Weekly Questions and Answers, 06/25/2003

This week's questions:

Q #185: Is this world part of God's dream ?
Q #186: Who is "the accuser" ?
Q #187: What happens to us when we finally let go of the ego?
Q #188: How can I learn to take myself and the world less seriously?
Q #189: What does the Course mean by "To have, give all to all"?

Look up a specific question by date or question no.

Q #185: If the world that I perceive is not real, does that not mean all who dwell within that world, including myself, are not real, and then would that not also mean that only God is real, and it is God who is having the dream?

A: The first three points of your sequence are correct; the world is not real, everyone in the world is not real, only God is real. What does not follow is that God is having the dream. God is not part of the dream precisely because He is real and a dream is an illusion. "Real" and "illusion" are mutually exclusive. The "missing person" in your equation is the mind of the separated Son who is the dreamer of the dream. This is the you the Course is addressing, and is teaching us to identify with. We have mistakenly identified with the "figure in the dream" -- the you you think you are -- the you that is not real. This has caused us much confusion. A Course in Miracles’ explanation of how this has happened is that when the mind chooses to believe that separation from God is not only possible but real, it is as if the mind falls asleep and dreams a dream of separation. In this dream, the mind that is dreaming becomes identified with the figure in the dream. Everything is now turned upside down. The world becomes real to us. It is no longer perceived as the dream that it is, and we become lost in its illusions, totally unaware that we are dreaming. This is the power of denial in operation. What is denied is the choice in the mind to separate from God, and then dream this dream where God is absent and can enter not. The identity as dreamer of the dream is denied or forgotten, replaced by an identity as the figure in the dream. This identity crisis is the ego’s goal. It keeps us free of responsibility for the original choice in the mind to separate, and the decision to deny the choice. The goal of the Course is to teach us that we are in fact the dreamer of the dream, whereby we have the ability to become a lucid dreamer, aware that we are dreaming, and that we also have the power to make another choice. If, as a lucid dreamer, we are aware we are dreaming a nightmare of separation that is the source of all our pain, we will eventually realize we can awaken from this dream. The Course tells us: "You have chosen a sleep in which you have had bad dreams, but the sleep is not real and God calls you to awake. There will be nothing left of your dream when you hear Him, because you will awaken. Your dreams contain many of the ego's symbols and they have confused you. Yet that was only because you were asleep and did not know. When you wake you will see the truth around you and in you, and you will no longer believe in dreams because they will have no reality for you. Yet the Kingdom and all that you have created there will have great reality for you, because they are beautiful and true" (T.6.IV.6:3,4,5,6,7,8).

It may be helpful to relate this to the experience of a child having a dream. His parents are not in the dream, and are unaware that the child is having a nightmare. The nightmare seems real and frightening to the child while he sleeps. It is only when the child awakens that he realizes he was dreaming, and that he is safe in his bed with his parents there to comfort him, assuring him that the dream was not real.

Q #186: In Chapter 31 of A Course in Miracles, Section V, "Self-Concept vs Self," Jesus says, "The role of the accuser will appear in many places and in many forms. And each will seem to be accusing you" (T.31.V.16:5,6). Can you explain what is meant by this?

A: As earlier parts of this section make clear, each judgment we hold against another is really a deeply buried self-accusation. Perhaps most graphic is the following; "No longer does it matter what he does, for your accusing finger points to him, unwavering in its deadly aim. It points to you as well, but this is kept deeper in the mists below the face of innocence" (T.31.V.6:4,5).

The section then goes on (T.31.V.15,16) to discuss how we will assume various concepts or roles for our self-identity over time (e.g., child, sibling, student, lover, spouse, parent, employee, boss) -- all the while believing that we are a victim in these various relationships, treated unfairly by a world of evil that exists outside ourselves. But all the accusations we hold against others as we assume the various roles of our lives (i.e., "the role of the accuser...in many places and in many forms") really represent the hidden accusations of guilt and sin over the original separation thought and all its seeming ramifications that we hold against ourselves. And so as we accept and put into practice the Course’s teaching on projection, it will now seem that the finger we have pointed at others is, in each case, now pointing at ourselves. But the reality of our true Self is beyond all these roles and concepts And so Jesus reassures us, "Yet have no fear it [each role] will not be undone" (T.31.V.16:7). For none of the images of good or evil that we have made of both our brother and ourselves is real. And when we no longer want any of them, we will know Who we truly are (T.31.V.17).

Q #187: So what happens when one is finally able to let go of one’s ego? Does one, as an individual, cease to exist? I know I am attached to my individuality. I like my life, basically. I don’t want to disappear into….what? I like the world and think it is beautiful. I don’t want the world to disappear. What happens when our bodies die? What happens when we awake from the dream? Do we awake from the dream when our bodies die?

A: You can rest assured that so long as you want an individual self and the world to be your reality, they will be. Jesus makes this clear in a number of passages. Speaking of the world we see, he says, "...you invented it. You can give it up as easily as you made it up. You will see it or not see it, as you wish. While you want it you will see it; when you no longer want it, it will not be there for you to see" (W.pI.32.1:2,3,4,5). And later in the workbook, "There is no world apart from what you wish, and herein lies your ultimate release....It is not pride which tells you that you made the world you see, and that it changes as you change your mind" (W.pI.132.5:1,5). And earlier in the text, he assures us, "Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality" (T.16.VI.8:1).

So you are not at this point looking for release -- that is fine. Jesus has no judgment about that. He may question your sanity (T.23.II.13:4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13). But he does not judge you for preferring the world to his love. Most of us do not recognize or believe that this is the choice we are making. And so one of the purposes of A Course in Miracles is to help us see that we are choosing the world and our individual self, and that choice represents a choice against love and peace. Genuine love and peace can only be found in unity, not in separation and differences.

If the world still holds great appeal for you, the Course will be less desirable as a spiritual path. It will teach you the value of letting go of your judgments and, as a result, of having less pain, guilt and anxiety in your relationships. But the metaphysics that is the Course’s foundation for forgiveness asserts the unreality of the separation, the individual self, and the world. Such a teaching runs counter to your expressed preference for the world and at some point you may experience conflict. But the truth is, none of us would find ourselves here in the world if it were not our preference and our choice, as the passages cited above make clear.

So what is most important is that you are honest with yourself and Jesus about what you want right now and how you feel. If, over time, you come to accept that the choice you are making has a cost to you, you can reconsider your decision at that point.

When you are ready to release completely your identification with the ego self and the world, which is its defense, nothing really will happen. You will simply experience a profound shift in perception. Death has nothing to do with this shift anymore than birth has. The death of the body does not change the decision being made in the mind to be separate -- it may in fact reinforce that choice, if the death in any way feels like a punishment or a deprivation or an escape. And then we will simply choose another lifetime to continue our experience of individuality and specialness.

Everything is happening in the mind and when your mind lets go of the ego, you will simply awaken to the fact that you have only been dreaming a dream of separation, And so there is no separation, no separate self and no external world. The dream may appear to continue, but you will not take it seriously, knowing it is simply a fantasy or illusion that has no real meaning or effects. You will know you are limitless mind and not a limited bodily self. And the joy that comes from the realization that the mind is truly one will make whatever joy and beauty the world seemed to offer you before seem like a pale, lifeless shadow in comparison.

See also Question #68 for a discussion of the relationship between the mind and death of the body.

Q #188: After studying A Course in Miracles for 11 years, I'm only now beginning to understand how much I don't want to learn it. I know this really means how much I fear it, and that I might need to be more "gentle" with myself. But trying to take things less seriously would seem to undermine the Course's attempt to show us just how deeply we are committed to the ego thought system. Thank you for any suggestions on this, from a student who still loves being the dream figure amid glimpses that he is not.

A: Apparently, trying to take things less seriously has in fact shown you "just how deeply we are committed to the ego thought system". Taking things less seriously is not as easy as it may sound. Any attempt to do so leads us to realize that we do take things very seriously. In studying the Course, we soon become aware that if we begin to take some aspects of the ego thought system less seriously we will end up taking the whole thing less seriously. In the end, rather than undermining the Course’s teaching, this will actually undermine the ego’s thought system. This is why we don’t do it. And this is why we don’t want to learn what the Course teaches. This in itself is an important and helpful realization. It means that you have some understanding of what the Course is saying about who we are (the dreamer of the dream), and more importantly, who we are not (a figure in the dream). A clear recognition of our resistance to learning this gives us an appreciation for the process and, as you say, the need for gentleness in applying the teachings of the Course.

It is not surprising that it is difficult to take things less seriously. The Course does not discount how seriously we have taken our mistaken beliefs about ourselves and our world. "No one believes there really was a time when he knew nothing of a body, and could never have conceived this world as real. He would have seen at once that these ideas are one illusion, too ridiculous for anything but to be laughed away. How serious they now appear to be! And no one can remember when they would have met with laughter and with disbelief. We can remember this, if we but look directly at their cause. And we will see the grounds for laughter, not a cause for fear" (T.27.VIII.5:5,6,7,8,9,10).

Our learning process requires that first we recognize just how seriously we take ourselves. Trying to force ourselves not to take things seriously probably won’t work. The only way we can learn to do this is mentioned in the quote above. We need to learn to look at the cause of our beliefs. The cause is the decision in the mind to separate from God, and then believe it is an accomplished fact. The Course is telling us this is ridiculous, and eventually we will laugh at it. This will happen when we have let go of our guilt over having taken it seriously in the first place. Obviously we are not laughing yet. You may find it helpful to practice not taking your resistance too seriously, and not judging yourself for your love of being a figure in the dream. Our resistance and unwillingness do not change truth, or justify our fear, and we are not banished from Heaven because of them. Furthermore, full acceptance is not required for us to practice what the Course teaches. As the Introduction to the workbook tells us: "Remember only this; you need not believe the ideas, you need not accept them, and you need not even welcome them. Some of them you may actively resist. None of this will matter, or decrease their efficacy" (W.in.9:1,2,3). If you continue to remind yourself that what you see and experience in the dream is not real and has no effect on the real you, it will become increasingly easier to take things less seriously. Each remembrance strengthens belief in the Holy Spirit’s thought system and diminishes our "seriousness." As with God, the laughter is inevitable.

Q #189: What does A Course in Miracles refer to as "all" in the sentence "To have, give all to all." (T.6.V.A:13)? I have heard Ken say that it doesn't mean to give everything away in this world and go live on a mountain top. What does it mean?

A: First, Jesus is correcting the ego’s version, which is "to have, take all from all." To the ego, the only way of having something is to get it from somewhere or someone. Therefore, Jesus tells us, "the first step in the reversal or undoing process is the undoing of the getting concept" (T.6.V.B.3:1). This is directly related to our learning to prefer shared interests instead of separate, competing interests; and that by seeking to take something from someone, we will wind up as the loser, because we will have once again denied that God’s Son is one and that as His creation we already have everything (W.pI.133.7).

So this has nothing to do with form or with behavior; it has to do with our attitude or inner orientation: the content, not the form. It has to do with undoing our inclination to exclude others and to acquire what we want at another’s expense. It has to do with looking at how we value uniqueness and specialness, and how that leads to more conflict instead of peace. We would begin to question the value of something that cannot be shared with everyone -- why we would want something that cannot be shared with everyone. Again, this has to do with our attitude. Obviously, as you said, we are not being asked to buy enough for everyone in the world whenever we go shopping. Jesus is working with the premises that govern our thinking.

This first lesson of the Holy Spirit, then, is essentially about undoing our concept of getting as the means of having: "You must learn first that having rests on giving, and not on getting" (T.6.V.C.6:1).