Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 3/21/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1115 The Course seems like a tunnel without a light at the end.
Q #1116 Why would Jesus need to forgive his crucifiers?
Q #1117 What are some common defenses against the truth?

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Q #1115: Some time ago, I slowly came to agree with the answer given in Question #767 dated 07/20/2005.

However, there hasn't been any current "filling in the gap" or "holy instants" of joy, happiness, or anything or a positive nature to make an alternative route from the worldly ego to notice. The result seems to be a blah passing of life without any enthusiastic interest in anything through an acceptance of ACIM ideas. How can one take any joy in the illusive and the unreal? One could feel "guilty" for having not fulfilled the promises made in the texts, or at least disappointed, and surely feeling like we're just treading water until , at last we leave the body, at the least. So what is a ACIM believer to do while here in the body? The idea that some time there will be an atonement is great but how does one feel good about ourselves while we could still be in our bodies for the next 20 or 30 years, or more? And "horrors" we could come back to more ego illusions !!! After 16 years or reading, it feels like a labyrinth which has no exit, and that the promises are but more illusions. Is there ever some light somewhere in this tunnel which I have been traveling these many years?

I haven't experienced any “filling in the gap” or “holy instants” of joy, happiness, or anything of a positive nature to make an inviting alternative route from the worldly ego. The result seems to be a blah-passing of life without any enthusiastic interest in anything through an acceptance of the ideas of A Course in Miracles . How can one take any joy in the illusive and the unreal? One could feel "guilty" for having not fulfilled the promises made in the text, or at least disappointed, and surely feeling like we're just treading water until, at last we leave the body.

So what is a Course believer to do while here in the body? The idea that some time there will be an Atonement is great but how does one feel good about one's self while still in the body for the next 20 or 30 years, or more? After 16 years of reading, it feels like a labyrinth which has no exit, and that the promises are but more illusions. Is there ever some light in this tunnel that I have been traveling these many years?

A: Since the Course's teaching turns our usual way of thinking upside down, we should perhaps begin by turning your image upside down. The world is the tunnel, and the light both in the tunnel and at its end is the message of the Course. For you, and countless other students, it does not always seem this way. That is because, as the old song goes, we are so accustomed to “looking for love [light] in all the wrong places.” If at any time you have felt a deep resonance and calm certainty in recognition that the message of the Course is true, you have accessed your right mind, and that is the holy instant. It is no more glamorous than that, yet hardly insignificant: “A light has entered the darkness. It may be a single light, but that is enough” (M.1.1:4,5). Eons of lies are undone in an instant of recognizing that truth is true. Appreciation of any small, but truly effective step in the accomplishment of the Atonement is the only source of hope in journeying with the Course. The ego works in grand strokes, roaring and shrieking, but it lies. The still, small Voice of the Holy Spirit whispers, but speaks the truth; It speaks for God. Using the body as an instrument for learning to listen to that Voice, with the world as a classroom, would seem a worthy use for them during the next 20 or 30 years.

No doubt the beliefs you previously held about God, your self and the world have been extinguished, or at least mortally wounded during your many years of Course study. Their demise is no small accomplishment, considering the investment in learning the erroneous concepts. If such change is possible in learning the principles of the Course, it is reasonable to believe that everything else it promises is also within reach. Advances toward the fulfillment of its promises are frequently obscured by the interference of expectations that have nothing to do with the goal of the Course. We do not always want what it promises, wanting instead, fanciful substitutions for true spiritual progress. That is why Jesus tells us: “Some of your greatest advances you have judged as failures, and some of your deepest retreats you have evaluated as success” (T.18.V.1:6). In other words, we don't know what's going on, and would be incapable of evaluating it even if we did. And so, in his gentle wisdom he adds: “Put yourself not in charge of this, for you cannot distinguish between advance and retreat” (T.18.V.1:5) . Taken to heart, this inevitably leads to some sense of relief. We do not have to know what's going on. If 16 years seems like a long time, it may be comforting to know that in an instant of truly doing nothing by not judging, we “slip past centuries of effort, and escape from time” (T.18.VII,7:3). This is the light we find in the tunnel of the ego's insanity when we are willing not to put ourselves in charge of the Atonement. It not only lights our way, but lightens our load.

Q #1116: In the answer to Question #771, you say, "Jesus did not need to forgive those who crucified his body because he was not identified with his body.” In bodies we need to learn to forgive others. The Jesus who appears in the Bible makes the most important quote of his entire career by saying, "Forgive them for they know not what they do." If he had no need to extend forgiveness to those who attacked his body, then why did he ask for those who had attacked his body to be forgiven? If one claims that this Jesus in his petition for forgiveness in the Bible has nothing to do with the Jesus in A Course in Miracles, then we have completely thrown out the baby with the bath water.

While it is easy to recognize the insanity of this world, one can but wonder at the lack of consistency in conflicting statements made throughout the entire texts. If they were in error or mere figures of speech, the distinction is not usually or clearly drawn for the reader. How can inconsistency be consistent with truth? If a thing is true it must always be true.

A: Ah yes, it can all become so very confusing when we try to understand who really said what when, or when we aren't clear how to differentiate between what is meant literally and what is meant metaphorically in a writing such as the Course, which is much more like a poem than a scientific treatise.

Perhaps the simplest way to respond to your query would be this. The content of the message of the figure we call Jesus who lived two thousand years ago is the same as the content of the message of the Jesus who speaks to us now from outside time and space through the Course. The forms no doubt are different, for a variety of reasons, including differences in the psychological sophistication of the times then and now. However, it is a completely separate question as to whether Jesus' followers, especially those who attempted to put his good news down in writing two thousand years ago, truly understood his message of love and forgiveness. From the Course's perspective, if we accept its words as coming from the same source as the Jesus who appeared two thousand years ago in Palestine, the accuracy of the New Testament and its gospels as reports on Jesus' words and teachings is debatable. Jesus' followers' recollections of his message, or what they heard second and third hand from others (ever played the game of “telephone'?), were no doubt distorted by the projections of their own egos.

Jesus comments very explicitly on these distortions in the text:

      “The message of the crucifixion is perfectly clear: Teach only love, for that is what you are .

      “If you interpret the crucifixion in any other way, you are using it as a weapon for assault rather than as the call for peace for which it was intended. The Apostles often misunderstood it, and for the same reason that anyone misunderstands it. Their own imperfect love made them vulnerable to projection, and out of their own fear they spoke of the "wrath of God" as His retaliatory weapon. Nor could they speak of the crucifixion entirely without anger, because their sense of guilt had made them angry.

      “These are some of the examples of upside-down thinking in the New Testament, although its gospel is really only the message of love. If the Apostles had not felt guilty, they never could have quoted me as saying, ‘I come not to bring peace but a sword.' This is clearly the opposite of everything I taught. Nor could they have described my reactions to Judas as they did, if they had really understood me. I could not have said, ‘Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?' unless I believed in betrayal. The whole message of the crucifixion was simply that I did not. The ‘punishment' I was said to have called forth upon Judas was a similar mistake. Judas was my brother and a Son of God, as much a part of the Sonship as myself. Was it likely that I would condemn him when I was ready to demonstrate that condemnation is impossible?

      “As you read the teachings of the Apostles, remember that I told them myself that there was much they would understand later, because they were not wholly ready to follow me at the time (T.6.I.13;14;15;16:1) .

So you're going to make yourself crazy if you attempt to reconcile the teachings of the Course with what Jesus' followers two thousand years ago wrote about what they thought he had said and taught and done. The statement you repeat above as attributed to Jesus by the gospel writers at his crucifixion, if taken literally, would undermine the whole foundation upon which the Course's teachings on forgiveness rest. If Jesus had believed there was anything to forgive, he would have been making sin real and his request to the Father would be what Jesus in “The Song of Prayer” pamphlet refers to as forgiveness-to-destroy (S.2.I,II) . Jesus in the Course does provide an alternative interpretation of this gospel statement that clearly provides a correction for its original intent: “Miracle-minded forgiveness is only correction. It has no element of judgment at all. The statement ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do' in no way evaluates what they do. It is an appeal to God to heal their minds. There is no reference to the outcome of the error. That does not matter” (T.2.V.A.16) .

Now if you feel more drawn to the stories and quotations attributed to Jesus in the New Testament than to his words in the Course, then perhaps the Course is not your path. You are the only one who can decide that. But if the Course is your path, you'll want to stay focused on its content and not get lost in the ego's hairsplitting over discrepancies and contradictions. Jesus emphasizes this near the end of the Course:

      “This is not a course in philosophical speculation, nor is it concerned with precise terminology. It is concerned only with Atonement, or the correction of perception....

      “All terms are potentially controversial, and those who seek controversy will find it. Yet those who seek clarification will find it as well. They must, however, be willing to overlook controversy, recognizing that it is a defense against truth in the form of a delaying maneuver.... A universal experience is not only possible but necessary. It is this experience toward which the course is directed. Here alone consistency becomes possible because here alone uncertainty ends.

      “This course remains within the ego framework, where it is needed.... Therefore it uses words, which are symbolic, and cannot express what lies beyond symbols. ... The course is simple . It has one function [ forgiveness ]and one goal [ peace ]. Only in that does it remain wholly consistent because only that can be consistent” ( C.in.1:1,2; 2:1,2,3,5,6,7; 3:1,3,8,9,10 ).

Finally, in response to your concluding comment: A thing, including the Course, as well as the Bible, can never be true. The content underlying the words can reflect the truth, but the words themselves are not the truth. Teachings can only point to the truth, which is beyond all words and symbols.

For further discussion on the nature of the Course's use of symbols, The Message of A Course in Miracles, Part II: Few Choose to Listen, as well as the audiotape and CD set, Duality as Metaphor , can be especially helpful.

Q #1117: You mentioned in an earlier answer that recalling the past was a defense against the truth. I know from reading A Course in Miracles that sickness is also one of these defenses. Can you give a list of other common defenses?

A: Since the guilt that arises as the result of the mind's choice for separation is projected on to the body, everything pertaining to the body is a defense against the truth because it was made as a substitute for the oneness that was abandoned when separation was chosen. A list of defenses contains everything we choose to use to defend and protect belief in separation. It is a long list indeed. Anything that proves the world “real” in our experience defends the mind's belief in it, thereby denying the truth of oneness. This is the mind's way of dissociating from itself in its attempt to remain separate from its Source. The truth, however, is that there is no defense against the truth; it can be denied, forgotten, blocked from awareness, but it cannot be changed or extinguished. We read on the first page of the text: “Nothing real (truth) can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists” (T.in.2.3) . It follows that the illusory existence of what is not real (ego/ world) requires constant defense in order for the mind to sustain belief in it by its choice. Thus, the entire made-up physical universe is a defense. Obviously we cannot undo the belief in separation by crossing defenses off our list.

However, we learn in the Course that everything made as a defense against the truth can be used by the Holy Spirit to lead to the truth. Through the process of forgiveness, the entire defense strategy of the ego is transformed into a classroom for learning to accept the truth. The body and the world lose their power to defend against the truth when they are seen as projections of the mind. Willingness to apply this important principle in any situation strengthens belief in the power of the mind and weakens the ego's defense arsenal. There is no need to fight against the defenses. They need only be recognized as a smokescreen used by the ego to keep truth from awareness. They reflect the mind's choice to identify with the ego and to forget that it ever made a choice. One of the important goals of the Course is to uncover the ego's deceptive scheme and expose its defenses so the mind can choose to correct the error of believing in separation and accept its true identity as mind. Anything outside of the mind that is perceived as having any positive or negative effect on the mind's perfect peace is a defense against it and therefore against the truth. It constitutes a denial of the part of the mind that holds the memory of God's Love and abides in perfect peace. Being willing to see the ego's defense strategy at work in every relationship is the beginning of its undoing by the mere fact that it has been exposed. Not justifying the mind's projections lessens their effectiveness as defenses; not defending the defenses weakens them. Through this gentle practice, the ego's grip is loosened and eventually undone. The defense list fades and is erased.