Weekly Questions and Answers, 09/10/2003

This week's questions/topics:

Q #252: Could other "redeemer" figures exist in other versions of time?.
Q #253: If the world is unreal, why not just ignore worldly obligations?
Q #254: Is it wrong to experience judgemental thoughts, if we recognize them as such?
Q #255: How can I prevent the complexity of everyday life from blocking my peace ?
Q #256: Is it somehow "wrong" to ask my boss for more money ?
Q #257: Should one really stop taking anti-depressant medication ?

Look up a specific question by date or question no.

Q #252: In the Course, Jesus says that the Atonement works in time, and in all the dimensions of time. Does this mean that there is a "redeemer" figure in different worlds in every dimension of time? I've heard of this idea many years ago, but still know nothing about it. So as well as Jesus appearing in different forms in the Sonship’s dream of living on another world, could this also mean A Course in Miracles has, or will appear in other forms, in other worlds also, not excluding the fact it could also come again into this world in another, even more sophisticated form!

A: You’ve got it! Rather than seeing time in a linear way, picture it holographically (the entire history of the whole physical universe contained within each of our minds), and you can better understand how it is that a "redeemer" figure can be in all places at all times. As the Course states: "The tiny tick of time in which the first mistake was made, and all of them within that one mistake, held also the Correction for that one, and all of them that came within the first" (T.26.V.3:5). There is a hologram of "error," which contains every possible "sin," and the ramifications thereof. There is also a hologram of "Correction," along with its ramifications (reedeemer figures, spiritual teachings, etc.). At any time, at any place, we are choosing one of these two holograms.

Gloria and Kenneth Wapnick deal with the nature of the separation and the Course’s view of time in Question 16 of The Most Commonly Asked Questions About A Course in Miracles: "...when the thought of separation is projected "far away" from the mind of the Son, it is expressed in the dimension of time: The past, the seeming present, and the future do appear to reflect the huge gap of billions of years the ego wishes to introduce between the mind's decision to be separate from God and the Holy Spirit, and the Son's experience of himself as a body. When the thought of separation is experienced between an individual and another person -- i.e., closer to his experience of himself -- then it is known as space, the physical gap we experience between ourselves and others in our special relationships. To state this another way, time (and therefore space as well) was specifically made by the ego to keep cause (the mind and its thoughts) and effect (our pain and suffering) separated."

And yes, this does mean a more sophisticated form of teaching may appear in the world, and this is dependent upon the Son’s mind being more fully healed. As healing takes place, and a clear understanding and appreciation of the ego’s strategy is accepted, higher teachings are then possible. 

Q #253: I understand that we made the world outside to appear real, based on error. Also, in A Course in Miracles it mentions that every time a problem arises we do not look at the problem itself (which will make it "more real"). Instead, we look within. It is like saying if worldly things (including obligations) are all unreal, then we can simply "drop it" or "let go" (let God). It is like saying -- forget about taxes, or bills, or the whole world, because they are not real. However, in the Course Jesus teaches, or at least mentions, how to look (outside or inside) without judgment (because there is nothing to judge). Please share your kind guidance to clarify this delusion.

A: A Course in Miracles is a spiritual path designed as a learning program. In this context, the world, and all the circumstances of our lives, become the classroom for learning and applying the Course principles. Everything in our lives is therefore very important to our learning, and is not meant to be merely "dropped." It is meant to be examined, reinterpreted and transformed.

Although in truth the world is an illusion (W.155.2:1), it is very real to those who perceive themselves as separate from God, which includes most of us. In order to apply the principles of the Course to our lives, it is important not to confuse levels of teaching. The Course does not ask us to stop doing any of the things we do in the world as bodies. This is not a Course in behavior -- it is a Course in mind training. A Course in Miracles is addressing the mind, and is concerned only with the content of the mind. Dealing with a perceived problem in the world is not what makes the error real. It is believing that the perceived problem is the cause of our upset and has an effect on the truth of who we are which makes the error real in our awareness, though not in truth.

When the Course asks us to look within, it does not say ignore or disregard the problem as it is perceived in the world. In fact, it tells us we must look at what we have made: "No one can escape from illusions unless he looks at them, for not looking is the way they are protected. There is no need to shrink from illusions, for they cannot be dangerous…The "dynamics" of the ego will be our lesson for a while, for we must look first at this to see beyond it, since you have made it real. We will undo this error quietly together, and then look beyond it to truth" (T.11.V.1:1,2,5,6; italics added). Thus, the steps involved in applying the Course’s teaching begin with seeing the problem as we have made it up in the world, dealing with the problem in the normal way (i.e., paying taxes and bills), while learning to recognize that the problem is made up as a smokescreen for the real problem, which is the choice in the mind to take the thought of separation seriously. Recognizing the purpose the ego assigns to the world’s problems is what the Course means by "looking within." Since we believe the world with its bills and taxes is real, we do have judgments which need to be acknowledged because they reveal our hidden beliefs in scarcity, victimization, etc. This is part of the process of looking within. The world and our feelings are showing us the "dark secrets" (T.22.VI.9:5) our minds contain. They cannot be dispelled if we are unaware of them.

In the same way, belief in the body cannot be undone by denying it and then ignoring the specific conditions of life in a body. Not paying bills or taxes would certainly bring on an avalanche of other problems. The exacerbated situation would reinforce the ego’s smokescreen, and would not facilitate healing. Only when the real problem -- belief in separation -- is recognized can we turn to the Holy Spirit in our minds to seek the real solution -- undoing the belief in separation through forgiveness. Once this is accomplished, we will be ready to believe that the world with all its "problems" is not real, and move beyond it to the truth.  

Q #254: My question has to do with judgment. Since I have been studying A Course in Miracles, I have been very careful to see everyone beyond the body, as myself, as the Son of God. I know they are exactly the same and sinless just like me and I don't let their, or my, behavior cloud this knowledge. With this filter always in the forefront of my mind, is it wrong to make observations about myself and others, and then label the behavior? For example, my mother was acting selfishly and with prejurrdddddddddddice in my presence; or admitting to myself that I was acting selfishly and with prejudice. It seems impossible not to have some kind of physical reaction to what is in front of us, whether a person or a situation. I am not judging them badly; I am just noticing something and then letting it have no effect on my thoughts about them or me.

A: You are on the right track. The thrust of our practice is to "deny the denial of truth" (T.12.II.1:5), which means we must first observe the ego, and then choose to deny that it has any power to affect the reality of God’s Son. This world is the manifestation of a choice within our minds to attack and reject the Love of God; therefore it would be impossible not to see expressions of hatred, specialness, selfishness, and fear all around us all the time. Jesus is teaching us that we need to bring these perceptions to him, and then ask his help to look at them with him, so that we will get beyond judgment and condemnation. He ultimately wants us to be able to experience ourselves and everyone else as the same. Our starting point, though, is looking honestly at how attracted we are to seeing differences, to judging, and to condemning others for their faults and sins. We would not be experiencing ourselves as bodies in the world if we were not attracted to that. It is second-nature to us; but it is not sinful. So that is where the process of healing must begin.

Then we can learn that beneath our hatred, fear, selfishness, and all of our neediness, is a call for mercy, and a plea to be told that we are wrong about ourselves. We are all the same on both of these levels. As we learn how to approach everyone and all situations from that perspective, we will become kinder and more compassionate, and we will share Jesus’ vision of ourselves and everyone else. This is not accomplished through denying our reactions and our observations, however. Our reactions and observations are the classroom into which we invite Jesus, who will then teach us how to share his loving, kind perception. 

Q #255: I am from Brasil, and have been practicing A Course in Miracles for the last 21 years. I have gone through it about three times completely, and I am going through it again now. This time I have felt the real presence of the Light, of the Christ that exists in me when I do the exercises; the absence of the physical body, the real joy of being. But, on the other side, my life is so complicated now, and it seems that the multiplication (things to do, people to care for, responsibilities of the day-by-day life, with all those magic things to organize, calculate, pay for, etc.) is getting to an unbearable state. It seems that the ego is trying to make my way difficult. What do you think? What can I do to reach, constantly, all the time, the state of mind that we get when doing the exercises -- of total peace and joy?

A: It is difficult to know the specific reason for your life becoming more complicated. It could well be a reaction to your getting closer to letting go of your ego; but there really is no way of knowing that for sure. That does not really matter, though, because the solution would always be the same. The solution is to focus on the purpose, which you can discern by the results. In other words, the increased complications have resulted in your loss of inner peace and joy; therefore, that must be the purpose of these recent occurrences. That really is all you have to know. Somewhere in your mind, you (the decision-making part of your mind) became afraid of being peaceful, and so you came up with a way of "protecting" yourself from that peace and all that it represents. The preferred defense of most of us is to become preoccupied with our lives as bodies. That quickly does away with any thought that we might be something else.

All that you need to do is to take responsibility for the state you are in and bring it to Jesus or the Holy Spirit in your mind, which means that you would not judge yourself or feel bad about it. When you no longer need the defense, you will just deal with your obligations and responsibilities the best you can, with the love of Jesus guiding you. They would no longer be experienced as "unbearable," because you would see them as classrooms in which you are learning that the peace and joy in your mind has nothing to do with anything external. If you truly knew that everything of the body and the world is intended to keep you from finding out that the source of all your distress is a choice you are making in your mind, then you would eagerly turn to Jesus or the Holy Spirit to help you give your experience a different purpose. "The world was made that problems could not be escaped" (T.31.IV.2:6).

Rather than seeing them as burdens, your day-by-day responsibilities could be seen as the means you are using to restore to your awareness the love that is your true and eternal Identity. Each interaction could then be regarded as an opportunity to learn that your interests are not really separate from anyone else’s, despite the appearance of major differences. The specifics of each situation (the form) then become less important than the meaning (the content), which is to undo your belief in separation, and accept back the identity we all share as one. Your day-by-day life is your "laboratory" in this sense. It was originally intended to keep you from the truth; now with the help of Jesus or the Holy Spirit, it becomes the means of your return to God. 

Q #256: In my relationship with my boss, I am having difficulty knowing the difference between the right and wrong mind. I try to practice the principles of generosity, tolerance, and patience described in the Manual for Teachers, but we have communication problems regarding my salary. My earnings change at his whim, making me feel powerless and underpaid. I am afraid that I will lose my job if I ask for what I think is really my due. Though money is not everything to me, I read in the Psychotherapy pamphlet that an unhealed healer may demand money where the Holy Spirit might guide otherwise.
I seem to be afraid of everything and always at fault somewhere. Is this the pain of a special relationship? Can you tell me if I am trying to be too good? Am I trying to apply the principles of A Course in Miracles with the ego, fearing the true guidance of the Holy Spirit? Do I suffer from an inverse form of poverty, which expresses itself in false generosity?

A: In studying the Course, it is important to remember that it speaks to us on different levels. We are learning to undo the ego thought system with which we have identified, while learning an entirely new way of perceiving. We seem to have a foot in two worlds and this can be very confusing. The wrong mind sees the problem as outside of the mind caused by an external agent, in this case your boss. The right mind recognizes that the cause is in the mind and the world of form is the effect. It does not blame any situation on anything outside of the mind. An easy way to distinguish which part of the mind has been chosen, is to ask if you are attributing the cause of your upset to something outside of yourself. This is a simple way of distinguishing the wrong mind from the right mind. Recognizing that the cause of any upset is a choice in the mind is the beginning of right minded thinking. It is not the whole story, but it is a beginning.

Since we still believe we are separate, individual bodies in the world, we have to deal with the world and our relationships accordingly. We continue to do whatever we must do to meet our perceived needs in the body. There is nothing wrong with working out an agreement with your boss about your salary. You can be honest about what you feel would be a just wage, and perhaps request a schedule for changes so your salary doesn’t fluctuate unpredictably, if that is possible. This is no different from any of the things we do to take care of the body. The Course does not give any guidelines for behavior on the level of form. Rather, it is teaching us to expose the thoughts and judgments we hold about ourselves and others in our minds, so the mind can be healed. Only then will the characteristics of a teacher of God, described in the Manual, flow naturally from the healed mind. They are not meant to be "exercised" or "practiced" while there are underlying beliefs that oppose them. The practice of the Course rests in finding all the hidden beliefs that are in operation in your relationship with your boss, and with everyone. These are the beliefs in separation, scarcity, and victimization that do in fact make all our relationships special. The way to undo the specialness is to expose the beliefs by recognizing them and bringing them to the Holy Spirit to be transformed. We are not being asked to practice holy qualities that we do not in fact possess, such as detachment from material wealth or other "virtuous" mind sets. We are not being asked to be "good" at all (by the way, neither are we expected to go out of our way to "bad"). We are asked only to look at our beliefs with a willingness to have them transformed. That is not always as easy as it seems, because we have such a desire to hold on to them. We are asked to become aware of our attachment to these beliefs and how much we do not want them to be changed. We cling to them in spite of the guilt and pain they cause. Actually it is because of the guilt and pain that we do cling to them. This is what the Course refers to as the attraction of guilt: "The sick attraction of guilt must be recognized for what it is. For having been made real to you, it is essential to look at it clearly, and by withdrawing your investment in it, to learn to let it go" (T.15.VII.3:1,2).

This is the guidance the Holy Spirit gives. There is no imposition of His thought system, and no behavior in the world that is required. Behind all concerns about money, poverty, and injustice is the feeling of lack and deprivation that comes from the belief that our separation from God has truly been accomplished. That is the fundamental belief that the Holy Spirit is inviting us to question. It is the belief that underlies all the conflict with your boss. While you work with your boss toward reaching an agreement about your salary, you can apply the teachings of the Course by being very honest with yourself about what you are feeling, and the thoughts of judgment that occur to you. These thoughts and feelings represent the choice to identify with the ego’s thought system in the mind, which is where healing is needed. When they are brought to the light of the Holy Spirit they are gradually transformed and replaced with His peace. Only then will the issue of more or less money be irrelevant, and generosity, tolerance, and patience will replace all fear. Until that point is reached, honesty with yourself about your perceived needs, and honesty with your boss in searching for an agreement is the best place for practicing the Course. Believing that an agreement is possible is already a recognition that to some extent you and your boss do not have separate interests. And that is the beginning of healing. 

Q #257: In Question #128, you state that by practicing forgiveness, one could stop taking medication for antidepressants. While this may ultimately be true, I have seen the physical and mental anguish that accompanies depression, and I believe that someone, if they are clinically depressed, would be a much better student of A Course in Miracles while taking their antidepressants than by not taking them. Clinical depression wrecks the brain's ability to function. Yes, it seems to be related to an overemphasis on guilt and punishment -- yet when in this condition, one's ability to function or think clearly is severely impaired. As long as we perceive ourselves in a body, should we not seek medical attention to make us think and behave clearly? Is it not easier to address our real problems in a state of sound mind? In fact, knowing that one might solve their depression through total forgiveness might even cause more depression when one fails and remains depressed. Is it not true that what we do here on earth, in our physical bodies, is an illusion? Is a body that takes anti-depressants any different from a body that does not? Aren't they both illusions? There is no hierarchy of illusions. Is seeking spiritual help to make us a better "body" -- i.e., no antidepressants, really a worthy spiritual goal with the Course?

A: Oh no, you misunderstood! The "flip" answer "Forgive" at the beginning was qualified in the rest of the response. The goal, as you say, is not to stop taking the antidepressant, any more than it would be to stop eating or sleeping. The Course never advises us to change our behavior, only our mind (T.2.VI.3:4). The things you say are true and are in line with the point being made in the answer to Question 128. It makes much more sense to continue taking the antidepressant and to get in touch with the implicit judgment about taking the medication, than to have a goal of getting off the medication.

It is true that forgiveness is the way to move beyond any of the world’s magic, but so long as we see ourselves as bodies, we will depend on magic- - including breathing oxygen! -- to keep the self we believe we are alive and functioning. Only at the very end of the forgiveness process, when we have accepted the Atonement for ourselves, do personal needs disappear, and with them the need for any form of external interventions. But that is not the goal of the Course. Peace is (T.8.I.1:1,2). And that can be found at any step along the way through the healing practice of forgiveness.

Besides perhaps reading the answer to Question 128 again in light of the above comments, it may also be helpful to look at Questions #57, #142, and #229.