Essay about "A Course in Miracles" and the Holy Relationship

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Jesus and loverThe holy relationship, a major step toward the perception of the real world, is learned. It is the old, unholy relationship, transformed and seen anew. The holy relationship is a phenomenal teaching accomplishment. In all its aspects, as it begins, develops and becomes accomplished, it represents the reversal of the unholy relationship. Be comforted in this; the only difficult phase is the beginning. For here, the goal of the relationship is abruptly shifted to the exact opposite of what it was. (T-17.V.1), A Course in Miracles

These insights about the Course (a book that uses Christian language, but is more consistent with several Eastern traditions than with traditional Christian dogma) revolve around a greater understanding of the "holy relationship" and why it is so critical to our Father’s chosen plan for restoring us to Christhood.1

While it is true that we are participating in a dream, and that our bodies are not real, they are tangible - at least at our current level of our perception. And it appears from the Course that we will have to do something other than deny them if we want to get Home. Indeed, the Workbook says, "The body is the means by which God’s Son returns to sanity."2 And the Course says, "The Love of God, for a little while, must still be expressed through one body to another, because vision is still so dim."3

Yet we also know that bodies interfere with our spiritual vision. Their seeming "reality" convinces we are separate, despite our efforts to perceive ourselves as one. And their constant demands distract us from our quest for Christhood. Finally their very limitations radically distort our perception. One of the most critical of these limitations may turn out to be one we rarely reflect upon, namely, gender. Even though we know that our Father did not create the world in which we find ourselves, and that in our true state (that is, with restored vision) we would have a shared Identity,4 we believe it must somehow be our Father’s Will that we only exist in one or the other of the two sexes. This assumption may be hiding the key to benefitting fully from the Course.

According to many esoteric sources, the split into sexes only exists within the illusion. That means it is indeed of our making, and not of divine origin. This split into bodies that are "polarized" at a basic level, is the reason we perceive a world of dualities. We literally do not feel "whole," and therefore cannot perceive wholeness. Instead, we perceive (and make) separation everywhere (racism, class distinctions, self vs. other). We literally feel "unbalanced," and therefore see (and make) "evil," believing it is the opposite of good, and so on.

In short, we cannot perceive oneness unless we can overcome our bodies’ polarity somehow. Gender unwittingly fosters the desire for separation, which is the ego. How? Indirectly. As we will see in a moment, gender currently pushes us to use our bodies in such a way that we come to fear the love that would swiftly put an end to our (literally) split minds. It is the means by which we keep ourselves soundly asleep within our sadly separated dreams.

We designed our male or female "electrical charges," to imprison our minds. This is a difficult concept for most Course students. They understand their minds have been imprisoned, but don’t see how their gender could be playing a role in perpetually clouding their perception. Instead they seek to go Home alone (which we are told is not possible5) by denying their bodies (also not a good idea according to the Course6). Or they freely pursue their physical urges while telling themselves this will have no adverse effect on their minds - because "they know they are not a body." This, too, is wishful thinking, for according to the Course we can have either freedom of the body, or freedom of the mind, but not both.7

How does gender imprison our minds? We know from the Course that our desire for separation stems from a sense of lack or loss.8 The simple truth is that as a member of one gender or the other, we "lack" the communication with the opposing polarity that would let us experience wholeness again. We are each only "half the story."9 Worse yet, striving to make our "lacking" selves feel better by means that will never succeed,10 we currently enter into relationships based on mutual taking, or, at best, "giving to get." Such selfishness swiftly seems to prove that fear should, indeed, be linked with love.

We "seek but do not find." And this impasse in relationships is familiar to everyone - even to Course students united by a sincere, mutual determination to have "a holy relationship." giving Somehow our relationships continue to foster a desire for separation. Eventually we create distance on some level, even if we remain together as a couple. Course students have the advantage of staying loving, and forgiving each other swiftly. But separation (born of pain and fear) always finds its way into any relationship where the body’s pleasure is a factor.11

Still, the Course tells us that "the ark of peace is entered two by two."12 So how can we use these bodies - which, by their very design, try to seek relief for their uncomfortable imbalance though pain-producing pleasure - to form relationships safe from fear? There is a way. But first, let us further consider the mechanics by which our design promotes feelings of fear and a sense of loss.

Gender, alone, accounts for a permanent yearning, whether or not one is sexually active. Indeed, the yearning may not take the form of yearning for the opposite sex at all. And seen from its highest perspective, the yearning is, of course, a yearning for wholeness and reunion with our Source - a state in which gender is no longer a factor. That doesn’t mean we can "skip" the body in our return and rejoin our Creator first, however - at least according to the Course. The means are still needed; we have to knit the separation back together from the bottom up.13

The challenge is that the yearning is connected to the neurochemistry of a primitive part of the brain known as the limbic system. One of its chief functions is to keep us mating fast and furiously...to keep us going around and around in matter. Conventional sex acts to increase the addictiveness of sex and other addictive substances. Therefore, we are obliged to use our intimate relationships differently, if we would overcome this obstacle and find deep wholeness.

In short, we create a further sense of lack by pursuing the sexual desire that gender inherently possesses. Our desire for union is, literally, "the call to return," but we currently misuse it. Out of sheer ignorance, most of us believe sex cannot hurt us. And, indeed, heartfelt union unmistakably does always benefit us. Still, as any responsible account of spiritual sexuality reveals, conventional sex inevitably leads to feelings of loss, loss of "self," resentment, irritability, etc. With these feelings comes fear of love and, ultimately, a desire for separation (emotional, physical or mental). Without realizing it, we are creating unions of bodies that only appear to be relationships, and are not. We are, as the Course says, using this "unholy instant" between bodies to worship death and create despair.14 Why? Because the DNA inherent in our design mindlessly seeks to replicate itself, thus keeping us recycling through matter indefinitely. When we let biology rule us, it pits the sexes against each other, leading to uneasy truces.

So what does the Course suggest we do differently? The Course, first of all, is advocating that we learn to forgive (the selfish actions biology has urged us to take) so completely that we joyfully unite more than mere bodies again. And that we keep on forgiving. Forgiving anybody and anything shifts our neurochemistry toward balance, and opens the heart and melts away the deadly desire for separation we have spent a lifetime (or more) painfully training ourselves to prefer. Forgiveness dissolves the projections of our own past fears that currently distort our vision. Yet it may turn out that the goal of all forgiveness is to free us from the past for a reunion with our original other half.15

Though this concept is anathema to most Course students, we certainly know that the Holy Spirit is going to use special relationships to move us into the "happy dream" from which we can catch our first glimpses of Home.16 To be sure, those special relationships will first have to be converted into holy relationships. But this the Holy Spirit assures us can be done with ease, though "the way is different."17

To do it we will have to learn to use our bodies and relationships differently,18 and as a means to a totally different goal from our former goal of seeking comfort within the dream. The Holy Spirit says It can teach us "ancient new ideas," we have merely forgotten,19 which will enable us to develop the abilities we need to find our way out of the illusion. This, it says, is the best that can be done for us in our present muddle.20 We must crawl before we can take wing again.

What should be the new goal of our relationships? Learning to think as one mind with our brother, or communion. Nor is this an intellectual exercise. It will happen only as the result of a series of experiences of the holy instant.21 When we ultimately achieve the qualitative shift in vision they enable, we will be restored to our original status as co-creators, we will overcome death, and, best of all, we will truly be headed Home.

The holy instant is not simply a joyful feeling of being transported beyond the body, as most Course students believe. (Though "much of what happens" then happens in the holy instant.22) The holy instant is a melding of minds.23 Nor is it experienced only with Jesus. It is experienced with a brother still suffering from the same limitations we are.24

Now what might Jesus be talking about that would involve a different, but "ancient" form of union between bodies and that would heal our minds of the desire for separation? First let’s go back closer to the time of Jesus for a clue that may bring into clear relief the answers the Course already contains.25 In the 1940’s gospels came to light in upper Egypt. One is called "The Gospel of Philip." It (and "The Gospel of Thomas," found with it) is in accord with the Course on many more points than it aligns with traditional Christian doctrine. Indeed, the parallels are striking (we are not condemned sinners, Jesus did not "die" to atone for our sins, we must return to Christhood while "here," not after death, etc.). According to scholars, the content of these gospels is very old. Some even believe that the "Gospel of Thomas" predates the material in the gospels which the Church ultimately chose for the New Testament. As you may already know, this highly-selective editing process occurred long after Jesus’ "departure."

The "Gospel of Thomas" says Jesus taught that you enter the Kingdom of Heaven "when male and female become one and neither is male or female anymore." "The Gospel of Philip" says death came to Adam and Eve as a result of their separation - because they united incorrectly (for earthly ends). It also says that death can only be overcome, and the Christ reborn in us, in the Sacrament of the Bridal Chamber, through chaste union.

How could separation between the sexes have caused death? Well it appears that Adam and Eve maintained a sort of "functional androgyny" until they began using each other for individual, earthly goals. Prior to that point, they thought as one mind, thanks to a psychic link between them. Their spiritual vision also functioned. In short, they were still in the Kingdom.

primordial separation They did not fear each other until that link broke. When it did, they not only separated; they lost the spiritual vision that accompanies wholeness. They "fell" more densely into matter, lost each other, and so felt that something was missing.26 Stuck in their respective genders, their imbalances grew to the point where, today, we believe we prefer individuality (ego) to union of minds, even if we still like sex.

Separation between the sexes does, then, achieve our unhealthy objective of making us feel separated from our Father for it cuts off our spiritual vision. Here’s a second account of this separation. It appears in Thinking and Destiny by H.W. Percival, another book with striking parallels with the Course (which a Course student called to my attention):

The scarcity of Light in. . .human beings is because of happenings, long years ago, when the doers now in human bodies were in perfect bodies . . . in the Realm of Permanence. For each Triune Self to be qualified to [be a co-creator in]. . . the world of time. . .it was necessary for its doer part to take and pass through the trial test of the sexes for balanced union of feeling-and-desire . The test was that the doer should temporarily divide its sexless body into a male body and a female body; that the desire of the doer be in the male body and the feeling be in the female body; that the feeling-and-desire minds should think in unison, and be uninfluenced by the body-mind, which could function only as or for the body senses and would try to make the desire and feeling of the doer see itself as in two bodies instead of as the active and passive aspects of the doer.

As a doer passed the test, the temporary male and female bodies merged and were again the perfect body, but were now permanently balanced in one permanently sexless body; and the desire-and-feeling were inseparably welded in balanced union--by the body-mind being subject to the desire-and-feeling minds thinking in union.

Each of the doers now in human bodies failed to pass that test. . . . They left the Realm of Permanence; they could not see it; they found themselves in the human world of time, among male and female bodies, subject to death and re-existence. . . . and the body-mind compelled it to think of itself [not as a whole, but] in the terms and the functions of the sexes, either as a man or as a woman.

Here the doers in human bodies must continue to re-exist in bodies until they think of themselves as [balanced] doers of immortal Triune Selves. . .

The temporary separation - for the test mentioned - of the doer’s perfect body into a male body and a female body was effected by a projection.. . .So [at first] there were two bodies connected with each other by a magnetic tie, which served as a bridge connecting the two bodies. The desire in the man body and the feeling in the woman body did not at first think and act as two, as being different and separated from each other. Each saw itself in the other, as though in a looking glass. They felt and acted as one, just as there is reciprocal action in one’s hands in whatever one does.

. . .By [exploiting sexual desire for their individual ends, however,] they severed the magnetic tie. [Thereafter] the sexual organs formed. . .[the tie between] man and woman bodies. When the psychic tie was broken and the physical tie was made, [procreation began, and] the bodies were subject to death. (pp. 384-6)

The Course may be preparing us to restore the "magnetic tie," or divinely supplied "bridge,"27 that once allowed us to think with one mind and experience the Kingdom.28 (Have a look at this article for a description of a couple who apparently recreated this tie.) And the choice between the unholy instant and the holy instant may be the critical place where we make our choice between spiritual Vision and continued darkness.29 infinityFar from making the body "real," such simple union between bodies in complete stillness, solely for the purpose of restoring spiritual vision, will finally allow us to go beyond gender entirely and rediscover our shared Identity (not only with our brother, of course, but with the entire Sonship).

In case I have not made myself clear, this is not a "tantric high," achieved by using passionate sex as a drug to open one’s third eye and "bliss out" in a temporary state of "oneness" that is seldom truly shared. Such "trips" are no different, and no more effectual, than the ephemeral "bliss highs" mankind achieves through meditation - or even through using the Course itself as an individual "bliss drug." The true goal is a quiet "melting in,"30 which gradually leads to a permanent shift. Note: the "soft-entry and meditation" approach to intercourse recommended by the Richardsons in Tantric Sex for Men epitomizes the "melting in" and "you need do nothing" concept that the Course recommends.

We will know we have made the critical shift when we have overcome death. Until then, no matter how holy or spiritual we are, we are still imprisoned in separation. As is our brother.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that the Course insists the holy relationship and correct use of our bodies are our ticket to restoring perception of our true circumstances, these ideas are often quickly rejected by Course students. More often than not, even very advanced students fail to take the simple step of quietly asking the Holy Spirit if this chaste union, in which the body’s demands are not considered, but are nevertheless overcome permanently, is indeed the "holy relationship."31 Perhaps we still have sex confused with sin.

The unthinking initial resistance of many Course students is making it clearer and clearer why Jesus could not have been more explicit in the Course.32 And why he poured so much effort instead into preparing us for deep, fearless union. And into teaching us to ask the Holy Spirit and to listen to insight coming from beyond our egos and their interpretations - even of the Course.

If you found this article interesting, please see our Open Letter to Gnostic Scholars

Also of possible interest:
Sex and the Ego

Awareness & Love by L. Kevin Johnson

Also see intriguing comparison chart of ACIM, Gnostic Gospels and conventional Christianity (pdf file, 205K)

Return to Source Materials outline


Footnotes reference A Course in Miracles, Foundation for Inner Peace; 2nd edition (1996).

  • 1. T-22.VI.4 This holy relationship, lovely in its innocence, mighty in strength, and blazing with a light far brighter than the sun that lights the sky you see, is chosen of your Father as a means for His Own plan. 2 Be thankful that it serves yours not at all. 3 Nothing entrusted to it can be misused, and nothing given it but will be used. 4 This holy relationship has the power to heal all pain, regardless of its form. 5 Neither you nor your brother alone can serve at all. 6 Only in your joint will does healing lie. 7 For here your healing is, and here will you accept Atonement. 8 And in your healing is the Sonship healed because your will and your brother's are joined.
  • 2. W-p11.5.4 The body is the means by which God's Son returns to sanity. 2 Though it was made to fence him into hell without escape, yet has the goal of Heaven been exchanged for the pursuit of hell. 3 The Son of God extends his hand to reach his brother, and to help him walk along the road with him.
  • 3. T1.VII.2
  • 4. T-9.IV.1 Accept as true only what your brother is, if you would know yourself. 5 Perceive what he is not and you cannot know what you are, because you see him falsely. 6 Remember always that your Identity is shared, and that Its sharing is Its reality.
  • 5. T-14.X.10 The lonely journey fails because it has excluded what it would find.
  • 6. T-2.IV.3 The body, if properly understood, shares the invulnerability of the Atonement to two-edged application. 7 This is not because the body is a miracle, but because it is not inherently open to misinterpretation. 8 The body is merely part of your experience in the physical world. 9 Its abilities can be and frequently are overevaluated. 10 However, it is almost impossible to deny its existence in this world. 11 Those who do so are engaging in a particularly unworthy form of denial.
  • 7. T-22-VI.1 Do you want freedom of the body or of the mind? 2 For both you cannot have.
  • 8. T-26.II.2 [When we project it outward, we may believe we have been robbed, or have sacrificed something valuable.] The Holy Spirit offers you release from every problem that you think you have. 2 They are the same to Him because each one, regardless of the form it seems to take, is a demand that someone suffer loss and make a sacrifice that you might gain. 3 And when the situation is worked out so no one loses is the problem gone, because it was an error in perception that now has been corrected.
  • 9. T-27.II.4 This is your brother, focus of your hate, unworthy to be part of you and thus outside yourself; the other half, which is denied. P 571
  • 10. T-2.III.5 The children of God are entitled to the perfect comfort that comes from perfect trust. 2 Until they achieve this, they waste themselves and their true creative powers on useless attempts to make themselves more comfortable by inappropriate means. 3 But the real means are already provided, and do not involve any effort at all on their part. . . . They must learn to look upon the world as a means of healing the separation. 13 The Atonement is the guarantee that they will ultimately succeed. P 22
  • 11. T-19.IV.B.12 It is impossible to seek for pleasure through the body and not find pain. 2 It is essential that this relationship be understood, for it is one the ego sees as proof of sin. 3 It is not really punitive at all. 4 It is but the inevitable result of equating yourself with the body, which is the invitation to pain. 5 For it invites fear to enter and become your purpose. 6 The attraction of guilt must enter with it, and whatever fear directs the body to do is therefore painful. 7 It will share the pain of all illusions, and the illusion of pleasure will be the same as pain.
  • 12. T-20.IV.6 The ark of peace is entered two by two, yet the beginning of another world goes with them. 6 Each holy relationship must enter here, to learn its special function in the Holy Spirit's plan, now that it shares His purpose. 7 And as this purpose is fulfilled, a new world rises in which sin can enter not, and where the Son of God can enter without fear and where he rests a while, to forget imprisonment and to remember freedom. 8 How can he enter, to rest and to remember, without you? 9 Except you be there, he is not complete. 10 And it is his completion that he remembers there.
  • 13. T-1.VI.3
  • 14. T-20.VI.11 And this unholy instant seems to be life; an instant of despair, a tiny island of dry sand, bereft of water and set uncertainly upon oblivion. 4 Here does the Son of God stop briefly by, to offer his devotion to death's idols and then pass on. 5 And here he is more dead than living. 6 Yet it is also here he makes his choice again between idolatry and love. p438 7 Here it is given him to choose to spend this instant paying tribute to the body, or let himself be given freedom from it. 8 Here he can accept the holy instant, offered him to replace the unholy one he chose before. 9 And here can he learn relationships are his salvation, and not his doom.
  • 15. T-21.IV.5 This part has seen your brother, and recognized him perfectly since time began. 2 And it desired nothing but to join with him and to be free again, as once it was.
    T-18.I.12 Whom God has called should hear no substitutes. 2 Their call is but an echo of the original error that shattered Heaven. 3 And what became of peace in those who heard? 4 Return with me to Heaven, walking together with your brother out of this world and through another, to the loveliness and joy the other holds within it. 5 Would you still further weaken and break apart what is already broken and hopeless? 6 Is it here that you would look for happiness? 7 Or would you not prefer to heal what has been broken, and join in making whole what has been ravaged by separation and disease?
    T-21.II.13 Yet the truth is you and your brother were both created by a loving Father, Who created you together and as one. 2 See what "proves" otherwise, and you deny your whole reality.
    T-20.IV.5 To each who walks this earth in seeming solitude is a savior given, whose special function here is to release him, and so to free himself. 4 In the world of separation each is appointed separately, though they are all the same.
  • 16. T-18.II.6 I said before that the first change, before dreams disappear, is that your dreams of fear are changed to happy dreams. 4 That is what the Holy Spirit does in the special relationship. 5 He does not destroy it, nor snatch it away from you. 6 But He does use it differently, as a help to make His purpose real to you. 7 The special relationship will remain, not as a source of pain and guilt, but as a source of joy and freedom.
  • 17. T-11.III.4 The way is not hard, but it is very different.
  • 18. T-8.VII.3 If you use [the body] only to reach the minds of those who believe they are bodies, and teach them through the body that this is not so, you will understand the power of the mind that is in you. 3 If you use the body for this and only for this, you cannot use it for attack. 4 In the service of uniting it becomes a beautiful lesson in communion, which has value until communion is.
    T-20.VII.2 Would you not willingly be free of misery, and learn again of joy? 4 Your holy relationship offers all this to you. 5 As it was given you, so will be its effects. 6 And as its holy purpose was not made by you, the means by which its happy end is yours is also not of you.
  • 19. T-28.I.7 The ancient new ideas they bring will be the happy consequences of a Cause so ancient that It far exceeds the span of memory which your perception sees. T-28.I.8. This is the Cause the Holy Spirit has remembered for you, when you would forget.
  • 20. T-6.IV.9 Abilities must be developed before you can use them. 2 This is not true of anything that God created, but it is the kindest solution possible for what you made. 3 In an impossible situation, you can develop your abilities to the point where they can get you out of it.
  • 21. T-20.V.5
  • 22. T-18.VI.13
  • 23. T-15.XI.7 In the holy instant the condition of love is met, for minds are joined without the body's interference, and where there is communication there is peace.
  • 24. T-21.VI.9 You are your brother's savior. 2 He is yours.
  • 25. This clue came into my life years after I began studying the Course, as the result of a gift of a friend. I believe it was sent by the Holy Spirit in answer to a heartfelt desire to understand the Course better.
  • 26. T-1.VI.1 Until the "separation," which is the meaning of the "fall," nothing was lacking. 7 There were no needs at all. 8 Needs arise only when you deprive yourself.
  • 27. T-16.VI.6 Across the bridge it is so different! 2 For a time the body is still seen, but not exclusively, as it is seen here. 3 The little spark that holds the Great Rays within it is also visible, and this spark cannot be limited long to littleness. 4 Once you have crossed the bridge, the value of the body is so diminished in your sight that you will see no need at all to magnify it. 5 For you will realize that the only value the body has is to enable you to bring your brothers to the bridge with you, and to be released together there.
  • 28. T-20.V.1 In this world, God's Son comes closest to himself in a holy relationship. 2 There he begins to find the certainty his Father has in him. 3 And there he finds his function of restoring his Father's laws to what was held outside them, and finding what was lost. 4 Only in time can anything be lost, and never lost forever. 5 So do the parts of God's Son gradually join in time, and with each joining is the end of time brought nearer. 6 Each miracle of joining is a mighty herald of eternity.
    T-24.II.11 You are your brother's; part of love was not denied to him. 2 But can it be that you have lost because he is complete? 3 What has been given him makes you complete, as it does him. 4 God's Love gave you to him and him to you because He gave Himself.
  • 29. T-20.VI.10 Here the unholy instant is exchanged in gladness for the holy one of safe return. 5 Here is the way to true relationships held gently open, through which you and your brother walk together, leaving the body thankfully behind and resting in the Everlasting Arms. 6 Love's Arms are open to receive you, and give you peace forever.
  • 30. T-18.VI.14 The sudden expansion of awareness that takes place with your desire for it is the irresistible appeal the holy instant holds. 3 It calls to you to be yourself, within its safe embrace. 4 There are the laws of limit lifted for you, to welcome you to openness of mind and freedom. 5 Come to this place of refuge, where you can be yourself in peace. 6 Not through destruction, not through a breaking out, but merely by a quiet melting in. 7 For peace will join you there, simply because you have been willing to let go the limits you have placed upon love, and joined it where it is and where it led you, in answer to its gentle call to be at peace.
  • 31. T-11.I.8 You must ask what God’s will is in everything. . . It cannot be too often repeated that you do not know it.
    T-16.II.6 No evidence will convince you of the truth of what you do not want.
  • 32. T-14.I.5 The Holy Spirit, therefore, must begin His teaching by showing you what you can never learn. 2 His message is not indirect, but He must introduce the simple truth into a thought system which has become so twisted and so complex you cannot see that it means nothing. 3 He merely looks at its foundation and dismisses it. 4 But you who cannot undo what you have made, nor escape the heavy burden of its dullness that lies upon your mind, cannot see through it. 5 It deceives you, because you chose to deceive yourself. 6 Those who choose to be deceived will merely attack direct approaches, because they seem to encroach upon deception and strike at it.