Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 1/03/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1070 What might be the cause of a strange feeling of a physical energy?
Q #1071 What is "I"? What is "you"? What is the "Decision Maker"?.
Q #1072 After we seem to die, must we necessarily "return" ?
#1073 Is the use of "magic," in the form of psychology, helpful ?

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Q #1070: About 8 or so years ago, I had several strange experiences. I felt an energy come over me, up my back and into my head. At first I was frightened and said no to it. After a time or two I gave in to it. What happened next took a second or two. I had a glimpse of -- what? I'm not sure; it was so fast. But I think I knew everything. It was like a revelation. I remember saying, "So, that's what it's all about!" Then I promptly forgot what I saw. This happened about 4 or 5 times -- I had no control over when. One time I was at the movies. Another peeling potatoes at the sink! The feeling went away as quickly as it came. I haven't had that experience since, yet I can't forget it. Can you shed any light on it?

A: It is difficult to know for certain what these experiences may have been. Generally speaking, if an experience leaves you feeling less guilty, fearful, and judgmental, and kinder and more loving toward everyone, it came from the part of your mind that is linked to the truth about reality and the Love of God that is its source. A Course in Miracles teaches us that our minds are split between that part and the other part that fiercely and even viciously protects its perceived independence from God. The decision-making aspect is always choosing to identify with one or the other. One manifestation of choosing the right-minded part would be an experience such as the one you had, where you suddenly realize “what it's all about.” We are not usually aware of these instants of decision, although the point of the mind-training dimension of the Course is to help us become more aware of them; and since linear time is part of the ego's strategy to keep us away from our mind, the fact that this happened 8 years ago is not important. Your promptly forgetting what you saw could be interpreted as a reaction of fear to what you saw since your ego defends with all its puny might against such glimpses of truth, as it knows its existence is threatened should you see the truth and then choose for it instead of against it.

These dynamics are going on all the time, and in the early stages of our work with the Course, our objective is to see our lives in that context, with our focus on which teacher we are choosing to direct us in our daily interactions: Jesus or the ego. So the experience you had could be used as a reference point, a kind of confirmation of your right-minded self; but it is best not to try to re- create it or go back to it. Just focus on the present, that right now in this instant you are choosing; try to become aware of which teacher or thought system you are choosing. Don't judge your choice, just observe it, and as you go on, evaluate the effects as something that is bringing you peace or more conflict.

Q #1071: Is the decision maker in "me" different from the decision maker in other people? Who is the "I" who is responsible for the decision, the "you" that A Course in Miracles addresses? On that same note, does this decision maker continue in some form, even after death, until he has made the decision to relinquish the separation? Would any progress in this "lifetime" carry on?

A: When thinking about these kinds of issues, it is always helpful to recall that we are attempting to provide a rational context for something that is inherently illusory and originally spawned from the wish to oppose what is eternally true. Our human framework of explanation is the only one available to us, but as part of the attempt to deny truth, it is necessarily limited. Jesus cautions us about these limitations in different ways throughout the Course. Yet he must meet us where we are so he can help us identify our mistakes and then correct them once we have accepted him as our teacher.

Our primary mistake has been to believe that something other than the perfect Oneness of God's Love is real. As is evident in our reactions to everyday occurrences, we rarely question the reality of multiplicity -- that we are all real as separate individuals in a universe of diverse entities of all kinds. Skipping over the ego dynamics hidden within our minds, which include the terrorizing fear that we are going to be punished for our existence as individuals, let us look at Jesus' description of this situation. He speaks of it as a process of substitution: “It has taken many forms, because it was the substitution of illusion for truth; of fragmentation for wholeness. It has become so splintered and subdivided and divided again, over and over, that it is now almost impossible to perceive it once was one, and still is what it was. That one error, which brought truth to illusion, infinity to time, and life to death, was all you ever made. Your whole world rests upon it. Everything you see reflects it, and every special relationship that you ever made is part of it” (T.18.I.4) .

Jesus is clearly speaking to a mind that is living out the effects of its decision to substitute “illusion for truth” and “fragmentation for wholeness.” He could not be talking to us as bodies because he knows bodies are nothing more than projections of the mind, and therefore are lifeless. All that is important is helping us recover our awareness of ourselves as minds. Given our investment in separation and fragmentation, it appears that we are individual decision-making minds, different one from another; and it is not wrong to think this at the beginning stages of one's work with the Course. But the natural outcome of practicing forgiveness is the gradual dissolving of this sense that we are separate from each other, which means we will be moving back in the direction of oneness -- first in terms of recognizing we all share a common interest, and then in realizing we share the same Identity as God's Son. At this level of correction we would know there is only one mind. We no longer would be choosing to substitute fragmentation for wholeness and illusion for truth, and therefore we would gradually accept oneness as the truth, and experience separation as less and less attractive. Question #663 also discusses this issue and cites relevant passages in the Course.

Death is a decision made by a mind for either a right-minded or a wrong-minded purpose. In other words, it is part of the continuum of the mind's ongoing decision either to uphold the illusion of separation or to undo it. The mind is not in the body, so the mind is not changed in any way when the body dies. It is affected only by its own choices. From this perspective, death is irrelevant, although from the perspective of the world clearly it is not. See Questions #68 and #494 for further discussion and references.

To ask whether we carry with us what we learn in this lifetime is to assume that time is linear, and A Course in Miracles teaches that it is not. We always have to return to the reference point of a mind that is outside time and space deciding between two teachers and their thought systems. It is very humbling to be asked to disregard our experience as a reference point for understanding issues like these, but we really must raise ourselves to Jesus' level if we are going to make progress in understanding his teachings. Time and space are part of the ego's strategy to convince us that we are bodies -- to substitute fragmentation for wholeness, as quoted above. The learning takes place only on the level of the decision-making mind outside time and space -- and it is essentially learning that its choice for the thought system of separation was a mistake, which can now be corrected.

Q #1072: When we seem to die, that is, lay aside our body in one of many possible ways: accident, suicide, being murdered or after a prolonged illness, and we have not learned forgiveness, is it mandatory that we return to this world to learn our lessons? If we do not wish to return and since forgiveness occurs only in the mind, does the mind have to project itself into a phenomenal world to learn forgiveness? The reason for this question is that I seem to be going backwards in learning the Course and I have reached the biblical three score and ten with questionable health issues. I have no wish to return in a projected material form and would prefer to work out my salvation in the abstract or mind state of existence. This question by the way, along with my other questions, will be manifest confirmations of my backwardness in understanding the Course. That is not false humility begging for contradiction but simply a recognition of my limitations. But as the Course says, I planned it that way. Better stop while I'm not too far behind.

A: Cute. But you may first want to remember that you are never in a position to evaluate your progress with the Course along your Atonement path (T.18.V.1) . In fact, acknowledging your difficulties in mastering and applying Course concepts and principles probably puts you a good deal farther along than those students who believe they are progressing quite nicely on their path, thank you. For you at least are not in denial about how challenging this set of teachings can be to understand and put into practice!

But your mistake comes in believing that you are here in projected material form now and would prefer not to return to such a state in the future after this lifetime has been completed. The fact is, like every other seemingly separate aspect of the Sonship, you always have been, are and will remain in the mind, and that is the only “place” where salvation can be found. This mind has created a vast array of symbols, some of which it has chosen to identify with ( e.g., T.6.V.A.2:2; T.12.III.8:4; T.13.in.2:4; T.28.VI.3:10;4:1; W.pI.161:5,6) , but the fact is that the mind never resides within any of its symbols. Rather the symbols remain always within the mind, at least for as long as we wish to believe that we are separate from our Source.

And so, rather than being concerned with how much longer you may continue to experience the particular set of symbols that you currently identify as yourself and this lifetime, or what symbols you may relate to in an imaginary “future” life, you could do better to watch what you have made real right now with as little judgment as you can, simply observing   the self you think you are and all the other selves that this self seems to be relating to. And by that very process of observing, without valuing either positively or negatively, you are actually, little by little, distancing yourself from the symbols and reinforcing your identity as mind, which is all Jesus is inviting you to remember. We all in fact are dealing with seeming abstractions of mind   - sin, guilt, fear and attack --   that we have sought to make into concrete and specific symbols so that we might avoid the truly abstract nature of mind -- the rarefied atmosphere of   total oneness in which the ego can not survive (W.pI.161.2,3,4,7,8) .

Q #1073: I am relatively new to A Course in Miracles . I am wondering if it might not be more beneficial for a student to use magic in the illusion to address the ego's threat before trying to incorporate the Course into our daily lives. If we use the magic of psychology to address issues such as self-hate and destructive behaviors, and come to a place where we love and forgive ourselves fully in this illusion, will it not help to see the Course as a method to change the mind and not so much as a source of help in this illusion? For example I am going through a tough time at the moment and am looking for small miracles to help me through it. But I fully understand that the Course is not intended for this illusion. It leaves me feeling alone and fearful (the ego). But if I come to accept and love and forgive myself through magic it will be easier to aim for the higher purpose.

A: The use of magic is never wrong, and in fact Jesus tells us that it is a wise choice when we are so gripped by a condition that we cannot effectively deal with the ego dynamics in our minds. He calls this a “compromise approach to mind and body, in which something from the outside is temporarily given healing belief” (T.2.IV.4:6) . This approach is summarized in a passage we often quote: “The value of the Atonement does not lie in the manner in which it is expressed. In fact, if it is used truly, it will inevitably be expressed in whatever way is most helpful to the receiver. This means that a miracle, to attain its full efficacy, must be expressed in a language that the recipient can understand without fear” (T.2.IV.5:1,2,3) .

Thus, external intervention often is the kindest and most helpful direction to take when there is a pattern of destructive behavior triggered by intense self-hatred. But you would not necessarily have to reach the level where you love and forgive yourself totally before you can work with the Course and benefit from it. Even without the element of destructive behavior, most people have not reached that level. If they did, they would not need the Course. Jesus is addressing people at the bottom of the ladder of spirituality, not the top. As is indicated in dozens and dozens of passages, he clearly is aware of the wretched self-images we all carry around with us. (See, for example, W.pI.93 and W.pI.191 .) It could not be otherwise, given the means by which we acquired our existence: attacking and rejecting perfect Love and Oneness.

Once our behavior is under control and we can function reasonably well in the world, the Course can be helpful in teaching us how to relate to ourselves and others in a way that would gradually diminish self-hatred, guilt, and judgment, and bring about a more peaceful way of proceeding through our everyday interactions. In this sense, the Course is helpful in the illusion. It helps us who are rooted in it to gently begin the process of easing ourselves out of it.