Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 5/07/2008

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1337 What is the purpose of space and space exploration?.
Q #1338 What is a Course perspective on divorce?
Q #1339 Why do we so often feel like attacking those closest to us?.
Q #1340 Can you clarify the section: "The illusions of needs"?

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Q #1337: What is the meaning of this three dimensional universe from the perspective of A Course in Miracles ? Why are we located here on this planet? We have outer space to explore, but what is the meaning of space exploration if we do not know why we are here?

A : To answer your questions in the order you've asked them: The universe of space has no meaning from the perspective of the Course because it's not real -- it's only a belief (e.g., T.1.VI.3:4,5,6; T.26.VIII.1:3,4,5; W.pI.184.2:1,2,3) . Therefore, we're not actually here on this planet, even though our experience, which lies -- quite deliberately -- seems to tell us that we are (T.31.VII.9). It follows then that there is also no outer space to explore, such exploration also being meaningless. However, the Course does not simply leave us hanging, wondering why what is not real seems so real to us, but tells us, not why we are here, but why we believe we are here.

This universe of time and space that we seem to experience serves a purpose --actually two very different purposes, depending on which teacher we listen to. If the ego is our teacher, the universe of space proves to us that the separation is real and that we are apart from God (T.26.VII.8:7,8,9,10) . In this world, which we have dreamed up with our egos, we are isolated and alone, separated from everyone else, and potentially a victim of everyone and everything outside of ourselves. The fear and the pain we experience truly seem to have their cause in events and circumstances, spread across time and space, over which we have little or no control. And this perception of the world as cause conveniently precludes our ever considering another source for our pain and fear – the inner decision, within our mind, to see ourselves as separate from Love. The world covers over that decision and its effects, but only because we want it to. In itself the world is literally nothing.

You might ask yourself -- how vast is the universe of space in your dreams at night, and what meaning does that seemingly three-dimensional world hold? Why are you wherever you seem to find yourself in your dreams? And what could be gained by exploring the farthest reaches of that dream space while you believe you are one of the figures in the dream? From the Course's perspective, answers to such questions would apply equally to the world of our waking dream, which we have convinced ourselves is our real life (T.18.II.5) .

In contrast, with the Holy Spirit as our Teacher, this world becomes the classroom in which we learn our lessons of forgiveness. Little by little, we begin to understand that the world of time and space is nothing more than the projection of our own inner conflict, projected so that we do not see the conflict's real source within the mind. But with the Holy Spirit as our Interpreter of the world, we can begin to recognize that the world provides us a useful road map of symbols back to the unconscious conflict and guilt within our mind. And so gradually we begin to learn that there really is no need to forgive the figures in our dream – i.e., our relationships in the world. Our only need is to learn to forgive ourselves for once again turning away from love and choosing the ego and its constant companions of guilt and conflict. The resistance may be huge to making this shift, but as we at least can become clearer about Jesus' perspective on time and space, which comes from outside time and space, we can begin to take our world a little less seriously.

Q #1338: In Question #821 you stated that "if the ego begins to sense that our present relationship is no longer serving its purpose, it will counsel us to pull up the stakes...." My wife and I have been in a lot of counseling for her overspending and we are currently divorcing. I feel I have done all I can to save our marriage, but came to the point where I can no longer live with the dishonesty. I do not feel anger or condemnation or judgment towards her. I feel that the Holy Spirit, not the ego, has guided me to let this relationship go.Would you comment on divorce?

A: As with every other aspect of relationships, divorce can be wrong-minded or right-minded. It is thus is neither intrinsically good or bad, wrong or right, depending entirely on the content in the mind, as we discuss in Question #866 (#639 may also be helpful). All of the effort you have put into resolving the issues along with the fact that you experience no anger, condemnation, or judgment toward your wife would seem to indicate that your decision to end the relationship in form is probably right-minded. Our statement in Question #821 addressed entirely different circumstances, where the lessening of external conflict triggered intense fear of dealing with the internal conflict that the external conflict had been covering. References from A Course in Miracles cited there all pertained to that aspect of the spiritual process. Therefore, if your experience is that you are being guided by the Holy Spirit to let the relationship go, it would seem advisable to follow that. Whatever lessons remain to be learned will surface in other relationships in your life.

Relationships, as we always say, are in the mind, and are ultimately between oneself and either the ego or the Holy Spirit -- always a matter of content, not form. Accordingly, before, during, and after a divorce, we can still practice perceiving our interests as the same as the other person's, as that is independent of the form of the relationship. The form of our relationships set up the classroom in which we choose to be led by the ego -- following a curriculum of separate and competing interests -- or Jesus or the Holy Spirit -- following a curriculum of shared and unified interests, leading us finally to a vision of our shared Identity.

Q #1339: I've been thinking about attacking people who are close to me, family, friends, etc. You know the expression, "Familiarity breeds contempt"? What does the course say about us attacking those we depend on?

A: A Course in Miracles is consistent in teaching that attack is always of the ego, regardless of circumstances and the person or persons to whom it is directed. The need to attack others comes from our usually unconscious perception of ourselves as guilty sinners deserving of attack ourselves, because we are unforgivable. We therefore project this self-accusation onto others and feel justified in attacking them: “If you did not believe that you deserved attack, it never would occur to you to give attack to anyone at all. Why should you? What would be the gain to you? What could the outcome be that you would want? And how could murder bring you benefit?” (T.31.III.2:7,8,9,10,11). This section in the text, “The Self-Accused,” summarizes this central dynamic in the ego's strategy to keep our focus from the mind, where our mistaken beliefs about ourselves can be healed, and focused instead on other people's bodies and deeds that clearly seem to be the reasons for our problems and unhappiness.

The hostility we feel toward those on whom we depend is a specific aspect of this dynamic. This type of hostility can be associated with a substance and even medical technology (there have been cases of people who developed hostility toward their dialysis machines). What is triggered in us in dependency relationships is a very deep sense of vulnerability and threat. In other words, being dependent on others exposes the precarious nature of our existence -- that we are not self- sufficient. We therefore would want to attack those who expose our weaknesses and limitations. The conflict can become rather intense because however much we wish to destroy these people, we know we can't go through with it, because we still need them. We therefore will come up with other ways of acting out our hostility, through passive aggression, for example.

Another reason for the hostility, from the Course's point of view, is that we perceive these others as having something we lack, and we would secretly accuse them of having stolen it from us first, the fourth law of chaos in the ego's insane thought system (T.23.II.9,10,11). This ego dynamic would lead us to believe our anger and attack are justified, as a form of self-defense; we would feel completely innocent in attacking to get back what rightfully belongs to us.

We all have to deal with dependency issues, as that is the way the body was made, both physically and psychologically. We all have basic physical and psychological needs which must be met if we are to survive. The ego's secret purpose in this, of course, is to keep us rooted in the world and the body, so that we will never return to the mind where we would have an excellent chance of uncovering the falsity of these beliefs about who we are and what our true and only need is, which is simply to undo our false belief that we separated from our Creator in an act of extreme selfishness. Thus, the ego's undoing begins with our willingness to look with Jesus at the insanity of the thought system that harbors these beliefs and attitudes, and then ask for help to accept his thought system instead. Jesus himself tells us that our dependency on him as our teacher is only temporary, as his aim is to help us get to the place spiritually where we regain our awareness that we are all the one Son of God: “There is nothing about me that you cannot attain. I have nothing that does not come from God. The difference between us now is that I have nothing else. This leaves me in a state which is only potential in you” (T.1.II.3:10,11,12,13).

Q #1340: I would appreciate your help in understanding the section, “The Illusions of Needs,” in Chapter 1 of the text (T.1.VI) of A Course in Miracles . Are the “levels” or “order of needs” a reference to Maslow's hierarchy of needs? What does it mean to correct errors from “the bottom up” (T.1.VI.3)? My sense is that one should not deny one's apparent needs while we still perceive ourselves as bodies, in the world. Am I on the right track in thinking that if I do rush “out there” to get my perceived needs met, the worst that could happen is that I'll end up in another corner of my “forgiveness classroom.”

A: First, yes, “levels” or “order of needs” refers indirectly to the notion of hierarchy of needs, a much-discussed concept in psychology circles in the 1960s.

In this important section, “The Illusions of Needs (T.1.VI), Jesus is helping us begin the process of realizing that what needs correction in our lives is not what we perceive to be lacking -- a relationship, money, health, etc. -- but our misbelief, which he defines as our sense of separation from God: “A sense of separation from God is the only lack you really need correct. This sense of separation would never have arisen if you had not distorted your perception of truth, and had thus perceived yourself as lacking” (T.1.VI.2:1,2). This is where the miracle or forgiveness comes in, as it is the miracle or forgiveness that undoes our distorted perceptions of ourselves.

As you observe, we should not deny our bodily needs while we still perceive ourselves to be bod­ies living in space and time. To deny our needs would not advance us spiritually at all, and as is often the case, it would tend to make things worse. To indulge ourselves in having our bodily needs met is certainly not sinful or wrong, and we should not judge ourselves for having gone in that direction. It simply delays the healing process that leads us to a state of peace. When we become aware of what we have done, we are, as you say, simply in another corner of our forgive­ness classroom. Thus, since our experience is external -- i.e., bodily -- that is where the correction needs to be applied. We believe forgiveness needs to be expressed from one body to another, “from the bottom up. ” Only later in our learning do we understand that the correction and the error occur only on the level of the mind. The world of time and space, of bodies, life, and death, are simply shadowy projections of the ego's thought system. Asking help of Jesus brings us awareness of the mind's causative function. Then we are able to undo the thought (or belief) that is the problem, replacing separation with Atonement, attack with forgiveness, the ego with God.