Q and A with Carmen

 Good Questions 
Questions & Answers
By Carmen Cameron*
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[as it appeared in the July 2010 Newsletter]

 

There is nothing I like more than a good question about the Course.  And by “good question“, I mean a thought provoking one – a question that makes me reassess what I currently believe and perhaps come to see it in a new light. As a result, we have a very interactive study group of Course students here in Louisville where everyone is encouraged to share their insights and questions. It is also a very diverse group with people from widely varying religious backgrounds so we get a lot of very insightful questions and I’ve been making a note of them for the last 15 years. 
Question:  Why are there no commandments in the Course?”

AnswerA. I know that it is really a jarring experience for anyone raised in a traditional Judeo-Christian or Muslim tradition to encounter a spiritual thought system like the Course that has no clear-cut list of “do’s” and “don’t’s”.  Those of us raised in those religions grow up with the simple clarity provided by a structure of rules that draw a comfortable and obviously demarcated “fence” around our lives. 

 
Having no commandments, the Course can FEEL a little too “permissive” to be helpful – or even somewhat “scary”, especially in the beginning.  (The personal responsibility that comes with so much freedom is something that can psychologically overwhelm a mind that takes very clear behavioral boundaries for granted.)
 
But the essence of commandments is controlling behavior – which is an effect – and NOT addressing the cause – the split in will (in other words, a split mind), at all:
 
            “Correcting at the behavioral level can shift the error from the first [willing two conflicting actions] to the second type [doing what you “should” in spite of it not being what you want to do] of strain described above, but will NOT obliterate the fear.”  T-2.VI.5.10
 
So while commandments may restrict negative human behaviors temporarily (and that’s a good thing), they force a constant need for control (not so good – it’s very stressful, in fact) because the CAUSE is obscured and overlooked.  And the ego just loves control, which is a defense, for just that very reason!
 
And so commandments are, at best, a temporary – and, at worst, a superficial – solution to the problem. 
 
Dealing with the cause is all that really works, however.  And that’s why ACIM focuses on the cause, not its effects.  And that is sure to cause the ego fits! (I am chuckling softly here at the self-recognition that last sentence brought to mind.)
 
And that, in turn, is why the closest thing to a “commandment” in the Course is its endorsement of “The Golden Rule”.  But even that has a qualifier:
 
            “Consider the Golden Rule again.  You are asked to behave towards others as you would have them behave toward you.  This means that the perception of both must be accurate, since the Golden Rule is the order for appropriate behavior.  You can’t behave appropriately unless you perceive accurately, because appropriate behavior DEPENDS on lack of level confusion.  The presence of level confusion always results in variable reality testing, and hence variability in behavioral appropriateness.”  the original form of  T-1.III.6
 
Without accurate (or healed) perception – which is the major goal of ACIM – even the Golden Rule falls short of yielding genuinely appropriate (i.e., consistently loving) behavior!  Rather, the mind and will must be changed at a far more fundamental level than mere behaviors.  And that change is challenging (and daunting) work.  That’s why there is so much resistance to it. 
 
And it’s also why commandments feel so comfortable even though:
 
            “It is extremely difficult to reach Atonement by fighting against sin. Nor is a lifetime of contemplation and long periods of meditation aimed at detachment from the body necessary. All such attempts will ultimately succeed because of their purpose. Yet the means are tedious and very time consuming, for all of them look to the FUTURE for release from a state of present unworthiness and inadequacy.
            Your way will be different, not in purpose, but in means.”  T-18.VII.4.8 – 15.1
 
The Course gives us those means.  Not more – or even better – rules and regulations.  But it gives us the simple truth of reality, instead, so we can see (and choose) more truly.  Trusting that we are no longer spiritual children but finally ready to mature beyond the “need” for a heavenly parent’s list of do’s and don’t’s.
 
 And please be gentle with yourself, dear reader, in this process for just like learning to walk, some stumbles are almost certain.  But our goal is GUARANTEED!  (I rest in that.)

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* Carmen Cameron, who is a founding member of Course in Miracles Society, has been teaching classes in A Course in Miracles since 1994.  She was a presenter at the 2009 Miracles Conference in San Francisco and is scheduled to present again at the 2011 Conference. Carmen’s website is:  http://peaceful-path.blogspot.com/

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