I have been resisting this section for the better part of a week. I read it – encountered a lot of language about the Holy Spirit – and something in me just shut down. It wasn’t clear why. I re-read it several times – read earlier, less edited versions – and prayed on it as well. Why should I resist the Holy Spirit? What about that would give me pause?
I realized in a moment of prayer that what bothered me was the reference to the holy trinity. That set off a bunch of intellectual alarms for me. I was a pretty devoted student of Catholicism back in the day, and of the history of the early church. The trinity – the mystery of the trinity – is one of those issues that has divided Christians and, quite frankly, tied them up in all kinds of intellectual and theological knots as they struggle to differentiate themselves from one another and claim the mantle of the one true church.
I wanted to crack open books. What does John Crossan have to say about the trinity? What did Merton say? But I have pledged to stay close to the ACIM text without supplements. There was not going to be any help there.
I went deeper into the nature of my resistance. It wasn’t just that these words set off an internal intellectual debate. I saw that I also wondered why the author of the text – Jesus as Helen Schucman understood him, Jesus as I understand him, Jesus of Nazareth, something or someone else altogether – had bothered with the phrase. Was the historical Jesus really into the trinity? Wasn’t the author taking a theological stand here – one to which the real Jesus was indifferent? Was I being asked to embrace a particular strain of Christianity?
I recalled a lot of Ken Wapnick material I’d read over the years – arguing that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are interchangeable, that the Course isn’t Christian but a radical undoing of Christianity, etc. I felt a powerful need to challenge him and other public teachers on these questions.
And finally, on top of all that, the first four chapters (taken slow and careful this time) had yielded up a more powerful, fruitful and tangible relationship with Jesus than I’d ever known. Now I had to trade that – or compromise it – for one with the Holy Spirit?
Patience. Trust. If one section at a time doesn’t work, try one page at a time. If that binds you up in conflict, take it paragraph by paragraph. Or sentence by sentence. Word by word. Walk away if you have to. Breathe!
This morning – no warning – the fear and anxiety around this section evaporated. It wasn’t there. I’m not saying that I understood it perfectly – that never happens – but I could move forward again. I could read and write. I saw with clarity that Jesus is not asking me to give up on him but that he is clarifying his role. You will recall that in the first chapter we are encouraged to see him as an equal – a big brother with more experience, perhaps – but not somebody before whom we should feel awe. Think of those early chapters as little steps – we are slowly being introduced to a new and productive way of interacting with Jesus. And now he is upping the ante or – probably better – bringing us even closer to him. We’re ready. We might not feel it or believe it but we’re terrible judges.
Jesus is telling us – explicitly – that to think like him, which is to be Christ-minded – is to invite and then accept the Holy Spirit’s presence in our right mind (T-5.I.3:3). It is like Jesus knows that he can open up a bit more here. He is saying, “this is how it worked for me. It wasn’t about me. It was about the Holy Spirit.” And that’s how it’s going to work for us, too.
As a man, and also one of God’s creations, my right thinking, which came from the Holy Spirit or the Universal Inspiration, taught me first and foremost that this inspiration is for all (T-5.I.4:6).
There are a lot of definitions of the Holy Spirit here. He is the “call to Atonement” (T-5.I.5:4), the “Christ mind” (T-5.I.5:1), and the “shared inspiration of all the Sonship” (T-5.I.7:1). Perhaps most importantly, we are being taught that the Holy Spirit – however we define him or it or her – is already with us. It is already a part of us. Our job is merely to be willing to accept it. The holy spirit guides us in right thinking, bringing our thoughts into alignment with the thinking of God, perfecting our right minds until they are just a hair’s breadth away from One-mindedness, or Knowledge. The moment the separation came into being, the holy spirit did as well. He is that part of our minds that still knows it is One with God. We’re attached to and devoted to that part of the mind that’s chosen to forget our identity, conjuring up a tragic mess in its place, but that doesn’t mean our real thoughts are obliterated. We can resist and deny and project until we’re blue in the face but we can’t destroy what God created.
To this point in the text, the Holy Spirit has been a bit player. It’s been mostly Jesus. But with chapter 5 that’s going to change. We’re plunging into a major exploration of the Holy Spirit. And it makes sense, really. If the ego is the part of the mind that believes in the separation, don’t we want to finally make contact with the part of our mind that knows the separation is unreal? That it never happened? That we’re already back home? That this is all a bad dream that can end as soon as we choose to wake up?
And remember – our awakening begins with our invitation to the Holy Spirit, our sincere desire to be comforted and guided and healed by him (T-5.I.2:1-5).
I still can’t decipher the trinity. Nor do I care to. Three beings, one God. Whatever. I see Jesus as the example – the one who ended the separation in his own life and stands ready now to show you and me how to it in our own. And clearly, that demonstration means getting acquainted with the Holy Spirit. All that resistance of mine – that fierce desire to argue, to be right, to be bookish – maybe it wasn’t about those energies at all. Maybe it was about my fear of really going deeper. I don’t need to intellectually understand or explain A Course in Miracles. But I do need to be saved. I really do. I want that. I don’t know the way – that’s clear by now, right? So I need help. This is the way the text points. Go here now. This is what Jesus says comes next.
So I’m going – slowly, fearfully, inelegantly, mumbling and judging. It doesn’t matter. We can stumble into Heaven and it’s still Heaven.
Thanks for your commentary today. I especially liked the last sentence about stumbling into heaven. My ego is so ready to point out all my ineptitude and wait for me to give up. Slowly the tides turned and my journey is my priority and my ‘raw’ life with all its stumbling blocks is now grist for the mill. I can’t say I’m at a place where it isn’t sometimes painful (illusionary or not), but the Course is my chosen path and I’ve never felt Jesus’ presence and comfort quite like now. I look forward to your thoughts and especially your honesty with the human condition. If it helps me, then as the Course says, its helping the entire Sonship because we are of one Mind. Baby steps or leaps of faith we’re all in this together.
Hi April – thanks, as always. Yes, I hear that – painful whether it’s illusory or not. Stumbling is my thing, I’ve come to accept that. Very little is graceful about my “spiritual journey” – sometimes I feel like it’s happening in spite of myself. But I’m always grateful for it and, having chosen the Course and committed to it, there are plenty of moments – fleeting sometimes, but not always – of real peace, real joy. Thanks again for reading & writing – I always feel very grateful knowing you’re out there.