Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 4/16/2008

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1326 What advice does the Course offer for a very difficult relationship with a daughter? .
Q #1327 I feel very lost and alone concerning the "dream."
Q #1328 I can understand how thinking beings are part of the illusion, but how about lesser objects?

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Q #1326: My younger daughter (age 25) hasn't spoken to me in about three years. She is angry with me as a result of a disagreement over her middle boy who lives with his father nearby. My daughter has a mood disorder for which she quit taking meds, and I am certain she also has bipolar disorder, as does her father. I understand how this affects people because I have lived with it and also researched it. She has two children I have never seen as they were born after she stopped speaking to me. I love her and the kids very much. I am trying to work with the Holy Spirit and the Course to deal with this problem, however, I am still human, and I still need help. I am trying to be accepting of her wishes and so forth, but do you have any ideas for me on this?

A: You say that while you are working with A Course in Miracles , you are still human and still need help. That is a very useful thing to recognize. While the Course is a wonderful guide to changing our mind -- providing the ultimate solution to all our problems -- it does not offer any guidance about what we should do behaviorally or how we should handle anything on the level of form. Therefore, until our mind is completely healed, there will undoubtedly be continual issues for which we seem to need more than the Course provides -- issues such as physical illness, stormy relationships, and so on.

Often, Course students mistakenly feel that they should not need to do all the "normal" things that ordinary people do during difficult times. However, this is a misinterpretation of Jesus' message. In truth, Jesus would advise us to do whatever we think would be most effective and comforting for us and not feel guilty about it. In the situation you have described, that might mean talking to a counselor, a trusted friend, etc. Without knowing a great deal more about your situation and all the people involved in it, we would not want to attempt to give you specific advice about what to do. Nevertheless, your desire for support and specific advice is entirely reasonable, and we urge you to find a trustworthy source that can fulfill this need.

As you do this, continue asking the Holy Spirit to help you see your daughter, this situation, and yourself through His forgiving eyes. Try not to fall into another common Course student trap of denying or feeling guilty about all the non-forgiving thoughts and feelings that may come up for you in the process. While forgiveness is always our ultimate goal, we cannot get there without dealing with everything that stands between forgiveness and our present state of mind. The situation you are in -- feeling rejected by your daughter and kept apart from your grandchildren -- would be emotionally charged and very painful for most people. It would be completely understandable if you felt angry, hurt, vengeful, defensive, and so forth.

Of course, you do not want to act upon these feelings. And yet, ironically, the way to ensure that you do not take these feelings out on your daughter, yourself, or other family members, is to allow yourself to have them. By bringing love and acceptance to your own troubled mind, you can gradually allow your mind to become a place of genuine sanity and peace, even as you have to face what feels like a familial battleground.


Q #1327: I am confused! Jesus tells us we are not real, the separation never occurred, there is no ego, no body, no world, not even the dream is real; yet we experience so much grief, pain, loss, etc. So whose consciousness are we? How are we responsible for everything we experience? Who are we anyway? I just don't get our essence, if we are not real, if we don't exist, if God doesn't even know we are here, what are we ? If this is Jesus' dream, how are we responsible for all we painfully experience in what seems to never end? Are we just stage puppets in a dream, as we cannot seem to wake from this nightmare! I feel unbelievably alone since I read that God doesn't know we exist.

A: Yes, this aspect of the Course's teachings can be very upsetting and disorienting -- many people have felt the same kind of distress you are feeling. But, fortunately, the Course itself rescues us from our confusion, and in fact gives us great hope and comfort as we deal with what certainly does seem like a nightmare. What will help ease your anxiety is to realize that A Course in Miracles is presented on two levels. Level One teaches us the absolute truth about reality -- all the statements that say in one way or another that the separation from God never truly happened, and therefore that nothing of the world or the body is real. But since that level of absolute truth is just about meaningless to us, the Course is presented on another level. Level Two meets us where we are ( see T.25.I.5,6,7) -- as individuals living in a physical universe, experiencing grief, pain, loss, loneliness, etc. On this level, Jesus teaches us how to use all of these experiences to help us get back in touch with the truth that is still in our minds, but covered over. Thus, Level Two teaches us that we can use our bodies and the world either for a wrong-minded or right-minded purpose; we can choose to have the ego as our teacher or Jesus (or the Holy Spirit) as our teacher as we go through our daily lives. So Jesus relates to us in the context of what we experience as real, and then helps us to transform it so that it will be helpful to us, not harmful.

The goal of our work with the Course, thus, is to become more and more right-minded in our thinking, which means gradually letting go of guilt, fear, and all of our judgments and hatred. We then will be more kind to ourselves and others, and much more peaceful much more often. The key point of these Level Two teachings is that we have within our minds the power to choose which teacher we will follow (Jesus or the ego), and that we are always choosing one or the other, even though we are not aware of doing that. Through our study and practice of the Course's principles, though, we will gradually become aware that we are making these choices, and we will be able to see from our experiences which thought system we have chosen in our minds.

We thus are not puppets because we all have this power of choice, of which the Course reminds us over and over. The objective of Jesus' training is to put us back in touch with our real strength as minds. That is what will free us from the awful burden of feeling trapped in what seems like a never-ending nightmare of pain, conflict, and struggle. He assures us that we cannot fail in this, and that his loving presence is always beside us, as he says in Lesson 302: “Our Love awaits us as we go to Him, and walks beside us showing us the way. He fails in nothing. He the End we seek, and He the Means by which we go to Him” (W.pII.302.2).


Q #1328: I am a practicing student of A Course in Miracles and have been fortunate to read many of your books. Currently, I am reading All Are Called and came across a passage on page 110, as follows: "...we can see that all persons -- indeed, the entire animal, plant, and mineral kingdoms -- who are in this world, or better, believe that they are in this world, come with the ego thought system intact." I have no problem following the logic that we humans are ensnared within the ego thought system and can choose between the ego and the Holy Spirit, but I don't quite follow how a skunk, a stalk of asparagus, or a boulder could possibly possess an ego or arrive at a similar choice. Or am I making the mistake of believing that there is a hierarchy of illusions when, in fact, there is only one illusion, and that is the idea that separation from God is possible, and that any sentient form of life in this world must also be a part of the fragmentation that resulted from the fourth ego split?

A: Yes, you have answered your own question -- there is only one illusion, but it has taken many forms. We (the one Son of God) “made one substitution. It has taken many forms, because it was the substitution of illusion for truth; of fragmentation for wholeness. It has become so splintered and subdivided and divided again, over and over, that it is now almost impossible to perceive it once was one, and still is what it was” (T.18.I.4:1,2,3). It still is one! There is one thought of separation, appearing in billions of forms, so as to give truth to the lie of separation from God, and render the truth of oneness non-existent. “Nothing so blinding as perception of form. For sight of form means understanding has been obscured” (T.22.III.6:7,8). That was the ultimate objective of the ego's strategy -- to wipe from our awareness any trace of our origin as separated beings, and to make the truth unrecognizable to us, if not a preposterous absurdity: “When you made what is not true visible, what is true became invisible to you” (T.12.VIII.3:1).

Part of our difficulty in comprehending the Course's teachings about the separation (aside from the fact that it is illusory) is that we attempt to do so from our perspective. In other words, our reference point is our own experience as human beings in the world -- the world of form. From that reference point, it certainly does not make sense to think of a stalk of asparagus as having a mind and the ability to choose. But, again, that is precisely where the ego wants us to wind up. And that is what Jesus is getting at when he says in the workbook, “One brother is all brothers. Every mind contains all minds, for every mind is one. Such is the truth. . . . Do these words bring perfect clarity with them to you? What can they seem to be but empty sounds . . . . The mind that taught itself to think specifically can no longer grasp abstraction in the sense that it is all-encompassing” (W.pI.161.4:1,2,3,5,6,7).

It is certainly true that most people who begin working with A Course in Miracles have no reference point other than their own experience; but after considerable time with the Course, they begin to realize that Jesus is teaching us that everything we experience is a symbol of the choice we are always making in our minds, and therefore things are not as they appear to be. That is why he tells us that to learn this course we need to question every value we hold (T.24.in.2:1). As we grow in this realization and rise to the level of true perception beyond the intellect, we then will share Jesus' vision, expressed here in the language of form: “How holy is the smallest grain of sand, when it is recognized as being part of the completed picture of God's Son! The forms the broken pieces seem to take mean nothing. For the whole is in each one. And every aspect of the Son of God is just the same as every other part” (T.28.IV.9:4,5,6,7).