Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 1/17/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1079 Why did Helen Shucman "bad mouth" the Course at the end of her life?
Q #1080 Can you forgive the ego?.
Q #1081 If everything is God's wish, why not blame God for evil?
#1082 Do plants and animals have a consciousness and feel pain or cruelty?

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Q #1079: I recently read the book Miracle Detective by Randal Sullivan. The book is basically about apparitions of Mary all over the world. He also discusses other types of miracles as reported by the Catholic Church. Near the end of the book he interviews a priest who said he knew Helen Schucman, the scribe of A Course in Miracles . He reported that near the end of her life, he visited her often in the hospital where he heard her "bad mouth" the Course, saying how she wished that she were never involved. He said that this made him seriously concerned about the origin of the Course, as maybe not from Jesus. This is absolutely not going to stop me from doing the Course, but I was curious about whether Helen actually felt like this.

A: Kenneth's book Absence from Felicity gives a comprehensive account of Helen's life and relationship with Jesus and the Course, which is always helpful as a context for considering reports such as the one you mention. As Kenneth relates, near the end of her life Helen suffered from pancreatic cancer, which had gone undetected for a long time. It had impinged on her liver, and as a result, her whole body, including her brain, was extremely toxic. This poisoning throughout her body led her to act in ways that were not normal for her. One of these uncharacteristic expressions was to say negative things about the Course. Until her final illness, however, she never did anything like this. Again, Kenneth's book provides a helpful context for understanding this kind of behavior.

Q #1080: Can you forgive the ego?

A: No, you cannot forgive an illusion. To say you forgive the ego would give it a reality it does not have, and would mean that the separation did occur. Forgiveness is a change of mind, whereby belief in the illusion of separation (the ego) is replaced with the memory of God's Love (the Holy Spirit). The separation did not happen (T.6.II.10) and therefore there is nothing to forgive, which is why Jesus tells us in A Course in Miracles : “The miracle (forgiveness) does nothing. All it does is to undo. And thus it cancels out the interference to what has been done” (T.28.I.1:1,2,3) . Forgiveness restores to awareness the power of the mind to choose. In another passage Jesus makes this point again in a slightly different way: “…forgive the Son of God for what he did not do (T.17.III.1:5) . Nothing anyone does has any effect on our peace. Peace is thrown away when the mind decides to side with the ego. The mind then “forgives” itself by choosing the Holy Spirit instead. Choosing the ego, which is a choice for nothing, is thus undone/ forgiven.

Q #1081: It is said that without God's wish nothing can move. Everything is God's wish. Thy will be done. Then why give a credit to God for goodness and blame the ego for evil? Is not God beyond that duality?

A: Yes, God is beyond the duality of good and evil. There are no words that truly define or describe God. Anything that we say about Him comes from the dualistic perspective of the split mind. As Jesus tells us: “Everything you recognize you identify with externals, something outside itself. You cannot even think of God without a body, or in some form you think you recognize” (T.18.VIII.1:6,7). The ego thus uses its own descriptive terms for its version of God, but they have nothing to do with God. As a great philosopher once said, “God made man in his image, and man returned the favor.” This man-made image incorporates opposing concepts such as good and evil, which are inherent in the ego's thought system. Since the ego's very existence is sustained by opposition and differences, the God it claims as father has to share these characteristics. Most important to the ego's God is the relationship He is imagined to have with His separated Sons. In this relationship we find the source of all the ideas about God's supposed Will for His separated Sons. We learn in the Course that God cannot have a separate Will for separated Sons, since separation from God is impossible (T.6.II.10) . Thus, God does not move anything, nor could He possibly have any awareness of the world of form. This would be true even if the world were not made as an attack on Him, which is impossible since the world is made precisely to be perceived as outside the Mind of God. Oneness with His Son is all He knows. That is His Will.

A Course in Miracles uses the term “will” as a property of spirit, while “wish” is an activity of the ego. God's Will, as defined in the “Glossary-Index” by Kenneth Wapnick, is “the expression of God's being” (Glossary-Index, p. 222) . In other words, it is Who He is, and it is a Being/Will He shares with His Son. That Will is reflected in the dream in the part of the mind that remembers God (the Holy Spirit): “The Holy Spirit is the way in which God's Will is done on earth as it is in Heaven. Both Heaven and earth are in you, because the call of both is in your mind (T.5.II.8:4,5). In this passage Jesus gives new meaning to the phrase from the Lord's Prayer: “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” He refers to the split mind that chooses between the ego (earth) and the Holy Spirit (the memory of Heaven). One could say that “evil” lies in choosing the ego and goodness in the choice for the Holy Spirit, but the Course would not make that kind of distinction because it tells us we are choosing between the truth and an illusion. Illusion cannot be given reality, or the power of “evil” to have effects. It simply is not real. What most distinguishes the Course's teaching about God's Will from traditional Christian belief is that God's Will is not done on earth; He does not know about earth, bodies, separation, or duality. He does not even know goodness because the idea of goodness is made up in contrast to evil. The Course uses the dualistic language and concepts that we understand only to lead us to the oneness we have forgotten. Though it has been forgotten, it has not been extinguished nor changed in any way. No matter how much we believe the madness of the ego we remain one with God's Will: “Whatever your reactions to the Holy Spirit's Voice may be, whatever voice you choose to listen to, whatever strange thoughts may occur to you, God's Will is done” (T.13.XI.5:4). Therein lies our hope and comfort.

Q #1082: I am wondering what A Course in Miracles has to say about the consciousness of plants and animals and perhaps even inanimate objects. I find the whole issue quite distressing -- "nature red in tooth and claw" -- and wonder if plants feel pain when picked / cut / eaten, etc. I have always been a nature lover and am passionately concerned about ecology, preservation of biodiversity, etc. I am also considering taking up gardening as a career. Yet I feel deeply conflicted because in creating better habitats I am allowing more plants, animals, bugs, etc., to come into the world and suffer pain, and also inflicting pain on the invader species I remove.

I am very confused on the whole issue and I find a lack of explicit guidelines in A Course in Miracles . It is all very well to say the world is a dream; such an argument would allow for all kinds of monstrous evil to be committed to humans, plants, animals, alike. But saying it is not real does not help. The only thing that is real at this very moment is what is actually being experienced, not what would be experienced if it were not for the veil of illusion.

I am not alone in this. The Jain religion takes the practice of not harming anything to extremes. Some Jains wear masks over their faces to avoid inhaling insects, bugs, etc., and lightly brush the road before them to avoid treading on living creatures. I sometimes feel I ought to be doing the same thing, and certainly not inflicting pain on millions of blades of grass with a mower, or injecting rhododendrons with poison to prevent them from spreading and destroying the countryside. Yet do I want to preserve / enhance the countryside when it is a killing field?

A: One of the major teachings of the Course is that all Sons are the same, equal in content, not form. And Jesus is not speaking exclusively about homo sapiens when he uses the term Son of God , and so from this perspective he tells us that even the smallest grain of sand is part of the Sonship (T.28.IV.9) . Seeing qualitative differences, therefore, means one's mind has merged with the ego.

As horrifying as it may be to acknowledge this, if you look carefully, you will see that the entire world is a “killing field.” What level does not share somehow in the ego genome of kill or be killed and one or the other ? Where is there growth and survival that does not come at another's expense? -- root systems; insects; marine life; microorganisms; corporations; governments; defense systems. What can survive without feeding off another? What is there that is needed for our survival that is not also potentially harmful or lethal, to say nothing of limited? Granted, there are examples of stunning beauty, selflessness, and helpfulness. But if you scratch beneath the surface, are not most instances of beauty tinged with pain or vulnerability? Are not most instances of selflessness marked by sacrifice? Are not most forms of helpfulness limited?

Given its origin in the ego's vicious and defiant intent to produce an existence totally apart from God's Kingdom of Love and Oneness, how could the world be anything other than this? It was made as an attack (W.pII.3.2:1) ; and since “ideas leave not their source” ( e.g., W.pI.132.10:3) , it simply replicates the thought that owns it. “Therefore,” Jesus teaches, “seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world. Perception is a result and not a cause” (T.21.in.1:7,8) . The problem, though, is that we have identified with the ego's version of reality to such an extent that we have no sense of ourselves as minds always deciding to uphold this attack on truth. To protect its system -- itself -- the ego has us focus entirely on form, believing there is a hierarchy of values and beings, which leads to what Jesus calls “the first law of chaos” (T.23.II.2,3) . We think that what we perceive is reality. Thus we become obsessed with defending what we judge as good and worthwhile against what we judge as bad or threatening, in the process becoming totally confused and frustrated, as we intuitively sense that the situation is hopeless. And all because we have lost sight of the total picture -- that an illusion is an illusion is an illusion. One part of an illusion is no more valuable than any other.

Fortunately, there is a solution, and it does not require that you deny what you are seeing and experiencing. Jesus is the loving presence in our minds who helps us get back to the sane part of our minds, where we can recall the steps that led us into this depressing state and then choose to begin the process of healing by looking at everything differently. This means seeing our lives as a classroom and all our relationships and interactions as the curriculum Jesus can use to restore our minds to their natural state of peace and oneness. The world will continue to be what it is, but because our perspective will be different, our perception of it will change. We thus can learn to use our body and the world for this purpose by changing the teacher in our minds from the ego to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Any role you choose in the world can serve this purpose, and this purpose alone is what would give your life meaning. The thought system in your mind is the problem, not the world. Why would you allow the world -- made to conceal your true Identity -- to tell you who you are and what your purpose should be?

A Course in Miracles as a spiritual path teaches that there is no way out of conflict and hopelessness unless we are open to the idea that we are choosing what we want to be real in our perception: “Perception selects, and makes the world you see. It literally picks it out as the mind directs. . . . Perception is a choice and not a fact. But on this choice depends far more than you may realize as yet. For on the voice you choose to hear, and on the sights you choose to see, depends entirely your whole belief in what you are. Perception is a witness but to this, and never to reality. Yet it can show you the conditions in which awareness of reality is possible, or those where it could never be” (T.21.V.1:1,2,7,8,9,10,11).

This is a radical teaching, without question. It overturns everything we have learned in the world, and it therefore threatens the foundation of our self-concept and our lives. And it seems the only people who are receptive to it are those who have tried other approaches and found them inadequate, or who have thrown up their hands in desperation and have cried out, “There must be a better way!”

You might wish to read Questions #134 and # 340, which also speak to these issues.