Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 02/13/2008

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1292 Is there one decision-maker or many?
Q #1293 On what level should I interact with colleagues I dislike?
Q #1294 What might be the reason I am not finding an intimate relationship?
Q #1295 What is the diffeence between the ego of the Course, and that of psychology?

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Q #1292: Although, the Course does not specifically mention it, Ken Wapnick (in his tapes) makes it clear that Jesus is speaking to the separated portion of the mind (which is outside time and space) that is mentally reviewing the video tape we call our lives. He calls this the decision maker. Within the metaphysics of separation is there only one decision maker reviewing all our lives or is there a separate decision maker reviewing each life? Was the second split a split from a single ego mind into separate decision makers and then into the physical universe?

A: The second split is the mind itself splitting into two parts: the part that holds the ego thought system of separation (the wrong mind) and the part that holds the correction of that thought system (the right mind). This split symbolizes the Son's decision to separate himself from anything that would remind him of his true origin in God, and hold on to only what will ensure his cherished existence as autonomous and independent. At this stage, there is still only one Son, meaning there is one decision maker. This choice then unleashes a series of strategic moves that result ultimately in the mind's splitting into many minds, and finally into entities that are totally unaware of mind (i.e., bodies).

Insofar as we relate to ourselves and others as individuals with separate lives, it is helpful to think in terms of each of us having our own decision maker. However, as we learn to relate more to the idea that we are minds all sharing the same wrong-minded and right-minded content and the power to choose either, the idea of individual decision makers will gradually fade away by itself. Getting back to our identity as mind is part of our journey back to the state of oneness, so that whatever implies that separation is real will slowly dissolve the more we identify with mind.

It is essential to remember as you dwell on the metaphysical dimension of A Course in Miracles that Jesus is presenting these teachings in the context of a myth that uses language and a framework that are meaningful to us in our separated state. Thus, because we generally think about everything in terms of time and space, we always try to understand our process in quantitative terms -- when, where, how many, etc. That is one reason the Course comes in the form it does; but it is not like that at all. Jesus is helping us get in touch with a process that is non- temporal and non-spatial, and ultimately one that is illusory through and through. So, as intriguing as the theory is, it is best not to expend a great deal of effort trying to figure it all out, as if one were studying a schematic for a major building project. Our questions will all evaporate once we begin to have the experience that our practice of forgiveness will inevitably yield.

There are other discussions on this Service about the nature of the decision maker, which also provide helpful references: Questions #663, #713, and #715.

Q #1293 : I work with two people whose work habits I do not respect. There is no supervisor in our area and they take full advantage of this. I no longer criticize or try to change them, as they are very defensive, and the Course says that you can't change anyone anyway. Instead, on the level of form, I now interact with them only on work-related issues. When they attack me, I am able to choose another teacher and not attack back. By handling the situation in this way, I obtain some measure of peace. On the level of content, I can see them as the Son of God and equal with me in that sense. I know that they are acting from their ego and I do not wish them any harm, but I do not wish to interact with them on a personal level. Or would it see me as doing my best on the level of form but still seeing myself as joined with these people on the level of content, so that I will be able to join with God as one with the Sonship.

A: The level of content is the only level of relevance from the perspective of A Course in Miracles . Thus, the issue is not whether to be with people or not to be with them, but to be without judgment of them. This is the point that Jesus stressed with Helen in one of his discussions with her. He told her that her concern should not be for what words she should say to people, but rather that she ask for help to see each person “through the eyes of truth and not of judgment.” Then, Jesus concluded, “the help of God and all His angels will respond” ( Absence from Felicity, p.381). Judgment interferes with the flow of love through our minds; and therefore if we let go of judgment, we will automatically do and say whatever is most loving, which is Jesus' meaning in saying “the help of God and all His angels will respond.”

The idea, thus, is to look within to see if you have any investment in seeing your co-workers as the “bad ones” (which makes you the “good one”). Once free of that type of investment, you would be peaceful in interacting with them or not interacting with them on a personal level. It would no longer be an issue for you. Some people make the mistake of thinking that love would automatically direct you to associate with another person regardless of the circumstances -- that that would always be the loving thing to do. That is not true. Perhaps interacting on a personal level would not be the loving thing to do. The point of this principle is that the behavioral should- I-or-shouldn't-I conflict would simply vanish in the holy instant of being without judgment.

Q #1294 : I think I have a fairly good understanding of what A Course in Miracles is about. However, I get stuck! I have things that I want in my life; as an example, an intimate relationship with the opposite sex. I often catch myself wondering, though, is this something that I should pray for? The Course says that you are not to seek outside yourself (T.29.VII). Since I haven't found this intimate relationship, I wonder if this is the Holy Spirit's way of telling me I'm not ready, or is it my evil ego keeping me in its grip? I guess my biggest question is, what am I failing to see? I realize that I am to find happiness and all the love I need with God, but the fact is, I think I'm here and I want to have this relationship while I am here. What things do I need to look at to uncover why this isn't happening for me?

A: The Course does not really address the issue of why we do not get what we want in this world, as its purpose is to help us realize this is not our home and nothing here can ever give us the peace of God -- nor can anything here take it away from us. The Course would definitely not say, though, that your not getting what you want means that the Holy Spirit is trying to tell you something -- that you are not ready for a relationship, for instance. It is a mistake to conceive of the Holy Spirit as interacting with us in that way—He does not send us lessons or control the specifics of our lives. (Question #628 discusses the nature of prayer in relation to the Holy Spirit.)

People are always wondering what they are doing wrong because they are unable to get a good job, make more money, have children, etc., even though they are doing everything “right” in terms of the world. Sometimes it's just circumstances; sometimes it's an unconscious conflict— e.g., wanting something but also feeling unworthy of happiness, success, etc.; wanting something yet feeling you are failing the Course because it is against specialness, etc. But, without denying the responsibilities we have in our roles in the world, our focus should shift from why we are not getting what we want, to the underlying self-concept we have accepted that makes lack and inadequacy real, and then causes us to orient our striving toward solving these problems of lack and inadequacy, thinking we know what is in our best interests.

What the Course does is urge us to think carefully about what we are really asking for, but this refers exclusively to the content in our minds -- whether we are asking for what will keep us in the dream or help us awaken from the dream; whether we are seeing our interests as the same or separate from others. The bottom line is always purpose -- what purpose will this relationship serve? And honesty about that is most important. It is not wrong to want a relationship with a person of the opposite sex, and the Course never says not to pursue one (see Questions #184 and #312). It just asks that we be clear about the purpose in our mind. Even if you are clear that it is all about specialness and bodies being together, you need not feel guilty or be hard on yourself. Since there is no hierarchy of illusions, pursuing a special relationship is no different from doing everything you can to insure a supply of clean air to breath or healthful food to eat. It is normal in this world to do that. We need only remember that every aspect of our lives can be treated as a classroom into which we invite the Holy Spirit to help us transform our relationships so that they will serve not the ego's purpose of separation but His purpose of getting us beyond specialness to the perception of shared interests and a shared Self.

Q #1295: Traditional psychotherapy and A Course in Miracles seem to define the term ego in different ways. I've been in counseling for about the past two years and my therapist is working with me to build an ego. She tells me that I've got to get an ego first before I can give it up. It would seem that what she defines as ego and what Jesus is talking about are two different things, but I'm not completely sure just how to sort them out.

A: Counselors and therapists use the term ego thanks to Sigmund Freud. Freud divided the human personality into three parts: id, ego, and superego. According to his theory, the id operates on the pleasure principle, seeking immediate gratification for our instinctual drives. The superego is our internal, moral censor that represses the id. And the ego mediates between the id, superego, and the outside world, seeking to find means for us to express ourselves in socially acceptable ways. The ego is the conscious part of the psyche -- basically the personality with which we identify.

Today's counselors who speak of the ego do not necessarily view the psyche from a Freudian perspective. But they have largely adopted the word ego as a shortcut for saying our personality and identity as an individual . The goal of most counselors is to assist others in becoming healthier individuals -- helping them to be more comfortable and functional within this world. So, we could say that they are helping their clients or patients to develop healthy egos.

When Jesus speaks of the ego in the Course, he is basically talking about the entire human psyche, conscious and unconscious. He tells us that the person we think we are is a false self, born of our mistaken belief that we could create a substitute for our true identity as God's beloved Son. Thus, A Course in Miracles is all about recognizing that we would be happier if we released our grip on the ego and embraced the Holy Spirit instead. Therefore, for many Course students, the term ego has taken on a sinister ring -- making the idea of developing a healthy one sound contradictory, if not downright frightening. However, this is the result of a misunderstanding. The Course encourages us to live in this world but know we are not of it. And doing that requires ego strength. To not develop a healthy ego represents fear, which must be unlearned if we are ever to move beyond fear to acceptance of God's Love.

So, far from turning the ego into an enemy, Jesus would have us forgive it (and thus forgive ourselves) as the first step to moving beyond it. While he would ultimately have us let the ego go; Jesus would be the first to agree that we cannot move beyond the ego until we see it for what it is and make peace with it. Thus, like a great therapist, he asks us to simply watch it -- turning our experience of being an ego (which, within this dream, seems to be the entirety of who we are) into a classroom in which we learn more and more about ourselves every day.

The Course and most forms of counseling do part ways in that, in counseling, becoming at peace with yourself within this world is typically the final goal, while in the Course, it is only a step toward awakening. Yet, despite both this fundamental difference and differences in the use of language, there is certainly no inherent conflict between the Course and the process of therapy. It is simply important for Course students to hold the aim of therapy as a means to an end and not an end itself.