Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 5/28/2008

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1349 Isn't the Course trying to put us in an impossible situation?.
Q #1350 How should I deal with chronic repeating resistance to the Course ?.
Q #1351 Must I surrender old habits even if it makes me uncomfortable?
Q #1352 How can I reconcile Course principles with my job as a used-car dealer ?

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Q #1349: I have a question regarding the following quotes from the text that refer to God / the Holy Spirit and the Course confronting us with our separated world and ego.

"You are in an impossible situation only because you think it is possible to be in one. You would be in an impossible situation if God showed you your perfection, and proved to you that you were wrong. This would demonstrate that the perfect are inadequate to bring themselves to the awareness of their perfection, and thus side with the belief that those who have everything need help and are therefore helpless" (T.6.IV.10:1,2,3).

"What would be gained if God proved to you that you have thought insanely? . . . If He confronted the self you made with the truth He created for you, what could you be but afraid? You would doubt your right mind, which is the only place where you can find the sanity He gave you" (T.6.IV.11:5,9,10).

I understand that "God does not teach" and He does not prove to us that we have thought insanely. However, isn't that exactly what A Course in Miracles is trying to do, prove to us that we are indeed NOT living in a real world and are NOT separate from God? Isn't the Course, thereby, putting us into an impossible situation and contradicting itself grossly in this respect? What am I misperceiving? Will we not indeed start to "doubt the only place where God put His sanity," being "taught" that we are indeed NOT apart from the divine? Could this perhaps be the reason I have sometimes felt that the Course is "impossible to do" -- not from an emotional but from a logical point of view?

A: Being asked to undo what never happened is indeed a paradox, if not a pretty good koan. And yes, the Course often does send our logic-driven intellects into shock, while also revealing to us the strict logic of the thought system that has compelled our belief and commitment, deluding us into thinking insanity is sanity. On the one hand, if God Himself were to communicate our wrongness and insanity to us directly, we could not but conclude that our existence apart from Him is somehow real and that we should indeed be afraid of the consequences of what we have done.

On the other hand, though, our experience is that we are alive here as separate and apart from God, but that something is dreadfully wrong with that. What appears as A Course in Miracles is really an answer to this call for help that emanates from deep inside us. Yes, the Course is telling us that the world is not real and that we are not separate from God -- only in an illusion could this be so, but in truth, there can't even be an illusion of separation. We thus are confronted with our massive self-deception, but we are given the means of dealing with the underlying fear that inevitably rises to the surface when we connect with this message. We are taught that guilt and fear are not justified in the face of our now-exposed plot to hide what we have conceived of as our treachery and covered over with our “face of innocence.” But it is not God Who exposes our deception, because God could not respond to what does not exist. A part of our own minds has chosen to question its own operating system, and the teachings of the Course symbolize this process going on in our own minds of questioning, asking for help, re-evaluating, and finally choosing to correct what is now seen as but a faulty choice, which never actually happened in reality.

The Course is written on a high intellectual level, as many have observed, and many others have bemoaned. Yet, there is a point in our work with the Course at which our intellects are seen to be part of the problem, as they serve primarily to sustain our self-perception as autonomous beings, capable of recognizing and solving problems to preserve our species and even the universe itself. Our intellects can take us only so far with the process of healing our minds because they function essentially in the realm of duality, and as many mystics have said, the intellect must be transcended in order to experience God directly. All this is a way of saying that there are no satisfactory intellectual answers to some of the questions that naturally arise as we delve into the Course's teachings. Our difficulties point back to what we have done to ourselves: “When you made visible what is not true, what is true became invisible to you” (T.12.VIII.3:1). “To you the miracle cannot seem natural, because what you have done to hurt your mind has made it so unnatural that it does not remember what is natural to it. And when you are told what is natural, you cannot understand it” (T.12.II.3:1,2).

Finally, there is that statement that many students have found frustrating and quite humbling, where Jesus gently pokes us in our intellects and says: “You are still convinced that your understanding is a powerful contribution to the truth, and makes it what it is. Yet we have emphasized that you need understand nothing. Salvation is easy just because it asks nothing you cannot give right now” (T.18.IV.7:5,6,7). What this comes down to is balancing our intellectual efforts with the humble recognition that we cannot get ourselves out of the mess we got ourselves into without help from outside our familiar thought system. We thus use our intellects to get beyond our intellects. We learn to trust the inner Presence that symbolizes the restoration of our minds to the state of pure Oneness with our Source.

Q #1350: I have been studying A Course in Miracles for about 17 years and I am finding the more I work with it the harder it becomes; resistance to the Course is something that I have become very familiar with. There are times when I have actually put the book down and have said to myself, "No more, I want no part of this." Yet Something in my mind always reminds me to go back and read the book. Things settle down and I am all right for a while and then the ego seems to get me once again. It's as if I am at the point of no return. I cannot be as I was so many years ago no matter how I try.Any suggestions, or is this how it's supposed to be.

A: What you describe sounds very much like what most students go through, as you can tell from the number of questions submitted on this subject: see, for example, Questions #533, #730, #843, #1015, #1028, and #1182.

Seventeen years may seem like a long time, but that judgment would come from our very limited perspective and therefore should not be taken seriously. Moreover, how long your journey takes is not important because time is irrelevant to a process that takes place outside time and space. What is important is that you continue to be gentle and patient, and that you not force yourself to take steps you do not feel ready to take. Just do the best you can. Quite often, our fear of letting go of our ego identity is so intense that we need to take a break and set the Course aside for a while, and there is nothing wrong with that as long as there is no judgment involved. Fear is not a sin, and fear is usually at the root of all resistance to the practice of forgiveness and letting go of our identification with our special, bodily selves. That is the essence of many of the discussions you will find in the questions mentioned above.

Sometimes students find it helpful to have a few favorite passages at hand when they get bogged down -- as reminders that Jesus' trust in us is unconditional, yet he knows we will be resisting his message and that our trust in him is not yet unconditional, but we at least would like it to be. It is reassuring to remember when the going gets rough, “You think you are destroyed, but you are saved” (W.pI.93.4:4); “Have faith in only this one thing, and it will be sufficient: God wills you be in Heaven, and nothing can keep you from it, or it from you. Your wildest misperceptions, your weird imaginings, your blackest nightmares all mean nothing. They will not prevail against the peace God wills for you” (T.13.XI.7:1,2,3).

Q #1351: My question is about the Authority Problem. When I was little I had this particular thing I would do and my father told me to stop because it was not what big boys do. But my mother said that she thought it was cute and that they should just let me out- grow it. Well it's now a part of my personality and my relationships. Can I continue being this even if it is an authority problem, or does Jesus ask that we give up any self-assertion even if it causes us fear do so?

A: Jesus never asks us to sacrifice anything for the sake of spiritual advancement. Only the ego's God and Jesus demand sacrifice. What Jesus wants us to do is develop the habit of asking of our values and behavior, “What is it for? What purpose does this serve?” He wants us to become more and more aware that we are decision-making minds always making one of two choices: either to continue to be separate from God and others or to undo our belief in separation and learn that we all share the same interests and ultimately the same Identity. That is the only relevant meaning of what we do and think. Thus, if you were to evaluate the behavior you are referring to in this context of its purpose, you might attain a better understanding of what is going on in. This would shift your attention from your behavior to your mind, and you would realize that your salvation does not rest on making changes on the behavioral level.

Self-assertion is an ego ideal, although it is not necessarily wrong to go through a stage of self- assertion as a correction for years of doing the opposite. When you choose Jesus or the Holy Spirit as your internal Teacher, rather than the ego, you will be centered in the love that responds to everything and everyone only with love and kindness. This content in your mind would then be expressed appropriately in the circumstances of your life, which may be in the form of assertiveness, but not the ego version that would reinforce differences and lead to an adversarial relationship. If you focus on being clear about the purpose you are choosing in your mind, your behavior would just flow from that, and then you would not be in conflict. There would be a consistency between your thoughts and behavior -- what Jesus calls “honesty,” the second characteristic of God's teachers (see M.4.II). A Course in Miracles , actually, says nothing about what our behavior ought to be.

Finally, from the information you have given, it is difficult to determine whether your problem is simply an authority issue. We all would tend to have issues with authorities, given the fact that we believe we got our existence at God's expense and that He is after us to punish us and get back what we took from Him. Questions #304 and #379 discuss the different dimensions of this pervasive aspect of our ego identification.

Q #1352: Guilt is an enormous problem for me as a used-car dealer. I ask the Holy Spirit for help before deciding to sell a vehicle with problems, but it seems like I have made decisions before asking for help. It would be impossible to correct all problems with the car I'm selling without experiencing a great financial burden, so the solution is an auction, where there is a greater possibility of selling, or selling “as is” and recovering at least some of the loss. It seems impossible to have a holy encounter with a brother you're going to victimize. A change of professions would be my choice, but meanwhile, these situations always creep up. Could this be a situation of committing a sin and then atoning for it? I want my actions to be reflections of love rather than symbols of attack, but the opposite happens every time. Could you help with a formula for looking at this with God's help and not the ego?

A: A Course in Miracles would never call anything we do a sin, only a mistake, and the mistake would be in the choice we make in our minds to listen to the ego and make sin and guilt real, which leads to the projection of our guilt in the form of attack on ourselves or someone else. These dynamics involve deflecting responsibility for what we do and finding some way of justifying it: “It wasn't my fault. It's just business.” The ego's God believes in sin and atonement for sin through suffering, sacrifice, and punishment. Jesus teaches us in the Course, however, that the true meaning of Atonement is the undoing of our belief in separation. God knows not of sin, and He does not forgive because He has never condemned (W.pI.46.1:1). There is a nice discussion of Atonement in Question #856 on this Service.

There is no real formula to give you, but it might help you just to look calmly at the thought system that underlies your view of your job and your relationship with buyers. This thought system of separation rests on the principles of one or the other and kill or be killed . Getting what we want comes at another's expense -- someone would always have to lose in this system. Jesus therefore asks us to look honestly at how we justify what we do and feel, but not to judge ourselves for it. We can then ask for help to look at the situation differently -- not through the ego's one or the other view, but through Jesus' eyes that see us all as the same. You are already caught in your wrong mind if you see a brother as someone you are about to victimize, someone who must lose so you can win. Again, this is a matter of the content in your mind, not your behavior, so that is the instant when you would acknowledge that you are in your wrong mind and therefore nothing that you do would be loving. The willingness to see the situation differently will help you shift to your right mind.

What this is saying is that you can be a right-minded used-car dealer! You would not lie, and you would not withhold information from the buyer. You would present the car in a positive way, meaning you would believe in the car you are selling. There is a relevant passage in the text that nicely fits your situation: “A good teacher must believe in the ideas he teaches, but he must meet another condition; he must believe in the students to whom he offers the ideas” (T.4.I.1:4). If you can orient yourself this way, you will feel good about yourself, the buyer, and the transaction, and then the conflict would disappear and you would be peaceful. You might even acquire a reputation as a trustworthy dealer and attract more business! Learning to think this way will affect other areas of your life as well, and after a while you will find it a very natural way to function.