Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 10/05/2005

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #811 What would explain an intuitive negative feeling towards another person?
Q #812 Does giving what we are hiding to God cause discomfort for most people?
Q #813 Why exactly does the ego attack loving people?
Q #814 We are told we must choose, but choice is impossible... I am confused!

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Q #811: How would A Course in Miracles explain a negative intuitive/gut feeling I get when I meet a certain person? A new neighbor recently moved in and I get a strong negative feeling about this person -- that he may be socially deviant and someone I need to be worried about. Clearly there are misperceptions here in that I am not seeing this person as a perfect child of God and that I am seeing myself as vulnerable. How would Jesus have me deal with this situation? What is this intuitive feeling? Is it just an extension of my ego?

A: In A Course in Miracles , Jesus teaches that the fundamental attack thought is the mind's decision to proclaim: “I am a body.” Identity with the body is thus established, along with guilt for the “sin” of having taken the thought of separation seriously. In order to preserve body identity and escape responsibility for the attack, the mind erases the memory of making the choice. It does so by projecting guilt and seeing attack outside itself. This is the true source of everyone's attack and fear of attack in the world, including your intuitive feeling: “Because your attack thoughts will be projected, you will fear attack. And if you fear attack, you must believe that you are not invulnerable. Attack thoughts therefore make you vulnerable in your own mind, which is where the attack thoughts are” (W.pI.26.2:3). The deep feeling of vulnerability is a reflection of the guilt for having chosen the ego. Fear thus becomes the force at work in the world, which is why it is filled with attacks ranging from the seemingly innocuous to the vicious. From fear comes the ego's vast arsenal of defenses spurred by guilt's battle cry “killed or be killed” (M.17.7:11). Therefore, like the rest of the animal kingdom, humans are trained to sense danger (sometimes with “gut feelings”), defend against it, and attack the perceived enemy. The important thing to remember, from the perspective of the Course's teaching, is that the source of all fear and vulnerability is guilt in the mind for choosing to believe the separation is real. The guilt is projected in many different forms of attack, some of which the world judges to be more deleterious than others. However, the attacker and the victim's fear have the same source in the mind. In content, they are both equally insane. Recognition of this sameness is a good place to start in dealing with those whose insanity sparks fear in us in a more obvious way. In the Course, Jesus teaches that the source of fear is not the potential harm of someone else's attack on the body, but the mind's choice for separation.

However, although he tells us the “ mind cannot attack or be attacked” (T.7.VIII.4:3) , he also tells us thoughts are dangerous to bodies. (T.21.VIII.1). Therefore, it is wise to be careful in deal­ing with the world, and especially with those whose fear is expressed in physical attack upon oth­ers. Neither their fear, nor the harmful form it takes, diminishes their true Identity as a perfect sons of God, but it can make them dangerous bodies to be around: “frightened people can be vicious” (T.3.I.4:2). As long as any belief in the body is held, there is nothing wrong with being cautious when the threat of physical harm is perceived. This is no different from seeking medical help when the body is sick. We are not asked to deny our belief in the body, our fear, nor the potential for actual attack. What Jesus does ask us to do, is observe the feelings of vulnerability, fear, or defensiveness that arise, recognizing in them the mind's forgotten choice to identify with the thought of separation and the body, thereby denying the true Identity of God's Son; ours and the neighbor's. Recognition of fear's true source is an expression of the “little willingness” (26.VII.10:1) that is required. It takes the blame off our neighbors for the source of our fear, and returns our attention to our own mind's need of healing. At least, then, we are at the root of the problem and can ask the Holy Spirit's help to make another choice. That is all that is required.

Q #812: I have a question regarding the subject of “conflict” described in A Course in Miracles . The Course says that everything we are hiding must be looked upon and given to God before we can finally return to our true state of being. Is that the reason things seem to get worse for a lot of people when they start doing the workbook and studying the text? The Course also states that it is not meant to describe what is of God but what hinders us in seeing Him and us in our true state.

Could you advise anything on how to do the Course so that it might be easier for people to handle what comes up when they begin to get in touch with “what they are hiding from God”? From the postings you get, is there a tendency for people to have similar experiences when doing the Course, or is everyone different in what problems they describe when encountering their “dark spots”?

A: The issues you raise highlight the importance of having a relationship with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, and why that is stressed so much throughout the entire Course. One could not possibly go through the process of exposing and then letting go of one's ego without having an inner source of guidance, strength, and comfort to turn to. The words terror and fear come up in the Course far too often to be ignored. In one passage, Jesus tells us that the Presence of the Holy Spirit accompanies us always, and that if we were to accept His Presence, “fear would be impossible” but our continuing to choose to be separate from God blocks our awareness of that Presence: “If you knew Who walks beside you on the way that you have chosen, fear would be impossible. You do not know because the journey into darkness has been long and cruel, and you have gone deep into it” (T.18.III.3:2,3) . In another passage, Jesus speaks about the inability of the body to take us beyond it to “what lies underneath” ; yet, he says we can get there “if you are willing to follow the Holy Spirit through seeming terror, trusting Him not to abandon you and leave you there. For it is not His purpose to frighten you, but only yours. You are severely tempted to abandon Him at the outside ring of fear, but He would lead you safely through and far beyond” (T.18.IX.3:5,7,8,9) . Thus, an essential part of our process is learning to trust in the pres­ence of an internal Teacher -- either Jesus or the Holy Spirit -- for then we would avoid the temp­tation to judge ourselves for our decision to separate from Love and then make it appear as if it is someone else's fault.

Although it does not have to be this way, for practically all of us, things get worse before they get better in the process of undoing our egos. Jesus alludes to this several times (see for example, T.9.VII.4:5,6,7; T.18.III.2:1 ). We have built layer upon layer of defenses to protect ourselves from the contents in our minds -- what we believe would totally overwhelm us, if not destroy us, if we ever allowed ourselves to face it. Even the first step of recognizing our defenses as defenses is painful, for more than likely we did not even know that we were defending ourselves against massive internal calamity. Thus, understanding the thought system of the ego and its correction through the Holy Spirit's thought system will help enormously as we go through this, for then we will at least have a general idea of what the undoing process is all about -- why we undertake it and where it is heading.

What is also important to keep in mind as one proceeds is that we are undoing something that never really happened, although it does not seem that way. The Atonement principle, after all, is the acceptance of the fact that the separation from God is an illusion. Recalling this frequently will help one avoid the common pitfall of taking the process too seriously and trying too hard to get through it, forgetting that time as well is illusory.

We are all one mind, and so we all share the same basic thought system of sin, guilt, and fear; but the specific expressions of that vary from person to person, as do the expressions of forgiveness that undo that thought system. In that sense, each person's process is different, which means we must take care not to compare ourselves with anyone else. We have no way of knowing where we or anyone else is on their Atonement path, so we ought not make comparisons of that nature.

Finally, some people have found it helpful to have their favorite reassuring passages close at hand when things get rough -- passages that remind them that they are not alone and that “the outcome is as certain as God” (T.2.III.3:10; T.4.II.5:8) . Turning to a kind friend, teacher, or therapist can be an important source of help as well.

Q #813: The idea of love's symbols being attacked in our world really intrigues me and is something that I am trying to understand better and put into everyday practical language. Can you tell me if this assessment is correct? People are very competitive and enjoy finding people to compete against and feel better than. When loving people like Jesus or any of us coming from a loving space come along who teach unity and are not competitive with these people, these people feel threatened because they are seeing something that goes against everything they believe in. Are you saying that people's egos are threatened by people who are not threatened by them or are they threatened by self-love? What does the ego see exactly about loving symbols that it wants to attack them? It seems perplexing to me that someone would feel threatened by someone who is being kind more than someone being competitive. Can you help me understand this?

A: Jesus answers your question in the following way: “An insane learner learns strange lessons. What you must recognize is that when you do not share a thought system, you are weakening it. Those who believe in it therefore perceive this as an attack on them. This is because everyone identifies himself with his thought system, and every thought system centers on what you believe you are . If the center of the thought system is true, only truth extends from it. But if a lie is at its center, only deception proceeds from it” (T.6.V.B.1:6,7,8,9,10,11; italics added ).

In other words, my false identity as a separate, individual self is threatened by you when you represent the thought that separation and differences are unreal, which is what is always behind any genuine, right-minded symbol of unity, love and forgiveness. Now, if I am willing to consider the possibility that our interests are shared rather than separate -- the latter being at the root of all the ego's competitiveness -- then I may be able to accept at least a tentative inner shift of teachers from the ego to the Holy Spirit (not that I would necessarily represent such a shift to myself with such symbols). And in that moment I would be able to experience the love that is being offered through you without feeling threatened. However, when I do feel threatened, it is not you who are threatening, nor is it my self-love, unless by self-love you mean the boundless, unlimited, universal love that we all share. For that is the love that says that neither of us exists as a separate individual, and that again is what is so threatening.

However, even if I remain entrenched in my wrong mind and tightly defended against the love being reflected in your mind, going so far as to reject it and attack you in some way to “protect” myself, so long as you remain identified with the Holy Spirit in your right mind, you will not experience this reaction as an attack, but only as a call for love. If you experience it as attack, which would not be an unexpected reaction for most of us who are still learning our lessons of forgiveness because guilt is still real in our minds, you too would have become wrong-minded and your reaction would be your call for help as well. And so you would simply want to turn once again to your inner Teacher for help in seeing yourself differently before you could again become a reminder to me that the same choice is available to both of us.

It may be helpful to recognize that this ego dynamic of attacking love operates within our own mind, and we may direct it against ourselves after we have chosen to listen to the Holy Spirit and see ourselves as He does, rather than accept the ego's puny judgment of ourselves. If we attack ourselves for identifying with the Holy Spirit, it can not be so surprising that others' egos react in the same way. This self-attack is clearly described a little later in the text of A Course in Miracles , when Jesus observes: “You, then, have two conflicting evaluations of yourself in your mind, and they cannot both be true. You do not yet realize how completely different these evaluations are, because you do not understand how lofty the Holy Spirit's perception of you really is. He is not deceived by anything you do, because He never forgets what you are. The ego is deceived by everything you do, especially when you respond to the Holy Spirit, because at such times its confusion increases. The ego is, therefore, particularly likely to attack you when you react lovingly, because it has evaluated you as unloving and you are going against its judgment. The ego will attack your motives as soon as they become clearly out of accord with its perception of you. This is when it will shift abruptly from suspiciousness to viciousness, since its uncertainty is increased. Yet it is surely pointless to attack in return. What can this mean except that you are agreeing with the ego's evaluation of what you are ?” (T.9.VII.4; italics added ).

Whether the seeming attack then comes from within or without, if we react defensively we are making the same mistake. And we are as identified with the ego as our competitive brother is. And so, in Jesus' words from the text, “You who are not at war must look for brothers and recognize all whom you see as brothers, because only equals are at peace. Because God's equal Sons have everything, they cannot compete. Yet if they perceive any of their brothers as anything other than their perfect equals, the idea of competition has entered their minds. Do not underestimate your need to be vigilant against this idea, because all your conflicts come from it. It is the belief that conflicting interests are possible, and therefore you have accepted the impossible as true. Is that different from saying you perceive yourself as unreal?” (T.7.III.3:2,3,4,5,6,7).

And so before we can accept that we are all the one, guiltless Son of our Father, equally sharing in the unity of His Love, and therefore could not possibly be in competition with each other, we must first acknowledge that, as egos, we are really all the same. For that alone is what opens the door to forgiveness and true healing of the guilt within our minds.

Q#814: The body/brain cannot choose the Holy Spirit or the ego; it can only bear witness to the choice of the decision maker in the mind. Jesus' Course appears on the level of the illusion, and seems to be mentally processed within the illusion by a brain. A Course in Miracles exhorts students reading it to choose again, yet the Course states throughout that choice on the level of the illusion is impossible! Is the Course asking the mind, of which the student is unaware by the Course's own admission, to choose again? What a riddle!

A: It is helpful to be clear that the reason the body/brain cannot choose the Holy Spirit or the ego is because everything happens in the mind and nothing happens in the brain, no matter how it may seem, for the brain and the body are only shadows or projections of thoughts of separation in the mind. We are the mind, falsely identifying with its unreal thoughts, believing we are the projections of those thoughts rather than the thinker of those thoughts. We are the decision maker, choosing to accept a very limited false identity rather than to acknowledge all the seeming power of our mind to miscreate. While it is true that all choice is illusion, while we continue to believe we have a choice to see ourselves as separate from God, Jesus works within the illusion of our misbeliefs to help us make a different choice. So even the split mind and the decision maker are illusory, but the power of our belief has made them real in our experience.

There is certainly a very real sense in which we seem to operate in the world as if we were mindless, for we are truly unaware of the power of our mind to have chosen to make the world and this physical self real. But everything we seem to think and do as a body is really a result of the exercise of the power of the mind to choose - and it's a choice for the ego, over and over and over again. We are always experiencing ourselves as mind, for nothing is happening in the brain, but we simply have chosen not to recognize that the mind does not depend on the brain, the brain depends on the mind. And so, since we are in that sense aware of our mind through all of the thoughts we experience, it is perhaps more accurate to say that we are unaware of the real power of the mind rather than to say that we are unaware of the mind. We use its power of choice to make that same blind choice for the ego repeatedly, all the while disguising the uniform content of that choice in a myriad of seemingly different forms.

And so, although we may believe Jesus is addressing us as the self in the world we think we are, he is always and only addressing us as a mind that seems to have a choice. And that choice is only between the hurtful illusion of the ego and the helpful illusion of the Holy Spirit. And so, while we may experience ourselves making the choice from within the world, Jesus knows it is only ever our mind, outside of time and space, that is making the choice. And so, once we understand that, the seeming riddle is easily solved.

For further discussions of related issues on the mind and the decision maker, see Questions #663, #713, and #715.