Weekly Questions and Answers, 03/10/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #409: Does the Holy Spirit's script show us that our decision for the ego is wrong?
Q #410: Are physical practices like yoga a distraction from the truth?.
Q #411: Do pregnancy and childbirth simply increase the thought of separation?.
Q #412: Having completed the Course, I still get angry and depressed.

Q #413: Is the Course similar to, or compatible with Urantia?  Does it teach the existence of angels?

Chronological List of All Questions.

Interactive Index of all topics

Q #409: I understand how the ego's script plays out and that the Holy Spirit's correction script plays out simultaneously. We can choose the Holy Spirit's script at any time. Is the essence of the Holy Spirit's correction script that it shows us the decision we made for the ego is wrong? Is that how it undoes the ego?

A: Yes, the Holy Spirit’s correction script shows us that our decision for the ego is simply a silly, foolish mistake and has had no effect on what is real -- spirit. The Atonement principle, which is another word for the Holy Spirit’s correction, simply says the separation never happened (T.6.II.10:7,8; M.2.2:2,3,4,5,6,7,8). The Atonement does nothing but undo our mistaken belief in the ego thought system of sin, guilt and fear. Our minds may translate this gentle principle into a form that we can accept and understand, such as A Course in Miracles, while the thought that the separation and our individuality -- and hence the self we think we are -- are all illusion is too frightening to embrace. Yet, as we practice the correction over time, we will find more and more that a certain light-heartedness is our experience, as we become increasingly grateful to learn that we have been wrong about sin, guilt and fear.

A lovely passage from the workbook, describing the process of salvation, which is yet another word for the correction, expresses this clearly:

This is the way salvation works. As you step back, the light in you steps forward and encompasses the world. It heralds not the end of sin in punishment and death. In lightness and in laughter is sin gone, because its quaint absurdity is seen. It is a foolish thought, a silly dream, not frightening, ridiculous perhaps, but who would waste an instant in approach to God Himself for such a senseless whim? (W.156.6).

Q #410: Do you think practices that focus on the physical body (like yoga and other more conventional forms of exercise) are leading me further away from the truth? It seems like these things help me feel better, but am I just deluding myself? Is it just the ego that is feeling better?

A: There is nothing wrong with doing anything with the body that makes you feel better, whether it’s yoga, or walking or other physical exercise, or going to a movie, having a beer, or sex, etc. And the Course would never ask you to give up anything that seems to help you. All that Jesus asks of us is to recognize that, if the Course is our path, the only practice that will truly make us feel better is forgiveness, because it is the only practice that gets to the root of our unhappiness -- our belief that we are separate from love, from God, and from each other.

We all have to do something with our bodies while we believe we live in them, and it can be a kind and loving thing to care for them in a way that we believe maintains their health and well- being. But the bottom line will always be - what is our purpose? If we are focusing on our body to reinforce our specialness, we are setting ourselves up for pain and suffering. A sobering passage towards the end of the text makes this clear:

Ask yourself this: Can you protect the mind? The body, yes, a little; not from time, but temporarily. And much you think you save, you hurt. What would you save it for? For in that choice lie both its health and harm. Save it for show, as bait to catch another fish, to house your specialness in better style, or weave a frame of loveliness around your hate, and you condemn it to decay and death (T.24.VII.4:1,2,3,4,5,6).

The reason for this is not punitive, as the ego would want us to believe, but simply the inevitable consequences of identifying with a thought system that reinforces the belief in loss and limitation as a result of separation, as the following explains:

Whenever you attempt to reach a goal in which the body's betterment is cast as major beneficiary, you try to bring about your death. For you believe that you can suffer lack, and lack is death (T-29.VII.4:1,2; see also T.19.IV.B.12).

The problem is not with taking care of the body as we think we need to. It would be foolish, for example, to stop eating or drinking simply because they happen to be the imagined needs of a mind that believes it is separate and housed in a body. The problem arises when our focus on the body is to maintain it for the purpose of attack -- either for special love or for special hate -- that is, as a means to meet our own needs at someone else’s expense, seeing our interests as separate from everyone else’s. And an honest starting point would be to acknowledge that, for most of us, most of the time, that in fact is our focus.

But the correction would not be to eliminate the physical activity we are engaging in to help improve our body, but rather to ask for help in looking at the mental activity that we are buying into that tells us that using others can bring us happiness. If we look honestly, we will see the lie beneath that argument and it will diminish in its appeal to us. And then, with a different Thought behind our actions, one that points to the genuine benefits that come from recognizing our shared interest with all our brothers, our body can then become a medium for sharing that message with others, not through any specific words or actions, but through our attitude of love and peace.

Q #411: In A Course in Miracles, Jesus says, "You can not 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" (T.20.VI.6:1,2,3). And previous to that he states of idols, specifically referring to the body that "The body is the ego's chosen weapon for seeking power through relationships" (T.20.VI.4:3). The other day I saw a woman who was pregnant and it made me think of birth, pregnancy, the separation, and what purpose birth serves. Is not the birthing of another body extending the thought of separation since the body is "the ego's chosen weapon for seeking power?" Aren't we just making the thoughts of separation greater and the illusion/dream more so through the birth of a body?

A: It would seem so; but in the passages you have cited, Jesus is speaking to us on what we refer to as Level One: the contrast between reality and illusion. On that level, the body symbolizes only the ego’s murderous nature and its ongoing intention to perpetuate separation and conflict; and therefore in and of itself, the body can never be anything holy or loving. But on another level (Level Two), speaking to us within the framework of what we think is real, Jesus teaches us that "love does not condemn it [the body] and can use it lovingly, respecting what the Son of God has made and using it to save him from illusions" (T.18.VI.4:8). His gentle means of helping us is to teach us how to use what we regard as real (even though he knows it is not real and was made to attack truth) to undo the sense of separation we feel within ourselves and in relation to everyone else. He thus tells us to regard the world and the body first as neutral (W.pII.294), and then to concentrate on the purpose of what we think and do; and that purpose will always be a variation of one of two themes: the reinforcement of our belief in separation or of the undoing of that belief through forgiveness. As we progress in this way of thinking, we will gradually and naturally begin to disidentify with the body, until we finally accept its total unreality. Thus our lives become classrooms in which we choose either the ego or Jesus as our teacher. Seen from this perspective, then, birthing -- as with anything else -- can be in accord with the ego’s purpose for us or with Jesus’ purpose: a wrong-minded choice or a right-minded choice. This is what we refer to as Level Two: wrong-minded versus right-minded choices within the dream of separation.

So when you see a pregnant woman, just watch your own thoughts, remembering that you do not know what her specific Atonement path involves. That could be the classroom she has chosen in which to learn her specific lessons of forgiveness. In that sense, your thoughts could be along these lines: "We both believe we are here, which means we both believe we rejected our true Identity and left our home in Heaven in order to establish an independent separate existence of our own; and we both have within us the means and all the help we need to correct our mistake and return Home. The specifics of our lives may be different, but our purpose is the same, and Jesus’ loving help is equally present to both of us."

One last thought. To think that separation can be made worse is to make the error real -- the cardinal "sin" of Course students! Linear time is one of the ego’s cleverest tricks to make us think that our experience is fresh and real. It is just another way to validate our existence as individuals. Orienting us in the right direction, Jesus tells us that we "but see the journey from the point at which it ended, looking back on it, imagining we make it once again; reviewing mentally what has gone by" (W.pI.158.4:5). In that sense, we cannot make the separation greater or increase the illusion. Our awakening from this dream of separation, however, is dependent on the purpose for which we use the world and our bodies. In that sense, we can reinforce in our own minds our false identity as individual selves, or we can gradually undo this false identity with help from Jesus or the Holy Spirit in our practice of forgiveness. Giving birth to a baby is inherently neutral -- it the purpose behind that decision that establishes its Atonement relevance. Pardon the pun, but you don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water, a temptation practically all students of the Course fall prey to, when their egos blind their eyes to the two distinct levels on which Jesus speaks to us.

Q #412: I am in a state of confusion that I think borders on depression at times. I completed A Course in Miracles two months ago. I now wonder, due to my reactions to things, whether I completed it correctly -- whether I paid enough attention to the lessons. I am ashamed to have these thoughts for I know that it goes against the aims of the Course. I still get angry and when I am not getting angry I am stuffing my anger down. It seems as though I have just missed the whole point because my reactions and actions are way off. How do I deal with my children's outright disobedience and still follow the Course? It seems that I am required to let them get away with everything because none of it is real, but it feels very real to me. I don't know whether it is me being petty or them requiring discipline and guidance. I also become very scared when I think about living my life as the Course instructs. I wouldn't know what choices to make; I wouldn't know what was important anymore. Should I care about money, my house, myself, my husband, etc. What is real?

A: "This course is a beginning, not an end" is how Jesus concludes the workbook (W.pII.ep.1:1). The workbook is a one-year training program that basically orients us and gives us what we need to continue our learning and practicing for the rest of our lives. Thus, at the end of one year, we have really just begun our work, as dismaying as that thought might be. We are not expected to have transcended our egos and mastered the Course after just one year, although Jesus says things that would lead us to think that. Jesus stands outside time and space altogether and sees us from a completely different perspective than we do. He knows that on one level we have already "made it"; and so sometimes he speaks through that vision. But by and large, his message to us is to see our lives now as classrooms in which we will spend all of our days learning how to look at our ego in action without judging it -- how to take our ego less and less seriously. It is true that none of this is real, but we do not believe that -- especially after only one year of working with the Course -- and so Jesus teaches us how to go about our lives in such a way that we will reach that ultimate point of realization, after many, many, many years of practice.

This is not a Course in denying our perceptions and feelings. Jesus wants us to see our perceptions and our experiences as the curriculum he can work with to help us. It is only through our daily experiences -- what we perceive as real -- that he can gradually and gently lead us beyond them; so it would be detrimental to your spiritual progress to pretend that you believe the world is not real, because the Course says it isn’t, when you really do not believe that at all. Many students confuse these levels in the Course and wind up in the same kind of anguish and confusion you are experiencing. Please remember that the goal of the Course is not to be without an ego. The goal is to escape the burden of guilt we have placed upon ourselves for our murderous, vicious, and hateful ego choices (M.26.4:1,2). That is the primary way in which we will eventually learn that our original decision to leave God was nothing more than a "tiny, mad idea." Denying our experiences and how we truly feel leaves Jesus or the Holy Spirit with no means of helping us. We must be aware of what is in need of correction before we can accept  Their gentle, loving correction of our mistaken thoughts. Jesus talks to us about this very early in the text: "The body is merely part of your experience in the physical. . . . it is almost impossible to deny its existence in this world. Those who do so are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial. The term ‘unworthy’ here implies only that it is not necessary to protect the mind by denying the unmindful (T.2.IV.3:8,10,11,12).

Specifically, this means that when -- not if -- you get angry or upset with your children, you would know that the least helpful thing you can do is judge yourself or feel that you are failing the Course. Getting angry is not the problem. Feeling guilty because you got angry is the problem. That is the mistake you are making, because you are giving the ego a reality it does not truly have. Jesus never asks us not to get angry; he asks only that we not justify it by claiming "I couldn’t help it; look what happened!" or something along those lines. When we condemn ourselves for having ego attacks, we are playing right into the ego’s hands and preventing ourselves from taking the one step that would free us from the ego forever, which is to realize that our anger is a projection of our self-hatred, which itself is a defense against the love that is the only true reality in our minds. So, again, your practice should involve stepping back as best you can and observing your ego without judging it. That is how you will begin the process of rejoining the love in your mind, for you will be deciding against the ego by not being ashamed of yourself for still having an ego. Then you are being a good Course in Miracles student. There is no way to flunk this Course - - except one, that is: you flunk this Course by thinking that flunking this Course is possible! The thought that you can be a failure in Jesus’ eyes is deserving only of laughter.

You might want to look at Question #179, which discusses normal parenting in the context of Course principles.

Q #413: i. Recently a friend suggested I read the Urantia book, and said it was a continuation of A Course in Miracles. I am wondering if the two books/theories support or contradict one another?

ii. Also, I am wondering if ACIM supports the theory of angels on earth?

A: i. Without being a student of the Urantia material, one can still observe that it is different in two important respects: It does not share the same non-dualistic thought system that sees the entire physical universe as illusory, and its view of Jesus also differs significantly from that of A Course in Miracles. The Course says that its path is only one among many thousands (M.1.4:1,2), but that if it is your path, then you should use it, rather than use a path that has "served others well," thereby "neglecting what was made for you" (T.18.VII.6:5). In view of this, it would seem to be more helpful spiritually if one were to follow one or the other of these systems.

ii. In A Course in Miracles, angels are regarded as extensions of God’s Thought. They can be thought of as symbols of the light and protection of God that always surrounds us, since in truth we have never left Him. This view has nothing in common with the popular idea that angels are celestial beings, which from the Course’s point of view are illusory.