Weekly Questions and Answers, 02/19/2003

This week's questions:

Q #85: Why is the Course called non-dualistic?
Q #86: Why can't we project a different world?.
Q #87: What is meant by "Swear not to die"?
Q #88: How could the original error possibly happen?

Q #85: In Eastern Advaita/non-dualism there is no room for relationships like Cause- Effect, Father-Son, Creator-Creation. Why then maintain that A Course in Miracles is "non-dualistic" in essence? Isn't that confusing?

A: The Course uses dualistic terms in its teaching only because Jesus knows that the language of separation or duality is all that we can understand right now. Jesus is very clear about his intentions with language in the Course, so to answer your question we are simply going to let the Course speak for itself by providing a few relevant references:

The clearest is the following statement:

"Since you believe that you are separate, Heaven presents itself to you as separate, too. Not that it is in truth, but that the link that has been given you to join the truth may reach to you through what you understand. Father and Son and Holy Spirit are as One, as all your brothers join as one in truth. Christ and His Father never have been separate, and Christ abides within your understanding, in the part of you that shares His Father's Will. The Holy Spirit links the other part–the tiny, mad desire to be separate, different and special–to the Christ, to make the oneness clear to what is really one. In this world this is not understood, but can be taught.…It is the Holy Spirit's function to teach you how this oneness is experienced, what you must do that it can be experienced, and where you should go to do it.

All this takes note of time and place as if they were discrete, for while you think that part of you is separate, the concept of a Oneness joined as One is meaningless. It is apparent that a mind so split could never be the Teacher of a Oneness which unites all things within Itself. And so What is within this mind, and does unite all things together, must be its Teacher. Yet must It use the language [dualistic] that this mind can understand, in the condition [separation] in which it thinks it is" (T.25.I.5; 6:4; 7:1,2,3,4; italics added).

There are many other places where Jesus makes it clear that the Course’s metaphysical foundation is non-dualistic, despite the dualistic nature of the language employed. For example, in speaking of the Father and the Son, words which suggest two separate Beings, he says, "What He [the Father] creates is not apart from Him, and nowhere does the Father end, the Son begin as something separate from Him" (W.pI.132.12:4).

And later in the Workbook he says, "Oneness is simply the idea God is. And in His Being, He encompasses all things. No mind holds anything but Him. We say ‘God is,’ and then we cease to speak, for in that knowledge words are meaningless. There are no lips to speak them, and no part of mind sufficiently distinct to feel that it is now aware of something not itself. It has united with its Source. And like its Source Itself, it merely is.

We cannot speak nor write nor even think of this at all. It comes to every mind when total recognition that its will is God's has been completely given and received completely. It returns the mind into the endless present, where the past and future cannot be conceived. It lies beyond salvation; past all thought of time, forgiveness and the holy face of Christ [which are all dualistic concepts]. The Son of God has merely disappeared into his Father, as his Father has in him. The world has never been at all. Eternity remains a constant state" (W.pI.169.5, 6).

And in the context of Cause-Effect relationships, one of the dualistic sets of terms you mention, Jesus begins in seemingly dualistic terms, but then makes its true non-dualistic nature apparent:

"Father, I was created in Your Mind, a holy Thought that never left its home. I am forever Your Effect, and You forever and forever are my Cause. As You created me I have remained. Where You established me I still abide. And all Your attributes abide in me, because it is Your Will to have a Son so like his Cause that Cause and Its Effect are indistinguishable (W.pII.326.1:1,2,3,4,5; italics added).

And so while much of the Course’s teachings are presented in dualistic language, it must be understood that their purpose is to lead us past our belief in duality back to the oneness that is our only reality.

Q #86: If the world is just a projection from our mind, then why can't we just project something different when we want to? Why is it so difficult to change things in our lives?

A: If we were able to project something different in the world whenever we wanted to, it would mean that we would really know that we are the dreamer of our dream (T.27.VII) and not the dream figure in the world that most of us identify as ourselves (T.27.VIII). The fact that few of us are in touch with the power of our minds is a deliberate choice, a defense against the guilt that we have come to associate with that power.

Jesus discusses our fear of the mind early in the text: "Few appreciate the real power of the mind, and no one remains fully aware of it all the time.…The mind is very powerful…It is hard to recognize that thought and belief combine into a power surge that can literally move mountains. It appears at first glance that to believe such power about yourself is arrogant, but that is not the real reason you do not believe it. You prefer to believe that your thoughts cannot exert real influence because you are actually afraid of them. This may allay awareness of the guilt, but at the cost of perceiving the mind as impotent" (T.2.VI.9:3,5,8,9,10,11).

The mind that we are not in touch with -- and not the self we think we are -- is where all the power to make any kind of change resides. In fact, the self we believe we are is just one of the many projections of the mind we are not in touch with. This little self has no power at all -- it is merely an effect and not a cause.

Furthermore, the real power of the split mind is not the power to project a world of form. That is only a defense against the power of the mind to choose -- the choice being between the ego and the Holy Spirit with their very different interpretations of the idea of separation. And it is that decision-making power that we are really afraid to get in touch with, although the ego’s separate existence depends upon it: "The ingeniousness of the ego to preserve itself is enormous, but it stems from the very power of the mind the ego denies.…The ego draws upon the one source that is totally inimical to its existence for its existence. Fearful of perceiving the power of this source, it is forced to depreciate it" (T.7.VI.3:1,5,6).

So to keep that power of choice deeply buried, we accept as real the power of our mind to make up a world as a place to hide in, and then just as quickly hide that power from our awareness as well. For if we really knew, and not just intellectually, that we are the ones who projected the world of form and are responsible for everything we see, the world could no longer serve as the prominent defense against the mind that we made it to be. If we are to be the victim of the world we see, we cannot remember that we are also the maker of that world. Once we remember our own part in making the world, the guilt in the mind over the decision for separation and attack can no longer be hidden. And once our guilt is uncovered, we can look at its unreality with the love of Jesus beside us and we will no longer have any interest in continuing to project it.

The Course’s whole purpose is to help us remember that we are in fact the dreamer and not the dream figure, so that we can look upon our dreams and decide whether we want to continue dreaming or awaken. But most of us, without really understanding the nature and consequences of the choice to continue the ego’s dream, want to continue dreaming -- dreaming what we believe would be a better dream with a different form that we think would make us happy. We do not realize that whenever we think we know what we want to happen in the world of form, we must be identified with our ego. Only the ego is concerned at all with form, so that the underlying content of hate and fear remains hidden. With the ego as our teacher, we are interested only in changing the form, thinking that it is the cause of how we feel, ignoring the underlying content, which is the choice for the ego rather than the Holy Spirit. And so, if we are identified with the ego, we have already made guilt and fear real in our mind and need a defense against it, which the world represents. And again, for that defense to work so that we don’t look elsewhere for the cause of our suffering, we must forget that we made the world, that we are the dreamer of our dream. So the power to project a different form in the world is not a power we will easily allow ourselves to be in touch with, so vital is its role as an unconscious defense.

The goal of the Course is not to make us aware that we are the dreamer of the dream so that we may project different forms into the dream whenever we want. That would serve no truly helpful purpose. The Course’s goal is to lead us to turn to a different Teacher to guide us in our dreaming so that, over time, the choices we will make will lead us to awaken. This change in teachers from the ego to the Holy Spirit is beautifully expressed in the following passage: "Accept the dream He gave instead of yours. It is not difficult to change a dream when once the dreamer has been recognized. Rest in the Holy Spirit, and allow His gentle dreams to take the place of those you dreamed in terror and in fear of death. He brings forgiving dreams, in which the choice is not who is the murderer and who shall be the victim. In the dreams He brings there is no murder and there is no death. The dream of guilt is fading from your sight, although your eyes are closed. A smile has come to lighten up your sleeping face. The sleep is peaceful now, for these are happy dreams" (T.27.VII.14).

Q #87: "Swear not to die, you holy Son of God!" Just in case, I did that. But I need do nothing to make truth true. So, this phrase is meant more poetically? Like asking me to make a commitment to truth, going for it?

A. In this passage (T.29.VI.2:1), Jesus is talking about a promise that we have already made, by virtue of our having identified with the ego thought system. His "command" is therefore meant literally. He is telling us that we need to look at and reconsider our attraction to the "holy" waxen image of death…you swore in blood not to desert, as he so movingly describes it at the end of the fourth obstacle to peace (T.19.IV.D.6:3). In other words, we have already pledged our loyalty to the ego thought system, in which death -- including ours -- is the central reality. We have already taken this oath to believe that God’s Son is not as He created Him, invulnerable and eternally present within the Being of His Father. It is part of the bargain we made with the ego, so that our individual, separate identity would be preserved. Here Jesus is asking us to undo that bargain.

This passage is often mistakenly understood to mean that Jesus is saying that we can be immortal as human beings -- as if the comma were placed after "Swear," thus meaning that we are going to swear that we will never die. But such an interpretation would contradict Jesus’ overriding emphasis in the Course about the nature of the body. Why would we want to remain in what is not our home? It would be insane to want to stay in the body, which was not made by love (T.18.VI.4:7), and in fact was made as "a limit on love"…"to limit the unlimited" (T.18.VIII.1:2), and to embody the ego’s wish to replace God (W.pI.72.2).

Q #88: I keep thinking of the error, the original thought, whatever it was that happened. This is a struggle for me. What could it have been for us to want to escape in fear? How could this happen? If we were created in the likeness of God than why did this error happen? How could we do this? I would think that we couldn't foul up. Everything about this course seems right to me. It is the only thought system that makes any sense, except I keep wondering about this error. I feel as though I failed, and that makes me harbor self hatred, today. Tomorrow I will feel differently as this happens so often, and I usually forget the whole thing in a matter of seconds.

A: The "error" to which you refer is the separation. The simple answer to your question is that the "error" did not in fact occur. In the Clarification of Terms the Course tells us: "Who asks you to define the ego and explain how it arose can be but he who thinks it real, and seeks by definition to ensure that its illusive nature is concealed behind the words that seem to make it so" (C.2.2:5). The question, therefore, is actually a statement that implies a belief in the separation. The question cannot truly be answered: "The ego will demand many answers that this course does not give. It does not recognize as questions the mere form of a question to which an answer is impossible. The ego may ask, ‘How did the impossible occur?’, ‘To what did the impossible happen?’, and may ask this in many forms. Yet there is no answer; only an experience. Seek only this, and do not let theology delay you" (C.in.4). Separation from God is impossible: "You cannot walk the world apart from God, because you could not be without Him. He is what your life is. Where you are He is. There is one life. That life you share with Him. Nothing can be apart from Him and live" (W.pI.156.2:4,5,6,7,8,9). The Course’s explanation of how we seem to be in bodies, walking around in a world of physical form, is that we are asleep "dreaming of exile" (T.10.I.2:1). This is the only "explanation" for a situation that does not really exist, a separation that did not and cannot occur.

However, we do seem to be very real in our experience in this dream, just as in our so called sleeping dreams all the characters seem to be real, until we wake up and realize we were only dreaming. The reason we seem to be so real in this dream is that we want the dream to be real. We are actively choosing to identify with the character we call ourselves in the dream, and by doing this we are choosing the seeming separation. Recognizing this choice is very important, and is basic to the Course’s teaching, that we have a mind with the power to choose. The only possible explanation for making the choice for separation is our attraction to the initial "rush" that goes with the feeling of being independent individuals. But then we become instantly aware of a profound loneliness, which impels us to seek for completion to fill the void caused by the separation. In our insanity we seek outside ourselves: "No one who comes here but must still have hope, some lingering illusion, or some dream that there is something outside of himself that will bring happiness and peace to him" (T.29.VII.2:1).

This does not make us failures. It does make us badly mistaken. The guilt we feel for making this mistake, is overwhelming, and so we call the mistake a "sin," make it practically unforgivable, and hate ourselves for it. We then project this hatred out on to everyone and everything in the world. To compound our error, we make up a false god, so we can blame him for making such a painful world, and accuse him of trying to punish us for this terrible "sin." We go on and on in this endless cycle; choosing separation, feeling guilty, projecting, blaming, hiding, denying. This keeps the world in operation, makes the error real in our experience, and seems to be happening without any responsibility on our part. It is only when as we become acutely aware of the pain it causes us, and learn, through the Course’s teaching, to make the undeniable association between the pain and its source, which is the separation, will we begin to "choose differently." But first we must accept responsibility for the choice. In our insanity, we repeatedly choose the separation, hoping that we can make it work without the pain. The Course is teaching us how wrong we are. Learning to choose differently is our only hope, and the way out of the dream of separation. As we are told in the Text: "Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and thus escape all pain that what you chose before has brought to you. In every difficulty, all distress, and each perplexity Christ calls to you and gently says, ‘My brother, choose again’" (T.31.VIII.3:1,2).

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