Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 10/25/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1029 Can we ever be guided to use fear as a tool ?
Q #1030 I've stopped thinking about inconclusive questions.
Q #1031 Can we really have thoughts which are apart from God's?
Q #1032 Does the mind build the physical?
Q #1033 Does the Course allude to any specific form of musicl?

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Q #1029: In A Course in Miracles Jesus says: “Make no one fearful, for his guilt is yours” (T.13.IX.2:2). I am a school teacher and I hate to say it but the only way that I can keep my classroom full of middle-school students orderly at times is to indeed make them fearful. For example, if my students do not fear that I will lower their grade or call their parent if they misbehave, they will have no motivation to behave as I need them to in class. How do I reconcile your oft-stated suggestion to not forget to be “normal” with Jesus' statement that I quoted above about not making others fearful? I see no other practical way to control my classroom at times but to use fear. I guess what I am really asking is: Can we lovingly be guided to use fear?

A: You're suffering from another one of those form versus content confusions so common to Course in Miracles students! (You may wish to look at Questions #371, #452, #484 and #584 for further discussion of issues related to the ones you raise here.) First of all, to answer your closing question, we will never be lovingly guided to use fear as a way to change or control anyone for any purpose -- not even 12- and 13-year old brats! For fear is the emotion/thought that is triggered and reinforced by our belief in our guilt (T.19.IV.A.10:1,2,3,4) , which says we are deserving of punishment (T.26.VII.3:1; W.pII.259.1:4) , and Jesus' main purpose in the Course is to help us undo our guilt and all its various expressions. So any intervention or manipulation intended to reinforce guilt and fear to achieve a specific end could never have originated from the right mind.

Now that is not to say that we would never be lovingly guided to be firm or use discipline or the possibility of negative consequences in our dealings with others, especially with children and adolescents. And this brings us back to the central issue in the Course of purpose, which is always the determiner of the content of any of our decisions and subsequent actions. If our purpose is to see others as responsible for how we feel, then we have chosen to reinforce our own belief in separation, and we have turned to the ego as our teacher in the situation. But if our purpose is to remember that we all share the same interests, and acting out is only ever a call at a deeper level for the love that we all long to experience, then we have chosen to listen to the Holy Spirit as our guide.

So how would this look in your classroom situation? If you are aware of some degree of anger towards your students for their misbehaving and feel a need to threaten them and punish them to get them to do what you want them to do, you can be certain that your ego is in charge. But if you simply recognize that they are acting their age and that they need guidelines and limits, as well as consequences for crossing those limits, in order to be able to benefit individually and as a group from their learning environment, that could very likely be a right-minded perspective. At the level of form, you may do and say the same thing to your students as you would when your ego is calling the shots, but your intent or purpose would be different.

To set limits from a right-minded perspective, you must first be very honest with yourself about any ego-based feelings your have towards the class as a whole or towards any individual student or students. If you are aware of anger or even mild annoyance or irritation, any action against your students that you take in response to those feelings will be coming from your ego. And so you are the one in need of help. Your first step then would be to recognize that your upset has nothing to do with how your students are behaving or misbehaving. Anger is never a reaction to anything external, regardless of how justified it may seem (T.30.VI.1:1,2; M.20.3:3,4) , but always represents a projection of our own unresolved internal conflict over the separation (T.6.in.1:2,3,4,5,6,7) . This is perhaps the most difficult step in the correction process to accept, given the value accorded to projection as a defense within our ego thought system.

But once you can recognize and accept that your reactions are not to your students but to your own guilt, you can withdraw the projection from your students and begin to address the real issue in your mind. And that simply involves acknowledging that the anger has been a defense against accepting responsibility for how you feel, but that now you are willing to acknowledge that you are the one who decides how you will feel and react.

Your next step simply involves taking the inner guilt that is behind your anger to Jesus and looking with him at its insubstantial nature (T.18.IX.5:2,3,4; 6; 8) . Our guilt does not seem like nothing to us, and that is why joining with Jesus, who symbolizes the memory of oneness for us - - which means he is the reminder that the separation and guilt are not real -- is so essential to the looking process. When we allow ourselves to take that step, our anger and guilt disappear. It is at this point that you can then return your attention to your students, knowing more clearly what is the kindest, most loving way to keep or bring the class under control, since you no longer have any anger invested in the situation. It may involve setting limits, or you may also at times find that there could be a different way of structuring the class or framing the lesson that more readily elicits your students' participation and cooperation. And a different overall approach may evolve over time, as you are able to release your own obstacles to seeing more clearly.

And should your guidance be to set some limits with consequences for your students, it may be helpful to know that you are not responsible for your students' reactions. Should they experience fear at the possible outcomes for crossing the boundaries you establish, their fear, much like your anger, is not the result of the external limits you have set, but rather is a projection of their own unresolved guilt. Fear after all need not be the only reason for respecting the limits, and you can set clear limits without intending to arouse guilt and fear, if you have done your part first to recog­nize and release your own ego investments in the situation .

Q #1030: I've stopped thinking about inconclusive questions that we cannot answer with our minds. One thing that did it for me is that I realize that we find a witness to our own innocence, not in ego but as in Self. And most of all, I read A Course in Miracles as a prime source of our understanding/perception, until we arrive with knowledge which just IS. Herein lies forgiveness of the world. What do you think?

A: Yes, the process is easy in this sense. We first choose to identify with either the hatred of the ego in our wrong minds or the love of Jesus or the Holy Spirit in our right minds. Then our experience of the outer world will reflect this experience of our inner world. It is a significant step forward to realize that our internal experiences are never anything other than expressions of the choice we have first made in our minds. Our unfortunate mistake has been to take for granted that our experiences are caused by what happens externally, and so our lives have been geared toward changing the world so that we may be happier and more peaceful.

In “The Savior's Vision” Jesus tells us: “For holiness is seen through holy eyes that look upon the innocence within, and thus expect to see it everywhere. And so they call it forth in everyone they look upon, that he may be what they expect of him. This is the savior's vision; that he see his innocence in all he looks upon, and see his own salvation everywhere” (T.31.VII.11:3,4,5) . The world is thus forgiven, because we no longer see it as the cause of our problems and lack of peace. This is what is meant when Jesus says in this same section in the text, “The savior's vision is as innocent of what your brother is as it is free of any judgment made upon yourself. It sees no past in anyone at all” (T.31.VII.13:1) . When you identify with your innocence (the Atonement principle), you know that everyone else is included in that innocence, as God's Son is one; and therefore you see past all the differentiating forms that would tempt us to think otherwise. The varied conflicts and problems may continue in the world, but you would have released them from all responsibility for your internal condition. And you may be participating in resolving some of those problems, but you would be doing so solely as a means of having that vision of innocence encompass everyone, without exception.

Q #1031: This question is with reference to Question #724. Many religious beliefs and spiritual paths say that God created this world or constantly creates it through us. The Course says otherwise, and I think this is what distinguishes it from other belief systems. However, if you say that we cannot think apart from God, then the “little” things we witness in this world must also be part of, not just us as dreaming Sons of God, but also of God Himself, from Whom we never separated. So one could be tempted to say that the world is made of (part of) God having fallen asleep rather than "only" the sleeping Son of God. Would it be apt to say that God is "the canvas" upon which all the playings and going-ons of the world take place? A kind of background picture that never changes? God is Love, and then we cease to speak?

A: If the world, in any sense, were part of God, the world would be real. And the Course states unequivocally that it is not real: “There is no world! This is the central thought the course attempts to teach (W.pI.132.6:2,3) . The teachings of A Course in Miracles are presented on two levels. Level One teachings state the absolute truth: The world of Heaven alone is real -- God, Christ, and His creations; all else is illusory and not real -- anything with limits, which includes everything material, temporal, and spatial. We think we are real as bodies existing in a physical world, so Jesus speaks to us on that level (Level Two), but only so that he can help us realize that our identity as individual selves is part of a delusional thought system intended to keep the truth about us concealed. God would not be God if a delusional system were in any way part of Him or even known by Him; and certainly He would not be perfect as God if part of Him fell asleep.

To say that “we cannot think apart from God” is to say that our reality as Christ alone is real, and therefore any thoughts we seem to have as autonomous individuals cannot be our real thoughts. This is the point of two lessons in the workbook: “My mind is part of God's. I am very holy” (W.pI.35) and “God is the Mind with which I think” (W.pI.45) , where Jesus speaks to us on Level One: “There is no relationship between what is real and what you think is real. Nothing that you think are your real thoughts resemble your real thoughts in any respect. Nothing that you think you see bears any resemblance to what vision will show you” (W.pI.45.1:3,4,5) . The “you” Jesus is addressing is the decision-making aspect in our minds that has denied our true Identity and made up another identity as an individual self in this world. In the exercises, therefore, Jesus helps us get back to that decision-making power of our minds so that we would realize another choice is available to us -- we can choose to identify with our right minds where the Holy Spirit holds for us the memory of our true Identity. Thus, our thoughts right now can be reflections of the ego's thought system of separation or the Holy Spirit's thought system of oneness. That distinction reflects the Level Two teachings in the Course. When we no longer choose thoughts of separation, which means we give no credence to the differences in form among us, our minds will be one with the Holy Spirit's and then our thoughts will reflect only the perfect Oneness of God's Love. In sum, then, in truth we cannot think apart from God, because there is no “we” apart from God. If we think we are apart from God, then our thoughts are not real thoughts.

Q #1032: Would the following concept be consistent with the teachings of A Course in Miracles? : "We live in the spirit; mind is the builder; and the physical is the result"?

A: Not exactly. The mind that knows itself as spirit lives in God, it would not, therefore, build a world to escape to. Because only the mind is real (T.6.V.A.3:2) , and the world is but an hallucination (T.20.VIII.7:3), they cannot be set equally in the sequence. It is more accurate to say that the mind hallucinates the world into awareness in order to defend its choice for the ego. Thus, the statement could read: we are Mind/spirit, the mind chooses against its identity as Mind/ spirit, forgets its choice, projects the guilt outside of itself, and experiences an illusory world that it then uses to prove it is not a mind. Therein lies the insanity of the ego thought system. Once the mind believes this thought system is real, its only activity is choosing between it and the thought system of the Holy Spirit. When the split mind chooses separation, guilt for that choice is projected out resulting in the illusion of the physical world. Thus, the mind “builds” only in the sense that the world is the effect of the mind's projection of guilt. It then identifies with the body in which it thinks it lives, forgetting that it is a mind.

When the mind chooses the Holy Spirit, it identifies with the part that knows the separation is not real. This choice is then extended and experienced in the world as right- minded thinking. When the mind chooses only the Holy Spirit, it will be completely healed and cease to perceive anything outside of itself. It then lives in the spirit, aware only of its oneness with God. That is how the world disappears from awareness (C.4.4) .

In reality, none of this is true because the separation never happened (T.6.II.10:7) . There is no separated mind, no world (W.pI.132.6:2) , nothing to build. While we choose to believe the separation is real, the world will remain real in our perception. Belief in separation and belief in the world go hand in hand as cause and effect. Each depends on the other for its seeming existence. The goal of the Course is to teach us to see the world as the projection of the mind, and to replace the mindlessness of the body with the mindfulness of paying attention to the thoughts of separation that fill our days with judgment. Looking at these thoughts with willingness to let the Holy Spirit transform them is the only useful purpose for the world we perceive. It is the way we live in the spirit until we return to our true life in the spirit of God.

Q #1033: Music, especially classical music, is an aspect of that state I like to think of as pertaining to my right mind. Jesus uses such terms as a song of thankfulness, praise, union, gratitude, Heaven; and in “The Forgotten Song” (T.21.I) there is a particularly lovely analogy to help us understand the beauty of what we have forgotten. Sometimes I wonder if there is some subtle reference in A Course in Miracles to a particular type of music or composer or work that would reflect these melodies to which he refers as we dream our dream of beautiful music here.

A: It is always the content of what Jesus is saying that he is trying to draw us into, never the form. Form is always specific and even though we would love for him to deal with specifics, that really would not be in our best interests. Our record with specifics is not very impressive, when you think about it. Isn't it true that if he gave us specific musical references we would immediately get into comparisons, debates, etc., and just stay stuck on that level? Then, too, different forms appeal to different people; one is not better or more inspirational than another. One person may have an instant of selfless joining while listening to a Neil Simon song and not relate at all to Beethoven's “Ode to Joy.” So form can never be prescribed universally. Love may guide one person one way and another person in a completely different way.

The real reason Jesus does not get into specifics, however, is that he does not recognize them as meaningful. Specifics and form always pertain to the body, whereas content pertains to the mind. The Shakespearian meter of the Course's form makes for lovely reading, but it has nothing to do with the content -- it could have been expressed in any number of other forms. Jesus reminds us in “The Forgotten Song” that “the notes are nothing” (T.21.I.7:1). This is consistent with his pattern of bringing us ever closer to the essence of love -- oneness -- that transcends anything in this world of form. But if a certain type of music or certain composers or pieces inspire you and help you to be more peaceful, then it would be foolish not to enjoy listening to them. Just try to relate to the content, which in some way should remind you of the ego-less Presence within you that lovingly embraces everyone, without exception.