Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 03/19/2008

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1310 If we are part of a perfect being, how can we have an imperfect dream ?
Q #1311 What is meant by "renounce the role as guardian of your thought system"?
Q #1312 Is the Course about peace and love...? Or isn't it?
Q #1313 Where do enlightened people go when they die?
Q #1314 Is it possible Jesus was a reincarnation?

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Q #1310: If “God Is,” and this dream that we call life does not exist, how is it that we believe it exists? It seems to me that if we are all perfect being of God, it would be impossible for this dream to even enter our minds in the first place. And if it did and the dream is false, to me that would make us look anything but perfect for receiving it. This would carry over to making God look anything but perfect as well. After all, how can this illusion even exist within our minds unless it is of God?

A: This is a variation of the most frequently asked question about A Course in Miracles . It is an intelligent question, but the Course's answer to it has not always been satisfying to those who have asked it. The main reason for this is that the question is really a statement that in some way says the separation did happen; the Son of God really did fall asleep; now tell me how it happened. You will find a discussion of this and key Course references in our answers to Questions #10 and #171, both of which center on the issues you raise.

Q #1311: Please explain what Jesus means when he says in A Course in Miracles : “If you are willing to renounce the role as guardian of your thought system and open it up to me, I will correct it very gently and lead you back to God” (T.4.I.4:7). Does this mean that I should not censor my thoughts, or that I should open my thoughts to others even when they are not pure?

A: What we as decision-making minds are “guarding” is the decision to see ourselves as innocent and helpless victims of a world we are sure is outside us: the world's thought system imposes itself on us; we are not its origin. We (as minds) are carefully protecting ourselves from any incursion into this heavily defended secret. This is the role Jesus is asking us to renounce. He wants us to be willing to open our minds to him, meaning being willing to go within and uncover what we have been hiding from ourselves and from him. In a later chapter he tells us that “together we have the lamp that will dispel [the ego thought system] (T.11.V.1:3). That really is the essence of our practice: to bring the darkness of the ego to the light of Jesus' love, where we will finally see there was only the illusion of darkness and therefore no need for defenses. And we can do this only when we are willing to look with Jesus at our investment in sustaining the ego thought system in our minds. That role of sustaining the ego thought system is what Jesus want us to give up in favor of our joining with him in all our thinking and perception.

Q #1312: On some of Ken's tapes he says this is not a course on peace and love. Then on others he says it is about peace and love. He is driving me crazy. So which is it?

A: Sorry about your confusion! The context of the statement -- the point being made -- should clarify its meaning. If the point being emphasized is that A Course in Miracles is about the hard work of looking at our ego and the terrible price we pay for choosing it, then one could underscore that by saying it is not simply a course on peace and love. In the same vein, many people just stay with all the “nice” parts of the Course and skip over all of the more threatening parts -- the sometimes gory descriptions of guilt and specialness, for example. While it is not wrong to do that if that is all a person can handle, it is not what the Course is about; and to make that point one could again say that this is not a course on peace and love -- reflecting this important principle: “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. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false” (T.16.IV.6:1,2).

When might one say this is a course about peace and love? Well, you could be talking about how Course students fall into judgment, for example, or specialness. Thus, “Here we have a course about peace and love, and yet its students go around ruthlessly hitting each other over the head with it.” The point is that Jesus is teaching us to get beyond our self-centered approach to relationships and see instead that we all share the same interests; but then we wind up doing the exact opposite by using these very teachings to make ourselves spiritually superior to others, or to denounce those who fail to live up to them. In this context, again, one might say, “Jesus has give us this wonderful course about peace and love, and people use it to exclude others from their peace and love.”

Q#1313 : For those who have not yet become enlightened, where exactly do they go when they die? Is it a different form of Heaven than the non-dualistic oneness with God that is our natural state?

A: Like many other questions that occur to students of A Course in Miracles , the question of what happens when we die is not one for which we can give a truly satisfying answer. This is because the question presupposes that something actually happens when we die, which in turn presupposes that we are actually here. From our perspective, within this dream of time and space, this is an entirely logical assumption. However, Jesus' message in the Course is that we are not here. We remain at home in Heaven, at one with God, merely dreaming that we are having a physical experience within a physical world.

Thus, from Jesus' healed perspective, nothing happens when we are born, nothing happens while we live, and nothing happens when we die. We could compare this to having sleeping dreams at night. Regardless of what seems to occur in your dreams, when you awaken in the morning you discover that you are still lying in your bed, and nothing has happened to you since you fell asleep.

If the entirety of our existence is a dream, it follows, then, that physical death is but one more element of that dream. Death may seem to have great impact on the figure you appear to be within this dream, but it has no impact at all on you as the dreamer of the dream. As the dreamer of the dream, your awakening has nothing to do with physical death. You could, in fact, awaken at any time to the knowledge that physical existence is entirely made up. The Course refers to the state of mind in which you know you are not here as being in the real world. Once we are in that state of mind, it will not matter to us when or how our death appears to happen.

Because the one thing you take with you when you die is your state of mind, we can assume that those who die and have not awakened will continue dreaming. Whether that looks like another lifetime within this world or something entirely different is beyond anyone's ability to know. Fortunately, we do not need to know this. We can rest assured that we will continue dreaming only as long as there is a part of our mind that wants to remain asleep. Ultimately, no matter what we seem to go through, a happy awakening will be the end to our imagined journey. And as the Course asks, "Who could despair when hope like this is his?" (C.ep.1:6) .

Q #1314: Did Jesus have a reincarnational history, just as all the rest of us, or was his lifetime here the only physical one for him?

A: There is no direct answer to this in A Course in Miracles . Many statements strongly imply that we reincarnate, and Jesus discusses the whole issue of reincarnation in the manual for teachers (M.24) . But there is nothing that indicates that he did or did not have past lives. We have answered several other Questions on reincarnation, which are listed in our Interactive Index under Reincarnation; #97 is especially germane to your question.