Weekly Questions and Answers, 01/07/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #356: What is a succinct description of the Course?.
Q #357: What if the peace I try to give is not returned?.
Q #358: Why do I continue to behave in such an insane way?.
Q #359: What is really going on when someone loves me but I don't love them?
Q #360: If God is all there is, is the whole world, including me, part of God's dream?

Q #361: What is the meaning of remembering only loving thoughts?
Q #362: If "forgiveness looks and waits," what are we waiting for?

Chronological List of All Questions.

new.gif (2362 bytes)Interactive Index of all topics

Q #356: I have seen in print A Course in Miracles referred to as "a Christian teaching." It is not, of course. However, I am hard pressed to find an appropriate adjective to describe the Course. It is a non-dualistic, psychological, philosophical, channeled teaching. Is there an easier way to say it?

A: Sometimes it is sufficient to describe the Course simply as a spiritual path that focuses on peace and forgiveness. Often, that is enough. If people want to know more than that, they will ask, and then you can expand as much as is appropriate. You could add, for example, that it is not a religion; there are no rituals and no clergy; it is a course of individual study and practice that helps us to remember God through forgiveness. If you are asked whether it is Christian, in addition to saying that it is not a religion, etc., you might say that there are many biblical terms in the Course, but they have a very different meaning, not the traditional meaning as presented in the Bible -- expanding, again, as appropriate. Depending on the questions and those who are asking, you can then get into the psychological and metaphysical dimensions of the Course, and how it came.

Q #357: Can you clarify what Kenneth means in The 50 Miracle Principles when he says that my "gift of peace will be given to the other person; whether that person chooses to accept this is between that person and Jesus." What if the other person I am working with is not a student of A Course in Miracles, and not in touch at all with their hidden love? Implicit in this question is my frustration and fear concerning the fact that I have given gifts to my ex- girlfriend with whom I had a bad breakup. I am seeing her less and less through the eyes of fear and more and more through the eyes of love, but I have not gotten the response that I had hoped for. I am confused about the meaning of: "As you begin to recognize the gifts you have so freely given your brother" and I have and I am growing and excited; but I guess my dream is for her to come up to me and say "Oh by the way I experienced this new way of looking at you." (LOL) Can you offer me a little insight here?

A: The distinction between form and content is important when working with these teachings. The "gift of peace" comes from the decision you make in your mind not to see your interests as apart from your girlfriend’s. That is the content. It is no different from the "gift of peace" you give to anyone else. It means rising above specialness, which always involves separate interests: seeing yourself as lacking and seeing the other person as having what you want and need. Once you rise above specialness -- if only for an instant -- the separation between you and the other person will be gone; you will be at peace; and your experience will be that that peace enfolds you and the other person as one. In that instant all needs and expectations simply disappear; it truly does not matter whether the other person responds or not. The form or expression of the content would vary from individual to individual, but that is not what is important. That is the ideal that we want to grow into. A lesson that is helpful in this context is "When I am healed, I am not healed alone" (W.pI.137).

From the world’s point, the purpose of the relationship is to get what you want -- to have your girlfriend in your life so that you will feel complete and fulfilled. It is natural to feel that everything will be wonderful if only your girlfriend would respond the way you want her to. That is how we approach relationships in the world. But that approach is coming from our wrong minds -- which does not make it sinful or bad, nor does it mean that you should not pursue a romantic relationship. If you are working with the Course, you just want to be completely honest about the purpose of the relationship for you now; then ask for help if you would like the relationship to have a different purpose.

From the Holy Spirit’s point of view, the purpose of any relationship is to be the means by which we undo our own belief in separation. It is a process that takes place in our own minds. "The Holy Spirit, ever practical in His wisdom, accepts your dreams and uses them as means for waking. You would have used them to remain asleep. I said before that the first change, before dreams disappear, is that your dreams of fear are changed to happy dreams. That is what the Holy Spirit does in the special relationship. He does not destroy it, nor snatch it away from you. But He does use it differently, as a help to make His purpose real to you. The special relationship will remain, not as a source of pain and guilt, but as a source of joy and freedom. It will not be for you alone, for therein lay its misery. As its unholiness kept it a thing apart, its holiness will become an offering to everyone" (T.18.II.6).

This, obviously, is quite different from the world’s approach, where our focus is on making our lives in the world better. This shift in our approach to everything is the object of the training in the workbook lessons. It takes a long time for most of us, because it seems to go against what has become natural to us. It seems normal to think that we will be just fine as soon as the external condition changes -- as soon as this particular person responds the way I want her to. But Jesus is teaching us that this attitude simply reinforces our problem rather than solving it. It reinforces our belief in the reality of our lack and our anguish and unhappiness. Again, that does not mean that you cannot have a relationship. It means that the purpose would be different.

Q #358: It has been two years since I started to study A Course in Miracles and, though I was really scared in the beginning, I’ve kept going in spite of all my fears. Some days when I’m feeling guilty, everything seems to go wrong and I just want to die. I realize I am being egotistic, but I'm such a drama queen. I stay in deep depression for hours feeling sorry for myself, playing the martyr, thinking of how the person I feel guilty about will feel guilty after my death. I always find my way back to peace because that is what I really want. But why do I behave like such a spoiled little girl? What can I do to stop this insane "my way or the highway" behavior?

A: Ah, yes, "Death seems an easy price, if they can say, ‘Behold me, brother, at your hand I die!’" (T.27.I.4:6). The ego is really the king (or queen) of drama, and we all deserve Tony’s for our so very convincing performances as victims of the world, day after day after day, ad nauseum. If nothing else, we have convinced ourselves of the parts we’re playing, although we may be getting more suspicious that things are not as we have imagined them to be. You have made a big step by being honest with yourself in identifying what your ego is up to, without trying to justify it.

The goal, however, is not to put an end to the drama, for that would give the events of our lives a role in dictating how we feel that they simply do not have. They are only ever external cues that point to an inner choice to continue to identify with the conflict and guilt of the ego thought system rather than the peace of the Holy Spirit’s alternative, and then to project responsibility for the effects of that choice outside ourselves onto someone else. It is within our own minds that the change needs to happen. And it begins by looking nonjudgmentally on our choice for the ego and the accompanying consequences, the desire to keep ourselves separate from everyone else, beginning with God, Whom we believe we sent packing when we decided we wanted our way at any cost.

We behave like spoiled little children because we still identify with the ultimate spoiler, the ego, which has actually convinced us that we could spoil the perfection of God’s heaven and make an impermanent world in which everything will in the end spoil. Jesus assures us that this is all insanity, but we stubbornly cling to our false identities, convinced that a miserable false identity is better than no separate individual identity at all.

So continue looking at what your ego is up to, acknowledging the effect it has on you when you choose to align your thinking with it, and you will find that its appeal will simply fade over time. For the ego can only continue to exert its control in the dark, as we willingly agree to continue to fool ourselves about what it is up to. But as its agenda of guilt and pain and blame becomes increasingly clear through our nonjudmental looking with Jesus or the Holy Spirit, the choice against conflict and guilt, and hence for peace and guiltlessness, will become simpler and simpler to make.

Q #359: I have a friend who thinks that I am in love with him even though he knows that I have a spouse and children. I do have affection for him because he has helped me to learn how to get myself through some trying times. Perhaps he has misunderstood my affection; I don’t know. I feel very discouraged and tempted to start anew somewhere else.

I have this nagging feeling that this relationship mirrors a recurring pattern in my life: a real ambivalence toward joining with anyone, as A Course in Miracles defines joining. I seem to create relationships in which I can eventually justify pushing the other person away, both emotionally and physically, while at the same time I have a need to be liked by the person. I’m assuming that these attributes of mine are just two more forms of self-hatred --- and complicated forms at that. In a recent, similar question (#180), you advised a student to focus on healing the underlying guilt in her mind that her unrequited "love" relationship had uncovered, and that once she had accomplished the healing, her uncertainty over the relationship would dissipate.

Can I assume that the answer to my dilemma might be the same as for the student in Question #180?

A: Yes, although the form of the relationship you describe is different from the relationship described in the earlier question, the content, as well as the solution, is no different. In fact, it’s always the same! The recurring pattern you identify in your relationships reflects an ambivalence that necessarily characterizes all ego-based relationships. The problem is not ever the form of the relationship but the purpose that we give it -- to reinforce our belief in separation and guilt -- although of course we keep that purpose hidden from ourselves. The following passage from early in the Course describes quite explicitly our self-hatred, and its origins in our ego’s denial of God, as the dynamic that underlies all our relationships in the world:

"You who identify with your ego cannot believe God loves you. You do not love what you made [the ego] and what you made does not love you. Being made out of the denial of the Father, the ego has no allegiance to its maker. You cannot conceive of the real relationship that exists between God and His creations because of your hatred for the self you made. You project onto the ego the decision to separate, and this conflicts with the love you feel for the ego because you made it. No love in this world is without this ambivalence, and since no ego has experienced love without ambivalence the concept is beyond its understanding. Love will enter immediately into any mind that truly wants it, but it must want it truly. This means that it wants it without ambivalence, and this kind of wanting is wholly without the ego's ‘drive to get’" (T.4.III.4; italics added).

In other words, if God our Source is only Love but we seek to be something other than a part of that Love, we are choosing against the love that we are and must believe that we have deprived ourselves of it. The ego self we make as a replacement for God and our true Self must therefore be the opposite of love, or hate. Although we are attracted to what we have made because it is our own, we also blame it for the loss of love we feel. And so any "love" within the ego thought system of separation must be an ambivalent combination of attraction and hatred. Since we identify with the ego, this is really self-hatred. Finding this self-hatred intolerable, we make up a world and separate brothers to hold responsible for the lack of love we feel. And then we search for that love in others, at the same time blaming them for taking it from us and depriving us of what we insist we rightfully deserve, denying all the time that it was our own choice that brought us to this sorry situation. All relationships in the world, whether they involve a romantic component or not, must have this ambivalent dynamic, so long as we continue to choose the ego - - the belief in the reality of the separation -- as our guide and teacher. For they are always predicated on the assumption that something is missing in me and must be found outside of me. But it is inevitable that the other will fail in the end to meet my needs. And so there seems to be no alternative but to terminate this relationship and go in search of another, hoping that perhaps the next one will be the one that really works. But it never will. For the ego’s maxim, that underlies all its efforts, is "Seek, but do not find" (T.16.V.6:5).

Love need not be found nor earned nor seized -- in fact, it cannot be. It can only be remembered. And we remember it by wanting it truly, which means we want nothing else -- none of the special trappings of the ego, which are all nothing more than disguised guilt. We must relinquish "the drive to get," whatever form it takes, including the need to be liked or valued or appreciated. But before we can relinquish the ego’s seeking, we must look honestly at what it involves and acknowledge what the underlying content really is -- loss, anger and attack -- or we will not be willing to release it and in fact will feel like we are being compelled to sacrifice something we want and need.

And so the problem is always guilt, or self-hatred, and the solution is always uncovering that inner seeming blight so that, through joining with Jesus or Holy Spirit -- the reflected Presence of love in our minds -- its unreality can be recognized. For if love is there with us looking on our judgment against ourselves for turning our backs on love and attacking it, then the case against ourselves can simply be dismissed (T.5.VI.10). In those moments when we accept the healing, we can be a reminder to others -- those with whom we are in various relationships -- that they too can make the same choice to look within rather than to seek outside themselves. And it will not be the words we speak but simply the unambivalent love and acceptance that flow through us -- love that neither looks for nor demands anything from anyone -- that will remind them and reinforce that recognition within us.

Q #360: Is the following correct?

If the ego does not exist and this world is of the ego, then logically speaking, this submission to the Foundation’s Question and Answer Service is not really happening either, except in a dream or illusion. And if I, the writer of this submission, do not exist except as a character in a dreamer's dream, and God is Mind, and God is All That Is, then all of this world and all of its inhabitants are the entire cast of characters in this dream of God's.

A: You’re in good company with Hindu teachings, which also speak of the world as God’s dream. But A Course in Miracles takes a very different position on the origins and nature of the illusory world, derived from its totally uncompromising non-dualistic metaphysics. The Course teaches that once you seem to have a thought of separation, you are outside of the Mind of God, which is total Oneness. Consciousness, perception and dreams, all predicated on the reality of a self and other, are outcomes of a thought of separation that has never happened and so are also outside the Mind of God. They are all illusory and only God is real, so they can not be contained within His reality -- nor ours, as His undifferentiated Son (even our words here betray the limits of our ego framework for discussing any of this, for we seem to have slipped into a dualistic description of our reality in God).

The thought of separation and the dream that follows from it to protect and defend its existence have nothing whatsoever to do with God. However, once believing in the illusion, we have two ways of looking at it: 1) as proof that we have wrested a separate existence from God at his expense, or 2) as a dream from which we need the help of the sane part of our split mind to awaken. For even within our split (separate) mind, we carry the memory of Who we really are as a part of that Oneness, which enables us to use the illusory symbols of the world for a purpose other than separation and its concomitants of sin, guilt and fear. And that purpose is forgiveness, the release of all the judgments of the ego, which will transform our perception of the world from one of separate interests to one of shared interests.

And so you are correct in describing your experience as a writer and submitter of questions to the Question and Answer Service as all part of the illusory dream, but it has nothing to do with God. Yet your purpose can be one of acquiring true or healed perception, still illusory but not reinforcing the belief in illusions. And that is a necessary step before you can return to the total abstraction of knowledge -- the Course’s term for our reality with God in Heaven -- beyond all perception and dreams.

Q #361: One of my favorite passages from A Course in Miracles is "To forgive is merely to remember all the loving thoughts you gave in the past and those that were given you....ALL THE REST MUST BE FORGOTTEN"...Sorry but I can't tell you where it is found in the text. I would like your comment on this passage. I have never heard anyone else mention it...maybe I'm missing something...and I wouldn't want to do that!! Maybe the "merely" doesn't really mean "merely"...maybe my approach should be more complex...anyway...it's a beautiful passage...!

A: This passage is from "Shadows of the Past" (T.17.III.1:1,2). This is the heart of the forgiveness process. There is a parallel passage occurring earlier in the text: "Do not, then, be deceived in your brother, and see only his loving thoughts as his reality, for by denying that his mind is split you will heal yours" (T.11.VIII.9:1). The practice of this is not easy because of the investment we all have in seeing other people as the cause of our problems. As a result, our resistance to complete forgiveness will be quite strong, or in our zeal to be holy and spiritual, we will simply cover over all the pain and hurt inside so that we will see only what is loving in ourselves and others. The pain and hurt remain, though, and forgiveness then is not sincere. This is a process requiring complete honesty and patience with ourselves, and asking for help to look at how tempting it is to hold on to grievances and to blame others for our distress. That is why Jesus says "Do not, then, be deceived in your brother..." He knows that we have been deceived because we see ourselves as the innocent victims of others’ wickedness or viciousness. So we must first look at this tendency within ourselves, recognize where it is coming from, and then ask for help to be guided by the Teacher of forgiveness.

Q #362: The workbook of A Course in Miracles says "forgiveness looks, and waits, and judges not." I understand the looking and the not judging, but what exactly are we waiting for?

A: This is a way of saying that we will awaken from the dream when we no longer are afraid of letting go of the false self we made, and are ready to accept back our true Identity as the one Son of God. Our fear is so great that we progress towards awakening through instants of forgiveness; but these are quickly followed by fear of what total forgiveness means for us. So the gentleness of forgiveness is expressed through patiently accepting where we are, and not being hard on ourselves when we find ourselves right back in the thick of the ego’s insanity.