Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 03/22/2006
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #901 Can you help me to understand -- where is the mind?
Q #902 What does the Course tell us about the historical Jesus ?
Q #903 How do I know I have joined with the Holy Spirit?
Q #904 How can anything as wonderful as nature not come from God?
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Q #901: I have been studying A Course in Miracles for more than 15 years. When I try to change my mind -- that is, choose the Holy Spirit and not the ego -- inevitably I refer to my brain, but the Course teaches that the brain doesn't think. I am a very visual person and seem to need to "see" something. I picture my mind outside and above me. So my question is, where is the mind? And how should we think of it when we are trying to make a better choice? If the mind uses the brain to project its message, can we just visualize the brain as a receiver from the mind?
A: Yes, that is one place to start, as long as you regard the mind as the source of the brain and the body -- something concocted by the mind as a way of convincing itself that it is not a mind. The fact that you -- and most people -- need to “see” something indicates the extent to which this dynamic has worked. The mind has no physical/quantifiable dimensions to it, so it not anywhere. That seems inconceivable to us, and for the most part it is -- we cannot conceptualize it. The mind is not in a place. A mystic once described God as He whose center is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere. Meaningless to a brain! Similarly, Jesus asks, “Who is the ‘you' who are living in this world?” (T.4.II.11:8) -- encouraging us to question the reality of the self we think we are.
So when you are trying to make a better choice, you might visualize going from the brain back to the mind, which has a decision-making center; and from that center it can choose to make the ego part of that mind its reality or the Holy Spirit part its reality. That choice then is expressed in form through the body. Then as the mind identifies more and more with the Holy Spirit's thought system, it gradually realizes it is only a mind and that the body/brain really has nothing to do with that identity.
Q #902: What does A Course in Miracles say (if anything) about the historical Jesus (the person that died on the cross)?
A: There are many places in the Course where Jesus points out how his life and teachings have been misinterpreted. Here is a sampling; we recommend that you read each of these in their full context in the Course. For a discussion of the nature of the biblical Jesus versus the Jesus of A Course in Miracles , see our The Message of “A Course in Miracles” -- Vol. One: All Are Called , Chapter 6; and for additional references see our Glossary-Index for “A Course in Miracles ,” under Jesus.
“Is he the Christ? O yes, along with you. . . . Some bitter idols have been made of him who would be only brother to the world. Forgive him your illusions, and behold how dear a brother he would be to you” (C.5.5:1,2,7,8).
“. . . I was persecuted as the world judges, and did not share this evaluation for myself. And because I did not share it, I did not strengthen it. I therefore offered a different interpretation of attack, and one which I want to share with you. If you will believe it, you will help me teach it” (T.6.I.5:3,4,5,6).
“I am the model for rebirth, but rebirth itself is merely the dawning on your mind of what is already in it. God placed it there Himself, and so it is true forever. I believed in it, and therefore accepted it as true for me. . . . My brothers slept during the so-called ‘agony in the garden,' but I could not be angry with them because I knew I could not be abandoned” (T.6.I.7:2,3,4,6).
“I elected, for your sake and mine, to demonstrate that the most outrageous assault, as judged by the ego, does not matter. As the world judges these things, but not as God knows them, I was betrayed, abandoned, beaten, torn, and finally killed. It was clear that this was only because of the projection of others onto me, since I had not harmed anyone and had healed many” (T.6.I.9).
“If the Apostles had not felt guilty, they never could have quoted me as saying, ‘I come not to bring peace but a sword.' This is clearly the opposite of everything I taught. Nor could they have described my reactions to Judas as they did, if they had really understood me. I could not have said, ‘Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?' unless I believed in betrayal. The whole message of the crucifixion is that I did not” (T.6.I.15:2,3,4,5,6).
“As you read the teachings of the Apostles, remember that I told them myself that there was much they would understand later, because they were not wholly ready to follow me at the time. I do not want you to allow any fear to enter into the thought system toward which I am guiding you. I do not call for martyrs but for teachers. No one is punished for sins, and the Sons of God are not sinners” (T.6.I.16:1,2,3,4).
“I am made welcome in the state of grace, which means you have at last forgiven me. For I became the symbol of your sin, and so I had to die instead of you. To the ego sin means death, and so atonement is achieved through murder. Salvation is looked upon as a way by which the Son of God was killed instead of you. Yet would I offer you my body, you whom I love, knowing its littleness? Or would I teach that bodies cannot keep us apart? Mine was of no greater value than yours; no better means for communication of salvation, but not its Source. No one can die for anyone, and death does not atone for sin” (T.19.IV.B.17:1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8).
Q #903: I am having trouble with joining with the Holy Spirit before looking at my guilt. How do I know I've joined first before looking? I recall hearing that we should try to catch the thought of guilt and separation before it is projected out into the world. The problem is that I think it's already out there. I then recall reading that when I am dealing with specifics that I am with the ego, so I try not to enumerate my specific problems as I see them, instead trying to "see the problem as it is, so it can be solved." When I do sit quietly and try to be honest, my mind goes nuts. I know a part of me says this is simple and easy, because I've experienced it as such. But another part says it's very hard. Problem is I feel guilty when I experience this as hard; it's like my ego won't let me experience the pain, saying this is wrong, it should not feel this way. Also, just how many "dark nights of the soul" are there anyway?
A: There is no way of knowing for sure that you have joined with the Holy Spirit before looking - - this is every student's complaint. Clarity comes only after a great deal of practice, and having caught yourself again and again fooling yourself into thinking you have joined with the Holy Spirit, only to find yourself craftily indulging your ego. We all have to learn just how committed we are to upholding our specialness and victimization and how terribly frightened we are to be without it. That kind of honesty is a condition for making progress with this course, but we resist it strenuously because we still fear we will be punished if we face up to our “sins.” Jesus assures us, though, that all that is needed is our “little willingness.” He tells us to trust and concentrate only on that willingness, and to “be not disturbed that shadows surround it. That is why you came. If you could come without them you would not need the holy instant. Come to it not in arrogance, assuming that you must achieve the state its coming brings with it” (T.18.IV.2:3,4,5,6,7) .
In general, if you are looking at your guilt with the Holy Spirit, you would find yourself easing up on your judgments and self-hatred. You would learn how to smile gently at it instead of beating yourself up all the time and feeling you have failed somehow because you chose your ego. This kind of practice will lead you to the next step of catching the thought before it gets projected. But we are attracted to guilt, as Jesus tells us (T.19.IV.A) , which means we will find it hard to simply smile at our guilt and not take it so seriously. Guilt is the cornerstone of the ego thought system, and therefore it will fight hard to hold on to it. It can be helpful to recognize how we support this effort in our daily lives.
It may not seem like it, but you are making progress just recognizing your projections of guilt and separation. That is the first step in the forgiveness process. Most people can learn to do that without much difficulty. And if you can do that consistently -- without judging yourself for projecting -- then you will be preparing yourself to take the next step -- looking without judgment at the guilt in your own mind. This is the process that will lead you finally to be able to catch the thought before the decision is made to project it. The key, though, is learning how to be patient and gentle with yourself. Forcing yourself in any way is not in keeping with the gentleness of Jesus' approach throughout the Course. Taking it so seriously is to forget that this process is about undoing something that never happened. Therefore, when a part of your practice drives you “nuts,” you probably have lost touch with the gentle content of what you are supposed to be doing. Jesus never expects us to become slaves to the form he suggests for our practicing -- the purpose of all our practicing is to be able to experience his love with less and less interference. In Lesson 70, he reminds us that we will have to go through the clouds that surround the light before we can reach the light. He encourages us as our loving brother: “Try to pass the clouds by whatever means appeals to you. If it helps you, think of me holding your hand and leading you. And I assure you this will be no idle fantasy” (W.pI.70.9:2,3,4) . If you feel pressure as you walk this path, it can only be from your ego, and therefore should not be taken seriously. In the sense that these clouds of guilt constitute our journey, one can say that we repeat the “dark night of the soul” in many variations -- until we emerge into the light.
Q #904: As I understand it, A Course in Miracles teaches that our ego created the world and it is all just an illusion. I have always seen nature and the work of creation as the biggest proof of God's existence! When I look at all the beauty in nature, the intricacy, the multitude, and the magnitude -- from the vastness of space to the unbelievable complexity of DNA -- it seems only God could have created something like this! How can I believe that the human mind is capable of conceiving such greatness?
A: There are really two parts to your question; how could the mind have made the world, and how could God not have created it? The Bible and our western religions define God as the creator of the world. But A Course in Miracles tells us that the Bible's God is a product of the ego. It seeks to help us remember that the true God is a God of eternal, perfect, changeless love. The Course teaches that this real God could not possibly have created anything that doesn't share his quality of being eternal and changeless (C.4.1) . Since everything in this physical universe (even that which seems eternal to us, such as the stars) will eventually perish, nothing on the level of form could possibly come from God.
From the Course perspective, qualities such as intricacy, multitude, magnitude, vastness, and even physical beauty, have nothing to do with God. Anything with these qualities then, must have come from another source. As you stated, the Course tells us that we made the world up (T.20.VIII.7:3,4,5). But the Course isn't teaching that the world was conceived by the human mind. The Course's view of the human or individual mind (which we generally think of as being controlled by the brain) is that it, like the physical world, is entirely illusory (C.1.4:1) -- it's just another part of the dream. Within the dream, we are all split minds, containing the thought systems of both the ego and the Holy Spirit. Therefore we can experience the world as a symbol of either thought system. Thus the beauty of nature can serve to help us remember the Holy Spirit's beautiful love in our mind.
The mind that made up the world however, is outside of time and space. It's the one mind of the Son of God, which appeared to fall asleep and dream that it was separate from its source. Obviously, this is a mind that none of us who think we're bodies can begin to comprehend. From within this dream of physical, individual human existence, none of this makes any sense. But think of the dreams you have at night. While you're having them, they seem absolutely real. Only after awakening can you look back and know that they were made up.
Understanding this phenomenon, the Course doesn't require us to begin by accepting or understanding that the world is our dream. Indeed, if we could do that, we would be awake and wouldn't need the Course. Instead we are merely asked to consider that maybe we are wrong about the world and how we got here. To help us develop the willingness to do that, the Course exposes our motivation for choosing this dream of separation and the pain inherent in doing so.