Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 02/15/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #882 Do the unforgiven go to hell?
Q #883 Once I have had a thought, how can I ever forget it ?
Q #884 If I feel gratitude for illusion, does that bring truth to illusion ?
Q #885 Why do I sometimes feel that the words of the Course are unkind ? 

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Q #882: What becomes of the unforgiven? Hell?

A: Yes. However, the unforgiven are not those whose sins are unforgivable, and hell is not a place of punishment to which the condemned are banished to suffer untold agony for having sinned. Hell is the belief that God's Son can be separate from Him, living and dying in a body. It is guilt for choosing separation, and fear that God will retaliate with wrathful vengeance. It is the experience of refusing to forgive oneself for the “sin” of believing that separation is preferable to oneness. Thus, whenever we choose separation, cling to the ego's lie of specialness and judge this to be a sin, we are unforgiven and in hell. Both unforgiveness and hell are reflections of a choice made in the mind. The choice is to accept the ego's version of who God's Son is: a separate individual, abiding in a body; sinful, guilty, and afraid of being cast into hell at some unknown future time.

The goal of the Course is to teach us that there is another way: the Holy Spirit's. He represents the part of the mind that remembers the truth about God's Son, and through the Course's teaching brings release from hell. He does so by teaching that the mind has the power to choose between Heaven or hell, God or the ego, forgiveness or unforgiveness. In reality, “there is no hell” (T.15.I.7:1), only the experience of searing pain that follows making the wrong choice. Release from this pain/hell lies in learning that the mind that chose wrongly can choose again.

Q #883: i. A Course in Miracles talks about the illusory world disappearing once we realize that we have never left God. How is this possible? If I have a thought then that thought stays with me forever. It may fade into the background, but it never disappears and can be recalled at any time when triggered by a specific stimulus. The same should apply to all my thoughts that I have had in this illusion.

ii. We project our fear onto someone else and then become afraid of what that person will do to us. There are a couple of billion people in this world and who knows whatever else exists in other illusions that are different from our universe. Nothing exists in the illusion. Does this mean that I have projected my fears onto the billions that are on this planet?

A: i. The self that has the thought will disappear as well, for that is just as illusory as the world. That is difficult for us to grasp, to say nothing of the terror we feel when confronted with that fact. But as Jesus says, when the veil is lifted and the world is gone, “Nothing that you remember now will you remember” (T.19.IV.D.6:6) . Similarly, “You will not remember change and shift in Heaven. You have need of contrast only here” (T.13.IX.6:1,2) . In God, there is no consciousness, no individual self with memories or individual thoughts: “Nowhere does the Father end, the Son begin as something separate from Him” (W.pI.132.12:4) .

As we practice our forgiveness lessons and find perceptions of separation and differences less and less useful and appealing, we will gravitate more toward what binds us all as one. Over time, we will lose interest in anything that reminds us of separation and conflicting interests. This is what Jesus refers to as the “attraction of love for love” (T.12.VIII) , when the vision of Christ that sees us all as one becomes irresistible. This will grow in our awareness, and then one day we will awaken and thankfully realize that nothing else has ever been. The thoughts we held as individuals will have disappeared into the nothingness from which they came. This is a process that naturally and gradually occurs when our only focus throughout the day is forgiveness.

ii. This is a process that takes place entirely in the mind, which is outside time and space. That makes the mind's process rather difficult for us to comprehend, because we always think about things in terms of linear time and space. Yet, Jesus emphasizes that the world is nothing other than “the outside picture of an inward condition” (T.21.in.1:5) ; “It still is true that nothing is without. Yet upon nothing are all projections made. For it is the projection that gives the ‘nothing' all the meaning that it holds” (T.20.VIII.9:7,8,9).

The point of this is that the mind is in such fear over its guilt -- thanks to its decision to listen to the ego instead of the Holy Spirit -- that it makes up a world filled with multitudes of objects onto which it can project its guilt. This is all going on only in the mind, though. There is not first a world and then a mind that projects its guilt and fear onto it. The strategy of projection, importantly, includes severing that connection, so that we wind up being aware only of a world of discrete things, having blocked out the fact that they are being generated by a mind seeking to unload its burden of guilt. Given this dynamic, you can project your fear onto anything at all. Usually, however, only certain people will trigger a reaction in you, not everyone. Remember, A Course in Miracles defines perception as interpretation -- it is not what you physically see that constitutes perception; it is how you react to what you see. So when you react strongly to someone -- and the person need not be physically present -- you want to see that as an opportunity to go back to the decision-making point in your mind and ask for help to look at your guilt and fear with Jesus or the Holy Spirit. As you do that more and more, you will project less and less. Then, finally, you will let go of the guilt and fear all together.

Q #884: Is extending gratitude to the ideas which joined me in my physical, illusory play in the form of body cells and tissues, trees, animals, insects etc., bringing truth to illusions? Or does keeping in mind that the reality of everything is a loving idea, if seen from the Holy Spirit's vantage point, allow the illusion to be brought to Truth? Is focusing on the ideas beyond the form the way to remember, that “God is in everything I see” (W.pI.29)?

A: Guilt for having chosen the separation and identity with the ego are the thoughts that made the body. These are certainly not thoughts for which to be grateful. The body is nothing to be grateful for, because of itself it is nothing (T19.IV.C.5:5) . In fact, there is nothing in the illusion of form that merits gratitude, precisely because it is illusion, not reality. Moreover, the world is the projection of the insane thought that the Son of God can be separate from his Source. Therefore, there is nothing inherently loving about it.

What's more, in A Course in Miracles, Jesus tells us: we do not know what anything is for (W.pI.25) , we do not know who we are (T.9.I.2:5), what we really want (T.11.II.3:7), or what love is (T12.V.6:1) . In this state of confusion, how could we possibly know what to be grateful for? Hope lies in accepting what Jesus tells us: “ You do not know the meaning of anything you perceive. Not one thought you hold is wholly true. The recognition of this is your firm beginning” (T.11.VIII.3:1,2,3). The beginning is willingness to be taught to see everything differently by looking through the eyes of forgiveness.

The practice of forgiveness, whereby every judgment is recognized as the projection of a choice in the mind, is the only way to bring illusion to truth. The important focus in this process is being willing to remember that nothing external to the mind has any effect on it. This is the foundation of forgiveness and the perspective the Holy Spirit brings to every experience in the dream. We can then be grateful to everything and everyone by acknowledging that none of them is responsible for anything we feel. That is what is meant by the workbook lesson, “I am not the victim of the world I see” (W.pI.31) . This gratitude extends to oneself as well, in recognition of the mind's power to choose the Holy Spirit or the ego as interpreter of every experience in the dream. We can be thankful that our happiness does not depend on anything outside our minds, and requires only that we choose it, by choosing the Holy Spirit.

The first step is learning that the “happiness” we seem to experience in the world is the ego's specialness, not true happiness. This means looking honestly at all the things we think make us happy, and seeing them as tawdry substitutes for the real happiness we seek. As mentioned earlier, we don't know what that is, but we can learn that it is not anything the world offers. This requires a little willingness to question every value that we hold (T.24.in.2:1) . Every value means “…all thoughts of what you are and what God is; all concepts you have learned about the world; all images you hold about yourself. …everything [the mind] thinks is either true or false, or good or bad, of every thought it judges worthy, and all the ideas of which it is ashamed” (W.pI.189.7:1,2). To question these values we must first recognize them, and so our function is only to: “…seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against [Him] ” (T.16.IV.6:1). We need not strive to see God in everything. When every value is questioned and found wanting, nothing will be held up to block the memory of God's Love in our minds, and then He will be in everything we see. This does not mean that He is present in the dream in any way. It means that when the memory of His Love is not blocked by the ego's specialness, everything is perceived through the lens of love's reflection.

Q #885: Why do I sometimes feel that the words spoken in A Course in Miracles are unkind? Is this a projection of the ego which is trying to steer me subtly away from the Course's purpose? What is the Course's purpose anyhow?

A: The goal of A Course in Miracles is to uncover what lies hidden within the ego thought system, so that it can be exposed to the light of truth to be healed. Exposure of the ugliness of the ego may seem unkind, just as patients cringe when the dentist probes to examine an aching tooth. The pain of the infected tooth is unbearable, but the helping hands of the dentist may be perceived as yet more painful. Careful examination of the Course's graphic descriptions of the ego reveals Jesus' kind and comforting diagnosis: we are not the gruesome ego in need of a root canal, we only think we are. He introduces descriptions of the ego's insanity with phrases such as: “you think you are….” “you believe you are….,” “you see yourself…”. Never does he say these beliefs are true. In fact, the only purpose for exposing these thoughts is to teach us that they are not true, and that we believe them because we have chosen them to support belief in the reality of separation and sin. The sickness of separation must first be exposed in order for it to be healed. The goal of the Course is healing the mind of the thought of separation, which Jesus helps us do by teaching us that just as we chose the ego, we can choose against it by choosing the Holy Spirit.

Yes, focusing on the Course's strong negative words in reference to the ego is a wonderful way for to halt progress in your study of the Course. The truth is, we have no problem believing that we are egos living and dying in bodies, with no hope of ever returning to our true state of oneness with God; the most unkind thing the Son of God could believe about himself. But we do have tremendous resistance to believing the message Jesus offers: we are God's innocent Son (W.pI.95.12:2,3) , the separation never happened (T.6.II.10:7) , the world is an illusion (W.pI.155.2:1) , and “At no single instant does the body exist at all” (T.18.VII.3:1) . Jesus adds insult to injury by telling us that this world is hell (W.pI.182.3) , every attack is murder (T.23.III.1) , guilt is projected from the mind in the form of hate (T.18.VI.2) , and finally, “…a slight twinge of annoyance is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury” (W.pI.21.2:5) . To the part of the mind that identifies with the ego/body these words are indeed unkind; certainly not things we want to hear. In fact, the ego works very hard at keeping these thoughts from awareness, thereby defending the mind's continued choice for separation. The devastating consequences of choosing separation are hidden behind the world's seeming loveliness. In the text, Jesus uses the example of a framed picture to show us the ego's use of denial and deception. The ugly picture of the ego's specialness is “…surrounded by a frame so heavy and so elaborate that the picture is almost obliterated by its imposing structure” (T.17.IV.8:2) . The ego uses both the positive and negative experiences of the world in fabricating its frame of deception. The positive experiences are diversions meant to convince us that the world is not such a bad place. The pain and misery of negative experiences prove the world is real. We have so overlearned the ego's message and adjusted to the heavy layers of denial, that Jesus spells things out using striking contrast between the ego's darkness and the loving message of the Holy Spirit's truth. Jesus urges us to “look at the picture ” (T.17.IV.9:1) , not the frame. Unless we see that choosing the ego is the source of all the world's anguish, we will not move beyond the veil of illusion to awaken to the light of truth. That is the ultimate goal of the Course.