According to The Most Commonly Asked Questions About A Course in Miracles book by Gloria and Kenneth Wapnick, the most frequently asked question of all is “How did the ego originate, and what is to prevent the separation from happening again?”
The ego will ask this in many forms and recently an email I received asked “Why, if we were happy in God’s Kingdom, would we leave it?” It is undoubtedly the same question rephrase in another way. Yet the basic question can be restated in this way: “If God is perfect and unified, and has a perfect and unified Son, how could an imperfect thought of separation and division have possibly arisen within such a Mind?”
The book I mentioned above explained:
Jesus’ answer to this question in the Course comes within a non-dualistic framework, and will hardly satisfy an intellectually inquisitive mind that demands an answer on its own terms. However, within the dualistic framework that we experience as our reality, the question is really a statement masquerading in question form, “asked” by an ego mind in order to establish its own reality and unique identity. Therefore, the questioner is really saying: “I believe I am here, and now I want you to explain to me how I got here.”
Consciousness, being the first split introduced into the mind of the dreaming Son, is an ego state where a perceiver and a perceived seem to exist as separate “realities.” Consciousness results in a concept of a limited false self that is separate and uncertain, seeming to experience an opposite to the true Self as God created It. And it is this false self that believes it is “here” and “asks” the question about its own seeming origin, thereby seeking to verify it. In truth, however, imperfection cannot emanate from perfection, and an imperfect thought of separation and division cannot arise from the perfect Mind of God’s perfect Son, in which opposites cannot exist. Only in a world of dreams can these absurdities, and the beliefs that foster such uncertainty lead to musings like this.
The question therefore can only be asked by those who believe and experience that they are indeed separate and distinct, and it can only be answered by someone who agrees with this premise that the impossible has in fact happened, and therefore requires and even demands an explanation. Thus, only a dreaming ego would ask such a question, since a Son of God, certain of his Identity in Heaven and awake in God, could not even conceive of the separation which is the basis for asking the question in the first place. And obviously, if in reality the separation never happened once, how could it possibly happen a second time? Therefore, once again, it is a trick question, much like the comedian’s question, “When did you stop beating your wife?” which, if answered, can only incriminate the person responding.
Jesus directly addresses this question two times: The first is found in the text, where he gives a very practical answer to what was originally a question posed by William Thetford, Helen’s colleague and friend, as she was taking down the dictation:
It is reasonable to ask how the mind could ever have made the ego. In fact, it is the best question you could ask, There is, however, no point in giving an answer in terms of the past because the past does not matter, and history would not exist if the same errors were not being repeated in the present (T-4.II.1:1-3).
In other words, why worry about how and why the separation happened in the distant past, when you are still making the same choice to be separate in the present?
The next answer comes in two parts, and is found in the clarification of terms, the appendix to the manual for teachers. Here, Jesus’ answer is much more to the point as it addresses the pseudo-nature of the question itself, and his answer is reflected in our discussion above:
The ego will demand many answers that this course does not give. It does not recognize as questions the mere form of a question to which an answer is impossible. The ego may ask, “How did the impossible occur?”, “To what did the impossible happen?”, and may ask this in many forms. Yet there is no answer; only an experience. Seek only this, and do not let theology delay you (C-in.4).
Who asks you to define the ego and explain how it arose can be but he who thinks it real, and seeks by definition to ensure that its illusive nature is concealed behind the words that seem to make it so.
There is no definition for a lie that serves to make it true (C-2.2:5-3: 1).
Now, let me try to address this paradox further. However, I do not actually have a clear explanation to this question that the Course itself did not address directly. It simply says that we are unable to phantom what a pure non-duality Mind is like when we are stuck in duality. We are asking a question to which an answer is impossible. What I would like to share is how I look at this myself.
My take is to look at this question from another point of view. If it is true that God did create this world, or God is aware of it, or we are unhappy with heaven and want to experience separation, then all the insanity, unloving situations and cruelty of this world must be real. However, there is an inherent knowledge or instinct in all of us that God is love. Even religions which contradict themselves by carrying out violence in the name of God would tell us that God is loving. God therefore could not have created or be responsible for any of the violence and cruelty found in this world. If not, God would be unloving.
Spiritualities rooted in existential theories are also often dualistic and suggest that there is both good and evil in this world. Again, all of us “know” within ourselves that God is omnipresent and thus evil could not have existed when God is present everywhere. If not, God must be good and evil at the same time.
Another important characteristic of God that we all seem to agree with is that He is perfect and eternal. Yet everything dies or decays in this world. No living thing lives forever and even a bright star will diminish one day. How could God be perfect and eternal when change is the only constant in this universe?
A Course in Miracles, if understood correctly, states unambiguously that we have never left heaven and what we need to do to break out of this illusion is through forgiveness of it. Perhaps the only way to understand how we appear to be here is that the Son of God could possibly “dream”.
The Course tells us: “You have chosen a sleep in which you have had bad dreams, but the sleep is not real and God calls you to awake. There will be nothing left of your dream when you hear Him, because you will awaken. Your dreams contain many of the ego’s symbols and they have confused you. Yet that was only because you were asleep and did not know. When you wake you will see the truth around you and in you, and you will no longer believe in dreams because they will have no reality for you. Yet the Kingdom and all that you have created there will have great reality for you, because they are beautiful and true” (T.6.IV.6:3,4,5,6,7,8).
Having said that, we also know that this passage in the Course is just a metaphor and a myth. Kenneth Wapnick himself said before in a workshop that “ACIM is a myth.” How the mechanism of dreaming works or how it occurs, we will never know in a state of duality.
The closest idea in a state of duality is perhaps to try a mind experiment right now while you are reading this. Think of yourself in a bad situation, then allow yourself to snap out of it slowly. Now, you are still where you are, safe and sound, reading these words. You have never left where you are. The negative situation is all it was — a negative thought. It did not actually happen.
The only difference between this simple mind experiment and our illusory universe is that we got absolutely absorbed into this world and became stuck in it. It is like falling into a really deep rabbit hole. We need help to get out and thankfully there is a memory of God retained in our mind (i.e. what ACIM defines as the holy spirit) that inspired right minded tools such as the Course.
As the clarification of terms in the Course states “Yet there is no answer; only an experience. Seek only this, and do not let theology delay you (C-in.4).”
Since there is not going to be an answer to an impossible question, the only thing we can do is to seek the experience of enlightenment. Love cannot be taught and we only need remove the blocks to the awareness of love inherent within us. According to the Course, the Holy Spirit interprets the body only as a means of communication (T-8.VII.2). The Holy Spirit reaches through it to others. And that is the purpose of the historical figures of Jesus, Buddha and other masters — the teachers of teachers. They have led by examples and demonstrated to us that enlightenment is real and possible and that we could experience oneness eventually.
There are also many examples or stories of people having a moment of revelation and experienced union with God momentarily. These people have often reported that they felt at one with everything in total ecstasy — an indescribable experience. Yet this oneness or enlightenment is not even a target. The Course reminds us constantly that it is our God-given inherent rights as Christ, the Son of God.
Again, you and I need to walk the talk and practice the Course in our everyday life and every moment. When we can stop judging and see no separate interests from our brothers, we will be free once again.