Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 8/10/2005
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #778 What is the meaning of the different levels of encounters?
Q #779 If it is true: that "You have no problems", isn't deliverance impossible?
Q #780 I understand the body is not real, but I remain so deeply rooted in it
Q #781 Does error come from some impersonal source that uses us?
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Q #778: The section in the manual for teachers of A Course in Miracles “What Are the Levels of Teaching?” (M.3) speaks about specific contacts and encounters, and very specific contact to be made for each teacher of God -- that their level of teaching is exactly what those specific contacts need. Then it goes on to talk about the levels of encounters, such as a brief meeting, a relationship that lasts a few years, and finally those that last a lifetime. I'm confused about the emphasis on people coming together that is spoken about in this section.
A: The essence of Jesus' teaching in this section is that people come together to learn that there is only one problem (separation) and one solution (forgiveness), regardless of the form of the relationship. It does not matter whether one is involved in a superficial encounter or a lifelong relationship. The potential for learning this lesson is present in any form, because whatever the level, it is always possible to see another's interests as not separate from one's own. We practice this on all different levels until we generalize in all forms that there is one problem and one solution.
Questions #72, #116, and #250 also relate to this section in the manual.
Q #779: I am currently working through “Many Forms; One Correction” (T.26.II). In this section, A Course in Miracles states what I have been thinking of the Course from the start, that from the perspective of the Holy Spirit, it is the most irrelevant exercise. But the ego might be drawn into the Course in its desire to “undo” “sin” and find “deliverance” from something it never did.
The passage I am referring to is: “This one mistake, in any form, has one correction. There is no loss; to think there is, is a mistake. You have no problems, though you think you have. And yet you could not think so if you saw them vanish one by one...” (T.26.II.3:1,2,3).
So is the Course trying to bait the ego into greedily biting on its offerings, so that the ego will invariably be drawn out of its natural living circumstance and die, devoured by the great spirit of One? Why should I want to do the Course at all, other than to have a laugh? Is it not all a joke by the Holy Spirit, playing with the idea of “sin” that our egos made, offering the ego resolution to its “problems” in the form of “deliverance.” Isn't deliverance impossible?
A: You are indeed correct in your final observation -- deliverance ultimately is impossible. For nothing has happened in reality and so there truly is nothing we need to be delivered from except our own mistaken beliefs -- the separation never happened. And that is the statement of the Atonement principle, which is repeated over and over again in various forms throughout the Course. This principle is the basis for the Course's teachings on forgiveness -- “a happy fiction” (C.3.2:1) , “an illusion [which] , unlike all other illusions...leads away from error and not towards it” (C.3.1:3,4) .
Early in the text, in the context of the idea of return -- but we could just as easily substitute the word deliverance -- Jesus says, “The ego can accept the idea that return is necessary because it can so easily make the idea seem difficult. Yet the Holy Spirit tells you that even return is unnecessary, because what never happened cannot be difficult. However, you can make the idea of return both necessary and difficult” (T.6.II.11:1,2,3) .
There is certainly some truth to the idea that Jesus presents his message in the Course in a way that can sound appealing to the ego -- offering us release from pain and suffering, and escape from guilt ( e.g., W.pI.195.2) . And most of us, when we first come to the Course, are attracted to it because we think it will help us lead happier lives in the world, healing our relationships with all those difficult people “out there” whom we must deal with. By the time we have begun to understand what Jesus' intention really is -- to help us awaken from the dream rather than simply make it a better dream (T.29.IV.1) -- it is almost too late to turn back. For we know too much and we are beginning to recognize our own part in all of it!
Now, from our perspective as egos, it may appear that Jesus is ensnaring us in a giant cosmic trap which will, in the end, lead to our demise. But that can only be our perception if we continue to identify with this false self, the ego. Jesus' intent rather is to help us shift our identification from the ego and its manifestation as a body, to our identity as a mind with the power to choose between judgment and forgiveness in the dream, and ultimately, to our true Identity as spirit. And with this shift, no loss is possible, since we are speaking only of the disappearance of illusions.
And so one conclusion you draw cannot go unaddressed. Identified with the ego, it may seem to us that the Holy Spirit is playing a game with us, manipulating illusory symbols to entice us into seeming self-annihilation, perhaps out of some warped sense of humor. But that would mean that we could somehow be a victim of a mind outside ourselves that views us only as a means for its own entertainment. And again, we could only view the situation this way if we are identified with the ego. For we are spirit, although we have forgotten. And Jesus and the Holy Spirit are only symbols of our own making, available to us while we still believe we need help from outside ourselves. The help They represent is simply our own right-minded choice to release the ego and remember Who we are. There is no mind separate from our own, no Jesus, no Holy Spirit, Who has developed a plan to give us the Course and either save us or play with us. We have given ourselves the Course, but we have forgotten that we have. And so that is why we may want to “do the Course,” because the alternative is the continuing ego belief in the reality of sin, guilt, fear, and pain, which are then our experience. But if we already know the world is a joke that we're playing on ourselves, and our only response is to laugh at everything within it (T.27.VIII.6) , then we certainly would not need the Course!
Q #780: A Course in Miracles is quite clear that the body is nothing, feels nothing, and that pain is a fabrication of the mind. Having said this I come back to my question. In answering Question #542, you wrote: “So it is even possible to break a leg and not only not become upset, but feel no pain, as over time our identification shifts from our body to our mind through practicing forgiveness.” And to Question #545: “What happened to Jesus' body at the end of his earthly ‘life' illustrates this principle. His body did not represent any thought of death or disease or pain in his mind, since his mind was free of guilt. He did not use his body to reinforce a belief in sin and victimization in his mind (T.6.I.5) -- and so it remained incorruptible in his perception, despite how its form may have seemed to change.”
If I break my leg, I would feel extreme pain even though the Course says physically this is impossible, because there is no leg to break. Question #542 says that a shift from body to mind comes only through practicing forgiveness, which I understand means to forgive my brother for what he has not done. That is, nothing happened and no reaction is required.
History speaks of Jesus dying horribly upon a cross, which must mean that my mind did not accept his thoughts of himself but rather chose to destroy him for reasons that you have mentioned many times in this forum. Therein lies the frustration. Intellectually I understand what I do to him I do to myself, yet after many years of practice I remain deeply rooted in the world.
A: You're being so hard on yourself! It can be helpful to understand the Course's metaphysical principles and to know where in the end Jesus is leading us, but not if we use its explanations of what will be the final steps in our healing as a measuring stick against which to judge ourselves now, as it sounds as if you're doing. The fact that Jesus knew he was not his body (T.6.I.4) in no way means that he expects us right now to accept and experience ourselves as anything other than bodies, as we begin to put his teachings on forgiveness into practice. He is not asking us to deny that the pain we seem to experience in our bodies feels very real to us, nor to deny what our brothers seem to do to us also seems to be very real and to have effects on us.
Jesus is only asking that we begin to question our interpretation of everything we experience and be open to an alternative explanation, which must come from outside our ego/body-based thought system. And to be able to begin to make the shift, we must first understand the purpose behind the interpretations we give to all of our experiences as bodies now. We want the pain to be experienced in our bodies and we want to see others as attacking us so that we can remain victims of forces outside of our control. And consequently, we remain unaware of the real cause of our pain -- our decision to see ourselves as separate from love. But again, Jesus is not asking that we embrace his interpretation of our lives, but rather that we be willing to question the validity of ours. He offers his, not so that we try to force ourselves to look at situations in the same way he does, but just so that we can come to recognize that there may be a very reasonable alternative to our interpretation.
If I think my immediate goal is to see the body as nothing, pain as unreal, and my brother as doing nothing to me, I will find the Course a very frustrating and self-defeating process. And Jesus would be an unreasonable teacher if those were his expectations for me. But they are not. The Course is intended to be a very gentle process that begins by asking us to accept ourselves where we think we are. And it also is asking us to be willing to be honest with ourselves about what the outcome has been while we have continued to put ourselves in charge of our own happiness. For if we are honest, we will have to admit that we have not been doing a very good job. It is through recognition of our own failure to attain peace and happiness that we become willing to allow Jesus to be in charge of the thoughts in our mind. And that is all that forgiveness is really about -- letting go of our own judgments and interpretations of the events and people in our lives so that Jesus can offer us an alternative interpretation that does not reinforce separation and guilt.
Over time, as part of a lifetime process of practicing forgiveness, we will have less and less of an investment in our own interpretation of what is happening to us and, in particular, who and what should be held responsible for our unhappiness. Increasingly, we will be willing to turn away from the belief in guilt in our mind and, as a result, will have less of a need to project guilt outside our mind onto others and onto our own body. Very gradually, as a secondary effect of the forgiveness process, although not our focus, we will find we are less identified with the body and its needs, and we will increasingly come to recognize that all pain comes from a thought in the mind and has nothing to do with the body. But this understanding is not where we begin, nor will it be our experience until we are well along our path of forgiveness.
By the way, most New Testament scholars agree that the accounts of Jesus' death in the gospels were not written by eye witnesses to the events of his life. And so the narratives, to the degree that they were intended to portray actual happenings, most certainly were colored by the projections of the narrators, who believed in the reality of sin, guilt, pain, suffering and the body, as their theology clearly demonstrates. And to the degree that we accept the same theology of the ego, we too will believe that Jesus must have suffered in his crucifixion and that we are somehow responsible for it. The fact that he lives in our mind (T.11.VI.7:3,4) , unaccusing and completely accepting, suggests otherwise, and his words in the “The Message of the Crucifixion” (T.6.I) provide that alternative interpretation. And so, while you may believe that what you have done to Jesus you do to yourself, his message is that we have done nothing to him, and so therefore, over time, as we learn to forgive, we will come to realize that we have done nothing to ourselves.
Q #781: Is it correct to say that since God is all there is, all else is a lie, illusion, hypnotism, a nothingness; and that error is never a person, but rather the person is a victim of the belief of good and evil? In other words, all error is coming from an impersonal source that uses us, and we unknowingly become its victim?
A: Absolutely “yes,” and absolutely “no.” Yes, God is, and nothing else is. There is only perfect Oneness, “nothing outside this Oneness, and nothing else within” (T.18.VI.1:6) . No, we are not the unknowing victims of an impersonal source of all error. A Course in Miracles teaches us that “we” are decision-making minds outside time and space that choose, erroneously, to believe that we have successfully separated from God. We are victims only of our own thoughts, fortunately, because we, then, are the ones who can change our minds about that decision and choose instead to accept the correction that is always in our minds. Ultimately, though, not even this occurred; if God alone is real, there could not even be a thought of separation.
Two helpful lessons on this topic are: Lesson 152 “The power of decision is my own” and Lesson 253 “My Self is ruler of the universe” (W.pI.152; W.pII.253) .