphed over love; we are not guilty of unforgiveable sin. We may have tried different paths in other lifetimes, but our decision finally to accept his love (in the form of A Course in Miracles) will resolve our ambivalence completely, meaning we have at last accepted that "what is false is false, and what is true has never changed" (W.pII.10.1:1). The references to reincarnation are unmistakable, but from Jesus’ perspective, what appears to us as a linear process, a journey with multiple roads, paths, and detours, is really not that: it is all one to him. How impossible it is to use words to convey what transcends words and physical existence entirely! To us, it is a process in which we switch back and forth between the ego and Jesus, between judgment and forgiveness, but with the confidence that we cannot fail to reach our goal of peace (W.pI.131).

Until we recognized his message ("God’s Son is guiltless, and in his innocence is his salvation" [M.1.3:5]), we had followed the ego’s compromise approach: truth and illusion; love and fear; sin and innocence; spirit and body. The "new beginning," thus, is the commitment to awaken from the dream of separation and duality by resigning as our own teacher (T.12.V.8:3), gladly accepting that we have been wrong about everything, and gratefully allowing ourselves to be taught by our new teacher. That is what Jesus means by this journey, which may seem new, but is not, because we are simply denying our denial of the truth (T.12.II.1:5), and therefore accepting ourselves as God created us. We lost our way by substituting a false identity for our true Identity and wandering into a world of separation and individuality. Therefore, "the journey to God is merely the reawakening of the knowledge of where you are always, and what you are forever. It is a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed" (T.8.VI.9:6,7). In this sense, there is neither when nor if, because there is no temporal journey. We are "at home in God, dreaming of exile" (T.10.2:1). With this clarity of purpose, uncertainty is nothing more than a defense that will weaken and then dissolve completely.

Q #680: Jesus often says in A Course in Miracles that I am only to trust in my willingness. At various times I thought I couldn't have been more willing, but instead it seems I took the route of choosing a more vicious ego. I have understood since then, with your helpful service, that references like these refer to my mind (outside time/space). The same goes for Jesus' comment about the Course not offering practical advice -- what could be more straightforward than being told to ask for help. So again, since I thought I had asked for help before reading that, the only calm way I can understand it is that it is referring to metaphysical me. I need clarification, though, that waiting in faith that the answers will come is not ego-based itself. I have tried to make it in the world while having faith that my trying would come to be replaced with following the Holy Spirit. Obviously I wasn't willing enough, and now I can't even make it in the world. I have tried professional help, but it seems I would need Guidance to make that worldly decision now too as much as any other decision. To ask here is difficult, too, because the answers I know are simply to observe myself and to see what smokescreen my ego dynamics are serving and to turn them over.Your service has been helpfully calming, though, so I ask, Do I (try to) try again in my own way (I would probably pick somewhere to volunteer), or would this be interfering (and lead to another "failure")?

A: Jesus is always talking about the decision maker in the mind. This is not the Mind (capital M) of Christ, though, if that is what you mean by the "metaphysical me." It is the part of the split mind that can decide for or against the ego. Our experience is the direct result of that choice, which is why Jesus is always addressing the decision maker; there is no independent self in the world apart from the mind. That self is simply the projection of the decision maker; Jesus would not be talking to a projection.

The "little willingness" that he asks of us is the willingness to be proven wrong -- that our experience of separation, attack, and separate interests -- even our self-concepts -- are really misperceptions. When we side with the ego, we are saying: I am not as God created me! We do that by identifying with a self that is limited, imperfect, and always struggling to survive in a world of victims and victimizers. So Jesus tells us that "to learn his course requires willingness to question every value that you hold" (T.24.in.2:1). We need to bring our misperceptions to his truth, our darkness to his light, where they can be replaced with true perception. But we must first be willing to acknowledge that we have been wrong in how we have been perceiving everything. Then authentic change can occur. The change, though, would be in our choice of teachers in our mind, not necessarily in circumstances in the world. And that willingness need not be perfect, he assures us: "…be not disturbed by the shadows that surround it. That is why you came. If you could come without them you would not need the holy instant" (T.18.IV.2:4,5,6).

In view of this, how your life is going in the world cannot be used as a measure of your willingness to be led by the Holy Spirit or Jesus. The content of one’s mind cannot be judged by the form of one’s life. Jesus’ life in the world did not go all that well in the world’s terms; yet he tells us that his internal experience of peace never changed, and he asks that we follow his example in the trying circumstances of our own lives (T.6.I). Our lives, then, become classrooms in which Jesus as our chosen teacher can help us use all relationships and circumstances to get in touch with the blocks to that peace in our minds. They mirror back to us the thought system or teacher we have chosen in our minds, not by what is going on, but by how we perceive what is going on -- our internal reactions. Thus, as you commented, problems in our bodies and the world are "smokescreens" concealing the real conflict in our minds. They are a means of proving that we are right about ourselves and reality. That is what we must get in touch with, and why Jesus places so much emphasis on purpose. That is what he helps us with.

Professional help can be supportive of the process of letting go of your ego. A kind therapist could help you get in touch with some of the specific expressions in your life of the ego’s dynamics of separation, even though that vocabulary may never be used. It is not an easy process because of the layers of defenses we usually all have, and so a skilled therapist can be quite helpful in that regard.

Finally, do whatever you feel you would like to do; if assisting as a volunteer is appealing to you, then why not follow that? That is not the central issue. Your focus should be internal -- your willingness to be proven wrong about your self-perception, so that the truth about you can emerge from concealment. When you are joined with Jesus or the Holy Spirit in your mind, any situation or interaction (regardless of the form) can be a joyful one in terms of its purpose: another opportunity to release the pain of separation and accept the peace of an identity of love shared by us all. As that remains your focus more and more, you will depend less and less on things going well externally in order to be happy and peaceful. And that in turn means that your (your mind’s) identification with the body will lessen as well -- even as you continue to attend responsibly and maturely to its normal needs.

Q #681: I frequently ask the Holy Spirit to guide my life and purpose, which seems to have coincided with offers to work as a "Healer" (hands-on or touch therapy). My aversion to participate in these forms of "healing" is that as a student of A Course in Miracles, I understand that only the mind needs healing and that the body, and sickness for that matter, are illusions. I also understand that I cannot offer healing to/for others. However, in my quest for answers I came upon the manual for teachers and its references to the "patient" of the teachers of God (M.5,6). What does this mean? Is it really just as simple as accepting healing for my own mind and then just knowing that that has transferred to all of my brothers? If so, why the word "patient," as if there is someone outside myself to focus healing upon?

A: It really is as simple as you describe, as Jesus explains in Lesson 161: "One brother is all brothers. Every mind contains all minds, for every mind is one. Such is the truth." But he continues: "Yet do these thoughts make clear the meaning of creation? Do these words bring perfect clarity with them to you? What can they seem to be but empty sounds; pretty, perhaps, correct in sentiment, yet fundamentally not understood nor understandable. The mind that taught itself to think specifically can no longer grasp abstraction in the sense that it is all-encompassing. We need to see a little, that we learn a lot" (W.pI.161.4). Therefore Jesus must use our language and our experience of duality and specifics as the starting point of a process that will end with our sharing his vision of oneness. Our experience is that we live in a world with other people, relating to them in various ways. We all find ourselves at some time or other in the presence of someone who is sick or suffering; so Jesus is teaching us how to approach these situations in a truly helpful way. In the Psychotherapy pamphlet, he does this in the specific context of the therapist-patient relationship.

The heart of this process is our learning to focus more and more on the purpose of what we do, and that there is no hierarchy of illusions -- there are no degrees of truth among them (T.23.II.2,3). This means that there is nothing unholy in the world, and certainly nothing holy either. Thus, "hands-on" or "touch" therapy is no different from anything else in the world. The purpose for which it is used is all that is important for one’s spiritual progress. The Holy Spirit can use anything we made (all forms of individuality and special relationships) to help us unlearn what the ego taught us and learn His lessons instead: that we all share the same interests and in that sense we are not different in any meaningful sense. That objective can be achieved in any role in the world: parent, healer, patient, attorney, musician, fire fighter, astronaut, etc. A very liberating approach! An aversion to a specific form of the illusion means that you believe some illusions are worse than others -- a favorite means of the ego to validate separation and keep us away from the content in our minds.

So, yes, you are correct about the nature of the healing process according to the Course; but remember that because you still think you are specific, healing must take place in a specific context. The specifics of your life are the classroom in which you learn to undo your belief in separation. "The Special Function" is an especially helpful section to read in this regard (T.25.VI). Don’t lose sight of the form-content distinction. It is not what you do that matters, but the purpose for which you do it. If you were to engage in touch therapy, for example, you could use that form to learn the content that you and your patient are not separate and that you both believe you left Heaven; you both have the same wrong mind, the same right mind, and the ability to choose between them; you both long to return to God but are afraid that you will not be welcomed back and will be punished instead. In this sense, you would not be there to give your patient something you have that he lacks, which is how the ego would have you think of your purpose, and how others and your patient might see it. All that is important is what is going on in your mind, because that is where both the mistake and the correction are, as well as the Help.