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Forward and Backward Thinking, Part 1
Thought, the Level of Correction

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Editor's note: This transcript has been lightly edited to bring clarification to certain points of the dialogue and for easier readability. For this reason, it does not match the corresponding audio mp3 word-for-word. However, the overall content and the expressed ideas remain unchanged.

Speaker: All healing is healing of the mind, and all therapy is psychotherapy because only the mind can be sick. In our discussions, we’ll start talking about ideas, but if any of you have issues that are going on in your life that you’re struggling with, or if there’s a repetitive pattern that’s been coming, or a problem that seems to be resurfacing over the years that you’ve been getting stuck on, then feel free to bring that up. We'll use that as a practical example to trace it back through some of the metaphysics of the Course because ultimately it has to be a practical course. We don’t need another religion as far as memorizing more terms, memorizing another system and making a religion out of it. We want to have a living experience of that peace and truth, and really the only way to do that is to be able to offer every thought that you have in your mind, every concept, every perception that you have, over to the Holy Spirit and to let it be washed clean. I want to just open up with that and say that as we go along, if there’s any question that you have, or if there’s any kind of issue that’s going on that’s really related to that, feel free to bring it up and we’ll use it.

Basically, the dialogue format is helpful because the truth is within each of us, so I don’t like to get into a monologue of talking about. If I’m talking about something, and you don’t see how it’s very practical or applicable, ask me how it’s applicable in my life. You can’t come up here and talk about ideas if your life doesn’t demonstrate those things. If you haven’t had to go through those struggles and issues, and if it’s not a living example, then what is it? I want this to be all of our night. There can seem to be controversies. Sometimes there are seeming conflicts between levels. There are places where Jesus will seemingly say one thing and then a few pages later say something else, and there will be kind of a thought, Wait a minute, isn't there a conflict here? I want to just throw it out - if there’s anything in particular tonight, whether it’s healing or relationships or economics, finances, or anything on your mind that is a burning issue.

Participant 1: In the Course it says that perhaps you need correcting at another level. Level is a good one because I get so confused about it. I listen to Wapnick on it, and I understand it, and I know that 99% of the time we’re in ego because the only thing that has to learn anything is ego. But the level, that’s difficult because the Course does shift from the higher level, the higher self, “You are the Holy Son of God,” to “Brother you’re shaking in your boots because you think you do this.” It shifts. It talks to our ego level then it talks to our Christ Self. I understand that, but to apply the levels in our lives now, like - I need correction at another level. What would that imply possibly?

Speaker: Well, you could come at it from so many different angles, but if you want to come at it from levels, that’s a good way because early in the Text, Jesus says that all conflict arises from confusing the levels. That's a big statement, all conflict comes from confusing the levels. And basically Jesus says that all sickness comes from confusing the levels. So, if we can get really clear about it, really go into this, taking this particular approach tonight, there can be enormous clarity and enormous healing, if we can just explore it using that example and going in.

Basically, in the beginning of the Text, Jesus defines sickness as "not right mindedness." In other words, whenever you’re not in your right mind (there’s a right mind and a wrong mind), you’re sick, and whenever you’re not in your right mind, you’re confusing the levels. So, first of all I’ll just talk about what I see as three really distinct levels in the Course. The first, we won’t spend a lot of time on because the Course doesn’t spend a lot of time on it. That’s the level of complete union, complete abstract knowledge, God, Christ, the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s called knowledge. It’s called eternity, the eternal, the infinite. The Course talks about these terms and talks about it as what is. We say, "God is" in the Workbook “and we cease to speak.” That’s just what is, and so the Course doesn’t spend a lot of time even talking about that level because it says, "This is a course in miracles.” This is a course in changing our perception, so that we can prepare our minds for God to take the final step and for us to return to the Kingdom of Heaven. I wouldn’t even call that a level. I call that level-less. There are no levels involved in Heaven.

Then, we come into what the Course calls the split mind, and right away we’re into a metaphor because it’s describing something as if the separation occurred. Jesus says at many points that the separation did not occur. There’s one point in the Beyond All Idols section, where it says “God knows not form.” It’s a little bitty sentence but a pretty powerful idea. “God knows not form.” This whole seeming split and the projected world, for that matter this cosmos, the black holes, the stars, the galaxy, and everything is all part of the projection. It involves all spheres and gravity and form in all kinds of different shapes, and so on, but basically once we speak - even of the cosmos - we’re down into the level of the split mind, and there is only one Mind. If you go back to the Clarification of Terms, Jesus says that the concept of an individual mind is just made up. It seems to be meaningful when we talk about the split. It seems as if there are individual minds. With that concept, there seems to be a right mind and a wrong mind, part of the mind that remembers Spirit, where the Holy Spirit abides, and the other part where the ego abides. Now, when I say, seems to be individual minds, what happens is that in perception, when the mind perceives separate fragments, everything seems to be fragmented including separate bodies. The properties of the body get assigned to the mind. Mind is singular. Mind is whole, but since the eyes perceive separate fragments and separate bodies, then it seems as if (the way the mind does it) everybody has a separate mind. And that is, to a large degree, the level that the Course is written on. He’ll talk about your brother’s mind, and in the back of the Course where he talks about how healing is accomplished and the function of God's teachers, he says, "Can a teacher of God heal the patient's mind? Certainly not!” But, you hear how it’s described - as if there is really another person there, and it’s a patient. He’s split it up right away, speaking at the metaphorical level as if there were a healer (kind of like a Christian Science practitioner idea) and a patient, someone who’s being visited or someone who’s being seen. Also, we’re still in that spit level when he speaks in the Teacher’s Manual about teachers of God and pupils, the pupil who will be looking for the teachers of God. The majority of the Course is written at the level of assuming that the mind believes that there are separate, fragmented minds. When you really look at some of the lines in the book, for example, “All minds are joined; bodies are not,” you’ll find he keeps giving these little pointers that say, I’m going to work with you where you believe you are because you believe that you are separate, little fragments, but in reality there’s just one Mind, and the unified Sonship is Christ. Another way that he points to this higher level is in the Teacher’s Manual where he asks the question, “How many teachers of God does it take to save the world?” and of course the answer is “one.” That brings it back to - it is always my lesson. As tempted as I am to start talking about my friends and what their lessons are in this and what their egos should do, as much as we’re tempted to get into that, the Course keeps bringing it back really simply to - it is always your own lesson. Over the years when I have heard the little voice in my mind, that’s what it said to me over and over. David, it’s your lesson. As I tried to leap out and analyze and figure it out, then that little voice kept saying, How do you feel right now? Who are you connected with? As soon as we start to get that it’s always our lesson, then that seems to really accelerate the process because we don’t fall for the ego trick of throwing it out there.
So, we’ll get back to the question of levels. The right mind is the mind that sees that the mind is causative, and the wrong mind is where everything is twisted around and backward. When we listen to our wrong mind, cause and effect have been turned around completely. Now instead of - it’s my decision that I’m upset; it’s my decision that I’m unhappy, or it’s my decision that I have a throbbing headache, or whatever, the ego is always trying to pawn it off and trying to find a scapegoat. If the weather had been different…. If I hadn’t been in a traffic jam…. If my spouse had done this differently, if I had more rest, a better job, if I had a better degree, … it’s endless. It seems like the ego is always coming up with all these things to say that the reason we don’t have peace of mind has something to do with the external, projected world. Cause and effect, in that sense, have been turned around. That’s what the wrong mind is all about, but the Course brings you back to the mind where the decision is made. Once you start to get just a glimmering of this, then you get the opportunity to watch. It’s a 24-hour a day, full-time job, literally, to watch your mind, to just notice your thoughts. It’s not about beating yourself up, but it's just about noticing as you’re going through your day. And you say, I would have been a lot better in this presentation if I had gotten more sleep, or if it would just stop raining, I wouldn’t have this sore knee, or it’s just so hot and humid and sticky today; that’s why I feel a little cranky. You can see how all those statements say that there’s something on the screen that is the cause of my upset, that it doesn’t have to do with my perceptions or my own decision. So when we talk about levels, the main thing to remember is that the mind is causative. In fact, in the early part of the Text, Jesus repeats this three times. All correction belongs at the thought level and not at the behavioral level because the level of behavior is the level of form. We’re back out on the screen again. In fact, at one point Jesus says, "You may believe that you are responsible for what you do, but not for what you think. The truth is you are responsible for what you think, because it’s only at this level that you can exercise choice” (the level of thought where true correction can be made). He comes at it three times, and repeats it early on in the Text because it’s a major, fundamental idea that’s going to keep coming back over and over throughout the whole Text and Workbook.

Another way we could come at it in the sense of healing is that all sickness seems to be at the symptom level, whether we’re talking about cancer or AIDS or flu or a sore back, and so on, and so on. Once again that’s at the form level, so it seems as if in this world people have healings when the symptoms disappear. The mind really thinks it knows what health is, and it really thinks it knows what sickness is. It's pretty convinced. What Jesus is saying is don’t pay attention to the form level. The problem and real sickness is not right mindedness. You have a thinking problem that is going on. It’s a metaphysical problem. The thoughts need to be replaced. The attack thoughts need to be given up so that you can get in touch with your real thoughts, and that will heal your mind. Then at the symptom level, that will flow through and be like an automatic by product. The constant reminder that Jesus gives is don’t get focused on the form level. At one point the Course says, “… do not ask the Holy Spirit to heal the body, … Ask, rather, that the Holy Spirit teach you the right perception of the body.” That would be the proper question to come at it with.

You can see how fundamental this is with these two levels. The level of the right mind is where the healing is going to be. Even when we talk about behavior, if we feel personally responsible for behavior, Jesus says that if you raise body thoughts to the level of mind, they’re out of his control, and you will feel guilty for them. Now this is pretty subtle. We have to take this pretty slow and take a look at this. It seems very much that the mind is responsible for the behavior. It seems as if everyone here is a human being (or a person) and makes decisions and can decide what to do behaviorally. I can decide to come to this meeting tonight. I can decide to stay home and watch TV. I can decide to get up and go to the restroom. I can decide to cough or sneeze. It seems as if the mind is directly responsible for the behavior. It seems that I can choose. For example, I’m going to raise my right arm. I can choose to put my right arm down. You can see how there seems to be a direct connection between choosing and behavior. But what Jesus is saying in the Course is that the only choice you have is at the thought level, and your behavior is like the automatic by product. It automatically flows from your thought/choice that you make at the mind level. In a sense then, you really don’t have choice at the behavioral level (in the ultimate sense). That’s pretty steep because the way we perceive the world, it sure seems like that. It’s like, hey I can decide if I’m going to wear the green shirt or the blue shirt. I can decide if I’m going to have the hotdog or the taco. It seems like we have choice between forms. But Jesus is coming from the Course and saying, Well, remember what I’ve taught you, that all form is projected. The world is a projection or an illusion. You’re choosing between illusions. Do I buy the blue car or the red car? Jesus is saying, Is the choice between illusions a real choice? What do you have when you’re choosing between illusions? That’s why the mind believes it can choose that way because it’s ordered all its illusions. It’s made a hierarchy of illusions, and it believes that it will pursue the good illusions and avoid the bad illusions as it has judged it.

What we’re getting at, and what it’s going to come down to is that the only choice we have every instant is between the right mind and the wrong mind, between the Holy Spirit and the ego. What’s in between that decision in our minds and what seems to be in this world, is nothing in truth, but I use the analogy of thinking about the mind like the World Trade Center. In the basement of the World Trade Center, way down at the bottom of the basement, is where the ego and the Holy Spirit are. There is this brilliant light that is the Holy Spirit, this gentle reminder that God’s not mad. You could never separate from him. That’s the silliest idea that could ever be. It’s ridiculous. The Holy Spirit is this gentle reminder that’s in the basement. The ego is on top of it in the sense that it’s right down there with it, but the ego is the belief that we have separated from God. All the floors of the World Trade Center are the egos dark beliefs because the mind is so afraid of the Holy Spirit. The deceived mind is so terrified of that light that it has stacked on 1, 2, 3, 4, …, 13, 14, 15, 16, …,48, 49, …. You can imagine the fear that this mind feels, that it's so afraid of the Holy Spirit.

You have to put it into a little bit of a context. In the Course it says, “Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh." In a metaphorical sense, this is still like a little story book. This is our Genesis of the Course. In Genesis, we have, "In the beginning …" The Course tells us, “Into eternity, where all is one, there crept a tiny, mad idea at which the Son of God remembered not to laugh." And in taking this idea seriously, the mind believed that separation from the Father was really possible. What a horrifying idea! Literally, the projected world was used to cover over, to be a hiding place, like in the Garden of Eden where they grab the fig leaves to hide behind. This world was made as a hiding place. So, not only do we have all those stacks of dark beliefs, all these floors in the mind that were made to cushion or be a barrier from that light, but then we got the roof, and in our analogy here, we’ll say that the roof is where the flag is blowing. That's the world. What we have on the roof is what most people would perceive as life in this world. I’m a tiny, little person in a vast world, this huge sphere called Earth, and I’m battling for survival, trying to keep my head above water, trying to make it. There are all kinds of huge external forces that I’m trying to battle, like fires out in California that are burning down houses. There’s hurricanes; there’s tornados … You can see that up on the surface, it’s like a nightmare because the mind has forgotten this warm wonderful glowing light in the basement. It has all these false beliefs, and yet we still have moments when we feel instants of love. That light in the basement is so powerful that it keeps sending up, what the Course calls, "miracle impulses." The Holy Spirit is so powerful that those impulses still come through all those dark layers, and the only problem is that when they reach the surface, they come out in all these really funny distorted ways at the top of the building. (Jesus calls them, "distorted miracle impulses.”) It’s like we’re still craving for that light and that love, but once we believe we’re a little, tiny person, we run around trying to find that right human being, the perfect partner, the perfect job; seeking outside ourselves, trying to find among the images and the idols what will complete us. Really, we know that deep down inside is that light, the Holy Spirit, the reminder of the Christ that is what our true completion is. So, to get back the idea of levels, all of those levels and layers that I talked about, all of those levels in the World Trade Center, are part of the wrong mind. That’s the darkened mind, and the spark of light that’s in the basement is the Holy Spirit. Now the Course says the way out, the way to escape, is that you have to go down into the basement, and the more you go down through the levels, so to speak, and you approach the basement, the ego shrieks. The ego is like, You swore you’d never come down to this basic cornerstone. You swore you’d never come down and lift it up. If you read The Obstacles to Peace, The Forth Obstacle: The Fear of God is probably the best description of what the ego is saying. You swore you’d never look up; you’d keep your head down, keep in the darkness. So, basically the Course keeps teaching us that the basement is like the mind and that’s where the Holy Spirit and the ego are; they’re just two thoughts in our mind. But through defense mechanisms, the mind keeps trying to throw the guilt and the pain out on the world. That’s where the blaming takes place, the scapegoating takes place, always blaming something out there on the surface instead of going down into the mind.

So, the last thing I’m going to add on to this before we look at it from another angle is basically, when I’ve used the analogy of the World Trade Center with all of these floors, a lot of times the response is, This is depressing! It’s good that the Holy Spirit is there to remind me, but I’ve got fifty floors to go through, and I’ve got to turn on every light in every room, in every closet before I can go down in the basement and turn that light on. This is going to take me forever! Well, the good news is that there is a master switch. I use the metaphor of the master switch. There is the holy instant. If you can hit the master switch, it literally lights up the whole thing at once. When Jesus gave us the Course, if you read a lot of those passages, you can tell that he’s helping us go for that master switch. In the Workbook he’ll say things like, Sink down beneath the clouds … perhaps today. He’s speaking to us as if this very day, at this very instant, we’re going to be able to go down in our minds and hit that switch, and it’s going to turn the whole thing on. It’s going to be the real world. He’s really trying to help us get clear about this confusion between form and content, form being out there on top of the World Trade Center and content being in the basement. So, every time we come together and we go into talking about a problem, usually when we talk about a problem, we perceive it in terms of form, right? It’s pretty common. I don’t have enough money. I’ve got rent due next month or I’ve got an ulcer that I’ve got to treat or I’ve got this man or woman at work that’s driving me nuts, that I can’t handle. It could be another thing in any way, shape, or form. We describe our problems and define them in terms of form. Jesus is saying that the only problem you have is a thinking problem, thinking being content in the mind. But, until you can get at that thinking problem, you’ll continue to think and define your problems as being out there on the projected screen. That’s a quick synopsis of the levels and that will maybe give us a chance to go into some other areas, to come at the same thing really, but come at it from some different angles.

Participant 2: I think we can go home now. [Laughter]

Speaker: Right, you hit the nail on the head!

Here’s the thing about that master switch idea. Think of the ego as a tree where the ego, the belief that you could separate from God, is like the trunk, and everyone knows what happens when you go up from the trunk - branches, more branches, twigs, leaves, and all these fragmentations, once you get away from the trunk. What the Course teaches us is that an illusion is an illusion is an illusion. It doesn’t matter how many times an illusion fragments, as Robert Perry says, “All different sizes of zero.” It doesn’t matter if you multiply it by a hundred or a million or a trillion, you still get zero.

I think all of us have looked around this world. You look at the commercials on TV. You look at this world with the bill boards, and it seems like the images are just fragmenting at an unbelievable rate. In the last couple decades there has been MTV and VH1; you see these images flashing, billboards, and the news at night and it’s like … [a barrage of] images and noises. This is like, if you can imagine, a gigantic mirror that somebody pressed down on and started the shattering of millions and billions and trillions of pieces. That’s literally what this projected world is, and not only that, but there is a thought in the mind for every image. We say, microphone, rug, shoe…. When we were little kids we learned to label things in the world, ball, mommy, daddy…. Then you get older and you go to elementary school; then you get into high school; then you get into college, and you have a specialty. If you’re a doctor, you learn to start labeling all the parts of the body and how they work together. You can see how the learning of the world is based on labeling all these parts and then trying to figure out how they all work together. It’s really exhausting for the mind. The mind is used to unity and wholeness. The mind is used to simplicity; keep it simple. And it is trying teach itself all of these parts; it’s very exhausting. I think its lesson 184 “The Name of God is my inheritance” where Jesus describes this. He describes in that lesson how you have a name for everything. You try to put a little space between everything else and name it. In that lesson, he calls that phase one. Everybody who comes to this world has to go through phase one. Phase one is - you learn the world. Everybody who comes here has to learn the world. Then as we look at the Course, the context of it later on, phase two is unlearn the world. Stop judging the world. Stop trying to analyze and break apart.

Continue to Part 2

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