Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 8/24/2005
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Q #786 When I face the things I have kept hidden it makes me want to give up the Course.
Q #787 If proselytizing about the Course is an ego trap, why did Helen Shucman want it published?
Q #788 Is it inconsistent of me to not want to spend time with someone I feel I have forgiven?
Q #789 If "perception is projection" what was Jesus' perception of his own crucifixion?
Q #790 Would it be appropriate to pursue a police complaint against a company I feel has acted dishonestly?
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Q #786: Is the intention of the A Course in Miracles to have us face our darkness until we achieve a sudden shift to love and oneness? Will I eventually make a snap decision for love once and for all? After studying the Course for a while I began to experience the negative things I had previously kept hidden from myself. This made me feel like abandoning the Course. I am not sure what to do. If I focus only on love, will I be denying the anger, lust, greed, etc.?
A: When the mind chooses separation, the first thing it does as a follow up is to deny having made the choice. This denial is key to the ego's success in making the illusion of separation seem real. Denial is therefore the foundation of the ego's thought system. It follows that one of the most important steps in undoing belief in the ego is to uncover what has been denied. If it is exposed, it is no longer denied. That is why Jesus tells us: “No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected. …We are ready to look more closely at the ego's thought system because together we have the lamp that will dispel it, and since you realize you do not want it, you must be ready. Let us be very calm in doing this, for we are merely looking honestly for truth. The ‘dynamics' of the ego will be our lesson for a while, for we must look first at this to see beyond it, since you have made it real. We will undo this error quietly together, and then look beyond it to truth” (T.11.V.1:1,3,4,5,6) . The looking begins, as your experience shows, with an acknowledgment of the suppressed hatred that masks fear and guilt, which are the effects of choosing to believe the separation is real and specialness is preferable to oneness.
Deeper within, and hidden beneath the guilt and fear, is the memory of God's Love that Jesus tells us is what we truly fear: “You are not seriously disturbed by your hostility. You keep it hidden because you are more afraid of what it covers. You could look even upon the ego's darkest cornerstone without fear if you did not believe that, without the ego, you would find within yourself something you fear even more. You are not really afraid of crucifixion. Your real terror is of redemption” (T.13.III.1:7,8,9,10,11). All the ego's schemes, therefore, are designed to defend against Love's memory/our redemption. They make up the layers of denial and defense that the Course leads us to uncover through the study and practice of its teachings. Resistance to looking at the darkness within is a camouflage for resistance to looking at the light within, which frequently is experienced by Course students as a desire to get rid of the book. You have a lot of company in your dilemma.
It is important to proceed gently through the process of uncovering, and very important to remember what Jesus tells us emphatically: “ Do not be afraid of the ego ” (T.7.VIII.5:1) . Nevertheless, our focus must be on looking at what it has made: “You cannot lay aside the obstacles to real vision without looking upon them, for to lay aside means to judge against. If you will look, the Holy Spirit will judge, and He will judge truly. Yet He cannot shine away what you keep hidden, for you have not offered it to Him and He cannot take it from you” (T.12.II.9:6,7,8). In order to allow the Holy Spirit to judge what we look upon we must look without any judgment of our own. When we become afraid or distressed by what we see of the ego's antics, it is because we have judged them as sinful and taken them seriously. This perpetuates the guilt that keeps us rooted in the illusion, guarantees a firm grip on specialness, and keeps the Holy Spirit out of the picture. Thus, guilt and fear are kept alive and well, and love's presence is blocked from awareness.
Love need not be sought, for it is not lost. Our focus is in the removal of fear, which lets love's light dispel the darkness. Love then replaces fear because it was always there: “You who have tried to banish love have not succeeded, but you who choose to banish fear must succeed… When we have overcome fear– not by hiding it, not by minimizing it, and not by denying its full import in any way– this is what you will really see” (T.12.II.9:1,5; italics added ). As fear recedes and the ego's specialness becomes less attractive, it becomes easier not to choose it. This is a gradual learning process, rather than a sudden “snap” into the right mind. The judgments, grievances, and accusations that serve as obstacles are removed by choosing not to hold on to them. But first they must be recognized. Love cannot be revealed if anger, greed, or any form of fear is denied. Again, denial keeps fear in place, which blocks love from awareness. We need focus only on what Jesus teaches: “Do not leave any spot of pain hidden from His [the Holy Spirit] light, and search your mind carefully for any thoughts you may fear to uncover ” (T.13.III.7:5; italics added ). And a little later in the text he tells us: “You need but leave the mirror clean and clear of all the images of hidden darkness you have drawn upon it. God will shine upon it of Himself” (T.14.IX.5:5,6).
Q #787: If, as you have said already when answering questions on this Web site, that the need to tell others about A Course in Miracles is a crafty ego device to avoid following your own forgiveness path or however you want to phrase it, then why did Helen feel the need to publish it so other people would read it? Could the decision to publish the Course “to help others” then not also be a crafty ego device so that Helen would avoid practicing forgiveness?
A: Helen never felt a need to have the Course published. The publishing of the material was a thought that did not come from her; it was part of the whole process of taking down the Course and being personally guided by Jesus. There was never a compulsive need on her part to get it into print.
Q #788: Is it okay and possible to truly forgive someone but still not want to spend time with them simply because you do not want to? I know that, in the extreme, forgiveness would not mean that we have to spend time with a murderer simply because he/she is a child of God. The crux of what I am getting at is that I feel that I have forgiven a certain person in my life, but I do not like spending time with him because his idea of relating is much different than mine. I do not return his phone calls and just want him to go away.
A: It is quite normal to have preferences as long as we believe we are bodies. Having a preference with regard to the people we spend time with is in that sense no different from having a preference with regard to the flavor of ice cream we select. If it is just a matter of preference -- as opposed to a burning issue that is disruptive to your peace of mind -- then you just leave it at that. Sometimes, though, it is much more than a preference, what Jesus refers to as an investment -- in the section in the text of A Course in Miracles called “The Investment in Reality,” (T.12.III) . If there is a real charge to your decision not to associate with this person, you have gone from a preference to an investment, meaning you have linked your salvation to not associating with him or her, and you would then be withholding love from this person. The decision then would have come from the ego, and judgment would be involved. The lesson in the section referred to is that salvation is attained only through peace, which is in your mind, not in having a situation or relationship in the world be a certain way.
Question #595 speaks to this issue, as do pages 24 and 25 in Vol. I of our The Healing Power of Kindness .
Q #789: “Projection makes perception. The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that. But though it is no more than that, it is not less. . . . It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition. As a man thinketh, so does he perceive.” (T.21.in.1,2,3,4,5,6). Question: Was the crucifixion of Jesus the witness to his state of mind, the outside picture of his inward condition? Or does the passage above mean something different than what it says?
A: A Course in Miracles teaches us that perception is always an interpretation -- coming from our identification in our minds either with guilt (the ego) or with love (the Holy Spirit). Perception is not simply a fact based on what our physical eyes see (T.21.V.1:7; M.17.4) . The crucial point with regard to the issue you raise is that there was no guilt in Jesus' mind -- no thought of attack - - and therefore he perceived his being crucified simply as his brothers' call for help. With only love in his mind, he could perceive only calls for love or extensions of love. No other interpretation is possible when there is only love in one's mind. This is evident when he discusses the crucifixion in Chapter 6 in the text. In speaking of our freedom to choose to perceive ourselves as persecuted, Jesus advises us, “When you do choose to react that way, however, you might remember that I was persecuted as the world judges, and did not share this evaluation for myself. . . . I therefore offered a different interpretation of attack. . . .” (T.6.I.5:2,3,5) . He explains further: “I elected, for your sake and mine, to demonstrate that the most outrageous assault, as judged by the ego, does not matter. As the world judges these things, but not as God knows them, I was betrayed, abandoned, beaten, torn, and finally killed. It was clear that this was only because of the projection of others onto me, since I had not harmed anyone and had healed many” (9). And finally: “The message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear: Teach only love, for that is what you are. If you interpret the crucifixion in any other way, you are using it as a weapon for assault rather than as the call for peace for which it was intended” (13:1,2; 14:1) .
Thus, again, Jesus did not perceive himself as assaulted or persecuted even though nails were hammered into his body, etc. His “inward condition” was one of love and invulnerability, and therefore the “outside picture” for him was fearful brothers calling for love. What the body's eyes see is only form, and that is not the basis of perception according to A Course in Miracles .
Q #790: I have been the victim of an attempted fraud by a medium sized profitable company and although I have resisted their civil claim which they finally dropped, my legal expenses and stress levels have been considerable. As I have hard evidence, and in the light of the teachings, should I now report them to the police? I agonize as much over this question as I did over the spurious court claim. Even if this attack is illusory, should I not prevent its repetition for the sake of future “victims” who also suffer in a world of illusion?
A: The forgiveness A Course in Miracles teaches is directed to a change of mind, not to any type of behavior. It is therefore possible to apply its teachings while reporting a crime to the police, filing legal suits, or doing any of the normal things involved in living in the world. The important thing is to be aware of the judgments based on differences that arise in any situation. For this purpose, the instructions in workbook lesson 21 are meant to be generalized and applied to every circumstance in which we find ourselves : “… search your mind carefully for situations past, present or anticipated that arouse anger in you. The anger may take the form of any reaction ranging from mild irritation to rage. The degree of the emotion you experience does not matter. You will become increasingly aware that a slight twinge of annoyance is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury” (W.pI.21.2:2,3,4,5). When this simple exercise is practiced diligently, hidden emotions, thoughts, and judgments are brought to awareness, revealing the unconscious choice, made in the mind, to believe the separation is real. Bringing this choice to awareness is the first step in the process of undoing the thought of separation that is the goal of the Course. The next step lies not in changing behavior in any way, nor in trying to change the judgments, but rather in accepting responsibility for the choice and acknowledging there is another choice that can be made.
While we believe we are in the world, we generally “give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's” i.e., obey the rules of the world in form (file law suits, police reports, etc.). At the same time, we practice the Course by paying attention to the thoughts and judgments that arise in every situation. They reflect back to us the choice for separation that was made in the mind ( content ), and has been denied. It is important to remember this distinction between form and content whenever a decision about behavior must be made. A situation such as you describe is replete with opportunities to see many of the ego's favorite themes in operation; not the least of which is the victim/victimizer plot. Again, the important thing is to pay attention to our thoughts, all of which are based on perception of differences that stem from the one thought of separation that is held in the mind. In this way, everything from rooting for your favorite baseball team to filing a police report is an opportunity to become aware of the choice for separation that has been hidden, denied and protected. Only when this choice is brought to awareness can the process of its undoing through forgiveness begin.
To the ego, the differences it perceives in all our experiences are important and purposeful. They support its belief system and prove it right. These differences make life complicated and keep us thoroughly involved. Yet it is only belief that the illusion is real that makes it seem that some situations are more serious than others, or some form of behavior is more spiritual than another. In the Course, Jesus tells us: “No illusion has any truth in it. Yet it appears some are more true than others, although this clearly makes no sense at all. All that a hierarchy of illusions can show is preference, not reality” (T.26.VII.6:3,4,5). This clearly relieves us of having to make the “right decision” on the level of form. Whatever course of action is decided upon, the only question worthy of consideration is whether to choose the ego or the Holy Spirit as teacher. Choosing the ego keeps attention focused on the drama of the situation as it appears in form, while the Holy Spirit brings the content of the mind into focus. Thus, the only thing that makes any specific behavior “right” or “wrong,” helpful or useless, is which teacher is chosen as guide. In this regard Jesus asks: “Would you be hostage to the ego or host to God?” Let this question be asked you by the Holy Spirit every time you make a decision. For every decision you make does answer this, and invites sorrow or joy accordingly” (T.15.III.5:1,2,3).