As discussed in Part 1 of this “Manual/Extension” section, the Manual assumes that mature students of the Course will often step into the role of Course-based spiritual healer. The Manual paints a picture in which Course healers will presumably exist in large numbers, (1) and will be busy going to patients in need and performing miraculous healings. The implication is that through the program of A Course in Miracles— through the study of the Text and practice of the Workbook — many students will uncover healing abilities. They will discover that they have the power to transmit holy perception from their mind to the mind of another, resulting in significant shifts in that other mind, as well as in its body.
I find this to be an amazing expectation on the part of the Course, one which is not discussed much in Course circles. Yet it receives a remarkable amount of attention in the Manual and throughout the entire Course. Indeed, what else would a course in miracles expect from its students? If this course succeeds in teaching its students what it promises, one would expect those students to start going around and working miracles.
This idea carries great significance. If the author really expected this to happen, and if it really could happen, it would change a great many lives: the lives of those who would receive the healing and of those who would devote themselves to giving it. It would be one very visible way in which the beauty of the Course could overflow and bless the world. This is not happening to any appreciable degree at this point, but what if it could?
Therefore, we will explore this role in some detail in this article, which is intended as a kind of mini-handbook for Course-based healers. Let us first turn our attention to the question: Does the Manual actually describe this role?
It is extremely difficult to come up with a “no” in answer to that question. As mentioned in Part 1 of this Manual/Extension section, Sections 5-8 in the Manual introduce this function. Then Sections 21-23 expand upon it. Altogether, these sections paint a very consistent picture: A teacher of God comes to a “patient” (the word is used 16 times in the Manual, and only in those sections which talk about the role of healer). This patient has a “presented problem,” which is some form of physical sickness. The teacher then attempts “to be a channel of healing” (M-7.21) to the patient. The Manual expects that he will often succeed—the patient will be healed. This is indicated by the fact that two entire sections address what to do when a healing appears to fail, when there is the appearance of “continuing symptoms.” (M-7.4:1) If the Manual expected the sickness to simply continue as before, why devote so much attention to what to do when it actually does continue?
Is the Manual really talking about the healing of sick people? About that kind of miracle? Yes, it most definitely is. It is talking about a sickness which appears to have come to us unbidden, (M-5.III.1:7) caused by our bodies, (M-5.III.1:9) caused by various biological forces (or “non-mental motivators”). (M-5.II.1:8) In this sickness it appears that the “body has become lord of the mind,” (M-22.3:7) though in reality this sickness is brought about by the mind, “for a purpose for which it would use the body.” (M-5.II.2:1) It is the kind of sickness which can be seen by our physical eyes, as we look on someone and see his changed appearance and see that he looks “‘sicker’ than others.” (M-8.6:3) It is the kind of sickness for which we would seek out a “physician,” (M-5.II.2:5) who would use “special agents” (M-5.II.2:8) to attempt to heal it. The healing of this kind of sickness would take “tangible form,” (M-5.II.2:9) and failure to heal it would result (as I quoted above) in “continuing symptoms.” What else but physical illness would fit all of these descriptions?
So even though the Course regards the body as an illusion, it is talking here about the healing of the body, and about using the miracle to do so. By the time we reach the Manual this should be no surprise, for throughout the Text and Workbook the Course talks about the healing of the body through the miracle. “Miracles enable you to heal the sick and raise the dead….” (T-1.I.24:1) “Thus is the body healed by miracles….” (T-28.II.11:4)
The miracle, in fact, is the Course’s preferred method of physical healing. This, however, does not mean that we should stay away from modern medicine. Early in the Text we find this clear statement: Sometimes the illness has a sufficiently strong hold over the mind to render a person temporarily inaccessible to the Atonement [and the healing it would bring]. In this case it may be wise to utilize a compromise approach to mind and body, in which something from the outside [e.g. medicine] is temporarily given healing belief. (T-2.IV.4:5-6)
Medicine, in the Course’s eyes, is perfectly all right. Yet the very fact that this passage calls medicine “a compromise approach” shows that it is not the Course’s preferred method. Many students have noted this and, as a result, have prematurely tried to avoid medicine or “kick” their medication. Yet the Course is not saying that medicine makes you unholy or makes you a bad Course student. The miracle is preferable simply because it is more effective in the overall healing picture. Physical medicine heals only the symptom, while the miracle heals the real sickness, which is in the mind. Yet, if you are currently unable to accept a miracle, by all means use some medicine and heal the symptom. Don’t put your health on the line in an effort to be more “spiritual.” For the Course’s spirituality has nothing to do with externals, with avoiding “unholy” forms (such as medicine). It has to do with changing our perception and seeing the unreality of all form.
The Manual envisions a system whereby those with healing needs could turn to experienced Course students. These healers would then come to the sick person and offer healing. Though the healer and the patient could simply happen upon each other in some kind of “guided” manner, presumably more often than not the healer would have gained a reputation and the patient would simply find out about that reputation, and contact him for a healing. The fact that this system is not yet in place, that Course healers are either not around or are keeping a very low profile, is yet another reason to not be too eager to throw away your pills.
However uneasily this idea may fit with our own understanding of the Course, it is really quite natural if we believe that Jesus is its author (which is discussed in Part 2 of the “Teachers of This Course” section). For healing via miracles was, of course, an essential part of his personal ministry and, it seems, of whatever movement he was trying to spark. For he not only healed the sick himself, he also reportedly sent his disciples out to do likewise. The gift of healing, whereby God uses one person to relieve the suffering of another, appeared to be a central part of Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of God on earth. (2)
>And though this all may sound very strange to modern ears, turning to a spiritual healer for one’s healing needs is a very ancient system. In traditional societies the healer was the shaman, the magician, the village healer, the holy man, the priest. The healer was some kind of mediator between this world and the other. This grew out of the view that the sickness was a symptom of some deeper illness of the soul, some deeper rupture in our relationship with the sacred. Treating the illness’s invisible roots required a physician of the soul, and not just of the body.
The Manual is clearly instituting a contemporary version of this ancient system. This statement by itself, however, would be extremely misleading. For though the Manual is echoing the traditional form of a spiritual healer, it is filling that form with decidedly non-traditional content. And this content is everything; it is what does the healing. The entire key to Course-based healing is overlooking this traditional form even while engaging in it. The healer must attempt to see every single aspect of the form he is taking part in as unreal. This overlooking, this seeing as unreal, is how he heals.
What follows, then, are a series of principles that capture this idea of seeing the form of the healing situation as unreal. Each one of these principles represents the overlooking of some aspect of the situation. Therefore, each principle counteracts a particular belief that a spiritual healer would often be tempted to believe in, a particular belief that accepts as real the form of the healing situation. Therefore, though the healing principles that follow are themselves valuable, equally valuable are the anti-healing principles that they imply as their opposite. For the anti-healing principles represent thoughts which the healer must constantly watch for and constantly relinquish, if he is to be a true healer. This internal practice of watching for anti-healing thoughts is at the core of the Course-based healer’s function. For in the absence of such thoughts, healing becomes natural. When these thoughts are gone for even a brief instant, healing occurs.
One more comment. The healer’s role as defined by the Manual is definitely not confined to physical illness. For the Course does not even believe in physical illness. All sickness, according to the Course, is of the mind. No matter what the presented problem, the content is mental illness. So most of the healing principles that follow would pertain equally well to psychotherapy, where the presented problem is strictly mental. In fact, some of what follows will be drawn from the Psychotherapy pamphlet, a brief pamphlet dictated by the author of the Course to Helen Schucman, which applies the principles of the Course to psychotherapy.
Also, I have chosen to follow the Course’s own terminology and use the word “patient” to denote the recipient of the healing.
25 PRINCIPLES OF HEALING
1.One illness is not harder to heal than another.
It is very tempting for a healer to have different inward reactions to different diseases. Some simply seem bigger, more intractable, harder to heal. Cancer seems bigger than a cold. Suicidal depression seems bigger than mild anxiety. Yet this mind-set blocks healing. For reacting to a “big” disease means believing in its size, and therefore its reality. And since, according to the Course, sickness is nothing more than a mental construct, believing in its reality is precisely what blocks the healing of it.
This first principle is simply a restatement of the first principle of miracles: “There is no order of difficulty in miracles. One is not ‘harder’ or ‘bigger’ than another. They are all the same.” (T-1.I.1:1-3) The Course mentions this principle, by name and by concept, over and over. It is not only the first principle of miracles, it is also “the first principle in this course.” (T-2.I.5:5) As such, it “is a necessary understanding for the healed healer.” (P-3.II.7:2)
Yet how does one truly realize this challenging principle? Section 8 in the Manual is devoted to this. The section, entitled, “How Can Perception of Order of Difficulties Be Avoided?” addresses the following question: How can the healer overlook differences in the size or seriousness of various illnesses? The answer is illuminating. The section explains that the physical eyes will always see a world of differences, in size, shape, color, etc. Yet the mind, not the eyes, is responsible for regarding these differences as real. Over time the mind builds a collection of different mental categories, each category representing a different kind of thing. Into these categories, then, we file everything we see. By putting something in a special category, we have made its difference from other things real. By doing this with a patient’s illness, we make that illness a certain kind of real illness—a cancer, a cold, a broken limb—which (according to the rules of the category) requires a particular degree of difficulty to heal.
If the mind is what makes these differences real, the mind can choose to stop doing so. This is the state of the healed mind, as described in this passage:
The body’s eyes will continue to see differences. But the mind that has let itself be healed will no longer acknowledge them. There will be those who seem to be “sicker” than others, and the body’s eyes will report their changed appearances as before. But the healed mind will put them all in one category; they are unreal. (M-8.6:1-4)
Instead of a category for each different kind of illness, we will have one category in which we put all perceptions of illness: the category of the unreal.
My favorite story that reflects this first principle of miracles is one of Helen Schucman’s visions. In this vision, she recalled an ancient time when her life was completely dedicated to healing. She stayed in the inner room of a white temple, where people would come to request healing. The people would state their particular needs to her intermediary, yet he would always report to her the same thing:
When people told him what they needed, he went to the door of her room and said: “Priestess, a brother has come to your shrine. Heal him for me.” She never asked for anyone’s name, nor for the details of the request. She merely prayed for him, sitting very quietly beside the flame on the altar. It never occurred to her that help would not be granted. She prayed for everyone in the same way…. (Absence from Felicity)
2.The healer’s sole responsibility is to accept the Atonement for himself.
Just as we can give people advice that we have not personally carried out, it seems that we can somehow channel healing that we have not accepted for ourselves. A Course in Miracles, however, is emphatic that we can only extend authentic healing by accepting true perception first for ourselves. We cannot give what we do not have. Trying to do so is what makes one an “unhealed healer,” a Course term which captures the ironic contradiction of trying to give healing that you have not accepted for yourself.
This principle is a restatement of one of the basic principles of the Course: “The sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself.” (T-2.V.5:1) This line is often taken to mean that we have no responsibility toward the healing of others. Yet what it really means is that if we accept right-mindedness into our own minds, healing for others will come forth from us automatically. “Having accepted the Atonement for himself, he has also accepted it for the patient.” (M-6.1:5)
On a practical level, what this means is that, in order to heal, you yourself must be at least momentarily in a healed state of mind. “It is essential, however, that the miracle worker be in his right mind, however briefly, or he will be unable to re-establish right-mindedness in someone else.” (T-2.V.3:5) And when you are not in that right-minded state, you cannot heal: “When a teacher of God fails to heal, it is because…he has refused to accept the Atonement for himself, and can hardly offer it to his brother in Christ’s Name.” (M-22.5:1,4)
On the larger level, this means that your work as a healer grows out of your personal journey to God, your personal realization and demonstration of Course principles. It is not enough to have healing abilities; you must walk the path to God yourself.
3.You heal by seeing past the patient’s sick beliefs and “sinful” deeds.
One of the greatest temptations for any kind of healer is to identify the patient with his or her problems. We might conclude that to have so many problems, she must have something really wrong with her; she must have done or thought something really bad to “manifest” such a screwed up life. We might catch ourselves thinking, “She is a real loser.” We might find ourselves appalled by how sick and self-defeating her belief-system is. We might ruminate on her past mistakes so that they look more and more like sins.
These thoughts are some of the most seductive, and some of the most destructive to the healing process. If the patient’s sickness comes from her sense of sinfulness and guilt, how can we heal her by reinforcing that sense? Healing comes from overlooking the patient’s entire earthly identity, from seeing past her beliefs, her problems, her deficiencies, her mistakes, and realizing instead that she is the divine dreamer, not the dream figure we see before us. As the dreamer, she is an infinite being, perfect, immaculate, innocent, healed and whole.
The following passage is one of the Course’s best descriptions of the actual moment of healing. The lines preceding it have just said that even though sickness is a decision of the mind, we call forth healing not by looking on the mind’s sick decision, but by overlooking it. It continues:
He overlooks mind and body, seeing only the face of Christ shining in front of him, correcting all mistakes and healing all perception. Healing is the result of the recognition, by God’s teacher, of who it is that is in need of healing. This recognition has no special reference. It is true of all things that God created. (M-22.4:5-8)
In other words, healing takes place when we see past everything particular, unique and human about the patient, and see only what “is true of all things that God created,” see before us only the shining light of the universal Christ.
4.You heal by realizing you do not have to change the patient.
Once you see the patient as truly sick and sinful, healing seems to involve shaping and molding the patient’s actual nature, like a lump of twisted clay, into some new, healed form. In this view, you may yearn for the patient to acquire this new, clean identity, and your desire to see him cured may itself seem loving and healing. Yet all the while the patient feels the weight of how you see him now. He feels judged and condemned.
According to the Course, healing comes when you accept the patient exactly as he is. But this idea is often misunderstood. For it does not mean accepting and affirming the twisted, tormented identity you see before you. It means realizing that this identity is not the patient as he is, but is a sham, a mask, which hides who he is. Behind the mask he is a shining, formless spirit in Heaven. His apparent identity as a twisted, tormented human is what, to his anguish, he dreams that he has turned himself into.
Healing comes from realizing that he has not done this, that he has no power to tear down his divinity, no power to turn himself into a sorry human. He is still as God created him. For this reason, the Course says that when you heal, “You are recognizing the changeless mind in your brother by realizing that he could not have changed his mind.” (T-7.V.8:2) You don’t have to change him because he never changed himself.
5.You heal by seeing the patient’s body and its sickness as unreal.
Physical problems can seem to be so serious, so tragic. The body appears to possess incredible power to oppress, devastate and, of course, terminate our lives. As healers, it is easy to let our minds sink low in the presence of extreme illness, and soar high when that illness has been vanquished.
Yet, the Course claims that healing comes when we withdraw the power and importance we give sickness. The Course says two things about the mind’s relationship with physical illness. It says the mind caused sickness, but that, in doing so, the mind caused nothing— just a dream. (T-28.II.11:7) This second one—that sickness is nothing—is the deeper and more important truth. It is the insight from which healing stems.
We must not only see sickness as nothing, but see the body itself as nothing. The healed perspective sees it as only a fragile veil, as “little more than just a shadow circling round the good.” (T-31.VII.3:3) We must realize that the body is not the prison, and not even the home, of the mind. “For nothing could contain what you believe it holds within.” (T-27.VI.4:4) We must train our minds to look right past the tiny, insignificant body to the endless light of the patient’s infinite mind. By giving the body no power over the mind, no power to torture the mind with pain and suffering, no power to imprison the mind behind walls of flesh, we free the mind from the body’s illusory shackles and restore its omnipotence.
6.To heal, it is necessary to understand the mind’s purpose in making the body sick.
One of the basic illusions that greets the healer is the illusion that the body can get sick on its own, apart from the mind. In the past, this belief took the form that sorcerers or evil spirits could make the body sick. Now it takes the form that biological factors like germs, cancers or bad genes can do the trick.
The Course repeatedly discusses the belief that the body can push the mind around; the belief that the body is “the decision-maker,” (M-5.II.1:7) that “the body tells [us] what to do,” (M-5.III.1:9) that the body is “lord of the mind.” (M-22.3:7) In short, it is the belief that the body is cause and the mind, effect. If this were true, we—the mind—would have no choice but to take the body’s word that we are separate beings at the mercy of a treacherous world; that we are egos.
In order to heal, the Course says, we must reject this illusion. The Course mentions twice that the healer must understand that physical illness is a mental decision with a mental purpose. (W-pI.136.1:1, M-5.1:1) Yet this can be so difficult to believe. Why on earth would we want to make our bodies sick? According to the Course, there are many reasons, all of which are largely unconscious. We make the body sick in order to make it seem real—to make it seem that it is cause—which in turn (as we just mentioned) makes the ego seem real. We make it sick by secretly blaming it for our separateness, or for the attacks we had it carry out, or for our unhappiness. In this way we displace our sense of guilt onto it. We make it sick in order to send a message of blame to another person, as a way of saying, “Behold me, brother, at your hand I die.” (T-27.I.4:6)
Whatever the particular purpose, as long as the mind holds onto this purpose, as long as it thinks that sickness serves a purpose, so long will it project sickness onto the body. Healing, then, is simply letting go of this purpose. It is the recognition that “I have no use for this.” (M-5.II.2:12) The function of God’s healers is to spark this recognition in the patient:
Very gently they call to their brothers to turn away from death: “Behold, you Son of God, what Life can offer you. Would you choose sickness in place of this?” (M-5.III.2:11-12)
7.To heal, it is necessary to understand the fear of healing.
If we believe that sickness is caused by bodily factors, then we also believe that sickness is forced upon an unwilling mind, a mind whose one desire is to be healed.
In contrast, the Course-based healer must realize that the opposite is true: The patient is actually afraid of healing. Our last point said that the healer’s job is to help the patient realize that sickness has no purpose. To state this differently: The healer’s job is to help the patient realize he has nothing to fear from healing.
“Before miracle workers are ready to undertake their function in this world, it is essential that they fully understand the fear of release.” (T-2.V.1:1) Why is this understanding so crucial? Because without it, the miracle worker may produce a healing where healing may seem wanted but is really feared. And this can have extremely negative effects. It can send the patient into a panic, (T-2.IV.4:9) can cause “intense depression” (M-6.1:7) and even provoke suicide. (M-6.1:7-8) Ironically, the healing can make the patient far more fearful than his disease did. (T-9.II.2:5) The net effect, therefore, is that it will simply reinforce the patient’s belief that healing is fearful. (T-2.V.1:2) In such a case, “Healing must wait, for his protection.” (M-6.1:9) For this reason, the miracle worker must be extremely sensitive to what the patient is really asking for.
8.The patient is not a victim of a dangerous world, but is the commander of his situation, the dreamer of his dream.
Our hearts go out to the people who seek our help. We see them suffering and want to comfort them. It seems only natural to comfort them by telling them that they did not cause this terrible predicament they are in. And so we reassure them that they are the innocent victims of cruel parents, vicious germs, bad luck, abusive spouses, or insensitive bosses.
The Course identifies this as one of the basic impulses of the unhealed healer, and even labels it a defining characteristic of contemporary psychotherapy. It calls this “depreciating the importance of the dreamer” (T-9.V.4:3) —meaning, depreciating the importance of the patient’s mind as dreamer of his own dream. Though comforting, the obvious implication is that if your mind had no power to cause your predicament, then it also has no power to get you out of it. Though comforted, you are stuck.
The Course also calls this approach “the ego’s interpretation of empathy.” (T-16.I.1:2) It says that this false empathy strengthens the patient’s belief that she is a weak victim of real suffering. (T-16.I.2:4-6) It also subtly joins in blaming the supposed cause of this suffering. (T-16.I.7:1-2) And it does all this in order to join with the patient in a private bond—in order to establish a special relationship. (T-16.I.1:2)
The solution to all of this is to perceive the strength in the patient, to realize that you stand before an all-powerful mind that is the master of its circumstances, the dreamer of its dream, the commander in charge (T-6.IV.9:4-5) to realize that you stand before an infinite Son of God who is merely pretending to be a weak, victimized human. The solution is to empathize with the patient’s strength.
…if you will merely sit quietly by and let the Holy Spirit relate through you, you will empathize with strength, and you will gain in strength and not in weakness. (T-16.I.2:7)
9.The proper aim of healing is not the body, but the mind.
You are going to someone who is physically ill, who has called you because she is physically ill, and who has asked you to heal her. Given all this, it is obvious that your purpose is to heal her body.
Not so, according to the Course. This, in fact, is a difficult and delicate paradox at the heart of Course-based healing. Traditional spiritual healing aims at healing the body. Yet from the Course’s standpoint, this approach is in essence identical to using physical medicine. Medicine and spiritual healing seem so very different. Yet the Course calls both of them by the term “magic.” Magic is the attempt to manipulate the physical in order to heal our suffering; it is “the mindless or the miscreative use of mind.” (T-2.V.2:1) This manipulation can take two forms. First, we can attempt to move the physical around with physical means. This would, of course, include medicine, which physically manipulates the body in order to relieve suffering. Second, we can attempt to move the physical around with mental means, with the mind itself. This, of course, is the traditional meaning of the word “magic”: using the mind to directly manipulate the physical world. This is also the traditional meaning of spiritual healing: using mental or immaterial forces to directly heal the physical body. Ironically, modern medicine, sorcery and spiritual healing—all long-time enemies—all fall neatly under the Course’s heading of magic.
What is wrong with the second form of magic, using the mind to manipulate the physical? Well, if we are saying that it is just like physical medicine, then it is all right to seek healing through this method. Yet, like medicine, it is not the Course’s preferred method. Why? Because all magic supports the idea that the body is cause and the mind, effect. It says that the body can make the mind suffer or make the mind happy. And this is the lesson we teach ourselves when we heal the body with a pill, with surgery, with proper diet, with white magic, with positive thinking, or with spiritual healing.
Yet in these latter cases where the mind directly manipulates the body’s condition, doesn’t that reestablish the mind as cause? No, not really, not if the mind’s goal is to change the body. For the mind’s pain or joy is still seen to be at the mercy of the body’s moods. Thus, the body is still king here. The mind is merely playing the role of the loyal subject trying to change the mood of its sovereign lord. As long as the mind is made happy or made miserable by the body, so long is the body cause and the mind, effect.
The Course states in the clearest terms possible that we should not try to spiritually heal the body:
When the ego tempts you to sickness do not ask the Holy Spirit to heal the body, for this would merely be to accept the ego’s belief that the body is the proper aim of healing. (T-8.IX.1:5)
So what do you do, as a Course-based healer, when faced with someone who is physically ill? You realize that the sick body is simply a projection, like an image on a movie screen. Can projections really be sick? No; what is sick is the source of the projection: the mind. The mind is what is ill and the mind is what needs healing.
With this clearly in mind, you simply overlook the body and its illness. You see past it as if it were a thin cloud of smoke before your eyes, obscuring your vision. As we said earlier, you also overlook the mind’s sickness. You look straight past both body and mind to the patient’s inherent wholeness and perfection as a radiant Son of God.
Yet here is the paradox. If you really can accomplish this, the body will be healed as well, not as the goal of healing, but as a kind of by-product of the real healing. For the body’s sickness is a dream projection of the mind’s sickness. A healed mind will project a healed body. In effect, then, by overlooking the body and ignoring the body we heal the body. “The body is healed because you came without it, and joined the Mind in which all healing rests.” (T-19.I.2:7) What a paradox! And yet, this paradox is central to Course-based healing.
10.The patient is the same as you and one with you.
A patient certainly appears to be a separate being, independent of us, with his own private thoughts and separate will. His will, in fact, can seem opposed to ours. We want to see him healed and he is subtly resisting that healing.
Yet, according to the Course, physical illness is a projection of the mental illness of separation. The mind that believes it is separate feels sick and lonely, split off from its home, its wholeness and its God. This “soul-sickness” is projected onto the body and manifests as disease.
Healing, then, comes from dissolving the patient’s sense of separateness. You do this by realizing your innate oneness with the patient. This principle is repeated many times in the Course. What follows are three particularly clear and direct statements of it:
A sick person perceives himself as separate from God. Would you see him as separate from you? It is your task to heal the sense of separation that has made him sick. (M-22.6:5-7)
You but recognize your oneness with the one who calls for help. For in this oneness is his separate sense dispelled, and it is this that made him sick. (S-3.III.4:6-7)
And this is the function of God’s teachers; to see no will as separate from their own, nor theirs as separate from God’s. (M-5.III.3:9)
11.The patient is your equal.
The belief that you are the holy, saintly healer coming to the lowly, unclean patient is one of the most tempting beliefs in the entire healing enterprise. For it really does seem that you have something the patient does not. That’s why you are there; you carry a presence of healing that the patient, in his sick condition, lacks. And on this appearance of inequality the urge to feel special can easily build a whole temple, a whole sense of one’s importance and one’s place in the universe. This is what the Psychotherapy pamphlet refers to when it says that the healer “has chosen a road in which there is great temptation to misuse his role.” (P-3.II.9:2) It goes on to say:
To understand there is no order of difficulty in healing, he must also recognize the equality of himself and the patient. There is no halfway point in this. Either they are equal or not. The attempts of therapists to compromise in this respect are strange indeed. Some utilize the relationship merely to collect bodies to worship at their shrine, and this they regard as healing. Many patients, too, consider this strange procedure as salvation. Yet at each meeting there is One Who says, “My brother, choose again.” (P-3.II.9:4-10)
To label your patient as lower than you is to attack him, plain and simple. As tempting as this may be, it is not very healing. Perhaps it can heal the body, but not the mind. For feelings of unworthiness and inferiority are the very things the mind is suffering from. The “special” healer can only reinforce these feelings and so further weaken the patient.
Healing only strengthens. Magic always tries to weaken. Healing perceives nothing in the healer that everyone else does not share with him. Magic always sees something “special” in the healer, which he believes he can offer as a gift to someone who does not have it. (T-7.V.4:1-3)
12.You are not in charge of the healing process nor responsible for its outcome; “the Holy Spirit is the only Healer.” (T-13.VIII.1:2)
When you assume the role of healer, it seems, quite simply, that you are the healer. You are the one doing the healing. You are the one in charge of the process. If, therefore, healing does not occur, you seem to be the one to blame. This belief leads eventually to a massive sense of guilt that most healers, doctors, social workers, priests and helpers of various kinds carry. This surely is responsible for a great deal of the burn-out that such people feel. The Psychotherapy pamphlet discusses this guilt:
…he thought he was in charge of the therapeutic process and was therefore responsible for its outcome. His patient’s errors thus became his own failures, and guilt became the cover, dark and strong, for what should be the holiness of Christ….Who could experience the end of guilt who feels responsible for his brother in the role of guide for him? (P-2.VII.4:4-5,5:3)
This same passage says that believing you are responsible for the healing process is, in essence, confusing yourself with God. For the Holy Spirit, God’s Voice, is the true Healer. He is in charge of the healing process and is responsible for its outcome. He will make sure the patient finds his way to wholeness.
You are there to simply take your part in the process, not to run the process, nor even to see the whole thing. You are only one messenger delivering one message in a vast process of communication between the Holy Spirit and the patient. Therefore, you are not in a position to direct the process nor to judge the outcome.
Perhaps the answer [that comes from the Holy Spirit through the therapist] does not seem to be a gift from Heaven. It may even seem to be a worsening and not a help. Yet let the outcome not be judged by us. (P-2.V.6:8-10)
13.You do not give the patient something from outside of her; you merely help her connect with the wholeness already within.
The very fact of the patient’s illness seems to mean that sickness is inside of her and healing is outside. Thus, your role is seemingly to impart something that she does not have, something from outside of her.
This, of course, is simply another way of saying that the patient’s illness is who she is, that her very core is festered and diseased. And this view is the essential block to healing. Healing comes when the healer sees wholeness, holiness, purity, perfection already within the patient. The healer’s task is simply to uncover the Holy Spirit within the patient. “They seek for God’s Voice in this brother who would so deceive himself as to believe God’s Son can suffer.” (M-5.III.3:3) Healing will come when the patient is willing to have an encounter with the Holy Spirit inside her, when she is willing to bring her darkness to the Holy Spirit’s light and let it be dispelled.
Your role is simply to facilitate this encounter. The light in your mind actually enters the patient’s mind, and as it does, the patient suddenly becomes aware of the Holy Spirit within her, and feels the attraction to choose for Him. And joining with your choice, she does choose for the Holy Spirit, and is healed.
The truth in [God’s teachers’] minds reaches out to the truth in the minds of their brothers, so that illusions are not reinforced. They are thus brought to truth; truth is not brought to them. So are they dispelled, not by the will of another, but by the union of the One Will with Itself. (M-5.III.3:6-8)
14.The Holy Spirit decides on the specific treatment.
Part of the burden of being a healer is having to decide what exactly this patient needs, what precise treatment will cause the light to turn on in her mind. Part of realizing that the Holy Spirit is the Healer is relinquishing this role. The Course often stresses the need to ask frequently and listen sensitively to the Holy Spirit within. He will give us the words to say, the thoughts to think, the behaviors to perform. Only He knows what exact thing will turn the key in the patient’s mind. A passage from the Psychotherapy pamphlet, in fact, urges us to listen to the Holy Spirit in the patient. We do this by listening to the patient so completely that we hear the Holy Spirit as a kind of overtone, speaking from within her words, hovering between her lines, telling us what she needs.
Who, then, decides what each brother needs? Surely not you, who do not yet recognize who he is who asks. There is Something in him that will tell you, if you listen. And that is the answer; listen. Do not demand, do not decide, do not sacrifice. Listen. (P-3.I.2:1-6)
15.Do not doubt the Power in you.
Doubting that the Power in you can heal any illness, no matter how severe, is simply part of the territory of being a healer. For that Power seems to fail. It appears sporadic. And therefore it seems unreliable and untrustworthy. Yet this is an illusion that, ironically, is produced by your doubts. When you don’t trust the Holy Spirit, you limit what He can do through you, which makes Him seem untrustworthy. The converse of this, of course, as that He can do all things through us if we simply do not doubt. In the Psychotherapy pamphlet, we find this significant passage:
The advanced therapist in no way can ever doubt the power that is in him. Nor does he doubt its Source. He understands all power in earth and Heaven belongs to him because of who he is. And he is this because of his Creator, Whose Love is in him and Who cannot fail. (P-2.VII.6:2-5)
This principle presents us with another paradox, which could be put this way: You are not the healer, but the infinite Healer is in you. The Course says the same thing in different words:
Here again is the paradox often referred to in the course. To say, “Of myself I can do nothing” is to gain all power. (M-29.4:1-2)
16.Healing occurs when, in a holy instant, you step outside your normal frame of reference.
The goal of the healer seems to be to elicit an unusual surge of healing power from the Divine. Clearly, if God is real and is all-powerful, He can heal. But, apparently, He usually decides not to. So it seems that the healer’s goal is to somehow rouse Him from His slumber; get Him to step outside His normal reserve and step into the fray. There are few philosophies that would put it this way, yet there are probably even fewer of us who don’t feel this way somewhere in our minds.
The Course paints a vastly different picture. In every moment total healing, for any illness and all pain, is waiting to come in at the slightest invitation. What keeps it out is our conventional way of perceiving, which seems normal and natural, but which is actually a dense web of defense against healing and against God. Healing, therefore, occurs when the healer momentarily steps outside of this conventional perspective, when he forgets to maintain his usual way of perceiving, and steps into the startling freshness of Christ’s vision. This holy instant is vividly described in the Psychotherapy pamphlet: “It is in the instant that the therapist forgets to judge the patient that healing occurs.” (P-3.II.6:1)
In this instant of new perception the undergirding foundation for this world is momentarily gone. Therefore, things that would normally be considered impossible in this world become suddenly natural. Life-long patterns can be healed. Strangling addictions can be dispelled. And bodies can suddenly reconfigure. Anything is possible,
…for miracles violate every law of reality as this world judges it. Every law of time and space, of magnitude and mass is transcended, for what the Holy Spirit enables you to do is clearly beyond all of them. (T-12.VII.3:2-3)
Healing is out of the ordinary. Yet what is unusual about it is not God stepping in, but us stepping out of our normal web of resistance and letting Him come in.
17.You heal by forgiving the patient.
It takes great insight to see that guilt is the cause of all pain. Suffering seems to be caused by a variety of external factors that attack the patient’s mind or body: germs, accidents, unpleasant situations, parents, lovers, financial loss, etc. Yet these are merely vehicles, middlemen the mind employs to punish itself for its supposed sins. According to the Course, all suffering is self-imposed punishment for imaginary guilt.
If a patient’s physical and mental diseases are all the result of guilt, then if he feels truly forgiven, truly absolved, he will be healed. “For healing tells him, in the Voice of God, that all his sins have been forgiven him.” (P-2.V.8:10) This seventeenth principle, in fact, is really the umbrella under which all the rest are included. Forgiveness is the core and the summary of the Course’s approach to healing. The following passage beautifully captures the entire healing process:
The process that takes place in this relationship is actually one in which the therapist in his heart tells the patient that all his sins have been forgiven him, along with his own. (P-2.VII.3:1)
18.You heal by aiding the patient’s own forgiveness process.
Helping the patient forgive usually seems irrelevant to the healing of the body. Yet, as we have just said, physical illness is the manifestation of guilt, and guilt comes from anger and resentment, from unforgiveness. The author of the Course even goes so far as to make the following extreme claim:
Sickness takes many forms, and so does unforgiveness. The forms of one but reproduce the forms of the other, for they are the same illusion. So closely is one translated into the other, that a careful study of the form a sickness takes will point quite clearly to the form of unforgiveness that it represents. (P-2.VI.5:1-3)
Forgiveness usually does not seem very relevant to the healing of the mind, either. One can see this by looking at how little the different schools of modern psychology talk about forgiveness. It seems that there are so many other problems to be addressed. And it can seem that, in contrast to forgiveness, the patient’s real need is to realize how abused he has been, and stand up and claim his right to never let it happen again. It can feel quite callous and unloving to tell your patient, “I know you feel like you were horribly wounded, but what is really hurting you is your own resentment. Your real need is to forgive.”
Yes, unforgiveness seems quite far from being the central issue in the healing of mind and body. Yet that is by design. It is crucial to the ego’s survival. So says this passage from Psychotherapy:
All blocks to the remembrance of God are forms of unforgiveness, and nothing else. This is never apparent to the patient, and only rarely so to the therapist. The world has marshalled all its forces against this one awareness, for in it lies the ending of the world and all it stands for. (P-2.II.3:3-5)
The healer’s function is to lead his patient to the internal gesture of forgiveness. “The process of psychotherapy, then, can be defined simply as forgiveness, for no healing can be anything else” (P-2.VI.1:1) Depending on the healer and on the situation, this can take many forms. The healer may do this wordlessly, with a few moments of conversation, with a prayer, or with extensive psychotherapy. However it is done, before the patient can really forgive, he must first see that his pain comes not from what was done to him, but from his own unforgiveness. As the Psychotherapy pamphlet puts it,
Healing occurs as a patient begins to hear the dirge he sings, and questions its validity. Until he hears it, he cannot understand that it is he who sings it to himself. To hear it is the first step in recovery. To question it must then become his choice. (P-2.VI.1:5-8)
19.Your true perception is what heals; not your behaviors, your words, your hands or the energy you move around.
The enterprise of spiritual healing is filled with all kinds of forms that are supposed to heal. Your hands are supposed to transmit healing. Your words—particular words or phrases you say in a particular way—are supposed to invoke magical power. Certain behaviors, movements or gestures are supposed to do the same. And much of your function seems to be transmitting and moving around certain healing energies.
I think it would be foolish to deny that these phenomena take place. It is well known that the hands of healers get hot. Healers also often report that some kind of energy gets transmitted from them to the patient. Yet think about these phenomena. They all deal with the body. Any energy that can pass from my body to your body is on the level of the body. Even “higher energies” that affect the patient’s higher, non-physical bodies (such as the etheric) are still dealing with the realm of form, albeit subtle form.
I assume that such energies may show up as by-products of a true healing, but if they are the healing, then we are dealing with what the Course calls magic, as we discussed in principle #9. To add to what was said there, I think this kind of healing is all right, as long as we realize that we are healing only the symptom and that, unless we are able to heal the cause, that cause will soon produce a new symptom. I call this approach, “conscious magic.” We are consciously using magic, doing so simply to give ourselves some symptom relief so that we have some room to work on the cause.
What is the cause? Every alternative route to healing claims to heal the real underlying cause of sickness, whether it locates that cause in the diet, in the colon, in the flow of chi, in the auric field or in the etheric body. Yet from the Course’s standpoint, these are all secondary causes, and thus symptoms. The real cause is quite simply how the patient perceives the world and the self.
True healing, therefore, heals the patient’s perception. And the only way to accomplish this is for the healer to himself possess true perception (at least momentarily) and lend it to the patient. In this lending there is often a use for words and behaviors, but only to help this new perception enter and sink into the patient’s mind. Thus, our words and behaviors no longer are seen as invoking and transmitting magical powers. Now we see them merely as neutral instruments of communication. The real power lies in our perception of the patient as guiltless.
How, then, do we choose our words and behaviors? Once again the Course is emphatic that we allow the Holy Spirit to move and speak through us.
There are many who must be reached through words, being as yet unable to hear in silence. The teacher of God must, however, learn to use words in a new way. Gradually, he learns how to let his words be chosen for him by ceasing to decide for himself what he will say. (M-21.4:3-5)
20.Calling on Jesus is part of healing, but not because this is a magical invocation.
Another traditional part of much spiritual healing is calling on divine or semi-divine beings. The Manual addresses this, saying, “A name does not heal, nor does an invocation call forth any special power.” (M-23.1:6) This passage refers to the common belief that a sacred name, especially the name of Jesus, carries a power all by itself. In ancient times it was believed that knowing the name of a deity gave one power over that deity, power to summon it and extract favors from it.
Yet the Course is clearly saying that words, including special divine names, do not heal. They are just words. Yet it also says that appealing to the name of Jesus is “part of healing.” (M-23.1:9) Why is this? The reason is simple: Until we are fully healed, there will be limits on how much healing we can give. This presents a problem. The Manual asks, “Would it be fair if their pupils were denied healing because of this?” (M-23.1:3)
The remedy is to call upon Jesus. For he has transcended all such limitations. There is thus no limit whatsoever on his power to heal, nor on his availability to heal, for he is everywhere. Appealing to his help, then, is simply a way to augment or transcend the limits on what we ourselves can offer to our patients. His name is merely a symbol, but calling on it is a way of calling upon what it symbolizes, which is all the power of the Love of God.
21.You heal through your happiness.
Our patients are in such dire distress that loving empathy seems to require that we share their pain. Something in our minds says that being a healer means lightening their burden by carrying it ourselves. And the more patients we take on, the more we feel as if we are carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders.
Yet, according to the Course, we heal not by taking in the supposed gravity of the problem, but by embodying the solution. We heal by carrying and communicating the happiness, the exhilarating release, that we hope to spark in the patient. The Course says, “To heal is to make happy.” (T-5.In.1:1) If this is so, how can we heal without being happy ourselves? In essence, accepting the Atonement for yourself means accepting true happiness into your mind, that you may infect others with it. The unhealed healer is the unhappy healer, and necessarily produces divided results in the patient:
Those who attempt to heal without being wholly joyous themselves call forth different kinds of responses at the same time, and thus deprive others of the joy of responding whole-heartedly. (T-5.In.1:7)
That we heal others by being happy ourselves is an important theme in the Course, one which gives rise to several moving passages. Here are but a few:
They will see their function in your shining face, and hear God calling to them in your happy laugh. (W-pI.100.2:6)
Without your smile, the world cannot be saved. While you are sad, the light that God Himself appointed as the means to save the world is dim and lusterless, and no one laughs because all laughter can but echo yours. (W-pI.100.3:3-4)
Your sighs will now betray the hopes of those who look to you for their release. Your tears are theirs. If you are sick, you but withhold their healing. What you fear but teaches them their fears are justified. Your hand becomes the giver of Christ’s touch; your change of mind becomes the proof that who accepts God’s gifts can never suffer anything. You are entrusted with the world’s release from pain. (W-pI.166.14)
22.Healing others is not a sacrifice; it is the holy road to happiness.
As we pour ourselves out to our patients, it feels like energy is constantly going forth from us and going out of us. In short, we feel depleted. The author of the Course acknowledges this pattern: “There is a tendency to assume that you are being called on constantly to make sacrifices of yourself for those who come.” (P-3.I.1:7)
This perception that helping others is a sacrifice is perhaps the primary block to taking up our function in the first place. And yet, it is a trick of the ego, a trick that constitutes one of the great blocks to salvation itself. For, though we fear that giving means losing, the Course repeatedly emphasizes that giving is the only way we can really receive.
A major learning goal this course has set is to reverse your view of giving, so you can receive. For giving has become a source of fear, and so you would avoid the only means by which you can receive. (W-pI.105.3:1-2)
The result of unhealed healing, then, is a sense of depletion, of burn-out. Yet the result of true healing is a sense of joyous vitality. “The result of genuine devotion [to others] is inspiration, a word which properly understood is the opposite of fatigue.” (T-4.In.1:4)
23.The healer’s reward lies not in approval, congratulations or money, but in the giving itself, which reinforces the healer’s own healing.
When giving seems like a loss, a sacrifice, we feel the need for compensation. We made a hole in ourselves for the patient’s sake; now we want the patient to fill it up. This belief is a subtle sabotage of the healing process, for healing lies in the beauty and the purity of the healer’s gift. And a gift that makes demands is merely a bargain, not a gift. One of the forms this demand takes is the requirement of gratitude:
The unhealed healer wants gratitude from his brothers, but he is not grateful to them. That is because he thinks he is giving something to them, and is not receiving something equally desirable in return….His healing lesson is limited by his own ingratitude, which is a lesson in sickness. (T-7.V.7:1-4)
Another form of compensation demanded in return for healing, of course, is money. The Course’s author minces no words in addressing this issue:
Only an unhealed healer would try to heal for money, and he will not succeed to the extent to which he values it. Nor will he find his healing in the process.(P-3.III.2:1-2)
The following lines from the Psychotherapy pamphlet capture the Course uncompromising attitude toward the practice of demanding compensation from our patients:
The therapists of this world are indeed useless to the world’s salvation. They make demands, and so they cannot give. (P-3.III.3:1-2)
The true gift is its own reward, you could say. For the sincere gift convinces us that there must be something innocent and whole within us. Or else how could we have given such a beautiful gift? The genuine gift of healing reinforces the healing within us from which it came.
This, by the way, does not mean that the healer should never receive money, only that it should be neither a demand nor the reason for which he heals. The “Question of Payment” section in the Psychotherapy pamphlet addresses this issue at length.
24.If symptoms persist, trust that the patient received the healing; do not repeat it.
Sections 6 and 7 in the Manual address the very common issue of what to do when a healing apparently did not “take,” when the physical symptoms persist. These two sections bear careful and repeated reading, but I will mention some of their main points here.
When you give a healing, you must trust that the instant it was given it was received deep within the patient’s mind. Yet there may be a time lag between when it was received and when it is consciously accepted. There is good reason for this time lag. If the patient were to consciously experience the healing before he is ready, it could send him into a panic, as we saw in principle #7. Once you have given your gift, then, your job is to step back and trust: “Be certain it has been received, and trust that it will be accepted when it is recognized as a blessing and not a curse.” (M-6.2:9) Your job is to relinquish all concern about the result of your gift.
This trust, this relinquishment of concern, is an essential part of the gift. For not trusting the patient to accept and utilize your gift is, quite simply, an accusation. You are saying, “Here I gave you a wonderful gift and you bungled the receiving of it. I held up my end and you screwed up yours.” We should all be very familiar with this particular kind of resentment. Your continued concern may seem loving—you just want to make sure the patient has really been healed—yet it is really an attack.
You may be tempted to repeat the healing, yet this would merely be an expression of your unloving belief that the patient botched the first attempt. The Manual, therefore, counsels us to not repeat a healing. Does this mean that we can never do more than one healing with someone? I don’t think so. I think multiple healing sessions will often be necessary. What Section 7 (“Should Healing Be Repeated?”) addresses is: Should you try to give again the healing that you already gave? To put it differently, since your gift was apparently not properly received, maybe you ought to try giving it once more. This, as we have already said, is an attack thought. This is distinctly different from scheduling another healing session, not to repeat healing already given, but merely to add to what has already been received.
Yet, if your mind has been unable to relinquish your concern about your gift, and you are not supposed to repeat the healing, what do you do? You regard your mind as the new patient. “He [the healer] is now the patient, and he must so regard himself.” (M-7.1:8) You must face your lack of trust squarely and realize it is an attack; realize—however difficult this is—that it is actually hate. You must reason with your unloving mind and turn it over to the Holy Spirit. In short, you must re-accept the Atonement for yourself:
Now the teacher of God has only one course to follow. He must use his reason to tell himself that he has given the problem to One Who cannot fail, and must recognize that his own uncertainty is not love but fear, and therefore hate. His position has thus become untenable, for he is offering hate to one to whom he offered love. This is impossible. Having offered love, only love can be received. (M-7.2:4-8)
25.Self-doubt and self-concern represent a reliance on the false self (which excludes God) and an absorption with the false self (which excludes the patient).
Section 7 gives us one last parting shot. We already discussed the common temptation to lack trust that our gift has been truly received by our patients. Section 7, however, concludes by explaining that the underlying cause of this is really our lack of trust in our giving. We doubt how purely and truly we gave. And then we project this self-doubt onto the patient and so doubt his willingness to receive. If we did not doubt our giving, we would not doubt his receiving. “If you are offering only healing, you cannot doubt.” (M-7.6:5)
This self-doubt is a crippling aspect of the healing endeavor, and of any endeavor. It seems so sincere and so realistic. It seems like an honest grappling with our actual inadequacies. Or it just may seem like an obsessive mental habit that we cannot stop. Section 7 concludes by taking the mask off this habit and exposing it for what it is. It makes two points. First, self-doubt means we are relying upon our false self, rather than on the true Healer within:
The real basis for doubt about the outcome of any problem that has been given to God’s Teacher for resolution is always self doubt. And that necessarily implies that trust has been placed in an illusory self, for only such a self can be doubted. This illusion can take many forms. Perhaps there is a fear of weakness and vulnerability. Perhaps there is a fear of failure and shame associated with a sense of inadequacy. Perhaps there is a guilty embarrassment stemming from false humility. The form of the mistake is not important. What is important is only the recognition of a mistake as a mistake. (M-7.5)
The second point is that this self-doubt is a kind of narcissism. It is absorbed with the self at the expense of real care and concern for the patient:
The mistake is always some form of concern with the self to the exclusion of the patient. It is a failure to recognize him as part of the Self, and thus represents a confusion in identity. (M-7.6:1-2)
* * * * *
Traditional form with non-traditional content
All of these principles add up to the point with which we began: On the form level, the Course-based healer looks very much like the traditional spiritual healer. He comes to a physically ill patient and attempts to be a channel of healing, in the hopes that the patient will experience the healing of both body and mind. He appears to be a person of special power and virtue, who comes to one apparently lacking in these things, one who is separate from him, imprisoned behind “a solid wall of sickened flesh.” (W-pI.137.2:3) He approaches this particular disease, which seems to have a certain level of severity. He uses words, perhaps even his hands. He invokes the name of Jesus. Something seems to pass from him to the patient. And the patient is healed.
Yet while engaging in this very traditional set of appearances, something entirely different is going on in the teacher of God’s mind. As we said earlier, he is overlooking the apparent reality of every single aspect of the situation. Let’s briefly review all of the appearances he looks past.
The Course-based healer does not even try to heal the body, but completely ignores the body, its infirmities, its importance and even its very existence. He does not regard the kind or severity of the disease as having any relevance whatsoever. He does not view the patient as being attacked by a sickness from outside, but realizes the patient has chosen sickness for a reason and is actually afraid of healing. Thus, he knows that the patient’s mind, not body, is the proper goal of healing.
The Course-based healer is not the superior being coming to the inferior sick person. In fact, he does not even see the patient as sick. He looks past the patient’s “sins,” problems and inadequacies to his inherent perfection as a Son of God. He recognizes that who the patient really is needs no change. He realizes that he is not giving something to the patient from outside of him, something the patient lacks, but is merely helping the patient acknowledge the wholeness already within. And he knows that, despite appearances, the patient always receives whatever healing is given, and will someday accept it. In fact, he realizes that he and the patient are not two separate beings having an exchange, but simply One Mind experiencing Its oneness.
He further knows that he is not the healer, but only a channel for the true Healer, Who moves as one within both healer and patient. The healer thus acts not on his own initiative but responds to a higher Authority. He is not in charge of the process and does not decide on the treatment. Yet because he knows that he is not the healer, he never doubts the omnipotence of the Power in him, and never obsesses over his own inadequacies, which are completely irrelevant.
The Course-based healer may use his hands, words, gestures, and may feel energy moving around, yet he knows that these are not what heals. What heals is simply his own true perception of the patient as forgiven, guiltless, healed and whole. He realizes that there is no way to give this perception without truly possessing it in his own mind first. And so he primarily attends to his one responsibility: to accept true perception for himself. True perception is joyous, and so he heals not by feeling the burden of the situation, but by being happy and carefree. He realizes that by giving he is not sacrificing, only gaining. And so he does not need to be paid as recompense for a loss he incurred, for by healing he was only filled.
The source and the future of Course-based healing
This immense distance between the traditional form and the non-traditional content of Course-based healing is how it heals. The overlooking of appearances is how they are changed. Yet this is also what makes Course-based healing so challenging. How do we engage in something that asks us to overlook some of the most convincing appearances in this world—the appearance of sickness, of separateness, of inequality, of physicality? How do we undertake a kind of spiritual healing that is so radically different from other kinds, a kind that sees most spiritual healing as little different than physical medicine, or than sorcery?
The only way this will happen is through serious, long-term use of the Course. Many people discover healing abilities on the spiritual path. And these abilities seem to have a life of their own. We may feel naturally drawn to send energy in a certain way or move our hands around someone in a particular fashion. Yet chances are that the ways our healing powers “want” to flow through us are quite different from how the Course would have us use them. What may seem like a pure movement of the Holy Spirit through us is most likely distorted by ego and seduced by appearances. Thus, to be a Course-based healer, our raw healing abilities will have to go through a profound maturation process. In this process we will slowly learn to overlook all of the things that before we would accept at face value, all of the things that before we would try to heal.
Clearly, this kind of maturation of our healing abilities cannot be totally divorced from our personal maturation. There will naturally be an intimate connection between how advanced is the healing that we can offer and how advanced we are on the spiritual path. The key to our function as a healer, then, is to sincerely walk the path ourselves.
Many Course students wonder: How does one become a Course-based healer? Is there a program for learning how to access and utilize powers of healing? Yes, of course. The program is studying the Text and practicing the Workbook. The function of Course-based healer is simply one example of the overall function of teacher of God. And being a teacher of God quite simply grows out of walking the path, doing the program. If you really want to work miracles, I know of a course you should really consider taking….
And this, I believe, is why we are currently not seeing the kind of healing the Course is describing. Course-based healing as we have discussed in this article is almost entirely on paper, in theory. To my knowledge, very little has been demonstrated as yet. The reason, I think, is obvious: Our personal realization of the Course, our personal advancement along its path, is still minimal. We simply have not climbed far enough up the mountain to harness and direct our healing abilities in the way the Course is teaching.
Therefore, I believe that Course-based healing, both in the form of spiritual healing and psychotherapy, is a field that will be developing over time. It may take decades, if not longer, to really move into this radical approach to healing, this approach that asks us to overlook all that we thought was real. I expect that many of the fine points will develop only through experience, through trial and error, through gifted Course-based healers emerging and through different healers comparing notes.
Yet what an exciting possibility! Who of us does not want to ease the pain around us? Who of us has not felt frustration at not being able to do so? Would it not be a blessed, beautiful gift to be able to lift long-term suffering with one glance of our eyes, one touch of our hands, one instant of stilling our minds? This is the promise the Course holds out to its students.
[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
(1) I say “large numbers” simply because the Manual implies that becoming a healer will be very common for students of the Course. Thus, the existence of large numbers of Course students would yield large numbers of Course healers. M-21.5:3
(2) This point, of course, is not absolutely certain, since the historical Jesus is a topic of hot debate, especially these days. However, I am drawing on the weight of scholarly opinion, which seems to concur that Jesus did perform healings (although whether these healing were truly miraculous or had more naturalistic explanations is a matter of personal belief). Marcus Borg, a leading Jesus scholar says: “Despite the difficulty which miracles pose for the modern mind, on historical grounds it is virtually indisputable that Jesus was a healer and exorcist” (Jesus: A New Vision, Harper Collins, p. 61). Did he send his disciples out as healers? John Dominic Crossan, considered by many the leading North American Jesus scholar, believes he did. Crossan claims that the giving of “free healing” to others was at the heart of Jesus’ vision of a new social world.