Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 05/17/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #936 Does the Course teach that some only groups of people are worthy of love ?
Q #937 What is the true meaning of "shared interests" ?
Q #938 How could God let a young child die?
Q #939 Why does the Course say Medications are forms of spells?

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Q #936: A few years ago, my brother got involved with a Unity Church and now he wants to be a minister. He has also studied A Course in Miracles for the last two years. Recently, he told me that he thinks the Jews contributed nothing to world society before Jesus came along. He stated, "It's very cut-and-dried, the Jews were warriors and never promoted peace, love, and brotherhood. That all started with Jesus." I am dumbfounded by his view and know he is hugely misinformed. Are his statements representative of Unity Church? Is this what the Course teaches?

A: While we are not affiliated with Unity Church and therefore certainly not experts on it, in our experience, the attitudes you have described are in no way representative of its teachings.

As for A Course in Miracles , its central purpose is to help us undo our faulty belief that some of us are more capable and worthy of love than others. It seeks to help us realize that we all play the same game. We tell ourselves that another person or group is the guilty one, but this is a cover for our hidden belief that the guilt is in us. Deep down, each of us knows we play this game. And the only way we could know we are playing it (and indeed play it at all) is by having two opposing thought systems in our mind. These are the thought systems of the ego and the Holy Spirit.

The ego is a thought system of 100 percent hate. It seeks to maintain our individuality and existence no matter whom it has to attack in the process. Its motto is "kill or be killed" (M.17.7:11). This does not usually look like physical murder. It more often looks like judgment -- the ongoing murderous condemnation in our minds of our fellow human beings. In terms of our own spiritual growth, we need to know that it makes no difference whether we are condemning an entire race of people or the individual who just cut us off on the freeway. When we make a judgment about a person or a group that we would not apply to the whole Sonship, we are reinforcing our own guilt and self-hatred. We are ensuring that we remain asleep with our belief in this painful world of separation and death intact. This is true no matter how justified our judgments might seem.

This does not mean we should not recognize unkind behavior, or, for example, hold criminals accountable for their actions. It simply means that we should do so without hate. It also does not mean that we should deny or suppress our less than loving thoughts. Rather, the Course asks us to become more and more honest about them. By actually looking at them, we can finally stop projecting them and begin to take them less seriously.

Jesus sums up the entire process of being a Course student in this one simple statement: "All that is needed is you look upon the problem as it is, and not the way that you have set it up" (T.27.VII.2:2). Our eyes will always tell us that we have many problems in this world and the source of them is outside of us. But we set up a world, a body, and a brain to convince us that this is so. We can only move beyond our pain by saying to ourselves, "maybe I am wrong."

The process for doing this is to turn to the Holy Spirit in our mind and ask Him to help us look at all our judgment, anger, and hatred honestly and without guilt. The Holy Spirit is our memory of God's Love. The Course teaches that we are still at home in Heaven, joined with our Creator. But we had a tiny, mad idea that we could be separate. This idea provoked guilt, which caused us to fear retribution from an angry God. To escape from that, we fell asleep and dreamt up this world. And so our goal from the beginning was to make a world in which we would see the lack of love in everyone but ourselves.

And yet, despite this goal, we retain the memory of God's Love in our mind. At any moment we can turn away from the ego and toward the Holy Spirit. He will tell us that "The problem of separation, which is really the only problem, has already been solved" (W.pI.79.1:4). It has already been solved because it does not actually exist. The problem is only in our mind and so is the solution. This same dynamic -- the conflict producing coexistence of the ego's and the Holy Spirit's mutually exclusive thought systems -- has existed in the mind of virtually every human being who ever appeared to live in this world: Jew or Christian, Muslim or atheist. Jesus is the Western world's most potent example of one who chose to hear only the Holy Spirit's Voice. But the choice he made is available to all of us.

Our job therefore is to make that choice. Whether others have made it is not our concern (and in fact, there is no way for us to know since we cannot know what is going on inside another person's mind). If we find ourselves trying to make determinations about how spiritually advanced another is, we can be sure it is simply a tactic of our ego -- brought on by our own fear - - to keep God's Love away from us. And when we get caught up in all of this silliness, the Course can help us return to sanity by reminding us that "You do not believe the Son of God is guiltless because you see the past, and see him not. When you condemn a brother you are saying, 'I who was guilty choose to remain so.' You have denied his freedom, and by so doing you have denied the witness unto yours. You could as easily have freed him from the past, and lifted from his mind the cloud of guilt that binds him to it. And in his freedom would have been your own" (T.13.IX.4:3,4,5,6,7).

Q #937: I keep coming across the idea of shared interests (as opposed to separate interests ). Could you explain what this means and give examples?

A: First, let's start with separate interests . A Course in Miracles lets us know that because God is perfect Oneness, if we believe in the reality of our individual, physical existence, we must believe that we destroyed both God and Heaven. Convinced that we are bodies and are cut off from God's Love, we are filled with physical and psychological needs. These needs compel us to get them met no matter what . In this state of mind, we can hardly care about other people -- they only matter to us to the extent that they meet our needs. This is what it means to have separate interests, and it is the mindset in which most of us spend nearly all our time.

Anytime we feel angry (or even slightly irritated) with anyone, it is a reflection of this mindset. In truth, we only get upset with another when we believe he or she has failed to meet one of our needs. It is easy to come up with examples to illustrate this. The tricky part about giving examples when it comes to the Course is that the Course is never about behavior. Rather, it is a guide to help us change our mind. The Course tells us that in every moment, we are always listening to one of two internal teachers -- the ego or the Holy Spirit. Of course, which teacher we listen to will be reflected in our behavior and experiences. But what this looks like is not up to us to decide. With that caveat, let's consider an example.

Imagine you get into your car in the morning to go to work. You have a particularly important meeting to get to and know that even if traffic is light, you will just barely arrive in time. You start your car and notice that it is almost completely out of gas. You realize that your partner used it the day before, did not fill the tank, and forgot to tell you it was empty. Now you will definitely be late to your meeting.

In the above situation, you could listen to the ego -- again, as most of us do nearly all the time. The ego always begins with the premise that we are guilty and deserving of punishment because we exist at God's expense. But it does not want us to become aware that we believe this about ourselves because if we did, we might begin to question it. And that would spell the beginning of the end of any power our ego has (not to mention our individual identity as we have come to define it). So the ego tells us that our problems are in the world rather than in our mind, and that something or someone else is to blame for them.

In the scenario just described, the ego would tell you that terrible things are likely to happen if you are late to your meeting and that it is your partner's fault. You would probably be filled with anger and anxiety. You might have the desire to let your partner know what a terrible, selfish thing he or she has done. Certainly in that moment, you would not feel like being loving or kind.

On the other hand, you could listen to the Voice of the Holy Spirit. He would remind you that God's Love is real, has not been destroyed, and is totally unaffected by whatever happens with your meeting. He would tell you that you are perfectly safe because your reality is outside of this world of lack and separation. Further, He would inform you that your only need is to awaken from this painful dream by realizing that this is true. And then it would dawn on you that if this were true for you, it would have to be true for everyone. This is what the Course means by shared interests -- the recognition that the one and only need every single one of us has is the need to realize that this world is just a bad dream, and that we are still safe at home in Heaven, enveloped in God's Love.

Recognizing this, you would have no desire to make your partner (or anyone) feel guilty, and all your anger would disappear. The only thing you could possibly want for him or her is to awaken along with you. Again, this could play out in many different ways in terms of behavior. You may very well let your partner know that in the future, you want him or her to handle things differently. But you would do so knowing you have not been hurt and thus with no desire to be hurtful.

Basically, when we think anything in this world has the power to give us peace or take our peace away, we believe in separate interests. When we know that peace and true happiness come from God and are always available to us, we will automatically shift to a belief in shared interests. Then we will know that everything we perceive is either an expression of love or a call for it. And it will become impossible for us to express anything but love to others or to ourselves.

Q #938: I am finding it extremely difficult to deal with the sudden death of my child. I know that death is an illusion, but there seems to be no end to my feelings of anguish and grief. Are there any words from A Course in Miracles that are helpful in such a situation. And why would God allow such a meaningless and horrific event to take place?

A: If you are comfortable thinking of death as part of the illusion, perhaps you would find it help­ful to dwell on its purpose and importance in the ego thought system, which might then help you better understand your anguish and grief. The section in the manual for teachers, “What Is Death?” (M.27) , describes death as “the central dream from which all illusions stem” (M.27.1:1) , and adds that it is not God's Will: “ He did not make death because He did not make fear. Both are equally meaningless to Him” (M.27.4:9,10). Death, thus, is rooted in the thought system of separation, which has nothing to do with God, meaning that God does not “allow” death. Letting go of the belief in the reality of death and that God is ultimately responsible for it is not at all easy, because as Jesus explains in that section, “Without the idea of death there is no world. All dreams will end in this one. This is salvation's goal; the end of all illu­sions” (M.27.6:3,4,5) . Deep within our minds we know that if we let go of this belief in death, the foundation of our very existence as individuals will be undermined, and that fear is the huge obstacle that stands in the way of our letting go. We are not conscious of this, of course, but that is why it is so hard to get over grief. Once we grasp the truth that Jesus teaches us, we then must spend the rest of our lives processing it and applying it to the specifics of our daily lives. As we discussed in Question #15, this must be done with gentleness and patience, respecting the depth of our feelings, and never denying them in our attempt to be “good students” of this course.

Another aspect to consider: The sudden death of a child is almost always thought of as a tragedy, with no other description even conceivable to most people. Yet, within the thought system of A Course in Miracles that is a judgment that assumes an understanding of both the child's and the parents' Atonement scripts. But we really do not know what our own or anyone else's full path involves. And so we must consider the possibility that this event has been chosen by the mind of the child as part of its Atonement lessons. As the parent, then, you might ask for help to see it the same way -- not as a lesson sent by God or the Holy Spirit, but as part of your script that the Holy Spirit can help you use to gently learn that loss and grief are connected with the ego's image of you and your child, and do not come from your true Self-image as God's creation (W.pII.284) . Finally, in a section called “False versus True Healing,” The Song of Prayer offers a comforting view of death as a healing alternative to the way the world usually regards it (S.3.II) .

Q # 939: A Course in Miracles says that physical medications are forms of spells. Would you explain what this means? Didn't God say he gave us everything we need, including the herbs to make medications?

A: While the Bible and our Western religions are based on the premise that God created the world and everything in it, A Course in Miracles is not. According to the Course, the world is "false perception" (W.pII.3.1:1) , was "made as an attack on God" (W.pII.3.2:1) , and "meant to be a place where God could enter not, and where His Son could be apart from Him" (W.pII.3.2:4). Nothing in this physical world could have come from God because He is perfect oneness while this is a world of separation and multiplicity. So clearly, God is not in this world and does not even know about it. This entire world, our individual identity, our body, and all of our problems, only exist in our mind. We made all of this up precisely to keep the Love of God away. We made up everything that seems to help us or give us pleasure for the same reason.

In one sense, whenever we seem to be helped by something external, we are telling God that we do not need His Love because we found something better. This is what the Course calls magic -- the attempt to solve problems externally by changing something in the physical world. We practice this type of magic virtually all the time. When we feel upset by people's words or actions, we want to change them . When we have physical discomfort, we treat the body. The trouble with this approach is that it can never lead us to a lasting state of peace. If we do manage to get someone else to change, there will always be another person who upsets us. If we take a pill for our headache, sooner or later another part of our body will act up.

Jesus gave us his course to help us realize that our attempts at magic do not yield lasting or satisfying results because they do not address our one real problem -- the guilt provoking belief that we separated from God and destroyed His Love. The Course informs us that this self- accusation is false and urges us to make our reawakening to the peace of God our singular goal. The method it lays out for doing so involves changing internal teachers. This is the Course's definition of a miracle -- the shift in perception from the ego's thought system of sin, guilt, and fear, to the Holy Spirit's thought system of forgiveness. When we are willing to ask for this shift again and again, we will be led through a gentle process of awakening in which we ultimately realize that all our problems are made up and have no power to take away our peace or happiness.

Our choice in any seemingly problematic situation is very simple. We can attempt magic by trying to change the outward picture of our life. Or, we can choose the miracle by asking for help to change the inner condition (our thinking) that lead us to view the picture as a problem. The passage your question refers to states, "Magic is the mindless or the miscreative use of mind. Physical medications are forms of 'spells,' but if you are afraid to use the mind to heal, you should not attempt to do so" (T.2.V.2: 1,2). In other words, because we still fear God's Love and the power of our own mind, there are times when choosing magic is the best we can do. Jesus wants us to know that this is okay. While it will not give us what we truly want, using magic is not bad, evil, or sinful.

So if you have a physical problem and believe that a medication will help you, you should take it and not feel guilty. The medication will not bring you closer to the peace of God. But we can get closer to that peace by taking our medicine with a gentle smile that says, "I'm scared right now and that's all right."