Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 7/9/2008
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1375 Do Course students secretly fear a successful outcome?.
Q #1376 Is the ego trainable?
Q #1377 Do animals have forgiveness lessons to learn?
Q #1378 If one despises the body, is that evidence of a split mind?
Q #1379 I feel I have grasped an important concept, but I am upset because I cannot apply it.
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Q #1375: We are going all the way. Is this why we Course students do so many crazy shenanigans? Because somewhere in our minds, we know this is it? I've heard Ken say that the fear level in Course students is high. Is that why?
A: Yes, ultimately our fear is of returning home to God because that means letting go of everything we made to replace our true Identity as Christ, eternally one with God. The sincere and honest practice of A Course in Miracles is a process that gradually exposes the series of lies on which our lives have been based, which means we begin to sense (with varying degrees of discomfort) that we are not who we think we are and our lives and all of our relationships are not what we think they are. Then we realize that no one did this to us -- we chose to deceive ourselves to get the separate and special identity that we wanted but could not have as part of God's perfect Oneness. In our determination to get and maintain this identity we became indifferent to the fact that it would always be at someone else's expense, starting with God Himself. A truly horrifying recognition.
The fear that we would some day get caught and then punished for this is hidden in our minds. And therefore when the once tightly sealed lid that kept this fear concealed begins to loosen, the fear starts to rise to the surface. It was always there, and identifying with individualized bodily existence was supposed to protect us from it, but when we choose to embark on the journey with Jesus, he gently leads us within to uncover the deception that has resulted in the colossal mess we call our world and our lives. Fear is inevitable as we go within, because, once again, the purpose of choosing the body and the world as our home was to prevent us from ever getting in touch with the terror we believed defined our home in the mind.
The value of our relationship with Jesus is that he is not part of our insanity -- he symbolizes for us the sane part of our mind that we had split off -- and therefore he can help us retrace our misguided steps back to the point where we made the one mistake of believing we pulled off the impossible: separating from eternal Oneness. Our fear dissipates as we simply look at it with his vision becoming ours, which reveals its unreality. We sacrifice nothing; we merely let go of what never was.
Students' struggles with fear and their defenses against it are discussed in a series of Questions -- see, for example, #384, #533, #943, #963, and #986.
Q #1376: Is the ego trainable?
A: Question #796 discusses the nature of the ego, emphasizing that it is not an entity but simply the name given to the thought of separation taken seriously. In this context, the answer to your question is No, because the ego is not a thing that has capabilities. There is a part of our mind, however, that is always choosing whether to continue in a state of separation or to accept the Atonement and return to its natural state of Oneness with God. And therefore A Course in Miracles can be described as a mind-training program aimed at helping us recognize that we, as minds, are always making a choice between these two alternatives, and that there are steps we can take that will help us make the sane choice more and more consistently. See, for example, T.1.VII.4:1; W.in.1,4; W.pI.8.3; C.1.7.
This training, importantly, really consists of undoing the training program we followed once we took the tiny, mad idea of separation seriously and then moved full-speed ahead in our determination never to allow anything to interfere with our pursuit of individuality and specialness. Thus, Jesus speaks of the learning that teachers of God bring to this world as “unlearning” (M.4.X.3:7).
Finally, there are rare times in the Course where Jesus uses the term ego, when it is clear from the context that he is referring to the decision-making aspect of the mind -- for example, T.4.I.2:13.
Q #1377: Do animals have forgiveness lessons to learn like us?
A: Only the mind of God's Son has lessons to learn -- humans, dogs, elephants, etc., neither learn lessons nor accept miracles. That is one of the important points made in Question #340, which discusses animals as part of the Sonship. It is tough for us to grasp, but a major objective of the mind-training program of A Course in Miracles is to teach us to perceive correctly -- to perceive everything having form as a projection of the mind, realizing that the purpose of our relating to form as reality is to keep us from returning to our minds and becoming aware of the choices we make as minds that are behind all of our experiences. So the answer to your question is Yes, if you perceive animals as part of the Sonship, part of the same mind of which you are a part and that believes it is separate from God.
Q #1378: Is it possible to hate the body and all the ego ugliness that it stands for while still loving the mind/spirit for all its healed wholeness? Or is this just more evidence of a very split mind?
A: To hate the body is to confuse effect (the body) with cause (the mind), and thus to remain mindless, which is the surest way of maintaining a split mind. Jesus makes it clear that we only think we hate the body: “You have displaced your guilt to your body from your mind. Yet a body cannot be guilty, for it can do nothing of itself. You who think you hate your body deceive yourself. You hate your mind, for guilt has entered into it, and it would remain separate from your brother's, which it cannot do” (T.18.VI.2:5,6,7,8) .
Jesus goes on to describe the insanity of hating the body, since it can only ever serve whatever purpose our mind assigns to it: “It is insane to use the body as the scapegoat for guilt, directing its attack and blaming it for what you wished it to do.‘ t...Fantasies have made your body your 'enemy'; weak, vulnerable and treacherous, worthy of the hate that you invest in it. How has this served you? You have identified with this thing you hate, the instrument of vengeance and the perceived source of your guilt. You have done this to a thing that has no meaning , proclaiming it to be the dwelling place of God's Son, and turning it against him” (T.18.VI.6:1,5,6,7,8; italics added ) .
And later he explains in great detail, “You send it [the body] forth to seek for separation and be separate. And then you hate it, not for what it is, but for the uses you have made of it. You shrink from what it sees and what it hears, and hate its frailty and littleness. And you despise its acts, but not your own. It sees and acts for you. It hears your voice. And it is frail and little by your wish. It seems to punish you, and thus deserve your hatred for the limitations that it brings to you. Yet you have made of it a symbol for the limitations that you want your mind to have and see and keep. The body represents the gap between the little bit of mind you call your own and all the rest of what is really yours. You hate it, yet you think it is your self, and that, without it, would your self be lost” (T.28.VI.3:2, 3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10; 4:1,2).
The body, while made to convince us that we are separate, can be seen as simply neutral (W.pII.294). “Its neutrality protects it [the body] while it has a use. And afterwards, without a purpose, it is laid aside. It is not sick nor old nor hurt. It is but functionless, unneeded and cast off.... What is not created cannot be sinful nor sinless; neither good nor bad” (W.pII.294.1:6,7,8,9; 2:2) .
But for the body to be seen as neutral, we must let go of our own ego purpose for it. In the end, it makes no difference whether we hate or love the body, for either feeling simply keeps the ego illusion alive and real in our mind. “Some hate the body, and try to hurt and humiliate it. Others love the body, and try to glorify and exalt it. But while the body stands at the center of your concept of yourself, you are attacking God's plan for salvation, and holding your grievances against Him and His creation, that you may not hear the Voice of truth and welcome It as Friend” (W.pI.72.7:2,3,4).
For either to hate or to love the body is to react to nothing and insist that it is something, thereby denying God's perfect Oneness: “The body that is asked to be a god will be attacked, because its nothingness has not been recognized. And so it seems to be a thing with power in itself. As something, it can be perceived and thought to feel and act, and hold you in its grasp as prisoner to itself. And it can fail to be what you demanded that it be. And you will hate it for its littleness, unmindful that the failure does not lie in that it is not more than it should be, but only in your failure to perceive that it is nothing. Yet its nothingness is your salvation, from which you would flee. As 'something' is the body asked to be God's enemy, replacing what He is with littleness and limit and despair. It is His loss you celebrate when you behold the body as a thing you love, or look upon it as a thing you hate. For if He be the sum of everything, then what is not in Him does not exist, and His completion is its nothingness” (T.29.II.9,10:1,2,3,4) .
We are not the ones who give the body its new purpose. We merely accept that it can serve a purpose different from the one we have given it, by releasing it from the ego's judgments through which we have bound it. Jesus assures us, “Be not disturbed at all to think how He can change the role of means and end so easily in what God loves, and would have free forever. But be you rather grateful that you can be the means to serve His end. This is the only service that leads to freedom. To serve this end the body must be perceived as sinless, because the goal is sinlessness. The lack of contradiction makes the soft transition from means to end as easy as is the shift from hate to gratitude before forgiving eyes. You will be sanctified by your brother, using your body only to serve the sinless. And it will be impossible for you to hate what serves whom you would heal” (T.22.VI.3) .
So long as we hate the body and what the ego has made it to represent, we can not truly love mind/spirit for its healed wholeness. For the healed mind can only look on thoughts of sin and their seeming effects, including the body, with gentle laughter at the silliness of it all. With this shift, “the body can become a sign of life, a promise of redemption, and a breath of immortality to those grown sick of breathing in the fetid scent of death. Let it have healing as its purpose. Then will it send forth the message it received, and by its health and loveliness proclaim the truth and value that it represents. Let it receive the power to represent an endless life, forever unattacked....The simple way to let this be achieved is merely this; to let the body have no purpose from the past, when you were sure you knew its purpose was to foster guilt. For this insists your crippled picture is a lasting sign of what it represents. This leaves no space in which a different view, another purpose, can be given it. You do not know its purpose. You but gave illusions of a purpose to a thing you made to hide your function from yourself. This thing without a purpose cannot hide the function that the Holy Spirit gave. Let, then, its purpose and your function both be reconciled at last and seen as one” (T.27.I.10:3,4,5,6; 11) .
Q #1379: The other day I finally understood a crucial concept: that my behavior is directed by my perceptions and not by the events in the world around me. Though this is said hundreds of times in many ways in A Course in Miracles , it has taken nine years for it to click for me. Now I feel stuck because I don't know what to do! If my perceptions drive my behavior, how do I change my perceptions? And do I even need/want to? Could this be the meaning of "I need do nothing"? I feel thrilled that I understand this crucial concept, and yet depressed because I don't know what to make of it or how to apply this learning to my daily life!
A: Take heart! This is exactly why Jesus gave us the workbook. The Introduction nicely summarizes its purpose: “The workbook is divided into two main sections, the first dealing with the undoing of the way you see now, and the second with the acquisition of true perception” (W.in.3:1). Thus, by practicing the lessons in Part I of the workbook and then generalizing them, we undo our commitment to the ego's way of perceiving, which is a way of saying that we stop interfering with the natural flow of love in our minds. The training gradually helps us experience ourselves as decision-making minds that are always choosing to perceive either the ego's thought system or the Holy Spirit's. We learn to recognize all the ways in which we are perceiving separation, for example, and then to acknowledge that we are choosing to perceive that way, because we want to perceive that way. That is the point we want to reach experientially, because then we are in a position to ask ourselves whether we want to continue perceiving that way or to choose the other available option in our minds, which is the Holy Spirit's perception that would have us see each other as all sharing the same interests. If we don't know we have a mind and the power to choose what we will experience (content, not form), then we will continue to relate to ourselves and others primarily as victims of happenings not under our control. Jesus' training, thus, is aimed at helping us shift from a state of mindlessness to mindfulness. So, basically, we do not have to change our perceptions; we just have to look at what we are choosing, ask ourselves if we want to continue that way, and, if not, say “no” to the ego. Right-minded perception will automatically take its place -- it was always there; we were just rejecting it and substituting our own (the ego's) perception.
Judging yourself because it took so long for this to click is silly -- and clearly of the ego. You are assuming that nine years is a long time, but according to whose standard of progress? You are not aware of the entirety of your Atonement path (which is true of all of us), so how would you know what it means? Be cautious about using criteria rooted in the world of time and space to assess your spiritual process. You are learning that you are not defined by the world and the body, and that they were made up to block your perception of the truth, so why would you rely on them to tell you about something totally beyond them? Be grateful, instead, that your fear lessened enough to part this veil. Move on now with greater trust in the process itself. As Jesus instructs us, “All that is asked of you is to make room for truth. You are not asked to make or do what lies beyond your understanding. All you are asked to do is let it in; only to stop your interference with what will happen of itself; simply to recognize again the presence of what you thought you gave away” (T.21.II.7:6,7,8).