Weekly Questions and Answers, 08/13/2003

This week's questions/topics:

Q #227: Who is the "specific brother" with whom I must heal my relationship?.
Q #228: How could God exist before His creations, if the word "before" is meaningless ?
Q #229: If only salvation can cure, do I still need my medicines?
Q #230: Can I go back later and do Workbook lessons I skipped ?
Q #231: How should I feel about enjoyment of worldly things?
Q #232: How does the Course feel about children and parenthood?
Q #233: What does the Course mean when it says I make an ego for everyone else?

Look up a specific question by date or question no.


Q #227: A Course in Miracles mentions the existence of a specific brother. Should that be interpreted as the partner in the current relationship that the reader is involved in? It seems to me that the Course clearly states that happiness is linked to the development of this relationship. Is that correct?

A: Jesus was "speaking" to Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford about their relationship and other relationships in their lives, and so the teaching and discussion is expressed in that context. Jesus was trying to help Helen realize how much happier and more peaceful she would be if she let go of her judgments of Bill and other specific people in her life. But when practicing, we can use anyone at all, whether living or not, currently in our lives or not. It is not always the case that the relationship you are currently involved in is the one you need to work on most, although it could be. There might also be some powerful unresolved issues with a child, a dead parent, a sibling, or some other relative, a friend, or even a public figure.

Usually someone comes quickly to mind when we are doing the exercises in the workbook or applying what we are reading about in the text. It does not really matter, though, because this is all about the content in our own minds, and all relationships are in the mind. The content is always the same, regardless of the form of the relationship. All of our relationship problems stem from our projected self-hatred, guilt, and agonizing sense of lack. If we were to heal any one relationship totally, we would have healed them all, and we would be completely happy, because, once again, the content is always the same, time is not real, and all minds are joined.


Q #228: In A Course in Miracles, Jesus says that: 1) We are all part of a single formless being which has been created by another formless being; 2) Time concepts are illusory. Isn't before a time concept? How is it possible for a being to create another being and not come before it?

A: It is helpful to realize that whenever Jesus in the Course attempts to convey anything about creation and our true reality in God, he must use words and concepts that will have to fail in the end to do anything more than suggest a state that we cannot comprehend. For it is not possible to describe what is beyond description, and what is unlimited and infinite can not be defined in finite terms. Jesus must use the language of perception to talk about what is beyond perception, beyond time and space.

But the Course also has a purpose in attempting to explain the unexplainable. And that is to provide a correction for the mistaken concepts and beliefs of the ego thought system. Grounded in a perceptual duality, these concepts and beliefs assert, albeit now unconsciously, that we have separated from God, usurped His power to create, and in fact are the creator and source of all existence (T.11.in.1:6,7,8; 2).

And so the correction Jesus offers also uses dualistic words, such as Father and Son, which imply both spatial and temporal dimensions to the relationship. But these words are used only to undo our belief that we can be the cause of ourselves, returning to God the role of Source of all being. That Jesus does not mean these explanations literally becomes apparent when we read passages which attempt to provide insight into the true nature of God and reality, a reality beyond time and space, in which there are not two separate beings called God and Christ.

So, for example, Jesus observes, while still using the dualistic language of the ego thought system, that "God...makes no distinctions in what is Himself and what is still Himself. What He creates is not apart from Him, and nowhere does the Father end, the Son begin as something separate from Him (W.pI.132.12:3,4). And time-based concepts, such as before and after, or first and last, simply do not apply to God in the usual sense. God "does nothing last, because He created first and for always. It must be understood that the word ‘first’ as applied to Him is not a time concept. He is first in the sense that He is the First in the Holy Trinity Itself. He is the Prime Creator, because He created His co-creators. Because He did, time applies neither to Him nor to what He created. (T.7.I.7:3,4,5,6,7; italics added).

If you are not satisfied with what must be a dissatisfying account for what can not be understood by us, take comfort in the fact that you are not alone. In attempting to describe the nature and condition of true creation, Jesus concludes, "To no one here is this describable. Nor is there any way to learn what this condition means. Not till you go past learning to the Given...is it understood" (T.24.VII.6:8,9,10). And so, we simply can accept with humility that we do not understand. But the good news is that, despite our belief that we need to understand, we don’t have to understand in order to find our way back home (T.18.IV.7:5,6,7). We can practice our lessons of forgiveness, confident that if we do our part, the rest will be ours when we are ready to accept it.

For additional discussion of the dualistic nature of the Course language in relationship to its non-dualistic metaphysics, see Question #85.


Q #229: I am confused by a passage from Lesson #140 in A Course in Miracles: "Only salvation can be said to cure." It says, "So do we lay aside our amulets, our charms and medicines …We will be still and listen for the Voice of healing, Which will cure all ills as one.…" I believe that we create our own sickness. I have had hypothyroidism for the past 24 years or so and have also been diagnosed with depression. I do believe in the absolute faith in God and His truth. Do I stop taking my medications? I realize that I have an underlying fear of the consequences of untreated hypothyroidism. Can my faith remove these conditions? Is the healing referred to here physical, spiritual, or otherwise. I feel very lost about this.

A: Please do not stop taking your medications. That is not the goal of this workbook lesson. Jesus would never ask us to give up anything in the world of form that still seems to help us feel better, that controls our bodily symptoms and reduces our pain and fear (T.2.IV.4:5,6,7,8,9,10; 5). He is only trying to get us to look beyond our tacit assumptions about sickness and cures.

Specifically, the purpose of this lesson is to help us begin to understand that it is not the body that is sick or that should be our focus for healing. Rather it is the mind that believes that separation and guilt are real. That is the idea behind the lines: "Atonement does not heal the sick, for that is not a cure. It takes away the guilt that makes the sickness possible. And that is cure indeed" (W.pI.140.4:4,5,6). And later in the lesson, "Let us not try today to seek to cure what cannot suffer sickness [the body]. Healing must be sought but where it is [in the mind], and then applied to what is sick [the mind], so that it [the mind] can be cured" (W.pI.140.7:1,2). This idea is asserted with great clarity in the text: "The body needs no healing. But the mind that thinks it is a body is sick indeed!" (T.25.in.3:1,2).

This lesson is not attempting to bring about any change in our behavior, such as having us stop our medications. Rather, we are being invited to open up to a different way of thinking about what is sick and why. And once we begin to accept that illness is in the mind and comes from our unconscious but illusory belief in guilt -- guilt over thinking we have separated ourselves from and attacked our Source -- we can then begin to understand that healing simply involves a process of undoing these beliefs -- what the Course refers to as forgiveness. So keep taking your medications, but at the same time, invite Jesus in to look with you at the guilt in your mind that has led you to believe not only that you are a body, but that you deserve to suffer. Jesus accepts neither of those beliefs about you, but you still do, and so you need his guidance.

As a point of clarification, the Course’s meaning of faith is different from traditional uses, such as in faith healing. God does not heal our sickness -- the Course is not asking us to place our faith in Him to take away all our illness and pain. By faith, the Course is referring to the allegiance we give to either the ego or the Holy Spirit to guide our thinking, with the inevitable outcomes that follow putting our faith in each teacher (T.13.IX.2:3,4,5,6). Place your faith in the ego’s interpretation of yourself and others and you are guaranteeing yourself guilt, fear, pain, illness and death. Place your faith in the Holy Spirit’s interpretation and you are guaranteeing yourself peace, love, joy and life. And to place your faith in the Holy Spirit means that you are willing to replace judgment and attack upon yourself and others with the healing balm of forgiveness.

For related discussions on healing and illness, see also Questions #57, #128 and #142.


Q #230: During the several times that I have worked with the workbook of A Course in Miracles, I find I have left things undone that belong to earlier lessons, e.g., meaning and meaninglessness. The instructions clearly say that only one lesson per day is to be worked. My intuition tells me to go back to the beginning, in order not to confuse the sequence of the workbook. I wonder if others have asked this question before, but have not been answered yet?

A: It is not necessary to begin the workbook again. You can always go back and do a lesson again or concentrate on a specific concept that you skipped over; but that does not mean that you should start all over again. Jesus does not expect us to do a lesson perfectly before we move on to the next one. He is far more aware of our resistance and fear than we are, so he knows we will misinterpret what he says, not do everything he asks, and when we do it, we will do it imperfectly. He is interested only in our willingness and humility as we practice the lessons. The middle of Lesson 95, in particular, discusses the attitude we should have when we run into problems in our work with the lessons. You might also wish to look at Questions #64 and #92, which pertain to the workbook.

Q #231: My question pertains to the world we see as an illusion. Is it safe to say that if we find "enjoyment" here we must keep in mind it is still only an illusion, otherwise we become attached to it in a negative way? Does this sort of parallel what the scriptures say that we are not of this world but only in this world? This makes for a tug of war within us because when we seem to desire something, we ask: which part is doing the desiring? At that point, can we justify the desire by keeping in mind that it really does not matter because it is only illusion and then go on and enjoy? Is justify the wrong word? Are we on the right track with this reasoning?

A: Your reasoning is partially correct. Anything we desire in the world of form is only an illusion, but we should not dismiss our seeking or desiring it too quickly. Although A Course in Miracles does not ask that we relinquish enjoyment in the dream, it does ask that we recognize the real motives for our pursuit of pleasurable experiences. It tells us that we are seeking to fill the void left by our seeming separation from God with substitutes for His Love that never fully satisfy us. This is at the root of all our seeking in the dream. The Course uncovers our motives in the hopes that we will learn not to seek outside ourselves for what will never truly bring us happiness. As long as we make the mistake of believing that the cause of our "enjoyment" is something or someone external to ourselves, we will seek in vain, in keeping with the ego’s maxim: "Seek but do not find" (M.13.5:8). The Course tells us that the only enjoyment possible in the dream is a peaceful state of mind, and that is achieved only by the choice to join with the Holy Spirit in the mind, and accept His interpretation of every experience or relationship we have. That is not to say that we cannot enjoy a pleasurable experience in the world. The point is that if our mind is at peace, it does not matter whether we are enjoying a beautiful concert or are stuck in hot traffic -- our peacefulness remains undisturbed. This is not the same as indulging our desires for pleasure by saying it is all an illusion and it doesn’t matter. If we were at the point in our spiritual journey where we truly believed that this is all an illusion, we would not need A Course in Miracles to help us see how real we think the world is, and, we would not be in pursuit of enjoyment in the world. Meanwhile, all the things in the world we do seek are important reminders of how attached we are to our identity as bodies and the ego thought system, which makes separation and the world very real. Both negative emotions (pain) as well as positive emotions (enjoyment) which are evoked by our experiences are our "proof" that the world is real. We are learning to be aware of how desperately we seek this.

The only part of our mind that desires anything, no matter how lofty it may seem to be, is the ego: "Appetites are ‘getting’ mechanisms, representing the ego's need to confirm itself. This is as true of body appetites as it is of the so-called ‘higher ego needs.’ Body appetites are not physical in origin. The ego regards the body as its home, and tries to satisfy itself through the body. But the idea that this is possible is a decision of the mind, which has become completely confused about what is really possible" (T.II.7:5, 6,7,8,9). The Course is a mind training process because we are so confused, have taught ourselves upside down thinking, and do not know what makes us happy: "You no more recognize what is painful than you know what is joyful, and are, in fact, very apt to confuse the two. The Holy Spirit's main function is to teach you to tell them apart. What is joyful to you is painful to the ego, and as long as you are in doubt about what you are, you will be confused about joy and pain" (T.7.X.3:4,5,6). This does not mean we should feel guilty for seeking enjoyment. It is no different than any of the other things we do to take care of ourselves in the illusion. While we still believe in our identity as bodies, we will find "enjoyment" in the world. Though the ego uses this to support the belief that the separation is real, the Holy Spirit can use it as part of His classroom to teach us that there is no satisfaction in this world, and that our only true happiness is found in God. We may also have experiences that are truly joyful because they reflect a choice in the mind to identify with the Holy Spirit. As we continue to practice what the Course teaches, we will eventually have truly joyful experiences that reflect the choice made in the mind to identify with the Holy Spirit. This joy comes from the content in the mind rather than anything in form.


Q #232: The ego thought system teaches us that being a mother or a father is something noble. In other words, having children is "good." But as far as I understand, A Course in Miracles has something else to say about this. Is this just another illusion? Maybe something "wrong," because it makes us believe in this world and reinforces our bonds to this reality?

A: Jesus does not say that there is something "wrong" in being a parent; nor does he say it is something noble. Any role in this world is part of the ego’s plan to make its world the only reality. So in that sense, parenting is part of the whole illusion that there is life outside Heaven. Any role in this world is a substitute for our true role as God’s one Son, Christ. Parenting in particular, though, may have more guilt associated with it -- even though there really are no degrees of guilt -- because of its connection with producing "life," i.e., bringing babies into the world. Within the ego thought system, this is a way of competing with God, a way of saying that we are just as powerful as He is, and therefore that He no longer is needed. The ego now can produce life, and end it. Many religions bless this process by describing it as co-creation, i.e., human parents are the co- creators, with God, of life. In A Course in Miracles, however, life is the pure abstract oneness of Love in Heaven. All bodily life and parenting is therefore illusory. Given the Holy Spirit’s purpose, though, the role of parent can become a classroom in which a person can learn how to be a loving, kind, compassionate authority figure while carrying out the responsibilities of a parent appropriately and conscientiously. The lesson of shared interests can be very effectively learned, while the parent keeps the boundaries between parent and child clearly defined. (Questions #179 and #202 might be of interest to you.)


Q #233: In answering Question #79, you quoted a statement that I would like you to elaborate on and explain: "Everyone makes an ego or a self for himself, which is subject to enormous variation because of its instability. He also makes an ego for everyone else he perceives, which is equally variable." Does this mean that I am responsible not only for my own thoughts and actions, but also for the things you do to me, and that I choose the manner in which you play them out? Is this included in the script I write -- exactly, in detail, how you will treat me?

A: To make sense of this passage, we need to be clear that Jesus is speaking to the dreamer of the dream and not to the figure in the dream that we mistakenly identify as ourselves (T.27.VII;VIII). At the metaphysical level, we have assigned all the roles and actions to all the figures in our life - - our waking dreams -- just as we have done in our sleeping dreams at night. But most of us are not in touch with this initial level of decision-making. These are all the possible ego scripts, written by the single, collective mind before the fragmentation into billions of separate, individual minds seemed to occur.

At the next level of seemingly fragmented, independent minds, we reach agreements with other minds about how we will play out our respective dream roles, that is, which scripts we will review. And, while we choose from the ego-based scripts, these are always some variation on the theme of victim and victimizer. We select the events of our life in conjunction with other minds, but again we have no conscious memory of making the choices, an essential repression for our victim defense to work (for a further discussion of this, see Question #37).

The above passage, however, can also be considered from a more immediate psychological level, which is relatively easy to become conscious of and so more practical to work with. We simply recognize our propensity to attribute ego motivations to others, based on our interpretations of our own ego needs. Your purpose may or may not be to manipulate me in any given situation, but I will ascribe ego intent to your actions and act as if my interpretation is valid. Jesus makes it very clear that this kind of analysis is hazardous to our own peace of mind (T.12.I.1,2). And he also gently reminds us of the unreliability of our observations of others: "Remember how many times you thought you knew all the ‘facts’ you needed for judgment, and how wrong you were! Is there anyone who has not had this experience? Would you know how many times you merely thought you were right, without ever realizing you were wrong?" (M.10.4:1,2,3).

Yet we continue making "an ego for everyone else" as a way of seeing the guilt of the ego thought system outside of ourselves rather than accepting responsibility for its existence within our own mind. So Jesus’ purpose is to lead us to recognize not only what a barrier our projections are to our own happiness but "the tremendous release and deep peace that comes from meeting yourself and your brothers totally without judgment" (T.3.VI.3:1).