Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 10/26/2005

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #823 What advice would you offer about perceiving a custody battle in a Course-centered way?
Q #824  Is the Course compatible with the idea of "positive programming"?
Q #825(i)   How can we apply Jesus' teachings without inadvertently reinforcing the ego?
Q #825(ii)  Could someone be free of fear yet not have perfect peace?
Q #825(iii) How can I escape from the idea that the mind and the brain are the same?
Q #826 Are we souls occupying forms on the physical plane?

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Q #823: I am currently in the midst of legal proceedings to gain access to my two and a half year old grandson. We have had significant input in his upbringing until July this year when his mother (not our daughter) withdrew our access to him because my son (his father) has developed a new relationship. I am having enormous difficulty seeing these events in other than worldly terms. How do I need to think about this special relationship in order to get past the considerable pain this is causing me.

A: A situation such as you describe can only be experienced as heart-rending and painful while we remain at the level of the world in thinking about it. For the ego-directed mind can only think in terms of victims and victimizers, and those roles can seem all too clearly defined and assigned in our minds as we continue to listen to the ego. But then that is exactly what we all would have agreed to do as we would come together to play out this particular script. And all includes parents, grandparents, and child, as well as anyone else caught up in the tugging drama.

Once we have chosen to see ourselves and others as bodies -- which is inevitable once we find ourselves in the world -- the game of assigning blame and swapping guilt must be set into motion. And in order for the game to work, we all must feel, each from our own perspective, that we have been or are being unfairly treated, which then justifies our thoughts of attack in return. This hidden agreement to be victimized, which lies behind all our dealings with everyone else, is explicitly described in A Course in Miracles in "The Secret Vows" (T.28.VI), where Jesus explains the role of the body in this self-deception: "The body represents the gap between the little bit of mind you call your own and all the rest of what is really yours. You hate it, yet you think it is your self, and that, without it, would your self be lost. This is the secret vow that you have made with every brother who would walk apart. This is the secret oath you take again, whenever you perceive yourself attacked. No one can suffer if he does not see himself attacked, and losing by attack. Unstated and unheard in consciousness is every pledge to sickness. Yet it is a promise to another to be hurt by him, and to attack him in return" (T.28.VI.4; italics added).

It seems crazy when stated so clearly and directly, yet this is what we are all unconsciously engaging in all the time. And why would we accept such an insane arrangement with all our brothers and sisters? To understand the motivation for this insanity, we need to recognize that the real source of the pain we experience in such situations in the world comes from the belief we hold in our mind that we are an ungrateful Child who has lost our love and innocence by turning away from our eternal Father. But such a self-accusation is too painful to hold for long in our awareness and so we have made a world that can disguise the "truth" of our attack on God so that we can see the guilt outside ourselves. The form of the projected attack will vary across circumstances, but in situations such as yours, it will seem that a child -- who symbolizes our lost love and innocence -- is being taken away from us, it is clearly not our fault, and that is the cause of our pain.

And yet everyone caught up in the drama feels somehow similarly victimized and justified therefore in their thinking and acting. This recognition actually holds the key to our own escape from pain. For when we can begin to see that everyone is really the same, ensnared in the same deceptions of the ego -- looking to project their own painful guilt over seeing themselves as loveless, believing that the special love relationship requires that bodies be together (T.15.VII.8:2) -- we may then be able to begin to release the judgments we are holding against the others, which are keeping us separate from them in our mind, which is the real source of the pain. If we could know and accept that the love we want is already present within us, no seeming loss on the outside could have any effect on us.

It is important to emphasize that everything we have been discussing here refers only to the level of thought or content, and has no specific implications for what actions you are taking. In other words, it is possible to continue with the legal proceedings you have initiated without it being an attack on your grandson's mother. The proceedings can be a classroom in which you have the opportunity to observe how strong your desire to project your own guilt onto your ex-daughter-in- law may continue to be. And in those moments when you are in your right mind, you will know that it is possible to continue to take legal action without condemning or attacking her for her own need to project guilt and to attack in seeming self-defense, and you will feel nothing but love for everyone who is involved in the court battle, for you will be above the battleground.

"Those with the strength of God in their awareness could never think of battle. What could they gain but loss of their perfection? For everything fought for on the battleground is of the body; something it seems to offer or to own. No one who knows that he has everything could seek for limitation, nor could he value the body's offerings. The senselessness of conquest is quite apparent from the quiet sphere above the battleground. What can conflict with everything? And what is there that offers less, yet could be wanted more? Who with the Love of God upholding him could find the choice of miracles or murder hard to make?" (T.23.IV.9).

Q #824: How does Course material deal with programming or treating for positive results?

A: The mind training that the Course teaches is not the same as the use of affirmations, or replacing negative thoughts with positive ones to achieve positive results. A Course in Miracles teaches that we must look at the negative, the darkness of the ego, with the Holy Spirit’s light to dispel it: "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…" (T11.V.1:1,2,3). Looking means recognizing the mind’s choice for the ego and the purpose it serves. It is this recognition of responsibility for a purposive choice in the mind that distinguishes the Course’s teaching. It is not aimed at improving our experience in the dream with positive thinking for positive results. The goal of the Course is to lead us out of the dream entirely by undoing the thought of separation. Changing thoughts within the ego’s thought system will not lead to this awakening.

Programming for positive results without recognition of the active choice for the ego in the mind leads to further suppressing the guilt that gave rise to the negative thoughts in the first place. It supports the belief that the body is real and that happiness can be found in the world with the right programming. While it is true that it may seem more pleasant to have positive results rather than negative ones, the best the ego has to offer will not bring release from the devastating effects of believing separation from God has been accomplished. In case we are tempted to minimize the effect of choosing the world, Jesus spells it out for us: "The sense of threat the world encourages is so much deeper, and so far beyond the frenzy and intensity of which you can conceive, that you have no idea of all the devastation it has wrought" (W.pI.153.4:3).

Training the body’s "thoughts" to avoid pain and conflict works as temporary relief. It will not heal the real source of the problem, which is the mind’s mistaken choice to believe the ego and identify with the body. This choice produces guilt, which is then projected into the world in a multitude of forms, none of which is truly positive. The correction is to choose the Holy Spirit’s curriculum of forgiveness that has us look at the hidden negative thoughts and judgments that underlie the ego’s thought system. This training leads beyond the body (its emotions, psyche, intellect, and "thoughts") to the mind. If we do not see how everything in our lives is set up to serve the ego’s goal of separation, and the heavy price we pay to be in this world, we will not choose against it and return to our true home, the ultimate positive result. That is why Jesus invites to look with him at the ego: "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.1:5,6).

Everything in this world becomes "positive" because it is useful to the Holy Spirit. We are thus freed of the need to judge for ourselves what is positive or negative. As Jesus tells us in the text, it is best to let the Holy Spirit decide: "Put yourself not in charge of this, for you cannot distinguish between advance and retreat. Some of your greatest advances you have judged as failures, and some of your deepest retreats you have evaluated as success" (T.18.V.1:5,6). Forgiveness is the only "programming" the Course offers, and applying it to our lives is our only function and our only need, it leads to peace. Until we awaken fully from the dream of separation, the real positive result is a peace undisturbed by anything in this world, positive or negative.

Also see Questions related to forgiveness.

Q #825(i): (The following three questions were posed by the same person). Can we apply the teachings of Jesus in our daily life (work, home, family, friends, social relationships, etc.) without being trapped by the ego, in the sense of unconsciously reinforcing the ego’s goal of specialness?

A: A good question! It takes a great deal of effort over a period of years to become aware of the devious means we use to uphold specialness. In one sense, it is almost safer to assume that we are doing this almost all the time than to think that we are beyond such self-deception -- especially in the early stages of our work with A Course in Miracles. Specialness is like oxygen to the ego: without it, there is no ego! Therefore, to the extent to which we still identify with the ego, letting go of specialness is like letting go of our oxygen supply. It feels as if we will not survive. That is why Jesus has to reassure us that "the death of specialness is not your death, but your awaking into life eternal. You but emerge from an illusion of what you are to the acceptance of yourself as God created you" (T.24.II.14:4,5).

What would be helpful is to remind oneself frequently of the purpose of specialness, which is to substitute a false identity for our true Identity as God created us; specialness serves the purpose of drowning out the Voice in our minds that is calling us back to God. These are major themes in the sections on specialness in the text, but especially the first two sections of Chapter 24 (T.24.I,II). Second, you also need to see how the "pursuit of specialness is always at the cost of peace" (T.24.II.2:1). Specialness feels so good. But there is a tremendous cost involved, which we must be willing to allow ourselves to see and feel. If you become aware of the burden of specialness, you would be more motivated to be vigilant for the ways in which you hold on to it.

Q #825(ii): Is it possible to be free of fear and at the same time not be in perfect peace?

A: Since fear is a barrier to peace, if you are completely without fear, there would be nothing stopping you from being completely peaceful. Now the fear that is talked about in A Course in Miracles is not the fear the world talks about, such as the fear of flying, fear of cancer, fear of criticism, etc. It is really the fear that sustains the entire thought system of the ego, and thus our existence as individuals. It is the fear deep in our minds that we have stolen life from God and that He is coming after us to punish us and take it back. This fear branches out in many forms, but ultimately it is the fear that our defenses are not adequate to protect us forever, and that we will be caught, punished, and painfully reduced to nothingness. It is the fear that right now our existence is meaningless -- we are meaningless. When we let go of that level of fear, we will also have let go of what led to it: the false belief that we attacked God by separating from Him and we would be at peace.

Q #825(iii): Why do I still feel that the activity of the mind is connected with the activity of the brain? Is it normal? How can we overcome this illusion?

A: Yes, it is normal to feel that way. It is extremely difficult to break the connection, for what you are really doing is shifting your identification from the body to the mind, which is accomplished gradually as you separate from your ego through the practice of forgiveness. If you spend some time imagining what it would feel like to have an identity as a mind that is outside time and space, you will begin to get in touch with your resistance. Your sense of "you" would change radically, and that would obviously be perceived as threatening. To perceive your body with its brain as merely a puppet-like figure is usually not a welcomed perception. That is why this process is not accomplished overnight, and why you must take as much time as you need to make this shift.

Q #826: If Christ is the one and only Son of God, would that make us the soul or being that occupies each form on the physical plane, the one and only son of Christ?

A: A Course in Miracles teaches something different. Nothing in the realm of form shares anything of the realm of spirit. Christ dwells only in Heaven and is not present in any way in the illusory world of form. We carry within our minds (not our brains), the memory of our Identity as God’s one Son, and therefore the teaching objective of the Course is to help us learn how to perceive each other as having the same interests, as opposed to separate, conflicting interests, as the means of restoring to our awareness our oneness as Christ, the one Son of God.