Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 7/18/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1180 Why does the idea of "sin" have so little meaning to me?
Q #1181 Why is it so hard for me to trust God?.
Q #1182 Why can't I share the same vision as Jesus?
Q #1183 What does the Course mean be "give all to all"?

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Q #1180: Outside of the churches and the Bible, the concept of sin has almost no place. It is an obscure term to many people. I somewhat understand the meaning of sin in A Course in Miracles, but I have difficulty applying it to the undoing of my mind's illusion. I don't see sinners and sins; yet I experience suffering. I can't believe that I killed God, and find the idea completely ridiculous and insane. The idea that I made a world separate from God makes me feel that I have made a very foolish mistake, and I can see that I have lost myself in this illusion of a world. I am grateful to God for the Holy Spirit and the teaching of Jesus to help me and my brothers out of this complicated mess! It isn't the punishment from God that scares me, but the consequences of having chosen to believe in a world without God. By this choice I have created a nightmare that seem to have trapped me like a psychedelic bad trip. Am I involved in denial because I cannot relate to sin ? Is sin a true archetypal concept in the background of everyone's mind, even a Tibetan Buddhist? Is blaming ourselves for the separation the same as saying that we are a sinners?

A: There are many people in both the East and the West who cannot relate to the idea of sin . But there is another way of describing what A Course in Miracles means by sin that practically everyone can connect with, and that is the idea of selfishness or self-centeredness . It would be hard indeed to find someone who has never been selfish in the sense of being preoccupied with satisfying his own needs at someone else's expense -- not really caring about the needs of others as long as one's own are met. We all know what self-interest means, and how many times we evaluate situations and relationships only in terms of their impact on us -- the what's-in-it-for-me syndrome, for example -- thinking of ourselves first, and ignoring suffering or distress that does not directly affect us. (But the Course is not naive in this; it does suggest that we attend to every situation of need, near or afar.) This kind of thinking pervades all levels of relationships: international, national, business, athletics, families, interpersonal, and so on. It is universal because it is the DNA of the ego, so to speak, the foundation of its thought system.

We all as one Son separated from God, the Course teaches, and therefore this attitude informs the thinking of every single person whose mind is not ego-free. Separation from God means separation from oneness, so no matter how we describe the motivation for leaving oneness, it would always have something to do with wanting to be autonomous and special, and an abhorrence for joining or unity that does not support an individualized way of existing. We would want to keep as far away as possible from undifferentiated oneness (Heaven), intensely fearing, as the Course describes it, our disappearance back into the Heart of God (W.pII.14.5:5) .

Because of this, we all must be in terrible conflict deep within our minds, well concealed from our conscious awareness. We know that we intentionally left our Source and our true Identity to establish an identity more to our liking (an act of supreme selfishness). This means we banished God and His creation from our minds and set up a whole new mode of existing, which then required that we hide the real origin of our existence, as we would not want to be walking around with the identity of “banisher-of-love-and-God.” Layers of deception and defenses then became necessary to protect the deception, and to deal with the self-recrimination over doing something we (the one Son) perceived as an attack. The ensuing sense of having a fraudulent existence also needed to dealt with. These dynamics are all involved in what the Course calls sin , although you need not use that religiously based term.

What you seem to be sensing is the self-hatred over what clearly was a bad choice with horrendous consequences. Again, while it is not necessary to see sinners and sin, it would be awfully hard to miss the rampant selfishness and self-centeredness in the world and the negative effects of that. An expectation of retaliation almost always accompanies the experience of guilt, but that would not have to be focused on God -- there could just be a general sense that you probably deserve to be punished for what you have done to others, and to yourself. Perhaps this is behind your feeling afraid of “the consequences of having chosen to live in a world without God.” If you truly accepted this as simply a mistaken choice, you could just admit your mistake and then make the correct choice, which really is the point Jesus is helping us to arrive at. But since you have not been able to change your mind, something else must be intervening in your mind that prevents you from making the right choice. That is what the Course identifies as the fear of loss, and the fear of having to pay somehow for what we did. We definitely would feel trapped here if those were our only options, which the ego has convinced us is the case. In the section in the text called “The Fear of Redemption” (T.13.III) , Jesus helps us understand these dynamics and how he can help us undo them .

Q #1181: I have been a student of A Course in Miracles since the mid-eighties. It is a very difficult Course. The ultimate reason for my difficulties with the Course in my life, I believe, is that I do not trust God-Jesus. In lesson 71 it says that we should ask God "What would you have me do? Where would you have me go? What would you have me say, and to whom?" My fear is that He will ask me to endure a physical or psychological "crucifixion" and poof, I'll be history. Again and again I clearly see myself sitting with Jesus as he asks for my trust and extends his hand. I stall. I don't give it. I hem and haw. I truly believe if I would just accept the hand he is offering, my so called difficulties would dissipate.

A: Getting in touch with how much we do not believe Jesus, much less trust him, is a major milestone in the journey with the Course. This realization cuts through layers of denial, pretense, spiritual arrogance, and specialness. There are two important factors hidden in your concerns that hold the hope of your release from them: you know Jesus is there, and you know he does not leave in spite of the ego's antics. That makes all the difference. You don't have to trust him. In fact if your trust were complete and you believed everything he says, you wouldn't need him. Jesus has not come because we trust him; he has come because we need him. Moreover, he comes precisely because we do not trust him. If Jesus is the symbol of the right mind, and we are not sure we actually have a right mind, much less the use of it, how could we possibly trust him? Faith in the mind's ability to choose to identify with the memory of God's Love, and return to the Oneness we share with Him is lost when the mind wanders off in pursuit of the ego's fun and games. This is expressed in the fear of crucifixion you describe, that claims: “if I take Jesus' hand -- no more fun and games.” Then there's the other part of the mind that whispers: “no Jesus, no peace.” This is the experience of the split mind doing its dance. The question is to whom does one listen?

You have unveiled one of the sneakiest tricks the ego has come up with for students of the Course: using it as an excuse for not truly accepting its message for oneself. This insight in itself peels away layers of defense. Anything that unmasks the ego's dark secrets, hidden in the vaults of denial, is a step into the light. Those steps cannot be taken by the ego and so they must be taken with the one who leads us, which means there is a part of your mind that has taken his hand. It is as simple as that. The Holy Spirit asks no more: [He] asks of you but this; bring to Him every secret you have locked away from Him. Open every door to Him, and bid Him enter the darkness and lighten it away. At your request He enters gladly. He brings the light to darkness if you make the darkness open to Him. But what you hide He cannot look upon...   Bring, therefore, all your dark and secret thoughts to Him, and look upon them with Him. He holds the light, and you the darkness. They cannot coexist when both of You together look on them. His judgment must prevail, and He will give it to you as you join your perception to His” (T.14.VII.6:1,2,3,4,5,8,9,10).

Jesus knows his students don't trust him or believe his message: “We understand that you do not believe all this. How could you, when the truth is hidden deep within, under a heavy cloud of insane thoughts, dense and obscuring, yet representing all you see? (W.41.5:1,2) . That is why the heart of forgiveness is uncovering what the ego would keep hidden: “ It merely looks, and waits, and judges not” (W.pII.1.4:3). There is nothing you need do to the resistance you have revealed to yourself, except not to judge it. When you are ready to relinquish the ego's pain for the peace Jesus has promised, and in which you do believe, you will.

Q #1182: In your answer to Question #107, you say: "So you are quite correct in concluding that looking with Jesus, and choosing against the ego would automatically give you the same vision as Jesus." This is in the context of feeling attacked or shamed -- at work, home, whatever. My experience is that I am able to at least step back and realize that the feeling is not coming from outside, that whatever someone said or did is being latched onto for the purposes of the ego, but I rarely feel total freedom from it. The feeling continues, and with it a recurring attempt to step back from it. It's not simply "over." Does this make sense? Is it a process of then letting go more? Is it possible to watch the discomfort but have the discomfort, the swirling in the pit of the stomach, continue? Or do I still want it even though it doesn't feel good? I rarely "automatically [feel] the same vision as Jesus."

A: Your experience is quite common. The fact that you do not experience the shift does not mean that you have not made progress. You at least realize that you are not upset for the reason you think (W.pI.5) , which means you would be less inclined to justify your anger or shame. That is a major step forward, although you may not experience it that way. And, yes, it is possible to watch the discomfort while you are having it. It sounds strange, but that shows that you are beginning to disidentify from your ego. The part of you that is watching is not the ego (as long as there is no judgment involved). But because the discomfort is still there, part of you must still be attracted to victimization. That's normal. We keep layers of defenses concealed from awareness because of our fear of letting go of the ego all at once. We are too afraid of what we think might happen, given the vows we made to be faithful to the ego and its ambassadors of sin, guilt, and fear (T.21.IV; T.19.IV.D.6).

In A Course in Miracles, Jesus encourages us to be patient in our practice and our expectations as we proceed through the stages of healing. That is why he uses the metaphors of a journey and a ladder, and speaks about his curriculum as a process. In Lesson 284, he outlines four basic stages that we would all typically go through in our practice of what we are learning: “This is the truth, at first to be but said and then repeated many times; and next to be accepted as but partly true, with many reservations. Then to be considered seriously more and more, and finally accepted as the truth” (W.pII.284.1:5,6). Trust that your willingness to follow Jesus as your teacher will lead to the outcome he guarantees you will achieve (T.8.V.4).

Q #1183: Could you explain to me what the course means when it says, "Give all to All?"

A: To understand this phrase we must include the first part of the statement: “To Have, Give All to All” (T.6.V.A) It means that to have all the Holy Spirit offers, we must give all the ego's lies over to Him to be transformed, and must be willing to include everyone in the blessings we receive, or they will not be ours. The Holy Spirit's lessons are reversals of the ego's laws. In this one, we find a correction for the ego's belief in scarcity: “To the ego, to give anything implies that you will have to do without it. When you associate giving with sacrifice, you give only because you believe that you are somehow getting something better, and can therefore do without the thing you give. 'Giving to get' is an inescapable law of the ego... (T.4.II.6:3, 4, 5 ). In the Course, Jesus contrasts the ego's “giving to get” with the Holy Spirit's “giving and receiving are the same” (T.26.I.3:1). Jesus is addressing the split mind of the Sonship that contains two thoughts; the memory of the truth of God's Love (right mind), and the illusory belief in separation (wrong mind). Only the content of the right mind can truly be given or received, since only it reflects truth. Everything else is some form the ego's law of “giving to get,” or its other favorite -- sacrifice. The content of the right mind that can be communicated, given and received, is some form of the extension of love: “You cannot really give anything but love to anyone or anything, nor can you really receive anything but love from them” (T.12.VII.9:4). When love is given, it never diminishes in the giver. As is true for everything of the Holy Spirit, “ It increases in you as you give it to your brother” (T.5.II.2:7).

Willingness to look upon a brother without judgment releases one's self from judgment. By the same token, holding a grievance against one person is enough to keep peace away. As long as one attack thought is cherished and withheld from love, peace is impossible. In order to be free of guilt and have the full experience of the beauty of the right mind, we must let everyone off the hook. Therefore, we may restate the phrase you quote: to have peace/love/innocence/true happiness, give every attack thought to the Holy Spirit, and in so doing, all of these will be received for oneself and given to everyone. “Be willing, then, to give all you have held outside the truth to Him Who knows the truth, and in Whom all is brought to truth” (T.17.I.6:6).