ACIM Reading for October 24
Manual for Teachers
21. What Is the Role of Words in Healing?
Strictly speaking, words play no part at all in healing. The motivating factor is prayer, or asking. What you ask for you receive. But this refers to the prayer of the heart, not to the words you use in praying. Sometimes the words and the prayer are contradictory; sometimes they agree. It does not matter. God does not understand words, for they were made by separated minds to keep them in the illusion of separation. Words can be helpful, particularly for the beginner, in helping concentration and facilitating the exclusion, or at least the control, of extraneous thoughts. Let us not forget, however, that words are but symbols of symbols. They are thus twice removed from reality.
As symbols, words have quite specific references. Even when they seem most abstract, the picture that comes to mind is apt to be very concrete. Unless a specific referent does occur to the mind in conjunction with the word, the word has little or no practical meaning, and thus cannot help the healing process. The prayer of the heart does not really ask for concrete things. It always requests some kind of experience, the specific things asked for being the bringers of the desired experience in the opinion of the asker. The words, then, are symbols for the things asked for, but the things themselves but stand for the experiences that are hoped for.
The prayer for things of this world will bring experiences of this world. If the prayer of the heart asks for this, this will be given because this will be received. It is impossible that the prayer of the heart remain unanswered in the perception of the one who asks. If he asks for the impossible, if he wants what does not exist or seeks for illusions in his heart, all this becomes his own. The power of his decision offers it to him as he requests. Herein lie hell and Heaven. The sleeping Son of God has but this power left to him. It is enough. His words do not matter. Only the Word of God has any meaning, because it symbolizes that which has no human symbols at all. The Holy Spirit alone understands what this Word stands for. And this, too, is enough.
Is the teacher of God, then, to avoid the use of words in his teaching? No, indeed! There are many who must be reached through words, being as yet unable to hear in silence. The teacher of God must, however, learn to use words in a new way. Gradually, he learns how to let his words be chosen for him by ceasing to decide for himself what he will say. This process is merely a special case of the lesson in the workbook that says, “I will step back and let Him lead the way.” The teacher of God accepts the words which are offered him, and gives as he receives. He does not control the direction of his speaking. He listens and hears and speaks.
A major hindrance in this aspect of his learning is the teacher of God’s fear about the validity of what he hears. And what he hears may indeed be quite startling. It may also seem to be quite irrelevant to the presented problem as he perceives it, and may, in fact, confront the teacher with a situation that appears to be very embarrassing to him. All these are judgments that have no value. They are his own, coming from a shabby self-perception which he would leave behind. Judge not the words that come to you, but offer them in confidence. They are far wiser than your own. God’s teachers have God’s Word behind their symbols. And He Himself gives to the words they use the power of His Spirit, raising them from meaningless symbols to the Call of Heaven itself.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for October 24
Forgiveness is the only gift I give.
Forgiveness is the only gift I give, because it is the only gift I want. And everything I give I give myself. This is salvation’s simple formula. And I, who would be saved, would make it mine, to be the way I live within a world that needs salvation, and that will be saved as I accept Atonement for myself.
Father, how certain are Your ways; how sure their final outcome, and how faithfully is every step in my salvation set already, and accomplished by Your grace. Thanks be to You for Your eternal gifts, and thanks to You for my Identity.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q #399: My question has to do with the question in the teacher’s manual of A Course in Miracles titled “What is the role of words in healing?” (M.21). As I have been going along in my forgiveness path, I am learning to let the Holy Spirit speak through me to others. My answer to my brother is often something that I realized I needed to hear as well, or something that I needed to have reinforced that I already learned. Sometimes I feel guided to say something that truly has nothing to do with the situation at hand. Why would Jesus want me to say it? Sometimes I say something and I feel like everyone looks at me like I am crazy! Please, advice would be so greatly appreciated!
A: There really is no way of knowing why you are prompted to say certain things. In our present state we cannot see into our minds where all the choices and dynamics take place. It might help you, though, to shift your attention away from what the voice says, to doing what it tells you to do so that you can hear it better. As we have come to realize, the emphasis in A Course in Miracles is always on undoing the interferences to our hearing the Voice of the Holy Spirit. This is something that Jesus stressed with Helen, the scribe of the Course: “Remember you need nothing, but you have an endless store of loving gifts to give. But teach this lesson only to yourself. Your brother will not learn it from your words or from the judgments you have laid on him. You need not even speak a word to him. You cannot ask, ‘What shall I say to him?’ and hear God’s answer. Rather ask instead, ‘Help me to see this brother through the eyes of truth and not of judgment,’ and the help of God and all His angels will respond” (Absence from Felicity, p. 381).
So as Jesus helped Helen to learn, our goal ought always to be to perceive ourselves and others through the non-judgmental eyes of forgiveness, which we approach by first looking at our readiness to judge and find fault. We all are eager to have our egos out of the way so that the love of Jesus or the Holy Spirit would speak through us to others, and then we would be truly helpful. But that is usually a long, long process because we have so many defenses in place and we are not aware of our tenacious need to maintain these defenses (the many forms of judgment, specialness, and bodily concerns). When the ego is gone, there is only one Voice, and there is no other self to wonder about its meaning. But that is the end of the process. Jesus just asks that we take the little steps right now that lead in that direction (W.pI.193.13:7), not so that we will always say the right things to others, but so that we would no longer want to be other than as God created us.
An article called “Learning to Listen” appeared in the September 2003 edition of “The Lighthouse”; we have also published an audio tape album called “Healing: Hearing the Melody.” Both are helpful sources in working with this important topic of listening.
Q #574: I understand Jesus’ remarks in his section from A Course in Miracles, “What is the role of words in healing?” (M.21); he says that over time we learn to let our words be chosen for us and that a major hindrance to this aspect of learning is our “fear about the validity” of what we hear. I am training now to be a teacher and I let Jesus speak through me and am learning how to discern more and more and sometimes what I hear is indeed startling and “has nothing to do with the situation” as I perceive it. Sometimes I am embarrassed but I usually calm down. I guess implicit in this question is me “second-guessing” God and thinking that I know better than He does but sometimes I am just startled at what I said and the other person is too. Can you help offer some insight here?
A: To the Holy Spirit (and Jesus as His manifestation), everything is either an expression of love or a call for love. He sees the larger picture of everyone’s Atonement path and is not limited by what we normally see as the boundaries of our lives in the world. Form is completely irrelevant to the Holy Spirit. And therefore His response to calls for love would be in terms of where people are on their Atonement paths, which is not something we ordinarily are in touch with. That is why what we hear may be startlingly different from what we think we should say. In the section you refer to, Jesus explains that our doubts and discomfort when this happens come from a “shabby self-perception,” which we would do well to “leave behind” (M.21.5.4,5). So that is what Jesus advises us to do in this aspect of our training. It means that we need to develop our ability to recognize our underlying self-images — specifically the ones that include a sense of inadequacy, neediness, specialness, and being unfairly treated. The more we hold onto self-images such as these, the less likely we would be to accurately discern the Holy Spirit’s Voice from the ego’s voice, because our holding onto them implies that we know better than Jesus who we really are, even after hearing him say again and again, “you are as God created you.” Thus, the trouble we have in humbly accepting Jesus at his word leads to the difficulties in our ability to hear accurately.
Q #911: In the Manual for teachers, in the section, What Is the Role of Words in Healing, the Course says “…words are but symbols of symbols. They are thus twice removed from reality. (M.21.1,9,10)” Could you please explain what this means?
A: In A Course in Miracles, Jesus makes the case that everything we experience in our entire life (waking and sleeping) is a dream. Like a psychotherapist telling a patient that everything in his nighttime dream is a symbol, Jesus tells us that everything in this world of form is a symbol. If we perceive or experience something, it is because we put it there (not as the individual we think we are, but rather as the one mind of God’s Son that dreamed it could separate and exist in a world outside of Heaven).
Now, obviously every word represents something within this world (be it a physical object, an emotion, or an idea). Thus, every word symbolizes a thing that is itself a symbol. To elaborate on this a bit, the wrong mind (the voice of the ego) begins with a concept of separation. From there, it projects a world of form filled with objects. So to the ego, everything in the physical world is a symbol of that initial concept of separation. Finally, listening to the wrong mind, we use words to symbolize those symbols of separation.
The same principle holds true for the right mind (the Voice of the Holy Spirit). Starting with our memory of God, it creates a concept of what God and love are. Then we use words to symbolize those concepts.
Jesus says words are twice removed from reality because reality is beyond all symbols. Reality is the oneness of Heaven, the totality of God. It is our real home at one with God, Whom we never left. The Course tells us that “As nothingness cannot be pictured, so there is no symbol for totality. Reality is ultimately known without a form, unpictured and unseen. (T.27.III.5:1,2)” It states that forgiveness (our path to awakening to reality) causes ” symbols to fade , and leaves nothing that “the eyes have ever seen or ears have heard …to be perceived. (T.27.III.7:1,2)” So, at the very end of the journey, we are left with no symbols to perceive and no need of further symbols to communicate our perceptions.
“The prayer for things of this world will bring experiences of this world. If the prayer of the heart asks for this, this will be given because this will be received. It is impossible that the prayer of the heart remain unanswered in the perception of the one who asks. If he asks for the impossible, if he wants what does not exist or seeks for illusions in his heart, all this becomes his own. The power of his decision offers it to him as he requests. Herein lie hell and Heaven” (M.21.3:1,2,3,4,5,6)
A: To speak of the “prayer of the heart” is another way of saying “this is what my mind wants.” If my prayer (as a decision-making mind identified with the ego) is to prove that I am right and God is wrong — that separation is reality and oneness is illusion — then I will have experiences that will validate that, because that is what I have asked for. And of course this requires that there be a world in which separation can be expressed in innumerable forms — of victimization, especially. So my perception of suffering, death, conflict, oppression, etc., as real is coming from my secret wish that they be real, in order to fulfill my underlying objective of proving God wrong. My ego then reigns supreme. Herein lies hell! But it is here by my own choice. In this sense there are no “innocent victims.” In my wrong mind I want separation to be the truth, so my experience in the world will be that my interests are in conflict with almost everyone else’s. I have thus sought for the things of this world and therefore that is what I now experience: separate interests as some form of pain or pleasure.
But when my prayer is for the recovery of my memory of my true Self, which embraces all people, then my eyes may still see the same scenes in the world, but my experience of them will be entirely different. To put this in the context of form and content, I will still perceive separate interests in terms of form, but the content in my mind will always be the same, which is that we all share the same interests. I have looked on the “tiny, mad idea of separation” and simply smiled at it, judging it as silly and not to be taken seriously. This means that nothing at all can disturb or change my inner peace. I will now see through the eyes of forgiveness. In the words of Lesson 122, I will experience “a quietness that cannot be disturbed, a gentleness that never can be hurt, a deep, abiding comfort, and a rest so perfect it can never be upset” (W.pI.122.1:6) — and all this regardless of what is going on in the world.