Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles:4/25/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1131 Can I forgive someone yet still take them to court ?
Q #1132 Is the ego the same thing as satan ?
Q #1133 As I study more I feel myself drifting apart from others. What is wrong ?
Q #1134 If special relationships are really hate, how can I learn to love them?

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Q #1131: I, too, am struggling with the nature of forgiveness. Your answer to Q #776 was very helpful, except when you wrote in parenthesis ". . . this does not rule out prosecution, etc." Are you referring to the legal system? Can I forgive the guy that scams me (to use your illustration) and still take him to court?

A: Yes, that is what was meant. Question #790 was posted after you submitted your question, and perhaps you have read that answer by now. It seems to speak directly to the issue you are dealing with. One of the key points brought out in that answer is the need to function on two levels, which requires a working understanding of the difference between form and content: “While we believe we are in the world, we generally ‘give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's,' i.e., obey the rules of the world in form (file law suits, police reports, etc.). At the same time, we practice the Course by paying attention to the thoughts and judgments that arise in every situation.”

The practice of forgiveness does not lead to passivity in our relationships and encounters in the world. A Course in Miracles is not simplistic or naive. By focusing exclusively on the content we have chosen to infuse our thinking, the Course helps us get to the true source of all our problems and conflicts, and it provides us with an effective, uncomplicated way of solving them. It is just hard for us get beyond behavior (form) to the underlying content -- but that is why we must ask for help from outside our thought system; and that is what the first part of the workbook training is all about. This shift is a condition for achieving the Course's goal of peace.

Prosecuting someone (form) can be done from one's wrong mind or right mind (content). The obvious signs of ego motivation include anger, vindictiveness, fear, hatred, condemnation, humiliation. Forgiving the person who cheated you has nothing to do with whether or not you press charges against him in a court of law. That may or may not be the right thing to do; it may or may not be in that person's best interests to be arrested and jailed. We cannot see the whole of our own or anyone else's Atonement path. However, if you hold no grievances against him, you will know which way to go with it, and you will be peaceful every step of the way. You can perceive him as sharing the same journey home with you (content), even as you press charges that land him in jail for several years (form). That is quite a lesson, but this course is very practical -- it is meant to be put to work in the challenges of our everyday lives. We just need to become more accepting of the Holy Spirit's, rather than the ego's, purpose for our lives, our relationships, and our world.

Q #1132: After reading the Course I have the impression that the ego is synonymous with satan. Is this so? How does Christ look at hell according to A Course in Miracles ? There seems to be little reference to it. Is it just the absence of salvation?

A: In traditional Christian teaching, Satan is believed to be an independent being whose guiles are capable of having an influence on others. The Course not only teaches that there is no Satan, or hell, but in reality there is no ego (see T.9.IV.5 ). Nothing exists outside the mind, and the belief that something or someone outside the mind can not only exist, but have an effect on it, is the hell of the mind's making. You are correct that when the Course refers to hell or the devil it is referring to the mind's choice to believe that separation is real. Jesus tells us in the text: “The mind can make the belief in separation very real and very fearful, and this belief is the ‘devil'" (T.3.VII.5:1),    and since the ego is the belief in separation, we may say that that ego is the devil. It is very important to remember, however, that the separation never happened (W.p.I.137.4:3), and so neither the devil nor hell exist. They are projections of the guilt that arises from the choice to believe that separation from God is possible. They seem real because they support the mind's belief that that thought of separation is real and sinful, and deserves punishment from a vengeful God. Thus, hell and the devil are important parts of the ego thought system. Fear keeps them alive and well. In the instant that the mind decides for separation, all memory of God is obliterated from awareness, making Him “absent” in one's experience. That is the theological definition of hell: the absence of God or salvation.

In the Course, the Christ refers to God's Son who remains one with Him in Heaven. Just as the Father in Heaven does not know of separation because He is perfect Oneness, neither does the Christ see hell. Where God and His Son are one there is nothing else. This changeless reality of Heaven is the heart of the non-dualistic teaching of A Course in Miracles . Christ is real and “…where He is God must be, for Christ is part of Him” (T.9.I.14:7) . If hell is the absence of God, where God is there is no hell.

Forgiveness is the process by which the mind reestablishes awareness of its power to choose between Heaven and hell; the ego and the Holy Spirit. There is no other power but this; nothing else to choose. Learning this is one of the most important goals of the Course. It reflects the mind's choice for truth and ultimately undoes belief in the ego, hell, and the “devil.”

Q #1133: I sense a perceptible irony and paradox in the Course's objective of eliminating our separateness from our brothers, called the Son of God, in that with increasing study and reading, there is a perceptible change within me. However, as I observe the world, especially through the news media, I note more differences between us and more separateness by not being able to identify with the world. That is, my study is changing me towards goals which are not being equally developed in the world and we are slowly drifting apart in our concepts of ourselves. Is this the mistaken use of judgment? Or is this just increased opportunity to forgive the apparently increasing insanity?

A: There is a section in the text -- “The Greater Joining,” in Chapter 28 -- that may help you with your confusion about what seems to be happening in your experience. The mistake in your thinking is believing that you should feel closer to the world and its inhabitants as a result of practicing the Course. This could be an outcome for a while as you still identify yourself with your body. But Jesus' goal for us in his Course is to lead us to recognize that we are not the ego -- neither the thought system of separation nor its manifestations, bodies and the world. Rather we are mind that is caught in an illusory dream of separation, believing we are the figures in that dream. And the miracle, or forgiveness, is a process whereby over time we gradually identify more and more with the mind that is dreaming and less and less with the figures within the dream. This process progresses as we learn simply to release all the judgments we have been holding on to about all the figures in the dream, including the figure we have believed to be our own separate, individual self. And so you could say that the goal of the Course is to have us learn to use separation for healing, by learning to separate ourselves as mind from the ego and all its expressions.

However, this is not simply a process of intellectual denial of the world and all its insanity and suffering, for that would not be at all healing. And so we would want to ask ourselves if we are feeling some identification with and compassion towards other minds that are caught in the same painful web of ego illusion that we have been, recognizing that we all share the same underlying problem. And whenever we find ourselves in reaction to what seems to be happening with any of the figures in the dream, we have re-identified ourselves with the ego illusion and have once again made sin and guilt and pain real in our own mind, as everyone else is doing. And the solution is simply to recognize the choice we have made for the ego, not judge ourselves for making that choice, and then remember that another choice is always available, when we want it.

Although you may find it helpful to read the entire section, we'll look at some excerpts from “The Greater Joining” that provide much of the foundation for what we have just described:

      “Accepting the Atonement for yourself means not to give support to someone's dream of sickness and of death.... Unless you help him, you will suffer pain with him because that is your wish. And you become a figure in his dream of pain, as he in yours. So do you and your brother both become illusions, and without identity.... Refuse to be a part of fearful dreams whatever form they take, for you will lose identity in them. You find yourself by not accepting them as causing you, and giving you effects. You stand apart from them, but not apart from him who dreams them . Thus you separate the dreamer from the dream, and join in one, but let the other go. The dream is but illusion in the mind. And with the mind you would unite, but never with the dream. .... Like you, your brother thinks he is a dream. Share not in his illusion of himself, for your Identity depends on his reality. Think, rather, of him as a mind in which illusions still persist, but as a mind which brother is to you. He is not brother made by what he dreams, nor is his body, ‘hero' of the dream, your brother. It is his reality that is your brother, as is yours to him . Your mind and his are joined in brotherhood.... Identity in dreams is meaningless because the dreamer and the dream are one. Who shares a dream must be the dream he shares, because by sharing is a cause produced.... You share confusion and you are confused, for in the gap no stable self exists. What is the same seems different, because what is the same appears to be unlike. His dreams are yours because you let them be. But if you took your own away would he be free of them, and of his own as well. Your dreams are witnesses to his, and his attest the truth of yours. Yet if you see there is no truth in yours, his dreams will go, and he will understand what made the dream. (T.28.IV.1:1,6,7,8; 2:2,3,4,5,6,7; 3:1,2,3,4,5,6; 5:4,5; 6:1,2,3,4,5,6, italics added ).

Q #1134: I have a question regarding how to "approach" special love and hate relationships, which are the same if I understand A Course in Miracles correctly. They keep us from "real" love.

The Course "recommends" handing them over to the Holy Spirit. I have been trying to come to terms with one special relationship which involved both love and hate. At first I rejected it, then returned to it with the argument of the Course saying "you should love your special relationships in order to have a happy dream and then "awaken" (sort of!)." However, how can we love something that is ultimately "made" to attack God and ourselves as well? Isn't that a contradiction, and perhaps even counter-productive to our "healing"? Would it not then be better to "reject" someone and walk away?

I find it very difficult, in that relationship, to "give only love." There are issues that I feel need to be addressed, and when I do, ultimately the true nature of this relationship -- hate -- comes forth. How can we ever give true love in this world? What is more, how do we recognize it?

A: You do understand correctly; every special love relationship is a mask for special hate. If it is special, it is hateful, not necessarily in form, but certainly in content. In the Course, the term “special” is synonymous with “separate” because every special relationship has belief in separation at its core. Keeping this in mind is helpful since it explains why specialness is “hateful” even when it looks loving. Separation is a murderous thought by which the Son of God believes he can usurp God's power, steal life from Him, and live in a body independent of His Love. That is the content of every special relationship, no matter how loving the form may seem. This distinction between form and content is the key to unraveling the confusion regarding special relationships. In content they are all the same. The problem in any relationship is not the seeming love or hate that characterizes its form, but the mind's decision to use it to sustain belief in separation, thereby defending itself against God's Love. Willingness to recognize this ego dynamic at work in the relationship you refer to is how to give it to the Holy Spirit. We need not lose the special relationships; Jesus says we will not be deprived of them: “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). The “hate” you experience in the relationship is the projection of the mind's guilt for having attacked God by choosing the ego. It has nothing to do with the other person. However, it is possible to work out any issues you may have on the level of form, while remaining aware of the mind's projection. The Holy Spirit is present in your willingness to recognize that the “issues” are not the cause of conflict in the relationship; guilt is.

Although there is no true love in this world, its reflection begins with the simple acknowledgment that the origin of hate masquerading as special love is the mind's decision to choose the ego as teacher instead of the Holy Spirit. The ego focuses on form, blaming external agents for its discomfort, while the Holy Spirit asks us to see everything as a reflection of the mind's choice. You know you have chosen the Holy Spirit when you find yourself becoming increasingly mindful of your projections, regardless of the judgments or hateful feelings that arise in a relationship. This is the first step in the practice of forgiveness as the Course teaches it. It is the way that everything the ego made as an attack on God can be transformed and used by the Holy Spirit to undo the belief in separation and lead us back to Him. You have taken a step in the right direction by not denying the hatred you find in the relationship. It is important not to try to change the feelings or fight against them, but to recognize that their true source is the mind's belief in separation, as we said earlier.

In the introduction to the text, Jesus makes it clear that the goal of the Course is not love: The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love's presence, which is your natural inheritance (T.in.1:6,7). The blocks are all the thoughts and judgments that flow from the mind's decision to identify with the ego. They cannot be removed until they are recognized, which is why there is much emphasis, in the practice of the Course, on looking at the ego.    Exposing it to the light of the Holy Spirit's teaching is how it is undone; not by any effort on our part, but by a little willingness to see that one's own thoughts are blocking the memory of God's Love. The love that flows naturally when the mind chooses the Holy Spirit is not special because it excludes no one. It is not the “love” of one person for some people to the exclusion of others. The way is opened to this love when projections are acknowledged without judgment, and no attempt is made to interfere. Since everything the ego made is an attack on God, it isn't necessary to seek out situations or persons that upset you. There is nothing wrong with keeping a distance from a disturbing relationship. As with idols, if one relationship seems too much to handle, “Another can be found” (W.p.I.170.8:7) . Everything and everyone is equally important in the classroom of forgiveness. They are the form love takes until every judgment is laid aside and the Holy Spirit's Love flows uninterruptedly.