Over and over in the past week or so I have turned to these sentences from A Course in Miracles about healing and holy relationships.
Hear a brother call for help and answer him. It will be God to Whom you answer, for you called on Him (P-V.8:4-5).
I want to observe and reflect upon the circular – or entangled, perhaps – nature of the holy relationship indicated by these sentences.
When our brother or sister calls to us for help, it is in fact our own call to God for help. On this view, our brother or sister is our own self.
When we respond to our brother or sister, it is God to whom we respond. On this view, our brother or sister is God.
Thus, in our relationship with our brother and sister, they function as both God and our own self.
Also thus: our “own self” is – to our brothers and sisters – both God and brother and sister.
If we look at the relationship closely (the one between us and any other and the one between us and God), we see that the various entities – self, brother/sister, and God – are distinct but, depending on perspective, also the other entities.
In fact, the closer one looks, the more one sees not “entities” but “relations” and, perhaps, “relating.”
So we could also say that “Self,” “God” and “Sister/Brother” are simply labels affixed to the same thing. The labels may be helpful in terms of organizing our thinking about that thing – that relationship, that relating – but they are not themselves that relationship or relating. They are indicative, not veridical.
What shall we do with this?
We could start by considering this sentence (from the same course section): “We are deceived already,if we think there is a need of healing” (P-V.7:4).
That sentence makes clear that there is no actual need for healing but that one can be deceived about this. Thus, if one is deceived, then there is a need for learning. There is a need for clarification (or the undoing of deception, if that is easier).
In other words, we need to learn that there is no need for healing, and the one who will teach us is “one who seems to share our dream of sickness” (P-V.7:5). This “one” is our brother or sister who comes to us in pain and asks for help; it is also our own self, when we bring it to a sister or brother in pain. Both instances beget forgiveness.
Let us help him to forgive himself for all the trespasses with which he would condemn himself without a cause. His healing is our own (P-V.7:6-7).
So we can ask: What will our living look like, and what will our brothers and sisters look like, and what will the world that we construct together and apart look like, when we realize that there is no need of healing?
We will see the face of Love shining in, through and as all things. Neighbors, sunflowers, toll booths, slippers and feral cats. All of it. This love is impersonal, all-inclusive and unconditional. That is why it is our – and all life’s – “natural inheritance” (In.1:7). And that is why it permeates all life, regardless of form.
Of course, this love – which in course terms is given to us in creation by God – can be overlooked and ignored. And that overlooking and ignoring can yield a state of suffering which appears to be a result of lovelessness.
But our experience of lovelessness is not proof of love’s absence or negation! It is merely proof of our confusion about love (and the need for healing).
So our learning – which is really a sort of undoing – has to do with no longer overlooking or ignoring love. The natural effect of this learning is that we remember – we see again – the love that is always there.
How shall we teach others to notice love? By noticing it in their own self and responding to it where it is.
How shall we teach them not to ignore their natural capacity for joy and peace? By noticing the pain ignoring it causes them and gently suggesting that there is another way.
Note that this “teaching others” is by definition a reciprocal act – it is literally a form of relating to God – and so it necessarily involves our own learning. We, too, are stubborn and ignorant. We, too, are confused and unsure. We, too, are in need to hand-holding, hugging, encouragement, and aid.
Thus, sometimes, “teaching” looks and feels like “being helped by others.” But, as we observed at the outset – at what I suggested is a “holy entanglement” – there are no others.
When we are in pain and our sister soothes us, it is the love of God. When our brother is in pain and we soothe him, it is the love of God. We think of “the love of God” as a noun – an object, a thing – but perhaps it is more helpful to think of it as a verb – as a process, a flow, a flux, a dynamic.
Thus, with respect to healing and holy relationships, we might think of two big ideas:
1. Nothing is actually broken and in need of healing, but we can be deceived that something is broken and in need of healing, so we need to learn that we are deceived; and
2. The process of our personal call for help and our personal response to others’ calls for help – and their calls and their responses, both to us and to others – is, collectively, the “Love of God.”
Again, in the case of point 2, Love is not seen as an object but a process. It’s not something one gives but rather giving itself.
Both of these points represent ways of thinking – or of organizing our thinking – that are unfamiliar. However, giving attention to them in a sustained way will naturally make their application more natural, which in turn inspires joy and peace.
Thus, our practice is to be present to our brothers and sisters – to go with them two miles when they ask if we will go with them one, and to ask them to go with us a mile when we are need of company and assistance, and to accept the help they offer in response.
In such a process, who could not be healed? This holy interaction is the plan of God Himself, by which His Son is saved (P-V.5:7-8).
Thus, we heal together but learning together that healing is not necessary but learning is. We are both student and teacher unto one another and the world we make is our classroom.