Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles:5/16/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1143 How can I let go of a very emotional special relationship?
Q #1144 Can you explain how projection works ?
Q #1145 Is there any special significance to certain numbers in the Course?
Q #1146 Is the process of lucid dreaming of any help in Course study?

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Q #1143: I have a question about emotionality and special relationships. I seem to have had one which resulted in both extreme love and feeling nothing at all simultaneously. Could you recommend anything on how to deal with extreme emotional ties where you know that it does not help you any further but you are still unable to let go? I am somewhat confused by the fact that one person can rouse both extreme love/hate and remind me at the same time of a more universal love. I suppose both are but in me but it's difficult to deal with. I have tried to work on this with a number of psychologists but to no avail basically. The decision to leave seems to be mine but it appears kind of cold. I suspect my question comes down to "what is love?" How does A Course in Miracles define love? I feel I am physically and emotionally in pain almost to the point of withdrawal symptoms (special love/hate). I read the Course and understand it on a mental level but emotionally feel all the hurt and pain. Healing only comes in small (illusionary) steps. Why do we do this to ourselves? Indian yogic systems use extreme emotions as breakthroughs to the more universal love. I suppose A Course in Miracles would not approve of any such techniques.

A: It may be helpful to remember that extreme emotional feelings are really not different from milder experiences of the same feelings ( e.g., W.pI.21.2:3,4,5; M.17.4:3,4,5,6,7,8) . And our attempts to make sense of them, regardless of their intensity, are merely clever diversions orchestrated by our egos to keep us from recognizing the real issue: all pain comes from our decision to see ourselves as separate from love (T.28.III.5:1) . The scripts of our lives, with all their various relationships, are ego symbols that play out, in form, the ultimate ego drama in the mind, one in which we believe we are pitted in a life-and-death struggle with God, Who seeks vengeance for our attack on Him, when we wrested our autonomous individual self from His Oneness. And, the ego tells us, that struggle is one that in the end we will lose, for we all shall die.

Why do the feelings -- both positive and negative -- seem more intense within some relationships than others? There is really no answer to that question except to say that, when the ego's scripts were written long ago, some of the script's symbols, that is, the figures within the dream, seemed to be invested with more projected guilt than others. And so those symbols, which seem to be external to us, are mirroring the hidden contents of our minds, which we do not want to accept within ourselves. More intense relationships provide us an opportunity to look deeper within ourselves.

Should we ever allow ourselves to look calmly beyond the external relationship to the underlying conflict within, Jesus assures us, we would see the inner battle with God as merely silly and not at all serious. But the world of relationships keeps our focus outside the mind, so that we attribute all of the intensity and emotionality to the interactions we seem to be having with other individuals separate from ourselves. Yes, this is how we are experiencing the conflict, and we are not expected to deny our feelings. But we are being invited to consider a different interpretation of our experiences, one in which we learn to recognize that we are solely responsible for our feelings (T.21.II.2:3,4,5) and others are simply the excuses we have made up to assign the responsibility elsewhere. And so long as we project responsibility for our feelings outside ourselves, no genuine healing is possible -- only a pseudo-healing that involves special love bargains or compromises in which we always feel we must give up something in order to get what we think we want.

Whenever we find ourselves wanting anything   from someone else, we have already made a decision to identify with the ego thought system of separation, differences, limitation, and loss. And this decision, by its very nature, must be experienced as painful, since the choice for the ego is the choice against love. How could the decision to see ourselves as bereft of love, lost and all on our own, be experienced as anything but extremely painful?

As for how the Course defines love, Jesus says in the Introduction to the text, “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).   So you will find no definition of love in the Course, because love, which is our reality, is beyond all limits, all boundaries, all concepts. Nevertheless, the Course says enough about love and what love is not to make it clear that what passes for love in this world -- what the Course calls special love -- is at best “a shabby substitute” (T.16.IV.8:4) and at worst a contradiction of love's reality.

Love simply is, having no degrees of depth or intensity, and it cannot change (W.pI.127.1:3,4,5,6; 2:1,2,3) . Whatever seems to change or alter with conditions and circumstances can only be an aspect of the ego thought of separation, and so it must be hate, since the ego was made to be love's opposite. In dealing then with what you are experiencing as extreme emotions that seem to range from love to hate, it is helpful to recognize that all of those feelings are of the ego. The ego's “love” is riddled with ambivalence (T.4.III.4) , since the ego itself is nothing but an ambivalent thought. And so its projections into a world of form can only be experienced with ambivalence, so long as the ego remains our guide and teacher. And so our feelings, grounded as they are in the ambivalence of the ego's oppositional nature, can only fluctuate between special love and special hate -- that is their range. And yet always, beneath the layers of hate and special love and guilt, lies our genuine love for our Father -- and the memory of our oneness -- that these layers were intended to conceal. But so long as we refuse to recognize the real problem, we will seek for answers to seemingly important yet ultimately irrelevant questions, such as, “What should I do about this situation or relationship? Should I continue or end it? And how do I stop the pain?”

However, all relationships can be helpful if we have the right teacher. Now their helpfulness has nothing to do with whether we choose to remain physically in a relationship with someone or not, but only with whether we choose to accept this other person as a mirror to our own unconscious, which we are now being given the opportunity to bring to the light and examine. And then we begin to understand that the only question is “How can I look at myself differently?” The goal is not to see the other person differently, but to recognize why I am choosing to see that person the way that I am. It is always a defense against looking at the self-accusations and the self-hatred within my own mind, where I could do something about my choice for the ego, with its accompanying conflict and pain. And it is in this looking that I begin to understand why I do this to myself -- to protect my false sense of self from the boundless love of our true Self that knows nothing of judgment or limitation.

We cannot experience love directly in this world, while we remain identified as separate, individual selves. But we can experience its reflection -- forgiveness, which “is still, and quietly does nothing....It merely looks, and waits, and judges not” ( W.pII.1.4:1,3) . And the forgiveness, while it may seem to be experienced in relationship to another person, is truly only ever for ourselves.

Other spiritual thought systems may use the intense emotions you speak of as means for breaking through to the universal love, and the Course would pass no judgment on such approaches. But for those of us whose path is the Course, Jesus is inviting us to embrace his kindly practice of forgiveness, which involves no intense breakthroughs, but only a gentle melting within (T.18.VI.13,14) . The peace that always awaits us arises in our awareness once we have been willing to look at and release our own choice for and investment in all the various expressions of the ego's intensity.

Q #1144: I have trouble understanding how projection works and the meaning of the following: "As the world judges these things, but not as God knows them, I was betrayed, abandoned, beaten, torn, and finally killed. It was clear that this was only because of the projection of others onto me, since I had not harmed anyone and had healed many" (T.6.I.9:2,3). As I understand projection, in my mind I see love and do not want it; so I imagine a human form, Jesus, which I attack and destroy. Jesus or love, on the other hand, sees my reaction and understands it as a call for love, and he returns this love, which I would interpret in a number of ways. One possibility is that I see him not resisting or defending himself. This projection is quite a block for me.

A: The section of A Course in Miracles in which the quote appears is called “The Message of the Crucifixion”; Jesus is referring to what took place twenty one hundred years ago. People were extremely threatened by the love he expressed and that he was . As you say, we all accuse ourselves of rejecting love, and our guilt over that is so overwhelming that the only recourse we think we have is to project the guilt onto someone else and attack that person ( T.31.III.1 ). That is what Jesus is saying happened back then. People had to find something they could accuse him of and feel justified in doing so; otherwise the pain of their guilt would have been unbearable. He, however, did not experience what, to the world, looked like betrayal, abandonment, torture, and death. With no ego, Jesus could not have experienced any of that; he knew he was not his body. He could only love, recognizing people's calls for love in their viciousness. His message thus is: “You are merely asked to follow my example in the face of much less extreme temptations to misperceive, and not to accept them as false justifications for anger” (T.6.I.6:7) .

Whenever you feel your anger is justified, you have projected your unconscious guilt onto the person you are angry with. This does not mean that the person may not have said or done something that was not loving. Without guilt, however, it would be impossible to justify your anger, regardless of what happened; in fact, at the top of the spiritual ladder, you would not get angry at all, as you would perceive the pain and fear behind people's viciousness, and you would feel only compassion. This content in your mind would then be expressed in a form appropriate to the situation.

Q #1145: Is there any specific meaning in the use of the figure "5", "50" etc. within A Course in Miracles , in particular in the workbook? Certain Christian/gnostic sects and similar organizations are said to have used certain symbols, as perhaps the pentagram as the symbol of Christ. I found it interesting that the "centre of our being," the holy instant is also sitting comfortably at the centre of the 31 chapters of the textbook and, 1+5=6, perhaps secretly alluding to the "inner Christ" or Son of God anyway (the figure 6 as symbolized by Tiphareth/Son of God in the kabbala)? Is there any "reason" behind the structure of the workbook, certain lessons building up on each other in a certain "symphonic" way? Could A Course in Miracles , as a whole, perhaps be regarded as "holographic" in structure and content?

A: As far as we are aware, there is no special meaning in the numbering and symbols used in the Course. It is written in such a way, however, that one could find all kinds of things along the lines you mention. That was never anything that Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford related to, though; and we at the Foundation do not either.

The structure of A Course in Miracles can quite easily fit into the symphonic or holographic model. Kenneth often speaks of this, and has described it explicitly and at length in his introduction to the series of classes he gave on each of the three books of the Course. In introducing his classes on the manual for teachers, for example, he states: “My presentation on the text . . . followed a musical format, taking not only Jesus as my inspiration, obviously, but Beethoven as well. Our journey was like a symphony within a symphony, each lecture built around the various themes of the text's thirty-one chapters, which reflected the symphonic nature of the text itself. Although the form is slightly different, I have done the same thing in these lectures on the manual for teachers, using music as the inspiration for their structure, and, again, Beethoven as the model, specifically the third movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. . . . As I thought about the structure for these classes, this movement came to mind because the manual itself is organized around two themes and variations of these two themes, specifically the first.”

The holographic model can be recognized in the fact that if we understood completely any one statement of the Course, we would understand the Course's message in its entirety. If we completely understood the first miracle principle -- that there is no order of difficulty among miracles -- there would be no need to read or study anything further in the Course. The same could be said of the very first lesson, or any other lesson. But because of the intense fear in our minds, Jesus leads us gradually. He told Helen and Bill to study the “notes,” so that they would be prepared for what was to follow -- a message that is included, in part, near the end of Chapter 1 of the text (T.1.VII.4) . The early lessons in the workbook initiate a process of mind training, and they incorporate a certain amount of structure and discipline that will not be needed in later stages of the process. The Introduction to the workbook discusses this dimension of the Course. The workbook is carefully and intentionally structured to achieve maximum results, given the state of our minds' beliefs and fears.

Q #1146: This is about lucid dreaming, the ability to realize while dreaming that everything that is happening is only a dream. Then you can control your dream and your dream stops controlling you. I´ve been experiencing this phenomenon and I've learned to produce it at will. How can this kind of dream help me with A Course in Miracles and the Holy Spirit's purpose?

A: It can be very helpful. A primary objective of Jesus' mind-training program is to help us become lucid dreamers, which means becoming aware that what appears to us as real is not real - - we are just dreaming of ourselves as individuals in a physical world: “You are at home in God, dreaming of exile but perfectly capable of awakening to reality” (T.10.I.2:1). Jesus is not referring to our dreams at night, but to our experiences in our daily lives. Yet, he also tells us these are not different states in terms of their content: “All your time is spent in dreaming. Your sleeping and your waking dreams have different forms, and that is all. Their content is the same. They are your protest against reality, and your fixed and insane idea that you can change it” (T.18.II.5:12,13,14,15).

Being a lucid dreamer, you probably can relate very much to Jesus' discussions of dreaming. It is a major theme in the Course, but there are several sections that focus specifically on the nature and purpose of the dream: four sections in Chapter 18 ( T.18.I,II,III,V) and two in Chapter 27 ( T.27.VII,VIII). Purpose is the key word, and that is where our work as students is centered. Are we upholding the ego's purpose in our lives or the Holy Spirit's purpose? The ego wants us to stay asleep and to continue to dream, without ever realizing that that is what our lives amount to. The Holy Spirit wants us to realize that we are merely dreaming that we are separate; it is not the truth. Jesus thus says of the miracle that it “does not awaken you, but merely shows you who the dreamer is. . . . The miracle establishes you dream a dream and its content is not true” (T.28.II.4:2;7:1) .

We can begin the process of awakening by accepting the Holy Spirit's purpose of learning to see each other as sharing a common interest -- that we are all in pain for having left our loving home in Heaven, and we are all desperately hoping there is a way back that does not involve eternal punishment. The Holy Spirit thus represents the Atonement principle, the fulfillment of our hope that what awaits us is only love, for we never truly left. This is the dream Jesus refers to that precedes our final awakening, “a gentler dream, in which his suffering was healed and where his brother was his friend . . .” (T.27.VII.13:4) .