Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 3/28/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1118 Based on many sayings in the Course, how can anyone claim God is unaware of our situation?.
Q #1119 What is the place of the soul in the Course?

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Q #1118: I've heard Ken Wapnick often say that God doesn't know we are here. How then can the quotes below be explained?

“His Word assures us that He loves the world. God's Word has promised that peace is possible here, and what He promises can hardly be impossible. But it is true that the world must be looked at differently, if His promises are to be accepted. What the world is, is but a fact. You cannot choose what this should be. But you can choose how you would see it. ...Yet has God's Judgment on this distorted world redeemed it and made it fit to welcome peace” (M.11.1:6,7,8,9,10,11;4:6).

“God turns to you for help to save the world” (M.29.8:2).

“You have projected outward what is antagonistic to what is inward, and therefore you would have to perceive it this way. That is why you must realize that your hatred is in your mind and not outside it before you can get rid of it; and why you must get rid of it before you can perceive the world as it really is” (T.12.III.7:9,10).

“The world as you perceive it cannot have been created by the Father, for the world is not as you see it” (T.11.VII.1:1).

“Now is the question different. It is no longer, ‘Can peace be possible in this world?' but instead, ‘Is it not impossible that peace be absent here?'” (M.11.4:11,12).

“To perceive anew is merely to perceive again, implying that before, or in the interval between, you were not perceiving at all. What, then, is the world that awaits your perception when you see it?” (T.11.VII.1:5,6).

“The world the holy see is beautiful because they see their innocence in it” (T.20.III.6:3).

“This loveliness is not a fantasy. It is the real world, bright and clean and new, with everything sparkling under the open sun” (T.17.II.2:1,2).

“The altar of God where Christ abideth is there. You have defiled the altar, but not the world. ...Bring your perceptions of the world to this altar, for it is the altar to truth. There you will see your vision changed, and there you will learn to see truly. From this place, where God and His Son dwell in peace and where you are welcome, you will look out in peace and behold the world truly” (T.12.III.10:3,4,6,7,8).

A: Although there is certainly much in A Course in Miracles that would seem to say otherwise, the Course's foundational metaphysical principles, if truly understood, make it very clear that God is abstract and not personal. For example, early in the text, in a discussion about how the ego arose, Jesus makes the following observation about knowledge, which is a term the Course uses to refer to our perfectly unified reality in God, or Heaven, in contrast to the realm of perception, which is the ego's invention: “Abstract thought applies to knowledge because knowledge is completely impersonal , and examples [ i.e., specifics ] are irrelevant to its understanding. Perception, however, is always specific, and therefore quite concrete” (T.4.II.1:4,5, italics added ).

The personal -- and interpersonal -- can only arise out of a thought of separation, where there can seem to be a specific self and a separate specific other -- an observer and an observed . “Ego illusions are quite specific, although the mind is naturally abstract . Part of the mind becomes concrete, however, when it splits. The concrete part believes in the ego, because the ego depends on the concrete. The ego is the part of the mind that believes your existence is defined by separation” (T.4.VII.1:2,3,4,5 , italics added ). The Course identifies both consciousness and perception as the result of the thought of separation. “Consciousness, the level of perception, was the first split introduced into the mind after the separation, making the mind a perceiver rather than a creator. Consciousness is correctly identified as the domain of the ego” (T.3.IV.2:1,2). Clearly then, consciousness and perception cannot be states or abilities of the true God as the Course characterizes God.

The oneness that is our reality, as the Course repeats in many different ways across many, many passages, simply cannot recognize separation nor the resulting illusory specifics and differences. Nor can the mind that has made separation real remember and understand its true, nonspecific, unified nature. “Complete abstraction is the natural condition of the mind. But part of it is now unnatural. It does not look on everything as one. It sees instead but fragments of the whole, for only thus could it invent the partial world you see. ....One brother is all brothers. Every mind contains all minds, for every mind is one. Such is the truth. Yet do these thoughts make clear the meaning of creation? Do these words bring perfect clarity with them to you? What can they seem to be but empty sounds; pretty, perhaps, correct in sentiment, yet fundamentally not understood nor understandable. The mind that taught itself to think specifically can no longer grasp abstraction in the sense that it is all- encompassing (W.161.2:1,2,3,4; 4:1,2,3,4,5,6,7).

So God does not know we are here, that is, He does not perceive that we are here, because the knowledge inherent in God as perfect Oneness is impersonal, nonspecific, and non-perceptual. If there could be any sense in which God knew that we are here, He would have to be a separate, personal God, capable of perceiving us as separate from Him, and we would in fact have to be separate from Him -- all contradictions of the Course's basic teachings on the nature of God and reality. So, as a matter of clarification, even referring to God as He or Him, as the Course does throughout, confers a Personhood upon Him that can only be a fiction.

If all of this is true, the question remains, why is so much of the Course, such as the passages you cite, written in a way that seems to suggest that the separation is real, that God exists apart from us, as a Person Who perceives His children as existing independent of Him in a world that can be perceived outside Him and that He seems to care about? Why is the Course presented this way, if the words contradict what the Course is saying about the nature of our reality and God's -- perfect oneness?

This question has been addressed both briefly and in depth across a number of answers on this service (e.g., Questions #27, #42, #72, #85, #156, #157, #228, #506, #550, #681, #754, #761, #773, #890, #921, #958, #967). But let us examine it once again, perhaps pulling everything together in a little bit different way. Invested as we are in believing that we are creatures of separation, we only understand duality. Everything in our experience reinforces our belief in separation and so simply to be told it is all illusion -- that the world, and the selves we believe we are, are not real, so get over it! -- would not be particularly helpful. Rather we need a teaching that addresses us where we believe we are, for with our self-imposed, finite split minds, we cannot comprehend infinite oneness. And in fact, if the infinite, impersonal Oneness that the Course refers to as God had been the Course's primary emphasis, it would most likely arouse more fear and anxiety in our minds than it already does now, as we begin to grasp, when we are ready, its deeper implications.

We first need to be taught that our experience of separation and duality is based on belief and not fact so that we can begin to question the validity of all our interpretations of our experience and allow our investment in them to be undone. In particular, all of our interpretations that lead us to conclude that we or others are victims of persons and events outside our control need to be reconsidered. The Course's approach to teaching this is a powerful demonstration of one of the Course's major emphases -- that what needs to change is not the dualistic form of the illusion we believe in but the purpose we give it. For duality is not the problem in itself. The problem is our belief in it and, in particular, the purpose for which we have been using it - to keep ourselves believing we are sinful and guilty and consequently beyond gentle correction and genuine healing. So the first step is not to deny or negate duality, but to give it a different purpose -- to begin to use the symbols of separation to undo our belief in separation. And that is what the Course does.

This approach is brilliantly demonstrated in the Course's use of Christian terms and symbolism for a different purpose from that given to them by traditional Christianity. To understand the Course's correction, we first must understand what we have chosen to believe about this made-up dualistic God and our relationship with Him. For accepting the separation as real, we have also accepted an incredible dualistic myth about God as Someone separate from us Who wants to punish us because of our sin against Him in choosing to turn against His Love and reject the paradise He has made for us. All of us who believe we are here in the world must believe we have really accomplished the separation, thereby victimizing this otherwise all-powerful God. And so He must seek revenge, beginning by banishing us from the paradise He conditionally gave us. Incorporated into this myth of separation and sin are overwhelming feelings of guilt and fear, which keep us from seeing clearly what we have foolishly chosen to believe.

Christianity represents a vivid demonstration of the ego's separation-based religion that accepts sin and victimhood as real and presents the only resolution, called God's plan, as requiring the brutal murder of His only Son. Specifically, God's plan calls for His pure and innocent Son to take on a body so that he can be tortured and killed as a sacrifice, in order to compensate or atone for our evil, victimizing thoughts and deeds against God, and appease His otherwise boundless wrath. Why God can only be satisfied by a sacrificial death is never explained but simply accepted as the truth. Over and over again, traditional Christianity emphasizes that our sins have been washed away by the Son's redeeming blood. Bizarre as it may sound when presented without any additional context, there is little doubt that Christianity's basic tenets continue to hold sway over many minds in the Western world. Its far-reaching appeal lies in the fact that it reinforces the underlying ego thought system, upon which our personal identities and the existence of the world depend. And it has the added appeal of saying that God is a separate Individual Who acknowledges and reacts to separation and sin, conferring a sacred legitimacy on the entire ego enterprise.

The Course comes as a correction for these strange beliefs, using the same dualistic forms, speaking symbolically of God as a separate individual Person -- our Father -- while addressing our belief that we have attacked Him through our desire for separation. The correction remains within a dualistic framework while our fear of oneness and the loss of self is too powerful, assuring us that our Father only loves us, that we can only seem to attack God, ourselves and each other in our feverish imagination, and that the world we have made is simply an outpicturing of our own foolishly misguided and mistaken thoughts of separation and sin and guilt.

If we allow His Holy Spirit to correct our misperceptions, we will begin to experience the world in a completely different light, while we continue to believe the world is separate from us and real. And we will begin to recognize that all of our experiences represent a choice we have made in our own minds about how we want to feel. In the end, when all of our ego perceptions of attack and blame will have been corrected, we will know that the external world, as well as the self we have believed we are, is not real. This healed perception is what the Course calls the real world, a state of mind in which all sin and guilt have been undone. It is the transitional state, still within the ego-derived perceptual realm, that precedes the return to knowledge/God/Heaven. There are many passages that make it clear that the real world is still an illusion and therefore not real, despite its name. We will conclude with a number of passages that should offer a correction for any strictly dualistic interpretation of the passages that you have cited, and should also make it abundantly clear that the Course's dualistic language is only metaphorical and is not to be taken literally.

“He [ the Son ] always perceives this world as outside himself, for this is crucial to his adjustment. He does not realize that he makes this world, for there is no world outside of him. If only the loving thoughts of God's Son are the world's reality, the real world must be in his mind” (T.12.III.6:6,7; 7:1).

“The real world is the second part of the hallucination time and death are real, and have existence that can be perceived” (T.26.V.12:3).

“The real world still is but a dream. Except the figures have been changed. They are not seen as idols which betray (T.29.IX.7:1,2,3).

“The real world is the state of mind in which the only purpose of the world is seen to be forgiveness” (T.30.V.1:1).

Wrong-mindedness listens to the ego and makes illusions; perceiving sin and justifying anger, and seeing guilt, disease and death as real. Both this world and the real world are illusions because right-mindedness merely overlooks, or forgives, what never happened. Therefore it is not the One-mindedness of the Christ Mind, Whose Will is One with God's” (C.1.6).

“There is a borderland of thought that stands between this world and Heaven. It is not a place, and when you reach it is apart from time. ...We have referred to it as the real world. And yet there is a contradiction here, in that the words imply a limited reality, a partial truth, a segment of the universe made true. This is because knowledge makes no attack upon perception. They are brought together, and only one continues past the gate where oneness is (T.26.III.2:1,2; 3:2,3,4,5).

“Perception will be meaningless when it has been perfected, for everything that has been used for learning will have no function. Nothing will ever change; no shifts nor shadings, no differences, no variations that made perception possible will still occur. The perception of the real world will be so short that you will barely have time to thank God for it. For God will take the last step swiftly, when you have reached the real world and have been made ready for Him. The real world is attained simply by the complete forgiveness of the old, the world you see without forgiveness” (T.17.II.4:2,3,4,5;5:1).

“This course will lead to knowledge, but knowledge itself is still beyond the scope of our curriculum. ... We need remember only that whoever attains the real world, beyond which learning cannot go, will go beyond it, but in a different way” (T.18.IX.11:1,3).

  “For as Heaven and earth become one, even the real world will vanish from your sight. The end of the world is not its destruction, but its translation into Heaven. The reinterpretation of the world is the transfer of all perception to knowledge” (T.11.VIII.1:7,8,9).

Q #1119 I have been through other spiritual traditions and would like to know the place of soul in A Course in Miracles . Is it the same as right mind? the small self? the Self?

A: In the section “Mind - Spirit” in the clarification of terms, Jesus explains that in his course “the term ‘soul' is not used except in direct biblical quotations because of its highly controversial nature. It would, however, be an equivalent of ‘spirit,' with the understanding that, being of God, it is eternal and was never born” (C.1.3:2,3) . It can also be equated with the split mind that came into existence after the separation -- the mind that now journeys deeper into separation or back toward God. Question #97 addresses this same issue.