Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 06/15/2005
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #744 Why is the Course necessary if the Atonement is already done?
Q #745 How can time heal wounds if time is illusory?
Q #746 Why can't the Holy Spirit direct me very specifically how to find and heal suffering?
Q #747 What is the exact nature of the ego?
Q #748 Can we save time by spending less of it on ego-thoughts?
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Q #744: Why does A Course in Miracles sometimes seem absurd to me? I do read it with great pleasure every evening (one chapter and one exercise). Still, I wonder why I should do these exercises at all when the Atonement is already done and it never existed? After all with “separation/sin” came also its remedy (Holy Spirit)? Why if we are guiltless in our divine nature, the Son(s and daughters) of God, Christ consciousness, should we do these exercises? Why does Jesus invest so much into this our dream world? Doesn't he invest in something that is not real, and thus makes it real for us? Shouldn't we then wake Jesus and tell him it really isn't necessary? Is that what Jesus talks of if he asks us to forgive him?
A: The continued practice of the Course helps us move from the intellectual acceptance of the Atonement to the experience of it. Those of us who still are personally affected by what goes on in our world -- both personal and the world at large -- clearly do not believe that these occurrences are illusory or simply segments of a dream. We would take nothing seriously if we did. In making this transition, though, Jesus advises us not to attempt to deny our bodily experiences. For one thing, he says, “it is almost impossible to deny its [the body's] existence in this world” ; and “those who do so are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial” (T.2.IV.3:10,11) .
Ultimately, Jesus is a symbol of the part of our minds that contains the memory of our true Identity. He represents the love that we have split off and replaced with the identities we have as individuals. Since we are convinced that we are individuals living in a real physical universe, then he must communicate to us on that level -- but only in order to teach us that we are mistaken, and that there is a way of living in this world that will enable us to recognize its illusory nature and that we are minds choosing to believe that we are not. Jesus is not the problem, our tenacious hold on the ego's belief system is the problem. He is present to us in the most gentle way possible: a loving, non-judgmental presence in our minds inviting us to choose his love instead of the ego's specialness, and to recognize that everyone else shares in that love as well. That joining is what undoes our belief in separation, which is the only thing interfering with our returning to the home where God would have us be.
Question #98 provides further commentary and also suggests a few readings that might be of help.
Q #745: Please comment on the relationship between time and forgiveness, according to the teachings of A Course in Miracles . Understanding that time is not linear, we do sometimes experience a lessening of hostilities against another with the “passing” of time, much like the “time heals all wounds” adage. Is this just another part of the self-deception that makes time appear real? Or, is it an indication that we have chosen to truly forgive on the level of mind, which then becomes manifest in this way? Thank you for any help you can provide.
A: There would be no way of knowing for certain with a particular person, where the anger and condemnation seem to have lessened over time, whether the apparent shift is the result of genuine forgiveness or merely symptom substitution, that is, the guilt originally projected onto that person simply being redirected onto somebody else. In the latter case, the experience may be more that this old special hate partner is just not worth the energy it takes to hate anymore, for we have more immediate special hate partners who demand our attention now!
On the other hand, if we have been practicing forgiveness with other relationships in our lives, even if our focus has not been on somebody specifically whom we'd judged without forgiving in the past, we are in effect reducing our identification with the guilt in our own mind. And that is where the only real problem lies, for we are never really angry at others for what they have done, but only for what it reminds us we secretly accuse ourselves of (T.31.III.1:5,6; 2:1,2,3). And so it is possible, without any active attempt to generalize forgiveness to this specific special hate partner, that we would simply find that we have no need any longer to hold this person responsible for our own pain and unhappiness. It would not be the passage of time but rather the practice of forgiveness over time in other contexts that has released this old special hate partner from our projections.
Q #746: If the Holy Spirit knows everything, which Jesus assures us that He does, then why cannot He guide me to help all those suffering in the world. Let us say for example a child has been kidnapped and is missing. Why can't I ask the Holy Spirit to tell me where the child is so I can help return the child to her family? Surely, the Holy Spirit knows exactly where the child is.
A: Yes, the Holy Spirit is the only One who knows exactly where the child is: at home in God where he never left, and from where he never was kidnapped. If the Holy Spirit were to intervene in the way that you describe, it would mean the separation did in fact occur, the world and the body were real, and the ego was right all along. That is not what we want the Holy Spirit to do. The Holy Spirit also knows that we are all suffering in the world, and He has come to help us end our suffering by showing us the way out of the world of illusion. When the mind chooses to identify with the ego/body, it becomes totally confused. Not only is our true Identity as God's innocent Son denied, identity with the mind is forgotten in the bargain. Thus we are all lost, kidnapped by the belief in the separation. That is the real problem, for which the Holy Spirit offers a real solution: the undoing of the thought of separation through forgiveness.
Since the Holy Spirit is not part of the dream of separation, He does not know specifically where anyone is in the illusion. He knows everything we need to know, but nothing that is not true. He could not, therefore, tell anyone how to find someone in a world that doesn't exist. His concern is only with the mind that thinks the world is real, and has the ability to choose to defend this belief or accept His perspective. However, the Holy Spirit knows that we have identified with the body, and knows the pain we experience for having left our true home by choosing the world: “ Here [the world] is the only home he thinks he knows. Here is the only safety he believes that he can find. Without the world he made is he an outcast; homeless and afraid. He does not realize that it is here he is afraid indeed, and homeless, too; an outcast wandering so far from home, so long away, he does not realize he has forgotten where he came from, where he goes, and even who he really is” (W.pI.166.4:1,2,3,4). This describes the lost child in all of us. For by choosing to believe the ego and identify with the body, we have lost our home, our Identity, and our Source. Moreover, we have no idea how to get Them back. This is where the Holy Spirit enters with His plan of salvation. Helping us find our way back to our true home and Identity is the goal of His curriculum in A Course in Miracles . He does this by teaching us that we have a mind with the power to choose against separation, just as we chose for it. This change is the miracle He teaches. We who believe we are in the world, on the other hand, are more interested in fixing things in the world: magic. Driven by the desire to make the world real, the mind's power is used to manipulate form, rather than to choose to see differently. Because we are unwilling to take responsibility for the power of our minds and are afraid of it, we deny it and blame external events on external causes, instead of recognizing that it is only the mind that is truly active. Thus, the mind that chose to be lost can choose to be found, and the mind that experiences anxiety due to the choice for separation can turn to the Holy Spirit to find peace. We must first recognize our fear of losing our identity as bodies, which is the ego's “lost child.” Then we can turn to the Holy Spirit to find our “lost” identity as God's Son, through forgiveness of all our thoughts of judgment and attack.
The symbol of a lost child applies as well to the thoughts of judgment we have projected out to make our separation from God real in our experience. This leaves us feeling lost, abandoned, and hopeless. The Holy Spirit invites us to “come home” to our minds by retrieving these thoughts: “We take our wandering thoughts, and gently bring them back to where they fall in line with all the thoughts we share with God. We will not let them stray. We let the light within our minds direct them to come home. We have betrayed them, ordering that they depart from us. But now we call them back, and wash them clean of strange desires and disordered wishes” (W.pI.188.9:2,3,4,5,6). Our “strange desires” to be special and separate are thus healed, and we are found at last.
For comment on the Course's language that seems to suggest the Holy Spirit does intervene in the world please see: Questions #42, #235, and #457. Also, “The Message of A Course in Miracles , Vol. II, Few Choose to Listen, and the tape set Duality as Metaphor (T-39).
Q #747: I am still having a little doubt as to the nature of the ego. Is it such an evil entity always attempting to separate us from God? Isn't it better just to think of a corpus of wrong ideas we have created of ourselves that serves the simple purpose of giving wrong answers when facing a situation? Isn't it just a point of reference with which to compare the divine peace of Heaven? Why do we have to see it as such an entity? In my case this idea contributed to building a new kind of fear I had to deal with.
A: In A Course in Miracles , Jesus tells us exactly what the ego is : “What is the ego ? But a dream of what you really are. A thought you are apart from your Creator and a wish to be what He created not. It is a thing of madness, not reality at all. A name for namelessness is all it is. A symbol of impossibility; a choice for options that do not exist. We name it but to help us understand that it is nothing but an ancient thought that what is made has immortality. But what could come of this except a dream which, like all dreams, can only end in death?” (C.2.1:4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11, italics ours ) The ego cannot then be an entity; it has no substance. It is the thought of separation, which is given power only by a choice in the mind to believe that it is true. The ego/thought exists in our experience because we want it to. We choose it over the Holy Spirit because we prefer our specialness as separate bodies to our truth as God's innocent Son. We fear it because we fear the power of our minds that would recognize the nothingness of the ego. If the ego is nothing, so is the world and so is the body. That recognition is terrifying to those who cling to specialness in a body.
The world and the body arise in our experience as the result of choosing to identify with the thought of separation (ego) in the mind. Thus, the ego is not a thing outside of ourselves that exists on its own, acting as an agent that can tempt us to anything. We alone are responsible for bringing it into existence by believing in it and allowing it to thrive on the guilt that inevitably follows the choice to be other than the Son that God created. We would prefer to believe that the ego has a life of its own so we could dissociate from it. That would allow us to have our cake and eat it too; i.e., have an ego-free life as bodies outside of Heaven. However, Jesus tells us in the Course that neither the ego nor the body exists, because nothing exists outside of Heaven: “ Life not in Heaven is impossible, and what is not in Heaven is not anywhere” (T.23.II.19:6). To ears that cling to “life” in a body this is not good news, and does indeed seem to instill fear. The fear, however, comes only from unwillingness to accept that truth be true. Yet in this same statement lies our hope for escape from the nightmare of separation. It tells us the ego has no life, and therefore no power and no effects. In another passage we are told: “ It [the ego] has no meaning. It does not exist. Do not try to understand it because, if you do, you are believing that it can be understood and is therefore capable of being appreciated and loved. That would justify its existence, which cannot be justified” (T.7.VI.11:6,7,8,9). That is good news. We are free to fix our attention on the path of forgiveness that is our only function here, and let the thought of separation be gradually undone. The ego, like the world, will then “fade into the nothingness from which it came.…” (M.13.1:2)
Q #748: If time is money, can we save it by spending less on our investment in the ego thought system. Will Jesus show us how to write this off? Could He be viewed as our ultimate financial advisor? Just wondering.
A: A helpful perspective! Sounds like a reflection on the section in the text of A Course in Miracles called “The Investment in Reality” (T.12.III) . Yes, we have invested heavily and almost exclusively in the ego thought system, and our losses have mounted accordingly. A diversified portfolio is always a wiser approach! And, yes, Jesus is showing us how to write off this bad debt. We could not find a better financial advisor. Unfortunately, we have not been listening to what he has been telling us for eons. Thankfully, he's still saying it, and we will never run out of chances to change our minds and turn back to him as our advisor. Essentially he is showing us how we got into trouble and how to get out of it, without losing anything of value. What a deal! The only condition is that we muster up the humility to question our own judgment and agree to learn how to judge everything with him , which should not be hard to do, given our dismal performance thus far. Accepting him as our advisor is the best decision we could ever make, because it will give us everything we truly have longed for, and no sacrifice will ever have been asked. A no brainer!