Weekly Questions and Answers, 05/12/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #466: Was my release from addiction attributable to a higher power?
Q #467: What is the meaning of "the golden rule" from a Course perspective?.
Q #468: About "bad" or "obnoxious" people, and about grievances toward them..
Q #469  About someone who has Alzheimer's disease.

Q #470: How do I deal with the emptiness within, and my lack of peace?
Q #471: Turning over a special relationship to the Holy Spirit.

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #466: For many years I tried every conceivable method to give up my nicotine addiction. After my last failure, I decided I would not put myself through the ordeal of stopping ever again, resigning myself to being a smoker for the rest of my life. One morning I awoke at my usual time, but I did not open my eyes. Something was so very different. I felt like I was in heaven. Such peace and tranquillity as I’ve never before felt led me to think I was dead. It was as if the ego had been taken away from me: I was nothing but I was everything. When I opened my eyes everything looked so different: pristine bright but gentle to the eyes. Nothing seemed physically real. I had no cravings, no desires and no thought of a cigarette. Over time the peace went away as I got back into ego mode, but I still have no interest in cigarettes. Today, I really do believe that a power far greater than my ego released me from my addiction to nicotine while I slept. Can you please apply the teachings of A Course in Miracles to this miracle of mine?

A: Contrary as it may seem to your experience, the Course would not attribute divine intervention to a happening such as you recount. The Course’s metaphysics makes it clear that God has nothing to do with the world (T.11.VII.1, W.pI.166.2; C.4.1) -- our own minds determine the form of our experiences (W.pII.325.1:1,2,3,4). Now that is not to deny that your experience -- a very powerful one for you -- may be a reflection of God’s Love for you. But nevertheless it is your own mind that has set up the events that you found yourself experiencing, including the release from the addiction to nicotine -- much as it determines the events of your dreams at night.

At a level that you are not conscious of, your mind made the choice to accept peace rather than conflict. Your conscious decision to stop battling your addiction may have in part represented this shift. And your experience of egolessness when you awakened suggests that you allowed yourself to be in enough of a fear-free state to open your mind to experience symbols of the unitary, non- physical nature of mind and the illusory nature of the world and your body -- fundamental teachings of the Course. In such a state, personal needs do not exist (T.28.I.3:2). That you have carried over this recognition into your daily life in relationship to cigarettes simply means that you no longer need the defense against love that the nicotine has represented, as one in a large array of ego substitutes for love (T.16.V.12). For it is a decision of the mind that establishes an addiction to a particular form, and so it is a decision of the mind to release that particular addiction. In the end, when all our fear and guilt is gone, we will not need any ego substitutes for the love we really seek. Your experience has provided you with a helpful glimpse of where the Course is leading us, where we are all heading.

Q #467: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is thought to be the core of western morality and one of the most important messages of Jesus. From the perspective of A Course in Miracles it is a really confusing message, considering we do not know what is our own best interests when identifying with ego. Is there some rule within the Course's teaching that would reinterpret this golden rule?

A: There is only one place in the Course where Jesus mentions the Golden Rule, and that is in the first chapter: "The Golden Rule is the rule for appropriate behavior. You cannot behave appropriately unless you perceive correctly. Since you and your neighbor are equal members of one family, as you perceive both so you will do to both. You should look out from the perception of your own holiness to the holiness of others" (T.1.III.6.4,5,6,7).

As you say, when we identify with the ego, we cannot know our own or anyone else’s best interests. What is in our best interests is forgiveness and the undoing of the separation, which pertains only to the content in our minds, not behavior. Thus when we look on ourselves and others without judgment, and we see our interests as the same, not in opposition to everyone else’s, then we have chosen against the ego and are in our right minds. We then share the perception of the Holy Spirit Who sees us all as one Son, and for that instant, at least, our actions will be guided solely by love. Jesus wants so very much for us to recognize the unfortunate consequences of our having fallen for the ego’s teaching that our judgments and condemnations of others have no effect on us. The correction of that fallacy is at the core of his teaching, as explicitly found for example in these two lessons: "It can be but myself I crucify" (W.pI.197) and "When I am healed I am not healed alone" (W.pI.137).

Q #468: i. At work, there is someone I find very difficult and impossible to like in any way. However, all the other people in my department feel just as strongly about her, some even stronger. If she is my teacher/savior and reflects back to me where I am at in the process and what I still hold in my unconscious about myself, how does it fit into the A Course in Miracles’ philosophy that all the others in the department are having the same experience?

ii. In A Course in Miracles, Jesus speaks about how when we let go of our grievances against someone that the Holy Spirit extends this gift through us and the other person "will realize his error." I have noticed as I have gone on that after I let go of a grievance against someone that they often seem renewed in their attitude toward me and I have been guided to feel that they receive a new interpretation toward me and a correction for the guilt that they have projected onto me. But if the person is not a psychological sophisticate, how can they have a deep understanding toward me?

A: i. It is not uncommon at all to have many people react negatively to the same person, as is readily apparent these days with public figures and celebrities. We all share the same ego thought system, which means we are all sending out the messengers of fear that Jesus talks about in the first obstacle to peace to find "bad" or obnoxious people onto whom we can project our unconscious guilt (T.19.IV.A.i). So it is not surprising that other people in your department react the same way to your co-worker; we are all engaged in the same ego dynamics all the time, since we are all split-off parts of the same ego mind.

But it is also true that we share the same right-minded thought system of forgiveness and the same decision-making capacity to choose between the two systems. So each of you could ask for help with your judgments and condemnation of this other person. You could try to identify the meaning behind the form of the behavior that you find objectionable and then ask yourself "Would I accuse myself of doing this?" (W.134.9:2). Then you would know what you find unforgivable in yourself, and you would have another opportunity to look at that non- judgmentally with Jesus. The instant you look within yourself without judgment, you would be able to look at your co-worker engaging in the same ego behavior and feel nothing but compassion. When you are free of fear and self-condemnation for an instant, you would perceive only the call for love behind the ego hatred and meanness. But right-minded perception does not mean, as you know, that you would not take appropriate action in that type of situation. If correction or discipline is called for, you would do it without repulsion, anger, fear, or judgment. This leads to the next question:

ii. Our grievances toward others are usually bargains we make with them to maintain the reality of sin, guilt, and fear -- the life blood of the ego -- so that we can continue with our lives as individuals while not accepting responsibility for that separation from our Source. In "The Secret Vows" in Chapter 28, Jesus talks about the agreement we make with one another to secure our identities as separate individuals. That section is mainly about sickness, but the dynamic would apply to grievances as well. There he tells us that we make a promise to another person, which we keep out of our consciousness, "to be hurt by him, and to attack him in return. . . . It [sickness] is the obvious effect of what was made in secret, in agreement with another’s secret wish to be apart from you, as you would be apart from him" (T.28.VI.4:7; 5:2).

As with all our defenses against love and oneness, we choose to keep guilt alive and then immediately hide that choice from ourselves and are left feeling hostility and repulsion towards the other person and perfectly justified in feeling that way. But on another level in our minds we are always upholding that bargain with the other person to be in a victim-victimizer relationship. Thus, if you were to change your mind and choose against that original ego decision to see the other person as the sinner, that person might make the same decision not to keep the bargain with you. That happens frequently. It has nothing to do with psychological sophistication, except perhaps in the language used. It is all happening on another level.

On the other hand, the other person may be too afraid of letting go of the defense and therefore would not change, even though you have let go of the grievance. But that should have nothing to do with your decision. If you truly let go of the grievance, you will see how terrified the other person is to be without his/her defenses, and then you would feel only genuine compassion and understanding of where he/she is coming from. When you perceive through the eyes of forgiveness in your right mind, you become the reminder to the other person that he or she can make the same choice that you have made. You would then allow that person as much time as is needed to accept the Atonement, knowing that the ego’s hatred and fear has no power whatsoever to change love, and therefore there has been no change in that person’s true Identity.

Q #469: I am wondering about my grandmother who has Alzheimer’s Disease. What does A Course in Miracles say about this situation? She is not the same person, it just seems to be her body and not her soul. I was wondering if she was already in Heaven and her body was just left here on earth for the rest of us to learn some sort of lesson? Please help me understand this.

A: Watching someone deteriorate from this form of disease is not easy, and we hope that you are able to experience the peace deep within you and in your grandmother as you go through this. The Course’s teachings about sickness are very difficult for most people to accept and relate to because it tells us that despite all appearances, the body is never sick, anymore than a puppet is sick because the puppeteer makes the puppet move and appear a certain way. The clear teaching in the Course is that the body does only what the mind tells it to do, and, more deeply, that the body is not an entity separate from the mind. Other systems teach that the soul leaves the body and goes to Heaven, but that is not what A Course in Miracles teaches. Sickness is made by the ego to reinforce our belief that we are bodies and not spirit; so all forms of sickness (there is no hierarchy among them) are a defense against the truth of Who we truly are as Christ (W.pI.136).

We can never know the specifics of someone else’s Atonement path (nor our own most of the time), but it is possible that your grandmother (as a decision-making mind) chose the condition of Alzheimer’s to help others learn that they are not bodies and that this world is not our home. We don’t know this. The condition of the body is not a clear indicator of what is going on in the mind since the identical bodily condition can reflect either a wrong-minded or a right-minded choice. So to apply the teachings of the Course in this type of a trying situation you first would simply respect her choice, and then try to see the situation as a classroom, focusing only on which teacher you are choosing to guide you through it: either the ego or Jesus. The ego would have you see your grandmother’s deterioration as a terrible, unfortunate tragedy for which someone is to blame. Jesus would help you deal with your feelings and judgments and see beyond them to the light and love that define both you and your grandmother, as well as everyone else: "It [the miracle] merely looks on devastation, and reminds the mind that what it sees is false. . . it paves the way for the return of timelessness and love’s awakening, for fear must slip away under the gentle remedy it brings" (W.pII.13.1:3,6).

Q #470: In your answer to Question #231, you explain so fittingly: "We are seeking to fill the void left by our seeming separation from God with substitutes for His Love that never fully satisfy us." Although intellectually I fully accept this, I sometimes seem to experience this void to such an extreme and with such intense psychological pain that it makes me feel almost physically sick. Sometimes the ego makes me try to compensate it by such foolish means as over consumption (i.e., food, music, learning, etc.), almost to the level of greed. How do I go about filling this big black hole (that is not even there) with His Love? Saying there is no hole does not disperse the illusion. Although Jesus teaches us the Love of God is everything I am, the illusion of the void is still there, and I am not at peace. Should I just accept that God takes me where I am and welcomes me? Or am I just taking it all much too seriously because nothing in this world is real anyway?

A: The pain of the deep sense of emptiness that you describe is the inevitable result of the choice for separation and is present, in some form, at the core of every separated one. It may be camouflaged, temporarily anesthetized, or denied, but it is the force behind every pursuit of relief and pleasure in specialness. Your awareness of this is an important step in the process of undoing the belief in separation, and learning to identify with the loving Self that is also present in everyone.

You are correct in saying that while in the grips of separation’s agony, it is no comfort to know that there is no void. You have a lot of company in that. There is nothing you can do to fill the void because it cannot be filled. There is no substitute for our true Identity, because there cannot be an opposite to truth. When it is denied, what is left is nothing; this is the void. The only way to heal the pain of separation is not to choose it. Only this obliterates the experience of the void, and is accomplished through forgiveness: "Forgiveness is the healing of the perception of separation"(T.3.V.9:1).

Acknowledging the pain and its true source is a good beginning. Taking responsibility for having chosen separation in some form of specialness is another important step. A Course in Miracles is not teaching us to fill the void, only to practice forgiveness. The answer to your question may be found in the questions Jesus asks us: "How willing are you to forgive your brother? How much do you desire peace instead of endless strife and misery and pain? These questions are the same, in different form. Forgiveness is your peace, for herein lies the end of separation and the dream of danger and destruction, sin and death; of madness and of murder, grief and loss" (T.29.VI.1:1,2,3,4,5,6).

Q #471: Since I have turned my relationship over to the Holy Spirit I have noticed that the content is not totally aligned with A Course in Miracles. The other person is now dating someone else. Jesus says in "The Healed Relationship": "Many relationships have been broken off at this point. . . and the pursuit of the old goal re-established in another relationship" (T.17.V.3:8). But he also tells me to "accept with gladness what you cannot understand" (8:1) and that "the means will surely fall in place because the goal is sure" (14:8). Just because my experience is not totally aligned with the Course doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit forgot about me, right?

A: You couldn’t be more right! The entire Course is about our learning that sin has no effect, and that nothing we do or think can affect the love we have for Jesus or the love he has for us. When we don’t take our egos seriously, we are learning that "not one note in Heaven’s song was missed" (T.26.V.5:4) just because we have insane thoughts. We need to apply that to ourselves when we realize we are not perfect in our practice of the Course. It is for most of us a very long process, and Jesus clearly is not expecting perfection of us -- just honesty, humility, and willingness. If you are still desirous of a romantic relationship that makes you feel special, that is not wrong or sinful.

Also, in the section you quoted, Jesus is talking about the content in our minds of moving beyond the specialness that is the mark of most romantic relationships. And when the goal of specialness is replaced by the goal of shared interests, sometimes it can feel as if the bottom has fallen out. All of the rituals of specialness are now empty and without meaning -- and it can feel as if there is nothing left. That is when the temptation sets in to leave the relationship and find another one with the old form. The Holy Spirit helps us, not by getting us new romantic partners to fill our needs, but by helping us learn that our real need -- our only need -- is to get in touch with the painful cost of the special relationship. The content in this sense is forgiveness of our special relationships.