The Fourth Principle of A Course in Miracles

All miracles mean life, and God is the Giver of life. His Voice will direct you very specifically. You will be told all you need to know (T-1.1.4:1-3).

Understanding how A Course in Miracles uses the concept of specificity is essential to its effective practice. It really goes to the heart of the problem of separation: the belief that we are separate from both creation and creator, and are singularly responsible for surviving this difficult exile.

You and I live in a word of specificity. A chair is not a table. We cannot eat rocks. Even when we move into more abstract concepts, we are still specific. Family trumps neighbor, neighbor trumps stranger. Exceptions prove the rule.

This specificity is the separation. It is what the miracle heals. So in a sense, miracles dissolve the need for miracles. But in order for miracles to effectively undo our mistaken belief in the reality of our specific body and specific world, they have to function in that world and for that body.

Miracles arise when we need help, and the help will be given to us by God through the Holy Spirit, Who is God’s Voice for Love. The Holy Spirit always gives us exactly as much information as we need to heal the specific problem or life challenge we face. But importantly, that help may or may not redress the problem as we have set it up. That is because the problem the Holy Spirit heals is our mistaken belief in separation, not the symptom that points to our mistaken belief.

Therefore, open-mindedness is a virtue in our practice of the course. There is no way around this.

Are you frustrated with your child for waiting until the last minute to ask for help with a school project? Spouse no longer interested in hearing about your day? Were you given an unfair evaluation at work? Car break down? Did the wrong political party win the last election?

God has a miracle for you.

But the miracle is not – as we will see more clearly in the tenth principle – about fixing the specific form of the problem. A miracle does not supernaturally repair leaking oil gaskets or magically empty the sink of unwashed dishes. It does not undo election results.

Rather, miracles realign our will with the will of God, which is life. But what does this mean?

When A Course in Miracles talks about “life” it is rarely referring to the physical experience of being a body – eating, excreting, sleeping and breathing, rinse and repeat from birth to death. That is not life but a mildly corrupt facsimile of life. It’s an imitation produced with an eye for efficiency over quality, a good story over reality. Mind that has forgotten what life actually is and stubbornly refuses to be reminded.

Rather, “life” refers to a creative ongoing relationship with God, not as an object or even a process, but as a perfectly abstract idea. Holiness arises in shared creativity, which is circular in nature, both infinite and eternal.

. . . the Father is a Father by His Son. Effects do not create their cause, but they establish its causation. Thus, the Son gives Fatherhood to his Creator, and receives the gift that he has given Him. It is because he is God’s Son that he must also be a father, who creates as God created him. The circle of creation has no end. Its starting and its ending are the same (T-28.II.1:2-7).

It is this relationship that miracles demonstrate. And it is this relationship that restores to our mind the memory of peace which naturally brings forth our shared ability to be happy and free in and with one another.

Thus, when I bring my specific problem to the Holy Spirit, Its response is not to instantly solve the problem as I’ve set it up. My problems all arise from confusion about what I am in truth: I think I’m a body in a hyper-competitive world of scarce-and-getting-scarcer resources. I think I’m at risk of death and the that the best defense is a good offense. Every single one of my so-called problems is merely a symptom of this misunderstanding.

Therefore, the Holy Spirit’s specific answer always addresses the underlying error, which is essentially my conviction that separation is not only possible but actually happened. The Holy Spirit never confirms separation because it knows the separation never happened. It always gives me just as much knowledge as I can handle in a given moment, a given set of circumstances, to remember that separation is not real.

When we accept that the world is not real and that we are not bodies, then we will no longer have problems.

How does this seemingly impossible condition play out in our lives?

Say that I am struggling with a supervisor at work. They are not always fair in their judgment, and they don’t always communicate in helpful ways. When I try to talk about this, they aren’t responsive. What should I do?

This is a real problem that can occur in the world! A Course in Miracles does not suggest we ignore it or suffer through it or anything like that. Instead, it invites us to bring it to the Holy Spirit and/or to Jesus. Find a quiet space, clear our mind, and in a natural and nondramatic way, let our preferred spiritual guide know what’s going on.

And then – keeping in mind the open-mindedness referred to earlier – get on with our lives.

The answer will be given, it will be precisely as specific as we need it to be and it will do two basic things. First, it will alleviate the stress I experience in the given relationship. Second, it will alleviate the stress by reminding me – to the deepest degree I can accept – that the problem is not real because the world is not real and I am not a body.

Usually, this reminder takes the form of remembering that my supervisor and I have a shared interest in peace. To that end, since we are all either asking for love or extending love, my interpretation of the relationship is refactored so that I can more accurately assess my role in its failure to bring forth peace.

So, I will see that I am asking for love from my supervisor in the form of fairness, dialogue, willingness to change, et cetera. Simultaneously, I will remember that my supervisor – who is obviously also struggling with the relationship – is also crying out for love. I may not know what form of love they need is, but that they need it is clear from the relationship.

Then the problem is very simple, right? “To have peace, teach peace to learn peace” (T-6.V.B.7:5). Once that is clear, then my problem is no longer a problem with my supervisor, but a problem with my own failure to remember the love that was given to me in creation. When I remember this, I become responsible for extending that love. I choose love. I choose to teach peace to learn peace.

When I do this, the relationship heals because I am no longer asking it for anything. I am just looking for opportunities to bring love and peace to it. The form of the giving doesn’t really matter at this juncture. It will be obvious. The truth is, when we remember that we are only here to be helpful (T-2.V.A.18:2), then the specific way to be helpful is not hard at all. It’s so incredibly obvious we can’t believe we didn’t see it earlier.

What’s hard is remembering that the specificity promised by A Course in Miracles is always aimed at healing the actual error, which is a mistaken belief in my mind that I am separate from my brothers and sisters and therefore in competition with them. The specificity is always aimed at mistaken belief, not the effects of that belief, however painful or dysfunctional they appear.

In time, as we practice ACIM principles, and bring them into application in our living, it becomes easier to remember that we are not bodies and that the world is not real. The remembering generalizes and reaches the whole of our apparent lives, like how a fire fills the darkness with warmth and light. We stop getting so worked up about everything. A quiet happiness becomes our default state, forever offering itself to our brothers and sisters and, through them, to the whole world. We join together and the fire brightens. In its ambient radiant glow, we do nothing because nothing is wrong, nothing is broken. Nothing happened so nothing needs to happen.

And we are – at last and forever, again – at peace.


  1. “We join together and the fire brightens”. Very powerful and beautifully said, Sean.

    In many situations, it seems so damn difficult to realize the surface emotion (form) that seems to be coming your way from another person—especially your partner or someone who plays a critical role in your life—IS just a call for love. It truly does take patience, abundant willingness, and AWARENESS of our own anger and resistance to/resentment of a certain person or situation to help look past what is being said or done and realize the call for love and the Holy Spirit’s answer…the path towards peace and healing.

    I find in my own life that this challenge continues to show up as “unfairness”. How could this other individual possibly say, do, or feel this way about me if THEY really understood who I am (and, of course, they SHOULD if they love or know me well enough). Why can’t they try to see the situation as it is without anger….guilt…tit for tat…unnecessary attack? Or, worse yet, I get the feeling of “Wait—I’M the bad guy??!”. You get so caught up in your OWN ego and sense of justice that you begin to go down the dark hole of defensiveness and attack back. Forgiveness seems to live on a distant shore in a make believe land.

    But…BUT….I often find there is an answer that can get thru even when your ego is locking you in behind the steel door of righteousness: the actual recognition that you have also called for that exact same love so many times. The kind of Love that resonates and says “remember”. Remember how you felt when YOU received the love and peace you needed in whatever way, shape, or form was helpful? That you could accept that same Love at least to the level of understanding to where you were at that time? Better yet, remember days you “practiced” and tried consistently to be only a host to God, asking open mindedly for the Holy Spirit’s guidance—even when what you heard had you thinking “ummmm, that CAN’T be right!”? Was there peace at the end of THAT day? Maybe a feeling of tranquility or equilibrium? Vision that seems to surpass any heretofore understanding?

    It gets tough on us “realists”, Sean. Well, reality as far as the ego definition lol. I have always thought of myself as the last person to blow smoke up my own ass. The killer is that I have come to realize that attitude really only took me halfway there, at best. I am starting to realize what the smoke may be hiding and the nature of illusion and unreality. It has been beyond difficult and often painful. But I also feel—ever so dimly right now but with a light and warmth that keeps growing brighter and moving toward summer—it is Truth. Again, so damn challenging particularly in times of what our ego classifies as crisis or more critical to our way of life as our self sees it.

    “Make this year different by making it all the same.” Gonna give that a shot🙂.
    Thanks for being on this journey with all of us my friend. I have found your posts thought provoking, full of wisdom…and oh-so-timely to my present life situation and challenges. Thank you for accepting and using the specific gift of communication God blessed you with.



    1. It IS hard! And it would be impossible if we were doing it alone. Which is part of why I write and part of why I am always so grateful when folks share. Together is how we remember forgiveness, and forgiveness is how we remember it’s love all the way down and all the way up. Cries for love or responses to love.

      Lesson 135, which I am rereading and writing about this morning, is a neat reminder that the problem as such stems from the mind’s decision to identify with a body, and thus with all the drama a body can concoct. Then it’s just conflict after conflict, resolution after resolution, without ever addressing the real problem.

      The grace for me these days seems to arise in remembering that I don’t have to carry the past with me nor make provision for the future. “A healed mind does not plan” (W-pI.135.11:1). What kind of crazy bullshit is that?!

      And yet . . .

      Thanks again for sharing, John. I’m glad you’re here.

      ~ Sean

  2. Thanks Sean!

    I find it helpful to try and remember that I’m never upset for the reason I think. It’s so simple and yet so incredibly difficult to accept…….

    1. Thanks for reading Larry . . . “So simple and yet so incredibly difficult to accept . . . ” sums up a LOT of A Course in Miracles!

  3. I loved reading this today Sean, in fact I think we all need to read this everyday to remind us of this truth in every moment. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the world and its chaos, we forget the truth of ourselves. The beauty of taking our problems to the Holy Spirit is that we instantly stop the movie in its tracks and it lifts us up to see the truth of the story from above the battleground. It is as if we suddenly begin to see all sides of the grievance or situation . Like you say it realigns our will with the will of God. We need to do this if we want to be at peace, for there is no peace to be found in this world of illusion created by fear. We get so wrapped up in the story that we simply cannot see the underlying error. All our relationships and grievances are opportunities to realign our will with God’s Will and back to the truth, back to the Holy Spirit for undoing, and back to God for our eternal peace. Thankyou for reminding me of this today Sean you are a gift to us all.

    1. Thank you, Suzy . . . yes yes yes to the need to remember daily, practice daily, come back over and over to the simplicity off salvation, which is so easy to know but so hard to do. Fellow travelers and friends are a big help in this remembering – thank you for sharing the way with me. I am very grateful for you 🙏 ❤️ ✨


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