Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 8/1/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1188 How can there be any connection between "sowing" and "reaping" if all is illusory?
Q #1189 What would our existence be like, in the right mind?
Q #1190 If the Holy Spirit is really illusion, surel God must be also ?

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Q #1188: My former religious education has oriented me towards the idea that "as one sows, does one reap." However the idea of a consequential relationship with our behavior is absent from A Course in Miracles . One is only required to forgive and our actions, good or bad, are only illusions, which do not exist. But if it follows that the Course instructs nothing regarding behavior, why would forgiveness be an important element as forgiveness is applied towards imagined wrongs or sins or errors committed? Finally, if there is no reality of behavior how can there be forgiveness for what never happened? Ignoring the matter may seem more accurate.

A: The questions you raise may make sense within the context of your former religious education, but the Course begins from radically different premises and its teachings can only be understood and appreciated when we recognize that it is saying something very different from nearly every other spiritual teaching the world has to offer ( e.g., T.18.VII.4,5,6) . While the Course, it is true, is not concerned with behavior, it is very concerned with thought, which is the source of all perceived behavior (T.2.VI.3; T.4.IV.2:1; T.5.V.8:3) . It is our thoughts, not our actions, that the Course asserts have consequences ( e.g., T.12.III.7; W.pI.54.1,2) . So, while the Course may not say that we reap what we sow in terms of behavior, it implores us to recognize that our thoughts produce very definite experiences within our minds ( e.g., W.pI.132.1,2) , and that there are really only two categories of thoughts -- right-minded thoughts and wrong-minded thoughts, each with an outcome diametrically opposed to the other.

The Course's focus is on the mind because, from its perspective, the world is nothing more than a dream (T.4.I.4:4,5; T.18.II.5:1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11; T.27.VII.13 ) . Consider that while you sleep at night and dream of vicious attacks and cruelties perpetrated by other figures against you or your loved ones, you may desire vengeance or seek to make others pay for their destructive actions within your dream. But once you awaken, or if you know you are dreaming while you remain asleep, you understand that seeking to hold any of the figures in your dream accountable for their actions makes no sense and is really quite silly -- there are no real figures doing evil to others, but only thoughts or symbols within your own mind interacting according to the script your own unconscious mind has written. The problem is not with the symbols in your dream but with the thoughts within your mind that lie behind the symbols you seem to be experiencing. You would readily recognize, if you knew you were dreaming, that the only meaningful choice is between continuing to dream and awakening ( T.29.IV.1) . To be concerned with what does or doesn't happen with the figures within your sleeping dream is only to continue to indulge in fantasy for your own apparent amusement and entertainment. The Course is inviting us to generalize this recognition to our lives in the world, which the Course refers to as our “waking dreams” (T.18.II.5:12,13,14,15) .

What lies beneath your question is the belief that we must all pay for our sins and it is an unfair universe where people can get away with murder. But if there really is no one other than myself, then to hold on to that belief and desire for earthly justice means I've been hoodwinked by the ego once again into wanting to make attack and grievances real, which keeps the dream of separation real in my mind, and keeps me apart from God's Love. Forgiveness is never for anyone but myself. And it can never be a matter of ignoring my experiences and calling that forgiveness, for my experiences always reflect which teacher I have chosen within my own mind. And when I believe I can simply ignore my own choices, I am secretly choosing the ego, with all the unpleasant consequences that follow from that choice -- sin, guilt and fear, and all their various expressions in form.

What ultimately needs forgiving is our own decision for separation, and not anyone's behavior within the dream, which we may have judged as bad or wrong or sinful. Yes, the Course says there ultimately is nothing to forgive, because it's all a dream. But while we are too afraid of awakening, then having a non-judgmental attitude toward all that we are perceiving -- which is what the Course means by forgiveness -- is the only way that we don't reinforce the reality of the dream in our own mind. Jesus describes this process in the manual for teachers: “God's teachers choose to look on dreams a while. It is a conscious choice. For they have learned that all choices are made consciously, with full awareness of their consequences. The dream says otherwise, but who would put his faith in dreams once they are recognized for what they are? Awareness of dreaming is the real function of God's teachers” (M.12.6:2,3,4,5,6).

Gradually, through that nonjudgmental attitude of forgiveness, we release our investment in our own guilt and sense of sinfulness, which are the hidden motivating forces behind the dream, just as our own unresolved inner conflicts and guilt are the source of our sleeping nightmares. And as we release the guilt, the fear of awakening gradually subsides, until that instant when we realize nothing matters except God's Love, which is our and all our seemingly separate brothers' true reality.

For a related question that addresses your concern over whether we should reap what we sow, see Question #363, which considers the issue in the context of the principle of karma in relationship to the Course's teachings. You may also find Questions #514i, #577 and #738 -- all on karma -- of some interest as well.

Q #1189: Do you have any idea what we will be doing in the right mind, being that we  will have no lack, no body, no senses? It is hard to imagine a life without pleasure, goals, accomplishments. What are we going to be doing?  And with what, since we won't have a body? Will we have an incorruptible body? And if we won't have a body, will we be able to still touch, feel, laugh, play, etc.

A: There is no need to worry. When the mind of the Sonship is completely healed and returns to full acceptance of its oneness with God, it will have no other awareness but that of the Father's Love. This is the state of pure spirit and the only reality. It is unnecessary and impossible to understand or describe this state from the perspective of the unhealed split mind. When the mind chooses to believe that separation from God is possible, it also identifies with the body and completely forgets that it is a mind with the power to choose. That explains why it seems so alien, and even undesirable, to consider any kind of experience that does not involve the physical, psychological, or emotional body in some way: “You cannot even think of God without a body, or in some form you think you recognize” (T.18.VIII.1:7) .   

Meanwhile, the more immediate goal of A Course in Miracles is to learn to identify with the mind that has been forgotten, through the process of forgiveness. Because resistance is strong and the mind's attachment to the body-identity is intense, the process is gentle and gradual. It requires only willingness to begin to recognize that the experiences of one's life are projections of the mind's choice to believe the ego's lie of separation or the Holy Spirit's memory of God's Love. The foundation of the ego thought system is the belief that something external to the mind can have an effect on it. Everything is then perceived and judged from this viewpoint, and used to prove that the world is real and separation is a fact. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, has come to teach us that nothing external to the mind has any effect on it because there is nothing outside the mind. To learn this “requires willingness to question every value that you hold” (T.24.in.2:1) . “Every value” refers to all the things associated with the body that reflect the ego thought system: pleasure, accomplishments, feelings, playing, etc. These things are all substitutes for the peace of God that was abandoned when the mind chose the ego. They are cover-ups for the intense pain that follows the choice for separation. The mind has become so confused about its identity it no longer is able to distinguish between pleasure and pain, nor is it aware of what it truly wants: “Therefore ask not of yourself what you need, for you do not know, and your advice to yourself will hurt you. For what you think you need (everything you think is pleasurable and meaningful) will merely serve to tighten up your world against the light, and render you unwilling to question the value that this world can really hold for you” (T.13.VII.11:5,6).

The only value the world has is as a classroom to learn the lessons of the Holy Spirit embodied in forgiveness. Until the mind is fully healed, and every pleasure, goal, or accomplishment of the world is of no interest, forgiveness is our only concern. The unhealed mind is much better occupied with the process of healing than with the perfect Oneness that lies far beyond its ability to comprehend. Fear of the perfect Love the Father shares with His Son prevents the experience of it, and makes it seem not only unappealing, as you have pointed out, but terrifying. And so a “gentler dream,” accomplished through forgiveness, precedes full awakening: [God's Son] could not waken to reality without the sweat of terror and a scream of mortal fear, unless a gentler dream preceded his awaking, and allowed his calmer mind to welcome, not to fear, the Voice that calls with love to waken him; a gentler dream, in which his suffering was healed and where his brother was his friend. God willed he waken gently and with joy, and gave him means to waken without fear” (T.27.VII.13:4,5). Let us use the means (forgiveness) we have been given, that we may learn that love is not an alien state, but our home.

Q #1190: In A Course in Miracles we read that the instant the idea of separation entered the mind of God's Son, God's Answer was given (the Holy Spirit). From the Course itself we can understand that the Holy Spirit Himself must be an illusion. My questions are: a) Who was the giver of God's Answer? b) If the Holy Spirit is an illusion, then the "giver" must be an illusion, too. Could you please clarify this for me?

A: These are logical questions, and have been asked by many students. First, the Holy Spirit is spoken of both as illusory (in the form of the Voice for God), and as part of the “eternal formlessness of God” (C.6.5:8) . As the “Answer,” the Holy Spirit is illusory as you say; but He is also part of God, and in that sense is eternal with God.

The idea that God gave an answer to the separation the instant the Son took that idea seriously needs to be understood as a part of the myth presented in the Course to give us some help in understanding how we got to be in the situation in which we find ourselves. The apparent inconsistency can be remedied by recognizing that some parts of the Course are meant to be taken literally and others are meant to be taken metaphorically. Thus, the parts of the Course that talk about God's connection with the separation are never meant literally. Jesus must use language and examples that we can relate to and process, otherwise he could never help us. Oneness is the only truth and the only reality. But what does that mean to us? It is meaningless, and therefore he must use the language of duality to get through to us, even though he knows duality is illusory. ( See T.25.I.5,6,7 . )

For further discussion, we refer you to Question #616 in which we briefly summarize this approach and then mention several other questions and answers that you can read that deal with various aspects of your questions that have been raised by other students. A comprehensive discussion of the language of the Course can be found in Chapter 2 of Few Choose to Listen , Vol. 2 of The Message of “A Course in Miracles .”