Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 9/05/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1207 Is it contrary to the spirit of the Course to set worldly goals?.
Q #1208 Could Jesus' use of the word "magnitude" be misleading?
Q #1209 If I return in another life, will the teachings of the Course remain with me?

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Q #1207: When setting goals that are crucial to my own well-being and future as well as to my family, I feel guilty -- thinking that as a Course student I am doing something wrong by setting "worldly" goals when I should simply have the one goal of looking with Jesus at my ego. How can one sensibly integrate having goals and be a serious student of the Course, without the ego coming in and making a mess?

A: A Course in Miracles is not opposed to setting goals or anything else we do in this world. Jesus lets us know this through statements such as, "All things you made have use to Him [the Holy Spirit] , for His most holy purpose" (T.14.VI.5:3). In other words, Jesus wants us to keep doing all the things that bodies normally do, but to allow the Holy Spirit in our mind to change the purpose. This is why he tells us, "'What for?' …is the question that you must learn to ask in connection with everything" (T.4.V.6:7.8).

Basically, from Jesus' perspective, whether we spend our days attempting to achieve ambitious goals, watching TV, or sitting in silence on a mountain is irrelevant. It is with which internal teacher we do these things that matters to him.

It is true that from the ego's perspective, everything we do or achieve here represents our triumph over God. And if you set goals with the ego, then undoubtedly you will find yourself trying to get your needs met at someone else's expense -- and feeling guilty as a result. But if you set goals (and try to achieve them) with the Holy Spirit as your Guide, each worldly goal can serve to help you remember the one true need we all share -- the need to realize that God's Love still exists and it is safe to awaken from this dream. If your overarching goal is to remember this one shared purpose, then there will be no cause for guilt over all the other things you do.  

One final note: As a serious student of the Course, you should always begin with the premise that the ego will come in and make a mess, but that this phenomenon is not serious. The messes the ego creates simply show us that we became afraid of God's Love and ran to the ego for protection. As soon as we realize we have done this, we can once again drop the ego's hand and take the Holy Spirit's. And then the mess will look like a simple pile of silliness that the love in our mind can easily show us how to clean up.


Q #1208: I am wondering if Jesus is leading us directly into temptation, in a way,   in his use of the word "magnitude." Couldn't he have used the word "importance" such as in the metaphor of Indra's net where each is like a mirror in a net of mirrors and so each one is of complete importance? But can not hearing of magnitude, as commonly understood, lead directly into grandiosity? Can not the language about one's special function also lead to grandiosity?

I am thinking that there is a raising, in tenderness, of the meek and teachable state and, as "pride goeth before the fall," there is an inevitable course to grandiosity. And, is it possible, that   beyond simply allowing for the lessons of grandiosity to take place Jesus in this Course, by the use of such language, may be actually leading us into them, when we are so inclined!?

A: It is the nature of language that there is always the possibility of misunderstanding and misinterpretation, and this possibility of course extends to the concepts and symbols that Jesus uses in A Course in Miracles . And he is certainly not unaware of the ambiguity of words and their potential for confusion, for he says of words that “they were made by separated minds to keep them in the illusion of separation” (M.21.1:7) . And so your question is whether a word such as   magnitude may have a heightened risk of misinterpretation and misuse.

What is essential throughout the Course is to understand just whom Jesus is addressing and what his purpose is.   If we read almost any passage from the mistaken perspective of ourselves as bodies, we will misunderstand and can use it to reinforce our specialness. Consider for example “I am the light of the world” ( W.pI.61.title ) or “Salvation of the world depends on me” ( W.pI.186.title ), both of which could be said to describe our special function. Jesus follows each of these workbook lesson titles, with which the ego could have a field day, with clarifications that make it very clear that he knows what our egos would like to do with these statements, but that he is not referring to the self that we think we are. And furthermore, that it is arrogance, not humility, that would deny these statements about ourselves.

So, for example, in lesson 61, he says, “Who is the light of the world except God's Son? This, then, is merely a statement of the truth about yourself. It is the opposite of a statement of pride, of arrogance, or of self-deception. It does not describe the self-concept you have made. It does not refer to any of the characteristics with which you have endowed your idols. It refers to you as you were created by God. It simply states the truth. To the ego, today's idea is the epitome of self-glorification. But the ego does not understand humility, mistaking it for self- debasement. Humility consists of accepting your role in salvation and in taking no other.   ( W.pI.61.1,2:1,2,3; italics added).

      And for Lesson 186,   Jesus similarly explains, paradoxically from an ego perspective: “Here is the statement that will one day take all arrogance away from every mind. Here is the thought of true humility, which holds no function as your own but that which has been given you. ... Our minds are suited perfectly to take the part assigned to us by One Who knows us well. ...Today's idea ... does not ask that you be different in any way from what you are. What could humility request but this? And what could arrogance deny but this? ... Arrogance makes an image of yourself that is not real. ...Salvation of the world depends on you, and not upon this little pile of dust   (W.pI.186.1:1,2; 2:7; 3:1,3,4,5; 6:1;7:4; italics added ) .

      So considering the concept of magnitude, we must understand that Jesus is using the word as a correction for our belief in our own littleness, “for the separation was a descent from magnitude to littleness” (T.10.IV.8:5) . Littleness refers to our belief about ourselves, originating with our belief that we are separate from the great and glorious Whole that is our reality, and culminating in our experience of ourselves as impotent bodies and personalities, confined in our existence to a limited space in a body, living within a very brief interval of time. And then if we read the Course from the perspective of this false ego self, that we are bodies, which most of us almost certainly will do at first, we will misinterpret Jesus' words when he attempts to share what is the truth about us.   For the magnitude Jesus is describing refers to our minds when we are no longer limited by all our false beliefs of separation and its seeming consequences.

      While it may seem, as you say, that Jesus is leading us directly into temptation, since he knows with what false beliefs our minds seem to be circumscribed, there nevertheless is a valuable pedagogical purpose in his seeming seduction of our ego. For if we are sincere students of the Course, there will develop a growing awareness of our ego's efforts at grandiosity, and in our right minds we will recognize that something is amiss if we find ourselves believing in our own specialness. We can only fool ourselves for as long as we want to. And only by looking directly at our ego's deceptive manipulations and strivings, including its attempts to co-opt the Course for its own purpose, will we be able to learn to make a different choice, against all the various forms of littleness that the ego offers us. Jesus is clear that we cannot make the choice against littleness alone.

      And so he counsels us, “Be not content with littleness. But be sure you understand what littleness is, and why you could never be content with it. Littleness is the offering you give yourself. You offer this in place of magnitude, and you accept it. Everything in this world is little because it is a world made out of littleness, in the strange belief that littleness can content you. When you strive for anything in this world in the belief that it will bring you peace, you are belittling yourself and blinding yourself to glory. Littleness and glory are the choices open to your striving and your vigilance. You will always choose one at the expense of the other. ...All your striving must be directed against littleness, for it does require vigilance to protect your magnitude in this world. To hold your magnitude in perfect awareness in a world of littleness is a task the little cannot undertake. Yet it is asked of you, in tribute to your magnitude and not your littleness. Nor is it asked of you alone. The power of God will support every effort you make on behalf of His dear Son. ...In your practice, try to give over every plan you have accepted for finding magnitude in littleness. It is not there. Use the holy instant only to recognize that you alone cannot know where it is, and can only deceive yourself ( T.15.III.1; 4:4,5,6,7,8; IV.4:5,6,7 ).

      An honest reading of these sections could only expose any ego attempts to interpret magnitude as an aspect of our limited self. And if we still choose to give such interpretations to such passages, it can only mean that we are still too afraid to accept the unlimited magnitude of Wholeness that Jesus is offering us. And that may be foolish, but it is no sin.


Q #1209: I have often been concerned that all that I learned about A Course in Miracles and God would be lost when I came back in another illusion. But I think that this is not a concern as once this "life" terminates then I have the option to listen to the ego and choose another illusion or the Holy Spirit and realize that I am one with God. There is really nothing to remember about the Course because whenever I come back there will always be a message   showing me the way back. In one of these illusions I actually realize my oneness and the dream ends. Is that about the size of it.

A: Yes, you've pretty much got the right idea, especially at the content level. And the good news, which can be said with certainty, is that you're not coming back into another illusion! Now that's not the same as saying you're going to awaken this time around, but rather it's true because you've never come into any illusion in the first place. We always remain within the mind outside the illusion, viewing it and perhaps identifying with it, but never truly entering it.

And, as you say, both options – the ego and the Holy Spirit – will always be available to you – with the correction for the ego experienced in some specific form, such as the Course. But these alternatives are   always available because they are nothing more than projections or manifestations of the two thought systems that are always available within our minds, regardless of which illusory life we may happen to be reviewing.

So relax, sit back, and enjoy the show. Because no matter what our ego tells us, whether it's a comedy or a tragedy, it's never a big deal. And that's what forgiveness is all about.