Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 10/18/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1024 Was Helen's mind healed when she died?
Q #1025 Why do I feel more hateful towards other people since studying the Course?
Q #1026 Why does Jesus say he is no more real than we are?
Q #1027 I want to give decision-making to the Holy Spirit but I am a compulsive planner.
Q #1028 Why does it seem so hard to find God?

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Q #1024: I have a question about Helen Schucman. I have noticed a lot of negative comments made about her final years. And the implication being that she died with an unhealed mind. And to me it seems that there is no way anyone could accurately determine what was going on in her mind, as we always judge by external appearances. And A Course in Miracles does tell us: "Nothing so blinding as perception of form" (T.22.III.6:7). Could you address this issue, and give your own feelings on this?

A: Yes, it is not usually a good idea to make judgments about anyone -- including oneself -- based on form or external appearances. We really don't know our own or another's path or where one is on it. A very moving account of Helen's final months and days appears in Ken Wapnick's Absence from Felicity , Chapter 18 “Helen's Final Months and Requiem.” As he did for the last eight years of her life, Ken spent considerable time each day with Helen and her husband Louis during her final days. Ken knew her well -- especially the internal conflict between what she herself described as Heaven and Helen, and beyond even that dimension, her trans-human priestess Self. That priestess Self is the key to understanding everything else about her life. Ken thus states, “And yet even though it did not appear to be so, I was certain that at the actual moment of her death Helen finally reached a peaceful resolution to her lifelong conflict with God” (p.471). He was with Louis when the call came from the hospital telling them that Helen had died. “We returned to the hospital, and Helen was still in her bed. Her face had a remarkably quiet expression of peace, so different from the tortured disquiet we had grown so accustomed to seeing these many months. I suddenly recalled what Helen had shared with me on several occasions, a thought that always brought her great comfort. Jesus had told her that when she died, he would come for her personally. Who can really know what was in her mind in those closing instants? Yet her peaceful face was unmistakable, and spoke convincingly for an experience of knowing, at the very end, that her beloved Jesus had indeed kept his promise, as she had kept hers. The priestess had returned home” (pp. 471, 472).

Helen never thought of herself as a model to be emulated by other people. It made her most uncomfortable -- to put it mildly -- when people approached her in that light. She was never really a student of the Course -- she knew it from within, as Ken has observed. She always directed peo­ple to their own inner guidance as their main source of strength. And that is Jesus' emphasis throughout his teachings as well. We can decide right here and now in this present instant to accept the Atonement. Nothing and no one outside us can deter us unless we want it so. In that sense, it should make no difference whether Helen got past her ego or not. Jesus tells us that “our success in transcending the ego is guaranteed by God . . . .” (T.8.V.4:4) . The ego would seize any opportunity to invalidate anything that has the potential to expose its lies and deceptions. What holds us back is not Helen's or anyone else's seeming failure, but our own fear of the power of our minds to accept full responsibility for our condition of separation, and then to correct our mistaken decision and return home to God. What other people do or do not do should not influ­ence one's own spiritual advancement.

Q #1025: I have been working with A Course in Miracles for 10 years now. Why is it that I find myself more hateful towards more people that I was ever aware of being before? I totally understand that all my brothers and I are one and that it is not on the level of the body. The more I understand this concept the more I find fault and people generally seem so pitiful in a disgusting way to me. It was a lot easier when I thought I was so kind and loving towards others. I give it to the Holy Spirit for transformation and ask to see this as Jesus does, but some days I have to do that many times and it doesn't seem to be improving as time goes by.

A: It sounds like you have achieved two of the workbook's most important goals: paying attention to the mind, and awareness of the attack thoughts that are covered over with layers of “niceness.” This is no small accomplishment, however disconcerting it may be. Your study of the Course is paying off since you are no longer deceived by the “loveliness” of the ego's disguise. The Holy Spirit's thought system, as put forth in the Course, has the ego turned inside out. It is not easy to become aware of the hateful feelings that hide behind the socially acceptable and politically correct behavior the world requires. What appeared to be kind and loving in the past has been exposed as an attack. Such it is, simply because it is based on the perception of difference that emanates from belief that the separation is real, which is an attack on the Sonship by obliterating from awareness the oneness God created. Becoming aware of this attack is a very important step on the journey back to the mind that can choose against separation, just as it chose in favor of it. This is how we will find our way out of the ego's insanity to return to our home with God.

So, you are heading in the right direction. Looking at your predicament in this light and without judgment will lessen the guilt that elicits the negative judgments towards others. Thus, what appears to be the descent into the darkness of negative feelings is actually an ascent out of the ego's mire. The important thing is not to judge yourself, but to acknowledge that what the Course reveals about the ego is true. By the same token, what it tells us about the memory of love in the right mind is also true. Therein lies our hope.

Although it may seem to be quite powerful, the ego's hatefulness is not real. It is made up as a defense against the love that lies buried beneath it. Thus, it is fear of love that has brought forth awareness of the hateful feelings toward others. This can only mean that on some level you have acknowledged the love, otherwise you would not defend against it. Jesus reveals the ego's true fear when he tells us: “You do not like it, but it is not your desire to attack that really frightens you. You are not seriously disturbed by your hostility. You keep it hidden because you are more afraid of what [love] it covers (T.13.III.1:6,7,8). If the viciousness of the ego's defense strategy is kept hidden behind the “niceness” of its deceptive ploys, it will never be brought to the healing light of forgiveness. Allowing yourself to see the hateful judgments brings the truth that much closer. In fact, looking at them without judgment is how to give them to the Holy Spirit, Who sees them as the projection of guilt for mistakenly chosing to take the thought of separation seriously. The ego, on the other hand, sees them as sinful, and relishes both the guilt and the hatred as proof that God's Son is no longer one with Him and the world is real. This is the Course's explanation for the feelings you describe. The next step is willingness to accept that this is what is going on, and that the feelings of disgust have nothing to do with the “pitiful” people out there.

Thus, whenever you become aware of the judgments against others, all that is required is the simple acknowledgment that you chose the guilt of hostile feelings because you are afraid of love. If you do not judge yourself, the intensity of the feelings subsides. Little by little, the air is let out of the ego's inflated guilt balloon and it eventually goes flat. It can then be seen as “a frightened mouse that would attack the universe” (T.22.V.4:3), not a roaring lion to be feared. Therefore you are not more hateful since you have been studying the Course, you have simply tuned in to the roaring mouse. If you learn not to take it seriously it will grow weary and cease to roar. This will lessen guilt, which in turn will diminish the hateful feelings because they come from guilt. One of the most loving things we can do for one another is to acknowledge our mind as the true source of our judgments, and not the perceived “pitifulness” of others. Since this includes everyone, no one will be excluded from the true kindness of the non-judgment that follows. This, more than any of the false sweetness of the ego, is what we all truly need and long for.

Q #1026: "Your ego is trying to convince you that it is real and I am not, because if I am real, I am no more real than you are" (T.4.IV.10.8). Would you comment on this sentence? It confuses me. I am not sure what Jesus is saying here.

A: There are two parts to this statement. The first part -- “The ego is trying to convince you that it is real and I am not” -- is what we would expect of the ego, that it would try to convince us that separation, which the ego symbolizes, is reality, and oneness, which Jesus symbolizes, is not. The purpose of A Course in Miracles is to lead us to accept the Atonement for ourselves, which means that we come to recognize that the separation never happened. So if Jesus, as the symbol of oneness, is real, then the ego is not. Since the ego's only purpose is self-preservation, regardless of the truth, it must make every effort to persuade us that the Jesus of the Course is not real.

The second part of the statement -- “because if I am real, I am no more real than you are” -- is another way of saying that if Jesus is real, we are all the same, and ultimately we are all one. The ego, confronted with the reality of Jesus, can only hope to persuade us that he is very different from us -- God's only Son, divine, innocent while we are guilty, existing before us through all of eternity. If the Jesus the ego is willing for us to embrace were real, the ego could remain in business, for the separation would be confirmed. That is what has made Christianity and its central figure Jesus so popular across the centuries -- they affirm the reality of separation and differences and sin, as well as attack and victimization.

But the Course's message is that we are all the same because we are all one. There are no differences that mean anything. If the Jesus who is like us is real and exists, then the ego and all its perceived differences are meaningless. And sin and guilt are nothing but idle fantasies with no effects. And all of this, to the ego, is blasphemous.

Q #1027: I have a compulsion to make to-do lists and set goals. Is this an ego thing? How do I let go of it? I feel like I'm supposed to surrender my will and life over to the Holy Spirit and let Him run the show, but every time I try, I end up back making lists. I feel like I'm doing something wrong and it's creating a lot of tension in my life.

A: Fortunately, nowhere in A Course in Miracles does it say you cannot make to-do lists. Nor does it tell us to change our behavior or personality traits in any way. The Holy Spirit has indeed come to help us, but He will not pay the bills, wash the dishes or clean the garage. Putting ourselves under the Holy Spirit's guidance means becoming mindful of the thoughts of judgment about ourselves and others that continually re-cycle the guilt in the mind for not choosing the Holy Spirit. The true source of tension is in the split mind that is in conflict between choosing the ego and the Holy Spirit. That is the real problem. The first thing on the Holy Spirit's list is to see the problem where it is (in the mind), not where it has been projected ( making or not making lists).

As long as we believe the world is real, there is a place for making lists and setting goals. Things need to be done. Jesus acknowledges this in The Song of Prayer : There are decisions to make here, and they must be made whether they be illusions or not (S.1.I.2:4) The important question to ask is with whom the decisions are made (See: Rules for Decision T.30.I) . Guided by the ego, making lists and setting goals are activities driven by compulsion and need. The underlying belief is that salvation lies in the security of having lists and accomplishing tasks, and peace is lost when task goals are not set and met. They are thus used as attacks against peace. The Holy Spirit's goal is the healing of the mind, and the only task needed to achieve this goal is forgiveness. His help is not directed toward behavior of any kind, but with the mind that chooses to believe that certain behaviors are valuable and then judges that decision as sinful. Lists cannot keep you from Heaven any more than they can get you in, unless, of course, returning to Heaven is on the list. In that case, the work to be done is the practice of forgiveness, which begins with awareness of the judgments against oneself and others. Looking at these judgments with the Holy Spirit means seeing that their true purpose is to keep Him away. That is how we beat the ego at its own game, so to speak, and invite the Holy Spirit to be in charge. It is a process of learning to see everything, from making lists to accomplishing the tasks on the lists, as opportunities for forgiveness. If that is at the top of the list, everything will serve the Holy Spirit's purpose of healing, thereby putting Him in charge, rather than the ego.

Q #1028: Why is this so hard? Once we make a decision to "find" God, why can't He make it more simple to understand or grasp? I can't help think if God loves us like I believe He does, why all this? I love my children and I would never put them through this. I have been on this journey going on 8 years, and just when I think I finally got it, my whole world crashes in and I have to start all over again.

A: Many people feel the same way you do about their spiritual journey. And we agree with you that God would never subject His children to any kind of misery. That is exactly what the Course teaches. The true God only loves His Children and shares totally with Them all that He is. Any experience of feeling separate from Him must therefore be illusory. Unlike other spiritualities and most religions of the world, A Course in Miracles teaches that the true God has nothing to do with the world of separation in which we appear to live. Beseeching God's help and then trying to rationalize His apparent non-response to our plea rests on entirely false premises. It is a very difficult lesson to learn, but the essence of the Course's teaching is that it is only our own choice to be apart from God that is the cause of our lack of peace. Our resistance to learning this is far greater than we realize; but that is the source of our pain and what seems to make this such a difficult path.

So our prayer to find God should really be addressed to ourselves; and what that means is that we would become more vigilant for the ways in which we are expressing the largely unconscious decision to prefer our existence as individuals with a special, autonomous identity rather than be the non-specific Self that God created at one with Him. This is what being a student of the Course entails. The lessons and exercises in the workbook are geared toward training us to see that our outer world is a reflection of this inner world of opposition to God's Will. The content of our wrong minds gets projected so that we wind up experiencing conflict, guilt, fear, victimization, despair, etc., and always fixing blame somewhere. But if we consistently choose against the ego, we will eventually be at peace regardless of the conditions in the external world. That is the ideal toward which we strive.

Jesus assures us so many times in the Course that we cannot fail in this effort, for we are simply undoing a false belief system, and ultimately something that never truly happened in the first place. He tells us, for example: “The outcome is as certain as God” (T.2.III.3:10; T.4.II.5:8) ; “Our success in transcending the ego is guaranteed by God and I share this confidence for both of us and all of us” (T.8.V.4:4) . So you want to try to be more patient with yourself, accepting that your fear of being without your ego must still be too great; but that as you practice seeing your interests as the same as everyone else's, this fear will gradually subside. Then the peace of God abiding in your mind will return to your conscious awareness.