Weekly Questions and Answers, 04/21/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #445: Is guilt an attempt to induce anger?
Q #446: Why does the Course seem to say the real world is not true?.
Q #447: How can I find peace abut matters such as paying the bills?.
Q #448: What is the Course's position on vegetarianism?

Q #449: Are love and fear opposite sides of the same coin?
Q #450: What is the exact difference between a holy instant and a miracle?
Q #451: What is the meaning of "They will appear when ... it is helpful for them to do so"?
Q #452: Is it OK to scream at someone if it is done with love?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #445: A Course In Miracles says that anger is nothing more than an attempt to make another feel guilty. Is the opposite true? Is feeling guilty nothing but an attempt to make someone else feel angry? Are guilt and anger therefore the same thing?

A: Cute logic. In some cases, feeling guilty may indeed have an intended effect of making another angry. This is because seeing another’s guilt can be a reminder of one’s own guilt, an unsettling recognition. And the only ego-based solution for dealing with one’s own guilt is to project it, with anger a common form that projection takes.

At other times though, feeling guilty and expressing it may be a manipulation to try to make another stop feeling angry. Consider how criminals who admit their guilt and express remorse may receive more lenient sentences. If you admit your guilt, and we are different, as the ego insists, then I must be innocent, something each of us is eager to prove at the other’s expense when we play the ego’s guilt-swapping game.

But in the end, yes, guilt and anger are the same in that they both express the same underlying content, that is, they are merely different expressions of the underlying belief in separation and sin. Guilt is the experience of sinfulness and anger is the projection of that guilt, in an attempt to avoid responsibility for the sin and see it in someone else. "Anger but screeches, ‘Guilt is real!’" (M.18:3.1). And because they are both manifestations of the same illusory thought, they can both be easily dismissed with the recognition that we experience them by our own choice and for no external reason. Anger dissipates as I recognize it as nothing more than a defense against and a reminder of my own guilt, And my guilt, in turn, when looked at with Jesus’ love beside me, merely disappears like a wisp of fog in the morning sun.

Q #446: The text of A Course in Miracles talks about two worlds. Our ability to see the real world is dependent on having real vision and also dependent on what we cherish. Seeing one world is possible because we deny the other. This I understand. But then it goes on to say that...."Both are not true, yet either one will seem as real to you as the amount to which you hold it dear." Is not the real world true? Would you kindly explain this to me.

A: Ah yes, words. They can be so confusing and confounding. There are actually two levels of answer to your question. In the context of this particular passage, when Jesus says, "Both are not true," implied but not expressed is the additional thought that only one of them is true. Yet even the false world of the ego will seem true to us based on our desire for it. This distinction is similar to the one Jesus makes elsewhere in the Course between true and false perception (e.g., C.4:3). The real world is the effect of completely healed perception so that the mind is never again taken in by the ego’s deceptions. The real world is not a place or a world with its own independent existence. It is merely the correction for the ego’s misperception of separation and attack, replacing it with the unified perception of the Holy Spirit, which recognizes that differences are meaningless.

Having said that, let’s consider the other level of answer to your question. From the perspective of knowledge or Heaven, all perception -- both true and false -- is temporary (C.4.3:2,3,4;7:1,2), and so illusory. Therefore, the real world -- the outcome of true perception -- must be temporary and illusory as well. Its only purpose is to undo what is not real. And so, by its very nature, it must -- while reflecting non-duality -- come within an illusory dualistic framework. Its purpose of healing once fulfilled, no need remains for it to continue.

Towards the end of the text, a beautiful section, called "The Borderland," describes the real world, its function, and its transitory nature. Two paragraphs in particular are relevant to our discussion:

There is a borderland of thought that stands between this world and Heaven. It is not a place, and when you reach it is apart from time. Here is the meeting place where thoughts are brought together; where conflicting values meet and all illusions are laid down beside the truth, where they are judged to be untrue. This borderland is just beyond the gate of Heaven. Here is every thought made pure and wholly simple. Here is sin denied, and everything that is received instead.

This is the journey's end. We have referred to it as the real world. And yet there is a contradiction here, in that the words imply a limited reality, a partial truth, a segment of the universe made true. This is because knowledge makes no attack upon perception. They are brought together, and only one continues past the gate where oneness is. Salvation is a borderland where place and time and choice have meaning still, and yet it can be seen that they are temporary, out of place, and every choice has been already made (T.26.III.2,3).

Q #447: I feel that I have a fairly good understanding of A Course in Miracles. It has certainly changed my entire mindset. However, I find myself in a frustrated state. I have learned how to look upon the world, but worries of the world still trouble me constantly. For me, worries about money -- how I am going to pay the bills seem to be my only setback. Where in the Course should I look to bring myself to peace with this problem? I have called upon the Holy Spirit for some answers, but am impatiently awaiting his response! Perhaps an inappropriate need of advice rather than a true question about the Course, but would appreciate a response all the same.

A: If you have "learned how to look upon the world," you know then, at least intellectually, that it is "the outside picture of an inward condition" (T.21.in.1:4). Jesus therefore wants us to use our experiences and reactions to the world as a way of learning what we are thinking in our minds. If you are worried about something in the world, then there is a desire within your mind to have the world be real and to be the cause of your lack of peace. There is a thought in your mind that says, "I don’t want to go back home and be with God; I want to be an individual on my own, but I don’t want to be held responsible for this decision to separate from God." Worries about situations in the world serve that purpose nicely, which is why Lesson 5 states, "I am never upset for the reason I think" (W.pI.5). Rather than look in our minds at the sin and our guilt over destroying love so we could have our own existence, we deny it because the ego has us terrified that we will be destroyed in return. Then we project it out and wind up seeing ourselves as victims of all kinds of things, such as financial problems. The problem, thus, is no longer our guilt over the separation and our wish to stay separated, but something external to us. The self-accusation of being the victimizer is gone from our awareness. We no longer even think we have a mind.

So what would be helpful is for you to step back from your worrying, as an observer, and try to see the problem as a smokescreen hiding the real problem, which is the guilt in your mind. You don’t have to stop worrying or being concerned. You need only look squarely at the purpose the problem serves, and then ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit to help you with that. Problems are defenses or smokescreens; they represent a decision to stay away from our minds and become absorbed in the world and our bodies so that we would never know that all of our experiences are the effects of decisions we are currently making in our minds and that we can change. And only two decisions are possible: to reinforce separation, or to undo it.

Finally, always keep in mind that nothing in the world can ever affect the inner peace that is a permanent part of your identity, unless you give a person or situation in the world the power to do so. That would be nothing more than a simple mistake that is open to instant correction by asking Jesus to help you see it differently.

Q #448: Killing animals for food and clothes has always bothered me. When I try to see this issue from the perspective of A Course in Miracles, I cannot see any problem at all. What is the Course’s attitude to vegetarianism and the whole issue of killing animals for food and clothing?

A: The principles in the Course that apply to this issue have been discussed in Question #120.

A few brief thoughts to expand on that: Although the world itself is illusory, we still experience it as real, and so Jesus teaches us in that context to concentrate only on the purpose we give the world and our bodies: to reinforce our belief that there is life here, or to learn that "There is no life outside of Heaven" (T.23.II.19:1). If this world is fundamentally illusory, then nothing here is either holy or unholy. So if you were to concentrate on the purpose for which you use the world and the body, you would not get caught up in the kinds of issues that are bothering you.

Moreover, a careful examination of our world would reveal that its basic operating principle is kill or be killed. It is a murderous system through and through. Survival of both "living" and "non- living" things in the world is always at the expense of something else. Even breathing results in the death of microorganisms; we kill insects, fungi, viruses, and bacteria all the time in order to stay healthy and to produce healthy fruits and vegetables, etc.; we never feel sorry for the thousands of termites we destroy to prevent our homes from being destroyed. And, to bring in the metaphysics of the Course again, if everything is just a fragment of the one ego (a thought, actually), then it does not matter whether you devour an apple, a lobster, alfalfa sprouts, or an animal; nor does it make any difference whether you cut down trees in order to have lumber for your house, or use the wool from sheep to make clothing. Nothing here is real; there is no hierarchy of illusions.

The ego’s first law of chaos is that there is such a hierarchy, which results in a very complicated life for all of us: different and competing standards and values and, above all, constant preoccupation with issues in the world and our bodies. That is the ego’s secret motive for promoting a hierarchy of values in the world. It keeps the world and our existence in it quite real, which means the ego’s existence is guaranteed. Issues such as vegetarianism are smokescreens produced by the ego to keep us from going back to our minds, where the one and only problem and its solution exist.

Thus, if you bring everything back to purpose, you will be able to work with your concerns more effectively. Purpose is the only meaningful aspect of these issues that you should consider. Concentrating only on that will help you get in touch with the ego’s secret strategy, which is always to keep you from your mind where you always can choose conflict or peace as your identity -- the ego or Jesus as your teacher.

Q #449: Recently I had a realization that love and fear are based on the same "energy" (or the same "vibration"). And what ego perceives as fear the right mind perceives as love. It is like two sides of one medal. Is my realization right? If so, would the state of anxiety be more valuable than the state of indifference from a spiritual perspective? Would this state of anxiety be the eve of awakening?

A: While your realization has been helpful to you in stepping back from your ego’s fear and recognizing there is another way of looking at things, your description would not, strictly speaking, be consistent with the Course’s approach. Within the framework of A Course in Miracles, only love is real and fear does not exist (T.in), and so they can not share a common origin or basis. A slight modification in one of your statements, however, would be consistent with Course principles: What the ego perceives with fear, the right mind perceives with love. But whenever we speak of anything as being perceived, we are discussing the illusory realm of duality from which love has, by its very nature, been excluded.

So what would be the basis for your insight, from the Course’s perspective? It may be a reflection of the recognition that always, beneath the fear, is the memory of love. As a result, whatever the ego has made to maintain the reality of guilt and fear in our mind, when seen through the Holy Spirit’s gentle perception, becomes a reminder of the love that it was made to conceal (T.12.I.9,10). And so the purpose of everything can always be transformed from the ego’s to the Holy Spirit’s.

With respect to your closing questions, no ego state in itself is more valuable than another. The key to practicing forgiveness, the Course tells us, is to be able to identify our ego in whatever form it appears, whether it be anxiety or indifference or any of its other myriad manifestations (T.15.X.4:2,3,4,5; 5:1,2,3; T.23.III.1,2). Only then can we ask for help in acknowledging the underlying guilt that is fueling these projections, so that it can be released. For to be in denial of our ego reactions is to deny ourselves the opportunity for healing. Any recognition that the ego is controlling our thinking opens the door to the possibility of awakening from our nightmare dream.

Q #450: Given the title of the book, I'm surprised to see so little discussion in this Q&A of the exact meaning and nature of the usage of "miracle" in A Course in Miracles. What is the relationship between a holy instant and a miracle? It seems to me that the holy instant is a more mature understanding of the real meaning of "miracle," as that term is used in the Course.

A: These two terms are defined in Kenneth’s Glossary-Index as follows (in part): A miracle is an occurrence in the mind, nothing external. The term refers to the change of mind that shifts our perception from the ego’s world of sin, guilt, and fear, to the Holy Spirit’s world of forgiveness. It reverses projection by restoring to the mind its causative function, allowing us to choose again. The holy instant is that instant outside time in which we choose the miracle instead of a grievance, the Holy Spirit instead of the ego, forgiveness instead of guilt. The holy instant is the expression of our willingness to live in the present, which opens into eternity, rather than holding on to the past and fearing the future, which keeps us in hell. (See Question #26 for an expanded description of the holy instant.)

The two terms are distinct, as Jesus uses them to address two distinct misperceptions in our minds that resulted from our decision to believe that the separation from God actually happened. Jesus is thus emphasizing different aspects of the correction needed in our thinking to get us back to our natural state of oneness. His teachings about the miracle, in general, are meant to correct our tendency to think that our fundamental problems and their solutions are outside us -- in the world and the body. And in speaking about the holy instant, in general, Jesus is correcting our habitual focus on the past and the future to justify our unforgiveness and our fear.

In one sense, the meanings of all terms coalesce, as they refer to a single mistaken thought and the correction of that thought, and so while Jesus would be emphatic about the meaning of his message, he would give his students some latitude with the terms he has chosen. The content -- his message and our acceptance of it -- is far more important to him than the form -- the terms in which he expresses his message.

Q #451: What is your understanding of, "And they will appear when and where it is helpful for them to do so?"

A: The "they" referred to in the above quote from the manual for teachers are what A Course in Miracles refers to as the Teachers of teachers, those who have transcended all worldly limitations and have remembered their Identity perfectly (M.26.2:1,2). From our ego-based perspective as figures in the dream, they would seem to be other figures in the dream who have awakened, such as Jesus. However, we must remember that we are the dreamer of the dream, not the figure in the dream, and so it would be more accurate to say that such Teachers are symbols within our dream of the Answer, pure manifestations of the Holy Spirit -- egoless thoughts that remind us of the truth of ourselves. The thought behind each such symbol is abstract, but the form they may appear to take will be whatever form our own mind gives to them that allows us to hear the message of correction without increasing our fear. And so, while we still believe we are separate, they will also seem to us to be separate (T.25.I.5:1), because that is what will be least threatening and most helpful to us. The form could be an intuition, an inner voice, a book, music, a person, etc. The specific form is always irrelevant to the purpose. All that matters is the message of love, which will be a reminder to ourselves to forgive, regardless of the form it appears to take.

Q #452: Since everything is purpose and not form, is it possible that we can be guided to scream loudly at someone and it can be coming from the content of love?

A: Yes, we can be guided by love to yell at someone. If we are identified with love and our ego is not involved at all, then the love would be expressed in whatever form would be appropriate in the situation. The key, though, is to get our egos out of the way, which is not that easy to do. The ego is very shrewd and deceptive, and always wants nothing more than to perpetuate its own existence, but make it appear as though something else is going on. So, often it disguises itself in the form of love and concern, which in many cases is but a means used to justify attack. We all have had the experience of realizing much later that what we thought was a right-minded interaction was only a veiled attack. So we must exercise extreme caution with this kind of approach. With much practice, we can become familiar with our favorite means of self-deception, and then we can be more alert to the kinds of traps we are apt to fall into.

Surely, there are many people who can be reached only by being yelled at -- adolescents and immature young adults being prime examples. But proceed with caution! The ego will seize any opportunity to unload guilt and hatred onto someone else and make it look as if it is a charitable act.