Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 07/06/2005
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Q #759 I have been diagnosed with schizophrenia: I am afraid the Course is just another crazy thought system.
Q #760 Is forgiveness the same as Buddha's "golden rule"?
Q #761 If God is "absolute" and "one" how can there be a son?
Q #762 When I succeed in seeing someone's behaviour as a call for help, it makes me feel guilty.
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Q #759: I am just beginning my studies in A Course in Miracles , and have some basic questions. I have a hard time releasing myself from the thought system of the world and accepting that it is an illusion. It seems that ever since I've started studying the ideas in the Course, I've had nightmares, but at the same time it feels so right to me. I know these things written in the Course are true, but I don't know how to rid myself of my old way of thinking, so that I can see the truth. I have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, which has relevance since I've accepted some crazy thought systems in the past which have proven themselves to be wrong. Basically, I'm afraid to throw myself into something again, being that I've been so wrong in the past. Please try to look at this from my point of view, for the things that are problems to me, are truly real problems to me in my mind. Please try to understand what it would be like not to be able to control your thoughts and emotions, and at the same time, to yearn for truth and God's Love.
A: Perhaps you will find it reassuring to know that, despite the problems you've encountered in your life and the world's diagnosis for those problems, the Course would say that, at a deeper level -- the only level that really counts -- you are not any different from anyone else. We all share the same ego mental illness, or illness of the mind, believing things that aren't real (T.13.V.6:1,2) and mounting defenses against the truth that are completely dysfunctional. For, as Jesus says, “all illness is mental illness” (P.2.IV.1:1) -- we all simply express our illness in different ways.
That is not to minimize the particular set of challenges you personally have been confronting and the special concerns they raise for you as to whether you can trust your judgment about the validity and value of the Course's teachings for you. And yet again you are not alone in raising these questions. If you can set aside for a moment any consideration of the Course's metaphysical premise that the world is an illusion and simply focus on the one problem that we seem to share universally, that we are often immobilized by guilt and fear -- and it is with that problem we all seek help -- you may be willing to accept the Course's antidote to that guilt and fear -- forgiveness.
Forgiveness means nothing more than being willing to accept that your judgments about the world and others may simply be wrong. You do not have to begin by denying the reality of the world. You only need to be willing to deny the validity of your interpretations of the world. Considering your experiences so far in your life, you may not find this a difficult premise to accept. And this step will help you begin to release yourself from the fear and the guilt in your mind that leads you to question both yourself and the Course's value for you. As you can step back from the fear and the guilt, you may then begin to get greater clarity as to whether the Course is the appropriate path for you. Whether the Course ends up being your path is not something you need to know at the outset, nor is it necessary for you to know that in order to benefit from its gentle teachings on forgiveness.
Among the many implications of its teachings is that it is not necessary for you, as you say, “to rid myself of my old way of thinking, so that I can see the truth.” By simply looking honestly at your old way of thinking without shrinking back from it, but acknowledging the painful limitations and consequences of judgment, you will begin to value it less and less as a mental tool. No active resistance or struggle against the old way is necessary. In fact, the resistance simply gives the old way of thinking power, for it says it is real and must be overcome. But a gentle looking allows it simply to dissolve into nothingness, which is all it really is.
You do not say whether you are currently getting treatment or taking any medications for your condition, but there would be nothing in the Course that would counsel against seeking help from outside yourself. Recognizing and acknowledging our limitations and then seeking help at the level and in the form in which we are able to accept it is very consonant with the Course's teachings (T.2.IV.4,5) .
Q #760: In speaking with a rabbi's wife, I mentioned forgiveness. She immediately reacted and asked if I meant “the golden rule,” or what the Buddha once taught.” She did not care to talk anymore. I later wondered whether the term compassion would be easier to mention?
A: Forgiveness, as Jesus teaches it in A Course in Miracles , involves a recognition that perceiving oneself as “sinned against” or victimized is the projection of guilt that is the result of the mind's choice to be separate from God and to identify with the body. This teaching is unique to the Course, which tells us “There is no sin” (T.26.VII.10:5). However, what is usually understood as forgiveness, particularly in the Judeo-Christian tradition, rests on the belief that sin is real and must be atoned for to be forgiven. It is almost impossible to speak of forgiveness without evoking thoughts of sin. It generally means that someone who has inflicted harm must be released of blame, and a “legitimate claim” to retribution must be relinquished by the “victim.” This can be threatening no matter what beliefs one has about it, as your experience demonstrates. And so the question becomes whether to talk about forgiveness at all. As Jesus tells us so often in the Course, it is the content of our minds that “teaches” both forgiveness and the compassion that flows from it.
The words we use “are but symbols of symbols” (M.21.1:9) , and are therefore irrelevant. It is helpful to remember that our only purpose is the healing of our minds: “Let yourself [mind] be healed that you may be forgiving, offering salvation to your brother and yourself… What you would prove to him you will believe. The power of witness comes from your belief. And everything you say or do or think but testifies to what you teach to him…It is this testimony that can speak with power greater than a thousand tongues. For here is his forgiveness proved to him” (T.27.II.4:7; 5:3,4,5,8,9). In all of our encounters, therefore, the only thing we are asked to do is practice the forgiveness we are taught, which means being willing to monitor our minds for any thoughts of judgment, and then give them to the Holy Spirit to be transformed. Only then will our words reflect His message that the other person's fear or defensiveness has had no effect and there is nothing to forgive. Thus we “…forgive the Son of God for what he did not do” (T.17.III.1:5). This is the most compassionate thing we can do for ourselves and for others. It is also the only way we are asked to express forgiveness.
We are thus relieved of the burden of searching for words to reflect the love that is in our minds when we join with the Holy Spirit. As Jesus tells us in the text: “…love is content, and not form of any kind” (T.16.V.12:1). Thus, if while speaking with someone about any subject, including forgiveness, a choice to identify with the Holy Spirit has been made, whatever words are used will reflect the love that He represents. Our goal in learning this course is to forgive ourselves for all our judgments and listen to the Holy Spirit in our minds, Whose words will replace ours: “The Holy Spirit speaks to you . He does not speak to someone else. Yet by your listening His Voice extends, because you have accepted what He says” (T.27.V.1:10,11,12).
Q #761: If God is “absolute” and “one,” there cannot be anything but Him. How then can there be a Son, and why? Is God dreaming or is the Son? What link if any is there between God and the world -- the Holy Spirit or the Son? If this world is an illusion and God hasn't made it, do angels and other spiritual beings also “not exist”? Do we exist if time was but a moment in our mind and is long gone by, what are the practical implications for our daily lives? Even if we recognize this fact, I don't feel that this makes any difference in our normal lives. The world does not cease to exist, even if we try.
A: From the perspective of absolute truth, you are right, there can be no Son distinguishable from God (W.pI.132.12:4). It is only within the seeming dream of the sleeping Son that there appear to be two entities, God and the Son. And, unlike some Eastern spiritual teachings, the God of the Course does not dream and the world is not the effect of His dreaming but of the Son's. The Course speaks of the Son because it is addressed to a mind caught in the misbelief of duality and separation, and so uses the split mind's symbols to correct the misbelief, while we still believe we are separate (T.25.I.7:4) . See also Questions #27, #72, #85 and #228 for further discussions of how A Course in Miracles comes to us in dualistic language, despite its nondualistic metaphysics.
There is no link between God and the world, for the world is only a shadowy projection of an illusory thought of guilt in the mind. There is however a Link between God and the mind of the Son that seems to have fallen asleep, which the Course calls the Holy Spirit (T.6.I.19:1 ; T.10.III.2:5,6; T.13.XI.8:1; C.6.3,4) . This link is not a separate entity -- although the Course often speaks of the Holy Spirit in this way -- but is only the memory of God (T.10.II.2:3,4,5,6) that we would have had to carry with us in our mind into the dream, since we can never separate from God in reality.
Nothing within the realm of duality and separate beings, including angels, has any real existence from the Course's perspective. The Course does use the concept of angels in a number of places, but only as a symbol of God's Love (see also Questions #36 and #413ii). That realm of duality also includes the selves we think we are. The “I” is the false self of the ego, the illusory individual self we all cling to as our identity. The Course's goal, through the process of forgiveness, or letting go of our judgments, is to lead us to a readiness to release all the concepts we hold about ourselves, including, at the very end of the process, the concept that we are an individual self, an “I” -- ego is, after all, the Latin word for “I.”
Although the Course's metaphysics teaches that time is already over, Jesus acknowledges that, as you point out, this is not our experience: “For those in time can speak of things beyond, and listen to words which explain what is to come is past already. Yet what meaning can the words convey to those who count the hours still, and rise and work and go to sleep by them?” (W.169.10:3,4). And yet, in practical terms, as we can allow ourselves to accept the possibility of the idea, even if it is not our immediate experience, it may perhaps help us over time begin to take the specifics of our lives and ourselves just a little less seriously, to have a little less concern about how things turn out, and to be more open merely to watching ourselves move through our lives without trying so obstinately to control the outcomes. All of these would be reflections of a deepening peace that flows from the acceptance of all that is, which forgiveness brings about. And what could be more practical?
Q #762: Can you comment on these feelings I have? I sometimes get insight into someone's behavior that I originally was very judgmental about it and the insight usually makes me more compassionate in that I understand that it was really a call for help and a reflection of a problem with themselves and their lives. But I feel guilty that I was told this information about them. I feel like it is an intrusion on their privacy.
A) Without knowing more about you and the situation, it is difficult to respond. Knowing someone's background does not necessarily have to result in guilt, so there must be an issue related to how you got the information and/or what you are doing with it in your mind. The guilt could also be related just to your having judged that person in the first place -- guilt always results from seeing another person's interests as separate from your own. The need to find fault with others, as distinguished from an objective observation about behavior, comes from the underlying need to project our guilt over having rejected the call to set aside our ego and join with the love of Jesus instead. Because of this we would always feel guilty about condemning others, as part of us knows that we are using that judgment to get ourselves off the hook. This is the ego's principle of one or the other : if you are guilty, I am innocent.
Forgiveness, on the other hand, is grounded in the perception of shared interests and shared identity: we all share the same mind -- the same ego and the same Holy Spirit, along with the ability to choose between the two. Your guilt will vanish, thus, when you choose against separate interests and instead share perception with the Holy Spirit.