Weekly Questions and Answers, 03/17/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #414: The difference between "belief" and "faith"
Q #415: How do I be assertive and still be in line with Course principles?.
Q #416: Why do I seem to be accident prone, and why am I slow to heal?.
Q #417: Should I expect sexual fidelity from my partner?.

Q #418: What is meant by a "reflection of love"?
Q #419: Why do I constantly sabotage myself?

Chronological List of All Questions.

Interactive Index of all topics

Q #414: Please comment on the similarities and differences in the terms "belief" and "faith" as used in A Course in Miracles.

A: Simply put, what you put your faith in you then believe. Faith thus precedes belief. We never lack faith, for we always place our faith in either of two teachers: the ego or Jesus; and then we will believe what that teacher says. "It is impossible that the Son of God lack faith, but he can choose where he would have it be. Faithlessness is not a lack of faith, but faith in nothing. Faith given to illusions does not lack power, for by it does the Son of God believe that he is powerless. Thus is he faithless to himself, but strong in faith in his illusions about himself. For faith, perception and belief you made, as means for losing certainty and finding sin. This mad direction was your choice, and by your faith in what you chose, you made what you desired" (T.21.III.5).

Q #415: In the past, I have found ways to misuse A Course in Miracles for the purpose of conflict avoidance, and this has had the effect of demonstrating to some people that they hold power over me. Could you please explain the difference between allowing yourself to be used as a doormat, and what the Course is trying to teach in regard to dealing with situations where it’s necessary to be assertive, to acknowledge yourself as an equal in accord with God’s will?

A: Misusing the Course to avoid conflict is a common mistake among its students. This is a form of denial, and is in direct opposition to a very important goal of the Course, which is to teach us to pay attention to the conflict in our lives. This is one of the ways in which A Course in Miracles is a unique spiritual path. It tells us that by looking at conflict we learn to recognize the hidden, unconscious beliefs we hold about ourselves and others, all of which stem from the belief that the separation is real. Our conflicts are generally riddled with judgments, feelings, and thoughts, reflecting the conflict in our minds caused by the choice to believe the ego’s lies about who we are as bodies, thus denying our true Identity as God’s innocent Son. As long as we are unaware of this conflict in the mind, it cannot be brought to the Holy Spirit for healing. This is the purpose the Course gives to conflict in our lives, and it is the only way it can truly be resolved.

Because the Course is showing us the real source of conflict is the unhealed mind, it does not tell us how to deal with it on the level of form, to which you are referring. We are asked to be willing to recognize all the thoughts, beliefs and feelings that come up in any situation, seeing that they reflect the choice in the mind to identify with the ego thought system, and be willing to question them in the light of the Course’s teachings. We are not asked to do anything on the level of form. Trying to act in a way that seems spiritual or appears to be in accord with the metaphysical principles of the Course (i.e., keeping silent when mistreated) while still identifying with the ego’s thought system, is unproductive, and leaves you feeling like a doormat. That is certainly not the experience to which Jesus is leading us. Moreover, if you are a victim, there must be a victimizer, thereby reinforcing separation.

The Course tells us we are not only "equal"; we are one. We will know this when all the forms by which we perceive ourselves to be separate and different from one another have been forgiven. Until then, we continue to practice forgiveness. It is possible to assert yourself and remain faithful to the Course, because it is no different from doing any of the things you do to take care of yourself physically, emotionally or psychologically. Asserting yourself without attack is a way to acknowledge your need to be treated respectfully, as well as the other’s need for the same treatment, thereby reinforcing the belief that we have no separate interests. As long as we do believe we are bodies, we interact with others according to normal behavioral standards. This means not denying any of our feelings or perceived needs, which would only deprive us of opportunities to learn and to forgive. The Course cautions us very early in the text: "The body is merely part of your experience in the physical world…it is almost impossible to deny its existence in this world. Those who do so are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial"(T.2.IV.3:8,10,11).

Q #416: In the past two years, I have been involved in three automobile accidents, none of which was "my fault." As a result, I continue to suffer from the effects of whiplash, which physiotherapy and medication have eased, but I cannot seem to return to my healthy previous condition. I do believe there is more here than meets the eye and that healing is within my control/power. I would appreciate any insight you can share on the "reason" for apparent accidents, and healing from accidental injuries. Can you possibly shed some light on this issue, from the viewpoint of A Course in Miracles?

A: This is one of the more difficult aspects of the Course’s theory to both understand and accept, the primary reason being that we always attempt to comprehend what the Course says from the perspective of homo sapiens, forgetting that the ego’s purpose for homo sapiens is to keep the Son of God mindless and forever oblivious to the dynamics that sustain and motivate "life" in the world, ensuring that he would never realize that his experiences are the outcome of his own choice. The world "never was, nor is, nor yet will be what you imagine" Jesus once told Helen (The Gifts of God, p. 117) -- echoing Plato, perhaps. So it is important to remember that the Son of God does not equate with homo sapiens or the brain; the Son of God equates with mind.

In "The Responsibility for Sight" Jesus states: "Deceive yourself no longer that you are helpless in the face of what is done to you.…It is impossible the Son of God be merely driven by events outside of him. It is impossible that happenings that come to him were not his choice" (T.21.II.2:6;3:1,2). And then in that same section, he offers us some insight into why we (as decision-making minds outside time and space) would choose suffering: "Suffer, and you [as mind] decided sin was your goal. Be happy and you gave the power of decision to Him Who must decide for God for you" (T.21.II.3:5,6). Sin, which is always equated with separation in A Course in Miracles, therefore is a motivating factor: all suffering proves that separation is reality. Another motivating factor is given several paragraphs later: "Nothing created not by your Creator has any influence over you. And if you think what you have made [the body] can tell you what you see and feel, and place your faith in its ability to do so, you are denying your Creator and believing that you made yourself. For if you think the world you made has power to make you what it wills, you are confusing Son and Father; effect and Source" (T.21.II.11:3,4,5). Any time we feel we are victims of accidental happenings, we are being motivated by this ancient and concealed quest to usurp God’s role as Creator and claim His power as our own. That sounds monstrous and there usually is nothing about our experience that validates this. But Jesus says in many ways throughout his Course that we should not trust our perceptions or our experience, until they are no longer ours but his from outside the dream. So, insanely, we (as mind) confirm our existence and autonomy by subjecting ourselves to forces seemingly beyond our control.

Once again, the decision-making mind outside time and space is not a human self or brain. This is impossible for us to envision, but as such, the mind can express its intention in any number of different forms, one of which is as seemingly different entities collectively involved in events and situations. Question #37 explains this in depth, specifically the "secret vow" we make to be hurt by another (T.28.VI.4,5). Ultimately, "accidents" involving several people are the outward picture of a decision made in the mind. The ego’s strategy to keep the separation from God real, while projecting responsibility for it, is effectively carried out in these human scenarios where people suffer as innocent victims of accidental happenings. Without minimizing people’s pain, seen from a perspective outside the dream of separation, accidents, tragedies, and hideous catastrophes are still only smokescreens meant to obscure our identity as decision-making minds so that we would never realize that we are but following the way we chose (W.pI.166.6), and therefore we can make another choice.

Healing from "accidental injuries" would proceed along the lines of any other type of healing; namely, that you would focus on which teacher you are choosing to guide you through your recovery. True healing is always the acceptance of the Atonement -- that the separation never truly happened. And we make our way toward that final stage by searching our minds for all the ways in which we uphold separation and separate interests. Interacting with your doctors and others who are helping you provides a wonderful opportunity to join in terms of sharing a common interest. And because all forms of sickness and pain are also defenses "protecting" you from your Identity as spirit, you also would want to be a patient patient, respectful of your fear of returning to the Home you never truly left. You just want to be gentle with yourself, with the love of Jesus beside you, accepting where you are and letting go any blame that tempts you to judge yourself or others.

Q #417: Is a desire or expectation or agreement for sexual fidelity in a relationship a hallmark of the ego’s special relationship – a kind of possessiveness that seeks to own the other person and limit the expression of universal love? I have always avoided infidelity, not only for health reasons, but also because it seems to churn up disruptive and painful emotions. My partner comes from a background in his young adulthood where sex was considered a way of achieving union with others in his spiritual circle in addition to his spouse. And in relation to this, is it possible to truly forgive someone as a spiritual being, and believe the sincerity of their vow to act differently, and yet still feel insurmountable doubts about the person’s moral appropriateness as a life partner? Or is such a feeling the product of fear and being stuck in the past? My inner voice advised me that he was not the right person for me and that I was resisting that fact and that he would never be the right person for me and to end the relationship. How can I tell if this is the Voice of the Holy Spirit?

A: While the expectation/desire for sexual fidelity could express the ego’s version of love, which is characterized by possessiveness and exclusion, it could also express the Holy Spirit’s purpose for the relationship, in the sense that this is the person with whom you are going to learn your lessons of forgiveness. Having sex only with this one person, therefore, could symbolize that commitment to heal the separation with this specific learning partner. And since the content in your mind is the healing of the separation, no one would be excluded from that healing. To avoid confusion and reduce the potential for self-deception, it is essential to distinguish between form and content. The content in our wrong minds is always generated by the ego’s goal of keeping the separation intact, which it does primarily by devising ways to keep the body and its behavior (form) real in our perception. Sex fits nicely into this strategy, especially when it is spiritualized, for then a function of the body has been sanctified, and the ego’s triumph thus assured. This is why Jesus reminds us that "minds are joined, bodies are not" (T.18.VI.3:1). We do not have to achieve union with others, we simply have to recognize how we are blocking awareness of that union, which is the eternal, unchangeable nature of our oneness as God’s Son.

On the level of absolute truth, the body and everything about the body is totally illusory. But since we continue to believe we are real as bodies, Jesus helps us correct that mistaken belief by having us regard the body as neutral, so we can then concentrate as much as possible on the purpose for which we use the body: to separate or to heal the separation. Thus nothing of the body can be holy or unholy; the act of sex is neither holy nor unholy, even though many people tend to spiritualize it. The content in the mind is the critical factor. It is often difficult to discern the purpose or the content, though, because of the intense emotional and psychological aspects of sex, rooted ultimately in our guilt-ridden separation from God and the usurping of His creative power, manifested in the "pro-creative" dimension of sex. All of our problems and preoccupation with sex are linked with these ontological associations.

The process can often be simplified, however, by divorcing sex from its physical expression. Thus, issues of infidelity should be dealt with on the deeper level of content, rather than the behavioral level. It is not having an affair with someone else that is wrong; the question of right or wrong in this regard needs to be addressed at a much deeper level. There needs to be complete clarity on the level of content; this cannot be decided simply by assessing behavior. The content that defines the relationship needs to be looked at with complete honesty and objectivity. (The wrong-minded content would be guilt, control, or any other aspect of specialness.)

Finally, how can you tell if you are truly being guided by the Holy Spirit, and not by the ego masquerading as a divine source? The way to discern this is, as best you can, get all of the interferences out of the way -- all the anger, fear, feelings of betrayal, jealousy, etc. You need not be free of them permanently, but just for an instant let them go, because your holding on to them is the cause of the disruption of the communication between you and the Holy Spirit.

The topic of sex is discussed in depth in our audio tapes and video tapes of Kenneth’s workshop, "Form and Content: Sex and Money"; and also in Chapter 4 of Forgiveness and Jesus: The Meeting Place of A Course in Miracles and Christianity.

Q #418: What does the statement "reflection of Love" mean? If there is no love in this world, how can you tell what is a reflection of love? Many students of A Course in Miracles I know run around saying they are "extending" love. They do this by acts and deeds and thoughts. This doesn't seem to be what the Course is saying. If there is no love in the world, how can one extend love in the world? I can understand there being no love in the world since God is Love, and God knows not of this world. But this reflection thing seems to hang me up. Can you help?

A: It is important to remember that when the Course speaks about the extension or the reflection of love, it is addressing the mind that chooses to identify with the part of the mind that remembers God, not the separate individual who identifies with the body in the dream. In reality, the Son cannot be separate from the Father and cannot obliterate memory of Him; therefore, a part of the mind holds the memory of God. It is this part which is a reflection of God’s Love. When the mind chooses to identify with this love, it flows through the figure in the dream and is thereby extended. It is not limited by form of any kind, but takes the form which is most helpful in any situation and to anyone. This is not an act of will, nor a choice on the part of an individual to perform specific "loving acts," as we may define them.

It is unlikely that those who identify with the part of the mind that reflects God’s Love would run around saying they are "extending" love. If they do, hopefully they are aware that "they" are not the ones doing the extending. The figure in the dream does nothing. We are not asked to use our judgment to evaluate any situation or to determine what is or is not a loving response. As the Course reminds us clearly and repeatedly, our function is forgiveness. It is practiced by recognizing all the unloving thoughts and judgments we may have, asking for them to be transformed by the Holy Spirit. We then do what the Course invites us to do: "Step gently aside, and let healing be done for you. Keep but one thought in mind and do not lose sight of it, however tempted you may be to judge any situation, and to determine your response by judging it. Focus your mind only on this: I am not alone, and I would not intrude the past upon my Guest. I have invited Him, and He is here. I need do nothing except not to interfere" (T.16.I.3:8,9,10,11,12). Once we have arrived at this noninterference, all that is left is the reflection of love.

Q #419: Sabotage is a big issue with me. It doesn't matter what the form is, I just ruin things for myself. Needless to say, the consequences of continually sabotaging myself are always regretful and sad and the more they are recalled in my mind the more guilty I feel. I have grown very weary of my self. Can you please elaborate on the subject of sabotage.

A: Speaking in general, because we do not know you personally, self-sabotage is usually motivated by hidden ego dynamics, such as: (1) The need to punish yourself for the "sin" of attacking Love in order to have your own existence. This would cause you to think that you do not deserve to be happy for any extended period of time. And, further, following the ego’s story, you would think that God would be more pleased with you if He saw that you had a rough life. Thus you would be willing to pay for your sinfulness through a life filled with failure and misfortune. (2) The need to prove that your life as an individual is real and is the truth about you. Thus, being weary of being you says you are still you, and you are not as God created you. (3) The need to hold someone else responsible for your miserable life. If you dig beneath the surface, more than likely you will find yourself blaming your self-destructive pattern on something in your past, or some other factor for which you are not responsible. That would again fulfill the ego’s aim of sustaining the separation but not taking responsibility for it.

The application of forgiveness to this painful condition involves first acknowledging that there must be an unconscious need within you to reinforce this self-concept, and that it obviously is coming from your identification with the ego. In that sense, you (the decision-making mind identified with the ego), are simply carrying out your own strategy. Gentleness in looking at these thoughts within yourself is essential if you are to begin the process of healing, and asking help of Jesus or the Holy Spirit would ensure that you would look without judgment. Being weary of yourself is already a judgment, because it is saying this is who you truly are, and to some extent you are a helpless victim. To get beyond that, all you need to do is say and feel as objectively as you can: "This is where I am, and for some insane reason I must believe that this is helping me achieve something of value. This does not make be a bad person or a sinful person, just mistaken. I clearly have chosen the ego as my teacher and am simply following its guidance." If you could do that without any judgment whatsoever, you would be making progress in lessening your investment in the ego thought system, and you would not be worsening the situation by trying to fight yourself. This patient acceptance of yourself would then give you some "breathing space," and then at some point you would be able to get in touch with these deeper layers of motivation and ask for help to see them differently, from a healing perspective in your right mind.

Finally, it is never wrong or out of keeping with your commitment to A Course in Miracles to seek help from a therapist. Sometimes successful behavioral changes lessen psychological pressures enough so that you can then work on the underlying dynamics such as the ones outlined above.