Transcending the Belief in Separate Interests

Yesterday’s I did a class in the CCC about a second aspect of transcending the ego. In the previous class, I said the ego is the “mind’s belief that it is completely on its own,” which means that the transcending of the ego is the realization that we are not on our own, that God is with us. In contrast, this class was about transcending the ego through our relationship with others. Here is a brief summary of what I said.

The ego is the belief that only I matter here, that I am end and you are means, that I am sun and you are satellite. We are all familiar with this mindset, even if our denial is such that we mostly see it in others.

To be more specific, though, at the heart of the ego is the belief in separate interests. Separate interests means that which benefits me may not benefit you. I can gain while you lose. Indeed, I can gain from your loss. The Course describes this belief in many places. Here is one:

In dreams, no two can share the same intent. To each, the hero of the dream is different; the outcome wanted not the same for both. Loser and gainer merely shift about in changing patterns, as the ratio of gain to loss and loss to gain takes on a different aspect or another form. (W-185.3:3-5)

Doesn’t this capture it? I’m the hero of this dream, and so I pursue an outcome that is directly at odds with yours. And my eye is ever on the ratio of my gain vs. your gain, trying to maximize the former even if that means minimizing the latter.

The ego, then, is continually trying to gain at the expense of others. This, I think, is the ugliest element of the ego, one that we are deeply reluctant to look at. When it comes to this, we look the other way and tell ourselves all sorts of lies: “This is good for them, too.” “I’m giving back more than I’m taking.” “I’m so glad I’m not like that.” The last thing we really want to do is look at the predatory nature of our own ego.

The result of the constant attempt to gain at the expense of others is that, as the Course says, the ego does not engage in real communication and does not have real relationships. Special relationships may look like love, but they are really an attempt to take from another to fill one’s own needs. The Course  makes this very clear: “If you seek for satisfaction in gratifying your needs as you perceive them, you must believe that strength comes from another, and what you gain he loses” (T-15.VI.3:3). As a result, a special relationship is really “no relationship. It is a state of isolation, which seems to be what it is not” (T-20.IV.8:4).

Separate interests is really the practical, down-to-earth form of separate being. As long as I believe I can gain from your loss and you can gain from my loss, I will feel separate from you. I will believe that we are two egos, each competing for the same small slice of the pie.

The obvious reversal of this is the belief in shared interests. This is the idea that we gain together or lose together. If you lose, I lose. If you gain, I gain. This results in an opposite approach to relationships. Just as the ego tries to gain at the expense of others, now we try to gain by causing others to gain. We try to receive by giving.

This theme, it turns out, is at the heart of the Course’s many prescriptions for life on earth. Let’s go through those now.


The main sense of “miracle” in the Course is an expression of love which has a healing effect on another person. The Course repeatedly says that as we give miracles, we find that we ourselves have received. Our giving was not a loss, not a sacrifice. Rather, the other person’s gain turns out to be our gain. The Course says that the miracle “is an awareness that giving and receiving are the same” (T-25.IX.10:6). In miracles we learn the truth of shared interests.

Holy encounters

Giving a miracle ideally mushrooms into a holy encounter, in which salvation is not only given, but also returned (in the form of gratitude). Both people give and both receive. And since the two gain as one, they have the feeling that they are one. Here is how the essence of the holy encounter is described by the section that introduces the concept: “As you see him you will see yourself. As you treat him you will treat yourself. As you think of him you will think of yourself” (T-8.III.3:2-4). What better statement could we have of shared interests? In holy encounters we learn the truth of shared interests.

Holy relationships

A holy relationship is like a long-term version of a holy encounter. Specifically, a holy relationship is one in which two people have joined (even if only momentarily) in a common goal. Think about what a common goal implies. Since a goal is something in which you expect to find happiness, a common goal implies that two people can find happiness in the same thing. It implies, in other words, that they have shared interests.

This means that the two people in a holy relationship are on a journey of learning that they have the same interests and therefore are one. This comes through again and again in the Course. The Manual says that in a holy relationship “each one learns that giving and receiving are the same,” and as a result, “The demarcations they have drawn between their roles, their minds, their bodies, their needs, their interests, and all the differences they thought separated them from one another, fade and grow dim and disappear” (M-2.5:5-6).

Perhaps the best statement of this same principle is found in Psychotherapy, where it talks about “the same requirement salvation asks of everyone”:

Each one must share one goal with someone else, and in so doing, lose all sense of separate interests. Only by doing this is it possible to transcend the narrow boundaries the ego would impose upon the self. (P-2.II.8:4-5)

In holy relationships we learn the truth of shared interests.

Special function

Just as the holy relationship is a long-term version of the holy encounter, so the special function is a long-term version of giving miracles. Our special function is the particular role we play in contributing to the salvation of the world through extending miracles to others. This includes our special strength in giving miracles and the particular people we are meant to give them to.

We see the same thing in regard to the special function that we saw in our previous categories: This is a way in which we realize the truth of shared interests. The section titled “The Special Function” in the Text makes this clear. It talks about how, in our special function, we can “do one perfect thing and make one perfect choice”—the choice to give forgiveness to another. Then it says, “And by this act of special faithfulness to one perceived as other than himself, he learns the gift was given to himself, and so they must be one” (T-25.VI.5:2). This is the same sequence we have seen in other places: by gaining through giving, we learn that our interests are the same, which leads us to the realization that our being is the same. In our special function we learn the truth of shared interests.

It’s all one picture, with one lesson

I am talking about different pieces which can seem somewhat separate, yet all of these pieces are simply aspects of an integrated picture—the Course’s picture of our earthly lives. Therefore, all of these aspects are intimately intertwined with each other. For example, our special function is something that we will probably carry out with holy relationship partners. Also, I haven’t mentioned guidance from the Holy Spirit, but this is most often talked about in the Course in the context of being told how to give miracles, how to carry out our special function.

The Course, then, is really holding out to us an alternative life on earth, a life that is all about loving interactions and loving relationship with others. And, as we have seen, at the heart of each aspect of this life is a single lesson—the lesson that our interests our shared, that what I give you I gain myself, and so we must be one.

What this means is that the Course is offering us a way to live on earth in which our decisions, our actions, our interactions, our relationships, our role are all a way of learning the one lesson, the lesson that I gain by promoting your gain.

The plan, in other words, is for every single aspect of our lives, the big things and the small, to be a way for us to learn that we are not an ego.


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