Weekly Questions and Answers, 04/27/2005

This week's questions/topics:

Q #716  Do we use sickness to justify avoidance of true healing?
Q #717  How should we behave when a loved-one is behaving very destructively?

Q #718  How could A Course in Miracles communicate with me if I am an illusion?
Q #719  What is meant by the phrase "make plans against uncertainties to come"?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #716: I am going to have surgery on my shoulder in a month. I have been dealing with this situation for about a year, and am now finally facing the facts. I kept hoping for a different outcome and put off even finding out about the true nature of the problem. I kept trying to hold Jesus' hand, but I actually kept buying into the ego's plans. Because I am in pain I don't know how to get out of it. I remember hearing on a tape or reading here that you should just use the magic it takes to heal your condition so you can get on with studying A Course in Miracles. I read in the teacher’s manual: (pg. 17) "Who would choose suffering unless he thought it brought him something, and something of value to him. ... For sickness is an election; a decision. It is the choice of weakness in the mistaken conviction that it is strength." After pondering this really seriously I have come to believe that I have used this as an excuse to "not do" lots of things I had been doing for years, such as weekly aerobics classes -- I started walking every day instead. I guess it is a martyr's complex. I have told people about my condition at various times for a year now, until now they just ask, "How are your shoulders?" So I see what I have done, but that hasn't taken the pain away. Can you please comment?

A: It looks like you’ve identified some of the secondary gains that you’re reaping from your condition. That’s always very helpful to see, for it unmasks the ego’s true intentions a little more clearly so we can begin to see what it is up to. And there is a gain -- "something of value" -- at a deeper level, to which the section you quote from is also alluding (M.5.I,II). As you can begin to get in touch with that hidden value, you will understand why there is such resistance to letting go of the pain.

But the fact that you’re willing to seek help outside yourself on the level of the body through the surgery can be seen as a reflection of your willingness to acknowledge that you can not resolve this on your own, as the ego would like you to believe you can. And that belief -- that we can be and act on our own -- is actually the cause of the pain. Sometimes, as you’ve discovered, we think we are asking for help from Jesus with our pain, when we are actually using our asking as a cover for our own fear of looking at what we believe is buried in our minds -- the horrible guilt and pain over separation.

The primary but unconscious "value" of sickness and disability is that they place responsibility for our pain outside the mind, in the body, as a victim of forces in the world beyond its control. And this apparent relationship denies that our pain has anything to do with a choice we have made in our minds to see ourselves as separate from God and His Love. In other words, bodily sickness protects our concept of ourselves as individuals, trying to cope with a world that exists independent of us. And the resistance to recognizing that all our pain comes from our own decision, that we have made this all up, is "enormous" (M.5.II.1:7), for it threatens the existence of both the world and the self we think we are.

Accepting responsibility at the level of mind for all of our experience (T.21.II.2) is not something that most of us can simply do all at once, once we have an intellectual understanding of what we are doing. Because the resistance is so great, it is likely for most of us to be a process -- of practicing forgiveness, releasing the judgments we are holding against ourselves and others -- that will seem to take time.

In the meantime, congratulate yourself for taking the next step and acknowledging your pain and recognizing that you can not resolve the condition by yourself. Allowing yourself to join with the medical professionals who are there to help you address the pain in your shoulder can be a symbol of your willingness to join with the all-encompassing love in the mind that removes all pain and guilt and experience of separation.

Q #717: What does one do when a loved one is behaving very self destructively, and possibly endangering other loved ones? I want to "let go and let God," but feel a desperate need to do something to stop this situation. There are legal proceedings I can and am considering taking. When I read A Course in Miracles, it seems to say one should just apply the principle of loving the other and not react negatively. Should I do what is necessary but focus on the love rather than the anger, anxiety, despair etc. that I can so easily slip into? This is so hard to deal with.

A: Your dilemma is understandable. It is very painful to see a loved one in conflict and endangering others. The Course does not ask us not to do whatever we can to stop someone from hurting himself / herself, or hurting others. It is certainly possible to practice forgiveness as the Course teaches while initiating legal proceedings, if that is what you think you should do. Since the foundation of the world is the belief in the ego’s thought system of attack and counter-attack, everything and everyone in it engage in destructive behavior to some degree. That is the inevitable expression of the separated son’s desperate call for help. What we are asked to do is look at any judgments we may have toward the person, seeing in them the projection of our own desperate call for help. Once we recognize how our fears are mirrored in the other person, we have the opportunity to forgive ourselves, asking the Holy Spirit to replace our judgments against ourselves and our brother with His. This process establishes that whatever we do or don’t do with regard to another’s behavior will be guided by the Holy Spirit rather than by the ego. Filing legal suits is an appropriate course of action in certain circumstances, it does not mean, however, that the other party is a guilty sinner, worthy of God’s punishment, as the ego would have us believe. The choice, therefore, is not what course of action to pursue, but whose counsel we seek: the ego’s or the Holy Spirit’s. In this light we may paraphrase the oft quoted line from the text: "seek not to change your brother, but choose to change your mind about your brother" (T.in.1:7).

The anger, anxiety, and despair that you feel are normal. Jesus tells us kindly in "Rules for Decision": "Do not fight yourself" (T.30.I.1:7), which means not denying your feelings, nor judging yourself for having them. Though their cause seems to be the conflicted relationship, they are in truth the result of the mind’s choice to believe that separation from God has been accomplished and love has been destroyed. Acknowledging them, with willingness to recognize their true source in the mind, is the beginning of the forgiveness process, and thus "A light has entered the darkness" (M.1.1:4). It may be a tiny spark, but it is enough to redirect the mind toward the Holy Spirit and away from the ego. This same spark is present in everyone’s mind. At the same time that we recognize the power of our own minds to choose, we strengthen our belief in it in others. The healing power of forgiveness is thus communicated to all the loved ones concerned, whether or not it is recognized. It is "… the light that brings your peace of mind to other minds" (W.pI.108.3:2). This the kindest thing you can do for yourself and for your loved one, whatever else you feel you must do in form to appease the situation.

Q #718: The answer to Question #459 stated: "Our so-called lives as individuals do not have a divine origin or destiny, and, worst of all, have no reality." How then can the Course have anything to say to me as its reader, when I am but an illusion, since there is no communication between an illusion and the truth? Why would the Course try to call back to Heaven an illusion? Is it a lie that the Course often calls us, in my opinion you and me, Sons of God (27 times)?

A: A commonly expressed concern, and among the most challenging dimensions of the theory of A Course in Miracles. What helps is discerning that the Course is written on two levels. The first presents statements of absolute truth that affirm its uncompromising non-dualism. The second is the level that addresses us as though we were real -- contrasting the wrong-minded and right- minded ways of living in this illusory world with an illusory identity, so that we could begin the process of restoring to our awareness the truth of the Atonement; namely, that the separation from God never truly happened, and we remain as God created us, His one Son. Thus, while in reality there is only one Son, we experience ourselves as individuals, and therefore Jesus sometimes uses the term Son and sometimes the terms Sons. We get a good sense of this in the summary in Part II of the workbook called "What Is Creation?": "We are creation; we the Sons of God. We seem to be discrete, and unaware of our eternal unity with Him. Yet back of all our doubts, past all our fears, there still is certainty. For love remains with all its Thoughts, its sureness being theirs. God’s memory is in our holy minds, which know their oneness and their unity with their Creator. Let our function be only to let this memory return, only to let God’s Will be done on earth, only to be restored to sanity, and to be but as God created us" (W.pII.11.4).

We are thus taught that we took with us into the dream of separation the memory of our true Identity as one with our Source, and our return to this memory is the objective of all Jesus’ teaching in his course, as for example, in this passage from the text: "Father and Son and Holy Spirit are as One, as all your brothers join as one in truth. Christ and His Father never have been separate, and Christ abides within your understanding, in the part of you that shares His Father’s Will. The Holy Spirit links the other part -- the tiny, mad desire to be separate, different and special -- to the Christ, to make the oneness clear to what is really one. In this world this is not understood, but can be taught" (T.25.I.5:3,4,5,6).

Thus, Jesus uses our "tiny, mad" belief that we are real as individuals to teach us that we are not (W.pI.93.5). He asks us to acknowledge: "I do not know the thing I am, and therefore do not know what I am doing, where I am, or how to look upon the world or on myself"; but as fearful as these admissions may be, "Yet in this learning is salvation born. And What you are will tell you of Itself" (T.31.V.17.7,8,9). There is no judgment or condemnation in this -- only the relief of letting go of a false identity so that the memory of our true Self can dawn upon our healed minds. "Let me not forget myself is nothing, but my Self is all" (W.pI.358.1:7).

Questions #3, #72, #85, and #116 have additional pertinent commentary, and our Web site also provides a full explanation and diagrams of the two levels of the Course’s discourse: click here to visit that page.   This topic is addressed as well in Question #9 in our book The Most Commonly Asked Questions About A Course in Miracles.

Q #719: In Workbook Lesson 136 of A Course in Miracles, what does the phrase "make plans against uncertainties to come" (19:2) mean? It sounds as if you shouldn't even plan a trip in case you can't get the time off.

A: The message this lesson teaches rests on two of the Course’s principles regarding the body. The first is that the body itself is nothing: "The body no more dies than it can feel. It does nothing. Of itself it is neither corruptible nor incorruptible. It is nothing" (T.19.IV.C.i.5:2,3, 4,5). And secondly: "… apart from the mind the body has no purpose at all" (T.8.VII.13:6). It is the mind that chooses whether the body is used for the ego’s purpose or the Holy Spirit’s. A choice to identify with the ego places the body under its laws of sickness and death. The body then becomes vulnerable to attack, serving as a projection of the guilt in the mind that results from choosing the ego. It is this identification with the ego that is the drive behind all our bodily concerns. It is why we exhaust ourselves caring for the body, ensuring its safety and protection in countless ways by planning. The goal of this lesson, as with the entire Course, is to teach us that we are not bodies, but minds with the power to choose. When the mind chooses to identify with the body, it then directs the body to become sick, and eventually to die, as proof that the body does in fact exist and that the mind is subject to its laws, instead of the other way around. This insane reversal of cause and effect is the ego’s strategy to prove that truth can be obliterated, and that "…the body is more powerful than everlasting life, Heaven more frail than hell, and God's design for the salvation of His Son opposed by a decision stronger than His Will" (W.pI.136.9:2). Because this belief denies everything that is true, it results in our feeling weak and vulnerable in spite of any display of imagined strength. Fearful that we will be annihilated by forces beyond our control (ultimately God), we unceasingly plan and strategize to protect ourselves. This is what the lesson refers to. It does not mean that we should not make plans in our lives, but that we recognize the ego’s belief system at work in the thoughts that motivate our restless seeking, and our desperate need for protection.

In the previous lesson, Jesus tells us "A healed mind does not plan [italics ours]. It carries out the plans that it receives through listening to wisdom that is not its own. (W.pI.135.11:1). Because the healed mind no longer identifies with the body, it no longer perceives itself as vulnerable and therefore needs no defense nor protection. Fully identified with the part of the mind that remembers the truth of who we are, it is free to be guided, rather than driven to plan. That is the goal we seek. Meanwhile, we continue to make all the plans we feel we must, looking clearly and without judgment at how much we believe in our identities as bodies and our need to plan. We might do as Jesus suggests in the previous lesson: "… pause to ask, as you elaborate your plans and make your armor thicker and your locks more tight, what you defend, and how, and against what" (W.pI.135.3:5). That is all that is required to invite the Holy Spirit to lead us to healing; not to heal us of the little plans we make, but to heal our minds of our mistaken belief about ourselves.