Weekly Questions and Answers, 11/05/2003

This week's questions/topics:

Q #296: How do I know if I have crossed into "The real world"?
Q #297: Is the Course saying my loving thoughts and my feelings of connection are not real?.
Q #298: Why are lilies a symbol of forgiveness?.
Q #299: What is meant by "happy dreams"?
Q #300: It seems that all healing necessitates attack.
Q #301: What is the special significance of giving something a name?.
Q #302: Is the Course saying we should, or should not, deny the reality of our bodies?.

Look up a specific question by date or question no.

Q #296: How do I know if I have crossed the bridge into the real world? Is it possible to cross over and come back? Can I get stuck half way across? Sometimes it seems like I am there. Sometimes not. Is there any sure sign, or sure signs, that I am there? How can I know without doubt or question that I am there? From what I know of ACIM, Jesus got there. Are there any other generally known people who have crossed to the real world?

A: When you have crossed the bridge into the real world, you will simply know, without doubt or question. Until such time, you go back and forth between the wrong-mind and the right-mind. That is why it may sometimes feel as if you are there, and sometimes not. And no, you cannot get stuck halfway across. However, you can certainly procrastinate, which may feel like being “stuck.”

Regarding other people having crossed into the real world, it is almost impossible to tell on this level. Our guilt determines what we “see,” so unless we are guilt-free, we would not recognize, with certainty, someone in the real world. Imagine being a witness to the crucifixion of Jesus, watching him go through the situation, and “seeing” him did so without pain, suffering, anger, or attack. Undoubtedly there were very few, if any, who “saw” the event in this way, because their guilt demanded they see it as has been written in the various gospel accounts. You may also want to refer to Question #101 for further discussion on this subject.

Q #297: I found workbook Lesson 4 of A Course in Miracles difficult in that I have some very loving thoughts. For instance, if I walk down the street and see a stranger who for a moment looks in my eyes and there is a sudden feeling of “real” connection am I to tell myself that this thought means nothing? Isn't this a moment of true reality? I'm confused.

A: First, the early part of the workbook is primarily about helping us undo our wrong-minded thoughts, which is not to say that we do not have right-minded thoughts. The focus, though, is mostly on our wrong-minded thoughts. The thrust of these early lessons is to have us understand that there is an inner world and an outer world, and that the outer world is the projection of the inner world. Jesus is helping us begin the process of learning that we are not who we think we are, and reality is not what we think it is. He does not want us to settle for anything less than our true inheritance as God’s Son. Thus, he says in Lesson 4 that our “good” thoughts are “but shadows of what lies beyond, and shadows make sight difficult.” Our “real thoughts” are being covered by both our “good” and “bad” thoughts. The shadow would become meaningless if we were to value only that of which it is the shadow; and that is where Jesus is leading us.

You do not describe that “feeling of ‘real’ connection” in any detail, nor do you say anything about what followed the experience. Speaking in general, then, that feeling could be of the ego (specialness) or of the Holy Spirit (we are all one). As a right-minded “connection,” it would be a shadow of your real thoughts, which have nothing to do with this world or this body. In the holy instant when we no longer perceive separation, we experience a reflection of true reality, but true reality is only of Heaven. Again, that is where Jesus is leading us. Why would we want a reflection or a shadow, when we can have the reality itself?

Q #298: Why have lilies become the symbol for forgiveness and not any other flower?

A: Lilies traditionally are associated with Easter -- the time of resurrection and awakening. And as white, they have symbolized purity and innocence. Therefore, they make a wonderful symbol of forgiveness, which restores to us the awareness of our innocence, the prerequisite for awakening from the ego’s dream of death.

Q #299: Do you know anything more about the experience of the happy dreams in life? Is this a kind of process reversing our life, leading us out, undoing and healing of what has led us into the ego-experience? Can one damage or destroy this process and entirely return back to the ego or another ego? Does one recognize the end?

A: These are questions that many students think about. It is helpful to remember that we are always involved in undoing something that never really occurred, and therefore the journey on which Jesus is leading us will conclude in our acceptance of that. So even though he maps out a strategy with various steps and stages, he knows that all of it is totally illusory. The happy dreams spoken of in the Course refer to the experience in our minds of no longer being identified with the world and bodies; we would be identified with the Holy Spirit’s correction of our mistaken thoughts and choices. We would take nothing seriously in our personal lives or in the world, in the sense that we would know that our peace could never be affected by anything external. We would know -- experientially -- that there is no reality other than the love of Jesus in our minds, which would then be the source of all that we do. In that respect, we would be at the end of the process of reversing our choice to be separate, thereby undoing and healing what led us into the ego experience. In that state, we would not be vacillating anymore, which means there is no wrong mind, nor even a decision-making part of the mind. We revert to an ego state only when we still value separate interests over shared interests. It is always a question of what we truly want and whether we are willing to pay the price of being separate. Our true Self is never affected by our choice to deny that Identity and instead be a self in the world, but we will be paying a heavy price to take on and maintain that false identity. Jesus helps us see that our lives are a result of a choice and that it has been a costly one -- to us.

Q #300: When I give an antibiotic to a patient, I may be joining with this patient on the level which he can accept. But in doing this I am attacking the germs (who made him sick, so he believes). Attacks are never justified. Sometimes it seems to me that joining with one person (the patient) means attacking someone else (the germs). What then can I do?

A: A good question, suggesting that you desire to consider fully the implications of separate vs. shared interests, not merely limiting your focus to homo sapiens. And to add to the apparent dilemma, consider that with every breath we take, we are inhaling untold numbers of microorganisms to certain death. And that with each hand-washing or shower, whether we aggressively use antibacterial soap or not, we are inflicting large-scale slaughter on uncountable numbers of tiny organisms that apparently just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. And of course, to keep ourselves alive with food and drink, innumerable lives have to be sacrificed daily in the vegetable and animal kingdom. The way of the world is death, and murder seems to be unavoidable. The world of form has been made from the belief in conflict in the mind, giving apparent reality to the principle of “one or the other.” At the level of form, bodies and the world, conflict is unavoidable, despite our best intentions to eliminate or minimize it.

That is why A Course in Miracles invites our focus to be on purpose or content and not form. When we act from an ego-based orientation that sees separate interests, our purpose is always attack -- regardless of our overt behavior -- which always reinforces the guilt in our minds. When we shift to the Holy Spirit’s perspective of shared interests, joining with the Sonship as a whole becomes our purpose, regardless of the actions we seem to be taking. And that is why Jesus asks us to join with him in our minds (e.g., T.14.V.9; T.15.III.11; T.15.VI.6:10; 7:1,2,5,6) -- before we seek to join with our brothers whom we still see as bodies -- whatever form of life they may seem to be. On our own, we always join from a belief that we are separate, while joining with Jesus in our minds helps us develop the recognition that we have never been separate -- a statement that can only make sense on the level of mind and ideas. Jesus knows what we believe, but he also knows that everything we believe we see is all made up and that death and destruction are not real. And so Jesus teaches us that we need to change our minds, not our behavior (T.2.VI.3). With that shift from the ego to Jesus as our teacher, we will know that nothing that is real is ever affected by changes in the inconstant world of bodies, including death. And thus the guilt we have been holding onto over our belief in separation diminishes over time, allowing each of us to be an increasingly clear channel of forgiveness for the mind of the Sonship as a whole, encompassing all the seeming fragments that we have experienced as individual “living” entities.

Q #301: What does it mean to give something a name? Could you explain why one then gets power over it?

A: To give something a name is to establish its identity. It is a way of bestowing “reality” on someone or something. In other words, if I determine who you are, I make that definition of you real in my mind, which means I make you who you are. That is the power of giving something a name. It is the nature of the separation to name everything and everyone, herein lies the power of naming: You have made up names for everything you see. Each one becomes a separate entity, identified by its own name. By this you carve it out of unity. By this you designate its special attributes, and set it off from other things by emphasizing space surrounding it. This space you lay between all things to which you give a different name; all happenings in terms of place and time; all bodies which are greeted by a name” (W.184.1:2,3,4,5,6). This is the ego’s misuse of creative power. Naming things and people in this way is actually denying their true identity. It is a way of saying: “You are who I say you are, not who God says you are.” A Course in Miracles tells us that whatever names the ego uses to identify all things it makes, unless they are seen in the light of truth they remain nameless.

One of the most important goals we have as students of the Course is to allow our definition of ourselves to be undone. We have all given ourselves the same name: “sinner.” When we are willing to question this, and recognize that we do not know who we are, we realize that we do not know our name. As we let go of all the names we call ourselves, and ask the Holy Spirit to teach us who we are, along with everyone and everything in the dream, we will become open to accepting that it is God’s creative power that establishes our identity. We are who He says we are, and so we have another name: “God’s innocent Son.” His Name is the Name we share: “A father gives his son his name, and thus identifies the son with him. His brothers share his name, and thus are they united in a bond to which they turn for their identity. Your Father's Name reminds you who you are, even within a world that does not know; even though you have not remembered it” (W.183.1:3,4,5).

Q #302: In chapter two of the text of A Course in Miracles, Jesus says. “...it is almost impossible to deny its (the body’s) existence in this world. Those who do so are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial.” Then in the workbook, lesson 199, he says to tell ourselves today and every day “I am not a body. I am free.” How can I do the lesson, keeping in mind the statement from the text? Also Ken says that awakening from this dream is a process and we should not try to skip over steps. It seems saying “I am not a body. I am free.” is trying to skip over steps. What is Jesus up to here?

A: There are some points to keep in mind so that we can recognize Jesus’ purpose in saying things and asking us to do things that may seem to contradict each other in different parts of the Course. He knows our resistance to his message is still great and that we will not be open to everything he has to say. Yet it would be a disservice to us if he were not, at the same time, very direct about just where he is attempting to lead us and did not exhort us to join him in his way of looking at things, for he knows so much more than we do.

That Jesus knows we will resist his more radical teachings is evident near the end of the introduction to the workbook when he observes, “Some of the ideas the workbook presents you will find hard to believe, and others may seem to be quite startling. This does not matter. You are merely asked to apply the ideas as you are directed to do. You are not asked to judge them at all. You are asked only to use them. It is their use that will give them meaning to you, and will show you that they are true. Remember only this; you need not believe the ideas, you need not accept them, and you need not even welcome them. Some of them you may actively resist. None of this will matter, or decrease their efficacy” (W.in.8:1,2,3,4,5,6; 9:1,2,3; italics added). And earlier, towards the end of the text, as he instructs us on how make decisions to have the day we really want, he cautions us, “If you find resistance strong and dedication weak, you are not ready. Do not fight yourself (T.30.I.1:6,7).

And so Jesus presents us his uncompromising and challenging teachings while at the same time acknowledging that we may not be ready to accept them and that it will take time (e.g., W.pII.284). But he also knows that if we will just allow him to get his foot in the door to our closed mind, before we know it, we will be on the other side with him. And that is because there is already a part of our mind that knows and has accepted what he is leading us toward, but if we felt we really had no choice, our resistance would be that much greater. So a lesson such as Lesson 199 should be seen as an invitation to accept a different perspective on ourselves and the world, but never as a call to deny what we continue to experience as our reality, false as it may be.