Reading A Course in Miracles: The Guide to Salvation

Perhaps the great gift of this section of A Course in Miracles – which strikes me in this reading as being deeply instructive – is its repeated testimony on behalf of the power of thought. It is almost as if the line a few pages earlier – if you can understand that the world is merely one of ideas (T-5.I.1:14) – is being given its due. Indeed, this seems to be the salient point of this chapter – this critical introduction to the Holy Spirit – seems to be to finally place us in right relation to our minds, our power of thinking. We are not fixing or modulating the externals – we are remembering what we really are, and putting it to right use.

Consider:

The Holy Spirit is the idea of healing (T-5.III.2:1). And: the separation is merely another term for a split mind – it’s not an act but a thought (T-5.III.9:3). Thus, the Holy Spirit is merely the idea that undoes, or heals, the idea of separation. Both are in us – both are available. We need merely to tap into them, bring them to bear. When I write that that way, a little voice pipes up: “okay but how do I do that?” And my answer is simply: we do the lessons. There is a great line at the end of this chapter where Jesus calls us to be “open to learning (T-5.III.11:4).

You have not made truth, but truth can still set you free. Look as the Holy Spirit looks, and understand as he understands . . . He is in communion with God always, and he is in you (T-5.III.11:5-6,8).

Like all ideas, the Holy Spirit – the idea of healing – gains in power as it is given away. This was confusing to me for quite a while. If I gave away an idea about love or Jesus or God, it seemed logical that I would do it literally. “Hi, friend. I’m looking at the Holy Spirit in you and boy is it wonderful!” I couldn’t imagine how I would do it otherwise. And, to be honest, I think maybe part of me secretly liked the evangelical mode – at least so much as it made a statement about me. I think the ego appreciates a chance to brag on itself. “Look how holy and spiritual I am!”

But this section makes a solid and important point in this regard. We can see the Holy Spirit in our brother or sister even if they don’t know it’s there – and so it follows that they can see it in us. And nowhere in that exchange do the words “Holy Spirit” appear. I don’t think the text is suggesting that we should never talk about ACIM or related concepts. We can and should, when it’s appropriate. But what it is saying is that our perception of our brothers and sisters is pre-language – it has nothing do with how we talk to them. I can be loving and gracious without reminding people that I’m being loving and gracious. In fact, my graciousness and kindness and love are probably enhanced when I’m not using language to describe and assign them.

The loving quality of our relationships is about content – not form. If our focus is on perceiving one another as equal children of god then it doesn’t matter what else is going on – where we meet, what we say, what we’re wearing, where we go.

This idea of encountering one another through and with the Holy Spirit was also challenging to me because I prefer that things of the spirit be mostly about me. It’s okay if you’re a bit player in my spiritual drama but I really don’t like sharing the bill. That’s been one of the great gifts of A Course in Miracles, the way I have slowly – and, yes, not without some griping – come around to appreciating the role that you play in my salvation. We can’t do it alone and we need more than just the idea of healing and the model of Jesus. We really do need each other. We teach each other, formally or otherwise, that we’re really holy and really loving. Sometimes those lessons are literal – like reading a good Course book – but sometimes they’re much more abstract, like simply having a nice visit with a neighbor with whom we’re often uptight.

I also appreciate the cautionary note about not taking journeys with the ego – or, rather, not seeking the Holy Spirit with the ego as a guide. That’s a recipe for disaster. In fact, it’s one reason why looking for the Holy Spirit outside of us – in one another – is so fruitful. We aren’t plumbing our psychic interiors hand-in-hand with the ego. If I’m looking out there – in you, in my students, in my kids, in the guy who helped me figure out what sausage to buy, in the woman who reminded me I’d left some juice at the cash register, etc. – then I’ve got a better chance of actually finding it. And, surprise surprise, when I detect the Holy Spirit in you, I am strengthening it in myself. Why? Because it is the Holy Spirit in me that sees itself in you.

This is one of those sections that – even as I am confident I am missing parts or mistaking others – I still feel buoyed by. I feel lifted and held. I feel like I can do it. And I’m so grateful for those moments – those little occasions of clarity! The Holy Spirit is always at work, always acting as my guide. It is not scared of the ego, nor pessimistic about its chances of regaining Heaven. When I accept that – when I keep it simple and just accept that – a real sense of peace enters my mind. There’s a gentle outflowing of gratitude and love. The hours pass – sometimes whole days – as if we’re just following a river, as if the whole thing is easy as pie. Maybe it really is.

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