Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles:6/13/2007
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1158 What is the view of the Course on reincarnation?
Q #1159 What exactly is the Holy Trinity ?
Q #1160 Is the idea of a "soulmate" part of the Course?
Q #1161 If we relinquish all goals except salvation, how can we use our gifts?
Q #1162 Is humor part of the illusion?
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Q #1158: What is A Course in Miracles' view on reincarnation? Is reincarnation considered an illusion? What happens when you die and you haven't completed the goal of "chipping away" at the illusions and defenses so that you possess a mindset that reflects Heaven or stays in Heaven?
A: In keeping with its teaching that there is no life outside Heaven, the Course does not make a strong case for or against reincarnation: “There is no life outside of Heaven. ...In any state apart from Heaven life is illusion. At best it seems like life; at worst, like death. Yet both are judgments on what is not life, equal in their inaccuracy and lack of meaning (T23.II.19:1,3,4 5). Based on this fundamental principle of the Course's teaching, the Manual answers the question of reincarnation directly: “In the ultimate sense, reincarnation is impossible. There is no past or future, and the idea of birth into a body has no meaning either once or many times. Reincarnation cannot, then, be true in any real sense” (M.24.1:1,2,3). Clearly, then, the idea of reincarnation is part of the illusory belief system of the ego. The mind that chooses illusion also choses to identify with a body that lives and dies, once or many times; it does not matter. The important thing to consider is the mind's choice to believe in illusion rather than truth. That choice is made outside of time and space. It precedes the birth of the body and is unaffected by its death. If the body is the projection of the mind's belief in separation, the only thing that makes the body real is the continued belief in separation. Having chosen the body as its identity, the mind then convinces itself that the body acts independently in a linear process of “chipping away” that will ultimately have an effect on the mind. That is impossible. The mind confuses cause and effect as a defense against its own power to choose truth over illusion.
The only way out of the illusion of the life and death dilemma is for the mind to learn to recognize the painful effects of its choice, until it decides unequivocally for truth. Until it thus awakens from the nightmare of separation, the mind just keeps on dreaming. It dreams it is a body, has adventures, lives, dies, and lives again. Just as your body remains asleep in your bed whether you have a long, adventurous, nocturnal dream, jumping from one country to another, or a simple dream about a blue cat, so it is with the mind that dreams the dream of separation. It does not go out of itself. Thus, the mind's dream of life in a body is no more real than the nocturnal adventures of the blue cat. Nothing happens when you die because nothing happens when you live, as long as the “you” is the body. Each time the mind is willing to recognize itself as cause, it weakens belief in the body. As long as it is attracted to the separation thought, it establishes the “reality” of the body, birth, death, and rebirth. So while the mind keeps on dreaming, it keeps on choosing. That is all it ever does; it is all that ever happens. Being willing not to deny the disastrous effects of its choice for separation, the mind will ultimately decide against it. Thus, the practice of forgiveness remains the only path to awakening and ending the cycle of illusory lives. It is the alternative to reincarnation.
See also: Questions #24, #91a, #94, #97, #153, and #291.
Q #1159: My question is about the relationship of the one Son, the one Christ, to the Holy Spirit. In some passages, A Course in Miracles seems to suggest that they are one and the same; yet, if there is a Holy Trinity in Heaven, does this refer to some concept of the Holy Spirit as having a role or function that is different from the One Son, or Christ? Since Heaven is non-dualistic, I recognize that these terms are just concepts to help us understand the non-separated state. However, I would benefit from your explanation of the distinction that the Course is using with the term Holy Spirit and the Son or Christ, and what is actually meant by these terms as part of the Holy Trinity.
A: Strictly speaking, there is no Trinity. In Heaven there is only God. “The first in time means nothing, but the First in eternity is God the Father, Who is both First and One. Beyond the First there is no other, for there is no order, no second or third, and nothing but the First” (T.14.IV.1:7,8). Christ is defined as “the extension of the Love and the Loveliness of God, as perfect as His Creator and at peace with Him” (T.11.IV.7:5) ; yet, to quote a well-known line in the workbook, “. . . nowhere does the Father end, the Son begin as something separate from Him” (W.pI.132.12:4) . Christ is not a being apart from the Father.
The Holy Spirit is metaphorically described in A Course in Miracles as God's Answer to the separation, but there is no detailed explanation of the genesis of the Holy Spirit. Some descriptions offered are as follows: “The Holy Spirit is the only part of the Holy Trinity that has a symbolic function. . . . the Healer, the Comforter and the Guide” (T.5.I.4:1,2). “The Holy Spirit is the Christ Mind which is aware of the knowledge that lies beyond perception” (T.5.I.5:1). “He is part of the Holy Trinity, because His Mind is partly yours and also partly God's. This needs clarification, not in statement but in experience” (T.5.III.1:4,5). It seems therefore that the Holy Spirit is spoken of only in relation to the separation, which we know is illusory and never happened. But Jesus also teaches that when the dream of separation is over, the Holy Spirit will “return to the eternal formlessness of God” (C.6.5:8).
In trying to fill in the blanks and even formulate a theology, it is important to keep in mind how the Course uses language, and related to that, its intention of offering a correction of what it sees as the mistakes of traditional Christianity. As you probably have noticed in our answers on this Service, we like to refer students to chapter 2 of Kenneth's Few Choose to Listen (Volume Two of The Message of “A Course in Miracles” ), where they will find a comprehensive explanation of the Course's use of words and terms. Equally important, as you allude to in your question, there is no way we can understand the Godhead or Heaven while we are still choosing to keep ourselves separate from it by believing that we truly exist here as separate individuals. A sample of many such acknowledgments in the Course: “Through our creations we extend our love, and thus increase the joy of the Holy Trinity. You do not understand this, because you who are God's Own treasure do not regard yourself as valuable. Given this belief, you cannot understand anything. . . . Truth can only be experienced. It cannot be described and it cannot be explained. I can make you aware of the conditions of truth, but the experience is of God. Together we can meet its conditions, but truth will dawn upon you of itself” (T.8.VI.8:9,10,11; 9:8,9,10,11).
Q #1160: Where does the Course stand in regard to the ideas of twinflame, soul mate, and karmic relationships? Are those concepts true, or do they really just add to the belief of separation among brothers and special relationships?
A: A Course in Miracles does not say whether these concepts are true or not. On the level of absolute truth, of course, there are no relationships, because reality is non-dualistic, a state of perfect Oneness. In our separated state within the dream, though, we obviously have relationships; and the Course helps us realize that the only meaningful aspect of relationships is the purpose we have given them in our minds -- either the ego's or the Holy Spirit's. As we explain in Question #320, the key aspects of a special relationship -- which means the ego purpose of separation has been given it -- are dependency, completion, and needs. Thus, the feeling that someone is your soul mate could reflect the ego's purpose of reinforcing your belief that you are separate, incomplete, and have needs that must be met, or it could reflect your desire to undo these belief, and that this person will be your partner in the forgiveness process. It can be a right- minded or wrong-minded attraction.
With regard to karma, one of the major differences between that approach and the Course's is that the Course sees time as holographic, not linear, which means there can be no causal connection between the past and our present experience -- unless our minds deliberately put one there. Another point of difference is that since “projection makes perception” and the world is “the outside picture of an inward condition” (T.21.in.1:1,5) , we do nothing to the world and the world does nothing to us. A comprehensive view of this issue can be found in the following Questions: #332, #363, #514i, #516, and #577.
Q #1161: What does A Course in Miracles mean about relinquishing all other goals except salvation? Are we not meant to use our gifts? Are we not meant to cherish the goal of manifesting our gifts and using our talent?
A: Interestingly, in the passage you are referring to, Jesus describes these other goals as ones “you have invented for yourself” (W.pI.65.1:5; italics added ). That means they have nothing to do with our true Identity, and instead pertain to the self we made as replacement for the Self God created. As God created us, our true and only function is creating in Heaven (W.pI.192.1) . What we regard as our gifts and our talents are part of a substitute, ego-based identity. Once we understand and accept ourselves in that light, we can then ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit to help us use our so-called gifts and talents for the purpose of salvation, rather than for their original purpose of keeping us separate from our identity as spirit. Then, our only purpose will be forgiveness (W.pI.192.2,3) , “the only function meaningful in time. It is the means the Holy Spirit uses to translate specialness from sin into salvation” (T.25.VI.5:3,4).
Talents are very much an individual thing, setting people apart from one another -- the ones who have them from the ones who do not; the specially gifted from the modestly gifted, and so on. This, despite the fact that many people use their talents in the service of others, or as members of teams and groups. The Course is not saying not to develop our talents, but to become aware of our purpose for doing so, as would be the case with anything of the body and the world. As students of A Course in Miracles , we can learn to regard them simply as part of the curriculum our teacher of forgiveness can use to help us learn that we are all the same in sharing the same purpose, and ultimately that we are all the same as God's one Son.
Q #1162: What is the meaning of humor? Does it have anything to do with joy, or is it just part of the illusion?
A: Humor is just part of the illusion and, as part of the illusion, it can be a complex topic, one that has been analyzed and studied extensively over the years to determine what makes something funny or humorous. Freud, in one of the earlier analyses of humor, theorized that it always involves tension reduction or release. From the perspective of A Course in Miracles , guilt is the sole source of tension, and so things which release or reduce guilt may be experienced as funny or humorous. But in the end, as with all things of the world, humor's meaning depends on whether it serves a right-minded or a wrong-minded purpose.
In the service of the ego, humor is a vehicle for attack, as can be easily seen in mean-spirited attempts to get a laugh by putting others down, where an individual or group is targeted as the butt of the joke, such as ethnic and racist jokes, political jokes, and humor that plays upon the “battle of the sexes.” Ego humor can be cruel and vicious, always coming at the expense of someone seen as outside of oneself or one's self-identified group, and so always reinforcing the perception of separation and differences. The unconscious motivation behind the ego's use of humor would always be to see guilt outside oneself. Expanding on Freud's thesis, the tension reduction in the ego's humor would only be a reduction in experienced guilt as it is projected onto another. And the relief from such amusement would only be temporary, since the underlying guilt has not really been addressed and released.
Right-minded use of humor, in contrast, either minimizes or makes light of differences, and although its form may at times appear similar to the ego's, its content is gentle and its purpose is to help us not to take ourselves quite so seriously. Rather than laughing derisively at others, we learn to smile at ourselves. Drawing again on Freud's tension reduction/release hypothesis, it could be said that right-minded humor involves an actual release from guilt, as our investment in separation is relinquished in that moment of transcending the ego's artificial barriers and divisions. The laughter that may accompany this humor is light and joyful.
Jesus displays such a right-minded sense of humor throughout the Course, as in “The 'Hero' of the Dream” (T.27.VIII) , where he describes our so-called life in the body, pointing out our silly beliefs, which we take so seriously. For example, few topics are more serious and guilt-inducing to most of us, yet Jesus refers to money simply as “little metal discs or paper strips the world proclaims as valuable and real” (T.27.VIII.2:2) . And he regards the ego thought system and its ramifications simply as “a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh,” and “a joke” (T.27.VIII.6:2,5) . His words are not meant to attack our beliefs, but only to suggest a more light-hearted perspective that will allow us to move towards acknowledging and then looking beyond our guilt, thereby releasing it, rather than attempting to place it outside ourselves, as our egos would have us do, where its reality is never questioned.
Humor and laughter have no purpose in Heaven, for their right-minded function is corrective, that is, they serve to lighten and eventually cast off the burden of guilt that we have foolishly made real and taken upon ourselves, while we remain too afraid of the joy without contrast that is our real inheritance. As Jesus explains, “This is the way salvation works. As you step back, the light in you steps forward and encompasses the world. It heralds not the end of sin in punishment and death. In lightness and in laughter is sin gone, because its quaint absurdity is seen. It is a foolish thought, a silly dream, not frightening, ridiculous perhaps, but who would waste an instant in approach to God Himself for such a senseless whim?” (W.pI.156.6) . And so, “the world will end in joy, because it is a place of sorrow. When joy has come, the purpose of the world has gone. The world will end in peace, because it is a place of war. When peace has come, what is the purpose of the world? The world will end in laughter, because it is a place of tears. Where there is laughter, who can longer weep? And only complete forgiveness brings all this to bless the world. In blessing it departs, for it will not end as it began” (M.14.5:1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,) .