Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 06/22/2005
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #749 Is quantum physics likely to converge with the viewpoint of A Course in Miracles?
Q #750 Is the Course recommending we try to use prayer to suppress anger?
Q #751 Is high self-esteem related to spiritual enlightenment?
Q #752 What does Jesus mean by "witness"?
Q #753 Why does Lesson 1 in the Workbook seem self-contradictory?
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Q #749: The field of quantum mechanics has finally reached a point (string theory) where it acknowledges that nothing exists except energy -- and that this world is in fact an illusion. Is approaching the unreality of the world through this avenue still an example of the ego trying to make it real (if only in an energy format)? And is seeing it as a “field of intent connected to the Source”, as Dr. Wayne Dyer proclaims, really only one more mistaken way to explain the illusion of the world? Or are these two, pure physics and metaphysics, actually getting close to the truth as the A Course in Miracles would see it? And will their approach ever lead them to the Course's view?
A: Each mind will go only as far as it is ready to at any point in time in accepting the truth about itself. The various symbol systems of the world, whether we are speaking of physics or metaphysics or any other form of thinking, are in the end only neutral symbols. The mind can choose to use them to reinforce belief in either the guilt or the innocence of God's Son. Truth is not in any of the symbol systems themselves but only in the mind, awaiting its choice. The symbol systems can point towards the truth, but the mind has to be willing to look.
And yet there may be differences in how explicit the various symbol systems are in directing attention to the truth beyond themselves. So it is not likely that the field of quantum physics, while concluding that the world is an illusion, will ever come to a recognition that the “energy” on which the illusion of the world rests is guilt, which in itself is also illusory (T.18.IX.4,5 ; T.19.II.6:1,2,3,4,5) . And yet one can read A Course in Miracles and not accept its message of healing and wholeness. And one can read a text on quantum physics, or a Hindu text, or the Bible, or a telephone book, and come to the realization that all is one and that sin and separation are not real. So whether various paths will converge on the level of form in the end becomes irrelevant (M.1.3:1,2,3,4,5,6) . If we believe that we have found a path that will lead us home -- and we want to go home -- it would behoove us to follow its directions. And if that path is the Course, all we need to do, with the help of Jesus or the Holy Spirit, is forgive ourselves and all our projections.
Q #750: In Lesson 73, “I will there be light,” the shorter practice periods say to repeat “I will there be light. Darkness is not my will” several times an hour. Then it says, “It is most important, however, to apply today's idea in this form immediately you are tempted to hold a grievance of any kind” (W.pI.73.11:3,4,5,6). That sounds to me as if Jesus is telling me to pray the anger down. Could you please explain?
A: It could be taken to mean that, and there are many other instructions along those lines. But if you take into consideration the teaching that precedes this specific instruction, you probably would not be inclined to use his instruction to “pray the anger down.” Notice also that in concluding, he says: “This will help you let your grievances go, instead of cherishing them and hiding them in darkness.” This means that in our practice we would become aware that we had been cherishing grievances and hiding them, and that we no longer want that. This is typical of Jesus' teaching method: he contrasts what we think we want with what we truly want. So in repeating, “I will there be light. Darkness is not my will,” we are really saying, “I have been choosing darkness in holding onto grievances. That was a mistake, and now I choose light instead. I no longer cherish grievances.” This is parallels the theme of bringing the darkness to the light that runs throughout A Course in Miracles . We first acknowledge the darkness of the ego thought system that we had chosen, and then we bring that to the light, where it disappears.
Q #751: Does self-esteem have anything to do with spiritual enlightenment? In other words, does high self-esteem reflect more spiritual advancement than low self-esteem? And, does one need a “healthy ego” before one can advance spiritually?
A: No matter how we slice it, the ego is healthy on its own terms. It uses high and low self esteem for its purpose of making the body and the world real, thus keeping us grounded in the dream of separation. The forgiveness path that A Course in Miracles teaches does not require that our self esteem be high or low. When the Course tells us we are not bodies ( See :W.91.pI.5), it refers as much to the psychological and emotional body as the physical body. As we are told early in the text: ” ‘Self-esteem' in ego terms means nothing more than that the ego has deluded itself into accepting its reality…” (T.4.II.6:8). We are asked to see whatever inflated or deflated perceptions we have about ourselves as the reflection of our choice to identify with the body and make it real. In this sense, high and low are the same: there is no hierarchy of illusions (T.20.VIII.8) . All are opportunities to forgive ourselves for who we think we are when we deny who we truly are. Jesus tells us that in our chosen identities as bodies we have decided to esteem ourselves in the lowest possible form: “You think you are the home of evil, darkness and sin. You think if anyone could see the truth about you he would be repelled, recoiling from you as if from a poisonous snake. You think if what is true about you were revealed to you, you would be struck with horror so intense that you would rush to death by your own hand, living on after seeing this being impossible (W. pI.93.1:1,2,3). The goal of the Course is to teach us that we have been mistaken and are not the despicable creatures we think we are.
The fact that Jesus has us repeat “I am as God created me” more often than any other phrase in the Course indicates our great need to hear it. He knows we don't believe it. We are much more devoted to our identity as creatures of the ego, which is why we need a Teacher Who leads us to our highest Self-esteem by teaching us to exchange our miserable selves for our true identity. That is not to say that we should not “give the devil his due” by taking steps to enhance a low self- image. This is not a Course in behavior. In fact, coming to terms with deep feelings of worthlessness may be the just the ticket to seeking “another way” such as the Course teaches. Thus, low self-esteem can open the door to the healing Jesus offers in the Course, while high self- esteem may delude a person into believing all is well or lead him to seek beyond the ego when its fulfillment proves shallow. Low or high, well adjusted or maladaptive, all may serve the Holy Spirit's purpose; we cannot judge by form. As the manual tells us: The curriculum is highly individualized, and all aspects are under the Holy Spirit's particular care and guidance. (M.29.2:6). Moreover, high self-esteem may be nothing more than the grandiosity the text tells us “… is always a cover for despair. It is an attempt to counteract your littleness, based on the belief that the littleness is real” (T.9.VIII.2:1,3). The important thing is to bring every concept of the self to the light of forgiveness. Each must be raised to doubt that we may eventually learn we do not know who we are: “…the reason for the course is that you do not know what you are” (T.9.I.2:5). As we look at the many lofty and lowly ideas we have about ourselves, it is helpful to keep in mind these words and ask the Holy Spirit to replace our false self-concept with the truth He brings: “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” (T.31.V.17:7).
Q: #752: T.1.IV.4:6,7,8 says, “I assure you that I will witness for anyone who lets me, and to whatever extent he permits it. Your witnessing demonstrates your belief, and thus strengthens it. Those who witness for me are expressing through their miracles, that they have abandoned the belief in deprivation in favor of the abundance they have learned belongs to them.” Having grown up in the Baptist church, we were taught that to “witness for Jesus” meant telling everyone about him and about our belief in him. What does Jesus mean with these statements in A Course in Miracles ?
A: In the Course, to witness has the same meaning as to teach. It means to attest to the thought system we have chosen in our minds (the ego or the Holy Spirit). It does not refer to any specific words or behavior that are the domain of the body, for as we are told in the text: “The body is a limit imposed on the universal communication that is an eternal property of mind” (T.18.VI.8:3). Therefore, it is the state of mind that follows the choice to believe the Holy Spirit, rather than the ego, that witnesses to Him, to Jesus, and to the part of the mind that reflects the true Self.
Jesus, who is a symbol of the part of our mind that remembers our identity as God's innocent Son, witnesses/teaches only our truth because he sees nothing else. He does so to whatever extent we are willing, as the first sentence in the passage you quote states. His witness is accepted by a choice in the mind not to believe the ego. Practicing forgiveness by recognizing thoughts of judgment and attack, seeing in them the projection of our own guilt for choosing separation, is how we teach/witness to Jesus. It strengthens belief in the Holy Spirit in ourselves and in the whole Sonship. Likewise, our attack thoughts teach/witness to our belief in the separation, and strengthen identity with the ego. We are always choosing the ego or the Holy Spirit, and are therefore always witnessing to one or the other. That is what is meant when Jesus tells us in the text: “Everyone teaches [witnesses] , and teaches [witnesses] all the time. This is a responsibility you inevitably assume the moment you accept any premise at all, and no one can organize his life without some thought system. Once you have developed a thought system of any kind, you live by it and teach it” (T.6.in.2:2,3,4).
Unlike the directives of the Baptist Church and many other Christian Churches, Jesus does not tell us to speak about the Course. We are asked only to study, practice, and apply its teaching. Its application in our own lives witnesses to it, whether anyone else is consciously aware of it or not. Although we may in fact discuss the teachings of the Course with others, we do so to further our own understanding, not to convince anyone else that they should study or practice the Course. Traditional Christian proselytizing usually includes pointing out to the sinner his/her sinful ways with a call to convert to appropriate behavior. The Course teaches a very different view: “Any attempt you make to correct a brother means that you believe correction by you is possible, and this can only be the arrogance of the ego” (T.9.III.7:8). We are thus relieved of any need to say or do anything on the level of behavior with respect to Jesus' message in the Course. Our goal is to allow our minds to be healed of the thought of separation through the practice of forgiveness. Belief shifts gradually from the ego to the Holy Spirit, and then because “ The power of witness comes from your belief” (T.27.II.5:4), we bear witness to His peace and love with no effort on our part .
Q #753: This is more of a “grammatical” question, I first read this passage in the German translation of A Course in Miracles and thought perhaps it is a translation mistake, but I checked with the original English version and the passage is equally confusing. Lesson 1 of the workbook says: “That is the purpose of the exercise. The statement should merely be applied to anything you see. As you practice the idea for the day, use it totally indiscriminately. Do not attempt to apply it to everything you see, for these exercises should not become ritualistic” (W.pI.3:2,3,4,5). Can you explain the difference between applying things to anything you see but not to everything? In German it is clearly the same...what do I “have” to do, I look at things and say they are nothing but should not look at everything I see and say the same? Is this some kind of “loose” viewpoint, nothing matters anything but please do not apply this idea as a doctrine (because then it would matter)?
A: Sentence 6 holds the key to what Jesus is getting at: “Only be sure that nothing you see is specifically excluded.” He is very much aware of the cleverness of our egos -- how we all would attempt to compromise and make bargains with him so that we don't have to change too much -- how we try to get him to accept our terms and conditions for our relationship with him as our teacher. Thus, in the context of this lesson, he is alerting us to this tendency to put ourselves in control of our work with his course. He knows that we would attempt to exclude certain parts of our experience from the application, and so he is saying, “Don't do this. It will not help you to achieve the goals of this course if you make exceptions to my instructions.” This is what he means in the statements he makes about achieving the holy instant: “The necessary condition for the holy instant does not require that you have no thoughts that are not pure. But it does require that you have none that you would keep.... In your practice, then, try only to be vigilant against deception, and seek not to protect the thoughts you would keep to yourself” (T.15.IV.9:1,2,8).
While Jesus wants us to be disciplined in our practice -- because our minds are typically so un disciplined -- he wants us to stop short of ritual, only because turning a practice into a ritual usually means we no longer do it in a meaningful way that would produce the desired effects. He tells us in the manual for teachers: “Routines as such are dangerous, because they easily become gods in their own right, threatening the very goals for which they were set up” (M.16.2:5) . Our willingness to do what he advises, even if we forget to do it, is what affects our spiritual process, as opposed to the mere repetition of what he tells us to say at exactly the times he tells us to say it.