Weekly Questions and Answers, 06/02/2004
(Please note:  some delays may be experienced in publishing the questions during the month of June, due to vacation schedule.  Sorry for any inconvenience.)

This week's questions/topics:

Q #484: Can a student of the Course still perform jury duty?
Q #485 i: If this is all a dream, why can't I manifest my thoughts, as in lucid dreaming?.

Q #485 ii What is God's Will?
Q #486: If I turn away from the ego does that automatically mean I am turning toward the Hoy Spirit?
Q #487: How do we go about forgiving the past?.
Q #488  Does the world of forms appear to change when I choose the Holy Spirit ?

Q #489: Does my mind review only one script at  time?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #484: My question is regarding jury duty. Can a serious student of A Course in Miracles serve on a jury and be true to the principles taught in the Course? The use of active judgment regarding another is required in being a juror, and the effect of one's judgment can have consequences to the accused -- and to ourselves, being one with the accused. I wonder if serving on a jury would represent a conflict of Course principles in terms of a "right-minded" approach to the illusion of the world we live in. Should a Course student who believes in forgiveness, and sees his brother as himself, seek to be a conscientious objector to serving as a juror?

A: Variations on your question are among the most frequently asked ones about practicing the Course (see Question 31 in The Most Commonly Asked Questions about A Course in Miracles, by Gloria and Kenneth Wapnick). Although the concerns you raise seem very legitimate, they come from a common confusion that most students make as they attempt to apply the Course’s principles to their lives -- the confusion of form and content (e.g., T.14.X.7,8; T.23.II.16:5). The Course never takes a position one way or another on form, that is, on specific activities or behaviors. Jesus is only ever concerned with content -- whether our mind is listening to the voice of the ego or the Voice for God. And that is the distinction between coming from a place of anger and attack or a place of gentleness and peace in your mind. Sometimes one of the most helpful classrooms for learning the Holy Spirit’s lessons of forgiveness is one in which the ground rules seem most blatantly to represent the ego’s arena of judgment and guilt. For whatever the ego has made for separation and attack, the Holy Spirit can use for healing (T.25.VI.4:1).

A courtroom can be transformed in your mind from a place of condemnation and punishment to one of genuine compassion and recognition of shared interests, regardless of the specific verdict - - guilty or not guilty -- that the jury, including yourself, delivers. How is this possible? The key, as already noted, is to focus on the content of your mind and not the specific form you are participating in. And this is usually a process in which you first become aware of all the ego judgments that the situation is bringing up for you -- your reactions to the defendant, the plaintiff, their lawyers, the judge, your fellow jurors -- there are just so many opportunities to pass judgments here! And your ego, very cleverly, in the name of the Course, would have encouraged you to avoid jury duty so as to avoid engaging in the "forbidden" activity of judging a fellow man or woman. But we all do it all the time, wherever we seem to find ourselves. There is no hierarchy within the illusion (T.23.II.2:3) -- no ego judgment is worse than another for all lead to the same unhappy experience of separation.

It is also very helpful to distinguish between judgment as condemnation and judgment simply as discernment. To evaluate the facts and circumstances of a case and to draw conclusions about whether a defendant has in fact done what he or she has been accused of need not involve condemnation. To find someone "guilty" in a court of law is simply to conclude that the person is responsible for the charges brought against him or her. Any interpretation about the unworthiness and sinfulness of that individual as a function of the decision is the gratuitous addition of the ego.

Jesus provides a good demonstration of the use of judgment as discernment when he speaks of the ego. Specifically, he says, "Judgment, like any other defense, can be used to attack or protect; to hurt or to heal. The ego should be brought to judgment and found wanting there" (T.4.IV.8:7,8). This is simply a statement of fact and should not be read as a a condemnation of the ego -- why would Jesus condemn an illusory thought that he knows has no power?

The fact that certain actions may have consequences in the world, e.g., breaking the law leads to sentencing to jail or prison time or to a monetary fine, need not be regarded as punishment. It is the purpose that we give to the consequence in our own minds that determines whether we are reinforcing a belief in separate or shared interests, not only with the convicted individual, but with all our brothers and sisters. And the way we are able to come from a place of shared rather than separate interests is once again to acknowledge any feelings of anger and condemnation that we may be harboring towards the convicted person, which would naturally lead to a desire to seek revenge and to punish. Being honest with ourselves about our ego reactions allows us to ask for help to see both ourselves and the ones we are projecting our own guilt onto in a different light. When we have released our own investment in any specific outcome, we can then become a presence in the courtroom for another way of judging that recognizes everything any of us ever does as either an extension of love or a call for it (T.12.I).

Q #485: i. I have been confusing myself on what is real and what is not real. If this world is not real and I have made it up in my mind and I am "dreaming," if you will, then as the dreamer I should be able to control the "dream," correct? If it is a dream then why don't all my thoughts manifest? I do a lot of lucid dreaming and am very good at controlling the dream, so then why can't I do the same here? Is it because I still believe I am this body and believe it is real?

A: i. All of your thoughts are manifesting, in terms of the content you have chosen in your mind. That is all that our seeming lives here are, despite our experience to the contrary. The world, Jesus tells us, "is the witness to your state of mind, the outside picture of an inward condition" (T.21.in.1:4). The problem is that part of the dreamer’s strategy is to deny its identity as the decision-maker and take on instead the identity of an innocent figure in the dream to whom things happen. Because of this denial, we do not experience ourselves as figures in a dream, much less dreamers of the dream aware of why we are in that state of mind. The objective of Jesus’ mind- training exercises in A Course in Miracles is to help us deny this denial and become lucid dreamers -- not so that we can then make our seeming lives in the world better, but so that we can decide whether we wish to continue dreaming or awaken from this dream, which in essence is a dream of exile from God: "You are at home in God, dreaming of exile, but perfectly capable of awakening to reality. Is it your decision to do so?" (T.10.I.2:1,2).

That is why Jesus comes back to the idea of purpose over and over again. The dissociation is purposive, and so if we can get that out into the open, we can then decide whether to maintain or change our decision. The purpose of the dissociation -- as a reaction to our underlying self- concept as the ones who attacked God in order to exist as individuals -- is to be able to fix blame on other people in the world to ensure its (the decision-making dreamer’s) own innocence: "The ‘reasoning’ by the world is made, on which it rests, by which it is maintained, is simply this: ‘You are the cause of what I do. Your presence justifies my wrath, and you exist and think apart from me. While you attack I must be innocent. And what I suffer from is your attack.’" (T.27.VII.3:1,2,3). The strategy thus is to become part of someone else’s dream to avoid the devastating punishment that is sure to happen, the ego warns us, if we take responsibility for the decision to separate from God. In the section called "The Basis of the Dream," Jesus explains that in dreams, the world, "clearly within your mind. . . seems to be outside. You do not respond to it as though you made it, nor do you realize that the emotions the dream produces must come from you. It is the figures in the dream and what they do that seem to make the dream. You do not realize that you are making them act out for you, for if you did the guilt would not be theirs, and the illusion of satisfaction would be gone" (T.18.II.5:3,4,5,6). Also, speaking about this same idea, but in the context of hallucinations, Jesus states: "One thing is sure; hallucinations serve a purpose, and when that purpose is no longer held they disappear. Therefore, the question never is whether you want them, but always, do you want the purpose that they serve" (T.20.VIII.8:6,7).

As long as we continue to choose to be faithful to the ego thought system, it is in our best interests not to become aware of ourselves as dreamers of the dream. Only when we are willing to consider, with Jesus, that the price we are paying to keep ourselves oblivious to our true identity is no longer worth it, will we truly begin the process of thought-reversal that will culminate in our experience of ourselves as decision-making minds. The goal, though, is not to change or control the dream, because that is fixed -- the ego script has already been written along with the correction of it (the Holy Spirit). Then, too, why would we want to change something that is unreal? So when we regain our awareness of ourselves as decision-making minds, the choice open to is whether to continue to re-live the ego’s version or to accept the Holy Spirit’s correction instead. If we choose the Holy Spirit’s, eventually the only content in our minds will be the love of Jesus or the Holy Spirit; there will be no "I," as we will have let go of the attraction to specialness and separate interests. Our lives will be free of needs, especially to control outcomes. Love will just flow through us. Speaking in God’s name, Jesus lovingly appeals to us: "Dream now of healing. Then arise and lay all dreaming down forever. You are he your Father loves, who never left his home, nor wandered in a savage world with feet that bleed, and with a heavy heart made hard against the love that is the truth in you. Give all your dreams to Christ and let Him be your Guide to healing, leading you in prayer beyond the sorry reaches of the world" (S.3.IV.6:3,4,5,6).

All of this is powerfully spelled out in two sections in Chapter 27 of the text: "The Dreamer of Dream" and "The ‘Hero’ of the Dream" (T.27.VII, VIII).

ii. What is the Will of God? I have been told that it is not a choice that He makes, but rather it is His creations.

A. ii: God’s Will can have nothing to do with choice, because choice implies duality. As stated in our Glossary-Index, the Will of God is "the expression of His Being, which can only create; though seeming to be split by the separation and the ego’s wishes, its wholeness and unity with the will of the Sonship remain unchanged and unbroken." This isn’t anything that we can fully understand in our condition of separation, but we can reflect it through our willingness to see our interests as the same as everyone else’s: "You and your brother are the same, as God Himself is One and not divided in His Will. And you must have one purpose, since He gave the same to both of you. His Will is brought together as you join in will, that you be made complete by offering completion to your brother" (T.25.II.11:1,2,3).

Q #486: Is turning away from the ego equivalent to turning toward the Holy Spirit? I ask this because I can't say that I really know what the Holy Spirit is or how to recognize it. But I do want to turn to the Holy Spirit as my teacher. Yet I wonder if my lack of clarity is really a lack of willingness. Am I unwilling to acknowledge the Holy Spirit? Or am I already turning to the Holy Spirit as I practice forgiveness in my mind and withdraw my investment from the world of guilt and attack?

A: If you truly turn from the ego thought system, yes, you would be turning to the Holy Spirit. There is no other direction toward which to turn: "There are two teachers only, who point in different ways. And you will go along the way your chosen teacher leads. There are but two directions you can take, while time remains and choice is meaningful" (T.26.V.1:7,8,9). The process of forgiveness begins with the willingness to look differently at the thoughts, feelings, and judgments we have in all the relationships and experiences in our lives. This willingness reflects a choice in the mind to listen to the Holy Spirit. We cannot know nor understand what the Holy Spirit will show us when we let go of our judgment. That is not our responsibility. As A Course in Miracles tells us many times and in many ways: "Forgiveness is the only function meaningful in time. It is the means the Holy Spirit uses to translate specialness from sin into salvation" (T.25.VI.5:3,4).

It is in recognizing the true nature and purpose of our unforgiveness that we invite the Holy Spirit’s reinterpretation of our misperceptions, whether or not we know Who He is. The ego would not have us recognize nor question our judgments. The questioning then, is what tells us that a choice has been made to listen to a different interpretation of what we experience. That is the evidence we are looking for, and it is how we know that what Jesus tells us in A Course in Miracles is true.

Q #487: In your tape set "Form vs. Content: Sex and Money," you state that when we have issues with money -- the lack of or an obsession with it -- that there is usually someone in our past that needs forgiveness. I am confused here because I thought we always dealt in the present and not in the past. How do we go about forgiving the past? Do we just simply turn it over to the Holy Spirit and let a healing take place and in so doing let go of any attachment to the past, any anger and resentment?

A: We almost always think that our problems, issues, and conditions are caused by someone or something outside ourselves -- something that happened in the past, whether that is ten minutes ago or ten years ago, or the beginning of time. "I am the thing you made of me, and as you look on me, you stand condemned because of what I am" (T.31.V.5:3). That is our theme song as egos, even though it may not be in our awareness; so delving under the surface a bit often reveals the culprit -- the one we are blaming for our present plight. Examples abound of people who believe they are not worthy of wealth, and that self-image usually has a connection to a parent or some other person who had a formative influence in their lives -- school, church/temple, etc. An obsessive need to amass a fortune is a symbol of something else -- it could be way of dealing with an agonizing, painful sense of spiritual or psychological poverty, which, again, undoubtedly is being blamed on some figure from the past.

If someone comes to mind when you think about money issues, then all you need to do is ask for help to recognize that you have projected your own guilt onto this person and are falsely accusing him/her of being the cause of your current problems. If there is blame, then the relationship is very much alive in your mind, even though it outwardly appears to be a thing of the past. That is all Jesus is ever referring to when he teaches us about relationships -- it is always about what is going on in our minds, not what seems to be going on between two bodies. The ego uses the past to reinforce our sense of victimization -- how can we change what is already over? Jesus corrects this by teaching us that time is just part of the ego’s strategy to limit us and our ability to forgive. Both blame (projecting our guilt) and forgiveness are entirely activities or dynamics in our minds, and therefore time is irrelevant. The body, too, is simply a smokescreen thrown up by the ego to thwart and complicate an otherwise simple, clear process.

Now it is not necessary to pinpoint the specific person or persons in the past whom we are holding responsible for our present condition. It may be helpful, but that insight alone is not forgiveness. It is sufficient to assume that we are blaming someone, and that that same guilt is being projected onto someone currently in our lives; so if we were able to completely forgive that person in the present, then everyone else we have held grievances against would be forgiven as well.

Finally, it is important to notice that this is all about problems and issues with money. One can be perfectly at peace with little or no money, or with billions of dollars. The peace of God, our natural inheritance, is not conditional on our financial status, or anything else that has to do with the world or the body.

Q #488: From what you have said in previous answers, I understand that the world of form may or may not change for the better when you begin to give up belief in the illusion and choose the Holy Spirit as your teacher. But in Question #273 you state "Since hell is defined as the absence of God, the world becomes hell in our experience; not a symbolic expression of it. A Course in Miracles is very clear that God cannot be found in this world of form. However, when an individual chooses to identify with the part of the mind that holds the memory of God, the world becomes a reflection of that choice, and is no longer perceived as hell: ‘The world becomes a place of joy, abundance, charity and endless giving. It is now so like to Heaven that it quickly is transformed into the light that it reflects’" (W.pII.249.1:5,6). So, are you saying that when you choose the Holy Spirit as your teacher the "world of form" will be this place of joy, abundance and so on? Or are you referring to the world as the "real" world that has nothing to do with form? How do I put into practice the idea of seeing everything outside of me as a reflection of God?

A: The answer to your question lies in understanding one of the most important principles of the Course’s teaching: "There is no world apart from what you wish, and herein lies your ultimate release. Change but your mind on what you want to see, and all the world must change accordingly. Ideas leave not their source" (W.pI.132.5:1,2,3).

"What you wish" is either the ego’s thought system or the Holy Spirit’s. Thinking with the ego makes our seeming existence in the world hell in our perception, because we have chosen against God. Thinking with the Holy Spirit makes it like Heaven in our perception, as stated in the passage you quote. These are the "ideas" that do not leave their source in the mind. The world of form is perceived and experienced according to one of these two thought systems. When we change our mind from the ego’s thought of separation to the Holy Spirit’s thought that the separation is not real, our perception changes. This results in a change in our experience of the world of form, but not necessarily a change in the form itself. What was perceived as a place of conflict, hatred, and pain, becomes a place of beauty, joy, and peace, in our perception. For example; where others were judged as vicious sinners, they are now seen without judgment as mistaken brothers calling for love. This also explains why two people may be in the same situation in form, yet experience or perceive it in very different ways. From the ego’s perspective, adverse circumstances are always perceived as unjust victimization (hell). The Holy Spirit’s perception, on the other hand, tells us that no matter how apparently catastrophic our situation may be, it cannot take away our peace ("like to Heaven"). The important difference emphasized in Question #273 is that hell does not actually exist; Heaven does.

The change in perception takes place through the process of forgiveness, whereby our judgments are recognized and released to the Holy Spirit to be transformed. Only this is what we need to practice, and only this will change our experience of the world of form. The Holy Spirit’s perception replaces ours, once we have done our part. We are not the ones who generate a new perception. Because the Holy Spirit is the symbol for the part of our minds that holds the memory of God’s Love, when we choose His thought system it is this Love that is reflected in the love and beauty that is perceived in others and the world. It is perceived equally in everyone without exception, not just in those whom we love and see as "innocent" by the ego’s standards. And yes, seeing only with the eyes of the Holy Spirit’s perception is the real world’s vision: "Can you imagine how beautiful those you forgive will look to you?… you will see the Son of God. You will behold the beauty the Holy Spirit loves to look upon, and which He thanks the Father for. He was created to see this for you, until you learned to see it for yourself" (T.17.II.1:1,6,7,8).

Q #489: Does my mind review only one script at a time? Also, is there only one script in which I accept the Atonement for myself and obtain the real world, or is there a place in each of my scripts where this could happen?

It is important to keep in mind when pondering these kinds of questions that we are talking about a process that is really illusory. We believe that time is real and meaningful and that our lives as individuals are real and meaningful, so Jesus must talk to us using words and concepts that correspond to those beliefs since we would not understand any other language. But he is using that terminology to help us correct our erroneous beliefs and accept his thought system instead. Jesus speaks of our lives in terms of scripts that we are living out because that is a concept we can understand, but not because there are scripts in reality.

Within this framework, then, we can say that we review only one script at a given time, in order to prevent an overloading of our circuits -- seeing all scripts all at once would cause us to blow a fuse, so to speak. Remember, too, that a single lifetime could include multiple scripts. This is more understandable if you view time as holographic rather than linear; that is, all we are ever doing is reinforcing our choice to believe the ego, or choosing against that and accepting what Jesus is teaching us instead. The specific ways in which we express these beliefs are our scripts. And as we all know, we can change our minds several times a minute! Thus, there are many, many scripts. But there is one in which we deny our denial of the truth once and for all; our forgiveness is total and our minds are totally without guilt. Since, again, time is not linear, that choice is always open to us. We can always, at any instant, choose that script; then all other scripts would disappear. We would realize the illusory nature of all scripts, and we would identify wholly and only with the love and peace of Jesus.

Kenneth has written at length about this intriguing topic, and has also given workshops on it, the last now one of our audio-tape publications, "The Time Machine." His book is called A Vast Illusion: Time According to A Course in Miracles. And there is also a helpful section called "The Purpose of the World of Time and Space" in Chapter 3 of The Message of A Course in Miracles, Vol. One. Jesus reminds us, though, that we in this world cannot understand what he tells us about time: "There is no need to clarify what no one in the world can understand. . . . Now we have work to do, for those in time can speak of things beyond, and listen to words which explain what is to come is past already. Yet what meaning can the words convey to those who count the hours still, and rise and work and go to sleep by them?" (W.pI.169.10:3,4). He always comes back to the practical: forgiveness.