Weekly Questions and Answers, 05/05/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #460: How important is good psychological health, while in the dream?
Q #461: Where does the life-force of animals and plants come from?.
Q #462: I feel conflicted about letting go of my personal interests.
Q #463  Questions about acceptance of the Holy Spirit vs. Jesus as a connection to God

Q #464: How can I find release from jealousy ?
Q #465: Why does Jesus suggest we should do something for our brother, if the world is not real?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #460: In this world, the more one's pain, fear, guilt, mistrust, etc., were reinforced during early childhood, the less psychological health one has as an adult. Therefore the greater that one distorts what Jesus teaches in the Course, or worse, ignores it. Yet, it is true there is no hierarchy of illusions, no order of difficulty in miracles, and the miracle makes no distinction among degrees of misperception. My experiences relating to other Course students for 23 years have led me to value psychological health in the dream. Yet, I would like to question this value I still hold onto. Please help me to clarify?

A: The temptation is strong to see our own and others’ difficulties in the present as a result of experiences in the past. Yet we never really understand what anything is for (W.pI.25) and we are not in a position to judge what is or is not helpful (M.10.3), or how well any of us are progressing along our spiritual paths (T.18.V.1). The only solution needed to any perceived problem is available now, in the holy instant, when we recognize that our interests are not separate from our brothers. "Even at the level of the most casual encounter, it is possible for two people to lose sight of separate interests, if only for a moment. That moment will be enough. Salvation has come" (M.3.2:6,7,8). Psychological health, which our egos have taught us to value, is, in the end, irrelevant to the decision to join in the present.

Q #461: Since A Course in Miracles teaches that the world we see is an illusion, I often wonder where the life force of animals, plants, etc. come from. Obviously from God. But how can God be in this illusion?

A: God cannot be in the illusion, as you suspect. That would make no sense. Likewise, there is no life force within the illusion, either. "There is no life outside of Heaven" (T.23.II.19:1), as the Course teaches uncompromisingly throughout. What appears to us to be living bodies are projections of our minds, which have made the decision to identify with the ego’s thought system of separation, and thereby do everything possible to keep us from remembering that life is only the perfect oneness of God in Heaven. There is only one thought that fragments over and over and over (T.18.I.4). Throughout A Course in Miracles Jesus tries to help us realize that everything we are perceiving are figures in a dream we (our minds) are dreaming. "There is no world apart from what you wish. . . Ideas leave not their source" (W.pI.132.5:1,3). Referring to the body Jesus says, "What you have given ‘life’ is not alive, and symbolizes but your wish to be alive apart from life, alive in death, with death perceived as life, and living, death" (T.29.II.6:2). If this sounds confusing, it is because it is confusing, as Jesus further explains: "Confusion follows on confusion here, for on confusion has this world been based, and there is nothing else it rests upon" (T.29.II.6:3). That is why we need help from someone outside this delusional system, and why we cannot rely on our perception to tell us what is real and what is not real. We are too mixed up to know!

Jesus heads us back in the right direction by training us to focus on the purpose of how we think and behave. We are too terrified and too invested in having separation be real to immediately cease our hallucinations of physical life, although in principle we could (T.20.VIII.7,8,9). So Jesus launches us on a mind-training program that gently helps us to reverse our course into insanity (seeing something that is not there). And the heart of that process is learning first to identify the ego purpose that is behind most of what we do -- seeing our interests as separate from others and always in conflict with them -- and then asking for help to accept the Holy Spirit’s purpose, which is to see our interests as the same as everyone else’s. As that becomes more and more natural to us, our identification with the body will grow less and less, and we will become more comfortable first thinking and then experiencing ourselves as minds. At the end of that process, which takes many, many years, the unreality of physical life will dawn on us. We do not have to force ourselves to stop perceiving as we do. The shift will happen of itself, as we concentrate on purpose and motivation.

Q #462: Some time ago I really understood that there can never be peace if my interests really would differ from those of other people. It was not just an intellectual understanding, but an understanding that seemed to fill my whole being. It seemed so very, very simple at the time and it made me so happy. But now confusion again has started, because on the level of form, my interests are not the same as those of others. I always took care of people and I am beginning to feel so tired, and I long for a quiet place to call my own, to meditate, be quiet, relax, and be alone. I now have such a place, an extra room in the house, but it's as if I see homeless people everywhere -- refugees who are told to leave the country but cannot go back to their own country; and I feel so bad. What is loving action? I have an extra room; they have no room. If I would really let go of my personal interests, I could give that room to someone, but I'm not sure if I would be able to cope. I feel as if I'm torn apart here: if I want something for myself, I'm hurting another human being. And if I help someone else, it's as if I'm hurting myself. This cannot be right. There does not seem to be a solution where everybody feels peace.

A: "This cannot be right." Absolutely! The ego has snuck into your work with the Course, which it is ingenious at doing to us all. Whenever you feel trapped in the conflict of sacrifice -- one or the other, "damned if I do; damned if I don’t" -- you know for sure that you have wandered out of Jesus’ classroom into the ego’s. In the ego’s classroom, students are programmed to pay attention only to form and to forget all about content. In Jesus’ classroom, content is everything; in fact it is the only aspect of our lives that is truly meaningful and relevant to our Atonement process. So seeing your interests as the same as everyone else’s refers only to the content in your mind. Loving action flows from the content of experiencing everyone as sharing with you the same wrong-minded thought system and the same right-minded thought system, as well as the power to choose between the two. When in a holy instant you are identified with that content alone, you could be guided to take in a homeless person or not to. And whether you do or you don’t would not matter to you. It would not be an issue. The act of taking in a homeless person can be right- minded or wrong-minded; it is not automatically a holy and spiritual act. That is where the ego always gets us -- in its exclusive emphasis on form and behavior. There is nothing in A Course in Miracles about behavior, because Jesus is interested only in what takes place in our minds, the seat of all of our problems, and also their solutions. It takes a great deal of retraining of our minds to shift from our focus on behavior to the content in our minds. That is the process of thought- reversal that is the burden of the lessons in the workbook. It does not seem loving to turn away those in need, especially if you seem to have the means to help them; but, again, that is a page from the ego’s manual, which programs its students to focus on victims and victimizers in this world of separate, needy individuals.

The ego is behind the sanctification of sacrifice, as it deceptively fulfills the ego’s purpose of keeping us rooted in guilt and conflict. Thus, lurking beneath the dilemma you are experiencing - - whether to help another or yourself -- is the insidious attraction to guilt. That is the "real" problem, which remains concealed by the smokescreen of external conflicts (both physical and psychological). So the part of you that remains committed to upholding the ego thought system of guilt will secretly delight in having dilemmas in your life, because they seem so genuine and they keep your attention away from the real source of your anguish, which is your decision to turn away from love once again. That decision preceded the homeless-person dilemma. You could not experience guilt and anguish if you did not want to. If that is where you wind up, it must have been your goal at the outset. (T.5.VII.6; T.21.II.2) And that therefore is what you want to ask Jesus or the Holy Spirit to help you with -- not whether or not to take in a homeless person. Contrary to the world’s thinking, that is not the important factor: you either do it or don’t, but that is not the problem. The guilt that you are holding on to in your mind is the only factor that is of interest to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. And that is not a cruel or heartless approach when you remember the cardinal principle of the Course: the world is but the "witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition" (T.21.in.1:5). The world was made to present us with endless dilemmas that appear to be outside us, so that we would never remember that the real dilemma is our terror that if we are guilt-free, love will be all that is left; there will no longer be a self that can be consumed by guilt and anguish. Strange! But then, Jesus never said we are all that sane.

Q #463: The answers to the questions in this forum often refer to "Jesus or the Holy Spirit." The writings of Ken Wapnick do as well. In studying A Course in Miracles, I have always been more comfortable with the term "Holy Spirit" than with the term "Jesus." While I do not question the authority of Jesus, or his authorship of his Course, I do have a problem using Jesus -- a physical person -- as a visualizing device for receiving guidance. Somehow, to me, this goes against what we are trying to achieve in the Course, which is to see ourselves as a part of God's mind, connected to God, and not as a separated body. I recognize that as long as we perceive ourselves as a separate body, we need to have a separate "higher power" to guide us. But I am more comfortable with an abstract notion of the Holy Spirit, which is in our minds, than I am with the notion of a physical body called Jesus, who is obviously separate from my physical body. Even drawings of Jesus, when they are associated with the Course, bother me a bit, because a body is pictured, and a body stands for separation. I know the body is neutral, and not to be hated or loved. But my question regards whether my feelings are justified. Is the "Holy Spirit" a more refined, and perhaps better way to perceive and experience our connection with God, than to visualize a human body named Jesus? On the other hand, could my feelings relate to some kind of resistance to accepting Jesus? Or am I making a mountain out of a molehill here?

A: This is an important question, one which many other students have grappled with over the years. Some people find it easier to relate to the Holy Spirit as an abstract presence; and some people can relate better to the more personal presence of Jesus -- both of course are in our minds. It does not matter which you choose, as they are identical in function; Jesus is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. What alone is important is to experience a relationship with some symbol that reflects the loving source behind the symbol of Jesus, some symbol that helps you experience love as oneness as intimately as possible. "The name of Jesus Christ as such is but a symbol. But it stands for love that is not of this world" (M.23.4:1,2). And obviously, if you choose Jesus you need not have pictures or images all around. It is interesting to observe how, even with the "abstract" Holy Spirit, many people still use an image of some kind -- usually a dove or other kind of bird. The Course itself uses bodily symbols: the Holy Spirit is referred to as He, a Teacher, a Voice, and a Mediator, for example.

As you suggest, it might be helpful for you to look into the possibility that you are harboring some feelings about Jesus (or the body) that could be causing you to keep your distance. Relating to him as a separate person does not really go against what we are trying to achieve in the Course. In fact, as you know, he encourages us to do just that. To cite just two of many passages: "Try to pass the clouds [of guilt] by whatever means appeals to you. If it helps you, think of me holding your hand and leading you. And I assure you this will be no idle fantasy" (W.pI.70.9:2,3,4). "Walking with him is just as natural as walking with a brother whom you knew since you were born, for such indeed he is. Some bitter idols have been made of him who would be only brother to the world. Forgive him your illusions, and behold how dear a brother he would be to you" (C.5.5:6,7,8,9).

If we do this "right," we would not confine our relationship with him to the physical realm, because he would never want us to, given his evaluation of the body (for example, T.19.IV.A.17:5,6; T.19.IV.B.14). Unfortunately, though, that is what has happened in most mainstream Christian religions. Lesson 151 is a particularly helpful lesson to study in this context. It illustrates so well how Jesus teaches us. He starts with what we know best -- what our senses tell us and how we believe what they tell us with "stubborn certainty" -- and then he leads us beyond that so that we can be free of conflict and "pain, disaster, suffering, and loss" (W.pI.151.5,10). What a loving, gentle way to teach!

Thus the focus of a relationship with Jesus is not so much on him as a body, as much as it is on the love he represents, because that is the way we will regain our awareness of love’s presence which we have strenuously and determinedly sought to block by choosing the body as our reality. When we near the end of our journey, the last stage in the development of trust (M.4.I.A), we realize that there is only one love; there is no "Jesus and me"; there is no separation. But of course that is our greatest fear -- the disappearance of our individual selves. Yet that happens only when we accept, like Jesus, that our only identity is love. Then we are safe and loss is impossible. "Love is your safety. Fear does not exist. Identify with love, and you are safe. Identify with love, and you are home. Identify with love, and find your Self" (W.pII.5.5:4,5,6,7,8).

So you might want to dwell more on what you pointed out in your question; that is, that as long as we perceive ourselves as a separate body, we need to have a separate "higher power" to guide us. The reflection of Heaven’s Love comes to us in bodily terms in the Course purposively. It would be impossible for us to get even the faintest hint of that Love without it being represented -- at least in the early stages of our journey -- in bodily form. Our investment in believing that the physical realm is reality is far too strong, and our terror of it not being reality even stronger. Relating to Jesus as someone just like us, therefore, is extremely helpful in avoiding the common mistake, often having disastrous consequences both physically and spiritually, of skipping steps -- of denying our physical experience, bodily needs, etc., and jumping right into the realm of spirit. Jesus asks us, "Can you who see yourself within a body know yourself as an idea? Everything you recognize you identify with externals, something outside itself. You cannot even think of God without a body, or in some form you think you recognize (T.18.VIII.1:5,6,7). So the gentle path of the Course is to have us be fully present to our bodily experience as long as we think we are bodies, but to ask Jesus to help us use those experiences to get to the pain in our minds coming from our ongoing decision to choose our own limited version of love rather than accept our true Identity as part of the oneness of unlimited Love, symbolized in our minds by the loving presence of our brother Jesus.

Q #464: How can I get release from jealousy? For years I have been in denial concerning this emotion. I have recently come to realize that I will not get very far with A Course in Miracles if this issue is not addressed. I have tried asking God for forgiveness but when I ask for forgiveness it is my ego speaking and not the true me, whoever that may be. My own ego mind lulls me into a false sense of security by saying I do not have to do anything about the issue of jealousy. Can you please help me apply the Course to this issue?

A: Jealousy is addressed in the same way every other ego emotion is. The first step, which you’ve taken, is acknowledging that it is there. The second step is recognizing that jealousy is not really the problem. As Jesus tells us early in the workbook, "I am never upset for the reason I think" (W.pI.5). And he goes on to say, "This idea...can be used with any person, situation or event you think is causing you pain. Apply it specifically to whatever you believe is the cause of your upset, using the description of the feeling in whatever term seems accurate to you. The upset may seem to be fear, worry, depression, anxiety, anger, hatred, jealousy or any number of forms, all of which will be perceived as different. This is not true. However, until you learn that form does not matter, each form becomes a proper subject for the exercises for the day. Applying the same idea to each of them separately is the first step in ultimately recognizing they are all the same" (W.pI.5.1, italics added).

And so what are we upset about if not what we think the problem is? We believe unconsciously that we have attacked love by separating from it. And this attack arose because we jealously believed that God had what we lacked, and had been keeping it from us. The guilt over our attack is so unbearable that we had to make up a world to hide that guilt from ourselves. The complexity of the world, with all its various problems and accompanying emotions, becomes our preoccupation, assuring that we never get back to the simplicity of the problem of the belief in separation in our mind. Although you do not mention the specific forms that your jealousy takes, it is an expression of the thought that someone else either has what we want or will take it away from us. No matter the specific expression, it is always simply the thought of separation in disguised form, with responsibility for its consequences projected outside ourselves.

We want to acknowledge the jealous feelings, recognizing what they represent and how they keep the feeling of deprivation and lack alive in our minds, with its painful cost. And jealousy of course serves the ego purpose of seeing the responsibility for our lack as resting outside ourselves, in others whom we see as having the power to take and keep what rightfully should be ours. The problem of jealousy then is addressed by returning responsibility for our feelings of fear and lack back to ourselves, within our own minds, where the Answer also lies. Only then can we recognize that the love we have jealously sought to gain and maintain has been ours all along, with no need for any pursuit or defense.

Q #465: I always understood that in A Course in Miracles Jesus never asks us to do anything in the world, except in how to do the workbook lessons. Then I rediscover in Chapter 12: "Recognize what does not matter, and if your brothers ask you for something ‘outrageous,’ do it because it does not matter" (T.12.III.4:1). I have also read your question and answer #60. This does not answer why he is telling us to "do something in the world." If there is no world, why do something that my brother wants me to do?

A: The context of this statement appears in the preceding two paragraphs, and it is essential to realize that Jesus is not talking about form or behavior, but about the content in our minds. Thus he explains that the other person’s "very insistence should tell you that he believes salvation lies in it. If you insist on refusing and experience a quick response of opposition, you are believing that your salvation lies in not doing it. You, then, are making the same mistake he is, and are making his error real to both of you" (T.12.III.2:2,3,4). The content Jesus is pointing out to us is the error of believing that what we do or do not do in the world is important and in some way related to our salvation: "Insistence means investment, and what you invest in is always related to your notion of salvation" (2:5). Even though he knows the world is not real, he shows us how to use our experiences in the world as a classroom so that we can discover the specific mistakes we are making in our thinking, why they occur, and what to do about them. He is always teaching us about the content in our minds, not our behavior. His teachings will always be misunderstood if this distinction is not recognized. Therefore in the context of adamantly refusing to do what another asks of us, Jesus is saying that what will help us undo the separation and learn that salvation has nothing to do with the world is to join with the other person by doing what seems "outrageous," remembering of course that "this does not mean to do a foolish thing that would hurt either him or you, for what would hurt one will hurt the other" (T.16.I.6:5).