ACIM Text Reading for October 7
Manual for Teachers
IV. What are the Characteristics of God’s Teachers?
The surface traits of God’s teachers are not at all alike. They do not look alike to the body’s eyes, they come from vastly different backgrounds, their experiences of the world vary greatly, and their superficial “personalities” are quite distinct. Nor, at the beginning stages of their functioning as teachers of God, have they as yet acquired the deeper characteristics that will establish them as what they are. God gives special gifts to His teachers, because they have a special role in His plan for Atonement. Their specialness is, of course, only temporary; set in time as a means of leading out of time. These special gifts, born in the holy relationship toward which the teaching-learning situation is geared, become characteristic of all teachers of God who have advanced in their own learning. In this respect they are all alike.
All differences among the Sons of God are temporary. Nevertheless, in time it can be said that the advanced teachers of God have the following characteristics:
This is the foundation on which their ability to fulfill their function rests. Perception is the result of learning. In fact, perception is learning, because cause and effect are never separated. The teachers of God have trust in the world, because they have learned it is not governed by the laws the world made up. It is governed by a Power That is in them but not of them. It is this Power That keeps all things safe. It is through this Power that the teachers of God look on a forgiven world.
When this Power has once been experienced, it is impossible to trust one’s own petty strength again. Who would attempt to fly with the tiny wings of a sparrow when the mighty power of an eagle has been given him? And who would place his faith in the shabby offerings of the ego when the gifts of God are laid before him? What is it that induces them to make the shift?
A. Development of Trust
First, they must go through what might be called “a period of undoing.” This need not be painful, but it usually is so experienced. It seems as if things are being taken away, and it is rarely understood initially that their lack of value is merely being recognized. How can lack of value be perceived unless the perceiver is in a position where he must see things in a different light? He is not yet at a point at which he can make the shift entirely internally. And so the plan will sometimes call for changes in what seem to be external circumstances. These changes are always helpful. When the teacher of God has learned that much, he goes on to the second stage.
Next, the teacher of God must go through “a period of sorting out.” This is always somewhat difficult because, having learned that the changes in his life are always helpful, he must now decide all things on the basis of whether they increase the helpfulness or hamper it. He will find that many, if not most of the things he valued before will merely hinder his ability to transfer what he has learned to new situations as they arise. Because he has valued what is really valueless, he will not generalize the lesson for fear of loss and sacrifice. It takes great learning to understand that all things, events, encounters and circumstances are helpful. It is only to the extent to which they are helpful that any degree of reality should be accorded them in this world of illusion. The word “value” can apply to nothing else.
The third stage through which the teacher of God must go can be called “a period of relinquishment.” If this is interpreted as giving up the desirable, it will engender enormous conflict. Few teachers of God escape this distress entirely. There is, however, no point in sorting out the valuable from the valueless unless the next obvious step is taken. Therefore, the period of overlap is apt to be one in which the teacher of God feels called upon to sacrifice his own best interests on behalf of truth. He has not realized as yet how wholly impossible such a demand would be. He can learn this only as he actually does give up the valueless. Through this, he learns that where he anticipated grief, he finds a happy lightheartedness instead; where he thought something was asked of him, he finds a gift bestowed on him.
Now comes “a period of settling down.” This is a quiet time, in which the teacher of God rests a while in reasonable peace. Now he consolidates his learning. Now he begins to see the transfer value of what he has learned. Its potential is literally staggering, and the teacher of God is now at the point in his progress at which he sees in it his whole way out. “Give up what you do not want, and keep what you do.” How simple is the obvious! And how easy to do! The teacher of God needs this period of respite. He has not yet come as far as he thinks. Yet when he is ready to go on, he goes with mighty companions beside him. Now he rests a while, and gathers them before going on. He will not go on from here alone.
The next stage is indeed “a period of unsettling.” Now must the teacher of God understand that he did not really know what was valuable and what was valueless. All that he really learned so far was that he did not want the valueless, and that he did want the valuable. Yet his own sorting out was meaningless in teaching him the difference. The idea of sacrifice, so central to his own thought system, had made it impossible for him to judge. He thought he learned willingness, but now he sees that he does not know what the willingness is for. And now he must attain a state that may remain impossible to reach for a long, long time. He must learn to lay all judgment aside, and ask only what he really wants in every circumstance. Were not each step in this direction so heavily reinforced, it would be hard indeed!
And finally, there is “a period of achievement.” It is here that learning is consolidated. Now what was seen as merely shadows before become solid gains, to be counted on in all “emergencies” as well as tranquil times. Indeed, the tranquility is their result; the outcome of honest learning, consistency of thought and full transfer. This is the stage of real peace, for here is Heaven’s state fully reflected. From here, the way to Heaven is open and easy. In fact, it is here. Who would “go” anywhere, if peace of mind is already complete? And who would seek to change tranquility for something more desirable? What could be more desirable than this?
All other traits of God’s teachers rest on trust. Once that has been achieved, the others cannot fail to follow. Only the trusting can afford honesty, for only they can see its value. Honesty does not apply only to what you say. The term actually means consistency. There is nothing you say that contradicts what you think or do; no thought opposes any other thought; no act belies your word; and no word lacks agreement with another. Such are the truly honest. At no level are they in conflict with themselves. Therefore it is impossible for them to be in conflict with anyone or anything.
The peace of mind which the advanced teachers of God experience is largely due to their perfect honesty. It is only the wish to deceive that makes for war. No one at one with himself can even conceive of conflict. Conflict is the inevitable result of self-deception, and self-deception is dishonesty. There is no challenge to a teacher of God. Challenge implies doubt, and the trust on which God’s teachers rest secure makes doubt impossible. Therefore they can only succeed. In this, as in all things, they are honest. They can only succeed, because they never do their will alone. They choose for all mankind; for all the world and all things in it; for the unchanging and unchangeable beyond appearances; and for the Son of God and his Creator. How could they not succeed? They choose in perfect honesty, sure of their choice as of themselves.
God’s teachers do not judge. To judge is to be dishonest, for to judge is to assume a position you do not have. Judgment without self-deception is impossible. Judgment implies that you have been deceived in your brothers. How, then, could you not have been deceived in yourself? Judgment implies a lack of trust, and trust remains the bedrock of the teacher of God’s whole thought system. Let this be lost, and all his learning goes. Without judgment are all things equally acceptable, for who could judge otherwise? Without judgment are all men brothers, for who is there who stands apart? Judgment destroys honesty and shatters trust. No teacher of God can judge and hope to learn.
Harm is impossible for God’s teachers. They can neither harm nor be harmed. Harm is the outcome of judgment. It is the dishonest act that follows a dishonest thought. It is a verdict of guilt upon a brother, and therefore on oneself. It is the end of peace and the denial of learning. It demonstrates the absence of God’s curriculum, and its replacement by insanity. No teacher of God but must learn, – and fairly early in his training, – that harmfulness completely obliterates his function from his awareness. It will make him confused, fearful, angry and suspicious. It will make the Holy Spirit’s lessons impossible to learn. Nor can God’s Teacher be heard at all, except by those who realize that harm can actually achieve nothing. No gain can come of it.
Therefore, God’s teachers are wholly gentle. They need the strength of gentleness, for it is in this that the function of salvation becomes easy. To those who would do harm, it is impossible. To those to whom harm has no meaning, it is merely natural. What choice but this has meaning to the sane? Who chooses hell when he perceives a way to Heaven? And who would choose the weakness that must come from harm in place of the unfailing, all-encompassing and limitless strength of gentleness? The might of God’s teachers lies in their gentleness, for they have understood their evil thoughts came neither from God’s Son nor his Creator. Thus did they join their thoughts with Him Who is their Source. And so their will, which always was His Own, is free to be itself.
Joy is the inevitable result of gentleness. Gentleness means that fear is now impossible, and what could come to interfere with joy? The open hands of gentleness are always filled. The gentle have no pain. They cannot suffer. Why would they not be joyous? They are sure they are beloved and must be safe. Joy goes with gentleness as surely as grief attends attack. God’s teachers trust in Him. And they are sure His Teacher goes before them, making sure no harm can come to them. They hold His gifts and follow in His way, because God’s Voice directs them in all things. Joy is their song of thanks. And Christ looks down on them in thanks as well. His need of them is just as great as theirs of Him. How joyous it is to share the purpose of salvation!
God’s teachers have learned how to be simple. They have no dreams that need defense against the truth. They do not try to make themselves. Their joy comes from their understanding Who created them. And does what God created need defense? No one can become an advanced teacher of God until he fully understands that defenses are but foolish guardians of mad illusions. The more grotesque the dream, the fiercer and more powerful its defenses seem to be. Yet when the teacher of God finally agrees to look past them, he finds that nothing was there. Slowly at first he lets himself be undeceived. But he learns faster as his trust increases. It is not danger that comes when defenses are laid down. It is safety. It is peace. It is joy. And it is God.
The term generosity has special meaning to the teacher of God. It is not the usual meaning of the word; in fact, it is a meaning that must be learned and learned very carefully. Like all the other attributes of God’s teachers this one rests ultimately on trust, for without trust no one can be generous in the true sense. To the world, generosity means “giving away” in the sense of “giving up.” To the teachers of God, it means giving away in order to keep. This has been emphasized throughout the text and the workbook, but it is perhaps more alien to the thinking of the world than many other ideas in our curriculum. Its greater strangeness lies merely in the obviousness of its reversal of the world’s thinking. In the clearest way possible, and at the simplest of levels, the word means the exact opposite to the teachers of God and to the world.
The teacher of God is generous out of Self interest. This does not refer, however, to the self of which the world speaks. The teacher of God does not want anything he cannot give away, because he realizes it would be valueless to him by definition. What would he want it for? He could only lose because of it. He could not gain. Therefore he does not seek what only he could keep, because that is a guarantee of loss. He does not want to suffer. Why should he ensure himself pain? But he does want to keep for himself all things that are of God, and therefore for His Son. These are the things that belong to him. These he can give away in true generosity, protecting them forever for himself.
Those who are certain of the outcome can afford to wait, and wait without anxiety. Patience is natural to the teacher of God. All he sees is certain outcome, at a time perhaps unknown to him as yet, but not in doubt. The time will be as right as is the answer. And this is true for everything that happens now or in the future. The past as well held no mistakes; nothing that did not serve to benefit the world, as well as him to whom it seemed to happen. Perhaps it was not understood at the time. Even so, the teacher of God is willing to reconsider all his past decisions, if they are causing pain to anyone. Patience is natural to those who trust. Sure of the ultimate interpretation of all things in time, no outcome already seen or yet to come can cause them fear.
The extent of the teacher of God’s faithfulness is the measure of his advancement in the curriculum. Does he still select some aspects of his life to bring to his learning, while keeping others apart? If so, his advancement is limited, and his trust not yet firmly established. Faithfulness is the teacher of God’s trust in the Word of God to set all things right; not some, but all. Generally, his faithfulness begins by resting on just some problems, remaining carefully limited for a time. To give up all problems to one Answer is to reverse the thinking of the world entirely. And that alone is faithfulness. Nothing but that really deserves the name. Yet each degree, however small, is worth achieving. Readiness, as the text notes, is not mastery.
True faithfulness, however, does not deviate. Being consistent, it is wholly honest. Being unswerving, it is full of trust. Being based on fearlessness, it is gentle. Being certain, it is joyous. And being confident, it is tolerant. Faithfulness, then, combines in itself the other attributes of God’s teachers. It implies acceptance of the Word of God and His definition of His Son. It is to Them that faithfulness in the true sense is always directed. Toward Them it looks, seeking until it finds. Defenselessness attends it naturally, and joy is its condition. And having found, it rests in quiet certainty on That alone to Which all faithfulness is due.
The centrality of open-mindedness, perhaps the last of the attributes the teacher of God acquires, is easily understood when its relation to forgiveness is recognized. Open-mindedness comes with lack of judgment. As judgment shuts the mind against God’s Teacher, so open-mindedness invites Him to come in. As condemnation judges the Son of God as evil, so open-mindedness permits him to be judged by the Voice for God on His behalf. As the projection of guilt upon him would send him to hell, so open-mindedness lets Christ’s image be extended to him. Only the open-minded can be at peace, for they alone see reason for it.
How do the open-minded forgive? They have let go all things that would prevent forgiveness. They have in truth abandoned the world, and let it be restored to them in newness and in joy so glorious they could never have conceived of such a change. Nothing is now as it was formerly. Nothing but sparkles now which seemed so dull and lifeless before. And above all are all things welcoming, for threat is gone. No clouds remain to hide the face of Christ. Now is the goal achieved. Forgiveness is the final goal of the curriculum. It paves the way for what goes far beyond all learning. The curriculum makes no effort to exceed its legitimate goal. Forgiveness is its single aim, at which all learning ultimately converges. It is indeed enough.
You may have noticed that the list of attributes of God’s teachers does not include things that are the Son of God’s inheritance. Terms like love, sinlessness, perfection, knowledge and eternal truth do not appear in this context. They would be most inappropriate here. What God has given is so far beyond our curriculum that learning but disappears in its presence. Yet while its presence is obscured, the focus properly belongs on the curriculum. It is the function of God’s teachers to bring true learning to the world. Properly speaking it is unlearning that they bring, for that is “true learning” in the world. It is given to the teachers of God to bring the glad tidings of complete forgiveness to the world. Blessed indeed are they, for they are the bringers of salvation.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for October 7
Creation’s freedom promises my own.
The end of dreams is promised me, because God’s Son is not abandoned by His Love. Only in dreams is there a time when he appears to be in prison, and awaits a future freedom, if it be at all. Yet in reality his dreams are gone, with truth established in their place. And now is freedom his already. Should I wait in chains which have been severed for release, when God is offering me freedom now?
I will accept Your promises today, and give my faith to them. My Father loves the Son Whom He created as His Own. Would You withhold the gifts You gave to me?
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #683: I am working as a Hospice Nurse, since I began living the Course I am finding it difficult to “help people die.” In A Course in Miracles it says that by believing in sickness and in death, I am denying God, since He did not create these illusions, and that by believing in these illusions I have created another god. I do not believe in what I am doing, however I am unable to change vocations due to money issues. How can I live by the truth and still be involved with “magic” and illusion?
A: The Course teaches that “there is no death” (T.3.VII.5:11) because “there is no life outside of Heaven” (T.23.II.19:1). This truth applies to our reality as minds. However, when a choice is made to believe that the separation is real, identity with the ego and the body follows. In this choice is God denied, and sickness and death become part of the illusory experience that is the effect of this choice. The goal of the Course is to teach us that we are minds with the power to choose between truth and illusion. What we choose then determines our experience in the dream. We are not asked to try to change the beliefs that make up the thought system of the ego, nor to deny that we do believe them. Doing so makes them real, thereby giving them power over us. We are asked to pay attention to our beliefs and judgments, because they show us the choice made in the mind that has been denied and forgotten, so we can choose again. Though in truth sickness and death are not real, and thus have no effect, to bodies they seem to be real indeed. Their purpose is to make the body real, and to keep us rooted in the belief that the separation actually occurred. Belief in sickness and death is relinquished as the mind is healed of the thought of separation. This is not something we can do by trying to convince ourselves that what we see and experience is not real. In fact, Jesus tells us gently, but clearly that we should not deny our belief in the body: “The body is merely part of your experience in the physical world. Its abilities [including sickness and death] can be and frequently are overevaluated. However, it is almost impossible to deny its existence in this world. Those who do so are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial” (T.2.IV.3:8,9,10,11).
What we are asked to do is recognize that we do believe we are bodies in the world, that we get sick and die. The very fact that we experience ourselves as bodies in a dream of death is a magic trick. It occurs when the mind that chooses separation projects the guilt for this choice outward on to the body and world. The hope that Jesus’ loving message in the Course offers is that all the magic we believe in can be transformed by the Holy Spirit through forgiveness. “The body was not made by love. Yet love does not condemn it and can use it lovingly, respecting what the Son of God has made and using it to save him from illusions” (T.18.VI.4:7,8). Fortunately for us, this applies to every illusion we experience in the dream, including sickness, death, jobs, and magic. Learning to forgive ourselves for our mistaken beliefs helps us bring more compassion and understanding to all our relationships, since everyone shares these beliefs. This is how any job, as well as every aspect of our lives, become a classroom for applying the Course’s teaching of forgiveness. Seeing that nothing external in our lives needs to change, because it is part of our classroom, corrects the ego’s first law of chaos the there is a “hierarchy of illusions”(T.28.II.2:3).
In our interactions with people at work or in our personal lives, all our thoughts and judgments based on differences show us the choice for separation we have made in our minds. Being willing to recognize that whatever we experience is the result of a choice taking place in the mind, rather than the circumstances of our lives, is the first, and very important, step in the transformation from magic to miracle. It is a process of bringing illusion to truth, and is the way to “live by truth” while being “involved with ‘magic.’”
Q #684: I am new to A Course in Miracles and I would like to ask about remaining in the present moment. If I remain present, is that when I will feel the peace of mind that I am seeking? I have experienced brief moments of inner peace and calm when I remain present with the Holy Spirit. I just don’t know how to remain present for longer than five minutes.
A: Until the mind is fully healed, the experience of peace is limited to our willingness to choose it. Meanwhile, the mind is split, and in conflict between two mutually exclusive “realities”: belief in the separation (ego) and the memory of Oneness (Holy Spirit). Early in the text we are told: “The separation is merely another term for a split mind. The ego is the symbol of separation, just as the Holy Spirit is the symbol of peace” (T.5.III.9:3,4). The unhealed, split mind experiences itself in the dream, in conflict with itself. While seeking peace, it fears that total peace will mean the disappearance of the specialness of being a body with a unique personality. This split in the mind causes us to have divided goals: “The ego’s goal is as unified as the Holy Spirit’s, and it is because of this that their goals can never be reconciled in any way or to any extent. The ego always seeks to divide and separate. The Holy Spirit always seeks to unify and heal” (T.7.IV.5:1,2,3). Choosing the Holy Spirit and the holy instant results in the moment’s peace you refer to, while the choice to cling to separation brings this peace to an end. How little time we spend in peace shows us the degree to which we are attached to our identity with the ego and afraid of peace. Healing the mind of this split is the goal of the Course. It happens gradually through the process of forgiveness, which begins with the recognition that the separation is a choice made in the mind, and everything we experience in the dream is an effect of that choice.
Denial is key to the ego’s success in convincing us of the reality of separation. The mind forgets/denies its choice in order to defend it. It is then possible to believe the ego’s story that we are not minds, but bodies vulnerable to attack by external forces beyond our control. That explains why it seems that peace comes and goes, and we are at the mercy of its whims. The Course tells us that we are anything but victims, and that we can learn to recognize the mind’s choice by paying attention to our feelings and judgments in the dream. Loss of peace in its myriad forms (anger, depression, anxiety, irritation, excitement …) makes us aware of the choice the mind has made. Paying attention/looking is the key to undoing denial, which is the beginning of salvation, because it tunes us in to the fact that we have a mind with the power to choose. Only by recognizing the painful effects of choosing to identify with the ego will we be motivated to make another choice. Otherwise, we remain unaware of the mind’s activity, puzzled by the feelings that seem to come upon us from “nowhere.”
Though they may be of short duration, moments of peace are very important to the Holy Spirit’s curriculum, which makes good use of contrast for teaching and learning. It becomes increasingly obvious that feeling truly peaceful is preferable to the turmoil of unforgiveness. What is difficult is learning to associate the lack of peace with the judgments that we are engaged in constantly. Peace just seems to disappear for no reason. What actually occurs is that our minds have chosen to identify with the ego and our specialness. Guilt follows that choice, and is inevitably projected in some form of judgment against ourselves and others. This happens very quickly and, thanks to denial, imperceptibly. In the Course, Jesus is asking us to pay very careful attention to our thoughts, to become aware of the judgments. They show us the choice for separation we have made and have forgotten.
Both the peace and lack of it are useful experiences. One shows us how it feels to be free of judgment, the other the pain of choosing the ego. The important thing is to remember that when we are not at peace, it is forno other reason than our choice to be separate. We have chosen to identify with the ego rather than with the Holy Spirit, and preferred guilt to peace. We now have the opportunity to consider the cost of our mistaken choice and choose again. This mindfulness is how we remain in the present, and how not being peaceful becomes a useful tool to lead us back to peace. We also need to remember not to judge ourselves for long periods of forgetfulness and short periods of peace. Allowing the Holy Spirit to heal our minds of the thought of separation is a process. Our function is to be mindful of every judgment so it can be forgiven. Gradually the balance will shift to longer experiences of peace, until that becomes our only choice.
Q #685: In the workbook of A Course in Miracles, I was engaged with Lesson 122, and a very beautiful lesson it is, when a word in paragraph 10 caught my attention: “We are close indeed to the appointed ending of the dream” (W.pI.122.10:4). Could you please elaborate on “appointed?”
A: In this context, the ending of the dream is “appointed” because it is certain, and in reality it is already accomplished, because “… the separation never occurred“ (T.6.II.10:7). Everyone will come to this realization in his/her own time, and will awaken from the dream: “Forget not once this journey is begun the end is certain. Doubt along the way will come and go and go to come again. Yet is the ending sure. No one can fail to do what God appointed him to do” [accept the identity God has given to His Son](C.ep.1:1,2,3,4).
The “appointed” moment does not refer to a specific time in the dream, but refers to a decision in the mind that is outside of time and space. However, Jesus knows that we believe we are actually separate from God, living in time and space, and so he speaks to us on the level of our experience in the dream. He tells us throughout the Course that to end the dream all that is required is for us to remember the truth that we have denied, to forget everything else, and in an instant we would awaken. That is why the ending is “close”; it is always only an instant away.
While we continue to choose separation, however, we use time as a delay mechanism to defend our choice: “Delay is of the ego, because time is its concept” (T.5.III.5). Time is one of the ego’s best defenses for its tale of sin, guilt, and fear. Only in time can we defend our belief in the punishment from God we think is our due for the terrible “sin” of choosing against Him in the past. The ego insists that one of these days God will get us. We also use our concept of time to project salvation outside of ourselves to a distant moment in thefuture, because we are afraid of accepting it in the present. Thus, contrary to the popular saying “time waits for no man,” time is actually under the command of the ego. For its purpose of refusing to accept our oneness with God, which would end the dream, we have all the time in the world. Time will indeed wait for us to choose again, because we made it up explicitly to serve our delay tactics. That is why, in our experience, the dream seems to be lasting eons. In the insanity of our split minds, we both fear it will last forever, and hope it will. In his kindness, Jesus assures us it will end, but not abruptly: “Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality. Time is kind, and if you use it on behalf of reality, it will keep gentle pace with you in your transition” (T.16.VI.8:1,2).
The “appointed” end of the dream, therefore, is as certain as the Holy Spirit tells us it is, and only as close as we want it to be. In the text, we are told “Time is your friend, if you leave it to the Holy Spirit to use. He needs but very little to restore God’s whole power to you. He Who transcends time for you understands what time is for” 15.I.15:1,2,3).The dream’s concept of time serves the Holy Spirit’s purpose when we use it to heal our minds of the thought of separation, seeing each moment as an opportunity to choose forgiveness rather than judgment in the present. Thus the past “sin” and future punishment are released of their power to delay us on our journey, bringing the truth closer to our awareness.