Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 10/10/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1223 I believe I had an experience of God, but I can't recapture it..
Q #1224 What is the meaning of "I choose the second place to gain the first"?
Q #1225 If I am "under no laws but Gods", why do I need to eat?
Q #1226 Can we be truly grateful for anything except the opportunity to forgive? .

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Q #1223: I had an experience of God recently that I don't know how to connect with my work with A Course in Miracles . Briefly, here is what happened. My cat, Ben, became seriously ill, and I was terribly upset. After leaving Ben in the care of the veterinarian, I returned home, still very anxious, and I found myself repeating, “Please forgive me, Ben, I am so very sorry.” I did this for hours, as if compelled to. Then I became aware that I was directing this to myself -- that I was sorry to the core of my being for the harm I had done to myself over many years of abuse. Then came a powerful feeling that I was not alone. I experienced this as God, and for the first time in my life I felt alive and real. The power of His presence was beyond words. I was nothing; but I was everything. Fear did not exist, and there was a realization of beauty in death and in all things. This lasted for the weekend, but after that I felt very vulnerable, and my defenses built up again. I am still seeking to recover that feeling of being so real and alive.

A: Without knowing a great deal more about you, it is difficult to for us to say what all of this means for you specifically. We can simply point out a few concepts and teachings in the Course that we hope will be of help.

First, Jesus reminds us that we are “very new to the ways of salvation” (T.17.9:1) , which means if a profound experience does not last, such as the one you had, then it can serve the purpose of showing us what our permanent experience will be as we continue to get in touch with the interferences that must still be operating in our minds. He describes this in another place in the text in terms of light and darkness: “... the journey into darkness has been long and cruel, and you have gone deep into it. A little flicker of your eyelids, closed so long, has not yet been sufficient to give you confidence in yourself, so long despised” (T.18.III.3:3,4). The experience you had seems to be much more than “a little flicker of your eyelids,” but that assessment is from our point of view, not from where Jesus is outside the dream. It may be helpful to read this entire section, “Light in the Dream,” as you will see there that Jesus is very encouraging, and is basically saying that our unconscious fear of total release causes us to retreat back into darkness after we glimpse the light. He assures us that we will succeed, however: “But you will advance, because your goal is the advance from fear to truth” (T.18.III.2:2). Notice, though, that in this section Jesus does not advise us to concentrate on God, but rather on our relationships -- looking for grievances we are holding onto, or something else that would keep us separate from others -- perhaps feeling that some people do not deserve to experience God's Love and peace. Our fear of release is expressed that way, and therefore if we focus on becoming aware of what is keeping us separate from others, and then look at all that with Jesus or the Holy Spirit (which means without judgment), we will be letting go of what is blocking our awareness of God's love and peace that is reflected in our right minds. Patience and gentleness are essential as you proceed with this process.

Q #1224: I reencountered Lesson 328 "I choose the second place to gain the first." I am somewhat baffled even after re-reading it carefully, and therefore would appreciate your help.

A: This thought comes from the famous statement in Matthew's gospel that the last shall be first and the first last. This is the foundation of the ego's thought system and its principle of one or the other -- God is second because the ego is first, which means God is no longer God, and so has been destroyed. A Course in Miracles helps us recognize and correct our mistake of believing we have separated from God and thus are in “first place” because we triumphed over Him. Jesus tells us in this lesson, as well as elsewhere, that we believe our autonomy is our salvation, but it is not really what we thought it would be: “Yet all we find is sickness, suffering and loss and death” (W.pII.328.1:3) , which is not at all what God wills for us. We choose the second place by realizing our mistake, letting go of the ego, and choosing Jesus as our teacher. Then we realize that there is only the unity of the Father and Son -- no one and two. There is only One. When we accept God as our Cause instead of the ego, the memory of our oneness with Him returns to our mind, and our will rejoins His.

Q #1225: The lesson "I am under no laws but God's" (W.pI.76) implies, among other startling powers, that we don't need to eat. A Course in Miracles has been around long enough and supposedly practiced by millions, and so it would seem that a few folks would not need to eat by now.

A: Although demonstrations of being beyond physical laws may be helpful reminders to us, that really is not the point of this lesson. Jesus is simply stating the truth -- that in reality there is no body, and therefore there can be no laws that govern it. This is what we refer to as Level One, where Jesus contrasts truth and illusion. Level Two discussions are only about the illusory realm, where he contrasts the ego's thought system of separation (wrong-mindedness) and the Holy Spirit's thought system of Atonement (right-mindedness). Thus, by reminding us in this lesson that what we believe in is not really there, he is helping us develop a different perspective on our seeming lives in the world. Unfortunately, far too many students have missed the distinction between Level One and Level Two, and therefore have wound up denying their physical and psychological experiences, to the detriment of themselves, their families, friends, etc. They have forgotten that Jesus stated early in the text that it is practically impossible to deny our physical experience in this world (T.2.IV.3:10). He never encourages us to deny our bodily experiences or our belief that we are individual persons living in a physical world.

Rather than making fun of us or challenging us to give up our belief in the necessity of medical treatment, eating, breathing, earning money, and having relationships, he is helping us learn how not to take it all so seriously, recognizing where our investment in that belief is coming from (the dynamics of the ego that govern the wrong-minded part of our split mind). The body and its seeming laws are not the problem, in other words. The problem is our unconscious need to believe that we are not as God created us, and, as a means of dealing with the guilt over that, we are instead bodies subject to laws not of our own making. To correct this, our attention therefore has to be re-directed from the body to learning how to become aware of our minds and our ongoing decision to uphold that thought system. That is why the emphasis throughout A Course in Miracles is on having us change our minds about the body -- which means becoming aware of the purpose for which we constantly use the body. Thus Jesus says, “You are asked to live so as to demonstrate that you are not an ego . . .” (T.4.VI.6:3); and this means looking at and eventually letting go of all the ways in which we keep ourselves separate from God and from each other -- through judgment and specialness, for example. Similarly, in the context of relationships: “Your question should not be, ‘How can I see my brother without the body?' Ask only, Do I really wish to see him sinless?” (T.20.VII.9:1,2).

In essence, thus, Jesus is teaching us in this lesson to look through his eyes at our dependency on all the laws we think bind us so that we can see the roots of this dependency in the guilt in our minds, and then give the purpose of forgiveness to all of our interactions in the world, thus allowing ourselves to accept the Atonement, the ultimate goal of our work with the Course and our relationship with Jesus.

Kenneth has given an extensive commentary on this lesson in Volume 2 of his Journey through the Workbook of “A Course in Miracles.”

Q #1226: Please discuss gratitude and A Course in Miracles . Can we be truly grateful for anything more than the opportunity to forgive?

A: If by gratitude for the opportunity to forgive, you mean being grateful to each other for these opportunities, you have touched upon the essence of A Course in Miracles, which is forgiveness. In a recorded workshop called “Our Gratitude to God,” Ken discusses gratitude on three levels: our gratitude to God, to Jesus, and to each other. Just as forgiveness is the correction for the unforgiveness we feel, gratitude, too, is a correction. It corrects the ingratitude we feel on these three levels, and when our ingratitude is corrected, the need for gratitude disappears. This has nothing to do with Jesus or God needing our gratitude (see T.6.I.17 ) -- it is just another dimension in the process of undoing the ego thought system in our minds. If ingratitude is seen as a cornerstone of the ego system, basically going hand in hand with judgment, attack, fear, and guilt, then love must come when we undo the ingratitude and allow ourselves to feel grateful to each other, to Jesus, and to God, because love has been hidden behind the ingratitude. Ingratitude is like a veil, and therefore, when the veil is gone, the Love of God can be experienced.

In brief, the gratitude the Course asks us to feel toward each other is not for what you do for me or for the miserable way you have treated me. It is gratitude for being able to see in you a mirror of my own self. Seeing the “sin” in you, I know it is within me, and by changing my mind about you, I am changing my mind about myself. That is the source of our gratitude toward each other. Yet, I cannot forgive you without a loving Presence next to me, and so my gratitude to you is impossible without my also feeling grateful to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. I realize, in other words, that I cannot change my mind by myself, because it is my self that got me into this mess, that has accused you, and that believes I can do it on my own. Relying on this self will only serve to keep me in hell. Thus, I recognize not only that I cannot do this without Jesus, but also that I cannot do it without you, because you represent a part of my self that I have split off and pushed outside me. And until I recognize that you are not outside me, but are really a part of me, I will never know the Christ that I am. “Your function here on earth is only to forgive him, that you may accept him back as your Identity. He is as God created him. And you are what he is. Forgive him now his sins, and you will see that you are one with him” (W.pI.192.10:6,7,8,9).

As we advance in this process of undoing the ego, our gratitude to Jesus will grow as we realize that despite all the awful ego stuff that goes on inside us, part of us knows he truly loves us, and that by accepting his love, we can accept the love that we are. This, then, does away with the ingratitude we have felt toward God, thanks to our acceptance of the ego's replacement for the true God. By reflecting Heaven's love in his relationship with us, Jesus helps us remember the deep gratitude we feel for God as our loving Creator and Source.

For some further commentary, see Question #556, which contrasts the ego's version of gratitude with the Holy Spirit's. Excerpts from the tape album “Our Gratitude to God” are posted on our Web site under Teaching Materials/Excerpts Series.