Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 05/03/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #928 How can I avoid judging and condemning corrupt governments?
Q #929 What exactly are the threats of which the ego is aware?
Q #930 Is Course-based psychotherapy a valid approach?
Q #931 Should I strive not to judge, or just to be aware of my judgments ?

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Q #928: For about three years, I've been obsessed with the corruption of our government and the poverty, terrorism, war, etc., that America has caused. This obsession has led to health problems for me. I find some comfort in writing about it and discussing the issue with certain people. I feel like I am accomplishing some little benefit, perhaps. A Course in Miracles teaches us to look at what we've done with a smile that says these thoughts have no effect on who I am, and “Forgiveness ... is still, and quietly does nothing” (W.pII.1.4:1:1). Ken has also said that a Course student could validly be involved in a situation, such as a war, and still be practicing the Course teaching. The main issue is which teacher we are following. I believe your answer to Question #873 addresses this issue, but it sure is frustrating.

A: Questions #509 and 869 are also helpful with these issues. We will be brief in answering you, so as not to simply repeat our previous discussions. The lesson is, undoubtedly, a difficult one, perhaps the most difficult one of all. Applying the Course means being able to see corruption and dishonesty, etc., and to be able to disagree with the policy makers, while at the same time recognizing that these leaders are part of the same Sonship that you and everyone else are part of. To extend compassion to the “victims” of injustice and not to the “victimizers” is to indulge the ego's version of compassion and justice. And the inevitable result of that will always be conflict, guilt, and unhappiness. Exclusion is very costly to one's peace of mind, because it is a denial of truth and reality. The Love of God is all-inclusive, and, therefore, as a reflection of this Love, Jesus enfolds everyone in his love, with no exceptions. He asks us to do the same, so that we will finally know who we are as God's Son: “Come therefore unto me, and learn of the truth in you. The mind we share is shared by all our brothers, and as we see them truly they will be healed. . . . You can appreciate the Sonship only as one. This is part of the law of creation, and therefore governs all thought” (T.7.V.11.1,2,7,8). This is also the central theme of Ken's recent book, The Arch of Forgiveness , where he states: “If you think of Jesus as total love and innocence, in whom shines the resplendence of Christ's light, you must be willing to share the same thought with those who seem to embody the ego's evil, darkness, and sin. If the light of Christ does not shine in all, it shines in none” (p.13; this is also the theme of a tape set and the article in the Sept. 2004 The Lighthouse , both entitled “The Arch of Forgiveness”).

The only way to do this is to try to rise above the battleground for an instant, beyond the percep­tion of victims and victimizers (T.23.IV) . You would then see that everyone shares the same agony of feeling orphaned and hopelessly stranded in a place that is not home. This is the content in the mind of everyone , government and military leaders, so-called evildoers, the seemingly downtrodden, and everyone else. The memory of our glorious Self as Christ is also in each mind, but it will remain concealed by the decision to condemn or exclude even one person. That is the importance, to the ego, of having enemies -- we are kept apart from one another, and from our minds, where we would see both the shared pain and the memory of the love that binds us together as the one Son of God. Anger and accusations, thus, are very purposive -- they are the effects of our choice to remain in a state of separation, but have it appear to be someone else's doing: the corrupt, incompetent leaders; the indifferent, selfish citizenry, etc.

Jesus invites us to look at the price we are paying to hold onto the anger we feel is so justified, and then at some point ask ourselves whether it is worth it. He assures us that attacking others through condemnation is not sinful; but it is insane, and most importantly, is not really our will (T.23.IV.3:3; 4:6). The ego tries to convince us that we can feel justified in attacking others with­out hurting ourselves: “For it is the ego's fundamental doctrine that what you do to others you have escaped. The ego wishes no one well. Yet its survival depends on your belief that you are exempt from its intentions. It counsels, therefore, that if you are host to it, it will enable you to direct its anger outward, thus protecting you. . . . the more anger you invest outside yourself, the safer you become” (T.15.VII.4:2,3,4,5,6).

Thus, Jesus asks that we look at this content in our minds with him, so that we will recognize the thought system we have chosen to identify with, and then honestly evaluate its worth in the light of the thought system of forgiveness he offers. Why would we withhold our forgiveness and love from even one person once we realize that by doing so we are excluding ourselves from the expe­rience of Heaven's love and peace? That is the question he wants us to keep in the forefront of our minds, along with his assurance that we cannot drive him away should we continue to hold onto our anger and grievances. His love for us is unaffected by our choice for insanity.

Q #929: A Course in Miracles states the ego “sees no difference between miracle impulses and ego-alien beliefs of its own... [and] ...makes no distinctions between these two very different kinds of threat" (T.9.VIII.3:1,2). I know this is comparing grandeur and grandiosity and the fact that the ego is aware of something else, greater than it “out-there” (or actually, in-there). But we are confused about what may indeed be the ego's own alien (not of or outside of itself?) beliefs. Is it accurate to say that the ego is constantly aware of this “other” presence? We know that it is not aware of the Holy Spirit (Voice for God) per se so would it be us as the decision maker? Exactly what are the two very different threats?

A: Miracle impulses of course emanate from the right-mind, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and their purpose is to undo our belief in the ego. It is apparent why the ego would perceive such impulses as a threat, even though it cannot really understand them. Ego-alien beliefs, on the other hand, have their origins in the ego thought system, but represent the split off thoughts of the ego that it is attempting to deny responsibility for, including thoughts of attack and guilt and weakness and limitation, which, while inventions of the ego, need to be seen as outside itself to work as defenses. And so thoughts of revenge and destruction attributed to forces outside itself ironically trigger as much a sense of threat to the ego, even though paradoxically they are part of   the ego's scheme for self-preservation. And it is these threats, as much as the fear of the unknown represented by miracle impulses, which incite the ego to self-inflating delusions of grandiosity.

There is a very simple explanation for the single, common ego perception and response to both sources of threat. The ego is very simply a thought of attack, and so its only reaction to anything perceived to be outside itself -- real or imaginary -- must be to attack, either now or later (T.9.VIII.3:4,5,6) . The attack may be either direct (special hate) or indirect (special love), but attack is all that the ego is capable of. With special love, or where the balance of power seems overwhelmingly against it, the attack may be disguised, but the content is nevertheless nothing other than attack. And so the ego does not and cannot distinguish between the content of any thought that it attacks. Much as the Holy Spirit's judgment, seeing everything as either an extension of love or a call for love, responds only with love (T.12.I.3) , so the ego, regardless of the nature of the content it encounters, sees everything only as a threat to its continued existence and responds only with hate and attack.

So, to the ego, the enemy is both any right-minded thought that reflects the truth of who we are in our unlimitedness -- the grandeur of our true Self -- as well as any ego-based thought, including the body, which challenges or undermines the ego's imaginary “autonomy” and “supremacy.” Ironically, as already noted, the other ego thoughts it attacks are merely split off parts of itself, but the ego is capable of perceiving only threat from anything seen as outside itself (T.4.V.2,3) .

A third source of perceived threat, as you have observed, is the power of our mind to choose between those right-minded and wrong-minded thoughts for, as much as the ego may hate us, it is dependent on the power of our mind to choose it for its continued existence (T.6.IV.4:1,2; T.7.VI.3) .

And so, we can say unequivocally that “the ego is quite literally a fearful thought” (T.5.V.3:7) . So long as we remain identified with the ego, we can only vacillate between various forms of fear and attack, or suspiciousness and viciousness (T.9.VII.3:4,5,6,7,8,9,10) . If we could look very honestly at all of our reactions to everything around us when we are in our wrong-mind, we would recognize that this is really the only content we are capable of experiencing as an ego.

The insanity of the ego's defenses is most clearly seen in the self-inflation of its own grandiosity, which is always an attack on a made-up other as a defense against the ego's intrinsic sense of littleness and vulnerability. The other must be held responsible for the feelings of inadequacy, rather than seeing them simply as a result of our choice for the ego itself in the first place.

Q #930: Some people are giving psychotherapy training based on A Course in Miracles . Is that really necessary or should I just stay with the Course itself?

A: People are free to do whatever they choose with the Course, either treating it as a total and complete thought system within itself -- which it is -- or attempting to combine it with whatever other teachings they are already familiar, whether they be alternative spiritual paths, self-help techniques, or various therapeutic models. Almost without exception, however, any attempt at integrating the Course with these other practices will involve some compromise of the Course's radical principle of nonduality, as people, often without consciously realizing what they are doing, end up bringing its profound teaching down to their own level of   understanding and comfort.   There certainly is nothing bad or “sinful” about these kinds of integrative efforts, but they will almost certainly dilute the Course's message and mix levels of teaching in an unhelpful way, confusing the student and reducing the value of both the Course and what it is being combined with.

Confusion arises because the Course is never saying anything about behavior, and almost every other teaching at some level addresses the issue of how we are acting in the world and relating interpersonally with others. And the Course is simply not concerned with inter personal issues, except as they are a mirror of what is happening at an intra personal level, that is, with decisions being made at the level of mind, where the illusory experience of being a separate, individual person originates. Changes may in turn be reflected at an interpersonal level, but that would never be the Course's focus or concern.

And so you will do well simply to direct your efforts at understanding and applying the forgiveness principles of   the Course as it stands on its own, recognizing that its only purpose is to bring about a change in how you see, or interpret, the world, and not to change the world that you see. Other approaches, such as psychotherapy, may certainly also have value and serve a very useful purpose in your life. The only mistake would be to attempt to combine them with the Course's principles, rather than simply accepting their helpfulness at their own level.

Q #931: I have a question about judgment. In your answer to Question #642, you state “The Course does not ask us not to judge, but rather to recognize the judgments we do make, including the judgment against ourselves for judging.” I understand the context in which you made this response, meaning that one should not beat oneself up or feel guilty when we succumb to judgment, as this just fuels the ego. However, I need some clarification about the first part of your response. It seems that A Course in Miracles specifically asks us not to judge in several places. In the Manual for Teachers it states: “He must learn to lay all judgment aside, and ask only what he wants in every circumstance”(M.4.I.A.7:8). Also in the manual is an essay on being non-judgmental, starting with the line: “God's teachers do not judge” (M.4.III.1:1). So my question is: should I strive not to judge, or strive only to observe when I am judging? The answer is probably to try to do both. Can you provide any additional perspective on this issue?

A: The Course comes to us in the dream of separation from the part of the mind of the Sonship that is outside of the dream. The need for its curriculum of teaching us non-judgment rests on our decision to identify with the body and the world, having already “judged” that separation is preferable to oneness by choosing it. The answer you quote is correct in that we will not learn not to judge if we deny that we have judged already, and continue to make judgments about a multitude of things all through the day, every day. When Jesus says God's teachers do not judge, he is referring to the fact that the only activity of the split mind is choosing, not judging. The goal of the Course is to teach us that we are minds that choose, not bodies that judge. In fact, Jesus tells us we cannot judge: “You have often been urged to refrain from judging, not because it is a right to be withheld from you. You cannot judge . You merely can believe the ego's judgments, all of which are false” (W.pI.151.4:2,3,4, italics added ). Thus, learning to “lay all judgment aside” means learning to see in the ego's judgments the reflection of the mind's choice for separation, instead of struggling with the judgments, or worse, believing they are true. Moreover, doing battle with the ego's judgments is a lost cause. The ego will always judge. The important thing is to be willing to recognize the judgments and the purpose they serve, and to remember that they are always false. Their only usefulness is in revealing the mind's choice for separation and the need for forgiveness.

Rather than struggle with judgments, what we are asked to do is be vigilant for the ego's judgment in every situation with willingness to “lay it aside” by questioning it and remembering that there is another way of looking. In doing so, we make room for the Holy Spirit to reinterpret everything according to His perception. Everything then becomes a classroom to learn that the ego's judg­ment is not our only option. Moreover, it is wrong about everything. In this classroom, the teacher of God learns to choose between the ego and the Holy Spirit, rather than to judge. Awareness of judgment is the first step in the right direction, while striving not to judge short circuits the whole process. The ego presents itself in the form of judgment; the teacher of God departs from business as usual by seeing judgment as the reflection of the mind's choice with an opportunity to choose again. Thus, the teacher of God does not judge (M.4.III.1:1) ; he chooses.