Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 11/07/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1238 (i) Can we pray for others' well being? (ii) Surely anger is sometimes justified?
Q #1239 What does it mean that "No one dies without his own consent" ?
Q #1240 Can the Course offer any guidance to persons with OCD?.
Q #1241 I can understand God's love for others but not for me.

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Q #1238( i ): (The following two questions were submitted by the same person.)

Can we pray to the Holy Spirit for other people's healing and protection and well being? In Christian and Gnostic mysticism and in religions around the world the spiritual power that mediates between apparent incarnate beings and God the Father is usually some form of the divine feminine and called Sophia (Kwan Yin, Tara etc. are similar concepts in eastern traditions). Could we say Sophia, Mother Mary in her cosmic aspect etc. is another name for the Holy Spirit?

A: Prayer in A Course in Miracles has a meaning quite different from other traditions such as the ones you mention. The kind of prayer you describe is not part of the Course's theory and practice, as it implies that God knows about our world and all of our problems, and that they are all real. The foundation of everything taught in the Course is its strict non-dualism -- all but God, Christ, and Their creations in Heaven is illusory. On this level, prayer is defined as the song the Father sings to the Son and the Son sings to the Father, the description Jesus uses in the Introduction to The Song of Prayer . This pamphlet contains the scribed material that came in response to Course students' growing misunderstanding of prayer, forgiveness, healing, and the role of the Holy Spirit. In the first section, “True Prayer,” Jesus states that “true prayer must avoid the pitfall of asking to entreat. Ask, rather, to receive what is already given; to accept what is already there” ( S.1.I.1:6,7 ). Jesus makes it clear, however, that there is nothing wrong with praying for specifics if that is what you want to do, because prayer is like a ladder, where at the lower rungs only specifics are meaningful to us ( S.1.I.2 ). Communication, therefore, would have to take place in those terms; but prayer and our view of the Holy Spirit would change as we ascend the ladder and begin to value oneness more and more.

What this means to us who believe that the world and our individual lives in it are real is that our prayer must somehow reflect that song of the Oneness of Father and Son in Heaven. True prayer would share the right-minded purpose of our lives here, which is to undo all sense of separation, one person to another, and between ourselves and God. This belief in separation and the guilt that results from it is the only problem, and it is the source of every other seeming problem in our lives. Thus, the only true healing is the undoing of this belief through the practice of forgiveness; and that is where the role of the Holy Spirit comes in. We can choose to turn to the Holy Spirit in our right minds as the reminder that we have only one problem, separation, and that there is only one solution, forgiveness ( W.pI.79 , 80). This is why Jesus tells us that “the only meaningful prayer is for forgiveness” ( T.3.V.6:3 ). It also is the basis of Jesus' response to Helen (scribe of the Course) when she asked him what she should say to a person in need of her help. He replied that she was asking the wrong question, and that her concern should be not for what she should say, but for letting go of the judgments in her mind. Without the interference of judgment, we would just automatically know what to say or not say. Judgment blocks the flow of love that would always be expressed in a way that is best for everyone.

Many other students have asked about prayer and the Holy Spirit, and we refer you to our answers to their questions: #388, #572, #592, and #628. The role of the Holy Spirit is also explained in depth in Chapter 4 of Few Choose to Listen , which is Volume 2 of The Message of “A Course in Miracles.” The context of that discussion is how students have misunderstood what the Course says about asking the Holy Spirit for help.

Q #1238 (ii): Anger is never justified -- I disagree. Surely anger is sometimes inevitable; it is vitally important to admonish and discipline one's children, teenagers, loved ones, and people who are monetarily 'out of it' or a potential or actual threat. Can we use anger without necessarily being controlled by it in certain situations, and offer it to the Holy Spirit to be healed?

A: Anger is always a projection of one's own guilt. But that does not mean that you cannot act responsibly and appropriately, as the situation may call for. Disciplining people, setting limits on their behavior, and physically stopping dangerous behavior can be done effectively without anger. You can be firm and assertive, and even raise your voice, as circumstances may demand -- all without anger. The distinction between form and content is the pivotal factor in understanding this aspect of the Course's teachings. We refer you to our answers to earlier questions where we have discussed anger and how to apply the principles of A Course in Miracles to parenting and other positions of authority: #179, #202, #551, and #569.

Q #1239: There is a line in one of the lessons in the workbook of A Course in Miracles that says "no one dies without his own consent" ( W.pI.152.1:4 ). Could that mean that on some level in our mind we get to a point (while here, experiencing living in a body) that we say, "I am done with this," or does our dying (death of the physical body) happen at whatever point in time as a result of making the first decision to become a body? I would appreciate it if you could give me your understanding of this statement.

A: This statement about dying is best understood in the context of the only two purposes we can ever choose to identify with in our minds, and which we are always choosing between at every instant. We are always choosing either to reinforce our belief in separation or to undo it. Thus, death can come upon the completion of our forgiveness lessons, as explained in The Song of Prayer : “a quiet choice, made joyfully and with a sense of peace, because the body has been kindly used to help the Son of God along the way he goes to God” ( S.3.II.2:1 ). Understand, though, that this expresses the content in the mind only; the form could be cancer, a stroke, or any number of other ways in which the body ceases to function. The form does not necessarily indicate the content in the mind. The purpose of a fatal illness could also be ego based -- a way of punishing oneself or others, for example. It is always a choice, though.

With regard to the second point . . . Since the mind is not bound by time, there is no predetermined time for the death of the body. To use the analogy of a video-tape library, there are multiple videos of death, and the decision maker can choose any one of them, depending on the purpose it has identified with. But all of this occurs outside time and space, so it is practically impossible for us to comprehend it in our present state.

Other questions on this Service address this important issue from several points of view, and we refer you to them for additional discussion and references: #135, #175, and #262.

Q #1240: I am increasingly having problems with obsessive-compulsive hoarding disorder as I age. I'm currently 61 years of age. Are there any teachings in A Course in Miracles that can help me better understand the roots of my problem?

A: Our experience of ourselves as real individuals in a physical world means that we have identified with the ego thought system in our minds. That in turn means that in the core of our being there is a sense of lack, accompanied by searing pain that we are compelled to defend against. The source of this is the self-accusation -- also deeply buried in our minds -- that we got to be who we are as individuals by separating from our Source, thereby rejecting our Identity as Christ in favor of an autonomous, special existence that we thought would give us what we judged we could not get as part of God. As a result of this rejection of our true Identity and our true home, we would have to feel that there is something seriously wrong internally -- a lack of enormous proportions. The pain of this is made worse by the overwhelming guilt we experience over having judged what we did as unforgivably sinful, intensified even more by the fear of punishment and retaliation by God Who will surely one day take back the existence we wrongfully acquired (the ego's version of God, of course).

Now, all of this pain and anguish in our minds must be dealt with. And following the ego's advice on how to handle it, we project it out of our minds onto our bodies and the world in any number of ways. This ontological level of lack then is expressed on the bodily level as neediness, insecurity, cravings, addictions, and general feelings of never having enough -- just some of the forms this content in our minds could take. We form special relationships with whatever we find externally that helps us feel better and takes some of the pain away. The need to hoard could certainly reflect the mind's insecurity about its fragile existence -- fragile in the sense that it really rests on nothing, since our separation from God is illusory. Thus, hoarding and accumulating things would be one of the ways we attempt to compensate for our internal feelings of scarcity. In this sense, it would be no different from any other special relationship.

Finally, it would not be antithetical to the Course to look at the more personal aspects that may also be involved in this disorder, and therefore working with a therapist could be quite helpful in uncovering this layer of causes. This would then free you to work at the deeper levels in your mind, releasing more of the interferences to your remembrance of the love in which you were created and forever remain.

Q #1241: I have struggled most of my life with never being fully aware of God's Love for me. I understand and appreciate His Love for others, just not me. Perhaps experiences from my childhood are the cause, or just a very poor sense of self-worth. The reasons could be endless. I see the problems and the errors in my thinking; but that does not provide an answer or healing. I feel abandoned by God. His Love is just not quite within my reach. How do I heal this thought when I do not even see myself as worthy enough to be heard by God? When I read and study the Course, it feels as though my ego, my resistance is greater and stronger than God and He is waiting for me to heal this perception of myself and of Him first, and until then He will just remain silent. Could this be true?

A: Resistance to changing our beliefs about ourselves is a major aspect of every student's spiritual process, as is feeling unworthy of love. Kenneth's book Ending Our Resistance to Love speaks to these issues directly. As is discussed in this book, being aware of your resistance is extremely helpful; but what you want to add to that is a decision not to justify your feelings of unworthiness. Although sometimes it is helpful to delve into the past to shed some light on this sense of unworthiness, the key to resolving the conflict is realizing that you are making a decision to hold on to that belief about yourself in the present. That is what you want to focus on. The ego loves to bring in the past because the past cannot be changed, which means we will be tempted to treat present conditions as limitations or handicaps we can do nothing about. Score one for the ego!

Approaching your sense of unworthiness as a belief you are choosing in the present (even though you do not experience it that way) advances you to the next step of looking at it now from the perspective of purpose : if you are choosing that belief, it must be for a purpose, which means there is a payoff to it, something you want. Since it leaves you feeling completely separate from God and even hopeless, then the goal of continuing to believe in it is to maintain your existence as separate from God. But the guilt over that (unconscious, of course) would necessitate projecting responsibility for it, resulting in the feeling that God has abandoned you.

This is why Jesus emphasizes that feeling unworthy of God's Love is not humility or virtuous in any sense, unlike the view of many other spiritual paths ( W.pI.61 ) . Lesson 93 “Light and joy and peace abide in me” points out that our negative feelings are “so firmly fixed that it is difficult to help you see that they are based on nothing” ( W.pI.93.2:1 ). They are meaningless beliefs and feelings because they rest on the false assumption that we truly are separate from God and hopelessly sinful and unworthy as a result. As part of the correction, Jesus assures us, “Your sinlessness is guaranteed by God. Over and over this must be repeated, until it is accepted. . . . You are what God created or what you made. One Self is true, the other is not there. Try to experience the unity of your one Self” ( W.pI.93.6:1,2 ; 9:1,2,3). Realizing that our negativity is rooted in nothing real is extremely helpful, as we then would not be fighting against something we think is real.

To answer your last question: From the Course's perspective, it could not be true that God is waiting for you to change your beliefs before He comes to you. That would be to give God human traits, and more importantly, it would imply that God somehow recognizes us as separate from Him, which is the exact opposite of the Atonement principle that states the separation never happened. The passages in the Course that speak of God that way are meant to help us with our fear of Him so that we would grow to trust Him as loving, comforting, and forgiving rather than as vindictive, judgmental, and unpredictable. This course is corrective of all our misperceptions about everything, and it must use language that meets us at our level of need, so that it can then raise us to higher levels, drawing us closer and closer to the perfect Oneness of Love, our true and eternal Identity.

Since Love is perfect Oneness, it is just plain silly to think that there can be anything real that can oppose It, “a power past omnipotence” (T. 29.VIII.6:2 ). What seems so powerful and destructive is nothing more than “a frightened mouse that would attack the universe” ( T.22.V.4:3 ); our seemingly monstrous ego has not even the power to stop the fall of a button ( T.18.IX.6:4 ) , and if we think otherwise, it is only because we want it to be that way, not because it is in reality. Again, our feelings of helplessness and unworthiness are all based on nothing. That is what choosing Jesus as our teacher would help us to learn, thus freeing us to be the Self that God created.

Related discussions may be found in Questions #180, #721, and #1042.