Weekly Questions and Answers, 11/26/2003

This week's questions/topics:

Q #316: What is the meaning of "Think not you made the world"?.
Q #317: Forgiveness applied to different forms of attack.
Q #318: Jesus does seem to refer to the soul. What does this mean?
Q #319: What is meant by "the hand we hold is our own" ?.
Q #320: Is the idea of a "soul mate" incompatible with the Course?.
Q #321: How could God create something which could, in turn, create?

Q #322: The difficulty of seeing ourselves as cause, instead of effect.

Look up a specific question by date or question no.

Q #316: Lesson 184 paragraph 8 begins with: "Think not you made the world. Illusions, yes!" I have been studying A Course in Miracles for sometime and was under the understanding that God did not create the world, but we did as the ego. We, the ego, made (miscreated) the world in which to express our separateness. Paragraph 8 seems to say that we did not make the world, but we make the illusions we see that are not like God (the pain, suffering, lack, even love, etc.). What is the Course referring to as the world and what did God create and what did the ego create?

A: God creates only like Himself. Therefore His creations are the extension of His infinite Love and eternal Life. They are in Heaven, which is the state of perfect Oneness, and they have nothing to do with this finite world, nor can they be understood in terms of anything in this world, because this world was generated by the thought that God has been destroyed (an impossibility, of course).

The world we did not make is the real world. The Holy Spirit is the maker of the real world, which is the summation of His teaching us that the world is a classroom in which we learn that all this is an illusion. In the section called "Perception and Choice" in the text, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as the "Maker of the world," with a capital M (T.25.III.4,5,8). In those passages, it is unmistakably clear that the "Maker of the world" is the Maker of the real world. And the Holy Spirit is called Maker, not creator, because He makes an illusion. The real world is an illusion, but it is a helpful illusion. Thus when Jesus says, "Think not you made the world. Illusions, yes!" he is not talking about the illusion that forgiveness is. The point he is making is that we would recognize that the shift in perception that allows us to see the world as a classroom does not come from us. The source of that shift is the Holy Spirit.

Q #317: As I read about the SARS virus the other day and how it attacks cells, my thoughts went to the attack in Iraq and then to my personal victim story of attack by neighbors (and my subsequent attack/defense). Will you please comment on forgiveness as it relates to any one of these situations and the relationship between them?

A: You are correct in associating the three different forms of attack you mention. Forgiveness applies to each situation equally, because they are all the same in content. In each case, there are seemingly innocent victims being attacked by outside forces (victimizers), which cause suffering. All the victims may make the ego’s righteous cry their own: "Behold me brother, at your hand I die" (T.27.I.4:6).

Forgiveness, as taught in A Course in Miracles, asks us to become aware of the feelings and judgments that arise when we consider each of these attack scenarios. Our reactions show us the beliefs we hold about ourselves as innocent victims, and our judgments against the victimizers. We are asked first to recognize these beliefs, and then learn to look beyond the external appearances to the real source of suffering, which is a decision in the mind to make the separation real. Forgiveness begins by taking responsibility for this choice and its effects (feeling attacked and victimized), without blaming anyone or anything external to the mind. This is what the Course means by: "…forgive the Son of God for what he did not do" (T.17.III.1:5). Any perceived attack, whatever form it may take, is always a reflection of the prior attack on our identity as God’s Son by choosing separation in the mind. This is true for ourselves, and for anyone else we perceive as suffering at the hands of others. The "others" include military forces, viruses, neighbors, natural disasters, etc. Our responsibility as students of the Course is to acknowledge in ourselves and in others the power of the mind to choose. Once we have done this, we then acknowledge that we all can use this same power of the mind to make another choice. Meanwhile, we do not deny the thoughts, feelings, and judgments about the situation as we perceive it, and bringing them to the Holy Spirit, our minds are free to be guided to act in the most loving way.

Q #318: In C.1.3:2 it says that the term "soul" is only used in direct biblical quotations. Yet I've found that Jesus does use the term several times throughout A Course in Miracles without directly quoting the Bible. "The more ‘religiously’ ego-oriented may believe that the soul existed before, and will continue to exist after a temporary laps into ego life" (T.4.II.9:5).

A: You are right in pointing out that the references to the term "soul" in the Course are not direct quotations. All but one of the references, however, do refer to well known Biblical statements regarding the soul, such as "losing your soul" (T.12.VI.1). In the Clarification of Terms it is used to contrast the Course’s use of the term "spirit." In this section it is not referring to any specific Biblical passage, but reflects traditional religious views of the soul, including Christian belief which is based on the Bible’s teaching. Hopefully, finding these imperfections is not an impediment to learning the message of the Course and practicing its teachings. That would certainly not profit the man or the soul.

Q #319: In "Jesus: the Manifestation of the Holy Spirit" excerpt, on page 6, you state "The goal however is ultimately to realize the hand we hold is our Own." And, later, "Eventually we would realize that when we reach out for help, we are really reaching out to ourselves." Could you please elaborate on these statements?

A: A Course in Miracles teaches that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are symbols which represent the part of our minds which holds the memory of God and reflects His love. When it speaks of taking Jesus’ hand, or asking for help, it is making use of these symbols because we, who have dissociated ourselves from our minds and are mistakenly identified with the body, need them. This is best described when the Course tells us: "You cannot even think of God without a body, or in some form you think you recognize" (T.18.VIII.1:7).

Since we believe we are bodies living in a world of form, the Course uses form to make its message personal and relevant to us. It meets us on the level of form because that is where we think we are. It is also more direct, i.e., in passages that clearly describe the nature of the mind and our true identity (See: T.18.VI.8). There is nothing outside the mind, and therefore, no hand to take (neither ours nor Jesus’), and nothing but the mind itself to choose the truth or the ego’s lie of separation.

Both of the statements you mention are based on this level of the Course’s teaching. Key words in the statements are "ultimately" and "eventually." They point to the time when we will have learned that our true identity is the mind. Only then will we realize that the power of choice is ours, and all of our asking has been a reminder to ourselves that we can return to the mind to choose our oneness with God rather than separation. Until then, we need to use any symbol that is helpful to us, such as holding Jesus’ hand and asking the Holy Spirit’s help, to let go of the fear of the power of our minds.

Q #320: What does A Course in Miracles teach about having a Soul Mate? Is this considered a special relationship?

A: Dear Mate: The Course has nothing against having a soul.

Seriously, the Course does not refer to "Soul Mate" specifically, but insofar as the term means that there is one special person who is meant to fill all your needs and whose needs you are meant to fill, yes, it would be considered a special relationship. If the context is needs, completion, and dependency, then the ego is involved. Special love relationships have their roots in the belief in scarcity -- that there is something lacking in us that can be filled only by some special person, upon whom we then depend for our own sense of well-being, happiness, security, etc. Most romantic relationships start out this way, but they can be transformed by exchanging this ego purpose for the Holy Spirit’s, which would be to see that both partners share the same wrong mind and the same right mind, and that their interests are shared, not separate.

On the other hand, there can be an intense attraction to another person because on a deep level there is some recognition that this is the person with whom you are going to work our your forgiveness lessons (M.3.5:2). The attraction is really to the deeper call of the Holy Spirit’s Love, which then would become the center of the relationship. Unlike the ego’s notion of completion, which reinforces separation through dependency, the completion in a relationship centered in forgiveness is simply the manifestation of the wholeness of our true Self, which we no longer choose to split off.

Q #321: How can a being create a being with the ability to create if that original being was itself not created?

A: Creation cannot be understood from our reference point as human beings, because it has nothing to do with the world of separation and individuals, and therefore has no counterpart in that world. It has meaning only within the Godhead, which by its very nature extends itself eternally in creations. Our human conceptual framework was intentionally established as a substitute for the truth of the Kingdom of God and to keep reality forever concealed from our awareness. Therefore our unhealed minds cannot comprehend what we have deliberately sealed off. Jesus speaks to this at the beginning of Lesson 192: "It is your Father’s holy Will that you complete Himself, and that your Self shall be His sacred Son, forever pure as He, of love created and in love preserved, extending love, creating in its name, forever one with God and with your Self. Yet what can such a function mean within a world of envy, hatred and attack? Therefore, you have a function in the world in its own terms. For who can understand a language far beyond his simple grasp?…Creation cannot even be conceived of in the world. It has no meaning here. Forgiveness is the closest it can come to earth" (W.pI.192.1;2:1,2;3:1,2,3).

Jesus describes creation, but only briefly, as he knows that it is virtually meaningless to us in our present condition. A similar glimpse of the nature of creation is presented earlier in the workbook: "True giving is creation. It extends the limitless to the unlimited, eternity to timelessness, and love unto itself. It adds to all that is complete already, not in simple terms of adding more, for that implies that it was less before. It adds by letting what cannot contain itself fulfill its aim of giving everything away, securing it forever for itself" (W.pI.105.4:2,3,4,5). These descriptions points us to a reality that has no counterpart in this world. Creation is extension, yet it is completely non-spatial, non-linear, and non-quantitative.

The dilemma you expressed, of course, has been the subject of many a philosophical/theological treatise over the centuries. Interestingly, some medieval thinkers in the Franciscan tradition spoke of the "self-diffusiveness of love." Love is not love unless it is extending itself. And in the Thomistic tradition (St. Thomas Aquinas), the reasoning put forth is that unless there is at least one self-sufficient being, nothing would exist. That self-sufficient being would have to be infinite (without limitation), and therefore can extend its being in any way. We can get only so far with this type of speculation, though, because our limited perspective would always cause us to anthropomorphize whatever we conceive of.

It might be of help to read through the introduction to the clarification of terms, which addresses the terminology in A Course in Miracles and its exclusive concern.

Q #322: One section in Chapter 21 of the text of A Course in Miracles which has particular meaning to me is "The Responsibility for Sight." It illustrates the discomfort that comes from realizing that decisions which appear to be made by me are actually being made on another level, a level I am completely unaware of as the decision-maker. "I" and the decisions "I" appear to make are merely the effects in form of decisions for guilt or innocence made on another level. The statement, "It is as needful that you recognize you made the world you see, as that you recognize that you did not create yourself. They are the same mistake," touches on this issue, and I would appreciate any comments or elaborations on its meaning.

A: In particular, these two sentences are telling us that we need to accept that we, as the split mind, are cause and not effect within the ego thought system, so that we can let go of the world as a defense against our true Identity and recognize that, in reality, within Heaven, we are Effect and not Cause. We see here, as clearly as anywhere, the insanity of the ego thought system. The separation has seemed to come about because we have resented being the created and not the Creator -- Effect and not Cause, Son and not Father.

And so we seek to make a new, separate identity for ourselves on God’s slain corpse -- clearly here we are into a delusional thought system that believes separation from our Source is possible and murder and death are real. Delusions are unstable (T.19.4.A.8:4) and need constant protection in order to be maintained, and so, in cahoots with the ego, we concoct a wild tale of vengeance and defense, and make a world to hide in, as well as a further false identity -- a physical self with its own distinct personality -- to hide behind. We forget completely that we are the mind that has dreamed this insane hallucination and instead believe that we are at its mercy -- effect rather than cause. Hence, the insanity of it all, because we had set out to be our own cause and have convinced ourselves that we have pulled it off. But then we relinquish awareness of that "power" and accept instead a view of ourselves as effects of the world we made, in order to protect our individuality and to cover over the real source of the pain of separation -- our own choice to see ourselves as apart from Love. We see the world as the cause of all of our pain so that we never get to the source in our own mind -- of both the world and the pain -- where we could make a different choice about ourselves and the guilt we believe is so real.

As the statement you cite points out, denying that we are the cause and not the effect of the world is nothing more than a cover over our desire to make a world of our own outside of Heaven and deny our true Identity as God’s creation, Christ -- each is just a different aspect of the same mistake. But, as your question emphasizes, the shift in perspective back to the mind is not easily made, for our identities are well-entrenched in the world and we have sought to see ourselves as mindless effects or victims of that world. And so Jesus leads us out of our self-imposed prison by inviting us to take small, gentle steps along the path of forgiveness, where we learn to see our interests and our goals as shared with all our brothers rather than as separate. Those little steps will gradually undo the fear and the guilt in our minds so that we will be able first to recognize the "power" of our mind to dream of a world that seems powerful and real while we remain in the dream, and then to recognize that, since it is only a dream and we are the dreamer, we have been the cause of nothing real. And so we have remained forever the loving Effects of a Father Who has never changed His Mind about His Love for us.

For more on the decision-making power of the mind, you may wish to look at Question #226.