Weekly Questions and Answers, 11/27/2002

This week's questions:

Q #22: A question about the "Rules for Decision."
Q #23: A question about belonging to a mainstream religion.
Q #24: A question about reincarnation.
Q #25: A question about Course-study causing sadness.
Q #26: A question about the meaning of "the Holy Instant."
Q #27: A question about pre-separation consciousness.

Q #22: Chapter 30 I. Rules for Decision: I'm not sure I understand this. Are the decisions referred to just simple every day decisions like what to eat, or what to wear? Or, are they more along the lines of what you feel and think?

A: In a sense, they are both. We begin with the decisions or choices we make on a physical level, because that is where we believe we are. However, as students who are now beginning Chapter 30, we are familiar enough with the Course material to know that ultimately Jesus is always talking to us about what occurs on the level of the mind; in other words, choosing between the content of love or fear, and not choosing among the many forms the world presents to us.

The seven "rules" for decision are not to be taken literally, but are useful in remembering that the "right" decision-making is a process. That is, learning we have a choice with whom we make decisions takes time and practice. And "right" decision-making does not necessarily mean choosing Jesus or the Holy Spirit. What it does mean, is that we recognize we have a choice of choosing either of them, or choosing the ego. As egos, we really have no motivation to choose Jesus or the Holy Spirit, other than the Course telling us that we will feel better if we do. And that’s not reason enough to get us to choose them consistently. What is reason enough is to continually make decisions based on the ego, and becoming aware of the cost of such decisions. Rejecting the Love of God can only lead to guilt, since it is the shadowy fragment of our original decision to reject God by choosing to be separate from his Love, and be on our own. It is this guilt that is the source of all of our pain and suffering. As the Course says, "Of all the many causes you perceived as bringing pain and suffering to you, your guilt was not among them" (T.27.VII.7:4). Only when we link our pain with our decisions does choice become meaningful. And once we reach this point, the choice of whom to decide with becomes obvious: "Who with the Love of God upholding him could find the choice of miracles or murder hard to make?" (T.23.IV.9:8)

For a more in depth discussion of this important section in the Course, please see our excerpt series on the Rules for Decision.

Q #23: Can one be a student of A Course in Miracles and still be a part of a mainstream religion?

A: Yes, if it is helpful, for as the manual teaches us: "The curriculum is highly individualized, and all aspects are under the Holy Spirit’s particular care and guidance" (M.29.2:6). No one has the right nor the wisdom to determine what would be a help to someone on a spiritual path. That is why the Course always emphasizes the importance of asking the Holy Spirit’s help. That being said, however, it is true that on the level of their actual teachings, the Course differs markedly from mainstream religions. Indeed, we could say that one of the characteristics of A Course in Miracles is the contrast of its teachings with that of traditional Christianity. At this level, therefore, conflict would be inevitable at some point in one’s study; for example, other Western religions do not teach that "the world was made as an attack on God" (W.pII.3.2:1), and that our real terror is of redemption and not of crucifixion (T.13.III.1:10,11). It could become quite tempting to harmonize both thought systems, a compromise that could only be detrimental to both paths,

We are so filled with conflict as it is, that to intentionally build more into our daily lives seems an unloving act to ourselves. Taking an intellectual interest in mainstream religion for the purposes of comparing and contrasting such with the Course is one thing, but actually trying to live out both paths on a daily basis would be very difficult indeed. However, remembering the individualized nature of one’s curriculum, participating in both the Course and mainstream religion is nonetheless possible. The question to ask oneself, therefore, would be: what is the purpose?

Q #24: A Course in Miracles seems to allude to reincarnation. If we truly don’t die but instead just "lay this body" down, do we return in another or continue our lessons on another level?

A: Yes, in the Course, Jesus does seem to allude to reincarnation. But to understand what he is saying, and to address your question, we need to remember that in the Course, he is always speaking to us on the level of the mind, which is the only level where any true learning takes place. And specifically, he’s talking to that part of our mind which has to choose between the ego and the Holy Spirit, between hate and love, between death and life.

"But remember that understanding is of the mind, and only of the mind" (T.15.VI.7:5).

He tells us in the Course that this "life" is a dream, that the world is an illusion, that the body doesn’t die because the body doesn’t live (T.19.IV.C.5:2,3,4,5), and that our experience of time is simply a part of that illusion. Our "dream" always and only reflects the choice that we have made for either the ego’s purpose to reinforce our guilt and belief in separation, or the Holy Spirit’s purpose of forgiveness and undoing the belief in separation. Therefore, the form of the dream never matters, and when that form changes, the learning, or choosing, continues in the mind.

So when reading a passage that seems to imply reincarnation we could understand it not only on the level of our experience within the dream, but also as the idea of revisiting unforgivenesses. Perhaps it would be helpful to think of "simultaneous" dreams, or to use the model of a hologram where the whole is found in every part. When the mind "revisits" dreams or aspects of the hologram, this could be seen as experiencing different "lifetimes."

Jesus tells us in the manual that a belief in the concept of reincarnation is not a requirement for his Course. In fact, he says that it is only valuable to the extent to which it is "helpful" or of comfort to his students.

"In the ultimate sense, reincarnation is impossible. There is no past or future, and the idea of birth into a body has no meaning either once or many times. Reincarnation cannot, then, be true in any real sense" (M.24.1:1,2,3).

"Reincarnation would not, under any circumstances, be the problem to be dealt with now. It is certain, however, that the way to salvation can be found by those who believe in reincarnation and by those who do not. The idea cannot, therefore, be regarded as essential to the curriculum. There is always some risk in seeing the present in terms of the past. There is always some good in any thought which strengthens the idea that life and the body are not the same" (M.24.2:1,5,6,7,8).

When we can accept the fact that time is not linear, the concept of reincarnation becomes meaningless. But, as long as we believe we are separate individuals, the lessons continue in whatever form we can accept and understand until we truly learn that our reality is spirit and we have always been "...at home in God, [only] dreaming of exile" (T.10.I.2:1). In that acceptance of the Atonement for ourselves, all dreaming ends.

Q #25: I have been a Course student for a long while now. I am discovering that specialness is hollow and am beginning to see through the ego’s ploys, aversions and manipulations. I detect a sadness and/or fear, though, because of the void that is there when I let go of the specialness that wants to be maintained through material "stuff" or relationships, etc. What would you suggest to help one over the hump, or through the veil so one can see everyone with a healed perception? The void can seem wide and deep, hence fearful.

A. Trust is essential as you go through this. At one point Jesus pleads with us not to "breathe life into your failing ego" (T.17.V.8.4); and he reassures us that "the death of specialness is not your death, but your awaking into eternal life" (T.24.II.14.4). These, among many other passages, are helpful reminders when we are going through rough times that, first of all, Jesus knows what we are going through, and second that everything will wind up okay if we just continue to practice forgiveness.

Most students go through what you have described. One person likened it to standing on a dock with one foot on the dock and the other on the edge of a boat that suddenly starts drifting away from the dock. Unpleasant, to put it mildly! Sometimes this experience reflects the well-known "dark night of the soul" spoken of in spiritual literature. This is discussed in the manual for teachers in the "Development of Trust" section, where Jesus describes the fifth stage as "a period of unsettling." You are no longer firmly rooted in specialness but have not gotten beyond it entirely, because deep within your mind you know that to let go of specialness means letting go of your identity as a separate, independent individual. That is the underlying fear. If you simply acknowledge that and bring that fear to the love of Jesus in your mind, you will feel better.

There is no way around this stage of the process, if you want to wind up in the "right place." You never want to force yourself to give up a relationship or something in the world you still enjoy, nor do you want to force yourself to see everyone with a healed perception. If you really wanted to get beyond the perception of separate interests, you would be beyond it. Thus, being honest about your reluctance to let go of specialness is extremely helpful. You also can ask yourself what it would feel like to relate to others without specialness. Sometimes that reveals an element in yourself that you weren’t aware of, a source of resistance that you didn’t know was there. Finally, just be patient and trust the process.

Q #26: Can you explain the Holy Instant in more detail?

A: As defined in our Glossary-Index, the holy instant is the instant outside time in which we choose forgiveness instead of guilt, the miracle instead of a grievance, the Holy Spirit instead of the ego. It is the expression of our little willingness to live in the present, which opens into eternity, rather than holding on to the past and fearing the future, which keeps us in hell.

It is important to understand that the holy instant is outside time and beyond the body: "At no single instant does the body exist at all" (T.18.VII.1.1). It is a term given to our experience of oneness with someone else that completely transcends anything of the body. There is no separation between you and this other person. The conflicting, separate interests that characterized the relationship before have completely dissolved in favor of the recognition that there are only shared interests. All sense of competition and comparison are simply non-existent in the holy instant, which is when you have deliberately chosen not to see your interests as apart from someone else’s. There are many other ways in which this can occur, because there are so many ways in which we have expressed separation.

It is a chosen instant in which our fear has abated enough for us to accept the truth about ourselves and everyone else. It seems to be a fleeting instant that comes and goes only because our fear is still too great to allow ourselves to make this our permanent state. When that happens we are in the real world. Thus the term is also used to denote the ultimate holy instant, the real world, the culmination of all the holy instants we have chosen along the way.

Q #27: If consciousness was the first split introduced into the mind of the dreaming Son, what was the state of this mind before consciousness? Was the Son not conscious of His relationship with God or unaware of Unity with God? This may sound dumb, but it’s like saying are we aware that we are not aware or unaware that we are aware.

A: This question arises frequently, and is a natural one to ask, not a dumb one! The trouble is the question makes sense only to minds that cannot conceive of non-dualistic reality. And we have this difficulty because, briefly stated, we, as one Son, rejected oneness and substituted independent, individualized existence in place of our true reality. That puts us at a distinct disadvantage in trying to make sense out of all of the statements in the Course that speak of reality as non- dualistic, as pure oneness. Jesus must use language and concepts that we can understand -- which is the language of dualism -- to begin the process of getting us beyond duality. And he often reminds us that there is much that we cannot yet understand, but will eventually understand as our identification with the body diminishes.

Therefore, to answer your question, before the Mind of God’s Son seemed to split, i.e., before the separation seemed to happen, there was only a perfect unity between God and Christ: "What He creates is not apart from Him, and nowhere does the Father end, the Son begin as something separate from Him" (W.pI.132.12). The Course makes it clear that God created Christ, but this does not mean two beings in relation to each other, along the lines we are familiar with. Since it is a perfect unity, there cannot be consciousness. What this state without consciousness would be like is incomprehensible to us because of the present condition of our minds, and it is futile to speculate about it: "…while you think that part of you is separate, the concept of a Oneness joined as One is meaningless" (T.25.I.7). Similarly, in speaking about our function in Heaven of extending love as Christ, Jesus tells us that this also is meaningless to us, but what we can understand and practice is forgiveness: "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).

So we wind up humbly silent, yet hopeful that if we do what Jesus asks of us in his Course, we shall one day have the experience that will end all questioning and wondering.

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