Weekly Questions and Answers, 04/07/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #434: What is the best way to handle slips into wrong-mindedness?
Q #435: Is it significant that all my relationships are failing ?.
Q #436: How do I deal with the lower emotions. How can I laugh them away?.
Q #437: Should we not, even temporarily, believe that Jesus will help us in this world?.

Q #438: Is there a voice that commands that we obey?
Q #439: Must I regard all Christian teaching as mistaken?

Chronological List of All Questions.

Interactive Index of all topics

Q #434: I seem to be, for the most part, right-minded. However, occasionally, with a vengeance, I slip back into wrong-mindedness and my behavior seems to set the seeds for a very difficult return; i.e., a major argument. Is this disturbing "shift" part of the process? Have you any advice or passages to aid in a speedy "shift" back?

A: Yes, frequent trips to the wrong mind are part of the process. In a nutshell, the only way to the right mind is to accept responsibility for the choice to be separate, and to choose not to be separate. This usually involves a long, hard look at a deep desire to continue to identify with the body, and to see ourselves as separate, different, and generally better than everybody else. The best place to start is not to judge yourself for choosing the wrong mind, and then be glad that you realize you have done so and are not in denial. This means you can effectively apply what A Course in Miracles asks us to do: "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false. Every illusion is one of fear, whatever form it takes"(T.16.IV.6:1,2,3).

Since the wrong mind is the problem, and the belief in the separation is what needs healing, being aware of the specific form it takes in our individual lives is a very important part of the process. It provides us with the opportunity to expose the thoughts and beliefs hidden in our minds so they can be corrected by the Holy Spirit. An ego attack can be a very helpful exposure of hidden beliefs, so they can be looked at. The most effective thing you can do when you find yourself in your wrong mind is to take a good look: "You cannot lay aside the obstacles to real vision without looking upon them, for to lay aside means to judge against. If you will look, the Holy Spirit will judge, and He will judge truly. Yet He cannot shine away what you keep hidden, for you have not offered it to Him and He cannot take it from you"(T.12.II.9:6,7,8).

Q #435: I have been studying A Course in Miracles for about 4 years. Within the past year it seems that all my relationships have failed me. Close relationships have chosen to distance themselves from me with no explanation after I have asked. Others have betrayed me. No return phone calls, no follow up meetings, no interest in me anymore. That said, I feel that there is something wrong with me and that the reason for all this abandonment has to do with something that I have done wrong. Can you help me understand what it is that I am going through? It is obvious to me that this is something that I have a wonderful opportunity to learn from this and it is so blatant and in my face I can't help but notice it. But at the same time I have these feelings that I described that are not peaceful.

A: This may or may not have anything to do with your being a student of the Course; it is difficult to draw a conclusion just from the information you have provided. You might find Question #423 relevant to your concerns. You can at least learn to stay peaceful inside, even though the external situation is troublesome. Search your mind for any judgments or grievances you are holding onto, and then bring them to the forgiving love of Jesus in your mind, where you will let them go when you no longer want to pay the cost of holding onto them. There is not much else you can do when you suspect you may have done something wrong but don’t know what it is, and no one is willing to answer your questions. If you can let go of any investment you have in fixing the situation or doing something to win back the other people’s friendship, then you can simply trust that you will have many other opportunities to correct any mistakes you may have made. Judging yourself or the other people will stand in the way of your making progress with this, however.

Q #436: A Course in Miracles says to laugh away the ego, as it never was or will be real. But I find that I have to really work hard on my "lower emotions" to be able to get rid of them. Work hard, means: cry, write about them, tell them to another person, have temper tantrums with myself, or any other form of expressing them. Otherwise I feel that it is very easy to negate or repress them and keep on acting as if nothing had happened, but keep running around full of resentments. After doing all this, then I can look at my projection and forgive my brother, and then ask for help in forgiving myself. Am I making the error real? Why does Jesus not say anything about this process?

A: First, and most importantly, you can "laugh away the ego" only when you experience it as unreal. If you try to get rid of something, you must be perceiving it as real; and the Course never asks us to get rid of what we think is real. That would be sacrifice, and Jesus reminds us often that sacrifice is not loving. The only way your feelings or emotions can change is by getting in touch with the cause of them, and then deciding whether you wish to uphold that anymore. You cannot simply will yourself to be kind instead of hateful, for example, or will yourself into not having bodily needs.

The Course’s approach is a gentle one, which means it is far more helpful to forgive yourself for your lapses and resistance, than to force yourself to give up what you still are heavily invested in. That is why so much of the focus of Jesus’ teachings is on purpose. It is just about impossible for us to let go of our identity with the body and all of its needs and impulses. We simply cannot do that, because they are defenses protecting us from an overwhelming terror in our minds. But what is well within the range of possibility is to learn the difference between the ego’s purpose for the world and the body and Jesus’ purpose -- and then to choose one. That is much more in keeping with the overall message of the Course, which is that the world and the body are not the problem; the choices we make in our minds are the problem. So rather than forcing yourself to get rid of emotions, which are not the problem, you might try shifting your focus to the purpose for which you use your body: to reinforce differences and separation, or to help you learn that your interests are the same as everyone else’s.

Q #437: There is one aspect of being a student of A Course in Miracles that just keeps nagging me. In answering Question #235 you stated that neither God nor Jesus intervenes in the world to fix problems. Does this mean that we are just on our own within the dream and have no one we can turn to for help? I understand the ultimate goal of the Course is to undo the dream, but while we are working toward that goal we are "stuck" within the dream and have things we have to accomplish just to be able to continue working with the Course. Is there really no help from within to assist us in doing what we need to do within the dream? A child may believe there is a monster under his bed, and he is terrified. An adult knows there is nothing under the bed, but he doesn't just dismiss what the child believes and leave him comfortless. The adult does everything it can to make the child feel safe. I just find it difficult to believe that if I need something within the dream, even though to Jesus it may be just as unreal as the monster under that child's bed, that I can't get any help from him to accomplish what I need to do just to be able to continue within the dream.

A: Helen Schucman’s experience was that Jesus helped her with very specific things in her life, even with things that were not essential to her being able to "continue within the dream," as you expressed it. There is nothing wrong in asking Jesus or the Holy Spirit for help with specifics, as Jesus explains in the "Ladder of Prayer" section in The Song of Prayer pamphlet. There he helps us understand what "asking-out-of-need" is all about. In fact, he says that "no one who is uncertain of his Identity can avoid praying in this way" (S.II.2:3). He just does not want us to stay at that level of relationship with either ourselves or him, because there is so much more that awaits us. He wants us to value his love above any specific form in which it may be reflected. In asking for help and comfort within the dream, you will not get stuck as long as you remember, among other things, that "the world was made that problems could not be escaped." (T.31.IV.2:6). Our egos are sly and always seeking ways to join us in our study of the Course. And this would be one of its favorite ways: in the guise of prayer to reinforce our identity as real individuals with real needs in a real world, rekindling hope that we will yet be happy here. What will help you avoid this trap is to keep in mind that we are always dealing with symbols, symbols for dynamics in our minds that are outside time and space entirely. This is brought to light in Chapter 17 of Kenneth’s book, Absence from Felicity.

Having said this, though, it is still true that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not active in the world. That is the importance of understanding the metaphysics of the Course, particularly the symbolic nature of everything we experience within the illusion of separation, as is made clear in the chapter in Kenneth’s book just referred to. Our experience of Jesus, as well as of ourselves, will change as we identify less and less with the body, and as we take the differences we perceive among us less and less seriously. Jesus’ love will be associated less and less with answers to prayers for specifics, and more and more with the "song": "Therefore, it is not the form of the question that matters, nor how it is asked. The form of the answer, if given by God, will suit your need as you see it. This is merely an echo of the reply of His Voice [the Holy Spirit]. The real sound is always a song of thanksgiving and of Love.…In true prayer you hear only the song. All the rest is merely added. You have sought first the Kingdom of Heaven, and all else has indeed been given you" (S.1.I.2:6,7,8,9; 3:4,5,6).

Finally, sometimes it helps to remember his reassuring words and simply trust that we will get through what seems like a very trying existence in this world: "You do not walk alone. God’s angels hover near and all about. His Love surrounds you, and of this be sure; that I will never leave you comfortless" (W.pII.ep.6:6,7,8).

Q #438: I have been wondering about a passage in A Course in Miracles that says that a conflict arises because a voice demands we obey. If we do obey, rage will follow because we will feel coerced, and if we don't, that part of the mind will be outraged. Either way, rage will result. The Course says that this state is caused by a lack of love. My question regards my own experience. I have usually disobeyed that voice because of its cruel demanding way. I feel intense guilt because this voice reminds me that I hurt someone because I didn’t follow its instructions. So how should I feel about this voice that tells me I am wrong or I don't deserve what I have because I didn't follow its decree? I really need to know if I need to do anything to right the wrong because I really desperately want to get rid of all this and replace it with forgiveness.

A: The only voice that would cruelly demand obedience, or judge you in any way belongs to the ego. It is a voice that will always reflect the painful effects of having chosen to believe that the separation is real, that such a belief is a sin, guilt is justified, and punishment is inevitable. There is no resolution to this through retribution, or behavior of any kind. For a student of the Course, the only way out of its circuitous system of judgment and condemnation is to apply its principles as carefully and consistently as possible. There is no need to "do" anything else. That is how to listen to the Voice of the Holy Spirit in a practical way, and only this will lead to freedom from guilt.

The passage you refer to, T.2.VI.5, is speaking about the conflict in the wrong mind. It is not contrasting the wrong mind with the right mind. It describes the insanity that follows a choice to identify with the ego thought system, and then to attempt to assuage the inevitable fear by controlling behavior, without making another choice in the mind. It is one of the ways the ego tries to have its cake and eat it, too: keep the thought of separation real, but get rid of the guilt and fear that go with it.

The passage says that "conflict is an expression of fear" (T.2.VI.7:1, italics ours); in other words, conflict is telling us that we have become afraid. In the same paragraph the Course goes on to say: "Fear arises from lack of love"(T.2.VI.7:6). Thus, fear is the result of the choice to be separate from love. Conflicted behavior and rage are the outcome when we choose separation, and then try to behave in a way that seems loving, convinced that in this way we will appease a punishing god. The bottom line in all of this is that it doesn’t work. The only thing that does work is to be honest about what we want. The process the Course leads us through can be effective only if learn to recognize all the ways our thoughts, beliefs, and acts show us the choice we have made in the mind to be separate, and then recognize the heavy price we pay (all the pain, anguish, and conflict experienced in our individual lives, and in the world). Jesus invites us to ask ourselves if we really want to pay this price for our individual, separate, and meaningless existence in the world. The process takes practice because we are so strongly attached to belief in our identity as bodies.

The Course is clear and uncompromising, but coercion of any kind is completely inconsistent with the gentleness and love of Jesus’ message. When the Course speaks of "obeying" the laws of the mind, it is not referring to a choice to be obedient or not, especially not forced obedience. It means that because "ideas leave not their source" (T.27.VII.13), a choice in the mind will have certain inevitable effects. In other words, the effect "obeys" the cause. The choice for separation always produces guilt and fear. It reinforces the ego thought system and belief in the identity of the body. The choice for the Holy Spirit’s correction (not coercion) results in peace, and allows the extension of love, which reinforces the truth of who we are. Eventually this will be all we truly want.

Q #439: I have rediscovered Christianity, which I had abandoned before finding A Course in Miracles 14 years ago. When I read your discussion on Christianity, I wondered why you consider anything the Bible has to say as irrelevant to the Course. (Perhaps that's paraphrasing too much.) My understanding of the meaning behind Jesus' teachings have now become much clearer since studying the Course, which brings more meaning to Christianity, not less. Should I regard all Christian teaching as mistaken thereby "throwing the baby out with the bathwater"?

A: You should do whatever you are comfortable with, whatever helps you feel loved and forgiven. If the Bible and Christianity help you achieve that, it would be foolish not to follow that path. However, the theologies and practices of traditional Christianity and other biblically-based religions do not revolve around the purpose of Jesus’ life as you see it. Christianity teaches explicitly that God created the world; sin and death are real; Jesus was the only-begotten Son of God; his sacrificial death was his Father’s Will; and through his sacrifice, we all are saved. If you interpret the Bible as saying something else, that’s fine; but it would not be the traditional Christian interpretation. From the perspective of A Course in Miracles these are all mistaken beliefs, the correction of which is one of the major purposes of the Course. That is why we say the two thought systems are mutually exclusive. You would not be doing justice to either one by trying to combine them. But, again, if you are guided to follow biblical teachings, that is what you should do. The Course itself says that there are thousands of forms of the universal course (M.1.4:1,2).

If you have not already done so, you might have a look at our book, A Course in Miracles and Christianity: A Dialogue, coauthored by Kenneth Wapnick and W. Norris Clarke, S.J., a Catholic priest. The decisive differences between Christianity and A Course in Miracles are clearly identified and discussed in the loving spirit of friends who respect their differences, and agree to disagree.