Rev. Kelly Hallock is the Assistant Minister of Community Miracles Center. She wrote the following article specifically for publication in this magazine.
This month is when we celebrate Halloween (along with a few other holidays). I'm not a big fan of Halloween. Of course, I like the candy but not the costumes, parties, or going trick-or-treating. I do not remember ever being really excited about it and I would attribute that to my first memory of Halloween.
I am one of two children in my family – my sister being nearly eight and a half years older than I am. Growing up, she would sometimes goad me into doing things that I probably should not have done at my age.
I still have an abject terror of roller coasters that go upside down. Any enjoyment I may have had at amusement parks was wiped out from her getting me on "The Tidal Wave" when I was maybe 6-7 years old. The entire ride consisted of one loop that you went through going forwards. Then it would pause way up high and reverse direction before taking you through the loop again backwards.
A few years ago, I decided to try going on a roller coaster that went upside down again. I screamed so much, I started getting dizzy from forgetting to inhale. Then when I realized that and tried to focus on breathing, the person next to me thought I had passed out because I had stopped screaming. So I won't be doing that again! It not only scared me but my friend too!
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My first Halloween memory was a similar experience. I don't know how old I was but pretty small. My sister had been taunting me about being a baby because I was afraid to go in the haunted house that had been erected in the parking lot of our local mall. I didn't want to go, but I also didn't want to be called a baby. So I went with my sister and my dad (my mom was smart enough to stay outside). All I remember is that at some point, my dad picked me up and carried me as fast as he could through the maze of rooms to get me out of there. I hid my head in his shoulder crying.
I have never wanted to go in a haunted house since then. When my ex-husband convinced me to go with him into one a few years back, I pretty much had the same reaction and remember just trying to cover my eyes as much as I could (and still walk) as I pushed through the rooms with tears going down my face.
I also have a life long aversion to blood. I can't give you a good reason why except it's always bothered me. I have never even been able to watch the movie, Gremlins. My family was watching together when it first came out. I was a teenager and I barely made it through the infamous microwave scene before I walked out. Even being told about blood often results in several nightmares before I can get the images out of my head.
So between it all, Halloween isn't something I enjoy. Luckily for me, the houses around where I live are spread out so instead of trick-or-treating, the kids go to a festival at the island farm (Rev. Kelly lives on an island in Pueget Sound). That leaves me more than happy to stay home on October 31st by myself in peace and quiet.
Halloween does have more honorable roots however than just trying to scare the "bejeebers" out of little kids. The ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain was held on October 31st for the purpose of warding off ghosts and gaining the favor of the gods. Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints, with the evening before designated as "All Hallows Eve."
In time, those festivals merged and eventually morphed together, bringing their traditions of ghosts, ghouls, and death into the new festival. Those then became our modern day Halloween when different ethnic groups settled in America and interwove their customs with that of the indigenous people. Yet, as I think of Halloween and see the decorations, whether they be silly ghosts or a plethora of pumpkins, the one emotion that I always associate with Halloween is fear.
So what is fear? Merriam-Webster defines it as "an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger" or "anxious concern." And A Course in Miracles has a lot to say about fear. I mean it has a lot to say. There are 1,185 uses of "fear" (with all its different forms such as "feared" and "fearless") in A Course in Miracles. That means, on average, every page of A Course in Miracles – including the Workbook and Manual for Teachers – has "fear" on it at least once. It also appears more often in the title of chapters and sections than words such as "ego," "God," and "love." That's serious stuff!
A Course in Miracles assumes we know what fear is – jumping right into it at the second paragraph of chapter one! "The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite." (OrEd.Tx.1.2) The Course then continues to tell us that "Every aspect of fear proceeds from upside-down perception.... All aspects of fear are untrue because they do not exist at the higher creative level, and therefore do not exist at all. To whatever extent a man is willing to submit his beliefs to this test, to that extent are perceptions corrected." (OrEd.Tx.1.94, 98)
First, I'd like to briefly address the issue that all aspects of fear are untrue as, "they do not exist at the higher creative level." (OrEd.Tx.1.98) I've heard many conversations amongst Course students questioning how things are not real when we have experienced them. The best explanation that I can give comes a few paragraphs later when it says, "Whatever is true and real is eternal and cannot change or be changed." (OrEd.Tx.1.68). Though we may have had an experience and that experience felt real, since it is limited to a specific time and the related emotions can change, A Course in Miracles does not categorize that experience as being real. To be real, it must transcend time and space to be changeless in Eternity.
Therefore, A Course in Miracles is not denying that we have experiences of fear, but that experience only lasts for a specific amount of "time" and the related emotions are able to morph from fear to something totally different. Since time can cause the experience to change and decay into oblivion, it is not "real."
In this passage, I would like to suggest that the "higher creative level" is used as synonymous with Eternity so it might be read as, "All aspects of fear are untrue because they do not exist [in Eternity] and therefore do not exist at all. To whatever extent a man is willing to submit his beliefs to this test, to that extent are perceptions corrected."
When experiencing fear (or any other emotion / experience), it's easy to slip into the thinking that whatever it is will go on forever. It sometimes seems that the situation will never change. Yet I've found a way to help pull me from that thinking is to submit my beliefs to this test of whether it is real.
That can be done simply by asking, "Is this true? Do I really know that this is true? Or could there be alternate descriptions, explanations, etc., that I am not aware of or acknowledging?"
Those are in essence the same question, but too often when we want to hold onto our beliefs and fears, we flippantly respond with, "Well of course it's true! Of course I know what happened!" This allows us to feel justified in our anger or fear. We want to feel powerful as we try to control our circumstances that seem very much real. We also can use our stories to garner the sympathy of others. It also gives us a chance to hold on to our grudges that we like to nurture up to full-on rage.
That's why we have to keep asking ourselves follow-up questions if the first answer leaves us taking on the part of: victim, judge, or executioner. It forces us to truly consider if our thoughts about a situation are true or whether they are from an upside-down perception. At the most basic level, it challenges our memory and perception. At a more metaphysical level, it can challenge our entire perception of life. This is a practical way to implement this idea of submitting our beliefs to the test of whether something is real.
Let's take an example to look at what submitting our beliefs looks like in a common scenario. A few days ago, I was out shopping which is a bit of a production as I have to take a ferry across the Puget Sound for most stores. It usually ends up to be an all day excursion.
After I got out of my car and removed the keys from the ignition, I suddenly couldn't find my keys. My thoughts ran to how stupid I was to lose my keys so quickly. I didn't have enough money to call a repair person and get a new key made. I was sure to miss the ferry and wouldn't get home. I must look ridiculous to everyone walking by as I was digging around in the back seat of my car, etc. etc. It was all my fearful thoughts on parade!
Does that sound familiar to anyone? Yet, every single one of those thoughts was not real. Starting with the statement that I didn't have enough money to get a new key if needed. Is that true? I may not want to spend the money to get a new key but I could have paid for one if needed. I could have spent less at the market to pay for part of it. I could have used a credit card if needed. I could call Kia and find out if they had a key at the dealership I could get instead of having a locksmith come out.
There were so many facts that negate the idea that it was silly for me to think it. Yet a common worry about a lack of money was driving me straight into fear! That's what I mean by saying that the questions can challenge us at a basic level. There were clear "earthly" reasons why my statement was not true.
On the metaphysical plane, (which on a side note I will admit, I don't jump to usually in the heat of the moment but is something for us, as spiritual students, to consider), I could have questioned if I really even lost my keys or could recover them. Were they ever my keys to start with, or do all things belong to God? Did I know that I ever really had my keys or was I created in that instant with a memory of keys that had never existed? Does my possession of rectangle chunks of plastic, pieces of paper, and round disks of metal, guarantee that I could have gotten a key? Maybe angels had stolen my keys to protect me from some encounter that could have proved harmful and were just waiting to give them back to me when it would be safe to do so.
Ultimately, the issue is that I went into fear over a trivial event. It did not affect my day significantly that I am aware of as I found them a few minutes later. However whether I had my keys then or not in the scope of eternity is a pretty petty concern – might I even say, it wasn't real? It was a temporal disturbance in my day that lasted but a moment and then passed away yet I allowed myself to go into fear over it.
"Every aspect of fear proceeds from upside-down perception." (OrEd.Tx.1.94) gives us the reason for this fear – our upside-down perception. We don't see things right. We see them upside-down! Have you ever tried to read something upside-down? Some people can do that pretty easily but it usually only comes after a lot of practice. Most of us would struggle to read something correctly if it was upside-down, and A Course in Miracles is saying that is why we go into fear. We are seeing the situation upside-down.
Here is the kicker – "To whatever extent a man is willing to submit his beliefs to this test, to that extent are perceptions corrected." (OrEd.Tx.1.98)
I used to teach math and my favorite class to teach was Geometry. One of the things we'd talk about was inverse, converse, and contrapositive statements. A contrapositive statement flips the if-then and adds a negative to each.
A quick example would be: If I am happy, then I am smiling. The contrapositive would be: If I am not smiling, then I am not happy.
See how it does that? Smiling and happy got swapped plus we put a "not" in both halves. If the first statement is true, then the contrapositive is also always true. So let's apply that here.
If "a man is willing to submit his beliefs to this test, [then his] perceptions corrected." (OrEd.Tx.1.98) The contrapositive would be: If a man's perception is not corrected, then he is not willing to submit his beliefs to the test.
So if we are in fear (which comes from upside-down perception), then we have been unwilling to submit our beliefs to the test of "Does this exist at the higher creative level? Is this eternal? Is this real?" We are choosing to hang onto the illusion that is creating our fear. We are responsible for that fear. No one else is. No circumstances are. Nothing except our lack of willingness to submit our beliefs to this test is producing the fear.
A Course in Miracles also says this elsewhere and maybe even more succinctly: "All forms of not-right-mindedness are the result of refusal to accept the Atonement for yourself." (OrEd.Tx.2.64) We are the cause of our not-right-mindedness. We have refused to accept the Atonement for ourselves. We are fighting tooth and nail to stay in our own not-right-mindedness. Dang it!
That is not an easy idea for me to accept. About two years ago, I had two things that happened close to one another that has caused some lingering fear for me. The first was the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Without getting into the testimony or my thoughts about the allegations brought against him, what bothered me was that the vote was almost completely along partisan lines (with only one exception). Republicans voted for him. Democrats and third-party senators voted against him.
What I took from that was that the senators (from both sides) really didn't care if Brett Kavanaugh was guilty of having tried to sexually assault a woman in college and now was lying about it or not. Party loyalty meant more than the allegations did – and extending that out, the sexual assault of any woman could be dismissed as wholly irrelevant if it wasn't convenient for the senators' agenda.
Secondly, I binge watched the first season of The Handmaid's Tale. I have not watched any more since then as it scared the crap out of me. Not as in a horror film, but a lingering, unsettling fear. I'd love to say that the things depicted there couldn't happen. However, everything included in the book on which the program is based has been perpetrated at some point in history. It's happened before, so could it happen again?
Between the two, I started wondering what would happen if the rights of women were completely stripped away. As a single woman, would my home be taken from me? What if I couldn't have any income of my own? What if…? And as there seems to be a continuing disrespect for women by men in positions of power within this country, those fears have remained.
So how do we deal with fear? How do we become willing to submit these fearful beliefs of upside-down perception to the test that the Holy Spirit has set before us? How do we accept that those beliefs are not real? The one thing we don't do is pretend they aren't there with a flippant, "Nothings real so nothing to fear," because we are in fear. When we ignore the fear, it doesn't go away, it just festers in the background – still present and active, waiting for a chance to explode when it gets triggered again. We have to address the fear to be able to heal it.
I did an electronic search of A Course in Miracles for the words "fear" and "healing" within the same paragraph. I'm not sure what I thought I was going to find, but a trend came up that was unexpected. What I found often when A Course in Miracles is talking about the expulsion of fear from our lives is that the process is not so much a matter of removal but rather one of substitution. We don't rip fear out and just throw it aside; instead we bring something in that, when accepted, leaves no room for the fear to remain.
Such passages included (listed in the order which they appear):
• "… all healing involves replacing fear with love." (OrEd.Tx.8.84)
• "God goes with me wherever I go. The idea for today has the power to end all this foolishness forever .... It will cure all sorrow and pain and fear … it will heal the mind that thought these things were real." (OrEd.WkBk.41.0,2)
• "I am as God created me .... Today's idea is therefore all you need to let the complete correction heal your mind and ... heal all the mistakes that any mind has made" (OrEd.WkBk.110.0,2)
• "And all the world departs in silence ... no more to be the home of fear. For Love has come and healed the world by giving it Christ's peace." (OrEd.WkBk.305.1)
Fear can be replaced with love, the thought that God is always with me, the thought that God created me, and Christ's peace (given by Love). In other words, my fearful thoughts, my upside-down thinking, can be replaced by thoughts about God which I would offer is inclusive of Love which is eternal.
The second thing that came up repeatedly is that we don't do this substitution / healing alone. We do it with God, the Holy Spirit, and with our brothers:
• "Healing is of God in the end." (OrEd.Tx.3.3)
• "… all healing involves replacing fear with love. The Holy Spirit .... is to distinguish only between the false and the true, replacing the false with the true." (OrEd.Tx.8.84)
• "Before your brother's holiness the world is still and peace descends .... He is your savior from the dreams of fear." (OrEd.Tx.24.29)
I believe there are practices that we can invoke in our lives which can be the catalyst for this change in thought. We cannot put our fear into a box and pretend it isn't there. Rather we should be watchful over our minds. What are we thinking? What are we avoiding (but still think)? Questioning our thoughts as with, "Are they true?" We can also invoke the assistance of the Invisible Realm through prayer and meditation.
Prayer is us talking to God, (when I say "God" here, I am using it to reference the whole of the invisible spiritual realm however you may perceive that) while meditation is God talking to us. Those sometimes blur together but that's how I think of them. I find both to be beneficial in my spiritual path and necessary components as we look to heal our upside-down perceptions that are the foundation of every fear.
There is much more that could be said about prayer and meditation, God and Love, Spirit and healing, but I suppose those will need to wait for another article in Miracles Monthly. Until then, I am trusting that you will follow your guidance as God comes along to help you heal your fears from an upside-down mind.
And please if you are planning to party (without fear!), I do wish for you to have a happy and safe Halloween! ♥
Rev. Kelly Hallock is CMC's 89th minister. She was ordained by the CMC on September 13, 2015.
c/o Community Miracles Center
San Francisco, CA 94147
This article appeared in the October 2019 (Vol. 33 No. 8) issue of Miracles Monthly. Miracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.