ACIM Manual for Teachers Reading for October 27
25. ARE “PSYCHIC” POWERS DESIRABLE?
The answer to this question is much like the preceding one. There are, of course, no “unnatural” powers, and it is obviously merely an appeal to magic to make up a power that does not exist. It is equally obvious, however, that each individual has many abilities of which he is unaware. As his awareness increases, he may well develop abilities that seem quite startling to him. Yet nothing he can do can compare even in the slightest with the glorious surprise of remembering Who he is. Let all his learning and all his efforts be directed toward this one great final surprise, and he will not be content to be delayed by the little ones that may come to him on the way.
Certainly there are many “psychic” powers that are clearly in line with this course. Communication is not limited to the small range of channels the world recognises. If it were, there would be little point in trying to teach salvation. It would be impossible to do so. The limits the world places on communication are the chief barriers to direct experience of the Holy Spirit, Whose Presence is always there and Whose Voice is available but for the hearing. These limits are placed out of fear, for without them the walls that surround all the separate places of the world would fall at the holy sound of His Voice. Who transcends these limits in any way is merely becoming more natural. He is doing nothing special, and there is no magic in his accomplishments.
The seemingly new abilities that may be gathered on the way can be very helpful. Given to the Holy Spirit, and used under His direction, they are valuable teaching aids. To this, the question of how they arise is irrelevant. The only important consideration is how they are used. Taking them as ends in themselves, no matter how this is done, will delay progress. Nor does their value lie in proving anything; achievements from the past, unusual attunement with the “unseen”, or “special” favours from God. God gives no special favours, and no one has any powers that are not available to everyone. Only by tricks of magic are special powers “demonstrated”.
Nothing that is genuine is used to deceive. The Holy Spirit is incapable of deception, and He can use only genuine abilities. What is used for magic is useless to Him. But what He uses cannot be used for magic. There is, however, a particular appeal in unusual abilities that can be curiously tempting. Here are strengths which the Holy Spirit wants and needs. Yet the ego sees in these same strengths an opportunity to glorify itself. Strengths turned to weakness are tragedy indeed. Yet what is not given to the Holy Spirit must be given to weakness, for what is withheld from love is given to fear, and will be fearful in consequence.
Even those who no longer value the material things of the world may still be deceived by “psychic” powers. As investment has been withdrawn from the world’s material gifts, the ego has been seriously threatened. It may still be strong enough to rally under this new temptation to win back strength by guile. Many have not seen through the ego’s defenses here, although they are not particularly subtle. Yet, given a remaining wish to be deceived, deception is made easy. Now the “power” is no longer a genuine ability, and cannot be used dependably. It is almost inevitable that, unless the individual changes his mind about its purpose, he will bolster his “power’s” uncertainties with increasing deception.
Any ability that anyone develops has the potentiality for good. To this there is no exception. And the more unusual and unexpected the power, the greater its potential usefulness. Salvation has need of all abilities, for what the world would destroy the Holy Spirit would restore. “Psychic” abilities have been used to call upon the devil, which merely means to strengthen the ego. Yet here is also a great channel of hope and healing in the Holy Spirit’s service. Those who have developed “psychic” powers have simply let some of the limitations they laid upon their minds be lifted. It can be but further limitations they lay upon themselves if they utilise their increased freedom for greater imprisonment. The Holy Spirit needs these gifts, and those who offer them to Him and Him alone go with Christ’s gratitude upon their hearts, and His holy sight not far behind.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for October 27
Only an instant does this world endure.
This is a thought which can be used to say that death and sorrow are the certain lot of all who come here, for their joys are gone before they are possessed, or even grasped. Yet this is also the idea that lets no false perception keep us in its hold, nor represent more than a passing cloud upon a sky eternally serene. And it is this serenity we seek, unclouded, obvious and sure, today.
We seek Your holy world today. For we, Your loving Sons, have lost our way a while. But we have listened to Your Voice, and learned exactly what to do to be restored to Heaven and our true Identity. And we give thanks today the world endures but for an instant. We would go beyond that tiny instant to eternity.
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ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #589: Before A Course in Miracles, I thought that psychic powers or abilities were spiritual gifts from God and that the good people used them for good things and the bad people used them for evil. The discussion in the teachers manual gives me more understanding but I still have some questions. Can you explain what exactly are psychic powers and how they work in relationship to our split mind and the body? And if someone is aware of having psychic abilities, how is it best to use them? I have a few psychic abilities and the Course says these are strengths the Holy Spirit wants and needs. I think I understand the ego traps one could fall into but could you give me some suggestions or examples of how one could use psychic powers for a holy purpose?
A: If you remember that the Course says we are mind, existing outside of time and space, and that all minds are joined, or are seeming fragments of the one split mind, psychic powers lose some of their mystery. The only reason we think they are so special is because we mistakenly believe we are bodies, part of the ego’s clever plan to keep us mindless (T.20.VI.11:1,2,3). Time and space are illusory constructs of the split mind that have been projected into an illusory world of form to keep us unaware of our minds and focused on the world and our bodies instead (T.1.VI.3:4,5,6; T.26.VIII.1:3,4,5).
Most psychic abilities involve accessing information that seems to be at a distance from where we see ourselves in time and space. But since time is not truly linear and everything in the split mind actually exists simultaneously (T.26.V.3:3,4,5,6,7), everything that has happened, seems to be happening now, or could happen in the future, is potentially available to each seemingly separate fragment. It is only a decision of each individual mind, often based on fear, that keeps all the information in the split mind from being accessible.
The body and the brain have nothing to do with psychic powers, since they themselves are nothing but the projected images of the split mind. Information about bodies — past, present and future, dead or alive, born or unborn — is simply information about the images contained in the holographic mind, whether or not they appear to be projected into the world of form at any particular point in time and space (T.28.I.5:3,4,5,6,7,8,9). The mind is holographic in the sense that the whole is contained in each part. So then, reading past lives, talking to dead friends, relatives, and spirit guides, predicting the future (always a probabilistic venture since there are always options at the level of form from which the mind can choose), having awareness of what exists or is happening at locations at a distance or invisible to the eyes, are all easily understood once we recognize the holographic nature of the mind.
Other less common psychic powers, such as psychic healing and altering things physically within the dimensions of time and space, that seem to “defy physical laws,” simply involve the ability of the mind to access and project changes in projected images in the hologram without seeming to follow the conventional “law of cause and effect” in the world, which is illusory anyway (T.28.I.6:1,2,3,4). For it is always a decision at the level of the mind and not anything in the world that leads to changes in the world, but most of us are not in touch with that ego-based choice in the mind. If we easily allowed ourselves to recognize the power that rests in the mind, the world would soon lose its value as a defense, for we cannot be victims of a world that our minds control (M.5.II.1,3). And the ego’s only but hidden purpose for the world and the body is to convince us that our pain does not come from a choice for separation in our mind but rather from a world over which we have no control, which victimizes us despite our best efforts as bodies to protect ourselves.
So all psychic powers are ego-based, but we keep most of them out of conscious awareness because of their potential for challenging our belief in the reality of the illusion. The ego warns us of the dangers of psychic powers because its goal is to keep us mindless. But even if we discover we have such abilities, the ego will gladly provide interpretations of their “special” value that can minimize our recognition of what they mean about the mind so that we use them instead to reinforce our belief in magic, differences and specialness, as if they are special gifts divinely “conferred” on the special ones, as you once believed.
A psychic power has been given to the Holy Spirit for His use when we do not decide ourselves how it should be used. Anything that can help us to expand our perspective beyond the limited time/space dimension we seem to be restricted to as bodies can be helpful, provided we use it as a means and not an end in itself (M.25.3:5), as the ego would have us do, for then it becomes an object of specialness. As Jesus observes in the section on psychic powers you refer to: “Communication is not limited to the small range of channels the world recognizes. … The limits the world places on communication are the chief barriers to direct experience of the Holy Spirit, Whose Presence is always there and Whose Voice is available but for the hearing. These limits are placed out of fear, for without them the walls that surround all the separate places of the world would fall at the holy sound of His Voice. Who transcends these limits in any way is merely becoming more natural. He is doing nothing special, and there is no magic in his accomplishments” (M.25.2:2,5,6,7,8).
The only way to be confident that we have offered such abilities to the Holy Spirit — as with any talents we may possess — is first to be honest with ourselves about the ego-based reasons we personally would seek to display them. These could include accessing information to enable you to get what you want for yourself, impressing others with your spirituality, offering help to others for their problems as you perceive them, and so on. When you can identify your ego investments, you are in a position to release them and will also be more likely to recognize them when they may once again tempt you to seek after specialness.
Any examples of the right-minded use of psychic powers must necessarily focus on the purpose and not the specific situation, since it is only ever the purpose that makes anything holy. And so a word of caution — if you think you know specifically the purpose of what you may find yourself doing or saying, there is a good chance that your ego has stepped in and is directing the process. And that is not a sin, but it is not likely to be truly helpful to yourself or to anyone else.
And so sharing insights about someone’s past lives could help them release a judgment they may be holding onto in the present against themselves or someone they know. Providing information from a deceased family member may allow someone to know that they are not being condemned for something they did or failed to do. Anything that facilitates the process of forgiveness — and you may have no idea yourself what that might be and in most cases would not — would reflect having offered a power to the Holy Spirit for His use. Similarly, anything that allows someone not to take this life and the world quite so seriously or to recognize shared rather than separate interests, would be serving the Holy Spirit’s purpose of helping us to awaken from the dream of separation and sin.
Q #644: Could you comment on psychic powers? If someone says they are asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit, are they always right or can what they predict be changed? How can someone predict something years prior to it happening? And can what they predict be changed? For example: a psychic predicts that your child would become ill, or your marriage will end or even on a positive note, you will finally meet your dream person and get married. I have friends that really believe in what these people say because what they say comes true. How can I become my own reliable source to questions I refer to the Holy Spirit?
A: A good rule of thumb to follow is that when you receive specific answers, such as the ones in your example, you should be suspicious. In general, the Holy Spirit does not answer in specifics, primarily because He is trying to help us move beyond the specifics of the ego’s world to the contents in our mind. Our decision to believe that the contents in our wrong mind (separation, sin, guilt, fear) are the truth, is the real problem. Our personal problems in the world are all smokescreens intended to keep us away from our mind so we will remain forever wedded to the ego thought system, without ever knowing that that ongoing decision is the real source of our unhappiness and lack of peace. So your asking for help of the Holy Spirit should be in the context of your desire to look at the contents in your mind that are the cause of all your seeming problems in the world. “The Holy Spirit takes you gently by the hand, and retraces with you your mad journey outside yourself, leading you gently back to the truth and safety within. He brings all your insane projections . . . that you have placed outside you to the truth. Thus He reverses the course of insanity and restores you to reason” (T.18.I.8:3,4,5). A very helpful explanation of the roles of Jesus and the Holy Spirit can be found in chapters 4 and 5 in Few Choose to Listen, Volume Two of Kenneth’s book, The Message of A Course in Miracles.
We can provide only a brief response to your question about psychic phenomena. The topic of time raises complex issues, which have been addressed at length in some of our publications — especially Kenneth’s book, A Vast Illusion: Time According to A Course in Miracles. Briefly, then, within our dream of separation, Jesus tells us that time is not linear, even though that is how we experience it, owing to the ego’s strategy of convincing us of the reality of sin (the past), guilt (the present), and fear (the future). Every conceivable form of separation already exists, as if in a video-tape library, to use one of the analogies in Kenneth’s book. We (our decision-making mind outside time and space) have access to all of them all the time (pardon the pun). So “prediction” amounts simply to the mind’s choice to view a particular video tape. This is understandable, again, only if time is viewed as holographic, not linear.
Now, the contents of the tapes do not change; but there exists another library, the Holy Spirit’s corrected version of the ego’s script, to which we also have unlimited access. Thus, to choose one of these tapes is to choose His interpretation of the events in our lives. That is what can change, not the ego’s script. In other words, guilt demands punishment, and so many things would happen in our lives that express (by our own choice) our belief that we deserve to be punished for our sinfulness and that we are unworthy of a peaceful, happy life. If, however, we call that belief into question and choose Jesus or the Holy Spirit as our Teacher, then our choice of video would be from the “corrected script” of the Holy Spirit. The need to experience victimization would have changed, and we would then not have victimization experiences at all, or we would go through them peacefully, knowing that our true self is not defined or affected by what goes on in the body or the world. Jesus is our model for that shift: he did not perceive or experience himself as a persecuted victim even though his body had been nailed to a cross.
What would help the most is to keep in mind is that it is not the psychic ability per se that is important, but rather the purpose that it serves. Jesus reminds us again and again that we have but one purpose, and that is forgiveness, or undoing the blocks to our awareness of love’s presence in our minds. If you can keep that as your primary objective, you will recognize and then not be led astray by the ego’s use of psychic ability, which is always to reinforce our sense of specialness and to make the world of time and space real.
Q #1014: I have had psychic experiences and never paid much attention to them until now. I am trying to understand what they were for. Is it the contention of A Course in Miracles that there are no coincidences — that we get exactly what we ask for, and in this sense there are no victims and victimizers on the level of form? Is it also true that everything that seems to be given by another on the level of form — “good” or “bad” — we have asked for consciously or not, and therefore it is no coincidence that it shows up? Their ego takes it and gives you exactly what you asked for and you do the same in turn?
A: The Course tells us that we are always “reviewing mentally what has gone by” (W.pI.158.4:5) . It seems as if we are experiencing everything for the first time and that the thoughts in our minds are our own private thoughts. But this is only because we have chosen to identify with the ego’s thought system that rests on the premise that separation and time and space are real. Keeping in mind that this is all an illusion, the Course explains that at the moment the separation from God seemed to happen, every conceivable form of separation spun out from that thought, and simultaneously the correction for each of those thoughts also spun out. The separation seemed to occur and was undone in the same instant. Not that we can understand any of this in our present state! So, in this framework, there are no coincidences and nothing happens by chance — everything has already happened. And as decision-making minds we are choosing which part of the “script” we shall revisit, or to use the analogy of a video-tape library, we are choosing which tape to watch. Everything is on the tapes already; we choose what we are going to watch.
The point of the teaching and mind-training exercises in A Course in Miracles is for us to learn how to bring into our awareness our decision-making capacity, so that we will realize what our lives are all about. Realizing that we are minds, we can then continue to choose the ego’s version of the truth, or switch our allegiance and choose the Holy Spirit’s thought system of forgiveness that will eventually return our minds to their natural state of undifferentiated oneness in God.
Jesus discusses psychic powers in the manual for teachers (M.25) . He talks about them in the context of the communication levels necessary for the process of salvation: “Communication is not limited to the small range of channels the world recognizes. If it were, there would be little point in trying to teach salvation. It would be impossible to do so. The limits the world places on communication are the chief barriers to direct experience of the Holy Spirit . . . .” (M.25.2:2,3,4,5). These limits are a consequence of the separated mind’s intention to block out anything that would remind it of the illusory nature of its existence. Thus, Jesus goes on to explain that the relevance of psychic abilities lies in the purpose for which they are used: as part of the ego’s plan or the Holy Spirit’s undoing of that plan. We have discussed different aspects of these issues in questions 589, 644, and 682, which you might find of interest.