Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 10/11/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1020 The idea that this is all an illusion seems very depressing. Why is that?
Q #1021 As a peer-mediator, how can I help others without mentioning the Course ?
Q #1022 About learning to accept that others may be on different paths.
Q #1023 Am I right in asking for a "burning bush" or a sign?

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Q #1020: At times I feel depressed and a bit fearful with the reality that this is all an illusion. I know it is my ego mind that is weighing me down, but this feeling can be very intense. What is going on?

A: What is going on is a normal reaction when someone is told that everything they think about the world is wrong. The mind begins to suspect that if the world is not real, then neither is the body with which it has chosen to identify. Doubt thus enters the belief system that holds the world and the body together, and that can only mean trouble for the ego. Feeling attacked, it defends itself, thereby attacking the mind. The attack brings on guilt in the form of depression, fear, anxiety, and every other form of misery experienced by the body.

What is depressing is not the fact that the world is an illusion, but the belief that it is real. The problem begins when the mind chooses the separation, causing it to split into a wrong mind that believes the separation is real, and a right mind that knows it is not. The wrong mind (ego) defends and maintains its choice by identifying with the body and making the world real. The mind then becomes the body in its experience of itself, and feels intensely threatened by the message of A Course in Miracles that its made-up world/body is an illusion. The wrong mind that has identified with the body feels threatened by the right mind that knows it is not a body. This conflict in the mind is the source of the depression and fear that you experience. They are the inevitable effects of the split mind that is in conflict over its identity and perceives itself as separate from its Source. There is a part of the mind that knows it is wrong in identifying with the ego, but it is enticed by the autonomy of specialness. This is a depressing and fearful condition because it rests precariously on the made-up belief that illusion is reality. The mind knows this belief can be as easily abandoned as it was chosen. Herein lies the cause of the predicament in which you find yourself, and its solution as well. The problem has its source and its solution in the mind's ability to choose between the ego's belief in separation and the Holy Spirit's memory of the oneness with God that has never changed. The ego has us believe that somehow happiness is possible in the world, while the Holy Spirit reminds us that nothing but our oneness with each other and with God will make us happy.

The world is brought into awareness and held together by the belief that happiness can be found in it: “No one who comes here but must still have hope, some lingering illusion, or some dream that there is something outside of himself [outside of the mind] that will bring happiness and peace to him” (T.29.VII.2:1). In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, the ego insists there must be some way to keep the body, specialness, and the world, and still be happy. It seeks relentlessly to have its cake and eat it too. The fear and depression engendered by the split mind are further exacerbated by the fact that on some level we know this is impossible. Thus, underlying every pursuit of specialness is an inescapable sense of futility. Each quest ends in bitter disappointment and loss, for no matter how deceptively satisfying special love seems to be, it cannot last. And since we are told that only what is lasting can be real, and only what is real can bring us happiness, the ego's maxim “Seek but do not find” (T.16.V.6:5) is fulfilled.

The world will not disappear from awareness as long as we want it. In this regard, Jesus tells us: “Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality. Time is kind, and if you use it on behalf of reality, it will keep gentle pace with you in your transition” (T.16.VI.8:1,2). Keeping these comforting words in mind while working with the Course will not only lessen the fear that impedes progress, but do much to relieve the distress you describe. The pace is gentle because we are not being forced to accept anything for which we are not ready. In His curriculum of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit respects our belief that the world is real. In fact, He uses the world as a classroom to teach us to forgive ourselves for taking the “tiny, mad idea” (T.27.VIII.6:2) of separation seriously. Thus, chosen by the ego as a place to hide and forget God, the world can be used by the Holy Spirit to remember God and return to the home we never left. Therefore, release from depression in the face of the illusory nature of the world is found in changing the world's purpose from the ego's goal to the Holy Spirit's. The world itself, then, becomes an opportunity to find our way out of it through forgiveness: “Forget not that the healing of God's Son is all the world is for. That is the only purpose the Holy Spirit sees in it, and thus the only one it has” ( 24.VI.4:1,2).

Q #1021: A few of my friends and family members are very depressed; some self-mutilate or harm themselves in other ways. At my school, I am a peer-mediator and have helped tons of people with their conflicts. But I feel I no longer have any good advice to offer, because I now believe in A Course in Miracles , and how am I supposed to help my family and friends with their problems without mentioning the Course? What can I say? What should I do? It hurts me a lot to know that I am not doing anything at all.

A: It is never easy to watch people self-destruct, especially those you are close to. But if the content in your mind reflects the Holy Spirit's thought system of forgiveness, you will automatically respond with love, no matter what the situation may be. Importantly, that loving response could be to do and say nothing, and to simply love them in your mind by not seeing them as victims. And just as importantly, as a Course student you can offer advice without ever using the language of the Course. Its principles and message always pertain to the content in your mind, not the form of expression. The issue is whether you are seeing the situation through the eyes of the ego or through Jesus' eyes.

When you are in your right mind, looking through Jesus' eyes, you will perceive people as sharing with you the same wrong mind, right mind, and the power to choose between the two. You will realize that everyone is in intense pain and desperately hoping they are wrong about what they perceive as their unredeemable sinfulness. The answer is in their right minds, as it is in yours; and when they are ready, they will choose it. When you thus empathize with the strength in them, they are more apt to perceive you as standing for that alternative (M.5.III.2:6) , even though you might not have said a word to them. The message would have been conveyed through that instant of your ego-less presence; and if their fear of healing has subsided enough, they will hear that message (M.5.III) . If they do not hear it now, they will later, or from someone else. That is the point of Jesus' teaching that choosing forgiveness is our responsibility, but the extension of forgiveness or the miracle through us is not (T.16.II.1) .

If you thus concentrate solely on the content in your mind, you will not feel frustrated that you are not doing anything. The assumption you are making is that you must fix the problem, having defined both the problem and its solution. You will feel much freer and will be more open to the answer in your right mind if you drop that assumption. That will also lead you to respect the power of these people's minds to choose their ego and not to judge them for doing that, as you will realize they can use that very same power to choose against the ego. In this they are no different from you and everyone else. The form is irrelevant. This is the essence of true compassion and true empathy.

We have discussed some of these ideas in Questions #45 and #647.

Q #1022: I have practiced the Course for many years and during that time I have tried to interest others in it with no success. I now realize that the Course is designed for me, and that others will find their own paths. I once attended A Course in Miracles group meeting, part of a Christian following, and was surprised when the facilitator asked all to join hands and for everyone to focus and see if we could channel an entity. Unfortunately, at this time my ego stepped in and I told the group what I thought of their folly. That was my first and last meeting. I have thought that it would be nice to share the Course with others, but other than this Web site I travel my path alone.

A: There may be no better way to learn the crucial distinction between form and content! You can practice forgiveness and relate to everyone in the context of shared interests without ever using the language of the Course or discussing its metaphysics. That sometimes can be a more effective way of learning than meeting regularly with other Course students to share experiences and discuss the theory. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is not a necessary part of the completely internal process of shifting from the ego as your teacher to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. And if you are focusing on the content of our -- everyone's -- common journey home to God, you would not feel you are traveling alone. That is the whole point of the mind-training dimension of the Course, as Jesus eloquently states in one passage in the workbook: “You want the peace of God. And so do all who seem to seek for dreams. For them as well as for yourself, you ask but this when you make this request with deep sincerity. For thus you reach to what they really want, and join your own intent with what they seek above all things, perhaps unknown to them, but sure to you. . . . It is this one intent we seek today, uniting our desires with the need of every heart, the call of every mind, the hope that lies beyond despair, the love attack would hide, the brotherhood that hate has sought to sever, but which still remains as God created it. With Help like this beside us, can we fail today as we request the peace of God be given us? (W.pI.185.10:1,2,3,4; 14:1,2). To get closer to this ideal each day can lead only to the undoing of all sense of aloneness and isolation.

Your reaction to the group was not untypical of so many other Course students' experiences with groups. It calls to mind the gentle admonition Jesus gave to Helen one day when she was being very critical of the spiritual path another person had taken. It can easily be adapted to your experience. As related in Ken's Absence from Felicity , “she suddenly heard the non-judgmental voice of Jesus say to her, cutting through her judgments: ‘Don't take another's path as your own, but neither should you judge it.' In the presence of this loving and gentle correction for her judgment, Helen's anger quickly dissipated” (p. 430). This is one of those directives that should be in the foreground of our minds as we meet the challenging situations of daily living.

Q #1023: I am having a dark night of the soul. This is directly related to a family member being diagnosed with a terminal illness. I can tell myself the illness is an illusion all I want, but the little voice inside my head keeps telling me there is no God and A Course in Miracle s is a hoax. I don't want to feel this way. I have asked the Holy Spirit to give me my own "burning bush." How do we know God exists and that the Course is the word of God?

A: When going through something like the terminal illness of a loved one, most of us desperately long for comfort. While the message of A Course in Miracles -- that the entire phenomenal world is a dream and we remain at home in Heaven -- can be comforting, it is anything but comforting to the part of our mind that gets upset by events in this world. To the ego, the idea that everything here is an illusion is the most upsetting thought of all.

Therefore, when we are in the midst of a major upset, the last thing we want to do is beat ourselves over the head with the idea that it is not real. Instead, we need to do whatever it takes to comfort and care for ourselves.

Remember that the Course tells us " it is almost impossible to deny (the body's) existence in this world" and that to do so is "engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial" (T.2.IV.3:10,11). It further lets us know that anything we see as real in this world "would persuade the holy Son of God he is a body, born in what must die, unable to escape its frailty, and bound by what it orders him to feel" (T.31.VIII.1:2). In other words, the Course recognizes we are in a great deal of pain and does not ask us to pretend that we are not. Quite the opposite, the Course asks us to look at our pain honestly.

We need to do this because we cannot pick and choose parts of our experience in which to believe. As long as we believe anything here is real -- for example, that we see someone when we look in the mirror each morning -- we have to admit that we think everything here is real. The very fact that we feel physical and psychological pain tells us how much we believe in the reality of our bodies and of this world. In truth, every time we take a breath, there is a little voice telling us that the Course is a hoax and God does not exist. If there were not, we would not need the Course and probably would not be here.

So, one benefit of difficult times is, by amplifying the fear and pain that we always carry, they can make us keenly aware of what we really believe and how much better off we would be if we believed something else. The question is: What should we believe and how do we get ourselves to believe it?

The Course does not claim to be the Voice of God. In fact, it tells us that " God does not know of separation" (P.2.VII.1:11). This means God could not possibly know about this world. Further, it states that, " the world was made as an attack on God" and to be " a place where God could enter not" (W.pII.3.2:4,5) .

So, the Course does not come from God. What it comes from is the memory of God's Love that Jesus embodied and that remains in each of our split minds. The Course is not the ultimate truth, nor the only truth. It is a tool, inspired by God's non-specific, all encompassing Love. Its sole purpose is to remind us of that Love. And we could not be reminded of it (and moved by the Course's teaching) if we did not already know it.

Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and God's Love: We need them, not in the world, but in our mind. Fortunately, that is exactly where they are. In other words, everything we need is already in our mind . This is why the Course makes statements like " You always choose between your weakness and the strength of Christ in you" (T.31.VIII.2:3) and tells us that "the Holy Spirit is in the part of your mind that always speaks for the right choice" (T.5.II.8:1,2).

The Holy Spirit cannot give you a burning bush because the Holy Spirit is not external to you. But a burning bush is not what any of us needs. What we need is a way out of our pain. And for that, all we have to do is be willing to say, "Maybe I am wrong" and ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit in our mind to hold our hand and simply watch our pain with us without judgment. In so doing, we will see that though pain can feel crushingly real; even in the midst of it, there is source of love, strength, and peace to which we can turn. That is all we need to believe. And what could be more comforting than that?

So, let yourself be comforted -- knowledge and understanding will follow.