Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 1/24/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1083 How can I bring a problem to Jesus in my mind when I don't feel his presence there?
Q #1084 Can one categorize one's various relationships according to the levels discussed in the Course?
Q #1085 How can God not hear our prayers?
#1086 Who exactly is the "I" who is terrified to stop being "I"?

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Q #1083: How do I bring a problem to the love of Jesus in my mind when I'm not even aware of his presence there?

A: When the mind chose to identify with the ego thought system, it also chose to forget its identity as mind and identified with the body instead. In doing so it lost all awareness, not only of the memory of God's Love symbolized by Jesus or the Holy Spirit, but of itself as a mind. One of the most important goals of A Course in Miracles , therefore, is to teach us that we have a mind that has the power to choose between the ego and the Holy Spirit. That is the fundamental goal of the mind training curriculum of the workbook. The application of the principles taught in the text and the foundation of the practice of forgiveness is to become aware of the mind that is always choosing between the ego and Jesus' love. The ability to choose is not lost by the mind's decision to forget its power. Lack of awareness does not stop us from choosing; it merely means we are oblivious of the mind's existence, mistakenly believing that the world exists outside the mind and that things external to the mind can have an effect on it. This belief is essential to the ego's thought system and is its mainstay. It finds its clearest expression in the mind's decision to identify with the body. Willingness to accept this identity is no different from willingness to turn to the part of the mind where Jesus' love abides. The question is why it seems easier to believe the ego's lie (the existence of the world and the body) than the Holy Spirit's truth (the existence of the mind and the memory of love/Jesus). The reason is because we want to.

What motivates us to want the love that Jesus represents is learning to recognize the painful effects of choosing the ego, by seeing everything in our lives as the reflection of the mind's choice. That is the first step in the process of forgiveness, and it is how we get in touch with the mind that has been forgotten. It means paying attention to every experience of conflict in any form; from a tiny annoyance to murderous rage, and recognizing in it the mind's choice for the ego. The next step is to be willing to accept responsibility for this choice and to remember that the mind can choose differently. This recognition and willingness is how to turn to the Presence of the Holy Spirit in the mind. Awareness of this Presence is thereby strengthened, and belief that the ego is the only way to go is weakened.

Jesus himself provides the answer to our quest for him by telling us that only a little willingness to apply the Course lessons is needed. As the symbol of God's Love, Jesus' presence becomes more real with every small step made in the practice of his teaching: “Our Love awaits us as we go to Him, and walks beside us showing us the way. He fails in nothing. He the End we seek, and He the Means by which we go to Him” (W.pII.302.2) .

Q #1084: In the manual for teachers of A Course in Miracles , Jesus talks about the three levels of relationships that are used by the Holy Spirit for teaching and learning purposes (“What Are the Levels of Teaching?” [M.3]). I have found myself lately trying to figure out where my different relationships fit into the three levels described in that section. Is it possible that our relationships may not fit neatly into any of the three levels and can be a combination of two possibly? I am so interested in this because a part of me loves the fact that everything is systematic and planned and I feel a need to try to figure this all out.

A: Yes, some relationships can span two levels. That would not be uncommon. But in the end this does not matter, because “each teaching-learning situation is maximal in the sense that each person involved will learn the most that he can from the other person at that time” (M.3.4:1) . As in other parts of the Course, Jesus here is teaching us to avoid thinking with the ego that there is a hierarchy of illusions, in this context that some relationships are more important than others. The mind is outside time and space where there is no gradation or ranking. This means that at any given moment the entirety of the ego's thought system can be activated, as can the entirety of the Holy Spirit's -- whether on the freeway, at the supermarket checkout counter, or with a person you live or work with. The lack of difference is what is important. There is only one content: either the ego's separate interests, or the Holy Spirit's shared interests that reflect the One Level of God's Will. There is nothing else. Your attraction to figuring everything out and fitting relationships into neat compartments could very well be a means your ego is using to keep you focused on form instead content. Jesus wants us to learn and practice that the content is always the same, regardless of the form.

Q #1085: I have read on your Web site that God does not hear the prayers that we pray here from this illusory world. How can this be true since we are joined to God through our "right" mind? Also, as we are just ideas in the mind of God, and ideas leave not their source , how could God not hear them seeing as how we, and everything there is, is in the Mind of God? I understand from reading The Song of Prayer , that our prayers should be around forgiveness and about not making any decisions on our own each day. Does the Holy Spirit, and thus God, in fact, hear our prayers or do they only serve to strengthen our faith in the Holy Spirit and God's plan for our salvation?

A: When we (as one Son) fell asleep and left our home in God, we took with us the memory of our true Identity -- that is what is known in A Course in Miracles as our right mind. But since our separating from God is completely illusory, the right mind is as well. We can choose to remember that we are not separate from God, but this has nothing to do with God. God knows nothing of what is not real. The Holy Spirit is spoken of as the “remaining Communication Link between God and His separated Sons” (C.6.3:1) , but as with the other forms He seems to be for us within the dream -- a Voice, a Guide, a Helper, etc. -- He is in truth part of the “eternal formlessness of God” (C.6.5:8) . It is helpful to keep in mind that to get through to us, Jesus must use language that is meaningful to us; but his meaning is not always meant literally. Thus, whenever he is speaking about duality in any sense, his language must be understood metaphorically, not literally.

In truth, we exist only in the Mind of God, “a Oneness joined as One” (T.25.I.7:1) . But in our deluded state we do not think of ourselves as one with God; we think of ourselves as individuals trying to communicate with God Who is separate from us. There is no “we” in Heaven: “God shares His Fatherhood with you who are His Son, for He makes no distinctions in what is Himself and what is still Himself. What He creates is not apart from Him, and nowhere does the Father end, the Son begin as something separate from Him” (W.pI.132.12:3,4) . In Heaven, therefore, prayer is radically different from what we think it means in this illusory world of separate individuals, where it usually is some form of supplication or entreaty related to our needs. As one with our Source in Heaven, though, “we” could have no needs. Jesus thus says: “The Love They [Father and Son] share is what all prayer will be throughout eternity, when time is done. For such it was before time seemed to be” (S.1.in.1:7,8) .

While we still believe we exist as separate individuals, however, Jesus teaches us that prayer will take the form that best suits our needs (S.1.in.2:1) . It is a process, with different levels corresponding to where we are on our journey back to our natural state of oneness with each other and with God. But it is always for ourselves (S.1.II.6:1; III.1:1); it is part of our Atonement process. Prayer thus should be centered on forgiveness as much as possible, as it is the experience of forgiveness that leads us to the awareness that we already have what we need: “Prayer in its earlier forms [asking out of need] is an illusion, because there is no need for a ladder to reach what one has never left. Yet prayer is part of forgiveness as long as forgiveness, itself an illusion, remains unattained. Prayer is tied up with learning until the goal of learning has been reached. And then all things will be transformed together, and returned unblemished into the Mind of God” (S.1.II.8:3,4,5,6) .

Q #1086: What is the relation between interpretation and judgment? And what is cause and effect in this matter? If the decision-making part of my mind makes the all-important root- cause decision not to be separate, there will no longer be any perception at all; and I'm terrified to make this root-cause decision because it will mean the end of 'me' as separate existence, right? But who is the “I” who is afraid this will be the end of him? Is it the person I think I am, or is it really the decision-making part of mind? Is there really an “I” who chose separate existence, or is “I” simply an effect of (not existing) separation, an effect who cannot by itself undo the cause? Is “I” cause or effect?

A: The sense of “I,” a personal self, is the effect of the mind's decision-maker choosing the ego. Here is the basis of that conclusion: A major step in the thought-reversal process of A Course in Miracles is our realizing that we are never not a decision-making mind. There is not a self -- an “I” -- and also a decision-making mind. The reason we tend to think they are not the same is part of the problem: denial . It is essential for the continuation of the separation that we not think of ourselves exclusively as minds, or else that we change the meaning of mind so that it is associated only with something physical: the brain . The separation would be in jeopardy if we knew without question that we were minds with the ability to choose to be or not to be separate from God. The strategy to keep the separation intact but disown responsibility for it requires that we think of ourselves as separate, competing selves, not minds sharing the same thought systems and decision-making capacity.

As we say again and again, Jesus is addressing only the decision maker. His lessons are geared toward helping us learn to relate to ourselves this way so that we never lose sight of the fact that we are always choosing the ego's way of perceiving or the Holy Spirit's, the ego's purpose for our life or the Holy Spirit's purpose. When we are more consistent in this, we will easily recognize that things are not at all the way they appear to be, and we are not at all who we appear to be. This, then, brings us closer to the end of the journey, our accepting the Atonement and remembering, “I am one Self, united with my Creator” (W.pI.95).

In the process of getting to this final stage, our fear would gradually diminish, because we would know that we are letting go of something that is false and therefore meaningless: “The self you made is not the Son of God. Therefore, this self does not exist at all. And anything it seems to do and think means nothing. It is neither bad nor good. It is unreal, and nothing more than that. . . . [it] is meaningless” (W.pI.93.5:1,2,3,4,5; 6:6). We would eventually gladly relinquish our hold on this identity, because we would know that it but interferes with our awareness of who we really are: “Try not to interfere with the Self which God created as you, hiding Its majesty behind the tiny idols of evil and sinfulness you have made to replace It. Let It come into Its Own. Here you are; This is You. And light and joy and peace abide in you because this is so” (W.pI.93.9:5,6,7,8).