Weekly Questions and Answers, 04/23/2003

This week's questions:

Q #135: What is the Course's view of suicide?
Q #136: How can God be "lonely"?
Q #137: How do I accept completion?.
Q #138: Does anything we do make any difference to the outcome?

Q #135: The following four questions all address the issue of suicide and so will be answered together:

 i. Could you please comment on the Course's view on suicide?

ii: What is the "right" way to cope with suicide, seen through the eyes of A Course in Miracles?

iii: My grandfather committed suicide. Death, our separation from God -- it’s all an illusion. So is suicide wrong? Or is it the state of mind -- feeling separated from God -- while committing suicide that is wrong? What happens if one does commit suicide? Do people automatically become one with God when they are not in the illusion of the world?

iv: My wife recently committed suicide. She and I were students of A Course in Miracles. Sometimes I wonder, if all this is an illusion, what is the purpose of our staying alive? Why should we struggle with this life that is not part of the real world anyway? What is the purpose of any of this?

 A: From the perspective of the Course, every death is really suicide. For, as Jesus explains, "No one can die unless he chooses death" (T.19.IV.C.1:4), and again later, "No one dies without his own consent. Nothing occurs but represents your wish, and nothing is omitted that you choose" (W.pI.152.1:4,5).

 But the Course also makes it clear that death is a thought in the mind that has nothing to do with the body (e.g., W.pI.163.1:1; W.pI.167.2:1,2,3). For the ego itself has its origins in an insane but illusory thought of death -- the belief that we can attack God in order to wrest a separate individual self from Him. Such a thought represents not only murder -- the death of God -- but also suicide -- the death of our true Self as Christ. And so whatever follows in the world of bodies and behavior from this initial insane thought can be no more real or sane.

 Because the Course always asks us to focus on content and purpose rather than form and appearance, all death in the world that comes from an ego thought will be viewed in exactly the same light. The ego’s purpose in all death is to prove that the separation is real and that, in the end, God triumphs over us by taking back from us the life that we have stolen from Him. We can either resist until we finally succumb to more powerful external forces, or we can resign ourselves to our fate and yield to death by our own hands. What form death may come in then does not matter, for the content is always the same -- our puny, painful life is ours only for a limited time before we inevitably must lose it.

On the other hand, looking with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, we would see all death, including suicide, as no different in content, but only in form, from every other choice we ever make here in the world that is based on our perception of ourselves as separate and alone, in pain, vulnerable and victimized. And yet we would know that that perception is false, based as it is on a faulty premise about ourselves, that we are this body, trapped in a harsh, cruel world, not of our making, desperately battling against insurmountable odds to find a little peace and happiness in a hopeless situation over which we have no control.

From most of the world’s perspective, suicide has a stigma and a negative moral judgment associated with it, but that is simply part of the ego’s defense which insists that both life as a separate self and death of that self are real. From the Course’s perspective, the thought behind suicide, if it is ego-based [Jesus also makes clear that death can be chosen with the guidance of the Holy Spirit (M.12.5; S.3.II)], is a mistake, an error, but that is all. It is not a sin, nor does it entail any negative consequences any different from any other decision we make with the ego as our teacher -- they all reinforce the guilt we unconsciously are wanting to keep alive in our mind to prove that the separation is real. And so suicide is no more of a mistake than the mistake we made in choosing to be born into the world. In both cases, we are trying to deal with the problem of the guilt in our mind by focusing on the seemingly external world and our body, guaranteeing that we will not find a solution. We are attempting to solve the problem of separation in the world, as if the world were the problem, rather than in the mind, where the real problem -- the insane thought of separation -- is buried.

And so, whether we commit suicide or we die in any other way, believing that death is real, we will remain trapped in the self-imposed ego belief in separation. Death does not deliver us from the ego thought system, nor from the world that is its defense. Only looking at the ego thought system with the nonjudgmental presence of Jesus or the Holy Spirit beside us and deciding once and for all that the idea of separation holds no value for us can return us to the experience of our oneness with God. For the world is not depriving us of anything -- only our choice to be separate is.

Even though this world is an illusion, as are our individual lives here -- a life we feel is bracketed between birth and death -- we don’t believe it. If we did, and truly knew the world’s purpose was to attack God and therefore our Self, then of course we would never think of ourselves as being in bodies. But the fact that we all live that way -- breathing, eating, drinking, recreating, etc. -- proves that while we might intellectually believe what A Course in Miracles tells us, it is certainly not our experience.

Therefore, the Holy Spirit’s purpose for our being here, once we have been born, is to have us learn His lessons of forgiveness, including the ultimate lesson that death is unreal. The world then becomes a classroom in which we happily learn what He is teaching us. Wanting to leave the world simply reinforces its reality for us. After all, who would want to leave a place unless he first believed it were real and unpleasant. That is why Jesus tells us in the text: "There is a risk in thinking death is peace" (T.27.VII.10:2). True peace comes not from leaving the physical world, but only through the practice of forgiveness that undoes the mind’s guilt that is the only cause of pain and suffering, as well as the belief in the reality of death. And so, as we are willing, at the pace we choose, we take the small steps of forgiveness that will return us to the glorious eternal Self that we could never destroy, the Self that has remained our Identity despite our foolish digressions into the illusions of death.

Q #136: In the text, Jesus states that "God is lonely without His Sons" (T.2.III.5:11). In light of the theology of A Course in Miracles, how is this explained as true?

A: Jesus uses these words as a comfort to us, correcting our ego belief that God is angry at us and wants to punish us for attacking Him to establish our separate self, torn from the totality of Heaven (T.5.V.3:10,11). Since the Course says over and over again that the separation never happened in reality -- that’s the Atonement principle -- the line you refer to can not be literally true. But what a reassuring thought, while we still believe in separation, to hear not only that God is not seeking vengeance against us, but He misses us and only wants us to come back to Him! If we can allow ourselves to hear that, we can begin to heal the guilt that we have made real in our mind over our supposed assault on Love.

You may also wish to refer to Question #72 in this series for a further discussion of Course language about God, as well as Questions #42 and #85, which discuss the reasons for the metaphorical, dualistic language of the Course.

Q #137: I would like to understand the following quote from the Text, T.16.IV.9:6 "In any relationship in which you are wholly willing to accept completion, and only this, there is God completed and His Son with Him." How do I accept completion? I know that the ego level seeks special relationships. I also know that the preface says we are already "complete, safe, loved and loving." So how do I distinguish the ego's search for completion from the completion referred to in the above quote?

 A: The key to answering your question is to include the preceding sentence: "In the Name of God, be wholly willing to abandon all illusions. In any relationship in which you are wholly willing to accept completion, and only this, there is God completed, and His Son with Him" (T.16.IV.9:5,6). The first sentence speaks of "illusions," which contrasts with the "completion" of the second sentence. Briefly stated, the way to completion is by undoing all illusions. It may be helpful to review the basic ego set up: We believe we have separated from God. Consumed with guilt for this "sin," we feel terribly lonely and empty. The ego tells us we can fill the void left by the separation by having all kinds of relationships -- with our "selves," other people, events, things, even our thoughts. In other words, we use all illusions in the dream, seeking to find in them a substitute for our truth. This vast array of substitutes is the ego’s definition of completion. The problem is the substitutes do not work. That does not stop the ego, however. It insists that if only we find the right combination of perfect substitutes we will find happiness and completion in the dream, thereby succeeding in making a perfect replacement for God and Heaven. When the plan still does not work, the ego tells us keep looking, try again, never mentioning that the real deal is "seek but do not find" (T.16.V.6:5).

The pursuit then is endless, which fulfills the ego’s purpose of keeping us hopelessly locked in the illusions of the world. This is the driving force behind every special relationship. We use others to meet our needs, and fill the void left by the seeming separation. In other words, seeking completion in illusory substitutions -- what the Course calls idols: "All idols of this world were made to keep the truth within from being known to you, and to maintain allegiance to the dream that you must find what is outside yourself to be complete and happy" (T.29.VII.6:1).

The ego seeks for completion in the external, while the completion the Holy Spirit is leading us to is internal. When we have become sufficiently disillusioned with the world’s offerings and the ego’s claims, we suspect that there must be another way. We can then look in the right direction (the mind) for our real completion, and begin to let go of our investment in the illusions. If we are dedicated to the process of letting go of all the useless substitutes, we begin to identify less and less with lies of the ego. This is accomplished through the training program the Course offers, which is to remember that we are either experiencing peace or conflict, and that the cause of our experience is nothing external. Rather, it is a choice made in the mind. As peace becomes more appealing than conflict, we will more frequently choose it, until eventually we will choose nothing else, and identify fully with the part of our minds that remembers our truth. When this happens, we "accept completion." In that moment, all of our relationships will be "blessed" by this awareness, and we will have joined fully with our truth, which is everyone’s truth. God is not literally "completed" in this, since obviously He cannot be incomplete. This is the Course’s way of saying He will be remembered, and in this sense, brought into our completeness. The important thing is that this requires truly wanting nothing else, and abandoning all illusions. As long as there is one illusion we would interpose between ourselves and our truth we will not know our completion, because by clinging to the illusion we are actively denying the truth about ourselves. Since we do in fact spend great energy in pursuit of our idols, we do well not to judge ourselves for this mistake, but also to keep in mind: "It is vain to worship idols in the hope of peace. God dwells within, and your completion lies in Him"(T.29.VII.6:2,3).

Q #138: If it is inevitable that we will wake up, or at least remember our true Identity, then behaviorally would it be logical to do whatever one feels is most peaceful in the world? And so in many ways it doesn’t really matter what others do or say. In fact, A Course in Miracles itself is quite irrelevant, if the waking process is inevitable. I mean isn’t it just a matter of hanging around doing what one likes doing best and not being naive to the fact that the ego will jabber on nonsense regardless of our seemingly worldly activities?

A: While "the outcome is as certain as God" (T.2.III.3:10) and "the acceptance of the Atonement by everyone is only a matter of time" (T.2.III.3:1) -- simply because we could never really separate ourselves from God -- we are still making a deliberate choice right now to remain asleep in our dream of time. And for all of us, the pain of the thought of separation behind the dream will eventually become so intolerable that we will all at some point want to make a different choice, the choice to awaken (T.2.III.3). So the only question any of us needs to ask ourselves now is, how long do I want to remain in pain, asleep in time? If we do not want to be conscious of and accept responsibility for our choice to see ourselves as separate, Jesus tells us we can continue to temporize and procrastinate for a time period at least as long as the time across which the separation has already occurred, that is, "millions of years"! (T.2.VIII.2:5).

Granted, all of this is illusory, and, from Jesus’ perspective outside of time, it matters little: "Nothing is ever lost but time, which in the end is meaningless. For it is but a little hindrance to eternity, quite meaningless to the real Teacher of the world"(T.26.V.2:1,2). But Jesus also recognizes that this is not our experience here in time: "Yet since you do believe in it [time], why should you waste it going nowhere, when it can be used to reach a goal as high as learning can achieve?...it is hard indeed to wander off, alone and miserable, down a road that leads to nothing and that has no purpose" (T.26.V.2:3,6).

So we have a choice about how we want to use time and how long we want to remain in the experience of time. Yes, in the end, it won’t matter, for we will have to remember who we really are -- that has never really changed. But while we still believe all of this is real, Jesus in his Course is telling us that the length of our time in time can be "greatly shortened by miracles, the device for shortening but not abolishing time" (T.2.VIII.2:6). But this means, if the Course is our path, that our relationships with our brothers are of central importance, for it is upon others that each of us has projected all the guilt and responsibility for the pain of separation that we don’t want to see within ourselves. And so, as students of the Course, we will care what others do or say, not because we want to change them, but because our reactions to them can direct us to the unhealed places within our own mind. To avoid looking at our reactions to others, dismissing them as irrelevant to our waking process, would be to engage in denial, which is just another way of saying we are refusing to accept responsibility for our own decision to be separate. In the end, we will all see this, but the choice we have now is whether we want to acknowledge any of these projections now.

As difficult as looking at our brother to see our own "secret sins and hidden hates" (T.31.VIII.9:2) may seem to be, Jesus wants us to understand that not looking leads to even greater pain, for there is no hope for healing then. And so he encourages us, reminding us that this is a path we take with our brother: "Think not the way to Heaven's gate is difficult at all. Nothing you undertake with certain purpose and high resolve and happy confidence, holding your brother's hand and keeping step to Heaven's song, is difficult to do" (T.26.V.2:4,5; italics added).