Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 08/30/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #995 Is everyone afraid of the loss of individuality?
Q #996 Why did Jesus say we will do even greater things than he did?
Q #997 Why does Jesus say miracles are for those who can "use them for themselves"?
Q #998 I did something which is causing me much guilt. How should I deal with it?

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Q #995: You have said that if we really understood the Course's message that we do not exist, we would feel terror. But I don't feel terror, just uncomfortable and sometimes afraid. I have a friend who is doing A Course in Miracles , too, and she says she feels happiness when she thinks of losing her individuality and joining with God. I suspect that there is a degree of blockage in both of us, and perhaps in all of us. This is our denial, our non-acceptance of the truth. Is this true?

A: Yes, anyone who believes that he or she is here is in denial of the truth. If we were ready to fully accept the truth, we would no longer have any need for this dream and would awaken to our true home in Heaven, where we are still one with our Creator. The fact that we do not do so tells us that we must have a motivation for choosing this world of separation and pain over the peace of God.

A Course in Miracles lets us know what that motivation is. It states that we made up this world of murder and attack because it is a picture of what we think we are. We believe that we are murderers, deserving of death as punishment for what we have done (T.20.III.4) . And what we accuse ourselves of doing is usurping the place of God; thus, in essence, killing Him off. At the same time, we believe that God is not really dead and will come back to give us our punishment. So, the ego's only conception of God is as an angry father pursuing His guilty son (M.17.7: 10) . These terrifying dynamics motivate us to continue listening to the ego, and keep dreaming that we are in this world of individuality and separation, which God can enter not (W.pII.3.3:4) . In other words, as bad as this world can be, we think it is our protection.

However, another part of our mind -- symbolized in the Course as the Holy Spirit -- retains the memory of the true God's Love. It knows that the angry, vengeful God is a fiction of the ego. And so, we have two competing thought systems in our mind: the ego's, which is literally scared to death of losing our individuality, and the Holy Spirit's, which knows that we have nothing to fear and that our recognition of this fact and resultant awakening would give us everything we truly want. The Course is aimed at the part of our mind that chooses between these two thought systems. On one hand, it asks us to look at the terror, which we miscreated an entire world to avoid facing. On the other hand, it tells us that this fear is made up and gives us a method for finally letting it go and being at peace at last.

Not surprisingly then, we are likely to experience many shifting and conflicting emotions as we work with the Course. In addition, because our terror is deeply buried, we may not have a direct emotional experience of it -- and certainly not consistently. The Course tells us that " What I call 'my' thoughts are not my real thoughts" (W.pI.51.4:3) . It would make the same statement about feelings. Feelings lie because they are virtually always the result of thoughts about some aspect of our illusory existence as individuals within this physical world.

Of course, feelings can be helpful if they motivate us to ask the Holy Spirit to look with us at the thoughts behind them and, in the process, let His Love take the place of the ego's guilt. If we can do just that with our feelings -- learning to simply watch them without judging them, over- analyzing them, or worrying about them -- they will gradually lessen in intensity and seeming importance as our capacity to feel the peace of God increases.

Q #996: Given A Course in Miracles' distinction between form and content, it seems to me that Jesus' words [that we will (can) do "even greater things" than he did] refer to content and not form (e.g., moving mountains, walking on water, raising the dead). But as I puzzle over his words in the context of content I wonder what "greater things" are.

A: In the Bible Jesus is reported to have made this statement, though scripture scholars have found no historical data to support most of the Biblical sayings of Jesus, nor the miracles he is said to have performed. If he did say and do the things that are recorded in the Gospels, you are correct in distinguishing form and content. Whether as a historical figure, or the author of the Course, Jesus is a symbol for the part of the mind that chooses God's Love rather than the ego. He does not identify with the body and would therefore never refer to form. In the Course, Jesus does not make any statement about our doing greater things than he. In fact, every reference to our relationship with him and with one another speaks only of the equality of the Sonship (e.g. T.8.IV.6, T.1.II.3, T.5.II.9, T.6.I.5) . There is nothing greater than to accept the Atonement for oneself just as he did. The perfect equality of the Sonship reflects the Course's non-dualistic teaching that there is one Son in union with the Father. Equality and sameness, therefore, are very important concepts in the Holy Spirit's curriculum. They are corrections for the ego's use of difference, inequality, and comparison to establish and maintain belief in the separation.

Jesus asks that we make the same choice he did: to listen only to the Voice that speaks for God. He tells us: “ I have assured you that the Mind that decided for me is also in you, and that you can let it change you just as it changed me” (T.5.II.10:1). There is no real difference between him and us. There is only a difference in our experience while we continue to choose separation. When the mind chooses the Holy Spirit, Who represents the memory of God's Love, there are no comparisons, no degrees of greater or lesser. The choice is complete in the instant it is made, and it is the same for everyone. It is the same and only choice Jesus made. As we are told in the workbook: “Love makes no comparisons” (W.p.I.195.4:2). We are learning to make love the only choice we make by seeing how painful it is to choose the ego. When we are ready, we will make one final choice for God; the greatest, and only true thing we can do.

Q #997: Toward the beginning of the text, Jesus says that miracles are directed toward those who can "use them for themselves" and he also comments that only he is in a position to know "where they can be bestowed." What I don't get is: Aren't they needed everywhere? Couldn't everyone walking this earth in pain use miracles for themselves? Jesus seems to hint that only some people need miracles. Can you explain?

A: When reading A Course in Miracles , it is very helpful to remember that Jesus frequently speaks to us in a poetic, symbolic way. Taken out of context, his words can, at times, seem to contradict the overall message of the Course. However, the more we study the Course, the clearer it becomes that he is not contradicting himself but rather restating the same themes over and over again with slight variations, hoping that, at some point, what he is trying to tell us will sink in. With that in mind, let us take a look at the two statements you asked about.

Both of these statements come in Chapter 1 when Jesus is explaining what he means by the term miracle . Most of us have always thought of miracles as an extraordinary event in the external, physical world. Jesus lets us know that in the context of the Course, a miracle is solely a shift in perception from the ego's thought system of sin, guilt, and fear, to the Holy Spirit's thought system of forgiveness. In other words, a miracle is an entirely internal event happening only in the mind and having nothing to do with the world. Miracles may seem to have results in this world, but this is a reflection of the miracle, or changed thinking, not the miracle itself.

You are right that anyone who believes that he or she is here could use a miracle. That, in fact, is exactly what Jesus is trying to tell us. When he says, "Miracles are selective only in the sense that they are directed towards those who can use them for themselves" (T.1.III.9:1), he is not implying that miracles are available only to some people. Indeed, he implies exactly the opposite by beginning the sentence with "miracles are selective only in the sense…" He is letting us know that there is just one sense in which miracles are not universal, and that is in the form the miracle or correction takes within our thinking.

While the content of a miracle is always a shift from thoughts that project guilt to thoughts that extend love, the specific correction thought will always show up in our mind in a way ideally suited to remedy the specific thought that made correction necessary. For example, I may need to forgive an abusive parent while you may need to forgive a partner by whom you felt betrayed. Both of us, in the midst of our pain, could turn to Jesus or the Holy Spirit in our mind and ask to see things differently. Both of us would then find ourselves accessing forgiveness thoughts that applied to our specific struggle. If we wanted to get technical, we could say that even within our own thinking, the form the correction seems to take is really the reflection of the miracle or shift, not the miracle itself. But this is more technically precise than Jesus needed to be at this point in the text.

Jesus also states, "That the miracle may have effects on your brothers that you may not recognize is not your concern. the action aspect of the miracle should be controlled by me because of my complete awareness of the whole plan. The impersonal nature of miracle- mindedness ensures your grace, but only I am in a position to know where they can be bestowed." (T.1.III.8:1, 4, 5). He is not implying that there are people who do not need miracles. He is simply telling us that although the miracle is a shift in our mind, we should not try to control miracles, decide when they are needed, or determine how they will express themselves. We should ask him, as our wiser internal teacher, to make such decisions.

Again, A Course in Miracles becomes much easier to understand if we approach it like poetry or a symphony rather than a precise, scientific report. When we focus too heavily on the words, the Course can seem (to borrow Jesus' imagery) like nothing more than scattered threads of melody. But when we join with him -- moving beyond its words to connect with the love that inspired them -- we will see how those scattered threads of melody form one inclusive chorus (T.31.VIII.11:5) .

Q #998: I have recently done something for which I am deeply ashamed, not because it hurt anyone else -- it didn't -- but because I thought I was a better, more spiritual, more evolved person who would not stoop to this level. I am upset and disappointed to find out that this isn't so. I also feel tons of guilt. I don't seem to be able to forgive myself for taking this action. How does one work with "sinful" or "wrong" actions, as a student of the Course?

A: As students of A Course in Miracles , when we recognize that we have done or said something that did not come from love, we should remember the following statements: " The world was made as an attack on God. It symbolizes fear…. frightened people can be vicious"(W.pII.3.2:1,2; T.3.I.4:2). In other words, this world symbolizes the fear of God's Love, and any person who believes that he or she is here must be afraid of love and, therefore, vicious. Because of these dynamics, we could safely say that, with rare exceptions, spiritual or evolved people do not come here. If we were highly spiritual and evolved, we would have no need of this dream and would remain awake in Heaven.

When we feel ashamed about something we have done and upset that we are not more spiritual, we can be sure that we are analyzing the situation with the same inner teacher that led us to take the misguided action in the first place: the ego. The ego wants only to maintain our certainty that we are individuals who exist in a very real world. It does not care if we think we are spiritual or sinful, as long as we think there is a separate, autonomous "I" to analyze.

The only way out of this hopeless and circular thought system is to change internal teachers -- dropping the ego's hand and asking the Holy Spirit to help us look at our troubling actions through His loving and non-judgmental eyes. He will always help us to see that we are neither sinful nor spiritual; we are simply fearful and thus make mistakes that are really calls for the love we think we do not have inside of us. Through this process, we gradually come to the realization that we are not who we think we are. There is no "me" to label as spiritual or guilty. Rather, there is an illusion of an individual who always reflects the mind's choice between the guilt of the ego, or the Love and forgiveness of the Holy Spirit.

To hold on to guilt about what we think we did wrong, whether it was five minutes ago or fifty years ago, is really the ego's cruel way of cementing our guilt in place forever. This is so because, obviously, we will never be able to change the past. Thus, we are predicating our ability to be at peace upon something that is impossible. Fortunately, the Course teaches us that we can undo the cause of the error now by letting go of the guilt now -- again, simply by changing internal teachers.

Once we have learned to do this every time we begin to feel ashamed of ourselves, our reaction to our own mistakes will start to be something like, "So, I got afraid again -- what else is new?" At that point, we will begin to understand Jesus' healed perspective of our lives and how he can tell us that, "All [our] past except its beauty is gone, and nothing is left but a blessing" (T.5.IV.8:2) .