Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 12/27/2006

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1066 Can the ego be subdivided into "male" ego and "female" ego, both different?
Q #1067 Is it accurate to say that painful feelings are the ego's way of keeping us focussed on the body? .
Q #1068 How can the Holy Spirit both perceive, and have knowledge, if they are mutually exclusive?
#1069 Must I die and give up all I love to reach atonement ?

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Q #1066: From an ego vantage point, most ego-based activities are male oriented. For example, traditionally and most frequently the areas of sports, war, politics, business, wealth accumulation, prestige cars, boats, airplanes, sexual promiscuity, construction, attack mentality, are all male-oriented values and activities. Women participate in all of the above but in much diminished ratio. Perhaps ego-based drives are hormone driven, and that what we ascribe to the ego may well be a condition of testosterone presence -- our bodies influencing how our mind thinks by its innate chemistry. Many studies confirm this indeed. If this has some truth to it, then it would seem that we have two different types of egos: one male and the other female. Could it be that as we are not equal in our bodies, we are not equal in our ego strategies either?

A: In A Course in Miracles , the ego is ascribed exclusively to the mind, which is totally independent of physical organs and systems. “The ego is the part of the mind that believes your existence is defined by separation” (T.4.VII.1:5). Ego-based activities and values thus are expressions of the mind's decision to sustain an autonomous existence as an individual apart from God. To secure this, the mind disowns its identity as a mind, so to speak, by projecting itself into a complex bodily system that is part of a larger much more complex physical world. The mind's goal, once it has identified with the separation from God, is to protect itself by remaining oblivious of its origins and the dynamics by which it became essentially mindless. It obliterates from its awareness the proper relationship between cause and effect, so that it now believes that bodily states and conditions (chemical, for example) are causal -- they cause mental experiences. This is what Jesus describes as “level confusion” early in the Course ( see T.2.IV.2) , and the restoring of the proper relationship of cause and effect is the objective of a major part of his teaching throughout the Course (see, for example, “The Responsibility for Sight” [T.21.II]; “Reversing Effect and Cause” [T.28.II] ).

In a section on healing in the manual for teachers, Jesus defines sickness as a “faulty problem- solving approach” (the problem being our fear that God will take back our identity as individuals, which we granted ourselves at His expense); and as such, it must be a decision made by the mind, not the body (M.5.II.1:5,6) . Then he says something of paramount significance: “The resistance to recognizing this is enormous, because the existence of the world as you perceive it depends on the body being the decision maker. Terms like ‘instincts,' ‘reflexes' and the like represent attempts to endow the body with non-mental motivators. Actually, such terms merely state or describe the problem. They do not answer it” (M.5.II.2:7,8,9,10) . We can easily add hormones to the list. The mind (the ego) is neither male nor female, as it transcends all materiality. Sexes and the chemical systems that define them are the effects of the mind's decision to block its awareness of itself as a decision-making mind, making it appear as if external causes now are responsible for how we think and what we do. Our activities, therefore, are traceable not to a decision-making mind intent on remaining separate from God, but to a complex physical/ chemical system that itself is affected by external forces and systems. Male and female hormonal systems are part of the ego mind's strategy to focus our attention on form rather than content. Thus, though different in form, the content of all ego-based activities is the same.

That is the function of the miracle -- it is a shift in our thinking that gets us beyond the differences in form to sameness of content so that we can focus our attention on the “real” problem, which is the decision we made as minds, and continue to uphold, to remain as individuals, as God did not create us .

Q #1067: As I understand it,the process of A Course in Miracles' is to look at painful feelings, understand they are not the effect of the situation from which they seem to spring, but that they are the ego's way to try to keep us focused on our bodies rather than our minds. Am I right? I believe Ken has said that when we look at those feelings in that way, we're automat­ically looking with the Holy Spirit. However, if in following this practice, the negative feel­ings do not dissipate and we do not feel a sense of peace, does that mean we are doing it wrong? I'm asking because of this passage in the Course: “How can you know whether you chose the stairs to Heaven or the way to hell? Quite easily. How do you feel? Is peace in your awareness?” (T.23.II.22:6,7,8,9).

A: A clarification of the process as you've described it -- it's not the painful feelings themselves that are the ego's way of keeping us focused on the body, but the ego's interpretation of those feelings, which deceptively looks to the body and the world to account for them. The pain is actually a thought in the mind (T.13.III.6,7) that comes from embracing the tiny mad idea of separa­tion (T.8.IV.5:7,8) , having nothing to do with the body and the world (W.pI.132.10) . As Jesus unequivocally notes, “The cause of pain is separation, not the body, which is only its effect” (T.28.III.5:1) . But so long as we look to relieve our pain only by changing things about our body and our circumstances in the world, we remain mindless. And the pain -- and the thought of separation, which is the ego -- remain protected and beyond the possibility of change.

Whenever we look beyond the ego's subterfuge and recognize that we are responsible for what we feel, and that the decision for pain rests in our mind (T.21.II.2) , we must have chosen the Holy Spirit rather than the ego as our teacher in that moment of awareness or we would never have rec­ognized the real source of our pain. However, our fear of letting go of everything that comes with the pain -- including the self we believe we are -- may lead us to vacillate between the Holy Spirit and the ego. As a result, pain may remain in our awareness and in our experience, until we can in a holy instant release it completely to the Holy Spirit in our mind. In general, if we are honest with ourselves in acknowledging the truth about what we have been feeling and why, even if the feel­ings do not dissipate completely, we will begin to experience a release from the rigid hold that those feelings had seemed to have over us, and we will have at least taken the first step up Heav­ens' stairs. For the possibility of peace will now be in our awareness .

Q #1068: A Course in Miracles seems to say that the Holy Spirit both perceives (e.g., that I am sitting here at my computer) and has knowledge. It is a bit strange that the Holy Spirit seems to unite contradictories. Generally only God and Christ have knowledge.

A: This is a question of language inconsistencies in the Course. Jesus is correcting our long-held misconceptions about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, and himself. But he must do so using language and concepts we are familiar with and can accept. Above all, Jesus wants us to know that God and the Holy Spirit are not part of a conspiracy of some kind to lure us into a trap and then destroy us because of our sins. However he can get this loving message across to us is how he will proceed. Thus he will use language that says that the Holy Spirit perceives us as either calling out for love or extending it -- this is part of his larger message that sin is not real. He is speaking to our needs -- our longing to be assured that God loves us and never condemns -- and therefore he must speak in ways we can relate to. If you study the Course with this in mind, you will not be confused by the language. You will see there is no contradiction in its content. Jesus is getting a loving message across to us, and his language will be relative to the point he is making.

In the clarification of terms at the end of the manual for teachers, Jesus tells us: “The Holy Spirit is described as the remaining Communication Link between God and His separated Sons. In order to fill this special function the Holy Spirit has assumed a dual function. He knows because He is part of God; He perceives because He was sent to save humanity. He is the great correction principle; the bringer of true perception, the inherent power of the vision of Christ. . . . He seems to be a Guide through a far country, for you need that form of help. He seems to be whatever meets the needs you think you have” (C.6.3:1,2,3,4; 4:6,7) . But when we awaken from the dream, we will not need a Voice (form) to remind us that we are only dreaming we are separate from God: “And then the Voice is gone, no longer to take form but to return to the eternal formlessness of God” (C.6.5:8) .

Q #1069: I am at a point in the Course where I am very sad and depressed. My thinking is: If we are to return to our true Self, we need to pass, die, shift. or whatever, back to the arms of God. I don't want to give up this world, just the mis-creations like war, illness, etc. I know the Course says God has our good creations saved for us, but does that include my projections of egos (bodies) I love, like my family? I fear loneliness. Do I have it all wrong? I keep thinking I need to die to reach Atonement.

A: You do not have to die to reach Atonement. Atonement is a shift that takes place in your mind whereby you now see with Christ's vision, not the ego's. What that means is that you see everyone as the same instead of as different, with different and competing interests and goals. You clearly see separation as an illusion. You can still be here with a healed mind, but you would realize that living as a body in a physical world is not your real identity, and you would also realize that that is true of your loved ones as well, which makes loneliness impossible. You do not have to die to have this realization. It is a state of mind that A Course in Miracles calls the real world. You do not disappear in the Heart of God the instant you accept the Atonement: “Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality,” Jesus assures us (T.16.VI.8:1) . The process of awakening is a gentle one: “God willed he waken gently and with joy, and gave him means to waken without fear” (T.27.VII.13:5) . Only when the world and all forms of separation are meaningless to you will they disappear from your mind -- but not before then. We are never asked to sacrifice what we still want (T.30.V.9:4,5) .