Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 07/13/2005
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #763 Please clarify the nature of the Holy Spirit and the ego, and the relationship between them.
Q #764 Is the beauty of this earth a manifestation of God's creation?
Q #765 Why does the Course seem to suggest that the Sonship is composed of many parts?
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Q #763: The following two questions address related issues about the Holy Spirit and the ego and so are being answered together:
i. A Course in Miracle states that, since the ego and the Holy Spirit are irreconcilable orders of reality, it is impossible for each to know of the other's existence. Ken often refers to the fact that the ego is only aware that there exists a power greater than itself: that of the “decision maker” to make another choice. That implies, however, that the ego is at least aware that there is an alternative to its thought system. Furthermore, in recounting the myth of the birth of the ego, Ken often states that the ego implores the Son not to listen to the Voice of the Holy Spirit; that He is an “avenging angel” sent by God (another entity of which the ego cannot possibly be aware) to destroy us. Could you please clarify the nature of the “awareness” of the ego vis-a-vis the Holy Spirit and vice versa.
ii. The American healer Chris Griscom describes the Higher Self in her books as “the megaphone of the Soul”, a kind of communicator between the “ego” and the soul. I wonder, can the Holy Spirit that the Course talks of be equated to the Higher Self as it “bridges the gap” between God and the ego-world?
A: To begin with, a point of clarification. It is not simply that the ego and the Holy Spirit are “two irreconcilable orders of reality.” From the Course's perspective, the Holy Spirit represents the only order of reality, while the ego is a symbol for unreality . They are mutually exclusive thoughts and only one -- the Holy Spirit -- is true (T.14.IX.2) . Now our choice to believe in the ego makes the ego true for us, and so the Course often speaks to us as if the ego were real, but only to help us get in touch with what we believe, so that we can make a different choice about that belief (T.4.VI.1; T.7.VIII.4:5,6,7) .
Inherent in the ego thought is the idea of something other than itself. For the ego, as the thought of separation, in order to exist, must exist apart from something else -- that is where it came from (W.pII.223.1) . And so its very identity presumes there must be something other than itself, from which it is separate. And so it must contain a recognition that there is “an alternative to its thought system.”
While the ego's existence presumes there is something outside itself, it is impossible for the ego to contain any knowledge or understanding of what that alternative is, since the ego's existence depends on the denial of the alternative (T.4.III.4:1,2,3,4; T.9.I.10:2,3,5; T.11.V.16:6,7,8,9) . And so implicit in the ego's illusory existence is the thought that it exists at the other's expense. The alternative then can only be identified with danger and rejection and retaliation, but nothing of its true nature can be known from an ego perspective (T.4.II.8:1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8) . And so while the ego defenses include fabrications about the nature of God and the Holy Spirit as cruel, vengeance- seeking dictators, nothing can be known of Their true reality as all-encompassing Love and Its reflection.
Because the ego represents an alternative “reality,” implicit in its supposed existence is the notion that its existence is inextricably dependent on an exercise of choice between the alternatives (T.14.III.4; T.17.III.9) . And since choice lies at the foundation of the ego's fragile existence, the only real ego fear can be that the power of choice that has brought about its seeming existence can also be used to choose against its existence. That is the only genuine “threat” that can be recognized from an ego perspective.
The Holy Spirit, in contrast, is the thought of correction to the ego, which simply states that there can be nothing other than God, no alternative to God (T.24.in.2:8) , that the separation never happened (T.6.II.10:7,8) . The Holy Spirit, as the symbol of God's perfect Oneness, does come within an ego framework, using the symbols of the ego framework, but only to teach that the ego is not real. The Holy Spirit can be said to be aware of the ego only in the sense that He is the correction for it, but that correction does not presume that the ego has any reality. The correction is simply that the ego is not real (T.9.IV.5; T.9.V.2:1) . While choice between alternatives (only one of which is real) seems to be real in our split mind, we can say that the Holy Spirit is the choice for the only Alternative.
Now having said all this, it is also apparent from the Course's discussion of the Holy Spirit that we will experience the Holy Spirit as having many specific functions, such as Comforter ( e.g., T.11.III.1:1,2;7:1,2) , Guide ( e.g., T.14.III.14) , Mediator ( e.g, T.5.III.7) , and Teacher ( e.g., T.12.V.5,9) . These are all metaphoric descriptions that reflect how we will translate this abstract symbol of perfect love into specific forms that we can identify with and be reassured by, while we still believe we are separate. But it is important to recognize that, from within the Course's metaphysical framework, the Holy Spirit is not the Bridge between God and the ego world , but rather the Bridge between the split mind and the one Mind, from perception to knowledge ( e.g., T.5.III.1; W.pI.96.8:3) . Now we may experience the Holy Spirit as communicating specific thoughts and ideas to us, but these would only be our own transformation of the Holy Spirit's correction for the ego thought system into a form we are ready to accept in order to experience love. So, since these functions are only metaphoric in the Course, it would not be accurate to equate the Holy Spirit of the Course with the Higher Self of other spiritual teachings, which operate from the premise that the world is real.
Q #764: Is God not in the trees we see, the sun, etc.? I'm having a hard time deciphering created forms with the spirit of God in them vs. ego-made things. Are our beloved animals, pets, creatures of God, or merely forms which the ego has made? I'm deeply committed to the goal of A Course in Miracles , yet when I see the beauty of the mountains and trees I'm having a difficult time understanding that this physical beauty is not a manifestation of spirit on this “earth.” Did God not say “Let there be heaven and earth and the waters, etc.,” which would mean to me that these are of creation, not ego made.
A: The Bible teaches that God made the world and everything in it, which is the meaning of the biblical passage you quote. A Course in Miracles not only does not teach that God made the world, it teaches that “The world was made as an attack on God” (W.pII.3.2:1, italics ours ). In the text, Jesus makes an even more striking statement: “You cannot behold the world and know God. Only one is true” (T.8.VI.2:2,3). These statements, along with many other similar statements, are what distinguish the Course's teaching from traditional Christian theology and the Bible. In fact, they are mutually exclusive. Jesus leaves no room for doubt regarding the origin of the world and its seeming beauty: “God made it [the world] not. Of this you can be sure” (W.pI.152.6:2,3). The Course teaches that guilt for having chosen to believe separation from God is possible gave rise to the world. Its purpose is to hide from the imagined punishment of a God filled with wrath over the Son's choice. In other words, the world is a projection of guilt: “The world you see is the delusional system of those made mad by guilt” (T.13.in.2:2).
When the dream of separation is taken seriously, the Son is left feeling homeless and seeks in the world a “home away from Home.” Just as our homes are filled with comforts, the ego uses the mind's ability to miscreate to infuse the world with enough beauty to make life in exile tolerable and at times even enjoyable. However, because the dream is one of separation from God, God cannot be part of it and is “banished” from awareness. Then, in order for this scheme of separation to work in the mind of the Son, responsibility for the choice to be separate must be denied/ forgotten. The best form of denial is projection. So the backwards ego version of the story goes: “I did not choose to be here, God put me here. It is not my fault!” This choice for separation that has occurred in the mind is “acted out” in the story of Adam and Eve, the “highest” of God's creatures, who turn from God by their disobedience. Now God, rather than the guilt-ridden Son, judges this as a grievous sin, and inflicts a severe punishment: suffering and death. Life in “paradise,” no matter how beautiful it may seem, is now overshadowed by the doom of death. “Look carefully at this world, and you will realize that this is so. For this world is the symbol of punishment, and all the laws that seem to govern it are the laws of death. Children are born into it through pain and in pain. Their growth is attended by suffering, and they learn of sorrow and separation and death” (T.13.in.2:2,3,4,5,6). Everyone here receives this death sentence. It is just punishment for the sin of disobedience: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
Jesus tells us in the Course that the thought of separation is not a sin, it is actually impossible: “…the separation never occurred” (T.6.II.10:7). The world and the entire experience of life in a body is an illusion. God, Who is real, does not know illusions. If He did, He would share in the Son's nightmare, and thus the nightmare would be true.
Motivated by the deep loneliness and pain that accompanies belief in the separation, we seek comfort in beautiful things in the world. Although there is perhaps some temporary enjoyment in beholding them, neither the enjoyment nor the beauty lasts, which is why the greatest beauty of the world ultimately fails to satisfy the longing of our hearts for our true home. Nothing in this world fills the void left by the separation. In fact, all seeking ends in disappointment and pain: “It is impossible to seek for pleasure through the body and not find pain. It is essential that this relationship be understood, for it is one the ego sees as proof of sin. It is not really punitive at all. It is but the inevitable result of equating yourself with the body, which is the invitation to pain” (T.19.IV.B.12:1,2,3,4). Having employed the ego's skillful denial and avoidance tactics, our pain may not always be apparent, but a careful inventory of our deepest feelings reveals the hidden anguish of life apart from God. That is why we are told so often in the Course to pay attention to our feelings and to search our minds for thoughts of judgment. They are used to cover over the pain, and healing the thought of separation begins with realizing how painful it is. As the mind is healed, the peace that eventually replaces anguish is not contingent upon the beauty of a sunset, nor is it disturbed by ravishing storms. This peace is the goal of the forgiveness Jesus teaches in the Course. We forgive ourselves for believing we can find happiness outside of Heaven. However, since we believe the world and our bodies are real, we proceed gently through the process, enjoying the “beauties of nature” until we learn the real beauty of our truth. Art or beautiful things in nature can serve as reflections of the right mind when a choice is made to turn toward the Holy Spirit rather than the ego. The important thing is to enjoy them without confusing reality and illusion, by thinking we can bring God into the illusion: “Seek not for [the completion of God and His Son] in the bleak world of illusion, where nothing is certain and where everything fails to satisfy” (T.16.IV.9:4).
Q #765: I refer to the Q&A for #521. I accept that the Oneness of God, and the Oneness of the Sonship/Christ cannot be understood here. However, the Course does mention Sons, parts, beings, individuality, in context of the one Son, and in the context of creation (which can only occur in Heaven as I understand), and that the “Sonship in its Oneness transcends the sum of its parts” (T.2.VII.6:1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, T.4.VII.5:12,3,4,5,6,7). Therefore, although we can't now understand how this all fits together, or understand if what we see now as individual minds equates to such parts or sons, the Course clearly identifies parts to the Sonship. Is not that your understanding?
A: Although, as you note, there are passages early in A Course in Miracles which seem to suggest that there are individual beings within Heaven, taken in the context of the teachings of the Course as a whole, this conclusion simply can not be supported. These passages are more readily explained as initial explanations about the nature of reality provided to Helen and Bill early in the scribing of the Course, when Jesus was attempting to describe that reality to them within a conceptual framework that they could more easily understand and relate to.
But statements Jesus makes later in the Course make it clear that he could not have meant these early words literally. Two passages in the workbook make this especially clear:
"God shares His Fatherhood with you who are His Son, for He makes no distinctions in what is Himself and what is still Himself. What He creates is not apart from Him, and nowhere does the Father end, the Son begin as something separate from Him ." (W.pI.132.12:3,4, italics added ).
"Oneness is simply the idea God is. And in His Being, He encompasses all things. No mind holds anything but Him. We say “God is,” and then we cease to speak, for in that knowledge words are meaningless. There are no lips to speak them, and no part of mind sufficiently distinct to feel that it is now aware of something not itself. It has united with its Source. And like its Source Itself, it merely is.” (W.169.5, italics added ).
Jesus' few references to consciousness also make it clear there can be no individuality in Heaven. For if even but two differentiable beings (e.g., Father and Son) exist, then consciousness must exist as well, for there to be any awareness of one other than oneself. Yet very early in the text, Jesus observes: “Consciousness, the level of perception, was the first split introduced into the mind after the separation, making the mind a perceiver rather than a creator. Consciousness is correctly identified as the domain of the ego (T.3.IV.2:1,2). In other words, consciousness depends on separation, so that there can be a perceiver and a perceived. And the Course repeatedly describes perception as ego-based, while knowledge is possible only in Heaven ( e.g., T.3.III, IV) . Near the end of the Course, Jesus emphatically asserts: “The structure of ‘individual consciousness' is essentially irrelevant because it is a concept representing the ‘original error' or the ‘original sin'" (C.in.1:4). So there is no consciousness in Heaven, and therefore there can be no experience of individuality.
It can be very helpful to recognize that the desire to hang on to our individuality -- which is what is really behind your question -- is at the root of our resistance to practicing the Course's gentle principles of forgiveness. When we realize how strong our investment remains in maintaining a sense of individuality, which is the ego's compelling “gift” to us and nothing other than the desire for separation, we can at least begin to appreciate the power that we have given to our egos. And if we can be gentle with ourselves about our resistance, we will have taken a major step in forgiving ourselves for wanting this all to be real. For we cannot hold even one aspect of the ego thought system dear within our mind without making it all -- the sin, the guilt, the pain, the fear, and death -- real.
You may wish to review Question #327 for a related discussion on individuality and oneness.