Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 9/19/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1213 Does "the happy dream" only occur when we cease to want it?.
Q #1214 Are animals part of the Sonship?
Q #1215 Would witchcraft, or similar magical pursuits, be incompatible with Course study?
Q #1216 How do I convert an intellectual understanding of hatred, into true forgiveness?

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Q #1213: I understand that our interpretation of things must change, but that outer conditions won't necessarily change as a result. Yet I also understand, in the cinema analogy, that what we see cannot be different from what the film in our minds projects onto the screen of our experience. I also understand that concern with how long the shift of purpose in a relationship takes -- and I believe this refers to perceived results of that shift -- is of the ego. Nevertheless, the Course does hold out the eventuality of the "happy dream." Does that occur only when the ego ceases to want it? Why do specific patterns exist in our personal dreams? Is there a simple answer to why it takes time for changes to appear, if they ever do, since they are supposedly reflections of consciousness and the miracle of conscious reorientation takes no time?

A: The only meaningful change that can take place is the decision to choose against the ego and for the Atonement, the undoing of the belief in separation. The “happy dream” spoken of in A Course in Miracles flows from this choice, and pertains only to one's inner experience or perception. It has nothing to do with what our eyes see, the seemingly real external world. It is natural, in our separated state, to want things to go well in our lives in the world (whatever that may mean). But as we work more and more with the Course, we learn that the source of true happiness and peace is our decision to forgive, which means we would increasingly see our interests as the same as everyone else's. This is the happy dream -- where our joy comes not from anything external, but from the internal awareness that we have been mistaken about the world and who we are, and that the truth is that we all share the same interests, and, ultimately, the same Identity as God's one Son.

Sometimes, this shift in awareness is reflected externally, because when we let go of guilt, we will no longer act in hurtful ways, toward ourselves and others. For example, if I have been engaged unconsciously in a specialness bargain or a victim-victimizer bargain with another person, that other person may change when I choose to no longer uphold the bargain. But you have to be careful not to make judgments based on form -- appearances in the world. We do not see our own or anyone else's full path, and so we cannot judge why lessons appear as they do. It could be that some people have chosen to learn through ongoing physical or psychological suffering. That may be their path. We don't know that, so we should not attempt to draw conclusions about their spiritual progress on the basis of the external patterns and conditions.

It is fairly common for people to experience specific recurring patterns in their lives such as rejection, abandonment, abuse, or failure, for example. We all have a deeply repressed layer of guilt over our belief that we rejected God and our Identity as His Son, having thrown away our inheritance of eternal love and peace. The overwhelming guilt over that and the subsequent fear of punishment causes us to project responsibility for this “sin,” which means we would always be seeking to blame someone else for it. Thus, in order to deflect the blame for my rejecting God and Love, I would experience myself as being the innocent victim of other people's insensitive rejection of me. So, until I am open to the idea of projection, and then can look at my own guilt with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, I will have the unconscious need to be an innocent victim. “It's not my fault!” will be my theme song, and I will have no awareness of the origin of this recurring pattern.

It cannot be said too often that a favorite ego lure is judging according to form, and that is why the lessons in A Course in Miracles are exclusively about the content in our minds. The early lessons, especially, are helping us to see that the inner and the outer are the same. That is hard for us to relate to, for it reverses what we have learned in the world. Progress in this course rests on our openness to seeing our lives in the world as the result of the choices we make in our minds. And we always make one of the only two choices available to us: to perceive everything in terms of the ego thought system of separation, or in terms of the correction of that, the Holy Spirit's thought system of forgiveness.

Q #1214: Have animals chosen their own scripts? Why is the focus limited to forgiveness of the people in our lives, with no mention made of the treatment of animals. The attributes of God's teachers, gentleness in particular, seem to be towards our fellow man. Animals in this world live a daily holocaust at our hands, and seem to feel pain, and believe they are here. This bothers me tremendously, and I cannot figure out how to think about it. Are they not also our brothers?

A: Yes, they are also our brothers. We have discussed this topic in our answers to two earlier Questions: #134 and #340; and it is also discussed in Question #20 (“What is meant by the Sonship , and who or what is included?”) in our book The Most Commonly Asked Questions about “A Course in Miracles .” As we explain, animals are part of the fragmented Sonship, just as we are, and therefore they should be thought of in the same way. True forgiveness is universal; it excludes no part of the Sonship. Animals are not discussed in the Course specifically, as its primary focus is the healing of our relationships with one another. Recall its origin in Helen and Bill's decision to find a better way of relating to each other and their colleagues. But the same principles are applicable to animals, although one must be careful not to approach this from the perspective of form, which would only lead to confusion when thinking about issues such as scripts, as we (homo sapiens) are the ones who introduced the idea of different species and orders, such as animate and inanimate. Focusing on purpose will help you stay on the right track: Am I giving the ego's purpose of seeing separation and victimization to my relationship with animals?, or the Holy Spirit's purpose of learning that all separation is illusory? By thus focusing on the content in your mind, you will be more apt to see all beings as having a common origin and a common goal.

Q #1215: Would it be possible for one to be a user of magic (a witch or mage, for example) and be a serious Course student? Is that use of magic any different from the countless more common methods of magic that all of us use every day to some extent? For example, one Course student may put on his best suit, think positively, and prepare what he feels are some impressive answers before going to a job interview, while another may light a candle, meditate, or perform some magical ritual in order to prepare. Both are using means they feel could influence the outcome; both are attempting to exercise their will within the world, and I presume, one method is not more real than the other, given that nothing here is really real.

A: Our answer to Question #124 explains the concept of magic as it is used in A Course in Miracles . It is important to note that the Course's use of the term is different from its ordinary use in the world. In brief, magic in the Course refers to our attempts to use physical means to solve a problem that exists in the mind. We thus try to solve the problem of the guilt in our mind in the world or the body, where it does not really exist. Again, Question #124 provides the full explanation of this with several references to the parts of the Course that address it. We also talk about the Course's teaching that the use of magic is not wrong, and, in fact, is unavoidable because of our fear of accepting healing solely at the mind level, and because of our investment in believing the body is our real identity. Feeling guilty about the use of magic is a mistake and never justified, but we do need to recognize the difference between true healing and false healing.

You can practice magic in any form and be a devoted student of A Course in Miracles , just as you can be a dentist and be a devoted student of A Course in Miracles . What can help to resolve any conflict surrounding this is focusing on the purpose of what you do. Anything we do in the world can be used by the Holy Spirit, if we so choose, to help us undo our belief in separation. It is always a matter of the purpose we choose to identify with in our minds. Fortunately, there are only two: the ego's or the Holy Spirit's. We use what we do either to reinforce our mind's belief that we are separate from one another and God, or to undo that belief by learning how to recognize that our interests are not really separate, despite the differences in form.

You are correct in saying that, from the Course's point of view, there are no degrees of reality when it comes to the different forms of magic that we use. In content, they are all the same; and they are all illusory. There is no hierarchy of illusions -- one illusion is not better or worse than any other illusion. It is important to respect those differences in the world, however, as long as we think the world and our lives as individuals are real -- to ignore this dimension is to confuse levels. The body is not real, but as long as we think it is, then we must take care of its needs. In the same vein, there are some behaviors that are appropriate in certain situations and others that are not. As Course students, again, our primary focus is on our use of the body and our interactions in the world, and this is always a matter of the choice we make in our minds to keep our separate, special identities intact or to gradually let go of our need to see ourselves as separate and special.

Q #1216: Once I am willing to see that the hatred, jealousy, and ill-will that an individual is projecting at me is really my own unconscious thoughts about myself, and my own unconscious guilt -- does this mean these thoughts are now conscious, and if so now what do I do? I still have the hatred and anger towards those who are trying to hurt me even though I have an intellectual understanding that it is myself being jealous and hating, and hurtful of myself. How do I heal it?  How do I give it over to the Holy Spirit to heal my mind so that the guilt is healed.

A: Yes, the projected thoughts of hatred become conscious when they are recognized as projections. A missing piece in the equation is to then see them as the effect of the mind's choice, and to also recognize the painful price of this choice. Hatred is experienced as painful whether it is perceived in its projected form toward someone else or toward oneself. The choice for separation is the true source of the pain, hatred, and the guilt. Your insight into the difference between an intellectual understanding of the projections and their actual release is very important. It is often difficult to truly accept that “anger is never justified,” yet in this principle lies the key to healing. The problem is that it is not easy to accept because it negates the ego's battle cry of victimization. The mind that has identified with the ego thought system revolts at the prospect of accepting its identity as mind and dissociating from the body identity. Anger, judgment, and guilt sustain this identity.

Jesus recognizes the intensity of resistance to his message: “ If sickness [anger, judgment, victimization] is but a faulty problem-solving approach, it is a decision. And if it is a decision, it is the mind and not the body that makes it. The resistance to recognizing this is enormous, because the existence of the world as you perceive it depends on the body being the decision maker” (M.5.II.1:5,6,7). As “intellectuals,” our job is done when we are willing to see the projections and recognize their true source. As students of A Course in Miracles , our job begins when we are willing to recognize the tremendous resistance to letting go of the hatred and making a choice against separation because it means the end of the ego thought system and the self that reflects it. That is where you find yourself. The only thing to do with resistance is see it, acknowledge it honestly to the Holy Spirit, and see the pain that persists because of it. Only in associating the painful effects of the hatred and the resistance to letting it go will we find the motivation to take the steps out of resistance to the acceptance of healing. Meanwhile, we have the agonizing predicament of wanting release from the pain of guilt without letting go of the guilt.

The unhealed mind has an intense identification with the body that cannot be undone forcefully. While fear persists, only gentle patience will facilitate the journey out of it. The way to give the process over to the Holy Spirit is to continue to look honestly at the ego's antics, the resistance to letting them go, and the painful conflict that ensues without judging yourself for it. He is invited in by the mere fact of turning away from the ego's tune of victimization with a little willingness to acknowledge the mind's choice. Consistent practice of this process is in itself a new perspective, and makes room for the Holy Spirit's healing. Nothing more than this is needed.