Weekly Questions and Answers, 06/08/2005
This week's questions/topics:
Q #740 Does the Judeo-Christian theme of the Course encourage environmental irresponsibility?
Q #741 Is it consistent with the Course's teachings to be opposed to abortion?
Q #742 Is it specialness to want others to know of my love for Jesus?
Q #743 How can God be "lonely" without us if He doesn't know about us?
Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics
Q #740: A Course in Miracles can be seen as lying within the Judeo-Christian monotheistic tradition, characterized by considering God as outside of the earthly system. This tradition, which originated with the patriarchal sky/mountain God of the Hebrews, became dominant over the preceding religious systems as much as anything else through violent imposition. In earlier “pagan” polytheism, God/Goddess was/were considered present within the earthly realm in multiple forms, such as tree or river Gods, etc. It is obvious that a believed presence of God within the natural world produces a respect for its resources, whereas an earthly realm in which God does not lie openly invites their violation. In this way, Judeo-Christian monotheism can be seen to have played a huge part in environmental degradation, and so this can also be viewed as a weakness of the Course.
How would you answer this criticism?
A: While we remain identified with our egos, we can use anything we want to justify and rationalize our self-centered thoughts and subsequent actions, including any spiritual teaching, no matter how profound and all-inclusive its message of love may be. And so it is true, we could choose to use the Course's teachings on the unreality of the world and God's total lack of involvement in it -- He's not even the world's creator, as the Judeo-Christian theologies would maintain, so there's nothing at all sacred about it! -- to justify treating the illusion in any way we please, using it to meet our own personal needs at everyone and everything else's expense.
And yet such an interpretation would require a total misreading of the Course, for it would go completely counter to everything Jesus is saying, since the Course's aim at the very beginning of our study of it -- the most preliminary step along its path -- is to lead us to a recognition of shared rather than separate interests (M.1.1:2) . And this sharing, through the process of forgiveness, is to be extended to every aspect of the Sonship, even the tiniest grain of sand (T.28.IV.9:4) , and not only to fellow homo sapiens , or our own family or ethnic group or country, or some other grouping based both on exclusion and inclusion.
While it is true in one sense that the Course comes within the Judeo-Christian tradition, it must be understood that it does for solely one purpose: to provide a gentle and loving correction for all the ego-based errors of that other system of thought. It does not build upon nor extend that tradition, but rather takes its central concepts, which have been used unfortunately for hatred and attack and murder, and allows them to be given a different purpose -- the healing of the mind of the Sonship. It would be a serious confusion to equate the Course's non-dualistic theology of the oneness and guiltlessness of all with the dualistic teachings of sin and guilt enshrined in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Q #741: I recently watched a video of “The Silent Scream” which is a documentary that purports to show that abortion is the killing of a living human being. I was watching it and these feelings and thoughts started running through me like wanting to raise money so that people will not feel that they are bereft of hope, wanting others to see this so we can at least look abortion right in the eye. I also began contemplating what we would do if a fetus began to fight back. Then another part of me said what does it matter if we are all going to die anyway? Is not abortion murder? Is it okay and in keeping with the message of A Course in Miracles that I want abortions to be minimized?
A: The Course simplifies the many moral dilemmas we encounter here in the dream of separation by reinterpreting everything we believe about everything, including, and especially , “life” and “death.” We are told: “ There is no life outside of Heaven . Where God created life, there life must be. In any state apart from Heaven life is illusion. At best it seems like life; at worst, like death (T. 23.II.19:1,2,3, italics ours). The body (dead or alive), like the world, is an illusion. The mind that shares life with God does not reside in the body, and is outside time and space. Whatever happens to the body, then, has no effect on the mind, which means it has no effect. Illusion cannot have any effect on reality. These important teachings of the Course make it clear that neither abortion nor anything else in the dream is morally right or wrong. It is nothing, because the body 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.5:2,3,4). It is inconsistent with the teachings of the Course to use its principles to support or reject any specific behavior in the world (form). The Course addresses itself to the mind, and its teachings apply to the thoughts in the mind (content), not the body. The only real murderous act that the Son of God commits is to choose to believe that separation from God is possible. Once that choice is made, identification with the ego's thought system of sin, guilt, and fear follows. With or without abortion it's all downhill from there.
If the thought of fetuses dying is fearful, and you feel moved to protect them, it is not wrong to do so. It is no different from taking precautions against disease and sickness, or protecting the environment. Since we believe we are bodies living in the world, and take ourselves very seriously, it is important to look at all the judgments around certain behaviors such as abortion, war, and other acts of violence and aggression. They show us the beliefs we hold in our minds about ourselves and others, and they are the specific forms we have chosen to reflect the mind's choice for separation. The form thus becomes the classroom for the forgiveness lessons whereby the separation thought is undone. A situation such as abortion offers a multitude of opportunities to either reinforce the ego's guilt, or strengthen the mind's identification with the Holy Spirit. It is the choice made in the mind to identify with the ego or the Holy Spirit that is important, not the specific behavior. One could make a loving and peaceful choice with the Holy Spirit to have an abortion, just as it is possible to choose the ego and organize against abortion filled with judgment, condemnation, and “murderous” thoughts against those having abortions or performing them. The specific behavior may vary; it does not matter. What matters is making a choice that lessens guilt, and strengthens identity with the Holy Spirit. A peaceful decision can only be made when the fear, guilt, and judgment in the mind has been recognized and released, to whatever extent possible. It is helpful to remember an important message Jesus gives us in the text: “You do not know the meaning of anything you perceive. Not one thought you hold is wholly true. The recognition of this is your firm beginning” (T.11.VIII.3:1,2,3). To truly ask the Holy Spirit for help means not having decided ahead of time what the answer should be, which means letting go of every judgment and value that we hold. If we cannot let them go, we can at least question them and admit to ourselves and to the Holy Spirit that we think we know what is best, not only for ourselves but for everyone else. Jesus repeats in many passages in the Course that we do not know . One of our biggest mistakes is believing that life in a body is of supreme value, and one of our greatest fears is that we are wrong. Since we hold tight to this belief and to our fear, we do well to proceed gently through the process of learning to make decisions with the Holy Spirit rather than with the ego. It does not help to deny how much we value our identity as bodies. While we do whatever we feel we must to protect our version of life, we can remember the early workbook lessons: “I do not perceive my own [or anyone else's] best interests” (W.pI.24) , because “I do not know what anything is for” (W.pI.25). Willingness to keep these thoughts in mind is an invitation to the Holy Spirit to be with you in whatever you do with regard to abortion or anything else. It also opens the way to the part of the mind where the memory of true life, ours and everyone's, resides.
Q #742: In The Most Commonly Asked Questions About A Course in Miracles Ken and Gloria stated the desire to be thought of and seen as a “spiritual person” or a “loving” person is an expression of specialness. But, on the other hand I feel I am wearing a mask for others when I hide my love for Jesus and God and A Course in Miracles . Do you understand? I WANT people to know how much I love Jesus and to know how much this sometimes torturous path is a part of my life. I read Ken somewhere saying that if you really love someone you do not have to go around announcing it, but Jesus said in the Course that we “will be as eager to share our learning” as he is. Can you comment on this please?
A: The distinction between form and content might be of some help in resolving your dilemma. Avoiding the trap of specialness does not mean that you must hide the love you have for Jesus, God, and A Course in Miracles . That love is the content in your mind. When you are identified with that love, and that is what motivates you, you do not choose the form in which that content gets expressed. You are not concerned with form at all. Love will automatically flow through you in the form that is most helpful to everyone. In that sense, you just step back and let love lead the way. In fact, when you are identified with love, the sense of you as a person with needs, desires, and demands disappears; you are just more peaceful; you take nothing personally; and you smile more frequently (see Lesson 155 -- W.pI.155.1 ). This is not a mask. Jesus asks of 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) . In the Introduction to the manual for teachers, Jesus discusses further this approach to teaching; namely, that we teach by demonstrating (M.in.1,2,3) . Sharing what we have learned is not necessarily done through words, as the passages cited explain.
It is perfectly normal to feel enthusiastic, but if you feel a need to talk about your love for Jesus -- that you must -- then you have slipped back into your ego, for when you truly love him, you are completely quiet inside; you rest content in that quiet center in your mind, knowing that your love for him and his for you is the only reality. Nothing else compels you. On the other hand, “this sometimes torturous path” can produce conflict and fear; and then it could be helpful to turn to someone who would be understanding and compassionate. We all need that at times, until we have set aside our egos. But that is quite different from wanting others to know how important this spiritual path is to you. That could be a way of making yourself different from others: “Look how spiritual I am and how hard I work at this.” The ego sneaks into the process in rather subtle ways at times.
Q #743: Why does the textbook say God feels lonesome if we do not share communication/ creativity with “him”? I thought that God does not even know of this world of separation, then how can he feel lonely? Is this again a question related to the two levels A Course in Miracles is written in? -- Which level is the “real” one, and why should we bother with level two (the dream-world)? Doesn't the request for joining God raise feelings of guilt in the ego? Does ACIM say anything positive about why we are “here”?
A: The Course uses metaphors, and in form has many contradictory passages. That is why it cannot be read and understood exclusively on an intellectual level. Its content and loving message of forgiveness can only be understood with the willingness of the mind that opens to the truth that it reflects. The Course's teaching that the world is an illusion and the separation never happened is seemingly contradicted by the very fact that the Course itself exists in form. Clearly then, from its inception the Course lovingly accommodates its form to be helpful to the terrified, guilt-ridden part of the mind of God's Son who believes he is irretrievably lost because of his terrible sin. According to the ego's logic, the guilt that follows the “sin” of separation engenders tremendous fear of punishment from an angry God. When the Course tells us God weeps and is lonely without us (T.5.VII.4; T.2.III.5), the message is that He is not an angry, vengeful God, but One Who loves us and misses us. These symbolic images are helpful to us who are able to relate to the concept of a loving father more easily than the abstract nature of God. As Jesus tells us: “You cannot even think of God without a body, or in some form you think you recognize” (T.18.VIII.1:7). This single line explains the metaphors used in the Course, as well as the levels of teaching. Since we believe we are in the world, Jesus teaches us from our level of experience. Having chosen to identify with the body, we think and act and “reason” like bodies, so the Course comes to us in a form we can understand, and uses numerous metaphors, poetic imagery, and symbols to speak to us of the Love we have denied and forgotten.
From the ego's perspective, everything is guilt provoking. Its “life” issues from the thought of separation and depends on the guilt that ensues to sustain it. The ego interprets the call to return home to God as proof that the separation is real. It does not accept the real message that tells us we never left our home in God. If the Course is read with the ego as interpreter, there is much that can be used to instill fear and increase guilt. That is the ego's goal in every experience, and the Course is no exception. In fact, the Course tells us that is how the ego functions: “ Whenever you respond to your ego you will experience guilt, and you will fear punishment” (T.5.V.3:6).
Only what is true is “real.” Since “the world is an illusion” (W.155.2:1) i.e. , not real/true , everything in it is also not real, including us, as bodies. It is only our belief that we are bodies in the world that makes it necessary for Someone from outside the illusion to lead us out of it by meeting us on our “level.” The only reason we should bother with the world, which we made to keep ourselves separate from God, is as a classroom to learn the Holy Spirit's curriculum of forgiveness. The Holy Spirit needs what we have made to lead us back to Him by teaching us that not only will our world/body not make us happy, it is not real. So the only positive things the Course says about our seeming existence in the world, is that it is an illusion that can serve as a classroom . With understanding of what we think is our reality and loving respect for the part of our own minds that knows otherwise, Jesus gives a hope-filled answer to why we are here: “Nothing the body's eyes seem to see can be anything but a form of temptation [to believe the separation is real] , since this was the purpose of the body itself. Yet we have learned that the Holy Spirit has another use for all the illusions you have made, and therefore He sees another purpose in them. To the Holy Spirit, the world is a place where you learn to forgive yourself what you think of as your sins. In this perception, the physical appearance of temptation becomes the spiritual recognition of salvation” (W.p.I. 64.2).