Weekly Questions and Answers, 04/13/2005

This week's questions/topics:

Q #708  Could temporary amnesia signify contact with nothingness?
Q #709  How could Jesus' body be visible after the resurrection?

Q #710  Is everything we desire either God or a substitute for Him?
Q #711  How would A Course in Miracles regard the issue of gossiping?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #708: Several days ago, I had an astonishing experience. I drove to a post office, dropped off a letter in the box outside and went inside where I bought stamps. When I left the building, I was suddenly struck by a realization that I had no memory whatsoever (and still don’t) of my actions between exiting my car and entering the building. I did not remember locking my car, going to the box, dropping the letter in the box and heading for the door, all of which I must have done, because the letter was no longer in my hand and my car was locked when I returned.

I had a clear sense that NOTHING happened in a peiod of no more than 10 seconds, from the time I stepped out of my car till I opened the post office door. But something DID happen. What was it? I was not frightened by the experience. On the contrary, I felt a sense of tranquility. Did I make contact with nothingness? Was I influenced by the all the reading I’ve done of late? Am I making much ado about nothing?

A: It’s not possible to give a definitive answer to your "amnesiac" experience, just as it’s rarely possible to be certain that any specific experience is right-minded. But if the experience were an expression of right-mindedness -- and since you describe your reaction as one of tranquility rather than fright, that certainly is possible -- we can consider what may have been going on for you.

Contrary to what seems to be our experience, the truth is that nothing is actually happening any of the time! It actually takes effort to see ourselves as bodies, doing things in the world. Our true natural state has nothing to do with bodies and the world. Yet for most of us, this realization is still too frightening. And so we continue to hold on to this bodily identification as a defense against the guilt in our minds and the love beneath that guilt, which is our true Identity.

In the section "I Need Do Nothing" in the text (T.18.VII) of A Course in Miracles, Jesus comments on the unreality of the body, as well as our resistance to allowing ourselves to experience anything else:

There is one thing that you have never done; you have not utterly forgotten the body. It has perhaps faded at times from your sight, but it has not yet completely disappeared. You are not asked to let this happen for more than an instant, yet it is in this instant that the miracle of Atonement happens. Afterwards you will see the body again, but never quite the same. And every instant that you spend without awareness of it gives you a different view of it when you return.

At no single instant does the body exist at all. It is always remembered or anticipated, but never experienced just now. Only its past and future make it seem real. Time controls it entirely, for sin is never wholly in the present. In any single instant the attraction of guilt would be experienced as pain and nothing else, and would be avoided. It has no attraction now. Its whole attraction is imaginary, and therefore must be thought of in the past or in the future (T.18.VII.2,3).

The experience you describe could recur, or it may not. But whether it does or not does not really matter. Any preoccupation with it could become a distraction from the Course’s primary process of forgiving our special relationships, which is what undoes the guilt in the mind that we use identification with the body to defend against. If your experience has provided you with a glimpse of what lies ahead -- or perhaps beyond is the more accurate way to put it -- that can be helpful. The best thing is not to make a big deal of it but simply to accept it as a reminder that whenever we interpret anything that we perceive, we are certain to be wrong, for we have no idea what is real and what is illusion. And with that recognition can come the willingness to allow the Holy Spirit to be the Interpreter of whatever our eyes seem to behold.

Q #709: In Absence From Felicity, Jesus talks of taking on a human form to Helen. But if you look at the tenor of his argument that may not be really so, and it may have well been Helen's fearful state of mind as Kenneth states. After all the body is an illusion and the resurrected mind recognizes an illusion as an illusion. I should think that Jesus' resurrection meant that his body identity disappeared and hence the physical body, as we also (apostles too) recognized it, disappeared from his mind. To have recognized Jesus after the crucifixion and death of his body, we need to be in an equally enlightened mind-frame to behold him lovingly in a state of vision. His body miraculously disappeared from the tomb due to this paradigm shift. But the resurrection meant that we discern him at another level. Please comment.

A: In Chapter 17 of Absence From Felicity, Kenneth discusses the illusion and the reality of both Helen and Jesus. All form is illusory and therefore ultimately meaningless, its value lying solely in our (the mind that believes it is separate from God’s Mind) use of it to get to the content beyond the form, just as symbols are useful only in pointing us to what they symbolize -- their source. Only the abstract, formless Love of God is real. Within the dream, however, this abstract, formless Love is reflected in the split mind in a form that can be recognized and accepted by that mind. Thus, in Helen’s mind, this Love took the form of Jesus giving his course to her. In reality, there is no Jesus or Helen. Again, Chapter 17 discusses these levels, which are quite difficult for us to grasp.

In A Course in Miracles, resurrection is not defined in relation to the crucifixion; it is entirely different in meaning from the traditional biblical view, in which a dead body is resurrected. Resurrection in the Course pertains only to awakening from the dream of separation from God: "the awakening from the dream of death; the total change in mind that transcends the ego and its perceptions of the world, the body, and death, allowing us to identify completely with our true Self. . ." (Glossary-Index, p. 176; see also M.28.1:1,2). In view of the Course’s definition of the body as simply a projection of a thought within the mind, this awakening can occur only in the mind. Thus, "given Jesus’ perfectly egoless reactions at the end of his life (see T.6.I), it would be safe to conclude that his resurrection preceded the crucifixion. It is that healing of the mind, therefore, that he asks us to take as our model for learning (T.6.in.2:1; T.6.I.3:6; 7:2), and forgiveness is his great teaching message that brings about the mind-reversal that alone can heal" (from our Christian Psychology in "A Course in Miracles," pp. 74,75). This is why Jesus implores us, "Teach not that I died in vain. Teach rather that I did not die by demonstrating that I live in you" (T.11.VI.7:3,4).

The meaning and significance of Jesus’ life as presented in the Course is radically different from that of the Bible, and its metaphysics is radically different as well (there is no world created by God, for example). It is essential that these irreconcilable differences be recognized if one is to understand and then be able to put into practice the teaching in A Course in Miracles. You may be interested in consulting the dialogue between Kenneth and a Catholic priest, which brings these differences clearly into the light ("A Course in Miracles" and Christianity: A Dialogue).

There also are several other Questions on our Service that discuss these important issues; see for example numbers: 1, 97, 439, and 505.

Q #710: Can the following be said to be true: that it is God we desire or a substitute for Him; that everything we desire (in persons, places, things, events, situations, activities) falls into either one of these two categories; one is true; the other an illusion; one leads to liberty; the other to suffering. Also, that all our doubts and fears all boil down to being those about God, ultimately.

A: Yes, it is true. The unique contribution of A Course in Miracles, however, is that it does not advocate avoiding or renouncing the substitutes for God -- much less calling them sinful -- even when we become aware that that is what we are involved in. Thus, there are two levels of discourse in the Course. On Level One we find statements of absolute truth, such as your first statement. On Level Two we find statements and discussion about living in this world (though illusory) in such as way that we would gradually accept its illusory nature, as well as the illusory nature of our identities as separate individuals. "The body was not made by love. Yet love does not condemn it and can use it lovingly, respecting what the Son of God has made and using it to save him from illusions" (T.18.VI.4:8).

Thus, on this second level, the Course addresses the decision-making mind outside time and space that chooses between the wrong-minded and right-minded use of the world and our bodily identities. When we accept the Holy Spirit’s purpose (forgiveness) for our lives, we gently grow into the ideal of always being peaceful no matter what is going on in our personal worlds or the world at large. That is the meaning of liberty in the Course -- being freed of the ego’s tyrannical domination of our thinking, which is the source of all suffering and fear. All of our fears and doubts about our lives in the world are shadows of what is really going on in our minds, as the world is but "the outside picture of an inward condition" (T.21.in.1:5; T.25.VIII.12:3). The process of attaining liberty, therefore, is the transition from wrong-mindedness to right- mindedness, and finally to the restoration of the One-mindedness that is our natural state.

The section in the text called "Beyond All Idols" (T.30.III) is a lovely reflection on this theme.

Q #711: Recently I had lunch with a friend and found that after we had talked about issues that were bothering us (which led to talking about other people we knew) I began to feel very sick. I knew we had begun gossiping and I just felt ill. If I have harmed someone by gossiping how do I make up for it? When I was growing up I had a cousin I adored, but she apparently didn’t adore me or so the gossip in the family went. In recent years I have tried very hard to heal with her, and a couple of months ago I went to visit her for 10 days but before I went to her home I said some things to another relative. I now have the feeling that she has been told what I said (or a modified version of it) and I can tell you she might be very hurt by it. Could you address the issue of gossiping and would stopping gossiping be my way of forgiving myself, or what do I have to do to make up for this. I am very serious about seeing this differently.

A: A Course in Miracles teaches that the only thing that can have any seeming effect on anyone is a choice made in the mind to identify with the ego/body. That is the only "harmful" thing that anyone can do to themselves. In the light of this teaching, it is impossible for anyone to do harm to someone else. Although it may seem that someone’s hurtful behavior is the cause of another person’s upset, the Course tells us the true source of any feeling is a choice in the mind. Finding yourself feeling sick after gossiping about others is the result of a choice in the mind to identify with the ego, which is a choice for separation. It is this that elicits profound feelings of guilt, which are then experienced in the world in a situation such as the one you describe. There seems to be an association related to the behavior of gossiping, but in fact the sickness is an expression in form of the guilt in the mind. It is the content of the mind that is the focus of the Course. What we are asked to see differently is this distinction between the seeming cause of feelings in a situation in form, and the real cause which is the content of the mind. This is a very important distinction to keep in mind as we train our minds to become aware of the judgments and attack thoughts that we experience in our relationships. This applies equally to your experience as a child, as to the recent incident of gossiping with your friend.

The Course does not teach anything about changing behavior or the need to make amends. We are asked only to look at our judgments, recognizing in them the choice to be separate from others, which reflects the choice to be separate from God. When you find yourself gossiping, you may stop to remember it is coming from a mistaken choice in your mind to identify with the ego by choosing separation. This places the origin of the situation in the right place (your mind), rather than on your behavior (the effect) or the behavior of those you are judging, and this is the beginning of the forgiveness process. We "forgive the Son of God [anyone] for what he did not do" (T.17.III.1:5) by recognizing that the true cause of sickness/gossiping is the mind’s choice for separation, without blaming past events or others. This would be the Course’s version of "making up." It is also the only way to heal the real sickness that resides in the split mind that has chosen separation. All that is required is willingness to release our judgments. Even being willing to see how we want to hold on to them is a step in the right direction, because at least we won’t be blaming others for our sickness, distress, or misery. The important thing is to be vigilant in looking for the thoughts and judgments that reveal the mind’s choice for separation. When the cause is returned to the mind, judgment can be given to the Holy Spirit to be transformed. Under His guidance, any behavior will then change accordingly, without any effort or control on our part. In this regard Jesus tells us in the text: "When you are willing to accept sole responsibility for the ego's existence you will have laid aside all anger and all attack, because they come from an attempt to project responsibility for your own errors. But having accepted the errors as yours, do not keep them. Give them over quickly to the Holy Spirit to be undone completely, so that all their effects will vanish from your mind and from the Sonship as a whole" (T.7.VIII.5:4,5,6). Thus, projection is replaced with the recognition that the mind is the true cause of all feelings, behavior, and judgment and ultimately the need to gossip "will vanish from your mind."