Weekly Questions and Answers, 04/06/2005

This week's questions/topics:

Q #703  What is the view of A Course in Miracles on Black Magic/Voodoo?
Q #704  Why does A Course in Miracles use Christian language?

Q #705  Is gay sex inconsisten with the teachings of A Course in Miracles?
Q #706  How can I deal with disenchantment with my work?
Q #707  I still fear that God will punish me and send me to hell. Am I going crazy?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #703: What is view of A Course in Miracles on black magic/voodoo? Specifically the belief that another can harm you through the use of black magic. Can another control or guide your thought to cause you physical harm?

A: Jesus tells us in the text: "If you will recognize that all the attack you perceive is in your own mind and nowhere else, you will at last have placed its source, and where it begins it must end. For in this same place also lies salvation" (T.12.III.10:1,2). This is the foundation of the Course’s teaching on forgiveness and the answer to your question. No one can control or guide another’s thought to cause harm to the body. The mind that chooses to believe either the ego or the Holy Spirit is the only source of our experience in the dream. When the mind chooses to identify with the body, it attacks itself. The attack is a denial of the true identity of God’s Son as mind, and is therefore an attack on God. The inevitable guilt that follows this attack is projected on to the body. Identification with the body, which is alien to the mind’s natural condition as spirit, is the real source of all pain, anxiety, and every form of suffering that the body experiences. The mind has filled the entire physical universe with weapons to defend the choice for separation, and convince itself that the body and the world are real. The arsenal includes both positive and negative external agents that have been given power over the body’s physical condition, and seem to have the ability to give peace or take it away. When the mind chooses to identify with the ego rather than the Holy Spirit, the choice is expressed by an "agreement" with something (germs, viruses, car accidents), or someone (doctors, voodoo masters, politicians) in the world of form to be the seeming cause of all types of physical, emotional, or psychological distress. That is the ego’s version of cause and effect, and is the magic principle as Jesus explains it in the Course: "The body cannot create, and the belief that it can, a fundamental error, produces all physical symptoms. …The whole distortion that made magic rests on the belief that there is a creative ability in matter which the mind cannot control" (T.2.IV.2:6,8).

This means that neither black magic nor any negative experience can take our peace away, any more than a beautiful sunset can bring us peace. By the same token, when the mind chooses healing the choice may be reflected in the world through joining with a physician or other healer. The important thing to remember is that it is always the mind that chooses attack (the ego) or healing (the Holy Spirit).

Our learning begins with our willingness to recognize how much we believe in our identity as bodies and prefer the ego’s reversal of cause and effect, which supports our need to perceive ourselves as unfairly treated victims, rather than minds with the power to choose. The body was made to be vulnerable to attack. It gets sick, ages, decays and eventually dies. None of this matters nor has any effect on the mind’s true identity. One of the important goals in studying and practicing the principles of the Course in our lives is to learn to identify with the mind, rather than with the body. This learning is a process that takes time, and the willingness to bring everything in our lives, positive as well as negative, to the Holy Spirit to be transformed through forgiveness.

Q #704: We are a husband/wife team who began studying A Course in Miracles in 2004. If the Course is supposed to be based on universal principles and its goal is teaching we are all one, why is there so much Christian terminology -- words like Easter, Christmas, crucifixion, Christ, Son of God -- along with a Christian underpinning not recognizable to approximately two-thirds of the world? If the message is universal, why then is the language not universal? How will people around the world who have not been born into Christianity ever pick up the Course and "get it"? Is anyone working on a Course language that is universal in nature? How can we all unite as long as religious undertones continue to divide us? We wholeheartedly believe what is being taught by the methods of the Course, and we can see a bigger message within it: a message that impacts all races and peoples and religions. But how can that message be communicated through the language of the Judaeo-Christian biblical tradition?

A: Just about everyone who picks up the Course wonders about this. In fact, it is the topic of the very first question posted on this Service, and it is addressed most directly in the clarification of terms (the end of the manual for teachers) in the context of form and content: "A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary. It is this experience towards which the course is directed" (C.in.2:5,6). This universal experience is love, of course, and A Course in Miracles is but one form of regaining it. The form is not universal, nor was it meant to be: "The form of the course varies greatly. So do the particular teaching aids involved. But the content of the course never changes. . . . It can be taught by actions or thoughts; in words or soundlessly, in any language or in no language; in any place or time or manner. . . . This is a manual for a special curriculum, intended for teachers of a special form of the universal course. There are many thousands of other forms, all with the same outcome" (M.1.3:2,3,4,6; 4:1,2). Not very different from the ancient Hindu saying that truth is one, but sages know it by many names!

The intended audience for this special curriculum is the Western world that has developed under the strong influence of Christianity and 20th-century psychology, "an influence that has not been very Christian nor spiritual," as Kenneth and Gloria note in their book The Most Commonly Asked Questions About "A Course in Miracles" (Question #67). That accounts, in large measure, for the Christian and psychodynamic nature of the Course’s language. To quote from another section in the clarification of terms: "God knows what His Son needs before he asks. He is not at all concerned with form, but having given the content it is His Will that it be understood. That suffices. The form adapts itself to need; the content is unchanging, as eternal as its Creator" (C.3.3:2,3,4,5). Thus, an important focus of the Course is clarifying and correcting the misunderstandings and distortions found in biblical religions and psychology. Interestingly, the masculine language in the Course was never an issue with Helen Schucman, the scribe of the Course. The sexist objection arose only after its publication, and our experience has been that this objection generally tends to fade for most students as they become more involved in the spiritual process of the Course’s content. (See Kenneth’s Absence from Felicity, p. 416, for a summary of this issue.)

Moreover, practically speaking, at this stage of human evolution (to stay within an ego framework) a universal language is impossible. Translations of the Course already exist in 11 languages, with many more in progress. Translators themselves have attested to the impossibility of a universal language -- just in working with the Course alone they have come across concepts for which there is no equivalent in their own language, and this has nothing to do with religion. The ego’s ongoing intent is to supplant oneness and unity, replacing them with separation and conflict, the crowning principles being one or the other and kill or be killed. The unbridgeable gulfs in language and culture are but means to this pernicious ego end. The choice of God’s Son to follow the ego’s thought system of separation instead of the Holy Spirit’s thought system of forgiveness is what led to the divisive symbols of religions. Religions therefore just give form to the ego -- they are not really the problem, for they but symbolize the ego dynamics in our minds that we continually reinforce and protect through defenses we no longer even recognize as such. The Course’s emphasis therefore is on training us to get back to this level of decision in our minds, which we have blocked from our awareness. That is the only source of hope for ourselves and the world.

What all of this ultimately comes down to is that when you are completely one with your Identity as God created you (which could be for just an instant), you then represent the universal content of the Course, namely that "God’s Son is guiltless, and in his innocence is his salvation" (M.1.3:5). This content then can be communicated through you to a person from a completely different tradition, in a form that could be recognized and accepted by that person (although the form may not even be recognized by you). So the emphasis is always on your acceptance of the Atonement through the practice of forgiveness, for when your mind is healed, the perfect oneness of love is reflected through you, and you would know that all minds share in that healing, so there would be no concern for "spreading the word" -- that concern itself reinforces the belief that the separation is real and needs to be healed, a subtle ego trap. Love simply extends itself eternally, and the "how" is not our concern -- that takes all the pressure off us. It is not necessary for us to understand how the entire Sonship benefits from our tiny willingness to change the teacher in our mind from the ego to Jesus, thereby seeing only shared interests instead of separate, competing interests. Indeed, we cannot understand this if we are not in the holy instant beyond the body and beyond time and space. "The Power of Holiness" (T.16.II) is one section in the text that discusses these ideas.

Q #705: I am a sexually active gay male. I know that my sexual partners are all quite happy to encounter me. I thus feel that the sex is fine. I wonder if I should be thinking about whether my sexual activity is in line with the Holy Spirit and what A Course in Miracles has to say about it.

A: Sex, like anything else we do with the body, such as eating or drinking or breathing, is neutral in itself, as far as the Course is concerned (W.pII.294). The Course would only ever ask us to be aware of the purpose we are giving it (e.g., T.17.VI.2:1,2), which means being tuned into our thoughts about what we are doing and why.

Now it is likely that sexual relationships, no matter how circumscribed, are simply a form of special relationship, which, if both partners feel that their needs are being met, would be a special love relationship. So long as the special love relationships seem to be working, there will be no apparent problem and little motivation to examine the guilt that may be fueling any of the interactions. You may want to ask yourself whether you would be any less happy if your sexual outlets for some reason were not available to you. For the happiness that Jesus is inviting us to experience has nothing to do with meeting our personal needs. It is also likely that, at some level, the ego would be telling us that we are guilty for whatever pleasure we may be experiencing, because the hidden assumption is that whatever we have we have stolen from God. And so at an unconscious level there could be the belief that we deserve to be punished.

But there is certainly no need to go looking for problems where, in your experience, none currently exists. Usually, our lives present us with enough obvious opportunities to practice forgiveness without the need to uncover others. We can rest assured that, if any area of our lives is in need of healing, which simply means that it is a symbol upon which we have projected our unconscious guilt, that need will become apparent when we are ready to look deeper.

Q #706: How can I overcome a feeling of growing incompetence in my work? All I want most of the time is to read A Course in Miracles and related works. I have been employed 22 years in my company and retire the end of this year. Am I just too tired of its "rewards" even though I am at its helm, an expatriate in a lively city outside of my country, paid handsomely? However, sometimes I have this ambivalence about leaving my work. I have chosen the Course as my path and I want to learn to forgive a lot of things, including the situation I am describing here with my work.

A: Ironically, spending time studying the Course can be used as a way to avoid dealing with our current classroom. Now it is not surprising that a part of us, when we find the Course, will want to devote as much time as we can to learning this new way of thinking and seeing, since we know at some level, if it is our path, that it offers an answer that can be found nowhere in the world. But nevertheless there is a danger that we will want to retreat into the comfort of its words in order to avoid applying its principles to the very real lessons of forgiveness our external lives may be presenting us. The ego, after all, is very clever, and it will always attempt to co-opt the Voice of the Holy Spirit for its own purpose of self-preservation (T.4.V.1:6).

So the key, as in all things, is awareness -- recognizing our thoughts and feelings and how they are serving the ego thought system, not attempting to change anything about the external situation to meet our own perception of our needs, but only allowing the light of nonjudgmental perception to shine upon these darkened recesses of our mind. Now it would not be unusual that, after more than two decades with the same company, you would be ready for something else. But it would be your ego that would have an investment in sabotaging your final days with the company so that your performance may be less than satisfactory. And it also would not be unexpected that you would have mixed feelings over an impending life change of such magnitude, since change has become fearful to the mind that feels guilt over the first change that seemed to be introduced when the thought of separation was taken seriously (T.4.I.2:2,3,4).

It is always helpful to remember that internal change is the only change that matters, and efforts to change the external situation are really only ego attempts to avoid first learning the lesson the situation is offering us, as an external projection of our internal guilt. But if we avoid the lesson being offered in the present moment, it will re-present itself to us again in the future, perhaps in a somewhat different form, but always with the same underlying content (T.31.VIII.3:1). So missed opportunities are never a cause for concern.

Q #707: My right-wing, born again, father imposed severe restrictions on me in my childhood, which left me bitter and resentful of the Christian God. I am open to God as advocated by the Tao, A Course in Miracles, or Eckart Tolle. However, I fear that I will burn in hell, as punishment from God, if I do not accept the Christian God and go to church. I also fear that since the Course teaches that separation from God is the cause of all my unhappiness, I must accept God as the Course teaches, and become a Christian. I am also angered by Christians like Bush and Blair whose ideas cause the poverty, teen pregnancy, etc. that they attribute to Satan. I find this very confusing, am I going crazy?

A: You are probably not going crazy. It is the ego’s use of religion, belief in sin, and a punishing God, who sends people to burn in hell, that are insane. A Course in Miracles is the right place to look for correction of the sin, guilt and fear taught in fundamentalist Christianity. The foundation of Christianity is the belief in sin, which is atoned for only through the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Salvation then means accepting Jesus and the Bible, as taught by organized religion. Biblical teaching is based on the belief that the world and the body are not only real, they were made by God. These teachings are what make Christianity and A Course in Miracles mutually exclusive. The Course teaches: "God's Will for you is perfect happiness because there is no sin, and suffering is causeless"(W.pI.101.6;1; italics ours), "There is no hell"(T.15.I.7:1), "There is no world!"(W.pI.132.6:2), "The escape [from fear] is brought about by your acceptance of the Atonement, which enables you to realize that your errors never really occurred"(T.2.I.4:4), "Salvation is the recognition that the truth is true, and nothing else is true" (W.p.I.151.3:1). Clearly these teachings put any fear of burning in hell to rest. They comprise the truth we are asked to recognize for salvation to be realized. Thus, salvation is not won by the suffering of the crucifixion, but by the simple acceptance of our innocence and our oneness with God, which has never been affected by the ego’s thought of separation.

Although the Course’s message is simple, it is not easy for us to accept, because our attachment to the belief in sin and guilt is strong, as is our belief that we are bodies living in the world. We do not easily let go of these beliefs. In fact, we put up fierce resistance. Lured by the "thrills" of specialness, we have chosen to believe the ego’s lie of separation. It is only this choice that keeps us from the awareness of our oneness with God. And it is this choice that we see reflected in our relationships. Thus it is the practice of forgiveness in our relationships that is the means the Course teaches for undoing the belief in separation. We are asked to see our judgments and attack thoughts as the expression of our desire to be separate, different, special, and most of all, better that others. Guilt for choosing separation in the first place is compounded by our attacks on others, and then projected back out in still more judgment/attack, in a seemingly endless cycle. This is the source of all pain and misery in our lives. Healing the mind of the thought of separation begins when we seek the Holy Spirit’s help in letting go of these judgments. [This applies to judgments about the government leaders (see: Question #578).] Through forgiveness guilt and fear are diminished, to disappear eventually, thus allowing the light of our innocence to replace the shadow of guilt that darkens our minds. Only this is required. In this process, the moments of peace we experience, not the fear of punishment in hell, become the motivation to continue on our path of forgiveness. Jesus tells us: "This course requires almost nothing of you. It is impossible to imagine one that asks so little, or could offer more" (T.20.VII.1:7,8). In the light of the rules, regulations, and prohibitions of many religious paths, this is indeed encouraging.