On Charging Money and A Course in Miracles

In the consideration about whether and how to expand my teaching in the ACIM community, money was always the biggest stumbling block. Is it fair to charge for spiritual-related services? Isn’t money distracting at best and downright evil at worst?

For me, money is that symbol – that illusion – wherein the separation from God is perceived in exquisitely sharp and painful detail. It has been that way as long as I can remember. I have always believed at the deepest level that money is the single biggest impediment to Love that the world has ever known.

Challenging – and undoing – that belief has been my single biggest forgiveness of this lifetime, and I am sure that I am only beginning.

What direction, if any, does A Course in Miracles offer its students with respect to money?

Money is part of our experience in the world of separation. It is as much an illusion as anything else – from the grass that makes up the front lawn to the maple syrup we pour on our pancakes to the children that we call “daughter” or “son.”

As such, money is neither good nor evil. It’s nothing. The metaphysics of the course are very clear on this.

Yet few of us perceive the world with that kind of clarity. Most of us – because it is the condition of being here -believe in degrees of importance and value. We love our kids differently than kids we’ve never met across the globe. We believe that cancer is worse than a headache.

But illusions – like miracle – are not subject to any hierarchy. Any one of them – money, say – is as illusory as the next. No more and no less.

So from a course perspective, money is not a means of communication nor a form of energy but simply an illusion.

At the same time, it rarely does us any good to substitute a working knowledge of course metaphysics for an actual experience of peace and joy. We can walk around and say “money is an illusion” until we’re blue in the face but if in our hearts we hate money – or lust after money – then we’re in the illusion as deep as we can go.

An it is very important to be honest about that. The course doesn’t want to turn us into metaphysicians. It wants to help us look at what blocks our awareness of Love. For me it’s money. For you it may be something else.

An honest appraisal of one’s attitude towards money, then, is very helpful. If we believe that having money reflects alignment with God and Godly Love – if we equate an abundance of cash with an abundance of divine Love – then we are confused about about what God is, what we are and what love is.

And if we believe that denigrating money somehow purifies and bring us closer to God – you know, because saints are poor and always hungry – then we are also confused about God and self and love.

In a sense, the clearest attitude towards money that would be consistent with ACIM is this: on Monday we wake up and discover we’ve got a million dollars in the bank and so we smile and say “life is good.” On Tuesday we wake up and all that money is gone forever and so we smile and say “life is good.”

And we mean it both days.

In other words, the happiness towards which A Course in Miracles guides us is not contingent on what appears or does not appear in the illusory world in which our illusory bodies lead illusory lives. Any belief to the contrary is the separation.

That is true whether we are talking about sex or food or money or art or houses or jobs or anything. As soon as we’ve judged it, we’ve invested in it. We’ve made it real. It doesn’t matter if we think it’s good or bad or some combination thereof. We’ve strayed from the essence of the early course lessons which remind us – I am paraphrasing – that we don’t know a damned thing about reality.

So we have to be attentive to where we are – our beliefs, our opinions, our attitudes, our convictions. That is where the separation is operative and so that is where the Holy Spirit stands ever ready to lead us to atonement.

We get healed when we go straight to the problem with our eyes wide open.

That is what I am doing when I charge for teaching: I am trusting that God’s Love will not be withdrawn or diminished because I am doing this. It is a leap of faith into the mouth of the lion.

It is a chance to learn – yet again – that God’s love is not conditional and is always given, always present, always available. Period.

Really, that is what our lives in the world are in the end: repeated opportunities to learn – in different forms, of course – that God’s love is here now.

Our attention to these learning opportunities facilitates salvation.

I was mulling all of this over for weeks on end – talking to people whose judgment I trust, reading and praying. About two weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night with a clear and sure voice in my mind: “Charge money or don’t charge money, but get on with the  teaching.”

Charge money or don’t charge money but get on with the teaching.

The clarity was lovely and impeccable: Jesus was saying that the money was not the important element. The expanded teaching was. And the teaching mattered not because I have something you don’t, or anything like that, but because I don’t know what I have and can only learn it through teaching.

This is a course in how to know yourself. You have taught what you are, but have not let what you are teach you (T-16.III.4:1-2).

When we place our faith not in ourselves but in the Holy Spirit, we learn. Miracles happen and as we witness them, we learn a little more about what we are in truth.

This experience is different for all of us but the essence is always the same. What do we learn when we step into the very conflict that appears most full of risk and most unlikely to be solved?

We learn that we are not alone.

[t]he Holy Spirit is part of you. Created by God, He left neither God nor His creation. He is both God and you, as you are God and Him together (T-16.III.5:1-3).

That is knowledge to which all our learning in this vale of illusions is directed. Money is not the point, teachers are not the point and belief systems aren’t even the point.

The point is that we have forgotten the only fact of our identity: that we are one with God, outside time and space, beyond form and name and judgment altogether.

This is not the peace of the world which always passes. This is the peace that surpasses understanding – including that of our brains.

So how do we get to it again?

We look at what we fear. For me it is money. For you it will be something else: you know what it is. And when we look clearly at this fear – which means we engage with it – we take it onto the dance floor and give it a spin – it dissolves before us. It fades.

And then – for a moment – like stars perceived though a thinning veil of mist – we perceive the Light and Love that composes us and awaits only our acceptance to shine a little bit brighter, that we might all go home, sooner rather than later.

**

If you’re interested, Liz Cronkhite has written some thoughtful and articulate posts about money and A Course in Miracles here and here).

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Eric August 20, 2013, 6:18 am

    Hi Sean,

    I think the section of the question of payment pretty much answers the questions we may have. Here is an excerpt from it.

    No one can pay for therapy, for healing is of God and He asks for nothing. It is, however, part of His plan that everything in this world be used by the Holy Spirit to help in carrying out the plan. Even an advanced therapist has some earthly needs while he is here.
    Should he need money it will be given him, not in payment, but to help him better serve the plan. Money is not evil. It is nothing. But no one here can live with no illusions, for he must yet strive to have the last illusion be accepted by everyone everywhere. He has a mighty part in this one purpose, for which he came. He stays here but for this. And while he stays he will be given what he needs to stay. ~Pamphlet for Psychotherapy

    Eric: We’re told over and over that the Holy Spirit will provide for us as long as we “need”. And choices still need to be made, whether they be illusions or not.

    Do not despair, then, because of limitations. It is your function to escape from them, but not to be without them.~ACIM

    • Sean Reagan August 20, 2013, 9:01 am

      Yes, I think that is clear, too. Yet it’s interesting. I know course teachers who only accept donations (tracking James’ observation) and others who refuse to accept students who can’t pay the full amount. So even when the course is so apparently clear, we are still able to bring it to the level of opinion.

      I am presently studying very closely this idea that our earthly needs will be cared for – presently tracking it through chapter sixteen. I am mindful of that scene in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where Indy cannot see the bridge – it is not rendered visible until one takes that first step into nothingness.

      Faith!

      Thanks Eric.

    • Pamela Reuben August 22, 2013, 1:03 pm

      Should one charge money for teaching ACIM? I think that this is an important question but it strikes me as a subset of a larger question we should be asking ourselves about money, this question being: Why (and how) am I manifesting lack when it comes to money? If we had no lack and could afford to do anything and everything we wish to do when it comes to writing about the Course or anything else, would we even wonder if money should be charged? Heck, would we even consider charging?

      Pamela

  • Maha August 20, 2013, 7:21 am

    Thank you for allowing your light to shine, so ours can shine brighter too.

    • Sean Reagan August 20, 2013, 8:53 am

      Thank you Maha!

  • James August 20, 2013, 7:50 am

    So, Sean. What happens when the money gets in the way of your student? What good is it if your ego has now been re-leaved but the student can’t get there? There is a Zen teaching admonishing the guru to avoid advertising and eschew seeking remuneration. Only a bowl at the front door.

    • Sean Reagan August 20, 2013, 8:52 am

      It is a good question, James. And an important one. Thank you for raising it.

      Ultimately, if we practice A Course in Miracles and take its nondual thought system seriously, then our only option is to see that money as an illusion. That is true for the teacher and it is true for the student.

      And in that light, it doesn’t matter if someone puts an empty bowl out front or a sign saying “here’s what I charge.” Both instances acknowledge money as a component of the teacher/student relationship.

      We do not accept illusions by degrees – it’s all or nothing. So once we’ve acknowledged money as real, it doesn’t matter how we respond to it. There is no right or wrong way. How could there be? It’s illusory.

      I am not “re-leaved” (I like that reworking of “relieved” very much, by the way) of my ego by charging money. Far from it! But again, that is not the point. I can’t be awakened by rearranging the external details of my life – there is no constellation of circumstance that equals awakening. How could there be? It is all illusory!

      All I am doing is what the course has taught me to do: be attentive to those people/places/things that appear to stand in the way of my awareness of Love. Give them over to the Holy Spirit and then get out of the way.

      The early lessons of A Course in Miracles are very clear: we don’t know what a thing is for. As soon as we decide we do, we’ve embraced separation from God. That includes our attitude towards money and teaching: once we’ve decided it’s good or bad, then we’re invested in it. We’re no longer making space for the Holy Spirit.

      Who knows? Perhaps I am in error. Perhaps I am confused and in charging for teaching I am not heeding the Holy Spirit but rather the ego. That’s okay, too. I’m learning as I go.

      Thank you again for sharing your thoughts, James. I hope you can sense in my response how important I feel this issue is, and my willingness to remain teachable with respect to it.

      ~ Sean

    • Sean Reagan August 20, 2013, 8:52 am

      p.s. One way that we know we are dealing with illusions is the presence of opinions. For example, you are suggesting in your comment that charging may not be the most ethical approach to teaching. A healthier approach is to refrain from advertising and simply leave an empty bowl out front.

      Liz Cronkhite, whose work I referenced in my post, observes that asking for donations in lieu of payment for services is the equivalent of saying “I want to be paid but I don’t want to accept responsibility for asking to be paid.”

      The point is not that one position is right while the other is wrong but rather that a person can take either position. Neither is right or wrong. Both are merely stances one takes towards what is illusory. However – and this is where A Course in Miracles enters – if they are taken with the Holy Spirit, then they will inevitably serve God’s plan for salvation.

      It is not really possible to make a right choice with respect to the external world of illusion – be it about money or sex or employment or education or whatever. Our goal is to see that fact and – having accepted the futility of following the ego (who always argues in favor of external solutions) make space for the Holy Spirit and Jesus who will use all our decisions in the world of form to facilitate God’s Plan for Salvation.

      I need do nothing except not to interfere (T-16.I.3:12).

      🙂

  • Anil August 20, 2013, 7:57 am

    Damn hard not to indulge in “judgement”, but one of your best, if not your best post yet. At least that’s the way it feels for me. right now.
    Love,
    Anil

    • Sean Reagan August 20, 2013, 8:51 am

      Yes, it is damned hard – and if we were doing it alone, it would be impossible. But fortunately, we aren’t alone. And so little by little we can just make space for our internal teacher to help undo judgment for us.

      And thank you – as always – for the kind words, Anil. I hope you and your family are well.

      ~ Sean

  • Michal August 20, 2013, 11:52 am

    Just get on with it Sean. Isn’t that what you heard the other night.
    Your local grocery store will thank you for it!
    Michael.

    • Sean Reagan August 20, 2013, 12:02 pm

      Indeed! Thank you Michael.

      ~ Sean

  • Xavier Nathan August 21, 2013, 7:08 am

    I love your blog and always come away from it feeling refreshed. Your honesty is what makes this blog so special. The money thing here is as you say something else for different people but the struggle is the same. I see it as just another addiction. Being addicted to a substance can just as easily be replaced by being addicted to an idea or a belief. For me the words “Charge money or don’t charge money but get on with the teaching.” say it all. Thank you Sean.

    • Sean Reagan August 21, 2013, 4:48 pm

      Yes, addiction is actually a good word for it. I am still turning over some threads from our conversation here a few weeks back about that. I was just writing to a friend on this subject that there is something very liberating about just doing what frightens us – you know, charging money and then learning the sky won’t fall. Then the truth seems to emerge a bit brighter – in this case, the point isn’t really about the money, but about teaching.

      Thanks, as always, for the kinds words.

  • Katherine Morgan August 21, 2013, 6:33 pm

    Sean, I’ve really enjoyed your blogs and I may consider paying for info from you but all I can really see in this blog and in these comments is that our needs will be met as long as we remember the Truth. Just keep writing and in your exploration for peace, you will receive peace and that means having enough money to sustain. I’m gonna do more research about “coming home.” I just got a message from God when I recently prayed about wishing to be with a friend of mine at exactly the time that he reportedly “died” of a heart attack while on a fishing trip. The message was clear, “Problem solved when you come home.” That keeps coming up for me. I am in remission from stage 4 breast cancer so “coming home” is something I’ve thought a lot about lately. You said “go home” sooner than later. I’ve been feeling that it wouldn’t be such a bad thing but my friends say they couldn’t live without me. Rambling on and on… Maybe I need to start a blog like you – see you are teaching!

    • Sean Reagan August 21, 2013, 9:30 pm

      Hi Katherine,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I whole-heartedly agree: the teaching (in the form of studying and writing and talking) is what is paramount: that is what leads us to the understanding that what we are in truth is not separate from God. In that light, charging money or not charging money isn’t really the issue – or even very interesting (though – as you note – it has led to a very helpful comment thread (not to mention my inbox!)).

      My goal in writing here is always to be as honest as possible – to share my understanding of the deeper metaphysical issues that relate to the course while not straying from the fact that, for most of us, it’s here that we’re working those things out. Indeed, that is really the course’s objective: to help us sort out truth and illusion while here in the world of illusion!

      Thank you, too, for sharing about your experience of breast cancer & the concept of “coming home.” And – as importantly – of prayer and guidance in prayer.

      ~ Sean

  • Michael Mark August 22, 2013, 2:02 pm

    Sean,

    Just wanted to say that when I read these couple of posts about your decision to move forward with teaching, my first and natural reaction was excitement. I think it will be wonderful for all involved- you, everyone, the world…

    Michael

    • Sean Reagan August 22, 2013, 4:42 pm

      Thank you Michael – I really appreciate that.

      Hope all is well –

      Sean

Leave a Comment