Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 5/21/2008

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1345 Is it possible to see another as totally sinless?.
Q #1346 Should I pursue a relationship where my partner is chronically dissatisfied?.
Q #1347 How does Course theology fit people from agnostic or "Godless" cultures?
Q #1348 Is it true that the later parts of the Course can be traumatic if we are unprepared?

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Q #1345: My sister and I are doing the course together. We both are doing our forgiveness lessons as faithfully as possible, and are both working towards enlightenment. We have both experienced moments of pure joy, "holy instants," unforgettable and beyond words! Is it possible for us to eventually see each other as totally sinless? I think the text said that if we see but one brother sinless we will attain enlightenment?

A: Not only is it possible, but you cannot fail to see each other as totally sinless, because the sinlessness of God's Son is eternal and changeless. Nothing else is true. Only in an illusion could God's Son be perceived as fragmented, sinful, guilty, and fearful. Thus, our work as students of A Course in Miracles entails undoing our mistaken beliefs about who we truly are: the denial of our denial of the truth (T.12.II.1:5). In this forgiveness process we first look at our need to see each other as sinful in order to establish our own innocence; then we withdraw that projection, which is followed by the next step of letting go of our perception of ourselves as sinful and guilt-ridden. At that stage, all that remains in our minds is the healed perception wherein we see everyone as sharing perfectly in the pure innocence of Christ. That is enlightenment, until the last step, when God lifts us back unto Himself (W.pI.168.3).

Q #1346: Is a relationship worth pursuing when one partner seems contented, the other deeply unhappy for many years, with constant doubts about the suitability of the other person as a partner. I understand completely your response to a similar question: "Salvation is not found in form, because nothing external to the mind has any effect on it. This is the direct opposite to the ego's belief that salvation/happiness, and relief from the misery of separation can be found in the world. This explains the ego's endless and exhausting search for solutions, changes, and improvements in everything from a house to a relationship, in an attempt to fix the problem where it is not."

Even when a person accepts that their interpretation of the relationship is a consequence of their ego's perception and not the Holy Spirit's, and even if a person invites the Holy Spirit to help to heal their perception of this relationship, can't the relationship just be "wrong" for them? If not, then is it the case that any relationship will do as long as the Holy Spirit is involved in it? I can see that you would say “yes” to that last question, because we are One Mind and so it probably doesn't make a difference who we are in relationships with. But when it seems that two people just don't seem to really click, what then?

A: When your mind is healed, it would not matter with whom you live, where you live, or what you do, for you would no longer have a self with ego needs to be satisfied, and your identity would have no roots in the world at all. Without ego needs, you would simply be the extension of love that responds to people at their level, whatever that may be. “Clicking” with another person would have meaning only in terms of content, not form; and in that sense, a healed mind would click with everyone because everyone is seen as the same.

Until you reach that egoless state, however, it is important to respect your needs and not force yourself to stay in a relationship or do anything just because you think it is the spiritual thing to do. That really would not advance you spiritually, and it would be hard to avoid resentment if you intentionally remain in circumstances that seem to demand sacrifice of you. It is not wrong to want to be with someone you perceive to be compatible on the level of form. Within the dream, it is perfectly normal to have preferences, which means you would prefer to be with some people rather than others. As long as the preference does not escalate into judgment and exclusion on the level of content, there would be nothing wrong in going with your preferences. Just be honest with yourself about what you are doing, and don't make it into a big deal or attribute spiritual motives to it.

Q #1347: Why would agnostics from a country like Japan, where there is very little interest in organized religion and certainly little fear of God in the tradition of the three Abrahamic religions, split off in the first place from their Source? If we are all hiding from a wrathful God by creating this world and this body, how about people who don't fear or care about any God?

A: It is difficult for our minds to ask questions that don't come from premises such as the world is real and is populated by different people with different beliefs and philosophies, each existing at a very specific time in a very specific space. Certainly, this is our experience, identified as we are with these individual selves that seem to have their own individual existences, relatively unrelated and unaffected by most other separate selves in the world.

From the Course's perspective, these premises could not be further from the truth. The world is merely the unitary projection of a fragmented, split mind that believes it can exist outside the Oneness of Reality (T.18.I. 4,5,6). There are many different forms the various aspects of this split mind assume as they seem to be projected out into a world of form, but there is one thing they all share in common – they all symbolize the belief that separation is real and that we are each alone in the world, not quite sure how we have ended up here, but each quite sure that we are here. And the world will at times be experienced as a potentially dangerous, menacing place, either because of impersonal forces of nature or because of more powerful personal forces – other people -- outside ourselves.

So no matter what our conscious religious or spiritual beliefs, or lack of, the fact that we all seem to find ourselves in a world of separation, identified with our own body, means that we all share the same ego thought system. And we all are therefore unconsciously using the world to hide from our own guilt over believing we are separate, projected on to some force outside ourselves. So it does not matter whether we consciously believe in any god or not, we all believe in the ego and its defenses. And we have accepted the seeming defense that the world and the body provide so that we don't seem to be responsible for all the sin and guilt and fear in the split mind, which everyone who believes he is in the world shares.

A Course in Miracles , as a set of symbols, is very culture-specific and so it may not resonate with those who seem to embrace a different set of cultural beliefs about the nature and existence of God and the world. The Course's specific mythology is merely derived from the rich mythology of Judaism and Christianity. But its content is universal, for it describes – in Judeo-Christian terminology or form – what every mind that believes it is a body in the world ultimately believes. And so ultimately, each seemingly separate fragmentary aspect of the split mind must come to the realization that it is not separate from Love and its guilt over separation is not real, although the symbols that lead to this realization will differ widely throughout the Sonship (M.29.2:6) .

Q #1348: Chapter 1 of A Course in Miracles says: "This is a course in mind training. All learning involves attention and study at some level. Some of the later parts of the course rest too heavily on these earlier sections not to require their careful study. You will also need them for preparation. Without this, you may become much too fearful of what is to come to make constructive use of it.... Some of the later steps in this course, however, involve a more direct approach to God Himself. It would be unwise to start on these steps without careful preparation, or awe will be confused with fear, and the experience will be more traumatic than beatific" (T.1.VII.4:1,2,3; 5:7,6,7,8).

The above quote implies that doing the Course could in certain ways turn out to be more traumatic than helpful. How seriously should we take the above "warning" from the Course's author to properly prepare before we start the later parts of the Course, and how would we know that we are indeed "properly prepared" in order not to fall into the trap of confusing "fear with awe"? For instance, if we study the first few chapters of the Course, when would we know that we should move on in the text and/or move perhaps on to the workbook? Aren't the first few chapters so abstract that it is indeed difficult to understand them before the rest of the Course? What am I missing here?

A: The two paragraphs you are referring to did not originally come at the end of Chapter 1. They were part of a longer message to Helen and Bill in which Jesus stressed the importance of studying the material he was giving them (see Absence from Felicity , pp. 251,52). In one sense, this would be true of any teacher-student relationship -- the teacher would urge the students to study what is being taught. Since the curriculum of A Course in Miracles involves mind training, it would be important to apply oneself diligently to the study of the material in order to be prepared for later stages in the mind training that build on the earlier ones.

Jesus essentially is talking about approaching God and experiencing His Love. We have many layers of defenses “protecting” us from the experience of God, lest we lose our cherished sense of independent existence. Therefore, the early phases of study and training establish a foundation for this process, and begin it in ways that we can tolerate without falling into a disabling panic. This prepares us for subsequent phases that bring us closer to the experience that we originally rejected and still reject in our choice to be separate and autonomous individuals. We need to become acquainted with the thought system we will be undoing and have some idea of the obstacles we have placed in our way, otherwise we will not be able to properly process what happens after the phase of undoing. That is why Jesus wants us to study the material carefully. By “carefully” he would mean that we realize that he is speaking directly to us as we experience ourselves now. He is not simply presenting a series ideas and concepts that we can approach in an impersonal way. He wants us to get used to thinking about ourselves as he describes us in his course.

Thus, it is more of an attitude toward your study, not so much comprehension of everything he is saying in these first few chapters. As you have observed, there are parts of these chapters (and all of the remaining chapters for that matter) that are difficult to understand, but he does not expect us to grasp every word and all of the implications of the ideas. That is why he comes back to the basic principles over and over and restates them in different ways throughout the three books. Thus, the aim is not intellectual mastery of the text, but rather, combined with a serious attempt to understand the thought system he is unfolding, that we recognize that we are embarking on a journey with him that will eventually penetrate deeply into areas of our lives and minds that we have sought to keep concealed. This is best done slowly and with a growing awareness that there is a loving, comforting presence within us inviting us to hold his hand every step of the way so that the journey will lead to a beatific experience.

Finally, it is helpful to remember that “the curriculum is highly individualized” (M.29.2:6). Therefore, with regard to when to begin the workbook lessons, trust what you feel and don't force anything. There is no right or wrong in such matters.