Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 4/9/2008

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1323 What does the Course mean by "angels"? .
Q #1324 How can I tell if my activities are sufficiently "spiritual"?
Q #1325 Was my dear, beloved daughter just an illusion --- ?

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Q #1323: My question is regarding the appearance of angels in the world. A friend of mine knows he is an angel but is struggling to understand the technicalities of such an appearance in the dream. Is he correct in thinking he is simply a manifestation of the Holy Spirit (i.e., the memory or thought of Christ's Oneness with God) in the same way as other enlightened beings who show up?

A: When Jesus speaks of angels in A Course in Miracles , he is always referring to the loving thoughts of God within us, not external beings. He is using a term that evokes a sense of comfort and protection, but he does not mean that there are actual spiritual beings called angels, as is taught in some religions. These are symbols representing thoughts in our mind. (See Questions #36 and #413ii.)

From the Course's point of view, there are no “technicalities” that an enlightened being would have to deal with. That healed mind would be completely at peace, knowing there is no world “out there” -- just other minds believing they exist in a state of separation from God as bodies, caught up in a system of defenses to protect their separation from God and each other, and to project responsibility for this separation onto others. Jesus, as the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, symbolizes the truth for us in a form that we can relate to. He simply reflects to us what is within us -- the truth that nothing real can ever affect the Love of God in which we were created and forever remain.

Q #1324: I was playing chess on the computer and began to think that I was wasting my life doing this; I'm not being spiritual enough. The other side of the coin is thinking I'm good because I spent a lot of time with my kids. I am aware of the ego traps in this, but I think underneath it is the idea that I have to sacrifice things of the world to let go enough to undo the ego, especially in light of passages from the Course that seem to teach that if we don't fulfill our function, we have indeed wasted our life. That's intimidating. What would it mean to fulfill your function? Is watching myself getting mad at myself for playing on the computer part of fulfilling my function? Is it possible to fulfill your function a little, or for a little while, then slip? I always feel like I'm being graded!!!

A: The last statement is quite important: “I always feel like I'm being graded” -- spoken as a good healthy ego! That is what you want to look at, because that indicates your study of A Course in Miracles must be being guided by the ego. Guilt distorts. That is why there is so much emphasis in the Course on bringing the darkness to the light. Therein lies your function: bringing your guilt to the presence of love in your right mind, or looking at your guilt with the healing eyes of love. And you can do this whether you are playing chess on the computer or spending time with your kids. It's not the form -- it's the content. You can play chess with guilt or without guilt; you can play with your kids with guilt or without guilt. It is always a question of which teacher you choose beforehand in your mind.

This is the message of two important sections in the text: “Setting the Goal” (T.17.VI) and “The Consistency of Means and End” (T.20.VII). We first decide on the goal or end we want to attain: for example, peace, seeing our interests as shared with everyone else. Then the activity will be seen as the means to achieve this end. The activity itself (the form) won't matter. The content alone will provide the meaning for you. So, it is not what you do that is important, but the purpose you have given to it -- with whom you do it, the ego or Jesus. There is no hierarchy of illusions: some activities are not “good” for us and others “bad”; some are not holy and others unholy. The world is not the problem; therefore, we need sacrifice nothing. If we truly want the peace of God, then we will look at how we are using things in the world to interfere with that peace, and then ask for help to use them to undo the interference.

This really is the core of what Jesus discusses in “The Special Function” where he tells us that “forgiveness is the only function meaningful in time” (T.25.VI.5:3) ; that is a matter of choosing against the ego's purpose for our bodies and relationships (separation and specialness), and for the Holy Spirit's (forgiveness and peace). The Course is constantly training us to look within and focus on the purpose we are always giving to the interactions and activities in our lives. And, fortunately, there are only two possible choices, only one of which will undo the separation, bring us peace, and lead us home.

It is quite normal to be inconsistent in this process of shifting from outside to within, and from the ego's purpose to the Holy Spirit's. We are tremendously fearful of the implications of letting go of our ego, and so we bounce back and forth. But as we experience more and more the peace and calmness of mind that comes when we forgive, we will be motivated to choose it more frequently. Then the discomfort of being in our wrong minds will become more noticeable, and could be experienced as a kind of external pressure to do better. It is just that we are denying less, and the pain that was always there is coming into our awareness. Jesus never exerts pressure or imposes sanctions -- that would be the ego's Jesus. Our egos, eager to subvert our work with the Course, will tempt us to distort Jesus' gentle message of forgiveness into a threatening message of judgment. The more we recognize that intrusion, the more we can learn to simply smile at its silliness and allow the non-judgmental, comforting presence of love in our minds to be the source of all we do.

Q #1325: I am wrestling with some metaphysical principles of A Course in Miracles , things I can't understand yet, or maybe don't want to accept. The Course says that everything we perceive is an illusion of our own making. It also has much to say about the role of the ego in our "special relationships." I lost my much loved only daughter to leukemia 11 years ago, and it is very difficult for me to believe she was just a figment of my imagination. I realize that we are all one, and that there is no individuality as we recognize our oneness with God and return fully to Him. As I write this I see that I am clinging to her individuality as much as my own, which will not get me where I want to go. Can you help me see this in a more enlightened way? Somehow, acknowledging that she is just an identity I made up is a painful thing for me, as I do miss her and still love her very much. Also, does she simply exist in my imagination, since she cannot be directly observed?

A: No, your daughter is not just a figment of your imagination. When we talk about made-up identities, we are not talking about one body imagining the existence of another body -- a mother imagining she has a daughter. This is a meant on a completely different level. You need to take it back to the level of the mind, a state of abstraction that this same mind has concealed and replaced with a self bound to specifics. That is why practically none of us can relate to our identity as mind (W.pI.161.2) . The “our” in “everything we perceive is an illusion of our own making” is thus the mind that has identified with the ego thought system, not the physical/psychological human being we think we are. And woven into this deceit is the need to assign responsibility for the state of separation and its consequences to an external agent of some kind so that the mind's focus would never be on itself, where it might realize that its choice to follow the ego was not worth the price it has paid. The ego thus designs identities and relationships to serve its own life-preserving purpose.

This means that when the mind identifies with the ego thought system, it will split off into identities that form relationships that confirm the separation as real and that things happen that appear not to have been chosen. Accordingly, we experience needs that must be met on pain of physical and/or psychological devastation. It is essential for the ego's survival that this consciously chosen purpose in the mind remain hidden. Its dynamic of projection achieves this end by producing mindless individual beings not responsible for their own existence, and that are subject to forces beyond their control -- a world of victims and victimizers. This is the dream of separation the mind no longer realizes it is dreaming. And this is why a major focus of A Course in Miracles is to help us regain our identity as minds that are always choosing, for what also got buried was the other thought system in our mind -- the correction of the ego's, the memory of our true Identity as Christ.

Jesus therefore leads us in that direction by stressing the importance of getting at the purpose our relationships serve, something most of us would never think of, other than in terms of the world's dictates. We will experience tremendous resistance to this shift from form to content because, having identified with the ego, we will feel that our very foundation is being threatened, and that everything we have thought has been wrong. So we have to take small steps and not think we can instantly jump right back into our identity as spirit. There is far too much fear in most of us to make that sudden leap.

Jesus asks only that we remember, when we can, that there is another way of looking at everything in our lives, where we will wind up feeling peaceful, regardless of what is happening or has happened -- unlike the ego's way that always winds up preserving separation and conflict. Applied to your circumstances, this means, first, that it is not wrong to miss your daughter. On one level, it would be strange if you did not miss her -- you are the mother, she the daughter. Mothers miss their children. But what Jesus is teaching is that the way you are relating to your deceased daughter reflects a choice you have made in your mind to uphold either the ego's purpose for the relationship (separation, the body, and death are real), or the Holy Spirit's (shared identities, death has no effect on the mind). He asks only that you be open to that as a possibility. The “more enlightened way” you are seeking would thus be to see how you might be using the death of your daughter to further the ego's goals, and that you can ask for help to change that purpose to one of forgiveness. That will not result in your loving your daughter any less, or in the disappearance of your identity as her mother. There will just be a different quality to those experiences and your sense of loss will gradually disappear.

For further discussion of the Course's approach to death and grieving, see Questions #15, #112, and #938. If you are interested in a comprehensive explanation of the metaphysics of separation, see the second and third chapters in Kenneth's book All Are Called -- Vol. 1 of The Message of “A Course in Miracles.”