Weekly Questions and Answers, 07/14/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #521:  Are we many minds or one mind?
Q #522;  What if I prefer worldly pleasures to meditation?.

Q #523i: If I can convince you you are sinless, will we both be healed?
Q #523ii:Is self-consciousness real or illusory?
Q #524:  If I think hard about what I want, will it manifest?
Q #525:  Why does the Course teach that what I thought was done to me "has not occurred"?
Q #526:  How do I know which "course" or which teacher, or which spirituality to believe?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #521: Are we one mind with many spirits? Or are we just one mind that has gone mad and believes it is many? If the second part is true then I am really asking myself this question and would get the answer back from myself. This can make one feel nuts, you do know that, don't you? Or, again, am I a spirit, which God created and infused part of His Mind into me? If that be the case then I can understand the word Sonship -- it is many personalities that are actually ONE together which would mean that yes we are our own expressions of God individually but we can not be that without each other. Or have I totally lost track of the whole thing? Please help.

A: There is no really satisfactory way to answer your question because it is like trying to understand what sanity is from within the insane asylum. Everything we see is a good demonstration of what is not reality, but none of it can give us even a glimpse of what the truth in fact is. We can speak in symbols and metaphors, but the truth of Who we are is beyond all such feeble-minded attempts to portray what is beyond portrayal. There is no relationship between our experience here within the split mind and our reality as God’s one Son, complete and whole and undifferentiated, in Heaven. There is a memory of oneness, which at best allows us to recognize that something is not right here and that there is Something else to which we yearn to return. But even the notion of return is an illusion, since we have never in reality left (T.6.II.11:1,2). How then can we possibly understand reality when our experience so clearly seems to contradict the truth?

The one Mind has not gone mad -- It remains unchanged. What seems to be many is only illusion, a dreamlike state that creates a cacophony of discordant notes that seem to have replaced the harmonious single note of Heaven’s pure melody but have only covered it over, or seem to have covered it over. There is no path that will allow us to trace our experience here as seemingly separate fragments back to the oneness that is our reality because they are totally discontinuous states, one real and one false. Reality has not changed and the separation bears absolutely no relationship to it. In the end, we will simply release all of our thoughts and questions and concepts, and truth will for a fleeting moment seem to fill the void. And our one Life will continue on, uninterrupted and uninterruptible, as it always has.

Q #522: Many things in this world are pleasurable yet clearly at odds with what A Course in Miracles teaches. I like calculus and physics and find myself working on problems for the joy of the exercise. It is one of the pleasures of the illusion and, yes, it keeps me rooted very much in this world. Yet there is the promise of oneness but it does not motivate me enough to practice the silence on a regular basis.

A: It sounds as if you may be confusing the Course with other spiritual paths. There would be nothing within the disciplines of calculus or physics that in themselves would be at odds with the teachings of the Course. All the forms of the world, once we find ourselves within the illusion, are neutral. The only question the Course encourages us to ask is what purpose will we give them (T.4.V.6:4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11). And there are only two alternatives: the ego’s purpose of separation (T.11.V.7) and the Holy Spirit’s purpose of forgiveness (T.25.III.5:1,2,3).

So, for example, if you use working on calculus or physics problems as a way of avoiding someone with whom you are having difficulty, escaping into the mental activity to push away uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings, your purpose would be to maintain the separation. In contrast, if you saw the simple elegance of the solution to a particular calculus or physics problem as a reminder of the simplicity that we all share as God’s one Son, your purpose would be forgiveness or healing.

The primary practice of the Course is not meditation or contemplation, but forgiveness (T.18.VII.4,5,6). The Course more clearly than most other spiritual paths not only acknowledges but explains our resistance to the oneness, and does not judge us for it. It is not that God has chosen to keep Himself hidden from us but that we have chosen to hide from Him, out of fear of His retribution for our perceived sinfulness. And so, rather than a direct approach to the truth and oneness that many other paths embrace, represented by meditative and contemplative practices, the Course offers an indirect approach that focuses on undoing -- forgiveness -- rather than doing (T.14.I.4,5). So simply recognizing your resistance to the oneness and not judging yourself for it would be putting the Course’s principles into practice. And becoming more aware of the purpose you have chosen for everything in your life, including but not limited to your favorite pursuits, will allow you to make a different choice when you recognize you have given them the ego’s purpose.

Q #523: i. If I can convince you in my surety of being sinless or communicate to you that you are sinless, and that in no way do I see you other than perfect, then, a healing of the mind is assured and forgiveness is the outcome. Both of us are healed. Is this true?

ii. "I am as God created me" is a fact. This means that I am an Effect of God’s creation. Therefore the self that claims to be me could not be real. If an effect can make a cause then it may be possible. But what is an effect cannot produce a cause if the cause is not real, and if the cause is over long ago. I may believe that I exist and am conscious of my self, but how can "self-consciousness" make the Self? For example, there’s on the one hand self and on the other, awareness of self (consciousness). The self, cause, produces the effect, awareness of self. BUT, the self in truth is an Effect of God’s creation, being an effect it cannot become a cause.

Therefore, my consciousness is an effect and not a cause. To make it cause would be thinking in circles. If the ego is self conscious then it cannot be real. It is impossible. What is an effect cannot become a cause, therefore my self-consciousness must be an illusion and not real. Is that correct?

A: With respect to your first point -- that by your convincing me of our sinlessness and perfection, forgiveness and healing will result -- A Course in Miracles’ position would actually be the reverse. Our sinlessness and perfection are beyond convincing but we don’t believe it. Forgiveness is the process that allows us to remove all the obstacles to this conviction -- remembering our sinlessness and perfection is the result. If we had to convince each other that we are sinless, starting as we do from the perspective that we are separate and that there is someone outside ourselves whom we need to convince, we would be placing ourselves in charge of the Atonement. The outcome likely would be no more auspicious than the seeming results of the ego’s tiny mad idea.

With respect to your second point, if I am understanding your statement correctly that an effect can not be a cause, the Course again would disagree. In fact, Jesus asserts that God as our Source and Cause has shared all of His power with His Son, giving him the same ability to create (i.e., to be a cause) that He has -- God would withhold nothing from His Son. And so the Son, as the Effect of God Who is his Cause, in turn causes his own effects or creations through the extension of the love that God had extended to him in his creation (T.8.III.3; T.8.VI.6; T.28.II.1; W.pII.326.1). The only difference is that the Son can not be the first Cause. And it is God’s primacy as the Source of all to which the ego objects (T.11.in.1,2).

Your conclusion -- that nothing is real in the realm of consciousness and the self that we believe we are -- is true, but not for the reasons you present. The cause of consciousness is the ego, but the ego -- the thought of separation -- is not real, and so therefore anything that seems to follow from a cause that is not real -- causelessness -- cannot be real either (T.28.II.3:1,2,3,4,5).

And one final point of clarification may be helpful. Whenever the Course refers to the self, it is referring to illusion. The true Self that we are (always capitalized in the Course) is the Christ, continuous with Its Source and knowing nothing of consciousness or individuality. The self (always lower case in the Course) refers to the fictional individual, conscious identity that has seemed to emerge simultaneously with the thought of separation. It is illusory and, although originating in wrong-mindedness (the ego), can be trained to achieve a right-minded level of perception culminating in what the Course calls the real world -- a reflection of the One- mindedness of Heaven (C.1.5,6,7). But it has no reality and no relationship to our true Self in Heaven.

Q #524: I have been unemployed for almost a year now and am not having much luck finding a job. A Course in Miracles says that everything happens as a result of thought and not action. I believe that my true work is in something that I have always loved and it has never left me! Could it be because I haven't found a "regular job" that I am supposed to go do my dream work? That if I just start doing it and trusting in the Holy Spirit for guidance that it will manifest? I am feeling rather lost and frustrated and like a loser because nothing has come about yet, but many small things regarding what I really want to do have shown up. Lesson 64 states that God just wants me to be happy because that is my function. I guess the question is, if I keep thinking about what I want, will it actually manifest itself?

A: The Course does teach that "all thinking produces form at some level" (T.2.VI.9:14). But its purpose is not to teach us how to use our thinking to control or produce the forms we think we want. Rather, the Course’s goal is to help us learn that we can find no real happiness in anything of the world (T.31.IV). Now if you feel drawn to a certain type of work, and events seem to support your heading in that direction, by all means go for it, for there is nothing to be lost by pursuing your dreams. However, what is to be gained may not be quite what you’re thinking it is. Contrary to most people’s beliefs about their experience in the world, the Course’s position is that nothing in the world can make us either happy or unhappy. And whatever dreams we are drawn to more than likely represent some form of specialness that will allow us to cover over, at least temporarily, the guilt we all carry buried in our minds over our belief in separation, so that it can’t be healed. But such situations also provide valuable opportunities to learn our lessons of forgiveness if we accept the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

This does not mean you should not take whatever joy or pleasure you may find in following what you believe to be your true work. But as a student of the Course, you want at least to be aware that all things of the world are double-edged; that is, they can seem to be the cause of pain as well as pleasure. And this is where the Holy Spirit’s guidance can be most helpful. For His role is not to direct us in our life’s decisions but rather to help us learn how to use whatever our life circumstances are to practice forgiveness. This is what Lesson 64 means when it says "that the Holy Spirit has another use for all the illusions you have made, and therefore He sees another purpose in them. To the Holy Spirit, the world is a place where you learn to forgive yourself what you think of as your sins. In this perception, the physical appearance of temptation becomes the spiritual recognition of salvation" (W.pI.64.2:2,3,4). In other words, His purpose is to help us awaken from the dream, not make it a happier dream, by using what we have made for separation and specialness as a means for healing.

So when you say that God wants us to be happy, it is important to be clear that this lesson is saying we can be truly happy only if we forgive and do not seek for happiness in situations and circumstances outside ourselves. As Lesson 64 clearly states, "The purpose of the world you see is to obscure your function of forgiveness. ...Only by fulfilling the function given you by God will you be happy. That is because your function is to be happy by using the means [forgiveness] by which happiness becomes inevitable. There is no other way. Therefore, every time you choose whether or not to fulfill your function, you are really choosing whether or not to be happy." (W.pI.64.1:2, 4:1,2,34, italics added).

Q #525: Recently a friend of mine did something that really hurt my feelings. I've been trying to forgive him but I can't seem to get the incident out of my mind. So I went to the workbook section that begins with "What is Forgiveness" for a remedy. I didn't get beyond the first sentence: "Forgiveness recognizes what you thought your brother did to you has not occurred." Would you please try to clarify what is meant by "never occurred" or "what didn't happen"?

A: Whatever occurred in form between you and your friend did take place. The workbook is not advocating denial of our experience in the dream. What your friend did not do is take your peace away, nor cause the feelings you may have. That can happen only as the result of a choice in the mind to choose against peace, by choosing to believe the separation is real. This means choosing the ego as teacher, accepting the ego’s interpretation of what occurs in the dream of separation. Basic to the ego thought system is the belief that external circumstances are the cause of internal conflict. A Course in Miracles calls this magic and upside-down thinking. The miracle, on the other hand, is recognizing that nothing external has any effect on our peace.

One of the most important goals of the Course, if not the most important goal, is to teach us that we have a mind with the power to choose. It is this power to choose that is the foundation of the cause and effect principle. The line you quote from the workbook is one of the many ways the Course teaches this principle. You thought your brother caused you to be upset, by hurting you. That is not what happened. What did happen is that prior to any external event with your friend, you made a choice in your mind to identify with the ego by believing you are a separate individual in a body, rather than an innocent Son of God who is spirit, as God created you. That is where you really were. Guilt at having made this choice is projected outside of the mind in the form of reactions to all the upsetting situations encountered in relationships and the world.

When we attack our true Identity as the Son of God by identifying with the ego, we cannot but be hurt by everyone and everything in the dream. We are literally "under attack," but it is our own attack, as Jesus tells us in the text: "All attack is Self attack. It cannot be anything else. Arising from your own decision not to be what you are, it is an attack on your identification. Attack is thus the way in which your identification is lost, because when you attack, you must have forgotten what you are" (T.10.II.5:1,2,3,4). If a choice in the mind is the cause of how we feel, then we cannot be the victim of people or circumstances outside of the mind (W.pI.31); we cannot be hurt by anything external. Therefore: "There is nothing to forgive. No one can hurt the Son of God"(T.14.III.7:5, 6). Forgiveness begins with the willingness to recognize this process and see the mind as the true cause of your hurt, not your brother. Accepting that you cannot be hurt is the kindness of forgiveness offered to yourself, as well as to your friend.

(webmaster note: see also questions 272  472 )

Q #526: I recently read a book in which the author, a revered yogi, says that God told him that He (God) is projecting the world for His own purposes. Yet in A Course in Miracles Jesus says that we are projecting the world. With so many people, past and present, claiming to "hear God" or "channel Jesus" how can we know who to believe, especially when, in spite of their apparent sincerity and good will, they say diametrically opposite things, as cited above?

A: It is always a mistake to look for consistency at the level of form or symbol across various spiritualities. Only content can be consistent, and that has nothing to do with theology or metaphysics. Even Jesus is inconsistent through his Course in the things that he says about forgiveness, healing and the miracle, and about the body and the mind. But his content is unwaveringly pure. And he acknowledges that those seeking controversy within the Course’s teachings will find it (C.in.2,3).

So a spiritual teacher, coming from a tradition and a set of symbols and myths very different from the Course’s, inevitably will assert things inconsistent with or even contradictory to the Course’s teachings. And what are we to do about these seemingly paradoxical assertions? The answer lies not within an analysis of the various forms of the teachings but rather with an honest assessment of your own response to the teachings, recognizing that not everyone will have the same response. The ego thought system is one of fragmentation and differentiation. Since the Holy Spirit uses for healing what the ego has made for separation, we will each work within the set of differentiated symbols that are personally most meaningful to us. Jesus recognizes this at the beginning of the manual when he observes that "this is a manual for a special curriculum, intended for teachers of a special form of the universal course. There are many thousands of other forms, all with the same outcome" (M.1.4:1,2)

For the key in one’s search for a spiritual path is not to find the truth out there -- it’s not out there (with apologies to X-files aficionados) -- but to be open to finding and following the path to which you personally resonate, that speaks to you in the symbols and metaphors that make sense to you. None of them is real, so all that matters is that you recognize the path that will serve you as a means ultimately to move beyond all form and symbols, even if you do not recognize that purpose when you first come to the teaching. For this reason, it makes no sense to try to persuade anyone else of the truth or falsity of any spiritual teaching. In the end, the only thing that can be true is that which transcends all symbols, all theologies, all metaphysical systems. Many paths lead to the same experience of oneness, but that does not mean that they are interchangeable for the individual. So respect rather than judge other paths, but don’t forget that your goal is to find what will serve you best and then follow it. Anything else, including debating different theologies, is "a defense against the truth in the form of a delaying maneuver" (C.in.2:3).