Weekly Questions and Answers, 12/17/2003

This week's questions/topics:

Q #337: Errors, the ego, murder, and nature.
Q #338: A question about overeating and guilt.
Q #339: A question about the "light episodes," and about reincarnation.
Q #340: Can pets really accept and learn from miracles ?
Q #341: What is meant by "All who have met before will meet again"?

Chronological List of All Questions.

Interactive Index of all topics

Q #337: What are errors and mistakes? Are they physical actions or ways of looking? Why does the ego always remind us of how we hurt people or ourselves, or if something wasn't fair. Why does the ego seem right and why does it seem logical? Is it the ego or the Holy Spirit pointing out my faults? If the Holy Spirit helps one correct the error does that mean the ego is right in its judgment of the so-called "error"? How do you know if it's an error and why does the ego demand "correction" of it as well? Also it states a few times about how a Son of God will not murder yet animals murder all the time to live. Is nature wrong and how are we exempt from it?

A: It could take a book to answer your litany of questions satisfactorily, but we will try to suggest a few ideas here that will hopefully point you in the right direction. Since, from the perspective of A Course in Miracles, there is only mind, errors or mistakes can be only of the mind. Jesus clarifies this very early in the text when he explains that "only the mind is capable of error. The body can act wrongly only when it is responding to misthought" (T.2.IV.2:4,5). And, as you suggest, errors are really mistaken ways of looking or, to be more specific, mistaken ways of looking at the world, our brothers, and ourselves with the ego as our guide rather than with Jesus or the Holy Spirit. And ego-directed looking is always judgmental. It is only the ego that points out our faults. The Holy Spirit will gently invite us to recognize how our thinking is misguided when we listen to the ego, but His purpose would never be to accuse us or to induce guilt in us over our mistakes (T.9.III.1).

Now our original error was the thought that we could separate ourselves from God and that we have in fact succeeded in establishing a separate identity for ourselves independent of Him. Every error that has followed since in our thinking comes from that initial thought of separation. But we have deliberately compounded the errors in our mind in such a way that we have quite intentionally confused ourselves and lost sight of that original error. So all of our errors since the initial one are really subterfuges that keep us unaware of the original mistake and focused instead on addressing all the other seeming mistakes and problems in our life. And so that is why the ego, as you observe, is always reminding us of how we hurt others or have been hurt ourselves -- this is the cover for the real problem, so that we never call the belief in separation into question.

Just because the ego is based on a mistaken thought, an insane premise -- that we could separate from God -- does not mean that the thought system built on that premise does not have a very definite and persuasive internal logic to it, once we accept its premise. Jesus in the Course says, "The ego's logic is as impeccable as that of the Holy Spirit, because your mind has the means at its disposal to side with Heaven or earth, as it elects" (T.5.V.1:4). And in fact, logic has its origins in the ego thought system, for there is nothing to decide or deduce or prove in Heaven. But having once accepted the ego’s logic, which seems to condemn us to hell for eternity, the good news is that we can let go of our guilt-reinforcing use for it and allow the Holy Spirit to guide us in its application, with very different results: "The Holy Spirit uses logic as easily and as well as does the ego, except that His conclusions are not insane. They take a direction exactly opposite, pointing as clearly to Heaven as the ego points to darkness and to death. We have followed much of the ego's logic, and have seen its logical conclusions. And having seen them, we have realized that they cannot be seen except in illusions, for there alone their seeming clearness seems to be clearly seen. Let us now turn away from them, and follow the simple logic by which the Holy Spirit teaches the simple conclusions that speak for truth, and only truth" (T.14.in.1:4,5,6,7,8).

Correction in the Holy Spirit’s thought system is different in every way, including purpose, from the ego’s. The ego sees error as sin to prove its own existence and to convince us that we can see the guilt we have made real over that error in others rather than in ourselves. In contrast, the only error the Holy Spirit corrects is our belief in the ego. Clearly this is an error the ego cannot correct, since its own existence depends on our belief in separation. The ego corrects through attack and punishment, the Holy Spirit through the gentle process of forgiveness. And the Holy Spirit begins to undo our belief in separation by leading us toward a recognition of shared rather than separate interests with our brothers. For more on the contrast between the Holy Spirit’s and the ego’s correction of error, you may wish to look at "The Correction of Error" in the text (T.9.III).

The Son of God cannot attack or murder in reality. But that he can believe he can is apparent when you pick up a newspaper or watch the news on TV, or simply examine your own thoughts when you are angry. It is not nature that leads humans or other animals to kill. Nature is just an aspect of the illusory world, which is an effect of our mistaken choice in the mind for separation. It is the desire to protect our individual illusory self at any cost that leads to murder first in thought and then in action. And yet, contrary to what the ego, the world and our senses may tell us, correction is not needed at the level of behavior, but only in our feverish imaginations that believe that all of this is real. "What if you recognized this world is an hallucination? What if you really understood you made it up? What if you realized that those who seem to walk about in it, to sin and die, attack and murder and destroy themselves, are wholly unreal? Could you have faith in what you see, if you accepted this? And would you see it?" (T.20.VIII.7:3,4,5,6,7). This does not mean that we are asked to deny what our eyes seem to show us, but rather to be open to a different interpretation of what we see, through the miracle. The miracle brings our focus back from the world to our minds, where we can acknowledge the purpose we have given the world -- to be the projection of our error outward, so blame rests elsewhere. Having taken this step, we can then invite the Holy Spirit to give the world His purpose -- the recognition that the error in truth never really happened and our guilt is not real.

Q #338: I know that if I attack another I will feel guilty and I should ask the Holy Spirit for help if I feel I've been attacked. Would this apply equally if I have a behavior such as an addiction that I feel guilty about? If I continue with the behavior I am sure to feel guilty. If I stop the behavior I may not feel guilty, but I really haven't fixed the problem. What would be the best way to handle this situation? The specific problem I am talking about is overeating.

A: Yes, whether I am attacking another, feeling attacked by another, or attacking myself -- which is what an addiction represents -- the only appropriate response is to ask the Holy Spirit for help. An addiction is an attack on myself because it says, over and over again, that I am incomplete and must seek outside myself for my completion, a repeated denial that I am the Christ, forever one with Its Source (T.29.VII.2,3,4,6).

All attack, no matter how it is expressed, is nothing more than the projection of the hidden guilt in our minds that the ego insists we must bear because of our (imagined) attack on God at the moment of separation, when we denied our reality as Christ. We’ve convinced ourselves that our guilt is real, but then have attempted to avoid responsibility for it. And so we seek to project the guilt outside our mind so that it seems to reside instead in bodies, our own and others. We keep this dynamic hidden from ourselves, so that the guilt remains protected. But when we ask for help from Jesus or the Holy Spirit, we are really indicating a willingness to accept responsibility (but not blame!) for the way we feel, seeing the external situation now, not as the problem, but rather as an indicator of the guilt that would otherwise remain unconscious in the mind.

And so, as you observe, focusing on changing or controlling the behavior, such as overeating, does not address the real problem. For we are only modifying an external symptom, or effect, of the guilt without addressing the cause, the guilt itself, which, remaining unexamined, we will continue to believe is real. Consequently, we will look to project the unbearable but nevertheless illusory guilt onto some other external form, perhaps another addiction. Early in A Course in Miracles Jesus speaks of how controlling or changing behavior, without addressing the mind, simply produces strain, which is intolerable, leading usually to rage and further projection (T.2.VI.5).

Now this does not mean that there is no value in developing some discipline and bringing out-of- control behavior under control, especially if the addiction is physically or emotionally damaging to us, thereby reinforcing the guilt in our minds. And the choice to bring about a helpful external shift may certainly reflect a real but still perhaps unconscious desire for an inner shift from the ego to the Holy Spirit as our teacher. But at some stage in our learning, we will come to recognize that guilt in the mind is always the only problem. Only through recognizing its inevitable projection out onto the world of form do we begin to become aware of it in our mind, where we can make a meaningful choice for its release.

A single tape by Kenneth Wapnick, as well as a small book transcribed and edited from the tape, both titled Overeating: A Dialogue, explore the issue of overeating in greater depth. The material, while addressing food addictions, can be applied to any addiction, since the content is always the same. There is also additional discussion of addictions from the Course’s perspective in Questions #30 and #57.

Q #339: There are two quotations (among many) in the workbook of A Course in Miracles which have puzzled me for a very long time. I would appreciate some clarification. (1) "You will begin to understand it when you have seen little edges of light around the same familiar objects which you see now. That is the beginning of real vision.....As we go along, you may have many 'light episodes'" (W.pI.15.2:2;3:1). I have been doing this material for years and know a great many people who have also, and no one I know has had such an experience, although I have had some wondrous experiences. (2) "The time will come when you will not return in the same form in which you now appear, for you will have no need of it." W.pI.157.7:3. I assume this means when we leave the body, but in what form will we reappear?

A: (1) This passage has been troubling to many students. It seems to suggest that a mark of spiritual progress is seeing edges of light around objects, such as auras. If this were the literal meaning, it would go against everything else the Course teaches. Jesus, as we know, stresses that all perception is unreal. In the text he says that however holy visions may be, they do not last because they are based on perception (T.3.III.4:6). Light is a symbol; it is not a perceptual thing. Perceiving light outside you symbolizes the release of some of the darkness in your mind and allowing more of the light to come through. When the Course talks about the light in us, it is not talking about an electric light bulb, an aura, or anything that we actually perceive. Light traditionally has been a symbol used in spirituality to denote God, life, truth, etc. So A Course in Miracles uses that same imagery. Darkness refers to the darkness of guilt and of being separate from God; light refers to the undoing all of that, along with feeling God’s Presence and His love.

This passage originally had nothing to do with the Course itself. Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford had a close friend who worked with them at the Medical Center -- he was the only person they shared the Course with right from the beginning. From time to time he would wake up in the middle of the night and feel and see light all around him. He was terrified by these episodes. So this was Jesus’ way of telling him that everything was all right when he had those light episodes. (See Absence from Felicity, p. 304.) That is why this passage appears. Kenneth has felt that there should have been a footnote or some explanation to that effect. In any case, it should not be taken to mean that if you don’t see light that you are a spiritual failure. It can be taken to mean rather that when you forgive more, there will be more "light" in your mind, which means that that light will be extended. Then you will perceive the world as a "lightened" place, in the sense that the burden of guilt will no longer be upon it. Some people actually perceive light physically. But that should be understood only as a symbol -- one of many, many symbols -- of the process of healing within their own minds.

(2) Similarly, the passage in Lesson 157 was originally meant for Helen Schucman herself. Kenneth comments in Absence from Felicity: "On a number of occasions Helen mentioned to me that Jesus told her that the ‘next time you come you would be different,’ reminiscent of the lines in Lesson 157…Incidentally, this was one of Helen’s favorite lessons. Her understanding of these lines, even though the subject of reincarnation usually made her very uncomfortable, was that the next time she ‘came’ -- her next life -- she would be ego-free, as was the priestess of her vision" (p. 476).

So this passage can be understood to mean that when the purpose of forgiveness is fulfilled, we shall have no further need of the body as a classroom. We shall have remembered who we are as God’s one Son as we enter into the real world. When we next appear in the body, we would obviously be different because the thought in our minds would be different. The body would not be our classroom but solely a means through which the Holy Spirit can communicate His message of healing and forgiveness. Jesus speaks of "Teachers of teachers" in this manner: "…although they are no longer visible, their image can yet be called upon. And they will appear when and where it is helpful for them to do so" (M.26.2:2,3).

Q #340: I am very confused about something. This idea of "pets" being part of the Sonship really has me. You mean a pet, my dog for example, has a Self just like I do and is capable of accepting a miracle? If one leaves this body and comes back to learn his or her forgiveness lessons, we can come back and learn this as a dog or a cat? Is that really so?

A: The simple and direct answer to your question is that neither you nor your dog accept a miracle. Nothing happens on the level of form in the dream. It is in the mind of the sleeping Son that a miracle is accepted and lessons are learned. Neither human beings in bodies, nor cats, nor dogs learn lessons. The mind that projects itself into the illusion gives form to all aspects of the physical universe, including dogs and human bodies, none of which has any ability to choose a miracle (T.28.IV.9). The world and everything in it takes form as a result of the mind of the Sonship choosing to believe that separation from God is possible, thus denying its true identity as spirit. That single thought in the mind is projected outward, giving rise to the world of form. However, one of the most important metaphysical principles of A Course in Miracles tells us: "Ideas leave not their source" (T.26.VII.4:7; see also W.pI.132). Therefore nothing happens outside of the mind. What we think is solid and real is an illusion (W.pI.155.2:1), which is why human bodies, dogs, and cats do not accept miracles, forgive, or learn lessons. It is not that your dog has a Self, it is that the separated self denies its truth as spirit. It then splits off into the billions and billions of forms that make up the illusory world, and then identifies with that world. "There is no world!" (W.pI.132.6:2).

The Son remains asleep, dreaming about human bodies, dogs, trees and oceans, and believing that the dream is real. In truth there is only the mind and nothing else. Part of the dream is that bodies die and return in different form. This dream continues as long as the mind continues to choose to believe in the separation. None of this has any effect on the truth, however, and will end when the mind chooses to forgive every form of mistaken identity in every aspect of the dream. Meanwhile, our task is to recognize all the ways we seek to make our mistaken identity real through unforgiveness, so we can then bring them to the Holy Spirit to be corrected through forgiveness.

Q #341: What does A Course in Miracles mean when it says that all who have met before will meet again?

A: All the separated fragments of the Sonship, seemingly dispersed when the thought of separation was taken seriously will, through forgiveness, return to full awareness of the Oneness that was never truly shattered.

We perceive ourselves as separate from each other, housed in bodies that interact and communicate through bodies. The Course tells us that this perception is the result of a choice in the mind to be separate: "The gap between you and your brother is not one of space between two separate bodies. And this but seems to be dividing off your separate minds. It is the symbol of a promise made to meet when you prefer, and separate till you and he elect to meet again. And then your bodies seem to get in touch, and thereby signify a meeting place to join. But always is it possible for you and him to go your separate ways. Conditional upon the "right" to separate will you and he agree to meet from time to time, and keep apart in intervals of separation" (T.29.I.4:1,2,3,4,5,6). The "‘right’ to separate" refers to the choice we make when we identify with the body. We meet when we accept the Holy Spirit’s correction for this mistaken belief, thereby acknowledging our oneness with all our brothers. Although this takes place in the mind, it may be reflected in the dream when "bodies seem to get in touch."