Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 09/13/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1003 Are vampires part of the illusion ?
Q #1004 At 55 I am alone and miserable. What would Jesus have me do ?
Q #1005 Am I beginning to wake up from the dream?
Q #1006 I feel guilty about my miscarriages.
Q #1007 If truly forgiving one person leads to salvation for all, why are we still here?

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Q #1003: I work in a bookshop that carries all sorts of new age/spiritual books. We have had books about demons, vampires, werewolves, ancient Egyptian gods, and so forth. The authors usually claim to have seen and experienced these entities and to have evidence that proves they exist. I've seen so many of these books that I'm starting to believe them. But even if these things do exist, according to the Course, wouldn't they still be illusory just like the rest of the world of form, having all been created by the ego? Wouldn't it say that the real God has nothing to do with any of them, despite whatever seeming power they may have, and that their belief in their own power represents a failure to realize they are just ego fragments?

A: Yes, everything you have said is correct. A Course in Miracles tells us that form is not reality, it is an illusion, and "if you see it you must be mistaken" (T.III.27:4,5). From a Course perspective, it does not matter whether we see the entities you mentioned with our physical eyes or only in our thoughts. Either way, if we perceive them as individual beings, separate from ourselves and from God, they are illusory. As a Course student, it could be very helpful to realize that whether they exist only in stories someone made up or in this physical world we all made up, vampires and werewolves are no more or less real than any of the other people who seem to inhabit our lives or even than our own individual identity.

As you stated; people, animals, or combinations thereof who believe in their own power fail to recognize that they are split off fragments of God -- the only true source of power. But remember: It is only you who needs to recognize this. Generally, vampires and werewolves find the Course a bit too threatening .

Q #1004: I have been emotionally disturbed all my life. I was not liked, and learned to avoid people to avoid being rejected. Now I am 55, alone, and no idea how to connect to people. I study and practice A Course in Miracles and the Holy Spirit says I can be free of this miserable ego any time. I am so lonely! Jesus says I could see peace instead of this. What would he have me hear? What would he have me to do? What am I doing wrong?

A: Jesus is teaching us all that we can be peaceful regardless of our limitations. Thus he says in the manual, “Do not despair, then, because of limitations. It is your function to escape from them, but not to be without them” (M.26.4:1,2) . Escaping from our limitations means not giving them power to take away the inner peace that is always present in our split minds. If we follow the ego part of our minds, we will see our limitations as a prison and then compare ourselves with others, winding up in the painful jaws of judgment. If we choose against the ego, however, we will see our limitations as a classroom, and as we take Jesus' hand instead of the ego's, we will develop compassion toward ourselves and others, and learn how to smile gently at the ego and not take it as seriously as we once did. The key is to be able to distinguish between form and content. Anything of the body -- including emotional conditions -- is the form. The content is the decision you make in your mind as to how you will interpret the form. Choosing the ego results in feelings of victimization, guilt, judgment, anger, despair, and hatred of the body. Choosing Jesus or the Holy Spirit results in patience, compassion, and kindness towards yourself and others, and acceptance of the world and body as the curriculum Jesus or the Holy Spirit can use to help your mind be healed of its thoughts of sin, guilt, and fear. These themes are developed in our book, The Healing Power of Kindness -- Volume Two: Forgiving Our Limitations .

You did not say anything about having sought help from a therapist; that would not conflict with your work with the Course and might in fact help free you from the ego's uses of your limitations.

Q #1005: I studied A Course in Miracles in the '80s, but only within the past year did I start applying the workbook lessons. For the past several years, however, I have had awarenesses of God's presence. I know that love is the only truth in this illusion. Recently, I realized that I've forgiven all the people that I thought had wronged me, simply because I know that these wrongs never happened in the first place. When I read the daily lesson, I feel a sense of peace that stays with me throughout the day. This evening as I was bathing there were a few seconds in which I lost all association with my body. I felt as if I were mentally gazing down upon an alien and was left with a completely neutral sense of the body -- neither disgust nor enchantment. Is the illusory world beginning to disappear for me? Am I beginning to wake up from the dream?

A: It could be that you are beginning to wake up, but since we do not know you, we really cannot give you a definitive answer. People experience the process of disidentifying with the body and the world in different ways. Jesus talks about this experience in a series of beautiful paragraphs in “Beyond the Body” in the text (T.18.VI) . He speaks of it in the context of the Identity we share that transcends all specialness and the limitations of the body. Thus he says of the experience: “What really happens is that you have given up the illusion of a limited awareness, and lost your fear of union. . . . There is no violence at all in this escape. The body is not attacked, but simply properly perceived. It does not limit you, merely because you would not have it so. You are not really ‘lifted out' of it; it cannot contain you. You go where you would be, gaining, not losing, a sense of Self” (T.18.VI.11:7; T.13:1,2,3,4,5).

In the workbook, Jesus tells us that “to be without a body is to be in our natural state” (W.pI.72:9:9) . So it is not something special; it is merely natural. As the process of awakening proceeds through our practice of forgiveness, we thus will take the body and everything of the body less and less seriously, until we reach the point where we know we are not our bodies, even though we still appear as a body. This has nothing to do with death, as some students mistakenly think. It is a shift from false perception to true perception in our minds, and there may or may not be a physical correlation -- most of the time, there is not. What is of prime importance is the shift we make in our minds about the purpose for which we will now use our bodies: to learn that we all share the same ego thought system, the Holy Spirit's correction of that, and the power to choose between them. We all share the pain of separation, and we are all calling out for the love we believe we have denied.

Q #1006: I have read your answer to Question #15, yet somehow I need a little more help. I have a healthy son I am thrilled with, whom I had through in vitro fertilization. I desired more children, but since have lost two to miscarriages. I believe I have a great deal of guilt in that my age -- past 40 -- would be a gamble and here seemed the proof: death of both embryos due to chromosome damage. I really feel like I murdered them both by seeking magic -- the in vitro fertilization. So here is my issue: Almost daily, when I am with my son, someone asks if he is my "only child." My mind instantly swings into guilt mode. I know the question is just a conversation opener, but it feels like an attack. I have issues around the miscarriages, older stepchildren, and adopting, and all my feelings bubble up. The last time I could only nod my head in shame and guilt. With my five year old son there and unaware of all the details, I could not attack back as my ego wants, "No, he is not my only, the other two are dead!" And I realize an attack would alienate everyone. But my internal buttons and feelings of sin, guilt, and fear are being pushed. I am still stumped as to how to cope with all this.

I do acknowledge what is happening in the moment and how enraged I become. I do see how their bringing up this deep pain (which is just scratching the surface of the original pain of killing off God) makes me want to "kill," through words or fantasy, the person I perceive as my attacker, even though they only have unintentionally handed me the mirror so I can look at my guilt. I also know intellectually that I did not murder my unborn children, but part of me must not believe it. I ask for help from Jesus and show him my negative thoughts, but I would like more healing than this. I find it difficult to accept the statement, "Loss is not loss when properly perceived." I understand intellectually that this is all an illusion, that I am not a body. But when this stuff comes up they are just concepts to my ego.

A: Where you are with all your feelings is okay. You don't want to try to use the intellectual concepts of A Course in Miracles to change what seems to be happening for you. You will know at a deeper level that they are true at some point on your spiritual path, but for now you simply want to be as honest as you can about your thoughts and feelings about your life circumstances -- they after all comprise your classroom. Mostly you speak of your guilt, but what also comes through very clearly is your anger. And although you acknowledge your rage at the strangers' inquiries, there almost certainly are layers to that anger that you may be missing by jumping to the ontological explanation that you killed God. And all these unrecognized and unacknowledged layers of defenses continue to operate below your awareness, keeping your focus outside yourself, which of course is their purpose, despite your best intentions to look at the guilt within.

What might these other layers involve? Your anger at the strangers seems somehow out of proportion to the nature of their “attack,” as you acknowledge. It may feel safer to keep the focus of your anger on them than on other perhaps less conscious targets. For it seems likely from what you say that you are angry that you have not been able to have the children you want -- perhaps angry at a spouse or ex-spouse, a lover, a parent, or God -- someone else who is somehow responsible for depriving you of what you so desperately want, requiring you to rely on your own creative attempts to have the children on your own that will make your life feel more complete. And there must also be great sadness and grief at the recurring losses. It's important that you uncover the anger and grief you are carrying, and all the hidden justifications for those feelings, not because they are true, but because you still believe at some level that they are true. And you cannot jump to the ontological explanation without looking at the ego's layers of defenses as clearly as you can, or you will simply keep the defenses unexamined and intact (T.11.V.1;2:1,2) .

Once you can get in touch with the anger and the specific thoughts behind that anger, you can begin to take responsibility for the projection involved in those judgments against others. Now it is true that all the levels of anger are simply defenses against the underlying ontological guilt, but the thought that we believe we have killed God is mostly an intellectual concept for most of us, which is, as Jesus tells us, “an instant so ancient that it is beyond all memory, and past even the possibility of remembering” (M.2.4:1). But we relive its content every instant that we choose the ego, putting our own needs and desires above everyone else's. So we can at least begin to be honest about how much we want to have things our own way and how angry we can become at anyone else who seems to stand in the way of our getting what we want. There's the projection that most of us can begin to identify with. Others may be putting their own needs first, but that could not anger us unless we were doing the same thing but did not want to acknowledge it in ourselves.

Ultimately, Jesus assures us, we will learn that “it is not necessary to follow fear [and guilt] through all the circuitous routes by which it burrows underground and hides in darkness, to emerge in forms quite different from what it is. Yet it is necessary to examine each one as long as you would retain the principle that governs all of them” (T.15.X.5:1,2,3). And that principle that we all still retain, even cling to, is that the separation and the accompanying guilt -- and the resulting individual self that each of us identifies with -- are real and require a defense. But until we can genuinely experience the guilt at that level, we will need to begin with all the specific expressions of our guilt, usually accessed by first acknowledging our anger at others and the judgments we are holding against them. Over time, we will begin to recognize the common thread running through all of our projections, and the ontological guilt will become more of an experience than an empty intellectual concept. But in each case, by looking with Jesus at our projections and accepting the underlying guilt as ours, we will begin to release the need for that defense. And the need for anything or anyone -- adult or child -- to fill the emptiness we feel inside will lose its power over us. And peace and joy will then fill the space left empty by the disappearing guilt and anger.

Q #1007: In Lesson 108 of A Course in Miracles , it is stated that, "To forgive one brother wholly is enough to bring salvation to all minds." Yet Jesus wholly forgave the entire brotherhood and this did not bring salvation to all minds. He frequently insists that we are one with him, can do what he did, etc. Yet, apparently, one of "us," not Jesus, must be the "one" who wholly forgives at least one brother. Am I looking at this correctly?

A: No, you are not quite looking at this correctly. The title of Lesson 108 is, "To give and to receive are one in truth." This is a statement that makes no sense from the ego's perspective, which is that we are separate beings (i.e. bodies) with separate interests. The ego tells us that our very survival depends on taking what we need at someone else's expense. For example, if I am hungry and there is not enough food, I need to find a way to feed myself. If you are there and are hungry too, I have to make sure that it is my body and not yours that receives whatever limited nourishment is available. In other words, I have it only if I keep it. If I give it to you, I lose it.

As long as we believe that we are bodies and that this world is real, that dynamic appears to be true. But Jesus knows we are not bodies. We are not even separate minds. We are the one mind of God's One Son, dreaming we could be separate from our Source and from each other. So, in reality (because we are mind and not a body), we cannot really give anything away. What we give, we keep. The reflection of this within this dream world is that when we think hateful, angry, or fearful thoughts about another, we are filled with hate, anger, or fear. When we think loving thoughts about another, we feel love.

This is the perspective Jesus is coming from when he states, "One thought, completely unified, will serve to unify all thought. This is the same as saying one correction will suffice for all correction, or that to forgive one brother wholly is enough to bring salvation to all minds" (W.pI.108.5:1,2) . What he means is that one thought of total forgiveness will forgive everyone in our mind . This is so because true forgiveness means forgiving a brother for what he has not done to us -- recognizing that we merely imagined that another's actions could take away our peace. And if we truly recognize this fact in relation to one person, we have to realize that it must be true for everyone -- no one can hurt us because no one has the power to deprive us of the peace of God.

Thus, within our mind, we will have brought salvation to all minds. This is, in fact, all we need to worry about because, in truth, there is no one -- and, indeed, no world -- outside our mind. The Course is not saying that one of "us" needs to forgive a brother in order to change the world. It is telling you that by completely forgiving one brother, you can entirely change your experience of the world. And in this way, you can remember that salvation is already there for you, in your mind, should you choose it.

When, like Jesus, we have learned to let the Holy Spirit (the memory of God's Love) become our only internal Voice, we will become a consistent reflection of love and forgiveness within this dream. This could serve as a reminder to others that none of their imagined sins have had any effect on reality and that salvation is already theirs if they choose to experience it. But when, if, and how they make that choice need not concern us.