In a comment on a recent blog post, I said I would tell the story of how I found my special function. Here’s my story…
I think I’ve probably been on a spiritual search my entire life. I was always interested in ultimate “What is the meaning of life?” types of questions. In college, I studied European intellectual history, pondering theologians’ and philosophers’ answers to these ultimate questions.
Once out of college (in 1985), I began to explore the more overtly “spiritual” answers to these questions in an even more focused way. I joined a series of spiritual groups over the next few years: first a group studying Raja Yoga (the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali), then a Zen Buddhist Center, then a large New Thought church (there was some overlap). At the New Thought church, I also joined a Twelve Step group.
It was at this New Thought church that I discovered the Course for the first time. The minister quoted from it frequently and I always liked the quotes. So, I bought a copy from their bookstore in July of 1991. I opened it up, started reading, and was immediately hooked. It was fascinating! I devoured it from cover to cover within a couple of months. In hindsight, I think something in me knew from the second I opened the book that the Course was my path.
However, at this time, I did not embrace the Course as my path. Why? I think there were several reasons. First, I was training to be a New Thought minister, and I liked dabbling in all sorts of spiritual things. Second, nothing I saw in the Course community I was in (at my church) really indicated that this was an option. When I first saw the Course, I noticed that there was a “Text,” “Workbook,” and “Manual for Teachers,” and immediately thought, “Oh, this is a course you take, like a college course.” But that idea slowly faded because neither my group nor the things I was reading about the Course depicted it that way. Commit to one thing as your path? Are you kidding? How narrow-minded is that?
Third, I think I just wasn’t quite ready to fully embrace all of the Course’s radical ideas. I remember that the negative things the Course said about the body and special love relationships were particularly unsettling for me – probably because that year I had just met the woman who would become my wife, and all that dark stuff sure seemed to take the fun out of romance. I tried going through the Workbook for the first time during our courtship, but quit about two-thirds of the way through. Slowly, I drifted away from the Course.
Over the next six years, I basically drifted in and out of the Course. There would be long periods when I didn’t even open the book, followed by periods when I would study it intensively for a while. My wife and I both became New Thought ministers, and during one intensive period of Course work I started my own Course group at the church we founded. During that time, I went through the Workbook again, completing it this time. But eventually, the Course group disbanded, and later we decided to end the church itself. Part of the reason for ending the church was that I was feeling restless. I seemed to be called to something else. But what?
I had always had an intellectual bent, and I thought I was being called to become an academic, a professor of comparative religion and philosophy. I was to become a generalist in religion, expounding the “perennial philosophy” to my students like Huston Smith. So, in 1997, I applied for entrance to the graduate religion and philosophy program at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. I passed the test for admittance to graduate school, went to an orientation in San Francisco, got a letter of recommendation from my undergraduate advisor at my former college, met the man who was to be my academic advisor at CIIS (Richard Tarnas), and even paid a nonrefundable deposit. I was going to CIIS.
But something didn’t feel right, and I had a good idea why: I had been getting into the Course again, and I was beginning to feel that perhaps my real calling was to become a Course teacher. My big question became: Am I meant to be a generalist teaching the perennial philosophy, or a specialist teaching A Course in Miracles? And if I’m meant to teach A Course in Miracles, where can I get the training to do this? I knew about Ken Wapnick’s FACIM organization, but I looked at their website and it didn’t feel right. Besides, they didn’t train teachers.
So I did some searching on the Internet for other Course groups and stumbled upon the Circle of Atonement’s website. I immediately saw an article by Robert Perry entitled “How Can A Course in Miracles Accomplish Its Purpose?” It was an epiphany for me. It presented the Circle’s vision of the Course, the Circle’s mission as an organization, and a vision for how the Course could accomplish its purpose in the world. And the Circle wanted to train teachers!
In a word, I was hooked. This was exactly what I was looking for. The vision of the Course presented here – the Course as a complete spiritual path, which we must commit to and follow as instructed to really reap the full benefits – resonated with me on the deepest level. The seed that was planted in my mind when I picked up the Course in 1991 had finally come to full fruition six years later. My decision was made – the Course was my spiritual path, and I was going to move to Sedona to learn from Robert (and Allen) how to walk it. So much for my nonrefundable deposit.
I wrote the following in my journal the night of May 4, 1997:
“IT IS DECIDED. God, it is clear to me that you want me to teach A Course in Miracles so that I can learn it. I do not yet know the form of this teaching, and I remain open for you to reveal it to me. I thank you, Father, for giving the Course to me, and for giving me a function in Your plan for salvation. Amen.”
Immediately after writing that, I sat down for a meditation. In this meditation, I asked for guidance to confirm my decision. And something amazing happened: I felt the presence of Jesus with me in a way I never had before. I didn’t see an apparition or anything like that, but I just felt this undeniable presence that in my mind was clearly him. I wrote in my journal afterward:
“His presence was indescribable. He confirmed, wordlessly, that my path is to teach and learn A Course in Miracles. His love for me (and mine for him) are beyond words. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life. Thank you Jesus, my brother, my guide, my teacher.”
It felt like he was giving me a huge “YES” to the commitment I had made, as if he had been waiting years for me to make it – indeed, he probably had been. I felt flooded with joy, peace, fulfillment, and a sense of purpose. I was now certain of the way to go.
My life has never been the same since that day. From that day forward, I have done my best to follow the Course’s path just as Jesus laid it out in the three volumes. Robert became my personal teacher, and I’m sure his tutelage has saved me years of effort.
And the benefits have been enormous. While I had learned many valuable spiritual lessons in the years prior to this commitment, my spiritual life truly took off from that moment forward. Through committing to the Course as my sole path, I have experienced greater peace and joy in my life. My relationships with others have grown and deepened. I am a much better forgiver. On my very best days, my Course practice has given me deeper experiences of God’s Love than I ever thought were possible for me.
Finally, my life now has a deep sense of meaning and purpose. For years I didn’t have a clue about what to do with my life – my undergraduate degree in European intellectual history landed me a lucrative job as a video store clerk. But now I’ve discovered a special function – teaching the Course – that is so deeply rewarding that I can’t imagine doing anything else.
The Course claims that giving to others is the way to recognize the gifts God has given you, and I can vouch for that. Just one example was a woman who came up to me after a presentation I gave. She told me, with tears of joy streaming down her cheeks, that what I said had changed her life. Her gratitude for my gift to her was a priceless gift to me. I used to spend my days promoting the big video release of Crocodile Dundee; now I spend them helping my brothers awaken to God. It was definitely a good career move.
Today, the Course is my life. I have a truly wonderful special function, and I am blessed with beautiful mighty companions who are taking the journey to God with me. To be honest, it is a challenging path sometimes, but I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I’ve tried the world, thank you very much. Now I want Heaven. And I truly believe that with the help of God, the Holy Spirit, Jesus, and all my mighty companions, I will one day fulfill my special function and awaken fully to the radiant Love of God, just as the Course promises.