Weekly Questions and Answers, 03/26/2003

This week's questions:

Q #113: Why am I not earning enough money?
Q #114: How can I "do nothing" if someone is suffering?
Q #115: How should I think about menopause?
Q #116: Does God intervene in this world?

Q #113: I seem to have this recurring problem of never making enough money or never getting enough work for my business, especially during these periods of recession, although I am a highly-educated professional. Although over the years of practicing the process of forgive­ness on this, I now have more and more peace when this problem occurs, I still get irritated and wish that I could get rid of this problem altogether and not have it occur again. From the perspective of A Course in Miracles, is there anything I else I can do to “cure” this issue? Will looking at the guilt or the origins of the guilt help in any way? What do you suggest?

A. We can only comment in general about the type of situation you have described, but it may be of help nonetheless. First, the purpose of the world is to be a place where we have an endless num­ber of problems to solve. It is a smokescreen designed to hide the real problem, which is the decision we are constantly making in our minds to live separately, apart from God, as individuals, and to hold others responsible for our condition. Whether we are plagued by one recurring problem or by a multitude of problems does not matter. Problems come up in our lives because we need them to be there -- obviously, on an unconscious level. Therefore, if we are unaware of the real source of our problems (the decision in our minds) it would be fruitless to hope for a problem-free life; we would just be fighting against ourselves. Moreover, part of the ego’s strategy is to have us keep hoping that our problems can be solved, and that the day will come when we can live problem-free in the world. The objective of this strategy is to keep us focused on our lives in the world, because that ensures that we will never remember that we are really minds intent on keeping ourselves apart from the oneness in which we were created as Christ, and that that is just a silly, mistaken thought which we can choose against at any instant.

Second, the Course’s very gentle -- and practical -- approach to a situation such as the one you de­scribed, is to have us learn that the peace of God is within us and can never be affected by anything that appears to be going on in our lives. Being in a state of peace is always a matter of choice. No matter what the circumstances of our life may be, we can still choose to be peaceful. Jesus asks us to take him as our model in this. In the midst of circumstances seemingly far more traumatic, he said that he did not see himself as persecuted, and so he is saying to us that we can learn how to function that way, too (T.6.I.5,6). In a sense, you are saying that you are a victim of this recurring situation in your life, and we all have situations like this in some form or other. So the first thing we can learn is how to “disconnect,” we might say, our inner state from external situations. Not easy, but that is an essential part of the mind-training aspect of the Course. It is a major step in the process of recovering the power of our minds, which the ego would never want us to do.

Third, when what appear to be negative situations keep recurring, it often is the case that the person is projecting his unconscious guilt onto his personal life -- many times it is projected onto the body, resulting in illness -- in an attempt to punish himself and ward off punishment by God, which is regarded as deserved and inevitable. Recurring failure or unhappiness often reflects the uncon­scious belief that if I am unsuccessful or unhappy, God will have pity on me and will go easy on me when it is my turn to stand before Him and give an accounting of my life. So if there is such a belief lodged in our minds, then we need there to be situations in our lives that will ensure that we are unsuccessful and unhappy. To fight against it would be self-defeating. The solution is obvious. As the workbook lessons constantly remind us, we need to go within and uncover the ego thoughts of sin, guilt, and fear that are directing everything we do and think as individuals and bring that darkness to the light.

The goal of this process, though, is not to be free of problems in our lives, but to learn that it is the guilt we do not want, because the pain and turmoil from our external problems is nothing compared to the internal pain and bondage of our guilt. We do not have to try to change anything; we need only look with Jesus’ love next to us at how we constantly attribute our unhappiness and failure to something other than our own decision, and then not judge ourselves for doing that. That is a giant step in the direction of finally restoring to our minds one day the peace of God that is our true in­heritance. When we are immersed in that peace and know it to be our shared identity, then it would make absolutely no difference whether our business is successful or not, just as it made no differ­ence to Jesus whether there were nails in his hands and feet or not. Sometimes the external situation changes when we change our minds, but that no longer would matter to us, because our perception of ourselves and the world would have changed entirely.

Q #114There are two questions I have relating to true empathy and false empathy. I think I understand how A Course in Miracles is defining the difference between the two, but what I don't understand is how can you be loving, compassionate and kind to your brother without falling into the trap of the ego? The second question is, when your brother is sick or has lost his job or a loved one, as I am understanding, is Jesus telling us to “Do Nothing”? This is difficult for me. If I say or do anything I am joining with the ego. How do I look at this differently?

A. True empathy comes from your right mind, which means you have joined with Jesus or the Holy Spirit. In that instant, you are beyond your ego, and therefore everything you do will be loving. You cannot fall into the trap of the ego when you are one with the love of Jesus in a holy instant, because that joining is a decision against the ego -- the two states are mutually exclusive. Of course most of the time we jump right back into our wrong minds and into the ego trap of making the error real.

When Jesus tells us we need do nothing, he means that we should do nothing on our own. He is not advocating passivity. He is teaching us that if we do not ask his help, or the help of the Holy Spirit, we almost certainly will fall into the ego trap. Then, in our wrong minds, our perception will be that the other person truly is an unfortunate victim, and that the kind and caring thing to do is to extend a helping hand to fix the problem and make him feel better. In that perception we have to­tally lost sight of the truth about our brother and about ourselves as well. We have fallen into the ego trap of making our brother mindless, which means we no longer see him or ourselves as minds that have chosen to reject our true Identity as Christ, and then project responsibility for that choice. Wrong-minded perception always sees victims and victimizers, not minds with the power of choice to reverse mistaken decisions and accept back into awareness the love that had been pushed away. If I am perceiving you that way, I cannot be truly helpful, even if I do fix the external situation and make you feel better. I have actually attacked you and myself, because the message I am giving is that I have something you do not have, and you are helpless. I have seen us as separate and have empathized with your weakness, thus confirming the ego’s view of you, not Jesus’ view of you.

The correction of this faulty perception comes through asking for help to see through Jesus’ eyes, or to share perception with the Holy Spirit. We bring our perception of victimization to Jesus or the Holy Spirit, because if I see you as a victim, then I am the one in need of healing. My percep­tion needs to be corrected before I can be of help. Now we are not talking about what my physical eyes see. Objectively it may be the case that you have lost your job or a loved one; but to then conclude that you are a victim is an interpretation. That is where I make my mistake. Once I perceive you as a victim, I am implying that there is a victimizer, and that you are not responsible for your condition. That is the ego trap I have fallen into. When I first became aware that I was seeing you as a victim, I should have stopped right there and asked for help to look at the situation differently, to ask for help to empathize with the strength of Christ in you, rather than the weakness of the ego in you. If I make that shift from my wrong mind to my right mind, then I would automatically be guided to do whatever is most loving in the circumstances. That may be to do something or to do nothing, to say something or to say nothing. Whatever is most helpful would happen automatically, with no deliberation, and with no investment in the outcome.

Q #115: I am 50 and going through menopause. There are physical changes going on, especially with my brain chemistry. My emotions are more intense than ever. I have been a student of A Course in Miracles for several years and had felt as if I had reached a certain level of peace and understanding, but now I find myself feeling a victim of my body and more insane than ever. Is this just another level of “development of trust,” and is even menopause about guilt?

 A: The answer to your question lies in understanding the body and the role it plays in the ego thought system. Although we are told repeatedly in the Workbook: “I am not a body” (W.pI.84.1:4), the fact remains we do believe we are bodies, and we have conditions like menopause to prove it. Obviously the ego is the author of this belief. It tells us we somehow ended up in these bodies through no fault of our own, and now we are doomed to fall victim to all its ailments, until in the end we decay, die, and decompose. This message from the ego is purposeful. Its plan is to convince us that the body is real, and the mind is the illusion: “The ego uses the body to conspire against your mind.…The ego, which is not real, attempts to persuade the mind, which is real, that the mind is the ego's learning device; and further, that the body is more real than the mind is” (T.6.IV.5:1,2,3). The ego has first used the body to house the guilt for having separated from God. Guilt is therefore built into all aspects of the body’s functioning, including menopause. The body is then programmed to provide endless needs, as well as physical, emotional, and psychological conditions that very effectively serve as distractions, and convincing proof of its reality. The inevitable outcome is that we feel victimized and even attacked by the body. This insanity characterizes our relationship with the body, but only when we have chosen to identify with it, seeking to keep ourselves separate, believing all the ego’s lies about who we are. Having made some progress in experiencing peace, it is understandable that the ego would find in menopause a great opportunity to strike again. This is nothing to be concerned with, and definitely nothing to feel guilty about. It is important to remember, however, that it is not helpful to deny any of the distressing symptoms of menopause, and it is certainly appropriate to seek professional medial treatment and support in any way that is helpful. In the process of learning to seek healing in our minds there is the comforting thought that menopause will end, and a beautiful passage in The Song of Prayer that applies especially for women in menopause: “The universe is waiting your release because it is its own. Be kind to it and to yourself, and then be kind to Me. I ask but this; that you be comforted and live no more in terror and in pain. Do not abandon Love. Remember this; whatever you may think about yourself, whatever you may think about the world, your Father needs you and will call to you until you come to Him in peace at last” (S.3.IV.10:3,4,5,6,7).

The Course offers an alternative to the ego’s use of the body, and an alternative to our definition of ourselves. This is where the “development of trust” enters the picture. You can see clearly the tricks the ego is up to, and make a decision to look at menopause differently, believing that what the Course is teaching is in fact true and worthy of trust. All of the symptoms related to menopause can be used as an opportunity to question the ego’s interpretation of this, or any bodily condition. We turn to the mind for true healing in the process of dealing with menopause, monitoring all the thoughts you mention and any others that arise, so they can be given to the Holy Spirit for reinterpretation: “The Holy Spirit, as always, takes what you have made and translates it into a learning device. Again as always, He reinterprets what the ego uses as an argument for separation into a demonstration against it. If the mind can heal the body, but the body cannot heal the mind, then the mind must be stronger than the body. Every miracle demonstrates this” (T.6.V.A.2:4,5,6,7).

Q #116: I am somewhat at odds with the whole idea of God intervening in the world of form. I know that the Foundation’s view is that since the world of form is an illusion, it is inconceivable that He could be involved in making changes and alterations in a world of form. I also know it is all about changing our thoughts about the world to bring us closer to waking. But in lesson 71 “Only God's plan for salvation will work” it actually has the separated mind ask God, “What would you have me do? Where would you have me go? What would you have me say, and to whom?” Isn’t this asking God what direction you should take in the world of form? I also know that when I relinquish my ego thought and ask God to direct my thoughts then my world of form DOES change. Also how does A Course in Miracles reconcile Jesus being immaculately conceived? Wouldn't that be considered intervention into the illusion?

A: As discussed elsewhere in these Questions, it is important to recognize that much of the Course is written in metaphorical language, reaching us where we believe we are (e.g., see Question 72). And so God is described throughout the Course in ways that suggest He is concerned about us here in the world, only to provide a correction for our ego belief that God is an angry Father intent on our destruction. And so, rather than as our enemy, the Course is trying to help us view God as our Friend, Who will help us do what we need to do. In addition, it is very common in the Workbook lessons that God is used when the real meaning is God’s Voice, or the Holy Spirit. 

As always, the larger context of the Course and, in this case, the lesson itself make the deeper intent of lines such as those you quote clearer. This lesson first describes the ego’s plan for salvation -- holding grievances against others so that the guilt in our mind seems to rest on them rather than on ourselves -- the blame game (W.pI.71.2). Clearly, this “solution” is the problem, because it in fact keeps the guilt alive in our minds rather than undoing it. And so God’s (that is, the Holy Spirit’s) plan, although not described specifically in this lesson, will have to involve being willing to release those grievances. Since our anger and judgments are triggered by our interactions with others, the direction to ask God for specific help that you refer to really means that we do not continue to act -- doing, going, speaking, etc. -- on our own, that is, with the ego’s guidance. If we can carry the memory of God’s Love with us as we move through our day, we can be sure that we will be just where we need to be to learn the lessons of forgiveness that will bring us the peace we seek.  

Now when we release ourselves from the ego’s dictates and open ourselves up to the guidance of God’s Voice, we may experience shifts in our external world, as you mention, although this may not always be the case. These changes occur not because God or the Holy Spirit has literally intervened but rather because we have been willing to make inner choices (often unconscious), aligned with love rather than hate. External projections of our guilt may then very well change, although this is never the purpose, from the Course’s perspective, for changing our teacher. That becomes a trap, rooting our focus back in the world as we look for external changes to validate our inner shift. 

Virgin births and immaculate conceptions do suggest divine interventions in the world of form, but the Jesus of the Course never makes any of these claims about himself. The Bible and traditional Christianity represent a very different spiritual path from the Course and it is best not to confuse the two or try to integrate them in any way.