Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 7/2/2008

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1371 I feel guilty I may be choosing the wrong career path.
Q #1372 How can I avoid judging my friends for their beliefs about homeopathic medicines?.
Q #1373 How was it possible for Joel Goldsmith to achieve healings?
Q #1374 How do I handle the guilt I feel when I think of others as deceitful?

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Q #1371: I'm struggling with a choice on what career to choose. I understand that A Course in Miracles teaches that purpose, not form, matters and that any circumstance is an opportunity to practice forgiveness and therefore be purified and ready for enlightenment. But my dilemma is that I am eager for the path of spiritual development, feel a passion for learning about spirituality, traveling the world, seeing the world -- and very ultimately being a part of the solution for healing the world -- yet I also have passions for acting (and painting) and happen to be good at both. My acting classes are just starting again and I'm with a group where now it is make or break -- I go for it wholeheartedly or not, which means a daily dedication to that form of development. My fear is that I could be devoting myself to a greater cause -- to the cause of healing. Those hours could be spent with the sick, for example. Acting, of all the arts it seems to me, is such an ego thing and I don't know if I could do it and be true to my conscience, when so many people are dying (I work for a charity that helps kids in poorer countries) and the world is so sick and in so much pain on so many different levels.

A: Relax! There is a statement in the Course that is repeated over and over again, with some variation, throughout all three books, that every Course in Miracles student should take to heart: “The sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself” (T.2.V.5:1) . And this simply means that we need only be concerned, moment to moment, with the choice we are making within our minds for either the ego or the Holy Spirit. In the end, and on every step along the way, nothing else matters.

Concern for the world and all the pain and suffering seems to be such a noble dedication, yet the Course's radical position is that such a focus is in reality just another way of reinforcing the ego, and therefore is an attack ( e.g., M.7.4:4,5,6,7) . It may seem unkind, even heartless, to diminish the significance of the world and all its problems, yet the reason follows very directly from the Course's basic metaphysical premises. The world, as real as it may seem, is nothing more than the symbolic shadow of the mind's guilt over choosing the ego (T.18.IX.4) , desiring separation rather than oneness. To focus our attention on the world is to fall into the ego's trap of mindlessness, insisting that we know what the problem is and how it can be resolved. The world is not the problem and the Course means this quite literally! To focus on the world is to assure that the real problem of choosing separation in the mind and taking it seriously is never recognized nor addressed (W.pI.79) .

There is no hierarchy in the world of illusion (T.26.VII.6) . It is not what we do, but with whom we do it that Jesus is asking us to realize is all that matters. One can commit oneself to alleviating the world's suffering and simply reinforce the underlying belief in victimhood, which the ego has invented as a means for maintaining guilt but seeing it outside oneself. Furthermore, the healer role can be used for purposes of self-aggrandizement, or to cover over one's own feelings of guilt and unworthiness, never questioning whether those underlying feelings have any reality. In contrast, one can devote oneself to the stage and acting and serve the Holy Spirit's purpose by helping oneself and others recognize that at some level, we are all the same, and ultimately, that the whole world is an act, and none of it is to be taken seriously.

And of course, just the opposite is possible, since the form itself is irrelevant. One can be involved in helping relieve and heal the pain and the suffering of others in the world in very specific, concrete ways, yet hold the awareness that all pain and suffering are truly only in the mind, which is all that is need of healing. And one can, as you suggest, use an acting career as a vehicle for self-aggrandizement, or perhaps to even greater detriment, as a means for propagandizing for the ego and all its values, including the reality of attack, betrayal and victimhood.

To reiterate, the form of our involvement in the world does not matter. It is the purpose we choose for it that counts. If we recognize that our only responsibility is to accept the Atonement for our­selves, we will also increasingly recognize that whatever we do will provide just the opportunity we need to learn our lessons of forgiveness and withdraw the projections of guilt that we have placed upon the world. To believe there is anything else meaningful we can do is to insist that we are right and to refuse the only real help that is available to us to alleviate all pain and suffering at its source.

Q #1372: I have many friends who devoutly prefer homeopathic medicine to allopathic medicine. I have long been okay with this, since I understand that any magic is magic, whether it is a pharmaceutical drug or an herb capsule. But, I realized recently that I perceive homeopaths to consider themselves to be more “enlightened” than allopaths. And this bothers me. I realize this is about me, not about them, because I am the one who cares what they think. How can I resolve this?

A: First, it is important to have recognized that “any magic is magic.” This restates the central principle in A Course in Miracles that there is no hierarchy among illusions. Both forms of medicine are magic, to the extent that they are used to correct conditions in the body, whether psychological and physical.

Being bothered by other people's claims to superiority usually reflects a projection of guilt or self- loathing over a similar attitude within yourself. Jesus instructs us about this in Lesson 134: “When you feel that you are tempted to accuse someone of sin in any form do not allow your mind to dwell on what you think he did, for that is self-deception. Ask instead, ‘Would I accuse myself of doing this?'” (W.pI.134.9). This has to do with content, not form. In other words, you could ask yourself, “What is it about what they are doing that bugs me?” Try to get at the meaning of their feeling superior -- what that triggers in you. Whatever it is, you would be accusing yourself of doing it, although in a different form more than likely. If nothing surfaces for you, that's okay. Just know that you are bothered by their attitude only because of something within you that you hate or are ashamed of and want to keep hidden, thus unforgiveable.

It is important that you focus on the judgment you are making and realize that that is the problem, not the other people's behavior. You would not be bothered by that if you had not already chosen against love in your mind and then judged yourself for it. Try to accept that whatever ego choice you are accusing yourself of making, it is never more than a mistake -- and mistakes are in need of correction, not condemnation. Thus, if you can't identify the specific “sin” in you that is being projected and hated in these other people, you can still change your mind about your interpretation of it. You can still ask Jesus to help you see with him that sin and guilt are nothing more than toys that children play with and one day are put away forever (T.29.IX.5) . You will then look through his eyes and see not cause for judgment, but for compassion as you recognize your interests as being shared by everyone else. Finally, you can feel grateful for this opportunity that has come up to deal with guilt that would have remained concealed had you not been willing to take responsibility for your perceptions.

Q #1373: I am still struggling with the concept of realizing and living the "happy dream" that comes from the application of the Course's principles. Practising A Course in Miracles does not promise improvement of life circumstances; however, Joel Goldsmith achieved “healings” through the application of principles much the same as those described in the Course. How do you account for this?

A: In Question #783, we discuss some of the important differences between Joel Goldsmith's teachings and those of A Course in Miracles . It is true that physical symptoms disappear in some people as they practice the Course. The connection would be the letting go of guilt, as the Course teaches that sickness has its roots in the guilt that we are choosing to hold on to in our minds. But it can also be a right-minded choice -- one possible reason for choosing it being to demonstrate that the body cannot affect our inner state of peace.

In one important passage Jesus clarifies the nature of healing and the miracle: “Thus is the body healed by miracles because they show the mind made sickness, and employed the body to be victim, or effect, of what it made. Yet half the lesson will not teach the whole. The miracle is useless if you learn but that the body can be healed, for this is not the lesson it was sent to teach. The lesson is the mind was sick that thought the body could be sick; projecting out its guilt caused nothing, and had no effects” (T.28.II.11:4,5,6,7). The real healing, thus, is the reversal of effect and cause -- the mind is sick, not the body, despite the appearance of bodily symptoms. The body is the effect; the mind is the cause. That is the function of the miracle -- to shift our perception from the body to the mind, where we would then recognize that our mind's decision is the sole cause of everything we experience. We are always deciding to have either the ego as our teacher or Jesus (T.14.III.4). Getting us back to that state of mind is the real healing and the only function of the miracle.

Q #1374: I am aware of thinking my dearest friend is deceitful. When she "proves" to me that she is not, I feel only love for her and remorse for my thoughts. I understand the deceit I see in her comes from within my own thoughts. How do I deal with those thoughts when they occur? I can tell myself this is my own projection, this is not the truth, the Holy Spirit would have me see her differently, but I am still plagued by painful thoughts of deceit, dishonesty. Please tell me how to deal with myself until I can allow the Holy Spirit to show me differently.

A: For any meaningful and lasting shift in our perception to occur, we will have to come to the recognition that we are all trying to deceive each other all the time, even when we think we are not being deceitful in the world's terms. For the world's terms are deceitful and deceiving. As A Course in Miracles teaches, the whole world, as well as the self we believe we are, is predicated on a lie -- the original ego deceit that we could separate from God. This sense of deceit is at the very core of our individual existence.

And we don't want to look at that lie, the ego tells us, because we will have to come face-to-face with our sinfulness and guilt for having lied, deserving of God's punishment. But the truth is, not that the lie is a sin, but that it is exactly that -- a lie-- which means that it is not true, that the separation has never happened. And that's what the ego, concerned only with self survival, does not want us to realize. And while we choose to listen to the ego, our reality will seem to be the world and bodies, along with an uneasy sense of deceit and dishonesty in our minds that we do not want to acknowledge. But since the world and our body depend on the lie, we will remain attracted to the deceit so long as we remain invested in our self and the world.

We need the deceit to continue to maintain our separate identity, but we do not want to accept responsibility for the lie. And so we want to see the deceit outside in anyone but ourselves. We are all secretly, and sometimes not so secretly, looking to catch someone else in a lie, for our ego is invested in proving that others are the deceitful ones so that we may assert our innocence. And since all of us, when we are identified with the ego, are doing the same thing, our suspicions of our brothers can seem quite well-founded.

Now to disentangle ourselves from this web of deception and deceit can seem almost impossible. And on our own, it is impossible, for all we can do is swap the guilt of the lie back and forth, either seeing it in others or embracing the guilt as our own. We need help from a source that lies outside the lie, that can help us look at it and recognize that although it is false, it is not evil, and in reality it has had no effects, so there truly is no guilt.

The only real relief from the ugly projections of the ego will come from looking at them honestly and recognizing first of all their purpose and then the flimsiness, and ultimately the unreality, of their source. But this will be a process that is not likely to happen all at once for most of us. First steps will be taken as we come to realize that not just some of us but all of us are children of the lie. And that, just as we may try to help a young child understand, Jesus wants to reassure us that a lie does not make us bad, but it still can be hurtful to ourselves and others. For so long as we continue to cling to the lie, we are clinging to our pain. But when we are willing to release the lie and see ourselves differently, we will see all our brothers and sisters differently as well.

For further examination of our attraction to deceit, you may find the recent CD release, “The Othello Syndrome: Innocence Lost...Innocence Regained,” helpful.