Weekly Questions and Answers, 03/19/2003

This week's questions:

Q #108: The difference between special love and real love
Q #109: A clarification of the term "mind"
Q #110: Why do we think the voice of the Course is that of Jesus?
Q #111: Is the entire world an illusion?
Q #112: How can the Course help with the grief process?

Q #108: As I continue to study A Course in Miracles, I am beginning to understand that the emotion that is commonly called "love" in this world is not at all the same as the "love" referred to in the Course. In fact, I have discovered that in many cases, my ego uses the idea of "love" to cover up a lot of very dysfunctional thinking and behavior. What is the relationship between love as we understand it in the world, and love as expressed in the Course, and how can we use that to guide our lives? 

A: The distinction you make between the "love" the Course is referring to and what is called "love" in this world is correct. They are not the same thing. The love of this world is always what the Course calls "special love," and it is the foundation of the "special relationship." It not only has properties that are in direct opposition to the love the Course refers to, it is actually a mask for hatred: "It is in the special relationship, born of the hidden wish for special love from God, that the ego's hatred triumphs. For the special relationship is the renunciation of the Love of God, and the attempt to secure for the self the specialness that He denied" (T.16.V.4:1,2). We are secretly saying to anyone or anything we have a special love relationship with: "God did not love me with the specialness I want, so I will use you to get the special love I think I cannot live without." What we call "love," therefore, is our substitute for God’s love. Furthermore, the Course tells us it is hate: "…any brother with whom you have a limited relationship, you hate" (T.21.III1:3). This "hate" is based on the misperception that we are different, incomplete, and needy. In the special love relationship an agreement is made for mutual needs to be met, and thus we seek to fill the void left by our seeming separation from God. And, true to the ego’s mandate "seek but do not find" (T.16.V.6:5), this substitute for God’s love will never satisfy our need, no matter how we try to make it work. Even the most fulfilling "love" relationship will eventually end in death.

 What the Course is inviting us to do is to look at our special love relationships from this new perspective, as shocking as it may seem to be, so that we will become willing to open ourselves to a new purpose, and a new interpretation: "A holy relationship starts from a different premise. Each one has looked within and seen no lack. Accepting his completion, he would extend it by joining with another, whole as himself. He sees no difference between these selves, for differences are only of the body. Therefore, he looks on nothing he would take. He denies not his own reality because it is the truth"(T.22.in.3:1,2,3,4,5,6).

The important thing to remember is that it is normal, not sinful, to have special relationships, and they will not be taken away. In fact, they can be useful in our lives if we give them to the Holy Spirit to be transformed into holy relationships: "I have said repeatedly that the Holy Spirit would not deprive you of your special relationships, but would transform them" (T.17.IV.2:3). In this way, the love we experience with another person becomes a reflection of the love of God in the dream, not a substitute for it.

Q #109: My question is about the mind. My understanding is that we are spirit, mind, and body, and that the body is not real, and is a product of the mind. Mind, as I understand it, has the function to create and to let our spirit (or soul) come to know itself experientially, which is the ultimate goal of all spiritual development. The mind mediates experience between the body and the soul, but it has become confused because of our experiences living in the world, and so it must learn to remember who it is -- which is the Atonement -- by being re-educated. In that way, the soul, having experienced itself in the physical realm, mediated by the mind, can reunite with God and integrate back the experiential knowledge of what it means to be perfect. But if this is the case, why is the mind needed at all? Why can’t the soul control the body in order to gain all the experience it needs, bypassing any need for the mind?

A: Your question suggests that you are attempting to blend some of the teachings of the Course with teachings from other spiritual paths with which the Course is not really compatible. So, to clarify, we will look at what the Course says, in light of your question, including a consideration of how it uses its terms, different from other paths, and what it says about the purpose of the mind and the body.

The Course sees only spirit, or soul, as real (preferring to use the term "spirit" rather than "soul") (C.1.3). Mind has several different levels of meaning in the Course (for a more in depth discussion of mind, you may wish to look at Question #65). Mind, when it is capitalized, refers to either God or Christ, His One Son (C.1.1:2), and in this sense is really equivalent to spirit. When lower case, mind refers to the split mind of the Son (C.1.2:1,2,3) after he has seemingly fallen asleep and is dreaming a dream of separation, believing that he has split off or separated from God, thereby attacking Him. This mind is illusory and has no reality outside of our mistaken belief in it, and it is the birthplace of sin, guilt and fear.

As a defense against this made-up guilt and fear in the mind over the attack upon God, the split mind under the guidance of the ego then makes up a body to hide in and a world outside of itself onto which all the attack and guilt in the mind can be displaced. Again, none of this is real, according to the Course. But we believe in it because we want the separation to be real but we do not want to be responsible for it.

The Course sees no positive or Divine purpose in the thought of separation that has led to the split mind and its defense, the body and the world. And so any experience that comes from them has no value in itself. The Course does make further distinctions within the split mind and it is through an understanding of these that we can see how the body and our experiences in the world can come to serve a useful purpose. But the purpose again is not to do anything positive but rather to undo the negative by allowing all of our errors or mistaken beliefs about ourselves to be corrected. The Course calls this process forgiveness.

The split mind is home not only to the ego, the wrong-minded aspect of the post-separation self, but also to the Holy Spirit, who remembers our reality as God’s One, true Son, and so is able to correct all of our mistaken beliefs about who we are and what the world is (C.1.5,6). Basically, He reminds us that the separation never happened and that we never attacked God -- which is what the Course means by the Atonement principle (M.2.2:2,3). And so, as the seemingly separated Son, we have a choice as to whether we are going to listen to the harsh and strident lies of the ego, which can only take us deeper into the morass of sin and guilt, or to the gentle corrections of the Holy Spirit. His corrections allow us to undo our mistaken beliefs about who we are and return to the Home we never left.

For this process of undoing to happen, we have to pay attention to our experiences as a body in the world, becoming aware of what interpretations we are giving to those experiences -- usually some variation on seeing ourselves as victims and others as victimizers so that the guilt resides outside ourselves. And so it is in this sense that the Course would say that our experiences are of value. For we can then bring these mistaken thoughts to the Holy Spirit for correction. The only real purpose for the world and our body then is to teach us that they are not what we have believed them to be. When we let go of those false beliefs, we then remember Who we really are as the Christ, whose reality as spirit has never changed at all, being as changelessly perfect as our Source. At that point, the body, the world, and the split mind have simply disappeared, as darkness disappears when light shines upon it, for they have no reality.

Q #110: It was in this site that I read about "Jesus" saying or teaching this or that in the A Course in Miracles for the first time. Is his name mentioned in the Course at any point and if not, how did you start using his name that otherwise would be "the Christic voice," "the Christ," or something like that?

A: Jesus is mentioned in the Course; in the Manual for Teachers (M.23) and the Clarification of Terms (C.5). These more lengthy passages may completely answer your question. Also, in the Text there are several first person passages (notably T.1.II.3,4) which refer to Jesus, although his name is not mentioned. Helen Schucman knew the inner voice she heard was that of Jesus, just as we know the voice of a family member on the phone without asking: "Helen incidentally was well aware…that the Voice belonged to Jesus…" (Absence from Felicity, Kenneth Wapnick, p. 179).

It is important to remember, however, that in the dream Jesus is a symbol for one who has fully identified with the Christ, and that this identity is not exclusive to Jesus. On the other hand, the term Christ, as used in the Course, refers to the "totality of the Sonship" as defined in the Glossary-Index for A Course in Miracles by Kenneth Wapnick. Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, remains at one with the Father in Heaven, and is not present in the dream. It would, therefore, not be appropriate to refer to Christ as the messenger or "voice" of the Course.

Belief that Jesus is the voice who speaks in A Course in Miracles is not necessary to our work with it. Nor is it necessary to develop a relationship with him, but it is helpful. As a symbol in our dream, Jesus is with us to teach us to do as he did in accepting the Atonement: "Jesus has led the way…This course has come from him because his words have reached you in a language you can love and understand. Are other teachers possible, to lead the way to those who speak in different tongues and appeal to different symbols? Certainly there are. Would God leave anyone without a very present help in time of trouble; a savior who can symbolize Himself?…Jesus has come to answer yours. In him you find God's Answer. Do you, then, teach with him, for he is with you; he is always here" (M.23.5:1,6:1,2,3,4,6,7,8). The Course is a very loving message that comes to us from the memory of God’s love reflected in the mind symbolized in the "person" of Jesus. The form this love takes is not important, it is only important that we hear the message and accept the love. Hearing Jesus speak the words of the Course to you as you study is a very helpful way, not only to relate to Jesus, but to accept the love the Course reflects.

Q #111: Would you please clarify a question about the world being an illusion? Is the physical world we see with our eyes an illusion, or is the way we interpret the world we see an illusion, or both?

A: The entire physical universe is an illusion, not just our interpretations. This is the absolute non- dualism of the Course’s metaphysics. The Course is clear that what is real is changeless, without limit, formless, perfect, and eternal. Therefore anything that changes, that is limited, that has form, that is not perfect, and that is temporal cannot be real. Some passages to look at are the following, although there are many, many others that speak of non-dualism:

1) Lesson 132: "There is no world! This is the central thought the course attempts to teach" (W.pI.132.6:2; as well as other parts of the lesson).

2) "True Perception -- Knowledge": In this section in the clarification of terms, Jesus uses the phrase "the world you see"; but what follows makes it quite clear that he is referring not to our interpretations, but to the entire physical world that our eyes look upon. "The world you see is an illusion of a world. God did not create it, for what He creates must be eternal as Himself. Yet there is nothing in the world you see that will endure forever. Some things will last in time a little while longer than others. But the time will come when all things visible will have an end" (C.4.1).

3) "Forgiveness and the End of Time" (T.29.VI). This entire section describes anything of time and change as unreal.

4) "Time and space are but one illusion" (T.26.VIII.1:3).

We hope this sampling of references will help to clarify the confusion and will make reading A Course in Miracles a little easier.

Q #112: I have recently experienced the loss of my second of two beloved pets. I found myself trying to use A Course in Miracles to "save" him prior to his death. I did not want to give him up and I became very angry when nothing I tried worked. In particular, I was reading lesson 320 in the workbook: "My Father gives all power unto me." I understand that maybe I am confusing levels, but I wonder if someone can explain this to me to add more understanding of where my error lies. How can I use the Course to walk through this process of grief? The pain is so intense; I do not know how to ask for help.

A: It is quite understandable, in your desire to keep your beloved pet in your life, that you would try to use all means you see available to save him. And unless you read Lesson 320 in the context of the whole Course, it is very easy to see it as telling you that you should have the power, among other things, to save your pet’s life. But that is not what this lesson means. As with so many other words in A Course in Miracles, power has a specific meaning that is different from how we think of power from our ego-based perspective. To the ego, power refers to the capacity to change and control things in the world. But since the world, from Jesus’ perspective if not yet ours, is illusory, then this is no real power at all.

The Course says there are really only two kinds of power: the power to create and the power to choose or decide. The power to create, which involves simply the extension of the love that is our only reality, was given to us by God in our creation and remains within our mind even though we have covered it over and forgotten it. But this power functions only in the realm of spirit and has nothing to do with the ego world of bodies and form that we think is our reality.

When we seemed to turn our back on the power of creation out of our desire to be separate, the power we made for ourselves in its place was the power of decision (T.14.VI.5:6) -- the power to turn away from the love of God and choose the ego in all its many expressions as our teacher and guide. But once we have made this power of decision real for ourselves, Jesus tells us we can give it another purpose (T.14.VI.5:6.7) -- we can learn to choose the Holy Spirit instead of the ego as our Teacher and Guide, helping us to awaken from the nightmare dream of death and loss and grief that we have made our reality. For once we believe we are trapped within the world, the power to choose how we look at what we’ve made is the only real power available to us (T.12.VII.9:1.2). All the so-called powers of the world simply keep us rooted in the illusion, continuously reinforcing our belief in limits and loss, reflecting our choice for the ego and all its ramifications.

So when Lesson 320 says, "Your [God’s] Will can do all things in me, and then extend to all the world as well through me" (W.pII.320.2:1), it means that when we choose the Holy Spirit as our Teacher, all the guilt that we experience as a result of our choice for separation can be undone through forgiveness. That forgiveness can then extend through us to other minds that also believe they are trapped in a body in the world. In the context of your beloved pets, this would mean that you would first recognize your own choice to make suffering and death real, and would then bring those thoughts and the guilt that accompanies them to the Holy Spirit for release. And in that moment when you allow your own mind to be healed, the peace within you will extend to those around you, including your little friends who may still be experiencing pain and fear in their own minds. And you will know in that moment that separation is not real and no one and nothing, including death, can deprive you of love.

For a further consideration of how the Course looks at death and grief, you may also wish to look at Question #15, from November 13th, 2002. The important thing is to allow yourself to be gentle with the process of grieving