Commentary on What Is the Holy Spirit?

By Allen Watson

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The Holy Spirit mediates between illusions and the truth. Since He must bridge the gap between reality and dreams, perception leads to knowledge through the grace that God has given Him, to be His gift to everyone who turns to Him for truth. Across the bridge that He provides are dreams all carried to the truth, to be dispelled before the light of knowledge. There are sights and sounds forever laid aside. And where they were perceived before, forgiveness has made possible perception's tranquil end. W-pII.7.1:1-5

"The Holy Spirit mediates between illusions and the truth" (1:1). He bridges "the gap between reality and dreams" (1:2). Illusions and truth are mutually exclusive; reality and dreams can never meet. Our minds are caught in illusions, and in order to restore them to truth, something or Someone is needed who can act as a bridge, somehow connecting the unconnectable. This is the purpose served by the Holy Spirit. He bridges the gap because He is able to operate in both arenas; He touches on illusion without losing contact with the truth. He is the One Who "mediates," bringing illusion back to truth.

Because He is what He is, "those who turn to Him for truth" (1:2) can be led to truth by means of the very perception which is part of their illusion. Without Him, perception would lead only to more perception, the illusion continually reinforcing itself. Because the Holy Spirit, Who is within us and part of our minds (as well as part of God's), is linked eternally to truth, He can guide our perception in such a way as to undo our illusions and restore us to knowledge. This ability is "the grace that God has given Him" (1:2).

Our part in the equation, then, is simply to "turn to Him for truth." We bring our perceptions to Him, and He translates them into true perception, which leads straight to knowledge. He plays a very clear and crucial role in the Course's prescription for healing our minds. If He were not there, within us, there would be no bridge between reality and illusion. The more actively we cooperate with Him, consciously and willingly bringing our perceptions to Him, asking for the truth instead of our illusions, the more He can help us.

The word "turn" is an interesting one. It is a mental turning, a mental change of direction that can be almost physically felt when it occurs. Sometimes it feels as though we must literally tear our minds away from their focus on fear, and impel our thoughts towards the light like a flower turning to the sun. When I am distraught, I have found great power in simply closing my eyes and saying, "I turn to You." Almost at once, if these words are heartfelt, there comes a great sense of peace, a great widening of the horizons of my mind. I sense the Presence of infinite Help and Wisdom, waiting to assist. I feel the nearness of the Great Mediator, filled with the grace God has given Him, ready to purify my perception and lead me towards the truth. May we learn, more and more often, to turn to Him for truth.

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The goal the Holy Spirit's teaching sets is just this end of dreams. For sights and sounds must be translated from the witnesses of fear to those of love. And when this is entirely accomplished, learning has achieved the only goal it has in truth. For learning, as the Holy Spirit guides it to the outcome He perceives for it, becomes the means to go beyond itself, to be replaced by the eternal truth. W-pII.7.2:1-4

The process of translating our perceptions being discussed here is exactly the same as the process of changing our thoughts described in Lesson 284: "I can elect to change all thoughts that hurt." "Sights and sounds must be translated from the witnesses of fear to those of love" (2:2). This process of "changing thoughts that hurt" is all that learning is for, and when it has been accomplished, the game is over (2:3). This is the goal, the end of all spiritual process.

Lesson 193 put it well:

How can you tell when you are seeing wrong, or someone else is failing to perceive the lesson he should learn? Does pain seem real in the perception? If it does, be sure the lesson is not learned. (W-pI.193.7:1-3)

A perception of pain is an unforgiveness. It indicates a need for a shift in perception. It is not sinful or bad to feel pain or grief; it is simply a mistaken perception that needs to be corrected. Nor is there shame if we find it hard to make such a shift. This is what the Holy Spirit is for, to help us through this process of translating our thoughts and changing our perceptions. This is what life is all about; this is the only lesson in the classroom. We do it through frequent repetition of the truth, and through persistently bringing our perceptions of pain to Him for healing. The complete absence of such perceptions comes only at the end of the entire process. The Manual puts it well: "It is your function to escape from them [perceptions of pain, for example], but not to be without them" (M-26.4:2). It is our own personal experience with pain and grief, and our experience of escape from them, that enables us to be of help to others who are caught in their grasp.

Learning from the Holy Spirit, then, involves openly acknowledging our false perceptions and not being guilty about them, but simply bringing them to Him for healing. This kind of learning "becomes the means to go beyond itself, to be replaced by the eternal truth" (2:4). If we gripe and complain about the learning process we will only delay the desired outcome. We are not expected to be without experiences of pain and grief, nor should we expect to be without them. But we should engage ourselves in the work of escaping from them when they occur, bringing them to the gentle kindness of the Holy Spirit's presence, asking Him to translate our perceptions so that what we see as witnesses to fear become, instead, witnesses to love.

If you but knew how much your Father yearns to have you recognize your sinlessness, you would not let His Voice appeal in vain, nor turn away from His replacement for the fearful images and dreams you made.

This sentence is here because we are letting His Voice appeal in vain, not listening to it, and we are turning away from His Thoughts with which He would replace our terrifying dreams and images. Our own egos, in their scramble for self-survival, have convinced us that God is doing anything but yearning for us to recognize our sinlessness. We're more likely to think (if we think about it at all) that God is sitting up in Heaven with his big book of records carefully tracking all our mistakes and tallying them up against us. We are afraid that we have really screwed it up and are too far gone to be recovered. We are more afraid of God than we are believers in His Love. We cannot imagine that He still sees us as sinless. But He does.

When something bad seems to happen to us, we still think along the lines of "Now what did I do to deserve this?" We still think of the world as some kind of system in which the universe makes us pay dearly for every slip-up. The Course says over and over that God is not in the vengeance game. We are the only players in that game, and we bring on our own punishments. God, on the other hand, is yearning for us to stop thinking we are guilty and to recognize our sinlessness.

We turn away from the transformation of our thoughts being offered to us because, somehow, we've convinced ourselves that if we bring any of this dark and dirty stuff into God's Light, a lightning bolt will come out of heaven and zap us. We think that hiding it is safer than exposing it. We don't want to admit that we have gone off searching for idols, for things to replace God in our lives, because we think that has forever marred us and made us unacceptable to God. It has not. All God wants is for us to stop this silly game and come home to Him. He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us do exactly that, but we avoid turning within to Him because we think we will lose, or even die, in the process.

Read the Text section on "Justice Returned to Love" (T-25.VIII). It describes our fear of the Holy Spirit quite clearly. It says that we fear Him and think He represents God's wrath, rather than God's Love. We become suspicious when His Voice tries to tell us we have never sinned (T-25.VIII.6:8). It says we "flee the Holy Spirit as if He were a messenger from hell, sent from above, in treachery and guile, to work God's vengeance on [us] in the guise of a deliverer and friend" (T-25.VIII.7:2).

If I look honestly at how often I actually turn to the Holy Spirit for the healing of my thoughts, as opposed to how often I do not do so, it seems to bear out what is being said here. Something in me is keeping me from doing this very simple action; something is motivating me to stay away from the Holy Spirit. If I really knew how much my Father yearns for me to recognize my sinlessness, I would not behave like this.

So what can I do? I can start where I am. When I realize that I've been shunning the Holy Spirit again, I can begin by bringing that realization to Him: "Well, Holy Spirit, it looks as if I've been afraid of You again. Sorry about that." And that simple turning is exactly what He asks of us; to bring our darkness to Him for healing. In opening up about my fear, I've neatly sidestepped it. I'm in communication again.

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If you but knew how much your Father yearns to have you recognise your sinlessness, you would not let His Voice appeal in vain, nor turn away from His replacement for the fearful images and dreams you made. The Holy Spirit understands the means you made, by which you would attain what is forever unattainable. And if you offer them to Him, He will employ the means you made for exile to restore your mind to where it truly is at home. W-pII.7.3:1-3

What are "the means you made, by which you would attain what is forever unattainable" (3:2)? The unattainable is, of course, separation, or life that is separate from God. The means we made to attain this goal include our bodies, the illusions of choices (alternatives to God and to love), fear, attack, conflict, denial, special relationships, sights and sounds, and the whole phenomenal world of perception. The Holy Spirit understands all of these things perfectly. He knows exactly what they are, how they work, and why we made them.

"And if you offer them to Him, He will employ the means you made for exile to restore your mind to where it truly is at home" (3:3).

This is the miracle. Everything we made to exile ourselves from God can be used to restore our minds to their real home. But for that to happen we must "offer them to Him." He is the bridge between what we made and what we are. He is "the Great Transformer of perception" (T-17.II.5:2). He can completely reverse the purpose of everything we made in madness, and use it to restore us to sanity. If we give those things to Him.

And so we need to bring all these things to Him, asking Him to use them for His purposes, rather than the purpose for which we made them. Give Him our bodies. Give Him our special relationships. Give Him our power of decision. Give Him our attack thoughts, our defenses, our very denial. (He can use even denial to "deny the denial of truth" [T-12.II.1:5].) Give Him our perceptions, our eyes and ears. Give Him our whole world and everything in it. He will not take them away from us. He will take them and use them to restore us to Heaven.

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From knowledge, where He has been placed by God, the Holy Spirit calls to you, to let forgiveness rest upon your dreams, and be restored to sanity and peace of mind. Without forgiveness will your dreams remain to terrify you. And the memory of all your Father's Love will not return to signify the end of dreams has come. W-pII.7.4:1-3

From knowledge, where He has been placed by God, the Holy Spirit calls to you, to let forgiveness rest upon your dreams, and be restored to sanity and peace of mind.

The Holy Spirit has been placed in knowledge, by God. Knowledge is not a place but a condition, a state of knowingness. The Holy Spirit knows the truth; He knows reality. He knows our real being, what and who we really are. On the one side He is firmly linked with God, knowledge, and reality. From that place of knowingness, He calls to us within our dreams. On the other side He is linked firmly with us. He is aware of our dreams, aware of what and who we think we are, as well as knowing what and who we really are. He is perfectly equipped to lead us out from those dreams and into the truth of full sanity.

If we listen, we can hear Him calling. We can become aware of something within ourselves moving us to "let forgiveness rest upon [our] dreams." The discipline of Workbook practice is teaching us, if we are doing the exercises, to listen to that Voice, to respond to that inner urging. Gradually we are becoming more and more aware of the times we are dreaming; gradually we become aware we are dreaming most of the time. We can let forgiveness rest on our dreams by bringing them to the Holy Spirit and asking for His perception to replace our dreams. This is the way to sanity; this is the way to peace of mind.

In Chapter 5, the first chapter in the Text which strongly presents the Holy Spirit and His place in our return to God, He is often referred to as "the Call." He is called "the Call to Atonement" (T-5.I.5:4), "the Call to return" (T-5.I.5:5), "the Call to joy" (T-5.II.3:2), "the Call to awaken and be glad" (T-5.II.10:5), and "the Call for God" (T-5.II.10:7). This Call is something within our own minds. Something is drawing us home; if you are reading this Course, you have felt that Call and responded to It. We can dissociate that Call and block it from our awareness, or we can deliberately turn our attention to It, and listen. He always calls us to forgiveness, both to forgive and to be forgiven. His goal is the end of guilt. He speaks to us, always, of innocence. He seeks to turn us from the way of fear to the way of love. If we give Him our full attention, He will safely guide us home. He knows the way.

Without forgiveness will your dreams remain to terrify you. (4:2)

Our dreams disappear when we forgive them, which means that we see that what we think was done to us never occurred (see W-pII.1.1:1). Not that the events did not happen, but that our interpretation of them (what we thought was being done to us, the perception of attack) was incorrect. If we do not forgive, the dreams will remain terrifying to us. Forgiveness means seeing that there is nothing to forgive. It means reinterpreting the past and remembering only the love that was there, or the call for love, and denying any reality to our perception of attack.

We may resist doing this. We may think that, for some reason, it is important to hold on to our perception of injury. But if we do, we will continue to experience terror. The past will continue to perpetuate itself in our present and in our future. Eventually all of us will come to realize that this isn't what we want, and we will let the past go. "Let me forget my brother's past today" (W-pII.288.Heading).

Until we forgive the past and let it go, "the memory of all your Father's Love will not return to signify the end of dreams has come" (4:3). How can we remember God's Love when we continue to see ourselves as injured? "Would a loving God have allowed this?" we ask ourselves. Do I want to believe in the reality of sin, or in the Love of God? The Holy Spirit is calling to us, from within ourselves, to let forgiveness rest on all of our dreams. That is the only way we can be restored to sanity and peace of mind.

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Accept your Father's gift. It is a call from Love to Love, that It be but Itself. The Holy Spirit is His gift, by which the quietness of Heaven is restored to God's beloved Son. Would you refuse to take the function of completing God, when all He wills is that you be complete? W-pII.7.5:1-4

The Holy Spirit is the "Father's gift…a call from Love to Love, that It be but Itself" (5:1-2). That is what the calling within us is all about. It is Love calling to Itself to be Itself. Whenever I start feeling as though God is calling me to some kind of "surrender" that makes it appear as though I am submitting my will to another, superior will, I recall that what is happening is simply that I am surrendering to Love. I am surrendering to myself, to what I am in truth. God is not calling me to give up myself and become something I do not want to be; God is calling me to be my Self. To be what I was created to be and still am.

I have confused myself and convinced myself that I am something else, and now, in hearing the call to return to myself, to "return to love," as Marianne Williamson puts it, I feel fear. It seems as though I am being asked to give up myself, to "surrender" to God at the expense of my own being. Exactly the opposite is true. I am being called to surrender only to what I am in truth. I am called to be Love, because Love is what I am.

The Holy Spirit is His gift, by which the quietness of Heaven is restored to God's beloved Son. (5:3)

I am so grateful today for this gift, without which the quietness of Heaven would be forever beyond my reach. If I were to try to summarize this page's answer to the question it poses, "What is the Holy Spirit?" I would put it something like this:

The Holy Spirit is God's gift to us to restore our minds, caught in illusion, back to peace and sanity. He is a changeless link between our minds and God's. Through His awareness of both the eternal truth of God and our insanity, He is able to utilize the very illusions we have made to lead us back to reality. We bring our illusions to Him. He translates our illusions from witnesses to fear into witnesses to love, giving us a completely new perception of everything we see. This new perception is so aligned with truth that it enables the end of perception, and the final transfer of our minds to their original state of knowledge.

Would you refuse to take the function of completing God, when all He wills is that you be complete? (5:4)

Once again the Course appeals to us to actively take our part in this process, and to accept our function as given by God: to complete Him. That is a startling phrase, isn't it? Elsewhere the Course tells us that whenever we question our own value, we should say, "God Himself is incomplete without me" (T-9.VII.8:2). A little later it explains, "God is incomplete without you because His grandeur is total, and you cannot be missing from it" (T-9.VIII.9:8). It tells us, "Without you there would be a lack in God, a Heaven incomplete, a son without a Father" (T-24.VI.2:1).

Of course it is impossible that God should be incomplete: "God is not incomplete, and He is not childless" (T-11.I.5:6). The point is that if we are part of God, then God would be incomplete if we were not forever united with Him. We cannot be missing from God; therefore, let us take the part in Him given to us, and end our refusal to do so. Our part in completing God is to be complete: "All that He wills is that you be complete" (5:4). We are being asked only to bring our illusions of incompletion to the Holy Spirit, that He can dispel them and restore to us the awareness of our eternal completion.

The process of bringing our illusions to the Holy Spirit often seems fearful because, from our perspective, it seems to entail loss. We are being asked to give up something. But the something we are asked to give up is only our illusion of separation, our illusion of incompletion. We give up our lack, and remember our wholeness. This is, as Lesson 98 puts it, a bargain in which we cannot lose:

You are being asked for nothing in return for everything. Here is a bargain that you cannot lose. And what you gain is limitless indeed! (W-pI.98.6:3-5)