Weekly Questions and Answers, 01/14/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #363: Does the Course's metaphysics deny the reality of karma?.
Q #364: Does looking after the body reinforce the illusion?.
Q #365: What is the role of the ego in an abused child?.
Q #366: Would salvation mean I have to leave behind the ones I love?
Q #367: I am having problems releasing my grievances after a divorce.

Q #368: I need guidance concerning forgiveness and releasing hatred and judgements.
Q #369: What is the reverse of the "Golden Rule"?

Chronological List of All Questions.

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

Q #363: I see some profound similarities between A Course in Miracles and Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Both state that this world (the physical universe) is an illusion, or, in Hindi, "maya". However, in Vedanta philosophy there is a strong emphasis on karma (action), which would be the Western equivalent of sin if the karma is "negative." In other words, we reap what we sow. I was very comfortable with this doctrine for many years, as it made logical sense to me....until the Course. Now it seems that even the belief in karma is an illusion, according to the Course's metaphysics. Do I have to completely deny everything regarding this temporal experience? No matter how intellectually satisfying the Course is in the abstract, I have a hard time with it on a day-to-day basis. Any solutions?

A: The desire to believe in karma, in particular bad or negative karma, is the desire to make sin real, in particular, the sins of others, whom we still believe should face the music for their sinfulness, even if it is nothing more than an impersonal universe meting out its "impartial justice" for violations and transgressions against its natural laws -- the seemingly inevitable and unavoidable consequences of hate and attack. This is always the ego’s version of justice, because sin has a price that must be paid and the scales of justice must always be balanced between good and evil, clearly a dualistic proposition based on a belief in opposites.

Yet this can only be a desirable governing principle if we genuinely believe that others are separate from us and that you can merit punishment while I maintain my innocence. And so this is nothing more than the ego’s veiled desire that guilt be real -- especially others’ guilt. Yet if my brothers’ guilt is merely the projection of my own unconscious guilt, then I am unconsciously saying I want my own guilt to continue to be real. What if I really knew that the only way I can be let off the hook for my own so-called sins is to be willing to see that every "transgression" -- others’ as well as my own -- has been nothing more than a call for help? Clearly, this is something that, as you are experiencing, is impossible to do on your own as you realize you are being called to move beyond the Course’s theoretical principles to its actual application in your life through the practice of forgiveness. And it will continue to be impossible so long as we continue to believe that our interests can be separate from anyone else’s.

The Course is never asking that we deny our temporal experience in the world, but it is asking us if we are willing to question our interpretation of that experience. The ego’s interpretation will always see separate interests and demand "justice" that rights every so-called wrong, rather than questioning the premise that insists that every wrong is a sin. Of course, the bottom line is that karma and guilt are merely different ways of attempting to say that the separation is real in order to keep my individuality intact. And that is why the resistance to the Course’s gentle correction for all mistakes -- our own and others’ -- is so difficult to accept. "The miracle minimizes the need for time" (T.1.II.6:1), but our egos can continue to exist only in time. Karma is the world’s law of cause and effect, asserting that cause is real and has real effects and so it will take time to reverse or undo any of its effects. Sin thus calls for suffering to undo the transgression. This means that time is required for eventual release to be earned -- some time in the future, if not in this lifetime then in some future lifetime. But the effect of the miracle is now, in a holy instant outside of time and space, transcending the laws of the physical world and its underlying ego laws. In Jesus’ own gentle and reassuring words:

"How foolish and insane it is to think a miracle is bound by laws that it came solely to undo! The laws of sin have different witnesses with different strengths. And they attest to different sufferings. Yet to the One Who sends forth miracles to bless the world, a tiny stab of pain, a little worldly pleasure, and the throes of death itself are but a single sound; a call for healing, and a plaintive cry for help within a world of misery. It is their sameness that the miracle attests. It is their sameness that it proves. The laws that call them different are dissolved, and shown as powerless. The purpose of a miracle is to accomplish this. And God Himself has guaranteed the strength of miracles for what they witness to.

Be you then witness to the miracle, and not the laws of sin. There is no need to suffer any more (T.27.VI.6:3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11; 7:1,2).

Q #364: If I am spirit and my body is not real is it wrong to feed it well, exercise it, have it massaged, dress it with care, make it up, etc., or is all this seen as being gentle with myself as long as I perceive myself as being a body? Will these activities not reinforce this false idea?

A: The activities of feeding and exercising your body, having it massaged, dressing it with care, and using cosmetics are neither holy nor unholy in themselves. It would not advance you spiritually simply to stop doing things just because they make you feel good. These kinds of bodily activities contradict your desire to awaken from the dream of separation only if your motivation is connected to specialness in some way or to keep the body at the center of your attention. The idea is to discern whether you are using your body to make yourself different and special (the ego’s purpose) or to learn that we are all the same as fragments of the one Son of God, sharing both the same wrong-minded thoughts of the ego and the same right-minded thoughts of the Holy Spirit. Our attitude towards our bodies, thus, should be centered on using them so as to uncover the hidden agenda of separation that we are constantly upholding in our minds. It is because of that hidden agenda that Jesus at one point refers to the body as "the engine of destruction" (T.20.VIII.4:7). That is the original purpose of the body.

On the metaphysical level, the level of absolute truth, A Course in Miracles teaches us that the body was made to attack and replace our true Identity, and to limit love (T.18.VIII.1). (An impossibility, and therefore totally illusory of course.) So on that level, anything we do to our bodies supports that purpose. But since we are not yet ready to identify completely with that truth, Jesus prepares us to move in that direction by having us first regard the body as neutral (W.pII.294). In this sense, our bodily lives are classrooms in which we gradually learn to recognize which teacher we have chosen to guide our activities -- the ego or the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we don’t change our bodies or how we fix them up, etc., but rather we change the purpose we have given them.

Q #365: What is the role of the ego of a child when he/she is tortured and/or abused by an adult?

A: First, the difference between the mind and the brain must be recognized. The brain develops, but the mind does not. The mind is always "mature," we can say, and the body-brain complex is part of the ego’s defensive strategy. In this sense, it can be misleading to speak of the "ego of a child." If the decision-making mind (outside time and space) chooses to identify with the ego, it will be seeking to keep the separation real, but to project the sin, guilt, and fear associated with it. Its strategy is centered on shifting the battle it perceives between God and itself from the mind to specific situations in an external world, which is its motive for having a world in the first place. The ego’s goal is to keep victimization outside the mind, so that it would not have to confront the fact that it is the original victimizer and sinner. (All of that is illusory, of course; but we have not yet accepted that.) One specific form this could take is the victimization of a child by an adult. In such a case, the decision-making mind splits off its identity as mind and takes on the identity of an innocent child in a relationship with an abusing adult. Thus, the ego achieves its goal of innocence, while the sin and guilt is clearly seen outside.

Another ego motivation for a script containing torture and/or abuse of a child is to provide a means of atoning for the "sin" of attacking love. The ego has convinced the Son that punishment by God is inevitable, but that God’s wrath might be tamed if the Son were to suffer in his stolen identity.

It is essential to understand that this is not saying that the child is responsible for the adult’s behavior, or that the child, as a child, "asked for it." That is not at all what A Course in Miracles teaches. This must be seen from the perspective of the mind outside time and space, not the brain or physical existence. Nothing in the world is as it appears to be, but we have split off the part of our minds that is aware of the ego dynamics responsible for this limited awareness. The Course is the means we are using to restore to our awareness the power of our minds to choose either the ego’s or the Holy Spirit’s thought systems.

Q #366: I have identified the fear that is keeping me from embracing the teachings of A Course in Miracles fully: I am afraid I will leave behind those I love in the dream -- not only in this lifetime, but in all time. I understand this as separateness, and accept that we are all dreaming but for a moment. Yet the nagging fear I have remains and I just can't seem to get past it. Does the Course address this?

A: You are certainly not alone in experiencing this fear. For it can feel that we will have to give up all those who mean so much to us as we follow along the Course’s path, forgiving and releasing our special love relationships on our return to oneness. But it can be helpful to recognize that it is merely one of the ego’s deceptions that leads us to believe that we are being called upon to sacrifice what we value if we listen to the Holy Spirit (T.21.III.9:1). This mistaken belief comes from a mistaken sense of who we are, what is of value, and how the choice is made to forgive. Initially, recognizing these errors may not seem to bring us much comfort, but over time, we will begin to see all of this differently as we move beyond any perception of the possibility of loss.

We think we are specific individual bodies who, in order to experience love, need relationships with other individuals who also are or have been or will be bodies. Nothing in the Course says we must give up any of this while it remains our perception. In fact, Jesus says, "I have said repeatedly that the Holy Spirit would not deprive you of your special relationships, but would transform them. And all that is meant by that is that He will restore to them the function given them by God" (T.17.IV.2:3,4).

To understand what your ego is up to in throwing up this smokescreen to avoid committing yourself fully to the Course, it may be helpful to look at the purpose for which we have made our special love relationships, as well as the different function they can serve when we give them to the Holy Spirit, as alluded to in the above quote. In alliance with the ego, we made special love relationships as a substitute for God’s Love (T.17.IV.2:7), which we believe we threw away when we chose the thought of separation from God. Consequently, it is "natural" that we feel -- so long as we believe we are bodies -- that we are separate from love, that we find love in relationship with other bodies, and that we can be separated from those we love. None of these thoughts is a sin, but all of them serve the ego’s purpose of convincing us that we are indeed separate and on our own. And although the content of these relationships seems to be love, this substitute love is really a cover over the hatred that is buried deeply in our mind. That is why we can so easily experience disappointment, frustration, irritation, annoyance, anger, and even rage at those we believe we love. The seeming love is there so long as our perceived needs are being met. Once they are threatened, the mask over the hatred comes off.

Yet this does not mean that there is no real love in these relationships. It is simply buried even deeper in the mind, below the hatred. And that is the key to the Holy Spirit’s purpose for our relationships -- to help us get in touch first with the judgment and anger in our own mind, so that they can be released, allowing that love that has been there all along within us to flow through our mind to the minds of those with whom we are in relationship.

The truth is, all relationships exist only in the mind, no matter what our experience tells us about relationships being between bodies. And the experience that we all ultimately are searching for in our external relationships is the experience of real love, with no conditions or limits. But the love can not be found outside ourselves (T.29.VII). Yet those seeming external relationships can become reminders of where to search to find the love we really desire, and where the obstacles are to that experience -- in our own minds. And so, as we allow the Holy Spirit to heal all our relationships, both the special hate and the special love, we will experience, more and more of the time, the love that we yearn for. The meaning of our relationships with others will be transformed from symbols of hatred and attack to symbols of forgiveness and love. And we will use those symbols just as long as we need them, while we still believe we are separate individuals. But there will be no moving beyond our experience of relationships with others outside ourselves until we decide we are ready for that next step. In the end, when we know we and all our brothers are the love we have been seeking, we will no longer need the external symbols, for we will have accepted the experience that they have come to represent. And the love itself will be all that matters.

Q #367: One of the experiences that have led me to A Course in Miracles is separation and divorce. Even though I try to bring my daily Course lesson with me throughout my day, I find myself in a pity party too often. I release whatever I'm feeling to the Holy Spirit as soon as I realize what I'm doing, but sometimes I'm not able to regain peace for quite some time - - even days. This only happens with issues surrounding my ex-husband -- everything else comes under control very easily. Any suggestions?

A: Releasing your feelings to the Holy Spirit really means first looking at how much you do not want to let the other person off the hook. And if you find that you cannot budge on that, then just acknowledge it in all honesty, without judging yourself in any way. That would help immensely, because you would not then be fighting against yourself, or pretending that you are forgiving when you really don’t want to. Being able to accept where you are, without judging yourself for it, is where real progress is made, because you would be learning that the "tiny, mad idea" had no effect on reality. And that is what we are all trying to learn.

Surely, though, as your experience confirms, you can never be at peace when you hold on to a grievance. So if you take that into consideration each time you feel that you just can’t let go of your feelings of victimization, or whatever you are feeling, you will be reminding yourself of the cost of being right. The process, then, is to be completely honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit or Jesus, not to judge yourself, and to be aware of the cost to yourself of not forgiving. The truth of your reality as Christ never changes; but your experience and awareness of that peace and love is blocked by grievances.

Q #368: I have been studying your "Rules for Decision" workshop for 3 weeks. My daily goal for the last week has been to learn forgiveness. I just did not understand "Who to forgive?" and "What to forgive them for?" What obstacles are in the way of my experiencing the true love that is mine? I have learned that a very deep hate is in me. I did not believe there was hate in me, until I started to analyze all my thoughts and remarks and realized that many or most of them were hate based. I have forgiven myself for this, and I believe I can forgive others, as I forgave myself. What comments and advise can you give to help me. My instinct is to erase this letter because it is all ego based. What is that all about?

A: As your experience indicates, the first step in forgiveness is the recognition of the hatefulness that permeates the ego thought system, and how it is expressed in our lives, in all our relationships. Your choice to learn forgiveness has led you to the very place where forgiveness must take place -- your self. The process involves looking honestly at your thoughts and judgments, as you have been doing, and seeing them as the effect of a choice in your mind to be separate from God (and therefore all your brothers). Though we judge ourselves as sinful for this and feel guilty, A Course in Miracles tells us we are mistaken, and need to be corrected. We are asked to give these judgments to the Holy Spirit so they can be transformed. So we forgive our brothers for what they did not do, because everything we accuse them of is a projection of our own guilt: "Be willing to forgive the Son of God for what he did not do" (T.17.III.1:5). We also forgive ourselves for what we did not do, because neither the separation nor the guilt is real.

The obstacles to experiencing love are all the beliefs we hold about ourselves as sinful, guilty, separated selves, living in bodies and deserving of God’s punishment. Practice of the Course teachings leads us first to recognize these beliefs, then to question their validity and see their enormous cost: the loss of peace, and loss of the awareness of our true Identity, as well as the experience of love which you speak of. As the pain of holding on to the hatred and the beliefs in guilt becomes more and more intense, we will be more willing to let them go, and then the truth of who we are will return to awareness: "When every concept has been raised to doubt and question, and been recognized as made on no assumptions that would stand the light, then is the truth left free to enter in its sanctuary, clean and free of guilt" (T.31.V.17.5).

The part of the mind that clings to the belief in separation resists any effort made in undoing this belief. Your decision to understand and practice forgiveness threatens the ego thought system, which explains the "temptation" to erase your question. Luckily you resisted the temptation, and not the choice for forgiveness.

Q #369: What is the reverse of the Golden Rule (T.1.V.6:4)?

A: The reverse of the Golden Rule is the ego’s norm of separate interests: I get what I want regardless of the cost to others. One of the unfortunate consequences of this approach to life and behavior is that we become suspicious of others’ motivations. If that norm is embedded in our own thinking, then it must direct everyone else’s thinking as well. Instead of questioning the foundation of that type of thinking, we find ways of justifying it instead, thus sustaining the ego. It is only when we question the sanity of relationships based on separate interests that we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s healing principle of shared interests.