Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 9/21/2005

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #801 What is the cause of "natural disasters"?
Q #802 How should I speak to young children about my beliefs?
Q #803 I feel the Holy Spirit has helped me in my grief. Are you saying this is not true ?
Q #804 Why does the dream look so real?
Q #805 What is a "teacher of God"? The Course seems to contradict itself on this.
Q #806 What advice would you offer someone with a tremendous burden or obligation?

Chronological List of All Questions.
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Q #801: What is the cause of “natural disasters” -- “acts of God” (earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.)?

A: A Course in Miracles teaches that the world and all events in the world have the same cause: the choice of the decision-making mind outside time and space to identify with the ego thought system. This choice initiates a series of dynamics involving denial and projection that reinforce the belief that the separation from God has really happened, but that the responsibility for it lies elsewhere. The ego wants us as far away as possible from our reality as minds, lest we realize that being separate from God is not a good idea, and we decide to change our minds about being separate. The ego's strategy, thus, is to make us mind-less, which it does by convincing us that, for our own survival as individuals, we should project ourselves out of our minds, forget that we did that, and then believe we are bodies in a world ruled by the forces of nature, or whatever. Our new identity requires that we become the innocent victims of what is done to us. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc., are thus a necessary part of the ego's strategy, for if we are victimized by what is external to us, then we can in no way feel responsible for what happens, and we would be safe forever from our minds with all the guilt and fear residing in them. The ego's plan for our salvation thus requires that we experience ourselves, not as minds, but as vulnerable bodies subject to forces that do not appear to be of our own making.

God, of course, has nothing to do with this. Jesus, though, as the reflection of God's Love within our otherwise deluded minds, helps us to question our beliefs and open our thinking to another way of perceiving ourselves and the world. He does this throughout his course, but to focus on one place in particular, he tells us in Lesson 14: “The world you see has nothing to do with reality. It is of your own making, and it does not exist” (W.pI.14.1:4,5) . In the exercise in this lesson he asks us to “think of all the horrors in the world that cross your mind. . . . Say, for example: “God did not create that airplane crash, and so it is not real. God did not create that disaster . . . and so it is not real” (4:1,4,6,7) . As he continues, he teaches us that the world's horrors are only in minds that believe they are separate from God's Mind, and are therefore meaningless (6:6) .

Q #802: I was wondering how to speak to children? My granddaughter is 6, The other day she said to me “everything is my fault.” I didn't know what to say. Her parents are not followers of A Course in Miracles , although I think they will be sometime as they are reaching the age of questioning their thought system.

A: In the light of the Course's teaching, your granddaughter is right and wrong, and she speaks for all of us. Her declaration reflects the part of the mind that knows it has the power to choose, has some awareness that a “bad” choice has been made, and feels guilty about it. This describes the universal angst at the heart of “…everyone who wanders in the world uncertain, lonely, and in constant fear” (T.31.VIII.7:1). Her hidden guilt and its companion fear are the source of her call for love, as they are in countless forms for everyone. She rightfully expresses the painful effects of the mind's choice for separation and identity with the ego: “Depression is an inevitable consequence of separation. So are anxiety, worry, a deep sense of helplessness, misery, suffering and intense fear of loss” (W.pI.41.1:3). This may seem to be an overstatement for a six-year-old's frustration, but it is in fact, at the root not only of her discomfort, but of every conflict in the world, however insignificant or monstrous it may seem to be.    

On another level, in your granddaughter's statement we hear her longing (also shared by everyone) to be told that she is wrong; that there is nothing to feel guilty about because her “sin” has had no effect. This is as true for anything she thinks is her fault in the dream, as it is for the “original sin” of believing that separation from God is possible and has been accomplished. Jesus' response in the Course gives her the ultimate reassurance and comfort that we all seek: “God's Son will always be as he was created. …for his eternal guiltlessness is in the Mind of his Father, and protects him forever” (T.13.I.5:7,8). Thus, although we and your granddaughter are right about the feelings of guilt that follow the choice for separation, we are wrong in believing that the great sin of separation has destroyed our oneness with God.

A Course in Miracles does not give guidelines for behavior, since it only addresses the mind of the Sonship, and its goal is to teach us to use the power of the mind to choose the Holy Spirit instead of the ego. Because the mind is not the body, there is also no age distinction in the Course, so “your brother” refers to everyone, whether they be 6 or 66. We are asked, therefore, to apply its teaching equally in every relationship because in it we recognize our own need of healing: You have learned your need of healing. Would you bring anything else to the Sonship, recogniz­ing your need of healing for yourself? For in this lies the beginning of the return to knowl­edge… In whatever part of the mind of God's Son you restore this reality, you restore it to yourself. You dwell in the Mind of God with your brother, for God Himself did not will to be alone” (T.11.I.1:1,2,3,5,6). Therefore, in response to any call for help we first remember our own desperate plea that is joined with the call for love shared by all the Sonship. If something in another's behavior sparks fear in us, we see our own need for help and can then turn to the Holy Spirit in our minds, Who answers that call. That is all we are asked to do. Although this may not seem like much of a response, it has great significance. It reinforces belief in the power of the shared mind by hearing the content rather than the form, and acknowledges the presence of the One Who speaks for God to us. Returning to the mind in this way is how to teach and learn what Jesus advises : “Look gently on your brother, and remember the ego's weakness is revealed in both your sight. What it would keep apart has met and joined, and looks upon the ego unafraid. Little child, innocent of sin, follow in gladness the way to certainty” (T.21.IV.8:1, 2,3). This process in our minds is how we practice the Holy Spirit's curriculum in any relationship when fear is perceived. If we adhere to this practice, the content of whatever we say will commu­nicate comfort and reassurance. In the role of an authority figure for a young child, setting limits and offering guidance concerning the choices that must be made on the level of form will then be guided by the Holy Spirit, Who will not reinforce guilt. For your granddaughter, for everyone, whatever form it takes, the content of His message remains: “God's Son is guiltless, and sin does not exist”(M.10.2:9). That is what we want to teach and learn.

Q #803: I would like clarification of Question #190. I have always been under the impression that the “choice” is up to our decision maker. I lost my wife of 31 years just recently and have been overwhelmed by grief and guilt. I turned it all over to the Holy Spirit and I have suddenly had more peace than I ever felt before in my life. Also, I asked Jesus to please send help, and suddenly people are showing up for me to help. Now my question is: Is this what is meant by the right-minded choice? Is it that what I am now perceiving as peace and help a manifestation of right-mindedness? Or is it just the ego projecting out to soothe the pain a little to keep me from rejecting myself totally.

A. As much as our egos would like to know the answers to questions such as the ones you raise here, there really is not much to be gained by trying to determine whether specific events in our lives reflect right-minded choices or ego deceptions. If your experience is one of peace and relief from guilt and grief and pain, the best thing is simply to accept the shift without trying to judge or evaluate what it means. Since we all have split minds, it is likely that our reactions to any event will vacillate between right- and wrong-mindedness. In the end, everything is a symbol projected from the mind, and its value depends only on what interpretation we give it. From a right-minded perspective, symbols lead us gently and gradually towards awakening. From a wrong-minded perspective, the same symbols will keep us rooted in and identified with the dream. Beyond that, there is little more that we need to know.

Q #804: Why does the dream have to look so real and the real so much like a dream?

A: The dream fulfills our (the separated Son) need to be as God did not create us. We need the dream to be real so that what is real vanishes from our awareness. Thus: “When you made visible what is not true, what is true became invisible to you” (T.12.VIII.3:1). We rejected what is real (Oneness), believing we could produce a substitute more to our liking (separate, individualized existence). So to make this work for us, we had to do whatever would convince us that what is real is not real and what is not real is real. Once we believed we had accomplished this, it became imperative for our continued survival to keep the denial going and believe the illusion is reality. If you decide that it is necessary for your own protection to deny a fact and pretend something else happened instead, then that is what you would do, especially if you think it is a matter of life or death. And if your defense is going to be effective as a defense, it must convince you that you are safe from the threat. “To the ego illusions are safety devices, as they must also be to you who equate yourself with the ego” (W.pI.13.3:3) .

This is why Jesus places so much stress on purpose throughout A Course in Miracles . Referring to the world as an hallucination, he tells us that “one thing is sure; hallucinations serve a purpose, and when that purpose is no longer held they disappear. Therefore, the question never is whether you want them, but always, do you want the purpose they serve?” (T.20.VIII.8:6,7). The dream thus serves the purpose of sustaining our existence as individuals and assuring us that we are not responsible for the separation from God.

Q #805: Why is it that in one place Jesus says “A teacher of God is anyone who chooses to be one. His qualifications consist solely in this; somehow, somewhere he has made a deliberate choice in which he did not see his interests as apart from someone else's” (M.1.1:1,2), and in other places is says that in order to be a teacher of God one has to do the workbook lessons?

A: It is not unusual to come across this kind of thing in A Course in Miracles . The reason has to do with pedagogical (teaching) methodology. Jesus is making different points in different places in his teaching. In the statement from the manual that you quoted, he is speaking more generically about a teacher of God; whereas elsewhere he may be speaking about specific aspects of the pro­cess that unfolds once one has made this choice to see shared rather than separate interests. In this sense doing the lessons is an integral part of the mind training and thought reversal that is Jesus' teaching objective for all his students.

Q #806: I am struggling with the concept from A Course in Miracles , “ Do not fight yourself .” (T.30.I.1:7). It appears that the ego certainly would not want to easily let go of any its beliefs, so I am having difficulty in accepting this is where I am now, and when I am ready I will more fully be able to embrace a holier vision. What does a parent do who has a challenged child and feels overwhelmed by what they perceive as a tremendous burden? I realize that at an advanced stage in one's development they would be able to see the miracle behind this, but what if they are struggling to get there, and simply can not? You cannot get rid of a child.

A: What helps to lighten the sense of being burdened with an overwhelming responsibility such as you describe, is to see the situation now as a classroom in which you can choose which teacher you will learn from. You can proceed with the ego as your teacher, in which case you would always be tempted to see you and your child in a victim-victimizer relationship, suffused with conflict and sacrifice. With Jesus as your teacher, however, you can see this as an opportunity to learn that the peace within you cannot be affected by this or any other external situation. That would be the ideal toward which you would strive, while not denying your present feelings to the contrary. The process involves bringing your perceptions and feelings of frustration, impatience, and victimization to his love, where you would know that you are loved and accepted as you are. His love would not judge you -- love and condemnation are mutually exclusive -- and so you would learn not to judge yourself or your child. It is not wrong to have these feelings, and it does not mean you are failing the Course. Your patience with yourself would reflect the caring gentleness of Jesus, who knows that ultimately the ego is nothing, and therefore we should not be upset by ego attacks.

This attitude of gentleness could direct you to seek help with caring for your child so that perhaps you could have time away from the stress of the situation. There is no particular spiritual advantage to remaining in a stressful condition when relief is possible. It is just normal to seek relief from emotionally and physically draining situations, just as one would seek relief from the pain of a sprained ankle or a burned finger. Jesus encourages us, actually, to use such an approach as we work our way up the spiritual ladder ( see T.2.IV.4,5) . Following this gentle approach would help you avoid the temptation to “ fight yourself .”