Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 3/07/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1107 I cheated on an exam. What should I do?
Q #1108 I want to work hard at "getting it" but I am supposed to do nothing?
Q #1109 Are we all living out pre-written attack scripts ?
#1110 What is the meaning of "Sphere of celestial order"?

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Q #1107: I decided to give this problem to the Holy Spirit and ask it once here, then let it go. I have been going to school to be a radiologic technician for a couple years now and will be finished sometime in 2007. During chemistry class I cheated on an exam because of the overwhelming work load I took on. Since then I sometimes have these scenes of death and physical pain and hurt in my mind that I will cause because I wonder if I happened to miss something very important on that test -- something that is detrimental to someone's health. I feel like others will be punished for my laziness. The thought comes to me that maybe I should take the class over so I can learn what I missed and then I am quickly filled with fear. I think what I missed will never come back around and has forever passed me by. When I offer this to the Holy Spirit I hear a voice that tells me, "Sure, now you're at peace but look at this pain you will cause. Do you care about their peace?" Another similar thought accuses me of hurting people in different ways. For example, I stretched the truth to get my job and I sometimes feel like I stole the job from people who are more deserving of it. I think I have hurt them, which must be atoned for, maybe by giving up my job. Can you give me some insight from the perspective of A Course in Miracles on this fear?

A: Before you let your thoughts go and give them to the Holy Spirit, there is one more thing that would be very helpful to do first. And that is to ask yourself what purpose both your acts of dishonesty and all your conflicting thoughts about them are serving for you. For they are not simply careless acts or random thoughts, nor are the thoughts about your deceptions thrust upon you against your will -- you in fact invite them all in for a reason. Your specific actions and your subsequent acute conflict are all part of the ego's relentless attempt to keep you mindless, that is, obsessively focused on shadow problems and guilt so that you never get in touch with what is behind them -- the guilt in the mind that is the source of their projection.

These situations with their future fears are symbols for the deeper self-accusation that you won't allow yourself to look at, that we all share -- that we are responsible for pain and death because of our choice against God and for the ego, a choice, by the way, that we continue to make, minute by minute, each day of our lives (T.14.III.4:1,2) , until we ask for another way. For we unconsciously believe we cheated God out of the life that is rightfully His and now masquerade as our own creator, while down deep we know the whole thing is one big lie, that we are a fraud and something is missing for which we are responsible. And so, while these thoughts are not conscious, they color our interpretation of all our experiences in the world with feelings of guilt and inadequacy for which no real solution seems possible. And if we then act out in ways that seem to reinforce that negative self-perception, all the better, for those violations seem to be the reason we feel as we do and we think we need look no further to understand why we feel so guilty. And that guilt can never be undone, for what is done is done, with the potentially destructive consequences irreversibly set in motion.

Yet the good news is that there is an answer, but not in terms of fixing things in the world, such as atoning through sacrifice for our wrongdoing. Those actions merely reinforce the underlying thought that our guilt is real. It is not that there is something that needs to be done, but rather something that needs to be undone -- our belief that our underlying guilt is real and calls for punishment. Now we will not be able to change our minds about ourselves by ourselves -- to us it is all quite serious, certainly nothing to smile about. And so we need to turn to Jesus or the Holy Spirit and ask to join with them in their perception of the truth about us. For they see beyond the clouds of guilt we have made real to the light of holiness that shines always within our minds (T.18.IX.8,9) . And they will help us learn that we can neither harm nor be harmed (M.4.IV.1:1.2) . And then you will begin to smile at the reasons you have felt the need to protect yourself through dishonesty and deceit, and you will begin to see the silliness of all your thoughts of attack and hurt, because you will begin to understand that all your mistakes have had no real effect on anything that truly matters.

Q #1108: I very much want to “get it”, but in this desire I know there is a “spiritual specialness” that is driving me; an ego “trick”.  All my life I have been a type A person and have been driven to accomplish. That is why the statement “I need do nothing” is so difficult for me. I continue to wonder if I will “get it,” whatever that is, in this lifetime. There is no time; it's an illusion. But while I have accepted the atonement principle, I don't know that I really have internalized it. What happens if I don't “get it” in this lifetime? The problem is that all of the work I do in this lifetime will be “lost” and I'll have to start all over again, even though I know I'm not a separated body, and am one with the Son of God; in fact I am the Son of God. The more I study, the more I get confused;  I know there is a great deal of level confusion here. I guess I might just have to accept that “I need do nothing” and know that it is all alright and that my mind is with God, but it would sure help if you'd tell me this.

A: Indeed, you need do nothing, it is all right, and your mind is with God. And definitely nothing is lost. Knowing that in our state of deep confusion we are beset with fears and doubts, Jesus offers the reassurance you seek: “There is no time, no place, no state where God is absent. There is nothing to be feared” (T.29.I.1:1,2). The only thing keeping this realization from awareness is resistance. Resistance cannot be fought against; it can only be acknowledged, and the only thing “to do” is to use your natural affinity for getting things accomplished to be vigilant. You can accomplish mindfulness, and willingness to see that confusion is only fear of truly accepting the Atonement.

Just as you would not push someone who is afraid of drowning out of a boat, it is not helpful to try to push yourself into Heaven. Besides, it will not work. An understanding of the Course's teaching about the illusion of time and the separation is helpful in learning the metaphysical foundation of its thought system, but until we are ready to experience these truths, it is best to practice A Course in Miracles in the classroom of the body and our lives. While we believe in the reality of the world, it is important that we “stay with it,” so to speak. It holds all the lessons needed for the practice of forgiveness. Everything within the illusion of time is useful to the Holy Spirit, including a type-A personality. And every step toward the goal of returning to the home we never left, taken in this lifetime or any other, gets us closer to the end we seek. Again, nothing is lost. Certainly there have been learning experiences in this lifetime (and perhaps many others) that led you to the Course. How can you know what preparatory steps paved the way. In fact, Jesus tells us in this regard: “…you cannot distinguish between advance and retreat. Some of your greatest advances you have judged as failures, and some of your deepest retreats you have evaluated as success” (T.18.V.1:5,6) .

The only way out of confusion is to stay with what we actually experience, not what we know intellectually. The thoughts that present themselves moment by moment are our guide to the activity of the mind. They reveal the choice the mind has made and the beliefs that support that choice. No conflict presents itself when the mind chooses the Holy Spirit. Anything but perfect peace tells us the ego has been chosen; misery, conflict, and confusion are then inevitable. No big deal, another choice can be made. When you find yourself getting on the merry-go-round, switching levels, it may be helpful to practice an exercise found in the text: “This lesson takes no time. For what is time without a past and future? It has taken time to misguide you so completely, but it takes no time at all to be what you are. Begin to practice the Holy Spirit's use of time as a teaching aid to happiness and peace. Take this very instant, now, and think of it as all there is of time. Nothing can reach you here out of the past, and it is here that you are completely absolved, completely free and wholly without condemnation. From this holy instant wherein holiness was born again you will go forth in time without fear, and with no sense of change with time” (T.15.I.9). In the Course, Jesus assures us that no small effort, no willingness however little, no tiny step toward truth are lost. Each one weakens our grip on the ego's thought system, and each strengthens our hold on his hand. We cannot lose, and you cannot help but “get it.”

Q #1109: A student of A Course in Miracles told me that whenever an attack at the level of form happens, it is a result of a forgotten agreement that exists between me and the other person for that person to do exactly that to me. Is that true? Are people in my life characters who are always enacting the script I wrote for them? Or are they acting in accordance to their own script and when they need a "scapegoat" will anyone who is at hand at that specific moment, which may or may not be me, be used as such?

A: The secret, forgotten agreement (T.28.VI.4) is never between the figures in the dream -- the selves we think we are -- but occurs at the level of mind, usually out of awareness, between the fragments that believe they are separate dreamers. And so as the dreamer of my dream, yes, I am responsible for everything that seems to happen to the figure that I identify as myself within the dream (T.27.VIII.10) . But that is not a level that most of us are in touch with, nor is it a particularly helpful way to approach our daily experiences and interactions. The more helpful level to consider, while I still identify with the figure I call myself, is that I am responsible for my interpretations and reactions to the various events in my life.

Now there is some truth in your observation that, when we are looking to project our guilt, any convenient target will do. But no one can truly be a victim of anyone else's seeming attack. It is only ever my own interpretation that leads me to see someone else as attacking me and, in particular, depriving me of my peace (T.12.I.3) . No matter what the other person may be saying or doing, it is my own choice whether to take those actions personally and, if I do, it can only be because I want to see myself as a victim. And that always reflects the secret agreement (see Question #37 for further discussion of this hidden agreement) to seem to be hurt by the other.

In union with the ego, we have all agreed to see others as responsible for our unhappiness and feelings of victimization. And we all have special partners in which the dance of death has been especially intimately choreographed. Yet when we are willing to dismiss the ego and turn to a different Interpreter of our experiences, we will recognize our own buried guilt in all of our reactions to what others seem to be doing to us. And with that recognition, we can make a choice about continuing to hold on to that guilt or letting it dissolve in the gentle light of true forgiveness. And that always entails forgiving ourselves for our own projections of our own guilt, at which point we can only see others' words and actions as the calls for help and love that they truly are (T.12.I.3,4) .

Q #1110 Is it possible to for you to expand on the meanings of "sphere of celestial order" and "Divine Order" mentioned in the “Principles of Miracles” (T.1.I.32:3; 37:4).

A: The term order is another word for “dimension” or “realm,” more specifically, the system of laws governing that realm. Thus, the “sphere of celestial order” refers to the realm beyond the physical realm, where the laws of spirit have nothing in common with the laws of the ego world. The same would be true of the “Divine Order.” While we still adhere to the ego thought system, the realm of God and Heaven is completely unknowable by us. The law of love's eternal, non- quantitative extension is meaningless to us while we are enmeshed in the specialness of individual existence.