Weekly Questions and Answers, 04/02/2003

This week's questions:

Q #117: Why would a baby or animal become sick?
Q #118: The ego, retaliation, self attack, and fear.
Q #119: Gentleness, peace, trust, worldly distractions.
Q #120: Should we give up eating meat?
Q #121: Did God create the Earth or did we?
Q #122: What was the significance of the 5-pointed star?
Q #123: Is illness in specific body parts a helpful clue?

Q #117: A Course in Miracles states that sickness is anger taken out on the body. What would cause a baby to become sick? For that matter, do animals have egos when they also become sick? Or is this all part of the dream which the ego has us waste our time trying to figure out?

A: A baby or an animal can become sick for the same reason that an adult human becomes sick. We think there should be a difference because we confuse the brain with the mind. Clearly, there are differences between the brain of a baby and the brain of an adult, or the brain of an animal and the brain of a human. But, despite what we all believe about the power and nature of the brain to control the body and behavior, Jesus tells us we are mistaken: "You…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 brain can think" (W.pI.92.2).

It is not the brain but the mind, outside of time and space, that makes all decisions that seem to affect the body. And since the seemingly separate minds that are dreaming all the figures in the dream are really nothing more than fragments of the one split mind that is the source of all mistaken thought (T.18.I.3,4,5), their structure and content (sin, guilt and fear) are all the same. So it is the mind, not the brain, that experiences guilt and anger and fear and looks for defenses against those thoughts and feelings. And the sickness of the mind -- the thought of separation -- is projected out onto the body, whether it be the body of an infant, an adult or an animal, so that it appears that something is happening to the body for which that individual is not responsible.

Now just as the decision for sickness is made in the mind, so too is the decision for healing, which then may be reflected in the disappearance of symptoms and recovery from illness in the body of the infant, the adult or the animal. For every fragmented split mind contains not only the ego but also the correction for the ego, which the Course calls the Holy Spirit.

Q #118: My questions are prompted by my seeming experience of "retaliation" from my ego, which inevitably follows times when I have sincerely tried to look at my ego and asked for correction. The specific forms this takes can be severe enough to shut me down physically, as well as mentally. Should we expect this to occur?

I know the Course talks about the ego vacillating "between suspiciousness and viciousness" shifting to viciousness if I try to seek relief from it, offering me then "the illusion of attack as a 'solution'" (T.9.VIII.2:7,9,10). So if my ego offers me the "illusion of attack," then I am off the hook. I've not really chosen the attack and I'm not responsible for it -- my ego did it to me. But I don't really believe this at all. I think the decision making part of my mind is choosing attack to protect my ego identification -- my special, separate identity -- and that things are going to get a whole lot worse if I continue to go against it. At these times there is no way that I can look at my ego and simply smile at it. I just have to back off. I will be grateful for your answers and comments.

A: Yes, you are right -- the ego has no power to attack you except for the power you give it. Jesus clarifies this early in the text: "Only your allegiance to it gives the ego any power over you. I have spoken of the ego as if it were a separate thing, acting on its own. This was necessary to persuade you that you cannot dismiss it lightly, and must realize how much of your thinking is ego-directed. We cannot safely let it go at that, however, or you will regard yourself as necessarily conflicted as long as you are here, or as long as you believe that you are here. The ego is nothing more than a part of your belief about yourself" (T.4.VI.1:2,3,4,5,6)

As the passage you cite indicates, self-attack is not uncommon when we seek relief from the ego. And that is a reflection of our fear of accepting the limitless love in which the self we believe we are has no meaning, as you suggest.

So your question really is, what do you do now, knowing that your fear is still so great. The part of ourselves that remains identified with the ego does not want us to take even a single step in the direction of forgiveness and healing if it can prevent it. And anything that increases rather than reduces our fear really serves the ego's purpose. So Jesus counsels us that if our resistance is strong, we should not fight ourselves because we are just not ready (T.30.I.1:6,7). The most kind and loving thing we can do then is to be patient and gentle with ourselves -- there is no urgency about the process of forgiveness. We may not yet be ready to bring the darkness of our ego to Jesus, but we can at least bring our fear to him, acknowledging that we need his help. And if Jesus is part of the problem, we can use the less threatening symbol of the Holy Spirit, or any other symbol of love to whom we relate that brings us comfort.

The important thing is to develop an awareness of the loving, nonjudgmental presence within your mind, with whom you can look at the darkness of your ego together. If you look by yourself, you will almost certainly frighten yourself. But if you look with love beside you, the seeming seriousness of what you are uncovering will gradually dissipate. And then you will be able to smile at it.

Q #119: First of all, thank you for the answers to my two former questions: the one about addiction and the one about seeing calls for love. I was glad with these answers and still read them over sometimes. My friends still tell me that I should not undertake behavioral changes, but only look at what my ego is doing. On some level, I trust that I will learn my lessons. Since I began studying A Course in Miracles, I feel like I am not truly seeking anymore. I have found, and need to practice now. My greatest barrier, or stumbling block still is worldly distractions versus God, the ego-offerings versus God. I know that the peace of God is all I want. And at the same time, apparently, I do not want the peace of God. Sometimes, when I have a glimpse of the peace of God, I have a sort of friendly sadness because then I know it is such a gift already, so much better and lovelier than all these worldly distractions.

A. Trust and gentleness are essential in the practice and application of the Course, which you seem to be learning. This means getting more and more comfortable with your inner teacher and developing more and more of a personal relationship with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, so that in those instants in which you are beyond your ego, you would know clearly what the most loving thing for you would be -- to make a behavioral change or to simply continue to watch your ego in action, fully aware of what you are doing and what it is costing you, and then not judging yourself for being so resistant.

We all have a split mind, and we all go back and forth between the ego's offerings and Jesus' offerings. This is normal, and we should not be surprised that we do this. This is the way we learn that we are mistaken, but not sinful: "Son of God, you have not sinned, but you have been much mistaken. Yet this can be corrected and God will help you, knowing that you could not sin against Him" (T.10.V.6:1). We are learning that the world is a projection of our own thoughts, "the outside picture of an inward condition" (T.21.in.1:5). So the point is to welcome that learning, to welcome each opportunity to learn that you only imagine that the world has the power to take away the peace of God. Being afraid of "worldly distractions" only gives them power; and then you will never learn that it is made up. The goal is to achieve a state of inner peace that nothing can disturb, no matter what happens. If you stay isolated and secluded, you are implying that something outside you has power to take away the peace of God. That is foolish. It would be more helpful to go to Jesus after a period of indulging your ego and tell him about everything you thought and did, and that you realize you chose against him, but that you also realize that his love for you has not been affected, and that one day you will not be so afraid to have his love for you, and yours for him, be the center of your life. The pain of excluding that love from your life eventually will become too much to bear, and so the amount of time you spend indulging your ego will grow less and less. Again, though, this does not mean that you may not be guided to make a behavioral change as a way of diminishing the pain you are inflicting on yourself. The behavioral change then would not be perceived as sacrificial, but an expression of gentleness toward yourself.

Q #120: Did Jesus ever discuss giving up meat during any of his talks with Helen? In the Essene Gospels, he talks quite a bit about not eating meat. What's your view on this?

A: In scribing A Course in Miracles, Helen Schucman did not receive any instruction regarding eating meat -- the topic was not discussed. The Course is not the same teaching as the Essene Gospels. It is a Course on content, not form, and so there are no directives for behavior, as in the Essene Gospels.

There are two very important principles of the Course that may be helpful to consider in response to your question, both are stated in the same passage: "There is no life outside of Heaven. Where God created life, there life must be. In any state apart from Heaven life is illusion" (T.23.II.19:1,2,3). If no life exists outside of Heaven, and any other state is an illusion, it would be very inconsistent with the Course's teaching that any kind of behavior in the dream be awarded significance. The Course is teaching us to become aware of the interpretation we give to everything, thereby becoming aware of the thoughts, beliefs, and judgments that make up our ego thought system. In this way we will be able to learn to see the true connection between cause and effect, and understand that the source of all our pain is in the mind. Therefore the only thing the Course asks us to do is pay attention to our thoughts, see them as the cause of any condition we may find ourselves in, and bring them to the Holy Spirit so they can be transformed. Beyond this the Course does not give any specific behavioral directives for choices made in an hallucination: "What if you recognized this world is an hallucination?" (T.20.VIII.7:3) Based on these important principles of the Course it is not in keeping with its thought system to abstain from meat because it means killing a "living" creature, or because it is a "spiritually superior" thing to do. With regard to this, as to any specific situation or problem we may have, the Course instructs us to ask but one question: "This is the question that you must learn to ask in connection with everything. What is the purpose? Whatever it is, it will direct your efforts automatically" (T.4.V.6:8,9,10). Everything serves the purpose of the ego or that of the Holy Spirit. Whether we eat meat or refrain from eating meat, the important thing to remember is that we do not make decisions by ourselves: "You will not make decisions by yourself whatever you decide. For they are made with idols or with God" (T.30.I.14:7,8). Our choice will reinforce the ego's thought system, that the world is real, and what we eat makes a difference, or the Holy Spirit's thought system, that the world is an illusion, and the only thing that matters in the dream is healing our mind of the thought that we believe we separated from God. Regarding specific behavior, Krishnamurti offered very helpful advice to one of his followers in reference to having sex, which we can paraphrase to apply to your question: "Eat meat, or don't eat meat, but get on with it."

Q #121: It has been said that we created the body after the separation. With all of the beauty that is of this earth that can be seen, as well as the incredible variety of life that thrives here, did God create the physical earth, or did we?

A: Before answering your question, we must clarify that in A Course in Miracles, the term "create" is used only in reference to God's ability to create. His creation is His Son who abides with Him in Heaven. When speaking about the physical world in the dream illusion, including the body, the Course uses the term "made" or "miscreate." It is unmistakable in its teaching regarding the origin of the physical world: "The world you see is an illusion of a world. God did not create it, for what He creates must be eternal as Himself" (C.4.1:1,2). Thus, neither the world nor the body exists in reality. Since our experience of being physical bodies living in a physical world seems so real to us, it is important to keep in mind, as we speak of the world, that none of this could ever actually occur.

In this dream of separation the world is the place where the sleeping son, consumed with guilt at having seemingly separated from God, comes to hide from the imagined wrath of a punishing God. A Course in Miracles teaches that the ego, gone mad with guilt, made the world, along with the body, not only to hide from God, but to keep God out of awareness: "The world was made as an attack on God. It symbolizes fear. And what is fear except love's absence? Thus the world was meant to be a place where God could enter not, and where His Son could be apart from Him" (W.pII.3:1,2,3,4). Clearly then, according to the thought system of the Course, God did not make the world. It is the effect of the thought of separation, and is maintained by the ongoing guilt of that thought: "The world you see is what you gave it, nothing more than that.…It is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition" (T21.in.1:2,5). This does not mean that we should seek to see the good and the beautiful in the world, as opposed to the evil and the ugly. It refers to the choice we have of seeing the ego's interpretation of the world, or the Holy Spirit's.

The ego looks at the beauty and variety in the world as proof that the world is real, that God "created" it, and that our pursuit of enjoyment in this world is blessed by Him. In accord with this thinking, God also made the devastating natural disasters that afflict the world, the so called "acts of God" found in our insurance policies. God must then be cruel indeed. The ego's thinking makes God responsible not only for the beauty, but for all the various forms of physical, psychological and emotional suffering we find in this world. The apparent beauty of the world captures our attention as a ploy of the ego to keep us engaged in its lie -- that happiness is possible outside of Heaven. For further thoughts on our experience of beauty in the world, please see our answer to question #70.

Q #122: In the book Absence from Felicity, Jesus told Helen to purchase a gold star pendant as a gift from Him. Did Jesus explain the significance of the star, and was it a five or six pointed star? Jesus mentioned the star(s) a few times in A Course in Miracles, but never went into detail. Would you be kind enough to give me your interpretation of the meaning of the Star.

A: Since for Helen a five pointed star was a symbol of Jesus, there was no need for him to discuss its significance with her. As is explained in Absence from Felicity (and the page numbers are 96 and 433 in the second edition; 107 and 453 in the first), Helen experienced Jesus' suggestion that she buy the gold star (five pointed) as a personal gift from him to her. It meant a great deal to her, and she wore it often as a symbol of their love for each other.

Incidentally, in the Christian tradition Jesus is also symbolized by a star, as in the morning star mentioned in The Book of Revelation and cited at the end of the epilogue to the Clarification of Terms.

Q #123: I'd really appreciate elaboration on P.2.VI.5.1,2,3. My specific question is: will the body part I am presently projecting my unforgiveness onto give me an insight into the particular issue that I need to undo at this time? How will analyzing the form of my sickness enable me to better understand what issue is at the "tip of the iceberg"?

A: To begin, let's take a look at the full passage, the first three sentences of which you refer to:

"Sickness takes many forms, and so does unforgiveness. The forms of one but reproduce the forms of the other, for they are the same illusion. So closely is one translated into the other, that a careful study of the form a sickness takes will point quite clearly to the form of unforgiveness that it represents. Yet seeing this will not effect a cure. That is achieved by only one recognition; that only forgiveness heals an unforgiveness, and only an unforgiveness can possibly give rise to sickness of any kind" (P.2.VI.1,2,3,4,5).

As this asserts, there should be a clear correspondence between the specific thought of guilt in the mind and its shadow -- the symptom -- in the world. Freud made a similar kind of claim in his analyses of hysterical symptoms. However, your conclusion can only be as good as the honesty of your introspection and as accurate as your willingness to uncover what anger, fear and judgments may be buried in your unconscious. And there is no set of fixed rules that leads inexorably from specific thought to specific symptom.

For example, a sprained ankle may reflect a real ambivalence about stepping forward on a certain fearful career or relationship path for one person. But for another person or for the same person at another time, the sprain may be evidence of guilt over the desire to kick someone else when he is down. And for someone else, the fear of going forward could be manifested in laryngitis -- losing one's voice -- rather than in spraining an ankle. There may even be some kind of so-called past life associations to the present symptom which are even more difficult to uncover. Nevertheless, there will be times when the correspondence is quite apparent.

Seeing such links between an unforgiving thought and a specific symptom can be especially helpful as you first begin your work with A Course in Miracles, for it reinforces the recognition the Course is attempting to develop in our awareness of the true cause-effect relationship between mind and body. We incorrectly see a false relationship between external agents or events as causes and bodily changes as effects (e.g., a virus and flu symptoms), rather than the true relationship between the thoughts of the mind as cause and changes in the body as effects (e.g., guilt and flu symptoms).

But, as the above passage from the Psychotherapy pamphlet points out, seeing such connections is not enough in itself to bring about true healing. Only forgiveness can do that. And as you continue with your study of the Course, the good news is that you do not need to uncover the link between a specific form of guilt and a specific symptom. Any symptom of disease or dis-ease in the body is a projection of the guilt in the mind that is the self-hatred we all carry inside ourselves over our belief that we attacked and destroyed love when we chose the thought of separation. And every symptom, regardless of its form, represents nothing other than the ego's attempt to persuade you that your problems are in the world and in your body, and not in your mind. So once the ego's ruse is recognized and the real association between the guilt in the mind and effects on the body is acknowledged, most of your work is completed. The next step is simply to turn to your internal Teacher for help in undoing your belief in that guilt. Your part in the forgiveness process is now complete. External symptoms may or may not shift at this point, but they will no longer concern you, as you have identified the real source of your discomfort and pain. As Jesus observes in the manual in the section on healing, "What do guilt and sickness, pain, disaster and all suffering mean now? Having no purpose, they are gone. And with them also go all the effects they seemed to cause. Cause and effect but replicate creation. Seen in their proper perspective, without distortion and without fear, they re-establish Heaven" (M.5.II.4:7,8,9,10,11).