Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 03/12/2008

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1307 Does forgiveness of painful situations lead to better ones?
Q #1308 Does the Course advocate "embracing what is" ?
Q #1309(i) What is "normal" behavior if we came into this dream as egos?
Q #1309(ii) Can "non-spiritual" people be kind? How should we interpret that?
Q #1309(iii) Is it pure grandiosity for someone to claim "I am the Holy Spirit"?

Chronological List of All Questions.
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Q #1307: As one forgives each successive painful situation/relationship in one's life, does that mean that happier situations and relationships will eventually occur?

A: This may or may not occur, but that would not be of concern to the mind that lets go of guilt through forgiveness. As you progress with forgiveness, in other words, you would realize that the guilt in your mind was the source of your pain, not external events and situations, however horrendous they may be on the level of the world. This perhaps is the most difficult of lessons for us to learn, but it is one of the defining features of A Course in Miracles that teaches us how to be fully present to our roles in the world while learning that our perception of them (our internal experience) comes directly from the choice we are making in our mind to identify with either the ego or the Holy Spirit (or Jesus).

Sometimes there are external changes as well as the internal shifts in how we perceive the external. For example, if as a result of guilt we feel deeply unworthy of happiness and love, our unconscious need to punish ourselves will find its way into our interactions, possibly leading to one unhappy experience after another. Therefore, when we bring the guilt in our mind to the love of Jesus, also in our mind, we will be letting go of our need to remain unhappy, even though we were not consciously aware of that dynamic in our thinking. When that need no longer prevails, we obviously would make better choices in the world, as we would be walking Jesus' path of gentleness and kindness, and thus be less self-destructive, etc. The important point to keep in mind always is that the form (external situations) does not necessarily demonstrate the mind's chosen content. Thus, being in a painful relationship does not automatically mean that it comes from guilt. We cannot make a judgment based solely on appearances (form).

This issue has been the topic of several other discussions on this Service. You might wish to look at the following Questions, which provide many Course references: #350, #542, #660, #846, #873, and #987.

Q #1308 : I have been working with A Course in Miracles with good results, but one question keeps coming up. I had an insight one day that “Loving What Is” was a way to stress-free living. Indeed, by embracing a particular difficult emotion/feeling/thinking nexus, the stress dissolved into peace. The Course does not seem to advocate "Embracing What Is"; rather, it seems to say that when negativity arises, to turn your attention away and seek the light. If this is correct, then the Course seems to be dualistic and rejects life as it appears. Sometimes when reading the Course I get this feeling that God created Reality and I created the false; but who created me that made the false? Isn't maya/illusion also God; and therefore shouldn't we embrace maya/illusion, the false self, too? It sometimes feels like the Course is setting up a dualism between body mind ego and spirit, when perhaps they are really one?

A: A Course in Miracles is a strict non-dualism. It teaches that only the infinite realm of mind/ spirit is real. The source of our belief that the body and the world are also real is a thought we hold in our minds of selfishly wanting to exist apart from God. Thus, the Course teaches: “The world was made as an attack on God. It symbolizes fear. And what is fear except love's absence? Thus the world was meant to be a place where God could enter not, and where His Son could be apart from Him” (W.pII.3.2:1,2,3,4). This statement of the purpose that underlies the making of the world is a major difference between the Course and other traditions that also speak of the world as illusory. The world is not God. And the false self that made it is not God or of God. God creates only like Himself. Imperfection cannot from Him -- another major difference between A Course in Miracles and other traditions. That is why the Atonement principle is at the heart of both its teachings and its practices. This principle states that separation from Totality is an impossibility, and therefore we are simply mistaken in our belief that we exist as separate individuals apart from God. This is a greatly abbreviated summary of the Course's non-dualism -- all that our space allows here. Some other Questions on this Service may be helpful to you in providing additional insights: #6, #82, and #171.

Perhaps the only similarity between the Course and “Embracing What Is” (if we understand that correctly) is that our perceptions and experiences can be used for the healing of our minds, even though they are the perceptions and experiences of a false self. Thus, Jesus says: “The body was not made by love. Yet love does not condemn it and can use it lovingly, respecting what the Son of God has made and using it to save him from illusions” (T.18.VI.4:7,8). The key to practicing this effectively is gradually learning to discern the purpose we have chosen in our minds, for that is always the reason we experience what we do (not that we are responsible for other people's choices); this also entails learning to distinguish between form (behavior) and content (mind). In this sense we can say that the Course clearly does not “reject life” -- in fact, our daily interactions and feelings provide the very curriculum that our inner Teacher uses to help us get in touch with the contents in our minds that are the source of all our pain and conflict. In other words, negativity is purposeful, and that is what the Course helps us get in touch with so that we can change a self-defeating purpose to one that will lead us out of the illusion entirely. (For some statements along these lines, see T.20.VIII.7,8,9; T.31.VII.12; W.pII.226. ) In sum, then, the Course would never suggest that we turn away when negativity arises -- just the opposite! Jesus asks that we look at it with him, as expressed in this passage from “The ‘Dynamics' of the Ego”: “No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected. There is no need to shrink from illusions, for they cannot be dangerous. We are ready to look more closely at the ego's thought system because together we have the lamp that will dispel it . . . ” (T.11.V.1:1,2,3).

Seeking the light, thus, symbolizes our choice to reverse our identification with the ego's thought system of separation and identify instead with the Holy Spirit's thought system of forgiveness. We deny our denial of the truth about ourselves, thus restoring to our awareness the true peace and love in which we were created.

Q #1309(i): (The following three questions were submitted by the same person.)

Ken Wapnick has suggested that when dealing with others, we behave "normally," showing kindness the way "normal" people do. But if we come into the dream as egos, then isn't normal here always guilt, attack, and hate? If the ego is 100% hate and the Holy Spirit the expression of God's love, is it possible to be lead by the Holy Spirit or Jesus?

A: It is not quite accurate to say that we come into this dream as egos. We come into this dream as a result of listening to the ego. Therefore, we generally think we are the ego -- a belief that is reflected in our conviction that we are an individual, in a body, having a physical experience that is separate from everyone else. This causes us to live according to the principle of separate interests, which asserts that you and I need different things in order to survive. More specifically, I need to get my physical and psychological needs met and you need to get yours met. The only interest I have in your needs is a constant fear that as you try to get them met, you will take something from me.

As long as we listen to the ego, these will be the unconscious dynamics that drive our lives. Fortunately, A Course in Miracles lets us know that we do not have to listen to the ego. We could just as easily turn to the Holy Spirit as our internal Teacher. He will teach us that our needs are not separate because our very identities are entirely different than we ever imagined. He will gradually reveal to us that the person we think we are is but a puppet whose trials and tribulations have absolutely no impact on our reality as God's one Son. From that perspective, we will see that, appearances to the contrary, we have only one need, which we share with everyone: the need to awaken from this nightmare to our reality in Heaven where we can be at peace at last.

Clearly then, we have two entirely opposing thought systems in our mind. When we listen to the ego, we are 100 percent hate. When we listen to the Holy Spirit, we are 100 percent love. Which teacher we choose is entirely up to us. Notice that this is all about what goes on internally. Ken's suggestion is to behave normally. This does not mean that our behavior should be hateful. It simply means that in terms of spiritual growth, behavior is not what we should focus on changing because it is not the source of the problem. When we change the content of our mind to love, our behavior will automatically reflect that. We will generally still say and do all the socially expected things that our roles require. For example, will still behave the way one needs to as a parent, spouse, employee, supervisor, neighbor, friend, and so forth. The only difference will be that our internal mantra of "What's in it for me?" will have been replaced by a sense of all inclusive love. Obviously this is likely to impact our actions at times, but how it does so is not our concern.

Q #1309(ii): I have known many people in my life who are not spiritual, and know nothing about A Course in Miracles' concepts of forgiveness, but are thoughtful, kind, and nonjudgmental people. So can one hear the Voice of God without knowing it? And if not, how do we explain people who are "normally" kind?

A: Everyone has a right mind and a wrong mind. This is true regardless of belief systems, personal history, intelligence, ethnicity, gender, or any other element of human identity. One need not relate to the concept of God in any way in order to hear the internal voice of love. Because each of us has within ourselves both a murderer and a saint, virtually all of us have moments of extreme cruelty and moments of great kindness. What motivates a particular person to be kind and loving is an entirely personal matter and not something one can judge about another.

Q #1309(iii): I know a student of A Course in Miracles who believes and tells people he is the Holy Spirit. He also thinks we are God . This sounds like an authority problem to me. Perhaps I am misunderstanding. Is there a difference in saying you are the Holy Spirit or God, and saying we share the One mind of the Holy Spirit or God?

A: To bring this down to the level of contemporary political discourse: It depends on what your definition of "you" is. But seriously, there is no way we could know what that person actually means or believes. Certainly the Course says that we are a thought in the Mind of God rather than that we are God. But it also says that in reality we are a "Oneness joined as One" and that "what is one can not have separate parts" (T.25.I.7:1,7) . Obviously, there is an inherent difficulty in trying to give words to concepts we cannot truly understand.

In general, making statements like "I am God" or "I am the Holy Spirit" leads to problems because, while they may reflect some truth about our ultimate reality, they do not reflect the truth about who we think we are here. Thus, they tend to ring false and, as you have observed, come across as grandiose if not downright delusional -- whether or not that is actually true of the person making the comments. Fortunately, the Course gives us the tools to look beyond people's words and realize that whether they are motivated by love or fear, only love is a justified response.