Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 10/17/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1227 What is the significance of the lights I am seeing?
Q #1228 Why do I keep encountering the same type of people in my life?
Q #1229 If the Course is all about the mind, why does lesson 71 seem so concerned with practical behavior?

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Q #1227: I have a question about lights. I have been doing the Course for a very short time (about seven months), and I am already seeing light shows in my meditative states. I never experienced this before and I'm a little nervous. Although I do feel very peaceful, I'm still ready to run to the eye doctor to check and see if I have glaucoma or something! I still haven't seen light around the edges of things or anything really in the world of form, but when I lay down it's showtime! My question really is this: Isn't it too soon for me to be seeing this stuff? It's a little scary sometimes and I don't know if it is real or somehow just a figment of my imagination. Why after just beginning A Course in Miracles would I have these episodes when others have been faithfully doing the course for years and don't seem to have these experiences?

A: Like everything else in the world of perception, once we have made it real in our minds, the lights you are seeing are in themselves neutral. And what determines their value is the interpretation you give them, which depends only on to which teacher you turn to give them their meaning.

Turn to the ego and you will see them as evidence of your specialness, an interpretation you've already been in touch with when you believe they somehow make you different from, possibly even better than, other students who have been studying the Course much longer. By the way, although the wording of Lesson 15 may seem to suggest that experiences of light will be an outcome of practicing the Course's principles, you may find that the discussions of these kinds of phenomena, presented in Questions #218 and #339, can provide some helpful clarification. And so whether one experiences light episodes earlier or later in one's work with the Course, or not at all, in the end is irrelevant to the Course's genuine purpose, which is to teach us how to undo our investment in the ego and its thought system of separation and differences, through the practice of forgiveness -- the releasing of all of our judgments.

Turn to the Holy Spirit in your right mind, and your light experiences can become symbols that remind you that all perception is ultimately illusory -- and that may be at least in part what you are finding so frightening about your experience -- for the seeming external world of our perception is no more nor less a figment of your imagination than the flashes of light and flaming sparks you are seeing during your meditations with the workbook lessons. The light can also symbolize the little willingness needed to shine away the darkness of the ego's thought system of sin and guilt by looking directly at it and seeing through it ( e.g., T.11.in.3) . And, when seen through the vision of the Holy Spirit, it can also be a symbol of the formless light and love that is our reality as God's Son, an extension of His perfect Love ( e.g., T.12.VI.7:2,3) .

Perhaps the most important thing you may wish to keep in mind about your experiences is that nothing of the world of perception is of any value in itself. If the experiences should continue for any time, simply enjoy them without making them a big deal. And if they should cease, nothing of value will have been lost.

Q #1228: The same type of people keep coming into my life. In my childhood, my father was violent and tyrannical, and later all my boyfriends were like that. Now I have a husband who has made my life a living hell. I also work with someone just like my husband. I fight fear and anxiety all the time. One thing is clear to me: the problem is in me . I also have met people who have found inner peace, or are working toward it. I do not want to suffer anymore, and I want to be liberated from fear. How can psychotherapy help me with this? I believe it was not a coincidence that a friend of mine presented me with A Course in Miracles . How can this help?

A: First, if you have not done so yet, you might try going to a therapy center that works with abused women. That is often a good first step. Therapists and counselors with experience in this field can offer helpful resources, and sometimes they can advise you in terms of what to do and what not to do in an abusive situation. Getting this kind of help would not be going against anything the Course teaches. In fact, Jesus tells us that using external sources of help is a wise thing to do, while we are also working on letting go of the ego beliefs in our minds (T.2.IV.4,5) . Seeking and accepting help on this level can give form to your desire to be healed; it can be an act of kindness to yourself, which would be an important step in reversing the ego's image of you as guilty and deserving of punishment.

The Course can help you learn how to interpret your experience differently. The early workbook lessons, especially, help us to practice what the text has taught us about this -- namely, that perception is an interpretation, not a fact ( see, for example, T.21.in.1; T.24.VII.8:10) . This distinction between what happens in the world and the interpretation we give it is crucial to our understanding and practice of the Course's message. It is one of the most difficult teachings to apply, because it goes against what all the learning of the world has taught us. Vicious, cruel attacks take place. This cannot -- and should not -- be denied. But to go beyond that “objective fact” and say you are a victim is to give the fact an interpretation. Thus, Jesus teaches us in Lesson 5 that we are never upset for the reason we think (W.pI.5) , and in Lesson 31 that we are not the victims of the world we see (W.pI.31) . Upon seeing these lessons for the first time, many people think Jesus has lost touch with reality, or that he couldn't mean what he says literally! But he does mean it literally, having already explained the basis of those statements in the text -- that the guilt in our minds is so intolerable that we must project it onto others, whom we then see as the guilty, victimizing ones. This is extremely difficult for us to process, and it becomes our lifetime's work.

What enables us to deal with this is to remember always that Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, is with us each step of the way. His comforting, loving, non-judgmental presence will help us proceed gently and patiently, with the assurance that we are simply undoing mistaken beliefs in our mind, or to use the metaphor of the dream, gently awakening from a nightmare of sin, guilt, and fear. It is important to remember as well that this presence can come in the form of a caring, non- judgmental therapist, who can help you deal with your experience of abuse -- all of the guilt, hurt, resentment, and rage. This often can be a helpful prerequisite for healing to occur.

Q #1229: You stress that all of our work with A Course in Miracles is done exclusively at the level of mind. How does this fit in with Lesson 71, where we are told to ask God these specific questions: “What would You have me do? Where would You have me go? What would You have me say, and to whom?” (W.pI.71. 9:3,4,5). It seems that in this lesson, Jesus is focusing on behavior or form, not the mind.

A: Yes, this is one of very few places in A Course in Miracles where Jesus does this. Unfortunately, many students concluded that this is what A Course in Miracles is all about -- a means of getting specific answers to specific questions and concerns about our lives in the world. They thus distorted the meaning of the Course very soon after it was first published. This trend actually led to the scribed pamphlet, The Song of Prayer , in which Jesus clarifies what he meant by prayer, forgiveness, and healing, addressing the misinterpretations that were spreading among students.

Once you gain a sense of the full message of this course, you would know that it is definitely not about enhancing our lives as bodies in the world or about our behavior. It is not wrong to ask for specific help with specific problems -- it is a helpful starting point on one's spiritual journey, for it encourages a perception of God as caring and loving, not punitive and judgmental. But, ultimately, our goal is to get back home to Heaven -- to awaken from the dream that we are separate from Him and from each other. If we are always focused on specific concerns about our own and others' bodies, and on getting what we want in the world, then we will remain spiritual children, still seeing God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus as separate from us. God is a loving Father Who takes care of me -- I am separate from God; Jesus as an older, wiser brother who is guiding me -- I am separate from him. Again, this is a good start in developing a relationship with God and with Jesus, but it is just the beginning. There is so much more.

Compare what you have quoted from Lesson 71 with what Jesus says later in Lesson 133: “You do not ask too much of life, but far too little. When you let your mind be drawn to bodily concerns, to things you buy, to eminence as valued by the world, you ask for sorrow, not for happiness” (W.pI.133.2:1,2; italics added ). He then goes on to list the criteria for finding out if what we are asking for will truly help us on our spiritual journey. And in one of the sections in the text that discusses what it means to ask the Holy Spirit for help, Jesus tells us that we do not really know what we need: “For what you think you need [for example, ways to improve our lives in the world] 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.11:6). He wants us to see that the only value this world has is to be a classroom in which we use our experiences to get us back to our mind, where we can then undo our belief in separation. Thus, he asks us to remember what we really want: “The Holy Spirit leads me unto Christ, and where else would I go? What need have I but to awake in Him?” (T.13.VII.14:2,3). Another lovely statement of this occurs later: “For what but Christ is there to see and hear and love and follow home?” (T.24.V.6:6) -- this comes in the context of Jesus urging us to look honestly at our quest for specialness, and the awful price we pay in the special relationships we value so much.

There are many other passages like these that could be cited, but the point is that we need to view them in the context of the overall message and aim of the Course. We also need to remember, as Jesus explains at the beginning of Chapter 25, that in order to communicate with us, he needs to use terms we are familiar with, but these are always from our framework of dualism, not the pure oneness of reality, which we would be unable to understand ( see T.25.I.5,6,7). So he must express his message in terms that are meaningful to us but that are not literally true. He thus has us say prayers to God to get us on the right footing with Him, but he also states that God does not understand words and does not hear prayers, and, even more devastating to us, He does not even know we are here -- how could He know about what does not exist? ( See W.pI.183.7:3,4,5; 10)

Although we could go on with this for several more pages, we will stop here and refer you to other questions on the Service where we have discussed these issues and provided additional references. We refer you to them for further study: #85, #336, #538, #555, #643. All of these issues are discussed in depth in Chapter 2 of Few Choose to Listen (Vol. 2 of The Message of “A Course in Miracles” ); the discussion focuses on the crucial difference between the form of the Course and its unchanging, consistent content.