Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 03/15/2006
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Q #897 There seems to be so much deceipt in the world -- is there any objective truth?.
Q #898 If we are all in the same dream, can I really only impact my own thinking?.
Q #899 On being torn between two partners .
Q #900 Is the Course just a form of solipsism?
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Q #897: I continue to have problems with A Course in Miracles' teaching about the unreality of the world, problems which recent issues in the news help to bring into focus. As an example, most people now are aware that governments all over the world are not honest with each other nor with their own citizens. If we accept that the world as we experience it is merely a dream generated by guilt and attack, it presumably follows that any particular act of deception -- even a real whopper -- can be nothing more than illusion within illusion. And since the Course tells us that there is no hierarchy of illusions, the conclusion presumably must be that it makes no difference whether governments are honest or not, since the very world in which they govern is itself an ego fabrication. As a student of the Course with a lingering attachment to the notion of objective truth within the world, I would welcome any guidance on how to respond to this kind of issue.
A: Recognizing the two levels on which the Course is written can be helpful. Your description expresses what we refer to as Level One teachings -- the absolute contrast between truth and illusion. On that level, anything and everything that takes place in the world is illusory. That should be the end of the story for us. But because we are too frightened to accept that without any reservations, and therefore still think the world is real and react to it accordingly (including our own bodily existence), Jesus continues the story. This is Level Two: Jesus talking to us in terms of what we still think is real, even though we know intellectually that “there is no life outside of Heaven” (T.23.II.19:1) . Mercifully, and gently, Jesus teaches us how to go about our lives in the world so as to undo our belief that we exist independently apart from God -- rather than to reinforce that strenuously defended belief. This is the “thought-reversal” dimension of the workbook lessons and exercises.
Being able to count on people's truthfulness is a normal expectation, and would certainly ease the strain of daily life in this incredibly complex and challenging world. Unfortunately, that expectation meets with disappointment far more often than most of us appreciate. Yet, this should not be surprising, given the origin of the world and its inhabitants: that it is the projection of a thought of attack, generated by a mind fierce in its determination to get what it wants regardless of the cost, ready to kill to keep what it has thus gotten but not take any responsibility for the resulting mayhem. Everything that goes on in this world comes from that thought, which is why Jesus tells us that the world is “the outside picture of an inward condition” (T.21.in.1:5) . Everything here is ultimately based on a lie -- that the oneness of pure Love can be splintered into self-centered, competing individuals. The value therefore of a strong negative reaction to deception perceived in others is that it reveals the deception in ourselves, thus giving us the opportunity to forgive it.
The Course thus teaches us to regard the world as a classroom, with the curriculum being our daily experiences and relationships. Our objective is ask for help to shift our focus from the world and the body to our minds -- specifically, the purpose infusing our thoughts and actions, stemming from our choice of teachers. This is the “inward condition” in need of attention. On this level, then, our function is to turn within to get some sense of whether we are proceeding from the ego thought system or the Holy Spirit's thought system. We practice asking for help more and more frequently to set aside our egos, so that our interactions in the world would be truly helpful in advancing us to the only goal worth pursuing: returning home hand in hand with everyone .
We are never asked to resign from our normal roles in the world as citizens, parents, employers, employees, etc. We are asked, though, to resign as our own teacher (T.12.V.8:3) , meaning we (as identified with the ego thought system) should turn to Jesus or the Holy Spirit for help in defining our problems and their solutions. The application of this to a situation such as the one you describe is that you would bring to the place of ego-free love in your right mind all of your judgments and feelings of anger, despair, and victimization. In that holy instant of looking at your wrong mind with your right mind, you would automatically get a sense of whether to do or say something or nothing. There would be no investment in having things change, even if you voiced your opinion or supported a group working toward change. The main point that Jesus is trying to help us learn is that nothing of value has been accomplished when the desired external change has been effected, while internally one feels triumphant over having defeated the “enemy” -- no matter how beneficial the change is to the world. “Forget not that the healing of God's Son is all the world is for. That is the only purpose the Holy Spirit sees in it, and thus the only one it has. Until you see the healing of the Son as all you wish to be accomplished by the world, by time and all appearances, you will not know the Father nor yourself” (T.24.IV.4:1,2,3). This is the right-minded approach to every situation that confronts us in the world. We need to grow toward this -- that this would become our sole motivation in everything we think and do.
See Questions #53, #455, #484, and #599 for a discussion of issues and principles that have a bearing on your query.
Q #898: I feel that I am beginning to grasp the principles of A Course in Miracles fairly well, although I do wonder if it is the ego mind fooling me! My question is this: are the people with whom I interact and I all in the same dream? I have read the question about "you in my dream and I in yours", but that doesn't answer it. If we are not in the same dream, how then can I impact their spiritual situation/awareness? Ah, but it's about impacting my own, isn't it? The forgiveness I learn to practice is not for "them," it's for me, which is all the same. So have I answered part of the question myself? I am still puzzled about who is in which dream, though.
A: You've got it! This course is about one person -- you and the healing of your mind! As Jesus states, “you can interact but with yourself” (T.31.V.15:5) . If we persist in thinking we can have an impact on others -- and wanting to -- we are missing Jesus' overall message, which is that the Son of God is one . We cannot relate to that on an abstract level, but we can reflect that truth by perceiving our interests as the same as everyone else's. We learn this by practicing it in our daily interactions with each other -- especially when tempted to focus on changing someone else. That should always be a red flag telling us that we have succumbed again to the ego's never-ending effort to convince us that separation is the truth. This approach does not lead to indifference or passivity with regard to others, however. The point is that when you choose against your ego, you are the love that is the only reality in your mind, and it will then flow through you in a form that can be understood and accepted by anyone calling for it. Love is in the director's seat now, not you as an individual. It makes things much easier!
When you spend a lot of time trying to figure out “who is in which dream,” you are in danger of falling into the ego's trap of making the error real. You would be trying to come up with a schemata explainable in human, logical categories for a process that is non-human and inherently illusory. Jesus is using metaphors and symbols for our benefit, as a means of getting us started with the process of restoring sanity and truth to our minds. Struggling to understand the nature of dreams and scripts can be a neat ego trick to distract you from what would really help you in your quest for peace: the practice of forgiveness.
Q #899: My question seems to have been addressed somewhat in Question #417, but having read your answer, I'm still unclear on how to separate form from content. I am unmarried but have had a monogamous 14 year “special” relationship. We do not live together. Almost a year ago, I met someone else and began an affair. Shortly thereafter I confided the affair to my boyfriend who has chosen to remain with me. I feel very strongly that for some reason, I'm supposed to know this other person. And for some reason I'm supposed to be going through all of this as part of the process to extricate the “specialness” out of my primary relationship. I'm confused about whether this is part of the forgiveness process or ego insanity or both, depending upon what day of the week it is. It seems insane to everyone around me who are all unfamiliar with A Course in Miracles . And as mentioned in your response to Question #417, you advise it's helpful to remove interferences such as guilt if only for an instant. How do I do that? My guilt over hurting my “special” partner is enormous and growing. I cannot imagine ending my relationship with the other person and all this feels as though it is destroying my primary “special” relationship.
A: It is not clear what you mean by “extricating specialness” from the relationship. You describe the form of the relationships, but not the content. Specialness, as taught in A Course in Miracles, is always about content, and never about form (behavior), nor are relationships. The Course talks only about asking Jesus or the Holy Spirit to help you change the purpose of the relationship from specialness to holiness. Many students have wrongly interpreted this to mean that they should not have an exclusive relationship on the level of form, because a holy relationship excludes no one. Yes, that is true, but it applies solely to the content of the holy (non-special) relationship; but this content of all-inclusiveness is perfectly consistent with a monogamous relationship. The transformation of content involves evaluating the purpose of the relationship. In a special relationship, the purpose is always related to what you can get from the relationship and how it serves your interests; therefore, it always involves dependency, expectations, bargaining, compromise, sacrifice, manipulation, and deception. Separation and separate interests become reinforced over and over. All relationships start out that way.
By inviting Jesus into the relationship, you would gradually shift its purpose from maintaining separation to learning that you and your partner share the same interests, and that this extends to everyone else as well. Your focus would be on learning to recognize that you both share the same wrong mind, the same right mind, and the same decision-making capacity to choose either the ego's or the Holy Spirit's thought system. The relationship's primary focus, thus, is not on filling each other's needs in order to make your lives better in the world, but on having your mind be healed of all thoughts of separation -- learning that your completion is achieved only through recognizing that your need for completion stems from having rejected your wholeness as the Self of Christ, and that this is a decision that can be changed at any instant ( see T.16.V) . It remains unclear why you would need to have an affair to learn this, especially one that has engendered such conflict. In general, we can say that when guidance comes from the Holy Spirit, there would be a growing sense of peace about it, not increasing guilt and conflict. Guilt and conflict should be a red flag indicating that something is not quite right, and perhaps the prevailing opinion of those who know you well is in accord with that. The ego is very skillful in using spiritual teachings to further its own plan of keeping separation real.
Another sure sign that a relationship is centered in specialness is the feeling “I cannot imagine ending my relationship with the other person.” Now, that might also be right-minded in the sense that this is the person with whom you have chosen to learn your forgiveness lessons. But, again, there would be a growing sense of peace about it, as forgiveness always leads to an increasing awareness that both you and your partner are centered in the one same Christ Self, not in each other as separate individuals. The dependency on bodily togetherness lessens, as you gradually realize you are the same as minds. The spiritual journey in A Course in Miracles is toward oneness.
Q #900: What about solipsism [the theory that nothing exists or is real but the self ]? For me the greatest fear is that of cosmic aloneness. I sometimes wake up feeling, "It's true! There is no one else." The philosophers witter on about "private language," but their arguments don't stand up to the experience, horror, and the conviction. A Course in Miracles talks a lot about unification and how the split will return to being whole. Doesn't that sound kind of lonely? Why "we"? Why not "I"? If I'm dreaming the perceived world, why aren't I dreaming other people? When unification happens, the "Returning" as they say in Zen, why should this be good? Why not awful? Is it because bliss is a non-dual emotion, as against any kind of fear which is dualistic? That may be true, except the fear we call "horror" has a frozen feel to it, a sort of resignation.
A: Cosmic aloneness is probably one good definition of hell. But “aloneness” implies a self that experiences itself as a self, as does fear. And that is not what A Course in Miracles means by unity or oneness, which is a state transcending consciousness all together. Jesus tells us that in our present state there is no way we can understand “a Oneness joined as One” (T.25.I.7:2) . But he assures us often in the Course that when our minds are healed of all separation thoughts, we will be indescribably happy and peaceful, as in one instance he exclaims: “ O my brothers, if you only knew the peace that will envelop you and hold you safe and pure and lovely in the Mind of God, you could but rush to meet Him where His altar is. Hallowed your Name and His, for they are joined here in this holy place. Here He leans down to lift you up to Him, out of illusions into holiness; out of the world and to eternity; out of all fear and given back to love” (C.4.8:1,2,3). No solipsist has ever spoken like that! Egoless love and solipsism are mutually exclusive: “For it is the function of love to unite all things unto itself, and to hold all things together by extending its wholeness” (T.12.VIII.7:11) .
We need to learn -- through the process of forgiveness -- that we are the dreamers of our own dreams so that we can recover our mind's power to choose. When we come back to that, we will clearly see what we chose against -- a love embracing all creation as one -- in order to have our individual existence. We will also realize the pain involved in maintaining that existence through denial and projection, and that will cause us to be less and less attracted to it, especially because we will have remembered it was a choice based on fictitious premises (the Course's myth of the ego).
At the beginning of Lesson 107 , Jesus uses our language and familiar experience to give us a hint of what awaits us when our minds are healed:
“Can you imagine what a state of mind without illusions is? How it would feel? Try to remember when there was a time, -- perhaps a minute, maybe even less -- when nothing came to interrupt your peace; when you were certain you were loved and safe. Then try to picture what it would be like to have that moment be extended to the end of time and to eternity. Then let the sense of quiet that you felt be multiplied a hundred times, and then be multiplied another hundred more.
And now you have a hint, not more than just the faintest intimation of the state your mind will rest in when the truth has come. Without illusions there could be no fear, no doubt and no attack. . . . all pain is over . . .” (W.pI.107.2; 3:1,2,3).
The practice of forgiveness leads to the recognition of how painful it is to exist in a state of separation, a pain we have been denying. As that becomes clearer to us, our hold on separation decreases, realizing that it is a most unnatural state, and then we are attracted more and more to our natural state as the extension of God's Love. We sacrifice nothing, feeling only gratitude for being home at last.