Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 10/12/2005

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #815 How exactly can I act as though I had no ego, without seeming like a "blissninny"
Q #816 Why is Jesus' return to God not ours as well?
Q #817 Does "behold me brother, at your hand I die" only apply to human victimisers?
Q #818 Are there specific prayers I should use to help heal my cancer?

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Q #815: Two different questions from the same questioner, with a combined answer: a) Every time I read info related to A Course in Miracles I seem to get agitated. I love the words but always come away with “so what in the hell am I supposed to do?” b) With the illusory nature of this world how is one to function? I post the quote “you are asked to act as if you had no ego.” But to live a life free of judgment seems to be a blissninny way to go.

A: The agitation you experience when you read the Course is probably not coming from not understanding what it is saying, but from understanding. You are not alone in feeling agitated by its message, and with good reason. The goal of the Course is the undoing of the ego's thought system, which ultimately means undoing all belief in the world, the body, and separation. It is not an easy message for the ego to hear, considering its investment in keeping us rooted in the world, its treasured home. The first thing to do is not to try not to be agitated, but to understand where the agitation is coming from: a choice in the mind to believe the separation is real, and resistance to learning a thought system that teaches that it is not. In this regard, Jesus offers us clear advice: Do not fight yourself ” (T.30.I.1:7). What we are supposed to do is follow his instructions to look calmly at the ego in operation without fear, and without judgment: “No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected. There is no need to shrink from illusions, for they cannot be dangerous. 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” (T.11.V.1:1,2,3,4).

Since the introduction to the text tells us our goal in studying this course is to remove “…the blocks to the awareness of love's presence” (T.in.1:7) , it is reasonable to conclude that the blocks must be seen before they can be removed. That is why we are asked to look for them: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false” (T.16.IV.6:1,2). That is what we are supposed to do . The instruction to look is repeated frequently in the Course, because it is the correction for the ego's strategy of defending its thought system by keeping its origin (the mind), its goal (mindlessness), and its effects (pain) hidden. When we find the blocks (e.g., any judgment, all forms of specialness), we then are asked not to be deceived by their disguises, but to see in them the mind's choice to collude with the ego's scheme to keep the world real.

To no longer identify with the ego's judgment is the ultimate goal of the Course. That is how we will eventually live “as if we had no ego.” Daily practice of the Course will lead us there, but it is not yet fully accomplished. We can easily avoid the blissninny approach through vigilant observation of the many judgments that flood into awareness during the course of the day. The ones we catch are enough to keep us humble, not to mention those we miss. Since blissninny's mother is denial, not denying our judgments and feelings keeps us focused and headed in the right direction. The Holy Spirit is here to tell us there is another way of looking at everything in our lives. As we are told in the introduction to the workbook: “The purpose of the workbook is to train your mind in a systematic way to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world” (W.in.4:1) . This “different perception” is not the ego's. So, as we develop this new way of thinking and learn to live under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we “live as if we had no ego.” It does not mean the ego disappears, nor that it is denied. It means that when the ego makes an appearance, it does not have to be given the best seat in the house. When it is recognized, and its secret agenda is exposed, it no longer carries the weight it previously did. Even the simple fact of knowing there is another Guest to Whom we can turn diminishes the ego's hold . Yes, in truth the world is an illusion, but as long as we believe it is real we continue to function normally. The only difference is we learn to interpret everything in the light of the Course's teaching of forgiveness, and its goal of removing the blocks to love's awareness. When resistance in the form of agitation presents itself, it may be helpful to remember only a “little willingness” is required, and it “…need not be perfect, because His [Holy Spirit] is. If you will merely offer Him a little place, He will lighten it so much that you will gladly let it be increased. And by this increase, you will begin to remember creation”(T.11.II.6:6,7,8).

Q #816: If it's true that we are all one then why is not Jesus' return to God ours as well?

A: It is. We are with him at home in God. The only difference between Jesus (as well as others who have awakened) and the rest of us is that he is aware only of his oneness with God's Love. We have chosen to forget it, dream of separation, and only catch a glimpse of love's reflection when we are willing to forget the dream for an instant. Knowing we perceive him as different from us, Jesus explains the seeming difference in the first chapter of the text: “ There is nothing about me that you cannot attain. I have nothing that does not come from God. The difference between us now is that I have nothing else. This leaves me in a state which is only potential in you” (T.1.II.3:10,11,12,13).

What we have, that he does not, are all our illusions of specialness that keep us separate from him, from one another, and from our Selves. By choosing the “tiny mad idea” (T.27.VIII.6:2) of separation, we keep awareness of our oneness with God blocked. This insane thought did not truly shatter our oneness; it is only our choosing it that makes it real in our experience: “The tiny instant you would keep and make eternal, passed away in Heaven too soon for anything to notice it had come …Yet in each unforgiving act or thought, in every judgment and in all belief in sin, is that one instant still called back, as if it could be made again in time. You keep an ancient memory [the thought of separation] before your eyes. And he who lives in memories alone is unaware of where he is” (T.26.V.5:1,5,6). We do not know where we are; Jesus knows where he is. We dream of being bodies in a world of form, which literally takes us out of our minds.

Our hope lies in the fact that we cannot completely obliterate all memory of the truth of our oneness from our minds. This is witnessed to by the very fact of having Jesus come to us in the form of A Course in Miracles to awaken us from the nightmare of exile. His message of forgiveness reflects the part of our minds that remembers oneness. The practice of forgiveness that he teaches gently wakens us by leading us back to the mind; the source of every experience. Each step in forgiveness strengthens our identity with Jesus and weakens identity with the body. Eventually, his identity and his experience will become ours because we will have accepted what was always there.

Q #817: I have read your response to Question #317, which relates to physical disease, and understand that A Course in Miracles teaches that I need to question the idea that anything outside myself can disturb my peace, including illness. Can you please explain to me why the Course uses the following phrase when dealing with physical illness: “Behold me brother, at your hand I die” (T.27.I.4:6). Is the word “brother” being used figuratively? Is the Course suggesting that we address a virus thus?

A: Although you could read this line you quote from “The Picture of Crucifixion” to refer to viruses, in most passages, including this section, when Jesus speaks of our brothers, he is speaking of our relationships with others whom we perceive to be human beings like ourselves. And behind every illness and disease -- in fact, behind all our pain and suffering, no matter what the perceived immediate cause in the world -- can be found an accusation that one of our brothers or sisters is somehow to blame.

Sometimes the accusation is explicit: e.g., “You gave me your cold.” Or “If you hadn't made me work so hard, I wouldn't have gotten so stressed and worn out and caught this flu bug.” Sometimes the accusation is less direct: e.g., “Both my mother and my grandmother died of breast cancer, so I guess it was only a matter of time before I was going to be diagnosed with it myself.” Or “I'm just sure my lung disease is the result of all that secondary smoke I was exposed to all those years I worked in that small, crowded office.” And sometimes the accusation can be very subtle: e.g., “I know I just didn't have all the opportunities for advancement that my friends had, with my parents not financially well off. And so I ended up with less education and a lower paying job. As a result, I just could not afford the kind of preventative medical care that could have helped me maintain better health.”

The point of the answer to Question #317 you refer to is that, at the level of content in the mind, it does not matter what form the victimizer seems to take in the world, whether it's another person, a virus, an accident, a catastrophic meteorological or geological event, or anything else. The purpose is always to find someone or something outside myself that I can point a finger at and hold responsible for my suffering and pain, rather than to look within my own mind at the real cause -- my decision for separation and attack. The purpose, in other words, is always, whatever the seeming expression of suffering in my body, to demonstrate my innocence by accusing my brother of the sin and attack I secretly accuse myself of.

By the way, when Jesus speaks in ‘The Picture of Crucifixion” of our use of our brother to prove our innocence, he is not addressing us as human beings, nor is he referring to our brothers as the bodies we perceive. Perceiving ourselves and our brothers as bodies is central to the ego's plan to demonstrate our victimhood ( e.g., T.21.VIII.1:1,2) . Jesus is always addressing us as minds, albeit minds who happen to believe we are the bodies we seem to inhabit. That he is also regarding our brother as a mind and not a body is apparent from his observation later in the text: “Like you, your brother thinks he is a dream. Share not in his illusion of himself, for your Identity depends on his reality. Think, rather, of him as a mind in which illusions still persist, but as a mind which brother is to you. He is not brother made by what he dreams, nor is his body, “hero” of the dream, your brother. It is his reality that is your brother, as is yours to him. Your mind and his are joined in brotherhood. His body and his dreams but seem to make a little gap, where yours have joined with his” (T.28.IV.3 ; italics added ) . And so, in the end, we will come to realize that sickness is really a condition of guilt in the mind -- only its nonsubstantial shadow seems to be expressed in the body (T.28.II.11:7) . From this realization, it follows that we are never the victim of anyone else's actions, but only of our own thoughts.

Q #818: The preliminary diagnosis is that there is a malignant tumor in my esophagus where the esophagus enters the stomach. The result is a severe constriction making swallowing very difficult. I have seen questions asked about praying and relieving or eliminating malignancies. My question is, what prayers should I use to relieve and remove the growth? My wife will help me pray.

A: First of all, you want to continue to seek out and follow whatever medical advice and treatment is available to help you with your condition. It is important to be clear that it is never an either-or proposition between medical interventions and A Course in Miracles . And then you should say whatever prayers bring you comfort and reassure you that it is not God's Will that you suffer or experience pain or fear, using words that are personally meaningful to you and your wife. The specific words are not so important as the decision you make to allow your mind to be joined with your wife's in a shared purpose of healing.

The Course's focus is on healing the thoughts of unforgiveness we are holding against ourselves in our minds and not on changing the symptoms in our bodies, which it considers to be the effects of those thoughts. Still, there is nothing wrong with asking for help with physical conditions and Jesus recognizes that for most of us, still identified with our bodies, that will continue to be our focus of concern ( S.1.II.2 ). Perhaps you would be willing to consider your symptoms as the external expression of a thought of illness -- the ego, to be specific -- in your mind. Then you can bring the thoughts of fear and pain in your mind to Jesus or the Holy Spirit or God, or whatever loving presence you find most comforting. The value in focusing in your prayers on any thoughts of pain or guilt or fear in your mind, as well as your bodily concerns, is that then you are including, from the Course's perspective, the underlying cause of the suffering and pain, as well as the effects -- the physical symptoms.

There are many passages in the Course that you may find of help and comfort as you deal with the ramifications of your diagnosis. One in particular, which recognizes the process that we all must go through as we commit ourselves to putting the Course's principles of forgiveness into practice, is workbook lesson 284, “I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt.”    

“Loss is not loss when properly perceived. Pain is impossible. There is no grief with any cause at all. And suffering of any kind is nothing but a dream. This is the truth, at first to be but said and then repeated many times; and next to be accepted as but partly true, with many reservations. Then to be considered seriously more and more, and finally accepted as the truth. I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt. And I would go beyond these words today, and past all reservations, and arrive at full acceptance of the truth in them. (W.p.II.284.1, italics added ) .

These words are not meant to be used to deny or suppress whatever you may be experiencing in your body, but rather to offer the hope that, as a result of acknowledging the pain and the fear and their deeper source in the mind, the real potential for healing the underlying thoughts becomes possible.

There are a number of questions, as you note, addressing issues of prayer and healing. Two that may be particularly relevant to your concerns include Questions #149 and #215.