Weekly Questions and Answers, 05/18/2005
This week's questions/topics:
Q #728 Can affirmations help our relationship with God ?
Q #729 Are Buddha and Christ the same?
Q #730 Are there any techniques in the Course to help us overcome our resistance ?
Q #731 Is everything pre-ordained by God? Do I have any choice about my own salvation?
Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics
Q #728: Can affirmations assist in re-learning our relationship with God? I will give some specific examples to make myself clear as to what types of affirmations I am speaking of: “I am safe in God's love,” “I am light and love,” “The Christ within me is my peace and abundance,” “My brother stems from perfection, he is the Christ” and so forth. So, in affirming our relationship with God can we come to know Him more?
A: Although these beautiful statements reflect some of the teachings of A Course in Miracles, their repetition has no real effect on our relationship with God for one very important reason: our true relationship with Him has not been changed in any way by the belief in separation. We are one with God, as we have always been, and will forever be. However, we have forgotten this truth as the result of choosing separation. Since forgetting is the result of choosing separation, remembering comes from not choosing it. This is the simple solution to a simple problem, which we make very complicated by our resistance. If we truly wanted to experience our oneness with God, we would. We resist because, although we think we want to remember God, we are not totally convinced that we want to forget the ego. This is the reflection of the split mind that follows the choice to deny God by choosing the ego. As Jesus tells us in the text: “Your mind is one with God's. Denying this and thinking otherwise has held your ego together, but has literally split your mind”(T.4.IV.2:7,8).
When the workbook suggests we repeat some of its statements, the intent is for us to train our minds to be attentive to our thoughts and to apply the new thought system we are learning to everything in our lives. The goal of the repetitions is, therefore, the training of our minds “… in a systematic way to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world. The exercises are planned to help [us] generalize the lessons, so that [we] will understand that each of them is equally applicable to everyone and everything [we] see” (W.in.4:1,2). The Course is teaching us to uncover our guilt and bring its darkness to the light of truth, rather than bringing the light to the darkness through affirmations, which conceal the guilt. If our guilt remains hidden it cannot be undone by the truth of our innocence. Thus, the repetitions the Course teaches do not serve the same purpose as affirmations used in other spiritual teachings. Again, one of the most important goals of the Course is to teach us to become increasingly aware of our thoughts of judgment, and to identify their source as the original thought of separation. This training program is necessary because, along with forgetting our oneness with God, we have forgotten that we have a mind that chose to forget. This forgetting is purposeful, since remaining mindless is the ego’s great defense. We cannot undo all this purposeful choosing followed by purposeful denial, nor learn of our oneness with God, by affirmations: “You cannot learn of perfect love with a split mind, because a split mind has made itself a poor learner” (T.12.V.4:3). Healing the split mind, then, is what we seek in order to remember our immutable relationship with God. The Course teaches that this healing is accomplished through the process of forgiveness, whereby we learn we have a mind and then learn to choose the Holy Spirit rather than the ego. First we must become aware that we have, in fact, chosen to deny God, which is covered by affirmations. Taking responsibility for our choice is the way we learn we have a mind with the power to choose, so we can then make a choice not to deny Him. We learn to recognize this choice reflected in our lives in all the thoughts of separation that flood our days with judgments and attack. Our willingness to see in these thoughts our decision to be separate from God is the beginning of forgiveness, whereby we ultimately accept the release of guilt and fear that block our memory of God. Forgiveness is thus the path the Course teaches to restore our relationship with God to our awareness, by undoing the thought of separation that is the source of our seeming exile in the illusion of the world and the body. If we are clear about these steps in our practice of the workbook, we will not make the mistake of thinking we can bring truth/God to the illusion by having a relationship with Him as bodies. Or, if we do make this mistake, (as we all do), we can quickly return to the practice of the workbook in keeping with the Holy Spirit’s curriculum.
You may find affirmations helpful as a way to remember to practice the workbook lesson, or to make specific applications of forgiveness during the day, but in themselves they cannot restore God’s Love to our awareness. The important thing is learning to be vigilant in observing the thoughts of judgment that reflect back to us the choice to be separate that we have denied. Since it is this denial that keeps “the blocks to awareness of love’s presence” (T.in.1:7) in place, it is in recognizing the choice we have made and the pain it entails that we will learn we have the power to choose differently and be motivated to do so. That is the path the Course sets forth for us, leading us back to the awareness that we never left our home in God in the first place: “The journey to God is merely the reawakening of the knowledge of where you are always, and what you are forever. It is a journey without distance to a goal that has never changed” (T.8.VI.9:6,7).
Q #729: Are Buddha and Christ the same, and is Enlightenment some kind of amnesia?
A: From the point of view of A Course in Miracles, the difference between Buddha and Christ is that Christ always remains part of God in Heaven as “the perfect Son of God, His one creation and His happiness, forever like Himself and one with Him” (C.5.3:1). Buddha would be considered, as would any other enlightened being, a symbol within the dream of separation representing the healed mind; that is, the separated mind that has accepted the Atonement and therefore knows the separation to be illusory. Christ, however, was never part of the illusion, but we retain within our minds (the right mind) the memory of our true Identity as Christ. Enlightenment, thus, is a remembrance, not a forgetting (amnesia), unless that were to mean forgetting everything that is not true. In the workbook Jesus explains his idea of enlightenment: “Why wait for Heaven? Enlightenment is but a recognition, not a change at all. Light is not of the world, yet you who bear the light in you are alien here as well. The light came with you from your native home, and stayed with you because it is your own. It is the only thing you bring with you from Him Who is your Source. It shines in you because it lights your home, and leads you back to where it came from and you are at home” (W.pI.188.1).
See Question #261 for further comments about the path of Buddhism.
Q #730: Is there any method Jesus teaches in the Course about how we can deal with the fact that, while we may have mentally understood that forgiveness and waiting, etc., are the prime tools of “reaching” Christ consciousness/God/coming home (whatever you want to call it), the emotional body/ego may not want to oblige with this? Is there a method to “heal” the emotional body? Reading the Course or books by the Dalai Lama, which are all about love, has a very positive effect on me, and I seem to be touching that “undoing” moment every now and then, but is there any “method” that would make it easier to keep these feelings/attitudes up throughout the day? I found that telling these things “mentally” to me, won't always do the job. Neither does “re-programming” or any of these “methods”. Would regular meditation (with the Course) do? Does Jesus recommend meditation?
A: The approach of A Course in Miracles to resistance is different from what one would normally expect. Jesus teaches us that what would be most helpful is just to be aware of our resistance and not to fight it or force ourselves -- via affirmations, for example -- to say and think what we are “supposed” to think and say (the exercises in the lessons). An essential part of the healing process is the humble acknowledgment that in one part of our minds we are terrified of accepting the truth about ourselves and therefore strenuously resisting learning and practicing the Course. We do not want to lose this self, though false, that we have made such an effort to sustain; we do not want to have to admit that we have been wrong about everything. Those fears would account for our “forgetting” or not being able to keep the experiences of the holy instant when we have for the moment set aside our egos.
Thus, while this is a course in mind training, the focus of the training is largely on searching our minds for ego thoughts and then looking at them without judgment, while recognizing at the same time that these thoughts are costing us the awareness of the love and peace that also reside in our minds: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false” (T.16.IV.6:1,2).
The lessons in the workbook are carefully designed to start us off where we are -- namely, strongly identified with a physical/emotional self -- and gradually lead us inward to the identity we have repressed, that of a decision-making mind that lucidly chooses every minute of every day to reinforce its belief that it is separate from God or to undo that belief through recognizing that we all share the same interest and goal. In general, this is Jesus’ approach to resistance. There is nothing wrong in your meditating, if that is helpful to you, but meditation is not a major aspect of the Course’s mind-training process.
Your concern is shared by most students, and we have discussed it in several other Questions -- see, for example numbers: 35, 92, 125, 129, 210, and 302.
Q #731: I was brought up to believe that God is omnipotent and omniscient, knowing everything that is, that has been, and that ever will be. So before God created the world, He must have known what exactly was going to happen -- who was going to go to hell and who wasn't. So if, as A Course in Miracles says, the world is a dream that I am making up, then is what I have written just my ego strategy to hold God responsible for my sin and not myself, to say that I cannot be a sinner because I never really had a choice anyway since it was all pre-ordained in God’s Mind? Thus when I stand before God to be judged and my name is not in the book of life, I can present this as my defense to God before being cast into the lake of fire, to avoid damnation or at least to try to. But if God knows everything in advance, then God is powerless to change the future and He cannot be omnipotent. Is this my get-out- clause to avoid an imaginary punishment from God, my ego’s attempt to be innocent, to see itself or me as just an innocent victim not responsible for its own sin at all, putting the guilt on God and not myself?
A: You can look at what you’ve described, as you say, simply as your ego’s efforts to shift blame outside yourself onto an unfair, victimizing God, if you note these apparent contradictions but do not seriously question the basic premises you seemed to learn as a child. But you can also look at what you’re thinking as the beginning of a right-minded realization that there is something wrong with this traditional concept of God that is found in most religions of the world, where God is the Creator of the world, Who put you here along with everyone else. For there are some logical contradictions in this traditional view of an infinite and perfect God as the Creator of a finite and imperfect world, that many of the greatest religious and spiritual thinkers and philosophers across the ages have not been able to reconcile.
The Course is relatively unique among the world’s spiritualities in asserting that God has nothing to do with and can in no way be responsible for the limited world of time and space -- some of the Gnostic teachings of two thousand years ago held to a similar position and presented arguments much like the ones you offer above (for a comprehensive presentation of these issues as found in the Western spiritual tradition, see Kenneth Wapnick’s Love Does Not Condemn: The World, the Flesh, and the Devil According to Platonism, Christianity, Gnosticism, and A Course in Miracles). And of course, the Course goes one step further to assert that this world is an illusion and does not exist in reality (e.g., W.pI.132.6:1,2,3), despite our experiences to the contrary.
If there were any force, personal or impersonal, outside of our own minds, that could be held responsible for any aspect of the world and our experience in it, then we would indeed be victims. But the Course’s position on this is uncompromising, presented clearly early in the workbook: “I am not the victim of the world I see” because “I have invented the world I see” (W.p.I.31,32). And so it is central to the Course’s teaching that neither God nor Jesus nor the Holy Spirit can intervene in either the world or in our minds (e.g., T.2.VII.1:4,5,6). For if they could, we would not have complete responsibility for our experience, and we could legitimately feel victimized by their failure to intervene. It is the purpose of the Course to return to our awareness the power of our mind to choose, and not to look outside of ourselves to find someone else either to blame or to supplicate.
In the Course’s own words, “Let us today be truly humble, and accept what we have made as what it is. The power of decision is our own. Decide but to accept your rightful place as co- creator of the universe [of spirit], and all you think you made [the world of bodies] will disappear. What rises to awareness then will be all that there ever was, eternally as it is now. And it will take the place of self-deceptions made but to usurp the altar to the Father and the Son” (W.p.I.152.8).