It has been growing on me for some time that we Course students are engaged in a massive, collective avoidance of God. By “we” I mean the Course community in general and probably most students of the Circle’s approach as well. I have been wanting to write an editorial about this so we can all look at this issue in ourselves and see if there isn’t a neglected dimension of the Course to take advantage of.
I think this avoidance of God takes many forms. One form is emphasizing the Holy Spirit rather than God. In my experience, Course students talk about the Holy Spirit far more than God (usually preferring “Holy Spirit” to “the Holy Spirit,” probably to distance themselves from Christian connotations), and talk to the Holy Spirit more than God. In short, the Holy Spirit tends to be our Divine focal point. Do you think this is true in your own case? Who do you most frequently talk about and to?
Another form is seeing God as impersonal—as an energy, or a principle, or “suchness,” or essence, or the Void, or Emptiness, or the Force, or the Ground of being, or “the Universe.” The list could go on. Obviously, such an impersonal God cannot truly love, care, plan, act, think, feel, and especially cannot do things like cherish you, hold you dear, and actively look out for your needs. Is this, then, roughly how you think of God—as impersonal?
A final form is seeing God as remote from our earthly lives. After all—so goes the conventional Course wisdom—He doesn’t know we are here and doesn’t hear our prayers. Thus, however important He is in the big picture, He is not all that relevant to our lives right now. Obviously, if He can’t hear our prayers, why bother to talking to Him? Which means that all those prayers in part II of the Workbook must be mere metaphor. Again, what is your own attitude here? Do you see God as removed from your life—unaware, inaccessible, and not all that relevant?
These three forms of what I’m calling avoidance of God stand in stark contrast to how the Course itself portrays God. First, God is a far larger focus in the Course than the Holy Spirit. He is mentioned, by my count, about 10,000 times in the Course, compared to about 3,000 times for the Holy Spirit. He is mentioned in 99 Workbook lesson titles (a full third of the total), compared to 5 for the Holy Spirit. On a theoretical level, aside from “you,” the reader, God is absolutely the main character in the Course. In contrast, the Holy Spirit exists simply as a “Communication Link,” allowing communication to pass back and forth between us and God while we are separated. The Holy Spirit is the telephone; God and us are the parties on either end of the line.
Second, God is absolutely not impersonal in the Course. You could say that, instead, He is infinitely personal; a Person Who is free of the limits of body, ego, and confinement to time and place. He has a Will, a Mind, and a Heart. He creates. He thinks. He feels. These attributes are infinite in their scope and power, yet there is something human about them, too. His Love toward us is “tender.” He feels “lonely” without us. He “weeps” for our unhappiness. He “yearns” for us to return to Him. The Course repeats these ideas so often, without ever negating them, that we have to assume that it really does mean them.
Third, God is definitely not remote in the Course. True, it is only through the Holy Spirit that He knows about the specifics of our lives. But the Course is adamant that He hears and answers every prayer. I’ve counted about 20 places where the Course openly says this. In contrast, there is only one passage I’ve ever seen cited in support of God not hearing prayers, and if you read this one carefully, it affirms the exact opposite (and for that reason, it’s on my list of 20). This is why the Workbook gives us 145 prayers to say to God (compared to half a prayer said to the Holy Spirit). This is also why we say 14 of the Workbook lessons directly to God. The first of these, Lesson 168 (“Your grace is given me. I claim it now.”) opens with this explanation: “God speaks to us. Shall we not speak to Him? He is not distant” (W-pI.168.1:1-3). How strange that we have turned this into “God cannot speak to us. What’s the point in speaking to Him? After all, He’s so distant.”
On a practical level, we are not only meant to talk to God, and listen to Him, we are also meant to seek the experience of Him. Again and again, the meditations in the Workbook are framed as attempts to experience God. One of the early ones make it explicit: “We are trying to reach God” (W-pI.49.4:8).
If God is so central to the Course, both theoretically and practically, why isn’t that reflected in how we understand and practice the Course? Part of the reason, of course, is that we are all just following in the way we have been taught. But why are our teachers teaching this, and why are we following? I think the answer is not terribly mysterious. God is the ultimate authority, and everyone has authority issues. If we have a problem with human authority, how much more of a problem will we have with infinite authority?
And yet, I believe, by avoiding God we are avoiding one of the most priceless blessings the Course can add to our lives. This is a huge topic that I can only touch on here, but the Course is holding out to us a very real and alive relationship with God here on earth. It is the relationship we all long for, one filled with the security, trust, harmony, ease, intimacy, and mutual love that we are always searching for. Why dismiss that because we have projected our own authority issues onto the perfect Friend? Why on earth would we want to avoid the perfect relationship?
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]