Weekly Questions and Answers, 06/03/2003

This week's questions:

Q #168: How do I deal with guilt over someone deceased ?
Q #169: How should I deal with my ambivalence toward work?
Q #170: Is sex an ego-drive, or can it be holy?
Q #171: Confusion about the original tiny mad idea.
Q #172: Should the Course help my life go in the direction I desire ?
Q #173: What is thought?   What is thinking?

Look up a specific question by date or question no.


Q #168: I have tremendous guilt over a relationship with a loved one who passed away recently. I feel I need his forgiveness. I know A Course in Miracles says that he has “gone” nowhere. But for all practical purposes, in this world that I perceive, I will never see him again. At times, the thought of this is unbearable. How do I deal with this? Also, his death brought up all kinds of guilt and self-hatred that doesn’t even seem to be related to him. Why is this?  

A: Our experience of the grieving process is indeed a complex one, whether or not one is a stu­dent of the Course -- perhaps especially if one is a student of the Course. The process brings on the feelings you describe, and more, because death is one of the ego’s most important defenses -- if not the most important defense. It inevitably brings up feelings, all of which are related to what we have projected onto our loved ones. A deep sense of loss is normal and it is very important to be gentle with yourself in the process of dealing with your loss. Denying your feelings, or using the principles of the Course to invalidate them, will not help, and may hinder your progress in accepting the loss of your loved one. At the same time, much of what the Course teaches is appli­cable to the situation you describe and can be very helpful. Since you are in the midst of experi­encing grief at this time it may be wise to review these considerations at a slow pace, coming to them when you feel you need to see beyond your sense of loss, setting them aside for the times when your normal feelings can rise.

  One of the most comforting aspects of the forgiveness that the Course teaches is that we never lose the opportunity to forgive. That is because what we perceive as an unforgiveness in a rela­tionship is actually a projection of some form of unforgiveness of ourselves, since “All attack is Self attack”(T.10.II.5:1). Therefore, it is never too late for the forgiveness process, and it does not matter that the person we seem to need forgiveness from is no longer with us. Whatever the specific circumstances in the relationship may have been, it is the judgment that some “sin” was committed against the other that needs to be viewed differently. The Course tells us that through our special relationships we seek to assuage the guilt and self-hatred we feel for having separated from God. These relationships are based on the projection of this guilt and self-hatred, no matter how this is camouflaged. What seems to be vicious hatred perpetrated against another in some form of attack, is only a projected version of our own self-hatred. That is all it ever is. This self- hatred was underlying the interaction in the relationship in the first place. The attacks, seemingly directed outward toward others, are attacks on ourselves. This explains why you would experi­ence the guilt and self-hatred directly, now that your loved one is no longer with you. For now they are being projected onto yourself. What the Course is teaches us is that an attack directed toward ourselves or toward another does not matter, since every part of the Sonship including our­selves remains inviolate regardless of our attacks. “The betrayal of the Son of God lies only in illusions, and all his “sins” are but his own imagining. His reality is forever sinless. He need not be forgiven but awakened. In his dreams he has betrayed himself, his brothers and his God. Yet what is done in dreams has not been really done” (T.17.I.1:1,2,3,4,5). The only thing remaining is to forgive yourself for thinking that you could have truly hurt your loved one, or that your feelings of self-hatred in any way diminish the truth about yourself. They have no effect. The mistake is to believe the ego’s interpretation -- you have done something sinful that is deserving of punishment, you should feel guilty about it, and your self-hatred is justified because of it. When the Course tells us “to forgive the Son of God for what he did not do” (T.17.III.1:5), it refers to ourselves, as well as to our brothers.

  Again, it is very normal to miss the person you love, and the Course is very clear that we should not deny our feelings. Even after death, the Holy Spirit can transform a special relationship into a holy relationship. We need only be willing to recognize the unholy self interest we acted out in the relationship, forgive ourselves for it, and allow the Holy Spirit to reinterpret the relationship in our minds. The relationship can thus be healed. It is this healing that will alleviate the sense of loss and grief. This may be easier to practice than to try to convince yourself that death does not exist, when in fact you are feeling intense loss. It is the thought of separation that causes pain in our relationships, not the actual physical presence or absence of another person. Forgiveness of yourself for what you did not do to your brother, and acceptance of both his and your sinlessness, brings the peace that will replace your grief and loss.


Q #169: In the past, I have had problems in gaining employment. I used to think life was too short to work, or money is not worth the time involved. I came to realize my excuses had to do with my inferiority complexes, shyness, inequality, etc., and I could not handle the expectations of an employer or social pressure within the workplace. Although I have made great advances with A Course in Miracles, and with forgiveness, I can’t seem to distinguish between ego or Holy Spirit with regard to employment. It seems that there is no point in working, and I could devote my time to forgiveness. Or maybe by working I could learn my Biggest lesson in forgiveness. Which is ego? Which is Holy Spirit?

 A: Discerning between the ego and the Holy Spirit can be a daunting task at times, and yet one of the most important, if not the most important, to master in your study of A Course in Miracles. Until such time comes as your certainty that all your thoughts and actions come from the Holy Spirit (the real world), the best one can do is do the best one can do, and then observe the “fruits of one’s labor,” or as the Course would call it, “The Test of Truth”: “You have one test, as sure as God, by which to recognize if what you learned is true. If you are wholly free of fear of any kind, and if all those who meet or even think of you share in your perfect peace, then you can be sure that you have learned God's lesson, and not your own” (T.14.XI.5:1,2).

  While you have experienced forgiveness in various areas of your life, it seems incomplete with regard to employment due in part to your seeming ambivalence toward it. Before you can become aware of what the Holy Spirit would have you do (or not do), you must be willing to hide nothing: “You will not be able to accept perfect communication as long as you would hide it from yourself. For what you would hide is hidden from you. In your practice, then, try only to be vigilant against deception, and seek not to protect the thoughts you would keep to your­self. Let the Holy Spirit's purity shine them away, and bring all your awareness to the readi­ness for purity He offers you.” (T.15.IV.9:6,7,8,9). In other words, examine all of the thoughts you hold in your mind regarding employment. Make a list of “good and bad,” “for and against” -- just let whatever is there come into your conscious awareness. Once all of the “chatter” about this topic has been voiced, then you are more able to hear the Voice which will guide you. You will find that your focus on the answer in form will recede as the content of being with or without guilt becomes more important. An exercise such as mentioned above will help you practice shifting your focus from the form to the content, from the effect to the cause. And remember too the important lesson Jesus teaches us about purpose: “In any situation in which you are uncertain, the first thing to consider, very simply, is “What do I want to come of this? What is it <for?”> The clarification of the goal belongs at the beginning, for it is this which will deter­mine the outcome. In the ego's procedure this is reversed. The situation becomes the deter­miner of the outcome, which can be anything. The reason for this disorganized approach is evident. The ego does not know what it wants to come of the situation. It is aware of what it does not want, but only that. It has no positive goal at all” (T.17.VI.2). But now you have a definite goal, and by making room within your mind to hear the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit, you are ensured of reaching that goal.


 Q #170: It seems to me that there are cloaked allusions to the sexual drive as made by the ego in A Course in Miracles. I may be completely wrong but I don't know where to turn to find validation for this idea, as well as many more questions I have about ego strategies and forms relating to Course material. Is it possible that the sex drive is an evolution of the desire to kill God and create the son of the ego? There is discussion in psychology circles about the inherent aggression in the act of sex, especially in rape and forms of physical abuse. Perhaps the most benign or “loving” act would be loving impregnation of a spouse in a holy relationship. Can you help me out with this?

A: Sex is just one of many manifestations in form of the ego’s obsession with meeting its own needs, with little or no concern for anyone else. But in the hierarchy of illusions we believe in, it is one of the more potent, as well as guilt-inducing. Yes, it all began with God and our desire to seize the power to create life from Him, and to be the author of our own reality (T.3.VI.5:8; 8). That conflict is then projected out into a world of form, including sex with all its complicated interpersonal ramifications. And then, in an ambivalent contradiction that only the ego is capable of, we attribute the power to “create new life” -- the so-called “miracle of birth” -- both to God and to ourselves.

Aggression is inherent in all acts inspired by the ego, more apparent in some expressions than in others, but always present in the underlying content. And it is not much of a stretch to see sexual connotations in some of the Course’s more graphic descriptions of ego activity. The fourth law of chaos, for example, describes how we believe we must seize the “priceless pearl” that our brother has stolen from us and hidden in his body, tearing it from his body as we lay claim to what is rightfully ours (T.23.II.11,12). Melanie Klein, a student of Freud’s, observed just such violent and destructive fantasies, with explicit sexual overtones, acted out in doll play by very young children in therapy with her.

Although sex was made for ego purposes, like everything of the ego, it is possible to give it another, holy purpose. But this is not as simple as it may seem, because the world does not under­stand what love is, often confusing and equating sex with love. Early in the text, Jesus speaks of our confusion of physical impulses with miracle impulses (T.1.VII.1:2,3). In the original dicta­tion, the reference was actually to sexual impulses (Absence from Felicity, p. 246), but the final edited text extended the context to all bodily impulses.

It is not the form of the act nor the specific nature of the relationship itself that determines whether sex is loving, but the content or purpose held in your mind. If you experience guilt in any form, the ego has joined you and has assured that the focus is only on the body. But when you recognize shared rather than separate interests, and your goal is not simply your own physical satisfaction, you have invited the Holy Spirit to bless the union and have recognized that the real joining is between minds, not bodies.

For a more extended discussion of issues related to sex from the Course’s perspective, you may find the recent audio and videotape set, Form vs. Content: Sex and Money, helpful.


Q #171: The more I seek to understand A Course in Miracles, some teachings become even more difficult. To wit, I thought I had at least come to terms with how the Son could have had a mad idea about resenting being a second-rate creator, God being THE Creator because the Son was an autonomous being created by God. But I now think that GOD IS, period. The Son was a Thought in the mind of God, an integral self-contained part of God. There was absolutely no distinction. So then the impossible could not have even been a tiny mad idea. Does this mean that there are two entities -- one we call Real and the other unreal? The unreal is existing with the permissive Will of God, but outside of His positive Will? When the Course says God is not aware of the ego, is it speaking just as metaphorically as when it says God weeps for His Son? It makes more sense to say GOD IS and stop musing because nothing could have happened. But something seemed to happen. What is this seem?

A: This is everyone’s question, the most frequently asked question, in fact. And there is no intellectually satisfying answer to it. Let it suffice to have Jesus respond in his own words:

“It is reasonable to ask how the mind could ever have made the ego. In fact, it is the best question you could ask. There is, however, no point in giving an answer in terms of the past because the past does not matter, and history would not exist if the same errors were not being repeated in the present” (T.4.II.1:1,2,3).

“The ego will demand many answers that this course does not give. It does not recognize as questions the mere form of a question to which an answer is impossible. The ego may ask, ‘How did the impossible occur?’, ‘To what did the impossible happen?’, and may ask this in many forms. Yet there is no answer; only an experience. Seek only this, and do not let theol­ogy delay you.” (C.in.4)

“Who asks you to define the ego and explain how it arose can be but he who thinks it real, and seeks by definition to ensure that its illusive nature is concealed behind the words that seem to make it so” (C.2.2:5).

In light of these passages, it can be concluded that the idea that God has both a permissive Will and a positive Will would not be consistent with the absolute non-dualism of the Course’s meta­physics. Jesus is definitely speaking metaphorically when he says that God is not aware of the ego, as well as when he refers to the separation as a “tiny, mad idea” -- and many, many other terms. Jesus does not refer to this as a divine mystery, or something like that, which we will understand one day. There just is no way that our understanding can achieve closure on this issue. We are left with the option of taking Jesus at his word, that an experience will come to end all doubting (W.pI.158.4:4), and that we will be better off than we are now if we apply the principles and exercises of his Course to our daily lives. If that does not turn out to be the case, there will always be another spiritual path that we can turn to that will bring us the peace of God.


Q #172: What is the end result from studying A Course in Miracles? Should I be able to make life go in the direction I want it? On page 448 of the Course it states:

I am responsible for what I see.
I choose the feelings I would experience, and I decide
upon the goal I would achieve.
And everything that seems to happen to me
I ask for, and receive as I have asked.

This is obviously not a new idea and many people have heard it but few if any have been able to realize it or make it work in their lives. Is there something these people as well as myself have been doing wrong?  

A: Peace -- and the release from all guilt -- is the end result of studying the Course and applying its principles (M.28.3:4,5). Although an initial reading of many of the passages of the Course, including the one you quote, would appear to suggest that the Course’s purpose is to show us how to make our lives become what we want them to be, as you study the Course over time, it will become apparent that this is not its intention. In the above passage, the Course is speaking about the choice of feelings and experience only at the level of content, not form: will our experience be one of love or fear, peace or conflict, happiness or pain?

There are many passages that make this clear. Among the early workbook lessons are two that admonish us: “I do not perceive my own best interests” (W.pI.24) and “I do not know what anything is for” (W.pI.25). The Course is asking us to acknowledge that we are not in a position to make decisions about what will bring us happiness or joy or peace. That is up to our Guide, the Holy Spirit. “He does know all the facts; past, present and to come. He does know all the effects of His judgment on everyone and everything involved in any way” (M.10.4:8,9). And so, “Ask and He will answer. The responsibility is His, and He alone is fit to assume it. To do so is His function. To refer the questions to Him is yours. Would you want to be responsible for decisions about which you understand so little? Be glad you have a Teacher Who cannot make a mistake. His answers are always right. Would you say that of yours?” (M.29.2:7,8,9,10,11,12,13,14).

Even these line are open to misunderstanding and misinterpretation, for it is easy to conclude that they mean that the Holy Spirit will provide all that we need in our world to experience happiness here as we define it, which usually means having our needs met. But again, this is not the intent of the Course. Its focus is to bring about a change at the level of mind, so that we will become increasingly less affected by the things that happen or don’t happen around us and to us. A sen­tence in the text makes this clear: “Seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world” (T.21.in.1:7). The kind of change that the Course is attempting to bring about within each of us is a shift from judgment to forgiveness. For, as the Course reminds us, “those who have been forgiven have everything” T.3.V.6:3), not in a material sense, but in the sense that we remember that lack and loss of the love that is our natural inheritance is impossible. And we will look out on the world and see only peace, no matter what battles seem to be raging.


Q #173: What is thought and what is thinking?

A) There is no definition of thought or thinking in A Course in Miracles. We get some idea of what these terms mean from the way they are used. But it is important to keep in mind that Jesus is using the language generated by the Son in his separated state, which is illusory. These terms and concepts, therefore, are inherently limited. Jesus is consistent in the meaning of what he is teaching us, but not in his use of terms and words; so sometimes it is difficult to pin down a precise meaning for a specific term. The Course is not meant to be, nor is it presented as, a philosoph­ical or scholarly treatise, though there are profoundly rich and even provocative theoretical statements throughout.

When capitalized, Thought always refers to the content in God’s Mind; and when not capitalized, thought always refers to the content in the mind of the separated Son. Jesus sometimes uses the term idea to express the unlimited nature of our true reality: “…you recognize, however dimly, that God is an idea, and so your faith in Him is strengthened by sharing. What you find difficult to accept is the fact that, like your Father, you are an idea. And like Him, you can give yourself completely, wholly without loss and only with gain” (T.15.VI.4:4,5,6).

In the last chapter of the text, conceptual thinking is singled out as the main problem, reflecting the earlier statement that “consciousness, the level of perception, was the first split introduced into the mind after the separation, making the mind a perceiver rather than a creator. Con­sciousness is correctly identified as the domain of the ego” (T.3.IV.2:1,2). In the last chapter, Jesus states that “salvation can be seen as nothing more than the escape from concepts. It does not concern itself with content of the mind, but with the simple statement that it thinks” (T.31.V.14.3,4).

We hope this is helpful in some way. We were not entirely sure of the direction your question was taking, so we chose to answer it in this way. There is no “text-book” answer, unfortunately.