Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 07/27/2005
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #770 Why does Jesus tells us to take the Course once and then leave it?
Q #771 If anger is never justifiable why does the Course say we need not pardon an attack?
Q #772 Is it possible the Holy Spirit's guidance can seem irrational ?
Q #773 Why does God need us to remember him and how will that solve our problems?
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Q #770: I understand that Jesus tells us to take the Course once and then leave it at that. But many people are working with A Course in Miracles for ten or more years, does it not have any effect? I also understand that “once” is completely and full-heartedly, at the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps that is the reason why doing it “in parts” does not have the desired effect of completeness?
A: The workbook, which is not the whole Course, is formatted as a year long practice period, but there are no other time frames or specific instructions in the Course for learning its curriculum: “...the time you take it is voluntary. …you can elect what you want to take at a given time” (T.in.1:3,6). Although it is not necessary to practice the workbook more than once, the application of the fundamental principles of the Course found in its lessons are meant to be incorporated into a life long practice: “As you perceive more and more common elements in all situations, the transfer of training under the Holy Spirit's guidance increases and becomes generalized. Gradually you learn to apply it to everyone and everything, for its applicability is universal” (T.12.VI.6:5,6). This suggests a long term training process reaching beyond the workbook year. The goal of the workbook is, in fact, a “timeless” process: “to train your mind in a systematic way to a different perception of everyone and everything in the world. The exercises are planned to help you generalize the lessons, so that you will understand that each of them is equally applicable to everyone and everything you see” (W.in.4:1,2). The “different perception” means the reversal of the ego's thought system, which, even if one were very highly motivated, would take time. Remember Jesus” statement in the epilogue at the end of the workbook: “This course is a beginning, not an end” (W.ep.1:1).
Everything we believe about the world and the body is false, because it is based on the belief that the separation is real. Given the high level of fear and resistance to accepting that this is true, we can expect many years of study and practice to undo this belief. It is unlikely that anyone would shift from identifying with the body to full awareness of the true Self in one lasting instant. In the Course, Jesus has given us a large volume of material to accommodate the volume of our fear and resistance. This enables us to proceed gently, over a period of time, questioning every belief we hold about everything, including, and especially, ourselves. We have so convinced ourselves that what we see, feel, and experience is real, that it is difficult to accept that we are wrong: “It is difficult for the untrained mind to believe that what it seems to picture is not there. This idea can be quite disturbing, and may meet with active resistance in any number of forms(W.pI.9.2:2). All these forms of resistance can gradually be unraveled by careful, consistent study of the many different ways Jesus presents the simple message at the heart of the Course: “…what is false is false, and what is true has never changed” (W.pII.10.1:1). It takes willingness and patience with ourselves to learn to recognize what is false, so that truth can be revealed. Jesus tells us in the text: “ Nothing is so alien to you as the simple truth, and nothing are you less inclined to listen to. The contrast between what is true and what is not is perfectly apparent, yet you do not see it. The simple and the obvious are not apparent to those who would make palaces and royal robes of nothing, believing they are kings with golden crowns because of them” (T.14.II.2:5,6,7). We do not usually perceive ourselves as emperors with no clothes, yet we must learn this before we can be led to the awareness that not only does the emperor have no clothes, there is no emperor.
Although they may not be what we think are spectacular results, there are immediate and significant effects to every step in learning to accept the healing Jesus offers in the Course. The mind is trained to see the ego's dynamics in operation, and then ask the Holy Spirit to transform them. In this process lies the recognition that Someone is with us Who represents the truth. Belief in the part of the mind where He abides is strengthened with each application of the Course's teachings, while belief in the ego is weakened. It is enough that we be willing to practice this: “Your willingness need not be perfect, because His is. If you will merely offer Him a little place, He will lighten it so much that you will gladly let it be increased. And by this increase, you will begin to remember creation” (T.11.II.6:6,7,8). It is great comfort that this will be the certain outcome for everyone, however slow or partial the practice of the Course may be.
Q #771: I came across a really disturbing passage in A Course in Miracles that I have not found addressed anywhere on the Internet, including on your site. It comes in “The Justification for Forgiveness” (T.30.VI). The first two sentences are clear: “Anger is never justified. Attack has no foundation.” Since this world is but a delusion made by ourselves, it would be a joke to take it seriously and get annoyed over something that bothers us (yet we do!). Yet a few sentences later, it says, “You are not asked to offer pardon where attack is due and would be justified.” Isn't that a plain contradiction to the previous sentences? And the next paragraph continues this line of thought: “You do not forgive the unforgivable, nor overlook a real attack that calls for punishment. Salvation does not lie in being asked to make unnatural responses which are inappropriate to what is real,” etc. So is attack justified or not? What does the Course include under a “real attack that calls for punishment.” I thought attack is never in line with God's reality?
A: This probably ranks up there among the most misunderstood passages in the Course! Our egos read this as Jesus saying that there are those times when attack is justified, when the action of others is so evil that it is unforgivable, and he's not going to ask us to offer forgiveness in those instances, for that would be unnatural and inappropriate. But Jesus' point is just the opposite. He is correcting the world's form of forgiveness, which he calls “false forgiveness” in the third paragraph of this section, and “forgiveness-to-destroy” in the Song of Prayer pamphlet (S.2.II) .
Most of us have been brought up with the idea that, no matter how horrible and cruel an act another may have committed against us or one of our loved ones, the truly loving, Christian (if we were raised Christian) thing to do is to “forgive” the other person. It may be such a heinous act that nearly everyone agrees that some form of punishment would be only fair and just, yet the Christian thing would still be to “forgive.” But this is not the kind of “forgiveness” Jesus in the Course is asking of us -- that we should forgive anyway, regardless of how unfair such a demand may feel. His point instead is that, because there is no act for which attack in response is ever due, forgiveness is therefore always justified. So, correcting what 2000 years of Christianity has taught about forgiveness, Jesus is saying that that we are never “asked to offer pardon where attack is due and would be justified,” for attack is never due and justified, regardless of our perception of the “crime.” The problem is never, Jesus asserts over our ego's protestations, the “crime,” but our perception of it.
In other words, if you re-read these paragraphs with the understanding that Jesus is saying that seeing attack, either in others or in ourselves, is a misperception of the ego and is not real, and therefore attack in response can never be justified., then it becomes clear that Jesus is saying that forgiveness or pardon as the Course defines it -- releasing judgment -- is always justified. We are not asked to “overlook a real attack that calls for punishment” because there are no real attacks that could ever call for punishment when we are in our right mind. That is not to deny that people do insane things that they intend to be hurtful to others, but nevertheless it can only be my own ego-based interpretation that would lead me to perceive them as attacks against me personally.
One of the clearest statements of this correction can be found in Jesus' discussion of the crucifixion in the text: “Assault can ultimately be made only on the body. There is little doubt that one body can assault another, and can even destroy it. Yet if destruction itself is impossible, anything that is destructible cannot be real. Its destruction, therefore, does not justify anger. To the extent to which you believe that it does, you are accepting false premises and teaching them to others. The message the crucifixion was intended to teach was that it is not necessary to perceive any form of assault in persecution, because you cannot be persecuted. If you respond with anger, you must be equating yourself with the destructible, and are therefore regarding yourself insanely (T.6.I.4).
Jesus did not need to forgive those who crucified his body, because he was not identified with his body. And he did not see the body as himself because there was no guilt in his mind that he needed to project outside his mind to defend against it. We though who still see ourselves as bodies do need to learn to forgive. But we do not need to learn to forgive others. When we feel we are attacked, it is only because guilt is still real in our own mind, and that is where the forgiveness is truly needed. Perceiving others as attacking is only ever the result of our own projected guilt. So when we feel attacked, we need to forgive ourselves. To believe that we need to forgive others for their attacks against us makes forgiveness as the Course teaches it impossible. It is what the Course refers to as making sin real and then trying to forgive it, described beautifully in the following passage:
“The unhealed cannot pardon. For they are the witnesses that pardon is unfair. They would retain the consequences of the guilt they overlook. Yet no one can forgive a sin that he believes is real. And what has consequences must be real, because what it has done is there to see. Forgiveness is not pity, which but seeks to pardon what it thinks to be the truth. Good cannot be returned for evil, for forgiveness does not first establish sin and then forgive it. Who can say and mean, ‘My brother, you have injured me, and yet, because I am the better of the two, I pardon you my hurt.' His pardon and your hurt cannot exist together. One denies the other and must make it false.
To witness sin and yet forgive it is a paradox that reason cannot see. For it maintains what has been done to you deserves no pardon. And by giving it, you grant your brother mercy but retain the proof he is not really innocent. The sick remain accusers. They cannot forgive their brothers and themselves as well. For no one in whom true forgiveness rests can suffer. He holds not the proof of sin before his brother's eyes. And thus he must have overlooked it and removed it from his own. Forgiveness cannot be for one and not the other. Who forgives is healed. And in his healing lies the proof that he has truly pardoned, and retains no trace of condemnation that he still would hold against himself or any living thing ” (T.27.II.2,3; italics added ) .
Q #772: I was wondering if it is possible that the Holy Spirit's guidance does not make rational sense to us. I feel that I am being guided toward a job that pays me far less money than others that I have been offered. Now, I am an avid reader of some of your materials and in The Most Commonly Asked Questions About A Course in Miracles you said that “common sense” is important to keep in mind when practicing the Course. Now, common sense would tell me that the more money job that would help make my financial life easier is the better route to take. Is it possible that the Holy Spirit's guidance could make no sense to us at the time?
A: The use of reason is a faculty of the intellect, which is not the home of the Holy Spirit. He abides in the mind, not the brain, and is the symbol of the part of the mind that remembers the truth. The Holy Spirit reflects a thought system that is outside of time and space. Therefore, we may say that the Holy Spirit is never “rational.” His goal in A Course in Miracles is healing our minds of the thought of separation, so His guidance leads us to our minds, where we choose to identify with Him or with the ego. It is not focused on behavior, or decisions made on the level of form. This reflects the important distinction the Course makes between form (the body/behavior) and content (the mind).
In the text Jesus gives us his common sense approach to resolving problems: “In any situation in which you are uncertain, the first thing to consider, very simply, is “What do I want to come of this? What is it for ?” The clarification of the goal belongs at the beginning, for it is this which will determine the outcome” (T.17.VI.2:1,2,3). This focuses our attention on the content while dealing with the situation as we perceive it in our experience. In asking the questions Jesus suggests, there are two goals to choose between: either to strengthen belief in the ego's message of separation or in the Holy Spirit's message of healing. The choice for healing means willingness to recognize all the fearful thoughts and judgments (confusion, uncertainty, expectations, perceived needs) involved in making decisions in the world. They reflect back to us the ego's perspective, revealing the choice for separation that was made so we can make another choice. In this way, what appeared to be merely a career opportunity becomes an opportunity to learn to forgive ourselves for our mistaken choice. Once this shift to the Holy Spirit's curriculum (content) has occurred, the job options can be considered without the pressure of believing that salvation lies in either of the jobs. Then the common sense that belongs to the level of form can be applied, while the mind remains peaceful.
If the goal in everything is to learn the Holy Spirit's lessons of forgiveness, even when a choice on the level of form appears to be a mistake (the job is not what we thought, the salary goes up or down, benefits come and go, etc.), the content of the mind is not altered, nor its peacefulness disturbed. To the ego that is indeed irrational. Every situation becomes a classroom that serves the goal of healing. Thus, following the guidance of the Holy Spirit it is possible to remain peaceful whatever job is decided upon. As Jesus tells us in the text: “What [the Holy Spirit] enables you to do [change our mind about the purpose of everything] is clearly not of this world, for miracles violate every law of reality as this world judges it. Every law of time and space, of magnitude and mass is transcended, for what the Holy Spirit enables you to do is clearly beyond all of them” (T.12.VII.3:2,3).
Q #773: In answering Question #538, you mentioned that Jesus stated the ultimate answer to all our questions about our little problems was that God only wishes for us to remember Him. Does He need us? Does God have an ego? What was His motivation to Father a Child? Was He lonely? Is He growing weary of our insanity? Have we overslept? I doubt He's “concerned” about our little illusion we call “life.” But is He amused?
A: Let's begin by quoting the lines from Question #538 that you refer to: “What could His answer be but your remembrance of Him? Can this be traded for a bit of trifling advice about a problem of an instant's duration? God answers only for eternity” (S.1.I.4:5,6,7). The point Jesus is making here is not that God needs us to remember Him, but rather that we need to remember Him so that we may experience true happiness and joy. Nothing but perfect Love can satisfy us. And only by remembering God will we remember Who we truly are.
A Course in Miracles , as discussed elsewhere (e.g., see Questions #72 and #156, as well as the tape set Duality as Metaphor and chapter 2 of The Message of A Course in Miracles: Few Choose to Listen , both by Kenneth Wapnick), uses metaphorical language to describe God so that we can have some glimmering of understanding, but only the very slightest, of our true reality as part of perfect Oneness. And while one could certainly conclude that the God of the bible has an ego, since He makes separation and sin real by reacting to them and first punishing man, then offering him salvation through His Son's death, the Course uses biblical language, such as the Father and the Son, only to provide a correction for the bible's -- both Old and New Testaments -- theology of sin, guilt and sacrifice (e.g., see Question #473ii). And so God is described in the Course in more comforting terms that can help undo our unconscious and conscious beliefs that God is an angry Judge Who demands suffering and ultimately death for all our many transgressions.
But the reality of the God of the Course is beyond all words, symbols and descriptions, and beyond all consciousness and perception ( e.g., T.27.III.4:4,5,6,7,8; 5:1,2 ; W.pI.43.2:2; W.pI.198.11:3,4,5,6) . And so He can not possibly be aware of our insanity, nor concerned about our sleeping and dreaming this illusion we foolishly call life. To God, none of what seems like such a big deal to us, especially ourselves , has any meaning -- good, bad, silly, or indifferent. And of course, when we're identified with the ego, which constantly strives after acknowledgment and recognition, we don't like that at all! But at some point, we will begin to think more sanely, and All of Everything will have greater appeal to us than the little bit of nothing we're trying to content ourselves with now (T.9.I.10; T.12.VIII.6; T.14.V.1:8.9) .