Weekly Questions and Answers, 08/18/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #552:  Should I tell friends about the Course, and risk ridicule?
Q #553; 
If I am really trying to give my relationship to the Holy Spirit, will it be successful?

Q #554:  Who chooses, who decides to choose, and who asks for help in choosing?
Q #555:  What exactly does the Course mean by: ask for " the things you want to happpen to you " ?
Q #556:  What is the meaning of gratitude according to the Course?
Q #557:  Can ego-thoughts come from demons or other similar entities?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #552: I have been practicing A Course in Miracles now for over four years and have experienced forgiveness on many levels and have been finding this journey exciting but very, very, painful. I have also experienced some wonderful insights and growth and love to share my learning with others when the opportunity presents itself. But sometimes people are so happy or impressed with what I said or so helped by it that they will say "Where do you get this stuff?" I have not told many people about the Course or what I am doing but I feel funny saying "Well the Holy Spirit told me." Some of my buddies (I am 26) would look at me like "What in the world are you talking about?" What would you advise?

A: Are you comfortable in simply stating that the ideas have come to you as a result of studying and practicing A Course in Miracles? And if your friends ask what that is, could you not just say it is a spiritual path that focuses on forgiveness and peace? Then leave it up to them to pursue it or not. If you are joined with the Holy Spirit when you are talking with your friends, you would be peaceful and have no investment in saying anything, and if you do say something, you would have no investment in how your friends react to it, because the love and peace of the Holy Spirit would be being expressed through you, and you would know the "message" is not coming from you. All sense of specialness and self-importance diminish to nothing in the holy instant. Yet, you would appear as perfectly normal to others, in the sense that you would not stand out, aside from being more peaceful and happy.

Q #553: "The Healed Relationship": In my relationship with my new girlfriend, I think I am fairly consistent in wanting only what is not at her expense. I also think I’m consistent in wanting it be a classroom for the Holy Spirit’s purpose, and in trying to observe with Jesus my thoughts and my interaction with her. Yet I believe this is definitely a special relationship in that I do the things with her that lovers do for my own emotional and physical gratification, but being careful that she, too, is getting the same. And I pray that the Holy Spirit uses the relationship for His purposes. So I’m wondering if I should necessarily expect the relationship to "seem disturbed, disjunctive and even quite disturbing" (T.17.V.3:3), as it would be if there were no intent to use it to learn the Holy Spirit’s lesson.

A: Sounds like you’re trying to be as honest as you can about your new relationship, and that is very helpful. The line you quote from A Course in Miracles is referring to an ongoing special relationship in which the purpose has been changed from the ego’s purpose of guilt to the Holy Spirit’s purpose of forgiveness. It would appear that you have entered into this special relationship with your eyes open, as well as your mind to a different purpose from the beginning -- shared and not separate interests. So long as you are willing to look honestly at how a part of you still wants to use the relationship to meet your own specialness needs, making special love bargains to try to assure that they continue to be met, and you can do that without guilt or fear while recognizing the cost to you, the distressing aspects Jesus refers to need not be inevitable.

But it is helpful to remember that special relationships are made from the projections of our own buried guilt and we most likely will not be aware of all the guilt that has been projected except over time, as the relationship seems to develop and different expectations about how we want our needs to be met arise. When we are in the so-called "honeymoon period," there is much that we overlook in the other without being aware of it. That is not to say that you should expect things to become difficult but only that it will be helpful to be vigilant for your own ego and how it will attempt to trip you up, finding ways -- sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle -- to place blame outside yourself for how you are feeling (T.17.V.8:2). That is an inevitable dynamic of the ego and the best way to deal with it is to be aware of it. For those are the forgiveness lessons that the special relationship offers, when we are willing to have the Holy Spirit as our Teacher.

Q #554: On a tape from an academy given last summer, I heard Ken say: "When you are upset, you pray to yourself that you will ask help of the right teacher (the Holy Spirit)." I assume that "yourself" refers to the decision maker, but to whom does each "you" refer?

A: "Only minds communicate" (T.7.V.2:1), so each "you" refers to the mind. Just as in A Course in Miracles Jesus is always speaking to the mind, in the Academy Ken, too, speaks to the mind, because no other communication is possible. However, since we believe we are in bodies, the body is used as a means for the communication that is occurring in the mind. The experience of being upset is the reflection of a choice in the mind to listen to the ego. The correction, then, is for the mind to remember that it has the power to choose, and then to choose to listen to the Holy Spirit. That is what is meant by "pray to yourself that you will ask help of the right teacher."

Because we identify with the body, we make the mistake of thinking it is the body (brain) that has the ability to choose, to ask, or to decide. What actually occurs is the mind chooses to identify with the ego, splits off from its true Identity, and then confuses itself with the body. The body is the effect of choosing the ego; it only "thinks" it is the cause of what seems to happen in the dream. We then experience each "you" as different. This confusion of cause and effect, mind and body, is the upside-down perception Jesus speaks about in the workbook: "Your upside-down perception has been ruinous to your peace of mind. You have seen yourself in a body and the truth outside you, locked away from your awareness by the body's limitations" (W.pI.72.8:3,4). Herein lies the real source of any upset. In the Course Jesus is teaching us to turn to him, or the Holy Spirit, to correct our perception. Seeing everything in the dream as the result of having chosen the ego or the Holy Spirit as teacher, is the first step in healing the mind of misperception, and is itself the result of having agreed to accept the Holy Spirit’s teaching. The mind then has the opportunity to do as Jesus invites: "In every difficulty, all distress, and each perplexity Christ calls to you and gently says, ‘My brother, choose again’"(T.31.VIII.3:2).

Q #555: In Rules for Decision in the text of A Course in Miracles, chap 30 paragraph 4, it says: "tell yourself again the kind of day you want; the feelings you would have, the things you want to happen to you, and the things you would experience" It sounds like you should ask for specific things (e.g., feelings, experiences), similar to the "song of prayer's" bottom of the ladder from "The Song of Prayer." For example, "I want to have a good day at my sisters house; help me be kind to the patients at work," etc. If you answered from the highest level, the feelings you could ask for would be love, peace and joy, but what experiences would you ask for at this highest level? Or would I not ask for anything because I already have it? I'm trying to apply this to my life and I usually ask for specific things because I feel more connected with Jesus and I can walk through the day with him. What level should I be asking from, could you please clarify?

A: It’s easy to read this line by itself and interpret it as you are doing. And there is nothing wrong with asking for specifics if that is where you feel you are on the ladder back home. Most of us, if we are honest with ourselves, would have to admit that we are at the level of believing and experiencing that we have specific needs most of the time.

But in the context of the whole section, which emphasizes the need for not making decisions on our own, Jesus is inviting us here to have a day free of judgment. And that means we would not give our interpretation to any of the events or experiences of the day, thinking that we are in a position to judge what we want and need. And knowing that we will of course more than likely fall into the trap of judging what seems to happen, Jesus provides us with the steps to remember what we really want (peace of mind) and to change our minds again about Who we will let interpret our day.

Whenever I identify a specific need in terms of how I want events to occur that I believe will make me happy, I am usurping the role of the Holy Spirit and setting myself up for disappointment and failure, which of course is exactly what my ego wants me to do. For then I can blame my unhappiness and loss of peace on external people and events rather than on a decision I made in my mind to be and to choose on my own -- in other words, a decision for separation. That is why, although specifics may be the form in which I am at present comfortable in limiting and accepting infinite love, they are always a double-edged "gift" that keeps me identified with the illusion and reinforcing its reality in my own mind.

Again, this is not to say we should not ask for specifics, but Jesus wants us to be aware that he is offering us so much more than the limited gifts we are willing to accept right now. If we don’t at least recognize that, we will not be able to grow into the higher levels of asking that lead us up the ladder back home.

Q #556: What is the meaning of gratitude according to A Course in Miracles? Lesson 195 says to be grateful to God/Jesus because we are not separate, and that is the only thing to be grateful for. I was wondering about gratitude lists that people do (e.g., I'm grateful for my husband who understands me; I'm grateful for the nice person I met in the store today, I'm grateful for the nice walk I took today) Is there any place for lists like these?

A: Your question reflects the two ways of experiencing gratitude: the ego’s and the Holy Spirit’s. The gratitude the Holy Spirit leads us to is clearly described in Lesson 195, as you point out. We learn through the Course that we are not bodies; we are minds, one with our Father and with each other. For this we are truly grateful. The ego, with whom we identify as bodies, is "grateful" when its specialness needs are met, and when it gets what it wants.

When we make the mistake of believing that we are separate bodies, cut off from our true Identity as mind, a deep, pervasive sense of emptiness and need is inevitable. We are then compelled to seek to fill the perceived emptiness with relationships, things, and experiences. When we find them we are "grateful," because they seem to meet our need. The things you mention, along with anything that we are "grateful" for, meet a perceived need or fulfill some expectation of how we judge things should be. These perceived needs and expectations all have their source in the choice to listen to the ego and believe in the body. The mistake is to believe that someone or something external to the mind will heal the feeling of loss and emptiness caused by belief in the body. The pursuit of these external solutions is endless because they do not meet our real need, which is to accept the truth toward which the Holy Spirit is leading us. That is not to say that we should not enjoy the things we value in the dream, nor seek the things we think we need. They are the special relationships that the Course tells us can be transformed by the Holy Spirit through forgiveness, which removes from the special relationships the power to take away our peace or make us happy. We are then grateful to ourselves for not perceiving anyone or anything outside our own minds as having this power, and for this same reason we are grateful to them. We thus experience the true gratitude the Course speaks of; no matter what happens nor what others do or do not do: "When your forgiveness is complete you will have total gratitude, for you will see that everything has earned the right to love by being loving, even as your Self" (W.pI.195.8:6).

Q #557: I sense that it’s all an illusion; however, within the playing of the illusion it sometimes seems that the thoughts and ego-type stuff isn’t really mine and are on some occasions coming from other entities or others spaces. When I recognize that, they sometimes go away. Didn’t Jesus go to the desert to release some of those type of influences? What if anything does A Course in Miracles say about this matter?

A: First, the Bible talks about Jesus going to the desert to get rid of negative forces, but as with any other account of his life, most biblical scholars are of the opinion that there is very, very little in these accounts that can be regarded as factual. Second, a major emphasis in A Course in Miracles is on helping us recover the power of our own minds, so that we can be healed of the erroneous belief that we are at the mercy of forces outside us over which we have no control, which would include the belief that there are entities talking to us. Carrying out the ego’s strategy, we wound up essentially mindless, thinking we are victims of what is done to us. And so the help Jesus gives us through his message and the exercises in the workbook lessons is to train us to gradually accept more and more responsibility for our thoughts and perceptions until we finally have no thoughts or desires that are not perfectly in accord with his, which are perfectly in accord with God’s.

Jesus never mentions the word demons, and he uses the word devil in Chapter 3 of the text, where he says that the very concept makes no sense: "The ‘devil’ is a frightening concept because he seems to be extremely powerful and extremely active. He is perceived as a force in combat with God, battling Him for possession of His creations. The devil deceives by lies, and builds kingdoms in which everything is in direct opposition to God. Yet he attracts men rather than repels them, and they are willing to ‘sell’ him their soul in return for gifts of no real worth. This makes absolutely no sense" (T.3.VII.2). Jesus continues with his correction of traditional biblical teachings and then provides us with a new definition: "The mind can make the belief in separation very real and very fearful, and this belief is the ‘devil’" (5:1). Stated briefly, the ego and anything of the ego is rooted in our own thoughts and beliefs, for which we are completely responsible. That is what our work as students of the Course centers on: learning to recognize how we are defending against this truth and how we are protecting ourselves from ever getting back into our minds. Jesus is training us to identify these defenses so that we can then identify the fear within our minds that led us to believe we needed defenses. When we are back in our minds and realize that the ego is nothing but an erroneous belief we accepted, we will simply smile at the silliness of our ever having taken it seriously and believing that there are forces and entities that could adversely affect us. So the heart of Jesus’ teaching is that we would learn how to look with him at our ego -- nothing more than that -- just look, and if we are doing it with him, there would be no fear. The Course’s approach therefore is very simple: there is only the ego or the Holy Spirit, and the ego rests on nothingness. Finally, since the ego is ultimately only a belief, it will go away when we no longer value that belief. There is no need to fight against it or try to banish it. Simply look at it with Jesus and smile gently; it has no existence other than our belief in it.