ACIM Reading for December 3
Psychotherapy: Purpose, Process and Practice
2.- II. The Place of Religion in Psychotherapy
1. To be a teacher of God, it is not necessary to be religious or even to believe in God to any recognizable extent. It is necessary, however, to teach forgiveness rather than condemnation. Even in this, complete consistency is not required, for one who had achieved that point could teach salvation completely, within an instant and without a word. Yet he who has learned all things does not need a teacher, and the healed have no need for a therapist. Relationships are still the temple of the Holy Spirit, and they will be made perfect in time and restored to eternity.
2. Formal religion has no place in psychotherapy, but it also has no real place in religion. In this world, there is an astonishing tendency to join contradictory words into one term without perceiving the contradiction at all. The attempt to formalize religion is so obviously an ego attempt to reconcile the irreconcilable that it hardly requires elaboration here. Religion is experience; psychotherapy is experience. At the highest levels they become one. Neither is truth itself, but both can lead to truth. What can be necessary to find truth, which remains perfectly obvious, but to remove the seeming obstacles to true awareness?
3. No one who learns to forgive can fail to remember God. Forgiveness, then, is all that need be taught, because it is all that need be learned. All blocks to the remembrance of God are forms of unforgiveness, and nothing else. This is never apparent to the patient, and only rarely so to the therapist. The world has marshalled all its forces against this one awareness, for in it lies the ending of the world and all it stands for.
4. Yet it is not the awareness of God that constitutes a reasonable goal for psychotherapy.
This will come when psychotherapy is complete, for where there is forgiveness truth must come. It would be unfair indeed if belief in God were necessary to psychotherapeutic success. Nor is belief in God a really meaningful concept, for God can be but known. Belief implies that unbelief is possible, but knowledge of God has no true opposite. Not to know God is to have no knowledge, and it is to this that all unforgiveness leads. And without knowledge one can have only belief.
5. Different teaching aids appeal to different people. Some forms of religion have nothing to do with God, and some forms of psychotherapy have nothing to do with healing. Yet if pupil and teacher join in sharing one goal, God will enter into their relationship because He has been invited to come in. In the same way, a union of purpose between patient and therapist restores the place of God to ascendance, first through Christ’s vision and then through the memory of God Himself. The process of psychotherapy is the return to sanity. Teacher and pupil, therapist and patient, are all insane or they would not be here. Together they can find a pathway out, for no one will find sanity alone.
6. If healing is an invitation to God to enter into His Kingdom, what difference does it make how the invitation is written? Does the paper matter, or the ink, or the pen? Or is it he who writes that gives the invitation? God comes to those who would restore His world, for they have found the way to call to Him. If any two are joined, He must be there. It does not matter what their purpose is, but they must share it wholly to succeed. It is impossible to share a goal not blessed by Christ, for what is unseen through His eyes is too fragmented to be meaningful.
7. As true religion heals, so must true psychotherapy be religious. But both have many forms, because no good teacher uses one approach to every pupil. On the contrary, he
listens patiently to each one, and lets him formulate his own curriculum; not the curriculum’s goal, but how he can best reach the aim it sets for him. Perhaps the teacher does not think of God as part of teaching. Perhaps the psychotherapist does not understand that healing comes from God. They can succeed where many who believe they have found God will fail.
8. What must the teacher do to ensure learning? What must the therapist do to bring healing about? Only one thing; the same requirement salvation asks of everyone. Each one must share one goal with someone else, and in so doing, lose all sense of separate interests. Only by doing this is it possible to transcend the narrow boundaries the ego would impose upon the self. Only by doing this can teacher and pupil, therapist and patient, you and I, accept Atonement and learn to give it as it was received.
9. Communion is impossible alone. No one who stands apart can receive Christ’s vision.
It is held out to him, but he cannot hold out his hand to receive it. Let him be still and recognize his brother’s need is his own. And let him then meet his brother’s need as his and see that they are met as one, for such they are. What is religion but an aid in helping him to see that this is so? And what is psychotherapy except a help in just this same direction? It is the goal that makes these processes the same, for they are one in purpose and must thus be one in means.
ACIM Workbook Lesson for December 3
Where darkness was I look upon the light.
1. Father, our eyes are opening at last. Your holy world awaits us, as our sight is finally restored and we can see. We thought we suffered. But we had forgot the Son whom You created. Now we see that darkness is our own imagining, and light is there for us to look upon. Christ’s vision changes darkness into light, for fear must disappear when love has come. Let me forgive Your holy world today, that I may look upon its holiness and understand it but reflects my own.
2. Our Love awaits us as we go to Him, and walks beside us showing us the way. He fails in nothing. He the End we seek, and He the Means by which we go to Him.
ACIM Q & A for Today
Q) Do Jesus or the Holy Spirit send me my lessons?
A) No, they do not. Here again, we see an example of students taking the words of A Course in Miracles literally, the result being that conclusions are drawn that are the exact opposite of what Jesus is actually teaching in his Course. To be sure, there are passages with words stating that the Holy Spirit (or Jesus) provide lessons for us, send people to us, or that we are sent to others. However, it is essential that students of A Course in Miracles, if they are to grow in their learning and practice of its principles, understand that statements such as these — clearly in the minority when taken against the whole of the Course’s teaching — are meant to reach those who are basically just beginning their spiritual journey with the Course. And so Jesus couches his teachings in words that his students — always referred to as children (or sometimes even younger) — can understand without fear.
Our experience is that we are very much a part of this physical world, just as we believe God is. There is, for example, this very important line in the text, which we have already quoted: “You cannot even think of God without a body, or in some form you think you recognize” (T-18.Vlll.1:7). Therefore, as we discussed earlier in question 5, it would not be helpful nor practical for Jesus to impose a level of explanation beyond his students’ capacity to understand. As he states so clearly in the workbook: “For who can understand a language far beyond his simple grasp?” (W-pI.192.2:2). Thus, we can recognize again that Jesus uses language to serve as a bridge from the level of his students’ experience to his truth.
In fact, the Holy Spirit or Jesus do nothing in the world, because all correction and healing occur at the level of the mind. “There is no world!” as Jesus states emphatically in the workbook: “This is the central thought the course attempts to teach” (W-pI.132.6:2-3). Jesus’ presence exists only in our minds, since that is all there is. Ideas leave not their source, and so the dream has never left the mind of the dreamer, however compellingly real the world appears to be to us. This is similar to the experience everyone has when asleep at night and dreaming. While asleep, the dreamer actually believes that the activities occurring in the dream are quite real, and reacts accordingly with feelings of happiness, fear, joy, or anxiety, not to mention physical concomitants as well, such as tachycardia, excessive perspiration, etc. However, upon waking, the dreamer realizes that “it was only a dream.” Similar to what we discussed before in question 22, we understand that nothing has occurred other than within the mind of the dreamer, which contained the various images and symbols that seemed to be so real. As Jesus repeatedly points out in the Course, there is no difference whatsoever between our sleeping and waking experiences. They are both simply dreams occurring within the larger dream of separation. As he says in the text:
All your time is spent in dreaming. Your sleeping and your waking dreams have different forms, and that is all. Their content is the same. They are your protest against reality, and your fixed and insane idea that you can change it. In your waking dreams, the special relationship has a special place. It is the means by which you try to make your sleeping dreams come true (T-18.11.5:12-17; italics ours).
And so it would make no sense for our wise inner teacher, Jesus, to fall into the same trap that the world does, of making the error real by seeing problems existing there, and therefore their solutions as well. However, as long as we believe that we are here, with problems and answers here, our experience will be that our help will be here, too. The loving presence of Jesus in our right minds — a mind which we have denied — will inevitably be experienced in the body and the world, even though he is not there. Participating in the process of forgiveness, students of A Course in Miracles gradually realize that they are the dreamers and not the dream, and that their existence is in the
mind and not the body. Eventually, the realization also occurs that Jesus or the Holy Spirit is only within their minds.
And what is Their function within the mind? To restate what we discussed previously, Their function is simply to remind the Son of God that he has made a faulty choice (by choosing the ego as his teacher), and now can make the correct one. His attention, via the miracle, has been restored to his mind, where the wrong decision was made and the presence of the Holy Spirit reminds him he can choose again. Early in the text, Jesus describes the functioning of the Holy Spirit this way:
The Voice of the Holy Spirit does not command, because It is incapable of arrogance. It does not demand, because It does not seek control. It does not overcome, because It does not attack. It merely reminds. It is compelling only because of what It reminds you of. It brings to your mind the other way, remaining quiet even in the midst of the turmoil you may make (T-5.II.7:1-6).
And so we — the decision maker in our minds — are the ones who write and choose our scripts, and the role of Jesus is to remind us that we can make another choice in how we look at what we have chosen. That looking with his love beside us is the core of the Course’s meaning of forgiveness. We are the ones who chose wrongly, and therefore we are the ones who must choose differently, as Jesus exhorts us at the end of the text:
Trials are but lessons that you failed to learn presented once again, so where you made a faulty choice before you now can make a better one, and thus escape all pain that what you chose before has brought to you. In every difficulty, all distress, and each perplexity Christ calls to you and gently says, “My brother, choose again” (T-31.Vlll.3:1-2).
Again, we are the ones who present ourselves with our scripts, and it is our minds that choose whether to have our egos or Jesus be the teacher guiding us through these experiences.
Therefore, it is not the Holy Spirit that brings us parking spaces, sends certain people to be helped by us or for us to be helped by, or causes us to be raped as a forgiveness lesson, as one poor student of A Course in Miracles believed about a very painful experience in her own life. Such mistaken thoughts about the Holy Spirit, besides having potentially tragic implications, help students to avoid responsibility for their own choices by transferring them over to the Holy Spirit or Jesus. And then they justify such misperceptions by quoting — out of context! — passages from the Course to support their positions of specialness.
And so it is extremely important, to make this point still once again, for students of A Course in Miracles not to confuse the form of the Course’s teaching with its underlyingcontent. Otherwise growth will not occur, and they would forever remain at the lower levels of their journey up the spiritual ladder that the Course provides. Therefore, the purpose for students being told that the Holy Spirit does things for them in the world, is to be healed of the ego’s basic thought system that teaches that there is no Holy Spirit, and even if there were, He certainly would not be a friendly Presence which would comfort and guide them. Thus, it is not the words (the form) that are the true teaching of the Course, but their underlying meaning (the content). Jesus’ purpose in using this metaphoric language is to help his students undo the ego thoughts that a wrathful and avenging God will punish them for their sin.
Once the belief is corrected that God (or the Holy Spirit or Jesus) is our enemy, we are able to advance along to the next steps of our journey. These include the increasing recognition, as we approach the journey’s end, of the essentially abstract reality of the Holy Spirit’s and Jesus’ presence in our split minds. What is at issue here is the crucial point of proceeding slowly and patiently along the spiritual path, minimizing the inevitable fear of eventually letting go of one’s individual identity. As Jesus so gently comforts us, using the metaphor of dreams:
The Holy Spirit, ever practical in His wisdom, accepts your dreams and uses them as means for waking. You would have used them to remain asleep. I said before that the first change, before dreams disappear, is that your dreams of fear are changed to happy dreams. That is what the Holy Spirit does in the special relationship. He does not destroy it, nor snatch it away from you. But He does use it differently, as a help to make His purpose real to you. The special relationship will remain, not as a source of pain and guilt, but as a source of joy and freedom …. In your relationship the Holy Spirit has gently laid the real world; the world of happy dreams, from which awaking is so easy and so natural (T-18.11.6:1-7; 9:4).
Thus students are not asked to progress directly from the illusory nightmares special relationships to the reality of the one relationship with God, but with Jesus as their guide, they first pass through the illusory dreams of forgiveness. These happy dreams undo the ego interference, which then allows the Love of God to return to their awareness. Therefore, as students of A Course in Miracles, they first learn that God is a loving Father rather than a hateful one, and the Holy Spirit a comforting companion to them in the world rather than their enemy. Only then can they learn that there is in fact no world for Them to comfort us in. Metaphor has served its purpose, and now can give way to the simple truth of the Oneness in God that lies beyond all words, and which is the ultimate goal of A Course in Miracles.