Weekly Questions and Answers, 04/16/2003

This week's questions:

Q #130: What is "true empathy" vs. "false empathy"?
Q #131: Has God forsaken us?
Q #132: Getting what I want in the world of forms?.
Q #133: What is the meaning of diseases like Tourettes's syndrome?
Q #134 Are pets part of the sonship?

Q #130: What is "true empathy," as opposed to "false empathy," and how can one practice it?

A: The "true empathy" described in A Course in Miracles is perceiving the real need that is in all parts of the separated Sonship, which is the need for healing the thought of separation in the mind, no matter what form it takes. It sees the problem where it is, which is in the mind. It is an application of one of the basic principles of the Course: "Ideas leave not their source, and their effects but seem to be apart from them. Ideas are of the mind. What is projected out, and seems to be external to the mind, is not outside at all, but an effect of what is in, and has not left its source" (T.26.VII.4:7,8,9). This means seeing beyond the circumstances of the situation that seem to be the problem -- sickness, scarcity of any kind, emotional or psychological turmoil, natural disasters, etc. -- and recognizing that none of these has any effect on the true Self. They do not have the power to take peace away, and their solution lies in the individual's ability to also recognize this, and to make a choice for peace instead of distress. True empathy comes from a choice in the mind to look with the Holy Spirit's true perception, which sees only an expression of love or a call for love (T.14.X.7). The response then is to let the Holy Spirit's love flow to the person "in need" in whatever form would be most helpful and loving. Most likely it would not mean verbally telling someone that they have made a wrong choice and can choose again, which could be an attack, increasing fear and anxiety. Once the choice is made to see with the Holy Spirit, and not to believe the ego's interpretation of a situation, the specific response will come through naturally. The intent is to join with the other person on the level of the mind where the answer to the problem lies. This does not preclude helping someone find specific solutions or external help with a problem, but the content of the mind, the Holy Spirit's true perception, would be clear. The real cause and the real solution lie in the power of the mind to choose.

"False empathy" is the ego's perception of victimization. The ego sees a victim who is being attacked by some outside force, whether it be a disease, another person, or some catastrophic event, and believes the person is in need of an external solution to the problem. False empathy can be the motive for some people to see themselves as the "rescuers" who can offer help to a victim in resolving their predicament, with no awareness of the mind's choice. From this perspective, the two people agree that there is a victim and a victimizer, and a solution external to the mind can be found. It is an agreement made from madness. The Course is very clear that false empathy, because it denies the power of the mind, is actually an attack. It will not only not solve the problem, it actually operates in a way that exacerbates the problem because it reinforces separation: "The clearest proof that empathy as the ego uses it is destructive lies in the fact that it is applied only to certain types of problems and in certain people. These it selects out, and joins with. And it never joins except to strengthen itself" (T.16.I.2:1,2,3).

A clear indication of false empathy is when a distinction is made between those who are deserving of support or help, while excluding others. This is true especially when those who are excluded are identified as the "victimizers" who are not only undeserving of sympathy, but merit punishment of some sort.When we find ourselves seeing victims and victimizers, as when disaster strikes, we have an opportunity to step aside from the ego's initial interpretation and consider what the Course tells us: "You do not know what empathizing means. Yet of this you may be sure; if you will merely sit quietly by and let the Holy Spirit relate through you, you will empathize with strength, and will gain in strength and not in weakness" (T.16.I.2:6,7). Our practice of true empathy begins with the recognition of our false empathy, and our usual confusion about cause and effect. That is why we do not know what empathizing means. Once we are honest about our misperceptions, the full extent of our belief in the ego's thought system begins to reveal itself. This recognition, along with questioning the validity of the ego's interpretation, will allow our perception to gradually shift, and our response to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. His true empathy will then meet our real need, and everyone's real need, for the healing of the mind. This is the real answer to the real problem.

Q #131: I have been a follower of A Course in Miracles for many years. My questions are: God must know the pain and suffering we are having. He is God, how can He not hear the cries of His child? Why has He forsaken us? Surely there must be a better way.

A: The Course's path is different from the traditional biblical paths that are characterized by prayer and supplication to God to do something about our plight. A Course in Miracles presents itself as a correction of traditional biblical spirituality. Its distinctive approach is to teach us that the problem in our relationship with God is entirely on our end, and that our lives reflect the thought system in our minds that we are choosing to uphold. God simply is (W.pI.169.5), and knows nothing of this world of separation. It is we who are blocking the awareness of love's presence in our minds (T.in.1:7). Therefore, the thrust of the Course is to explain to us how we are blocking love and what we can do to restore it to our awareness: "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it" (T.16.IV.6:1). It teaches that salvation is our responsibility and within our grasp. It centers on the practice of forgiveness in the context of the Atonement principle, which states that the separation from God never occurred; it was just "a tiny, mad idea" that never happened in reality. We are simply dreaming a dream of sin, guilt, and fear that have led to lives dominated by suffering and death. The role of Jesus or the Holy Spirit is to help us view our lives through their eyes and with their help eventually awaken from this nightmare dream. The starting point in this process of awakening, though, is to take responsibility for the conditions that prevail in our lives, because they are the direct result of the thought system of the ego in our minds, to which we have secretly vowed eternal allegiance.

The "other way" is to turn to Jesus for help in looking at our secret wish to be separate from God and each other. He reassures us: "I will never leave you or forsake you, because to forsake you would be to forsake myself and God Who created me. You forsake yourself and God if your forsake any of your brothers. You must learn to see them as they are, and understand they belong to God as you do" (T.5.IV.6:5,6,7). The Course teaches us that the Holy Spirit is present within our minds as both the memory of God that we took with us into the dream, and the bridge that we will cross when we have chosen against the ego and have seen our interests as the same, not separate from God or others: "His memory has not gone by, and left a stranded Son forever on a shore where he can glimpse another shore that he can never reach. His Father wills that he be lifted up and gently carried over. He has built the bridge, and it is He Who will transport His Son across it. Have no fear that He will fail in what He wills. Nor that you be excluded from the Will that is for you" (T.28.I.15:56,7,8,9).

Q #132: In section VIII of the excerpt series' "Jesus-The Manifestation of the Holy Spirit," Ken discusses Helen's experience of having an eyelash in her eye. And, using the analogy of videotapes, he says there is a tape of Helen with the lash in her eye, and a tape of Helen with the lash outside of her eye. I understand that these two situations reflect her decision to separate and then to join with the love of Jesus. But I am confused as to how I can apply this to my own life.

I gather that there is a videotape wherein I get what I want, and one where I do not. I have lived in apartments for years and have begun to think it would be better for me to have my own home because it would help me to feel more secure. I can see that my "homelessness" would reflect my feeling that I have left God. But I don't quite get how joining with Jesus would result in my finding a home of my own.

To cut to the chase, how do I switch from the one tape of the problem to the other tape of its solution? Is this a matter of belief, or of will? I don't understand the dynamics, or the mechanics, of this. I also am unsure about how I can know if it is in my best interests to have a house. Could you elaborate a bit more on just WHAT is actually happening when we change our minds and join with Jesus' love? How does the problem become resolved on the level of form? I do realize form is not the essential thing; that it's the change of mind that matters.

A: To clarify, it is important in the example of Helen's eyelash, and so in its application to your own life, to appreciate the difference between content and symbol. With Helen, the content was either separating or joining with Jesus' love. And the discomfort of an eyelash in her eye was only the symbol she used at the level of form to represent her decision in her mind to separate from Jesus. The problem was not the eyelash, but the decision to separate. So the solution was to join again with his love. When she did, the eyelash in her eye, which was a projection of the guilt for separating from him, was no longer projected, for the guilt behind it was gone. And so the eyelash appeared to be outside her eye. But Helen's mind, not Jesus, dictated the form of the symbol in both cases and Jesus had nothing to do with anything that was happening to her body.

Now if you feel that you are separated from Jesus' love, or as you mention, you have a sense of "homelessness" for believing that you have left God, there must also be guilt, for the ego tells us that separation always involves attack. And guilt inevitably leads to fear of retaliation -- a very insecure feeling. One form then that you may use to symbolize the separation is to live in an apartment that seems to make you feel insecure. But the apartment itself is not the problem. It is only a symbol for the guilt in your mind. So the solution is not to buy a home but to heal the guilt in your mind over separating from Jesus by joining with him again. Then, if your apartment is only a symbol of your guilt over the separation, your living circumstances may change, although obviously, in the world of form, with its "laws" of time and space that we all accept, this relocation would not happen with the speed that Helen's eyelash was relocated from her eye to her cheek. In addition, your living situation is certainly a more complex symbol than Helen's eyelash, possibly representing both ego content and the content of love, and so external shifts will most likely be less direct and immediate. But Jesus would have nothing to do with those changes. Rather, it would be a decision in your own mind to choose a form or symbol that no longer reinforces your own belief in the need to suffer for your sin of separation and to see the source of your insecure feelings as outside yourself. But changing the content in your mind and not the symbol in the world would be your focus.

However, if your primary goal is to switch from apartment living to owning your own home, thinking that will help you feel more secure, you will be caught in the ego ploy of believing that something external will provide you with the feelings of safety and peace that you seek. And you will not be addressing the real problem in the mind and so will not be open to the real solution, which is also in the mind (W.pI.79). That is not to say that owning your own home is not a reasonable goal to hold for yourself. It is just that it would be a mistake to believe that this would bring you any kind of lasting happiness or security. As you remember the real problem in the mind -- guilt -- and its solution -- joining with Jesus, or forgiveness -- the external circumstances will increasingly be less of a concern to you as you find the peace and security within your own mind.

Jesus understands your search for that home of safety and comfort and he certainly must be including you among those he is addressing when he observes, "We speak today for everyone who walks this world, for he is not at home. He goes uncertainly about in endless search, seeking in darkness what he cannot find; not recognizing what it is he seeks. A thousand homes he makes, yet none contents his restless mind. He does not understand he builds in vain. The home he seeks can not be made by him. There is no substitute for Heaven. All he ever made was hell" (W.pI.182.3).

By the way, if you re-read the section from the excerpt series that you refer to, after reading this, you may find that it provides even further clarification to your questions.

Q #133: If -- as A Course in Miracles claims -- thinking precedes emotion, such as anger, what about people with epilepsy or Tourette's syndrome who apparently seem to have anger attacks without prior thought, i.e., the reaction seems to be physiological rather than psychological?

A. The thinking that is always meant in the Course is a function of a mind that is outside time and space. The body, which is comprised of both physiological and psychological dimensions, is a projection of this mind; therefore, all physical and psychological conditions are the result of a choice made by the mind. Mind in the Course is not the brain, nor is it the human mind, as theorists commonly speak of it.

In a section in the manual about sickness and healing, Jesus teaches us that sickness is "a faulty problem-solving approach," and as such is a decision made in one's mind. He continues: "The resistance to recognizing this is enormous, because the existence of the world as you perceive it depends on the body being the decision maker. Terms like 'instincts,' 'reflexes' and the like represent attempts to endow the body with non-mental motivators. Actually, such terms merely state or describe the problem. They do not answer it" (M.5.II.1:56,7,8,9,10).

Generally, the Course's discussion of anger is not aimed at the type generated by epilepsy episodes or Tourette's syndrome. However, those physiological conditions themselves are the outcome of a choice made in the mind, as is true of any disease or disability: "Sickness is anger taken out upon the body, so that it will suffer pain" (T.28.VI.5:1). "Sickness is a defense against the truth" (W.pI.136). As difficult as this is to accept, it is a source of genuine hope, because by turning to Jesus or the Holy Spirit, we can be helped to look at the pain in our minds, from which all bodily states emanate as maladaptive attempts to defend against the enormity of that pain. Once we are back in touch with our decision-making ability in our minds, we can then make the choice that will restore to our awareness the eternal love and peace in which we were created.

Q #134: Recently, at a seminar, Ken discussed the illusion of a sheet of glass breaking into a trillion parts, each piece representing a person in our insane dream of this world. Are our pets also a part of this sheet of glass? Are they, too, a part of the Sonship?

A: Yes, the Sonship includes anything of form. We are so accustomed to using our human experience as a reference point that it seems strange to think of our pets -- dogs, cats, snakes, frogs, birds, plants, rocks, etc. -- as parts of the Sonship. We would have to step outside our human experience to comprehend it. Jesus alludes to this in speaking of the original separation in the context of the Son making a substitute for the truth: "You.…made but one substitution. It has taken many forms, because it was the substitution of illusion for truth; of fragmentation for wholeness. It has become so splintered and subdivided and divided again, over and over, that it is now almost impossible to perceive it once was one, and still is what it was" (T.18.I.4:1,2,3). And in another passage, Jesus refers even to "the smallest grain of sand" as part of the Sonship (T.28.IV.9:4).

The perception of qualitative differences is merely part of the ego's strategy to sustain the illusion of separation.