Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 06/14/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #953 Why should I bother defending myself when treated unfairly in business?.
Q #954 How could there be any true path other than the Course?
Q #955 Why does the Course mention the mind, but never the heart?
Q #956 Why do I seem to be stuck as a victim ?

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Q #953: My husband and I run a small business. Lately we've had a rash of experiences in which suppliers send us damaged goods, or behave in slightly hostile ways. I understand that these experiences are symbolic of my fear of God, resulting in guilt and a belief in punishment. What is new is that I feel as though I can't bear to argue with any of this -- to be angry with the suppliers, to worry about the money, or to do anything about it at all! It's as though I just can't do it any more. "In my defenselessness my safety lies" has become my motto. I just can't bear to defend myself in most situations. It hurts too much. And yet there's the (ego?) fear that I am using the Course to avoid confrontation, or misinterpreting the guidance I seek but am never sure I'm hearing correctly. I feel as though in this life I've overcharged, or delivered defective goods in any number of ways. Why should I defend myself against, or be angry about, such treatment from others when I want to forgive them. I'd prefer to just ignore it and let it happen. I just want to let it go and forgive everyone, even if it costs me money or causes me inconvenience. This seems a small price to pay for peace of mind. Am I deluding myself?

A: Because A Course in Miracles is a guide to changing your mind not your behavior, there is no right or wrong way to handle things as a Course student. However, it may be helpful to clarify what Jesus means by defenselessness . The Course's concept of defenselessness has nothing to do with behavior. It is strictly about what happens in the mind. When we choose the ego as our internal teacher, we begin with the premise that we are guilty for having stolen our very existence from God. Then we repress that thought and project it onto others, convincing ourselves that they stole the peace of God from us. On the level of form, we reflect these dynamics whenever we get upset with another person. Whether we are annoyed that they cut us off on the freeway, or furious that they stole our money, underneath our upset is the accusation that they stole the peace of God.

On the other hand, when we choose the Holy Spirit as our internal Teacher, no matter what we experience in the world, we know that God's Love is still in our mind. And since it is there, all the things of which we accuse ourselves clearly have had no effect, and therefore must be made up. That means we are innocent, and if we are, so must everyone else be. With that awareness, it is impossible to do anything but extend love. This then is Jesus' definition of defenselessness: when we feel no need to defend because nothing has the power to take away our peace .

Obviously, very few of us can claim to have achieved that state (and the last thing we should do is pretend that we have). Indeed, the purpose of the Course is to give us a roadmap for getting there. It sends us on an inner journey, which consists of turning every experience in our lives into a classroom in forgiveness. Unfortunately, because of our conditioning to decide everything based on form rather than content, many students inadvertently get off course (pun intended) by assuming that forgiveness means -- as you stated -- ignoring everything and letting it happen. Jesus is not asking us to do that. In fact, letting events in which we appear to be victimized simply happen, as we try to forgive the perpetrator, often leads us right into a vicious ego trap. Not only do our feelings of victimization remain in place (and certain to be projected elsewhere), but we also get to feel superior to those who appear to have wronged us.

For example, you said that you want to forgive even if it costs you money and causes you inconvenience . That might be okay, but be sure that you are not implying a causal relationship that does not exist. Do not think that letting another take something from you -- in other words, sacrificing something -- is a necessary part of your experiencing forgiveness. In reality, there is no link between sacrifice and forgiveness. Nor do you deserve to be mistreated now because you overcharged or delivered defective goods in the past. Like sacrifice, suffering and payback play no part in forgiveness.

It is the ego that loves these setups because they mean that you get to be a hero in your own mind (and perhaps the eyes of the world) while the other person remains a villain. Furthermore, you maintain your belief in separate interests. The other person has done something apparently dishonest or unkind and you have decided that it is in your best interest to simply accept it and in his or her best interest not to look at it at all. This could very well be denying both of you your classrooms.

The chances are good that you would get the greatest healing from doing what so called normal people do, but giving it a different purpose. In other words, take the appropriate action to prevent others from taking advantage of you, but do so without hating or mentally attacking them. That, of course, requires that before you do anything, you ask the Holy Spirit to look with you at the guilt, fear, and anger that are still in your mind. This will always lead you to discover the course of action that would best serve the interest you share with your brother -- awakening from this dream. And then you will feel a true sense of peace that makes it clear you have not deluded yourself.

Q #954: A Course in Miracles says that it is only one of many paths home. Yet I've heard that the only way home is to leave the dream. But since no other paths say this world is a dream, or explain how we got here, or the ego thought system, or ontological guilt, or that bodies don't exist, or that there's only one of us here not billions and billions, etc., etc., how can there really be other paths that lead us to peace and then home? The metaphysics is so essential that in my opinion, the Course is the only way home . Please explain what other paths the Course refers to in the aforementioned statement. And can we really get home without understanding our own psychology and why we act the way we do? It seems to me that the Course was written because no other path had awakened us to these ideas.

A: You are correct that the metaphysics and psychology of A Course in Miracles are unique. And it is almost inevitable that if the Course speaks to you, it will feel like the only possible way home. But followers of most paths would make exactly the same assertion -- and, as world history attests, all too often do so in very unkind ways. The certainty that ours is the one and only way is a result of confusion between form and content.

When we consider spiritual paths, we could think of the content as being synonymous with the purpose or goal , and the form as being the method for achieving that goal . The Course tells us that the holy instant, the holy relationship, and the Holy Spirit's teaching "are all but aspects of the plan to change your dreams of fear to happy dreams, from which you waken easily to knowledge" (T.18.VI.1:4). Indeed, that is an excellent summation of the purpose of the Course itself. It seeks to help us shift our mind from our imagined guilt (symbolized in the Course by the ego), to the memory of God's all-inclusive Love (symbolized in the Course as the Holy Spirit). Within this dream world, once we have made that shift, we will go from projecting guilt everywhere, to extending love. How and when that shift leads to our awakening from the dream is neither our concern, nor the concern of the Course -- which tells us that God Himself will be responsible for that final step (T.18.IX.10) .

The Course, then, is not our way home. Rather it is a tool for creating the conditions in our mind in which we can find our way home. While the Course can lead us to truth, we should not confuse its words, metaphysics, and psychology, with truth itself. As the Course says, "words are but symbols of symbols. They are thus twice removed from reality" (M.21.1:9,10). So while the love that inspired the Course is real, at some point we must realize that the Course itself is still part of the illusion.

If it is the part of the illusion that helps us awaken to what lies beyond the illusion, then that is a marvelous thing. But that does not mean that it is the only thing in this dream that can serve that purpose, or that it will serve that purpose for everyone . To some, the Course's explanation of how we got here and why we do what we do might make no sense at all. But that certainly does not mean that they cannot awaken to the Love of God. A person could have a right-minded experience while reading the Course, watching a sunset, reading the Bible, thumbing through the phone book, in the middle of a war zone, or in a million other scenarios. This is why the Course says that there are "many thousands of other forms, all with the same outcome" (M.1.4:1,2) . In statements such as that, Jesus is really saying that form is irrelevant -- it is the meaning, or purpose, that we give the form that matters. Therefore, Jesus is not referring to other specific forms. Rather he is acknowledging that the prerequisite to awakening is not any specific knowledge, form, or world-view, but rather a single decision . And what leads anyone else to make that decision, or why it does so, is beyond our comprehension and not our concern.

In this regard, it is helpful to remember that: "A teacher of God is anyone who chooses to be one. His qualifications consist solely in this; somehow, somewhere he has made a deliberate choice in which he did not see his interests as apart from someone else's" (M.1.1:2).

Q #955: So many of the new writings from the world's spiritual teachers talk about the importance of the heart, love and compassion in the path to ascension. There is much talk of the “wisdom of the heart”. A Course in Miracles really only mentions the mind. When it speaks of the mind, how does that relate to the concept of heart used by other authors?

A: The love and compassion that are considered attributes of the heart reflect the mind's choice to identify with the Holy Spirit. They flow naturally, unimpeded by the ego's judgment when the mind is no longer blocked by the guilt and fear of choosing separation.

As you mention, the Course tells us that only the mind exists and there is nothing outside of it, including wisdom of the heart. The Course is very clear in this, indeed the foundation of its teaching rests on this principle: “It [the mind] does not go out. Within itself it has no limits, and there is nothing outside it…It encompasses you entirely; you within it and it within you. There is nothing else, anywhere or ever” (T.18.VI.8:7,8,10,11) .

Heart is used symbolically in the Course as a term we are familiar with and relate to more easily than the term mind. However, it can only be understood as referring to the mind. In the many passages where the term heart is used, it means the part of the mind that holds the memory of God's Love. In a very beautiful passage Jesus uses the symbol of the heart and the body to describe the peace filled state of the right mind: “I place the peace of God in your heart and in your hands, to hold and share. The heart is pure to hold it, and the hands are strong to give it. We cannot lose. My judgment is as strong as the wisdom of God, in Whose Heart and Hands we have our being”(T.5IV.8:10,11,12,13).

In these terms we find not only the true condition of the mind when it chooses against the ego, but the all-inclusive extension of this truth that is true compassion. The compassion the Course teaches is to see everyone in the light of the memory of our oneness with the Father. Everyone is thus included is this compassionate perspective, and seen as remembering or forgetting, choosing oneness or separation, whatever the form may be. In this wisdom of the right mind all other interpretations, judgments and perceptions cease. This is accomplished through the practice of forgiveness, which is both the wisdom of the heart and compassion as taught in the Course. Wisdom is generally understood as good judgment, but as with everything understood generally, Jesus takes it a step further in the Course. He tells us in the manual: “Wisdom is not judgment; it is the relinquishment of judgment”(M.10.4:5). Thus, we find wisdom of the heart in the Course through the process of forgiveness. Indeed, the heart of the Course is learning the compassion of forgiveness, whereby we relinquish judgment and become truly wise.

Q #956: I understand that I really do not want the peace of God, and that I need to ask Jesus to help me look at this fact without guilt or judgment. Yet my life still seems to be one conflict after another. I am aware that I do not want to let my specialness go and I ask for help with this. But I just seem to be stuck in the victim mode. What should I do?

A: One of the things studying and applying A Course in Miracles does for us is to reveal just how deeply split our mind is. On one hand, the Course helps us see that despite our vastly differing scripts, basically everyone's life (with very few exceptions, such as Jesus') can be boiled down to three rather miserable acts: we are born, we struggle, and we die -- hardly a storyline any sane mind would choose for itself, and certainly one in which we are a perpetual victim. On the other hand, the Course tells us that we have the power to change this experience -- that by changing internal teachers, we could see peace instead of this (W.pI.34) . If we believe that we have this power -- and part of us must, or we would not be drawn to the Course -- then it is natural to wonder why we do not just make this internal shift, feel better, and get on with it.

But the Course answers that question when it tells us that "No one who sees himself as guilty can avoid the fear of God" (T.30.VI.4:4) . In other words, we will be afraid of God (and of the internal shift that would bring us closer to Him), as long as we have any guilt left in our mind. And as long as we retain any belief in the reality of our physical existence and of this world, our mind will contain guilt -- the unconscious conviction that we stole our existence from God and deserve to be punished for it. This is why our journey as Course students can seem so slow, difficult, and filled with setbacks.

While we have found clever ways to disguise this fact, our entire lives up to this point have been elaborate schemes to keep us in the victim mode, precisely so that we will never return to the peace and Love of God, which we perceive as our greatest threat. As we begin to do what Jesus asks of us and question every value that we hold (T.24.in.2:1) , we start to feel how desperately we do want to return to God's Love, and how much we have suffered in our seemingly separated state. Yet it takes time to undo an entire thought system and we cannot expect the ego to just give up without a fight.

So your experience of being stuck in the victim mode, while undoubtedly painful, is certainly not unique, nor is it really the problem. Rather, it is simply a reflection of the fact that you still fear God's Love and your mind's ability to choose it. Thus, you do not need to do anything about it. Rather, you could just view it as helpful information. In fact, whenever we find ourselves feeling like victims, we can simply notice it and say, "Aha, I am still scared and that is all right." In this way, we will be practicing the forgiveness with ourselves that will ultimately loosen the ego's chokehold. One of the keys to progressing on our journey home is the discovery that, despite its slippery cleverness, there is one thing the ego cannot pervert to serve its own means: our failure to make a big deal about something .