Weekly Questions and Answers, 04/20/2005

This week's questions/topics:

Q #712  What is "to give Love"?
Q #713  What or who is "the decision maker"?

Q #714  Why do I over-idealize others, then find myself disappointed by them?
Q #715  Is A Course in Miracles addressing individual decision-makers, or one group decision-maker?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #712: What is to give Love?

A: To answer your question we must first understand that the love we speak of in the world is what A Course in Miracles calls "special love." This "love" is the ego’s "shabby substitute" (T.16.IV.8:4) for God’s Love, which was denied when the mind chose separation. In contrast to the Father’s Love, it is limited to certain people, changes, and is replete with expectations based on mutual bargains designed to meet individual needs. Special love is the key ingredient of "the special relationship [which] is the renunciation of the Love of God, and the attempt to secure for the self the specialness that He denied" (T.16.IV.4:2). Clarity about the nature of special love is important because it is so familiar to us, and so easily confused with the love that Jesus speaks of in the Course. This ego version of love is as different from God’s Love as truth is from illusion. In the choice to be separate and special we have forgotten Love. This is the sad and painful condition of the separated.

However, our hope, along with the more direct answer to your question, can be found in Jesus’ comforting words in the text: "Love is not special. If you single out part of the Sonship for your love, you are imposing guilt on all your relationships and making them unreal. You can love only as God loves. Seek not to love unlike Him, for there is no love apart from His. Until you recognize that this is true, you will have no idea what love is like" (T.13.X.11:2,3,4,5,6). This passage may not seem comforting at first, but it tells us several significant things: special love is not love, we do not know what love is, and it is possible to love "as God loves." Here we also find the instructions we need to move from special love to God’s Love: we must accept that we do not know what love is, and we must recognize that there is no Love but God’s. These truths seem simple enough. However, we are firmly convinced that we do know what love is, and we are deeply attached to the ego’s substitute for love. These are very effective defenses of our decision to identify with the body. And, to the extent that we identify with our bodies, we withdraw from Love, thereby denying it to ourselves and to others. Bodies do not love; in fact, they do nothing: "It [the body] does nothing… It is nothing" (T.19.IV.C.5:3,5). If we desire Love then, our concern must be focused on the process of undoing our belief in our ego/body identity. This is accomplished through forgiveness, which we may say is how we love in the dream. The Course does not ask that we give love, for to do so implies that someone who has it gives it to someone who does not. Rather, the Course teaches that the process of forgiveness leads to the removal of "the blocks to the awareness of love's presence"(T.in.1:7), and then: "Love extends outward simply because it cannot be contained" (T.7.I.3:4). In other words, when the obstacles of guilt and fear are removed, the reflection of God’s Love that remains in our minds is free to extend without any effort on our part. The only active participation that is required is that we diligently apply ourselves to the practice of forgiveness in our relationships. That is what transforms the special love of a special relationship to a holy relationship, and brings us closer to Love’s presence in our minds. In this process, the purpose the mind gives to a relationship changes from the ego’s goal of making the separation/bodies real to the Holy Spirit’s goal of healing the mind of the thought of separation.

A Course in Miracles’ version of a well known biblical passage would read "greater love than this no one has, than to forgive his brother for what he did not do" (See:T.17.III.1). This reflects one of the most important teachings of the Course; i.e., no one outside of us is responsible for the choice we made to be separate, or for the misery we experience as a result. Learning this restores the power of our minds to our awareness, so we will be free to make the choice for real love: "Beyond the poor attraction of the special love relationship, and always obscured by it, is the powerful attraction of the Father for His Son. There is no other love that can satisfy you, because there is no other love. This is the only love that is fully given and fully returned" (T.15.VII.1:1,2,3).

Q #713: I checked the other two Q’s & A's on the decision maker and hope I can still get some more feedback. It would seem that it would have to have some connection to the Holy Spirit in order to choose forgiveness for example, which is choosing "against" the ego. Would it be equivalent to awareness of both ego and the Holy Spirit? Is it neutral and if so is there any truly neutral thing? When attention is on this awareness and the impulse is to see my brother's innocence why would this not be the Holy Spirit mediating in the dream with its answer of forgiveness? For example "who" is reading A Course in Miracles for help in remembering freedom is my natural condition? Is this the I of Self enquiry that Ramana Maharshi teaches one to ask "who am I" and continue to allow one's attention to go deeper and deeper into that awareness knowing the answer is ultimately enlightenment? Is cracking this mystery the big One that gives us our ultimate release? Please help.!

A: First, the term decision maker does not appear in the Course except for one occurrence in the manual, where it is used in a different context (M.5.II.1:7). But it is clear throughout the Course that Jesus is talking about a capacity of the mind that is outside time and space to choose between the ego and the Holy Spirit -- depicted in various ways: e.g., crucifixion and resurrection, murder and love, guilt and innocence, separation and Atonement. It can identify with either thought system, but it is never not identifying with one or the other. In that sense it is never neutral. It can be thought of thus as a third part of the mind, which is the point of Jesus’ asking us to consider: "Who is the ‘you’ who are living in this world?" (T.4.II.11:8). The "you" that is "reading A Course in Miracles for help in remembering freedom is my natural condition" is the decision maker that has chosen to identify with the content of its right mind in the form of being a student of the Course. The Holy Spirit can be thought of in this context as the memory in our minds of our true Self. The impulse to forgive, then, is a reflection of our choice to remember our true Identity by denying our denial of It. The Holy Spirit is a Mediator, but only in the symbolic sense of representing in our minds the Love we chose to reject but that remains unaffected by our choice and always inviting us to rejoin our oneness with It.

There are two important points to keep in mind in any discussion of this nature: First, we are talking about symbols—essentially a mythological characterization of a process that occurred (not in truth of course) before there ever was a human intellect or brain (the effects of our wish to be who we are not), and therefore our attempts to fit the concept into human intellectual categories, while helpful to some extent, can never be successful. Moreover, because the separation is unreal, we are describing something inherently illusory. Second, the core of the ego’s strategy is to suppress this awareness of ourselves as minds outside time and space and keep us convinced that we are limited physical entities instead. This is important because it means that our efforts to gain a precise understanding of this decision-making capacity will fall short to the extent to which we are still identified with the ego -- we would be fighting against ourselves. The focus of our work with the Course, therefore, should be on undoing this identification. That is the Course’s path, in contrast to other paths. Understanding takes us part way on our journey, but it is not the goal of our work -- there is no "mystery to be cracked" in this sense.

In view of what has been said thus far, it would seem that there are differences between the Self described by Ramana Maharshi and the Course’s notion of the decision maker, though there are some similarities insofar as the decision maker is also an "observer." We all will wind up in the same place, we can rest assured, but the spiritual roadmaps are different, which does not make one superior to the other. The lessons in the first part of the workbook begin the process of restoring our awareness of ourselves as decision-making minds, but recovering that awareness is not enlightenment from the Course’s point of view. We need to reach that level of self-awareness so that we can recognize that we are always choosing, what we are choosing, and why we are choosing it. Stated briefly, the goal of this process is that we would see clearly that we are ultimately choosing insanity, why we are choosing it, and that there is an Alternative for us to choose. As our trust in Jesus develops, we would have little difficulty choosing against insanity: "Who with the Love of God upholding him would find the choice of miracles or murder hard to make?" (T.23.IV.9:8). When that choice is made once and for all -- i.e., there is no returning to the ego -- the decision-making capacity is no longer needed, and our mind is restored to its natural state of One-mindedness. This is the Self that is beyond individuality and perception -- not understandable to us who are still identified with specifics.

Q #714: I have asked this before in a different form but my forgiveness path seems to be a little different from others'. Most of the time we have a problem of guilt and then we realize that the wrath we directed at ourselves was wrong-minded. But I also find that I tend to over- idealize others' abilities and good intentions and then when I forgive I see their true motives at times. Can you comment on this?

A: This is the flip side of being overly critical and only seeing flaws in others. There is a middle ground of acknowledging that we all have a wrong mind, a right mind, and the capacity to choose between them, and that until our minds are healed, we will be motivated by the ego most of the time. This means that we are all looking out for our own interests so that we can protect our specialness and get what we want. The process of forgiveness involves first recognizing hatred, greed, selfishness, etc., not denying it or trying to pretty it up. Then, by not judging these ego manifestations, you will be less and less personally affected by them and finally able to see beyond them to the love they hide.

Idealizing people’s abilities and good intentions is a form of special love: you see these people as different and fulfilling a specific need of yours. But special love always covers hatred, which is why you would then tend to see their ego traits when you have a right-minded moment. In that state of mind you no longer are compelled to see others as you (your ego) need them to be. You therefore would be more objective in seeing what is there -- both the wrong and right minds. And there would be no fear of looking at the darkness in your own mind or in others.

Q #715: I can't quite comprehend how Jesus talks to us on a seemingly individual level but we're all considered one and illusory. If I'm stepping back and watching my ego do its thing and everybody else is doing the same thing, how does it all tie together at the decision maker. How does this all tie together into oneness? I realize that we are all illusory, that everything germinates from the decision maker and everything from that point is not real. But I just can't seem to put it together. I understand that Jesus is really talking to the decision maker when it sounds like he's talking to us on an individual level. What if I'm going through the right process but somebody else isn't? What's happening here?

A: There is a point over which you seem to be confusing yourself -- believing that there is only a single decision maker making decisions for all the seemingly separate individuals with which we each identify. At one level, this is true, but at a practical level it is not particularly helpful, and leads to the kind of muddle you describe finding yourself in. It is more helpful, and more in line with our personal experience, to think of each of us as having our own individual decision maker, which really means we each can choose between the ego and the Holy Spirit, independent of what anyone else may be choosing. In the beginning, when the Son first seemed to fall asleep and dream a dream of separation, there was only one illusory sleeping mind, which had a choice between going deeper into the dream and awakening. When the Son chose to go deeper into the dream, as part of his defense against awakening, the one mind seemed to fragment into billions and billions of separate, individual minds. But each fragment is holographic, that is, it contains exactly what the single, illusory mind contained before the fragmentation -- the right mind (the Holy Spirit), the wrong mind (the ego) and the power to choose between them (the decision maker).

In A Course in Miracles, when we speak of Jesus as talking to the decision maker, we mean that he is addressing our individual decision maker, in the mind, and not the individual physical self we each believe we are here in the world. In other words, the distinction being made about who/ what Jesus is addressing is not between individuality and oneness, but between the body and the mind. Forgiveness, although a reflection of the oneness of Heaven, is experienced in the mind at an individual level, while we still believe we are separate from each other.

It is only when I have completely accepted the Atonement for myself and, as an individual decision maker, made my final choice against the ego and for the Holy Spirit, that I identify completely with the oneness that the Holy Spirit represents in the right mind and no longer identify with the individuality that the ego represents in the wrong mind. And with that final choice, the wrong mind disappears, there is no longer anything to choose between, and so the decision maker vanishes as well.

We’ve addressed variations of your question in Questions #165 and #277, which you may find helpful to review, for a more indepth discussion of how to move between notions of unity and multiplicity.