Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 01/18/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #868 How do Course principles apply to someone who is emotionally unavailable?
Q #869 How can I get past my dislike of my country's policies and politics?
Q #870 Can I sue someone in court and still be at peace? 
Q #871 How can I renounce the ego without renouncing all worldly activities?

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Q #868: How do the principles of A Course in Miracles apply to an older adult who is unable to psychologically attach or bond to any other person, including his initial primary caregiver? This seems to be the most separate state of existence possible in this world! To me, this means that he can never experience what most of us know as special love. There isn't much, if anything, that can be done for him at the level of form, since a safe and secure base from which to explore this world and develop a “healthy” ego was not provided at the critical stages of development. I will continue to ask to fulfill my function for him in my mind, which is the highest service I can render to him. It's very difficult to remember that this is the only thing which I can do, but I sincerely believe that it is truly everything. I need your encouragement, but more than that I need you to join with the Christ in me.

A: We are never in a position to know the reasons others have chosen the particular life experiences they have, no matter what form they may take. Usually, we do not consciously remember for our own lives either. About all we can say with any certainty is that there are wrong-minded reasons, based on fear and guilt, for the specific forms our lives take, and there are right-minded reasons, based on a desire to learn forgiveness and heal. And we can never judge why others have chosen what they have, nor whether or not they are learning their forgiveness lessons. For we see only external form and not the content beneath, at the level of mind.

And one more thing is certain -- no one needs our pity because of their life situation for, as Jesus reminds us, “it is impossible the Son of God be merely driven by events outside of him. It is impossible that happenings that come to him were not his choice. His power of decision is the determiner of every situation in which he seems to find himself by chance or accident” (T.21.II.3:1,2,3). To understand what this means, we must recognize that Jesus is referring to the decision making part of the mind -- the dreamer of the dream -- and not to the figures in the world with which we all mistakenly identify, which seem to vary so in their level of insight and awareness. These selves, on which we lavish such attention and care, are powerless, ineffectual shadows of the thoughts in our minds. And the mind never sleeps (T.2.VI.9:6), regardless of how limited or inadequate the body, the brain, and the personality may seem.

And so there is no specific answer to why the person you know is living his life in what feels to you like some kind of empty, emotional wasteland. It could be providing his mind with just the opportunities for forgiveness that he needs -- you will never know for sure. But regardless of what purpose his life may be serving him, your relationship with him need not be any different, at the deeper level of content, from what your relationship is with everyone else you know. For all of us, identified with our egos, are trapped in our own emotional wastelands, feeling cut off from God and love and each other. The Course has come to let us know that none of this is true. For all minds are truly joined and can never be alone or in need of special love. Our only responsibility is to remember that our only meaningful choice is between the ego and the Holy Spirit as our guide through the maze we call our lives. And when we remember for ourselves, we are remembering for everyone. For we are all already joined with the Christ in us -- we’ve just chosen to forget that reality. And each of our minds has the power to choose to remember at any moment that we want, no matter how limited we may appear to be as figures in the dream.

Q #869:
Recent events have made me very bitterly disappointed in my country. I see lots of hatred and brutality where others might see righteousness. I see murder where others might see a just cause. While others might cheer the courageousness of our leaders, I see deception and cowardice. My peace has been destroyed and now I am involved in a moral battle that does not bode well. I know that A Course in Miracles says “seek not to change the world,” but how can one live in such a world without doing something about it? How can I “change my mind” without capitulating to what I believe is the worst in our human nature?

A: There is nothing in the Course that says you shouldn’t do something about a situation in the world. It is saying that having righting the wrongs in the world as your goal will not lead to inner peace; and peace is the goal of the Course. Moreover, to say that focusing only on changing your mind about the world would lead to “capitulating to the worst in our human nature” is to miss the point of the teaching, and really of the whole message of the Course. The Course, unlike some other spiritual paths, does not advocate withdrawing from the world or condoning the hateful acts of others. It is trying to help us see that the way we have been going about solving problems in our lives and in the world has been counter-productive -- we are really doing nothing to eliminate the conditions that are the real source of pain, conflict, despair, guilt, etc. We ameliorate and mitigate, and we do the best we can to cope with the pressures and struggles of life -- sometimes asking help of a divine source to make things better. But the longing in everyone’s heart is for inner peace. And that longing is what Jesus is speaking to in this course.

He is telling us how to go about living in the world in order to restore that peace in which we were created. But that requires trusting in his way, which means letting go of our belief that we know what is wrong and how to fix it. “To learn this course requires willingness to question every value that you hold” (T.24.in.2:1). That is the challenge. So rather than encouraging us to withdraw from the world and abandon the obligations and responsibilities of our roles in the world, Jesus is telling us that we need to withdraw from and abandon the ego’s purpose for our lives and the world, and accept his instead. That is what has skewed our perception of the cause of our problems and their solutions. We first need to be sure that we can distinguish between the ego’s purpose and the Holy Spirit’s purpose, and then with that clarity decide which to accept. Following the ego may deliver some of what we want in the world, but never peace. Following the thought system of forgiveness, on the other hand, guarantees true and lasting healing of the pain in our minds. The path of forgiveness teaches us that the world and the body are not the cause of our lack of peace, but that a prior decision in our minds to project responsibility for that lack is the cause. The guilt in our minds causes us to look for something in the world that we can blame for our feelings of distress and fury (see T.19.IV.A.i). That decision is the problem, which is readily solved by withdrawing the projection and accepting the truth that our sinlessness is guaranteed by God (W.pI.93).

So being a student on this path does not at all mean that you would never be actively involved in the world. The difference would be in how you are involved -- in other words, your purpose, which can be wrong-minded or right-minded. If the events in the world, and your country in particular, anger you and destroy your peace of mind, then you can be sure that you chose the ego’s interpretation, the premise of which is that the separation is real, the duality of good and evil is real, and the perpetrators of evil should be punished and destroyed. You have forgotten that your only responsibility is to accept the Atonement for yourself, which means you have also forgotten that the world “is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition” (T.18.in.1:5). Acting out of outrage makes the ego’s error real, thereby ensuring the continuation of conflict and pain. Regime changes do not end the madness and insanity in the world, as is all too evident today. “The world was made as an attack on God” (W.pII.3.2:1), and all of us are here because we rejected the eternal peace of life in God. Why, then, would we expect the world to be different from the horror show it is most of the time? What can be different, though, is how we react to it, which is dependent on the thought system we have chosen in our minds.

The point of the Course teaching you cite is that when you choose to change your mind about the world, you would then be viewing it with Jesus from above the battleground, and consequently would not take the events in it so seriously, a prelude to accepting the full truth, which is that there is no world. You would first see clearly the world’s purpose in the ego’s strategy to blind you to the oneness we all share as God’s one Son. Then, centered in Jesus’ love, which you would know is your own, shared with everyone else, you would then do or say whatever love’s extension through you dictated, which might be doing or saying nothing. The key part of this process, though, is that you would not be the focal point. Your feelings and needs would simply have dissolved in your acceptance of your shared identity with the love of Jesus, and then whatever is most loving and helpful to all would automatically come through you.

If you were to side with one group against the other, you would be making the same mistake as those you oppose, thus fragmenting the Sonship. You then become part of the problem instead of the solution. The healed or right-minded perception acknowledges the different opinions and viewpoints but does not judge against anyone. Both sides are seen as part of the Sonship. With the help of Jesus or the Holy Spirit, we can learn how to disagree with others without engaging in judgment. Even if we were to take action, we could learn how to do so without it turning into a battle to defeat or unseat the “bad guys.” That is our only hope for real and lasting healing and peace.

Q #870:
I'm in the position of having to accuse somebody in court, because (on the level of form) he has made a mistake. I know that it doesn't matter if I do this or not, the only thing which matters is how I do it, with love or with guilt. Life certainly would be different for this person, if I wouldn't say anything. So I feel quite guilty for having to do this. How can I get to be able to accuse him with Jesus and not with my ego? I'm sure this is possible.

A: In order to apply the principles of A Course in Miracles to any situation in the world, it is essential to distinguish between form and content. Whatever this person has done on the level of form does not change the content of the Identity he shares with all of the Sonship, as God’s innocent Son. As you point out, it is possible to proceed with litigation in the right mind. The criminal justice system is surely one of the clearest examples of the ego’s thought system in action. From the authority problem to a vast array of victimization plots, its form is solidly based on judgments of guilt and innocence, victim and victimizer, and above all differences. There is nothing surprising about this, nor is it any worse than any other institution or relationship made up by the ego to prove the reality of the world in defense of its belief in separation. Thus, the principles of forgiveness Jesus teaches apply in the same way to testifying in court as to anything else in our lives. Neither criminals nor the court system has the market on insanity. All people are equally insane in their wrong mind, and equally capable of choosing the right mind.

From this perspective, one whose behavior is correct, legal, and socially acceptable may have a mind filled with vicious attack thoughts making him a “content murderer”: "What is not love is murder. What is not loving must be an attack. Every illusion is an assault on truth, and every one does violence to the idea of love because it seems to be of equal truth” (T.23.IV.1:10,11,12). This is another way of saying there is no hierarchy of illusions (T.26.VII.6). Therefore, there can be no hierarchy of crimes. The ego would have us believe otherwise, along with the belief that criminal behavior has a deleterious effect. Of course there are effects in form; bodies can be hurt, but nothing external to the mind can have any effect on it.

While the world concerns itself with form, behavior, crimes and punishment, Jesus’ teaching in the Course is concerned only with the content of the mind. Consulting with Jesus in the courtroom, therefore, means seeing it as a classroom for forgiveness by looking honestly at the judgments about oneself and the accused, all of which are based on differences and separation. In this classroom there are no front row seats, and the witness stand is for questioning one’s own judgments. Any guilt you may feel comes from these judgments rather than from filing charges. If an illegal act has been committed, there are legal consequences. That is a simple fact that entails no judgment. The facts of a legal proceeding do not produce guilt. Guilt comes from already having chosen the ego in the mind, and judgments are the projection of that guilt onto oneself and others. With attention focused on the mind’s judgments, the spotlight is off the accused. This is the beginning of forgiveness, which is how to proceed with the accusation with Jesus instead of with the ego. Thus, in the courtroom, as everywhere in our lives, the goal is to ask Jesus to help us look at every judgment so it can be healed. We will share the Holy Spirit’s vision of those we accuse when every judgment has been brought to awareness and given to Him to be transformed. “If you will look, the Holy Spirit will judge, and He will judge truly. Yet He cannot shine away what you keep hidden, for you have not offered it to Him and He cannot take it from you” (T.12.II.9:7,8).

Q #871: A Course in Miracles makes it very clear that in order to undo the ego and its illusions, one needs to be vigilant only for God's Kingdom and renounce all false idols and worldly goals. As I've begun taking this idea more seriously and applying it diligently in my life, I find that I have little or no motivation to do anything except meditate and read. If one is truly committed to renouncing all worldly goals and being vigilant only for God, then how can one function normally in this world with a job and responsibilities? What would be the purpose of doing anything in this world, if all “doing” is motivated by worldly goals and thus the ego? Please help.

A: Renouncing all false idols and worldly goals is a matter of content, not form. Renouncing the ego thus means to renounce its purpose in your life, which means your responsibility is to look with Jesus at how you fulfill the ego’s purpose of separation in your daily activities and responsibilities. The activities and responsibilities are not the problem; your mind’s decision to use them to reinforce separation is the problem. That decision is what needs to be changed, as opposed to changing what you do during the day. So being vigilant only for God means being vigilant for all the ways in which you are choosing against His purpose -- mainly in seeing separate, conflicting interests rather than shared interests in your relationships and interactions. Your job, activities, and relationships provide the curriculum Jesus can work with to help you identify your ego choices. Your daily experiences reflect back to you your mind’s decisions, which you would otherwise not know about. So to curtail or cease your normal family and business life would deny Jesus the only means he has of helping you get in touch with what is buried in your mind. Meditation is not the primary means the Course uses, although it is certainly not wrong to meditate.

One of the sections that addresses this issue is in the manual for teachers: “Are Changes Required in the Life Situation of God’s Teachers?” (M.9). Jesus’ answer to that question is that very rarely is anyone asked to make significant life changes, because this is a course about changing your mind about your life, specifically your purpose; it is not about behavior. He is trying to help us learn how to go to the quiet center in our minds beyond the demands of the body, where we can be “directed how to used the body sinlessly” (T.18.VII.8:4) -- not to leave the world, but to be nourished in the kindness and gentleness of love, which would then flow through us in our everyday life activities. Jesus discusses this approach again in Lesson 184, where he tells us that the Holy Spirit can use all of the world’s symbols to get us to the reality beyond the world. And thus he asks us to do the same -- to relate to our daily life and activities in terms of symbols through which we can learn that we all share the same interests, and that our reality is beyond the separate identities we seem to have. We are God’s one Son. (W.pI.184.9,10,11)