Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 9/14/2005

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #797 Does the true self know about the dream?
Q #798 How should I view prophecies of impending doom?
Q #799 How can I break free of my feelings of lack?
Q #800 How would the course view the dictum that we should "hate the sin but love the sinner"?

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Q #797: Does the true Self know about the dream?

A: The true Self, God's Son, knows only the Father's Love, and knows not an identity apart from Him. In that unity with God, he is not aware of the dream, just as God is not aware of it. In the workbook, Jesus describes the true Self in terms that make it clear It cannot know about the dream of separation: “This Self alone knows Love. This Self alone is perfectly consistent in Its Thoughts; knows Its Creator, understands Itself, is perfect in Its knowledge and Its Love, and never changes from Its constant state of union with Its Father and Itself” (W.rV.in.4:4,5). Thus, one with Its Source, whole, and certain of Its Identity, the true Self cannot ask the questions, “Who am I?” or “Am I dreaming?” It knows Its Identity and is awake in that knowledge, not asleep dreaming of a false, separate self. The dreamer of the dream (the mind) holds the memory of the Self, rather than the Self knowing about the dream.

The question of the dream arises only when the mind has already chosen to believe that the dream of separation has indeed occurred. In this choice, the mind actively chooses against the Self and falls asleep. The dream thus begins with a profound dissociation from our true Identity, experienced by the mind as a vast, dark, void, which is then filled with a false identity that does not really exist at all, just as the figures in a nocturnal dream are not real. The conflict at the core of the dream of separation is, therefore, an identity crisis: “There is no conflict that does not entail the single, simple question, ‘What am I?' Yet who could ask this question except one who has refused to recognize himself?” (W.pI.139.1:6,2:1)

The mistaken-identity dilemma is compounded by the belief that the true Self actually belongs to the dream figure “self,” and is somehow identified with it. This is the source of much of the confusion in understanding the message of A Course in Miracles , which is addressed to the mind, not to the individual identified with a body. In fact, the right mind of the Sonship that remembers God and is symbolized by Jesus is the source of the Course. This is the part of the mind that is aware of the dream.

The mind's choice to return to its true Identity is reflected in the process of learning the Course's important teaching that we are dreaming a dream of separation, from which we can awake: “ Nothing at all has happened but that you have put yourself to sleep, and dreamed a dream in which you were an alien to yourself, and but a part of someone else's dream” (T.28.II.4:1). Through the practice of forgiveness, we attribute our experience in the dream to the power of the mind, not to anything external to it. In so doing, we gradually learn to identify with the mind rather than with the figure in the dream. This returns to our awareness the power of the mind to choose differently and ultimately to awaken from the dream. In a single, simple answer to our question of identity, Jesus defines our true condition, our dream state, and the power of the mind to take us from one to the other: “ You are at home in God, dreaming of exile but perfectly capable of awakening to reality” (T.10.I.2:1). Each application of the principles of forgiveness in our relationships leads us closer to full acceptance and the awakening he promises.

Q #798: I have recently been exposed to prophecies about impending doom to the earth within the next decade. Global warming, earthquakes, volcanoes, storms, pollution, nuclear war. If one isn't ready through prayer and meditation, apparently after death I could be in danger of being unconscious for a long time. I know my thoughts are not pure, I struggle with the clouds, when I do meditate and invite God, I don't feel this huge presence, however I do feel comforted in knowing that He is there even though I don't feel Him there. How should I view these prophecies?

A: The prediction of catastrophic events are certainly true since they are already well underway in our world. Our concern, therefore, is not with the veracity of the predictions, but rather with our interpretation of them. As Jesus tells us in the text: “The test of everything on earth is simply this; “What is it for ?” The answer makes it what it is for you. It has no meaning of itself, yet you can give reality to it, according to the purpose that you serve” (T.24.VII.6:1,2,3). We are also told that there are only two possible answers to the question: everything serves either the ego's thought system or the Holy Spirit's. The ego interprets everything in support of the belief that the world is real and has an effect on us. The Holy Spirit interprets everything as an opportunity to learn through forgiveness that the world is not real, and that nothing external to the mind has any effect on it. Given these two choices, the only truly catastrophic event is choosing to believe the ego. This choice takes place in the mind and gives rise to the guilt that is the only cause of fear, which is then experienced as fear of disasters, feelings of impending doom, and countless other forms of upset. The true cause of these feelings is in the mind's choice for separation, whereby the Son of God obliterates from His mind all awareness of His true Identity, and identifies with the body. The world with all its conflicts and disasters is the result. The message Jesus gives us in A Course in Miracles is : “Nothing at all has happened but that you have put yourself to sleep, and dreamed a dream in which you were an alien to yourself, and but a part of someone else's dream” (T.28.II.4:1). The dream is a nightmare in which natural disasters are inevitable. In fact, life in the world is itself a disaster; an unnatural disaster for God's Son who was created one with Him: “It [the world] symbolizes fear. And what is fear except love's absence? Thus the world was meant to be a place where God could enter not, and where His Son could be apart from Him” (W.pII.3:2,3,4). This world, therefore, cannot be anything but a fearful place, with or without predictions of catastrophic events.

Our goal in studying the Course is to awaken from the dream by learning that we are not the bodies that inhabit this world, it is not our home, nor can we find in it any hope for peace. Our hope lies only in accepting that we have a mind that can be healed of the thought of separation by choosing to look differently at the world. Thus, as students of the Course, we hear Jesus saying: “…seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world (T.21.in.1:7). This is accomplished by seeing the world as a classroom to practice the forgiveness Jesus teaches in the Course, which makes every experience the same, whether it be judged on the world's terms as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant. A catastrophic event is an opportunity to get in touch with the tremendous fear generated, not by an earthquake or volcanic eruption, but by the eruption of guilt for having chosen to be separate from God. Salvation lies in healing the mind of this thought, and forgiveness is the prayer that makes it possible. This process is not an activity of the body, and therefore does not begin with its birth nor end with its death. There is no prolonged state of unconsciousness to fear after the death of the body because the body does nothing: “The body neither lives nor dies, because it cannot contain you [the mind] who are life” (T.6.V.A.1:4). The death of the body, therefore, has no effect on the mind's choice for separation. More importantly, the mind's choice to believe the separation is real has no effect on the truth. Jesus makes this clear by telling us : “Sleep is no more a form of death than death is a form of unconsciousness. Complete unconsciousness is impossible.” (T.8.IX.4:7,8). Thus our only need is to pay attention to the thoughts of judgment that reflect the mind's mistaken choice to be separate, keeping us rooted in the dream, so we can eventually accept that in truth [we] can rest in peace only because [we] are awake” (T.8.IX.4:9).

For the Course's teaching regarding psychic abilities see the manual for teachers (M.25) .

Q #799: My question is about having a certain level of comfort and abundance in the physical world. I am aware now that money and possessions and such really don't mean anything and cannot be counted on to make one happy. At the same time I am in this world for the foreseeable future and it is a bit of a drag not having the money to make the journey a little more comfortable. I have tried without success to attain financial abundance through many different New Age programs. I wonder why I just don't seem to be able to master this area. Can you direct me to anything in A Course in Miracles that might address this? So money cannot make you happy, but not having enough is not the answer either. Am I wasting my time with affirmations and such? Lack seems to be in my mind all the time. How can I reverse this? I mean I know the world is an illusion but my bills don't seem to be. I'm sure there is a way of following the Course and not having to live in lack.

A: Your observation that lack seems to be in your mind all the time actually holds the key to the solution. You see, you're not experiencing lack because you don't have enough money -- you're experiencing lack because you're identified in your mind with the ego, which is a thought of lack (T.3.V.2:2,4,5) . And whether you accept this or not, nothing at all in your external financial circumstances needs to change for your experience to shift from a sense of lack to a sense of abundance (T.1.IV.3) . That is the change the Course can help you with -- and not with how to have more money in your life. Sorry.

Now if you are interested in having a different experience, regardless of your financial situation, the first step in undoing the experience of lack is not through affirmations of abundance, as you have been attempting. For affirmations deny the fact that we actually want and are choosing to experience lack in our lives. And it is with that acknowledgment that we must begin. For, as the Course so uncompromisingly puts it: “I am responsible for what I see. I choose the feelings I experience, and I decide upon the goal I would achieve. And everything that seems to happen to me I ask for, and receive as I have asked (T.21.II.2:3,4,5) .

But why, you may reasonably ask, would we be choosing to see lack in our lives? The choice is a defense, serving the ego's purpose of keeping our focus on the world, rather than on the thoughts in our mind. We joined the ego in making the world and these “needy” bodies with which we identify so that we would not look within at the underlying belief in lack and limitation in our mind. And that belief comes from our choice for the ego, the thought that we could be separate from Love, the only true Abundance (T.12.III.6) .

And why would we not want to look at the underlying thought of lack in our mind? The ego tells us, don't look within, because the lack in the mind is a reminder of our sinful attack on God, which left us on our own, deprived of love, in a state of loss and scarcity. And He remains there in our mind, seeking to take away what little we still have, as vengeance for our attack, if He can ever find us. But Jesus exposes the ego's lie in all this: the ego does not want us to look within because it will be evident to us if we do that the lack and loss are made up, and that God's abundant Love remains always available, awaiting only our acceptance. And with that recognition, we would let go of our allegiance to the ego and our investment in loss and lack (T.21.IV.1,2,3) .

Although it is true that our mind has chosen the events and circumstances of our lives, it is more helpful -- while we still believe we are bodies in the world rather than the mind that is dreaming the world -- to acknowledge that we have chosen our interpretation of those events and circumstances. It is our interpretation after all that determines how we experience what seems to happen to us (M.17.4:2) . And there are only two possible interpretations of everything in the world. With the ego as the interpreter of our lives, we can only experience lack and limitation, regardless of our external circumstances. In other words, we could have all the money in the world, but we would still feel empty and impoverished if our allegiance remains with the ego. And so the next step, after we have accepted responsibility for choosing to experience a sense of lack, is to recognize that there is a different Interpreter of our lives, Who can help us begin to remember the truth about ourselves, that we have never attacked love and that we have always continued to exist in the abundance and fullness of God's Love, despite our ego beliefs to the contrary (T.1.IV.4:8; W.pI.165.6:5,6) .

Now coming to this recognition is likely to be a process for most of us, as we become afraid of love and its limitlessness, and return to the ego and its interpretation of who we are and how little we deserve. But once we begin to accept the truth about ourselves, we can never be completely fooled by the ego again. And the possibility of interpreting our circumstances differently will be an increasingly accessible option, to see in them only an opportunity to practice forgiveness, as our willingness to ask for help grows.

Q #800: Please comment on the Christian dictum that we should hate the sin but not the sinner, that we should condemn the wrong but forgive the wrongdoer.

A: It is important first of all to clarify that this is, in fact, a dictum (saying), not a teaching found in scripture. It is based on the Christian teaching that sins can be forgiven. From the Christian perspective, the highest expression of this forgiveness would be to treat a sinner with kindness, mercy, and compassion, in the hopes that he/she will “repent and sin no more.” Fundamental to Christianity is the belief that sin is real, and that salvation requires repentance as well as abandonment of the sinful behavior. This perspective is, no doubt, the origin of the dictum.

A Course in Miracles has a different message. Jesus tells us in the text: “There is no sin” (T.26.VII.10.5). Therefore, there can be no sinner, no wrong, no wrongdoer. There is nothing in the Course about behavior of any kind, because the Course is teaching us to change our minds, not our behavior. The basis for this is one of the Course's fundamental principles that thoughts remain in the mind, where they originate: “Ideas leave not their source, and their effects but seem to be apart from them. Ideas are of the mind. What is projected out, and seems to be external to the mind, is not outside at all, but an effect of what is in, and has not left its source” (T.26.VII.4:7,8,9). Thus everything is a projection of a thought in the mind. Every judgment is the expression of a judgment against ourselves, made in the mind. We cannot, therefore, dissociate the sinner from the sin, because we cannot dissociate ourselves from the thought in the mind that gives rise to the judgment. The only source of the perception of sin/sinner is the mind's judgment that the idea of separation is a sin and has had real effects. This is the original attack on the Son of God. He is deemed to be a grievous sinner for refusing to accept His only true Identity as God's one Son. The world and all its “sinners” is the projection of that attack thought. However, since the thought in the mind has been denied, and the Son's Identity replaced with the identity of the body, we need to look at the projected version in the world to see in it what the mind has chosen to believe: “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. Therefore, to you it is important. It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition” (T.21.in.1:2,3,4,5).

The form of the projection is not important, it is the content that reflects the state of mind. Though you may not accuse yourself of a specific sin or wrongdoing (murder, rape, etc.), there has been an accusation of sinfulness made in the mind that is reflected in the judgment against another in the dream. The recognition that everything is a projection of the mind is how the Course teaches us to distinguish the “sinner” from the “sin.” It is, however, a reversal of the dictum you quote, in that the “sin” (thought in the mind/cause) is where attention should be focused, and the “sinner” (projection of the thought in the body/effect) is merely a reflection in the illusory world. Because nothing and no one external to the mind has any effect on us, Jesus' message to “Be willing to forgive the Son of God for what he did not do” (T.17.III.1:5) leads us beyond the Christian dic­tum mixed with condemnation and forgiveness, whatever the alleged “sin” may seem to be.