Teachers of This Course: Part 1 Having a Personal Teacher

We now move on from discussing the volumes of A Course in Miracles to discussing the teachers of this course. As I mentioned in the Introduction to this series of articles, I see the Course as being taught by a hierarchy of three teachers: the human teacher, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I have written an article on each of these. Part 3 of the “Manual/Extension” section discusses the role of the human teacher. This function, however, plays two different roles for Course students, depending on which end a person is on. The giving end of this function plays a major role in the teacher’s program. The receiving end of it plays a major role in the pupil’s program. This article, then, will deal with the teacher-pupil relationship from the pupil’s standpoint.

The need for a teacher

A persistent question has perhaps been arising if one has been reading this material on the Course’s program from the beginning: How on earth is all this going to happen? How are students going to actually engage in this kind of concentrated, deep study? How are they going to do the Workbook as it asks to be done? Are they really going to practice several times an hour? The Course, it appears, is asking an awful lot of its students. How are they going to truly give themselves to such an involved program?

I am sure you can guess my answer: They will need a teacher. As discussed in Part 3 of the “Manual/Extension” section, the teacher is the bridge between the student and the lofty, complex and challenging world of the Course. I also mention in that article that this sort of human bridge has been recognized as necessary by all contemplative and esoteric traditions throughout history. It is a time-honored truth that only rare seekers can get very far alone, with only a book and their inner Teacher to guide them.

For the same reason that this is true in other traditions, it is true with the Course. Look at the vast and subtle system of teaching the Course wants to communicate. Are students going to grasp this teaching on their own? Look at the intricate and demanding regimen of practice set forth by the Workbook. Are students really going to understand and carry out this practice by themselves? They haven’t so far. Further, the Course is a one-size-fits-all program. Can we expect students to see how the Course applies to their specific needs, personality traits and level of development?

And what about the intangibles the student needs to receive and internalize? Some things are best caught not from a page, but by osmosis, by contagion. They need to be absorbed through contact, passing from a mind that has them to one that as yet does not. We need to not just read about them, but see them demonstrated, in front of us, in relation to us. We need encouragement that we too can possess them, especially from someone whose encouragement carries conviction and credibility.

All in all, it is no wonder that educational courses have teachers, nor that spiritual paths do—nor that A Course in Miracles is meant to. In the Introduction to this series of articles, I said that the Course itself has built the bridge between its students and itself. The human teacher, you could say, is the final section of that bridge. Without this final section, the student would, at least to a large degree, be left gazing at a bridge that ends before it reaches him.

This final part of the bridge can save us years of trying to cross the remaining gap ourselves, or save us from simply giving up and throwing the Course away. I have often reflected on how much time a teacher could have saved me if I had had one. My thought experiment goes like this: If, with the experience I have now in the Course, I could travel back in time and play the role of mentor to the me who first received the Course, how many years could I (as teacher) save myself (as pupil)? My guess is somewhere around ten. If you are a long-time Course student, you might come up with a similar answer yourself.

Does every student of the Course need a teacher? All students, of course, are free to do with the Course what they wish. Yet I suspect that all but a few would make faster progress by having a good teacher. And making faster progress is the whole reason for doing the Course. I have come to believe that having a teacher is the Course’s preferred method for beginning the Course. My evidence is that only two sections in the entire Course mention new students of A Course in Miracles (Sections 24 and 29 in the Manual), and both sections depict these new students of the Course as pupils of a Course teacher. This suggests to me that when the author thought of students beginning the Course, he thought of them as pupils of a teacher. Apparently, this is the way the author envisioned that one would enter into the study and practice of A Course in Miracles.

The implications of this idea for the Course’s life in the world

The idea of the personal teacher, more than any other single idea, changes our picture of what the author expected us to do with his course. Literally the moment I first saw this idea in the Manual my entire picture of the Course’s intended life in the world was transformed. I have discussed many things in this book that are not commonly seen as part of the Course. Yet of all of them, this idea has by far the greatest implications for what we do with the Course.

To appreciate the importance of this idea, let’s first look at what we currently do with the Course, the current shape of its life in the world. At this time, “self-study” is usually the first term one uses to describe the Course. Some version of “A Course in Miracles is a self-study course” seems to begin most written descriptions of the Course, regardless of other differences in orientation. Thus, not only is “self-study” the first term used, it is also very likely the most universally-used.

In this light, the Course appears to be a book you buy in the bookstore, take home and begin studying on your own. What you do with it appears to be entirely up to you. As you open it up, however, you feel a yawning gulf between you and it. The strange and radical ideas, the unfamiliar terminology, the questions about what to do with this and how to apply it, all leave you feeling as if this course lies on the other side of a broad chasm. At this point, you may simply put it down; most probably do. Or you may begin seeking help, seeking a bridge between you and the Course.

This phenomenon has been happening since the Course was first published. Most people realize sooner or later that pure self-study just does not cut it. Early on, therefore, a need arose for bridges between the student and the Course. In response to this need there evolved study groups, workshops, newsletters, books, tapes and centers, (1) all ways in which people (directly or indirectly) interacted in relation to the Course—all ways that went beyond the pure self-study picture of the student alone with the book. Since the Course seemed to have no wishes on this level—being supposedly a self-study course—all these aids had to be developed without its guidance. We just did whatever seemed like a good idea.

To this day, then, the Course appears to be a book which one purchases, is meant to study on one’s own, and does with whatever one wants. As one’s self-study proves insufficient, one starts drawing upon a large and chaotic smorgasbord of aids. If they, too, prove insufficient, the student moves onto something else.

This whole picture changes dramatically if we drop into it one simple idea: The Course (in the Manual) makes a part of its own program the idea that more experienced students will personally guide beginning students along the path of the Course. What if the author saw his course less as a book one gets from the bookstore, and more as a path one receives from one’s teacher? This has the most sweeping implications possible. Let’s look at these.

First, it was not written as a self-study Course. If the Course envisioned teachers guiding pupils through the Course, this right away takes it out of the self-study realm. “Self-study” means “self-taught.” Further, the term “self-study” does not come from the author of the Course. Nowhere in the Course or in other guidance from him, did its author describe it as a “self-study” course.

Second, in trying to bridge the chasm left by self-study, we have built a different bridge than the Course itself sets forth. In the Course’s first twenty years, we have rightly noticed that self-study is not enough. Unfortunately, however, of all the remedies we have devised, none of them is the one the author himself sets forth. (2) While our methods can all be very helpful and appropriate, they must be considered secondary to the one thing which the author himself instituted, the one thing we have yet to really try.

Third, this bridge implies a whole vision for the Course’s life in the world, a profoundly different vision than what has played out so far. This one idea of Course teachers playing mentor to Course pupils suggests a larger picture of what Course involvement is meant to look like. To glimpse this picture, simply imagine a scene in which the doing of the Course is primarily conveyed to the student not by self-study, nor study groups, nor workshops, nor books. Imagine the doing of the Course being primarily handed down in personal instruction from a teacher to his pupil. Then carry this picture forward in time. This pupil himself becomes a teacher, and hands the doing of the Course down to his pupils, who hand it down to theirs. Imagine this going on for generations, as well as going on all over, wherever people are working with the Course.

The resulting picture is one in which multitudes of teachers are passing the Course to masses of pupils, in which one generation is passing it on to the next. The picture is thus one of an ongoing spiritual tradition, carried aloft on the shoulders of its teachers. The sole focus of this tradition would be “taking” the Course as the author intended, using it as an authentic pathway to spiritual illumination. This tradition need not be overseen by a Vatican or any kind of institution. What need would there be for a governing institution when the teachers are there to shoulder the tradition? This tradition could, and probably would, include books, centers, newsletters and study groups—all the accoutrements we have now and perhaps more—but all of these would be peripheral. They would be there to support the heart of the tradition, which would be the transmission of the Course one-to-one, from teacher to pupil, much like the transmission of the Dharma in Buddhism. In this way the Course would take its place alongside existing spiritual traditions, especially those that rest more on the personal spiritual teacher than on a church hierarchy.

What do we do about this?

For many if not most Course students these ideas will come as a shock. Could it really be true that what we have done with the Course is dramatically different than what the Course itself indicates? I have two things to say to that. First, the Course world as it now exists was just our guesswork. It was not based on any blueprint in the Course. Thus, if we were to suddenly find a blueprint in the Course, what are the odds that our guesswork would just coincidentally have followed this blueprint, even remotely? Given the Course’s claim that we are completely insane, the odds cannot be very good. Second, once we admit that the Course does teach that experienced students will become mentors to newer students, then the vision I have just outlined is hard to escape. The pivotal issue, then, is whether the Manual actually talks about this. I again refer interested readers to the appendix to this series of articles, “The Evidence in the Manual for the Teacher-Pupil Relationship,” in which I set forth my evidence that it does.

Assuming that the vision I sketched above is what the author really has in mind, what do we do now? We find ourselves in the not-unusual bind of observing a tradition of sorts which is already in motion and carrying its own forward momentum, but which does not reflect the original inspiration behind it. How many times has humanity faced this dilemma before? What do we do with it this time?

From my perspective, there is only one thing to do. We must do our best to begin to manifest the original inspiration, the author’s vision. We cannot relax his vision just because the current state of affairs does not reflect it. Who cares what is current? What matters is what is best. Certainly his vision for the Course must be the best way to go. After all, he designed this course; he must know what is ideal for it. If he doesn’t, then we are probably fools to follow the course he designed. If, however, his vision is best, then what does it matter what foot the Course got started on in the world? However different the current Course world is from what he outlined, our only imperative must be to do what he outlined.

Yet herein lies a difficulty, which we must face squarely: At this time there are relatively few teachers who qualify as teachers of the Course under the Course’s criteria. How many students have studied the Text and then practiced the Workbook well enough to go beyond it, so that regular practice throughout the day has become a way of life which needs no support from the Workbook? At this point, I think, only a tiny percentage of Course students meet this criterion. How can students receive personal instruction from a teacher when there are so few teachers? For a tradition to rest on the shoulders of teachers, there must be some available shoulders. How do we handle the fact that at this point there are precious few? I have a few suggestions:

Do not consider yourself a bad Course student if you have not had a teacher.

One common reaction to hearing about the need for a personal teacher is to feel that you have been doing the Course all wrong, that you have been a bad Course student. But why would you have had a teacher? Not only have there been few qualified teachers, no one has been saying that this role is recommended or even sanctioned by the Course. Thus, of course you haven’t had a teacher. The absence of one in your study, therefore, cannot be used as a measure of the sincerity and willingness that you have brought to the Course.

Many of the Course’s early teachers will have to be essentially self-taught.

Helen and Bill learned the Course directly from the author. If the Course’s life in the world had begun with Helen and Bill teaching it directly to certain individuals, and then these in turn had taught it to others, and this is how the Course had spread, things would be different now. But as soon as the Course came out in the 70’s, it immediately entered thousands on thousands of hands as a teacherless system. Therefore, if large numbers of teachers are ever to arise, the ball will have to get started by many teachers who are essentially self-taught. Even though these will probably be aided by the writings or seminars of others, they will be self-taught in the sense that no one has sat down with them and given them personal instruction. Initially small numbers of these will have to take on pupils, who take on their own pupils, until a real tradition of teachers is alive and thriving. Even then, whether studying under a teacher will ever become the accepted norm for doing A Course in Miracles remains to be seen.

The question for a student might not be “how can I find a teacher?” but “how can I become a teacher?”

Your first reaction to reading about the need for a teacher may well be, “How do I find one?” The answer, at this stage of the game, might be, “You simply aren’t going to.” There just aren’t enough to go around. Perhaps instead, then, you should be asking yourself, “How do I become a teacher? How can I become proficient enough in this course to be a blessing to others walking this same path?”

We might need to get the tradition of the teachers started by relaxing the qualifications for being a teacher.

At this point, taking on a teacher who has not met the Course’s qualifications might be a better idea than having no teacher at all. I understand that when Alcoholics Anonymous began, people played the role of sponsor (a very similar role in that system to the personal teacher in the Course) who nowadays would be not be considered experienced enough in the program. Yet that was the nature of the times then. No one was very experienced in the program.

Remember that the teacher-pupil relationship takes many forms.

While there remains a dearth of qualified personal teachers, we should remember that the teacher-pupil relationship takes many, many forms. Your teacher might not be someone you sit down with and receive personal instruction from. It might be someone whose writings you read, or whose tapes you listen to, or whose group you attend. It might be someone in your life who exemplifies Course principles but who is not a Course student. Be grateful to receive teaching in whatever form it comes to you.

Finding your teacher

If you are meant to have a personal Course teacher (in the sense I have been talking about it in this article and in Part 3 of the “Manual/Extension” section), how do you find this person? The Manual addresses this issue fairly directly in Section 2, “Who Are Their Pupils?”

The previous section told us of a pivotal choice made by the would-be teacher, a “choice in which he did not see his interests as apart from someone else’s.” (M-1.1:2) This choice sets off broad reverberations, both in his own mind and in the world. First, it qualifies him to be a teacher of God. (3) Second, the choice sets off some kind of homing beacon which beams out to all of his chosen pupils: “They will begin to look for him as soon as he has answered the Call.” (M-2.1:1)

What does this mean, “look for him”? I don’t think this means consciously look for him, although it may include that. Rather, I think that some signal goes off deep in the pupil’s unconscious mind, which sets in motion profound changes, both internal and external. The net effect is that you, as the future pupil, will go through all kinds of motions, which you may think are motivated by various conventional reasons, but which are really driven by the unconscious impulse to find your teacher. You may suddenly decide to move to the geographical area where you will find your teacher. You may take a new job, or go to a party, or get lost and ask directions of a stranger. As the next section in the Manual says, you may step on an elevator or walk home with someone from school. You may acquire new interests; you may be drawn to begin the spiritual path for the first time. Whatever circuitous routes you might travel to reach this point, you will eventually meet your teacher: “The pupil comes at the right time to the right place.” (M-2.4:4)

In short, you will be led to your teacher, even if you do not know that you are being led. Yet this can seem less than totally comforting. Even when we are told that we will be lead, we often worry if we will properly follow. Maybe we will choose not to go to that party at which we would have met our teacher. Maybe we will push the wrong button and miss the elevator on which we were supposed to meet him.

This section, however, has an unusual answer which is meant to put these worries to rest: You will inevitably find your teacher because the two of your lives are merely the replaying of an ancient instant in which you did meet and become teacher and pupil.

Understanding this requires some understanding of the Course’s theory of time. In this theory, the original instant of time contained our entire journey through time and space. Every situation and event that we will ever encounter was contained in one simultaneous, mind-boggling barrage of experience. Now, we are simply reviewing or reliving that barrage, one event at a time. We are watching a film already shot. Thus, nothing novel can occur. This is the key to understanding how you will connect with your teacher: “In order to understand the teaching-learning plan of salvation, it is necessary to grasp the concept of time that the course sets forth.” (M-2.2:1)

You may already see where the Course is going with this:

And thus it is that pupil and teacher seem to come together in the present, finding each other as if they had not met before. The pupil comes at the right time to the right place. This is inevitable, because he made the right choice in that ancient instant which he now relives. So has the teacher, too, made an inevitable choice out of an ancient past. (M-2.4:3-6)

According to this passage, coming to the place and time in which you will meet your teacher “is inevitable.” Why? Because “in that ancient instant” you and your teacher chose to come together to learn salvation, and did so. Since your current lives are merely a reliving of that instant, both of you will inevitably make that same choice and relive the event of your meeting as well as the process of your relationship. As other parts of the Course imply, when the two of you choose to replay this is up to you. It may not be anytime soon—maybe not in this lifetime. But it will happen. The chances that you will not meet your teacher are literally the same as the chances that next time you watch Gone with the Wind it will end with Rhett saying, “Frankly, Scarlett, I care deeply about your feelings.”

As inevitable as meeting your teacher is, even once you meet her you may still be uncertain that she is your teacher. How will you know? My answer is that probably, sooner or later, you will just know. When you first meet her you may even feel that you already know her, from some place or time you cannot quite put your finger on. At some point you will probably notice that you feel drawn to her, sensing some light in her that attracts the truth in you.

Even given this, however, some practical measures are probably in order. Find out where she is at in her own journey with the Course. How long has she been with it? Where is she at in the program? Does she seem to meet the Course’s qualifications for being a teacher of God? It may help to find our her reputation from others who know her better. You may also want to search into the draw you feel to her. Are you drawn to her personality or even her body, or to something that goes beyond either one? As always, it is helpful to pray about it, asking to be led and to be shown your blocks to the truth.

If all feels right to you about it, then approach her and see if she is open to entering into a teaching-learning situation as your teacher.

How to make use of your teacher

I point out in Part 3 of the “Manual/Extension” section that the teacher’s role is largely a responsive one. Thus, much of your job is to give her something to respond to. Bring to her as many questions, needs, problems and concerns as you can. Ask her which volume to begin with (if you are a new student), what a particular idea or passage in the Text means, what today’s lesson is asking you to do. Ask her practical questions about how to receive guidance or what to do in certain kinds of situations. Ask her about how to apply the Course to some specific problem in your life. Share with her your struggles, blocks and breakthroughs. As with any relationship, what you get out of it will be largely determined by what you bring to it.

Try not to over- or underestimate your teacher’s role

At the end of Chapter 1 of the Text, Jesus says, “I have been careful to clarify my role in the Atonement without either over- or understating it.” (T-1.VII.5:4) Later he makes a similar point: “I am constantly being perceived as a teacher either to be exalted or rejected, but I do not accept either perception for myself.” (T-4.I.6:7) Both of these statements underscore the importance of finding that razor’s edge between overestimating and underestimating a teacher’s role. In response to any kind of authority figure, both of these tendencies are widespread and deep-seated. And the great need to avoid one is constantly used to justify doing the other. How can you steer clear of both over- and underestimating your teacher’s role? This issue is addressed indirectly in Principles 16-21 in Part 3 of the “Manual/Extension” section, but I will make some more direct remarks about it here.

The teacher is not a substitute for the Holy Spirit.

As I stated in teaching principle #6, the real Teacher is the Holy Spirit. The human teacher is merely a temporary channel for the Holy Spirit to work through. His ultimate goal is to place you directly in the hands of your internal Teacher. This is true even of Jesus, who at the end of both the Workbook and the Manual says he is placing us in the Holy Spirit’s hands. (W-E.4:11, M-29.7:11)

The teacher is not a substitute for the Course.

Many spiritual teachers more or less teach their own self-devised path. The role of the teacher in the Course is more circumscribed, because here the teacher is helping you through a path which someone else invented and laid out very specifically. He thus answers to an authority beyond himself; in this case, an authority that you too can see and against which you can (and should) check his statements.

The teacher is not a substitute for your true Self.

Early in the Course Jesus says,

I will substitute for your ego if you wish, but never for your spirit. A father can safely leave a child with an elder brother who has shown himself responsible, but this involves no confusion about the child’s origin. (T-4.I.13:1-2)

By substituting for your ego, Jesus means that he will stand in for it. Right now your ego is running the show, and doing a poor job of it. Just as a child is incapable of taking care of itself, so are you while your ego is in control. Jesus will therefore step in and be your guide, your baby-sitter, so to speak. But his goal is to awaken you to your own divinity, not his. He will never substitute for your spirit or your Father (“the child’s origin”). By saying this he is making an important statement. He is saying that worshipping the teacher as a stand-in for your true Self or for God is not a part of the Course’s way.

The teacher is not a substitute for your power of choice.

Absolute, unquestioned obedience is part of the teacher-pupil relationship in some spiritual traditions, but certainly not in the Course. We can safely surmise this because Jesus never comes close to asking it for himself. The following passage displays his very different attitude:

If you want to be like me I will help you, knowing that we are alike. If you want to be different, I will wait until you change your mind. I can teach you, but only you can choose to listen to my teaching. How else can it be, if God’s Kingdom is freedom? Freedom cannot be learned by tyranny of any kind, and the perfect equality of all God’s Sons cannot be recognized through the dominion of one mind over another. (T-8.IV.6:3-7)

All Jesus can do, as he demonstrates throughout the Course, is appeal to your highest sensibilities and urge you to exercise your faculty of choice. If you decide to follow his teaching, he will help you. If you decide to reject it, he will not try to force your choice or command your obedience. He will merely wait; with infinite patience, as he tells us elsewhere. The above passage says why. God’s Kingdom is freedom. How can freedom be learned through tyranny? God’s Kingdom is equality. How can equality be learned through domination? The very nature of the goal is incompatible with slavish submission to another mind.

Therefore, even though you have a teacher, you are the commander of your own journey, for you elect whether to go with his counsel or not. We can thus apply the following passage about the Holy Spirit (the “Guide”) and Jesus (the “model”) to your relationship with your personal teacher:

You have a Guide to how to develop [your abilities], but you have no commander except yourself….You have a model to follow who will strengthen your command, and never detract from it in any way. (T-6.IV.9:4,6)

Just as it is important to avoid overestimating your teacher’s role, so is it just as crucial to avoid underestimating it. By underestimating I mean not giving your teacher sufficient respect and authority. The following passage is part of Jesus’ clarification of his role at the beginning of the Text:

An elder brother is entitled to respect for his greater experience, and obedience for his greater wisdom. He is also entitled to love because he is a brother, and to devotion if he is devoted. (T-1.II.3:7-8)

According to this passage, you should respect your teacher’s greater experience to the extent that he possesses it. You should give him obedience to the extent that he has greater wisdom. You should give him your devotion to the extent that he is devoted to you. And you should love him no matter what, just because he is a brother.

You give him your respect, obedience, devotion and love not as some kind of “teacher tax” required by his ego, but because it is merely practical. Giving him these things benefits you. His ability to benefit your journey is his only claim to being your teacher and to having your respect and obedience. Jesus supports this idea when he speaks of his role as a model for his followers: “Disciples are followers, and if the model they follow has chosen to save them pain in all respects, they are unwise not to follow him.” (T-6.I.8:7) If your teacher’s greater wisdom and experience really promise to save you pain, you are unwise not to follow him.

This sounds obvious but will inevitably at times be difficult to apply. The Course is very clear that you will rebel, subtly or overtly, against your teacher just doing his job. You will resist the Course, seeing it as a threat to your ego, and you will attack your teacher for symbolizing this threat. The Course expects this to be a major theme in your relationship with your teacher, so much so that his major lesson is not reacting to your resistance with anger and defensiveness (see Principles #3 and #4 in Part 3 of the “Manual/Extension” section). If you simply expect this resistance on your part ahead of time, it will be easier to acknowledge when it happens.

Giving your teacher insufficient respect will also arise out of the authority problem. At the heart of the ego, says the Course, is a revolt against our fundamental dependency on God, a rejection of His authorship and thus of His authority. This problem with God’s authority is projected onto any and all authorities in this world. Hence, even while we worship authorities, there lurks the suspicion that they are a walking threat to our ego’s autonomy and even existence. In other words, the desire to throw off all authority, which is so often lauded as a mature impulse, flows directly from the pulsing heart of the ego’s insanity.

Oddly enough, much of our resistance to respecting our teacher comes from seeing him as “a larger ego,” and thus a challenge to our own ego and a source of fear. Egos are scary enough even when they are small. Quite naturally, therefore, “If you perceive a teacher as merely ‘a larger ego’ you will be afraid.” (T-4.I.6:2) The antidote is to see your teacher as not an ego at all; as an equal Son of God who simply has greater experience and wisdom, and whose goal is to help you up to his level and so make manifest your underlying equality. This idea, in fact, is the key to avoiding both extremes. It is the razor’s edge that neither underestimates nor overestimates his role.

Moving on from the relationship

When is it appropriate to move on from a particular teacher? This is indirectly addressed in Section 3 in the Manual, “What Are the Levels of Teaching?” There, three levels of teacher-pupil relationship are discussed: 1) brief, casual encounters that have the potential to turn into longer relationships; 2) intense, more sustained, but temporary relationships; 3) lifelong relationships. There seems to be a law behind the duration of these relationships: When, for one reason or another, you are no longer able to learn from this person, you separate (at least on the level of form). This section even suggests that moving on at some point will be the norm. It says that lifelong teacher-pupil relationships “are generally few, because their existence implies that those involved have reached a stage simultaneously in which the teaching-learning balance is actually perfect.” (M-3.5:3)

Thus, there is no onus for moving on from a teacher; it is a natural event in this world. Yet you should make such a decision with great care, for you may prematurely assume that you have nothing left to learn from this person. Even those with the lifelong teacher-pupil relationships, which present each partner with “unlimited opportunities for learning,” (M-3.5:2) generally do not recognize the perfect learning opportunity they have before them.

Once you have moved on, a common tendency will be to dwell on why you have moved on, rather than on the spark of beauty in the relationship. Plainly put, you may be tempted to nurse resentments toward your former teacher. An alternative attitude is suggested by the Psychotherapy supplement in speaking about therapists and patients:

Something good must come from every meeting of patient and therapist. And that good is saved for both, against the day when they can recognize that only that was real in their relationship. (P-3.II.5:1-2)

Though you have moved on, the day will come when you recognize that only the good was real in your relationship with your teacher. Moreover, says the Manual, the day will come when you will meet again, perhaps in this lifetime, perhaps in another world, and finish what you started: “Yet all who meet will someday meet again, for it is the destiny of all relationships to become holy.” (4)

The fruit of the relationship: becoming a teacher of God yourself

Your relationship with your teacher can be a shining star in a gloomy world. It can be the spark that shines within the dream. In a world of isolation and fragmentation, your relationship is a story of joining. The teacher began the process by making a “choice in which he did not see his interests as apart from someone else’s.” (M-1.1:2) This called you to him, where you and he joined in the single goal of learning the same course. As the two of you join more and more fully in this goal, all boundaries you have drawn between you will “fade and grow dim and disappear.” (M-2.5:6) Such a thing cannot happen to anyone without changing him forever. And so it is with teacher and pupil; both are catapulted far ahead in their development. The teacher becomes an advanced teacher (as is discussed in Part 1 of the “Manual/Extension” section). And you, the pupil, become a teacher yourself:

And thus he who was the learner becomes a teacher of God himself, for he has made the one decision that gave his teacher to him. He has seen in another person the same interests as his own. (M-2.5:8-9)

Having seen another person as yourself, now you are ready to give to someone else the same selfless devotion your teacher has given you.

* * * * *

(1) It is notable that this is the express purpose for which “The Foundation for A Course in Miracles” in Roscoe, New York, the most influential Course center, exists. Its vision statement begins with these words: “In our early years of studying A Course in Miracles [Ken and Gloria Wapnick are speaking here], as well as teaching and applying its principles in our respective professions of psychotherapy, and teaching and school administration, it seemed evident that this was not the simplest of thought systems to understand. This was so not only in the intellectual grasp of its teachings, but perhaps more importantly in the application of these teachings to our personal lives. Thus, it appeared to us from the beginning that the Course lent itself to teaching.”

(2) The kind of shepherding I am talking about (or something roughly like it) does happen in the Course world, but to such a small degree that I doubt anyone would mention it alongside study groups and centers as one of the ways in which people typically come together around the Course.

(3) Manual, M-1.1:6-8. Notice that the Manual gives two sets of qualifications for being a teacher of God. The first, making a choice in which you do not see your interests as apart from someone else’s, is the qualification for a generic teacher of God. The second, having completed the Workbook, is the qualification for a teacher of God in the framework of this course.

(4) Manual, M-3.4:6. This passage, which applies to all relationships, is specifically talking about level 2 teacher-pupil relationships.


[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]