A Course in Miracles: The Guide to Salvation

The Holy Spirit, which is our Guide to Salvation, is the idea of healing (T-5.III.2:1), which is to say, both the “Call for God” and “the idea of God” (T-5.III.2:3). And, because we are not apart from God, but live as God’s creations, the Holy Spirit is also the idea of our own self (T-5.III.2:4).

Implicit in this definition is the clarity that the Holy Spirit is not a disembodied (or vaguely embodied) agent acting in the world, but rather a complex of ideas that acts in mind.

[I use “complex” here as a noun, not an adjective, in order to indicate a unified functional whole comprised of related parts]

This is a convoluted way of observing that our longing to be healed (to know peace and love, be happy, end war and starvation et cetera) is simultaneously the recognition of our own need for healing and the means by which that healing is given to us, if we are ready to accept it.

How do we accept the means of healing? How are we healed?

By seeing the Holy Spirit – as outlined above – in our brothers and sisters. For me to see healing in you is to see you through the healing already in me and, because ideas are strengthened through sharing, to thereby strengthen healing in both of us.

Two things worth noticing here.

First, the Holy Spirit – and, thus, healing – is already given. We are not going on a journey to claim healing, or studying a book in order to learn healing, or waiting on God to administer unto us a special blessing. Healing – in its totality – is already given. It is “in” our brothers and sisters because it is “in” us and so our relationships – when they are dedicated to right seeing in this way – are the Holy Spirit.

You cannot understand yourself alone. This is because you have no meaning apart from your rightful place in the Sonship, and the rightful place of the Sonship is God. This is your life, your eternity, and your Self. It is of this that the Holy Spirit reminds you. It is this that the Holy Spirit sees (T-5.III.8:1-5).

The other thing to notice is that our role in healing is simply to be willing to see with – or through, if that is a clearer image – the Holy Spirit. The actual healing is not our job. Our task is to give attention to the Holy Spirit in us – the idea of healing in us – and to look at the world through that idea. It is the Holy Spirit that “has the task of undoing what the ego has made” (T-5.III.5:5).

Thus the subtle but nontrivial injunction: don’t trespass on the Holy Spirit’s job description. Our part is orders of magnitude less dramatic and special than our egos care to admit.

The ACIM urtext can help us flesh out this section. Often, in my experience, the urtext engenders more conflict than peace, but in this context it provides a clear example of how Helen and Bill understood the meaning and purpose of this section of the text.

In the urtext, Jesus reminds Helen of a recent incident with Bill in which Bill declares to Helen that he is determined to not see her in a certain light. This, Jesus observes, is negative – that is, it reflects what Bill will not do. Jesus goes on to say:

If he will state the same idea POSITIVELY, he will see the POWER of what he said. He had realized that there are two ways of seeing you, and also that they are diametrically opposed to one another. These two ways must be in HIS mind, because he was referring to HIMSELF as the perceiver. They must also be in YOURS, because he was perceiving YOU (T 5 E 4).

We could pause here and imagine a similar relationship in our own life, a brother or sister we are determined to not behold in a negative light (a parent, a friend, a child, a co-worker). A Course in Miracles invites us to reframe this “negative” commitment (what we will NOT do, how we will NOT see them) positively.

In the urtext, Jesus explains to Helen how this reframing works.

What [Bill] was really saying was that he would NOT look at you through HIS ego, or perceive YOUR ego in you. Stated positively, he would see you through the Holy Spirit in HIS mind, and perceive it in YOURS. What you acknowledge in your brother, you ARE acknowledging in yourself. What you share, you STRENGTHEN (T 5 E 5).

Jesus later goes on to observe that when it comes to helpfully perceiving our brothers and sisters in the world, Bill has the right idea (T 5 E 6).

Thus, this section clarifies for us how to consider our brothers and sisters and also notes that the benefits of considering them in the clear light of the idea of healing directly benefits us. We are not saved individually or apart but rather together. We are save for and through each other.

This section references another idea that I think is important in understanding and applying A Course in Miracles. I will quote it in full, then say a couple things about it.

The Holy Spirit is the Mediator between the interpretations of the ego and the knowledge of the spirit. His ability to deal with symbols enables Him to work with the ego’s beliefs in its own language. His ability to look beyond symbols into eternity enables him to understand the laws of God, for which He speaks. He can therefore perform the function of reinterpreting what the ego makes, not by destruction but by understanding. Understanding is light, and light leads to knowledge. The Holy Spirit is in light because He is in you who are light, but you yourself do not know this. It is therefore the task of the Holy Spirit to reinterpret you on behalf of God (T-5.III.7:1-7).

There are some nontrivial differences between this passage in the FIP edition and the urtext, which are discussed in the footnote below 1.

Symbols are things (words, images or ideas usually) that stand for something else. They are pointers. The word “bread” is a symbol for that stuff we dip in olive oil and eat. On U.S. roads, a green light at an intersection means proceed. “Democracy” is a word that stands for a form of government consisting of people electing their representatives. And so forth.

Symbols belong to the ego’s framework, where nothing is allowed to be as God created it but must always serve the ego’s ends.¬† Everything is segregated, divided and defined against everything else. Everything is a symbol, and the symbols are always shifting, and the result is confusion and strife. The result is chaos. This works for ego because ego literally is our efforts to untangle hopelessly entangled skeins and solve the many problems that entanglement seems to produce.

In Heaven – in God’s Creation – there are no symbols. Everything is known precisely as it is and there are no distinctions that require symbols in order to effectively distinguish them. What is known is known directly and does not require translation or interpretation.

In our current state of egoic thinking and framing, we cannot really even imagine what living like this would mean. Even “Heaven” and “God’s Creation” are merely symbols.

However, the Holy Spirit – who is like us in that it understands and can utilize symbols – is unlike us in that it also knows the perfect knowledge that constitutes Heaven. Therefore, it can adopt the ego’s symbolism and gently use it to undo what the ego makes with those symbols. The translation of relationships from special to holy – in a sense, relationship as miracle – is our most intimate experience of Holy Spirit.

Always the Holy Spirit undoes what ego makes in favor of what God knows, which requires no symbol to be known.

The major symbol that the Holy Spirit undoes is us! Our very selves are symbols. In the egoic mode, we are symbols of separate lives forging separate paths through a world in which there are winners and losers constantly pitted against one another. To ego, we are literal symbols of separation from God – we have separate bodies, personal narratives, shifting welters of desire and memory and preference . . .

But to Holy Spirit – which is, again, the idea of healing in our minds and in that way our guide to salvation – we can be gently steered through the appearance of the ego’s world and its symbols towards knowledge of God and Heaven.

The urtext reminds us of the simple and ordinary foundation of A Course in Miracles. Bill and Helen were learning how to be better friends to each other and, by extension, to those around them. Healing always has radial ancillary effects. Look, then, to the relationships in your life – the ones that work, the ones that don’t. The ones that challenge you, the ones that bore you. The ones where you are always giving and the ones where you are always receiving. All of them.

Can you insist on perceiving each of your partners in these relationships as holy? Can you gaze on them from the holiness in you to the holiness in them? The relationships may or may not be transformed in a formal way (e.g., T-5.III.2:8-10) but that doesn’t matter. Our dissociation from God is healed at the level of mind, where the dissociation occurred and where it is sustained.

In the end, Holy Spirit is basically a way of seeing relationship, of framing all relationships to serve the shared goal of happiness and inner peace. It is you healing me so that I can heal you so that together we might remember our shared home in God.

  1. Here is the relevant language from the urtext:

    “The Holy Spirit is the mediator between the interpretations of the ego and the knowledge of the Soul. Its ability to deal with symbols enables it to to work AGAINST the ego’s beliefs in its own language. Its equal ability to look BEYOND symbols into eternity also enables it to understand the laws of God, for which it speaks” (T 5 E 9).

    The difference between “spirit” and “soul” does not really bother me, as it does other students. I do appreciate the genderless language that is used to refer to the Holy Spirit (it’s an “it,” not a “He”). Not anthropomorphizing this concept allows us to remember that “Holy Spirit” is really an idea rather than on object or entity with whom we are in relationship (the way we are in relationship with the neighbor or a friend).

    Relating to ideas is of a different order than relating to brothers and sisters.

    Note, too, that the urtext suggests the Holy Spirit works “against” the ego rather than “with” the ego. Here, the FIP phrasing is more consistent with how the Holy Spirit actually functions – it’s not in a war with ego, it’s just translating ego’s symbols and stories in a way that brings forth love. The Holy Spirit is a lover, not a fighter.[]

5 thoughts on “A Course in Miracles: The Guide to Salvation”

  1. Hi Sean. I’ve been rereading this myself, very useful in healing an earlier relationship with ACIM (itself a movement of healing other earlier stuff, Christianity for one!). Though I “know” Holy Spirit is our own right-mindedness, it’s funny how mental reaction doesn’t escape readily from the traditional/noun use of that term. So my praxis IS to share, like you share here, repeatedly turning around the anthropomorphizing in how I speak of HS and respond to others’ sharing of it (in fact just sent this link to a new friend who was wondering too about who/what ACIM’s HS is). So like your stand out sentence was novel for me, in that I don’t appreciate implications yet so readily: “Relating to ideas is of a different order than relating to brothers and sisters.”

    I’ve been wondering about, “They must also be in YOURS, because he was perceiving YOU.” Would that mean, in any perceiving of an imaged “you”, those ways and “you” would not be perceived execpt that their duality was matched in a real relationship with a real you (a not separate you/me but Mind’s experience split into a you and me)? Or does it simply mean that any you imagined (not necessarily “real”) is inherently the projection of the two ways? For example, a you imagined to be behind an internet post that I have a reaction to, since possibly not the assumed human but a bot – would those two ways still be in that “mind”. In Jesus’ example it almost sounds like he’s telling Helen that though she might be ignorant and disagree with Bill’s projection, he prooves it’s in her by her having been a receiver at all of his projection. Now that she might react and be codependent with bouncing projection back and forth I understand would mean this was the case. But is it sensible that a me can see the two ways in a you, without that you *really* having the two ways as projected by the me (like the bot wouldn’t actually have the two ways. Though I guess we could follow through, that the two ways still show up through any chain of intelligence behind the programming, so there still is somewhere/when a receiver that the projection is landing on codependently!).

    Excuse the riffing on this if it’s too mental (just disregard it)! The essence I’m wondering about is if de-emphasizing an imaged you (seeing a body and an ego story pinned to it) is helpful in contrast to assuming a “real” you. I wonder about this because it seems to help that the abstract you I can begin to get that I’m relating to, is more important than trying to relate to “a” you that triggers old conditioning. It could be a bot that brings up an opinion I’m defensive about! More “a you” like though is an old high school friend on Facebook. Though I can remember my human interaction and see photos, it seems obvious now s/he is a target for my abstract you made “a you” – and that substitution IS the fog of confusion for missing the one holy relationship of the experience of me with Anything. I’m still wondering about this with “real time” interactions, whether they can be de-specialized (excuse me while I de-“a you” you, lol). I guess that seems too cold, or weird, maybe this idea is better suited to more “remote” yous. Maybe there’s nothing like any of this to what Jesus meant! So for now, thank you for the kindness I choose to see in you (that’s so obviously really! there from our relationship over the years), and that love – and it’s experience as us – gets to enjoy in/as kind/red.

    1. Dear Mike,

      Thank you for patience waiting for my response. I’ve been thinking a lot about this; I’m in a sort of wild zone of healing these days, and it’s like a roller coaster combined with a disco combined with sleep deprivation and fasting. It’s been a long time since I felt so actively consumed by the “celestial speed-up.” As the saying goes, “be patient with me – God isn’t finished with me yet.”

      So it’s possible I’m just missing the point entirely here. But . . .

      “You” is always a projection extending from the first projection (the first order of separation) which is “I.” It is always tempting to value them accordingly – I came first so it’s number one, you came second so it’s a little less than I.

      I think Bodhisattva appeals and “as you do unto the least my brothers and sisters, you do unto me” are attempts in major religions to address this. They are calls to serve “you,” in hopes that service can redress the imbalance between “I” and “you.”

      I am a firm believer in the value of service in terms of bodies, though I try to clarify that it needs to be handled with a light touch and high degree of epistemic humility. Where the need for help is obvious, the help. Try to notice when it’s about you. Et cetera.

      But I think the course – and the western nondual tradition that is still sort of struggling to figure itself out – is actually trying to get us to focus at a deeper level, one in which we can realize that *all illusions are equal in their illusoriness.

      And I think it’s okay to try to understand that and engage with that, to “bring it into application,” as Tara Singh would say.

      That is, I don’t want to rush over that the fact that “you” and “I” are the same illusion. That it feels different is something to investigate. That “my” experience is richer than yours – after all, I’m not experiencing “your” sunlight, “your” coffee, “your” birdsong.

      That the different “you’s” appear to have different values – “my” daughter compared to a student of mine compared to a stranger on the street compared to a young woman in Hong Kong I’ve never and will never meet – also bears investigation.

      As does the way that some “you’s” are integrated in my “story” in harmful ways – people who have physically harmed me, or shot my dogs when I was little, et cetera.

      For me, the question is usually: how is this given?

      I adopt in my half-assed way the epoché of Husserl and the Pyrrhonists: I set aside questions of what is real, what is God, what is forgiveness and just examine how the world at this moment is given to me.

      For me, the world – and I and you – are multivalent. There is not a single way it all appears but many ways, intermingled and entangled, shifting and dancing, sunlight on waves, butterflies on flowers, fireflies in the night.

      How is “you” given? I engage on the terms of the givenness.

      Sometimes the abstraction of self and other – the shared mutual illusoriness is evident – and that’s sweet because it is like all a gentle flow. Then everything is either love or a call for love and the answer in both cases is love and it’s just a happy dream.

      Sometimes the other is an actual body – the neighbor with his Trump sign who everyday taunts me hoping to draw me into some kind of dispute (because he sees our pride flag, our peace flags, our vote for women signs etc) and then it’s like straight up just gritting my teeth and praying for the one who crucifies me. I don’t like this, but it’s how it’s given, and so I engage there.

      I think that as we slow down our efforts to know everything, and to force everything into some nondualistic spiritual frame, then the “I-you” relationship begins to clarify. It feels clear to me that the point is to bring forth love, and that somehow the appearance – the way the world is given – is always in that moment the best way to bring forth love (even if it’s not clear to me), which altogether is some kind of healing (which I think – and now I am myself leaping into metaphysical speculation – is the context of you-I, the space of you-I).

      Anamika Borst, who I love, says somewhere something to the effect of “how nice that we can move on even from nonduality.” You help me with this! and I am grateful beyond words.

      ~ Sean

  2. Yes! there is a feeling/sense (lol, the I’mpersonal masquerading as “our” 3rd person reference, “there is”) of a crescendo of gratitude (that’s a very nice echo chamber: I pointed at a you that is sensed to be the space of I, that I, the space of you … beautiful, thank you, oops another crescendo).

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