Weekly Questions and Answers, 04/14/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #440: How could I possibly forgive a figure like Sadam Hussein?
Q #441: What is the purpose of the numbering system used in A Course In Miracles?.
Q #442: Can you please define God, Jesus and The Holy Spirit?.
Q #443: Is there any real difference between everyday preferences, and racial hatred?.

Q #444: What is the meaning of "guilt" as used in the Course?

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Q #440: For years now I study and do my utmost to practice the principles of A Course in Miracles. But how on earth do I forgive a person like Saddam Hussein? Have I not forgiven myself in total that I seem not to be able to forgive leaders like him? They always seem to be people I do not know personally, but who are capable of allowing in their governments the most horrible things to happen to their fellow men. It comes down to the question: How do I forgive totally and completely?

A: When the mind chooses to believe that the separation is real it gives rise to intolerable guilt that must be projected out. It is first projected onto a made-up god of vengeance (victimizer), who will punish the Son (victim) for the imagined separation thought. This ego dynamic of an "innocent" victim pursued by an angry, vicious victimizer runs through every authority relationship in the world, in many different forms. In the following passage this dynamic is described: "Suffering is an emphasis upon all that the world has done to injure you. Here is the world's demented version of salvation clearly shown. Like to a dream of punishment, in which the dreamer is unconscious of what brought on the attack against himself, he sees himself attacked unjustly and by something not himself. He is the victim of this "something else," a thing outside himself, for which he has no reason to be held responsible. He must be innocent because he knows not what he does, but what is done to him. Yet is his own attack upon himself apparent still, for it is he who bears the suffering. And he cannot escape because its source is seen outside himself" (T.27.VII.1).

Several important principles of the Course’s teaching of forgiveness are presented here, and are meant to be applied precisely to the situations you describe. The Course tells us that the source of all victimization is in the mind that has attacked itself by believing that it can be separate from its Source (God). The choice to believe this thought of separation and the ensuing guilt are forgotten, and then appear in some form of conflict in the world, with the victimization theme running through it. There is no resolution in the world. There is obviously an endless supply of Hitlers, Husseins, or other less dramatic examples of victimizers. This is because, as the Course tells us, the problem is in the mind and not in the world. The first step in the forgiveness process then, is recognizing that guilt in the mind is the cause of all conflict, pain, and victimization experienced in the world. This is a very difficult step because the situations in the world are so convincing. On the ego’s terms projection works; it keeps the suffering of the world in operation. This guilt lies buried in all of us, and thus is unnoticed and unhealed. When a particular form of "evil-doer" comes along and we judge him or her, we are provided with another opportunity to forgive this unconscious guilt. Incidentally, this does not mean that you approve of the cruelty of others, but it does mean that you do not have to condemn the person.

If you could forgive totally and completely you would not need A Course in Miracles to lead you through the gentle steps of letting the Holy Spirit transform all the beliefs of the ego thought system. It is enough to be willing to question your interpretation of the situations you describe, by remembering the true source of the conflict and asking for a new interpretation: "The Guest Whom God sent you will teach you how to do this, if you but recognize the little spark and are willing to let it grow. Your willingness need not be perfect, because His is" (T.11.II.6:5,6).

Q #441: Why is every sentence and paragraph in the text, workbook, and manual for teachers of A Course in Miracles numbered?

A: There are two basic reasons: (1) To make it easier to refer to passages in all languages and all editions. For example, in the English edition, the third paragraph in the section "I Need Do Nothing" is on page 388; in the German edition, it is on page 389; in the Spanish, on page 432; in the Dutch, on page 397. The numbering system thus eliminates the problem of different pagination in different editions. (2) The numbering system made possible the Concordance of A Course in Miracles (similar to that of the Bible and Shakespeare).

Q #442: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are characters of the holy Bible with definite roles in relationship to the human race. So, why does A Course in Miracles use these same characters instead of original ones or generic ones like "higher-self"? And, can you define, "God, Jesus & Holy Spirit" according to ACIM?

A: 1) While the basic message of the Course is universal, its form is not, nor is it meant to be. Its curriculum is clearly intended for a special audience: the Western world that has grown up under the powerful influence of Christianity, an influence that has not been very Christian nor spiritual, one could argue. That is why its conceptual-linguistic framework is that of the Western world and Christianity in particular, and also why one its major purposes is to correct what in its view are the mistakes of traditional Christianity. It uses concepts and language common to biblical religions to lead its students to an experience that transcends the limits of all conceptual thought. And in its continual emphasis on the content, rather than the form of its message, it avoids the inevitable conflict of institutions overly bound to ritual and form.

From the Introduction to Forgiveness and Jesus: The Meeting Place of Christianity and A Course in Miracles (pp. 9,10,11):

"…Jesus’ identity as the source of the material so explicitly manifest…has posed problems for many of the Course’s students and would-be students. This group has included not only Jews who grew up midst Christian anti-Semitism, but large numbers of Christians for whom Jesus has become a strong, anti-religious symbol. The answer to this question [the reason for the Christian framework] is found in the modus operandi of the Holy Spirit, Who corrects our errors in the forms in which they appear, for forgiveness can only heal in the form in which the unforgiveness was expressed. By joining us in the world of our mistakes, the Holy Spirit gently corrects our illusions and leads us beyond them to the truth.

. . . . . . . .

[Christianity] preserved for centuries the memory and example of Jesus -- the purest expression we have known of the Love of God -- including his gospel of forgiveness, as well as benefitting mankind with its many cultural and ethical contributions. On the other hand, Christianity as been a religion of sacrifice, guilt, persecution, murder, and elitism, with Jesus its primary symbol -- he whose gospel was only love, forgiveness, peace, and unity. As the Course states: ‘Some bitter idols have been made of him who would be only brother to the world’ (C.5.5:7). The development of Christianity can be seen in part as the history of a people who, though believing in Jesus and his message, often unwittingly brought tragedy instead of comfort and salvation to the world. Instead of uniting all people under God as one family, it has divided and sub-divided this family. Before we can fully accept Jesus’ radical message of forgiveness,…the errors of the past must be undone. Within this context, it can be said that one of the goals of A Course in Miracles is to correct these mistakes of separation that entered into traditional Christian teachings, distorting Jesus’ central message of God’s love for all people, and our need to forgive each other as the means of restoring this love to our awareness.

. . . . . . .

Before we can transcend the separatisms of religion and know our oneness in God, the religions of the world must be purified of their errors. A Course in Miracles has been given to the world as one means of such purification."

Another source you may wish to consult for an explanation of the Course’s view of Jesus and the New Testament accounts of the meaning of his life may be found in the Afterword to Kenneth’s Christian Psychology and A Course in Miracles, second edition.

2) From our Glossary-Index for A Course in Miracles:

GOD: the First Person in the Trinity; the Creator, the Source of all being or life; the Father, Whose Fatherhood is established by the existence of His Son, Christ; the First Cause, Whose Son is His Effect; God’s essence is spirit, which is shared with all creation, whose unity is the state of Heaven.

HOLY SPIRIT: the Third Person of the Trinity Who is metaphorically described in the Course as God’s Answer to the separation; the Communication Link between God and His separated Sons, bridging the gap between the Mind of Christ and our split mind; the memory of God and His Son we took with us into our dream; the One Who sees our illusions (perception), leading us through them to the truth (knowledge); the Voice for God Who speaks for Him and for our real Self, reminding us of the Identity we forgot; also referred to as Bridge, Comforter, Guide, Mediator, Teacher, and Translator.

JESUS: the source of A Course in Miracles, its first person or "I"; the one who first completed his part in the Atonement, enabling him to be in charge of the whole plan; transcending his ego, Jesus has become identified with Christ and can now serve as our model for learning and an ever- present help when we call upon him in our desire to forgive. Note: not to be exclusively identified with Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity.

Q #443: Nothing in A Course in Miracles says we can't have preferences. This is consistent with the concept of forgiveness, because accepting a preference is clearly a way of temporarily accepting and forgiving the perception of degrees of illusion. Therefore, if I like French-fries but hate carrots, I should not be concerned about it because that would just validate the illusion. I understand that -- for now -- I've dreamed up a body, which needs food, and prefers certain types of food. It is all just orders of magnitude of illusion, so just forgive it, right? Obviously, to feel guilt about my "tastes" simply feeds the cycle of guilt/ projection/attack.

What if I like white people but hate people of other color? Or vice-versa? Would Course theology not advocate forgiving ourselves this kind of perception of differences also? We cannot say this is "more important." No illusion is "more important." We cannot say that people are our "brothers" and French-fries are not: they are all just forms in a world of forms. Granted I should not project hate and guilt onto people of any color. But I should not project hate and guilt onto vegetables of any color either. Both call for forgiveness, neither is "greater" or "more important" ... Is it?

A: Yes, you are quite right. There is no difference between a carrot and a human being, except in the meaning we have given each. Think back to the earliest workbook lessons and how we are asked to apply the idea for the day indiscriminately to everything in our field of vision or in our mind, not excluding anything (W.p.I.1,2,3,4). You even might say, when it comes to vegetables, we are kinder to the ones we hate, because we’re much less likely to eat them than the ones we like. But, of course, it’s the people we "love" whom we cannibalize as well, so we can feel better about ourselves and fill the emotional hole in the center of our being, at least temporarily -- much as food satisfies our hunger only for a short time before we need to go seeking for more.

It is hard not to allow the "accepted moral judgments" of the ego to creep into our understanding of the Course’s teachings. The Course in fact does not say that we should not hate our brothers, be they homo sapiens or carrots. Rather, its goal is to help us uncover our guilt, wherever it may be projected, so that it can be undone. So we don’t want to try to stop hating certain people or overlook our strong feelings of dislike towards certain vegetables, but rather to be honest with ourselves about our hatreds so we can ask for help in seeing, not only the other but ourselves differently, since we are observing only our own self-hatred projected outward.

I apparently can lose my peace of mind as easily over a carrot as I can over a person I don’t like whom I see as different from me. And yet it is not the other that has upset me -- "I am never upset for the reason I think" (W.pI.5) -- they simply become the scapegoat to blame for the consequences of the decision I have made within my own mind to see myself as separate from love, convince myself I really have pulled that off, pile the guilt on, and then look to find someone or something else to blame for my unhappy state of mind. A carrot or a different-colored person can serve that purpose equally well.

The distinction you make at the beginning of your question is a helpful one. We all have preferences and that is simply part of the experience of living as a body in the world. But if the preferences become emotionally invested, that simply means we have given greater meaning to those particular symbols in our experience, so that they seem now to be the cause of our dissatisfaction. But with the Holy Spirit’s assistance, they can become instead the mirrors that direct us back within our own minds to the real source of dissatisfaction, our choice for the very empty and unfulfilling ego thought system. And it is that choice we want to forgive ourselves for, with the help of Jesus or the Holy Spirit.

Q#444: I have questions about the nature of guilt. A Course in Miracles uses many psychological terms, including "guilt". But in psychoanalysis as I understand it, guilt is something secondary to fear and based on the energy of fear. When used in the Course, this term has a very different meaning. Ontological guilt in the Course is the source and cradle of all aggression and fear. Aggression is based on the will to destroy. Fear is based on the will to escape or to hide. But what is this "guilt" based on? Why does separation cause "guilt"? Has the ontological "guilt" of the Course anything to do with psychological guilt? Would it be more precisely called "inferiority feeling" instead, since, in exploring free will, the Son would have to see himself as inferior to God once he sees himself as separate from God and cut off from perfection?

A: You want to keep in mind first of all that any linear description of the process and dynamics of separation and the accompanying feelings of guilt and fear, etc., should only be viewed heuristically, that is, as a means to understand better the process of forgiveness, or the undoing of the ego. For everything of the ego happened simultaneously and not in sequence -- since time is not real -- and, in reality, the thought of separation never happened at all. The only value in any discussion of this kind is whether it serves the purpose of helping us learn to forgive.

Yes, the Course offers a different ontogenesis for the ego’s guilt and fear from traditional psychoanalysis. For Freud was not speaking of mind as the Course uses the word, as an abstract function operating outside of time and space. His system is postulated on life as an organic process in which the body with its brain and its relationships are real, regardless of the fantasies and delusions that may underlie the dynamics of the psyche as it develops through infancy and childhood. In contrast, all psychological guilt, according to the Course, is a pale projected shadow of the underlying guilt over separation in the mind. And in fact, psychological guilt is meant to keep attention focused on externals -- one’s own body and others’ bodies -- so that we never look to the guilt within the mind that we have made up to protect the made-up thought of separation.

From the Course’s perspective, the thought of separation is not the problem, but the fact that we have taken it seriously (T.27.VIII.6:2,3). In alliance with the ego, this was a purposive but now unconscious decision. From the ego’s perspective, to make separation real and serious in our mind, it must be equated with attack, and hence guilt, which in turn leads to fear. The following passages describe the ego’s thinking that brought this about.

From the text:

If the ego is the symbol of the separation, it is also the symbol of guilt. Guilt is more than merely not of God. It is the symbol of attack on God. This is a totally meaningless concept except to the ego, but do not underestimate the power of the ego's belief in it. This is the belief from which all guilt really stems.

The ego is the part of the mind that believes in division. How could part of God detach itself without believing it is attacking Him? We spoke before of the authority problem as based on the concept of usurping God's power. The ego believes that this is what you did because it believes that it is you. If you identify with the ego, you must perceive yourself as guilty. Whenever you respond to your ego you will experience guilt, and you will fear punishment. The ego is quite literally a fearful thought. However ridiculous the idea of attacking God may be to the sane mind, never forget that the ego is not sane. It represents a delusional system, and speaks for it. Listening to the ego's voice means that you believe it is possible to attack God, and that a part of Him has been torn away by you. Fear of retaliation from without follows, because the severity of the guilt is so acute that it must be projected (T.5.V.2:8,9,10,11,12; 3).

And later, in the workbook:

When parts are wrested from the whole and seen as separate and wholes within themselves, they become symbols standing for attack upon the whole; successful in effect, and never to be seen as whole again. And yet you have forgotten that they stand but for your own decision of what should be real, to take the place of what is real (W.pI.136.6.3,4).

The thought of separation and the accompanying guilt may be experienced in many different ways, including the feeling of inferiority you mention. For separation is always based on a belief in differences -- how could any separation be perceived otherwise? Whether we assert our superiority or our inferiority to God, the key is that we are different. While the Course uses the word inferiority only once (T.4.I.7:3), it does describe the feelings of inadequacy that are inherent in the ego’s thought of separation (e.g., T.9.VII.5; W.pI.47.5; M.7.5). But no matter what form the guilt may appear to take in our mind, our release from it will be brought about by the recognition that it is not real, a recognition that we can never come to on our own. And so that is why the Course offers us help in the form of Jesus or the Holy Spirit, Who represent the recognition of our guiltlessness, that is, of our unity as God’s Son, completely at one with His Father. And this recognition is the basis for all forgiveness.

Free will, by the way, is part of the ego’s delusional thought system and part of its cherished array of "gifts." There is no free will in Heaven, for free will implies choice, and choice implies alternatives that can be differentiated among, an impossibility within the Oneness of spirit that Jesus reminds us is our reality.