Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 9/12/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1210 Why does it seem as if the Holy Spirit really does intervene in the world?.
Q #1211 What is the meaning of the passage about "a solid foundation" being necessary?
Q #1212 Can the right mind work directly in this world ?

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Q #1210: Some years ago, I went through some things that in which it seemed to me that lessons in faith were played out before me, many of them centered on my sons and their drug addictions. There seemed to be immediate responses in the world -- a counselor calling to tell me that my son was doing so well, dolphins jumping high into the air -- when I would "let go" or release the whole thing to mystery.

In one last episode, I was commiserating with a friend. We were at Universal Studies. I was sitting on a planter in a patio with my head down in despair. Instantly an actor dressed as Groucho Marx sat on my lap and, flicking his cigar, said "There's no hope for Ben, hey?" I imagine our mouths hung open.

I would interpret this and many other events as the Holy Spirit intervening in the world or maybe, to be more, specific, in salvation. Yet, I hear you say that the Holy Spirit does not intervene in the world. Can you qualify this statement to integrate with my experience? Is there a difference between that actor doing what he did and Helen doing what she did for us? Isn't the Course itself an intervention into our world?

A: As you begin to recognize more and more that you are the dreamer of this dream that we call our lives, and not one of the figures in the dream, you will understand that you, as mind, are the one who chooses the symbols that you will experience, just as you do in your sleeping dreams at night. While we believe we are bodies, we think that there is very much that is external to us, including the Holy Spirit and Jesus, and that they are agents who can intervene in our world, either at will or at our invitation. But the symbols are our own production. The only meaningful difference among them is whether we allow our minds to be guided by the Holy Spirit or by the ego as we choose and then, most importantly, interpret the symbols we experience. The ego's interpretation will reinforce our belief in the reality of separation, while the Holy Spirit's will very gently lead us to awakening from the dream of separation.

And so, as we are willing to practice our lessons of forgiveness, we may experience seemingly external symbols, as you have, while we believe we are bodies, that seem to remind us of and reinforce our decision to forgive, just as when we choose to judge and condemn, we may see external symbols that reinforce our decision to separate and hate. After all, “projection makes perception,” as Jesus notes twice in the Course (T.13.V.3:5; T.21.in.1:1) . But in either case, it is our mind that has chosen those symbols and chosen the teacher who will interpret their meaning for us. There is nothing special or mysterious about this process, except that we have chosen to keep our own responsibility for our experiences hidden from ourselves.

The Holy Spirit does not intervene in the world because there is no world – only a dream in our mind that seems very real while we remain asleep. The Holy Spirit does not intervene in our minds either, although the Course in places describes the Holy Spirit as if He does. This is simply a literary device Jesus uses at times to make it clear that we are not in charge of our own salvation, in the sense that anything we think we can do on our own must by its very nature involve our ego, that is, the part of our mind that believes we can be on our own and separate from God. The Holy Spirit represents that part of our mind that knows otherwise. And so by relinquishing our need to be in control, to be in charge, we allow another part of our mind to remind us of the truth about ourselves, opening our mind to gentler symbols and, most importantly, to gentler interpretations of all of the symbols we have projected within our minds.

Many passages in A Course in Miracles elaborate on what we have been describing, but let's consider just two of the clearer statements. In “The Responsibility for Sight” in Chapter 21, we find the following emphatic declaration: “ I am responsible for what I see. I choose the feelings I experience, and I decide upon the goal I would achieve. And everything that seems to happen to me I ask for, and receive as I have asked. ...It is impossible the Son of God be merely driven by events outside of him. It is impossible that happenings that come to him were not his choice. His power of decision is the determiner of every situation in which he seems to find himself by chance or accident. ...Suffer, and you decided sin was your goal. Be happy, and you gave the power of decision to Him Who must decide for God for you” (T.21.II.2:3,4,5; 3:1,2,3,5,6).

And later in the text, in “The Dreamer of the Dream,” Jesus notes: “ You are the dreamer of the world of dreams. No other cause it has, nor ever will. ...So fearful is the dream, so seeming real, he [the Son of God] 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...Accept the dream He gave instead of yours. It is not difficult to change a dream when once the dreamer has been recognized. Rest in the Holy Spirit, and allow His gentle dreams to take the place of those you dreamed in terror and in fear of death (T.27.VII.13:1,2,4; 14:1,2,3).

Note that while this passage makes it sound as if the Holy Spirit is the author of the gentler dream, as already discussed, this is merely a way to remind us that we must not decide on our own what the content of our dreams should be, for we will look for symbols that answer our needs from the perspective of the ego, thus reinforcing our belief in the reality of the separation. Joined with the Holy Spirit, that is, the part of our mind that knows the separation is not real, we will see the world in a completely different light, not colored by the filter of our own personal needs.

Again, to understand fully what Jesus is saying in these passages, it is paramount that we know that he is addressing the mind. The selves we believe we are, bodies with special, unique personalities, are the dream figures -- the effects -- and have no power to dictate anything about what our experience shall be. They only carry out the directions the mind gives. Once we begin to accept that, the mystery of our lives and our experiences will begin to fade.

Chapter 17 of Kenneth Wapnick's book, Absence from Felicity, contains a more in depth discussion of these and related issues, including how to view Helen's scribing of the Course from the perspective of the Course's uncompromising nondualistic metaphysics.

Q #1211: Could you please explain the following passage: "A solid foundation is necessary because of the confusion between fear and awe to which I have already referred, and which is often made. I have said that awe is inappropriate in connection with the Sons of God, because you should not experience awe in the presence of your equals. However, it was also emphasized that awe is proper in the Presence of your Creator. I have been careful to clarify my role in the Atonement without either over- or understating it. I am also trying to do the same with yours. I have stressed that awe is not an appropriate reaction to me because of our inherent equality. Some of the later steps in this course, however, involve a more direct approach to God himself. It would be unwise to start on these steps without careful preparation, or awe will be confused with fear, and the experience will be more traumatic than beatific" (T.1.VII.5:1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8).

A: Jesus first spoke of awe in the second section of Chapter 1, where he emphasized that it is not an appropriate reaction to him or to miracles: “You are a perfect creation, and should experience awe only in the Presence of the Creator of perfection. . . . Equals should not be in awe of one another because awe implies inequality” (T.1.II.3:3,5). Jesus is thus setting the stage for developing a relationship with him, and correcting the traditional biblical view that he is God's only beloved Son, and we are inferior to him. If we listen carefully to what he is saying and do what he says, we will learn to trust him as our loving brother, knowing that he is always there as a source of comfort and guidance in all things. We will be less and less afraid of him and his message as we learn he is simply reflecting back to us what we have denied about ourselves.

As we settle more into this relationship and become more comfortable with his message, we will be prepared for the steps he will ask us to take later. We just need to be humble and patient, and not try to jump quickly to the top of the spiritual ladder before we are really ready for that level. We will then be able to allow the memory of God into our awareness with a minimum amount of fear. It will feel more natural, and not something imposed on us. We will accept our love for Him as our Source and Creator, and His love for us as the extension of His Love. This awareness now inspires awe in us, as it should; but awe does not entail fear unless we still believe we are somehow separate from God.

Thus, at the very beginning of the text, Jesus is cautioning us not to rush our study and practice, and not try to make ourselves spiritual on our own. We must first learn how to deal with our egos and all the barriers we have erected between ourselves and God's Presence. If we were ready to leap right back into Heaven, we would not be here thinking we are bodies in a real physical world. Patience, gentleness, humility, and trust are essential in these early stages of our work with A Course in Miracles .

Q # 1212: The scribing of A Course in Miracles , Jesus' interaction with Helen, and the Course itself as a physical book seem to be very specific and not abstract. The Course is here in the world in front of us. It tells us how to do the workbook lessons, how the world is, and how the ego operates in the dream, etc. How is this so if God is not aware of the dream, or of us as dreamers, and if God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus are non-specific and therefore do not operate in the world or the dream, as opposed to the ego which is specific and does. I was wondering if perhaps our right mind, in a way, could be said to work in the world, or the dream, when we are able to see the dream for what it is, particularly by decisions we make as we see things differently, having different outcomes as a result, on the level of content and also on the level of form at times.

I heard Ken speak of the Course coming through Helen's right mind or the One Mind, with Jesus being used as the symbol of God's Love in that process. This explanation of Helen would seem to indicate that the right mind can work in the world. Could you comment on this in relation to the origin of ACIM, the Holy Spirit, One Mind or right mind working in the world or dream idea?

A: Jesus tells us in one emphatic statement why the right mind could never work in the world: “There is no world! This is the central thought this course attempts to teach” (W.pI.132.6:2,3). Add to that the following key Course principles and it is unmistakably clear that there has to be another way of understanding how the right mind works: [the world] is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition” (T.21.in.1:5). Ideas leave not their source . Therefore, as a projection of the mind, the world is only an effect, not something real that can interact with, or influence the mind in any way ( see also T.21.II.11) .

The right mind is the part of the split mind that retains the reflection of our unseparated state, our true Identity as God's Son, eternally one with Him. When we (the decision maker) choose against the other part -- the ego -- then our internal experience would reflect the oneness we have denied, which means we would know -- or at least begin to realize -- that nothing outside our mind has any power over us, because there is nothing outside. In the context of sickness and healing, Jesus expresses this radical principle: “He [all of us] looks on what he chooses to see. No more and no less. The world does nothing to him. He only thought it did. Nor does he do anything to the world, because he was mistaken about what it is [a projection] ” (M.5.II.3:6,7,8,9,10). Our perception, therefore, reflects only the choice to identify either with the thought system of separation or the correction of that (the Atonement principle that defines the right mind): “It [perception] is the outward picture of a wish; an image that you wanted to be true” (T.24.VII.8:10); “For seeing can but represent a wish, because it has no power to create. Yet it can look with love [the right mind] or look with hate [the wrong mind] , depending only on the simple choice of whether you would join with what you see, or keep yourself apart and separate” (T.31.VII.12:5,6).

Strictly speaking, therefore, A Course in Miracles did not come into the world, nor does its practice aim at changing the world. In fact, we are asked to reorient our entire approach to our lives: “. . . seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world” (T.21.in.1:7). The Course, thus, can be seen as one reflection in the mind of God's Son of his choice to accept the truth instead of denying it. It is in a specific form because of what we have done to our minds (W.pI.161.2) ; but it will lead us beyond specifics as we become less fearful of letting go of our defenses against the truth. Our preoccupation with form (specifics and time) is the reason the Course takes the form it does. It is we who limit abstract love to forms consistent with our belief in an external world that affects us. As we practice forgiveness, however, our preoccupation with specifics will gradually shift to a preoccupation with the content in our minds, and then we will perceive the world and ourselves in a completely different way. The world will change, but only in the sense that our perception of it will have changed. We will no longer perceive ourselves as being at its mercy, imprisoned by it as innocent victims. Our internal experience of seeing our interests as joined with everyone else's -- and the love that inspires that - - will be what attracts us more and more. In other words, we will be, by choice, oriented more inward than outward, more toward spiritual vision than toward what our eyes see.

Ken's book Absence from Felicity , especially Chapter 17, gives a comprehensive account of how the Course came through Helen. This is also presented in Chapter 5 of Few Choose to Listen , Vol. 2 of The Message of A Course in Miracles, where, in Chapter 4, you can also find an explanation of the Holy Spirit's nature and role. Additionally, you may find it helpful to look at Questions #328 and #544 on this service.