Weekly Questions and Answers, 12/22/2004

This week's questions/topics:

Q #641  Please explain "The Healed Relationship"?
Q #642  What is meant by "Looking at the ego without judgement"?

Q #643  If God does not know we exist, how can I find comfort and reassurance?.
Q #644  What is the significance of psychic powers and predictions?

Chronological List of All Questions.
Interactive Index of all topics

Q #641: Please explain "The Healed Relationship" and the subsequent sections in A Course in Miracles. This section states that when we turn a relationship over to the Holy Spirit that "many relationships have been broken off at this point, and the pursuit of the old goal re- established in another relationship" (T.17.V.3:8). Yet it continues that we must have faith in our brother and that eventually we will have peace in this relationship. I find these sections quite confusing especially if the relationship was broken off. How long must we wait to get peace in the relationship if we stay?

A: Turning a relationship over to the Holy Spirit means that you consciously decide that you will ask for help to use the relationship to undo the thoughts of separation in your mind. You get in touch with those thoughts by observing your reactions to your partner: the inner and the outer are the same, as Jesus teaches in several early lessons in the workbook. All of our relationships begin as special relationships -- that is normal -- so we would be expressing the ego thought system in our interactions. We thus would be using relationships to have our needs met (which leads to ritualistic gift giving, celebrations, etc.), to get rid of our own guilt (feeling justified in pointing out faults in our partner), to validate our worth as individuals (what would I do without you?), and to reinforce our belief in the reality of victimization, sacrifice, and conflict.

When the ego’s purpose is replaced by the Holy Spirit’s, your experience would change accordingly, as is obvious from the ego attributes just listed. What would it be like to have all of that shift to but one goal: to desire to perceive only what makes you one with your partner, with all else rendered meaningless? That scares many people off, as at that point the relationship seems "disturbed, disjunctive and even quite distressing" (T.17.V.3:3). Out of fear, then, many people would just turn to someone else with whom they could have a relationship the old way, with the old meaning.

There is no way of knowing how long it would take to experience peace if you stay in the relationship once you begin to make the shift in purpose. All that Jesus says is that "this is the time for faith" (T.17.V.6:1), which means that you trust, with good reason, that his way is better than yours. You would not have asked for help if you were satisfied with the way things were going; so, like Helen and Bill, you must have concluded that there is a better way of relating than you are aware of. It is not easy to go through these stages of disorientation and distress, but there’s no way around it because of our fear and resistance to what seems unfamiliar -- even though we are really just reverting to our natural state of oneness, reflected in our seeing shared interests instead of separate interests.

None of this should be taken to mean that you should not do things that normal people do in relationships, nor does it mean that you should stay in a relationship that has become intolerably painful. Peace is the goal, and that has nothing to do with what your body seems to be doing. It has to do only with which teacher you have chosen in your mind to teach you the meaning of your relationship. When you become concerned about how long the shift seems to be taking, you can be sure that you have turned to the ego, for Jesus is totally unconcerned with time and cares only about your trust in his unconditional love for you -- a love that excludes no one.

Q #642: I'm trying to understand exactly what is meant by looking at the ego without judgment. When I attempt to do this, two options seem to come up: (1) I feel I have to exert my will to do this, but then the non-judging feels forced and intellectual, or (2) I leave it to the Holy Spirit to show me how to look at the ego without judgment, but I'm not getting much help from that quarter; I feel as guilty and unhappy about what my ego does as I ever did. Am I misunderstanding something? Am I simply impatient? Am I doing it wrong?

A: Your experience is a very common one for students of A Course in Miracles. However unsuccessful we may seem to be, every effort to do as the Course teaches is an expression of a "little willingness" (T.26.VII.10:1), and is a step in the right direction. In fact, one of the ways to look at the ego without judgment is not to evaluate progress with the Course. As we are told in the text: "Some of your greatest advances you have judged as failures, and some of your deepest retreats you have evaluated as success" (T.18.V.1:6).

Looking at the ego without judgment is a process that takes practice because it is not easy to do. The very life of the ego is based on a judgment; i.e., believing the separation is a real and serious sin, that has cost us our innocence and peace, and we will never get them back. The guilt and fear that follow this judgment give rise to all the antics of the ego, experienced in the world in a myriad of forms. When the ego’s ploys are uncovered and projections are recognized for what they are, there is a tendency to feel more guilty and miserable: "… as blame is withdrawn from without, there is a strong tendency to harbor it within. It is difficult at first to realize that this is exactly the same thing, for there is no distinction between within and without" (T.11.IV.4.5,6). Just as light is initially painful to one who has been blind, uncovering the ego can be painful. Resistance to looking is an expression of the desire to be right about the ego’s interpretation of who we are, in direct opposition to the Identity God gave us. The judgment, guilt, resistance, and insistence on being right are all made in defense of the choice to be separate. They are purposeful and accomplish their goal of making the separation real. It is not surprising this is difficult to look at.

The Course does not ask us not to judge, but rather to recognize the judgments we do make, including the judgment against ourselves for judging. This recognition is an important step in the process of undoing the ego’s defense strategy, so another choice can eventually be made. Willingness to see the ego in operation, and not call it by any other name, justify it, nor blame anyone else for it, is a way of not judging, as well as an invitation to the Holy Spirit to transform our perception. As the One Who represents the part of our minds that does not believe the ego’s lie of separation, it is He Who actually looks without judgment. Recognizing our mistaken judgments about ourselves and the world, and being willing not to decide for ourselves what anything means, weakens the ego’s defense and allows us to begin to hear the Holy Spirit’s "still, small Voice" (T.21.V.1:6) telling us we are wrong about the "sin" of separation. This does not happen by anything external to ourselves, nor by any special work of the Holy Spirit, but by the choice in our minds to decide against the ego’s interpretation. The Holy Spirit’s perception then automatically replaces ours.

Since we are undoing a belief in something that doesn’t truly exist, we have no need to panic. Jesus tells us many times and in many ways that we should proceed gently in this process. He tells us in "Rules for Decision Making": "Do not fight yourself"(T.30.I.1:7), and in the manual: "…God has sent His Judgment [the Holy Spirit] to answer yours. Gently His Judgment substitutes for yours" (M.11.3:4,5) [italics ours]. Again, all that is required is a "little willingness" to recognize that what the Holy Spirit represents is true, while the insane judgments of the ego, no matter how vicious and hateful they may be, are not.

Q #643: I am going through an extremely stressful period of my life and "need" to believe that God is helping me through it and will make sure I'm okay. Yet, I realize this is not what A Course in Miracles teaches, as God doesn't even know we exist; it says that we only need to see our circumstances differently so we will feel at peace. I am finding that difficult to be at peace with whatever comes of my situation and want to believe that God is helping. How do I find comfort that all will work out? I guess I need to know that I am not alone in solving my issues and facing challenges each day.

A: First, there are probably very few Course students who do not feel this way at some point as they go through trying circumstances. It is perfectly normal to want the assurance that things are going to work out, and to want to be comforted during periods of extreme stress. It would be a little strange if you did not have such feelings and expectations. In fact, you would not need the Course if you did not react that way.

Near the beginning of The Song of Prayer pamphlet, Jesus talks about prayer as a ladder, the bottom rungs representing the stages in our lives when, for whatever reason, we are focused on our physical and psychological needs as a body in the world. And he never says this is wrong or spiritually harmful. We need only be honest in acknowledging that we are spiritual children and are not at the top of the ladder yet. Thus we will experience God’s Love in a form that suits our need. It is not the fullness of love because of our fear of accepting the fullness of our Identity beyond the body. But that does not mean that we cannot experience the comforting and reassuring presence of Heaven’s reflection in our right minds: the Holy Spirit or Jesus. Jesus makes it clear throughout the Course that he knows what we are going through, and that his (and the Holy Spirit’s) guidance and comfort are ever-present. Your confidence that God is all-loving and would never seek to punish or attack His creations is a significant step forward -- which leads to the further reassurance that all will work out because His unchanging Love is our only reality.

It is a very advanced state to be completely without investment in how things work out in our lives. We just need to accept where we are on our spiritual journey and not judge ourselves because we have not fully integrated into our experience what we know to be the truth intellectually. That is a gradual process that gently unfolds over a period of time as our fear of accepting Jesus’ answer without compromise lessens more and more. Thus, journeying along our spiritual path we need but recall his loving assurance, "You do not walk alone. God’s angels hover near and all about. His Love surrounds you, and of this be sure; that I will never leave you comfortless" (W.ep.6:6,7,8).

See Question #538 for some additional commentary.

Q #644: Could you comment on psychic powers? If someone says they are asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit, are they always right or can what they predict be changed? How can someone predict something years prior to it happening? And can what they predict be changed? For example: a psychic predicts that your child would become ill, or your marriage will end or even on a positive note, you will finally meet your dream person and get married. I have friends that really believe in what these people say because what they say comes true. How can I become my own reliable source to questions I refer to the Holy Spirit?

A: A good rule of thumb to follow is that when you receive specific answers, such as the ones in your example, you should be suspicious. In general, the Holy Spirit does not answer in specifics, primarily because He is trying to help us move beyond the specifics of the ego’s world to the contents in our mind. Our decision to believe that the contents in our wrong mind (separation, sin, guilt, fear) are the truth, is the real problem. Our personal problems in the world are all smokescreens intended to keep us away from our mind so we will remain forever wedded to the ego thought system, without ever knowing that that ongoing decision is the real source of our unhappiness and lack of peace. So your asking for help of the Holy Spirit should be in the context of your desire to look at the contents in your mind that are the cause of all your seeming problems in the world. "The Holy Spirit takes you gently by the hand, and retraces with you your mad journey outside yourself, leading you gently back to the truth and safety within. He brings all your insane projections . . . that you have placed outside you to the truth. Thus He reverses the course of insanity and restores you to reason" (T.18.I.8:3,4,5). A very helpful explanation of the roles of Jesus and the Holy Spirit can be found in chapters 4 and 5 in Few Choose to Listen, Volume Two of Kenneth’s book, The Message of A Course in Miracles.

We can provide only a brief response to your question about psychic phenomena. The topic of time raises complex issues, which have been addressed at length in some of our publications -- especially Kenneth’s book, A Vast Illusion: Time According to A Course in Miracles. Briefly, then, within our dream of separation, Jesus tells us that time is not linear, even though that is how we experience it, owing to the ego’s strategy of convincing us of the reality of sin (the past), guilt (the present), and fear (the future). Every conceivable form of separation already exists, as if in a video-tape library, to use one of the analogies in Kenneth’s book. We (our decision-making mind outside time and space) have access to all of them all the time (pardon the pun). So "prediction" amounts simply to the mind’s choice to view a particular video tape. This is understandable, again, only if time is viewed as holographic, not linear.

Now, the contents of the tapes do not change; but there exists another library, the Holy Spirit’s corrected version of the ego’s script, to which we also have unlimited access. Thus, to choose one of these tapes is to choose His interpretation of the events in our lives. That is what can change, not the ego’s script. In other words, guilt demands punishment, and so many things would happen in our lives that express (by our own choice) our belief that we deserve to be punished for our sinfulness and that we are unworthy of a peaceful, happy life. If, however, we call that belief into question and choose Jesus or the Holy Spirit as our Teacher, then our choice of video would be from the "corrected script" of the Holy Spirit. The need to experience victimization would have changed, and we would then not have victimization experiences at all, or we would go through them peacefully, knowing that our true self is not defined or affected by what goes on in the body or the world. Jesus is our model for that shift: he did not perceive or experience himself as a persecuted victim even though his body had been nailed to a cross.

What would help the most is to keep in mind is that it is not the psychic ability per se that is important, but rather the purpose that it serves. Jesus reminds us again and again that we have but one purpose, and that is forgiveness, or undoing the blocks to our awareness of love’s presence in our minds. If you can keep that as your primary objective, you will recognize and then not be led astray by the ego’s use of psychic ability, which is always to reinforce our sense of specialness and to make the world of time and space real.