Let’s recap what we have seen thus far of the program of A Course in Miracles. The Course wants to effect a complete reversal of our thinking and thereby achieve a complete redemption of our condition. It wants to replace our thought system with its thought system. The program of the Course is nothing but a series of steps taking us through this process of replacement.
The first step is studying the Text. Before we can make this new thought system the foundation of our lives, it must first come into our awareness. We must come to understand it, at least superficially. We must see its reason and its benefit, at least theoretically. Through studying the Text we first encounter and entertain our future thought system.
The second step is practicing the Workbook. Now that we have some understanding of this new thought system, we start putting it into practice in our lives. We rehearse its thoughts and drink in their happiness. We apply it to our upsets and see them dispelled. We slowly train our minds “to think along the lines the text sets forth.” (W-In.1:4) Through this practice, the Course’s thought system sinks deeper into our minds, moving towards the bedrock of our thinking. No longer is it a mere theory; it has become a lived experience.
Those two steps are not the end of the program, however. The third and final step is the crowning aspect, the most important one of all. This is the one that receives the most attention in the pages of the Course; the only one of the three that is a major part of the Course’s teaching, and not just its program. This final step is extension.
Extension is as central as any concept in the Course. We can see its centrality in two nearly identical encapsulations of the Course’s plan for salvation:
Forgiveness is the only gift I give, because it is the only gift I want. And everything I give I give myself. This is salvation’s simple formula. (W-pII.297.1:1-3)
Forgive [give forgiveness to others] and be forgiven. As you give you will receive. There is no plan but this for the salvation of the Son of God. (W-pI.122.6:3-5)
Extending to others is so central to the Course that the idea even figures prominently in its title. The most common meaning of the word “miracle” in the Course is not an internal shift in perception, but the extension of healed perception to another. A Course in Miracles, then, is quite literally a course in extension.
In essence, we extend by communicating to someone—either through thought or through behavior—our healed perception of that person, our perception that that person is forgiven, healed and whole. What matters is not the way we communicate this. If we do not see holiness in that person, even giving them our house would not be a real extension. The Course says, “To teach is to demonstrate.” (M-In.2:1) In other words, to teach is to be a living demonstration, rather than to merely put on a facade. As the Course puts it, you extend to the world “not by preaching to it, not by telling it anything, but merely by your quiet recognition that in your holiness are all things blessed along with you.” (W-pI.37.3:2)
This is why extension cannot be the first step. To give a healed perception, we must have it. To really demonstrate, we must have something within us to demonstrate. The Course puts it very succinctly: “No one can give unless he has.” (W-pI.187.1:1) How, then, do we come to have something that we can give? The answer: We do the first two aspects of the program; we study and we practice. By studying and practicing, we are preparing ourselves to extend. We are filling up our stores with shining gifts to give our brothers and sisters. We are readying ourselves to do what we really came here to do.
Even though study and practice are immeasurably important, only once we extend will we really and truly receive. Only then will we completely learn—will we totally realize—the Course’s thought system. Only then will we pass the Course.
Why is this? Does giving win us good favor in some kind of cosmic merit system? Does it bring us good karma? Does it earn us points in the Book of Life? No; there is nothing to earn for everything is already ours. The significance of extending is simply that it takes the thoughts we do not yet fully believe in and strengthens them in our minds. Extension is a thought-reinforcer, pure and simple.
Give gladly. You can only gain thereby. The thought remains, and grows in strength as it is reinforced by giving. (W-pI.187.5:1-3)
The effects that come out of us teach our minds that a corresponding cause must be inside of us. Thus, seeing love come forth from us and heal others proves to us that love must actually reside within us. If we give love, we conclude, we must have it, “for giving is the proof of having.” (T-29.III.1:8) Finally, as we see only loving effects issue from us, we become convinced at last that love is our nature. As the Course puts it, “Teach only love, and learn that love is yours and you are love.” (T-6.III.4:9)
Extension, then, is the final aspect of the Course’s program. Through study, the Course’s thought system entered our minds. Through practice, it penetrated more and more deeply inside us. Through extension, it receives its final reinforcement in our minds. “And as they [the teachers of God] teach His lessons of joy and hope, their learning finally becomes complete.” (M-In.4:8) With learning completed, the Course’s thought system fills the height, depth, width and breadth of our minds. It “becomes our only thought, our only word, the only thing that occupies our minds….” (W-pI.183.6:6) It moves from being a serious alternative to being the only alternative. It becomes the living fount from which flows all that we think, feel, say and do. A Course in Miracles has at last reversed our thinking and thus redeemed our experience.
Thus does salvation start and thus it ends; when everything is yours and everything is given away, it will remain with you forever. And the lesson has been learned. (W-pI.106.7:1-2)
The Manual for Teachers
The final volume of the Course is the Manual for Teachers, a slim volume of about 90 pages. It is arranged in question and answer form and composed of 29 brief sections. In the back of this volume is a sort of appendix called “Clarification of Terms,” in which fifteen of the Course’s terms are discussed by the author.
The purpose of the Manual for Teachers is difficult to discern. The purpose of the Text and Workbook are more obvious: a text is for studying and a workbook is for doing practical exercises. But what is the Manual for Teachers for? Is it a manual for Course authors and lecturers, as I think many students initially assume? Is it simply a brief clarification of Course principles, as the Course’s own Preface states?
What makes the Manual’s purpose particularly ambiguous is confusion around the term “teacher.” If, as common Course lore has it, we are all teachers and students of each other all the time, then the Manual’s purpose can sound extremely fuzzy and nondescript. Yet by the term “teacher,” the Manual actually means something more definite. “Teacher” here means “teacher of God.” The Course has many terms for this same concept: miracle worker, minister of God, God’s messenger, savior of the world, herald of eternity, God’s healer. All of these refer to the same thing: a person who has accepted his function as a giver of salvation, a person who is dedicated to extension. The Manual for Teachers, then, is a manual for those who have assumed their function, a manual for those who are devoting their lives (at least in part) to the extension of love and forgiveness to others. The Manual states this purpose in its Introduction:
This is a manual for the teachers of God….Who are they? How are they chosen? What do they do? How can they work out their own salvation and the salvation of the world? This manual attempts to answer these questions. (M-In.5)
Though the Manual speaks about teachers of God “from all over the world…from all religions and from no religion,” (M-1.2:1) it is addressed to teachers of God on this particular path: “This is a manual for a special curriculum [A Course in Miracles], intended for teachers of a special form of the universal course [again, the Course].” (M-1.4:1) In other words, the Manual assumes that there are Course students who will become proficient enough in the study and practice of the Course that their light will shine too brightly to be contained. They will no longer be able to suppress the urge to give to others. They will be ready to stand up and assume their role as the light of the world. The purpose of the Manual is to instruct these teachers of God, to speak to their issues and concerns, and to advise them in their role.
The first four sections of the Manual describe the progression the teacher goes through: He first accepts his role (Section 1), then attracts pupils and joins with them in teacher-pupil relationships (Section 2). These relationships then run their course—anywhere from a brief encounter to a life-long bond (Section 3). As these relationships become genuinely holy, the teacher acquires the ten characteristics of the advanced teacher of God (Section 4).
The second four sections in the Manual then introduce the role of the teacher of God as healer of the sick. This includes issues such as: the function of God’s teachers in relation to the sick (Section 5), how to deal with concern about the outcome of a healing (Section 6), what to do when a healing seems to fail (Section 7), and how to avoid the perception that some illnesses are harder to heal (Section 8).
These first eight sections, then, introduce two different forms that a teacher of God’s function may assume. One is a teacher of pupils; the other is a healer of patients. These two forms then continue to be discussed throughout the Manual.
A few comments about form are in order here. If one is going to devote one’s life to extension, that extension must take some form in a world of form, even if it is simply sitting in a cave and radiating healing to the world. That is still a form. The Course teaches that the Holy Spirit will give us a particular form of extension that is specially tailored to our peculiar strengths. We may be called to a form that overtly expresses spirituality or healing—such as that of a minister or a therapist. Or we may be called to be an under-cover agent for God; to give salvation through being a particularly loving gas station attendant, or through taking friends fishing with us. What matters is not the form, but the love expressed through the form.
The Manual, however, addresses only two forms, perhaps as representatives of the rest, perhaps as particularly common ones that Course students may assume. Parts 2 and 3 of this “Manual/Extension” section, as well as Part 1 of the “Teachers of This Course” section, are devoted to exploring these two forms, but I will say a little about them here.
A teacher of pupils. The Manual assumes that more experienced Course students will be adopting the role of Course mentor: taking newer students under their wing and personally shepherding them in the study and practice of A Course in Miracles. For many, it seems, being a teacher of God will take the form of being a spiritual guide to other Course students. This, you could say, is the title role of the Manual for Teachers. A normal teacher’s manual is designed to aid a teacher in guiding students through that particular course’s text and workbook. The same is true of this teacher’s manual. This role is explored in Part 3 of this “Manual/Extension” section and Part 1 of the “Teachers of This Course” section; in addition, support for its presence in the Manual can be found by consulting the article “The Evidence in the Manual for the Teacher-Pupil Relationship,” included as an appendix to this series of articles.
A healer of patients. Several sections describe the teacher of God as one who goes to patients in need, to heal them through the transfer of true perception from his mind to theirs. As described by the Manual, he engages in the traditional form of the faith healer, but with decidedly non-traditional content. His patients are usually described as physically ill, but we can safely assume that their presented problem may also be strictly psychological. This role is discussed in Part 2 of this “Manual/Extension” section.
As I said, these two forms are introduced in the Manual’s first eight sections. The remaining sections (9-29) expand on these roles as well as address other typical concerns that will arise in the life of a teacher of God. The guiding idea is this: Having stepped into the role of teacher of God, one will undoubtedly have many questions—about issues along the path, about what to do with one’s life, about how to carry out one’s function. The Manual is designed to address these. Here is a list of some of the questions dealt with:
- Whether to change one’s life situation, now that one is a teacher of God (Section 9).
- How to make decisions in one’s life (Section 10).
- How to spend one’s day (Section 16).
- How to practice, now that one is done with the Workbook (Section 16).
- How to deal with pupils’ resistance to learning (Section 17 and 18).
- Whether and how to use words in one’s teaching and healing (Section 21).
- Calling on Jesus to augment one’s own limitations as a teacher (Section 23).
- How to represent the Course to pupils on issues like reincarnation (Section 24).
- How to deal with the psychic powers that may arise as one advances (Section 25).
- How to regard the pursuit of the direct experience of God (Section 26).
Many of the Manual’s sections are about less personal and more general concerns; about God, the world, peace, justice, sacrifice, etc. Yet even many of these conclude with a direct injunction to the teacher, a probing question to the teacher or a comment about the teacher’s role. Here are some examples:
- Awareness of dreaming is the real function of God’s teachers. (M-12.6:6)
- Teacher of God, do not forget the meaning of sacrifice. (M-13.8:1)
- Remember, then, teacher of God, that anger recognizes a reality that is not there. (M-17.9:7)
- Teacher of God, your one assignment could be stated thus…. (M-27.7:1)
- Teacher of God, this step will bring you peace. Can it be difficult to want but this? (M-10.6:10-11)
A clarifying supplement
The primary purpose of the Manual, then, is to instruct teachers of God in their particular concerns and role. Yet, as we have just seen, the Manual does address more general concerns. This hints at an additional purpose, which is openly stated in the Manual’s final section, “As for the Rest…”:
This manual is not intended to answer all questions that both teacher and pupil may raise. In fact, it covers only a few of the more obvious ones, in terms of a brief summary of some of the major concepts in the text and workbook. It is not a substitute for either, but merely a supplement. (M-29.1:1-3)
This passage acknowledges that the Course will raise many questions both for pupils and for teachers—for beginners and for more experienced students alike. There is thus a pervasive need for clarification. The Manual is there to fill this need, at least in part. It is intended to be a clarifying supplement to the Text and Workbook. Webster’s Dictionary defines “supplement” as “a part added to a book…to supply additional or later information.” The Manual fulfills this role in two ways. First, it answers “a few of the more obvious” questions one might raise. Second, it answers them in the form of “a brief summary of some the major concepts in the text and workbook.” For this reason, although the Clarification of Terms section was originally not part of the Manual (it was dictated three years later), since it also is a clarifying supplement, it fits in very well at the end of the Manual.
The Manual’s role as a clarifying supplement is not directed exclusively at the more experienced student, at the teacher of God. Beginners need clarification as well. For this reason, the Manual says that beginners may also benefit from it:
But what is the Manual for Teachers for? Is it a manual for Course authors and lecturers, as I think many students initially assume? While it is called a manual for teachers, it must be remembered that only time divides teacher and pupil, so that the difference is temporary by definition. In some cases, it may be helpful for the pupil to read the manual first. (M-29.1:4-5)
What is the Manual for?
We now can step back and survey the entire purpose of the Course’s final volume. The Manual for Teachers represents the final aspect of the Course’s program: extension. Once one has studied the Text and practiced the Workbook, one is now ready to extend. One is ready to be a teacher, a giver, a demonstrator of the principles. The Manual is there to help one in understanding this role and carrying it out. It speaks to particular concerns one will encounter as one journeys toward Heaven as a teacher of God. It tells one how to be a healer of those in need. And it tells one how to be a teacher of pupils who are beginning the Course. These pupils will naturally have many questions about the Course’s concepts. The Manual can be of help again, for it is designed to answer some of the more obvious questions. The teacher, then, can consult the Manual in addressing some of his pupil’s questions or can point the pupil directly to the Manual. The teacher can also turn to it to answer his own questions and to clarify his own sense of the Course’s thought system.
All in all, the Manual for Teachers fills an essential place in the program of A Course in Miracles.
The developmental track the Course envisions for its students
Since the Manual represents the final aspect of the Course’s program, it affords us a glimpse into the journey the Course expects its students to take. The Course generally assumes its students will begin by studying the Text (Part 2 of the “One’s Relationship with the Course” section explores further the topic of which volume to begin with). Having built the foundation through study, one now enters into the practice by doing the Workbook. Once one has truly graduated beyond the Workbook, so that one’s practice continues and deepens without the support of the Workbook’s daily lessons, then one has become a beginning teacher of God. This qualification is given in the Manual: “He cannot claim that title [teacher of God] until he has gone through the workbook, since we are learning within the framework of our course.” (M-16.3:7)
This is an important sentence, so I want to spend some time with it. It helps if we turn it around: Since we are learning within the framework of this course, you cannot be considered a teacher (in that framework) until you have gone through the Workbook. The thrust of this sentence is now apparent: To be a teacher within this framework, you must have mastered a sufficient amount of the framework to qualify for that role. This is true of any field; it is simply common sense. It does not mean, therefore, that you have done just the Workbook. It means that you have gone through the Course up to the end of the Workbook. It means you have studied the Text as well. How else would you acquire sufficient mastery to qualify as a teacher within this framework? The Text not only constitutes almost two thirds of that framework, it is also necessary in order “to make the exercises in [the] workbook meaningful.” (W-pI.In.1:1) As we know from this passage and others, the Workbook itself assumes that you have already studied the Text.
So once you study the Text and graduate (in the sense I outlined above) from the Workbook, you become a beginning teacher of God. I personally do not believe there are large numbers of Course students who have reached this level of mastery as yet. However, this still represents a beginning stage along the path. To use the parlance of modern education, you are as yet only a student-teacher and have a long way to go before attaining full professorship.
So it seems that the bulk of your journey will take place after earning the title of teacher of God. At the beginning, your practice will still be done within the basic framework laid out by the Workbook. Presumably, you will still turn to the Workbook as a valued resource in deepening your practice. No doubt you will still study the Text, as it has untold treasures yet to give you. Yet a new dimension will be added onto your program, through which perhaps the majority of your learning will now occur: extension. “[The teacher of God] learns through teaching, and the more advanced he is the more he teaches and the more he learns.” (P-2.I.4:4) Now that you have answered the Call, your pupils and patients will seek you out, and you will devote yourself increasingly to hastening their progress along the pathway home. As you extend forgiveness to them, your conviction in your own innocence will be reinforced and strengthened, drawing you to heights unimagined, lifting the veil between you and your Self.
This relationship with your pupils and patients is what will move you to the next stage. Slowly, you will grow into an advanced teacher of God. Out of your holy relationship with those you serve, you will acquire the ten characteristics of the advanced teacher of God. You will trust the Holy Spirit implicitly in all things, knowing that He never asks for sacrifice, only for your happiness. You will display a profound honesty in which the total constellation of all your thoughts, words and deeds is perfectly consistent throughout. You will carry a deep tolerance for all things, regarding everyone as your brother because you assume the right to judge no one. You will exhibit gentleness at all times, realizing that harmfulness in any form will only weaken you. You will be in constant joy. You will be the model of defenselessness, since you will identify only with the truth, and the truth can never be threatened. You will be a continual fount of generosity, for giving away is how you will keep what is truly yours. You will have endless patience, trusting that the final outcome of all things is perfectly certain. You will display ever-increasingly faithfulness in bringing everything in your life to the Holy Spirit’s healing, keeping fewer and fewer things apart to settle by yourself. And you will finally acquire open-mindedness, in which the meanings you imposed have been released and your mind is fully open to the real nature of things. With this openness, you will at last be capable of real forgiveness. This is not the weak, conflicted forgiveness you ambivalently offered in the beginning stages of the path. This is forgiveness that shines out like a beacon of truth with power to heal anyone it touches.
The advanced teacher of God, then, is a light to the world. Whereas the beginning teacher of God might easily go unnoticed, the very presence of the advanced teacher is a force of healing in the world. He is a person who people of all traditions and cultures would recognize as one of God’s saints.
At this stage of the path, then, you are very close to the end of the journey. When your forgiveness finally becomes perfect, you will have achieved the goal of the Course. “Forgiveness is the final goal of the curriculum. It paves the way for what goes far beyond all learning.” (M-4.X.2:9-10) Now your learning is done and so is your tour through a world apart from God. Now He takes His final step and lifts you back into His open Arms. And now, from your position beyond the body, you can work through teachers of God still on earth. They can become your hands and feet in a world that still needs your light. You now have gone far beyond being an advanced teacher of God. You have become a Teacher of teachers. These are defined by the Manual as “those who have reached God directly, retaining no trace of worldly limits and remembering their own Identity perfectly.” (M-26.2:1)
From beginning student, to beginning teacher, to advanced teacher, to Teacher of teachers; this is the developmental track the Course envisions for its students. This is the journey the Manual is designed to help us complete: This is a manual for the teachers of God. They are not perfect, or they would not be here. Yet it is their mission to become perfect here, and so they teach perfection over and over, in many, many ways, until they have learned it. And then they are seen no more, although their thoughts remain a source of strength and truth forever. (M-In.5:4-7)
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]