Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 1/31/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1087 What might be the immediate visible consequences of choosing for the Holy Spirit?
Q #1088 Why are we here? How did we get here? Does nothing in the world really matter ?
Q #1089 How can I find any peace when my daughter is doing drugs?
#1090 Why would God give us free will if he did not want us to entertain the idea of separation?

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Q #1087: When I choose the Holy Spirit, will this then be reflected concretely in my life as a person in this world (dream) -- that I would have fewer problems regarding economics and partnerships, and be in better physical condition?

A: There is no way of knowing how this choice would be reflected in form. When you choose against the ego more consistently, you will become more peaceful, kind, and compassionate, which means you will be less judgmental, less guilty and fearful, and have less and less investment in how your life is going in the world -- because you would have a growing sense that your life is centered in the mind, not in the world. With the disappearance of guilt goes the need to project, which means you would not attack other people or your own body. But the remaining forgiveness lessons would unfold according to your mind's choice of scripts; and the scripts could be ones of wealth, poverty, or anything in between; problematic relationships, great relationships, or anything in between; a relatively healthy body, a frail body beset with serious illness, or anything in between. There is no way of knowing what form you will choose to learn from. But the central lesson in choosing the Holy Spirit as your Teacher is always that your peace is not dependent on external conditions; it is dependent only on whether you choose to accept the peace that is always present in your mind .

Q #1088: The other day I finally came to understand that we never left our place with God. Now I would like to understand two things. First, why are we here? What happened to cause us to dream up this separation in the first place? Second, if this is all just a vivid dream that we've created, then it seems that nothing really matters. So what of the things of the world? What really matters?

A: Your questions echo the universal cry of the Sonship: “why are we here? how did we get here? what are we to do here?” A Course in Miracles comes in answer to these questions, but not from the same thought system that gave rise to them. The part of the mind that chooses to believe that the separation is real (the ego) asks the questions from within the illusion of separation. The part of the mind that knows the separation never happened (the Holy Spirit) answers the questions from above the battleground of separation. Thus, although Jesus acknowledges our experience in the dream, he does so only to tell us we are not here, but are “…at home in God, dreaming of exile” (T.10.I.2:1) .

The explanation we are given in the Course for our seeming existence in the world is that God's Son chose to make up a separate identity to replace the one God gave him, a body to house it and a world in which to “live.” We need only consider the myriad ways we assert our individuality and specialness to find the clue to our experience of the world. These assertions follow the ego's law of perception establishing that “we are here” because we want to be here: “You see what you believe is there, and you believe it there because you want it there” (T.25.III.1:3). Since the mind cannot obliterate the memory of our oneness with God, it must go to great lengths to prove to itself that the separation has occurred. Evidence of this abounds in the belief in the reality of the body and the world, the strong attachment to specialness, and all the ways we defend our individuality. Since God did not ( cannot ) respond to the Son's request for special favor, the Son takes it upon himself to make and defend his specialness, independent from his Creator. Guilt for this decision drives the Son out of his mind and into the world to hide form the imagined wrath of God Who, according to the ego, seeks His Son to punish him for the terrible sin of separation. Thus, at the core of the dream is the insane belief that separation is indeed accomplished.

All the things of this world are the ways by which the mind feverishly defends its choice for separation. Although they are illusory, the belief that they are real makes them real in our experience, and so they must be dealt with. While the ego has brought them forth to make its separation dream real, the Holy Spirit uses them as a classroom to teach us that it is not. It is very important, therefore, that we pay attention to everything in our lives. In fact, becoming mindful is one of the primary goals of the Course and the explicit goal of the workbook. What matters, then, is to learn to recognize all the specific ways in which the mind's choice for separation is revealed in the events and relationships of every day. The greatest defense of the ego thought system is the mind's decision to forget that it is a mind and to identify instead with the body. A correction for this mistaken belief is the most frequently repeated phrase in the Course: “I am not a body I am free, I am as God created me” (W.pI.199). This is not meant to be used as an affirmation to suppress the belief in the body, but as a reminder of our identity as minds with the power to choose another way of looking at everything. If we are willing to admit that we do not know what the other way is, and allow the Holy Spirit to reinterpret everything for us, what was chosen in defense of the ego's thought system will be used by Him for its undoing.

Ultimately the Course answers your questions with its single most important statement: “…the separation never occurred” (T.6.II.10:7) . Nothing but the mind's choice to identify with the ego thought system of separation got us here, and nothing but the choice to identify once and for all with the Holy Spirit will end the nightmare of believing we are here. Jesus makes this very clear for us in a different way in workbook lesson 32: “You are not the victim of the world you see because you invented it. You can give it up as easily as you made it up. You will see it or not see it, as you wish. While you want it you will see it; when you no longer want it, it will not be there for you to see” (W.pI.32.1:2,3,4,5).

See related Questions: #10, #27, #88, #100, #148, and #171.

Q #1089: I understand that we are not bodies, and I am in total agreement with A Course in Miracles that we are all either calling for love or expressing love, and that we are to practice forgiveness by looking at the ego without judging ourselves. But I have a question involving a family member -- a daughter who is involved with drugs and creates havoc within the family. She is calling out for love but not accepting the love her family is offering her, both physical and spiritual. And so I have a sense of loss, and no idea what else to do other than to try to extend forgiveness and love to her while looking at the ego without judgment. And even then, my sense of guilt is overwhelming to the point of depression and sense of total loss, since it is so difficult for me to figure out when I may be judging her. I had to make difficult decisions against her in order to protect others from harm by her actions. How can peace be found under such circumstances?

A: Our family relationships often present us with our most challenging and painful forgiveness lessons. And sometimes the struggle within our own minds over whether we have done the right thing with difficult family members can feel overwhelming, as if there will be no release from the anguish and the guilt. And yet Jesus assures us release is possible. But the only real release comes from an ongoing vigilance over our own thinking, recognizing when it is being directed by the wrong teacher -- the ego (T.6.V.C.4:2,3,4,5; T.7.VI.8:5,6,7,8,9,10,11) . The challenge of course is recognizing how to apply that understanding to the very real experiences of our lives, for the Course is not intended simply to be an empty academic exercise, but a very practical tool for leading us out of conflict and into peace, in our minds . In other words, Jesus is assuring us that we can be at peace, even if the external situation with a family member does not change. “In reality you are perfectly unaffected by all expressions of lack of love. ... Peace is an attribute in you. You cannot find it outside” (T.2.I.5:6,8,9).

And so we need to practice repeatedly until we overlearn the fundamental correction: No matter how real the conflict with others and within ourselves over any action or inaction may seem, the real cause of the conflict and pain and sense of loss is our continuing identification within our own mind with the belief in sin and guilt -- our own and others, with theirs only ever a projection of our own (T.31.III.1,2) It is enough then simply to recognize that we have put the ego in charge whenever we are aware of being upset about anything, and that is the only problem that needs correcting. If in those moments of recognition, we can acknowledge that our choice for the ego is a mistake, but it is no sin, we will not need to punish ourselves but will be willing to accept the gentle help that Jesus always offers first to our own unhappy mind (T.19.III.3,4) .

Our concern for others at this point in the forgiveness process is simply the ego's convenient smokescreen to keep us in conflict, without recognizing where the conflict is really coming from. Once we choose the right inner teacher, we can respond to the external situation without the interference of our own guilt. But, of course, this takes practice, since our ego is not likely to surrender without a fight. And so ongoing relationships with loved ones like your daughter provide continuing opportunities to practice and learn the basic lesson about what the only real problem is and where it lies.

Your daughter is making choices that are self-destructive, but all ego-based choices are self- destructive, even those seemingly intended to protect us and make our bodies safe ( e.g., W.pI.135) . Now although the Course teaches that we are not our body ( e.g., W.pI.199) , Jesus also recognizes that the body will continue to be our identity in our experience. And so he never asks us to deny our experience, only our interpretation of it when we have chosen the ego as our teacher. Often the most loving thing we can do when faced with others' insanity is to place limits on them that will prevent them from hurting themselves or others any more than they may have already. The key is to be able to do that without judging, either the other person or ourselves. Now in response to our efforts to place limits, their actions or words, just like a young child's, may scream, “I hate you.” But as we are able to release our own guilt to the gentle, forgiving gaze of Jesus, we will not experience the seeming attack personally. For it is only ever our own guilt that leads us to believe that we can be attacked.

It is not easy to watch those we love make wrong choices, with what appear to be serious negative consequences for themselves and for those around them. And there are usually limits on just how much influence or control we can exert over those choices. But a helpful lesson we can learn is that this is their chosen classroom, and they will continue down this path until they are ready to make a different choice. And we are never in a position to judge what their path should be. In such circumstances, it can be helpful to remember that the only really meaningful help we can offer anyone else is to remember for ourselves that we always have a choice in our own mind as to which teacher we will turn to for help (M.5.III.1,2) . Since minds are joined, this reminder will be received by their mind as well, and it is there, simply waiting on their acceptance, when they are ready and their own fear of love has subsided.

Q #1090: This question is a variation on the old “free will” conundrum. Since God created Christ, he therefore endowed his Son with the capacity to have that first “tiny, mad idea” that led to the separation. So, even though the Course lovingly affirms that God has no desire to reject or punish his Son, it still looks like God set up Christ, because how could His Son possibly resist the temptation to find out what it was like to substitute illusion for truth? Why would God create Christ with the ability to make this error, knowing full well that his Son wouldn't be able to resist the temptation?

A: Your question is also a variation of the frequently asked question: “How could the separation have happened?” The question rests on the affirmation that the separation actually occurred, which is the expression of a choice for it. Affirming the separation is the ego's way of establishing its “reality.” It is chosen as a substitute for reality, after which the Son of God is off and running with the ego in hand, certain he has pulled off the impossible, convinced that God is chasing him to punish him for his “sin” and blaming Him all the while for letting it happen. This is the ego's clever, yet nonetheless illusory version of the “big bang” that never happened.

The helpful explanation Jesus gives for the non-existent “big bang” is that the Son of God has fallen asleep and dreams of separation (T.28.II.7) . In this dream, the Son seems to have special powers in the form of a will apart from God's; just as a child at home in his bed dreams he is the son of a king (or more in keeping with the ego's specialness, the king himself) in a far away magic kingdom. In the dream, specialness is preferable to oneness and “free will” is the maximum expression of individual power. It is a clever distortion of the power of the mind to choose to accept the one Will the Son shares with the Father. In this light, free will is understood as the ability to make that choice. It is not a choice between two real possibilities, but rather a choice between truth and illusion, everything and nothing. There is no reality but God's, no Will but His, nothing but the mind's power to accept the truth. The part of the mind that chooses against the truth and identifies as a figure in the dream defends its “reality” in terms of the conundrum of God making the separation a real and irresistible choice. Only resistance to accepting truth keeps the separation real in our experience, fires the intrigue of asking the unanswerable, and breathes life into the ego's belief in illusion. The way out of this seeming dilemma is learning that, ultimately, the only temptation we cannot resist is that of accepting the Identity given us by God and claiming our rightful place in oneness with Him. We then freely join the one Will we share with our Father: “And this is the function of God's teachers; to see no will as separate from their own, nor theirs as separate from God's” (M.5.III.3).

See also Questions #10, #27, #88, #100, #148, and #171.