Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 09/27/2006
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1011 Is there any degree of control or choice over lifetimes or dreams?
Q #1012 Is a personal experience of oneness with God - a normal experience?
Q #1013 What is the Course position on prophesies of disaster and apocalypse?
Q #1014 What is the meaning and purpose of psychic experiences?
Q #1015 What is the difference between resistance and unwillingness?
List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics
Q #1011: With numerous possible scripts to choose from, is it always the ego that makes the choice between one lifetime or dream and another? Although time is neither linear nor real, isn't there still some cause/effect relationship between "lifetimes"? Is the idea that the Holy Spirit determines when time will end for "each" just an example of poetic effect and metaphor? There were a few revelations a number of years back. Shouldn't there be a lessening of guilt? (There's not.) As a result of those experiences I know that I didn't destroy God. -- God is all there is. I didn't plan for those experiences the way one plans to go to a movie, but the consequence is that I can't honestly entertain that there is a Jesus figure or symbol helping me.
A: It is not clear from what you say how your experience that you did not destroy God left you feeling that there is no Jesus figure or symbol helping you. Yes, God is all there is; but if you were fully aware of that -- what the Course calls revelation -- you would not also think you are a separate self in need of help. Jesus talks about the experience of union with God in the section in the manual called “Can God Be Reached Directly?” (M.26) . There he says, “If God were reached directly in sustained awareness, the body would not be long maintained” (M.26.3) ; but he also explains that love may ask this healed mind to still appear as a body to others who are still caught in the dream, but asking for some sign of help. That mind, though, would be at peace always, and know that it is not in the dream at all.
It would seem, however, that if you experience guilt and feel you are in need of help, there must still be a part of your mind caught in the illusion of separation from God. Then why not trust that the memory of your love for God and His for you can close that gap? In Jesus' beautiful, poetic rendering of this thought: “What better way to close the little gap between illusions and reality than to allow the memory of God to flow across it, making it a bridge an instant will suffice to reach beyond? For God has closed it with Himself. His memory has not gone by, and left a stranded Son forever on a shore where he can glimpse another shore that he can never reach. His Father wills that he be lifted up and gently carried over. He has built the bridge, and it is He Who will transport His Son across it. Have no fear that He will fail in what He wills. Nor that you be excluded from the Will that is for you” (T.28.I.15:3,4,5,6,7,8,9) .
The practice of forgiveness under Jesus' or the Holy Spirit's guidance is the means this course uses to restore this memory of God to our awareness. With this as our daily purpose, living in this world would be joyful and hope-filled rather than painful and isolating. As part of his answer to the question, “How Should the Teacher of God Spend His Day?” Jesus says in the manual that “there is one thought that should be remembered throughout the day. It is a thought of pure joy; a thought of peace, a thought of limitless release, limitless because all things are freed within it” (M.16.6:1,2) . This echoes so many other encouraging statements in A Course in Miracles that he wants us to remember as we continue our journey. Being in touch with the truth in your mind -- even if this is just intellectual -- means that you know you are not alone and can never be alone. Each day can be unified around the single purpose of seeing everyone as sharing with you the same wrong mind, the same right mind, and the power to choose between the two -- regardless of the different roles and tasks we all have. All of that is just form; the content in your mind of undoing the separation alone is meaningful. Rather than leading to a sense of isolation and pain, this approach to living in the world offers hope of real and lasting peace; in fact, it guarantees it, as you would be undoing the remaining interferences to your experience of union with God.
The concern with lifetimes and how many more lifetimes we must go through always comes from the ego, as part of its strategy to keep us thinking we are really here as bodies and that our problems and pain are rooted in the world. At best, we can use analogies drawn from our experience to try to understand this aspect of our process, but it is essentially not understandable, not only because it is all part of the illusion of separation, but also because it does not correspond to our experiences as seeming individuals in a world of time and space.
On one level (Level One), we are either awake in eternity or asleep in a dream of time. On another level (Level Two), as decision-making minds within the dream we are always choosing between the ego's script and the Holy Spirit's correction of that script. We , as decision-making minds, choose which part of the script we will choose to review. To use the analogy of a movie, each of us is the writer, director, producer, and actor. Yet we are always re-experiencing something that has already happened, even though our experience is that it is happening for the first time. Jesus teaches us that if we focus on learning and practicing forgiveness, we will eventually remember our decision to forget that we are dreaming, and then will be free of the dream's effects: “The miracles establishes you dream a dream, and that its content is not true. This is a crucial step in dealing with illusions. No one is afraid of them when he perceives he made them up. The fear was held in place because he did not see that he was the author of the dream, and not a figure in the dream” (T.28.II.7:1,2,3,4) .
“The Forgiven World” in the text gives us a lovely, comforting view of what our experience will be like when we see everything and everyone through the eyes of forgiveness. And for an extended discussion of the metaphysics of time, please see our book, Time: A Vast Illusion .
Q #1012: In 1985 I had an extraordinary experience of oneness with God. I have never considered myself a religious person and never understood why people were religious. I came away from this experience believing to my very core in things that I didn't really understand, i.e., there is no sin, God is mind, do not judge, we are all one, etc. The experience was one of profound remembering where I belonged, and it surely wasn't here on earth. My path since then has been convoluted. After attempting to adapt my personal "knowledge" to other religions, I read and attempted to practice A Course in Miracles , but soon gave it up to turn to other things. I have recently had a renewed interest in the Course, but have many questions about my own personal experience and no one to talk to about it. Is this type of experience a common occurrence?
A: There is no way of our knowing how many people have had such an experience. Not more than a few have mentioned something like this to us. There certainly could be many others who have experienced their oneness with God and now live quietly in peace with love being the sole source of their thoughts and activities. They would not have a need to talk about their lives, although they could be guided by love to do so. Jesus talks about the experience of union with God in the section in the manual called “Can God Be Reached Directly?” (M.26) . You might find it helpful to read that, and also the earlier one entitled “How Should the Teacher of God Spend His Day?” (M.16) .
The focus of A Course in Miracles is on forgiveness, not God, even though He is mentioned on just about every page. The Course is about our daily practice of its lessons, rather than on experiencing oneness with God. It is nice when one has such an experience, as that provides a glimpse of the end of the process. But reflecting that oneness in the relationships of our lives is the immediate objective of the Course's teachings. We do that by first recognizing our wrong-minded dedication to seeing our interests as separate from others', and then asking for help to shift that perception to shared interests, whereby we realize that we are all -- without exception -- joined both in the pain of separation from God, and in our common call for help to awaken from that nightmare. Then, when “not one illusion is accorded faith, and not one spot of darkness still remains to hide the face of Christ” (T.31.VIII.12:5) , our minds will rest in the peace and stillness of Perfect Oneness.
Q #1013: I keep hearing all these dire predictions and prophecies about great changes in the earth. Some predictions are saying the earth's population will be reduced by two-thirds as a result of these coming changes. Some say World War III will come next year. Some speak about a planet that will be passing through our solar system and trigger great changes in the sun which will trigger great changes at the core of earth resulting in devastation similar to Atlantis. Our government seems to be tightening it's noose around our necks at every turn with all the new laws -- and even more are coming. What should A Course in Miracles student's attitude be toward all these changes?
A: Jesus, who offers himself as a model for how we want to learn to look at the world and ourselves (T.5.II.9:6; 12:3; T.6.in.2:1; T.6.I.8:6,7) , would look upon all of the predicted impending doom with a gentle smile. For he's outside the dream and knows that all such thoughts simply reflect the Son's identification with the ego mind, which puffs itself up with threats of calamity and chaos and crisis in the world, so that we don't see the ego itself in our mind as the source of these so-called perils. For if we looked to this source, it would not take much more looking to see that we are observing a very puny little mouse of an idea, cowering in its fragility and impermanence, at the same time attempting to roar as a cover for its vulnerability (T.22.V.4) . And then we could not help but smile ourselves, along with Jesus.
But while we still want the world and our insignificant, separate selves to be real, we will have our reactions -- our judgments and our anger and our fear. And Jesus does not ask us to deny how we feel, but rather asks us to use our reactions as a means for recognizing and acknowledging our continuing identification with the ego. For the ego has us convinced deep down of our own sinfulness and guilt, which demand our punishment. But preferably, the disasters will befall others instead of ourselves, as proof that the guilt lies elsewhere and no longer upon us. It's a very nasty thought system and the suffering that we are willing both to endure and to see as if it were being inflicted on others only attests to our own insanity. But it is through our willingness to look honestly at what we believe we could make real that our motivation to turn to Jesus and ask for another way to look at the world's insanity, with a smile rather than a frown or a grimace, can be reinforced.
Q #1014: I have had psychic experiences and never paid much attention to them until now. I am trying to understand what they were for. Is it the contention of A Course in Miracles that there are no coincidences -- that we get exactly what we ask for, and in this sense there are no victims and victimizers on the level of form? Is it also true that everything that seems to be given by another on the level of form -- "good" or "bad" -- we have asked for consciously or not, and therefore it is no coincidence that it shows up? Their ego takes it and gives you exactly what you asked for and you do the same in turn?
A: The Course tells us that we are always “reviewing mentally what has gone by” (W.pI.158.4:5) . It seems as if we are experiencing everything for the first time and that the thoughts in our minds are our own private thoughts. But this is only because we have chosen to identify with the ego's thought system that rests on the premise that separation and time and space are real. Keeping in mind that this is all an illusion, the Course explains that at the moment the separation from God seemed to happen, every conceivable form of separation spun out from that thought, and simultaneously the correction for each of those thoughts also spun out. The separation seemed to occur and was undone in the same instant. Not that we can understand any of this in our present state! So, in this framework, there are no coincidences and nothing happens by chance -- everything has already happened. And as decision-making minds we are choosing which part of the “script” we shall revisit, or to use the analogy of a video-tape library, we are choosing which tape to watch. Everything is on the tapes already; we choose what we are going to watch.
The point of the teaching and mind-training exercises in A Course in Miracles is for us to learn how to bring into our awareness our decision-making capacity, so that we will realize what our lives are all about. Realizing that we are minds, we can then continue to choose the ego's version of the truth, or switch our allegiance and choose the Holy Spirit's thought system of forgiveness that will eventually return our minds to their natural state of undifferentiated oneness in God.
Jesus discusses psychic powers in the manual for teachers (M.25) . He talks about them in the context of the communication levels necessary for the process of salvation: “Communication is not limited to the small range of channels the world recognizes. If it were, there would be little point in trying to teach salvation. It would be impossible to do so. The limits the world places on communication are the chief barriers to direct experience of the Holy Spirit . . . .” (M.25.2:2,3,4,5). These limits are a consequence of the separated mind's intention to block out anything that would remind it of the illusory nature of its existence. Thus, Jesus goes on to explain that the relevance of psychic abilities lies in the purpose for which they are used: as part of the ego's plan or the Holy Spirit's undoing of that plan. We have discussed different aspects of these issues in questions 589, 644, and 682, which you might find of interest.
Q #1015: What is the difference between looking at resistance and not fighting it and being "unwilling"? I am a bit confused. Should I look at the resistance to doing a lesson and do nothing, or see that I am unwilling and overcome the unwillingness? I find myself at times resisting practicing the lesson because I am into something else. I recognize that I am resisting, but then again am I unwilling?
A: For all practical purposes, resistance and unwillingness are the same; they keep the ego thought system in place and prevent the mind from choosing the Holy Spirit. The important thing is to be aware of the resistance/unwillingness and to acknowledge the underlying fear of love, without judging yourself for it. Knowing the depths of our fear, Jesus anticipates our resistance in the instructions he gives in the Introduction to the workbook: “Some of them [the ideas] you may actively resist. None of this will matter, or decrease their efficacy. …whatever your reactions to the ideas may be, use them. Nothing more than that is required” (W.in.9:2,3,4,5) . Implicit in this passage is the message that we should not be surprised by resistance, not struggle against it, not judge it, but simply practice as instructed. Skipping a practice is merely wasting time, delaying the return to the awareness of love's presence (T.in.1:7) . Since time was made as a delay tactic, we have as much time as we choose to take. As Jesus tells us in the Manual: “…it is all a matter of time. Everyone will answer [the call to accept the Atonement] in the end…” (M.1.2:8,9) .
When we become convinced by our own experience that resisting love is extremely painful, we will gradually cease to resist. Willingness and motivation will then replace resistance/ unwillingness. We will begin to relinquish pain (the ego) and accept peace (the Holy Spirit). Meanwhile, the only thing to do with resistance or unwillingness is not to deny or fight it, but to wait with the patience of one who knows the outcome is certain (See T.4.II.5).