Weekly Questions and Answers, 06/09/2004
(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 #490: Why would the ego-mind ever choose to undo itself?
Q #491  How exactly do I go about choosing the HolySpirit?.

Q #492  Why is Jesus never pictured as smiling?
Q #493: Is it loving to ask a disruptive person to leave a group?
Q #494: Where does the mind go when the body dies?.
Q #495  What did Jesus mean by "the prayer of the heart"?

Q #496: Does Jesus have a sense of humor?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #490: I understand that when we (the decision maker) make a decision to identify with the ego mind, that we forget that we have another part of our mind with which to identify with. If accessing the right mind requires that we are first aware that another mind exists, and second that we understand the defenses the ego puts up in order to insure that we don't go there, what mind was I identifying with when I made the decision to begin to read and study A Course in Miracles? I understand now that during all my years of learning ego management skills, that I was probably always coming from the ego's thought system, so how did my ego mind ever choose to pick up a book that could be the undoing of it? When we come to the conclusion "there has to be another way" is the ego obliged to get out of the way? Please enlighten me.

A: First, approaching the mind in terms of three parts certainly corresponds to the way Jesus speaks of it in the Course, but we need to remember as well that he is describing a process that in the end is illusory. So we should not regard this description of the separated (therefore illusory) mind and its dynamics as a blueprint or schematic for an actual mind that exists in reality. It should be regarded more as a teaching aid, and all teaching aids, while serving a useful purpose, have limits. So compartmentalizing the mind in this fashion is a way of helping us undo the mistaken way in which we have thought about ourselves, as well as helping us understand why we function in the world the way we do.

Perhaps the key point in answering your question is Jesus’ reassurance that we are not wholly insane and that there is a limit on our ability to miscreate (T.2.III.3:3). Moreover, he tells us that "tolerance for pain may be high, but it is not without limit. Eventually everyone begins to recognize, however dimly, that there must be a better way" (T.2.III.3:5,6). The decision maker can continually uphold its decision to conceal the Holy Spirit’s thought system and its own decision-making capacity, but that does not mean that there no longer is a right mind or a decision maker. They are just concealed, and well concealed, as we all can attest to. Nevertheless, the decision maker is always functioning as a decision maker, while trying to pretend that it is not.

Furthermore, continuing to speak in anthropomorphic terms, the ego always senses a threat to its existence, as would anyone involved in faking something. And therefore somewhere in our minds there would be the thought that things aren’t what they appear to be, and we are not what we appear to be. For most people it seems, that thought does not surface until something horrendous happens, or they reach a stage where they throw up their hands in despair or frustration in a way they never have before. The motivation, again, is a level of pain that becomes intolerable. (Obviously, many people just go right back into the ego thought system for a solution.) It is not the ego, though, that does this -- remember, the ego is just a belief that the decision maker has accepted. So it is as if the decision maker responds to its own dimly perceived misgivings about the beliefs it has identified with. And in that instant, it has disidentified with the ego and allowed itself to see just a glimmer of the light beaming from the right mind. The expression of that shift may take any number of forms, one of which would be the appearance in one’s life of A Course in Miracles. But it could be anything that would help heal the mind of its belief that separation from God is a reality.

Q #491: A Course in Miracles says I must choose between teachers: the Holy Spirit or the ego. I choose the Holy Spirit, but how do I actually do this? Since I don't know what anything means, how do I know when the Holy Spirit is teaching me?

A: We choose the Holy Spirit by being willing to look honestly at our attack thoughts and judgments, with willingness to let Him transform them. This requires that we recognize the defenses we employ to maintain our fierce attachment to our belief in the separation and the reality of the world and the body. Although the Course tells us we do not really know what anything means, we think we do know. We have agreed with the ego that our attacks, along with our feelings of anger, resentment, and victimization are justified. We believe in our identity as bodies. We believe that situations that are external to the mind can have an effect on us by taking away our peace. Questioning these beliefs and our interpretation of our experiences, allowing that perhaps we are wrong, invites the Holy Spirit to offer His interpretation. This new interpretation is the forgiveness process. We accept His teaching with every application of forgiveness in our relationships, and the events of our lives.

The first step is to pay attention to any upsetting feeling, acknowledging that its true source is a choice in the mind to be separate, and not whatever external situation seems to have caused the upset. Because we are so fiercely attached to our beliefs it is not easy to do this. Fortunately, Jesus tells us we do not have to do it perfectly: "Your willingness need not be perfect, because His [Holy Spirit] is" (T.11.II.6:6). However haltingly you may take the first step in questioning your interpretation of your relationships and experiences, it is enough to allow the Holy Spirit to enter. We are asked only to do our part: "Call not upon the ego for anything; it is only this that you need do. The Holy Spirit will, of Himself, fill every mind that so makes room for Him"(T.14.XI.13:5,6).

Q #492: My question has to do with forgiving Jesus. And I realize that I have much forgiveness of him to work through. I was thinking the other day that I never saw a smiling Jesus in any picture. Is this one of the ways that the world has promulgated this image of him: by him always looking stern and unhappy? Why is he never smiling?

A: You may find several "smiling Jesus" images on the Internet. In "Google," key in "smiling Jesus" and click on images. Also please refer to Question #265 for more information relating to Jesus as a symbol in form.

However, more important than the imagined images of Jesus smiling or not is your recognition of the need to forgive him. This is especially worthy of your attention. In A Course in Miracles, Jesus himself tells us: "Forgive me, then, today. And you will know you have forgiven me if you behold your brother in the light of holiness. He cannot be less holy than can I, and you can not be holier than he" (W.pII.288.2:1,2,3). In just this short passage we find the entire circle of projection. The guilt we feel for having chosen to believe the thought of separation is projected on to everyone else in our lives, in some form or other. On an even deeper level, guilt for being unwilling to accept the Atonement principle (which is that separation is not possible) is projected on to Jesus, who represents the part of our minds that does accept the Atonement. It is understandable then that Jesus, and anyone else we may choose to attack would be perceived negatively.

Forgiveness of Jesus, along with all our brothers, begins with the recognition that they are not the ones who are responsible for our choice to believe in the separation. As the Course tells us, they did nothing: "…forgive the Son of God for what he did not do" (T.17.III.1:5). Willingness to take responsibility for our choice releases Jesus and our brothers from our projections, which frees us to see them and ourselves in a different light. Though the difference is actually a shift to more quietness in the mind, it may be symbolized in a smile as so beautifully expressed in this prayer in the workbook addressed to the Father: "I am he on whom You smile in love and tenderness so dear and deep and still the universe smiles back on You, and shares Your Holiness" (W.pII.341.1:2). It is difficult to imagine Jesus or ourselves saying this with a stern, unhappy expression.

Q #493: We have a person who comes to our meetings who is very hostile and angry. It is obvious that she has mental problems. She has been asked to leave one ACIM group and has been forcibly removed from an AA meeting by the police. We have tried to think of her as our greatest teacher and welcome her. No one tries to provoke her and rarely does anyone argue with her. It just elevates the situation. We let her have her say and say thank you and go on with the meeting. Rarely can anyone follow her train of thought. The other week, she was very angry and started yelling at the group. I had this vision of a three-year-old pulling a temper tantrum. I was not angry as I would not be angry at a three-year-old. I would however leave the room or remove the child. I don't believe spiritual is being a doormat and saying it's okay because that is the way you are and it is all right to treat me like this. I do believe the Course wants us to come from a place of love and not anger. Is it unreasonable to ask for a certain type of decorum from her at the meetings? Would it ever be appropriate according to A Course in Miracles to ask someone to leave if they refused to abide by the rules?

A: This type of situation is more common than not in groups, and it is one that has led to distortions and misinterpretations of Course teachings. Yes, it is entirely in keeping with the spirit and message of A Course in Miracles to ask someone to leave a group. Depending on one’s inner guidance, it can be the only loving thing to do, for all concerned. Your analogy with a three-year- old having a temper tantrum is a good one. It does no good for either the parent or the child to condone that type of behavior; the child needs to know that there are limits and that the parent is in control, however much the behavior signals the opposite. This applies to adults as well. Somewhere deep within our minds we are absolutely terrified that we might be right in thinking that the ego is all there is -- that all is chaos and we can never return to our true Home. We desperately want to hear that we are wrong about that. We may not choose to turn in that direction, but there is at least some comfort in knowing we are not caught in a black hole of chaos and despair, that there is a way out if we choose to go in that direction.

But the key idea, as you say, is to learn how to stop hurtful, aggressive behavior in a way that is firm and resolute, yet kind. This requires some insight in our own tendencies to project our guilt onto others and then judge them so that we will come out on top -- the innocent ones. If that tendency, along with all fear and feelings of victimization can be set aside, if only for an instant, then the way for love to respond has been cleared. And then we can "step back and let Him lead the way" (W.pI.155).

For a study of compassion as taught in the Course, you can consult our tape album, "The Compassion of the Miracle," and Kenneth’s article in the December 2001 issue of The Lighthouse, which addresses this issue in the context of the 9/11 attacks.

Q #494: Brothers that become not identified with bodies through death, where do they go until they return once again, to have the opportunity to choose correctly?

A: The apparent death of the body does not necessarily mean that someone has chosen not to identify with it. It is only when the mind chooses to identify fully with the truth of who we are as God’s innocent Son, that identity with the body will be set aside: "When your body and your ego and your dreams are gone, you will know that you will last forever. Perhaps you think this is accomplished through death, but nothing is accomplished through death, because death is nothing. Everything is accomplished through life, and life is of the mind and in the mind" (T.6.V.A.1:1,2,3).

Since the mind is not in the body, it does not go anywhere when the body dies. The part of the mind that identified with a particular body for a time continues in its "mind state" which, of course, is not a place. The mind does not need a body to choose correctly. In fact, if it truly chooses correctly, it does not need a body at all, since choosing to identify with the body is an incorrect choice in the first place.

One of the important goals of A Course in Miracles is to teach us that we are minds, not bodies. The mind is where all the action is; and the only "action" is choosing. Since the mind does not need a body to choose, there is no change in the activity of the mind when the body "dies." The body is merely the seeming effect of the mind’s mistaken choice to believe the thought of separation is real. The body does nothing. "The body no more dies than it can feel. It does nothing…It is nothing" (T.19.IV.C.5:2,3,5).

For more on this topic, please refer to Question #68.

Q #495: I have read and re-read the following passage from the manual of A Course in Miracles about prayer. I still cannot understand what Jesus is trying to say. Can you help?

"The prayer for things of this world will bring experiences of this world. If the prayer of the heart asks for this, this will be given because this will be received. It is impossible that the prayer of the heart remain unanswered in the perception of the one who asks. If he asks for the impossible, if he wants what does not exist or seeks for illusions in his heart, all this becomes his own. The power of his decision offers it to him as he requests. Herein lie hell and Heaven" (M.21.3:1,2,3,4,5,6)

A: To speak of the "prayer of the heart" is another way of saying "this is what my mind wants." If my prayer (as a decision-making mind identified with the ego) is to prove that I am right and God is wrong -- that separation is reality and oneness is illusion -- then I will have experiences that will validate that, because that is what I have asked for. And of course this requires that there be a world in which separation can be expressed in innumerable forms -- of victimization, especially. So my perception of suffering, death, conflict, oppression, etc., as real is coming from my secret wish that they be real, in order to fulfill my underlying objective of proving God wrong. My ego then reigns supreme. Herein lies hell! But it is here by my own choice. In this sense there are no "innocent victims." In my wrong mind I want separation to be the truth, so my experience in the world will be that my interests are in conflict with almost everyone else’s. I have thus sought for the things of this world and therefore that is what I now experience: separate interests as some form of pain or pleasure.

But when my prayer is for the recovery of my memory of my true Self, which embraces all people, then my eyes may still see the same scenes in the world, but my experience of them will be entirely different. To put this in the context of form and content, I will still perceive separate interests in terms of form, but the content in my mind will always be the same, which is that we all share the same interests. I have looked on the "tiny, mad idea of separation" and simply smiled at it, judging it as silly and not to be taken seriously. This means that nothing at all can disturb or change my inner peace. I will now see through the eyes of forgiveness. In the words of Lesson 122, I will experience "a quietness that cannot be disturbed, a gentleness that never can be hurt, a deep, abiding comfort, and a rest so perfect it can never be upset" (W.pI.122.1:6) -- and all this regardless of what is going on in the world.

Q #496: Does Jesus have a sense of humor?

A: Yes and no. As one who has accepted the Atonement for himself and is a symbol of the part of the mind that remembers the truth of who we are, Jesus does not need, nor have a sense of humor. He reflects only the love that extends through him. However, as our teacher, this love takes the form that best suits our need. One of those forms is A Course in Miracles, which does indeed have passages that can considered humorous. Part of the definition of humor itself may apply to the Course: "the ability to perceive, appreciate, or express what is funny, amusing, or ludicrous" (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary). Since ludicrous is something that is "laughably absurd" (Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary), it is aptly applied to the separation thought, which Jesus describes as ridiculous in several passages in the Course. Indeed, the very foundation of the Course’s metaphysics is set in the context of humor: Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea, at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh. In his forgetting did the thought become a serious idea, and possible of both accomplishment and real effects. Together, we can laugh them both away, and understand that time cannot intrude upon eternity. It is a joke to think that time can come to circumvent eternity…(T.27.VIII.6:2,3,4,5).

Thus, Jesus is inviting us to laugh at our absurd belief in separation. In the end, we will see that our journey into seeming darkness and terror was in fact nothing but a silly, laughable mistake. He gives us a somewhat humorous description of fear: "How weak is fear; how little and how meaningless…This is your "enemy,"–a frightened mouse that would attack the universe. How likely is it that it will succeed?…Which is the stronger? Is it this tiny mouse or everything that God created? You and your brother are not joined together by this mouse, but by the Will of God. And can a mouse betray whom God has joined? (T.22.V.4:1,3,4,6,7,8,9).

He who sees how foolish it looks for God’s Son, thinking he has destroyed Heaven, to be masquerading as a miserable sinner in a body must indeed smile. However, since we take our insanity very seriously, Jesus is not laughing at us. He is offering a path that leads to where we can laugh at ourselves, and forget our ridiculous belief in sin, guilt, and fear: "The time has come to laugh at such insane ideas" (W.pI.190.4:2). Jesus must think we are ready to have a sense of humor.