In yesterday’s class, I outlined three hypothetical stages in one’s journey with the Course. In the first, I feel in harmony with the Course. It asks so little of me and I give that. In the second, I have become aware of a gap between the lofty things the Course asks of me and what I am in fact doing. It’s as if there is an outside will coming at me from the book, and this will is trying to impose itself on my very different will. I deal with this in one of two ways. In the first way, I swing back and forth between doing the Course’s “will” and doing my own will. In the second way, I force myself to consistently do the Course’s “will,” which makes me feel good about myself, but entails great strain within myself.
What we really want is the third stage. What that stage is requires some explaining. The second stage, and human life itself, is based on a misunderstanding of our will. Will is what we want. So to say that we misunderstand our will is to say that we don’t really understand what we want, what makes us happy.
After class, the analogy that came to my mind was codependency. Codependency in a sense amounts to identifying with an alien will. Let’s say that you are codependent with a raging alcoholic who is actually quite hostile to you and your needs. Being codependent, you strongly identify with his needs. Your conscious desire is just to support him, make life easier for him, and shield him from the consequences of his drinking. What you don’t fully appreciate, of course, is that what you call your will, your desire, is actually an alien will that you have identified with—his—and that this will is actually dead set against your interests. This means that as you, for instance, shield him from the consequences of his drinking, this allows him to keep drinking and thus keep abusing you. You have identified with a will that is abusive toward you. You need to go through a process of re-identifying with your own will and disidentifying with this alien will.
That’s our situation. We have identified with an alien will, and as a result, the desires we typically experience are actually desires for things that are not our will, things that we don’t really want, since they go against our happiness. When we actually get these things that we feel so much desire for, we find ourselves unexpectedly empty, or much worse.
The Course claims that what it asks of us, that the “will” we feel coming at us from the book, is not an alien will. It is actually our own forgotten will. It appears to come at us from the outside, because we have thrown our will outside our minds. But it is our own true will. It represents what we really, truly, freely want.
Treating the path of the Course in this way is the third stage I spoke of earlier. It represents an entirely new relationship with the Course and what it asks of us. If we can realize that it is relaying to us our own forgotten will, then we can approach everything it asks of us, not in a spirit of sacrifice and submission, but as the Course says, “in the gladness of freedom.” We can do it all gladly, not grudgingly.
So when the Course tells us forgiveness is the key to happiness, we can be glad we finally hold the key in our hands. When the Course says we have been wrong, we can be glad we were wrong, so now we can at last be right. When the Course asks us to give up on the hope that special relationships can save us, we can be glad that we don’t have to look in the wrong place anymore.
This extends to our practice of the Workbook. We can be glad and thankful to do our practice periods, knowing they lead to our happiness. It also includes hearing the Holy Spirit’s guidance. We can be happy to hear His guidance, knowing that He is actually relaying to us our own voice, our own will. And finally, it includes our extension to others. We can give gladly, knowing that we only gain thereby.
Our entire journey along the path of the Course can be one, not of giving into to an alien will, but of at last letting our will be done.