Weekly Questions and Answers, 06/30/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #510:     Since Jesus was crucified, does that mean he did not pass his own "Test of Truth"?.
Q #511:     What would prevent the separation from happening all over again?.

Q #512(i): How does Christian Science heal compared with the Course?
Q #512(ii): Can I combine the healing of Christian Science with the teachings of the Course?.
Q #513:     Is the Holy Spirit the same thing as the "watcher"?

Q #514(i):  What does the Course have to say about karma?
Q #514(ii): What is the significance of italicized and capitalized words in the Course?
Q #515:    Is the Course compatible with the Kabbalah?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #510: Considering "The Test of Truth" that Jesus talks about in chapter 14 of the text of A Course in Miracles, how could Jesus be crucified? I can understand his being free of fear during those "attacks" on his body, which is a potent example of forgiveness. But it seems clear to me that torturing and crucifying a brother is not a manifestation of perfect peace, which is what everyone who met him (or even thought of him) should have felt. Is it that Jesus tried at times to learn his own lesson and not God's?

A: It may be helpful first to look at the specific line you are referring to in that section: "If you are wholly free of fear of any kind, and 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.5:2).

There are certainly a number of different ways of looking at this passage in relationship to the crucifixion. The first question we could ask ourselves is whether the crucifixion is fact or fiction. It is after all our dream and Jesus does not perceive himself to be a part of it, so perhaps the story is merely the imaginings of followers who were attempting to make his seeming life here seem bigger than life, concocting a story of physical death and physical resurrection.

However, Jesus does discuss the crucifixion in chapter 6 as if it were an historical event in his earthly life, so we can consider what this passage may mean in light of such a happening. One possibility, as you suggest, is that Jesus perhaps was still identified with his ego up until the time of his crucifixion and so was not in perfect peace. The attacks by others against him then were simply part of his own lessons in forgiveness.

However, since the crucifixion, and with the coming of his Course now to the world, few would reasonably deny that he is a manifestation of perfect peace. Yet even today, there are many in the world who know of him and think of him who are not at peace, who feel anger at times towards him, even as students of his Course. Is this proof that he still has dark, unlearned lessons? This seems most unlikely. In fact, earlier in the Course, Jesus remarks on people’s unpeaceful reactions to him when he seemed to be among them, although his words apply equally to his students today: "Many thought I was attacking them, even though it was apparent I was not" (T.6.V.B.1:5). He goes on to explain that when we do not share another’s thought system, we are weakening it, and as a result we will be perceived as attacking, even though we are not. For each of us sees outside what we have first seen within (T.6.V.B.1:7,8,9,10,11).

Perhaps the problem is that we are misunderstanding Jesus’ meaning with this passage. The line in fact says that all "who think...of you share in your perfect peace." But it does not say that everyone accepts this perfect peace and is at peace. If my mind is healed, I know that everyone whom I know and who knows me must share this perfect peace with me for it to be perfect peace, no matter how their minds may choose in any moment in time to deny the reality of that experience.

However, if I find others reacting to me and judging me and I react to that in any way, then I am not in perfect peace and I still have my own dark lessons to be learned. And since, in the end, there is really no one else out there, I am only ever concerned with the state of my mind, and how I may be in reaction to what I perceive to be other minds separate from me. For once I truly know we are all one, my experience in relationship to all the aspects of that one self -- all the seemingly separate fragments -- can only be one of perfect peace, which must be shared with every aspect as one, whether or not they are manifesting that peace at any particular moment in time.

Q #511: The idea of separation is one huge, elaborate and childish temper tantrum, which although insane is a reflection of how clever we are. My question is, once I remember who I really am and am back in that experience of myself, what then? Would it not be eternal boredom that drove us to this way of thinking? Also, how can we be so self-deceived by one guilty thought to create a need for this world and its dark and lengthy history? It seems to me that knowing the reality of God’s Love exists on a knife’s edge. Who’s to say that once a complete Atonement of the Sonship has occurred that we will not fall into this experience of ourselves again?

A: In truth, it is only from our self-deceiving, self-aggrandizing perspective, identified as a seemingly tiny self in a seemingly infinite and overwhelming universe, that the idea of separation and its consequences seem huge or elaborate or clever or dark or temporally and spatially vast. From Jesus’ perspective, it is all absolutely nothing. He only describes the layers of complexity that seem to have spun out from the initial illusory thought because we believe in them and have made them very real in our own minds and so need help in extricating ourselves from the confusing labyrinth of our imaginary beliefs.

Truly, this world and our so very important lives are "much ado about nothing," to quote the Bard. Nothing has happened, which is the simple statement of the Atonement principle. So how can nothing happen again? And if nothing happens again, it will still be nothing. Nothing multiplied by nothing, no matter how many times you multiply it, is still nothing. Nothing divided and subdivided, over and over again, remains nothing. And nothing repeatedly added to nothing always yields the same result -- nothing.

As for eternal boredom motivating the split from eternal Love, that makes perfect sense -- from the delusional, illusional ego point of view. If we genuinely are convinced that having conflict and pain because we believe we lack all that we truly need is preferable to knowing that we have all that we truly need, then perhaps the thought of separation is a sane alternative to Heaven. But it is only an ego-based perspective with extreme tunnel vision that could possibly believe that the excitement of uncertain, yet inevitable, loss and the occasional, unpredictable release from agonizing suffering is to be preferred to the quiet certainty of eternal bliss.

For further discussion of the issue of repeating the mistake of separation, please refer to Question #10.

Q #512: Two questions have been submitted recently on the theme of Christian Science. Both are noted below and the answer addresses the two of them together:

i. Compared with A Course In Miracles, how does Christian Science "heal" with mind?

ii. I have been a student of A Course In Miracles for thirteen years but have been frustrated that my study and practice did not seem to be helping me with some practical problems. I discovered that Christian Science also teaches that we are spirit and not a body, so I recently started attending a Christian Science church, and was healed of some long standing physical problems and a smoking addiction. The Christian Science church says that Jesus said: "By their fruits ye shall know them," and that his followers would do greater works than his. This is the basis for their emphasis on healing, which seems to work. What is the Course’s view on this? Does it say anywhere that we will heal and be healed? I am uncomfortable with some of Mary Baker Eddy’s writings on sin and punishment, and much of the Bible, and feel much more comfortable with the teachings of the Course. Is there any way I can get the practical healing of the Christian Science way, but by study of the Course rather than Christian Science?

A: There are many striking parallels at the metaphysical level between the teachings of Christian Science and the Course. Both proclaim the reality of spirit and the unreality of sin and sickness. Both see the latter as errors of a mind that has forgotten its true nature and only Life in God, Who is only Love and Who can be the source of nothing unlike Himself.

But at the level of purpose and practice they may be seen to diverge. Christian Science has a major focus on healing the illnesses of the body as a demonstration of the truth and validity of its principles. The Course, as you have been aware, has no concern for bringing about change at the level of form, or the body. Its purpose is to teach and accelerate the process of forgiveness in the mind as a means of awakening from the dream, and not simply for the "healing" of its effects as experienced in the body.

The process of healing articulated by Christian Science reflects principles similar to the Course’s: that all physical healing comes from a decision of the mind and that the ministrations of physicians and healers in the realm of medicine and other material interventions have an effect only because of the beliefs in the mind of the one who is sick. But Christian Science advocates going to the source of illness in the mind in order to bring about the physical healing, rather than turning to the physicians of the world, while the Course bypasses concern with the effects of the mind’s error and advocates changing the mind so that the mind itself can be healed of its guilt. Along the way, the body may very well be healed, and the Course suggests that in several passages (e.g., W.pI.136.17; M.5.II.2). But that is never the goal. Jesus remarks in one passage, which may be seen as a correction for Christian Science’s emphasis on the body’s healing: "Thus is the body healed by miracles because they show the mind made sickness, and employed the body to be victim, or effect, of what it made. Yet half the lesson will not teach the whole. The miracle is useless if you learn but that the body can be healed, for this is not the lesson it was sent to teach. The lesson is the mind was sick that thought the body could be sick; projecting out its guilt caused nothing, and had no effects" (T.28.II.11:4,5,6,7).

Because Mary Baker Eddy was concerned with defending the validity of Christian Science against its detractors, she emphasized its greater effectiveness in bringing about release from symptoms in comparison to traditional medical interventions, which she perceived as only reinforcing the erroneous belief in the power of matter in the minds of physician and patient alike. As a result, there has been a strong tendency for many of her followers to take the position that seeking medical intervention is somehow wrong, even sinful. The Course, because of its emphasis on awakening from the dream, accepts that the mind may need to use whatever means it can accept, including doctors and medicine, to allay its fears that are being manifested as physical symptoms. But over time the mind will come to accept its power of choice in all matters, as its fear of acknowledging that power, as well as the accompanying guilt, diminishes through the practice of forgiveness (T.2.IV.4,5).

There is nothing wrong with using the teachings of Christian Science to help resolve physical symptoms and problems you may be experiencing. But it may be helpful to keep in mind Jesus’ words, noted above. For if your only purpose is to heal your body, you will have missed the tremendous opportunity for healing the guilt in your mind over the separation that the physical symptoms always point back to. But as you remember the Course’s purpose, the application of the principles of Christian Science may become a helpful classroom in which to deepen your understanding of the Course’s teachings on forgiveness, as you appreciate the similarities as well as the important differences between the two paths.

Q #513: Is it correct that the Holy Spirit, of A Course in Miracles, and the witness/watcher in Eastern teachings, are similarly defined?

A: It would be more accurate to say that the decision-making part of the mind, when it is aligned with the Holy Spirit and observing the ego without judgment, is similar to the witness in Eastern teachings. While the Course speaks of the Holy Spirit as if He were a distinct entity that performs certain functions, such as Guide, Comforter, Interpreter, Teacher, and Voice for God, as we progress with the Course, we will come to see that these are only useful symbols or metaphors for a mind that still believes in duality and so still believes Help is needed from a Source outside itself (for further discussion on the Course’s symbolic or metaphorical use of language, see Questions #72 and #156). The Holy Spirit plays no active role in the mind but is simply a Thought or a Presence that reminds. It reminds us of the other way, the peaceful, conflict-free, alternative to the ego (T.5.II.7:1,2,3,4,5,6,7). And it is that reminder that allows us to look at our ego without guilt or fear or condemnation.

Q #514:

i. What A Course in Miracles’ teaching regarding karma?

A: Although A Course in Miracles does not use the word karma, which is the term found in Eastern spiritual teachings for the law of cause and effect, the Course certainly addresses the concept in many passages. Linear time is a central aspect of karma, or cause and effect, in the ego’s world. In the Course, Jesus tells us that cause and effect are not separate (T.26.VII.13:1) and it is only in the thought system of separation that the two can seem distinct. And it is only in the world of separation and time that karma, or the world’s law of cause and effect, can operate. Once we find ourselves (by our choice) within the world’s belief system, karma becomes neutral, although initially the ego developed the notion of cause and effect to establish the reality of separation, including the consequences of guilt and punishment for our attack on God. None of this of course is real, from the Course’s perspective. But given that we believe in the law of cause and effect -- a by-product of our belief in the reality of the separation -- Jesus shows us a gentler application of the principle.

The ego would have us believe that there are inevitable consequences for all our acts and failures to act within the world. Good acts beget good consequences and bad acts beget bad consequences. And there is a dualistic balance that needs to be maintained, or a debt that has to be paid, as a result of all of our choices in the world.

Jesus, however, shifts the focus from the world to our mind, where he helps us learn to recognize that the only choice we are ever really making is in our mind, between the ego thought system and the thought system of the Holy Spirit. And it is only within the mind that cause and effect have any real meaning. Each thought system has consequences in terms of whether or not we experience peace of mind. And our peace in the present depends only on our choice in the present, having nothing to do with any decision we have made in the past. This understanding has the potential of releasing us from the karmic cycle that seems to require that we experience the consequences of our actions in time and space. And forgiveness is the Course’s practice for releasing us from any so-called karmic debt. For additional discussions on karma from the perspective of the Course, see Questions #332 and #363.

ii. Why are some words italicized and some capitalized in A Course in Miracles?

A: Words italicized in the Course are ones Helen underlined in the scribing process because, in her experience, Jesus had placed greater stress or emphasis on those words or phrases when he dictated the Course to her. An excessive number of words had been underlined originally, and so they were reduced to include only those that seemed to require added emphasis (Absence from Felicity, p. 354)

Words in general are capitalized when they refer to God, Christ or the Holy Spirit. Son in Son of God is always capitalized, at Jesus’ request, even when it refers to the Son in the separated state (and so, not Christ), "to emphasize the inclusion of all of us as part of God’s one Son" (Concordance of A Course in Miracles, p. ix) as a correction for traditional Christianity’s use of the term only for Jesus. For further discussion of the rules of capitalization in the Course, see the "Guide to the Use of the Concordance" at the beginning of the Concordance.

Q #515: A friend of mine has recently started studying the Kabbalah. Do you believe that A Course in Miracles and Kabbalah are compatible?

A: On the level of form, spiritual paths are not really compatible with each other, since they reflect different approaches both to understanding and realizing truth. That is why there are different paths. On the level of content, however, since their goals are the same, differing paths are compatible in purpose. As the Eastern saying states: "Truth is one; the sages know it by many names. And in A Course in Miracles: "There are many thousands of other forms [of the universal course], all with the same outcome" (M.1.4.2).

In speaking about A Course in Miracles and the Kabbalah, we can make the same observation. Their goal is truth, or God, yet they are different in theology and in practice. The Course’s metaphysics is non-dualistic, while the Kabbalah -- not an integrated body of teaching, by the way -- is not. Forgiveness, the central focus of A Course in Miracles, is not primary at all in the Kabbalah; nor is the role of the Holy Spirit. Both thought systems, however, emphasize the importance of reuniting God’s fragmented creation. A Course in Miracles would see this fragmentation as illusory, a point the Kabbalah does not recognize.

In the end, however, if one’s spiritual path is enhanced by both the Kabbalah and A Course in Miracles, then who is to say that is a mistake? "By their fruits you shall know them" remains the only criterion that matters. If the combined practice of these two spiritualities leads to a life of peace and love, then one would be a fool not to pursue it.