Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 04/19/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #920 Are you using the Course to justify infidelity in marriage?
Q #921 Why must we have any ability at all to miscreate?
Q #922 Does it really matter who the Course really "came from"?
Q #923 How can we determine what to take literally in the Course ?

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Q #920: This is in regards to your answer to Question #622. I felt that the reply was well thought out and brought up some very good points about ego needs in any relationship. However, on a different level, I felt that the answer might be perceived, incorrectly, as an endorsement, or at a minimum, a free pass to not remaining faithful in marriage. Many people have committed relationships, and this can be a source of strength and stability to them, even given the points you addressed. Asking someone to stay in a relationship when the other person has permission to fool around is hard to take by many standards. And in many relationships people do change their behavior, in order to build a stronger relationship.

You do state that there is nothing wrong in bringing up what each expects in a relationship. However, when you dismiss the spiritual aspect of this (which is correct to do) in the very next sentence, then this can be used by another as a reason for not staying committed (my fooling around has nothing to do with Spirit or A Course in Miracles ! Stop being so egotistical!) It can make one feel guilty about not wanting their partner to be faithful.

It is recognized how difficult it is to give advice on practical matters in this forum.

A: Sorry, you make a good case in the world's terms for the value of fidelity, but the Course does not take a position one way or another on what bodies do. Its concern is only with the mind, and which teacher it has chosen, and so it endorses neither fidelity nor infidelity, as traditionally defined. But neither does it reject nor condemn either. And so the answer was not intended as advice on “practical” matters but a clarification of the only thing that is important in any relationship -- the purpose I am giving it, which has nothing to do with the other person in the relationship. That other person may be thinking and behaving in a very self-centered, hurtful way, even using the Course, or answers from the Question and Answer Service, to justify ego-based decisions! The devil, after all, can cite scripture for his purpose.

Now it is certainly true that many people find value in making a commitment to monogamy in their relationships and this could provide a foundation for recognizing and undoing many aspects of their ego thought system that they would not have recognized otherwise. But, if the commitment is based only on ego need, it could simply reinforce, consciously or unconsciously, specialness and feelings of inadequacy, control, fear and guilt.

Likewise, some people may feel that sexual fidelity is not important to their relationship, and if the decision has a right-minded component, they too may find that having other intimate relationships provides opportunities for uncovering aspects of their egos that they may not have encountered had they remained within the parameters of a monogamous relationship. But just as easily, if the decision for multiple partners is ego-based, they may simply be reinforcing their own feelings of specialness and with that, their guilt.

The point again is, the Course is only concerned with what the mind is doing, not the body, for the body's actions are only an effect of the mind's decisions. This is Jesus' meaning in the following:

“It is pointless to believe that controlling the outcome of misthought can result in healing. ...You must change your mind, not your behavior, and this is a matter of willingness. You do not need guidance except at the mind level. Correction belongs only at the level where change is possible. Change does not mean anything at the symptom [ body/behavioral ] level, where it cannot work (T.2.VI.3:1,4,5,6,7).

And so if two people in a relationship have different ideas about monogamy, it would be a mistake to assume that either position is more or less ego-based than the other. But the use of guilt by either partner to manipulate the other would clearly give away the ego's hand, for the Holy Spirit would never use guilt to influence any choice. If, as the answer to Question #622 noted, the purpose of all ego-based relationships is to foster conflict and see one's partner as the cause of one's own unhappiness, it does not matter on which side of the fidelity question one falls, if there is a difference of opinion, that is all the ego needs to stay in business.

Q #921: It is often said that the function of the Holy Spirit is to act as a cap on our capacity to miscreate, and in fact the Course says: "you cannot depart entirely from your Creator, Who set the limits on your ability to miscreate" (T.2.III.3:3). First and foremost is the implication that the ability to miscreate at all is an endowment from the Creator, against which some kind of insurance is necessary. No matter how I think about it, it suggests an Achilles heel in the perfection of Creation, which is an oxymoron.

Second, exactly how does this limit manifest itself? I used to think it meant that even the most blatantly ego-driven person would stop short of total destruction or total self-destruction. But this obviously is not true: one need only look at Hitler to see this.

But if there is no self-restraint, there is always restraint by the Sonship. Perhaps this is what is meant. Perhaps we should not look within any particular individual or timeframe for evidence of the Holy Spirit at work. The words of Gandhi seem helpful: "When I despair, I remember that all throughout history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS."

Corollary to my earlier question: I am pretty much commenting on my own question about miscreation. When reading it over it is easy to see the trap I have fallen into. Hitler is not miscreating. It is the miscreating mind that is dreaming up an illusion in which these phenomena are necessary. Any cap or limit on the ability to miscreate does not consist of reigning in nonexistent madmen. The illusion which contains such madness can (and does) become insane without limit, the product of an insane mind. The cap or limit lies in the ultimate effect, power, and meaning of such miscreation -- all nothing.

A: You've gone a long way toward answering your own musings. To that, a few further thoughts can be added. It cannot be overemphasized that the dualistic language of the Course is always metaphorical, as has been repeated many times throughout these answers (e.g., Questions #42, #72, #85 and #156). So when A Course in Miracles speaks of God placing a limit on our ability to miscreate, it's a metaphor. God does nothing, He simply is (W.pI.169.5:1,4) . But it is the nature of the split mind that it must contain the memory of its oneness -- identified as the Holy Spirit in the Course -- because we can forget but we can never destroy our link with our Source. So the illusory ability to miscreate has nothing to do with God and is not something that He in any sense has even allowed, since in reality He is not aware of the illusion. For if He could be, the illusion would be real. But the correction for that illusory ability, also an illusion -- the memory of oneness -- is inherent in every seemingly fragmented mind, no matter what ego-driven insanity it may be projecting. And so that is one aspect of the limit on our miscreating -- there is a part of each mind, outside of time and space, that knows otherwise.

In addition, a limit on our ability to miscreate follows inevitably from the fact that everything of the ego is finite, that is, with an end, since it was made to be the opposite of Heaven, which is eternal and infinite. It's not that God has imposed any limit on us. It is simply inherent in the ego thought system, limited as it is by its very nature. Were the ego capable of miscreating infinitely or eternally -- and the ego would like us to believe that it is -- then God would have been replaced. And so the ego, as a thought of limitation, must be limited. We can play -- relationship after relationship, lifetime after lifetime -- in the illusion, but the number of possible relationships and lifetimes, finite as it is, will at some point be exhausted.

The Course offers the miracle as a means for shortening or limiting that finite amount of time (T.1.I.47; T.1.II.6) , by helping us to see that, despite all the different forms the ego offers, their content is always the same -- sin, guilt and fear. And although the ego would like us to believe there is a hierarchy of illusions, Jesus is leading us to recognize that, at the level of content, a Hitler and a Gandhi are the same, for they reflect the same split mind, with both a wrong-minded and a right-minded component, and the power to choose between them. And we all share that same split mind, simply expressing its conflict as well as its healing in different, ultimately meaningless forms.

In the end, it is our intolerance for the pain and guilt of the ego thought system that will lead us each eventually to limit the miscreative capacity of the mind and turn to the miracle for relief. As Jesus says a few sentences after the lines you quote above, “Tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit” (T.2.III.3:5). And it is our memory of oneness that helps us undo our belief in the reality of the separation and its effects, as we learn not to take them so seriously, no longer needing to defend against the guilt, but rather seeing through it.

By the way, an alternative perspective to the Gandhi quote about evil in the world, suggesting instead the ultimate hopelessness of the world, might be the following: "When I am hopeful, I remember that all throughout history the way of lies and hate has always re-emerged. There have been benevolent philosopher kings and saints for a time who seem to have made a difference, but in the end, they always fall -- think of it, ALWAYS." Jesus is encouraging us to look for real, meaningful change within our minds, not within the world (T.21.in.1:7) !

Q #922: Recently, I read yet another article debating whether or not A Course in Miracles was actually channeled by the “historical Jesus.” I've always found this argument to be 1) irrelevant and 2) a classic example of the form vs. content error. It is my contention that when Helen and Bill agreed to “find another way,” Helen accessed the part of her mind whose content is pure, formless Love. Helen, however, being fearful of that Love (as we all are), could only accept it in forms with which she was comfortable and familiar. Her interest in Jesus, specifically within the context of Catholicism, as well as her scholarly background would naturally produce a spiritual “course” in “Christian” terms. What if Helen were a Buddhist chef? Conceivably, the document scribed could have been a spiritual “cookbook” channeled by the Buddha. I state the former only half in jest. It serves as a constant reminder for me to remember that, although form is important, it is nothing more than a means to an end…to the formless Love behind it. Any thoughts?

A: We have discussed this issue in Questions #110 and #156, where we emphasized the importance of regarding everything in the illusion as symbols, along with distinguishing between form and content. It is understandable that controversy has arisen over Jesus being the author of A Course in Miracles , as its message and teachings are radically different from those presented in the Bible. Even so, we remain faithful to its content by not using these differences as a means of making the Course special, nor we as its students. This theme is a frequently addressed in our publications -- perhaps most prominently in Chapter 17 in Absence from Felicity , which penetrates deeply into the form-content dimension of Helen and her relationship with Jesus. In fact the chapter is entitled, “Helen and Jesus: The Illusion and the Reality.” Our abiding, unconscious commitment to the “sanctity” of individualized, bodily existence is the main stumbling block to getting beyond the worship of form at the expense of content.

Q #923: How can one determine what should be taken literally while reading A Course in Miracles ? I understand that words are symbols for things, and that "things" are symbols of thoughts in the dualistic mind, thus "twice removed from reality." When reading the Course, it is crucial to distinguish what is meant to be figurative from literal statements of fact. For example, the statement "God is," is a literal fact. But "the Father weeps" is obviously a figure of speech. What principle of interpretation determines this important distinction?

A : At the top of the list is this principle adapted from a passage in the manual for teachers: Teacher of God, your one assignment could be stated thus: Accept no compromise in which duality plays a part (M.27.7:1) . Similarly, in the text we find this succinct principle: “Yet the truth is you and your brother were both created by a loving Father, Who created you together and as one. See what ‘proves' otherwise, and you deny your whole reality” (T.21.II.13:1,2) . The only statements that should be understood as true and therefore taken literally are those that reflect the unified reality of Heaven and God and Christ. We can thus say that anything that relates to a body or bodily activity is within the realm of duality, and therefore can express either the ego's thought system of separation or the Holy Spirit's thought system of forgiveness. Moreover, the Course's unique approach to forgiveness and the holy relationship will inevitably be misconstrued if its non-dualistic metaphysical basis is not recognized.

A full analysis and discussion of this topic may be found in chapters 2 and 3 of our book, Few Choose to Listen -- Volume Two of The Message of “A Course in Miracles .” Another comprehensive discussion is contained in our tape album, “Duality as Metaphor in A Course in Miracles ”; and, finally, brief summaries may be found in Questions #6, #85, and #105 on this Service.