Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 02/22/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #886 How can our limited minds grasp the truth ?
Q #887 Can I follow Course principles if I am a tax collector?
Q #888 If the Courses teaches that guilt is not real, is that not just an excuse for "copping out" ?
Q #889 My friend wants me to recite the rosary with her. Would it be dishonest of me to do so ? 

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Q #886: How can the conscious mind, the mind of illusion, grasp the unconscious mind, the mind of truth, or the Mind of his Father, and consciously know that it is free of illusion? Is there a way to know you have been in truth?

A: Jesus tells us in the text that “if you are wholly free of fear of any kind, and if all those who meet or even think of you share in your perfect peace, then you can be sure that you have learned God's lesson, and not your own” (T.14.XI.5:2) . We all would readily admit that we are quite good at deluding ourselves into thinking we have gotten past the illusions of the ego, but it is more difficult to fool people who are part of our daily lives. So Jesus adds the second criterion to his test for determining which teacher we have followed. But this evaluation should extend over a long period of time, not just a given instant, because we are so capable of fooling both ourselves and others as well. A discussion of this may be found in our book The Most Commonly Asked Questions about “A Course in Miracles,” Question #43; see also on this Service Questions #43, #285, #309, #486, #498, and #536 . Practically every student of the Course has wondered about this same issue.

The lessons in Part I of the workbook are directly aimed at helping us get in touch with what we have concealed in our minds, so that we can -- with the help of Jesus or the Holy Spirit -- make a better decision. Again, though, this is a long process, for as Jesus tells us at the conclusion of the 365 lessons, “This course is a beginning, not an end” (W.ep.1:1) . We need to continue to apply the lessons in our daily lives with patience and gentleness, remembering always Jesus' assurance that we cannot fail. “Forget not one this journey is begun the end is certain. Doubt along the way will come and go and go to come again. Yet is the ending sure. No one can fail to do what God appointed him to do. When you forget, remember that you walk with Him and with His Word upon your heart. Who could despair when hope like this is his? Illusions of despair may seem to come, but learn how not to be deceived by them. Behind each one there is reality and there is God. . . . The end is sure and guaranteed by God” (C.ep.1:1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10).

Q #887: According to A Course in Miracles, since everything in this world is a means of seeing either the Holy Spirit's purpose or the ego's purpose, I do hope you can suggest some possible opportunities for forgiveness in my recent choice for a new job. Many feel that my having chosen to be the delinquent tax collector for our county means that I will be promoting the idea that taking from others is acceptable, since my job will involve enforcing laws that require a person's property to be taken and sold at public auction if taxes are not paid. Some call this legal theft. In spite of the guilt feelings this brings up, I prefer to see this job as another way to learn that there is no order of difficulty in miracles. I welcome your perspective and thank your for your comments.

A: You are correct, “there is no order of difficulty in miracles” (T.1.I.1:1). The companion to this principle, there is no hierarchy of illusions (T.23.III.2), further substantiates the equality of every classroom with any other classroom, your job with any other job. It would be a mistake to think that the choice for a job is dependent upon its not contributing in some way to the perceived victimization of other people. If that were the case, a lot of people would have to quit their jobs and a lot of work would not get done. Moreover, for this world to work on its terms, taking from others is not only acceptable, it is required. Life in the body depends on taking life from other organisms; animal and vegetable. From the womb to the tomb survival means someone or something must die that I may live. This is a “kill or be killed” world (M.17.7) . The foundation of the ego's world and of every from of employment is the specialness bargain, wherein needs are met in exchange for some form of payment. Taxes are part of the deal and tax collectors are needed to get the job done. If your friends use roads, stop lights, bridges, or any of the multitudinous things paid for by taxes, they may thank you for doing your job. Meanwhile, it is your classroom for uncovering the guilt induced by the belief that in choosing separation we stole life and power from God, and are illegal aliens in a world of our own making.

It is also a mistake to think that some jobs are more spiritual, just, valuable, or important than others, or that “holy” people are tax exempt. As we all know, two things are certain in this world: death and taxes. The ego would have us believe that in both cases we are ripped off by very powerful, vicious authority figures (God and the government). The Holy Spirit tells us this is the projection of the mind's insane decision to rip itself off by identifying with the thought of separation, rather than accepting its true Identity as God's Son. Seeing the guilt and victimization feelings that arise with regard to taxes, politics, and governments is a perfect opportunity to see the reflection of the split mind's conflict. It is important to remember that this conflict is present in every relationship, as well as every job, no matter how cleverly it may be disguised. All the pain and misery experienced in this world are the taxes we pay for the mistake of choosing the ego. These taxes must be paid until a decision is made to identify with the Holy Spirit instead. Only then will we accept the inheritance we are entitled to as God's Son: “ awareness of love's presence” (T.in.1:7). And this inheritance is tax free.

Q #888: I've been wondering about the dispensing of our sense of guilt. In many therapies, the recognition of our feelings, especially negative ones such as envy, guilt etc., is important so that we can let the feelings go. Yet A Course in Miracles states that ultimately guilt isn't real and that we should not recognize it as “truth.” Then again, it states that as long as we believe in the body's truth, we would have to obey its laws that we set up ourselves.

So wouldn't it be an easy cop out to say, “Oh, those negative things aren't real anyway, so why bother with them?” At the same time, they are part of our physical selves and might come out secretly at the other end and be harmful to us. We are also living in a human body and -- as the Course states, too -- to deny that would be an even greater denial of the truth. So if we keep on recognizing the body and its attached sense of guilt, then how can we ever get out of here and return to the true state of mind that is still ours? It seems to be some kind of trap where the door has disappeared. Can you advise?

Also, Jesus tells us that we must first live a “happy dream” before we can realize that there is no dream at all. However, does not every “happy” thing include its opposite by definition? How can we live a happy dream when that implies that there must be something sad as well? Isn't that an illusion? Is that what Jesus means when he says that when we really come across living a happy dream, “God will bow down to us” and the bridge to “real life”/truth will be there for us to cross? So once we recognize the illusion of distinguishing between happy and sad, good and bad, there is no dream at all. We cross the bridge to truth and the Self that is one with God. Is that all there is to it?

A: A Course in Miracles does not ask that we deny feelings. They are an important key to recognizing the choice that has been made in the mind. In fact, the goal of the mind training the workbook teaches is to make us increasingly aware of what we are thinking and feeling. The thoughts and feelings that are experienced in the dream are the reflection of a decision made in the mind that is outside time and space. When the mind decides to identify with the body, it then denies the choice and dissociates itself from its true identity as a mind. Jesus tells us our feelings and hidden thoughts are the guide to recognizing the forgotten choice the mind has made: “How can you know whether you chose the stairs to Heaven or the way to hell? Quite easily. How do you feel?” (T.23.II.22:6,7,8). He goes on to tell us that certainty and peace accompany the decision to turn toward Heaven by choosing the Holy Spirit. Any other feeling tells us we have chosen the ego's road to hell. Therefore, our feelings should not be dismissed. That would be, as you say, a cop out, driving them further under cover and burying the mind's choice in deeper darkness.

What makes the recognition of feelings part of a healing process, rather than a trap, is looking at them without judgment, and being willing to see them for what they are, not as the ego interprets them. The goal is not to justify them, blame others for them, or indulge them, but to see them as the inevitable and desired result of a choice in the mind. Acknowledging the mind as the source of every feeling means that the feelings change as the mind is healed. Part of the healing process may involve working with a therapist to bring the feelings to the surface and to identify the persons or situations that were their projected source. What makes practicing the Course a different kind of therapy is attributing every experience to the mind's decision, and not to anyone else nor to anything in form. This means no one else is responsible for how one feels. Neither are feelings caused by anything the body has done to itself. They come only from having decided for the ego and then judging it as sinful. Looking beyond the feelings to their source is how to practice the forgiveness Jesus teaches in the Course. Not only is it not a trap, it is the escape route out of the ego's trap because it makes the power of the mind real in our awareness and diminishes the seeming power of the body and its guilt. When guilt is seen as a purposive and not so desirable choice, rather than a powerful force, its unreality gradually becomes apparent and it will eventually disappear for lack of nourishment. A little willingness to see feelings in this light is all that is required to set us in the right direction with the Holy Spirit by our side to “…give [us] certainty of where [we] go” (T.23.II.22:13) .

Being certain of where we go (out of the dream), with Whom we go (the Holy Spirit) and how we go (forgiveness), is what makes us happy in he dream. It is not really about the dream; it is the “fixed determination” (T.31.VIII.11:1) to go beyond the dream that makes it “happy.” This reflects the mind's decision to hold Jesus' hand and walk with him out of the illusion. It has nothing to do with the distinctions we make as bodies about what is good, bad, happy, or sad. These all reflect the ego's judgment based on the belief in separation and the reality of the body. The happy dream is the reflection of the part of the mind that chooses to identify with the Holy Spirit, Who is the memory of what lies beyond illusion. In this, as always, it is helpful to remember that the Course is using words that “…are but symbols of symbols… twice removed from reality” (M.21.1:9,10) . Its use of symbols and images is necessary to reach us who believe we are irretrievably lost in the dream.

The only distinction we must learn to make is between the ego's voice and the Holy Spirit's. This is accomplished through the process of forgiveness described above. That is all there is to it. It is a simple process, but one that takes quite a bit of practice due to the resistance to letting go of iden­tity with the body. When we do, we will return to the oneness with God that we never truly left, symbolized in the Course by the image of God reaching down: “And then your Father will lean down to you and take the last step for you, by raising you unto Himself” (T.11.VIII. 15:5).

Q #889: A person I socialize with is in the habit of reciting the rosary when someone travels with her and expects the other person to recite it with her. As a student of A Course in Miracles , would it be dishonest to recite “Hail Mary…pray for us sinners now….” or would it rather be a loving thing to do and in accordance with the Course teaching: “Recognize what does not matter, and if your brothers ask you for something 'outrageous', do it because it does not matter.” (T.12.III.4:1)? Would this exhortation apply to the situation I am talking about?

I am a non-practicing catholic and have been a student of the Course for the past 6 years. Some of the women I socialize with attend church on a regular basis. I have been asked what church I attend. I didn't like being asked about that, as there is only one church in our parish. So, the first time I ignored the question. The second time, I spontaneously answered: “Good question!” I don't feel like answering that my spiritual path is A Course in Miracles . What would be a loving, honest way to answer that question?

A: You have given yourself a very good answer to your question. It may certainly be a loving thing to say Hail Marys with your friend. There is nothing dishonest in being willing to meet your friend on her turf and on her terms. While your friend practices her beliefs, you can also practice yours by focusing on the content (the thoughts in your mind), not allowing the form (rosary) to come between you and your friend. This could make for a very relaxing ride.

Similarly, there is no need to tell anyone that you are a student of the Course. The important thing from the perspective of the Course, is to pay attention to the discomfort you experience with your friends' inquiries, because it reflects the mind's conflict. The goal of the Course is to help us become aware of just such discomfort, so that the beliefs and judgments that are hidden beneath it can be exposed. That is the only focus the Holy Spirit brings. If you are willing to look at whatever judgments you have regarding your friends' catholic practice and your identity as a non- practicing catholic / student of the Course, you may be surprised to find beliefs you were not aware of. These beliefs and judgments are what make it difficult to discern what to say to your friends about church attendance. Every judgment is some form of unforgiveness and unforgiveness blocks communication. As Jesus tells us in the workbook: “ Certain it is that all distress does not appear to be but unforgiveness. Yet that is the content underneath the form” (W.pI.193.4:1, 2) . With this in mind, it is possible to find the way out of every dilemma: “…only forgiveness heals an unforgiveness, and only an unforgiveness can possibly give rise to sickness [distress, discomfort, uneasiness] of any kind” (P.2VI.5:5).

When forgiveness of one's judgments becomes the goal in the relationship, the relationship changes, and on some level all who are involved perceive the shift. Questions and answers may change, but it is the change in content that truly matters. In some form, the message that your friends' inquiries are not upsetting to you will be communicated to them. Releasing them of any responsibility for your feelings makes every interaction lighter. Whatever you say will be free of judgment. If you remain a kind and loving friend in this way they probably won't care what church, if any, you are attending. If they do care, it won't be an issue for you. You can't lose.