Weekly Questions and Answers, 05/19/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #472: I am having trouble letting go of my anger...
Q #473(i): Did Jesus once believe in illusions?.

Q #473(ii): Is the Jesus of the Course the same as the Jesus of the bible?
Q #474: How does one "look within"?.
Q #475  What is the Course's position on tithing?

Q #476: Are drugs like marijuana just miscreations and magic?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #472: I am having a very difficult time practicing forgiveness as A Course in Miracles teaches. I have gone back and re-read the questions that have to do with forgiveness and I understand that the reason I am having a difficult time is that I am unhappy. I keep on asking for help to let go of these angry feelings, but my mind goes back to a certain person and I begin to feel angry again. I really want to let it go and stop thinking about the situation and the person.

A: It is not helpful, nor gentle, to try to force yourself to stop thinking about something, or to stop being angry. "Do not fight yourself" Jesus reminds us (T.30.I.1:7) in his characteristically gentle way of guiding us. You would be making progress if you were to say, simply and honestly, that you refuse to forgive this person, and then to forgive yourself for not wanting to forgive, knowing that Jesus loves you no less. Just accept where you are right now without making it into a big issue. The ego will try to get you one way or another; and one of its favorite tactics is to encourage you to beat up on yourself when you find forgiveness impossible. The end result of that is that the ego stays in business, and you remain in conflict. One day the cost to you of holding on to the grievance will be painful enough to motivate you to consider letting go. And even then you need not let it go; you need only consider how much more peaceful you would feel if you did. The ego will throw up all kinds of reasons to justify your continuing to condemn the other person; but in the end your attraction to the love and peace of Jesus’ presence will allow that grievance to simply melt away. And you will be thankful to see how wrong you have been in blaming this other person and yourself. You will be at peace.

Q #473: i. In The Most Commonly Asked Questions About A Course in Miracles, Kenneth and Gloria Wapnick said that Jesus was an expression of the Son's letting light in. But can it be said that Jesus himself once believed in illusions? Was Jesus, before he became perfect with his Christ Self just like us, in that he was filled with illusions and he needed the Holy Spirit too in order to correct his thoughts?

A: i. There are many people who would agree with you that Jesus once believed in illusions; and there are passages in the Course that appear to support that. It certainly is one view that can be taken. Our view is that when the thought of separation happened in that one instant (the "tiny, mad idea"), just as quickly did Jesus accept the correction of it; and therefore he has always been outside the dream, available to help us make the same choice not to take the tiny, mad idea seriously. Much more space is needed than we have available here to develop this idea adequately, so we recommend further study in The Message of A Course in Miracles, Vol. One, Chapter 6, and Chapter 17 in Absence from Felicity.

Your conception of time is most important in resolving this issue for yourself. The Course teaches that all of time, and therefore history, is illusory -- a smokescreen. So when Jesus accepted the Atonement is irrelevant and not at all the point of what Kenneth and Gloria were saying in their book. As Jesus once said to Helen Schucman, scribe of the Course, "Even My personal history is of no value to you except as it teaches you that I can help you now (Absence from Felicity, p. 287). That is what his course is all about -- that we would see in him right now the reflection of our own true Self, and humbly and gratefully admit that we have been wrong about everything and he has been right. We would then have the best perspective from which to understand and apply his teachings. We will miss his point entirely if we view his teachings through the lens of our own human experience as individuals with real histories in time and space. Jesus is helping us learn how to view our human experience from his perspective outside time and space so that we can, first, recognize that our very selves were born of our decision to take on the identity of the ego thought system, which regards the world and time and space as real and negates the truth; and, second, have another opportunity to change our minds about that decision, accepting instead his love as our only reality, shared with everyone. Thus, if we focus only our practice of forgiveness, questions such as yours (which is a good one!), would fade in importance to us.

ii. I have a problem with your answer to Question #265 in which you advise: "... not to confuse the voice Helen heard and identified as Jesus’, with the Jesus of traditional Christianity. . . "But if this voice refers to itself in the first person and says: "I was persecuted as the world judges..." (T.6.I.5:3) and "I was betrayed, abandoned, beaten, torn, and finally killed." (T.6.I.9:2), (and many other such references), then surely it is referring to itself as the (voice of the) Jesus of traditional Christianity. How else can these references be interpreted, even if as Lesson 240 states: "Not one thing in this world is true."?

A: ii. Building on the preceding answer. . . the Jesus of traditional Christianity depicts the way the world had to see him, given the nature of the world as an attack on God and as a defense against the truth (W.pII.3.2:1). The spiral of dynamics issuing from the Son’s decision (illusory, of course) to annihilate the pure, abstract oneness of Love so he could have an autonomous existence could conclude only in a world of separate beings constructing theologies and Christologies that would validate this new thought system of separation, which breeds sacrifice, hatred, and murder. A Course in Miracles, as we know, has come as a correction for this misguided journey away from the unity and oneness of Heaven.

Helen saw Jesus through the lens of the Bible because of her attraction to it -- she loved to read it, while at the same time never accepting its theology or Church doctrine. And therefore, the form of the Course is very much a factor of her affinity for the Bible, as it is of her affinity for Shakespeare’s plays, Plato’s philosophy, and Freudian psychology. In this sense we can say that Jesus speaks the world’s theological language as a connecting point with us, so that he can gradually lead us beyond it to a different viewpoint, which we would more than likely reject were we not first prepared by this basic level of communication, along with some degree of readiness on our parts for something qualitatively different from traditional approaches.

As the larger picture of the Course’s thought system emerges, it becomes clear that Jesus is not really a person like us, but is a representation or reflection in our minds of Heaven’s Love outside the dream, experienced by us, who know not we are dreaming, in the only way we can conceive of love and hear its message: as a figure in the dream, conforming to the images from the Bible that for over two thousand years have defined him in our minds. If truth and love are outside the dream entirely, then it is essential that we strive to rise to that level, which means allowing the Course to speak to us from its source, instead of our reading it and hearing it from our perspective within the dream. "Think you that you can bring truth to fantasy, and learn what truth means from the perspective of illusions? Truth has no meaning in illusion. The frame of reference for its meaning must be itself. When you try to bring truth to illusions, you are trying to make illusions real, and keep them by justifying your belief in them. But to give illusions to truth is to enable truth to teach that the illusions are unreal, and thus enable you to escape from them" (T.17.I.5:1,2,3,4,5). We simply cannot read the Course as we would a theological treatise or another comparative account of Jesus’ life and message. If we do not suspend our belief in the validity of our experience as humans, we will always wind up with a distorted understanding of the Course and its profound message. This is so tremendously threatening that, as a defense against this terror, people will allow the Course to say to them only what they are comfortable hearing.

Ultimately, then, the first-person biblical references in the Course are to be understood as an exigency on our part, to avoid a terrifying mental rupture that might abruptly halt our transition to a state of mind that has nothing in common with what we currently experience as our reality. "Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality" (T.18.VI.8:1). It is not wrong or unhelpful to relate to Jesus as a person; indeed, he urges us to do so, and for most of us there is no other form in which we can experience a love that is not of this world. Thus the Course refers not only to Jesus, but to God, and the Holy Spirit as well, in familiar biblical terms—God’s Plan, His Hands, His Arms, and His Heart. But the Course clearly is telling us that this language is metaphorical: "This course remains within the ego framework, where it is needed. It is not concerned with what is beyond all error because it is planned only to set the direction towards it. Therefore it uses words, which are symbolic, and cannot express what lies beyond symbols. . . . The course is simple. It has one function and one goal. Only in that does it remain wholly consistent because only that can be consistent" (C.in.3:1,2,3,8,9,10; see also T.25.I.5,6,7). Again, it is only the starting point of our journey back to God, Whose Being knows of no differentiation or limitation whatsoever. As we proceed along this path, which for us as students of A Course in Miracles is the path of forgiveness, our experience of ourselves and Jesus will gradually change. As our fear of love abates, we will allow more and more of the reality of love into our minds, and we will recognize then that it is beyond the images and accounts of the Jesus and God of traditional Christianity.

Finally, this important issue is also addressed in Question #52 in The Most Commonly Asked Questions About A Course in Miracles, and in our A Course in Miracles and Christianity: A Dialogue.

Q #474: In reference to Question #258, how does one "look within" specifically? Can you give a specific example of the "looking within" process using the example in that question? Do we talk with Jesus? What do we do? How do we "allow the light of true forgiveness to shine upon our guilt"?

A: Perhaps the process of looking within may become clearer when you consider what it is a correction for and what it is to be contrasted with. The ego would always have us look without -- to see all of our problems as related to externals -- our own body and personality in relationship to other bodies and events, in the past, present or future. And so then "forgiveness" is always focused on what someone else has or has not done to us. Even our own guilt, according to the ego, arises from things we or others have done or have failed to do (including Christianity’s notion of original sin, which we all have supposedly inherited as a result of the sinful disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve). All of this kind of looking outside is the ego’s defense to keep us unaware that we have a mind to look within. So it is not surprising that you ask for clarification of what it means to look within.

Although they are not the real problem, our seeming reactions to the externals, such as our anger at what someone else has done to us, are helpful first steps in the process of looking within, for these are the signals that alert us to the fact that there is something within to look at, if we are willing to release the ego as our teacher and accept the Holy Spirit as our Guide. Looking within means that we withdraw all of our projections for responsibility for how we feel from outside ourselves, including from the other person as well as from our own body. And then we look at our willingness to accept that everything we feel is coming from guilt over a decision hidden within our minds to value ourselves more than anyone or anything else, no matter what the cost. It is some variation on this specific thought that we want to get in touch with.

It can be helpful to talk to Jesus or to think of him or the Holy Spirit or some other nonjudgmental presence as there beside us, looking with us as we look to uncover our selfish self. We can describe how we are feeling and what it is that we believe is there, acknowledging the guilt that would have to be associated with such egocentric thinking, or we can simply say, "Help." The words are not important. What matters is that we do not attempt to look within on our own, for we are sure to frighten, even terrorize ourselves. Allowing "the light of true forgiveness to shine upon our guilt" is just a more poetic way of saying we are no longer judging ourselves for the decision to see our own needs as coming first. Notice that this says nothing about stopping these thoughts or denying we still feel we have such needs, but speaks only of learning to acknowledge them and the feelings that accompany them without condemning ourselves for holding on to them.

This is our part in the looking within process, as we allow what we uncover to be released and healed. And what awaits us, but which is not our responsibility to produce, is the peace and the love that are also within, but have been hidden under the layers of guilt we have placed there to keep the love concealed. So the problem, the solution, and the goal of the process all lie within our own mind. But there will be no hope of any resolution until we learn to look there rather than outside ourselves. And this comes with both willingness and practice over time. For the desire to blame the world and the resistance to looking within are great -- in fact, they are the same obstacle. But when we choose a different Teacher within, the world that we see without will be transformed from a place of hatred and attack to a place of forgiveness and love (T.12.VII.5,12).

Q #475: I hear so much about the power of tithing 10% of earned money as a way of undoing a lack or scarcity consciousness, especially when it seems one can't afford to, as an act of faith that abundance is my natural position. What thoughts can you give on this?

A. From the point of view of A Course in Miracles, this is a confusion of form and content, although there is nothing wrong in tithing if that is what you choose to do. The Course’s focus is always on changing the content in our minds, because that is the cause of our problems. Thus, a feeling of scarcity, lack, or need comes from our guilt over having rejected our true abundance -- our Identity as part of the Wholeness of God. "Without guilt there is no scarcity. The sinless have no needs" (S.1.II.3:5). Therefore, the undoing of feelings of scarcity can occur only by our acceptance of the Atonement, the principle stating that the separation from God could not and therefore did not happen. And that acceptance is reflected in our choosing to see our interests as the same as everyone else’s, which means looking non-judgmentally at the expressions in our lives of the opposite: competitiveness, rivalry, one or the other thinking, and all the forms of specialness that reinforce our sense of being separate from one another. Sacrifice is not necessary, nor is it considered helpful according to the Course. "Sacrifice is a notion totally unknown to God" (T.3.I.4:1), a principle with which biblical and other religious traditions obviously would strongly disagree.

"Only you can deprive yourself of anything. Do not oppose this realization, for it is truly the beginning of the dawn of light" (T.11.IV.4:1,2). Since we ourselves are responsible for our feelings of deprivation, we ourselves are the only ones who can heal that, by looking within at our decision to withhold love and be separate from Jesus or the Holy Spirit, and then asking Their help to reverse that decision through the practice of forgiveness in our relationships. This is entirely a matter of the content in our minds, not behavior. You might wish to look at the following paragraphs that pertain to scarcity and abundance: T.IV.3; T.4.II.6,7.

Q #476: Are drugs like marijuana just neutral miscreations of the ego that I can now use for a holy purpose, or is this just another ego trap to make me "think" I am getting a deeper understanding of A Course in Miracles, which I seem to do when I smoke marijuana? Are the effects of any drug all in your mind, and if so, which mind? Or are they all in the brain? When we alter our brains with some form of magic, what happens? I deeply appreciate the insight I "seem" to have on this particular drug but I am not thrilled with the idea of using magic in order to access this insight, especially in a country where this particular form of magic is illegal. Where am I "going" and how can I get there without magic?

A: You can simplify your dilemma if you think of the mind as a puppeteer and the brain as the puppet. A puppet does, and can only do, what the puppeteer makes it do. It has no ability to act or react on its own. Similarly, a computer is limited to what it is programmed to do. The Course teaches that the brain (as part of the body) does only what it is directed to do by the mind. Further, the entire body is just a projection of the mind and never leaves its source as an idea in the mind, despite our experience that our bodies seem to have a life of their own. That is extremely hard for us to grasp and even harder to accept; but when you understand the full thought system of the ego and its dynamics, then it begins to make sense. Remember, the ego never wants us to get back in touch with our identities as decision-making minds outside time and space, and so it has set up an elaborate system of defenses that constantly reinforce our belief that we are autonomous physical organisms affected by forces outside us. We are no longer in touch with ourselves as decision- making minds, which is why Jesus has so many exercises in his workbook designed to train us to regain that awareness of ourselves.

Thus, if drugs or any other outside substance affect you, it is only because your mind has chosen to dissociate itself from its identity as a mind and believe instead that it is a body/brain complex in a physical universe governed by laws of physics, chemistry, etc. "Special agents seem to be ministering to him, yet they but give form to his own choice. He chooses them to bring tangible form to his desires. And it is this they do and nothing else" (M.5.II.2:8,9,10). This instructive statement comes from a section in the manual on sickness and healing, but it can be applied to your situation as well. You might wish to read that whole section. The point of Jesus’ teaching there, as elsewhere, is that we are continually reversing the proper sequence of cause and effect, meaning we think the cause of our experience is something of the world or the body, when it is the exact opposite. All bodily states and conditions are the effect of a decision made in our minds (the cause) to have that experience. (Purpose is key to understanding this -- the mind’s decision to reinforce its belief in separation or undo that belief.) Therefore, by doing what Jesus directs us to do in the text and workbook, we will gradually get cause and effect back in their proper sequence, and consequently will have less and less need for magic. We will not have to work so hard at understanding and practicing the Course, as we will be experiencing it from within.

Questions #124 and #246 may shed additional light for you on these issues.