Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 06/21/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #957 Why do I always sabotage any feeling of peace I attain?.
Q #958 How exactly do miracles save us time?
Q #959 Is it possible that all experiences of "God" are really just biochemical brain-states?
Q #960 What might other people experience if I awakened from the dream?

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Q #957: It's almost as though I am my own worst enemy. After some upset happens, I find a place of peace. Then, almost immediately, I say something that completely obliterates any peaceful feelings. Am I supposed to try to get better at this, or just notice that I keep doing it and ask for a "holy instant"? Are these non-peaceful actions and words unavoidable, or are they proof that I'm doing it wrong? I want this to be my last time here. This world seems very hard to me.

A: You are not doing it wrong. While it may be unpleasant, the fact that you are noticing yourself quickly and consistently pushing away virtually all experiences of inner peace is actually very helpful. Developing this awareness is a critical part of progressing as a Course student. A Course in Miracles tells us that "The ego will attack your motives as soon as they become clearly out of accord with its perception of you. This is when it will shift abruptly from suspiciousness to viciousness, since its uncertainty is increased" (T.9.VII.4:6,7). In other words, whenever you have an experience of peace, the ego will sense that its days could be numbered and come roaring back, louder and more ruthless than ever. Thus, virtually anyone who honestly does what the Course asks will come to the realization that there is a part of his or her mind that does not want anything to do with the peace or Love of God.

In an odd way then, you could feel reassured by what you have observed in yourself. Again, your awareness is a crucial step on the journey the Course asks us to take. Fortunately, the Course does not ask us to "try to get better at this." Rather, it encourages us to ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit to help us simply watch without judgment everything we say and do. By simply watching ourselves through the eyes of a loving internal teacher, we can begin to see that our less-than-kind actions do not make us sinful, evil, or horrible -- they simply indicate that we are terrified. And being born of the guilt-inducing belief that we exist at God's expense, our terror can only be healed through gentle forgiveness that gradually lets us know we are the "maker of a world that is not so" (T.25.IV.3:1) .

Therefore, it is very helpful to discover that we truly are our own worst enemies. Only we have the power to seemingly cut ourselves off from God's Love. But we also have the power to recognize that God's Love has not gone anywhere and is still available to us whenever we are ready for it. And as we feel God's Love more and more, we will come to know that this world is merely an element of our own misguided imaginings—not a place we need to escape from or worry about returning to.

Q #958: In what way does studying and applying A Course in Miracles save us time? Will it cause us to live fewer lives? Does this idea imply a belief in, or recognition of, the phenomenon of reincarnation on the part of Jesus? Doesn't the Course also say that we could be with Jesus now , if we only saw (as in vision)? Does this mean that there is no shortcut to enlightenment? No direct access to God?

Also, what is the ultimate definition of miracle in the Course? I know that there are 50 miracle principles, and the term miracle is used frequently in the text. But I find that these are just hints pointing to the real meaning of miracle . The Course doesn't seem to be referring to what we usually describe as a miracle.

A: Jesus tells us in the Course that "The miracle substitutes for learning that might have taken thousands of years" (T.1.2.6:7) . So let us start by examining what he means by miracle . He means a shift of internal teachers in our mind. It is a choice to listen to the Holy Spirit's or Jesus' guidance (which will always lead us to extend love) rather than to the ego's raucous shrieking (which will always compel us to project guilt). Notice that the miracle is not the extension of love -- the extension is a reflection of the miracle that occurred in the mind, and it can take many different forms. The miracle, as defined by Jesus in the Course, has nothing to do with bodies, physical phenomena, or anything in the world. It is solely a shift in thinking. However, it is a shift so profound that it automatically transforms us from a mindset of trying to get our perceived needs met at any cost, to one of knowing that our only real need is to remember God's Love -- a need we share with everyone else who believes that they are here. As a result, in the moment when we truly experience the miracle, there is no way we could say, do, or think anything that is not motivated by love. The aim of the Course is to help us set up the conditions in our mind to experience the miracle more and more.

One of the ways Jesus motivates us to listen to his message is by promising to save us time. And it is true that doing what he asks of us will seem to save us time. Using this world as a classroom in forgiveness will gradually decrease our compulsion to repeat painful and destructive patterns in our lives. So, for example, rather than spending an entire life unconsciously drawing experiences to us in which we feel like victims, Jesus or the Holy Spirit will help us remove (through forgiveness) the ontological guilt from our mind that compelled us to use victimization as a defense against God's Love. In this way, we can actually use our time here to get closer to awakening to our true home in Heaven rather than as an indefinite prison sentence.

This does not mean, however, that Jesus believes in time. He tells us that "time but lasted an instant in your mind, with no effect upon eternity" (T.26.3:3) and that truth is "far beyond time" (T.15.II.1:9). Thus, it is clear that he speaks about time in the Course only because he knows we believe in it. It is one of the symbols in our dream that Jesus must use in order to motivate us and help us grasp what he is talking about.

In keeping with his knowledge of the unreality of time, Jesus tells us, "In the ultimate sense, reincarnation is impossible. There is no past or future, and the idea of birth into a body has no meaning either once or many times. Reincarnation cannot, then, be true in any real sense" (M.24.1:1,2,3). But he also says that " the way to salvation can be found by those who believe in reincarnation and by those who do not" (M.24.2:8) , and that "There is always some good in any thought which strengthens the idea that life and the body are not the same" (M.24.2:8). There are passages in the Course in which Jesus seems to imply that reincarnation is a real phenomenon. But that would make it real only in that it happens within the dream. Jesus' primary message is that nothing that happens within this dream is real. And so, ultimately, Jesus and his course are not concerned with reincarnation or anything involving bodies. Like the concept of time, if reincarnation is a meaningful concept to us , Jesus is happy to work with it. But he does so only as part of his strategy for helping us move beyond all concepts that obscure our reality as the one changeless Son of God.

Finally, about your question of being with Jesus now , direct access to God, and a shortcut to enlightenment: The Course states, "Sometimes a teacher of God may have a brief experience of direct union with God. In this world, it is almost impossible that this endure. It can, perhaps, be won after much devotion and dedication, and then be maintained for much of the time on earth. But this is so rare that it cannot be considered a realistic goal. If it happens, so be it. If it does not happen, so be it as well. All worldly states must be illusory. If God were reached directly in sustained awareness, the body would not be long maintained" (M.26.3:1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8). We must read this passage with awareness that (despite its frequent use of anthropomorphic language to describe Him) the God the Course refers to is not a being but a state. It is "a Oneness which unites all things within Itself" (T.25.I.7:2) . Were we to fully understand what this means and achieve sustained awareness of it, we would not be here long because we would have awakened to the fact that we are not here. Knowing that we are safely at home in Heaven, most of us would no longer have any purpose for continuing this dream. But that is the end of the journey the Course takes us on. As such, it is really not our concern.

Far more helpful to us at this point, is to focus on the Course's emphasis that Jesus, as a teacher, is in our mind, and that if we choose to listen to him now , we will experience the Love of God, which is also in our mind now . Therefore, we already have direct access to everything we need for enlightenment -- the Course's curriculum for embracing it is the shortcut.

For related discussion of miracles see Questions #288 and #559. For more about reincarnation, see Question #24. And for more about direct access to God, please see Question #101.

Q #959: I'm quite concerned about something that I have just read. Professor Persinger is man who has conducted many experiments on people in relation to the brain and God. Some of his subjects reported that they connected with God, saw God, saw Jesus, went to a place of space like emptiness and some even saw ufos. He claims that when we have a divine union with God, or anything that seems to be out of the ordinary, it is merely parts of the brain being activated in different ways than normal. It makes me feel really sick to know that everything I have read on the mind and God could just be a product of our imagination. How do you really know that God is real, not just our imagination? You say that you are at an advantage because you stand outside time and space, how do you know that you haven't just activated a different part of the brain?

A: First, mind and brain are two entirely different entities in A Course in Miracles . Since mind has no physical/quantitative dimensions, it cannot be studied or experimented on; and therefore the teachings of the Course are not empirically verifiable, as they pertain only to the mind. The brain -- which is real only within the illusion -- simply carries out the mind's wishes, and in that sense does not control our existence. The brain can simulate an experience, but that does not mean it is the experience. For example, a part of your brain can be stimulated so you will not feel hun­gry, even though you have not eaten; but that does not mean your body is getting nourishment. Indeed, after a while, you would die, even though you do not feel hungry. In other words, the brain lied. Likewise, one can have an experience of God's Love or Oneness through brain stimu­lation, but this certainly will not lead to the peace of God, awakening from the dream, or necessar­ily being a kinder or more loving person. This is the point of “The Test of Truth” section in the text (T.14.XI) . The discussion there teaches us that while we can never know for sure at any given moment whether we are listening to the Holy Spirit or the ego, or that God is real or imagined, in the long run we can; for although we can fool ourselves, after a while, we cannot fool those who live or work with us, or those who know us well.

Q #960: In reference to a statement you made in the answer to Question #372: “You are right, the world will not get better when we no longer believe the thought of separation from God is real; it will disappear in our awareness.” Here's my question: when this dream of the world disappears in my awareness, what will be the experience of those in this dream with me? I believe there is one, if not several, who are “really” here with me, sharing my dream. To them, will I just dematerialize and be gone, or will I seem to die, or what? Or do we have the option of lucid dreaming, in other words continuing to operate here to help other fragments to awaken, all the while being fully aware and awake in God? Certainly this question is premature, as I don't expect to reach that condition any time soon, but I would hate to work so hard to reach a point where I would bring such pain and grief to those who love me.

A: A phrase in the workbook serves as a foundation to respond to your question: “There is no world apart from your ideas because ideas leave not their source, and you maintain the world within your mind in thought” (W.pI.132.10:3). The specific application is clear if we understand “world” to include the body, yours and everyone else's. This is the fundamental principle of A Course in Miracles which underlies its teaching that the world and the body do not exist ( e.g., W.p.I.132.6:2; T.18.VII.3:1). It means you cannot dematerialize because you have not materialized, any more than the images you see in nocturnal dreams materialize in your bedroom while you sleep. It is the insistence that the illusion of the dream is real that makes the dream figures seem to have life outside the mind of the dreamer. The specialness “rules” of the dream of separation do not apply to awakening, by the very fact that the dream requires being asleep. One rules out the other.

The mind that chooses to remain asleep and identify with the figure in the dream has dissociated from its true identity as mind. This dissociation causes the identity confusion in which the dream figure (body) thinks he is the dreamer (mind) and will awaken somehow and disappear from his and everyone else's dream. Jesus tells us in the text: “ You [mind] are the dreamer of the world of dreams” (T.27.VII.13:1). Thus, when you awaken fully, no longer choosing separation, the world will disappear just as when you wake up from a nocturnal dream the images in your dream disappear. This occurs when not one ounce of credence is given to “ the tiny, mad idea” of separation (T.27.VIII.6:2). Meanwhile, the journey to awakening lies in the practice of forgiveness, in which nothing happens to the body because forgiveness occurs in the mind.

Those who share your dream are the special relationships that intermingle in the collective dream of the mind of the Sonship. These relationships are designed according to the ego's thought system to support belief in the separation. The ego's “proof” that bodies are real is that they can be affected by others in positive and negative ways, thereby negating the power of the mind and giving it to the body. Thus, others seem to be responsible for the way one feels. This is the ego's best defense strategy to convince itself that the dream is reality, the separation happened, and the world is real. Central to this thought system is the ego's theme of victimization filled with tales of betrayal, abandonment, and unfair treatment. In these relationships death, the ultimate abandonment, is inevitable, as are the feelings of loss and grief that accompany it. The mind sleeps dreaming of “life” and “death,” pain and loss. Within this dream, no one escapes the pain of death. Freedom from pain and grief are found only in allowing the mind to be healed of all thoughts of body identity, and to know itself as mind with the power to choose the illusion of the world / the dream of death, or the truth of oneness with God/awakening from the dream. Therein lies the only escape from the pain of death and all awareness of the world.