Weekly Questions and Answers, 03/23/2005

This week's questions/topics:

Q #694  Is the Course true? Does it even matter?
Q #695  If a mind were free of guilt, how could any request be perceived as "outrageous"?

Q #696  Questions about conflicts between study-group members.
Q #697  How can I apply Course principles if I have an overwhelming sex-drive?
Q #698  What is meant by "you have allowed the ego's goals to come between the real alternatives"?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #694: Is A Course in Miracles true? And does it really matter? Now, I'm aware of the teaching that we must believe everything the Course teaches one hundred percent, presumably, for it to then be able to deliver upon its one and only promise. But does it matter whether or not any of it is actually true?

A: The short and simple answer to your question is: the Course is part of the illusion and therefore, cannot be the truth: "Nothing unreal (anything outside of Heaven) exists"(T.in.2:3). On the other hand, its content, which is a loving message from Jesus, our teacher who represents the part of the mind that remembers the truth, is a reflection of the truth. The Course is also "true" in the sense that it accurately describes for us the dynamics of the ego’s insanity, tells us we have been mistaken in choosing to believe the thought of separation, and teaches us how to undo this thought through forgiveness. On some level, we recognize that the Course’s teaching is right about our ego shenanigans, and, most importantly, we resonate to what it tells us about our true Identity as God’s innocent Son. In other words: "it rings true." This explains why we find ourselves in the Course, especially in poignant passages that express what we have always sensed but have been unable to articulate: "This world you seem to live in is not home to you. And somewhere in your mind you know that this is true. A memory of home keeps haunting you, as if there were a place that called you to return, although you do not recognize the voice, nor what it is the voice reminds you of. Yet still you feel an alien here, from somewhere all unknown" (W.pI.182.1:1,2,3,4,5; italics ours).

If we choose the Course as our path, we would do well to ask ourselves what part of its teaching do we suspect is not true. Perhaps a close examination of our doubts about the Course will reveal that when in doubt, we are actually disbelieving the whole thing. Though we may try very hard to keep the parts we like, and discard those that make us uncomfortable, we do, in fact, throw the baby out with the bath water. As you mention, Jesus tells us in the text: "This course will be believed entirely or not at all" (T.22.II.7:4). This is because the mind holds only one of two possible thoughts. It chooses either the ego’s thought of separation or the memory of God’s Love, symbolized by the Holy Spirit. In the same section he goes on to say: "Reason will tell you that there is no middle ground where you can pause uncertainly, waiting to choose between the joy of Heaven and the misery of hell. Until you choose Heaven, you are in hell and misery" (7:7,8). We can at least agree that if there is a Heaven/God, this world is not it. If what is not Heaven/God is hell, it follows that this is hell. Moreover, if Heaven/God is true, this world/hell is not true. That is what we do not want to hear, because our greatest fear is that what we believe about ourselves (that we are bodies in the world) is not true. From this fear comes our resistance to accepting the Course’s teaching, which takes the form of doubts about its veracity. On some level we know that our baby (specialness, the body, the world) will have to go out with the bath water. We cannot drag Heaven into hell, we cannot make the illusion true, and the separation cannot be real. These are all variations of the same theme: "…truth is true"(T.14.II.2:1), whether we believe it or not. It is this simplicity of the Course’s teaching that we find hard to believe and to accept: "…Nothing is so alien to you as the simple truth, and nothing are you less inclined to listen to. The contrast between what is true and what is not is perfectly apparent, yet you do not see it" (T.14.II.2:5,6). Apparently Jesus thinks his message is true, so it may be a good idea for us to take his word for it. Ultimately the truth reflected in the Course will come to every mind in some form: "There are many thousands of other forms, all with the same outcome" (M.1.4:2). Jesus speaks his message to all of us: "We speak today for everyone who walks this world, for he is not at home… The home he seeks can not be made by him. There is no substitute for Heaven" (W.pI.182.3:1,5,6). Thus, it is the world, and the ego that made it, that is not true.

Q #695: This is about your answer to Question #465 regarding T.12.4. A Course in Miracles teaches us that the world is a reflection of your mind ("the outside picture of an inward condition" [T.21.in.1:51), why would someone ask a highly enlightened being to do something outrageous? Does that mean that someone like Sai Baba could never be asked an outrageous question? Second, if my mind is free from guilt then how could someone even ask for something "outrageous." A guilt free mind wouldn't reflect guilt even in the form of a question. I thought that when you "get it" it won't even show up. That is why I find this to be contradictory of the teaching of love or fear, light or dark; if they are polarities then how could love and fear be present at the same time

A: First, Jesus is directing this teaching to unhealed minds, those that are still projecting guilt. A guilt-free mind, as you say, would never attack or feel attacked. Within the dream, a healed mind could be the object of an attack by someone else, as was the case with Jesus who perceived that others were attacking him, but did not himself experience it as an attack. It could be for a teaching purpose that a healed mind would choose to be in that kind of situation.

As an example of what Jesus is teaching, let us say that you insist that I go to the store to buy something you need. I immediately lash out at you and angrily refuse to go, saying, "That’s outrageous! The nerve of you to insist that I go to the store for you. Go yourself, and quit bothering me!" Jesus is talking about that kind of extreme reaction to another person’s request. If I had switched from my wrong mind to my right mind, I would not have judged your insistence that I go to the store for you as outrageous, and then attacked you in return, for I would have recognized what you were really asking for: to be saved from your self-hatred and fear of punishment by God for your "sin" of separating from Him. You were asking for love, and I would have responded with love to that request by my inner peace and non-opposition. The specific form that love would have taken would not be of concern to me; that is, I would do what you asked or not do it. There would have been no sense of being imposed on or deprived of my own needs. That is what Jesus means in saying "no ‘outrageous’ requests can be made of one who recognizes what is valuable and wants to accept nothing else" (4:8).

Jesus is helping us to become clear about "the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of salvation" (5:3). Your insistence that I go to the store means that you believe your salvation lies in getting what you want. My forceful opposition would mean that I believe salvation lies in my not giving you what you want. That is the problem Jesus is identifying in this kind of interaction. I, as an unhealed mind, have simply forgotten that my salvation as well as yours lies in the power of our minds to choose against the ego and for the Holy Spirit’s thought system of forgiveness.

Q #696: We host A Course in Miracles study group. Recently, someone approached me, imploring me to let them attend our Friday night group, and I agreed. One of the original members of the group was vehemently opposed to letting the new person in. This person cited the Holy Spirit as her guide and said she felt that it would ruin the intimacy of the current group. This is not the first time that the Holy Spirit has been used to defend a position and I remain confused. I am having a hard time forgiving this group member for insisting on this type of control, yet I am constantly reminded of my own control issues and feel frozen as to what to do. My search for help from the Holy Spirit keeps guiding me to confront this member of the group with honesty and compassion but I can't tell if I'm doing this so I can have my way. Can you offer guidance that can get my head on straight? I am open to your being the voice of the Holy Spirit for me since my ego is being particularly loud at this time.

A: Before you can get any kind of clarity about what would be the most kind, loving and helpful way to respond to this situation for everyone involved, it is helpful first to remember that whatever we experience as the outcome of any decision we make must be what we want. In the Course’s own words, "I choose the feelings I experience, and I decide upon the goal I would achieve. And everything that seems to happen to me I ask for, and receive as I have asked" (T.21.II.2:4,5). And so if conflict is what we seem to be experiencing, it can only be that conflict is what we have chosen. And the seemingly external situation is never the cause of the conflict. The choice to see ourselves as separate from love is. The so-called problem in the world, no matter how holy or important the issues may seem, is only there to distract us from the underlying problem in the mind and to convince us that the external situation is what needs our attention. But so long as we keep the focus outside our mind, our ego will be the architect of the solution, regardless of how appropriate and kind the form of the intervention may seem. For we will not have addressed the guilt in our mind that is fueling the conflict.

Now this is not to say that the other group member’s invocation of the Holy Spirit as the authority behind her opposition to your decision is justified. All of us are looking for a celestial ally to support our ego-based choices. But if you see yourself as the one who needs to offer correction to your brother or sister’s ill-conceived opinions, you will have fallen into the ego’s favorite trap of making the error real, preferably in someone else, as if there were truly something serious that needed fixing (T.9.III.6). The inner work of releasing our own guilt by recognizing in our conflict our own call for help is all that we are ever responsible for. And it is only from that place of perfect honesty with ourselves that the Holy Spirit can help us see in our brother’s or sister’s conflict that same call for help (T.12.I.6:10.11;7:1,2,3,4,5). But once we accept forgiveness for ourselves for desiring conflict and attack, the external problem will no longer seem like a serious concern, and a helpful solution at the level of form may present itself. Perhaps you will then say something to the group member, or perhaps you won’t. But if you do say something, you will have no investment in being heard or in seeing the other person change, for that will no longer be your concern. You will recognize that your only function is to accept forgiveness for yourself so that, through that acceptance, you may be an instrument of forgiveness for others as well.

Q #697: I read your answers about the sex drive and special relationships. Although I understand the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles, I sometimes find the sex impulse is overwhelming and therefore I might in those vulnerable moments go to the extent of soliciting call girls despite my being married with kids. I try not to make things a big deal and that's how I have repeatedly committed the same mistake over again. I know what is right from wrong and in those dark moments I ask the Holy Spirit for help but I guess that I choose not to listen and do what I will. How do I wean myself out of this when I enjoy what I do -- the rush of adrenaline and the secret guilt The girls I treat with respect and dignity -- an oxymoron -- while they are being used as objects of pleasure in the last analysis. How do I apply the Course to this practical problem?

A: The world makes distinctions between socially acceptable and socially unacceptable forms of using others, classifying the latter as wrong, sinful or even criminal. And it allows us to think that guilt is only associated with some forms of using others, but not other forms. The Course’s purpose is to help us see that all ego-based decisions to meet our needs at the expense of others cause us pain and reinforce our guilt. If we could really get the connection between the thought of separation implicit in self-interest and the pain that follows, we would soon learn to choose against the ego. But we still believe that some of our ego choices bring us more pleasure than pain.

The ego wants us to think of our actions and behavior in such moralistic terms as right or wrong, good or bad, with guilt always accompanying our wrong, bad actions. Jesus is encouraging us instead to think of our thoughts and decisions as either helpful or hurtful, wise or foolish, with unnecessary pain rather than guilt as the consequence of foolish, hurtful choices (see Question #637 for an in-depth discussion of the Course’s focus on thought rather than behavior).

So rather than thinking that you know what is right and what is wrong in the situation you describe, and that you keep doing the wrong thing, it would be more helpful to consider that you are simply making the more foolish, hurtful decision. But not just when you choose to solicit call girls, but whenever you decide to put your own needs above others, whether it be your family or anyone else. Now of course some actions run the risk of having greater negative consequences in the world’s terms than others, which nicely plays into the ego’s insistence that there is a hierarchy among illusions (T.23.II.2:3; T.26.VII.6:5). But all guilt is the same and it does not come from what we do with our bodies but only from what we think with our minds.

So seeking sexual satisfaction outside your marriage is not the cause of the guilt in your mind but an effect. And its purpose, which you keep hidden from yourself, is to distract you from recognizing where the real problem lies -- the choice to see yourself as separate from love. Yet this is the decision that leads all of us to believe that we need to seek for satisfaction outside ourselves, in stolen moments of pleasure which the ego seduces us into seeing as more pleasurable simply because they are stolen. And that foolish reasoning lies at the foundation of the ego’s thought system, predicated as it is on the belief that the scraps of "love" we could steal from God are better that the complete and total Love He offers us freely (T.1.V.3:3).

You mention trying not to make your infidelities into a big deal, but the problem is, in your own mind, they already are. And the goal is not to be able to continue to engage in hurtful activities without making a big deal of them, but rather to come to a recognition that they are not really the problem and that to continue to feel guilty about the external actions guarantees that you’ll never address the underlying, inner problem and see it differently. It is true that, as egos, we are all selfish and concerned about meeting our own needs at everyone else’s expense. This is simply the nature of the ego thought system. But despite the selfishness that is at its roots, what Jesus is asking us to recognize is that it’s not a sin, it’s not evil. It may be foolish and hurtful and unkind, both to ourselves and to others in our life. But it is not a sin. It is our belief that it is sin rather than merely a mistake that keeps us caught in the repetition of any self-destructive pattern. Without the guilt we impose on our decisions, but rather with a thoughtful, nonjudgmental examination of what we’ve been choosing, seeing it only as error and not as sin, we will find it easier to make the choice for a different Teacher within our mind (T.19.III.1,2,3). And the most helpful and kind behavior will naturally follow.

You may find the discussion of compulsive sexual behavior in Question #598 and sexual fidelity in Question #417 of help as well.

Q #698: Please share your understanding of the following sentence from Lesson 133 in the workbook of A Course in Miracles: "If you feel any guilt about your choice, you have allowed the ego's goals to come between the real alternatives" (W.pI.133.11:2).

A: As decision-making minds we are always choosing only between what is real (therefore valuable) and nothingness (therefore valueless). If we choose to pursue the ego’s goals (specialness, separation, individuality, sin, etc.), that choice will be expressed through our choices in our everyday lives. The choice for the ego gets denied and buried in our minds, and we then think we are making meaningful choices in the world. When we feel guilty about a choice, that is telling us we must have chosen the ego first, which means from that point on all we have been choosing between are different forms of nothingness -- what is valueless.