NR:   Another difficult concept to deal with in the Course is that when we recognize illusions for what they are we can laugh at them.  Well, certainly emotional crises are very real and not funny to most folks, such as death, grief, pain, starvation, and so on.  How do you deal with this?

THETFORD: The Course suggests that we forgot to laugh at the moment we first began to believe illusions were real.  Perhaps one way we can find our way back to our true nature is to begin to laugh at the foolishness of many of our beliefs.  Norman Cousins has already demonstrated the importance of laughter in the healing process.

For example, in order to help anyone, whether in psychotherapy or in everyday life, I don't think we can identify with the problem.  What we need to do is to identify with the answer.  Since any problem is always some form of fear, guilt or separation, our responsibility is to identify with the only answer that works.  In offering God's love in whatever form is appropriate, we are offering the only answer that is possible within this world.  This certainly does not imply a lack of compassion, quite the contrary.  If I identify with the problem that you or anyone else has, it simply means that I will suffer too.  And when I join you in suffering, no one gains - rather we both lose by reinforcing the problem.

The Course says that all of our problems stem from the belief that we are separated from God, and the only way out of this is to extend the miracle of love, which is our natural inheritance.

NR: Some of the people who begin studying the Course initially are disappointed that it doesn't deal specifically with some personal, vital questions, such as sex.  Why doesn't it?

THETFORD:   As you know, the Course's real focus is on mind-training.  Its emphasis is on spiritual development rather than the reinforcement of our ego-body identification.

But there's nothing in the Course that prohibits sex.  What it does say is that the body is a neutral vehicle for the communication of love.  What I think the Course is trying to underscore is that physical union can never solve the problem of our sense of separation from God, it can only be a substitute for our attempted union with God.  That's why physical gratification as a goal in a relationship is never lasting, never permanent in unifying individuals.  And that's also true of many other physical and emotional drives we have that stem from the ego - things that we do to try to permanently unite us with others, which always result in failure.

NR: Another specific subject not addressed in the Course and a concern to those who study it is murder - dealing with it as an illusion or through forgiveness.

THETFORD: Perhaps the difficulty comes in perceiving another as a body only.  I think that's the fundamental ego-body equation, which is responsible for an enormous amount of our unhappiness, the very core of it.

Without any doubt, murder is a very emotional subject for all of us.  But the inner transformation that we are concerned with here has to do with our own shift in perception, our own ability to recognize that fear is a problem we all have.  Whether it takes the form of murder, attack or loss, what we want to learn is how to teach love so that fear is no longer a part of our consciousness and our own awareness, we are helping everyone else do the same thing, and I think it is through this process that we make our contribution to a more sane society and world.

NR:  Another vital concern of living this life is death, dying.  Why doesn't the Course deal with this for our peace of mind?

THETFORD: I think it does.  The Course states very clearly that “There is no death.  The Son of God is free.”

In a sense, since we were created eternal, we literally were never born, hence we can never die.  That is, within the framework of eternity, we have always existed as an extension of God's love.  I think the notion of freshly minted souls coming into this material world for a few years, and then going into the great beyond is not the lesson that the Course would teach.  The Course repeatedly states that we remain as God created us; we remain as eternal aspects of spirit and have never been limited by form.  When the body is no longer alive and animated, it simply means we no longer have a use for it.  Our body has nothing to do with our being alive or dead because our body is not our true reality.

NR:   What about animals, then? Since the Course doesn't mention them either, where do they fit in? Or even insects or plants and trees?

THETFORD: The Course frequently uses the phrase “all living things”.  Again, whatever has life has eternal life.  Since all life stems from God and is one and inseparable, certainly the life force that animates animals and plants is the same as the life force that animates us.

And I'm always amazed at what animals can teach us.  How quickly a dog for instance can forgive us for stepping on its paw.  It doesn't harbor grudges but shows us instant love the moment we open the door.  Whatever grievances there might have been are not carried over in a dog's mind.  So I think pets are wonderful teachers of forgiveness for all of us.  They are extensions of the love of God in bringing joy and additional dimensions of love into our lives.

NR: What about killing certain animals and eating them?  How does this fit in with embracing all life and trying not to be separate from it?

THETFORD: Many people choose to be vegetarians for very good reasons.  Anything that increases our sense of guilt would not be in our own enlightened self-interest.  So I think students of the Course will determine what is right for them through listening to their inner guidance.

Jesus taught us not to be so much concerned about what we put into our mouth as to what we let come out of it.  So it's not what we eat, but our thoughts and how we relate to others that witnesses to our spiritual progress.   What is important is the opportunity we have each moment to choose between expressing fear or love in our lives.

NR:   From this premise, then, one could conclude that bodies are not life.

THETFORD: The body is a vehicle for communication and learning - the source of life is always spiritual.

The Course also teaches us that whenever we have questions or choices in this life we can ask for help in make them from our inner guide or as, the Course refers to It, the Holy Spirit.

NR: Regarding one's inner guidance, the Course cautions about getting it from the ego, doesn't it?  How do you distinguish between it and the Holy Spirit?  How do you know who's talking?

THETFORD: Well, the Course says the ego always speaks first and that it's wrong.  In order to hear our inner guidance we must quiet our minds, be willing to let go of any investment in the answer and listen to that still, small voice within us.  The fact that our inner guidance is never strident, but speaks to us in a peaceful, loving voice, is a sign of its authenticity, and I think all of us have to learn with practice to make that distinction.

NR: How do you personally deal with this problem?

THETFORD: If I am not feeling peaceful, I know I am listening to the surface static of my ego.  Then I choose once again, and try to let go of the interference so that I can listen to the gentle voice of my inner guide.

The Course identifies this Voice as the Holy Spirit.  It also says that Jesus is equally available to us for help in this manner, at all times.  In this sense, Jesus is regarded as our wise older brother, whose message is no different than the Holy Spirit's, since God's teachers all have the same message.

NR: Do you think such unconventional references to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, as well as to other “new” concepts with regard to Christianity are contradictory to traditional Christians?

THETFORD: Well, I think if you go back to the original teachings of Jesus, the answer is no.

For example, the Course illuminates and amplifies Jesus’ teachings on the fundamental importance of love and forgiveness.  I think, perhaps, institutionalized religion has sometimes lost sight of the essence of that message, by its emphasis on guilt.

NR: Then you don't think the Course challenges Christianity, or any of today's religions?

THETFORD: I think the Course is clearly in accord with the perennial philosophy underlying all the great religions.  However, there are some fundamental differences, such as the Course's emphasis on giving up our belief in the reality of sin and guilt.  Religion, as I experienced it when I was younger, seemed to stress these negative aspects.

The Course, however, continually tells us that we are guiltless; that we may be mistaken, but that mistakes call for correction not for punishment.  Concepts of guilt, sin, and punishment are totally alien to the Course's orientation.  The Course states unequivocally that love is our only reality and, “Love does not kill to save.”

Any religion that emphasizes fear, guilt, and separation from God would obviously have trouble with the Course's concept of total unity and love.  However, the Course does not discuss institutional religion, and does not advise anyone to give up membership in a church.  In fact, I think the Course material would be very enhancing to people who want to develop a richer spiritual life within their own tradition; it's ecumenical.

Also Read about Dr. William Thetford and the CIA

Miracle Studies Navigation Table

Index of Resources Discussion Group FAQ about ACIM 50 Miracle Principles
Biographical: Helen, Bill, Ken Unauthorized Manuscripts The Story of A Course in Miracles The Psychology of ACIM
The Course's Use of Language What is Forgiveness?  Copyright Related Info Question/Answer Service