Weekly Questions and Answers, 07/02/2003

This week's questions:

Q #190: How much of our lives is "written" beforehand ?
Q #191: Are all love relationships "special"? Even those with our children?
Q #192: "I do not choose God's channels wrongly:"  clarification.
Q #193: Is "The Lord's Prayer" a real prayer in a Course sense?
Q #194: Where does the Course say that the world is not real?

Look up a specific question by date or question no.

Q #190: A two-part question regarding the 'script' of our lives:

i: If I choose my parents, nationality, sex, time I live in before I'm born, what contingencies are there in my life? Many or none? Is it all spelled out beforehand so all I'm choosing at each moment is crucifixion or resurrection? What, in other words, is not written beforehand?

ii: What role does the right mind have in choosing all of the above beforehand?

A: We set certain seemingly unchangeable parameters for each lifetime, including those you list above. But even some of these can shift as the mind chooses: one learns as an adult that he or she was adopted; someone opts for a sex change operation, etc. Part of the ego’s seductive allurement is that we do have choice at the level of form and this is the great distraction. For we believe the problem of our guilt over separation, which remains buried in our mind, can be resolved "by making some sort of insane ‘arrangement’ with the world" (T.12.III.6:5) -- what A Course in Miracles calls magic (M.16.8,9,11). So the ego maintains the illusion of choice at the level of form, keeping hidden from us the fact that we are always choosing the same content: separation and guilt. And we never address the real underlying problem of the guilt in our mind.

Now it is true that the Course teaches that everything has already happened and that linear time is not real -- everything is already written beforehand (W.pI.158.3,4). But that does not mean that everything in an individual lifetime is predetermined. The pool of possible events is predetermined, but we have a moment-by-moment choice about which relationships and events we will access and review (for a more extended discussion of this, see Question #37).

Despite all these options, the most helpful frame of reference we can adopt is to remember that, regardless of the possibilities on the level of form, the only real choice we are confronted with in each moment is the one between crucifixion and resurrection.

Since we always have a right mind while we still believe in the reality of separation, we have the option of turning to our right mind about any decision we are making, including how to approach a new relationship, a new career, or a new lifetime. The distinction between before and during a lifetime is really an arbitrary one that our ego mind wishes to reinforce, making the state of our mind seem somehow qualitatively different during this lifetime from the state of the mind when this lifetime is still only an option being considered. And so, as with every choice, we can make it with either the ego or the Holy Spirit as our teacher. And as most of us do, we may vacillate between the wrong mind and the right mind, sometimes making choices based on our desire for specialness and sometimes choosing in order to learn our lessons of forgiveness. This is true, from the perspective of illusory linear time, both before and during each lifetime Again, whether we are choosing the parameters for an upcoming lifetime or the parameters within a current lifetime, the options and the process in the mind remain the same.

Q #191: I would like to know your opinion on "special relationships." Is every relationship in which there is love a special one? The relationship with your children for instance? Is it enough that only one in the relationship have knowledge about A Course in Miracles?

A: The Course tells us that every relationship, whether we define it as a love or hate relationship, is special. The ego uses every relationship to project guilt onto another for our decision to separate from God. Using the relationship for purposes of projection is an attack, which the Course calls hate. Every special relationship is therefore actually a hate relationship, camouflaged in some cases as "love." The ego identifies every person as a body, and relates to each one as a body, which according to the Course is another form of attack on the Son of God, who is not a body. The projection of guilt and perception of body identity are fundamental characteristics of the special relationship. Although we may be unaware of them, these are the dynamics at work in every relationship. It is difficult to apply this concept to our relationships with our children because the world has glorified parenthood, and we use children and family relationships to express "love" as defined by the ego. The care, concern, and attention that is given to children is not love as the Course defines it; they are part of the dynamic the ego has set up as "pseudo love," which is actually a substitute for God’s love. This substitution is another important characteristic of the special relationship. Anyone or anything that is used in an attempt to fill the void left by our seeming separation from God is what the Course calls special. Children fit the ego’s plan perfectly because they come into the world totally dependent on the care of others, having been given "life" by parents who will hopefully meet all their needs for growth and sustenance. Part of the parenthood dysfunction is the belief, on the part of parents, that children will meet their needs as well. This mutual dependency, in which each agrees to sacrifice in order to have their own needs met, is the "bargain" that the ego claims will keep everyone safe and "happy." It sometimes seems to work, frequently it is beset with great pain and conflict, driven by intense feelings of guilt. The Course gives us a vivid description: "All special relationships have sin as their goal. For they are bargains with reality, toward which the seeming union is adjusted. Forget not this; to bargain is to set a limit, and any brother with whom you have a limited relationship, you hate. You may attempt to keep the bargain in the name of "fairness," sometimes demanding payment of yourself, perhaps more often of the other. Thus in the "fairness" you attempt to ease the guilt that comes from the accepted purpose of the relationship. And that is why the Holy Spirit must change its purpose to make it useful to Him and harmless to you" (T.21.III.1).

In this, as with everything the Course teaches, it is enough that only one person in the relationship be a student of the Course. The practice of the Course’s teaching requires only that the individual look carefully at all the thoughts of judgment in any relationship, and recognize the ego’s purpose at work in all of them. The purpose is always to make the separation real, and strengthen our belief that we can make a world of our own that will meet our needs better than God ever could. We do not do this for anyone but ourselves. When we recognize the ego’s ploys, and begin to realize that our pain is actually coming from our alliance with the ego’s thought system of separation, guilt, and attack, we have the opportunity to turn to the Holy Spirit, whose thought system reinterprets everything the ego has made, and ask for help. The help is not to change anyone else in the dream, but for ourselves to accept His purpose. Although this may not bring about any change in form in our relationships, the purpose will be transformed: "…the Holy Spirit would not deprive you of your special relationships, but would transform them. And all that is meant by that is that He will restore to them the function given them by God. The function you have given them is clearly not to make happy. But the holy relationship shares God's purpose, rather than aiming to make a substitute for it. Every special relationship you have made is a substitute for God's Will, and glorifies yours instead of His because of the illusion that they are different" (T.17.IV.2:3,4,5,6,7). Eventually, as this is practiced more and more the pain of special relationships will be replaced by the peace of the holy relationship.

Q #192: "I do not choose God’s channels wrongly" (T.4.VI.6:3). This line has always had a strong emotional impact on me (it made me cry, boosted my confidence, etc.), but sometimes I think this line perhaps was meant only personally for Helen?

A: It must always be remembered that A Course in Miracles came for Helen and Bill in response to their joining together to find a better way of relating. Therefore, many of the comments -- especially in the early chapters -- were meant for them; but clearly they can be seen as applying to all of us who struggle with the same issues with which they struggled. The statement you refer to, therefore, in no way implies that they were special, a meaning our egos would immediately see in it, as the ego knows only of separation. Helen did not see herself as specially blessed in any way, and very quickly corrected anyone who regarded her as special.

Connecting this statement with two other key statements further clarifies the meaning: "All my brothers are special" and "All are called" (T.1.V.3; T.3.IV.7). While using the language of the Bible, Jesus clearly corrects the traditional view that singles out certain special people: "many are called, but few are chosen," or groups of people: "the chosen people." He is basically telling us that we are not mistaken in thinking that we are dear to him.

At the beginning of Lesson 93, he describes the horribly negative self-concept we harbor deep within our minds -- sometimes not very far beneath the surface. And then he tells us that we are so convinced that this is the truth about us that it is difficult for him to help us see that it is all based on nothing (W.pI.93.1,2). That explains why we would tend to think that Jesus was referring only to Helen and Bill, not us, a trend of thought he later calls arrogant. When we think that way, we ought to stop and reflect on where those thoughts are coming from, and how in feeling unworthy we are really telling Jesus he is wrong about us.

Then, too, we must remember that although our experience at first may be that of being chosen, that is not the reality. As we get further up the ladder, our experience will be that we are really allowing ourselves to experience love more and more, and resisting it less and less.

Q #193: The Lord’s Prayer, supposedly given directly from Jesus, seems to make the world and sin real and request God’s involvement in our life. From the Course’s perspective, how would we explain this and what would be an example of valid prayer in the "dream"?

A: Since the Gospels were written down approximately 50 years after the historical Jesus’ death, there is no certainty that any of the accounts accurately report what the he actually said. In fact, Scripture scholars have established that Jesus probably did not say most of the things that are recorded in the Gospels. The Lord’s Prayer, therefore, would not necessarily have come directly from Jesus. It is compatible with the entire teaching of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, which, as you say, make sin and the world very real. From the perspective of A Course in Miracles, the only explanation for this is that the teaching of the Bible is not the teaching of the Course. They are not similar and can be compared only in contrast, since the Course uses terms found in the Bible but with a different interpretation.

Prayer in the dream is ultimately a reminder to ourselves that we have a mind with the power to choose. In the face of any conflict or distressing situation, our prayer can be simply stated: "brother, choose again" (T.31.VIII.3:2). Implicit in this prayer is the recognition that we have already made a choice. It is this choice, not the situation, that is the real cause of our distress, and we can "choose again.". This is a very simple prayer, but to say it sincerely, with acceptance of the implications noted above, can meet with strong resistance. It requires taking full responsibility for our choices, as well as the predicaments we find ourselves in. Although this is the process involved in prayer as the Course teaches, the Course meets us on the many different levels of our learning. Because we have a need to experience the power of our own minds in symbolic form, we find prayers addressed to God our Father, or the Holy Spirit. Many of these are very beautiful "prayers" which actually speak to our hearts rather than to God, who does not hear prayers (T.16.VII.12). They are given to us to help us get in touch with the true desire of our hearts, and to encourage us to make another choice. This is the prayer of the heart that the Manual refers to, in contrast to the "prayer for specifics" (M.21.2:3). This prayer of the heart refers to what we truly desire.

The Course also tells us our prayer is heard, and we that we do receive what we ask for. Our "prayer" is always for only one of two things -- the ego’s interpretation, or the Holy Spirit’s. We will receive the one we truly desire. This obviously occurs on the level of the mind where the choice is made. The effect of our prayer will be experienced in the dream in the form of peace (reflecting our choice for the Holy Spirit) or in some form of conflict (reflecting our choice for the ego). The specifics do not matter. It is always the disposition of our hearts, our willingness, that is most important. We "pray" when we look within with willingness to recognize whose voice we have chosen to listen to. Engaging in this process indicates that we have already chosen to listen to the ego. We then have the opportunity to ask ourselves if this is truly what we want to hear, and, as stated in the beginning, we can now choose again. We will know if we are in fact listening to the Holy Spirit by the peace we will eventually experience: "The part [of your mind] that is listening to the Voice for God is calm, always at rest and wholly certain. It is really the only part there is. The other part is a wild illusion, frantic and distraught, but without reality of any kind. Try today not to listen to it. Try to identify with the part of your mind where stillness and peace reign forever. Try to hear God's Voice call to you lovingly, reminding you that your Creator has not forgotten His Son" (W.p.I.49.2). Our "prayer" is this listening.

Q #194: You explain in many places that A Course in Miracles is uncompromising about the fact that this world does not exist. Could you list the passages from the text and/or the workbook that explain that this is so?

A: We are listing a number of references here, and we also refer you to Q #111. This is an important issue, which actually is the foundation of the whole thought system of A Course in Miracles. You might also find our Glossary-Index for A Course in Miracles helpful -- under "world." When the main principles are identified, then you can see how they are expressed in many different ways. For example, if only what God creates exists, and God creates only what is eternal and infinite, then anything not of God does not and could not exist, i.e., the changing, limited cosmos.

A sampling of statements:

1) "Perception is not an attribute of God. His is the realm of knowledge.…In God you cannot see. Perception has no function in God, and does not exist" (W.pI.43.1:1,2; 2:1,2).

2) "There is no world! This is the central concept the course attempts to teach" (W.pI.132.6:2,3). There are other statements within this lesson that state the unreality of the world; e.g., "How can a world of time and place exist, if you remain as God created you?" (9:4); "There is no world because it is a thought apart from God, and made to separate the Father and the Son, and break away a part of God Himself and thus destroy His Wholeness. Can a world which comes from this idea be real? Can it be anywhere?" (13:1,2,3).

3) "I am as God created me"; "What has been given you? The knowledge that you are a mind, in Mind and purely mind, sinless forever, wholly unafraid, because you were created out of love. Nor have you left your Source, remaining as you were created" (W.pI.158.1:1,2,3).

4) "Sin is the home of all illusions, which but stand for things imagined, issuing from thoughts that are untrue. They are the ‘proof’ that what has no reality is real. Sin ‘proves’ God’s Son is evil; timelessness must have an end; eternal life must die. And God Himself has lost the Son He loves, with but corruption to complete Himself, His Will forever overcome by death, love slain by hate, and peace to be no more" (W.pII.4.3).

5) "What if you recognized this world is an hallucination? What if you really understood you made it up? What if you realized that those who seem to walk about in it, to sin and die, attack and murder and destroy themselves, are wholly unreal?" (T.20.VIII.7:3,4,5,ff.)

6) "There is no life outside of Heaven. Where God created life, there life must be. In any state apart from Heaven life is illusion…Life not in Heaven is impossible, and what is not in Heaven is not anywhere" (T.23.II.19.1,2,6).

7) "God’s laws do not obtain directly to a world perception rules, for such a world could not have been created by the Mind to which perception has no meaning. Yet are His laws reflected everywhere [through the Holy Spirit]. Not that the world where this reflection is, is real at all. Only because His Son believes it is, and from His Son’s belief He could not let Himself be separate entirely. He could not enter His Son’s insanity with him…" (T.24.III.2).

8) "This world is causeless…" (T.28.II.6:1).

9) "They [your eyes and ears] were made to look upon a world that is not there; to hear the voices that make no sound" (T.28.V.5:4).

10) "What seems eternal all will have an end. The stars will disappear, and night and day will be no more. All things that come and go, the tides, the seasons and the lives of men; all things that change with time and bloom and fade will not return. Where time has set an end is not where the eternal is" (T.29.VI.2:7,8,9,10).

11) "Can what has no beginning really end? The world will end in an illusion, as it began" (M.14.1:1,2).

12) "The world you see is an illusion of a world. God did not create it, for what He creates must be eternal as Himself. Yet there is nothing in the world you see that will endure forever. Some things will last in time a little while longer than others. But the time will come when all things visible will have an end" (C.4.1).

13) "What is false is false, and what is true has never changed" (W.pII.10.1:1).

14) "How simple is salvation! All it says is what was never true is not true now, and never will be. The impossible has not occurred, and can have no effects. And that is all" (T.31.I.1:1,2,3,4).