Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles:6/6/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1155 Can glimpses of heaven induce fear?
Q #1156 Is the brain a type of radio receiver?
Q #1157 Doesn't everybody experience revelation at some point in life?

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Q #1155: My question is about what appeared to be a glimpse into the deeper meaning of A Course in Miracles that I experienced. I seemed to see the world from a very different plane, but essentially I was aware of the fact that everything in this world meant nothing. It was all a cardboard cutout. One of the very strange descriptions that came to me was that there was absolutely no difference between placing my toe on the floor and the war in Iraq (or anywhere for that matter). Everything, including myself, only existed through the specialness given it. The awareness that sensed all this was not lying in the bed yet it was me. I was somehow able to switch between this awareness and the me that I knew. No longer believing in my life as I knew it, I felt a great darkness come over me. I had no alternative insight into what was real. It was then that I made a conscious decision to opt for the cardboard world I knew, as the fear of the unknown was overwhelming. I always imagined that a realization of this magnitude would be accompanied by a great sense of love of joy showing you what is your reality but I had none of that. Is there a fear barrier that must be crossed simply through trust? And does this sound like an experience of 'vision' or was it just the ego's meanderings?

A: This is the kind of experience addressed in the section in the text called “Light in the Dream” (T.18.III) (as well as in other places). “As light comes nearer you will rush to darkness, shrinking from the truth, sometimes retreating to the lesser forms of fear, and sometimes to stark terror. . . . If you knew Who walks beside you on the way that you have chosen, fear would be impossible. You do not know because the journey into darkness has been long and cruel, and you have gone deep into it. A little flicker of your eyelids, closed so long, has not yet been sufficient to give you confidence in yourself, so long despised. You go toward love still hating it, and terribly afraid of its judgment upon you. And you do not realize that you are not afraid of love, but only of what you have made of it (T.18.III.2:2;3:1,2,3,4,5,6).

The process of the Course is really a gentle one, but it nevertheless can lead to sense of disorientation as we make a radical shift in our perspective of reality. Jesus explains this and reassures us: “In the transition there is a period of confusion, in which a sense of actual disorientation may occur. But fear it not, for it means only that you have been willing to let go of your hold on the distorted frame of reference that seemed to hold your world together. . . . Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality. Time is kind, and if you use it on behalf of reality, it will keep gentle pace with you in your transition” (T.16.VI.7:4,5;8:1,2).

The questioning of your reality and the world's is a necessary step in the direction of total relinquishment of your ego. A part of you (the ego part, of course) is terrified of this. “Yet,” Jesus says, “in this learning is salvation born. And What you are will tell you of Itself” (T.31.V.17:8). When you calmly realize that your whole existence as a being in the world was made by you (the decision maker in the mind) as a defense against the truth, then you would also realize that to dismantle this powerful defense would expose the overwhelming fear that motivated you to erect it in the first place. It is at this stage of the process that we encounter the most terror, without realizing its cause. This is described rather graphically in “The Two Worlds” section in Chapter 18 of the text. There Jesus talks about the willingness that is needed “to follow the Holy Spirit through seeming terror, trusting Him not to abandon you and leave you there. For it is not His purpose to frighten you, but only yours. You are severely tempted to abandon Him at the outside ring of fear, but He would lead you safely through and far beyond” (T.18.IX.3:7,8).

Jesus thus is aware of the fear and terror in our minds, but he wants to be a comforting presence to us as we go through this process, as he knows our fear and terror are unjustified. He wants to help us reach that same realization, but that means we must be patient and gentle with ourselves and allow ourselves as much time as we need to make the transition. What helps enormously is not to make a big deal about the process; after all, we are undoing only what is illusory, and restoring to our awareness only what belongs there and is natural. Our fear of loss is terribly threatening as we begin the process, but all that we will “lose” is our guilt, anger, anguish, and hatred, and we will become more kind, more forgiving, more compassionate, and more peaceful. That is not to be feared, but welcomed. And it will be, if we remember Who walks with us.

One last point . . . While it is true, within the illusion, that there is no difference between placing your toe on the floor and the war in Iraq, it is true only when you are with Jesus above the battleground. Missing this distinction could lead to denial of your experiences in the world, where differences must be respected. This crucial distinction is the basis of what Jesus teaches in Lesson 187. There he explains that “you give but to yourself,” and anyone who truly understands this “must laugh at the idea of sacrifice. Nor can he fail to recognize the many forms which sacrifice may take. He laughs as well at pain and loss, at sickness and at grief, at poverty, starvation and at death. He recognizes sacrifice remains the one idea that stands behind them all, and in his gentle laughter are they healed” (W.pI.187.6:2,3,4,5). Taken out of the context in which Jesus is presenting this lesson, these statements can make him sound cruel and insensitive. It is essential to understand, therefore, that his reference point, and yours in your experience, is the mind joined with his above the battleground.

Q #1156: In regards to my brain's relationship with my mind, would it be like my brain is a receiver, and my mind is sending an infinite amount of radio signals, and that the more I forgive, the higher the quality of the signals I am actually able to receive, all the way back up the ladder; and that with less forgiveness, my radio is only capable of receiving signals of the separation?

A: You have fallen into a common confusion with your analogy, equating yourself with your body and the brain, when the purpose of A Course in Miracles is to help us identify ourselves with the mind, not the body, which is the mindless effect of our mind's choice for the ego. For you speak of the mind as sending and the brain as receiving signals, and then speak of the quality of signals that you receive being affected by whether you forgive or not, as if you were the brain, with the brain being where forgiveness is occurring

The brain is simply part of the ego's subterfuge to keep us mindless. Everything is experienced in the mind, including the seductive illusion that we are a body that experiences everything through our body's senses, with our brain. Jesus gently pokes fun at our confusion when he observes, “your idea of what seeing means is tied up with the body and its eyes and brain. Thus you believe that you can change what you see by putting little bits of glass before your eyes. This is among the many magical beliefs that come from the conviction you are a body, and the body's eyes can see. You also believe the body's brain can think. If you but understood the nature of thought, you could but laugh at this insane idea. It is as if you thought you held the match that lights the sun and gives it all its warmth; or that you held the world within your hand, securely bound until you let it go. Yet this is no more foolish than to believe the body's eyes can see; the brain can think” (W.pI.92.1:3,4,5; 2:1,2,3,4).

The mind, not the brain, is the receiver. As Jesus explains near the end of the Course, “consciousness [the split mind] is the receptive mechanism, receiving messages from above or below; from the Holy Spirit or the ego” (C.1.7:3).

Jesus does refer to the body as a communication medium in the text, for it merely transmits to you, the mind, what you, the mind, have given it to transmit. For the mind is both the sender and the receiver: “Why should the body be anything to you? Certainly what it is made of is not precious. And just as certainly it has no feeling. It transmits to you [the mind] the feelings that you want. Like any communication medium the body receives and sends the messages that it is given. It has no feeling for them. All of the feeling with which they are invested is given by the sender and the receiver. The ego and the Holy Spirit both recognize this, and both also recognize that here the sender and receiver are the same [the mind] . The Holy Spirit tells you this with joy. The ego hides it, for it would keep you unaware of it. Who would send messages of hatred and attack if he but understood he sends them to himself? Who would accuse, make guilty and condemn himself?” (T.19.IV.B.14).

A little later, adding another dimension to the discussion, Jesus observes, “the Holy Spirit, too, is a communication medium, receiving from the Father and offering His messages unto the Son. Like the ego, the Holy Spirit is both the sender and the receiver. For what is sent through Him returns to Him, seeking itself along the way, and finding what it seeks. So does the ego find the death it seeks, returning it to you. (T.19.IV.B.17:3,4,5,6).

What remains consistent throughout these various observations is that Jesus is always speaking of aspects of the mind. The body clearly plays no active role in any of this.

To return to your analogy, the mind is like a person who tunes a radio, with the body/brain being the radio. The person can choose to tune into either the ego's wavelength or the Holy Spirit's, and what he will hear will be either discordant and hateful or gentle and kind, depending on which wavelength he chooses. But the radio itself experiences nothing, and makes no choice about which wavelength will be tuned in. Where the analogy breaks down is that the form of what is heard may be no different on either wavelength. For example, the same powerful symphony, or perhaps a news report, could be coming through the radio on both wavelengths, but the person may hear it as disturbing and unsettling if he's tuned into the ego's wavelength, while he may hear it as hopeful and loving if he's tuned into the Holy Spirit's wavelength. In that sense, the ego and the Holy Spirit are more like alternative filters through which the broadcast is perceived.

By the way, the radio would never be capable of receiving only the ego's signals, as you wonder, for the mind/person in any moment can choose to change to the Holy Spirit's broadcast, and this does not depend on what he has tuned into in the previous moment or series of moments, for however long they may seem to extend. He just needs to change the dial. However, if he's used to tuning into the ego's wavelength, over time he may forget that the Holy Spirit's wavelength is also available to him and he'll act as if he has no choice, as if the radio can only pick up one wavelength. But in any moment, when he wants to remember, all he needs to do is change from the ego's wavelength to the Holy Spirit's, and his perception and his experience will shift.

Q #1157: The purpose of the Course seems to be revelation or knowledge, which I've always assumed to be the same as the mystical experience, without which the journey is useless. Jesus also says in his course, "When you have seen your brother as yourself, you will be released to knowledge . . ." (T.13.VIII.8:1). Surely most people, at some point in their lives, have seen someone as themselves, if only for a moment . . . and not just those who have experienced revelation.

A: The term knowledge in A Course in Miracles is really a synonym for Heaven , the state of perfect Oneness. That is our true and natural state as God's Son; and although we believe we rejected it and made up another self as a substitute, we are assured through the Atonement principle that we never truly left that state and therefore Heaven's Oneness was never changed. Yet, our work with the Course is focused on a goal that will leave us at Heaven's gate, so to speak, where God Himself will then take the next step, lifting us back unto Himself. Thus, Jesus tells us: “Knowledge is not the motivation for learning this course. Peace is. This the prerequisite for knowledge only because those who are in conflict are not peaceful, and peace is the condition of knowledge because it is the condition of the Kingdom. . . . Knowledge is His Will. If you are opposing His Will, how can you have knowledge?” (T.8.I.1:1,2,3) Jesus reminds us of this later in the text: “Forget not that the motivation for this course is the attainment and the keeping of the state of peace. Given this state the mind is quiet, and the condition in which God is remembered is attained” (T.24.in.1:1,2).

The section in Chapter 13 from which you quoted is entitled “From Perception to Knowledge” (T.13.VIII) , and there Jesus is teaching us that our perception of ourselves and others as separate is what keeps us from the state of knowledge, the state of perfect oneness. Thus, if we free ourselves of the illusion that we are separate, then the oneness of the Sonship will be the lens through which we perceive ourselves and everyone else. When this is our only perception, we are released to knowledge. We begin this transition, however, by learning to perceive that we all share the same interests, seeing others as ourselves.