Weekly Questions and Answers, 06/16/2004
(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 #497: What are prophecies?
Q #498  Is my guidance from the HolySpirit?.

Q #499  Why does forgiveness "wait"?
Q #500: Am I in your dream or are you in mine?
Q #501: How can one forgive after years of abuse?.
Q #502  Can I practice martial arts without any pain?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #497: I am curious about prophecies and their relationship with our "time" here -- being a review of the master tape, so to speak. Both the Tibetan and the Hopi/Navajo prophecies have paralleled each other for 3,000 years, and end "soon." Since "time" is already over, could there be a connection? Are prophecies indicative of having a good memory?

A: First, let’s consider the phenomenon of psychic powers as it is addressed in A Course in Miracles. In answer to the question "Are ‘Psychic’ Powers Desirable?" Jesus explains that they can be of value in demonstrating that "communication is not limited to the small range of channels the world recognizes"; yet in the end, "the only important consideration is how they are used. . . . to strengthen the ego. . . . [or as] a great channel of hope and healing in the Holy Spirit’s service"(M.25.2:2; 3:4; 6:5,6). He further, and importantly, points out that to transcend the limits the world places on communication is simply to achieve our natural state -- it is nothing special nor is it a special gift from God (2:5,7,8).

Prophecy, thus, could be related to the transcendence of the limits most people have on reading the "script," to use one of the Course’s metaphors for the ego’s span of existence, which amounts to every conceivable form of separation. As part of its strategy to fragment wholeness, to splinter it, divide it, and subdivide it over and over again (T.18.I.4), the ego makes up linear time, so that the one substitution for wholeness appears in our minds as epochs, ages, eras, and even parallel universes, which physicists have been speculating about for a few decades now. (Incidentally, there is nothing in the Course’s theory that would preclude the possibility of there being parallel universes.)

Whenever we (as decision-making minds) identify with the ego, we automatically perceive time as linear, as going in one direction. But it is not really that way; and somewhere in our minds we know that. We always retain the ability to disregard these arbitrary limits and see several different parts of the script at the same time. Our lives represent the mind’s choice to review selected portions of this script, and since this script has been written in its entirety and time is not linear, then prophecy is merely the lifting of the limits on "seeing" that we have chosen as part of our bargain with the ego to remain oblivious to this script, and therefore to the real nature of the world of time and space. This lifting of limits does not necessarily mean that one has transcended the ego, and it is not necessarily a spiritual event. It could simply be that the "prophet" is viewing time as holographic rather than linear, which we are all capable of doing. (A popular saying is that time is a plot to keep everything from happening all at once!) It is just so hard for us to conceptualize non-linearity, to say nothing of timelessness. But only because to do so would threaten the very foundation of our existence as individuals.

In the end, all issues of this nature are inherently illusory since linear time is inherently illusory, despite our experiences to the contrary. The world of time and space is governed entirely by the mind and its choice to use time either to conceal truth or to negate that concealment and then transcend time entirely. The mind is always outside time and space, but it can convince itself that it is not. In a similar vein Jesus tells us, "You are not sick and cannot die. But you can confuse yourself with things that do" (T.10.V.8:3). The only thing we know for certain is that we can be at peace right now and that forgiveness is the means of removing everything that stands in the way of our being at peace.

For further study of time, see Kenneth’s book, A Vast Illusion: Time and A Course in Miracles; and his audio or video tape, "The Time Machine." Question #167 also discusses relevant aspects of this issue.

Q #498: I have been receiving inner voice/intuition for some time (before studying A Course in Miracles) The information it has given me by gut feelings and actual thoughts/voice that interrupt mine has nearly always been correct. I have tried to get back together with my husband, from whom I have been separated for a while, but his lack of trust and fear keep us apart. The answers I receive seem, feel, and sound as if they are from the Holy Spirit. I am consistently told "no" and to have faith. The voice says, "Would I have lead you to the truth, then lead him away from you now?" I know that special relationships are the greatest tool of the ego. How can I be certain that the voice is the Holy Spirit, not a trick of the ego?

A: It is not really possible to comment on individual experiences of hearing the Holy Spirit, such as the one you have shared. As a general rule we can say that issues pertaining to specifics tend to be colored by ego investments that we are not fully aware of, and because of that, our focus ought to be on getting the ego out of the way, rather than on what we are hearing. Helen Schucman, the scribe of the Course, was advised by Jesus: "You cannot ask, ‘What shall I say to him?’ and hear God’s answer. Rather ask instead, ‘Help me to see this brother through the eyes of truth and not of judgment,’ and the help of God and all His angels will respond" (Absence from Felicity, p. 381). Also of interest is the fact that Helen was not always consistent in hearing when it came to specifics. When she was emotionally involved in an issue, she was frequently "off" in what she thought she heard: the dates of Bill Thetford’s and her husband Louis’ deaths, for example.

So our emphasis, thus, is on asking for help to let go of any judgments in our minds. Then, in a holy instant in which we are free of fear and judgment and have no investment in the outcome, love will flow through us, and we will do whatever seems best at that moment. We all would love to have specific answers come to us when we are dealing with critical issues, and we would love to have the answers accompanied by the certainty that they have come from the Holy Spirit or Jesus and therefore everything will work out just fine; but the process generally does not work like that -- again, because of the many ego factors still concealed in our minds.

Finally, the section in the text called "The Test of Truth" provides clear and compelling guidelines for discerning whether or not one is in touch with the Holy Spirit. This issue is the topic of Question #43 in our book, The Most Commonly Asked Questions About A Course in Miracles. We quote one portion: "You have one test, as sure as God, by which to recognize if what you learned is true. [1] If you are wholly free of fear of and kind, and [2] if all those who meet or even think of you share in your perfect peace, then you can be sure that you have learned God’s lesson, and not your own" (T.14.XI.5:1,2).

Other students have asked about this as well -- in fact it is the second most frequently asked question. We have addressed it in other Questions on this service that you might wish to review: #11, #43, #309, and especially #285.

Q #499: "Forgiveness looks and waits and judges not" What is the meaning of "waiting"?

A: Forgiveness does not demand that anyone, including ourselves, be in any way different at any given time. When someone is perceived to be in a fearful state, forgiveness recognizes the power of the mind to make a different choice and "waits" for the other’s readiness or willingness to choose differently. Forgiveness is thus patient, in the way the manual describes one of the characteristics of the teacher of God: "Those who are certain of the outcome can afford to wait, and wait without anxiety. Patience is natural to the teacher of God. All he sees is certain outcome, at a time perhaps unknown to him as yet, but not in doubt. The time will be as right as is the answer" (M.4.VIII.1:1,2,3,4).

This applies to oneself as well. Any sense of impatience in achieving the goal of A Course in Miracles, or experiencing the peace of forgiveness, indicates that the ego has been put in charge of the Atonement plan, which means it is no longer truly the Atonement plan. It makes the error real ascribing power to the ego, the exact opposite to the meaning of Atonement. The forgiveness process that Jesus is teaching in the Course is gentle. It invites us to wait, rather than try to fight off resistance, or force ourselves to think or behave in a way for which we are not truly ready. We wait by doing what Jesus tells us we should do: "Step gently aside, and let healing be done for you…Focus your mind only on this:…I need do nothing except not to interfere" (T.16.I.3:7,9,12).

Our part in the process is very simple; we are asked to look at the ego in operation, recognizing its vicious thoughts and judgments as the expression of fear, wait, which means not try to fix it, change it, or impose our solutions, and not judge it as sinful. We then let the Holy Spirit do His part, which means to share His perception. Since we are very skilled in making our insane lives work according to the ego’s upside-down strategies, it is very difficult for us "not to interfere." Most of us are great "doers," and need to learn from Jesus to wait patiently.

Q #500: Am I in your dream or are you in mine?

A: Both and neither. I am in your dream if you react to me in any way, and you are in my dream if I react to you in any way. Strictly speaking -- remembering we are talking about an illusory process -- there is only one dreamer dreaming a dream of separation from God that involves denying responsibility for that choice to have a special, individual life of its own, which has become equated with sinfulness deserving of punishment. The means of carrying out this objective of keeping individuality while avoiding responsibility for it is to have a multitude of individuals in some form of victim-victimizer relationship. The internal sense of sinfulness can then be projected onto someone else who then is perceived as the guilty sinner. So if you and I are in a relationship, it is because a larger self has split off into this relationship between two people to conceal what is really going on in its mind.

Q #501: How can one perceive forgiveness correctly, in Jesus' eyes, after suffering years of verbal and physical abuse?

A: First, true forgiveness never involves denying that something terrible happened. It focuses entirely on your thoughts and which teacher you choose to help you: the ego or Jesus. To the ego, your situation can be seen only through the eyes of separation: an innocent victim and a sinful victimizer. And the ego may support forgiveness, but it would still be in the context of an innocent victim forgiving a sinful victimizer. This is the common approach of the world and most religions of the world -- that sin actually takes place but is forgiven. Jesus calls this false forgiveness or "forgiveness-to-destroy," for despite the appearance of piety, it supports the thought system of separation, and therefore can never lead to lasting, true peace.

Forgiveness seen through Jesus’ eyes is marked by an absence of judgment or condemnation. Again, it does not deny attack or pain; and it does not mean that criminal prosecution cannot be pursued. The basis of this approach is our learning that the peace of God is in our minds because we are His Child. Because it is God’s peace, nothing whatsoever has power to take it away. We can choose to turn away from it, but we cannot destroy it. Nothing can. Therefore to blame someone or something else for our lack of peace is to engage in a form of self-deception. Casting blame denies the truth about the peace in our minds. The other dimension of this is that in our wrong minds we always carry the unbearable burden of guilt over our choice to separate ourselves from God. The pain of this guilt, as well as the expectation of extreme punishment for our sin, causes us to deny it in ourselves and project it onto someone outside us, who would then be seen as deserving of condemnation. Therefore, in our wrong minds we would use situations in the world for this purpose of getting rid of our guilt. Jesus teaches us that that strategy does not work, for the guilt just stays in our minds and is reinforced by the deception. (T.13.II.1:1,2; X.3:1,3,5,7)

Jesus would have us turn to him when we feel we have been victimized so that he could help us use the very same situation to unlearn what the ego taught us. Without denying the objective events that took place, Jesus would help us recognize our projection and then withdraw it, so that we can see the original mistake we made, which is judging ourselves guilty of having destroying love. He would help us realize the impossibility of that; and if we could accept it, we would be free of guilt and consequently be at peace, recognizing at the same time that that is the truth about everyone. In that state of mind, there is no way we could ever condemn ourselves or anyone else, regardless of what has been done behaviorally. The facts are still facts. But our reaction or interpretation would have changed completely. That is why Jesus explains that in true forgiveness we forgive what was not done to us.

From this place of love and peace in our minds, we would then do and say what is most loving for all concerned. What that would look like in any given situation cannot be determined ahead of time. It could mean having no further contact with the attacker, pursuing prosecution, talking with the person, going to therapy with the person, or any number of other things. But the perspective would no longer be that of victim and victimizer. Through the gentle eyes of Jesus, we would see that an attacker is a Son of God, too, and shares the same wrong and right mind and the ability to choose between them that we do. He would help us see that concealed beneath all viciousness is tremendous fear and a call for love. It cannot be stressed too much, though, that this does not involve the denial of the objective facts of the attack, or the pain one is feeling.

Finally, Jesus would help us learn that when we judge others as deserving of condemnation, we are doing the same thing to ourselves. He is always teaching us that we are all really one, and so because of this oneness, we cannot condemn another person without at the same time condemning ourselves. "Forgive and be forgiven. As you give you receive" (W.pI.122.6:3,4). This undoes the ego’s main principle that it is always one or the other: my innocence is bought at your expense. But Jesus does not underestimate the difficulty of our accepting this, or its importance in achieving our goal of inner peace. He states that this idea, "completely alien to the ego and the thinking of the world, is crucial to the thought reversal that this course will bring about. If you believed this statement, there would be no problem in complete forgiveness, certainty of goal, and sure direction. You would understand the means by which salvation comes to you, and would not hesitate to use it now" (W.pI.126.1).

Surely, comprehending A Course in Miracles metaphysics of non-dualism is necessary in order to relate to these ideas fully and avoid misinterpretations; so further study may be helpful. Also there are some other Questions on this Service that have addressed this area of the Course’s teachings: #174, #200, and #481.

Q #502: I participate in a martial art that over the years has caused me a lot of pain. A Course in Miracles says that the pain is in the mind and that the body, being a neutral thing, can not feel any pain. That is, my mind projects upon my body the pain that only the mind is aware of. Yet do I not have a choice? Can I not choose to practice my art and not feel any pain. Is the reason that I feel the pain because I want to punish myself.

A: Whenever we experience pain in relationship to anything in the world, it is always because that person, thing, event, or activity is a projected symbol of the guilt and pain in our minds. And it is our minds that have deceptively placed responsibility for the pain and the guilt on the external symbols. We all share the same pain in the mind, but it will be experienced through different symbols for each of us. The symbols themselves are never the cause of the pain. But our belief that they are is what keeps the ego in business, with the thought of separation real, for we are now oblivious to the choice for pain we have made in our minds. We remain mindless, seemingly at the mercy of events and forces outside -- separate from -- ourselves, for which we bear no responsibility.

You have begun to recognize the role of the mind in your own experience with the martial art. If you wish to have a different experience, the first step is to identify the purpose you’ve given it. Why do you value it? There are a range of possibilities, such as feeling more powerful, more in control, more disciplined, safer, more protected, more in tune with your body, etc. Whenever we value anything of the world, it is for ego reasons. This does not make it bad, but if we do not recognize the ego motivations, the ego will be in the driver’s seat and we won’t know it. And that means whatever decisions we make about the things of the world that attract us will be double- edged, that is, they will be sources of both pleasure and pain (T.19.IV.B.12:1). To the ego, this is proof that the separation and sin are real, that there are things outside of ourselves that can affect us and cause us pain -- for who would choose pain for himself?

At one level we believe that pain is God’s punishment for our selfish pursuit of our own pleasures, and at a deeper unconscious level, we believe that the pain is a self-inflicted punishment to atone for our attack on God. Yet Jesus makes it clear that pain "is not really punitive at all. It is but the inevitable result of equating yourself with the body, which is the invitation to pain" (T.19.IV.B.12:3,4). In other words, believing that we are separate from love is a thought of limitation and deprivation, which by its very nature brings pain with it. Our belief in pain as punishment, either God’s or ours, is a smokescreen that covers over the real source, our choice for separation.

The key then is not to give up the external expressions of the ego -- that only reinforces the ego’s demand for sacrifice, another seemingly external cause of pain, which it would want us to attribute to God -- but to become more aware of their underlying meaning and purpose as the ego’s symbols. If we use them to support our belief in separation, to reinforce our acceptance of the ego’s goal of self rather than shared interests, then pain will inevitably be associated with them. But if we become willing to look at our investment in the ego’s purpose for pain, and realize it has to do with our thoughts and not the external symbols, the ego’s unconscious hold on our decision-making will begin to weaken. For once we become aware of what we are choosing in our minds and why, we will begin to see more readily through the ego’s lies and deceits. And then we can give the symbols of our world, such as your martial art, a different purpose. They can then become the Holy Spirit's classroom in which we learn to undo our guilt and release our internal pain, rather than the ego’s prison in which we continue to reinforce our guilt and cling to the pain, but fail to recognize its source.