Weekly Questions and Answers, 09/01/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #563:  Questions concerning the movie "The Passion Of The Christ"
Q #564; 
Is there a divine purpose to our state of separation?

Q #565:  Why would anyone who dies choose to reincarnate in a body ?
Q #566:  If God is unaware of our condition, why did he send Jesus as a teacher ?
Q #567:  Can I work in sales (a form of manipulation) and still be true to the Course?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #563: We have received several questions recently about the movie, "The Passion of the Christ," and the subject of the crucifixion and A Course in Miracles. We will address all of the questions in a single answer.

i. The movie, "The Passion of the Christ," has gotten a lot of attention. Could you discuss the Course’s view of the crucifixion and how it differs from the view held by traditional Christians?

ii. Mel Gibson's picture, "The Passion of the Christ," has created quite a stir. How does the Course speak to the movie’s theme that Jesus came to prove God’s love. Did he have to die for that proof or is that just a convenient sleight of hand the Christian church has developed to perpetuate a belief in guilt and separation?

iii. Based on the teachings of the Course, how would you assess the Mel Gibson movie, "The Passion of the Christ"?

iv. A question about the crucifixion that I have had on my mind for a long time: Why did Jesus choose the crucifixion as a teaching device? In T.6.I.9:1, we read: "I elected, for your sake and mine, to demonstrate that the most outrageous assault, as judged by the ego, does not matter" -- meaning Jesus staged his own crucifixion.

Then I read in the Excerpt Series "Jesus: Manifestation of the Holy Spirit", Part VIII on http://www.facim.org/excerpts/s4e8.htm: "For Jesus, his crucifixion served a purpose of love. For most of us, being crucified would not serve a purpose of love. But we cannot judge by the form. The form of what happened to Jesus at the end of his life was not loving or safe -- it was murderous. But because there was a thought of love in his mind -- and only a thought of love -- his crucifixion was an act of love from his point of view, although not from the point of view of someone who did not share his thought system."

As hardly anyone who attended the crucifixion -- or later heard about it -- was/is without an ego, it seems they could see the incident but as a catastrophe. For who wants to live a loving life to be caught and killed like Jesus? How could Jesus expect people not to judge the crucifixion by the form when in everyday life we judge but by form? Therefore it almost seems to me, the crucifixion could cause nothing but fear and bewilderment and also about the fact that a holy man would let so many people see his crucifixion and so few his reappearance after his "death" and his ensuing ascension. I know I am wrong somehow but have a feeling that my reasoning is quite logical. Please help me sort this out. Thanks.

A: Setting aside for a moment the issue of whether the crucifixion is indeed an historical fact, we can see very clearly one of the basic differences between the Course and traditional Christianity by contrasting their views of the meaning and significance of the crucifixion. Christianity -- and much of the world -- asserts that selfless love is demonstrated through sacrifice, and that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). And since, according to Christian theology, Jesus, totally sinless and innocent and undeserving of any condemnation, laid down his life for all his brothers and sisters -- so long as they are willing to accept his sacrifice on their behalf -- the crucifixion becomes the greatest demonstration of love that the world has ever seen. Supporting this line of thinking, the recent movie emphasizes how great Jesus’ suffering and pain and humiliation on our account must have been, as further demonstration of how much he and his Father must love us. His Father’s Love is demonstrated in His willingness to offer up His only Son that our sins might be forgiven. Generally, there is little questioning of the premise behind this belief, that God the Father is the One Who set the conditions that demand such a sacrifice of His only Son -- that our sins could be so heinous that God could only be appeased by the Perfect Sacrifice of His Perfect Son.

The Course, on the other hand, asserts, "Sacrifice is so essential to your thought system that salvation apart from sacrifice means nothing to you. Your confusion of sacrifice and love is so profound that you cannot conceive of love without sacrifice. And it is this that you must look upon; sacrifice is attack, not love" (T.15.X.5:7,8,9). The contrast is almost startling. Earlier, in the section "Atonement without Sacrifice," Jesus explains, "Sacrifice is a notion totally unknown to God. It arises solely from fear, and frightened people can be vicious. Sacrificing in any way is a violation of my injunction that you should be merciful even as your Father in Heaven is merciful" (T.3.I.4:1,2,3).

So what of the selfless love that is willing to sacrifice the self? This is one of the ego’s cleverest ploys, for its "selfless love" glorifies the self that has been sacrificed and destroyed through death. The Course, in contrast, teaches that genuine selfless love comes, not from the denial of the self - - which very conveniently makes the false self real -- but from the denial of the belief in the self, which is a statement of the Course’s Atonement principle, that the separation never happened. And this kind of selflessness the ego cannot tolerate.

The issue of the historical nature of the crucifixion ends up being a red herring from the Course’s perspective. What is important to recognize is that the story has been an important part of the ego myth that perpetuates our belief in sin, guilt and fear. Jesus in the Course simply provides an alternative way of looking at the grim story that we have for so many, many eons accepted as true -- that our guilt is real and God demands sacrifice. He offers us a "wholly benign" "positive interpretation of the crucifixion that is wholly devoid of fear" (T.6.I.1:5). His death has nothing to do with atoning for sins, it is merely an "extreme example" (T.6.I.2:1) of the basic Course teaching that persecution is not real and no one can be a victim -- turning the traditional Christian interpretation completely upside down! We can only believe in persecution and assault if we equate ourselves with the body -- which Jesus makes clear he did not (T.6.I.4).

So, even if within the dream there had been a physical crucifixion, it would have been a part of our dream, not Jesus’ dream, since he knew he was not the figure in the dream that everyone else saw him as. The scripting of the events that seemed to play out in the world would come from the collective ego, but the alternative interpretation of the meaning of those events would come from the mind joined with the Holy Spirit, which Jesus represents. The events themselves are only ever neutral symbols, which can represent either the projections of guilt of the ego or the extensions of love of the Holy Spirit. And that is the only choice Jesus is trying to teach us about the crucifixion. Which interpretation we choose will determine whether we continue to see ourselves as crucified symbols of our brothers’ guilt, or gentle reminders of their innocence as well as our own (T.27.I).

For additional helpful discussion on the nature and reality of Jesus, see Question #473, and on the crucifixion specifically, see Questions #219 and #220.

Q #564: Question # 341 refers to our right to separate -- "conditional upon the ‘right’ to separate will you and he (your brother) agree to meet from time to time, and keep apart in intervals of separation." My question is, surely there must be a divine purpose for this illusion of separation, which is, after all, ubiquitous? Surely it must be a meaningful error. Is its purpose so that we may become conscious of and appreciate the oneness, which is the opposite of separation? Does it go: oneness...then illusion of separation...then awareness of oneness? Is the purpose of illusion so that God may know Himself?

A: No, sorry, your line of reasoning may be found in the explanations for the separation and the world offered by other spiritual teachings, but not A Course in Miracles. It is uncompromising in its position that God and Christ, in complete and absolute Oneness, are perfect (e.g., T.11.IV.7:5; P.3.I.1:10), to which nothing different or new need be nor can be added (T.10.in.2:1,2,3,4). So it is impossible for God or His Son to gain anything from an experience of separation -- it is a contradiction of His Reality and therefore can be of no value. The thought of separation and its seeming effects are nothing but a co(s)mic mistake of infinitesimally small, nondimensional proportions, despite our experience to the contrary.

The Course explains early in the text that consciousness is the domain of the ego (T.3.IV.2), since it establishes a false duality of observer and observed, as if there were two differentiated and differentiable entities. Once we speak of an experience of anything other than the one Self, we are functioning in the realm of illusion and error. There is nothing to be gained from within this state, except its undoing.

Now the correction of the error will, of course, come in dualistic terms, within the realm of consciousness as it shifts from false to true perception (C.1.7). But it will be a reflection of the perfect oneness of God and Christ. Forgiveness, "a kind of happy fiction" (C.3.2:1), is the process that undoes the perceptual mistakes of the ego thought system, grounded as it is in separation and differences, leading to judgment and attack. Through our practice of forgiveness, we will come to know again that "there is nothing outside you. That is what you must ultimately learn, for it is the realization that the Kingdom of Heaven is restored to you. For God created only this, and He did not depart from it nor leave it separate from Himself. The Kingdom of Heaven is the dwelling place of the Son of God, who left not his Father and dwells not apart from Him. Heaven is not a place nor a condition. It is merely an awareness of perfect Oneness, and the knowledge that there is nothing else; nothing outside this Oneness, and nothing else within" (T.18.VI.1).

You may also find the discussion presented in Question #109 of relevance to your question.

Q #565: As a student of A Course in Miracles, my goal is to accept the Atonement for myself and live above the battleground in the real world until my body fails and then exist in oneness with God. Will I be aware of, or be able to influence those loved ones left behind who still consider themselves separated individuals living lives, or is this beyond what we can know now. Also, when people die who have never heard of the Course and/or are completely invested in their bodies, lives, individuality and separation, can they still choose to reject oneness after "death" and long to return to bodies and "life"? Is this an explanation of reincarnation? OR-- Whether or not they study the Course and whether or not they believe that they are separated individuals, do they still become one with God automatically after death? Once you are one with God, why would you long for a body again and choose to reincarnate!

A: The way the Course views death is quite different from the way we ordinarily view it and the way religions have traditionally viewed it. Unlike practically all traditions east and west, the Course teaches that we do not have to wait for the body to die to become one with God -- death of the body has nothing to do with whether or not we are one with God. That is solely a matter of the decision our minds make -- to continue to believe that we are not one with God, or to deny that denial of the truth. The purpose of the miracle is to reverse the ego perception that the body is a real, independent entity that houses the soul that is released upon the death of the body. The miracle helps us realize that the body is a thought that never leaves its source in the mind and does nothing other than represent the mind’s decision ("the outside picture of inward condition" [T.21.in.1:5]). The critical factor therefore is the decision we make in our minds to be or not to be as God created us.

When we accept the truth of our oneness, and reject the illusion of separation from God, our minds, now free of guilt are guided solely by love, and that may or may not result in the laying aside of the body. Death in this state of mind is simply a decision; there is no waiting for the body to die so that one can return home. (See The Song of Prayer [S.3.II] for a discussion of death as a right-minded choice.) Love may need the body as a suitable form of expression for other minds still frightened of abstract love. But if you are in the real world, you would already know that the body is not your identity -- you are fully present to love, and love is fully present to you. The body has nothing to do with that. Moreover, in the real world there would be no you (a separate identity) that would decide whether to help others "left behind." There is only the perception of the Holy Spirit: love is either being expressed or called for. And those calling for love await but their own decision to accept what is already within.

Finally, to ask why, if you are one with God, would you long for a body again and choose to reincarnate is to fall into one of the ego’s favorite traps, for to ask the question is to assume that it happened once before; and the Atonement principle is a statement of the impossibility of that ever happening at all. Moreover, it makes the body into the enemy . . . and therefore real.

Q #566: I understand that A Course in Miracles teaches that God does not know about the world, and as far as He is concerned we are one with Him dreaming of exile and separation. I am not clear how the decision was made to send us Jesus and the Holy Spirit; Jesus in charge of the Atonement and the Holy Spirit as our Voice, Comfort, and Guide. How did our Teacher even know we had and are continuing to make such a mess of things?

A: A reasonable question, asked by almost every student in one form or another. The statements in the Course pertaining to the Holy Spirit as being sent by God as the Answer to the separation are among those meant metaphorically. Other statements are meant literally; and if this distinction is not recognized, the Course can seem to be saying contradictory things, leaving a reader feeling rather baffled. The account of the separation and its undoing are presented as mythology, specifically within a framework that is meaningful to people in Western philosophical and religious traditions. The language used in the Course to present its teachings reflect these heritages; and further, a considerable part of its teachings are clearly corrections of what it views as the mistakes of biblically based religions. Its basic metaphysics is a strict non-dualism, which means therefore that it is not quite accurate to say that as far as God is concerned, "we are one with Him dreaming of exile and separation" -- that is dualism. If that were true, then a state other than that of perfect Oneness is possible, which would be contrary to what is maintained throughout the Course. We return to these points frequently in our answers to students questions, because of their critical importance in students’ work with the Course.

We refer you to Love Does Not Condemn (pp. 419,420,421) for a full discussion of the Holy Spirit in the context of the metaphysical basis of A Course in Miracles. Briefly, the Course teaches that the Holy Spirit is really the memory of God’s perfect love that remained in the Son’s mind when he fell asleep; and therefore the Holy Spirit is not a person, but rather a Presence within each seemingly fragmented mind -- a Call or a Voice, not of a separate being, but simply a part of the mind that retains the memory of its true Identity. The language used is biblical; thus, terms like Comforter. In keeping with the strict non-dualism of the Course, we would therefore have to say that God’s "Answer" is really, to quote from Love Does Not Condemn: "His own unchanging and eternal love that forever shines in our split minds, as does a beacon of light shine out into the darkness. God’s love does not do anything; it simply is: an ongoing state of love’s presence which we call the Holy Spirit" (pp. 420,421).

Jesus, then, is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit -- a symbol in our minds that have become so identified with specifics that we can relate most comfortably and meaningfully only to specifics. Thus, in his loving gentleness as our teacher, he ultimately reflects to us the love that we have split off from our awareness. We relate to him as a separate person at first, but as we grow to trust him more and experience his love more and more, the differences between ourselves and Jesus fade until we, like him, are totally identified with love. Our individuality lessens in significance and meaning as this process takes place, which begins with our feeling that he has been sent and ends with our complete transcendence of that and all other concepts of separation.

Q #567: Is it possible to be in a sales position and still be a teacher of God? It seems that sales positions are all based around manipulation and selling techniques. I am kind of stuck in that I feel that the only way that I can begin to make some money is to get a job with commission. What would you advise?

A: Purpose is everything! If the content in your mind is that your position in sales is a classroom in which you can be guided by Jesus or the Holy Spirit to undo the separation, there will be no conflict. You will then do whatever competent sales people do, but for a different purpose -- not to intentionally manipulate others to get what you want, which could only result in guilt and conflict. Your purpose, as you carry out your responsibilities conscientiously, would be to recognize more and more that the only aspect of value in your interaction with your customer is your learning that you both share the same interests: you both have a split mind and a decision maker that can choose to follow either the ego’s thought system of separation or the Holy Spirit’s thought system of forgiveness. That is the content; and that is what makes you a teacher of God, not the form (the role), as Jesus states in A Course in Miracles: "A teacher of God is anyone who chooses to be one. His qualifications consist solely in this; somehow, somewhere he has made a deliberate choice in which he did not see his interests as apart from someone else’s" (M.1.1:1,2). The Holy Spirit can use anything we made to harm (everything in the world!) to heal our minds of their mistaken belief in sin, guilt, and fear (T.25.VI.4,5,6).

Other students have had similar concerns about other roles: see for example Questions #3, #179, #195, #284, and #560