Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 3/14/2007
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1111 To what extent is the healing of the mind connected with the health of the body?
Q #1112 I can't visualize the Holy Spirit as a person, so how can I follow the Course?
Q #1113 Am I unqualified to learn the Course if I have no "significant other"?
Q #1114 What is the meaning of "Ideas leave not their source"?
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Q #1111(i): Two questions on sickness:
A Course in Miracles talks about giving our body the Holy Spirit's purpose and then it should function healthily. The past couple of years I've had a lot of sickness, which I attribute to stress and my two little rugrats bringing home what I like to call ''the voodoo toddler virus'' -- only because I had put the Course on the back burner in my mind for a number of years, but now I'm back on track. To what extent does limiting guilt and practicing forgiveness affect our immune system; and are we limited more or less as long as we remain in a body?
Q #1111(ii): The section in the manual called “How Are Healing and the Atonement Related?” (M.22) states that healing, the Atonement principle, and forgiveness are not just related, but are identical, and that this must be understood if the teacher of God is to make progress. I know that the body is the illusion and trying to heal the body is trying to make the dream and the body real. If the goal is to accept the Atonement, and having received it, my mind is healed, does it not follow that the body would then be subject to the decision that the mind has made and be healed too? Or can the mind be healed and the body still appear to be sick? How does this work if I am working with someone else who is sick? Does his body still appear to be sick or be healed?
A: (The following covers both questions.) The Course stresses that the body is a projection of the mind and does not exist as an independent entity that gets sick, gets better, and eventually dies (T.28.VI.2) . Thus, only the mind is active -- the body has no effect on the mind, and to think that it does is what Jesus calls level confusion (T.2.IV.4) . The guilt in our minds is always projected onto our own bodies (sickness) or onto others (attack), unless the decision maker chooses to look at the guilt with Jesus. This is all part of the ego's strategy to get us out of our minds so that we will never realize that we have the power to choose against it (the ego). We thus wind up believing the body actively does things or is acted upon by outside agents, over which we have little or no control. But that is all made up (self-deception), which is why Jesus describes sickness as “a defense against the truth” (W.pI.136). Ill health is the effect of a decision made by the mind for a purpose it wants to fulfill -- ultimately, to remain in its separated state but not be held responsible for it. Thus does Jesus teach, “The cause of pain is separation, not the body, which is only its effect” (T.28.III.5:1). Pain, therefore, is not defined by bodily sensations; our experience of pain is due entirely to the guilt in our mind and our choosing the ego's interpretation that we deserve to be punished.
Forgiveness is the mind's decision to look at guilt with Jesus, learning that it is based on false beliefs and therefore need not be projected, but simply let go of. Although still a projection of the mind, the body, then, will not be used in support of separation and guilt, but rather to demonstrate the Holy Spirit's thought system of shared interests. The mind healed of its belief in guilt will know that the body is not its reality, and so “health” will now be associated with the acceptance of the Atonement, not mistakenly with the absence of disease; and the immune system will be properly located in the mind -- the mind's resistance to any belief in the reality of separation and limitation. No longer identified with the body, the healed mind will not be limited by it (T.18.VI.13) , although the body will still appear “normal” in the sense of aging and other kinds of conditions. An ego-free mind could also choose to help unhealed minds learn that the body is not their reality by appearing in a diseased body or in a body that gets crucified. Consider Ramakrishna or Jesus for example: their bodies at the end did not appear very healthy in the world's terms; yet there was no guilt in their minds. They chose to teach us through those forms. There could also be other reasons, unknown to us, for choosing bodily limitations; but the healed mind would not add on the ego's interpretation, that they are the punishment for our sinfulness.
Thus, the observation of the body alone cannot tell us whether a specific condition represents a right- minded or wrong-minded decision. Strictly speaking, of course, if a specific condition is the direct effect of the mind's projection of its guilt, then that condition will change when the mind lets go of the guilt. But with the disappearance of guilt goes also the mind's identification with the body, as the mind has realized that its state of peace is completely independent of the body's condition. That is crucial, and a very difficult lesson for us to learn.
In contrast, for the mind that still values separation and specialness, the body will symbolize whatever that mind values and wants to hold on to. Addressing the decision maker in this context, Jesus says, “. . . you have made of it [the body] a symbol for the limitations that you want your mind to have and see and keep” (T.28.VI.3:10). Consequently, we (as decision making minds) will experience ourselves as limited by the body only if that is the identity we want to be the truth about ourselves. We will become what we are not, which includes believing the body runs on its own systems, which are affected by outside forces.
It is far more helpful to focus on the mind's immune system: the power to accept the truth that we have been denying, and to deny that anything external can give us peace or take it away. (Kenneth presented a workshop in 2005 entitled “Strengthening the Mind's Immune System.”) Jesus reminds us, however, that “the resistance to recognizing this is enormous, because the existence of the world as you perceive it depends on the body being the decision maker” (M.5.II.1:7). So we need to be patient with ourselves as we process these teachings and learn how to smile gently at our need to have the body be real in our awareness.
If you are working with someone who is sick, your only responsibility is to be aware of your perceptions and to look for any judgments you may be making, and then to bring them to the love of Jesus that is always present in your mind. As Jesus states in an earlier section in the manual, where he is discussing how to be with a patient, “ 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.3:9). That is always the guiding principle for any relationship -- to perceive your interests as shared with the other person's, not as separate. Then you will simply know what to do or not to do. Whether the other person is coming from the wrong mind or the right mind will be irrelevant; your response will always be loving. Again, you cannot judge the content of the person's mind just from the condition of the body (form). But in that holy instant of being beyond separate interests, love will flow through you in a form that will be appropriate in that situation. You will then avoid the all-too-common mistake (often with hurtful results) of thinking you know what is in that person's interests; and, respectful of that mind's choice, you will have no ego needs that will disrupt the communication of love.
Q #1112: I know it is imperative to think of the Holy Spirit (or Jesus) as a real person who loves you. And this seems to be in keeping with the language of the Course. On the other hand, with certain rare exceptions, this does not come naturally to me, and we are also taught that the Holy Spirit, and God are really metaphors for oneness. I also find the language confusing because by defining the Holy Spirit as a person it would seem to increase the sense of duality (self vs. not-self) rather than eliminate it. Why can't the Holy Spirit be thought of as higher inspiration, as unconditional love, or as understanding that comes to one when one is receptive, through any means that is useful and natural to one? By insisting that He be a person, I often find myself put off because I think: I don't believe in this, the Holy Spirit isn't a person. I agree it is very comforting and very powerful to feel Jesus' presence. But that is a rare experience for me. I put the Course down for weeks.
A: Perceiving Jesus or the Holy Spirit as a person is meant as a helpful way to make their presence real to us. We are deeply attached to our identity as bodies; not only physical bodies but emotional, psychological, and intellectual bodies, wherein our thoughts, imaginings, fantasies, and beliefs take on great importance. We know that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not persons. We know that loved ones who have died no longer have the bodies they wore when they lived amongst us. That does not deter us from remembering them as they were to us. In fact, we keep pictures of them to remember the love we shared with them. The pictures are symbols, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as persons are symbols. Indeed, we are not bodies, and Jesus is not speaking to the individual who identifies with a body. In addressing the mind of the Sonship, the Course uses symbols (words and images) to accommodate our mistaken belief about ourselves. It refers to the Holy Spirit as “He” (a person) Who symbolizes the part of the mind that holds the memory of God's Love. Jesus refers to himself as a person: “I will teach with you and live with you if you will think with me…(T.4.I.6:3)” He even invites us to see him as a body: If it helps you, think of me holding your hand and leading you. And I assure you this will be no idle fantasy (W.p.I.70.9:3,4) . The only important thing is that we take Jesus' invitation to heart in whatever form is most meaningful: “Let my relationship to you be real to you, and let me bring reality to your perception of your brothers” (T.17.III.10:2).
As always in practicing the Course, we look at everything we experience as the reflection of the mind's choice for the ego or the memory of love (Holy Spirit). Every annoyance, confusion, or irritation can only come from the choice to listen to the ego thought system. In resistance to its message, everyone puts the book down for periods of time. It doesn't matter whether it be for a few minutes, weeks or years. What matters is picking it up again, which reflects the mind's decision to listen to the Holy Spirit. If only for an instant, if only once in a great while, you experience Jesus' presence, it is enough to tell you he is there. That is all we need to know, for love has come, having been chosen by the mind that remembers.
Q #1113: I am disturbed by the concept of the holy relationship. I feel quite left out because I have no such relationship with another person. I have heard other Course people say it doesn't necessarily mean that, but having looked quite carefully through the text it sure does sound like that is exactly what Jesus does mean. And since so much seems to depend on this holy relationship, it makes me feel like I am not qualified to work with A Course in Miracles because I have no significant other.
A: Our answer to question #223 provides a helpful overview of the issue of special learning partners in our work with the Course. In general, we all have people in our lives who push our buttons in a major way, and these encounters can be helpful in directing us to some deeply buried guilt, which we can then look at and ask for help with. Special love and special hate relationships are always rooted in the guilt we buried and projected in an effort to get rid of it. They are defined only by this choice to accept the ego's interpretation of our guilt, not by the way bodies interact. That is another critical point raised in our discussion. Relationships exist only in the mind (content) and are not between bodies in the world (form), as we commonly tend to think ( see T.28.IV.3).
A holy relationship automatically flows from our choice to have the Holy Spirit be our Guide for seeing everything, which means all of our thoughts and perceptions will reflect the oneness of the Sonship in some way -- we will see our interests as shared with everyone else's, not as separate and conflicting. Thus, you do not have to make something happen or fix something with another person in your life for you to experience a holy relationship. The only relationship is the one that exists in your mind between you and the Holy Spirit, which can then be symbolized in a relationship with another person, meaning that the relationship now serves the Holy Spirit's purpose rather than the ego's. But you do not have to be in a close relationship with someone for this to happen. It is always a matter of whether you are making the ego's thought system real in your mind or the Holy Spirit's. Everything else will symbolize that choice.
When A Course in Miracles originally came, Jesus was speaking to Helen about her relationship with Bill Thetford and other significant people in her life. And so there are many statements about “you and your brother.” Yet he also emphasizes that “you can interact but with yourself” (T.31.V.15:5) , and that “there is nothing outside you” (T.18.VI.1:1) . “You and your brother,” thus, are symbols or concepts in our minds -- that is what Jesus is trying to get us to see. Yes, that certainly is an advanced level of awareness, but if we lose sight of that central truth, we will not be able to practice this course as it was intended to be practiced, and we will wind up bringing Jesus down to our level (the ego's most cherished goal), instead of rising to his level, where our minds would be restored to their natural state of eternal love and peace.
Q #1114: Please clarify what is meant by: “ideas leave not their source” (T.26.VII.4:7). We read many times that we created ourselves and our world, but read as many times that God created us.
A: “Ideas leave not their source” (T.26.VII.4:7) is the cornerstone of the Course's teaching. Upon it rests every other principle of its thought system. This most basic law of the nature of the mind means that nothing exists outside the Mind of God, and therefore the separation is impossible. Likewise, nothing exists outside the mind of the Sonship, and therefore the world is an illusion. The world and the body are projections of the mind; they do not exist in reality. We perceive and experience them as real because we choose to believe in them as the expression in form of the mind's choice for separation. It is the mind's belief in them that “makes them.” That is what the Course means when it says we made them; or more specifically “made them up”: “What if you recognized this world is an hallucination? What if you really understood you made it up? What if you realized that those who seem to walk about in it, to sin and die, attack and murder and destroy themselves, are wholly unreal? Could you have faith in what you see, if you accepted this? And would you see it?” (T.20.VIII.7:3,4,5,6,7).
The key to understanding the principles and teachings of A Course in Miracles is to remember that it addresses the mind of the Sonship, not the individual who identifies with a body. Everything always refers to the mind precisely because “ideas leave not their source.” The “us” that the Course refers to as created by God is the Mind of His Son who remains one with Him in the home he never left. God did not create the individuals we think we are. The mind that is split by belief in separation has confused itself with the body. The goal of the Course is to heal this identity confusion by teaching us that we are minds with the power to choose. The healing is accomplished through the practice of forgiveness whereby every experience is seen as a projection of the mind. Thus, the principle that “ideas leave not their source” is made real in our experience, undoing the belief that something can exist outside the mind. In this way, the mind chooses to accept its true Identity (what God created), and weakens its belief in the hallucinatory experience of the world and the body (what the split mind made).