As you may know, I teach that a holy relationship takes two, not one. It means two people joining in a common goal, which invites the Holy Spirit to enter their relationship and take them on a journey to their goal and His goal.
You may also know that this is not a popular position among Course students. I personally think that’s because we have made the Course into a very interior and individualistic thing, as a reflection of contemporary spiritual attitudes rather than of the Course’s teachings. You’d be very hard-pressed to find support in the Course for the idea that a relationship is made holy by one person.
In fairness, I have heard one passage repeatedly put forward as evidence that it takes only one. I just heard it again the other day, so I thought it might be good to write about it here. This is the passage:
When you feel the holiness of your relationship is threatened by anything, stop instantly and offer the Holy Spirit your willingness, in spite of fear, to let Him exchange this instant for the holy one that you would rather have. He will never fail in this. But forget not that your relationship is one, and so it must be that whatever threatens the peace of one is an equal threat to the other. The power of joining its blessing lies in the fact that it is now impossible for you or your brother to experience fear alone, or to attempt to deal with it alone. Never believe that this is necessary, or even possible. Yet just as this is impossible, so is it equally impossible that the holy instant come to either of you without the other. And it will come to both at the request of either.
Whoever is saner at the time the threat is perceived should remember how deep is his indebtedness to the other and how much gratitude is due him, and be glad that he can pay his debt by bringing happiness to both. Let him remember this, and say:
I desire this holy instant for myself, that I may share it with my brother, whom I love.
It is not possible that I can have it without him, or he without me.
Yet it is wholly possible for us to share it now.
And so I choose this instant as the one to offer to the Holy Spirit, that His blessing may descend on us, and keep us both in peace.
Before I address the passage specifically, I want to make some larger points. Even if this passage said that a relationship could be made holy by one person (and I’ll get to that), we would still need to look at the fact that the holy relationship is consistently characterized as a joining in a common goal between two people: in the Text (chapters 17-23), the Manual, Psychotherapy and The Song of Prayer.
We would also need to look at the progression the relationship is said to go through and the stages of that progression (joining in common goal, Holy Spirit enters, period of discomfort, increasing oneness, joint special function), all of which assume a mutual joining.
So the macro-picture—which includes a massive number of passages as well as the overall progression outlined—is consistently about a mutual joining. If we find one passage that says something different, what do we do? Do we just throw out everything else, including seven chapters of the Text?
In fact, though, the above passage does not say that the holy relationship is established at the request of one. It says the holy instant will come at the request of one. If you read it closely, it never says that the request of one makes the relationship holy. Instead, it speaks throughout of the request of one bringing the holy instant to both. You might even want to go through and count how many times it mentions the coming of the holy instant. (I count seven times.)
Also, if you look closely at the passage, you will see that in several places it assumes the relationship is already holy:
- “When you feel the holiness of your relationship is threatened by anything, stop instantly…” This is speaking of a threat to “the holiness of your relationship.” The holiness of the relationship is thus assumed to already be there. How else could it be threatened?
- “But forget not that your relationship is one, and so it must be that whatever threatens the peace of one is an equal threat to the other.” The relationship is now “one”—in other words, it has been made holy.
- “The power of joining and its blessing [original wording] lie in the fact that it is now impossible for either of you to experience fear alone or to attempt to deal with it alone.” In other words, the power of the joining that you established lies in the fact that “now” (post-joining) it is impossible for either to experience or deal with fear alone.” There is an expansion on this very idea in T-22.VI.14-15.
Looking at the passage in detail has given us a clue about how the holy instant spoken of here relates to the holy relationship. We can put it this way: The holy instant will come to both at the request of either because a holy relationship has already been established. In other words, the joining of minds entailed in the holy relationship is precisely why a holy instant, if it comes to one, will be experienced by both.
Further, this passage is part of an ongoing discussion of the holy relationship which begins in T-17.V. The whole discussion (including this section) therefore assumes T-17.V, which makes clear that we’re talking about a mutual joining.
You and your brother have started again, together. (T-17.V.9:3)
And take his hand, to walk together. (T-17.V.9:4)
You undertook, together, to invite the Holy Spirit into your relationship. (T-17.V.11:1)
Finally, the whole discussion is (unlike the Manual, Psychotherapy, and Song of Prayer holy relationship discussions) specifically all about Helen and Bill’s relationship, which of course was a mutual joining. To really get the sense of this passage, we have to imagine it being spoken personally to Helen and Bill, and we know that they did exactly what I am talking about: they joined in a common purpose.
If the above passage is the best support there is for a holy relationship being established by one person, then there is no support for the holy relationship being established by one person. And that, in fact, is the case.
However, we should see this as a good thing. For our journey is a journey toward oneness. That journey culminates in oneness with God in Heaven, but we prepare for that by acting out oneness with each other on earth. Do you really think we’ll be instantly ready for total oneness with God unless we get a lot of practice with other people first? Do you really think we’ll be ready to disappear forever into the One Relationship before we become a master of relationships here?
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]