Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 02/27/2008
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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1299 How should I perceive a person who is sick?
Q #1300 Does love of oneself constitute "special" love?
Q #1301 Why is it preferable to be wrong?
Q #1302 It is so hard to handle the contrast between the world of the Course, and the world outside.
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Q #1299: The sections of A Course in Miracles titled The Agreement to Join (T.28.III.2:5) and The Greater Joining (T.28.IV.4) seem very important with respect to practically dealing with 'others' and our perceptions of them, and therefore our perceptions of ourselves. However, I am unclear as to the practical application of their meaning. Take, for example, the statement, "Uniting with a brother's mind prevents the cause of sickness and perceived effects" (T.28.III.2:5). If I see a brother who is sick (in whatever form that may take), I know that I have joined him in that illusion. But what is it that I am to see, look for, become aware of, etc. in order to prove him and myself wrong in this perception?
A: Discussing practical applications of Course principles is always tricky. On one hand, the Course is very practical because it tells us exactly how to follow its teachings. On the other hand, when most of us think of practical applications, we envision something we can do behaviorally. But the Course is never about behavior. Thus, to answer your question, there is nothing you are supposed to see, look for, or become aware of externally . How could there be when the Course's overarching message is that there is nothing external to your own mind? And the Course certainly does not ask you to prove your perceptions or those of your brother wrong.
What, then, is it telling us to do? We can begin to answer this by carefully reading the very sentence you referred to. "Uniting with a brother's mind prevents the cause of sickness and perceived effects" (T.28.III.2:5 italics ours ). In other words, we are asked to join on the level of mind. Jesus says nothing about joining as bodies or doing anything on the level of form. Obviously, a body cannot join with a mind. Clearly, this has to mean that the place in which we join our brother is in our thoughts. This prevents the cause of sickness. It does this because the cause of sickness is our belief in guilt and separation. Therefore, by recognizing in our own mind that guilt and separation are illusory and that we are united with our brother -- both in our sense of guilt within this dream and as God's beloved Son in reality -- we disarm the guilt and fear that caused the need for sickness as a potent defense against the truth within this dream.
This does not mean that our internal shift will heal either our brother's body or our own. However, it does mean that if we fully made this shift, we could have a body filled with cancer and still be at peace. Likewise, we could be with a brother who is dying of cancer and know that the disease has no effect on the reality of who he is. From that place, we would see that while his body appears to be sick, he is not a body and therefore he is not sick. Behaviorally, we would probably still do all the loving things one normally does for another who is experiencing pain. We would not try to make the sickness go away or tell the person that it was illusory. If the person were ready to accept that, he would not be sick. For this reason, we would instead comfort the person in whatever way would be most helpful to him in the moment.
Another key to grasping what the Course is getting at in the sections you mentioned is the realization that when Jesus talks about sickness, he does not mean a physical ailment in the body. To Jesus, simply thinking that we are here is sick. Believing that we need to breathe, eat, sleep, and so forth is an illness -- not because these things are bad, but because they represent our clearly insane choice to believe that we could be limited by this "wall of flesh around the mind, keeping it prisoner in a tiny spot of space and time, beholden unto death, and given but an instant in which to sigh and grieve and die" (T.20.IV.11:2). From Jesus' healed perspective then, your need to breathe is no more or less a sickness than your brother's cancer. This is why "Accepting the Atonement for yourself means not to give support to someone's dream of sickness and of death" (T.28.IV.1:1). Accepting the Atonement means recognizing that the entirety of our experience is but a bad dream of sickness and of death, and this is true whether the body currently appears to be what the world would label as healthy or ill.
Fortunately, Jesus does not ask us to make this dramatic shift in our thinking on our own. He lets us know that the Holy Spirit is already in our mind, ready to help us change our thoughts whenever we ask Him to. Again, you do not have to try to look for or prove anything. "Your willingness to let illusions go is all the Healer of God's Son requires" (T.28.IV.10:9) .
Q #1300: "If to love oneself is to heal oneself, those who are sick do not love themselves" (T.12.II.1:2,3). Does this make the person who loves himself a "special love" person?
A: No, it does not lead to special love. According to A Course in Miracles , both sickness and healing are exclusively in the mind; and sickness is an attack, a decision to reject the love in our right mind and identify instead with separation and guilt in our wrong mind, which we then project. To love yourself simply means to accept the truth about yourself, thus healing yourself of all false thoughts about who you are. In that state, you would not and could not attack yourself or anyone else. This is not special love because this right-minded self-love, by definition, includes everyone else as well. The love in our right minds is all-inclusive, unlike the special love made by the ego that excludes certain people or groups. This is a love that is really self-less; it is the stage of the journey that precedes our return to the perfect Oneness of God's Love for His Son, and His Son's for Him.
Q #1301: Would you kindly explain the following sentence: “Under the circumstances, would it not be more desirable to have been wrong, even apart from the fact that you were wrong?” (T.13.IV.3) What is the difference between “you have been” and “you were”?
A: In the context of the two paragraphs that precede this passage, Jesus is saying that we were wrong in believing that attack is our reality and that our destruction is the final proof that we were right. In other words, we were wrong about everything we believed. So he is saying that we should really want to be wrong -- to be glad we have been wrong -- because our identification with the ego has led only to unhappiness and hopelessness. Recall the question he asks us later in the text of A Course in Miracles : “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” (T.29.VII.1:9) . It is the same idea -- we should be glad that we have been totally wrong about ourselves and reality, and happily accept the truth that we have been denying.
Q #1302: When I shut the doors, confine myself in a room, and immerse myself in reading A Course in Miracles , I feel such elation because everything it says rings true. I literally wish that when I open the doors, the illusory world would not exist anymore. This brings instantaneous fear and anxiety, of course. I sometimes picture the “cunning” ego asserting specialness, as if mocking me to say “see, God does not really love you; you're stuck here.” I get so confused and sad, I just weep as I always have. It seems as if there is a constant battle raging inside me, and peace, even when it comes, is fleeting. It seems as if I have to remember to “choose once again” constantly and unrelentingly. When all is said and done, I truly want only God. I also honestly believe that God waits for me. But why the seeming distance and the muck that shields the light?
A: Yes, other students have these kinds of experiences -- they are not uncommon at all. Patience and gentleness are essential in working through this process. If we could simply accept the peace of God without reservation the first time we open our minds to it, we would not need A Course in Miracles ; and, indeed, we probably would not even be here. It is perhaps far more helpful and realistic to assume that we don't really want it -- or, that we want it only our terms -- because we are terrified of what it would mean to fully accept it. Deep down we realize that our identity as we know it would disappear, as would the world. We thus are highly conflicted -- we both desperately want peace, yet are terrified of accepting it. We think it would be the most wonderful thing ever to awaken from this burdensome dream of suffering, yet we are not sure we want to let go of our identity as an self. This is the theme Jesus discusses in “The Fear of Redemption” (T.13.III) , and it is also the subject of Kenneth's recent book, Ending Our Resistance to Love . However, Jesus reassures us of the gentleness of the journey on which he is leading us: we will first dream of peace, and then awaken to it (T.13.VII.9:1) ; and we will not be “abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality” (T.16.VI.8:1).
It certainly does seem as if a battle is being waged in our minds, but this is true only from the ego's vantage point. (Note the section in the text called “Above the Battleground” (T.23.IV. ) The ego senses a mortal threat to its existence, and that threat is our mind's power to decide against the ego and for the Holy Spirit's thought system of forgiveness. To make this choice is the beginning of the end of the ego, which is why it devised its strategy to shield us from our identities as decision-making minds. Thus, for the ego there is definitely a life-and-death struggle, because both sides are real in its eyes. This is the tension we cannot help feeling when we identify with the ego. From Jesus vantage point, however, there is no battle, for he knows that the ego and everything it stands for is made up -- you cannot do battle with something that does not exist, unless you're Don Quixote! Asking our questions -- what is the ego and where can it found? -- Jesus answers: “Nothing and nowhere!” (C.2.6:7). Jesus thus guides us on our journey back into our minds where we can get in touch with our erroneous beliefs and then choose against them.
But because we think we are bodies living in a world and are no longer aware of our identity as minds with the power of choice, Jesus starts us off on that level and uses our experiences in the world to lead us back to the content in our minds, and eventually back to our identity as minds. He teaches us how to treat our reactions to the goings-on in our daily lives as reflections of the contents we have chosen to make real in our minds: “the outside picture of an inward condition” (T.21.in.1:5). That is why our interactions are important -- they constitute the curriculum Jesus can use as our teacher. This is A Course in Miracles' distinctive path.
If you retreat from the world out of fear, ultimately it is because you have given the world a power it does not really have, forgetting that it is a projection of your mind (part of the ego's strategy) and that you therefore have given it the only meaning it has -- a major principle in all of the Course's teachings (in addition to the reference to Chapter 21 above, see also T.13.IX.3:1 and W.pI.2 ). Succumbing to the ego's threats about the danger of remaining in your mind, you are overlooking the real strength that is still there. Depression is one of the consequences of taking the ego seriously. To choose the ego is to deny truth, separate yourself from the source of true peace and happiness, and have it appear that you are just a helpless victim of forces beyond your control. Jesus' teaching objective, thus, is to lead us back within to the place where we make the choice to believe in his truth or to deny it. His method takes into consideration our unfortunate condition of not even realizing there is a “within” to which we can return. This, again, points to the value of our interactions in the world -- we can now learn to focus on their purpose (content) while still acting responsibly in our roles (form): “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” (T.24.VI.1,2). This is where our hope lies, upheld by Jesus' promise to be with us each step of the way, and by his guarantee that we cannot fail, for all that we are doing is denying our denial of truth (T.12.II.1:5) , and remembering what we chose to forget.