Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles:5/23/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1147 How do I get rid of the little voice that always tells me I'm missing something?
Q #1148 Making promises strikes fear into my heart.
Q #1149 “It is necessary that you have other experiences, more in line with truth" What does this mean?
Q #1150 Why is the Course called a "Course"?

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Q #1147: Today a friend of mine mentioned something related to "sowing your wild oats" and it brought up some conflict within me. I remember when I was married back when I was 22, I was tormented with thinking I needed to sleep with other women to gain my peace of mind because I felt like I didn't know what it was like to. It was like that whispering voice that says you won't know until you try it. I would like to think that someone could have one relationship and be content and not wonder that completion lies within another relationship. My friend's comment brought up some old fears within me and even now I still wonder if I'm missing something in my experience of life. Another fear of mine is that I am not a complete man because I have never gotten into a fist fight with another man and so I feel like I would need to seek this to be whole. I guess I feel like I'm not like other men. Also, Question #202 says that, "Children must first learn to become strong, healthy egos in order to function effectively and to cope with the many challenges in world." How do I know my ego is developed enough so I can move on and follow the teachings of A Course in Miracles ?

A: That “whispering voice” that tells us that we need to do more, that we are not enough, that we are incomplete, that something needs to be different -- in our relationships, in our personalities, in our bodies, in our lives -- is always the voice of the ego (T.29.VIII.8) . Always! Now, knowing that, we still may choose to listen to it, and most of us do, most if not all of the time. And that's no sin. What we seek after won't make us genuinely happy, but if we believe it's more spiritual to deny that nagging inner voice or resist its urges, more than likely we will then feel as if we are sacrificing something important, and the ego will still have us in its grip. For the worldly experiences we've deprived ourselves of will still feel very real and we will have once again embraced the ego's religion, whose tenets hold that God and love demand that we sacrifice what we think we want for the sake of some greater good (T.15.X.7:1,2) .

So if you feel you are not whole or complete, or not the man you think you should be, and you believe there is something that may help you feel better about yourself, you may certainly want to check it out. Now of course you may want to choose your fight carefully, and perhaps a round of boxing, with the gloves on could help minimize the risk of broken knuckles and jaws, or brain damage! For most of us, the only way to be willing to move along on our spiritual path is to allow ourselves to experience what we believe will make us feel better about ourselves. Then we can see, after having the experience, that the emptiness and the sense of inadequacy still remain, for those feelings are not coming from what we do or don't do, but from what we believe about ourselves at the core of our very being . Oh yes, temporarily we may feel better about ourselves after some conquest, but the fix never lasts. For it hasn't addressed the source of the emptiness and self-loathing, which come from a decision buried deep in our unconscious to be different from God, rejecting the one Relationship that brings the sense of completion that we futilely search for outside ourselves (T.30.III.3) .

To a degree, the observations made about children in the question you cite apply to all of us. We will not be willing to let go of our investment in the ego until we have come to a full realization that it offers us nothing (T4.IV.6:1,2; T.9.I.10:2,3) , for it is nothing (T.7.VI.11:4,5,6,7 ; T.7.X.3:8,9; T.11.II.7:6) . And for most of us, the only way to recognize that is to continue to turn to the ego for guidance and then to look very honestly at the outcome. Now it may be a little like banging our head against a brick wall and wondering why we have a headache and where the blood is coming from, but until we make the connection, we will continue to ask the wrong teacher how to feel better about ourselves. In the end, we will all come to recognize the real content behind the ego thought system, and then it's just a matter of how much time we decide to continue unnecessarily to prolong our agony. But regardless of how stubborn and childish we may be, Jesus assures us a happy outcome is certain (T.4.II.5; W.pI.71.6) .

This does not mean that, as adults, we are confronted with an “either-or” choice between developing our ego and practicing the Course. As students of the Course, we can learn to be gentle with ourselves about our ego-based decisions so that we do not use them to reinforce our guilt. If we can watch ourselves choosing our ego without guilt, we will be more willing to look at the outcome of our ego identification and will come that much sooner to the recognition that each time we dip into the ego's well of experiences, we come up empty.

You may find Question #614 on masculinity and spirituality of some relevance to your concerns.

Q #1148: A friend said that it would be a good idea to agree to give each other 10 percent of any lottery we won. I agreed, but only in jest. He also asked that when I struck it rich that I would remember him. I gather that most people believe that it is the right thing to do to honor what we say, and that even God himself asks this. My problem is that after I said these things conflict began to arise in me, as my agreement seemed to mean that I should give him a part of all my money from now on. I began to hate him for this and even now cringe at people who say you should do what you say. Would Jesus enforce this? Promises of any kind now strike fear in my heart. Do you have any comforting words for this problem?

A: Jesus defines honesty as “consistency” -- it is one of the 10 characteristics of the advanced teacher of God (M.4.II.1 ). He teaches that is not just a matter of the words you say, but that “there is nothing you say that contradicts what you think or do . . . . At no level are they [the truly honest] in conflict with themselves” (M.4.II.1:6,8) . If you said the words “but only in jest,” then it would seem inconsistent to obligate yourself to stand by them. Apparently you never told your friend that your promise was made in jest. It would seem advisable to do so, and then you might have more peace of mind.

The only promise Jesus takes seriously is the one we made in our creation, and which we have blocked from our awareness: “God keeps His promises; His Son keeps his. In his creation did his Father say, ‘You are beloved of Me and I of you forever. Be you perfect as Myself, for you can never be apart from Me.' His Son remembers not that he replied ‘I will,' though in that promise he was born” (T.28.VI.6:3,4,5,6). Jesus takes this seriously only in the sense of reminding us that this is the source of all our internal conflict, but it is also where our true peace lies. He helps us become aware of the thoughts in our minds that we are choosing to keep us from remembering this promise. It is not that Jesus holds us accountable for this choice; he just wants to help us put an end to our pain and restore our natural state of peace to our awareness.

Our lives in this world are the means our minds have chosen to keep this Identity concealed. The seriousness we accord events and problems in our lives is simply part of this defense, which includes bringing Jesus and God into our lives to fix things for us, and even to enact sanctions for our transgressions. Yet, this is all but part of our unconscious intention to validate the world and the self we have made as substitutes for truth and reality. The teachings of A Course in Miracles invite us to rise above the battleground of the world we have made so that we will be aware of another way of perceiving the world and our lives.

You wound up hating your friend and becoming terrified of making promises because of the guilt over your failure to keep your promise, both ontologically and personally. The situation with your friend is really a reflection or a fragment of the much deeper self-accusation of failing to keep your promise to your Self and to God. Forgiveness and the miracle to the rescue! With Jesus leading the way, you can simply learn to smile at the insanity of thinking you sinfully betrayed God and Christ. That is totally false, and indeed, impossible. It is but a mistaken thought, not a sin, and you now can correct it by looking at it without judgment, which means with the love of Jesus next to you. You will then be more peaceful.

Q #1149: In discussing holy relationships, the text explains that “it is necessary that you have other experiences, more in line with truth, to teach you what is natural and true” (T.22.VI.13:10). Because my understanding of A Course in Miracles is still very limited, this portion of the text has disrupted the peace the Course has made me aware of. This is because, as I see it, I have no holy relationships in which "what one thinks, the other will experience with him" (T.22.VI.14:2). In other words, experiencing forgiveness has brought me peace in many situations, but I have no brother who shares the view the Course holds out of oneness in a present dream state. I hope I am misunderstanding this, as only the Course holds out stability, common sense truth, and peace for me.

A: Jesus is never talking about form or behavior -- what bodies do with each other. He is speaking exclusively about the content in our minds -- whether we have chosen the content of the ego or the content of the Holy Spirit. In the paragraphs to which you refer, Jesus is making the point that it is natural for us to perceive differences in each other (form), differences we judge as important and consequential for us, but this is natural only because we have identified with the ego thought system of separation (content). In truth, seeing each other as truly different is unnatural. Therefore he is saying that we will be better off choosing against the ego, so that we can begin to have experiences that reflect the truth of our oneness with each other, our natural state ( see W.pI.161.2,3,4). With the ego as our teacher, we perceive our interests as separate and in conflict with those of others. But when we choose Jesus as our teacher instead, we will gradually learn how to perceive our interests as the same as everyone else's.

You do not have to have a specific person in your life who shares these views with you in order to practice these teachings. You can simply be thinking of someone (past or present), interacting with someone, watching someone on television, or reading about someone. Just become aware of how you are thinking about this person. You needn't say a word. If you do not perceive your interests as separate from that person's, the relationship has been made holy, regardless of whether the other person knows it, and regardless of what that other person's thoughts are. You then will have taken a step toward experiencing oneness of being, not just of interests.

When this new perception gladdens your heart and mind, Jesus states, “you will realize that your relationship is a reflection of the union of the Creator and His Son. From loving minds there is no separation. And every thought in one brings gladness to the other because they are the same” (T.22.VI.14:5,6,7). Jesus continues to unfold this experience of oneness, the extension of joy, love, and light throughout Sonship. Since our minds are joined as one, it is impossible that the gladness in your mind would not also be present in the other person's mind. That is Jesus' point, which is terribly difficult for us to grasp because we place so much trust in the testimony of our sense that tell us we are all separate from each other and that relationships are between two or more different people. But this is the revolutionary thinking Jesus is presenting in his course. Relationships begin and end in the mind as reflections of our relationship with either the ego or the Holy Spirit. That is where the healing is needed, so that we can awaken from the dream that we are separate from our Creator and Source.

Q #1150: Am I correct in thinking A Course in Miracles is called a "course" because we all take on a compulsory "course of thinking" from the time we notice our separate beingness? It seems we have no choice but to set about learning ways and means to live our separate lives as best we can, in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. Survival of the fittest! So we find ourselves enmeshed in different cultures, religious traditions, and rules of behavior that best suit our needs as we see them. Our separately devised courses are clearly deeply conflicted, but we are unable to change our "course" because we only have our learned thinking to call on, which is how we got conflicted in the first place. Does the Course offer a real alternative -- a "course of thinking" not based on that old, separate, self-interest pattern?

A: The term course specifically denotes the educational and academic context of the Course. It “is arranged as a teaching device,” as the Preface states (p. viii) , and it consists therefore of a text, workbook, and manual for teachers. Jesus speaks about teaching and learning, teachers and students, a curriculum, goals and objectives of the lessons, etc.

Yes, A Course in Miracles most certainly offers a real alternative. There is a section in the text with that title (T.30.IV) , and one might well describe the entire Course in those terms. As you probably know, the dictation began shortly after Helen Schucman, the scribe, and her associate William Thetford agreed to rise above their separate, self-centered interests to find a better way of relating to each other and to the other people in their lives. Their agreement to join was the invitation to the source of truth in their minds, represented by Jesus and the Holy Spirit, to express this real alternative through them. Succinctly stated, A Course in Miracles teaches that the way to remember God is by undoing guilt through forgiving others. It is a lifetime's work that begins with the humble acknowledgment that we have been wrong about everything, and that even though we know of no other way, we trust that there is one, and that we will succeed in achieving its goals.