Weekly Questions and Answers, 09/03/2003

This week's questions/topics:

Q #246: How can I deal with my addictions from a Course perspective?.
Q #247: What is the Course's viewpoint on "same-sex" relationships?
Q #248: What does the Course mean when it says the mind "cannot create beyond itself"?
Q #249: What does the Course mean by "unholy values will produce confusion..." ?
Q #250: If "chance plays no part in God's plan," how can God not be involved in this world ?
Q #251: What is the meaning of "a celestial speedup" ?

Look up a specific question by date or question no.

Q #246: I've been studying and practicing A Course in Miracles for almost six years, usually on a daily basis. It has helped me a lot, but I still need help to understand and deal with addictions. According to my ego, I am addicted to alcohol and cigarettes. According to God, I am His beloved daughter. How to deal with this? Don't tell me to stop hearing my ego, it sounds like a green light to addictions. I feel there's a deeper ground to think about. Professional advice seems to reinforce sickness, guilt and sacrifice. The Course tells me I don't have to do anything, to put it in the Holy Spirit's hand. But I need further help in letting it be, in opening myself to a lesson I don't quite understand, in not paying so much attention to the world's point of view. Please, let me know if there is something in A Course in Miracles, or elsewhere, I am overlooking.

A: First, it is difficult for us to understand the nature of the specific lessons we have in our lives. We cannot see the whole picture in our minds, because we are still so fearful of regaining that part of our identity that we have split off and concealed from ourselves. In one sense, though, we don’t have to know why we chose the conditions we did, because the remedy the Course provides is so clear. Whatever the condition, the only relevant issue is whether we choose to have Jesus or the ego guide us through it. If we choose Jesus or the Holy Spirit, we will wind up feeling more peaceful, regardless of whether the condition changes or not; and we will be more inclined to be gentle and kind with ourselves and others. If we choose the ego, we will wind up feeling more guilty or hopeless; we will continue to have thoughts of self-blame and self-pity, and to hold others responsible for our plight. We will remain preoccupied with the body and will be anything but peaceful.

Putting yourself in the Holy Spirit’s hands, as the Course views this, involves accepting responsibility for whatever state you are in, and letting go of any thoughts of blame -- either self-blame or blaming others -- and then adopting a kind and gentle attitude towards yourself. The lesson the Holy Spirit or Jesus would help you with is learning that peace of mind is not conditional on physical/psychological health, or on anything external to your mind and Their loving presence in your mind. As you concentrate on learning that lesson, the thoughts that oppose it would come to the surface, and you would then bring those ego thoughts to the loving presence in your mind, where you could choose either to hold on to them or let them go. The patience and gentleness would be manifest in your assurance that when you are ready to let go of the addictions, you will, and that holding on to them is not something sinful, nor something you need to be ashamed of. Nothing we do with or to our bodies can have any affect on the love that is held for us in our right minds.

Thus, putting yourself in the hands of the Holy Spirit does not mean that it is then up to Him to do something about your addictions. Rather, it means that you have made a decision to use the Holy Spirit’s way of looking at what is going on instead of the ego’s way of looking, which will always leave you believing that you are a vulnerable, victimized body.

Finally, the choice to seek professional help many times can be a loving response to the call for help that is behind the self-hatred and guilt; it can be an expression of kindness toward oneself as a way of undoing that self-hatred. You seem to imply, however, that you have tried traditional methods of treatment, and that they have not been helpful to you. We have addressed this in previous questions asked of us: #30, #57, and #119.

In case it might be of help, we are summarizing the explanations the Course gives us that can be applied to conditions such as addictions. Although the term is never used in the Course, an addiction is nothing more than a special relationship, and there is a great deal in the Course about special relationships.

Addictions frequently are the result of overwhelming feelings of self-hatred and guilt. The pain is so great that it must be neutralized in some way. Overindulgence in alcohol and cigarettes (or any number of other forms -- food, sex, wealth, luxury, etc.) is often chosen as a means of dulling this pain.

Abusing your body through addictions can also be a way of punishing yourself for being such a "bad" person, a belief that your self-hatred and guilt testifies to. It could also be a means of punishing someone else: you could be pointing an accusing finger at someone and saying, "It’s your fault that I am an addict. You made me this way." Paraphrasing a line from the text: Behold me brother, at your hands I am an addict (T.27.I.5:6); also, "I am the thing you made of me, and as you look on me, you stand condemned because of what I am" (T.31.V.5:3). We all have a need to get rid of the pain of our self-hatred and guilt, and so we would even be willing to suffer intensely just so that we could blame it on someone else. The payoff is that we would feel like the innocent victim of what someone else did to us.

As with any form of sickness -- physical or psychological -- being addicted reinforces the belief that the body is real, and can be victimized. When we are preoccupied with the body in any or all of these ways, we more than likely have made a prior decision to keep from our awareness our true identity as spirit. Any form of preoccupation with the body is a defense against the truth. The truth about ourselves can be so frightening to us -- when we allow it into awareness even for a split second -- that we then do whatever would most effectively banish that truth from our awareness. So we make ourselves mindless in the sense of being at the mercy of some force not under our control. Our real beauty and strength as God’s Son can be so frightening to us that we substitute an identity of weakness and dependency, and then repress the real origin of it and attribute it to some factor in our own body, another’s, or some condition in the world.

To sum up then, the real issue is: Now that the addiction is there, what do I do about it? And as Jesus reminds us, we need only think in terms of purpose, or "What is it for?" (T.17.IV.2:2). We know that to the ego, the purpose of addictions is to reinforce guilt; and to the Holy Spirit the purpose is changed to a means of undoing guilt. "The Son of God can make no choice the Holy Spirit cannot employ on his behalf, and not against himself" (T.25.VI.7:5). So it comes down to discerning whether you are choosing the ego or the Holy Spirit as your teacher.

Q #247: Many denominations of "traditional" Christianity prohibit homosexual relationships, while promoting heterosexual ones. With A Course in Miracles being provided within the context of Christianity, are "same-sex" relationships similarly prohibited?

A: To begin with, the Course comes in a Christian context, but it is not simply another form of Christianity, or another denomination. Second, the Course says nothing about this issue. It neither forbids homosexual relationships nor promotes heterosexual ones. In fact, it says nothing about any form of behavior, because that is not its focus. The focus of the teaching is always on our thinking and our beliefs, which are the source of our behavior. One of its major teachings is that the world and the body, along with the multitude of issues connected with them, serve mainly as smokescreens to keep us from looking into our minds, where the source of all our problems and dilemmas are located. That is the purpose of the world and the body. Ultimately, of course, both are illusory. So the focus of the Course is always on correcting the thinking going on in our minds that leaves us preoccupied with what is essentially illusory. That is where the help is needed, and therefore that is the whole orientation of the Course. In brief, then, when we choose against the ego’s thought system of hate and separation, and for the Holy Spirit’s thought system of love and shared interests, our behavior would always be an expression of that love and oneness with which we have identified.

Finally as with anything in our lives, the only relevant aspect is purpose: "In any situation in which you are uncertain, the first thing to consider, very simply, is "What do I want to come of this? What is it for?" The clarification of the goal belongs at the beginning, for it is this which will determine the outcome (T.17.VI.2:1,2,3). Thus, both homosexuality and heterosexuality can be used either to reinforce guilt (the ego’s purpose) or to undo guilt (the Holy Spirit’s purpose). That is why directing our attention to our choice of teachers is absolutely central to our work with the Course. Concentrating on that will help to keep things simple.

Q #248: I am studying the section "Healing as Release from Fear" in the text of A Course in Miracles. Can you please help me understand what is meant when Jesus says that "the mind, the only level of creation, cannot create beyond itself" (T.2.IV.2:10). I am unclear about the meaning of "cannot create beyond itself."

A: In the context of the discussion in this section, the meaning of the passage is that the Christ Mind was created by God and that Mind cannot create something totally different from itself, such as a body. There can be ideas or thoughts in the mind, but they never leave their source in the mind to become something else. The point Jesus is making is that a great deal of our confusion would clear up if we understood that the body and the mind are not two separate entities, and that the body is only an idea in the mind; it has no autonomous capabilities and therefore cannot be sick.

Q #249: Can you please clarify the following passage from the text of A Course in Miracles: "Unholy values will produce confusion, and in awareness" (T.22.III.9:2).

A: The meaning is that when we see our interests as separate from another person’s (an example of "unholy values"), we will become confused, and we will be aware of that confusion: "and in awareness" was a common psychological term at the time of the scribing of the Course.

Q #250: In Kenneth Wapnick's book Forgiveness & Jesus, he says on page xv in the Preface: "Jesus and the Holy Spirit do not operate in the world, and certainly do not send people as if they were operating a giant chess board, moving us around according to the evolution of the plan of salvation." However, the manual for teachers of A Course in Miracles says: "There are no accidents in salvation. Those who are to meet will meet, because together they have the potential for a holy relationship" (M.3.1:6,7); and then later it says, "Remember that no one is where he is by accident, and chance plays no part in God's plan" (M.9.1:3). This indicates that meeting certain people is part of God's plan, and as I have understood the Course, the Holy Spirit is operating in the illusion to help us, just as the Course is made within the framework of the illusion. Meetings are part of God's plan -- there are no accidents -- so how can this be interpreted?

A: There are no accidents because everything has already happened, and we are simply reviewing mentally what has already gone by: "The script is written.…we but see the journey from the point at which it ended, looking back on it, imagining we make it once again; reviewing mentally what has gone by" (W.pI.158.4:3,5). In "The Little Hindrance" Jesus tells us: "To you who still believe you live in time and know not it is gone, the Holy Spirit still guides you through the infinitely small and senseless maze you still perceive in time, though it has long since gone. You think you live in what is past" (T.26.V.4:1,2). So people are in our lives only because that is what our scripts involve. We have no recollection of our having written these scripts (a metaphor, of course), which is part of the ego’s strategy to keep us from remembering that we are decision-making minds. You might wish to consult Kenneth’s A Vast Illusion: Time According to "A Course in Miracles," which is an in-depth study of this intriguing part of the Course’s theory.

We are inclined to view what the Course says from our perspective, which is that the world and linear time are real. And that is why we would think that the Holy Spirit and Jesus actually do things, such as direct us to specific people so that we can learn our lessons of forgiveness. But that could not be, since there is no world, and time is not real, either. It is helpful to review the levels of language in the Course, and why Jesus speaks to us as if our experience in the world and linear time were real. Earlier answers to questions have developed these topics, and we refer you to them for further study: Questions #72 and #116.

Q #251: With world conditions the way they are, I am reminded of a section in Robert Skutch's book, Journey Without Distance (p.60), regarding Helen's asking Jesus what A Course in Miracles was for, and the answer she received: "The world situation is worsening to an alarming degree. People all over the world are being called on to help, and are making their individual contributions as part of an overall prearranged plan. Because of the acute emergency, the usual slow, evolutionary process is being by-passed in what might best be described as a ‘celestial speed-up.’ "Helen could sense the urgency that lay behind this ‘explanation,’ and strongly sensed that what was being conveyed to her was that time was running out." What does this mean exactly? What is the absolute worst that could happen? Even if we destroyed every living thing on the planet wouldn't we still be alive in spirit? Is there, in reality, anything to worry about?

A: First, a clarification of the "celestial speed-up." This was Helen’s personal experience; it was a way for her to understand the unsettling experiences that were occurring in her life at that time (1965), without increasing the fear that was already present. She had not yet come across the theory of time as totally illusory, which Jesus would explain much later; that would have been far too upsetting to her in those early months. And so the content of Jesus’ message was expressed in a form that was meaningful to Helen and with which she could be reasonably comfortable. Most likely, Helen would not have expressed the meaning in that form years later, after she had seen the complete picture. Forgetting about this form/content distinction has led many students to take Helen’s "celestial-speedup" explanation literally. When the unreality of time is brought into the discussion, it is obvious that there could not literally be a need to speed things up. The situation in the world can worsen and be cause for concern only if the world is real, and time also is both real and linear. (See Absence from Felicity: The Story of Helen Schucman and Her Scribing of A Course in Miracles, pp. 464-65)

Secondly, destruction of any kind can emanate only from the ego thought system. Just because Planet Earth might no longer exist does not mean that we would have returned to our true Identity as spirit. The pain in our minds tortured with self-hatred does not disappear simply because the planet has been blown up. If we ("Who is the ‘you’ who are living in this world?" [T.4.II.11:8]) destroyed the planet, we might be very much "alive," but in the guilt of our wrong minds, not in the innocence and purity of spirit, as Christ. We would still be caught up in the dream of sin, guilt, and fear, and their projection. In other words, as minds, we would be perceiving a destroyed planet, and our guilt, which we have not let go of, would then manifest in some other form.

Understanding that the world is not real and that we are not our bodies is a step in the right direction -- a major step; but our healing is not yet complete. It is very comforting to be assured that the world and bodies are not real, because we would no longer fear that the end of the planet is the end of "us." That dimension of our terror subsides, fortunately, which then frees us to move to the next step, which is experiencing ourselves as decision-making minds that are constantly choosing to identify with either the ego’s or the Holy Spirit’s thought system.

We must look at our investment in upholding the purpose served by our belief in sin, guilt, and fear. Ultimately, we must reach the level of readiness to let go of all sense of individuality, consciousness, and specialness before we return to our existence as spirit. The interim stage, though, is the right-minded awareness that we are the dreamers of the dream. This is the stage in which we consistently choose to perceive everything from "above the battleground," confidently assured that all destruction and suffering, all pleasure and excitement, are but the outcome of a mind dreaming it has separated from the Oneness of Heaven.