Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 12/05/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1253 How exactly do I "project" my world?
Q #1254-i I don't want to be miserable. Why does Jesus say I am miserable because I wish for it?
Q #1254-ii Why am I not successful or even peaceful in doing the lessons?
Q #1255-i Does the Holy Spirit really send certain people into our lives for a specific purpose?.
Q #1255-ii How can there be a right and wrong way to respond to attack if attack is not real?

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Q #1253: A Course in Miracles speaks often of how we have "made up our world." It uses the word projection, stating that it is mind that does the seeming deed. But I am confused as to how I make up my world. How did/do I do it?

A: It is important first to understand that when the Course says we have made up the world, it is not referring to the self we each believe we are, with a specific body and brain and personality and name. These selves, with which we are identified, are only aspects of the world that we have made up. That is, they are effects and not causes. Jesus is only ever addressing us as mind, and it is the mind that has made this all up, as you have noted. The mind exists outside of time and space, that is, outside this world in which we seem to experience ourselves. And more accurately, it can be said that the world of time and space exists, as an illusion, within the mind.

A useful analogy to help grasp this is to think of our dreams at night. While we are asleep, we typically think we are one of the figures we are dreaming about, usually the same self we are identified with when we are awake. But as we reflect upon a dream after awakening, we do not attribute any causal power to the figure in the dream with which we identified, even though it may have seemed as if it had some control over events while we were still asleep. We know the dream and all the figures are merely symbols, results of our mind's imaginings. Jesus tells us in “The Basis of the Dream” that the same mind that makes up and projects the world of our night dreams is also dreaming the world we experience when we believe we are awake ( T.18.II.5:8,9,10,11,12,13,14 ).

We experience ourselves as separate minds, but we are in fact part of the one mind, both the single ego mind that is dreaming the world we experience as outside ourselves, and the one Mind that knows nothing of illusion. Although the how of this whole process of projecting a world is interesting, the more important question from the Course's perspective is why do we do it. As Jesus observes later in the same section, “It is not strange that dreams can make a world that is unreal. It is the wish to make it that is incredible (T.18.8:2,3). And the wish comes from the insane desire to be something other than Who we are as God has created us, and the guilt that follows from that desire, which we seek to project and see outside ourselves. Earlier in the text, Jesus observes that “the world you see is the delusional system of those made mad by guilt” (T.13.in.2:2) . And he means that quite literally! The world is nothing more than our own guilt as the one sleeping Son projected outward, identical in process to the nightmares we may experience while we sleep at night, which come from what we experience as our own personal internalized guilt. But they are all the same, and they are insane, for we are doing nothing to undo the guilt within our minds but rather are denying its source, preferring to see the guilt “outside” rather than within.

Each seemingly separate fragment of mind, believing it is separate, does not have the power to change the one ego mind's dream in any meaningful way. But it does have the power to learn to look at the dream differently, until eventually it gives no power to the dream and awakens from it. It is in this sense that we can say that we are each completely responsible for the world we see and experience. We each make up our own psychological world, based on our interpretation of what we seem to be experiencing. It is still the mind outside of time and space that is interpreting the experience, but we seem to have a choice about how we will look at what seems to be happening around us and to us and what we ourselves as figures in the dream are doing. And the only real choice is to which teacher in our minds we turn to help us interpret our experiences – the ego or the Holy Spirit. This is the more practical level on which the Course is written. For knowing the metaphysical basis of our world helps us begin to question our ego interpretations of events, which up until now we were certain were true. And we will begin to see that, depending on to which teacher we turn to interpret what seems to be happening, we will have diametrically opposite experiences. For, as Jesus notes near the end of the workbook (in a lesson that begins by describing the process we've been discussing by which the mind makes a world), “From insane wishes comes an insane world. From judgment comes a world condemned. And from forgiving thoughts a gentle world comes forth, with mercy for the holy Son of God, to offer him a kindly home where he can rest a while before he journeys on, and help his brothers walk ahead with him, and find the way to Heaven and to God” (W.pII.325.1:4,5,6) .

Q #1254(i): (The following two questions were submitted by the same person.)

A Course in Miracles states that “ everything that seems to happen to me I ask for, and receive as I have asked ” (T.21.II.2:5). On one of your tapes you said that if I am stuck and feel miserable, it is because I want to be stuck and feel miserable. I am having such a struggle in this life with everything -- job, family, where I live. It just does not seem possible that this is happening because I want to struggle and be unhappy. I feel like I do not want life to be so difficult, and that the way my life has gone and is going is totally out of my control. I know I don't know what I'm doing or how to be free of all of this misery. When we become aware that we are getting what we ask for, which for some of us is an unhappy life, how do we change it? Or is it just your lot in life?

A: First, Jesus is not referring to external circumstances or events in the passage you quoted; he is talking only about our interpretation or how we experience what goes on in our lives. What that means is that seeing yourself as an innocent victim of outside forces is an interpretation. It comes as quite a shock to most students, when, in the very next sentence, he says that to feel that way is self-deception (T.21.II.2:6). It is true that we cannot control most things in the world: the weather, the speed of light, the job and housing markets, the decisions and actions of dictators, etc., but we definitely can control our responses to these forces as they affect our lives. That is the level of responsibility that Jesus is referring to and training us to focus on, because that is the beginning phase of recovering the power of our minds, which we gave away when we chose separation over union with God. This does not mean, though, that you should not take whatever steps you can to improve your situation in the world.

The main point is that the peace of God is within our minds as part of our very being and therefore is not dependent on anything outside us. Nothing can take it away or diminish it, as Jesus expresses in the lesson “My salvation comes from me”: “The seeming cost of accepting today's idea is this: It means that nothing outside yourself can save you; nothing outside yourself can give you peace. But it also means that nothing outside yourself can hurt you, or disturb your peace or upset you in any way” (W.pI.70.2:1,2; see also W.pI.152). This is indeed hard for us to comprehend, but it is the heart of Jesus' radical message. If peace is within us at all times and we don't experience it, there can be but one reason: we ourselves chose against it because the ego's offering was more appealing to us at the moment. We then deny we did that, and blame our lack of peace on something other than that decision. It is true, as you say, that it makes no sense to think we actually want to be miserable and to be constantly struggling, but all that means is that we are not in touch with our mind's dynamics and are just deluding ourselves about why we are unhappy. Correcting this confusion is a main objective of the lessons in the workbook -- for example, Lesson 5 states, “I am never upset for the reason I think” (W.pI.5).

Based on the strategy of the ego, what we want (in our wrong minds) is to keep our existence as individuals separate from God, but not the guilt over that; however, to achieve that goal, we cannot stay in our minds, because that's where God can get us, the ego warns. Therefore, we must project ourselves into another state; and (to abbreviate a very long story) that's why we experience ourselves only as bodies struggling to survive in a world that seems to throw one problem after another at us. Then the world is the problem, not the decision we are making in our minds, because we are no longer aware that we even have a mind. The ego's strategy thus has succeeded -- apparently. So in A Course in Miracles, Jesus exposes this whole plot and teaches us how to end our suffering through the practice of forgiveness.

Similar concerns have been expressed by other students, and you might find it helpful to read these discussions. See Questions #980, #1353, and #1359.

Q #1254(ii): When I do the workbook lessons in A Course in Miracles and need to go into my mind away from the world, and reach God, I have never been able to do that. I have done the lessons several times and still am no better at sinking down, inward. I don't get to a peaceful place, or the altar or anywhere I am asked to "go". Can you help?

A: Patience and trust are the key to practicing the lessons. Your wanting to do what Jesus asks is what truly heals your mind, not necessarily perfect results as you would be tempted to judge them. Your willingness is the content that really matters. That is what you want to trust in. The action, so to speak, is going on at another level of which you are not aware; therefore, it could well be that you are making great strides spiritually simply by wanting to get beyond your ego, even though you do not experience being beyond it ( see T.18.V.1). The experience may come in a different way -- perhaps at a time when you ordinarily would be anxious or angry, and that does not happen. Just try not to judge yourself as you do the lessons.

Q #1255 (i): (The following two questions were submitted by the same person.)

In some of Ken's books, he says that the Holy Spirit "sends" people our way for relationships. How does this work since we are making up the dream?

A: The important issue you raised is addressed by Ken in his Preface to the fourth edition of Forgiveness and Jesus , the Preface to the second edition of his Christian Psychology in “A Course in Miracles ” (which also contains a new Afterword), and in the Preface to his Love Does Not Condemn. He explains that his early teaching was done in the context of the Bible, primarily because he was speaking specifically to a Christian and Jewish audience, and both he and Helen Schucman agreed that it would be helpful to those coming to the Course from a biblical background to establish a bridge between the two spiritualities. When that phase of his teaching and writing had been completed, he shifted the context of his teaching, now emphasizing the fundamental incompatibility of these two systems, as a blurring of the decisive differences was leading to a distortion of both the Bible and the Course. There are many other aspects to this transition, and we recommend that you consult one or all of the above books for the complete picture.

With regard to the specific issue you raise, we quote from Ken's Preface to the fourth edition of his Forgiveness and Jesus : “. . . in keeping with the language of A Course in Miracles and the Bible, as well as with the way Helen Schucman . . . William Thetford . . . and I frequently spoke during those early years, I occasionally refer [in Forgiveness and Jesus ] to the Holy Spirit's or Jesus' ‘sending' us people. . . . There is no question that our experience often leads us to believe that people are ‘sent' to us, either to help us or for us to be of help to them. However, as I discuss in . . . Love Does Not Condemn , and in Absence from Felicity . . . Jesus and the Holy Spirit do not operate in the world, and certainly do not send us people as if they were operating a giant chess board, moving us around according to the evolution of the plan of salvation” (p. xv). Expanding on this in another Preface, Ken states: “To believe in His [the Holy Spirit's] worldly interventions reflects the wish, mostly unconscious, that the Holy Spirit be deluded by the ego's strategy of using the world and its bodily preoccupations to distract us from the true problem (our belief in the reality of guilt) and answer (the miracle or forgiveness), both of which are found in our minds” ( Christian Psychology in “A Course in Miracles ,” p. xi).

Q #1255 (ii ): In A Talk Given on “A Course in Miracles,” An Introduction , Ken gives a scenario of how to respond from the wrong mind and then from the right mind when someone is attacking us. I found this confusing because I thought that any time I perceive someone as attacking me, I have the opportunity to see how I am projecting my guilt on them by seeing them as attacking me. Isn't it only myself (self C) that I am seeing, always? If I am in my right mind, why would I see anyone attacking me at all? Isn't that making attack real? I thought there was really no one out there attacking me or anyone else for that matter, because I am making it up and attack is always my projection.

A: Everything you say is correct about perceiving from your right mind. Ken's discussion is in the framework of what the world would perceive as attacking -- in other words, he is talking about the two ways of responding when someone acts in a way the world would call attacking.