Students Need Teachers: ACIM to the Rescue

From time to time I remind myself that the primary (we could even say “sole” but I think that’s probably inaccurate) goal of A Course in Miracles is to introduce us to the Holy Spirit, who is our Teacher. From the course preface:

The Course makes no claim to finality, nor are the Workbook lessons intended to bring the student’s learning to completion. At the end, the reader is left in the hands of his or her own Internal Teacher, Who will direct all subsequent learning as He sees fit.

That is the premise from which I often suggest that it’s okay to put aside course metaphysics (e.g., is consciousness the first step in separation), spiritual drama (ascended masters! light shows!), and self-help/improvement (e.g., manifest your best life now).

All of those are effectively distractions. They aren’t wrong in any effective sense; they just postpone the actual work ACIM proposes we do and thus also postpone the logical and practical outcome of that work: relationship with an internal Teacher who knows we are not separate from God and knows how to help us know it, too.

Here’s an experiment. Can you hear the Holy Spirit? If yes, then it’s ACIM game-over, unless you’re called to be a formal teacher/Boddhisattva (like, say, Ken Wapnick).

But if you can’t hear the Holy Spirit (which is to say, you find my asking annoying or confusing or discouraging), then it’s worth asking a) if A Course in Miracles is the right spiritual path for you and/or b) whether your practical application of it might need to be tweaked.

[please note that an interim phase exists in which “hearing the Holy Spirit” is neither perfect nor consistent. Generally, though, when we’re in that phase, we know we’re in it]

The Holy Spirit is not a separate entity from you. It is not a supernatural being to which only devout or new age Christians have access. Rather, the Holy Spirit is your sane mind and its voice is quiet, calm and confident. Its direction is always helpful. It knows that separation is an appearance, not a law.

[The Holy Spirit] represents your Self and your Creator, Who are One. He speaks for God and also for you, being joined with Both. And therefore it is He Who proves Them One (C-6.4:2-4).

Essentially, the course suggests that there are two voices in our mind. The voice of the ego is loud and insistent, demanding and grandiose. It plans and plots. It’s shifty and contradictory. It answers questions with more questions. It thrives on complexity.

You can observe these egoic patterns of thinking in your mind. You can observe their effects in your mind and in your living.

And, you can also observe the alternative: a voice that is mature, calm, patient and responsive. Given a question, it offers an answer. It simplifies and clarifies. Merely to be in its presence is to be at peace.

That, too, is a pattern of thinking in our mind, albeit one from which we are estranged. Thus, a nontrivial aspect of the ACIM curriculum – really, its whole shebang – is learning how to discern between those two voices. One of them knows God and wants you to know God and one of them does not know God and doesn’t want you to figure out that it doesn’t.

In course terms, God is neither a big idea that we mentally “get” nor a big show of joy and peace that our physical bodies experience in physical terms. Brain and its casing are neutral, not fundamental and not causal.

Rather, God is an experience of coherence that generates peace and joy in communion with others in ways that transcend body/mind duality. On this view, God is normal and natural; it doesn’t even need to go by the name “God.” Names don’t even exist to it.

[note too that letting go of one’s attachment to this or that name of God – which is to let go of ontological preference altogether – is also a phase, one that can be especially acute in terms of confusion, grief and anxiety]

Importantly, we don’t have to force any insight, experience or communion; it’s all already in place. We simply have to listen to the Teacher who already knows it’s in place, and let her/him/it (you choose!) restore it to our thinking in our mind. You wouldn’t go into a math class and assume that you have to teach the teacher algebra! You’d just give attention to the teacher teaching you.

Just so with A Course in Miracles . . .

[and note that upon restoration, distinctions like “our thinking” and “our mind” will no longer be necessary, save as teaching devices. But in strict terms of A Course in Miracles, that’s cart-before-horse]

Thus, find the teacher and heed their instruction. What else can a sincere student do whose goal is to not to linger in the classroom forever?


  1. I have found you again !
    It must have been some time in 2013 when I first came upon your blog. I found it very inspirational at the time, but stop following it shortly after I became homeless and had very little access to the internet.
    So much has happened since then. Though it all, I continued to study and practice the Course, I understood then as I do now that I have chosen everything that I experience, that as the teaching says, “I am not a victim of the world I see”.
    Through the years I have attempted to bring darkness to the light, and have tried to better understand why it is that I have continusly attempted to attack “myself”, but I cannot say, even to this day, that I have succeeded.

    In the years since 2013, like I mentioned before, I became homeless for more than two years, I lost every personal possession, and a year into it I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that attacks my spinal cord from which I suffer daily physical pain, and which has left me unable to work. I am no longer homeless, but because of my inability to work I live in poverty. I remain grateful because I have food to eat and the state pays for the many drugs that keep the pain at bay.

    And yet I have yet to figure out the Big riddle.
    Why have I so viscously attacked my perceived “self” and the body it believes it inhabits?
    Why have l made myself suffer so?
    Why can’t I learn whatever lesson it is I must learn in order to put an end to all this pain and tragedy?

    Yesterday, the first day of the year, I began the course lessons once more, l pray that I will be able to “see” this time, I pray that I will be able to see why it is that I have unconsciously destroyed my life and my physical body, and pray that at some point I can be released from this circle of self punishment.

    Maybe you can point to something I’m not seeing. If you decide to reply to this, and before you do, sit one minute with the Holy Spirit and ask him for me, maybe he will tell you what it is that I have been unable to hear.

    Thank you for your many insightful posts throughout the years.
    Wishing you and your family
    A Beautiful New year.

    1. Hi Criston,

      Thank you for your note. For reasons that I hope become clear in my long-winded reply, I am deeply grateful to you for sharing with me.

      A primary confusion in our experience is equating the body with the self (and vice-versa). It’s an identity crisis that yields a lot of hurt – from stubbed toes to jealousy to wars. When we believe that we are in a body, or an extension of a body, or in any way permanently attached to a body, then questions like “why do I do this to myself?” or “why is this happening?” feel logical and deserving of answers. They feel right when we ask them.

      This is because to the body, bodies (ours and others) will always appear real. Pains, pleasures, ups, downs, rights and wrongs . . . to the body, the body is the most real thing there is. And its self is simply the body’s voice, faithfully judging everything that happens, absolutely one with it.

      A Course in Miracles is an invitation to rethink this seemingly non-negotiable link between self and body by working intentionally with the Holy Spirit, Who acts as a sort of sane arbiter between our confusion (ego) and the clarity of Jesus (oneness with God).

      If the course is correct, and what we are in truth is not a body, then the body’s “serial adventures” stop mattering so much. We win a million dollars, we lose everything, we fall in love, we get divorced, we drop acid and see God, we slip on a banana peel and break our hip . . .

      It’s all the same: images in a dream story that in and of of themselves have no effect.

      But this is not how we experience those images. We take them literally and so – just as the images are made – suffering and sacrifice are made as well.

      And it really really hurts.

      What do we do?

      First, I think it’s important to recognize that making a body, a world, and then suffering in them is not a crime against God. It’s an illusion to which we all fall prey. Beating ourselves up over it is understandable but not really productive.

      What is productive? Offering the circumstances of our lives to the Holy Spirit, who will transform them into a learning situation that is almost unbelievably effective at teaching us that we are not bodies – and thus doomed to the body’s fate of suffering and death – but free. Always were and always will be.

      This is relatively easy to say and somewhat harder to do, so let me give you a couple of examples that involve you and me and our comments.

      In order to get right about our self as being in no way yoked to a body, we have to lean into the one mind that holds us. As bodies, being one mind makes no sense, but as minds – even in bodies, even in the world – it actually can make a little sense. This is the great gift of the Holy Spirit – those little burst of light in which we perceive we are one with our brothers and sisters.

      The really basic – but very helpful example – is that we can literally see how an idea I have – when given to you – is not “lost” to me. We’ve both got it. Love is never lost or minimized or compromised.

      For example, when you expressed gratitude in your comment for re-encountering this website, I felt a real rush of gratitude myself. It is not always clear to me that what I do here is helpful. I worry about muddying spiritual waters worse than they already are, being arrogant and grandiose . . . your kind words made me genuinely happy in a quiet and responsible way. It validated this writing experience that is so central to my ACIM learning process.

      It seems like that mutual experience of gratitude is experienced individually by our bodies which are separate in time and space but . . . if we look at it, it’s all in the mind. It’s not limited (the way a cup of coffee or a slice of pie or a hug is limited). It’s not mine or yours but ours.

      In a much more significant way, when you cautioned me to pause and consult with the Holy Spirit before responding to you, I felt such a surge of clarity and then, again, gratitude. “Consult with the Holy Spirit” is not my strong suit when it comes to writing about the course. One of the ego’s favorite cons is to convince me that first thought is always best thought, I can’t be mistaken and so forth.

      So your cautionary note was a beautiful teachable moment for me. Here you are asking me a question but it is already wrapped in the very answer that I most need to hear.

      In the guise of asking for help, you helped.

      That is, dormant in my experience of mind but perfectly awake in your own – is the critical concept of asking the Holy Spirit – our sane teacher, our perfect helper – for guidance. Yet that concept – for the moment – is awakened in me now because you so gently and kindly put it there.

      None of this necessarily undoes the pain and anguish endured by bodies. That goes on. But it does point to the shared mind that holds us – that unites us not as bodies but as love (in the form of patience, humility, helpfulness, etc). And that is a very encouraging thing to realize.

      What does all this mean? Mostly that I want to thank you for sharing, and for helping me remember that I’m not a body but free, and to remind you – if it’s helpful – that you could only help me in this deep way because – at the level where you are only love, which is the only level there is – you already are the answer you gave me.


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