Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 01/30/2008

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1284 Is there a simple universal technique for forgiveness in the Course?
Q #1285 Can two people disagree about the Course but stil have a harmonious relationship ?
Q #1286 Can one make an "idol" of the Course?
Q #1287 Is there any divine order within the illusion?

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Q #1284: Forgiveness is central to the teachings of A Course in Miracles , and there are so many aspects of forgiveness that are identified and discussed in the Course. Also, in this Q & A format and other publications from the Foundation, there are many discussions involving the aspects of how to forgive. All of this can be confusing as to how best to practice forgiveness simply. The question many have is, with all of the aspects and examples of forgiveness, is it as simple as when we are aware of an ego thought to sincerely forgive it and our self without judgment and give it over to the Holy Spirit for healing? There is a wonderful "forgiveness process" at the end of Chapter 5 of the text. Is this one we can universally use for every "unforgiving" ego thought”?

A: Yes, the process described at the end of Chapter 5 can be used any time you become aware of a thought of unforgiveness.

Forgiveness is described in different ways (as is true of the miracle as well) for several reasons -- and they all have to do with the state of our minds, not the concept or process itself, which is indeed simple. We need to hear it stated in different ways because we perceive situations and circumstances in our lives as being different. Eventually we will learn to generalize and recognize the same content in everything, regardless of the form. Then forgiveness will be very simple. Second, the ego can easily slip into our practice of forgiveness without our realizing it. Our investment in keeping our identities as individuals and as bodies is far greater than we realize, which means we would secretly try to find ways to use the teachings of A Course in Miracles to reinforce that identity (which includes the belief in the reality of sin, guilt, and fear), and we would strenuously resist any teaching we perceive as threatening the reality of that self, which these teachings definitely are. In view of this, the simple -- and correct -- statement of forgiveness that you gave is subject to misunderstanding and misapplication. As impossible as it may seem, students have misconstrued each of the concepts you included: forgiving an ego thought; forgiving our self without judgment; and giving the ego thought over to the Holy Spirit.

We are both attracted to the Course and afraid of it. Our understanding and application of its principles cannot help being affected by this ambivalence, and by our largely unconscious commitment to the ego thought system. That is why Jesus talks about the concept of forgiveness-to-destroy ( T.30.VI.1,2,3,4; W.pI.126.1,2,3,4,5,6,7; S.2.II ), for example. He must alert us to the ego's distortions of love's teachings. We have banished the truth from our awareness, and part of us wants to keep it that way, but the other part doesn't. Therefore, we are only going to allow truth in a little at a time -- as much as we can tolerate at any instant, but never the full truth all at once. That is why the Course's teachings seem to us to be complicated. They aren't. We are! (See T.11.VI.3; T.14.I.5. )

Q #1285 : I need some advice on how to handle being in a relationship with someone who has a different interpretation of the Course than I do. Is it possible? I find it so difficult because he insists on teaching his understanding to me and others and tacitly implies that if I don't agree with what he says, I am not being open to the Holy Spirit in him. It is uncomfortable for me to listen to him, and I am not sure why it bothers me so much. I have implored him not to discuss Course concepts. He takes this personally and accuses me of not letting him be free. Does this relationship make sense?

A: While only you can know whether this is the right relationship for you, it is definitely possible for two people who interpret A Course in Miracles differently to have a happy partnership. You could disagree with someone and still feel peaceful and loving toward him. The Course teaches us that what generally makes this hard to do is that we are afraid to feel peaceful and loving. This compels us to unconsciously set out looking for reasons to be unhappy with others. We want to find differences and then proclaim, "Aha! Here is the reason I could never fully love someone like you. And now I know that you are the reason for my unhappiness." This strategy ensures that we will remain with our identity intact, certain that the other person is guilty and that we are right -- miserable, but justified in feeling so.

Indeed, it is not the fact that you do not see eye to eye about the Course that is a problem, but rather your shared decision to make an issue out of the fact that you do not see eye to eye. In other words, your unhappiness stems not from differences in belief or philosophy, but from a perception that you are being attacked and, undoubtedly, a desire to attack back. These are the dynamics we will always set up when we listen to the ego. What seems to be the trigger in the external world is actually irrelevant. This is why there is a saying about relationships that the problem is never the problem .

Of course, none of this means you should stay in a relationship that does not feel right to you (nor does it mean that you should leave one). But it does mean that it would be most helpful to stop focusing on your disagreements about the Course or even on how to handle behavior you find unpleasant. Instead, ask the Holy Spirit in your mind to help you watch what is going on and to change the conditions in your own mind that make attack (both giving and receiving it) feel safer than love.

When you recognize that the Holy Spirit's Love is already in your mind, you will no longer feel a need to defend yourself by being in conflict. Then, when your partner, or anyone else, acts in a way that you perceive as less than kind, you will know it is a reflection of his own fear and will not take it personally. You will also know the decision to make about your relationship -- either staying or leaving not out of anger, guilt, fear, or need, but rather based upon a simple preference and a clear sense of the most loving thing to do.

Q #1286 : What happens if you make A Course in Miracles an idol? Is it possible to study the course and make it an idol at the same time?

A: This happens to most students, and in a way it is unavoidable in the beginning stages of one's journey with the Course. The idea is to recognize when you have done so and be willing to ask for help to go beyond that stage so that you will advance, otherwise you will not experience all that A Course in Miracles offers you. If you stay on the level of idols, you would be bringing the Course down to your level instead of raising yourself to its level. That is not sinful and you should not judge yourself for doing so. It is just that you would be preventing yourself from reaching its goal of true and lasting peace. A wonderful paragraph to read in this regard is in the text, Chapter 17, where Jesus asks us, “Think you that you can bring truth to fantasy, and learn what truth means from the perspective of illusions? (T.17.I.5:1) . He does not judge us, but simply helps us realize that we imprison ourselves when we cling to specialness or anything else of the ego, thinking it cannot be healed or transformed.

Q #1287: What does A Course in Miracles say about divine order in this unreality? Does it exist or is every (unreal) thing that happens random? I realize nothing does or has happened, and I know we are changeless; but until I can perceive myself as that, I notice the effects in my wrong-mindedness. Is the Holy Spirit leading or helping us once we make the choice to listen so we can stay in right-mindedness?

A: Divine order exists only in reality, the state of pure undifferentiated Oneness in Heaven. There is nothing random about our seeming existence in the dream on the level of content, for we are always choosing either to stay asleep, which means to relive in some form our choice to remain separate from God, or to awaken, which means to use the relationships and circumstances in our lives to undo that choice for separation. The Holy Spirit is the memory in our minds of our changeless state as God's one Son, Christ. When we recognize our mistake in wanting an existence apart from God, and then ask for help, we initiate the process of looking within at all the ways in which we interfere with the presence of light and love in our right minds. And when we learn to do this without judgment, we are perceiving with the Holy Spirit. That is right-mindedness. We bounce out of that peaceful state when we judge ourselves or others, as that means we have taken the ego seriously and have forgotten it is simply a tiny, mad idea, deserving only of gentle laughter. The Holy Spirit is the reminder of the ego's nothingness and of Christ's wholeness; and His function is to help us translate this into the daily events of our lives.