Weekly Questions and Answers, 08/27/2003

This week's questions/topics:

Q #239: How can we kill others and still be loving and forgiving?.
Q #240: Is the Course's thought system compatible with gods and goddesses?
Q #241: Could my relationship with Jesus be a special relationship?
Q #242: What does the Course mean by "Proper learning conditions" ?
Q #243: What is the Course perspective on "unpardonable sin" ?
Q #244: Is happiness the goal of life?

Q #245: Does the term "at-one-ment" have any specific meaning?

Look up a specific question by date or question no.

Q #239: I have a question regarding the March 2003 Lighthouse article. The beginning, about "regime change," made sense to me, and had me laughing. But at the end I was frustrated -- I didn't know how to formulate how to act, or what actions to support. If the only sane response is forgiveness, does that mean we shouldn't try to stop people who are hurting others? Can we stop them lovingly? What if we have to kill them to stop them -- can that be loving?

A: The answer to your questions lies in understanding the teachings of A Course in Miracles on forgiveness, which is not the same as the ego’s version of forgiveness. Forgiveness, according to the ego, rests on seeing sin, and then forgiving it. It then esteems some "sinners" as deserving of forgiveness, and some as not. The important thing for the ego is making the error real by believing some harm has been done by one part of the Sonship to another, and that its effect is real. These beliefs are in full operation in a situation, such as the war in Iraq. It is a perfect opportunity to see the ego thought system in action -- not on the battlefield of the Iraqi desert, but in our mind, which is where forgiveness is needed. It is also a perfect opportunity for forgiveness, as stated in the Lighthouse article. Forgiveness, as taught by the Course, begins by looking at the world, and events like the war in Iraq, paying attention to all the judgments and feelings that come up in us, and recognizing their source, which is the mind: "It [the world] is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition"(T.21.in.1:5). The real war, therefore, is in our mind. The judgments and feelings are projections of the guilt in our own mind which is caused by our choice to identify with the ego’s belief in the separation. The mind then becomes a battleground, and the war in the world merely reflects the conflict in the mind. Since this is an activity of the mind, it needs correction on the level of the mind, not on the level of form. As a student of the Course our part in "ending the war" lies in this forgiveness process.

The next step in the Course’s forgiveness process is the recognition that no true harm is done by the war: "There is nothing to forgive. No one can hurt the Son of God" (T.14.III.7:5,6). Any perceived damage is based on the belief that the separation and the body are real. Though in truth they are not, our belief makes them real in our awareness. As we watch the devastation of war on television we realize how much we do perceive damage and we do believe the body is real. All our reactions to the war come from this belief, along with so many other beliefs about how the world should work, who is responsible for the war, who are the victims, and on and on. The list of misperceptions is very long, particularly in an extreme example, such as war. It is this belief system that causes our upset, not the events of the war. And it is this belief system that brings about war in the world in the first place. That is why the real solution to war is forgiveness, not negotiation, or any specific action. However, while we turn within to see the turmoil in our own minds and seek help to undo our misperceptions, it is still possible to take action in the world. Just as we continue to take normal care of our bodies as we learn to undo our belief in them, so too we can do whatever we think may be helpful to resolve conflicts in the world. The decision is not whether or not to act, or what action to take, but with whom we make the decision: "And make no mistake, nowhere in A Course in Miracles does Jesus suggest that we not act in the world; only that we not act alone" (The Lighthouse, Vol. 14, No. 1, p. 5). Is the purpose of taking action to reinforce the ego’s belief in victims and victimizers, taking sides with those who are "good" against those who are "evil", or are we willing to ask the Holy Spirit to help us see that everyone in the war is a brother calling for help, rather than a sinner, and that their truth remains inviolate no matter how insane their ego behavior is? Whatever form the action takes will then reflect the belief system of the teacher we have chosen: the ego or the Holy Spirit. Choosing to accept the Holy Spirit’s perception is the only loving response in any situation, including war. When these steps are taken it is possible to stop an aggressor from physically hurting someone else without attack. If the only way to do this is by killing another, and if a person has clearly chosen to identify with the Holy Spirit, not the ego, in principle the killing can also be done without attack, without judgment, and without guilt. There are probably very few people who would fall into this category. It may indeed be more loving to stop someone from killing another (although not necessarily), but that would only be clear if you are coming from the right mind, having chosen the Holy Spirit, and not from fear. In applying the principles of the Course to any situation in the world the only important thing to remember is the content of the mind, not the form. The mind is what we are being trained to be aware of, and it is the mind that is in need of healing.

A last consideration, but certainly not the least, is the Course teaching that there is no death: There is no death because what God created shares His life. There is no death because an opposite to God does not exist. There is no death because the Father and the Son are One" (W.167.1:5,6,7). It is when we perceive ourselves and others as separate that the Son of God is "murdered." It follows that a person who claims to support peace and brotherhood, but is filled with judgment against political leaders responsible for war, inflicts a death penalty on the Son of God, while a soldier who fully identifies with the Holy Spirit’s perception and knows his oneness with all brothers, can perform his duty, which includes killing, with the Holy Spirit’s love that flows through him. This is possible only by joining with the Holy Spirit in the mind: "He brings forgiving dreams, in which the choice is not who is the murderer and who shall be the victim. In the dreams He brings there is no murder and there is no death" (T.27.VII.14:4,5).

Q #240: In the course of a recent Tantra workshop I experienced a powerful "goddess" energy, which immediately provoked a conflict, as I thought, "Hey, there aren't any goddesses in A Course in Miracles!" Would you say the notion of god or goddess energies, of Shiva and Shakti, is incompatible with ACIM, or could the fusion of these sexual polarities be seen as analogous with the overcoming of duality as envisioned by the Course?

A: Although -- with only one exception (C.2.8:2) -- all the gender references in the Course are masculine, the only reality according to the Course is a genderless one. Any polarities, whether they be male-female, good-bad, hot-cold, in-out, etc., must be a product of the ego thought system, originating as it does in a belief in opposition -- against God. Given that we experience them, the only question worth asking, according to the Course, is for what purpose shall such polarities be used? (T-24.VII.6:1,2,3,4). To reinforce the thought system of sin, guilt, fear, differences and specialness? Or to serve as a classroom for our forgiveness lessons that leads us beyond the perception of differences and specialness?

The Course process does not involve any fusion of polarities -- that would be more in line with the Jungian approach of reconciling opposites, where both poles are afforded reality, but a higher level of experience is arrived at by their integration. In the Course, even such seeming dualities as love and fear, or light and darkness, are not really opposites for, as the Course observes at the very beginning, "The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite" (T.in.1:8). Fear and darkness have no reality and so there is no possibility to integrate them with their "opposite." Rather, we need to step back and look at the fear and the darkness with the Holy Spirit until, over time, we come to recognize their illusory nature. And in that recognition is the realization that there is nothing to overcome. There is no war to be waged against duality. All that is needed is a shift in perception that produces a totally different perspective, from above the oppositional battlefield.

As for your specific experience of a powerful "goddess" energy, the Course would make no specific judgment except to have you ask yourself: Was this experience of power in any way associated with seeing yourself in opposition to anyone else, as having separate interests, such as a female-male split? If so, it would have reflected an alignment of your thinking with the ego thought system. If however, the experience was one of shared, mutual possibilities for yourself with everyone else, excluding no one, it would be a reflection of right-minded thinking. For it is your interpretation of that experience of power that determines what you have used it for, as we noted above.

Q #241: Jesus, for me, is a symbol of God's Love in my mind, that I use interchangeably with that of the Holy Spirit, for looking at the blocks (grievances) in my mind. I do not proselytize A Course in Miracles, and indeed feel that everyone must choose their own spiritual pathway. Recently however I read where someone on the internet suggested that any one using the Course or Jesus, had formed a special relationship with both. I do not see it that way. Could you give me your opinions on this?

A: As long as we have any belief that the separation is real, and as long as we identify with the body to any degree, all of our relationships begin as special: "…every relationship on which the ego embarks is special" (T.15.VII.1:7). In A Course in Miracles, the term "special" refers to the belief that since we are separate individuals in bodies, we are incomplete, and have need of persons, things, and events outside of ourselves to be made complete. In other words, anyone who perceives any need in themselves (this means just about everyone) brings specialness to all their relationships. Only those who have accepted the Atonement for themselves do not relate with specialness. The fact that Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) is perceived as different, in that he symbolizes the memory of God’s love in the mind, makes him special. In truth, we are not only one with the symbols of the memory of God, we are one with God at home in Heaven. Only this is not special. For the sake of clarity, it might be helpful to substitute the word "separate" for special. Wherever perceived separateness or differences are, there specialness is. It is the inevitable outcome of belief in separation. When the Course says "The Holy Spirit knows no one is special" (T.15.V.5:1), it means no one is separate, also meaning not in need of anything or anyone. When we identify fully with the Holy Spirit in our minds, we will no longer have a special relationship with Him, with Jesus, or with the Course, because we will no longer perceive ourselves as separate. Meanwhile, we still perceive ourselves as incomplete, and in need of help to accept the Atonement for ourselves, and, we establish special relationships with everything. Again, "For every relationship on which the ego embarks is special" (T.15.VII.1:7). Only by recognizing this can the special relationships become a classroom the Holy Spirit uses to transform them. We initially turn to the Course and to Jesus out of a sense of need. This does make them special. It is necessary to recognize this so we can allow our relationship with them, along with everyone else, to be transformed. If we deny this, we deny ourselves the opportunity to look at the beliefs that underlie our sense of need and incompleteness, thus withholding them from the power of healing. In the end, we will learn that we have no need. Until then, remember that "This course is a beginning, not an end" (W.ep.1:1). Jesus knows we come to him with our specialness intact. In fact, he tells us we must forgive him: "Forgive me, then, today. And you will know you have forgiven me if you behold your brother in the light of holiness. He cannot be less holy than can I, and you can not be holier than he" (W.pII.288.2). As long as we perceive ourselves as different than Jesus -- separate from him -- we bring specialness to our relationship with him, and need to "forgive him" for our mistaken beliefs.

Q #242: I am confused by A Course in Miracles’ use of the word conditions. We are not to ask for help with the "release of fear," but rather to ask "for help in the conditions that have brought the fear about." Would you say it's also appropriate to ask for help in bringing "proper learning conditions" about?...for help in bringing about the conditions for peace?...for help in bringing about the conditions for love?...etc. I assume it's talking about conditions of mind.

A: Yes, the term conditions always refers to a choice made in our minds, which accounts for our lack of peace, for our not being aware of love’s presence, etc. The point of the passage you are referring to (T.2.VI.4) is that Jesus was helping Helen and all of us to learn to take responsibility for our thoughts and feelings, so that we can get back in touch with the power of our minds to choose. We essentially chose to repress this power and become mindless instead when we gave our allegiance to the ego. So Jesus is saying that it really would not be helpful to us in the long run, if he simply took our fear away from us, without our having learned that it is there only because of our ongoing choice to prefer separation to oneness (the conditions that led to the fear). He tells us several paragraphs later: "You may still complain about fear, but you nevertheless persist in making yourself fearful. I have already indicated that you cannot ask me to release you from fear. I know it does not exist, but you do not. If I intervened between your thoughts and their results, I would be tampering with a basic law of cause and effect; the most fundamental law there is. I would hardly help you if I depreciated the power of your own thinking. This would be in direct opposition to the purpose of this course. It is much more helpful to remind you that you do not guard your thoughts carefully enough" (T.2.VII.1:2,3,4,5,6,7).

So Jesus is emphasizing the importance of guarding our thoughts very carefully, just as the entire workbook comes back over and over again to the importance of our being vigilant about our thoughts. That is what he wants to help us with: looking at how willing we are to keep ourselves separate and special, how willing we are to see others as the sinners and ourselves as innocent victims. These are the conditions that result in our fear and our lack of peace, etc.

Thus is it very appropriate to ask for help in bringing about the conditions that would facilitate our learning, and that would bring about the conditions for peace and love, etc. If we were to look with him at all of our ego thoughts, and then let them go, fear and guilt would vanish forever, and then the love that had been blocked by the fear would be our only reality. All fear and guilt rest on our willingness to choose against the love of Jesus and for the ego, which ensures our survival as separate individuals.

Finally, if we ask him to help us look at our choice to keep him away, then we have already begun the process of correcting that choice. That is the kind of help that would benefit us most.

Q #243: Some verses in the New Testament seem to speak of an "unpardonable sin" against the Holy Spirit. What is A Course in Miracles’ view of those passages?

A: The Course always views sin as part of the illusory ego thought system. It has no basis in reality. Therefore there are no pardonable or unpardonable sins, parallel to the principle that there is no hierarchy of illusions. The ego attempts to keep sin real in our minds because that is what keeps its own existence real. Without a notion of sin, there would be no need for dynamics to cope with its effects.

Jesus talks about this in the Course by teaching us that we have done nothing in reality that would warrant the label sin. What we would be inclined to call sin -- our attack on God by separating from Him -- is simply a "tiny, mad idea," easily corrected by making the choice to accept the Atonement principle, which states that the separation never happened; and therefore there is no such thing as sin.

Q #244: Is happiness the goal of life?

A: A Course in Miracles states that "there is no life outside of Heaven" (T.23.II.19:1); so what we call life here is really illusory. But since we think we are here as individuals in a world, Jesus talks to us on that level in order to help us begin the process of awakening from the dream we call life. In that context, Jesus says that our goal is to achieve a state of abiding peace in our minds, which is the natural outcome of the practice of forgiveness. "Happiness," he says, "cannot be found apart from Your joint Will [with God]," which is reflected in our choice to see our interests as shared with everyone else’s, not separate from them. We might say that no happiness the world offers can match the happiness we would experience when we experience the oneness and sinlessness of God’s Son.

Q #245: In many groups studying A Course in Miracles that I have attended, people mention that atonement and at-one-ment are the same thing. I consider at-one-ment to be a new age euphemism that actually has nothing to do with Atonement as it is used in the Course. I don't find the word at-one-ment anywhere on the Course CD. Please give me your thoughts on this subject.

A: You are right. At-one-ment is not the same as Atonement as it is used in A Course in Miracles. "The Glossary-Index for A Course in Miracles" by Kenneth Wapnick defines Atonement as "the Holy Spirit’s plan of correction to undo the ego and heal the belief in separation" (p.32). The term at-one-ment is not used in the Course.

The Course tells us "the sole responsibility of God’s Teacher is to accept the Atonement for himself" (M.18.4:5), meaning to no longer believe that the separation is real. The term oneness in the Course refers to the unity of the Father and the Son in Heaven, and is reflected in the dream by joining with another through forgiveness. Neither of these principles of the Course’s thought system is expressed by the term at-one-ment.