Weekly Questions and Answers, 03/31/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #426: Can I be a bodybuilder and still be true to the Course?
Q #427: What is the difference betwen "make" and "create"?.
Q #428: Don't "near-death-experiences" contradict the teachings of the Course?.
Q #429: Doesn't the Course improve our circumstances in this world, anyway?.

Q #430: Why is "only one" teacher of God needed to save the world?
Q #431: Experiencing constant inner dialogs about anger
Q #432: What would be the viewpoint of the Course on the use of pschotropic drugs?
Q #433: Should I only accept a partner in liife if he/she is spiritually or Course oriented?

Chronological List of All Questions.

Interactive Index of all topics

Q #426: I am a bodybuilder. How can I reconcile this with the position of A Course in Miracles that I am not a body? Since beginning the Course I have always felt a little conflicted about being so body conscious. It seems incongruent to be a bodybuilder, while trying to cultivate the belief in the body's insignificance. I don't want to give up bodybuilding because I enjoy doing it. But everything the Course says makes sense to me too. I feel like I'm being forced to make a choice that I'm not ready to make yet! Can I still be bodybuilder and practice the Course?

A: Yes, you can still be a bodybuilder and practice A Course in Miracles, just as you can continue to breathe, and do all the things you do to take care of your body. The Course tells us we are not bodies because it addresses the mind, our true identity. However, it cautions us early in the text not to deny that we do believe we are bodies: "The body is merely part of your experience in the physical world. Its abilities can be and frequently are over evaluated. However, 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.3:8,9,10,11). The Course is also very clear that we are not to force ourselves to believe anything we are not ready to accept. Our belief in the body is very strong. It is an identity we have chosen in order to blot out all awareness of the mind and its power to choose, so we can convincingly perceive ourselves as victims.

One of the important goals of the Course is to teach us that we do have a mind. In the Introduction to the workbook we are told: "The purpose of the workbook is to train your mind in a systematic way to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world" (W.in.4:1). So, while you do your bodybuilding to your heart’s content, the Course reminds you gently that there’s more to you than the body, and ultimately that you are not a body at all. It invites you to a "mind building" program, where the goal is to become aware of all the thoughts and beliefs you hold that oppose the truth of who you truly are, and ask for help to have them be transformed gradually, to whatever extent you are willing. This is the meaning of forgiveness -- letting go of grievances.

Just as bodybuilding takes time and practice, so does it take practice to undo the thought system of the ego with which we have identified. The Course tells us that we have managed to learn what is not true (that we are guilty, individual bodies), and that we are therefore capable of learning to recognize the truth (that we are spirit, God’s one innocent Son). In this learning is salvation, which requires no strain or force.

Q #427: Will you please compare and contrast the meaning of to "make" and to "create" in accordance with the teachings of A Course in Miracles.

A: As the Glossary Index for "A Course in Miracles" by Kenneth Wapnick states: "spirit creates, while the ego makes" (p.144). What the spirit creates is true and therefore real, what the ego makes is false and therefore unreal. Whenever the Course speaks of creating, it is referring to God’s power of creation, which He shares with His Son. Creating takes place only outside of time and space, on the level of the Mind. Nothing on the level of form is created. The Glossary Index states further that making can be referred to as miscreating (p.144). The thought of separation is a miscreation that is the ego, and is responsible for making the illusion that we experience as the world of form. The ego "makes" this world and the body as a substitute for the truth of God’s creation, which is spirit. However, nothing that is "made" exists in reality. It is illusory, because there is no substitute for God’s creation.

Depending on its choice to identify with the truth of spirit, or the lies of the ego, the mind has the power to create or to miscreate. Believing that what the mind miscreates ("makes") is real introduces conflict into the mind of the Son. The mind is then faced with the choice between sanity or insanity, truth or illusion, healing or sickness: "The fundamental conflict in this world, then, is between creation and miscreation. All fear is implicit in the second, and all love in the first. The conflict is therefore one between love and fear" (T.2.VII.3:13,14,15). This conflict is resolved through the process of forgiveness, whereby we learn to accept the Holy Spirit’s correction of all the ego has made as a result of taking the thought of separation seriously.

Q #428: From the accounts of many people who have had near-death experiences, we can conclude that the material world and our planet are very important and designed for spiritual learning, training, and evolving. There are no futile things in them and everything has meaning. On the contrary, from view of A Course in Miracles, our world is meaningless and designed by the ego to keep the illusion of separation and to control the guilt over the separation. The contradiction is obvious. I perceive the accounts of people having had NDE as evidence from the spiritual world. How can you explain the contradiction?

A: If the separation from God never happened, then in reality there is no world. "This is the central thought the course attempts to teach" (W.pI.132.6:3). However, since we think the world is real, then A Course in Miracles teaches us how to use the world -- "made as an attack on God" (W.pII.3.2:1) -- to learn that ultimately it is illusory, and further, that the self that thinks it exists in the world is also illusory. In that sense, the world is our classroom, until with the Holy Spirit’s help we change all of the mistaken beliefs in our minds. Thus, on the level of absolute truth, the world is totally illusory; but on the level of our dream of separation, we can learn to use our interactions in the world to help us awaken from the dream, at which point the world would disappear back into the nothingness from which it came.

The world is meaningful or important, thus, only to the extent that our experiences in the world can tell us whether we have chosen to reinforce the ego’s purpose or Jesus’ purpose. Choosing the ego as our teacher would serve to keep us rooted in the world and forever apart from the peace of God. Choosing Jesus as our teacher would serve to remind us of the absurdity of wanting to exist apart from our true home in Heaven as aliens in a world of separate beings always involved in life-and-death struggles on some level.

A near-death experience can be extremely valuable in helping people realize there is something beyond bodily existence; but the same experience can occur -- and has occurred many, many times -- apart from a NDE. In a section in the text called "Beyond the Body" (T.18.VI), Jesus describes the body as a "limit imposed on the universal communication that is an eternal property of mind" (8:3), and then he discusses the experience of being liberated or transported beyond the body. In part Jesus explains, "What really happens is that you have given up the illusion of a limited awareness, and lost your fear of union" (11:7). Then at the end of the section, he invites us to "come to this place of refuge, where you can be yourself in peace. Not through destruction, not through a breaking out, but merely by a quiet melting in. For peace will join you there simply because you have been willing to let go the limits you have placed upon love, and joined it where it is and where it led you, in answer to its gentle call to be at peace" (14:5,6,7).

From the perspective of A Course in Miracles, thus, NDE’s can be helpful, not as evidence of a spiritual world beyond the physical world, but as evidence of another dimension in one’s own mind that can be chosen any time the value of a separate, individual existence is called into question. How that is experienced (the form) varies from individual to individual. But coming close to death is not a condition for having it.

Q #429: It has been stated many times that it is not the goal of A Course in Miracles to help us get what we want in the world. But doesn't it sort of do that anyway? What I mean is, if we are having problems with health or money, and through the Course we remove the guilt that underlies those projections, then don't our circumstances improve?

A: A basic principle of the Course teaches that "Ideas leave not their source" (W.p.I.132.5:3), which is the mind. Whatever occurs in form in our experience is a reflection of a choice in the mind to identify with the ego or the Holy Spirit. Our experience in the world involves a myriad of seemingly different situations, which are neutral in themselves. It is our interpretation of them that gives them power to take away our peace, or leave it unaffected. The interpretation is based on a belief about ourselves. When the mind chooses to identify with the ego thought system, thus with separation and the body, it interprets sickness or lack of money as a threat or attack. When the mind chooses to identify with the Holy Spirit, having a sickness or lack of money is not perceived as attack, and has no effect on a person’s peacefulness. Any physical condition is then irrelevant; it may or may not change. Although the power of the mind may be used to change physical conditions, unless the choice for the Holy Spirit’s healing is made, the problem will continue in one form or another. It is the mind that is sick and therefore in need of healing: "The body needs no healing. But the mind that thinks it is a body is sick indeed!"(T.25.in.3:1,2)

You are correct in saying that the goal of the Course is not to make things better in the world: "…seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world" (T.21.in.1:7). It is a mistake to believe that the source of distress is anything external to the mind, such as physical sickness or lack of money The Course tells us that the cause of all conflict is a choice in the mind to believe that the separation is real. Its goal is the healing of the mind of this thought, teaching us our true identity is mind, not the body, whether it be a healthy, sick, wealthy, or poor one. This is the important lesson we are asked to learn. Only this will bring us the peace we seek, and the ultimate awakening from the dream of separation.

Q #430: In the Manual for Teachers of A Course in Miracles the question is asked, "How many teachers of God are needed to save the world? The answer to this question is --one." Wasn't Jesus already that one teacher? If we are all one mind, then why would there need to be another "wholly perfect teacher?"

A: You are right, we are all one mind, and there is not another "wholly perfect teacher." Jesus is the one teacher, along with all of us. The Course tells us that when the mind of a separated one accepts the Atonement, awareness of our true Identity as the one, innocent Son of God returns to the mind. With that awareness comes the recognition that separation is impossible and thus the world is "saved." However, the world does not actually need to be saved; first, because "there is no world" (W.pI.132.6:2), and secondly, being already accomplished, salvation merely returns truth to awareness. In the healing of the mind of any "one," the entire Sonship is healed. That is because the healed mind no longer identifies with the separate individual. As the Manual states in the section to which you refer:" Thus does the son of man become the Son of God" (M.12.2:1). The acceptance of our Identity as God’s innocent Son includes everyone because we all share this Sonship. Every "son" becomes the same "Son," who is the one teacher. This must be so since salvation is the healing of the thought of separation, it is not complete as long as anyone is held apart as somehow separate. That is why whenever the Course refers to healing or salvation, it reminds us that we are not healed or saved alone. In one of the most clear and inclusive statements of this, Jesus says: "And as you let yourself be healed, you see all those around you, or who cross your mind, or whom you touch or those who seem to have no contact with you, healed along with you. Perhaps you will not recognize them all, nor realize how great your offering to all the world, when you let healing come to you. But you are never healed alone. And legions upon legions will receive the gift that you receive when you are healed" (W.pI.137.10).

Q #431: I have been studying and trying to practice A Course in Miracles for 13 years and have had moments of peace. Lately, I have noticed that I have a dialogue that goes on inside. For example, I will be in a situation where I suddenly find myself getting ticked off, and before I react, I consciously stop and go into a dialogue of what the Course would say, like "anger is never justified in any form" or "I must have chosen wrongly." That gives me a pause to "think" what to choose. The anger may remain for a while, but I am probably giving it a lot of energy, and then after a while it goes away and I'm more peaceful. That constant dialogue is "hard" on me even though I have had successes. I just don't know what’s going on.

A: From your description, it sounds as if you are simply doing what is asked of you in the Course. This is a Course in mind-training after all, a Course in thought-reversal. And so there will be changes in your way of reacting to situations. That is positive. The re-training of you mind involves becoming aware of which teacher you have chosen to follow and that your reactions directly follow that choice of teachers. Becoming aware of a Course principle or phrase does not necessarily mean you will choose it. But, on the other hand, the fact that you ask yourself what the Course would say indicates that at that instant you are not totally identified with your ego. That is progress, and as you continue to do that more and more, it will become more natural to you. This is a gradual process of letting go of one way of thinking and reacting, and replacing it with another. That can throw off your equilibrium for a while, which is why you never want to force anything. Just be patient and gentle, and remind yourself that you are undoing something that never happened in the first place. You are in the process of replacing your wrong-minded self with your right-minded self, a self that will be less angry, judgmental, and arrogant, and more compassionate, calm, and humble. As the lessons say again and again, asking the help of Jesus or the Holy Spirit in the continual monitoring of your mind, and observing -- not changing -- your ego thoughts in action is your only responsibility. "What you are will tell you of itself" (T.31.V.17:9).

As you progress in this, you can then take the next step of questioning why you get angry in the first place. As you know, anger is a defense. We become angry over what someone else has done as a way of keeping our attention focused outside ourselves. Our real problem is the guilt and self- hatred from our self-accusation of having destroyed love in order to gain our own existence in our own world apart from Heaven. To avoid dealing with that, we project the guilt and self-hatred and then see it in others, feeling perfectly justified in our anger. "Learn this, and learn it well," Jesus says, "for it is here delay of happiness is shortened by a span of time you cannot realize. You never hate your brother for his sins, but only for your own. Whatever form his sins appear to take, it but obscures the fact that you believe them to be yours, and therefore meriting a ‘just’ attack" (T.31.III.1:4,5,6). So until you begin to ask for help to deal with the real cause of the anger, the pattern of it coming and going will not change. When the guilt in your mind is gone, only peace will remain; and then nothing anyone else says or does would affect this peace.

Q #432: In the 1960s there were experiments with LSD and other psychedelics in treating autism, schizophrenia, and other mental disorders. The results of the experiments were fascinating, and helpful in improving mental health through the metaphysical experiences some patients had. This is how transpersonal psychology emerged. So would the using of psychedelics be helpful in removing the ego and in spiritual evolvement? What would be the view of A Course in Miracles on this subject?

A: The Course distinguishes between the brain, which is a physical organ, and the mind, which is outside time and space. A further important distinction is that the body, of which the brain is a part, is not autonomous, despite our experience. The body is a projection (an effect) of a thought in the trans-temporal/spatial mind (the cause), and therefore is but an expression of the choices made in the mind to support either the ego’s thought system or the Holy Spirit’s. Adapting a passage from the text, we can say that the body thus "is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition" (T.21.in.1:5). When the body appears to be sick (physically or psychologically), what has happened is that the mind has followed the ego’s guidance, and healing therefore can occur only when the mind recognizes that this was a mistake and then chooses against the ego and for the Holy Spirit or Jesus instead.

In view of these Course principles, psychedelics, since they affect only the brain, really would not be a means of removing the ego or furthering one’s spiritual progress. All healing -- which is not simply the disappearance of symptoms -- according to A Course in Miracles is the result of a shift in perception in one’s mind: "the recognition that sickness is of the mind, and has nothing to do with the body" (M.5.II.3:1). This would be true of autism, schizophrenia, or any other mental disorder, as well as all physical conditions. This points out the importance of the Course’s teachings on cause and effect -- the mind is always the cause, and the body is never anything other than an effect. If the cause changes, the effect will change accordingly. If, therefore, an observable change follows the administering of drugs, it could only mean that the mind chose differently, as Jesus explains in the same section of the manual just quoted: "Special agents seem to be ministering to him, yet they but give form to his own choice. He chooses them in order to bring tangible form to his desires. And it is this they do, and nothing else. They are not actually needed at all. The patient could merely rise up without their aid and say, ‘I have no use for this.’ There is no form of sickness that would not be cured at once" (M.5.II.2:8,9,10,11,12,13).

This view is not meant to diminish the importance and value of the field of transpersonal psychology. Clearly many, many people over the years have found it to be an effective approach to both understanding human dynamics and treating a variety of conditions. A Course in Miracles has a different set of premises and a different orientation. Whatever path leads one to be more kind and less guilty is the path one should follow.

Q #433: In your book The Most Commonly Asked Questions About A Course in Miracles, you stated that Course students would be falling into the trap of specialness if they insisted that their partners be "spiritually like minded or more specifically students of the Course." Now, I understand that. How wonderful it be, though, to have a romantic partner who was also going through the same process, someone with whom I could share things like the Course and forgiveness. This path of self-discovery is so exciting and I am learning so much that I find it impossible to date people who I consider small-minded and petty and have no conception of a spirituality. What do you think?

A: There might appear to be an advantage in having an intimate partner with whom you could share and discuss your spiritual process, but that really assumes that you know what is best for you. It could be that for you the most effective means of staying with the content of being a student of the Course, is to be associated most of the time with people who are not students of the Course, or not even interested in spirituality. There is no way of knowing, because we have no idea of the part any relationship plays in our Atonement path. In a larger context, Jesus states that we cannot really judge anything at all. The aim of the Course’s curriculum "is the recognition that judgment in the usual sense is impossible. This is not an opinion but a fact. In order to judge anything rightly, one would have to be fully aware of an inconceivably wide range of things; past, present and to come. One would have to recognize in advance all the effects of his judgments on everyone and everything involved in them in any way. And one would have to be certain there is no distortion in his perception…Who is in a position to do this?" (M.10.3:1,2,3,4,5,6). The content in being a student of this Course has largely to do with our shifting from the ego’s judgment of differences to Jesus’ perception that the differences among us are unimportant relative to our equality as anguished minds reaching out for healing and for help in finding our way back to the home we believe we left. That lesson can be learned with or without an intimate partner, with or without a partner devoted to spirituality. Similarly, learning not to take another person’s attack personally can be done in any circumstances, on any level of relationships.

Your feelings about the desirability of a "Course partner" are understandable, but at the same time, in a way you are defining the terms and conditions of what a relationship for you should be. You are basically putting yourself in charge, saying that you cannot be happy unless…And the problem with the criterion you are giving is that it is exclusive. That is always a red flag, a path with many consequences you want to consider carefully before committing to. It isn’t easy to let go of the tendency to think that we know what is in our own best interests, and then "step back and let Him lead the way" (W.pI.155). But given our track record, that probably is a wise thing to do.