I have been reflecting on the temptation to see salvation in other people. I think this can take two forms. First, we can find an ACIM teacher and idealize them to the point where they aren’t even human anymore. And second, we can fall in love with someone and associate them with salvation. In this case, the love can be romantic, sexual, or platonic.
And once we’ve done that, we’re toast. We’ve tossed away salvation for a tepid imitation.
We all want to have teachers. I think that’s true. Even those of us who – like me – are not formally associated with a particular living teacher – have preferences and favorites. A Course in Miracles is a complicated text and belief system, and the spiritual path it espouses is not easy. It makes sense to look for help. It makes sense to reach out.
I consider Tara Singh my “teacher.” His works speaks to me at a deep level and has proven wonderfully instructive in terms of working out how one practices the Course in this world of tears while simultaneously pursuing a Heaven that we never, in Truth, left. His books, audio tapes and videos have been an incredible gift.
But there are times when I begin to gush over Singh. I say to people, “look at this eyes. They are the eyes of an awakened man.” I brag about his political and spiritual lineage with Krishnamurti and Eleanor Roosevelt. I can be snide with students affiliated with Ken Wapnick, say, or Liz Cronkhite. “Well, your teacher just understands the Course as a text and workbook. My teacher was actually enlightened.”
That’s the point at which I have crossed the line from helpfulness to unhelpfulness. I am no longer focused on my practice of the Course, or my teacher’s guidance, but on the body of my teacher, his personality in the world, and his stature in the world. I have brought him from the level of insight down to the level of opinion.
That’s no skin off his nose, of course; he’s beyond that. But it hurts me because it locks me a little longer and a little tighter into the world of bodies and the world of choices and the world of pain. I’ve confused salvation with something outside of me – a form in the world. And salvation is most assuredly not that one thing.
The other way this happens is in our day-to-day relationships. We meet someone who is very beautiful according to whatever our personal aesthetic defines as beauty. Or they are really smart. Or they have a deep spiritual practice. Or washboard abs. Or a cool job.
And we look at them and we think, you know, that’s it. In that brother or sister I perceive the oneness of God. But mostly we’re lying to ourselves. Mostly we’re just acting like bodies in the world: we love some bodies and not others. And we are always interacting with them based on what we think we can get from the deal. At that level, God is just a pretense.
There’s nothing wrong with appreciating what we see in the world: a lovely face, a beautiful body, a tantalizing laugh. I’m all about cheesecake and Bob Dylan songs and Emily Dickinson poems and so forth. Don’t think for a second I’m blind to beauty – in people, in animals, in flowers, in art.
But what we want to do – and I can personally attest to how hard this can be – is not confuse these forms in which we perceive the divine as the divine itself.
As soon as we place God out “there,” then the jig is up. As soon as we make our spiritual path a matter of seeking something outside of us – the right teacher, the right lover, the right version of A Course in Miracles, whatever – then our attention is misdirected and we’re going to wander in circles, maybe for lifetimes.
A good teacher – like all good symbols of the sacred and divine – point not to themselves but to your internal guide. They are working overtime to make themselves unneeded. It’s not about them – ever. It is always about you and your relationship with the Holy Spirit and Jesus.
I have some lovely relationships in the world that are grounded in A Course in Miracles. Sometimes they get confusing, but that’s natural. The point is not to be perfect and not to never slip up. In fact, it’s the slipping up that really teaches us what the next step is.
Salvation is always a condition experienced internally. The only obstruction to salvation is yourself. The only means by which to obtain it lie within you. The forms of the world might be helpful and they might not, but they can never be substitutes for what we really want: an enduring relationship with Jesus, a right learning posture with the Holy Spirit as we make our way home to the God we never left.