Weekly Questions and Answers, 12/11/2002

This week's questions:

Q #34: A question about artistic expression in an awakened state.
Q #35: A question about apparent lack of progress.
Q #36: A question about angels -- are they real?.
Q #37: A question about choice vs. destiny.

Q #34: From what I understand, anyone who reaches or experiences the state of the real world would not need or do anything external. Still, is it possible to "create" something artistic in this world (like a piece of music, a poem, etc.) out of pure need to share the state of happiness?

A: Being in the real world means that you know that you are not a body and that the physical world is not real. You know that your identity -- as well as everyone else’s -- has nothing to do with either the body or the world. It is a state of mind in which the ego thought system is no longer present and therefore there is no decision-making aspect, because there no longer are two thought systems to choose between. The content of the mind is purely the Holy Spirit’s thought system of love.

Consequently, in this state of mind there would be no I that would experience a need to do something. It is not that your body would not do anything, but that "you" would not be the agent of the "doing." The Holy Spirit’s love would flow through you, and so your experience would be that "you" are not doing anything. Remember, our journey into "the far country" has been a journey away from the state of oneness and into a state of physical individuality. Therefore our journey back is a journey toward selflessness, characterized by our re-acceptance of the truth that God’s Son is one and invulnerable. Just before the dream of separation disappears totally, we would reach the state of knowing once and for all that bodies and the world are totally unreal. They are nothing other than the dreams of a mind that has fallen asleep, and therefore nothing happening in the dreams truly matters. It matters only to the figures in the dream. But a healed mind would know that even the dream itself never really happened.

If that is your state of mind, how then could there be any need to be creative? The love of the Holy Spirit would extend through you to those who still think they are separate from that love, and in some way are calling out for it. But you would not direct that process. There no longer is that kind of a "you." If the artist’s experience is "I am profoundly happy. I want others who are not happy to share what I am experiencing," chances are that that is coming from the ego, because there is separation in the perception. If you experience a need to share love, you are making the error real. If the artistic impulse is coming from the Holy Spirit or from Jesus, there would be no sense of urgency, and the artist would not experience himself or herself as the agent of the work produced, nor would there be any concern over whether and how it is received. Love naturally extends of itself, and that extension of love might be expressed through art in some form, but that is far different from "creating," as you stated, "something artistic in this world…out of pure need to share the state of happiness." That could well be the ego sneaking in the back door to retrieve part of its self-importance that was starting to slip away.

Q #35: It seems the more I study A Course in Miracles, I begin to think I am going backward instead of forward. My mind is more noisy than ever. Why is that?

A: The Course has a helpful perspective on this: "Put yourself not in charge of this [wakening to knowledge] for you cannot distinguish between advance and retreat. Some of your greatest advances you have judged as failures, and some of your deepest retreats you have evaluated as success" (T.18.V.1:5,6). The fact is we really do not know where we are in our progress; we do not even know if we are going backwards or forwards It is important to remember this in our study of the Course so as not to waste a lot of time and effort judging or evaluating ourselves. Most likely the "noise" in your mind that seems to be more than ever was there before your study of the Course; the difference is now you are aware of it. Now you know you have a mind and that it is a noisy mind, and that is exactly what the Course is helping us to learn. We begin our practice by learning not to deny that we are using our noise to drown out the "still small voice" (T.21.V.1:6) of the Holy Spirit. Since denial is part of our defense strategy as egos, beginning to hear our noisy minds is the beginning of undoing denial. As we deepen our commitment to study the Course, our noise may actually seem to get louder because of our resistance. Our ego identity feels threatened by what we are learning and puts up a fight in a variety of ways, one of them being a noisy mind. This is also a ploy of the ego to convince us to stop our pursuit of the truth, because it tells us we are "getting worse." Our task is to begin to pay attention to the chatter in our minds because it is telling us what we believe. The whole point of the mind training of the Course is to uncover the thoughts, judgments, beliefs and lies hidden in our minds causing us to feel guilty and fearful. The good news is that "The still, small Voice for God is not drowned out by all the ego's raucous screams and senseless ravings to those who want to hear It" (T.21.V.1:6). We will hear His promptings when we have heard and forgiven all of our objections.

Q #36: Are "angels" illusion? A Course in Miracles mentions "angels" (T19.IV.C.9; T26.IX.7, and in the workbook), but what is not clear to me is whether they are made by ego or part of reality.

A: Angels are part of the illusion, whether we speak of them in the usual sense as ephemeral bodies or as they are spoken of in the Course. In the Course’s teaching, reality refers only to the Oneness of God and His Son in Heaven, where there is only Unity and no distinction between Father and His one Son. There is no plural in this reality. According to the Course, everything else is part of the illusion of the dream. The Course speaks of angels as metaphor and symbol. They are symbols for the reflection of God’s thoughts, which are always with us. It is a loving, poetic use of a term that is familiar to us to teach us about the Love God extends to the Sonship, since we may still be too fearful to have a direct experience of His Love. We generally understand angels to be benign spirits who are comforting and helpful to us. In the Course, Jesus uses this form because we have this positive association, and he is helping us to gently let go of our fear in terms we are able to understand. You may notice that wherever angels are mentioned in the Course the language is beautiful poetry, with terms that are comforting and uplifting. These are words of encouragement that reflect the truth of God’s Love for us.

Q #37: This question is an edited combination of two separate questions that were submitted on the theme of choice and predetermination or destiny in A Course in Miracles:

As I understand it, in this dream of separation my only real choice is which teacher I choose in every situation I find myself: the ego or the Holy Spirit. As for the dream itself, we are told that the script is already written. But I wonder, can I, as the dreamer of the dream, change the dream in terms of the specific events that unfold. Or can I change the dream only in terms of my perspective on the situation? In other words, is everything that I'm experiencing predestined when it comes to situations and relationships, etc.? That would mean that I'm walking through an old dream of separation, like watching an old movie, that my marriage could never have lasted longer than it did, I could never have had more than the number of children I have now, and the relationship I'm in now is already fully defined in terms of time, etc. As I'm given the opportunity to 'save time' by choosing the Holy Spirit as my teacher, it would mean only that I'm allowed to skip certain parts of the story. Is it like this?

But it also seems that the Course encourages us not to exchange an unholy relationship for yet another unholy relationship with someone else, as we search for happiness we will never find outside of ourselves, but instead to make the relationship we are in a holy one. This seems to indicate that we do have choices in terms of the story, the people we're meeting, etc. So then there could be several possible versions of my lifetime. One might include two or more briefer marriages with different spouses while another might involve remaining in the same marriage for many years. But Jesus says that nothing is left to coincidence and that every meeting is planned. Or does the form simply not matter and do I just see shadows, projecting my own images on them? But then why is it that the script of my life, if it is already determined, seems to have such a significant effect on other people’s lives?

Jesus also says that what we see is the judgment we first passed on ourselves, and outside of that there is no world. Does that mean that, for example, if there is a war between the United States and Iraq, I could have done something to stop it? Did it already happen and was it corrected, so that if I'm seeing a war instead of peace, does that mean that my mind still needs to be corrected because I am still choosing the wrong teacher? Or could I have done nothing to avoid the war and do I just choose which teacher with whom to view the events. And would I see nothing but innocence on both sides if I choose the Holy Spirit?

A: To address completely all the questions and issues you’ve raised could take a book (and there is a book, A Vast Illusion: Time According to A Course in Miracles by Kenneth Wapnick, which you may find helpful to amplify some of the points that we’ll address briefly here).

The Course does say that our only real choice is between the ego and Holy Spirit, the emphasis being on "real." But within the dream, there are nearly an infinite number -- although not infinite, only nearly infinite, because the ego can not make anything that is either infinite or eternal (T.4.I.11:7) -- of alternatives we can choose among at the level of form. But their underlying content is all the same -- sin, guilt and fear - and so the Course emphasizes that there is no real choice among alternatives that are really all the same. Meaningful choice can be made only on the level of content and so the only real choice is between the guilt and fear of the ego and the forgiveness and love of the Holy Spirit. So, yes, there are many different forms or sequences of events that our lives may take as a result of our seeming choices, but so long as we are choosing with the ego, believing that happiness can be found outside ourselves, nothing will really change, although our circumstances and relationships may alter significantly. By the way, the Course does not actually encourage us to remain physically in a relationship in order to make it holy -- it never advises us on the level of specifics or form. When it cautions us about "getting rid of your brother" (T.17.V.7:2), it is speaking of how we are perceiving our brother in our mind, including in particular all of the special fantasies we have associated with him that are no longer being fulfilled.

Now the Course also says, as you remark, that the script is already written (W.pI.158.4:3) and that everything in time has already happened, so that our lives are nothing more than seeing "the journey from where it ended, looking back on it, imagining we make it once again; reviewing mentally what has gone by" (4:5). And while Jesus says that nothing happens by chance, he is clearly attributing the responsibility for choice for all the experiences of our lives to our own mind (T-21.II.3:1,2,3). But this does not mean that everything in our lives is predetermined, that the sequence of events is fixed. We are always choosing from an array of many possible events that have all already occurred, but the unique sequencing and the vast number of past events we’re choosing from, combined with our repressing any memory of any of them and our belief that time itself is both real and linear, add to the feeling that it is all new. And this is all part of the ego defense to mislead us into believing something new and meaningful is happening in our lives, reinforcing the foolish hope that somehow this time our ego choice in the world of form will have a better outcome.

To understand the seeming effect of our lives on each other, we need to step back and look from outside the dream of the world, and return our attention to the mind where all choices are really being made. The nearly infinite number of possible events in time was written in one instant by the one (collective) mind, joined with the ego, before the fragmentary projection out into the world of separate individuals and lives seemed to happen. As Jesus explains, "time but lasted an instant in your mind, with no effect upon eternity. And so is all time past...The tiny tick of time in which the first mistake was made, and all of them with that one mistake" (T.26.3:3,4,5, italics added).

Now my individual dream is separate and can not truly be shared with anyone else. But since all minds are joined, any decision that I make to interact as a body with you, or that you make to interact as a body with me, must always reflect an agreement we both have made together, at the level of mind outside of time and space, to replay certain events in time and space that have already happened. And this joint agreement must be kept buried in our unconscious if it is to be effective in supporting the ego’s purpose of separation and victimization.

Jesus speaks of this joint decision, specifically in the context of our agreement to be hurt by each other, as "the secret vow that you have made with every brother that would walk apart.…Unstated and unheard in consciousness...it is a promise to another to be hurt by him, and to attack him in return.…so that [the body] will suffer pain. It is the obvious effect of what was made in secret, in agreement with another’s secret wish to be apart from you, as you would be apart from him. Unless you both agree that is your wish, it can have no effects" (T.28.VI.4:3,6,7; 5:1,2,3). This hidden joint agreement to seem to be affected by each other must be the case, for otherwise we would be the victim of each other’s decisions. While this joint agreement about form is true at a metaphysical level, at a practical level it is much more helpful to focus on the fact that in the world, as the physical self with which I identify, I am not able to control what others do, but I nevertheless always have a choice about how I will perceive what is happening in my life. I can decide which teacher I will invite in, and whether I will see my peace of mind as dependent only on my own choice -- as the Holy Spirit would teach -- or whether I choose to see others as having power to take away my peace of mind -- accepting the ego’s teaching that I can be victimized and therefore am not responsible for how I feel.

As to whether or not a healed mind sees war and has any choice about it, it is apparent that Jesus recognizes the conflicts of our ego -- he spends a great deal of the Course pointing out the ego’s sick dynamics to us -- but that does not mean his mind is not healed. What is important is that he is not judging us as he uncovers our ego’s machinations. He sees everything as either an extension of love or a call for it (T.12.I.3:1,2,3,4). When we are joined with Jesus in our minds, we will see any conflict in the world, at either an individual or an international level, in that same light. We will not deny what our eyes see, but our interpretation will be different from the world’s interpretation. In the context of sickness, the Course observes that "the body’s eyes will continue to see differences. But the mind that has let itself be healed will no longer acknowledge them. There will be those who seem to be ‘sicker’ than others, and the body’s eyes will report their changed appearances as before. But the healed mind will put them all in one category; they are unreal" (M-8.6:1-4). And this healed perception can arise only after our mind has released its belief in the value of conflict and war as a means for projecting the guilt of separation outside of our own mind. We may have agreed to participate in a collective dream where an external war is played out in order to reinforce the ego’s perception of the world as one of victims and victimizers - but we can in any instant ask for help, first recognizing the ego’s purpose for war and then deciding we no longer wish to reinforce that insanity in our own mind. And before we would see innocence on all sides of the conflict, we would first see the insanity on all sides, and recognize it is the same insanity we share with everyone else when we are identified with the ego.

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