Weekly Questions and Answers, 08/06/2003

This week's questions/topics:

Q #221: Does every separate form have its own mind?.
Q #222: Could manipulative techniques actually be used for healing?
Q #223: Do we need one special learning-partner to learn the Course?
Q #224: Is everything pre-destined?  Are we powerless?
Q #225: If someone attacks me, am I really supposed to "do nothing"?
Q #226: Can we really change anything with choices made inside time and space?

Look up a specific question by date or question no.

Q #221: As I understand it, all things of form in this world, both animate and inanimate, are part of the Sonship, and all parts of the Sonship need to be in the real world for the Second Coming to occur. I know there really is only one mind, but within the illusion of separation there seems to be many split minds. Also, since I need only be concerned with the healing of my own mind, there seems to be a direct relationship between my body and my mind. Does each thing of form in this world of separation have a mind that needs to be healed? How can this be? I know some form of this question has been asked before, but I still don’t get it.

A: Yes, A Course in Miracles teaches that there really is only one mind, but we have the illusion of there being many split minds. The Second Coming is the collective return to awareness of our reality as the one Son of God; it is the complete healing of the mind of the Sonship.

This is extremely difficult to understand. In fact, it is impossible to understand if you are identified with your individual existence as a human being, because that identity was set up by the ego to block all understanding of the mind that is outside time and space, and which contains the key to understanding the origin of our existence as separated, fragmented beings. Very little in the Course will make sense if you try to relate it to your experience in the world. We all try to do that, of course, because that is our only reference point for understanding anything. That is why Jesus starts us out on that level, but if we stay on that level, where we still think of ourselves as physical/psychological beings in the world, we will not get very far with the Course. Once again, that is because we always try to understand it from a perspective within time and space, and Jesus is teaching us that that perspective was made to block us from getting back to our minds. It was made to proliferate problems and mysteries that would grab our attention and then occupy our attention completely, so that we would never realize it is all a defense against the truth.

Jesus is outside this limited perspective entirely, and he is training us -- through the exercises in the workbook -- to gradually let go of our way of perceiving, and replace it with his. As we get further along the path of this thought-reversal, these types of questions will disappear, because we will identify less and less with our separated existence, and therefore we will have first-hand experiences of a shared identity. We will be more attracted to oneness than to division and separation.

Q #222: For some time now I have been studying the "human relations" techniques as taught by Dale Carnegie in his best selling books and famous seminar. Carnegie teaches that I should always talk in terms of others’ interests, that I should never tell others they’re wrong (but should call attention to their mistakes indirectly), and that the only way to win an argument is not to have one. I had avoided using these techniques until quite recently because I had considered them to be quite manipulative. In the language of A Course in Miracles, I believed it could even be stated that such techniques are attempts to murder other people because they are attempts to control others and get from them what I want. But over the last few weeks I have been using these techniques consistently, and I have been stunned at how well they have worked!

It recently occurred to me that Carnegie’s human relations techniques ultimately reveal the investment most of us have in maintaining our specialness and our separateness. In fact, such techniques seem to be geared toward helping others reinforce their own specialness and separateness as well. But there have also been times I realize when I could not have dealt in a civil manner with some people without using the Carnegie techniques. For some people (myself among them, I’m sure), the idea that they are not special or separate is a fearful idea. Could it be that in some cases the Carnegie techniques could actually be a form of forgiveness, just as taking medication for an illness is a form of forgiveness?

A: What you are recognizing is a fundamental teaching of the Course: that purpose is everything (T.4.V.6:8,9,10,11; T.24.VII.6:1,2,3). One of the most significant contributions of the Course to the world’s spiritualities is that, rather than advocating denial and rejection of the ways of the world, it teaches that we can use what the ego has made for separation and attack to serve a different purpose -- forgiveness. The key is to be willing to allow the specific forms to serve the Holy Spirit’s purpose rather than our own (T.6.V.A.2:4,5).

You have recognized that tools of manipulation and murder in the hands of the ego can become the means for seeing both your brother and yourself in a different light. But first, you must have made a decision to see both of you differently -- as having shared rather than separate interests. Your intent has shifted from having your own needs met through controlling your brother to recognizing at some level that you both have the same need to be forgiven, to be seen in the light of true charity. So now, what was made to reinforce separation and specialness becomes a means for undoing them. As always, the value lies not in the specific technique or form, but in the purpose you are giving it.

The issue of purpose is addressed further in Question #57.

Q #223: I would like an understanding of "Entering the Ark" (T.20.1V). This section seems to indicate that we have one special person with whom we work out our salvation, whereas my understanding is that every seemingly separate individual out there is our brother and so we must see the face of Christ in every living thing. I am in a marriage where my wife does not study A Course in Miracles and, in my perception, is afraid of what it is teaching us. I have also encountered a Course teaching institution that tells us we must have one special buddy with whom we can really study and work out our salvation. Can you resolve this confusion for me?

A: You seem to be raising two related questions: the first is whether there is only one relationship or many in which we must practice forgiveness; the second is whether we can really practice the Course and learn our forgiveness lessons if our learning partner is not a student of the Course.

For the first, you are no doubt referring in particular to the sentence in "The Ark of Peace" that says, "To each who walks this earth in seeming solitude is a savior given, whose special function here is to release him, and so to free himself" (T.20.IV.5:3). Jesus then adds, "In the world of separation each is appointed separately, though they are all the same" (T.20.IV.5:4). You are correct, as this second sentence suggests, in observing that forgiveness must come to rest upon every seemingly separate brother until we see them as all the same. But it is also usually the case that, at any point in time, there is one particular person with whom we are struggling, who provides our most challenging lessons in forgiveness. Who this other is may or may not change over time. But even though the faces may change, the underlying lessons will remain the same, until we are willing to look at and then release the guilt that we have projected on to them because we have not wanted to acknowledge it is in our own minds. So every relationship provides opportunities to practice forgiveness, but those that seem to push more of our buttons are the greater symbols of our own buried guilt and so provide the maximal opportunities for learning our lessons. Jesus speaks in the manual of these different levels of learning opportunities in the context of teacher-student relationships (M.3).

As for your second question, a careful reading of the section you refer to should make it clear that Jesus is only talking about how we perceive our learning partner and not about what specifically happens at the level of behavior or form between the two of us. It is our ego that wants to bring the focus to what we do with our partner at the level of bodies. According to the Course, relationships exist only in the mind and not between bodies in the world (T.28.IV.3). And so my healing in any relationship is completely unrelated to how you as my learning partner may or may not participate in the study and application of Course principles. If I were dependent on your involvement in any way, I would be at the mercy of your choices, and not simply dependent on my own internal decision about how to perceive you. Now in some cases, it may be helpful if a partner is also studying the Course and there are opportunities for sharing and discussing on the level of form. But this can in no way be necessary for my salvation or Jesus would be selling us the same bill of goods that the ego has been trying to pass off on us from the beginning -- victimization of myself by another would be alive and well and inescapable.

Furthermore, whether you as my learning partner are in your right mind or your wrong mind in any of our interactions, if the Holy Spirit is my Guide for how I perceive you, my response will always be the same. For, accepting the Holy Spirit’s judgment rather than my own, I will know that you are only either extending love or giving a call for love, and my response is always the same -- I allow myself to be an instrument of the Holy Spirit’s Love (T.12.I). My resistance to accepting the Holy Spirit’s perception of you in any aspects of our relationship simply points to those areas where my forgiveness lessons remain unlearned. And that is how you, as my learning partner, are really my savior, for you direct me to the unhealed thoughts of darkness in my mind, so that now I can make a different choice about how to see myself.

Q #224: Does the concept that this world was over and done in the same moment mean that everything in this world is predestined, that we have no power to make happen what we want?

A: From a traditional viewpoint of predestination, according to A Course in Miracles, what happens in the world is not predestined. The scripts of our lives have been authored by the "decision maker," not by God, and they do not follow a temporal sequence, upon which predestination is based. A quick reminder: the decision maker is that aspect of the split mind which chooses either the ego or the Holy Spirit as its teacher. While we experience ourselves in time, and review mentally the scripts that have already gone by (W.pI.158.4), we do have the capacity to choose -- at any given instant -- which teacher will guide us through our daily lives. And remember that this "we" is not the self we call ourselves by name, but rather the decision maker in our mind, which is outside of time and space.

If you want to "stretch" the definition of predestination, you could say that there is one of the Course teachings which would fall under this category, as stated here: "The acceptance of the Atonement by everyone is only a matter of time. This may appear to contradict free will because of the inevitability of the final decision, but this is not so. You can temporize and you are capable of enormous procrastination...but the outcome is as certain as God (T.2.III.3:1,2,3,10).

And finally, while it may not seem this way, we all have the power to make happen what we want: "Besides your recognizing that thoughts are never idle, salvation requires that you also recognize that every thought you have brings either peace or war; either love or fear" (W.pI.16.3:1). Take a good look at you life, and realize that whatever the circumstances -- now, in the past, and to come -- are a result of getting what one wants. This is hard to come to grips with since most of us, at least at one point or another, have experienced painful lives. And yet this is exactly what the ego wants. And we, being identified with the ego, are getting exactly what we want. The good news is that once we totally shift our allegiance from the ego to the Holy Spirit, we will get happiness and peace, which is secretly what we have wanted all along.

Q #225: I am reading A Course in Miracles for the second time and I am having trouble with Lesson 135. Does it mean that if someone physically attacks you or verbally attacks you, you should just do nothing? Should you allow someone to physically "beat you up"? I don't think this is what it means. I just want to make sure I am interpreting this correctly. Does the practice of martial arts conflict with the Course’s teachings?

A: You are correct with regard to Lesson 135 "If I defend myself I am attacked." It does not mean that you should allow yourself to be beaten up or abused, or to watch someone else being abused without intervening. This is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied concepts in the entire Course. It is important to remember that the Course is never talking about behavior, and that the practice of the Course should never exclude common sense. The Course is always focusing on the content in our minds. Thus, you can be in your right mind and forcibly stop another person from hitting you, or you can be in your wrong mind and do that. You can be in your right mind and do nothing, or you can be in your wrong mind and do nothing. If we can get past our ego for an instant, then anything we do or do not do would be "right."

Throughout the Course, Jesus is always teaching us that our thinking flows from either the ego’s thought system or the Holy Spirit’s, whichever we have chosen. Thus in this lesson he is specifically teaching us that whenever we perceive ourselves attacked and we feel a need to defend ourselves, we have reinforced a self-concept of fear and vulnerability, which means we see ourselves as a body, not as God created us. Only if we are afraid would we have need of defenses. That is helpful information, for it lets us know which thought system we are identified with. But we cannot correct our faulty self-concept simply by allowing ourselves to be abused or violated in some way. That would not advance us spiritually, just as removing all locks from our doors and canceling insurance policies would not advance us spiritually. As long as we experience ourselves as bodies, then we need to respond to and respect our bodily needs, both physical and psychological.

Jesus is speaking to us from his perspective as a healed mind, which knows with certainty that bodies and this world are totally illusory. He is simply saying that we, whose minds are not healed, should pay careful attention to the thought system we have chosen to identify with, and then ask his help to look through his eyes to see what this world is really like, and what its purpose is. Then we would have a basis for choosing differently. He is helping us realize that there is an inherent fear in everyone, and that it is coming from our minds, not from hostile elements in the world or the body, which are all part of the ego’s strategy to keep us mindless. A defense against the fear and guilt in our minds is not necessary, because they are made up by the ego. We need only ask his help to correct our mistaken choice to identify with the ego thought system of sin, guilt, and fear. And we know that we have made that mistaken choice every time we experience ourselves as vulnerable and attacked. Again, that does not mean that we do not protect ourselves in whatever way is appropriate in the world, including the use of martial arts.

Finally, Jesus does not mean in this lesson that we should never make plans; he means only that we should consult with him first, because as unhealed minds we have no idea of what is in our best interests, or in anyone else’s best interests. We must even be vigilant about presuming to know what our problems are, lest we fall into the ego trap of telling Jesus or the Holy Spirit how They should solve our problems. Our energies and efforts would be much better placed in asking for help to forgive, for that alone will remove the barriers to our truly hearing the Voice for Love, Whose wisdom would gently guide us in all our words and actions. Guilt is the problem, forgiveness is the answer. We need never get more specific than that.

Q #226: If our lives are determined by a decision made outside of time and space, i.e., a choice about which teacher to listen to, then what is the sense of trying, with our personality self, to change anything? Why even do the workbook as that is done with the small self? I guess I am asking what role does the self I believe I am play, in the big scheme of things?

A: Hey, it’s not as hopeless as all that! But the first thing you want to understand, even though it is not your experience, is that nothing is attempted or done by the self in the world that we think we are -- it’s nothing but a shadow of thoughts in the mind. Everything is done by the mind -- all power rests there. It’s just that we have deceived ourselves about who we are and so think that we are the shadow rather than the light without which there could be no shadow. So everything we find ourselves doing in the world is a shadow or projection of a choice we have made in our mind, often unconsciously, as to which teacher to listen to. And for a long time, since we don’t know there is any teacher but the ego, even our choice for the ego is forgotten. And that, of course, has been the ego’s goal, for we now seem to be mindless. We believe we do our thinking with the brain -- a masterful deception (W.p.92.2) -- and are no longer aware that we have a mind, even though awareness is only of the mind. And if we don’t know we have a mind, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to change it, which of course is also the ego’s goal.

Consider the example you give of doing the workbook lessons. They are not really done by the self I think I am -- my experience of reading and practicing them in the world is a reflection of a choice I have made in my mind, which has then been projected out as behavior performed by my illusory self in the world. All learning takes place in the mind. But while we are still too fearful to see ourselves as mind, we will continue to experience everything as being chosen and carried out by the self we think we are in the world. What is helpful about our seeming experience in the world is that it can be used as a barometer to help us recognize which teacher we have in fact turned to in our mind. The choice to do the workbook lessons, made in the mind, is in most cases a decision to turn away from the ego and to turn toward the Holy Spirit. So learning is going on -- it’s just that it’s not my self here that is learning -- that self is only ever an effect and never a cause of anything. But again, while our reality as mind is too fearful to accept, we will experience the learning as if it were happening on this plane by the little self we think we are.

So by all means continue to do the workbook lessons. And practice forgiveness in the classrooms of your seeming life here. These are the opportunities Jesus is asking us to give to him so he can help us change our minds while we still think we are bodies, until such time as guilt no longer has a hold on our minds and we no longer need the body and the personality self as a defense against the guilt.