Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 02/01/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #876 Can studying the Course make me like an angel ?
Q #877 If a healed mind does not plan, is it not simply a slave ?
Q #878 The workbook is making me more aggressive. What's going on ? 

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Q #876: I recently began reading A Course in Miracles . I am trying to stay sober from alcohol and fall off the wagon often. Although I am having difficulties, I have continued to seek for a God of my own understanding. Although I do not understand all that ACIM teaches, I do feel that God led me to this book. I frequently practice being an angel, but sometimes my short temper flares up and I don't act very angel-like. I want to be like an angel all the time so that others will see that God is really a miracle worker. Will your book help me to learn to be this kind of person? What can I do for myself that would help me to achieve this point. If miracles are possible, can God perform this kind of miracle for me?

A: Fortunately, what the Course would consider “angelic” is precisely the honesty about temper flare ups such as you describe. If you were an angel all the time, you would not need ACIM. Its teachings are for all who are aware that tempers (egos) are alive and well. A temper flare up reveals the mind's hidden choice for separation, and its need for healing. In this lies the foundation for the Course's teaching: the problem is the mind's choice for separation, not unangelic behavior and the solution is healing the mind of the thought of separation through forgiveness, not angelic behavior. The Course takes the focus off behavior and returns it to the mind. Thus, watching yourself have a temper flare up is useful only in that it shows you what the mind is up to.

The miracle Jesus teaches in the Course is recognizing that the true source of a temper flare up is guilt in the mind for having chosen to be separate from God, and from everyone else. The guilt is then projected out, and another person or one's own bad temper is mistakenly blamed for the outburst. Seeing the mind, rather than a bad temper, other people, events, or situations, as the true source of any upset is the first step in the forgiveness process, which is the miracle the Course teaches. It involves a decision made in the mind, and therefore can only be the responsibility of the one who decides. As used in the Course, the term “miracle worker” or “teacher of God” is anyone who is willing to take responsibility for the mind's power and choose the Holy Spirit instead of the ego. Agreeing to see everything as the reflection of a choice in the mind is the way to accept the Holy Spirit. This is the only true “angelic behavior.”

God cannot make a new choice for us because He does not know that His Son has chosen the insane thought of separation. The Psychotherapy pamphlet tells us: “God does not know of separation. What He knows is only that He has one Son” (P.2.VII.1:11,12). This means that God does not know about the world and does not perform miracles. When the Course speaks of God helping, it is referring to the Holy Spirit, Whom we perceive as helping us because we think we need help. What actually occurs is the mind that chose separation decides to choose against it. In the clarification of terms, Jesus tells us: “God does not help because He knows no need. But He creates all Helpers of His Son while he believes his fantasies are true. Thank God for them for they will lead you home” (C.5.1:7,8,9). When you find yourself behaving in a way that you consider unangelic, the important thing to do is to see this as a window to your mind where you have mistakenly chosen to identify with the ego. You then have the opportunity to ask the Holy Spirit's help to make another choice. With attention focused on your mind rather than your behavior, or the behavior of the person who ticked you off, you will have gone to the source of the problem. It will become increasingly clear that others are not the cause of your irritation. If you are not blaming them, your temper flare ups will gradually diminish and peacefulness will increase. Each time you are willing to remember the power of your mind in this way you are strengthening belief in it, and weakening belief in the ego for yourself and for everyone. That is how the miracle is shared, whether others are consciously aware of it or not. You will have chosen the miracle for everyone.

Q #877: A Course in Miracles   teaches: “A healed mind does not plan. It carries out the plans that it receives through listening to wisdom that is not its own. It waits until it has been taught what should be done, and then proceeds to do it. It does not depend upon itself for anything except its adequacy to fulfill the plans assigned to it. . . ." (W.pI.135.11).

I have trouble accepting this passage completely. To me it appears like “slavery” or treating human beings as machines rather than sentient beings with a will of their own. Of course, you would say, we really have no will of our own but God's. But what puzzles me is the fact that we should listen to wisdom that is not of our own, i.e. outside ourselves? How can this be if we are God's Sons and thus His and our will are one? We can but listen to ourselves and follow that. Hence, surrendering to something outside ourselves (something “not our own”), seems somewhat unacceptable if not wholly impossible to me. Hence, the whole passage makes me turn my head, I feel it should read rather “listen to your inner guides and follow that” rather than “wait and see and be guided by some force outside yourselves”? I feel the whole passage is without love and understanding for the human situation.

A: This entire lesson, not just this passage, is presented as a correction of the ways we typically go about our lives in terms of protecting ourselves and shoring up what we judge to be our vulnerabilities. Jesus is helping us get at the unquestioned assumptions that are at the basis of all of our planning for the future -- e.g., that we are real as bodies in a physical universe that is real, and that we are capable of defining our problems and solving them. Getting us to look at those assumptions is one of Jesus' objectives in this lesson.

A major objective of the lessons in Part I of the workbook is to train us to turn our attention inward to the decision-making part of our minds, so that we would gradually realize that everything we experience originates with the choice we make to follow either the ego's direction or Jesus' direction. So when Jesus says in Lesson 135 that the healed mind listens to a “wisdom that is not its own,” he means that that mind that had formerly identified with the ego no longer chooses the ego as its teacher and now listens only to the Holy Spirit. When finally our minds are fully healed, the Holy Spirit's Voice becomes our own -- there is no difference -- we hear only the one Voice at all times. But it is also true at that stage that the self that could choose between the ego and the Holy Spirit is gone, and then there is but a single Will. The “human condition” would have been totally transcended -- not through surrender to some outside force, but by our own choice to deny our denial of the truth of Who we are (T.12.II.1:5) .

We have to try to connect with the point that Jesus is making at any given time in the Course, because he uses language and concepts loosely. The content is always consistent, but the language is not. Sometimes, for example, he is emphasizing our having deliberately split ourselves off from our true Self, and so he will speak as if Christ were different from us. This is reflected in a later lesson when he has us say, “A while I work with Him to serve His purpose. Then I lose myself in my Identity, and recognize that Christ is but my Self” (W.pII.353.1:4,5) . Jesus thus assists us with the process -- which can take many, many years -- of disidentifying with the human self we chose as a defense against our true Self, so that we would regain our invulnerable, innocent Identity as God's one Son. It is a gentle process, providing all the help we need to reach this goal: “Our Love awaits us as we go to Him, and walks beside us showing us the way. He fails in nothing. He the End we seek, and He the Means by which we go to Him” (W.pII.302.2) . Love is our goal and we are one in that Love; but at the same time, the reflection of that Love is here to meet us in our human condition so that we could gradually realize that it is that Love beyond all humanness that we truly want.

You might be interested in Question #225 that also comments on Lesson 13 5 .

Q #878: Ever since starting to practice the workbook more seriously I seem to have become increasingly more aggressive, outspoken in situations where I should keep my mouth shut, unable to put my thoughts together properly, especially in written form, and all kinds of other “horrible” if not even frightening things for the ego. Is this a normal process of “breaking loose” and could you advise on how to proceed with the workbook to make the process more smooth and less hurting to other people? Frankly speaking, since A Course in Miracles arrived in my life “hell broke loose” so to speak, although I can laugh about it every now and then. But this leaves me somewhat puzzled, annoyed and frankly speaking helpless. Could you advise?

A: Something must be working, since it sounds like the lid that concealed the ego's can of worms is off. Although it is frightening, it is a good thing, because healing cannot occur if the sickness is denied or concealed. Having made a decision to study the workbook more seriously means you have chosen the Holy Spirit as your Teacher, which is the most loving thing you could do for yourself and everyone else. It is also the most terrifying thing for the ego. Therein lies the explanation for all hell breaking loose. The choice for the Holy Spirit is a choice for the ego's undoing, which means hell is indeed breaking loose. Jesus describes this dynamic in the text: “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” (T.9.VII.4:4,5,6,7). The ego knows it is no longer ruling at the head of the class and naturally feels threatened. Thus, the part of you that identifies with the ego feels threatened and is striking out. Although the ego does not have the power to truly hurt anyone, your aggressions against others have the unhappy result of adding to your discomfort and increasing guilt. This is not the purpose of the workbook, nor the goal of your decision to practice it more seriously. While it is not necessary to change your behavior, understanding the ego's confusion and revolt takes some of the heat off, and may lessen the impulse to attack. More importantly, appreciating the significance of having chosen the Holy Spirit takes the focus off the attack behavior that has ensued. Seen in this light, the ego's reaction is not such a big deal, which will probably make you feel better and attack less.

An appreciation of the intensity of the ego's resistance also helps keep a clear perspective on the process. Earlier in chapter 9, Jesus tells us: “The ego believes that all functions belong to it, even though it has no idea what they are. This is more than mere confusion. It is a particularly dangerous combination of grandiosity and confusion that makes the ego likely to attack anyone and anything for no reason at all. This is exactly what the ego does. It is unpredictable in its responses, because it has no idea of what it perceives” (T.9.IV.7:2,3,4,5,6). No wonder practicing the workbook seriously sends the ego into a tizzy. Obviously, Jesus knows the full intensity of his students' fear and resistance, which is why the lessons proceed gently, one day and one small step at a time. For good reason we are told: “Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality. Time is kind, and if you use it on behalf of reality, it will keep gentle pace with you in your transition” (T.16VI.8:1,2).

The urge to attack can be viewed as a reminder of the decision you have made to choose the Holy Spirit, with the ego responding as “…a frightened mouse that would attack the universe” (T.22.V.4:3). It is then your choice whose guidance you will follow. Be grateful when you choose the Holy Spirit, and forgive yourself when you decide to be a roaring mouse.