Weekly Questions and Answers, 02/24/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #398: What is the difference between "return" and "reciprocity"?
Q #399: Determining the right way to listen and speak to others.
Q #400: Learning not to judge ourselves for being judgemental.
Q #401: How do we give our minds back to God?

Q #402: How do I deal with guilt about not doing my very best?
Q #403: Can different opinions about forgiveness really mean the same thing?

Chronological List of All Questions.

Interactive Index of all topics

Q #398: Would you please address the difference between the idea of return, as discussed in "The Temple of the Holy Spirit" section of A Course in Miracles, and reciprocity in the sense discussed in the paragraph below? What is a right-minded view of reciprocity in our relationships in the world?

A: The two ideas actually are not related. Their meanings differ, as the following answers explain.

(W.pI.76.8:1,2,3) "We will begin the longer practice periods today with a short review of the different kinds of ‘laws’ we have believed we must obey. These would include, for example, the ‘laws’ of nutrition, of immunization, of medication, and of the body's protection in innumerable ways. Think further; you believe in the ‘laws’ of friendship, of ‘good’ relationships and reciprocity."

The term reciprocity in this context refers to special relationship bargains. The premise of this type of relationship is that we must give in order to get, even though we would much rather -- if we were truly honest with ourselves -- just take what we wanted without having to give something in return. But in the world of special relationships, bargaining is the name of the game and it is always reciprocal. That is, A does it with B, and B in turn does it with A. Our buried guilt and self-hatred lead us to believe that no one would just give us what we want -- we don’t deserve it - - so we must always engage in sacrifice and make compromises in our relationships. I will sacrifice for you, and then you will sacrifice for me. This dynamic pervades all special love relationships, and is thought of as the nature of loving relationships in the world.

Right-minded reciprocity is grounded in our understanding that God’s Son is one, which is reflected in our experience here of seeing everyone as sharing the same interests. We all share the same wrong mind and the same right mind. We all are part of the one Son who believes he attacked Love and rejected his true Identity by choosing individualized existence apart from the perfect Oneness of God, and who can undo that choice by accepting the Atonement right here and now. This oneness is the basis of the Course principle that giving and receiving are the same, which negates the need for bargaining of any kind (we are speaking on the level of content only). The reciprocity in a holy relationship, thus, is just love extending to itself. "For if love is sharing, how can you find it except through itself? Offer it and it will come to you, because it is drawn to itself" (T.12.VIII.1:5,6). This, of course, pertains only to what is going on in our minds, and it can be our perception whether we are talking to an inmate on death row, a beloved friend, or are simply thinking about someone who died twenty years ago.

(T.20.VI.6:1,2,3,4,5) "You cannot make the body the Holy Spirit's temple, and it will never be the seat of love. It is the home of the idolater, and of love's condemnation. For here is love made fearful and hope abandoned. Even the idols that are worshipped here are shrouded in mystery, and kept apart from those who worship them. This is the temple dedicated to no relationships and no return."

If we maintain our identification with the body, believing it is reality -- and a sacred reality at that -- we will never return home, because we will never return to our minds where we would become aware of, and then be able to reverse, our choice to replace our true home in God with a self-made home in the body. We must at least be willing to question the reality of the body (T.24.in.2:1); we do not have to give it up. Once we allow ourselves to take that first step, we begin the process of shifting the purpose of bodily existence, and we are on the path back to our true home, comforted and helped by Jesus each step of the way.

Q #399: My question has to do with the question in the teacher’s manual of A Course in Miracles titled "What is the role of words in healing?" (M.21). As I have been going along in my forgiveness path, I am learning to let the Holy Spirit speak through me to others. My answer to my brother is often something that I realized I needed to hear as well, or something that I needed to have reinforced that I already learned. Sometimes I feel guided to say something that truly has nothing to do with the situation at hand. Why would Jesus want me to say it? Sometimes I say something and I feel like everyone looks at me like I am crazy! Please, advice would be so greatly appreciated!

A: There really is no way of knowing why you are prompted to say certain things. In our present state we cannot see into our minds where all the choices and dynamics take place. It might help you, though, to shift your attention away from what the voice says, to doing what it tells you to do so that you can hear it better. As we have come to realize, the emphasis in A Course in Miracles is always on undoing the interferences to our hearing the Voice of the Holy Spirit. This is something that Jesus stressed with Helen, the scribe of the Course: "Remember you need nothing, but you have an endless store of loving gifts to give. But teach this lesson only to yourself. Your brother will not learn it from your words or from the judgments you have laid on him. You need not even speak a word to him. You cannot ask, ‘What shall I say to him?’ and hear God’s answer. Rather ask instead, ‘Help me to see this brother through the eyes of truth and not of judgment,’ and the help of God and all His angels will respond" (Absence from Felicity, p. 381).

So as Jesus helped Helen to learn, our goal ought always to be to perceive ourselves and others through the non-judgmental eyes of forgiveness, which we approach by first looking at our readiness to judge and find fault. We all are eager to have our egos out of the way so that the love of Jesus or the Holy Spirit would speak through us to others, and then we would be truly helpful. But that is usually a long, long process because we have so many defenses in place and we are not aware of our tenacious need to maintain these defenses (the many forms of judgment, specialness, and bodily concerns). When the ego is gone, there is only one Voice, and there is no other self to wonder about its meaning. But that is the end of the process. Jesus just asks that we take the little steps right now that lead in that direction (W.pI.193.13:7), not so that we will always say the right things to others, but so that we would no longer want to be other than as God created us.

An article called "Learning to Listen" appeared in the September 2003 edition of "The Lighthouse"; we have also published an audio tape album called "Healing: Hearing the Melody." Both are helpful sources in working with this important topic of listening.

Q #400: I have difficulty understanding "looking without judgment." In one of the answers, you said "to observe your vacillations without judgment, without imposing the categories of desirable and undesirable...(Question #216)." Could you please elaborate on this "without categorizing of desirable and undesirable?" Thank you!

A: The problem with all of our judgments is not that they are bad in themselves, but that our belief in them makes the error of separation real all over again in our minds. When we identify some experiences as good or desirable and others as bad or undesirable, we have fallen into the ego’s trap of opposites, or opposition, which necessarily is an invitation to conflict. While we have a split mind, we are almost certainly going to vacillate between right-minded thinking/ experiences and wrong-minded thinking/experiences. In reality -- that is, the oneness of Heaven -- neither is real or true. In the context of the earlier question you refer to, to impose categories of desirable and undesirable on them is to give them a reality they do not have. The Holy Spirit’s only judgment is that wrong-mindedness is false and right-mindedness, although still an illusion, is a reflection of what is true.

Now it is true, from our perspective within the split mind, that the Holy Spirit is attempting to lead us toward a recognition that wrong-minded thinking brings us pain and right-minded thinking brings us joy, for in our confused state of mind we believe just the opposite (T.7.X). And only a fool, once we understand our confusion, would deny that one of these states is preferable to or more desirable than the other. But if we begin to judge the ego state as undesirable in the sense that we want to resist it, and condemn ourselves for experiencing it, then we have played right into the ego’s hands, for now there is something real that we need to direct our efforts against.

That is why Jesus emphasizes over and over again in A Course in Miracles, that all we need to do is look with him at what our egos have made without trying to change it (e.g., T.4.III.7,8; T.11.V.1,2), while recognizing its cost. If we try to change it, then we say the ego itself is the problem, when the only problem is our belief in it. And we can’t undo that belief on our own, for that is the belief -- that we are on our own. And so we want to look at our ego with Jesus or the Holy Spirit beside us, and share their vision of the unreality of the ego, not judge it as undesirable and attempt to change it or fix it in some way that will make it more acceptable to us -- and our ego!

So the goal is not to be judgment-free, for that comes only at the very end of the forgiveness process, but rather to learn more and more not to judge ourselves for having our ego judgments. A helpful tape that elaborates on this learning process is The Meaning of Judgment by Kenneth Wapnick.

Q #401-a: A Course in Miracles urges us to give our minds back to God. I suppose that means having Him in our minds all the time. Is that correct? Is there anything we can do to get it without further delay?

Q #401-b: Jesus commended His Spirit to God, while he was nailed to the cross, and he tells us to do it as well. Can you explain this and how to do it?

Q #401-c: The Course says that if we apply all our abilities to a single unified purpose for a long time, they will become unified. How can we do it?

A: i. To give our minds back to God means that we would first realize that we somehow preferred to be to separate from Him and that we are actively maintaining that separation in our everyday lives. So Jesus helps us identify (especially in the workbook lessons) how we are doing that, so that we can then decide whether it is still worth it to continue on the path of separation, which is the path of specialness and separate interests. If we decide it is not worth it anymore, then we can simply decide against our deciding to be separate. This is done by being willing to practice seeing everyone as sharing the same wrong-minded thought system and the same right-minded thought system, and that the differences we perceive are not ultimately of any importance. Giving our minds back to God is giving our minds back to oneness, our natural state. What "delays" us is our tremendous resistance to this shift, because it means deciding against the special, individual self we have come to know as our only identity. Therefore the only motivation for making that shift is that we have recognized that this self is false and does not lead to happiness, and something else now appeals to us more. We need not let go of this self, just give it a different purpose now. Instead of using it to maintain separation and differences, we can now use it to undo the separation. That is how we begin the process of giving our minds back to God.

ii. Commending our spirit to God is really the same as giving our minds back to God -- it is our willingness to undo all sense of separation from each other, acknowledging first that it is there because we wanted it to be there. "Nothing can prevail against a Son of God who commends his spirit into the Hands of his Father. By doing this the mind awakens from its sleep and remembers its Creator. All sense of separation disappears" (T.3.II.5:1,2,3). See also T.5.VII.3.

iii. By consistently practicing seeing our interests as the same as everyone else’s, we gradually eliminate conflict from our minds, and then they become more unified. The differences among us recede in importance, and our peace is found more and more in the acceptance of our oneness. If we use our lives and our everyday interactions as a means of undoing the separation, then we will no longer suffer the strain of having to face every day as if we were on a battleground filled with rivals and predators -- a "kill or be killed" environment. When we rise above the battleground with Jesus, our perception will be unified: we will perceive either calls for love or expressions of love in all happenings. And this will be our permanent state of mind because it will reflect the true oneness of Heaven’s Love. We will want nothing else, having fully accepted that there is nothing else.

Q #402: My question concerns some past and present events in my life as well as questions on some of the other questions presented here. First, my question relates to Questions #215, #195, and #3. All of which say that it is important to "do your best." When I look back on specific past events there is a voice that judges them and says I didn't do my best and therefore don't deserve the prosperity I have now. I succeed in seeing past these judgments as cries for love, yet something just never lets me free of the intense guilt they produce. When I see "do your best" written here at the place I seek refuge, it makes me wonder if that statement "do your best" is a law reflected in my mind that accuses me of not doing my best. Is it part of forgiveness that I re-enact these past events and live them according to what I bitterly think of as "the best I can do?" What if I want to do the worst I can do? Does this exclude me from the prosperity I seek in my life?

A: Guilt over prosperity, or anything symbolizing success in the world, most often stems from the belief buried in our minds that we stole what we have attained and therefore it is not legitimate. Our very existence as individuals in the world, we believe, is not legitimate because it came by means of stealing God’s power, making it our own, and in the process killing Him off. Therefore success and prosperity in the world would be associated with that "crime" (illusory of course) of which we accuse ourselves. A terrible sense of guilt and unworthiness would automatically follow, which is why we are taught in many different ways in A Course in Miracles that our only responsibility is to accept the Atonement -- the principle that the separation from God never happened. When these self-accusations are seen as unjustified, then all guilt would simply disappear; and if there is no longer any guilt in our minds, then we would be instruments for the extension of love, which would occur regardless of our financial status.

So the voice that continually reminds you of your unworthiness is the voice of the ego, for guilt is its life blood: no guilt, no ego. Thus the first obstacle to peace is the attraction of guilt (T.19.IV.A.i). And since another name for guilt is self-hatred, the shrieks accusing you of not doing your best might well be self-judgments haunting you over your (all of our) stupidity and viciousness in thinking you could get away with killing God and granting to yourself what He would not grant you. That is always the bottom line of our guilt. Being critical of our less-than- commendable efforts in the world is a smokescreen intended to keep our attention away from the real cause of our agony, which is our ongoing decision to prefer a special separate existence apart from God and the unity of the Sonship.

The correction of this madness begins by regarding everything in the world -- including everything about bodily existence -- as neutral, and then focusing only on the purpose for which we would use everything: to reinforce the separation (following the ego’s guidance) or to undo the separation (following Jesus’ or the Holy Spirit’s guidance). In this sense, then, wealth is neither holy nor unholy. The purpose for which we would use it gives it its meaning. Making this kind of a shift in our minds is usually a long and gradual process because of our defenses and our resistance, both of which are hidden from plain sight in our terrified minds. In that sense we just do the best we can. Our denial is so massive and the fear behind the denial is so intense that it is a wonder that we make any progress at all in extricating ourselves from the ego’s pernicious web. To use an experience common to all of us: If you wake up in the morning a little groggy, you may be unsteady on your feet, and your vision may be blurry. You do the best you can until you are fully awake and feeling normal again. You can’t do more than that, and no one who is kind and gentle would expect you to do more than that. Given our groggy, fearful state of mind and blurred vision, Jesus as our kind and gentle teacher knows that we are doing only what we are capable of doing and he would never reprimand us for not doing our best, for that would serve only to make the error real, and above all he is helping us to remember that we, with him, are the eternally sinless Son of God.

Q #403: My brother and I were having a conversation many years ago about forgiveness. He said he'd always felt that he could be forgiven for anything. I said I'd always felt I could be forgiven for nothing. Does that simply reflect different interpretations of the separation? And was my interpretation based on fear more so than his? And, if so, does that mean he's more spiritually advanced than I am?

A: Anyone who even asks a question is behind the spiritual eight-ball, Jesus doesn’t hesitate to point out to us (T.27.IV), so to ask which version of forgiveness is more spiritually advanced probably would not attract very much celestial attention. Nevertheless, if the content is that God loves us without reservation, then the way that gets expressed in form is irrelevant. As Jesus states: "A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary. It is this experience toward which the course is directed" (C.in.2:5,6). Jesus would always direct our attention to our need to see differences that keep us separate from each other in our perception. That he would want to help us correct, for it is far more important to him that we work with him in removing the barriers to seeing our oneness with each other, than having us get his terminology straight. Strictly speaking, though, the view of forgiveness in A Course in Miracles is that there is nothing to forgive because nothing ever happened that is in need of forgiveness.