Weekly Questions and Answers, 05/14/2003

This week's questions:

Q #151: Does divine Mind create the world of form?
Q #152: Dealing with fear about becoming one with God?
Q #153: More about reincarnation.
Q #154: Conflicts between Catholicism and the Course.
Q #155: Why do I continue to experience fear and panic attacks?.
Q #156: Whose voice authored the Course?.

Look up a specific question by date or question no.

Q #151: This is in reply to the answer for Question #70 concerning beauty and form. If there is only Divine Mind of God, shared with all of creation; then how does the responder explain the limitation of Divine Mind within the use of man in the co-creation of his world of form? I believe that each of us uses this Divine Mind though its potency or efficacy is not as great if left untainted by our ego insane applications. A Course in Miracles is a work which cannot be strictly taken in singular quotes; as it is a conversation of the Lord attempting to raise the level of the mind (now dualistic) into a singular higher divine aspect with the assistance of the Holy Spirit so the minds fullest potential can be realized while it still exists on this plane. God, knowing that it was unreal and nonthreatening to His Kingdom, allowed His Sons the lessons of miscreation so that wisdom and knowledge could achieve more prudent activities within their growth and return home.

A. The Course makes it clear throughout that anything of form could not come from God, and therefore must be illusory. God creates only like Himself, which is not something we can understand in our separated state. All of the references in the Course to co-creation pertain to Heaven. This is also true of the term creations.

There is no life outside Heaven. Where God created life, there life must be. In any state apart from Heaven life is illusion. At best it seems like life; at worst, like death.…Life not in Heaven is impossible, and what is not in Heaven is not anywhere. Outside of Heaven, only the conflict of illusion stands; senseless, impossible and beyond all reason, and yet perceived as an eternal barrier to Heaven. Illusions are but forms. Their content is never true (T.23.II.19).

Jesus’ purpose in the Course is help us get in touch with the part of our minds that is deliberately choosing to reject and deny our true Identity, replace It with a false identity, and then project the responsibility for this onto others in our lives whom we perceive as victimizing us. This has nothing to do with the Divine Mind, Who knows nothing of this journey into madness.

You need not agree with what the Course teaches about the Divine Mind, a term that actually never appears in the Course. Its purpose is to lead us back home to God, and if you resonate more with the way another system presents this journey, then that is the path you should follow. We are all children of one Father.

Q #152-a: In a few places in the text and in the lessons, Jesus says that we will "dissolve into God" at the end of time. To be straight up, I don't like the idea of dissolving into God. I know that this is my ego speaking for me, and I accept that we are just dreaming this whole thing, that I have already dissolved into God, and I must not have gone away, because I'm still here, so to speak. Yet in my heart of hearts, I'm really afraid of loosing everything when I stop dreaming. This is probably the reason I have not stopped the dream. I understand that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are gently awakening me through Atonement and this feels right. Yet, "dissolving into God" feels, sounds, like going into nothingness. Can you help me with my fear?

#152-b: According to A Course in Miracles, does the world and all that I love in it disappear when I awaken from the dream? I ask because I don't see life only as the source of sin, guilt, and fear. I would not want to lose the memories of loved ones and the moments of beauty, courage, creativity, etc., that I've known in my existence, illusory as it might be.

A: (a) Most people who practice the Course feel the way you do. They are afraid that "disappearing into the Heart of God" means oblivion and nothingness. Feeling this way is quite normal; and you don’t want to try to talk yourself out of it. That being said, though, it is obvious that it could only be the ego voicing its own fear of extinction in the presence of love, however. Therefore, when we identify with the ego -- which we do whenever we value our individual existence -- we definitely will fear our return to the Oneness of Heaven. But Jesus is aware of our dilemma -- though it is a false dilemma -- and so he reassures us in many, many places in the Course that we will awaken from this nightmare dream only when we are ready to. It is a process that is mindful of our fear and moves in accord with our readiness. As you have recognized, his is a gentle, comforting approach: "Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality" (T.16.VI.8:1; see also T.27.VIII.13).

There is an interim stage before we awaken in which we continue our lives here, but with less guilt, less anxiety, less anger, etc. We become more and more comfortable with a different way of being here, as we learn that we feel better when we forgive than when we are boiling inside with hatred and grievances and the pain of competing interests and goals. We gradually let go of our identification with the values the ego has held out to us and identify instead with the values of forgiveness that Jesus holds out to us. In other words, it is not that we lose our self and then just disappear; but rather, we shift in what we choose to identify with, and then that is what we become.

This process could be likened to a journey with many planned stops, but no exact timetable. You stop at various places along the way and get used to the new climate and vista. And as you continue the journey, you get to know your tour guide better and become more at ease with him. He never forces you to leave a place you don’t really want to leave, and stays there with you until you are ready to move on. He has no timetable that he makes you adhere to. When he tells you that the next stop will be even better, you more than likely would choose to continue the journey because everything he has shown you so far has been rather nice. Your trust in your guide grows, even though sometimes you get annoyed because he rouses you out of bed too early in the morning; but then you realize he did it only because he couldn’t wait to get on the road and show you the next beautiful place. The ride is often bumpy, but you forget about that once you are comfortably settled in at your next stop. You even begin to think that your guide actually knows you well and that he knows exactly what will you make you happy.

That is the way Jesus leads us. He knows that we will not lose anything and that we will be happier than we ever thought possible when we complete the journey with him; but he also sees how frightened we are of plunging into what we think is the unknown and our certain oblivion. So he gently takes us by the hand and patiently lets us go at our own pace, assuring us again and again that we will lose nothing and regain everything. Until that is our own perception, we can stay wherever we are, and know that Jesus is loving us at every instant. We cannot experience the fullness of that love, though, because we are still resisting it out of fear. But we will experience as much of his love as we let in. Time is illusory, so how long this takes is irrelevant. Jesus’ love is not conditional on time or place.

(b) When we awaken from our nocturnal dreams, we usually forget what we dreamt about, because we know "it was just a dream." The same thing will be true when we awaken from the dream of our lives as individuals apart from God and Heaven. Preceding this awakening, of course, will be a period in which we experience ourselves as the dreamer of the dream, and we will recognize that all bodily existence, including our own, amounts to nothing but figures in the dream. We will know that we are not our bodies, nor are our loved ones their bodies, and that we are all joined now on another level that reflects our true Identity. Our attraction then will be to the radiant beauty of our sinlessness as God’s Son. The love in which we are all joined and which transcends anything that could be experienced on a bodily level would totally fill our minds. Nothing else would be in our awareness, for we would have gladly let go of whatever had blocked love’s presence from our awareness.

Q #153: In "To Be Or Not To Be," Ken stated that we all attempt to cheat death in various ways, only to preserve our individuality. Within the illusion doesn't reincarnation do the same thing? We "live," we "die," only to "live" again, just to keep the ego alive and well. At some point we must choose the right-minded tape....Could you please comment on this.

A. Yes, reincarnation preserves our individuality, as well as the illusion of time. However, the purpose of multiple reincarnations -- as traditionally defined in the different systems -- is to have as many opportunities as are needed to complete one’s learning, so that the cycle of birth and death may be ended permanently. In A Course in Miracles, as you probably know, Jesus states that "in the ultimate sense, reincarnation is impossible. There is no past or future, and the idea of birth into a body has no meaning either once or many times. Reincarnation cannot, then, be true in any real sense. Our only question should be, ‘Is the concept helpful?’" (M.24.1:1,2,3,4). And in the discussion that follows, he concludes that any belief that leads to progress in accepting the Atonement for ourselves should be honored (M.24.6). Thus it comes down to form and content.

Q #154: After studying A Course in Miracles for 4 years, I am currently volunteering for a Catholic organization in the Philippines, living in a small religious community and working in the slums of Manila. I was conscious of the differences between the teachings of the Course and Christian Catholicism before going to Manila, from reading Ken Wapnick’s A Course in Miracles and Christianity: A Dialogue, and Forgiveness & Jesus. However my desire to join this Christian organization was strong and I thought that it would not prevent me from studying the Course and applying its principles on my own. However, I find that I am getting more and more disturbed by joining the prayers or readings when it is proclaimed that Jesus suffered and died for our sins, etc. Even though the teachings are so different, I don't want to use the Course to separate myself from the Christians, and I am asking you how is it possible to be faithful to the Course and to my community and avoid compromise?

A: You have placed yourself in a very challenging situation, but one in which, if you are willing, there is much you can learn on your path of forgiveness. If you can remember that the Course is only concerned about content or purpose and not form or ritual, you can use your circumstances to deepen your understanding and practice of the Course’s principles. It is only your ego that would want to make the differences in beliefs and practices a matter of judgment in order to separate yourself from the rest of your community. You are already aware of this temptation in yourself, and that is very helpful, for that is an obstacle within your mind to the experience of the love that is already present within you. You can respect your friends’ choices for their spiritual path without having to accept and embrace those beliefs for yourself. At the same time, since the Course’s focus is only on your own inner thoughts and beliefs, there is no reason that you can’t ask for the Holy Spirit’s help in using all those rituals and forms in which you are expected to participate simply as opportunities to join with them in the form in which they can accept you. For once you are able to release the judgments about the differences in beliefs that you are holding on to, all that will remain is the love within your mind that you wish to share with them. You do not describe any external conflict with the others, but only an internal conflict, and there really is no need to make them aware of your differences in belief, unless you were to feel strongly guided to do so. For your goal is not to change them but simply to accept them as they are (T.9.III.6:4).

Q #155: I have been a student of A Course in Miracles for a little under a year. I would appreciate clarification on something that I just read in the text. Jesus speaks of the "immediacy of salvation," and that the reason someone will not experience this immediacy is because there is still a small desire to be separate, and to hold onto guilt and unforgiveness. I have suffered with very disabling panic attacks for ten years, and I can completely accept and acknowledge that I have created this condition, and that my desire to be separate, guilty, and unforgiving are the erroneous thoughts that I have held onto. It is my deepest yearning to heal and release these misperceptions, because the pain of suffering this anxiety is completely unbearable and unacceptable to me. As great as my acknowledgment of my responsibility and my willingness to have my misperceptions corrected, I continue to suffer. Where is my error? Why has my deep acknowledgment and willingness not been enough to create the miracle, the immediacy of salvation promised by Jesus?

A: In the section you refer to, Jesus speaks of the space that we would maintain between ourselves and our brother as little, but because the space is small does not mean we should minimize the tremendous investment we have in keeping that distance intact. Our whole identification with this self we believe we are is maintained by keeping the thought of separation real in our mind, along with its projection into the external world as space between our body and our brother’s. And so we have a tremendous fear of losing our self if we let go completely of all of our grievances and thoughts of attack now. Jesus comments on this fear: "Salvation would wipe out the space you see between you still, and let you instantly become as one. And it is here you fear the loss would lie" (T.26.VIII.3:4,5).

So you want to learn to respect the depth of your fear, reflected in your panic attacks. The goal is to join with Jesus in looking at your fear, asking for his help in understanding its deeper source and purpose, buried in the part of the mind that wants to maintain its individual, separate existence. Patience with yourself, acknowledging that this is a process that will almost certainly take time, is also important. Resisting the feelings only pushes them down and maintains their intensity.

Salvation is immediate in the sense that in any instant, if you are willing to let go of your investment in sin and guilt and fear, even temporarily, the peace that is ever-present in your mind can be your experience -- until you make the choice for guilt again as a result of re-identifying with the ego and fear. With repeated practice, as you are ready and willing, you will come to realize that that is no sin, but only a mistaken choice that will become increasingly conscious in your mind.

You do not say whether you have sought any kind of professional help for your panic attacks. Looking for outside agents (e.g., doctors, therapists, medication) to assist you in dealing with your symptoms can in fact be one expression of your willingness to no longer see yourself as separate and alone. It is only kind to be willing to open yourself to the help you need, in whatever form you are presently willing to accept (T.2.IV.4,5; M.5.II.2,3).

For other questions that are relevant in various ways to the question your raise, you may wish to read Questions #128, 142 and 148.

Q #156: I am very new to A Course in Miracles, and have read the introduction several times in hopes of having this question answered: Who is authoring the book? Is it the Voice, the Holy Spirit, Christ? Helen states that it is the "Voice" who dictates the text. How is the Voice different from God if it's God's Voice? I'm just having problems when the text switches to first person. Mentally, whom do I address? As I'm reading and feeling inspired, my comprehension or absorption of what is being read gets detoured by my mind asking, very loudly, "Who is this?"

A: Helen Schucman identified the "voice" she heard as that of Jesus. There was no doubt in her mind about this as she scribed the Course. (See Question #110) Therefore, the first person statements in the Course do refer to Jesus. The voice is not the voice of God, however. Neither does Jesus state that he is speaking for God. According to the Course, God does not speak words to us in the dream, nor does He "hear our prayers." The "voice" is different from God because it is part of the dream. It is a reflection of truth, but it is not truth. As so clearly stated in the in the workbook "God is" (W.169.5:4), and in His Being knows only our truth, which is that we are His one Son, who never left Heaven.

The answer to your question lies in understanding the Course’s use of symbols. These symbols include "persons" such as Jesus, the Holy Spirit, as well as images, words, and the Course itself. All are symbols for that part of the mind of the Sonship that remembers God. They reflect the truth of who we are, and in somewhat different ways, they are the reminders of our truth, and the guides who will help us return to God. Specifically, the Course refers to the Holy Spirit as the "Voice for God," meaning -- the Voice that speaks for God, and as "God’s Voice." Clearly this is a metaphor, since God does not have a voice and, as noted earlier, does not speak to us in the dream. When the Course invites us to "ask" -- whether Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or God -- it is actually inviting us to turn to our own right mind for guidance. It uses symbols and metaphors, because we are so out of touch with the fact that we have a mind. In its wisdom, the Course has used all its symbols carefully and purposefully. It meets us on our level, using dualistic language for a teaching that reflects nondualism. It seems to imply that God is a person Who hears our prayers, answers us, even "weeps," yearning for our return. These are all metaphors used to help us understand that we are loved, not condemned for our seeming sin, as the ego would tell us. You may use whichever is most helpful for you.

It is helpful for us to use these images and symbols until we learn that we do indeed have a right mind, and can access it directly. By then we probably will have no need for any symbol and no need to "ask." We will have accepted the truth about ourselves as spirits, not bodies; innocent, not guilty. The right-minded loving response to any situation will flow through us. It is important, however, to be aware of any resistance, as apparently you have been in your study so far. Our goal in studying and practicing the Course is to learn that we do have a mind, that we do have a choice, that there is another way of looking at any situation in the dream, that our way is based on the belief that separation is real, and that the Holy Spirit and Jesus are here to teach us that there is no separation. Again, it does not matter to whom we address our asking, or what mental image we use. The important thing is that we ask, and not rely on our usual ego interpretation.