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Q: It seems like everything is really harmful—there is no limit.
A: Yes. We live in a world now where practically everything is harmful—the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, the bombs being dropped. This is a harmful world and it is important to see that, for it makes it unmistakably clear that we cannot trust anything outside. We can only go within, where true hope lies. Yet, once again, as long as we are in a body we should do what we feel is right. If we have ambivalence about a microwave, it would be silly to use it; there are other ways of heating up food. If time is extremely important for us, microwaving is wonderful, and so we should use it. In other words, we do the best we can, respect our preferences and belief systems, and act accordingly. Our focus should only be on not being harmful to ourselves or anyone else.
Another caution, try not to make microwaving into a spiritual lesson. That misses the point, and in doing so you are making the error real, a violation of the aforementioned cardinal principle of this course. As The Song of Prayer specifically states: “Do not see error. Do not make it real” (S-2.I.3:3-4). Agonizing over sex, money, a microwave, or anything else gives them a reality they do not have. That is the meaning of “Do it or don’t do it, but get on with it.” The form is never the issue. Once you get caught in the ego’s trap—especially with food and health issues—it is hard not to be judgmental of people who do not agree with you, because you think what you are doing is so holy and spiritual. Yet there is nothing holy or spiritual about not microwaving. There is nothing holy or spiritual about microwaving. It is simply something a body does. Always begin with the basic premise that being in the body is an attack on God. It follows, then, that everything is an attack on God. So you do the best you can to forgive yourself.
Through your forgiveness, you learn to use the body positively, as a classroom that reflects back to you the mind’s decision. If you find yourself agonizing over a microwave, for example, see that as a means of helping you realize that you are terrified of the love in your mind, and are displacing the internal conflict of love and your fear of it onto a microwave. What is helpful about that experience is that it is a red flag that says you had better look at this—this has nothing to do with the microwave, eating genetically modified foods, having meat or not having meat, or having a regular egg or an egg from a cage-free chicken. Do one or the other—whatever you feel is going to help you. But if it turns into a conflict, you know that you are displacing the conflict in your mind, because you are terrified of looking at it within and letting it go. At that point, however you resolve the problem outside is totally irrelevant.
Again, you should behave in whatever way works for you, but be sure to respect other people’s doing the exact opposite. And one more thing, leave A Course in Miracles out of it. Do not bring it with you into a restaurant, a grocery store, your kitchen, or bedroom. This would be the worst thing you could do, because you would be making a situation into something real and special when it is not. The world is what it is—a simple projection of a thought of guilt. Undoing that thought should be your only focus. Therein lies your true peace and safety.
Excerpted from Form versus Content
…not all special relationships are the same in form. And so it’s very possible the people whom you envy because they’re thin and don’t overeat, feel terribly guilty about something else—some kind of guilty secret, or secret shame. They would walk around envious of you because you don’t have their form of neurosis and their specialness. So that food, overeating, is not the only form of specialness.
In one sense, since we all have to eat, that is something we share. But the excess of that is not for everybody, because people do different things. Why people do one or another is a whole different topic. There’s no real answer for that, anyway. But the ego is always trying to say someone else has it better than I. I have it worse than someone else, just as you were joking before we started: “If you knew the deprivation I’ve had, then you’d understand why I overeat.” Everybody feels that way—that I’m worse off than everybody else, and so there is a kind of insane competition to be more of a victim than other people, and that makes you special. But the temptation is always to compare ourselves to other people—either that we are better than others—or, what is really underneath that is the idea that I’m worse than others. And so perhaps one of the attractions of overeating is to keep yourself really miserable so that you are the greatest victim. Underneath that is the need to keep proving that I’ve been unfairly treated; and the way I do that is by continually demonstrating the problem I have, such as being overweight—whether I am actually physically overweight or just psychologically, i.e., I think I am. The more overweight I become—the more of a problem food becomes—the more I can point a guilty finger at someone, like my lousy parents, for example, who deprived me, and didn’t give me the love, affection, and nourishment that I really wanted and felt I deserved. So each time I take a piece of chocolate, I’m really hammering another nail into their cross and saying, “You did this to me.”
Student: What you’re getting into is what I’ve heard you say before, that behind every expression of guilt stands a person that you accuse, right? So if we are choosing to parade our guilt in the form of fat, then there’s some person that that fat represents to us.
Kenneth: That’s right.
Student: But it’s not important to find out who that person is, right?
Kenneth: You don’t have to know who it is. All you have to know is that with each luscious spoonful of a hot fudge sundae, you are crucifying someone. So, the craving for the creamy, delicious, smooth, deep, dark chocolate symbolizes the hate for this person into whom you are driving a nail. That is exactly what it is.
Student: So the pleasure that I’m deriving out of whatever that food is, is in direct proportion to how I want to punish the person.
Kenneth: Yes, in one sense you can say that.
Student: That makes sense to me: the degree to which I’m invested in the joy of this food is a key to the degree to which I really want to punish this person that I’m blaming for something.
Kenneth: That’s the attraction—that’s the pleasure.
Student: Then, my gratefulness really becomes: if I didn’t have this food, that for me is this ecstasy, I wouldn’t ever be able to get at the depth of my need to forgive myself for accusing that person. Is that what you’re saying?
Kenneth: Right. That is why dieting doesn’t cure the problem, because the problem is not all the calories that you are consuming. The problem is all these murderous thoughts that are the content behind the form of the hot fudge sundae. Thus, if you give up the hot fudge sundae or the second helping, but the thoughts still stay there, you will just manifest them in another way.
That is why diets never work. You diet, you lose thirty or forty pounds, but the murderous thoughts are still there; and at some point, the urge just becomes over-whelming—you’ve got to nail the person to the cross again, and so you start eating.
Excerpted from Overeating: A Dialogue
Jesus therefore begins the process of healing by helping us see the ways we have been abused, or abused others in the name of sex or money. Having asked Jesus for help, we can view the intensity about sex and money as helpful red flags that tell us there is a serious problem, but it is not what we believed: “I am never upset for the reason I think” (W-pI.5). We cannot deny our conflict around these two areas, or that they have become preoccupations for us—the height of our special love or hate interests. Allowing ourselves to achieve this level of recognition inevitably leads to the next important step, which is getting in touch with the projections that fueled these issues. Sickness serves a similar purpose in the ego’s strategy, as it, too, is a great preoccupation—when we are in pain, nothing matters but pain relief.
Again, the ego has used sex and money to rivet our attention to the world and the body, away from the mind. Yet when we finally throw up our hands in despair, saying, “Help, there must be another way of looking at this,” the preoccupations that have been so essential to the ego’s separation now become important aspects of the Holy Spirit’s plan of Atonement. The attention that was focused outside can now be turned inward, where we begin to realize that the problem we are experiencing outside is not really outside at all, but within the mind.
I mentioned earlier that Freud’s insistence on his sexual theory was due largely to its roots in biology, which was of great importance to him. Biology means the body, and this helps us understand why we are so preoccupied, if not obsessed, with issues involving sex and money. These conflicted objects of our bodily preoccupation, again, help us get back to the real conflict, which has nothing to do with the physical. Using others to satisfy our needs—sexually or financially—is but the tip of the iceberg, which consists of the original “sin” of satisfying our need at God’s expense: acquiring the individualized existence we craved by disposing of God. Our lives are nothing more or less than a series of variations on that primordial theme.
Consequently, we need to look at the intensity surrounding sex and money within this framework, as part of the ego’s strategy to root attention in the body. In that sense it has served us remarkably well. The ego seeks always to make up problems where there are none. And the body and world were the ego’s answer to what it defined as the problem of the mind—a battleground that would lead to our destruction. For this reason, the world was made to solve the problem of the mind’s guilt, but then the world and body, with their multitudinous and complex components, became problems in their own right, demanding solutions—the more intense our experience of the problem, the more intently we focused on solving it on the bodily level: physically, psychologically, and socially. Yet once again the tables can be turned on the ego when we go to Jesus and look with him at the ego. He helps us understand that the intensity is not caused by the object outside, but by the enormity of the guilt and self-hatred inside. These in turn are defenses against the intensity of the love that defines us truly as Sons of God.
A section in the text is entitled, “The Attraction of Love for Love” (T-12.VIII), which points to the love where the real intensity is found, and which we seek to conceal:
For still deeper than the ego’s foundation, and much stronger than it will ever be, is your intense and burning love of God, and His for you. This is what you really want to hide (T-13.III.2:8-9).
Our yearning to go home is what the ego strives to stifle and conceal, resulting in the belief that our yearning is for the things in the world—love, comfort, and happiness, even for Heaven. Sex and money, the ego persuades us, are primary ways of fulfilling these yearnings. When we realize that the intensity connected with these bodily issues covers the intensity of the mind’s abhorrent guilt, which covers the intensity of the mind’s love, our lives take on a different light and our bodies a different purpose.
Looking with Jesus at these problems, therefore, means raising ourselves above the battleground and seeing the wider picture, realizing that the body is nothing more than the mind’s projection. When seen that way, the intensity will diminish and eventually disappear, because what feeds it is the ego’s purpose of keeping us focused outside. Indeed, the intensity must disappear because it is not fueled by the body—the body does not feel anything, our experience to the contrary. We talk about people having high sexual energy or high metabolism or high whatever, calling these biological facts. But there are no biological facts! The body feels what it is told to feel by the mind. And so, again, we do not have to change what the body feels; we but change the purpose the body’s feelings were made to serve. For the ego, the purpose was to keep us mindless; for the Holy Spirit, the body becomes a way of returning us to the problem and becoming mindful.
We can therefore see that intensity is another of the ego’s lines of defense, a way of riveting attention to the world, whether the intensity is about sex, money, food, making a name for oneself, or needing to be right and proving other people wrong. The intensity will diminish because it had been misplaced, being the ego’s insane attempt to displace our intensity for God’s Love onto something external. As we make the ongoing decisions to return home and forgive, there will be less need to defend against our guilt. Yet every once in a while the ego will rear its ugly head and a massive ego attack will ensue. That is when the ego becomes vicious, which occurs when we begin to take the Holy Spirit’s evaluation of us more seriously (T‑9.VII.4:4‑7). Elsewhere, Jesus tells us the ego will become retaliative when we take his hand on the journey:
Whenever fear intrudes anywhere along the road to peace, it is because the ego has attempted to join the journey with us and cannot do so. Sensing defeat and angered by it, the ego regards itself as rejected and becomes retaliative (T-8.V.5:5-6).
It is extremely helpful to understand this principle, so that when we become afraid and experience guilt or hate, we will understand what is going on and not have an ego attack over having had an ego attack.Excerpted from Form versus Content
(11:6-8) You are the holy Son of God Himself. Remember this, and all the world is free. Remember this, and earth and Heaven are one.
The Sonship of God is one. If we are in the hell of judgment, we hold everyone there; similarly, if we forgive, reflecting the peace of Heaven, our healed minds extend to welcome the world. As Jesus says at the end of the text:
Choose once again if you would take your place among the saviors of the world, or would remain in hell, and hold your brothers there (T‑31.VIII. 1:5; italics omitted).
The choice is ours—to heal or condemn, to see through the eyes of vision or judgment—and what we choose affects the Sonship as one because there is only one mind, not separated or fragmented. Sisyphus’ [the tragic Greek figure condemned by the gods to push a boulder up a mountain forever] learning to be happy frees the world from imprisonment; not from the gods, but from the mind’s thoughts of sin, guilt, and fear.
This is what Jesus means when he says that “salvation of the world depends on me” (W-pI.186). If these lines are understood from the world’s perspective, it is difficult to avoid a specialness trip. When we are told that the light of the world is in us and that the world needs us (e.g., W-pI.61-63), it is not the external or specific function that is meant; nor are bodies the referent—we are not dreams that come in mockery (The Gifts of God, p. 121). Since the world emanates from the darkened mind of God’s one Son, we all need to choose the Holy Spirit’s light-filled thought system that indeed saves the world because it heals the mind.
In the text, we are told that the body and ego are parodies and travesties of God’s perfect creation, which is spirit (T-24.VII.1:11; 10:9). If Jesus were truly here in a body, God and His Son would be mocked. Our reality, as was Jesus’, is outside the dream. Therefore, his love manifested in the dream in a form we call Jesus. However, the world made him part of its dream. We therefore need to be vigilant against doing that with his course. Our teacher is not speaking to us as a body or personality, but only as a mind, asking us to join with him by taking his hand and looking through his eyes from above the battleground. In his vision the world is perceived differently. No matter where we are in life, we will be peaceful. No matter what catastrophic thing has just happened to us or our families, we will be happy because we will know this is a dream. Jesus’ love will then flow through our minds, directing what our bodies say and do. This means that even if, in the eyes of the world, we may be busy and helpful, we would remain in the mind’s quiet center (T-18.VII.8) and have literally no concern with the world, knowing it exists only within the mind.
To repeat this important point, this is not saying that we should not do things in the world. It is simply saying that what we do is the effect, and our focus should only be on the cause—the mind. Thus Jesus says:
This is a course in cause and not effect (T‑21. VII.7:8).
This is a course in changing our minds about the world, not the world itself. Our failing to recognize this is why everything is always so wrong here, and why even the most well-meaning people are ultimately not helpful. This also explains why utopian visions fail—because people get attached to the form, to the effect. Karl Marx was obviously correct in pointing to greed and inequality as the world’s problem. Yet he missed the central point that had nothing to do with economics, but with the greed and inequality—the belief in separate interests—that is in everyone’s mind, regardless of political points of view. Moreover, we know that everyone has this problem because we all believe we are here, and until this thought is addressed and undone in the mind, the world’s suffering will continue.
And so when Jesus speaks of setting the goal (T‑17.VI), or he asks us to decide on the day we want (T-30.I), he is not referring to winning the lottery or walking out of a hospital room feeling fine. His point is only our having inner peace: Do we want a day in which we are truly peaceful, or one of stress and conflict? This is why his is a course in cause (the mind), and not effect (behavior), and why its focus is the miracle, which restores “to cause [the mind] the function of causation, not effect” (T-28.II.9:3). The miracle returns to our awareness the fact that it is the mind that causes the world, which is merely its effect. Thus the title, A Course in Miracles—a course that has nothing to do with behavior, which is why it should never be taken as a guide for decisions here. The Course’s purpose, once again, is only to help us become peaceful, from which our behavior will lovingly flow.
It is helpful to recognize that we have an investment in focusing on specific symptoms, because as long as we do—agonizingly and despairingly—we but do what the ego wants: protecting ourselves from Jesus’ teaching. We compound this arrogance by then asking him to help us, when we are really pushing him away. The help we beseech him for at that point is magic, not a miracle, for the latter changes the mind, while the former changes the body’s symptoms—Jesus is a teacher of miracles, not a magician. Watch, therefore, how you focus on specific problems, limitations, and symptoms, whether in yourself or others. Anything that fragments is of the ego, for its thought system is rooted in fragmentation, as Jesus describes in “The Substitute Reality” (T-18.I).
In speaking of difficulty, distress, and perplexity, Jesus indicates to us that he knows our lives are not particularly easy. He helps us to know, in the midst of our dis-ease, that we can look at everything differently. To return to the duke’s speech, “Sweet are the uses of adversity,” Jesus would not change the adversity, but rather help us change the use we make of it. When Jesus says, “My brother, choose again,” he is not telling us to choose a different form; he is advising us to choose a different way of looking at the form. Remember, if you focus on changing the external you have made it real, which means you have again walked into the ego’s trap. The ego wants to make the world’s and the body’s problems real, because that keeps us mindless, protecting the ego from the mind’s power to choose. In this regard it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the ego is us—the part of the mind that likes being separated, special, and unique. This part fears the mind’s decision maker—the one thing in the universe with the power to undo the ego. Thus, choosing again means the mind choosing a different teacher, who reassuringly tells us:
The images you make cannot prevail against what God Himself would have you be (T‑31. VIII.4:1).
If God or Jesus were to be involved with helping you with problems, that would make them real, which means you would not be as God created you. Consider that if God created you as Christ, Who has no problems, to insist that Jesus help you with your problems is to demand he share your shabby self-image, seeing you the way you see you—a vulnerable self beset with problems—and not as the Self that God created. Be grateful, then, that he does nothing in the world, because if he did, he would not be the sublime symbol of God’s Love, for he would have seen you as a problem-laden ego. Yet, again, that is how you insist Jesus see you every time you ask for specific help, and why he told Helen not to ask him to help her take away her fear (T-2.VI.4:1-3). That would have been the worst thing she could have done, for it would have gone against the Course’s purpose of returning to us the power of the mind to choose. Jesus thus says to us all: “You choose to see yourselves as having problems, and I can help you look at these, but cannot help you with what you perceive to be true. The fact is that you do not have problems, except in thinking that you do.” That is how Jesus teaches us that nothing has the power to separate us from the Love of God in our minds, for despite our limitations and imperfections—projected onto the body—we remain the one Son that God created one with Him. Forgiving limitations—in ourselves or in others—clears away the interference to remembering our oneness with each other, with ourselves, and with our Creator.
Excerpted from The Healing Power of Kindness, Volume Two
To be clear, A Course in Miracles is not against sex or making money, but neither is it for them. Jesus does not care about any of this because the body is not real to him. Purpose alone is important, and purpose is found in the mind. That is his only concern. Jesus is in the mind and nowhere else, because there is nowhere else. Remember, the body is non-existent, being a projection into form of a non-existent thought. The split mind likewise is non-existent, but as long as we think we are separated, the thought of separation will be found in the mind. We think separation is here in the world, but this belief has no effect on the truth. For example, if we dream of Jesus while asleep, he is not in our dream, nor is he in our bedroom. He is a thought or symbol in the mind that we project into the dream. So, too, he is not in the world’s dream of the body.
It is abundantly clear as you study his course that Jesus’ only focus is purpose—purpose is everything. And so, again, what we made to hurt, the Holy Spirit uses to heal. This is the shift that characterizes the miracle. Once the form is made neutral, it can serve the ego’s purpose of reinforcing guilt, separation, and the dream, or the Holy Spirit’s purpose of undoing guilt through forgiveness and awakening us from the dream. Therefore, form is neither good nor bad; it just is. We made the world, and the only important thing now is which teacher we use to help us learn from it. To state it one last time, because of their prominent symbolism as instruments of guilt, abuse, power, pleasure, and pain, sex and money can be extraordinarily useful instruments to help us with undoing the ego and returning home. This passage from the workbook nicely summarizes the two purposes possible for the body—separate versus shared interests:
The body is a dream. … Made to be fearful, must the body serve the purpose given it. But we can change the purpose that the body will obey by changing what we think that it is for.
The body is the means by which God’s Son returns to sanity. Though it was made to fence him into hell without escape, yet has the goal of Heaven been exchanged for the pursuit of hell. The Son of God extends his hand to reach his brother, and to help him walk along the road with him. Now is the body holy. Now it serves to heal the mind that it was made to kill (W-pII.5.3:1,4-5; 4).
Excerpted from Form versus Content
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