Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 07/05/2006
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #965 Why am I losing my sense of love?.
Q #966 What is meant by "miracles you are not asked to perform"?
Q #967 I feel like the Holy Spirit is coercing me into something I don't want.
Q #968 Can you give any tips about starting a study group ?
Q #969 Do we really have no purpose here ?
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Q #965: I am becoming more sensitive to my thoughts, and seeing the world more as an observer. But I have lost a sense of love. If everything is a dream, the world is insane, and our only purpose is to awaken, then what is there left to do? For example, I used to enjoy playing music, but now that doesn't even make sense to me. I feel sad that my experience of being here doesn't seem to contain love anymore. What has happened?
A: A Course in Miracles asks us to question every value that we hold (T.24.in.2:1) . If we truly do this, while we still in fact hold these values, how could we not go through a period of disorientation and loss? Jesus expects us to go through this and repeatedly reassures us about it. He tells us that the process of undoing we have undertaken "need not be painful, but it usually is so experienced" (M.4.I.A.3:2).
One of the central, and for the majority of students, most difficult teachings of the Course is that our concept of love is entirely false and misguided. What we have called love until now is really the ego's substitute for love. The ego defines love as getting our special needs met. That means finding an external source to fill up the lack we perceive in ourselves (caused by our belief that we separated from God, destroying Him and His Love). We can seek to be filled up by -- and form special love relationships with -- other people, substances, or activities. But doing so is a set up because we are asking something outside of us to save us from our own self-hatred and nothing can actually do that.
Through practicing the Course, it gradually dawns on us that our notion of love makes no sense and that we do not know what real love is. At that point, we start to understand that this world offers nothing we want, but we do not yet comprehend what we do want. Jesus understands the despair this engenders, telling us that "Men have died on seeing this, because they saw no way except the pathways offered by the world. And learning they led nowhere, lost their hope" (T.31.IV.3:4,5).
But then Jesus continues, " And yet this was the time they could have learned their greatest lesson. All must reach this point, and go beyond it. It is true indeed there is no choice at all within the world. But this is not the lesson in itself. The lesson has a purpose, and in this you come to understand what it is for" (T.31.IV.3:6,7,8,9).
In other words, Jesus has a purpose in helping us to see the futility of searching for love in this world. He wants us to stop settling for the ego's "shabby substitute" for love and to reawaken to the grandeur of the Holy Spirit's Love that is still in our mind.
That means, no longer seeking for love outside ourselves but rather asking the Holy Spirit to teach us what love really is. From reading the Course, we can understand intellectually that real love means reflecting God's Love through forgiveness (in other words, taking back the projections of guilt we have placed upon ourselves as well as everyone and everything else). But only by holding the Holy Spirit's hand can we actually find out how to do that. And that means we need a classroom in which to practice.
You are correct that the Course informs us that the separation never happened and this physical life we think we are living is a dream. But that doesn't mean there is no point to what we do here. Because we believe we are here, our activities and relationships are the classrooms in which we can learn what love really is. This is why Jesus states, "the Holy Spirit would not deprive you of your special relationships, but would transform them" (T.17.IV.2:3).
So, as Course students we do not want to drop our special relationships or daily activities. Rather, we want to ask the Holy Spirit to guide us through them. We want to engage in them with Him as our Teacher. Doing this turns everything into an opportunity to shift our purpose from attack and separation to forgiveness and joining.
Approached in this way, our daily activities make perfect sense and acquire great meaning. Then something like playing music can become a symbol of God's Love in your mind and a source of great joy. And this is how (is in fact the only way) we begin to awaken from this dream. Happy Music Making!
Q #966: "Miracles you are not asked to perform have not lost their value" (T.1.III.8:3). I cannot seem to grasp the meaning of this sentence, although I feel the meaning of the rest of the text in 8 and 9.
A: The basic idea is that the content is always there in our minds; it may not find expression right now, but it is never lost. There is a beautiful song-like rendering of this idea later in Chapter 5 -- the first one of its kind in A Course in Miracles : “I have saved all your kindnesses and every loving thought you ever had. I have purified them of the errors that hid their light, and kept them for you in their own perfect radiance. They are beyond destruction and beyond guilt. They came from the Holy Spirit within you, and we know what God creates is eternal” (T.5.IV.8:3,4,5,6).
Q # 967: My high school reunion is coming up and the thought of going to it is causing me intense anxiety. I really don't want to go, but feel like the Holy Spirit is making me because circumstances are aligning themselves so that I almost have no choice. I guess I kind of feel coerced by the Holy Spirit. Why can't He teach me without sending me into a situation where I am going to be uncomfortable? Why can't He say, "Okay, since you do not want to go, let's learn the lesson that you have to learn in another, more comfortable way"?
A: Your anger over feeling pushed to do something that you would rather not do is very understandable. But feeling coerced by the Holy Spirit comes from a basic misunderstanding of what the Holy Spirit is. A Course in Miracles talks about the Holy Spirit and the ego as if they were separate entities that control our thoughts. But in reality, they are merely two exclusive thought systems, each of which can be boiled down to one core thought.
The ego is a thought system born of the belief that our separation from God really happened and is very serious. As a result, our ego thoughts always reflect the premise that we destroyed Heaven, are very guilty, and deserve punishment. For most of us, the ego directs 99.9% of our thinking since we almost always think we are really here in a body, within a world.
The Holy Spirit meanwhile, is the memory of God that we brought into this dream that reminds us of our true Identity as God's one Son. More specifically, the Holy Spirit is the knowledge (completely forgotten by most of us on a conscious level) that we never separated from God and are therefore still at home in Heaven and merely "dreaming of exile" (T.10.I.2) . All thoughts that follow this one core thought reflect the love, forgiveness, and compassion that an awareness of our own innocence inspires.
In the Course, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as if He were a teacher who will do things for us. But Jesus is simply using metaphorical language to help make the Holy Spirit something we can relate to. Because we believe we are individuals living in a world of form, it is nearly impossible for us to relate to abstract ideas. So Jesus personalizes the Holy Spirit for us. He knows we need this in order to conceptualize a source for the right-minded thoughts we've forgotten we can choose.
The Holy Spirit can't do things in this world because there is no world. Ultimately, choosing the Holy Spirit as our Teacher will awaken us to that reality. But before that happens, the Holy Spirit (in other words, our choosing the thought system of the memory of God's Love) will reinterpret everything we do here, giving it a loving purpose. That is why the Course says the Holy Spirit "uses everything for good, but He does not believe in what is not true" (T.6.II.10:2).
As Course students, when we begin to feel victimized by the Holy Spirit, Jesus, or his course, we can be certain that the ego has taken charge of our studies (again speaking metaphorically of the ego as an entity). Remember that the ego's mission is always to prove that we are victims, but that it is somebody else's fault. For example, if we work, the ego will turn our job into an opportunity to resent our boss. If we are married, the ego will turn our marriage into an opportunity to resent our spouse. So why would studying the Course be any different? We should expect the ego to be even louder if it senses we've come upon something that might cause us to question its authority. So the ego sees us working with this Course and says, "Okay, fine, I can turn this into a win for me. I can turn the Holy Spirit into just one more enemy trying to tell me what to do."
But in truth, the Holy Spirit doesn't care what we do . He doesn't care whether you go to your reunion or not. He only cares about the love in your mind, whatever choice you make. Similarly, the ego doesn't care whether you go, either. It just wants you to be miserable and guilty, whether you go or stay home.
So before deciding whether to go or not, ask the Holy Spirit to help you determine what is the kindest, most loving thing you could do in this situation. If not going to your reunion would be the gentler, more loving choice, you can be sure that the Holy Spirit will help you "learn the lesson that you have to learn in another, more comfortable way."
In the end, all we can do is attempt to listen to the Holy Spirit as best we can and not take it too seriously when we return to the ego. We know we're listening to the ego when we think the issues in our lives are serious, and to the Holy Spirit when we realize they are just silly. And the Holy Spirit can help you change your thinking about yourself and the world equally well, whether you're at your high school reunion or at home watching television.
Q #968: I feel as if I am being guided to start facilitating A Course in Miracles group. I must confess that I do not feel worthy of this and feel that I do not have the credentials, worldly accomplishments, or the spiritual advancement to be doing this. On the other hand, I remember Jesus' statement in the Course that "readiness is not mastery," and I realize that this could be a good teaching/learning process for me. Since all of you at the Foundation have experienced teaching the Course and are certified psychologists, are there any tips that you could give me on making sure that I do the right thing?
A: Just as a clarification -- in addition to Kenneth Wapnick, there is only one other psychologist on our staff.
Facilitating a Course group should be approached the same way you would approach any other role in your life -- primarily as a means of accepting the Atonement for yourself. In this sense, it would be a “good teaching/learning process” for you, as you suggest. Jesus tells us that the qualifications for being a teacher of God “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) . The Introduction to the manual for teachers as well as the first section in which this quote appears explain the Course's unique view of teaching and the student-teacher relationship. Our tape album “What It Means to Be A Teacher of God” can be particularly helpful in this context as well.
The level of one's formal education is basically irrelevant. The Course presents a sophisticated thought system, and it is therefore helpful to have a good general grasp of its principles in order to structure discussions and answer questions from group members; but this does not require advanced academic status. Our books and tapes are offered as study aids for this purpose, as well as to help students with their individual spiritual process.
Finally, the only way you can know if you are doing the right thing is to try to recognize any ego involvement and then set that aside as best you can and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. Our answer to Question #12 also address this issue.
Q #969: A Course in Miracles says that it is just one expression of the "universal curriculum," and allows for many other paths of equal validity. Many of these other paths, however, seem to be in contradiction with the Course on at least one fundamental point -- they understand human experience as playing some kind of creative role in a larger cosmic design. The Course, by contrast, teaches that our apparent existence in the world is merely a mistake to be corrected, rather than an experience with some kind of inherent value. Might it not be the case, when grasped through some higher-level understanding, that somehow both are true? That we have a purpose here, and yet don't have a purpose? Or could it be that our purpose here is merely to realize that we have no ultimate purpose as human beings?
A: You are correct that A Course in Miracles stands in stark contrast to the many spiritual paths that view human existence as part of a cosmic design. Most of them begin with the premise that the world was made by God. The Course, on the other hand, tells us that this world "was made as an attack on God...to be a place where God could enter not" (W.pII.3.2:1,3) . Further, it lets us know that attacking God is not possible because God is Love and "The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite" (T.in.1:9) . And so, according to the Course, this physical world and all that it contains -- including our physical and psychological selves -- are merely the result of our dreaming a dream, the content of which is not true (T.28.II.7:1) .
Like a nighttime dream, the purpose of the experience we seem to be having here lies not within the dream itself, but rather within the mind that is dreaming it. Thus, we must return to our mind to find that purpose. The Course lets us know that our purpose will always be one of two things. Either we will be following the ego's mandate to use everything here to prove that our illusions about ourselves (that we are guilty and separate from God) are real (W.pI.55.5:2) , or we will be following the Holy Spirit's guidance to find and extend the peace of God that still remains within ourselves (T.19.IV.3:6) . The ego's purpose keeps us asleep with our guilt and fear firmly in place, while the Holy Spirit's purpose gradually leads us to awaken to our home in Heaven, which in truth we never left.
Having made this world to serve the ego's purpose, the Course teaches us how to let it become our classroom for learning to follow the Holy Spirit instead. Indeed, as long as we believe that we are here, this world is the only classroom we have for learning this lesson. When we use it in this way, our human experience becomes quite valuable -- not to God or the cosmos, but to our own process of spiritual maturation.