Weekly Questions and Answers, 01/21/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #370: I feel I have made a "deal" or a "bargain" for love..
Q #371: How does right-mindedness view child-abuse?.
Q #372: Can you clarify the differences between Christian Science and the Course?.
Q #373: How can someone who does not practice the Course have higher self-esteem than me?
Q #374: Is forgiving a situation the same as seeing the truth of the situation?.

Chronological List of All Questions.

Interactive Index of all topics

Q #370: I've always had a problem with accepting that I truly deserve love, believing I have to earn it or pay for it. I recently married a younger man I had been helping financially, whose intentions I didn't trust for a long time. Since the wedding, I now see he is only using me. So do I have this right? I subconsciously closed a deal: love for money and security, to shut out the love of God. The evidence I now perceive, I invited in: the man I married is taking advantage of me and does not love me. This reflects a decision and a judgment I have made about myself. As Jesus says in A Course in Miracles, I am doing this to myself, and there is no exception to that rule, right? I'm engineering the whole story to stay separate: first to close a marriage and then to get out of it and be a helpless victim? I see my own manipulations, but my perceptions don’t change. How do I change them? I believe I'm doing this to myself, but I don't feel it. I feel all I want is love. If I stay in this marriage and refuse to believe my perceptions of his hurtfulness, would they change so I would see my love reflected in this person? I do not know what to do.

A: While it is true that your mind has set up the situation in which you seem to find yourself -- and that means your decision-making mind outside of time and space, and not the self that you think you are here in the world -- this is almost never the most helpful level on which to focus. The more practical level is to accept that both you and your husband have egos that each seek to have their needs met by making a special love bargain as the basis for the relationship. And this makes you both exactly like everyone else in the world, even though the specific terms of your negotiated agreement may look different! So don’t be too hard on yourself for the choices you have made.

The other thing to remember is that the Course is never going to tell you whether to remain in or leave any relationship, because from Jesus’ perspective, that is never the problem. The only real concern is, for whatever relationship you seem to be experiencing in the present, who are you going to choose to be your teacher -- the ego of the Holy Spirit? Or put another way, Jesus is only concerned with what is going on in your mind and not what seems to be going on in your world, since from his perspective, there is no world! Granted, that’s not how you see things now, but over time, with his help, that is the direction you will be heading, as you learn not to take yourself and your mistaken decisions quite so seriously and to be gentler with yourself.

So, in terms of your marriage, what does this mean and what does it not mean? You are correct in acknowledging that whatever you experience in this relationship reflects an inner decision about how you see yourself. But you want to be clear that the external situation is not the reason you have these feelings. The relationship with your husband is only a smokescreen to hide the real problem of the guilt in your own mind, the same guilt we all share over the belief we have separated from love. The problem is not that you set up a marriage in order to feel used and unloved. That is the cover to keep your focus away from the real problem in your mind. So long as your focus is on the external relationship and how that seems to be making you feel, you are continuing to accept the ego as your teacher. If your experience is one of being victimized by your partner in some way -- and you do need to start with that interpretation -- you will want to ask Jesus for help in recognizing that such a perception can come only from your own projected guilt -- and the guilt was there before you ever entertained the idea of entering into a dysfunctional relationship with your husband. In fact, the focus on that relationship and changing your experience of it is the sure way to make sure the real problem of the guilt in your mind is never addressed.

Now that does not mean that your husband is not acting from his own ego in an unloving way. And even if you heal the guilt in your own mind, that does not mean that you will simply then see him as a reflection of the love that is within you. But it will mean that you will look on him with the true perception of the Holy Spirit and you will know that your husband is either extending love or calling for it (T.12.I.3). And if he remains identified with his ego, he will be calling for love. Since you will be joined with the love inside of you, you will know that his own manipulations and attempts to meet his needs through the relationship have nothing to do with you or your own value as a child of God. And you will not need to use him to meet your own personal, ego-based need to feel loved.

Bringing your decision to turn your back on love in your own mind to Jesus and being willing to offer your perception of your husband and yourself to him in exchange for his healed perception is all that you need do, acknowledging that your own has brought you only pain. And the real value of the relationship with your husband is that it has helped you uncover those buried self- accusations in your mind, if you are willing to allow Jesus to be your gentle teacher. Whether you remain in the marriage or not, your relationship with your husband need no longer be used to reinforce the guilt in your own mind. And that is the Course’s path to self-acceptance and love.

Q #371: In my profession I have to deal with child-abuse. I understand that it is the ego that wants to see victims, pain and suffering. But does this mean that child-abuse did not happen, is that what A Course in Miracles is saying? Is this abuse not real? How does right- mindedness view child abuse and what would be right professional behavior according to the Course?

A: You are getting caught in a confusion that is common for many Course students -- not distinguishing between the two levels on which the Course is written. It is true that, on a metaphysical level, the Course is saying that the world and everything that seems to happen within it, including child abuse, are illusory and in reality have never happened. But what makes the Course so practical is that much of it is written at a level that acknowledges our experience in the world but provides us with a different way of looking at that experience that helps us, over time, to disengage our minds from the illusion and to remember our reality, while not denying what we seem to be observing. (You may find Questions #3 and #253 helpful for further discussion of the issue of level confusion.)

And so in your professional role, it would not be helpful to anyone involved, including yourself, if you were to deny the abuse that is presented to you. In this world as we’ve set it up, bodies interact with other bodies, and sometimes direct physically and emotionally violent actions toward one another. And the actions can seem particularly outrageous and horrific when they are directed by an adult at a child. What the Course would ask of you is to be willing to recognize all the ways in which you may be tempted to take sides, to pass judgment or to feel pity, sadness, disgust, anger, or any other emotion that the situation may trigger in you. And then to recognize that, whatever you are feeling, you have made an interpretation and are wrong!

Now judgment is unavoidable when we look at a situation like child abuse from our ego perspective of separation and guilt. For we have made the world so that we can see sin and attack outside ourselves, and situations such as these are ideal screens on which to project our guilt (e.g., T.13.IX.3:1; T.18.I.6), since nearly everyone else will agree with our interpretation. But Jesus is asking us to question our conclusions, for he knows what we do not yet know, that all the violence and pain is happening only in the mind and not in the world, and that it has nothing to do with bodies (T.28.III.4:6,5:1; W.pI.135.9). And so, if you join with Jesus, over time you will come to recognize the pain that everyone involved in the abuse shares, and that everyone is making unconscious choices out of this pain -- abuser, abused, silent accomplice, angry accuser. And if you are judging any of them, you are reacting from this same pain as well. Over time, with this growing realization, your judgments will diminish and you will feel compassion for everyone involved, regardless of their role.

And you will also begin to understand that the pain is really a call for love, and the love is always there, within the mind, accessible to all of us if we are willing to release our own interpretations and accept Jesus’. For it is only our interpretations and judgments that block the love and keep differences and separation from love real in our minds. In the end, as we come to recognize that the love is always there, we will also recognize that the pain and guilt are not real (W.pII.284.1), and the abuse that seems to mask their source in the mind is unreal as well. But that realization only comes at the end of the process. And it will not mean that you necessarily behave any differently with the families you are working with. You will continue to act in ways that will help determine responsibility and appropriate consequences within the system for the abuse, as well as protect the child from further abuse -- but you will do it all without judgment. And you will have become a reminder for everyone involved that there is another way of looking at what has been happening that does not involve attack and blame.

The Course has nothing to say about behavior -- professional or otherwise -- for its concern is only with the contents of our minds. But rest assured, if you do the inner work of release as you become aware of the projections of guilt arising within your own mind, you will know how to relate to everyone in a way that can only reflect healing. And you will know that you are only ever an instrument of that healing, and never its Source.

Q #372: My father is a strong practicing Christian Scientist, and we often have discussions on the differences in theology between it and A Course in Miracles. One particular aspect of these differences is the world -- the Course teaching that everything in the material universe is material and not created (or even known) by God, while in Christian Science, things such as trees, streams, and mountains are ideas of God, but not matter.

I believe what it boils down to is that in Christian Science they don’t believe we escape from the world because we never left perfection. It seems to me that in the Course we are trying to escape the thought system on which the world is based and don’t see nature as ideas of God but as distractions of the ego thought system.

Another seeming difference in the two is that Christian Science believes that as you withdraw your belief in matter or the illusion the world of form will get better -- guaranteed! Because it is all about thought. But I believe the Course’s view is that form may or may not get better, even when you begin to see the unreality of it.

Can you clarify these differences for me? Also do you know of other differences in these two philosophies because at their core they sure seem the very same to me?

A: You are correct in the differences between A Course in Miracles and Christian Science that you point out. In themselves they are enough to establish that these two thought systems are fundamentally different. A Course in Miracles teaches not only that the world was not created by God, Who has no knowledge of it, but that it does not exist at all. We are not asked to escape the world or the ego thought system as such, but to learn to let go of our identity with that thought system through forgiveness (W.pI.23). You are right, the world will not get better when we no longer believe the thought of separation from God is real; it will disappear in our awareness. Since the Course teaches there is no hierarchy of illusions (T.26.VII.6), all form in the physical universe is equally unreal, no part of which is an idea of God, Who is pure spirit with and beyond form.

The Course’s teaching on forgiveness also distinguishes it from other spiritual paths. As you may know, it tells us: "Be willing to forgive the Son of God for what he did not do" (T.17.III.1:5). We are asked to live the Course by applying the process of forgiveness to all our relationships. This involves looking at the hatred, anger and judgments of the ego thought system in operation in our lives, so they can be released and replaced by the Holy Spirit’s thought system. This is not central to the teaching of Christian Science. If you are a student of the Course, it may be helpful to remember that it is this application of its teachings that is important rather than the intellectual understanding of its metaphysical principles. Discussions with your father probably provide you with many opportunities for this. A Course in Miracles asks us to acknowledge all the judgments we may have during our interactions, recognize that they are projections of guilt at having chosen to identify with the thought of separation, and give them to the Holy Spirit so they can be reinterpreted. As a Christian Scientist, your father may have a very different practice.

Another significant distinction is the importance of the role of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the practice of the Course’s teaching. We are encouraged to ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit for help in choosing our right minds rather than our wrong minds, so our perception can be transformed.

Q #373: How is it possible for someone who seems very naive spiritually to have much more self-esteem and self-love than someone who has studied A Course in Miracles for many years? I'm speaking of one of my older siblings, a Christian. Some of the things he tells me about his religion sound silly (and even wrong sometimes) to me, and yet it's evident (I think) from his success in life regarding work, home, family, and his warm and loving personality and the way everybody loves him (including me) that deep inside he holds himself in much higher regard than I hold myself. I'm a little jealous. In Course terms, how do I reconcile this within?

A: Well, it seems pretty apparent from what you say that God just likes your brother better. But seriously, you have fallen into a couple of common traps that the ego likes to ensnare us all in. First, you are judging by appearance or form between yourself and your brother. And secondly, you believe you can compare spiritual paths and determine that one is better, more sophisticated or more nearly correct than another.

Let us consider the second issue first. While from your perspective, your brother’s spiritual beliefs may seem naive, silly and even wrong, there is a good chance that, from his perspective, the Course may seem just as naive, silly and wrong. The Course makes no exclusive claim to the truth (M.1:4:1,2). We each need only be concerned that we have found the path that is right for ourselves and not worry about whether someone else’s path makes sense. As Jesus says in the Course, and this would apply to various spiritual paths as well as to different people’s experience with the Course: "The curriculum is highly individualized" (M.29.2:6).

As for your brother’s greater apparent self-esteem, we never know for certain what someone else’s inner experience is. But self esteem is not the goal of the Course, peace is. And that peace has nothing to do with apparent success in life, according to the world’s terms. A helpful passage early in the Course describes the trap you’ve fallen into with your brother -- the ego game of judging and comparing, employing its criteria for what is of value, based on form, rather than the Holy Spirit’s criteria based simply on distinguishing what is true from what is false:

The ego...always evaluates itself in relation to other egos.…Its whole perception of other egos as real is only an attempt to convince itself that it is real. "Self-esteem" in ego terms means nothing more than that the ego has deluded itself into accepting its reality, and is therefore temporarily less predatory. This "self-esteem" is always vulnerable to stress, a term which refers to any perceived threat to the ego's existence. The ego literally lives by comparisons (T.4.II.6:5,7,8,9;7:1).

Now none of this is meant to say that your brother does or does not have an experience of inner peace. But that is not your concern, for it simply becomes one more external distraction that prevents you from making the choice for peace within yourself now. And when you remember that choice, you will also remember Jesus’ loving reminder to all of us who are tempted to compare ourselves to our brothers: "The specialness of God's Sons does not stem from exclusion but from inclusion. All my brothers are special" (T.1.IV.3:5,6).

Q #374: According to A Course in Miracles, would it be correct to say that to forgive in any situation is the same as seeing the truth in any situation?

A: Not exactly. Truth cannot be experienced nor "seen" directly in the dream, because everything here is an illusion, including forgiveness: "Forgiveness, then, is an illusion, but because of its purpose, which is the Holy Spirit's, it has one difference. Unlike all other illusions it leads away from error and not towards it" (C.3.1:3,4). Our minds hold a memory of truth that is brought to our awareness through the process of forgiveness, it is "…an earthly form of love" (W.pI.186.14:2). True forgiveness shows us the unreality of every situation and only in this sense does it reflect the truth. It enables us to perceive everything with the Holy Spirit as either a call for love or an expression of love (T.14.X.7). It thereby leads us toward the truth, which is our oneness with God as His innocent Son. Through the practice of forgiveness, all the unconscious beliefs we hold about ourselves that contradict the truth are brought to awareness so they can be given to the Holy Spirit to be transformed. When we have forgiven every thought and belief in this way, we will no longer block our awareness that: "…truth stands radiant, apart from conflict, untouched and quiet in the peace of God" (T.23.I.7:10).