Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 06/28/2006
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #961 Do my sleeping dreams reflect my true state?.
Q #962 How can psychotherapy produce healing?
Q #963 Why is study of the Course making me irritated with God?
Q #964 What about the philosophical view that eternal peace is boring and meaningless?
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Q #961: In your answer to Question #673 regarding dreams, you quote, "Your sleeping and waking dreams have different forms, and that is all. Their content is the same" (T.18.II.5:13). If I find the "content" of my sleeping dreams less forgiving, more fearful, etc., does it follow that that reflects my true state more accurately than my daytime dream content? During my waking dreams I appear to be capable of making choices to forgive and listen to the Holy Spirit; I seem to be more aware that I do, indeed, have a choice. In other words, until my sleeping dreams are governed by this same ability to exercise choice, am I not truly getting to the root of guilt and healing my mind?
A: Your sleeping dreams could simply be telling you that there is still some buried guilt that has not yet come to the surface -- that there is still more work to be done. But you probably knew that already. Still, it can be helpful to get that kind of a nudge from dreams, since we can lull ourselves all too easily into thinking we are pretty good at this forgiveness stuff and don't have much further to go. In truth, though, we are deeply fearful of seeing the process through to the end, because “the end” is a state of selflessness, where we have let go of the self that we thought we were: a self that chooses to forgive. This conflict in our minds -- wanting to go forward, but terrified of doing so -- can show up in dreams as battles, struggles, torment, etc. It is not necessary to analyze the dreams, just to get a sense of what they signify -- which you seem to have grasped very well. As you get more and more in touch with your fear to go all the way with forgiveness, you will become more aware of the conflict in your mind. Then as you look at that resistance calmly and without judging yourself, your dreams will reflect that new state of mind.
Q #962: You often encourage people to seek out some form of counseling or psychotherapy when they are feeling discomfort or depression, whilst working with Course, to get back to the real source of this disquiet, which is the guilt in their mind. How does a therapist achieve this?
A: I think you may have misunderstood. Therapy is like a good aspirin, or some form of medical intervention, or a meditative walk in the woods. It's all magic, but at the level of the world, it can be very helpful. And so, at times, when people are struggling with various life issues, it can be beneficial for them to have the opportunity to get another perspective in the world's terms on what is happening for them, and perhaps learn some techniques that will enable them to get unstuck or free of their pain. But it's not that the therapist achieves anything for the patient. The therapist can point to and even help open doors, but it's the patient's or client's decision whether to walk through those doors.
Now there could be times when a therapist helps a patient uncover buried sources of guilt hidden in the recesses of the patient's mind, but in nearly every case, these would still relate to past memories from this lifetime. It is very unlikely that most therapists would be helping the patient get in touch with the ontological guilt, for that is not their purpose. Nor is that necessary for the purpose that therapy is being recommended to some questioners in this forum. If the therapist is open and non-judgmental, willing to join with the patient in finding a better way to cope with emotional and psychological problems, that is enough (P.2.II.8; P.2.V.4; P.3.II.6) . There is a joining and a healing in that openness that is being held out to the patient, if the patient is willing and so chooses to accept it.
And the patient can use the therapy sessions to identify projections of the buried ontological guilt, regardless of the awareness or intention of the therapist, who may know and need know nothing about A Course in Miracles . It is, after all, the patient who decides what purpose everything in his or her life shall serve, and if the patient has an understanding of the purpose and practice of the Course's principles of forgiveness, any situation, including but not limited to therapy, can serve that purpose.
Q #963: I have been studying A Course in Miracles for a little over two months now. Not only do I see no appreciable change in my outlook on life, but I am increasingly aware of feelings of irritation and depression. Sometimes these feelings are about nothing in particular, but lately I find myself feeling especially agitated when I do the exercises in the Workbook. I believe everything I read about God's gifts to me, and instead of feeling grateful, I feel restless and annoyed, and wish God would just leave me alone. Of course, I don't really wish He'd leave me alone. I'm pretty sure my experience is not that unusual, but what specifically can I do to get through this and not give up?
A: You are absolutely correct that your experience is not unusual. Most of us are initially drawn to A Course in Miracles because when we read it, we sense that a loving presence is speaking to us. We recognize that the path Jesus lays out for us offers true hope of escaping from the painful conditions with which we are accustomed to living. But a crucial component of Jesus' curriculum is that we become very aware of just how unhappy we really are in this world. After all, why would we be motivated to accept that this world is just a dream -- let alone do the challenging inner work that leads to awakening from it -- unless we realized that it is a nightmare?
And so, between the many beautiful and inspiring words in the Course, Jesus takes every opportunity to let us know that this is "a dry and dusty world, where starved and thirsty creatures come to die" (W.pII.13.5:1). On day one of the workbook, he asks us to concentrate on the idea that nothing that we see means anything (W.pI.1) . Given the fact that we have spent our entire lives up to this point believing that this world holds much that we want and that our perceptions are very meaningful, how could we not feel irritated and depressed by what Jesus is telling us?
The good news though, is that what he is saying is only irritating and depressing to the ego. And contrary to what we have believed up to now, the ego is not the totality of who we are. It is but one of two internal teachers in our mind. At any moment, we can ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit within our mind, to be our guide. When we do this, we get in touch with the fact that God's Love is still available to us and is totally unaffected by the apparent darkness and misery in this world. In working with the Course, this means asking one of them to help us simply watch all the resistance we have to it (such as our irritation or depression) without judgment.
Jesus and the Holy Spirit reside in that part of our mind that knows we made up all this darkness and misery precisely to obscure the Love we are now being urged to embrace. They are aware, therefore, that while Jesus tells us that forgiveness offers everything we want (W.pI.122) , we think forgiveness will lead to our destruction. They see that the many negative emotions we go through in working with the Course are all merely covers for the terror that grips us when we ponder returning to a God Whom we think is filled with rage towards us -- a terror that makes it inevitable that we will wish He would just go away. But Jesus and the Holy Spirit know that God is not angry with us. Thus, they see our terror as simply a silly mistake. As Course students, we should ask for their help to cultivate that attitude as well -- to see our irritability and depression as understandable reactions to fear, and to not make a big deal about them. They are simply indicators that our fear of accepting God's Love and being at peace is still quite great. This is a fear that we cannot expect to just disappear after two months -- or any particular amount of time - - spent working with the Course. It will, however, dissipate gradually if we are willing to just let it be and have faith that Jesus is leading us through our pain because he knows that there is something much better for us on the other side of it.
Q #964: I'm having a bit of a philosophical dilemma which I'm hoping you can help me resolve. A contemporary view claims that the purpose of this relative world is to be able to experience our divine nature, rather than just knowing it; and that only by having the possibility of an opposite can one experience what one truly is. This seems to imply that this world, while a dream of separation, is somehow still necessary for God to "know Himself experientially." I realize that this contradicts what Jesus teaches in A Course in Miracles , which is that the world is totally meaningless and serves no purpose whatsoever, but this alternative explanation seems to make sense. I mean if Heaven is eternal peace and joy, and nothing but peace and joy, forever unchanging, then wouldn't it soon become meaningless since there would be nothing to compare it to? For example, if you throw a touchdown pass on the first try, it would be exhilarating. But if you threw nothing but touchdown passes, they would become meaningless and empty. So isn't this illusory world actually a "good" thing -- as long as we know it's just an illusion and we're using it for the purpose of knowing ourselves as the Son of God? Isn't it, in fact, necessary to experience ourselves as That?
A: This point of view is actually common to process theologies , of which Alfred North Whitehead is one notable representative.
There are two levels here that need to be kept distinct. A Course in Miracles teaches that in Heaven there is no separate self or mind that can evaluate its state in relation to another self or state: “What He 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) . By definition, there can be no lack in infinite Perfection, so there is nothing to learn and no potential to be fulfilled. Likewise, being bored or tired of seeing the same thing presupposes the existence of time and space, and God and Heaven transcend the limitations of time and space completely. To the ego, peace is boring, and conflict and challenge exhilarating, for the ego constantly seeks to make its own world of separation and differences real. Therefore to the extent to which we identify with the ego, we will find life without contrast and opposites inconceivable and certainly not appealing.
The perfect, eternal Oneness of Heaven is beyond our comprehension, having nothing in common with the dualistic experience of our world, which consists of separate, imperfect individuals limited by space and time. You cannot take the principles of dualistic experience and apply them to non-dualistic experience. They are mutually exclusive states. The mistake so many of us make is to use our human experience as a reference point for understanding the realm of pure spirit -- God and Heaven. This is part of the ego's strategy to annihilate the true God and make another god that validates its own thought system; and therefore we forget that human beings are the effect of the separated mind's decision to obliterate the truth from its awareness, and substitute another whole thought system -- false from beginning to end -- in its place. If that is our foundation, then how can we possibly understand anything? That is what Jesus is trying to tell us in his course -- that we are confused about everything: “When you made visible what is not true, what is true became invisible to you” (T.12.VIII.3:1) . So we need to be extremely cautious about drawing conclusions from our experience -- other than that we have been totally wrong, and there must be a better way.
Yet this is where A Course in Miracles is so helpful. While it tells us that we made this world “as an attack on God” (W.pII.3.2:1) , and that “the body was not made by love” (T.18.VI.4:7) , it also tells us that we retain in our split minds a memory of the truth, and therefore we can use the world and the body to restore that truth to our awareness by choosing against the ego's wrong- minded purpose of reinforcing separation and for the Holy Spirit's right-minded purpose of undoing our belief in separation. On this level, the world serves an important purpose: it can lead us from mindlessness back to the power of our minds to choose the truth rather than the ego's lies. And on this level our learning occurs primarily through contrast: “Contrast and differences are necessary teaching aids, for by them you learn what to avoid and what to seek. When you have learned this, you will find the answer that makes the need for any differences disappear. Truth comes of its own will unto its own. When you have learned that you belong to truth . . . . you will need no contrast to help you realize that this what you want, and only this” (T.13.XI.6:3,4,5,6) . Thus, when sanity and truth have been restored to our minds, the world will disappear back into the nothingness from which it came, for it has no value in itself: “. . . if I see no value in the world as I behold it, nothing that I want to keep as mine or search for as a goal, it will depart from me. For I have not sought for illusions to replace the truth” (W.pII.226.4,5) .