Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 2/28/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1103 If just one healed mind heals the entire sonship, why didn't Jesus heal us all?
Q #1104 If I practice lesson 71 should I expect specific guidance?
Q #1105 Why is mind "the activating agent of spirit"?
#1106 Can drug-induced fears or "bad-trips" affect the mind?

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Q #1103: If it only takes one mind to see the truth, to see another's needs as important/more important than one's own to heal the entire Sonship, why isn't Jesus' obvious success in this area enough to bring us all home? He speaks of himself as our older brother, yet the fact that his success didn't heal the Sonship seems to say that he is not truly -- that only someone who is among the illusory "separated" must be the one who sees himself as healed to initiate the Atonement.

A: The Sonship is healed. In fact, healing was never truly needed. In the workbook Jesus clarifies this for us: “Just as forgiveness overlooks all sins that never were accomplished, healing but removes illusions that have not occurred” (W.pI.137.5:2). Healing is thus understood as a process of removing the blocks to the awareness of what has never changed (T.in.1:7) . It is the acceptance of what is true and the denial of what is not. Since everyone has a right mind where the reflection of changeless truth abides, and Jesus is a symbol of the right mind, his healing is everyone's. Healing simply means choosing the right mind. Choosing against the right mind by choosing the ego does not void the truth, nor abolish the memory of love's presence; it merely draws a veil over them. The veil is lifted and healing is accepted by the mind's choice that it be so; that is all. Thus, Jesus didn't really do anything, nor could he. He is neither a success nor a failure. A Course in Miracles does not view time linearly, and nor does it teach the accomplishment of a historical Jesus who attained salvation and redeemed the world, as does Christianity. He is the name given to a symbolic figure who represents the right mind of the Sonship. He has what we all have. As he himself tells us the only difference between us is that he has nothing else: “There is nothing about me that you cannot attain. I have nothing that does not come from God. The difference between us now is that I have nothing else. This leaves me in a state which is only potential in you” (T.1.II.3:10,11,12,13). What we have that blocks healing from awareness is the belief that illusion is true. The desire that some form of specialness replace the oneness the Son shares with the Father keeps the insanity of the ego thought system alive and “sick.” Jesus seems like a failure as long as the mind chooses to turn away from the sanity of truth, while healing occurs when the mind decides to accept, even partially, that what it sees in the nightmare of separation is not true. In that instant the mind shares in Jesus' healing.

Jesus gives us a very simple description of the state of mind we share with him whenever we choose to: “How simple is salvation [healing] ! All it says is what was never true is not true now, and never will be. The impossible has not occurred, and can have no effects. And that is all” (T.31.I.1:1,2,3,4). The only “one” needed to see everything in the light of this true perspective is oneself. That is why it only takes one teacher of God to heal the world (M.12) . We take a step closer to the healing we share with Jesus each time we are willing to question the ego's interpretation of any situation (to prove separation is real) and accept the Holy Spirit's perspective (separation is not real). One is true, the other false. It is for us to choose.

Q #1104: I am wondering about Lesson 71 in the workbook of A Course in Miracles : "Only God's plan for salvation will work." In the process of asking the three questions: "What would You have me do? Where would You have me go? What would You have me say, and to whom?" (W.pI.71.9:3,4,5), I was carried along not to any actions, but to many places in the past where I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit, along with one place in particular where the tension of life circumstances produced a dramatic "pendulum" between feeling panicked and then totally at peace. Is there a "right" answer to these questions? Should I be getting specific actions about my life now? I wonder about this, especially since Kenneth talks so much about Jesus not being invested in what happens in our lives, that the change is in the mind. I do know the remembrances and the spirit they compelled were beyond my normal daily concerns.

A: In this lesson, Jesus teaches that the mind chooses either God's plan or the ego's, which is then reflected in form by what we do, where we go, what we say and to whom. You are correct that Jesus is not concerned with form, but with the content of the mind. However, because our focus is usually on form, he uses a word formula related to behavior to be used as a reminder for us to turn our attention from the form to the mind, where we choose whose plan we will follow. Since that is Jesus' only concern, that is the purpose for the prayer he teaches in this lesson.

An experience such as you describe is the effect of the mind's choice for the Holy Spirit (God's plan) instead of the ego. Jesus tells us: “Everyone has experienced what he would call a sense of being transported beyond himself” (T18.VI.11:1). In other words, everyone has accessed the right mind. What distinguishes the Course's teaching about how to arrive at these right-minded experiences is that it asks us to be willing to look at the ego's obstacles by paying attention to the thoughts and expectations that interfere with God's plan. Basically, that is everything we think. An important line in the tenth paragraph of the lesson tells us: Be alert to all temptation to hold grievances today…” (W.pI.71.10:2). The key to the practice of this lesson is found in the words: “Be alert.” The repetitions are not meant to be used as mantras to suppress grievances, but as reminders to look at them without judgment and without trying to change them. This, along with willingness to accept a different perspective, weakens belief in the ego's plan of keeping salvation from awareness with its best friends denial and guilt.

Only God's plan, (choosing the Holy Spirit) will work because only truth is true, and only in accepting the true Identity God has given us as His Son will we find the happiness we seek. We learn to accept His plan by uncovering the ego's well established beliefs about where salvation can be found. Its version of what to say, or do and where to go supports separation and belief in the identity of the body. Remembering to ask God to reveal His plan in every situation is the Holy Spirit's way of inviting us to recognize the choice we have already made with the ego, and to make another choice. Until the ego's plan has been exposed and released, it cannot be replaced by the content of the right mind (God's plan). Thus, there are no specific answers to these questions. The mind's choice for the Holy Spirit instead of the ego is reflected in the dream in whatever form is loving and helpful, with no planning or thinking on our part. All that is required is “…to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it [love/God's plan] ” (T.16.IV.6:1). We then await with patience and gratitude the moments when the Holy Spirit's loving kindness guides our words and actions .

Q #1105: What does it mean to say that mind is the “activating agent of spirit, supplying its creative energy” (C.1.1:1)? And how does this fit with "spirit retains the potential for creating, but its Will, which is God's, seems to be imprisoned while the mind is not unified" (C.1.4:2)? Is consciousness the opposite of the mind that is “the activating agent of spirit,” consciousness being "the receptive mechanism, receiving messages from above or below, from the Holy Spirit or the ego" (C.1.7:3)? Is consciousness another term for the observer or decision maker?

A: In the first section of the clarification of terms to which you refer, Jesus is somewhat inconsistent in his use of words, as he alluded to in the Introduction. He uses words here slightly differently from how he uses them in the Course itself, thus teaching us to pay attention to the content (his message), not the form (the words). In describing mind as the “activating agent of spirit” (C.1.1:1) , Jesus implies a difference between the two terms. This, of course, is not so in Heaven, where we are spirit and mind, the two being synonymous. To get a sense of Jesus' meaning here, think of a fountain: the mind is the engine that drives the fountain, and spirit is the water that flows through it. Still, these are but symbols for something beyond comprehension in our separated state.

Usually in A Course in Miracles , but not exclusively, when the word mind is lowercase, it refers to the split mind, but when it is capitalized, it always refers to the Mind of God or the Mind of Christ, which is the equivalent of spirit. Spirit , in this first paragraph, is our true Self, the unified spirit being God's one Son. In the next paragraph Jesus uses spirit differently—as a synonym for the right mind, and ego for the wrong mind: “It [the split mind] is therefore described in the course as if it has two parts; spirit and ego” (C.1.2:4) . This interchange of meanings illustrates the folly of attempting to analyze the precise meanings of these words and terms. Thus at the end of the first paragraph, Jesus speaks of the unified spirit, which is Christ, and here—and only here in this section— spirit is equated with the right mind. This is seen again in the third paragraph: “Spirit is the part that is still in contact with God through the Holy Spirit, Who abides in this part [the right mind] but sees the other part [the wrong mind] as well” (C.1.3:1) . It would be more technically correct to say that the reflection or memory of spirit is in the right mind.

“Spirit retains the potential for creating, but its Will, which is God's, seems to be imprisoned while the mind is not unified” (C.1.4:2). Since true spirit is always creating, Jesus is again referring to the right mind, because he speaks of spirit having the potential for creating. Our mind has this potential while we sleep, for we are not in touch with the Mind's power to create. The key word in the second part of the sentence is seems . It seems that our true Self as spirit is imprisoned. In reality, nothing has happened.

Some of these points have been discussed in Question #65, where you will also find some commentary on consciousness . Consciousness is entirely of the illusory world of separation, for it always entails duality or a split: the perceiver and what is perceived. It is a function of the mind that resulted when the separation from God seemed to have happened. It would not be wrong to think of consciousness as the observer or decision maker.

Q #1106: I started smoking pot and experimenting with LSD at eleven years of age. The first couple times I had the most spiritual experience of oneness. But the next time was pure hell. I had the worst bad trip, which opened a doorway in my mind I wish I had never seen. My ultimate fear was that I would remain in that fearful, panic state for eternity with no escape. It seemed very real and powerful at the time. Later, in my late teens, I developed panic attacks and anxiety, leading me to search for an answer, which I found in A Course in Miracles .

I still have concerns that I did some damage to my brain from the drugs, which caused my nervous system to give my body physical effects of fear, even though I knew it was false in my mind. Does the mind override the brain on all levels of experience while we are in a body or can we do damage to our brain and nervous system that will limit us, even though we know its just part of our grand illusion?

A: The only thing that can ever limit us in any way is our beliefs, which are the thoughts we hold about ourselves in our minds (T.26.VII.8:7,8,9,10) . Much of the time these beliefs are unconscious and so it appears that there is little we can do to change them (W.pI.138.8) . But, and we can't emphasize this enough, the body, the brain, and the nervous system are all the effects of the thoughts in the mind and can never be the cause of anything we experience.

It is the ego that is invested in our becoming mindless, and seeking causes for how we feel in the world of form outside the mind. Yet all forms are nothing more than projected symbols that represent the choices we have made in our minds, now hidden by our own choice from our awareness.

How does this translate specifically into the experiences you report? The drugs initially gave form to a desire you had to remember the truth about yourself and so they seemed to precipitate an experience of oneness. The mind, still strongly identified with the ego, became fearful, and so the subsequent effect -- the bad trip -- simply was a defense you chose against remembering the truth about yourself. Like everything else in the world of form, the drugs are really neutral and your experience depends on which teacher you have chosen to interpret your experiences for you -- the Holy Spirit or the ego.

In an effort to assure that the detour into fear remains permanent, the ego reinforces the fear with the further fear that there can be no escape from the fear. And then, to put the final nail in the coffin that will lock you away from the light and into the ego's thought system forever, the ego tries to convince you that the fear you have experienced is not the result of your choice, but rather the secondary effect of irreversible damage that the external agents have inflicted on your brain and your nervous system. The ego is brilliant but insane, and we are just as insane when we choose to listen to it.

But there is always another Teacher available to us within our minds, when we wish to learn something other than separation and guilt and fear. And it is by becoming increasingly conscious of what we have chosen with the ego that another door opens to a different choice. This process is beautifully described in one of the lessons in the workbook:

      “Heaven is chosen consciously. The choice cannot be made until alternatives are accurately seen and understood. All that is veiled in shadows must be raised to understanding, to be judged again, this time with Heaven's help. And all mistakes in judgment that the mind had made before are open to correction, as the truth dismisses them as causeless. Now are they without effects. They cannot be concealed, because their nothingness is recognized” (W.pI.138.9).