Weekly Questions and Answers, 05/21/2003

This week's questions:

Q #157: How do we know God is unaware of our existence in the world.
              and Where does the Course mention "the decision maker"?
Q #158: Why does the Course say "you cannot lose anything
              unless you do not value it"?
Q #159: Is it sufficient just to be aware of, and concerned about, our specialness?
Q #160: Is it important that my dreams are still dominated by the ego?
Q #161: Why the difference between the Course message and the Catholic message?
Q #162: In my mind I feel I attack people so why does the Course
              say the "mind cannot attack"?

Go to a specific date or question no.

Q #157: In his teaching, Ken Wapnick says that God doesn't even know that we exist; that we are here in the world. Where in A Course in Miracles does it say that, or what passage implies that? I don't have a problem with the statement, because I understand that in the Course "existence" refers to our belief in the ego, the belief that we are bodies, and "being" refers to our state of oneness in Heaven. So it would make sense that God does not "know" us in our ego state. But can you clarify where it comes from? Also, where in the Course does Jesus make reference to the "decision maker" that Ken refers to so often?

A: The statement that God does not even know that we exist, as you suggest, follows from an understanding of the Course’s metaphysics. The self we believe we are, here in the world, is an illusory projection of an illusory thought in an illusory split mind. It has no reality. God, Who is total Oneness, can not know anything that is not a part of that total Oneness, and His knowing cannot involve a separate observer and an observed. If God knew of our existence in this world, the separation would be real. But the Course asserts over and over again that the separation never happened in reality -- the principle of the Atonement (e.g., T.2.I.4:4; T.2.VII.6:7,8,9).

Although the specific wording you ask about is never used in the Course, there are a number of passages that clearly imply that God does not know of our existence here. Among them are the following: "God and His creations remain in surety, and therefore know that no miscreations exist" (T.3.IV.7:1). "God did create spirit in His Own Thought and of a quality like to His Own. There is nothing else" (T.3.V.7:3,4). A little later, speaking of our self and God’s Self, Jesus observes, "They are fundamentally irreconcilable, because spirit cannot perceive and the ego cannot know. They are therefore not in communication and can never be in communication" (T.4.I.2:11,12). And in the next section: "The ego’s ceaseless attempts to gain the spirit’s acknowledgement and thus establish its own existence are useless. Spirit in its knowledge is unaware of the ego. It does not attack it; it merely cannot conceive of it at all" (T.4.II.8:5,6,7).

The word decision maker as Ken has used it in his teaching is not found in the Course itself. The Course’s one use of that phrase speaks of our resistance to recognizing the power of decision that resides in the mind, preferring instead to see "the body... [as] the decision maker" (M.5.II.1:7). Although that one instance is not describing the mind, the point being made is that the mind and not the body is the decision maker. The word decision maker thus is a convenient shorthand for referring to the part of the split mind that the Course is addressing throughout. It clearly can not be addressing the self that we believe we are, for the Course repeatedly reminds us that that self is not real and that the brain that we believe makes choices has no power at all. For example, in the workbook Jesus, with some amusement, observes, "You also believe the body's brain can think. If you but understood the nature of thought, you could but laugh at this insane idea." W.pI.92.2:1,2).

That the focus should be on the decision making power of our mind is most appropriate when we consider that Jesus emphasizes that "the power of decision is your one remaining freedom as a prisoner of this world. You can decide to see it [the world] right" (T.12.VII.9:1,2). And later, "Each day, each hour and minute, even each second, you are deciding between the crucifixion and the resurrection; between the ego and the Holy Spirit. The ego is the choice for guilt; the Holy Spirit the choice for guiltlessness. The power of decision is all that is yours" (T.14.III.4:1,2,3; italics added). The centrality of the concept of choice or decision to Course teachings is evident when we consider that variations on the words choose and decide are used well over a thousand times across the three volumes of the Course. And the concluding section of the text, "Choose Once Again" (T.31.VIII), is a beautiful paean to choice.

Q #158: I have difficulty understanding this section in the text of A Course in Miracles on attack: "Attack could never promote attack unless you perceived it as a means of depriving you of something you want. Yet you cannot lose anything unless you do not value it, and therefore do not want it. This makes you feel deprived of it, and by projecting your own rejection you then believe that others are taking it from you." (T.7.VII.8:1,2,3) Please can you help?

A: The fourth law of chaos says that "you have what you have taken" (T.23.II.9:3); and we know that projection is one of the ego’s "laws." Therefore, we are always suspicious of others, believing that they are plotting to take something from us. And ultimately what we believe they are out to steal from us is the peace of God. This, again, is a projection of the treachery of which we accuse ourselves. The point of the teaching is that the peace of God within us can never be taken from us unless we allow that to happen, which could be only because we do not really value it. And the reason we don’t value it is that part of us knows that if we totally identify with it, our self as we know it would disappear and be replaced by our true Self which is beyond all individualized existence in this world. The defense against this is to blame others for depriving us of our inner peace, rather than take responsibility for throwing it away ourselves.

Q #159: In my job my role is to be a helper, I notice that I reinforce my specialness by having a sense of importance and superiority toward those I help, while also hating them. I am also invested in having the things I do make things better. When there has been joining with another, I take credit for it. It seems that I am using all this to reinforce my individual identity in the world, and my guilt, so as not to move beyond specialness. Is it enough to be honest about my arrogance, trusting that Jesus can work with the honesty if I am willing?

A: Looking honestly at the specialness and hatred that we bring to all our relationships is certainly the first step in the forgiveness process. A Course in Miracles is asking us to do just that, so that we recognize the ego dynamics in operation. You also recognize the motives for the special love or special hate, which is very important. The same motive you mention is always in operation, keeping our specialness intact, so as to reinforce our belief in our separate identity, and in the world. The result, as you mention, is guilt, and that is our real attraction. As long as we feel guilty, we can keep the peace of God at a safe distance, stay in conflict, and keep our individuality. This is clearly the situation you describe. Looking at it honestly certainly moves you out of the denial that is so basic to the ego’s sick scheme. Healing can begin when the sickness is recognized. The next step is to make the connection between this choice in the mind to reinforce specialness and thereby reinforce and cling to guilt, and all the pain experienced in the dream of separation. It is very important to make this cause and effect relationship. In it lies the key to undoing our belief in the ego thought system and its painful consequences. If the specialness and its ensuing guilt is a choice in the mind, this must mean that there is another choice that can be made, that will have a different result. Therein lies the logic of the thought system of the Holy Spirit as presented in the Course. Once this association is made, the next step is to ask Jesus for help in making another choice. Looking is not the end of our part in the healing relationship with Jesus. We must go a bit beyond that to asking for, and truly desiring, "another way." This is not always as easy as it seems. We are often quite willing to let Jesus replace our pain with his peace, until we realize this means letting go of a lot more than we bargained for. It requires a willingness to let go of the investment in our specialness and the purpose it serves, which ultimately leads to the undoing of the entire thought system of the ego. Since the ego finds this threatening, it has an endless supply of inviting forms to keep us engaged. Our part is to remain vigilant for all its tricks and recognize them as all the same, so they can be brought to the Holy Spirit to be transformed. Remember, the Course does not ask that we be without our special relationships: "I have said repeatedly that the Holy Spirit would not deprive you of your special relationships, but would transform them"(T.17.IV.2:3). This is where the "willingness" you speak of comes in. It does not have to be perfect willingness; "Your willingness need not be perfect, because His is. If you will merely offer Him a little place, He will lighten it so much that you will gladly let it be increased" (T.11.II.6:6,7). The little willingness suffices, as long as we are not actively holding out by hiding our "secret sins and hidden hates," denying them, justifying them, or calling them by other, less gruesome names. If you remain faithful to the process you have begun, you will surely find it will have significant results in your learning and healing.

Q #160: Is there a difference between waking and sleeping dreams as an indication of which thought system and teacher you've really chosen, the ego or the Holy Spirit? During my waking dream, I study the principles of A Course in Miracles for hours each day, and try to be in my right mind, willing not to judge myself and others or judge that the world and the body still seem real to me. And so I very often find peace, or the willingness to find peace. But once I go into the sleeping dream, it seems like the ego's home turf. None of the mind training I’ve been studying and practicing shows up. The dreams are nonsensical, crazy, scary, and have no reflection of any holiness in them. So are my night time dreams really defining what beliefs are in my mind? Do these dreams negate and override my waking dreams? When my mind is healed will the content of both my day and night dreams be the same? Also, would listening to Course-related audio tapes prior to falling asleep and while asleep allow ideas to penetrate into your mind more easily than while awake?

A: If you can remember that the ego’s purpose is always to make differences seem real, you can begin to recognize that your question of differences between your waking and sleeping states is merely another arena in which the ego is attempting to confuse you so it can maintain a grip on your mind. And all the better if it can lead you to question the value and validity of what shifts you are already experiencing in some aspects of your life.

It will be more helpful, rather than believing that there is a qualitative difference between waking and sleeping dreams, to recognize that in some circumstances you remember that you have a choice and in others you forget that you do. For some people, this may be reflected in differences in the intensity of their reactions and their willingness to forgive between their relationships at home and those at work. For others it may be differences in how strong their ego reaction is with one parent in comparison to the other. And in your case, it is a difference between remembering the Holy Spirit during your waking state and your sleeping state. Regardless of the specific circumstances in which the ego seems to have the upper hand, the solution will always be the same. As soon as you recognize that the ego has taken over and that you also have a choice of teachers - - no matter whether it’s in the middle of an ego reaction or sometime later -- all you need do is ask for the help that the Holy Spirit offers. And so in your case, whether you remember while you are still asleep or only after you wake up does not matter. All you need to do is recognize that it’s your ego and you can now make a different choice.

Over time, we learn to generalize our lessons of forgiveness to more and more relationships and situations and states of mind. But we need not concern ourselves with why there are differences along the way. Our only concern is to recognize where we are still holding back and then, when we are ready and willing, apply the principles of forgiveness to those thoughts. Clearly, with your sleeping dreams, after you awaken, you know you are only talking about thoughts in your mind and not events that seem to have any reality and long term consequences. The fact that they can still seem to have power simply demonstrates the desire for the ego to be real. So generalizing after you are awake should become easier and easier, and in time you may find yourself beginning to remember the choice you have during your sleeping dreams as well. But whether you remember during the dream itself is not a critical concern, except in your ego’s view. For further discussion of waking vs. sleeping dreams, you may wish to read Question #41.

As to whether there is more of a willingness to learn Course principles when falling asleep or during sleep, there can be no definitive answer, individual differences being what they are. Some students in fact find listening to tapes a great way to help themselves fall asleep!

Q #161: Why is the message of Jesus in A Course in Miracles so different than that of His mother the Virgin Mary in all her apparitions throughout the last century? In her message God is aware of what goes on in this world, and does punish the unfaithful.

A: The people who have experienced apparitions of Mary have heard a message that is compatible with their religious beliefs. In many cases, they are fervent believers with traditional theological views. The two points you mention, that God is aware of happenings in this world, and punishes the unfaithful, are beliefs held by many Christians. For believers, a religious experience such as an apparition by a spiritual being like Mary, deepens and validates their faith. Love would not challenge their belief system, by introducing unfamiliar concepts from a different path, such as A Course in Miracles. As you may know, the Course is a spiritual teaching that is not based on the Bible or traditional Christian or Catholic theology. Although it uses Christian terms, their meaning in the Course is different. However, both Mary’s message, and the message of A Course in Miracles can be experienced as loving and helpful teachings for their respective followers. They may be similar in content though not at all similar in form. In form they are, as you say, very different. That is because they are two very different spiritual thought systems with different theological beliefs. It is important to remember that thoughts and beliefs are not truth; they are expressions or reflections of it. Jesus and Mary represent a truth that is beyond any of the forms that may give it expression. Truth uses different forms, at different times, for different people. This does not contradict the content of the message, the purpose of which is to lead us back to our home in God. As we are told in the Course: "Helpers are given you in many forms, although upon the altar they are one. Beyond each one there is a Thought of God, and this will never change. But they have names which differ for a time, for time needs symbols, being itself unreal" (C.5.1:3,4,5).

Neither the theological views nor the specific beliefs is what is important. What matters is the love that is being expressed by a spiritual teacher, and the helpfulness of the teaching. If our concern is that God be sure to punish the unfaithful, we are missing the point ourselves. The important thing is that we be faithful to the beliefs taught by our spiritual path, with a fervent desire to return to God. If a person accepts the love that inspires their specific religious belief system and learns to truly live that love themselves, in the end it does not matter whether they began their journey out of fear of God’s punishment, or because they were seeking God’s peace. It is the experience that is important. The Course tells us: "A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary" (C.in.2:5). There are many paths, many faiths, many forms of expression, but one truth, one God.

Q #162: What does A Course in Miracles mean when it says the "mind cannot attack" (T.18.VI.3,4)? I seem to have attack thoughts directed at others, in fact hateful thoughts. If this is not my mind attacking, what is it?

A) The meaning of this statement, in the context of the entire section, "Beyond the Body," is that attack is possible only in fantasy or in a delusional state. God cannot be attacked in reality. The separation would have to be a fact in order for the mind to be able to attack. That is why there is so much emphasis in the Course on bringing the illusion to the truth, and bringing the darkness to the light. We bring our attack thoughts to Jesus or the Holy Spirit in our minds, where we can learn that they come from an illusory thought system and have no effect outside this illusory thought system.