Question #204: Is happiness the goal of A Course in Miracles?
Answer: It all depends on your definition of the word happiness. If your definition is "a state of well- being and contentment" based on getting what you want, whenever you want it, no matter what the cost, or to whom, then the answer is no. If, however, your definition is "a state of well-being and contentment" based on the knowledge of who you truly are, then the answer is yes. As you can see, one definition relies on external sources, while the other relies on internal sources.
Imagine every grievance you now have completely washed away. Imagine "gliding" through your day, with no impingement from outside sources. Imagine freedom from conflict, of any kind. Imagine knowing you are without sin and released of guilt. Imagine finding the innocence you thought was surely lost. Imagine everyone you meet as a brother you dearly love. Such a life comes from the peace of mind you will have once forgiveness has become perfected within you. This "happiness" is the goal of the Course.
Question #235: Question #116 asks whether God intervenes in this world of form for us. Your answer was beautifully stated but was left wanting in my opinion. By its very title, A Course in Miracles, Jesus is telling us that He will indeed intervene in this mad dream we're having. There is no problem that cannot be answered by a miracle, whether it be in finances, health or emotional turmoil, or anything in between. That is the whole reason Jesus took the time to come to us in this form. All the work we do to undo our ego identification results in the undoing of all our problems. Every problem is answered. Our Light shines away all the darkness. So to put this in a question form: why is not more emphasis put on the realization of one's happiness by following the Course?
Answer: Why not more emphasis on finding happiness through the Course, you ask? Because none of us wants the happiness that the Course offers us. We all want our definition of happiness, which means having our personal needs met, whether they be financial, health, emotional or whatever. But that is not what the Course offers. It is inviting us through the practice of forgiveness to let go of all our judgments and grievances until, at the end of the process, we also release our identification with this personal self that we believe has all these problems and needs. The happiness the Course holds out to us comes from awakening from the dream of pain which we call our lives here in the world, a dream in which there is no hope of real happiness. But we don’t want that. And so Jesus says he must first teach us the difference between joy and pain, between freedom and imprisonment (T.7.X; T.8.II.4,5). Otherwise we will continue to seek pain, believing it is joy, and strive to maintain our imprisonment, insisting it is freedom. We need a lot of help, but not with the "problems" of the world.
To answer your unstated question -- neither God nor Jesus intervenes in the world. Nor do they intervene in our minds. To intervene and fix problems at any level would be to make the error of separation real (T.26.VII.12). And the correction, which the Course calls the Atonement principle, says the separation never in reality happened. So it would make no sense for God or Jesus to intervene in our insane world. We made up all of our worldly problems so that we could cover over and not have to look at what we believe is the real problem -- the guilt in our mind over separating from God. The only help we need is with changing our minds about that guilt and, although we can’t do this on our own, Jesus tells us he can’t change our minds for us. He can only show us what we have made real and its consequences, in the world and in our minds, in the hope that we will recognize our insanity and be willing to make the same choice he has already made (T.2.VI.4; T.2.VII.1; T.3.IV.7; T.5.II.9,10,11:1; T.8.IV.4,5,6).
The thing is, none of us really minds being unhappy, so long as we don’t think we’re responsible for that unhappiness. We want a world and relationships with problems that victimize us so that we don’t have to see that our choice for separation and individuality is the real cause of all our pain. And until we can recognize and accept that fact, we will have no interest in the happiness that following the Course offers us. We will find real happiness by following Jesus’ teaching, but not because all of our problems in the world will be resolved as a result of his intercession. We have no problems in the world that need resolving. Yes, all the darkness will disappear in the light of who we are -- and that includes not only all of our problems in the world, but the world itself and the self we think we are within the world, as well as the guilt within our mind that is the source of all of our projections into a world of form. Because for most of us, that thought is fearful, Jesus assures us in many places in his Course that the path is a process and we will progress along it at our pace, as we are comfortable (e.g., T.16.VI.8:1,2,3). But at least now we can understand our resistance to practicing his teachings of forgiveness. As Jesus reminds us, "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false" (T.16.IV.6:1,2).
Question #429: It has been stated many times that it is not the goal of A Course in Miracles to help us get what we want in the world. But doesn't it sort of do that anyway? What I mean is, if we are having problems with health or money, and through the Course we remove the guilt that underlies those projections, then don't our circumstances improve?
Answer: A basic principle of the Course teaches that "Ideas leave not their source" (W.p.I.132.5:3), which is the mind. Whatever occurs in form in our experience is a reflection of a choice in the mind to identify with the ego or the Holy Spirit. Our experience in the world involves a myriad of seemingly different situations, which are neutral in themselves. It is our interpretation of them that gives them power to take away our peace, or leave it unaffected. The interpretation is based on a belief about ourselves. When the mind chooses to identify with the ego thought system, thus with separation and the body, it interprets sickness or lack of money as a threat or attack. When the mind chooses to identify with the Holy Spirit, having a sickness or lack of money is not perceived as attack, and has no effect on a person’s peacefulness. Any physical condition is then irrelevant; it may or may not change. Although the power of the mind may be used to change physical conditions, unless the choice for the Holy Spirit’s healing is made, the problem will continue in one form or another. It is the mind that is sick and therefore in need of healing: "The body needs no healing. But the mind that thinks it is a body is sick indeed!"(T.25.in.3:1,2)
You are correct in saying that the goal of the Course is not to make things better in the world: "…seek not to change the world, but choose to change your mind about the world" (T.21.in.1:7). It is a mistake to believe that the source of distress is anything external to the mind, such as physical sickness or lack of money The Course tells us that the cause of all conflict is a choice in the mind to believe that the separation is real. Its goal is the healing of the mind of this thought, teaching us our true identity is mind, not the body, whether it be a healthy, sick, wealthy, or poor one. This is the important lesson we are asked to learn. Only this will bring us the peace we seek, and the ultimate awakening from the dream of separation.
Question #885: Why do I sometimes feel that the words spoken in A Course in Miracles are unkind? Is this a projection of the ego which is trying to steer me subtly away from the Course's purpose? What is the Course's purpose anyhow?
Answer: The goal of A Course in Miracles is to uncover what lies hidden within the ego thought system, so that it can be exposed to the light of truth to be healed. Exposure of the ugliness of the ego may seem unkind, just as patients cringe when the dentist probes to examine an aching tooth. The pain of the infected tooth is unbearable, but the helping hands of the dentist may be perceived as yet more painful. Careful examination of the Course's graphic descriptions of the ego reveals Jesus' kind and comforting diagnosis: we are not the gruesome ego in need of a root canal, we only think we are. He introduces descriptions of the ego's insanity with phrases such as: “you think you are….” “you believe you are….,” “you see yourself…”. Never does he say these beliefs are true. In fact, the only purpose for exposing these thoughts is to teach us that they are not true, and that we believe them because we have chosen them to support belief in the reality of separation and sin. The sickness of separation must first be exposed in order for it to be healed. The goal of the Course is healing the mind of the thought of separation, which Jesus helps us do by teaching us that just as we chose the ego, we can choose against it by choosing the Holy Spirit.
Yes, focusing on the Course's strong negative words in reference to the ego is a wonderful way for to halt progress in your study of the Course. The truth is, we have no problem believing that we are egos living and dying in bodies, with no hope of ever returning to our true state of oneness with God; the most unkind thing the Son of God could believe about himself. But we do have tremendous resistance to believing the message Jesus offers: we are God's innocent Son (W.pI.95.12:2,3) , the separation never happened (T.6.II.10:7) , the world is an illusion (W.pI.155.2:1) , and “At no single instant does the body exist at all” (T.18.VII.3:1) . Jesus adds insult to injury by telling us that this world is hell (W.pI.182.3) , every attack is murder (T.23.III.1) , guilt is projected from the mind in the form of hate (T.18.VI.2) , and finally, “…a slight twinge of annoyance is nothing but a veil drawn over intense fury” (W.pI.21.2:5) . To the part of the mind that identifies with the ego/body these words are indeed unkind; certainly not things we want to hear. In fact, the ego works very hard at keeping these thoughts from awareness, thereby defending the mind's continued choice for separation. The devastating consequences of choosing separation are hidden behind the world's seeming loveliness. In the text, Jesus uses the example of a framed picture to show us the ego's use of denial and deception. The ugly picture of the ego's specialness is “…surrounded by a frame so heavy and so elaborate that the picture is almost obliterated by its imposing structure” (T.17.IV.8:2) . The ego uses both the positive and negative experiences of the world in fabricating its frame of deception. The positive experiences are diversions meant to convince us that the world is not such a bad place. The pain and misery of negative experiences prove the world is real. We have so overlearned the ego's message and adjusted to the heavy layers of denial, that Jesus spells things out using striking contrast between the ego's darkness and the loving message of the Holy Spirit's truth. Jesus urges us to “look at the picture ” (T.17.IV.9:1) , not the frame. Unless we see that choosing the ego is the source of all the world's anguish, we will not move beyond the veil of illusion to awaken to the light of truth. That is the ultimate goal of the Course.
Question #941: Please explain the Holy Spirit, specifics, and A Course in Miracles' ultimate goal.
Answer: Jesus tells us in the Course that the Holy Spirit " is the Christ Mind which is aware of the knowledge that lies beyond perception" (T.5.I.5: 1) and " is in your right mind, as He was in mine" (T.5.I.3). In other words, the Holy Spirit is the memory of God's Love that remained in our mind when we fell asleep and dreamt up this world of separation. We can think of Him as an internal Teacher to whom we can turn for guidance. He will correct our painful thoughts of separation with forgiving thoughts, which reflect the truth that we are still "home in God, dreaming of exile but perfectly capable of awakening to reality" (T.10.I.2: 1) .
Of specifics, the Course says, "The Holy Spirit will answer every specific problem as long as you believe that problems are specific" (T.11.VIII.5: 5). Then it goes on to tell us that "Problems are not specific but they take specific forms, and these specific shapes make up the world" (T. 27.V.8: 1). So, the Course lets us know that there is a loving presence to which we can turn for help with the specific challenges we seem to face in our lives. At the same time, it sets out a curriculum that will lead us to realize that the multitude of specific problems we think we have are just reflections of our one real problem -- our belief that we exist at God's expense and deserve to be punished for it.
Jesus wants us to use the specific problems in our lives as classrooms that will ultimately help us to awaken. The first step in this process is to bring our problems to the light of the Holy Spirit in our mind so He can reinterpret them for us in a loving way. This will not necessarily change a problem on the level of form, but it will take away all our pain and conflict about it. Over time, all our specifics will begin to seem more and more alike and we will automatically stop asking the Holy Spirit for help with our specific problems and instead ask Him to help us (to paraphrase the Course) change our mind about our problems.
This brings us to the Course's ultimate goal. The rather ambitious goal of the Course is to teach us that this world is nothing more than an "outside picture of an inward condition" (T.21.in.1: 5) , that this condition is making us miserable, and that -- with the Holy Spirit's help -- we have the ability to change it. The Course would have changing this inward condition become the central focus of our lives. We could think of studying this Course as taking the initial step on a lifelong journey of forgiveness and ever-increasing self-awareness.
As Course students, it is important to remember that "This course is a beginning, not an end" (W.ep.1: 1) . The end of the journey -- the real world -- will be when we, like Jesus, have nothing but the Holy Spirit in our mind. Happily, when that happens and what it looks like is not our concern.
* The above is reproduced from the Foundation for A Course in Miracles' Question and Answer Service with the kind permission of Dr. Kenneth Wapnick and the Foundation for A Course in Miracles.