Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 11/22/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1045 Doesn't it just create more guilt to know we create our own diseases ?
Q #1046 Can one transcend the body and not be aware of it? .
Q #1047 Did the Jewish people have a collective experiance of God at Mt. Sinai? .
Q #1048 Does everyone have doubts about the Course?

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Q #1045:   I have a huge problem with the teaching that says we are creating our own illnesses. If I should someday be dying from a terminal illness, knowing that I have created this, I would feel so terribly, terribly GUILTY. Knowing that I have done everything possible to free myself from it – forgiving the patterns creating it, seeing it as the ego's thought system -- and it is still there would put me in an impossible situation. It opens me up to all kinds of self-hatred -- ”I should have had different thoughts than I have.”

And a second question: when pain is here, I should not relate to them with love and mercy and care, because that would make them real to me? Please help me out here!

A: Your confusion and fear are common among students of A Course in Miracles because we want to read its words from the perspective of the self we think we are -- a vulnerable body, with its own specific personality and personal history, that makes choices affecting the quality of its life here in this world of time and space (T.27.VIII) . But when we read it this way, the Course's words can be turned into a tool of the ego, reinforcing rather than undoing guilt. And so long as we do, we will not understand what the Course means by sickness, why there is no hierarchy among illusions, including physical illnesses, what is the real cause of all our suffering and pain, where the suffering and pain is actually experienced, or just who it is that is responsible for choosing what seems to happen to the body, including illnesses.

Identified with our body, we come to the Course with a variety of intentions to make our lives here better, perhaps improving and maintaining our health and avoiding or at least minimizing future sickness and disease and decline, resolving our financial concerns, and healing our relationships with our families, lovers and friends so that we may be happier in the world. And some of these things may in fact occur in our lives as we begin to practice the Course at whatever level we understand its message of forgiveness.

But Jesus and his Course are not concerned with the world, our lives and our bodies, or the relationship of our bodies to other bodies. Jesus is only concerned with our minds and the thoughts that they are holding, and which teacher we are inviting to look with us at those thoughts. From his perspective, sickness, as well as death, is nothing more than a thought of separation and guilt in the mind that has nothing to do with the body (M.5.II.3) . With the ego as our teacher, we will attempt to hide the guilt from ourselves, disguising it by projecting it onto a made-up world as either sickness within our body or conflict with other bodies, either of which then seems to be the cause of our suffering and pain. But the pain and suffering, just like the thought of guilt, remains in the mind that continues to identify with the ego -- that, again, is the only sickness (T.28.II.11:7) . And so from the ego's perspective the specific bodily problem and its severity do not really matter -- it can even be simply the fear of a future malady -- so long as the focus remains, not in the mind where the only real healing can happen, but outside the mind on the body and the world, where no meaningful change can be effected.

So long as we continue to identify with the body and take its needs seriously, we are sick. Not because there is anything bad or sinful about the body, but only because we obviously are still needing a defense against the thought of guilt and separation in the mind, or we would know we are a mind and not a body. As we begin to make the shift in identification to the mind, with the Holy Spirit or Jesus as our teacher -- a process which for most of us will be gradual -- we will become increasingly less concerned with what specifically is happening with our body and more focused on how we can use whatever seems to be happening as a means for getting back in touch with the underlying thought in the mind that is behind the projection. To feel guilty about anything that seems to be happening to the body simply means that we have once again turned away from the Holy Spirit and are looking to the ego for guidance (T.13.X.6) . And that may not be very smart, but it's likely to happen and certainly is nothing to feel guilty about.

Now it will be much more helpful to notice any concern you have right now with any current problem with your body and to recognize it as a classroom for looking at the buried guilt right now, than to be concerned about an imagined and imaginary state of your body at some point in the future near the end of your life. For the more you are able to practice the Course's principles in the present, the less fear you will have about what may seem to happen to your body in the future. And if your goal increasingly becomes, not to have a healthy body, but to have a healed mind, you will be able to rest in the assurance that you are okay no matter what seems to be happening to the body. Such peace of mind may seem still to be off   somewhere in the distant future, but the steps to make it a reality are available to all of us now.

As for your second question, the issue is not whether to relate to our pain and suffering with mercy and love and care, but rather whether we can relate to ourselves with mercy and love and care for foolishly having chosen pain and suffering. Please understand that once you are experiencing pain, you have already made that pain real. So to decide at that point that you will avoid looking at it and addressing it out of fear of making it real is simply a form of denial that serves no helpful purpose. And remember, our pain and suffering has nothing to do with what's happening to our body and everything to do with the teacher of separation and guilt and fear that we have chosen in our mind. Jesus would never judge or condemn us for making the wrong choice, so why should we? It's only the ego that condemns us for choosing the ego, because nothing better serves its purpose than convincing us that the ego needs to be taken seriously. Jesus' teaching is much gentler and so we would be wise to ask for his help in learning how to be gentle with ourselves.

Q #1046: Is it possible to transcend the body and not be aware of it for sustained periods of time? I just want to have an experience where I know I am not a body. I feel like if I can't have that experience then all this stuff that I have been learning is false -- just a way of thinking to make me feel comfortable. I understand that minds can communicate, but that doesn't prove our immortality. To me, that is like saying that radios are alive; they are just vibrations. Only when I know that I am not a body will I believe that we live forever.

A: This idea of transcending the body is the subject of “Beyond the Body” in Chapter 18 of the text (T.18.VI) . There Jesus speaks about it as the experience of “escape from limitations . . . a joining of yourself and something else in which your mind enlarges to encompass it. . . . What really happens is that you have given up the illusion of a limited awareness, and lost your fear of union. . . . You have accepted this instead of the body, and have let yourself be one with something beyond it, simply by not letting yourself be limited by it” (T.18.VI.11:3,4,7,11).

The Course's process of getting us back to our natural state as spirit beyond the body (W.pI.72.9:3) involves reversing the steps we took to “become” bodies. As the above passages indicate, Jesus is telling us that because we have a such a fear of union (oneness), we cling to our perception of limitations in ourselves and others; and it is the body that serves this purpose of limiting our awareness. We can never know love as it truly is or ourselves as we truly are as long as we are convinced of the reality of the body: “The body is a limit on love. The belief in limited love was its origin, and it was made to limit the unlimited. . . . it was made to limit you ” (T.18.VIII.1:2,3,4) . But the way to reverse this, Jesus is teaching us, is to focus on the purpose of what we do with our bodies, rather than to try to talk ourselves into believing we are not bodies. Your insistence on experiencing yourself without a body could well be an ego setup -- a way of making the error real . In other words, you would not be making this into a condition of accepting the Course as true unless you were not already convinced that you are a body.

So if we use the body to keep ourselves separate from others -- through specialness, comparisons, competition, judgment, etc. -- then we will always be limited by it and bound to it, for that is the secret wish behind our perception of separate interests. On the other hand, we can change that purpose by asking Jesus or the Holy Spirit to help us see that our interests are the same as everyone else's. That would be to affirm our underlying will to regain awareness of our true state of oneness: God's Son is one.

The Course's means of having us get beyond the body is first to train us to think in terms of the purpose for which we use the body, and then, having chosen Jesus or the Holy Spirit as our Teacher instead of the ego, use the body for the purpose of dissolving the separation we thought existed between ourselves and everyone else -- this is always a matter of our mind's perception, not behavior. Again, this is accomplished through the recognition that our interests are the same, regardless of the different forms our lives take.

As our perceptions of separation gradually change to true perception of our oneness, then the importance of the body starts to fade. Our awareness of the body as our real identity, thus, is entirely dependent on the choice we make in our minds to see separation as real or unreal. If we choose to minimize in importance the differences among us, the body's importance to us will likewise diminish, for our awareness will be flooded more and more with what joins us. The body's reality in our awareness disappears to the extent to which our “fear of union” disappears. That is why the process of A Course in Miracles focuses so intently on undoing our perception that we are separate from one another. This process -- forgiveness -- does not focus on having us transcend the body through meditation or some other means, as do other spiritual paths; it has us focus on the cause of our thinking we are bodies in the first place, which is to maintain our existence as separate, special individuals. Again, that is not our natural state (W.pI.72.9:3) .

The “proof” of immortality that you are seeking will occur in these experiences of the holy instant and in true perception, where you realize that the boundaries that seem to separate you from others are totally false. This experience can be sustained for long periods of time, and indeed is the natural outcome of the practice of forgiveness. The sense of invulnerability that is our natural state as God's Son will be restored in this way. But to have no awareness of the body at all is not the goal of our practice; it would be impossible to stay here without some awareness of the body. The difference would be that as your mind is healed, you would know for certain that you are not your body, and therefore that nothing in this world can affect the inner peace that is the permanent content of your mind.

Q #1047: Did the Jewish People have a "collective consciousness" experience of God at Mount Sinai when they received the Torah? Or were they tapping into some illusory transmission of a set of rules to guide societal living, perhaps even a "close encounter," so it could have been a very real feeling experience but not one of God if "He" has nothing to do with our dream of separation? And if any group relates to the idea of separation/good/evil it is certainly the Jewish People! It just bothers me, as a 10 year convert to Judaism and as a new student to A Course in Miracles , that as long as one insists on the existence of "good" in the world, it continually recreates its opposite of "bad," so one can be "right" about others being "wrong." And yet God IS good, light, and love, correct?

A: It can be fun to speculate on what the source may be for ideas and teachings that seem to allow mankind, or parts of mankind, to take steps forward in its thinking and understanding of where it has come from and where it is heading. But at this level of explanation, we can not go much beyond speculation. However, from the perspective of mind, as the Course describes it, there can be only two possible sources for all ideas that appear within the world's dream -- either the right mind or the wrong mind. And regardless of the source, there are also only two choices for how those ideas can then be used and justified in the world -- either to reinforce or to undo the belief in separation and guilt.

The Torah, like nearly all of the world's spiritual teachings, no doubt drew some of its inspiration from the right-mind, translated into symbols that were especially meaningful to the specific time and place into which it was received, at a level at which it could be understood. Read symbolically, despite a theology very different from the Course's, the Torah can lead the individual to look beyond himself to Something that transcends his limited existence. But as its teachings over time became the foundation for codifications and rituals, it fell into the same spirit- denying strictures that have bedeviled nearly all of the world's formal religions, elevating form above content to justify a belief in differences, specialness, and separation. There is no reason, by the way, to believe that the Course should be immune to such a fate, and it is not difficult to see how this is already happening with its teachings. Never underestimate the power of the ego to use all duality-based symbols for its own duplicitous purposes -- self-preservation after all is its only motivation. And that, as you point out, is the problem for any spiritual teaching that keeps its focus on the world and getting things right here. Once that is the premise and the purpose, there is no way to avoid the trap of opposites, and the ego's continued existence has been assured. That is why the Course, in contrast to nearly every other spiritual teaching, insists so uncompromisingly that God has nothing to do with the world ( e.g., T.8.VI.2,3; T.11.III.3; T.11.VII.1,2; T.12.III.9; T.16.V.3:6) , for the Love that He is has no opposite ( e.g., T.in.1:8; W.pI.127.3 ; W.pII.259.2) , and this is most definitely a world of opposites and opposition.

Q #1048: Coming into contact with A Course in Miracles over 20 years ago, a doubt bothered me early on: did Helen and Bill make this up? like a project/experiment, all with good intentions. Helen's influences like Freud, Plato, Shakespeare and the Bible seems like someone could make this up. I know it was just my fear of having the answer to my personal hell (the Course) not be true. Am I the only one with such doubts?

A: There are very few people who have not experienced some doubts along these lines. Jesus probably had you in mind when in the Epilogue at the end of the clarification of terms he says that doubts -- and even despair -- will arise, but not to fret, because the ending is guaranteed: “Forget not once this journey is begun the end is certain. Doubt along the way will come and go and go to come again. Yet is the ending sure. No one can fail to do what God appointed him to do. When you forget, remember that you walk with Him and with His Word upon your Heart. Who could despair when hope like this is his? Illusions of despair may seem to come, but learn how not to be deceived by them. Behind each one there is reality and there is God. . . . The end is sure and guaranteed by God” (C.ep.1:2,3,4,5,6,7,8,10) .

More than likely, your doubts are linked precisely to what you suspect: your fear that this way out of hell is not valid. In line with what Jesus says in “The Fear of Redemption” section, however, it would probably be more accurate to say that your fear is that the Course is valid, and that it will work (T.13.III) . As egos, the last thing we truly want is to be free of our egos! And therefore we will seize on anything at all that would justify our remaining in an ego state, even at the cost of our peace of mind. Insane? Yes! But that is exactly why we need to learn to trust a teacher who is not caught in the same thought system as we are. “Trust” is the very first characteristic that Jesus cites in the manual for teachers as a mark of an advanced teacher of God, and then he goes on to discuss the various stages that one goes through in the process of learning to trust (M.4.I) .

Just accept your doubting as normal, and as a stage that most students go through as they begin to take Jesus' message seriously and decide to put it into practice. Our resistance to seeing this process through to the end is far stronger than we ever imagined, which makes patience and gentleness, along with trust, essential for any student on this path of thought-reversal. As you begin to experience hope and peace, your assurance that this is the right path for you will increase, and your doubts will lessen, or you will be guided to another path. Jesus himself tells us that we don't have to believe his ideas, or accept or even welcome them: “You are asked only to use them. It is their use that will give them meaning to you, and will show you that they are true” (W.in.8:5,6) . How can we not trust in such a teacher, who has such trust in us!

In the end, what difference would it make if the Course did come from Helen and Bill? Only its ideas -- what it says -- are important. The material stands on its own. This is what Jesus means when he tells us that it is only his message, not him , that will help us, although he would love to have us accept his love in a very personal way in our lives (C.5.6)