[Please note: ACIM passages quoted in this article reference the Foundation for Inner Peace (FIP) Edition.]
The Manual for Teachers outlines two major functions for experienced Course students (those who have completed the Workbook [M-16.3:7] and presumably the Text), two avenues for extending Course principles to others. Though both fall under the heading of “teacher of God,” one is a teacher who has pupils; the other is a healer who has patients. And though they definitely overlap, they still are clearly distinct. The following lists show the differences in how the Manual describes these two roles.
Who he serves: pupil
What they need: help with their spiritual path
What he gives: guidance along the spiritual path, the path he and they share
The context of their exchange: long-term relationships
Who he serves: patients
What they need: healing—they are generally described as physically ill
What he gives: healing—of the mind, which also generalizes to the body
The context of their exchange: short-term interactions
THE MANUAL’S HEALER SECTIONS
Altogether, there are seven sections which describe the role of being a healer. They fall into two distinct clusters: sections 5-8 and 21-23. We will summarize these sections one at a time, and then summarize an overall picture of the role of healer in the Manual.
Section 5, “How Is Healing Accomplished?”
Part III, “The Function of the Teacher of God”
This sub-section is part of a three-part section in which the Manual sets out the Course’s philosophy of sickness and healing. The first two sub-sections teach that, contrary to appearances, physical illness is caused by and healed by a decision of the mind. The final sub-section introduces the role of the healer, setting out its major themes, themes which we will reiterate in the summary at the end of this paper.
The Setting: There are patients who have chosen physical illness but do not realize it is their choice. What is the role of the teacher of God in relation to them?
The Message: The teacher of God brings healing to the patients, but how he actually does this does not fit the traditional concept of being a healer, in several ways:
* The patients must accept healing through their own change of mind. The teacher of God does
not change the patients’ minds for them, but merely symbolizes to them another choice (1:1-3, 2:4,6).
* The healing agent is not a specific behavior of the teacher’s. His mere presence and thoughts call to the patients’ minds, asking them to question their thoughts and reminding them that there is another way to choose (2:1-4).
* Rather than giving them something they do not have, the teacher merely reminds the patients of the healing God has already given them (2:7).
* The teacher’s hands and voice are not what heals. He is merely passing along the healing he has already been given by God (2:8-10).
* Rather than seeking the Source of healing, the Holy Spirit, outside the patient, the teacher seeks for the Source of healing within the patient’s mind (3:3).
* The teacher does not dispel the patient’s illusions. Truth reaches through the teacher’s mind to the truth in the patient’s mind and brings the patient’s illusions to truth, which then dispels them (3:5-8).
* The teacher sees the will of the patient as one with his own, not as separate (3:9).
* The teacher does not consider the form or degree of sickness as being relevant (3:1-2).
Section 6, “Is Healing Certain?”
The Setting: A common problem—the “teacher of God…has offered healing and it does not appear to have been received” (2:7).
The Message: Be certain the gift has been received. Trust that the gift will be accepted when the patient is ready to welcome it without fear. This trust is a precondition for giving. Concern about the outcome limits and blocks the gift.
Section 7, “Should Healing Be Repeated?”
The Setting: The teacher of God has continued to doubt the outcome of the healing and wonders if he should try again.
The Message: Your first effort was maximal and should not be repeated. By continuing to doubt its outcome, your mind has become the patient. You must now tell yourself that the problem was placed in the hands of the Holy Spirit, Who cannot fail. You must realize that though your concern seems loving, by offering doubt you are offering fear, which means you are offering hate. The actual cause of your doubt is not lack of trust in the patient, but lack of trust in your own giving. This comes from trusting in your own weak, illusory self. This in turn is concern with self to the exclusion of the patient. Since he is part of you, this means you have forgotten who you are.
Section 8, “How can Perception of Order of Difficulty Be Avoided?”
The Setting: The healer has been told that he must overlook the apparent differences in the illnesses that confront him. Yet how can he do this?
The Message: The eyes will always see differences, including differences in different people’s physical health. Yet the healed mind will not acknowledge those differences as real, understanding that there are no real differences between illusions.
Section 21, “What Is the Role of Words in Healing?”
The Setting: Traditionally, words are seen as an essential part of faith healing in that they carry their own power, power invoked by speaking them. Is this true for the Course healer? Should he use words in his healing prayers, and if so, what is their role and how should they be used?
The Message: The motivating factor in healing is the prayer of the heart, not words. Using words in prayer can help the mind keep its focus (especially the beginner’s mind), but it must be remembered that words are secondary symbols. They are only useful if they bring to mind the primary symbol—a specific referent. Yet the healer will often have need to use words for the sake of his patients, as he speaks to their “presented problem” (5:3). He must, however, step back and let his words be chosen for him by the Holy Spirit, setting aside his fear about the validity of what he is hearing.
Section 22, “How Are Healing and Atonement Related?”
The Message: The teacher of God must realize that accepting Atonement is what makes healing possible. This means he must realize the following four things:
- Since Atonement has no degrees, there is no order of difficulty in healing. The Atonement can heal with equal ease all forms of sickness in all individuals in all circumstances. For the healer to judge who can be healed and who cannot is to try to set limits on God and judge His Son.
- The body is healed by the Atonement, by forgiveness, not by physical means. This is because it is made sick by the mind, not by itself. If the body could tell the mind when to suffer, the mind would be at its mercy. As a result, Atonement would have to kill the body in order to free the mind.
- You heal by accepting the Atonement for yourself, and thus for the patient as well. This means you overlook his body’s sickness and his mind’s decision to be sick, seeing only the face of Christ, which includes the patient, yourself and all living things. You thus see the patient as one with you. In doing so, you recognize for him that his sense of separateness, which has made him sick, is not true.
- When you fail to heal it is because you have failed to accept the Atonement. You have forgotten Who you are and so have seen another’s sickness, ego and body as real, and have identified with them. Now you must realize your mistake, step back and let your own mind be healed by the Holy Spirit.
Section 23, “Does Jesus Have a Special Place in Healing?”
The Setting: What the teacher of God can give is limited by his own limitations. “Would it be fair if his pupils [or patients] were denied healing because of this?” (1:3) Also, why is calling on the name of Jesus a part of invoking healing?
The Message: Jesus has transcended all limitation. This means there is no limit on his power, no limit on his availability (since he is ever-present with everyone), and no limit on how helpful he is (since he will never succumb to temptation). Thus, calling on him is the way to offer your patients more than you yourself have achieved. His name is just a symbol, but to call on it is to invoke all that it stands for: God, the Word of God, the oneness of the Father and the Son, and love that is not of this world.
If we step back from the details, we can see two main points: The Course healer 1) engages in the traditional form of a faith healer, 2) but with non-traditional content.
Engages in the traditional form of a faith healer
On a form level, the healer in the Manual looks very much like the traditional image of a faith healer (not so much the modern televangelist faith healer, but the more traditional faith healer of the past; say, a village healer or an itinerant healer). In the Manual, we have a healer who comes to a physically ill patient and attempts to be “a channel of healing” (7.2:1), in the hopes that the patient will experience the healing of both body and mind. This healer has to deal with all the same problems as a traditional faith healer: How does he heal? What exactly is the healing agent? What should he do when the patient’s symptoms persist, when he appears to have failed? Should he repeat his healing? How does he deal with his psychological reactions to different illnesses? Should he use words in his healing; do they have magical power? Should he call on the name of Jesus?
The healing of physical illness is a controversial topic among Course students. It is, however, indisputable that these sections are talking, in part, about physical illness and physical healing. They are speaking constantly about a kind of sickness in which it seems that “the body [is] the decision-maker” (5.II.1:7). They assert that, contrary to common belief, this kind of sickness is not healed by physical agents but by the mind. And they say it is tempting to think the healing has failed when there is “the appearance of continuing symptoms” (7.4:1). Two points are relevant to add here: 1) The healer should certainly not confine his efforts to situations in which there are physical symptoms; 2) The Course is very clear that the body is not “the proper aim of healing” (T-8.IX.1:5). The body’s healing is a mere bi-product of the healing of the mind. This leads us to the next topic.
…But with non-traditional content
The difference between the Course healer and the traditional faith healer is not so much on the appearance level. On that level, as we have seen, there is great similarity. The difference lies primarily in what is happening in the healer’s mind, in how he sees the entire enterprise of healing. Paradoxically, while the Course healer is engaged in the traditional form in which one person brings healing to another, he is not seeing any of that form as real.
On an appearance level, the patient appears to be a limited mind lacking in wholeness, living inside a body which has made its own sickness, a sickness of a certain level of severity. The healer appears to be the source of healing, who heals with magical power invoked by his words and transmitted by his hands. He seems to be a superior being, who is separate from the patient and has what the patient has not. It also appears that he can offer healing without it being received, that the patient cannot be trusted to reliably receive the healing. The true healer, while happily engaging in this situation and seeing all these appearances with his eyes, knows that none of this is real. That is how he heals.