Weekly Questions and Answers, 07/23/2003

This week's questions/topics:

Q #208: Ensuring your purpose is in accord with God.
Q #209: Feeling the "presence" of others.
Q #210: Ego consciousness vs. God-consciousness.
Q #211: Can we be affected by a disease if we have no fear or knowledge of it?
Q #212: Are some types of judgement harmless?
Q #213: Undoing hatred of another person.
Q #214: What are all the different "forms" of the universal curriculum?

Look up a specific question by date or question no.

Q #208: T.2.VI.4:9 says, "Before you choose to do anything, ask me if your choice is in accord with mine." When I first began studying A Course in Miracles I thought this statement meant that before we did anything in this world we were to ask Jesus whether or not we should. Now, with some growth, I don't really know what the statement means (or much of anything else for that matter.) Can you elaborate?

A: The Course teaches us that since we have a split mind, there are two ways of perceiving in the dream: the ego’s and the Holy Spirit’s. They are referred to as our "teachers" or as "voices" in our mind. It also tells us that everything serves one of two goals: the ego’s or the Holy Spirit’s. Every choice we make, therefore, is in accord with one of these two perceptions, and serves one of these two goals. The statement you quote is asking us to be aware, in everything that we choose to think or do, which "teacher" we are listening to, and what purpose, or goal, our choice serves. This refers to the choice we are making in the mind, not in form. Choosing with the ego will always reinforce the belief that the separation, the world, and the body are real, and will result in some degree of conflict. The ego’s goal is to keep us in our deep sleep in the world of illusion. Choosing with the Holy Spirit will always bring peace, and strengthen our awareness that we are mind, not body. This choice leads us to the mind, so that we can learn to make the only real choice -- accepting the separation thought as real or not real. This process has nothing to do with the "choice" we seem to be making in the world of form. Needing to make choices and decisions in the world is a helpful reminder to us that we are always choosing between the lies of the ego and the light of the Holy Spirit. The other important factor is that we must choose, there is no in between: "Vision or judgment is your choice, but never both of these" (T.20.V.4:7).

In a statement such as the one you quote, the Course is asking us to ask ourselves whether we are seeking to further our progress on our journey home to God, or whether we are seeking to reinforce our identity as a separate self. In a later chapter we are told: "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). In other words, "whom am I listening to?" The outcome of peace or conflict reveals who the teacher is, and also reflects what we truly want. The ultimate outcome brings us closer to the decision not to deny God or, to remain entrenched in the illusion of separation. It is important to remember that A Course in Miracles is never referring to form, and is always addressing the mind, not the body which is the figure in the dream.

 Q #209: I’ve been a student of A Course in Miracles for one year. Recently I had a disturbing experience during my morning practice and meditation with my workbook lesson. Sometimes I do feel Jesus’ presence, both in meditation and in other everyday situations. Now instead I felt the presence of the Dalai Lama. I had been reading a book by him the day before, so coming to think of him should not have been surprising. But it scared me -- I didn’t dare to explore this further. After that I decided to take it easy with practicing -- not doing lessons, only meditating morning and night. But then a couple of days ago, while watching a movie, I was reminded of Marianne Williamson, and felt her presence. I didn’t want to explore this either. Both incidents I think of as not true in the sense that I do not think that either the Dalai Lama or Marianne Williamson were really there.

i: Is this kind of experience something you have run into? What does it possibly mean? How can one handle it?

ii: If I feel this need, which I do, to dismiss these "presences" as fantasies, why should I not just as easily dismiss the presence of Jesus? I mean, I don’t, not in truth. But I still feel that dismissing one experience reflects on the other, and I’m not sure how to handle it.

A: Your experiences are not the problem, but your interpretation that they are somehow unnatural and undesirable is what is causing you your problem. Your wily ego is only doing what any self- serving ego will want to do -- undermine any experiences that may reflect a different reality. And, of course, distract you from practicing the Course and its workbook lessons.

If, as the Course teaches, we are all thoughts or ideas (T.15.VI.4:5), and minds are all joined (e.g., T.18.VI.3:1; T.28.III.3:1; W.pI.19.2:1), then everyone is present to us all the time. What is artificial and unnatural is the belief that we are bodies, separated by time and space. But to question that assumption is to begin to question the basic assumptions of the ego thought system that keep this world in place and ultimately keep us mindless.

And so whether you experience the presence of Jesus, the Dalai Lama, Marianne Williamson, or someone else, if you have accepted the guidance of the Holy Spirit, you will know that, as symbols of love, they are all the same, for we are all one. In the words of one of those workbook lessons you have recently been avoiding, "One brother is all brothers. Every mind contains all minds, for every mind is one. Such is the truth" (W.pI.161.4:1,2,3).

 Q #210: There seems to be a conflict between the ego consciousness and God consciousness that ebbs and flows. I've been studying A Course in Miracles for three months and am able to observe the "struggle" almost as a spectator would. Comments appreciated.

A: Our minds are split between the part that identifies with the ego thought system of separation (wrong-mindedness) and the part that identifies with the Holy Spirit’s thought system of forgiveness (right-mindedness). We are constantly choosing between the two thought systems, although we generally are not aware of making this choice. That is the point of the training in the Course: first, to help us catch the thoughts that precede our experience, which, in the workbook lessons, Jesus refers to as the process of mind searching, where we would observe what is going on in our minds. Then eventually, we would be able to catch ourselves choosing either the ego or the Holy Spirit as our teacher. This is a process that continues throughout our lives.

You perhaps are referring to the fear that we experience when we ask for help to change our teacher from the ego to Jesus or the Holy Spirit. That could be perceived as a struggle in which we are attracted to the healing love in our right minds, but are still reluctant to let go of everything else. We always are identified with one or the other, though, and over a period of time we would become more and more clear about which one we have chosen. We go back and forth between our right mind and our wrong mind, but there is no neutral state. If we are observing our inner state with the ego, then we would be fearful, judgmental, or self-glorifying. If we are observing our inner state with Jesus, we would be peaceful, non-judgmental, and patient, knowing that we are in the process of undoing something that never happened, and therefore we would not take any of our thoughts all that seriously.

 Q #211: Is it possible to get a disease if you have no knowledge of its existence, and therefore no fear of it?

A: Yes, it is. And if you think about it, you can see that it happens all the time, from the very first cases of new diseases such as AIDS or SARS, before they are identified in the media, to illnesses that affect children congenitally or very early in life, before we would see them as having any "knowledge" of the disease. So how does this happen, in light of A Course in Miracles’ teachings on how we choose our illnesses?

All diseases and illnesses in the body are the effects of a decision made in the mind (W.pI.136.2,3,4,5), not the brain. Like every other decision about what happens to us in our lifetime, these decisions are made outside of time and space. The brain that we believe -- incorrectly -- is the seat of consciousness and decision-making is only an effect. Much of what is contained in the mind remains out of our conscious awareness, but at a deeper level we do know all of its contents. It is our fear of the power of our mind however that keeps it all buried (T.2.VI.9), so that our defenses can work and we do not seem to be responsible for the things that happen to us -- we can see ourselves as victims of forces beyond our control. In that way, the pain that comes from our choosing the thought of separation seems instead to come from what others do to us. And our guilt over separation remains buried and protected, along with the thought of separation.

Having said this, we also need to be clear that the goal is not to make the unconscious conscious so that we can make better choices for our body’s health and well-being. It is not really fear of the illness itself that causes us to choose it -- we actually want the illness for its value as a defense. Our goal is to learn over time to forgive ourselves for the illusory guilt over separation. For it is this guilt that we believe calls for punishment, which in turn demonstrates that the guilt and separation are serious and real. And that punishment can assume many different forms, disease being just one among many. So the problem is not the punishment, what ever form it may take, but our mistaken belief in our guilt. And that is what we want to make conscious. For that is where the only real healing can occur.

For a related discussion, see also Question #117.

 Q #212: I have a question about judgment. Let’s say I walk by a home which has dogs behind a fence and the dogs bark at me and I recognize they believe I am a threat; yet I do not feel resentful, but wish they knew I mean them no harm. Am I still judging them? Is there a difference between a "mechanical judgement" and a judgment based on emotion? Is a "mechanical judgment" the same as resentment, even if I feel no malice? How should I view such distinctions about judgment?

A: The kind of judgment that A Course in Miracles focuses on, almost exclusively, is the judgment in which we condemn ourselves or another person in some way, or the judgment that presumes that we know everything and therefore can reach valid conclusions about everything. If you find yourself insisting that you are right about something, or feeling superior or inferior, better or worse than someone else -- any comparative judgment along those lines -- then you have gotten involved with the kind of judgment that needs to be addressed through the process of forgiveness, because your perception is grounded in separation. If you do not feel resentment, if you have no investment in the dogs’ accepting your invitation to join with you, and you are feeling only kindness and compassion towards them, then you have not judged. Simply sizing up the situation, i.e., that the dogs are threatened by you even though you mean them no harm, is not the kind of judgment that Jesus wants us to be vigilant about.

We all are engaged in judging all the time: for example, judging what outfit is best in terms of the weather forecast; which route to take in order to arrive at our destination on time; which doctor to go to, etc. We cannot avoid judging, and Jesus never tells us not to judge. His emphasis is always on changing our teacher from the ego to him or the Holy Spirit, which would then put us in a position where judgment through us rather than by us can occur (M.10.2:7). This would mean that we would be free of all attack thoughts and thoughts of separation, and we would not be perceiving our interests as separate from everyone else’s.

 Q #213: I am having difficulty with someone. I know that the hatred I feel for her is a projection of the guilt and self-hatred in my mind, and I know that we are both a part of a larger whole. I know that this situation is allowing me to see the hatred in my mind. I have asked Jesus for help to see her differently, but nothing happens. I then ask for help with my resistance to seeing her differently and sometimes I have a shift, but the hatred comes back later. It feels like a solid rock in my heart. I can feel my resistance to letting it go. I know this process takes time and I am continuing to work with it, but meanwhile I am having trouble containing my hatred and hostility toward her on the level of form. Help!

A: You have a good intellectual understanding of at least part of the process, but there is another step or two you need to consider. You keep asking for help to change your perception of this other person, but that is not the real problem. The change you want help with is in your perception of yourself. For the hatred that you continue to displace outside yourself onto this other person is really directed at yourself. But until you allow yourself to acknowledge and accept this, you will continue to try to direct the hatred outside yourself and will be unwilling to see the other person differently.

Once you have acknowledged where the real problem lies -- with the guilt within your own mind -- the other person will have served the Holy Spirit’s purpose of leading you back within yourself and will no longer be your concern. You hate yourself for what you accuse yourself of doing. You believe that you have attacked and destroyed love out of total self-interest, leaving yourself abandoned, hopeless, and bereft of love. And it is with this self-hatred that you really need help.

Turning to that presence of love within -- Jesus or the Holy Spirit, using symbols of A Course in Miracles’ -- will have to begin to undo your self-accusation. For how could you have destroyed love if it is still there within you? And so, through joining with that love, you will begin to question the justification for your self-hatred over destroying love. That is the shift in perception with which you need the help, for you can’t make it on your own. And as the self-hatred within your own mind begins to dissolve, you will no longer need to project it. And then you will see those outside of you as simply caught in their own attempts to project their own self-hatred outside themselves. But rather than reacting from your own guilt, if you have released it, you can only respond with compassion and kindness. If you fail to look within, you will not be addressing the source of the resistance to releasing your judgment and condemnation. The key is, whatever you first see within yourself is what you will then see outside yourself, and so your focus for change only needs to be within.

Q #214: When A Course in Miracles refers to the "many thousands of other forms" of the universal curriculum in the Manual, what does it mean, exactly? Since there are not that many religions, does it count such "paths" as music, or the love of nature, as possible ways home?

A: "Many thousands" is not meant to be taken literally, it simply means "a large number." It is also not necessarily referring to religious paths in an inclusive way. Religion may be a path for some, it may be a deterrent for others, and it may even be used as an attack. The important message in this section is that there is only one outcome -- God; only one content in our learning -- undoing our belief in the thought of separation from God, but many, many forms, for accomplishing this. In fact, any form can reflect this choice made in the mind. What actually occurs is a decision in the mind to no longer choose the ego, which is a choice not to deny God. This choice is then manifest in the dream, in all the forms that make up an individual’s life situation. It begins with an awareness that there are no separate interests. This can come about in "thousands" of different ways. A good example of this is Helen Schucman and Bill Thetford’s decision to "find a better way" of relating with their colleagues at Columbia Medical Center together. They were not consciously seeking a spiritual path to God. They were truly no longer interested in continuing the discord and conflict in their work environment, and, they were sincere in their decision to seek together. This decision was made in the mind and became manifest for them in the dream in this form, and ultimately in the form of A Course in Miracles.

The section in the manual that you are referring to speaks of this in the definition of the teacher of God: "…somehow, somewhere he has made a deliberate choice in which he did not see his interests as apart from someone else's" (M.1.1:2). It is this content that is the path to return home to God, regardless of the form it may take in the dream. It is very important to make this distinction between form and content in order to understand the rest of the description: "He has entered an agreement with God even if he does not yet believe in Him…They come from all over the world. They come from all religions and from no religion. They are the ones who have answered. The Call is universal. It goes on all the time everywhere" (M.1.1:6; 2:1,2,3,4,5 italics added). Clearly then, neither religion nor belief in God are required for one to be on the path to God. "Many thousands of other forms" can actually be restated as "any form," because the form does not matter. It merely reflects a decision made in the mind. When the decision for God is made completely: "There is no path that does not lead to Him" (T.31.IV.11:7). On the other hand, however beautiful, or religious a form may be, without this content it will lead nowhere.