Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 06/29/2005
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #754 Why should we ask for God's guidance in a world of which He knows nothing?
Q #755 Every time I read the Course is like the first time. Is my understanding of it increasing?
Q #756 The more I try to find peace, the more I seem to suffer economic difficulties.
Q #757 Is the "inner child" just another aspect of the ego?
Q #758 My job requires planning but the Course teaches us we should not plan. What do I do?
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Q #754: My question is if we made up this world and God doesn't know about it why are we asking for His guidance?
A: We seek guidance because we have forgotten Who we are, and we need help to remember. In the clarification of terms we are told: “There is no need for help to enter Heaven for you have never left. But there is need for help beyond yourself as you are circumscribed by false beliefs of your Identity” (C.5.1:1,2). The help does not come from God for, as you mention, God does not know about us as bodies and therefore does not hear prayers nor give us guidance: “God does not guide, because He can share only perfect knowledge” (T.5.II.5:1), “God does not help because He knows no need (C.5.1:7). The ego, on the other hand, has us believe that the world is real, which entails the belief that God made it and the body, and is therefore in communication with it. This cannot be, for God, Who is real, cannot know a body that does not exist: “ At no single instant does the body exist at all” (T.18.VII.3:1) . However, we who are deeply attached to our belief in the body find it difficult to understand that God does not know bodies, and does not hear our prayers. In fact, we cannot help but identify God with the body. As Jesus tells us in the text: “Everything you recognize you identify with externals, something outside itself. You cannot even think of God without a body, or in some form you think you recognize” (T.18.VIII.1:6,7). Therefore, he uses language, terms, and images that are familiar to us to gently teach us that we are minds, not bodies. Thus, the form takes into consideration our fear and our mistaken beliefs, while the content gradually leads us beyond our fear. Having dissociated from our identity as minds, we have become oblivious to the mind's power and fearful of it. That is why, for example, the beautiful prayers in the second half of the workbook are addressed to God, even though we are told He does not understand words (M.21.1:7) . We are actually addressing the part of our minds that holds the memory of God. The inspiring words reflect the principles taught in A Course in Miracles , and praying them helps us join with the part of our minds that believes them.
This same process holds true for all the ways we seek guidance. While we are still afraid of our true Identity, we need a symbol that we perceive as “outside” of ourselves who represents our right mind. Consulting with someone whose wisdom and example we respect, praying words to God, or meditating, reflect the mind's choice to return to the Teacher/Holy Spirit within Who speaks to us from beyond the insanity of the ego. We may ask the wrong questions and even seek guidance for things pertaining to the ego that would hurt us if we achieved them, yet the simple acknowledgement that there is a Teacher other than the ego to Whom we can turn, strengthens our belief in Him. It is important, therefore, that we continue to ask for help for every need we think we have, until we learn that “ [we] …need only truth. In that all needs are satisfied, all cravings end, all hopes are finally fulfilled and dreams are gone” (W.P.II.251.1:5,6) .
Q #755: I have been studying A Course in Miracles for many years. From the first time I read it, I got interested in it and thought I understood it. However, I still read it, feeling as if I read it for the first time. I wonder if I am increasing my level of understanding.
A: The study of A Course in Miracles is a process that usually requires several readings and rereading because its teachings reverse everything we believe about everything: “To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold” (T.24.in.2:1, italics ours ). This is not an easy task because the choice to identify with the body has led to a multitude of seemingly diverse values and beliefs. The fear of letting go of this identity with the body keeps the belief system that supports it in place. Frequently questioning our beliefs begins with those experienced as painful, since it is relatively easy to let go of unwanted beliefs. With time we discover that everything we believe about ourselves as bodies causes us pain in some way, and that nothing we do to alleviate the pain really works. That is usually when we begin our study all over again, seemingly for the first time. It takes years of study and practice to train our minds to recognize our hidden thoughts, beliefs and values. The more we practice, the more understanding we bring to our reading of the Course, which often means realizing we did not previously understand, or do not now understand.
Your experience is shared by many, if not all, students of the Course, and it is an important part of the process. Accepting the fact that do not know or understand is the beginning of wisdom, as this striking passage in the text tells us: “ When every concept has been raised to doubt and question, and been recognized as made on no assumptions that would stand the light, then is the truth left free to enter in its sanctuary, clean and free of guilt. There is no statement that the world is more afraid to hear than this: 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. Yet in this learning is salvation born” (T.31.V.17:5,6,7,8). This is a good example of how the Course reverses our thinking. Progress in “understanding” is evidenced by awareness of our lack of understanding. In an earlier passage Jesus makes the same point: “You are still convinced that your understanding is a powerful contribution to the truth, and makes it what it is. Yet we have emphasized that you need understand nothing” (T.18.IV.7:5,6). In view of our difficulty in understanding the Course, this is a great relief; to the ego, it is insulting. The ego is convinced of its own brilliance, never suspecting it “…cannot know anything” (T.6.IV.3:1) . Though our understanding is not required, our willingness is. Only this enables us to practice the forgiveness Jesus teaches in the Course. Practicing forgiveness leads to healing our minds of the thought of separation, and it is this we seek more than understanding.
Q #756: I would like to know why the world of form gets so difficult to deal with when one starts to understand the concepts of A Course in Miracles , practice forgiveness, and get in contact with the Inner Light, the Holy Spirit. I've been going through difficult times in the outer material (non existing) world, while the inner, peaceful world manifests itself. What could I do to find the peace of God and still act in this world? How can we see this world with the eyes of the Holy Spirit, and avoid dealing with such a vicious ego and its attacks? In my case these attacks come in the form of economic difficulties that I've never gone through before.
A: Most of us, when we first come to the Course, do not understand what we are opening the door to -- the locked vaults of sin and guilt in our own mind (T.31.V.6:6) ! We think we are simply asking to have a more peaceful and loving experience in the world by getting in touch with the Teacher of Love and peace within. At one level, that is true, but the process in coming to that experience of peace involves forgiveness, which none of us really understands in the beginning (S.2.I.1) . For we think we are going to learn how to forgive all the bastards in our life, not realizing that there is really only one bastard to forgive -- ourselves!
The reason we are ever not at peace has nothing to do with our external life circumstances but only with the choice we have made to identify with the ego and its thought system of sin and guilt and fear and scarcity within. But for most of us, it is too fearful to look directly within and so the Course's process is an indirect one (T.14.I.4,5) -- we look at the projections of the ego from our mind out onto the screen we call the world, which seems to be outside us. As real as the external problems outside us may seem, the Course is leading us to a recognition that the problem is only our interpretation of those situations (M.17.4:2) , which is coming from our belief in our own sin and guilt, for which we believe we deserve punishment.
And so the lessons begin -- not orchestrated by the Holy Spirit but brought by our own mind into our awareness so that the spots of guilt within can now be healed, rather than continuing to fester, hidden and unrecognized in the dark recesses of our own mind. The goal is not to avoid the ego and its attacks but rather to learn to welcome the opportunity for healing that each challenging situation offers us. And so a relationship may suddenly seem to become more difficult, or some shift in our life circumstances -- health, financial, career, etc., -- may seem to arise. Now, an initial interpretation of such challenges is that the ego is trying to sabotage us in our efforts to make a different choice, and certainly these problems can have the initial effect of riveting our attention even more in the world. But with the Holy Spirit as our Teacher we can begin to recognize that these are just the opportunities to practice forgiveness of ourselves that we have at some level invited in.
In your own case, the new economic problems can be seen as opportunities to uncover your beliefs about yourself in terms of scarcity, lack and unworthiness. And as you can come to share the Holy Spirit's perception of yourself, you will begin to open up to a different interpretation of those financial challenges. As your own guilt is released, the external circumstances will merely be situations to be addressed, but not indictments of yourself. And so whether the external situation shifts or not will be irrelevant to your own peace of mind. Now this is the process, described very briefly, and you may find your resistance to accepting the Holy Spirit's interpretation strong, especially at the beginning. But that is why Jesus presents forgiveness in the Course as a process, requiring practice over time.
Further discussion of how to look at issues related to money and financial challenges from the Course's perspective can be found in Questions #113, 139, 349, and 487.
Q #757: Is the “inner child” an aspect of the ego's composition? Is healing the inner child actually helpful or just more of the ego's smokescreen?
A: The inner child, as typically spoken of and worked with in some therapeutic contexts, would be an aspect of the ego from the perspective of A Course in Miracles . As with everything, its helpfulness as a concept depends on how it is used. It may be used, and typically is, to reinforce the perception that one has been victimized as a child. Now it is true that most of us in various ways feel we were treated unfairly, perhaps even abused, when we were younger and more helpless, and may also feel we carry the scars of those past experiences into our present lives, preventing us from feeling worthy of love and achieving our full potential now. And the Course would not want us to deny that these are our experiences and perceptions.
Therapeutic interventions based on the concept of the inner child may then encourage the individual to nurture his or her inner child, providing oneself the adult support and love that was not provided by the adult figures, typically the parents, during childhood. In that way, one can now take responsibility for one's life and not feel condemned to continue playing out the victim scripts in the present. And certainly, from the perspective of functioning in the world, this can all be very helpful. However, if we go no further than this with the idea, from the Course's perspective we would merely be serving the ego's purpose of keeping the roles of victim and victimizer real and never getting to the real source of the pain and feelings of unworthiness in the mind (T.27.VII.1 , 2,3,4,5, 6,7,8,9) .
On the other hand, using the concept of the inner child to identify the victim dynamic within oneself can be a very helpful first step in uncovering the ego's defenses, especially for anyone who may have a tendency to deny difficult feelings and sugarcoat the past, out of guilt and fear over confronting very negative repressed feelings towards family and others. For any genuine healing, as the Course speaks of it, to occur, we need to be able to acknowledge the many ways in which we feel we have been and are being victimized, for only then can we begin to identify the strong attraction we in fact have to such feelings, for they are the great preservers of guilt, seen in someone other than ourselves. And this projection is always the ego's intent in every relationship (T.19.IV.A.10,11,12,13) .
And so, if we see getting in touch with our victimized inner child as a necessary first step in the forgiveness process, but only a first step -- since in the end it is only ourselves we need to forgive for wanting to believe we can be deprived of love by anything other than our own choice (T.4.IV.3:3) -- the concept can be of great value. For then it will be possible to get in touch with our real inner Child (W.pI.182) !
Q #758: I am working as a secretary and organizing and “planning ahead” is an important part of my job. A Course in Miracles states that we should not “plan the future.” How can I follow the Course without having to, drastically speaking, quit my job?
A: The essence of this teaching is that we should not make plans on our own , which almost always means with the ego . Similarly, when Jesus says in the text, “I need do nothing,” (T.18.VII) , he means that before we act or make plans, we should bring our perceptions to his or the Holy Spirit's loving presence in our minds, so that we would be able to purify them of the ego's purpose. This is evident from the statement that follows Jesus' saying that “a healed mind does not plan” (W.pI.135.11:1) . Note that he is talking about a healed mind , which simply “carries out the plans that it receives through listening to wisdom that is not its own.... It does not depend upon itself for anything except its adequacy to fulfill the plans assigned to it” (W.pI.135.11:2,4) . This is the ideal we are growing toward. Thus, Jesus is really not saying that we should not makes plans. No one could function with making plans of some kind. The point is that our plans are normally based on unquestioned assumptions about who we are and what we ought to be doing with our lives; we rarely question our definitions of our problems and their solutions. And those assumptions are almost always part of the ego's strategy to keep us mindlessly bound to its plan to maintain the separation from God. This is what Jesus is getting at. He is helping us release our perceptions from the bondage of the ego, thus freeing ourselves to switch to the Holy Spirit's purpose for our lives. We might wind up making the exact same plans as before, but the purpose would have been changed and we would not take what we are doing quite so seriously.
This has been of concern to many students; see also Questions #90, #289, #293, and #305.