Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 10/19/2005

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #819 Pleased clarify our alleged "dream" state.
Q #820 If there is no order of difficulty in miracles, don't all Workbook lessons teach the same thing?
Q #821 How should I deal with serious doubts and fears about my marriage ?
Q #822 What are the similarities of the movie 'What the Bleep do You Know" to the Course?

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Q #819: A question on the metaphysics of A Course in Miracles , please. My sense of the teachings is that 1) We are “at home in God dreaming of exile...” (or continuing to review and identify with the dream that lasted but a moment and was over long ago), and that 2) God does not know “about” this dream, since it is by definition unreal. My question is whether God knows even that there was a dream, and that we -- in Heaven and at home with Him -- continue to engage (review and identify) with that dream, though He does not know all the sin-guilt-fear machinations of the dream itself? The image I keep getting is that we are sort of “missing-in-action” if you will, at home in Heaven, but not fully there -- asleep. Does God know us as asleep, but not what we dream while asleep? Or are “we” a sleeping part of a larger Sonship, the other part of which is ''fully present” in the song of prayer with God.

A: There is no dream; the Son never fell asleep. That expresses the absolute non-dualism of the Course, a non-dualism that allows no compromise. Heaven (reality) is an awareness of perfect Oneness, and the knowledge that there is nothing else; nothing outside this oneness, and nothing else within” (T.18.VI.1:6) . If even part of the Sonship were asleep, perfect Oneness would no longer be perfect Oneness; imperfection would coexist with Perfection, and limitation with Wholeness. From the Course's point of view, this is impossible. So, as humbling and as baffling as it is to us, the Son as not eternally sharing the Perfection of His Father and Source is a complete impossibility. To say, therefore, that God knows “some part of the Sonship to be ‘asleep',” is to give reality to a dualistic state. That would be inconsistent with the strict non-dualism of A Course in Miracles .

Q #820: The first miracle principle in A Course in Miracles is that “there is no order of difficulty in Miracles.” Does that not mean, if I did the workbook “properly”, I would be able to be “enlightened” with each and every exercise I am doing in the Course (so 365 chances to reach God)? Do they not mean all the same (i.e. point at the same unspeakable “thing” that the Course can but lead us to but never explicitly say)? The lessons 70-75 seem quite crucial to me, what else is there to learn after “the light has come” and I can “celebrate the ending of the long dream of disaster”? Once I have forgiven the world completely (albeit theoretically), does it not disappear and with God's vision in me...why is this passage not at the end of the workbook?

A: If you did just one lesson perfectly, you would have completed the goal of the Course.

However, the reason there are 31 chapters and 365 lessons is summed up simply in one of the les­sons: “To say these words [of any lesson] is nothing. But to mean these words is everything. If you could but mean them for just an instant, there would be no further sorrow possible for you in any form; in any place or time. Heaven would be completely given back to full aware­ness, memory of God entirely restored, the resurrection of all creation fully recognized” (W.pI.185.1:1,2,3,4). If we have not had the experienced described in this passage, we may con­clude that we have not meant these words completely , not even for an instant. Commitment is still weak, resistance is strong, and willingness wavers. In other words, we are afraid of awakening to the truth. And so we have at least 365 thousand opportunities to learn to accept that we are home in God. On the journey, there are glimpses of the light that has come, and if the light were the only thing we wanted, yes, it would be enough. However, attraction to guilt and attachment to special­ness drop a veil to obscure the light, lest it remain to replace the individual autonomy that is still cherished. That is why there are lessons after 70-75, and why the workbook ends by telling us we've only just begun: “This course is a beginning, not an end” (W.ep.I:1).   

Forgiving the world theoretically does not accomplish the Course's goal of removing the blocks to love's awareness (T.in.1:7) . The world must actually be forgiven, which means not seeing in it the cause of anything that is experienced in the dream of separation. And you are correct; in this there is no hierarchy. Thus, we are taught in the Course to “question every value that you hold. Not one can be kept hidden and obscure but it will jeopardize your learning.” (T.24.in.2:1,2; italics added ). The values and beliefs that sustain the ego thought system are, for the most part, hidden under layers of denial. It therefore takes time, lessons, starts and stops, to bring them to the light. The process is gradual and gentle because fear and resistance are great: “It is difficult for the untrained mind to believe that what it seems to picture is not there. This idea can be quite disturbing, and may meet with active resistance in any number of forms” (W.pI.9.2:1,2). A brief review of how real the world, the body, and the drama of life seem to be reveals the intensity of this resistance. That is why there is still work to be done, forgiveness les­sons to be learned. The workbook is done “properly” by following the instructions, which simply tell us to just do the lessons (W.in.9) . We are told only willingness is necessary. Most likely that is because Jesus knows we will do them “badly,” and he assures us that our imperfection is not a problem: “It is [the Holy Spirit's] task to atone for your unwillingness by His perfect faith, and it is His faith you share with Him there. Out of your recognition of your unwillingness for your release, His perfect willingness is given you (T.16.VI.12:4,5). Thus, each sincere application of the principles of forgiveness in our relationships, however imperfect it may be, brings us closer to the ending of the dream. Our concern in practicing the Course, therefore, is to be vigilant for every spot of darkness (judgments) and every illusion we choose to make real, that they may be questioned and found wanting. Until we are convinced none of them will meet our real need to accept the truth about ourselves instead of the ego's lies, we need the lessons of the workbook and the many pages of the text to turn to for guidance, instruction, and comfort.

Q #821: I am at a place in life in which I am experiencing overwhelming fear. My husband and I have been married for a few years and together for nine. Over time, the outward dramas have lessened and now that there is a certain sense of outward stability in my marriage, I seem to be assailed on all sides by fears: is this situation one in which I can grow? Am I denying part of myself by staying in this relationship? Do I feel like I would be better off alone, with someone else, or with a woman? All these questions come to mind. More than anything, it seems that I have reached a place where I am now forced to take responsibility for my own thoughts -- that I am encountering my shadow side. I want to run. Is there anything in A Course in Miracles that might speak to this level of fear and specific steps to take to deal with it?

A: While we remain closely identified with the ego, it can feel as if we are being forced to take responsibility for our thoughts, as you describe. True, the Course is encouraging us to accept this responsibility as central to progressing on our path of forgiveness. But if there is any sense of coercion, the ego has joined the process in an attempt to subvert and derail it. And that feeling of coercion itself only adds to the anxiety and the fear. So the first step in addressing the fear is to recognize and accept that any sense of pressure is coming only from yourself. And if the over­whelming fear persists, Jesus gently advises, “Do not fight yourself” (T.30.I.1:7) . It is okay to wait until you are ready.

The ego revels in the thought that there is something terrible within that we must force ourselves to examine. For that reinforces the belief that the ego -- and the separation -- are real. And so, for this reason, when we are ready to look within, Jesus invites us to look with him, for he does not share our horrible evaluation of ourselves and he certainly does not take the ego seriously. One of his clearest invitations to us, which also acknowledges our fear, is found at the beginning of “The ‘Dynamics' of the Ego,” in which he reminds us that this is something we do together : “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. 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).

You are wise to recognize that the real issue of your fear involves examining your own thoughts, but you also acknowledge having thoughts of running away from your relationship with your hus­band. Now these thoughts are not surprising if, as you say, you are experiencing less drama and conflict in your external life, which may very well reflect an inner shift away from the ego and towards the peace within that Jesus is offering. And you can be sure the ego is not going to take this change of allegiance lying down. External drama and conflict conveniently serve the ego's purpose of keeping our focus outward and away from the mind, where the only real hope of find­ing lasting peace lies. If the ego begins to sense that our present relationship is no longer serving its purpose, it will counsel us to pull up stakes and go in search of someone or something else -- anything other than remaining in peace and beginning to look within.

Two passages from the text describe the ambivalence we can experience around this dual process of moving towards the light while at the same time beginning to use that light to look more deeply and eventually beyond the darkness of the ego. The fear that is aroused by approaching the light, as well as the process of looking together with Jesus at the darkness, are aptly described in the fol­lowing:

“As the light comes nearer you will rush to darkness, shrinking from the truth, sometimes retreating to the lesser forms of fear, and sometimes to stark terror. But you will advance, because your goal is the advance from fear to truth. The goal you accepted is the goal of knowledge, for which you signified your willingness. Fear seems to live in darkness, and when you are afraid you have stepped back. Let us then join quickly in an instant of light, and it will be enough to remind you that your goal is light. (T.18.III.2).

And the fear that is associated with uncovering the ego's layers of sin and guilt in the mind, as well as the process of recognizing its unreality, is powerfully described in the following:

“The closer you come to the foundation of the ego's thought system, the darker and more obscure becomes the way. Yet even the little spark in your mind is enough to lighten it. Bring this light fearlessly with you, and bravely hold it up to the foundation of the ego's thought system. Be willing to judge it with perfect honesty. Open the dark cornerstone of terror on which it rests, and bring it out into the light. There you will see that it rested on meaninglessness, and that everything of which you have been afraid was based on nothing” (T.11.in.3:5,6,7,8,9,10).

Additional readings from the text that may help you get a clearer picture of what the fear is all about and what the process of releasing that fear involves, in the context of our relationship with our brother, joined with Jesus, include “Light in the Dream” (T.18.III) and “The Fear to Look Within” (T.21.IV) .

Q #822: I saw the new movie, “What the Bleep Do You Know?”. I found it very powerfully presented, and I was struck by how much it sounded like A Course in Miracles' teachings. Please give your comments.

A: There is a strong similarity between the theories presented in the movie and what the Course teaches. Both say the world of matter is a product of thought. The difference, though -- and it is a decisive difference -- is that A Course in Miracles says the thought itself is illusory ! As far as we know, no physicist has ever taken this step, and probably could not from his stance as a scientist. The integration of this theory that matter is a product of thought with practical living in the world is one of the major contributions of the Course.