Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 11/21/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1246 What is the difference between the historical Jesus, and the Jesus who dictated the Course?
Q #1247 Am I realizing my own true role or am I "kicking out" Jesus ?
Q #1248 What is "subconscious" and what is "unconscious"?.

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Q #1246: In answer to Question #265 you have written; "... it is important for students of the Course not to confuse the voice Helen Schucman heard and identified as Jesus', with the Jesus of traditional Christianity, nor to associate it with any particular image in form. The Course uses the term Jesus and the Holy Spirit as symbols reflecting the part of the mind of the Sonship that holds the memory of God. They are not real persons..."

There seem to be two different "realities" here; namely the ultimate reality (which is Love), and the apparent historical reality (which though illusory, would seem to have some validity for us, when perceived correctly). Is there any reason why we should (or should not) regard the 'voice' that Helen identified as Jesus, and which dictated A Course in Miracles to her, as the voice of the historical Jesus? If we should not regard this voice as the voice of the histor­ical Jesus, then what is the relationship between this voice and the historical Jesus?

A: As much as we would like it to be, this is not a simple matter of “is he or isn't he?”. That is because of the Course's uncompromising view of reality as non-dualistic: “a Oneness joined as One,” which cannot be understood by us in our separated state (T.25.I.7:1) . This non-dualism is expressed in the Course's definition of Heaven, as “an awareness of perfect Oneness, and the knowledge that there is nothing else; nothing outside this Oneness, and nothing else within” (T.18.VI.1:6) . Non-dualism means that both spirit and matter, mind and body cannot be real. That would be dualism. Thus, all multiplicity is illusory, as well as time and space. Statements express­ing this contrast between reality and illusion are what we call Level One of the Course's presenta­tion.

The issue then is how to conceptualize and talk about what certainly appears to be real to us, but is not. The initial stage of communication would be to use our language and concepts about individ­ual persons living in a physical universe, and then teach us how to interpret our experiences here differently. This is Level Two of the Course's presentation, the part that contrasts wrong-minded and right-minded perception. This would eventually lead to our recognizing that our specifics-ori­ented perception is seriously distorted, and that everything we perceive is really a symbol -- either of our mind's choice to identify with the ego thought system of separation or the Holy Spirit's cor­rection of that, the thought system of forgiveness. This approach of A Course in Miracles is made especially explicit in Lesson 184 (W.pI.184) , and also in Jesus' injunction that we not confuse symbol and source (T.19.IV.C.11:2) , to cite just two references. Viewing everything as symbolic, including ourselves, enables us to function purposefully in the world while we still think it real, and at the same time be oriented toward regaining awareness of our true Identity that lies beyond all symbols, as beautifully explained in three sections in the text: “Beyond the Body” (T.18.VI) ; “Beyond All Symbols” (T.27.III) , and “Beyond All Idols” (T.30.III).

Although this is not usually in our awareness -- but is what the exercises in the workbook help bring into our awareness -- we are always choosing either to deny the truth or to ask for help to remove the interferences we are making to our awareness of truth. When we choose to undo these interferences, we allow it to happen gradually, which means we do not suddenly let go of our identity as individual persons and accept our identity as spirit without reservations. We are too fearful of doing that; consequently, we let love in in stages or increments, according to what our fear will allow us to tolerate. Jesus tells us that the very origin of the body is our mind's belief in limited love; “it was made to limit the unlimited” (T.18.VIII.1:3) . Therefore, to the extent that we believe our bodily identity is our real identity, we will continue to perceive love in those terms. Love is abstract and formless, but as long as we think we are individuals, we will perceive love as limited, or as form in some way. This is not wrong. It is an important first step that would lead to delay in one's progress if skipped, for it gets us on the right ladder with the right teacher. But it is also important to realize that relating to Jesus as a person is a stage in our spiritual journey.

Jesus reflects the formless Love of God, but is not identical with that Love. (The passage we quoted from the clarification of terms in the question you cited, #265, is relevant here.) Thus, if my identity as an individual symbolizes my mind's belief in a real existence outside God and Heaven, and then my mind decides to undo that mistaken belief and accept the truth, the truth will be symbolized in a way that is meaningful and understandable by my mind. If I think of myself as an individual, then I need love to be present to me in the form of an individual, otherwise I would not recognize it or be able to relate to it. The Jesus of the Course speaks to us in a personal way, and he encourages us to accept him into our lives as we would an older, wiser brother who knows what is best for us. And we ought to do that. In fact, he tells us: “ If it helps you, think of me holding your hand and leading you. And I assure you this will be no idle fantasy” (W.pI.70.9:3,4).

Yet, although he is presented in this way, speaking to us as individuals, he also makes it clear that we are involved in a process of climbing up the ladder that separation led us down (T.28.III.1:2) . The top of the ladder is the transcendence of individuality, because at that stage, we no longer value existence that keeps us separate from God and from each other; we have realized that that was the source of all our pain and conflict. We realize that there really is no self that is separate from other selves and from God, and we would have become identified with love, no longer relat­ing to it as one specific form to another. We would have become one with the love that inspired the Course, no longer needing its specific form. This is the return to the oneness of our Self as God's one Son, Christ: “Identify with love, and you are safe. Identify with love, and you are home. Identify with love, and find your Self” (W.pII.5:6,7,8) .

The principle of the Course's non-dualism and the Course's aim of restoring to our awareness our oneness with the formless Love of God -- “a Oneness joined as One” (T.25.I.7:1) -- from which we never truly separated, must be taken into account when one thinks about the nature and origin of the voice Helen heard. A voice is specific; an historical person is specific. Therefore, to say without qualification that the voice she heard was the voice of the historical Jesus is to distort and severely dilute the profound and radical message of A Course in Miracles . Moreover, in light of biblical scholarship, one must draw a distinction between the historical Jesus and the biblical accounts of his life and message. The conclusions drawn by a significant number of scholars is that these accounts are not accurate, and therefore we actually know very little about the historical figure. In the Course, Jesus corrects a great many New Testament statements and teachings attrib­uted to him, and so it is safe to say that the Jesus of the Course is not the New Testament version of him. His message in the Course differs decidedly from that presented in the Bible. See, for example, “Atonement without Sacrifice” (T.3.I) , and “The Message of the Crucifixion” (T.6.I) , where he tells us what his message really is. There are many more. Other Questions on this Service address this as well: #473ii and #505, for example.

What Helen “heard,” therefore, was a reflection of the formless Love of Heaven in a form that part of the Sonship could relate to and recognize as loving. Many other forms are possible (M.1.4:1,2) . The love that inspired the Course is all that is truly healing, and eventually identify­ing with that love is the aim of our work with it. The form known as A Course in Miracles is merely a learning aide that we can use, if we are comfortable with it, to help us reach the point where we realize that the love that inspired this course is all that is real in our own minds. Jesus reflects that to us until we can accept it as our own identity: “And thus you joined with me, so what I am are you as well” (W.pII.14.2:3) . This would be the acceptance of the Atonement, the undoing of our belief that separation from God is possible and has truly happened.

For further study, we recommend Chapter 17, “The Reality of Jesus,” in Absence from Felicity, and Chapter 6, “The Savior -- Jesus,” in All Are Called , Vol. 1 of The Message of “A Course in Miracles .”

Q #1247: I have become aware that the helpful yet needy relationship I have been develop­ing with Jesus as teacher, friend, guide, elder brother, comforter is changing to something that I would like to try to describe. My question is whether this is a normal part of the pro­cess of learning and growing toward the goal(s) of A Course in Miracles . Rather than repre­senting solely the above roles, I now seem to grasp that Jesus is a symbol that is not at all specific or limited. I sense that the content of the right mind is really a reflection of what I denied when the so-called dream of separation began, and like its source, the abstract con­tent of the right mind merely is .

Therefore, I can better understand that Jesus or the Holy Spirit really do nothing. Somehow, in some way that I do not understand, my mind opens a little and allows or accepts some experience of what we call truth, love, peace, Atonement, and it is that experience (the mira­cle) that corrects and cancels out my errors in perception if I sincerely desire to let them go. What I am recognizing is that I am the one doing all the work; that my progress really is up to me, and I am more aware of the meaning of "a little willingness" to take responsibility when choosing my ego. Somewhere in your writings or tapes there is something about even­tually growing up in our dependent relationship with our elder brother, Jesus. What do you make of this seeming change in my needy relationship with Jesus? I'm not just trying to kick him out again, am I?

A: What you describe seems to be the natural transition that should take place. The spiritual path of A Course in Miracles is a journey leading us back to the oneness of perfect Love that we believe we shattered by desiring our own special individualized existence. Therefore, any sem­blance of separation must eventually disappear in our minds if we are to regain our true Identity as Christ and return home to God. Relating to Jesus as an older, wiser brother is a wonderful starting point on our journey. He even asks us to relate to him that way, and to learn how to trust him unconditionally, acknowledging that he knows what is in our best interests and we do not. At that level we still see ourselves as separate from him, and very much dependent on him. That is as it should be, but it is just the beginning stage of the relationship, and he does not want us to remain at that level of spiritual childhood.

Thus, at one point he says, “I will teach with you and live with you if you will think with me, but my goal will always be to absolve you finally from the need for a teacher” (T.4.I.6:3). He wants us to become what he is, something he expresses early in the text: “There is nothing about me that you cannot attain. I have nothing that does not come from God. The difference between us now is that I have nothing else. This leaves me in a state which is only potential in you. . . . I am in [no] way separate or different from you except in time, and time does not really exist” (T.1.II.3:5,6,10,11,12,13; 4:1). And near the end of the workbook he speaks very movingly of our oneness with him: “Yet in the final days of this one year we gave to God together, you and I, we found a single purpose that we shared. And thus you joined with me, so what I am are you as well” (W.pII.14.2:2,3).

A parallel to this is found in his description of prayer as a ladder (see The Song of Prayer pam­phlet, S.I,II) . The bottom rungs of the ladder are marked by our pleas for help with our needs and problems. But as we find ourselves attracted to the loving Source of the answers, our perception of what we think we need changes. Now we grow increasingly vigilant for what stands in the way of our experiencing that love all the time, with all of our seeming problems fading in significance. We recognize that our only need is to awaken from the dream of separation, “the only real need to be fulfilled in time” (T.13.VII.16:6; see also T.13.VII.14:2,3; T.24.V.6:6) . We should be careful, though, not to skip steps and pretend that we are on the higher rungs of the spiritual ladder when we are not. It is humbling indeed to be told that we are in the infancy stage of salvation (T.19.IV.C.9,10) , but that humility is required if we are going to hear the answer to our call for help.

Spiritual maturity on the Course's path involves the recognition at some point that Jesus is really a symbol of the contents in our right mind that we have split off. Because of this dissociation, our only access to our right minds usually is to first relate to Jesus as a person like us, a loving brother devoted to teaching and helping us. As we allow him to show us that we have been wrong about everything -- especially about who we think we are -- we begin to realize that everything is going on only in our minds, which means that we begin to relate to everything as symbols of the choice we have made in our minds to identify with separation as reality or with oneness as reality. Our experience of both Jesus and ourselves will then change. We must gradually move beyond the perception of separate bodies relating to one another, or we will remain asleep and dreaming, liv­ing as aliens in a world that is not our home.

All of this is pulled together in Kenneth's Lighthouse article, “Our Equality with Jesus: A Child, a Man, and Then a Spirit” (Dec. 2004; a copy appears on our Web site collection of newsletter arti­cles). Another helpful resource is our tape/cd set, “Jesus -- Symbol and Reality,” in which Ken­neth focuses on the growth from spiritual childhood to spiritual maturity. Chapter 17 in Absence from Felicity also presents this spectrum in the context of Helen Schucman's experience of Jesus.

Q #1248: In the various thought systems extant in the world, there is often in-depth discus­sion of the "unconscious mind" and the "subconscious mind." In A Course in Miracles' view, are these the same, different, interchangeable areas of the mind? Since words are merely symbols twice removed and several words can symbolize the same idea (Jesus/Holy Spirit or God/Perfect Love/Oneness), could we just as easily say our guilt remains buried in the "subconscious mind" instead of the "unconscious mind"?

A: The term subconscious does not appear in A Course in Miracles ; but the term unconscious is used to describe the mind's intentional banishing of something from awareness. The emphasis is on the mind's decision not to deal with what it has judged fearful, or simply what it wants forever concealed. For example, Jesus explains in Lesson 136 that we “set up a series of defenses to reduce the threat that has been judged real,” and then after we do this, we deliberately forget we did it: “your plan requires that you must forget you made it . . . . (W.pI.136.4:1,3). In this sense, Jesus is not really talking about a “region” in our minds, but the activity of the decision maker.